The Myth of Equality

It’s popular these days to scream about “equality”.  Equality is a goal to achieve.   A lack of equality is a bad thing and we must stamp it out.  If someone has more, he is to be detested and dragged down.  If somebody has less, he is to be pitied and given handouts to “make it fair.”

But, others point out.  People put in different amounts of effort.  It’s unfair to take from the hard worker and give to the lazy to make them “equal.”  Equality, they say, should be equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

However, even equality of opportunity has its own problems.  Look, I have worked hard to make opportunities for my daughter that she wouldn’t have otherwise.  There have actually been claims that reading to her when she was small was to give her a horrible unfair advantage. In addition, horror of horrors, I have made sure she had books she enjoyed reading so that she would not only read but read well–after all, you tend to get good at things you do a lot, and you tend to do a lot things you enjoy doing, so giving her books she enjoys reading is a means to the end of creating a good reader.  I have made sure she had the instructional materials and supplies to further her artistic talent.  I have made sure she’s competent in math, not just basic arithmetic but the thinking and reasoning that’s the foundation of higher math.  I have exposed her to political philosophies and the foundations of economics so she can make informed decisions as she grows up.  And before you say otherwise, no, I have not deprived her of her childhood in doing so.  These things don’t take a lot of time out of her day.  She has plenty of time for play and entertainment, for “kid stuff.”

But these things mean she will have far more opportunity than some child whose parents haven’t done this stuff for them.  And I make no apologies for that.

If you think my daughter has an “unfair advantage” which “disadvantages” your child, then get off your hind end and start doing the same kinds of things for your own children.  You make those kinds of opportunities for your children.  It’s not my job to do it for you.  It’s not the State’s job to do it for you.  And it is especially not the job of me or the State to handicap my child because you won’t give your child the same advantages.

What the State can do is not put artificial barriers in the way of your child and mine.  The only equality that is truly the purview of the State is the equality of getting out of the way and letting each person rise or fall on their own merits.

If your child has trouble because you did not instill in them an appreciation of reading, of the benefits of hard, focused work, of dedication to accomplishment and excellence it’s not the fault of my daughter’s privilege.

Now, if you, because of your own background, are trying and are just having trouble because you don’t have the skills–perhaps because your parents, and their parents, and on back–didn’t, there are people who are more than willing to help you.  But blaming those successful at it won’t accomplish that.

I, and many people like me, are more than willing to help people who are trying to pull themselves up.  We’re more resistant to those trying to pull us down.

Advertisements

The problem with the education-industrial complex.

Well, “a” problem, but I think a lot of the various problems stem from this one.

Consider operant conditioning.  As a quick summary, it’s how organisms behavior is modified in response to stimulus.  Behaviors that are associated with a “good” stimulus become more common and behaviors that are associated with a “bad” stimulus become less common.

It worked on rats in B. F, Skinner’s experiments.  It works on people in general (although there are always a few stubborn cusses that will push hard against such conditioning, at least when it’s blatant).  And I submit that it works on institutions.

Now consider that in the context of an educational bureaucracy.  The stimulus is money.  For a long time most of the time the folk who find reasons (however sincerely believed) why they “need” more money were rewarded with more money.  Need computers?  more money.  Need more teachers so we can have smaller classes?  More money. “Need” sports facilities and a coach so we can have a winning football team?  More money.  New textbooks for the latest educational theory to come down the pike?  More money.

And what happens to someone who is frugal and comes in under budget?  There’s a saying about budgets in bureaucracies:  use it or lose it.  Reward is based on coming up with reasons why the kids aren’t learning what they ought (or why the schools should be “teaching” even more things even though they aren’t teaching the basic skills the schools were created for in the first place).  It is not based on how well the kids are actually learning.

For a long time we, as a society, have been rewarding the educational industrial complex for excuses for failure rather than for success.  It doesn’t even require any dishonesty.  People who honestly believe that this is the reason why the kids aren’t learning or that is important enough to take time away from “three ‘r'” work are rewarded.  Folk who say “we need to go back to what works” or “we’re trying to do too much, we need to cut back to basics, get that right, and then think about what’s most important to add without losing those basics”…aren’t.

And the ones who are rewarded end up in positions of power and influence within the education-industrial complex.  It’s the Iron Law of Bureaucracy at a nutshell.

We’ve been rewarding excuses for failure and penalizing success.  As a result we get more excuses for failure and less success.  Exactly the opposite of what we should be doing:  rewarding success and penalizing failure, regardless of what excuses are presented for that failure.

Operant conditioning at work.

Some musings on past, present, and future

I’m going to wax a bit philosophical here.

Folk who know me (most here, I would presume) know that I lean very heavily “pro-liberty” if not outright libertarian.

OTOH, I part company with many Libertarians (the capitalization is no accident) in that I believe that some government, a “state” if you will, with some modest power is necessary for the preservation of liberty. “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men….”

Consider this example:  being able to get up on your roof with a rifle to drive off rampaging hordes of barbarians (whether Avars, Huns, Viking raiders, or rioters) is liberty.  Having to spend all your time on your roof because the barbarian hordes are endemic to your situation, is not.

So the barbarians have to be driven off or kept suppressed, which requires organization with the sanction to use force (since the barbarians, pretty much by definition, aren’t going to respond to sweet reason.  If they did, they wouldn’t be barbarians).  And once you have an organized body with the sanction to use force, there you have government.

Too little government, and your “freedom” is spent fighting off the barbarians piecemeal.  Government itself is a restriction on freedom, also just about by definition.

So there must, then, exist some level of government, some small level, where liberty is maximized, where each individual has the most freedom.

The folk who founded the US appear to have been attempting to find that level.  And perhaps, at the first, they were pretty close to it–or would have been if they could have gotten rid of chattel slavery (which wasn’t politically achievable at that time and the attempt would probably have destroyed the country before it ever got started).

I submit, however, that the level of government that leads to the greatest freedom (which may vary depending on a number of factors) is always unstable–in fact, I wonder if it’s not the least stable form of government–and will immediately begin to move in the direction of either anarchy or totalitarianism (usually, if history is any guide, toward totalitarianism).  The movement may be gradual.  Various “checks and balances” may slow the motion.  But they cannot halt it.

I do wonder if perhaps the checks and balances in the original United States Constitution were not too successful in slowing the move toward totalitarianism.  The Founders did appear to expect a revolution every couple of generations and they got one in the American Civil War, but, although that did lead to an end to chattel slavery I’m not sure that it was a net win for Liberty in the long run with the increase in Federal power that can be traced directly to it.  But the increase was slow enough, before and since, that we, as a people, largely got out of the habit of revolution.  While the old saw about boiling a frog is not true, it remains a useful metaphor and, I think may describe what has happened to the US.  In this case, by the time the water got hot enough to start being a serious problem we had had multiple generations growing up with “There ought to be a law” and “goodies that other people pay for” so that even if a revolution did happen it would just be a faster route toward totalitarianism.

This is why I have been watching the Trump administration with bated breath.  Some people pay more attention to the rhetoric, to the Tweets.  To the protests. (Really?  Trump being a new Hitler?  I’ve addressed that already and the claims have just drifted more from reality since.) I, instead, have looked to the little things on the side.  The appointment of judges, not just Goresuch, but a number of other federal judges, that are closer to Constitutional literalists than folk have been wont to appoint for some time.  An executive order requiring to federal regulations to be repealed to be able to pass one new one.  Tax reform that will actually reduce the tax burden of the majority of taxpayers. (Yes, people will tell you otherwise.  They are lying to you.)

It’s not all roses, of course.  We still have doubling down on the War on Drugs (the recent avenue is restricting people in pain from getting effective relief because a loosely familially related drug in the illegal drug trade is causing an “opiod crisis”).  We still have the endorsement of “civil asset forfeiture” (depriving people of property without due process). Hack.  Spit.  But on balance, the trend does seem to be toward the better.

I’m far from certain that the trends will continue.  The “Reagan Revolution” didn’t.  The Gingrich Revolution didn’t.  In both cases, there was a good start, some “rah rah” from the small government types, and then they passed.  Washington returned to business as usual, and the succeeding administrations and Congresses swallowed up whatever had started in those years without a trace.  The seven withered cows swallowed up the fat cows and remained withered.

I wouldn’t say we’re doomed.  But I wouldn’t say we’re saved either.  I remain…watchful.

Why do some people only see “gun control” as the answer to crime?

In another discussion the proposal of universal gun registration (mechanism was requiring all gun transfers go through an FFL with background check, but the purpose was to ensure there was an unbroken chain of 4473’s to identify who owns a particular firearm–registration by any other name). The claimed goal was to ensure that legal firearms were not “inadvertently” sold to prohibited persons.  The usual “to keep guns out of the hands of criminals” argument.

In the course of the discussion I made two counter proposals:

1) If a person can lose their rights under the 2nd Amendment via due process of law (and the 5th does allow losing liberty, which would include exercise of various rights, via due process of law), then said person can also lose their protection under the 4th. Why not, then, make a person convicted of a violent felony subject to search at any time for any reason, including the simple whim of the searching LEO? A person thus convicted who obtained a firearm would then be under constant threat that someone might pick them for today’s search and if found with said firearm, go back to spending a long period behind bars.

2) Why not have a “violent offenders registry” on the same model as the “sex offenders registry”? If everyone knows who the local violent criminals are, well, then only someone who is a criminal himself would sell a firearm to them, right?

Two different approaches. Sure, they’d have their own problems and issues that would need to be worked out. But they would be at least as effective, probably quite a bit more so, than the registration scheme at keeping guns out of criminal hands. (But then, it wouldn’t take much.)

Naturally, the “registration proponent” in that discussion did not address either of these proposals. Didn’t even acknowledge them at all. Nope, only “registration” was to be on the table.

So if registration is the only thing that will be considered and alternate proposals for achieving the same stated goal without the need of registration are dismissed out of hand as if they had never even been made, then one has to wonder what unstated goal remains that isn’t served by the alternate proposals.

Crime is a complex issue.  The “solution” is likewise going to be complex.  As much as some people want simple answers and others feed that desire in order to use it to get what they want politically the reality is that there are no simple answers.  There is certainly no one answer, no magic pill that will make the problem go away.

Here are a few things we can do:

Concentrate law enforcement on actual violent offenses.  That means we need to roll back the long list of crimes that are little more than annoyances.  California made it an offense to “misgender” someone?  An actual criminal offense?  Every bit of effort spent enforcing as a criminal violation something that is, at worst, rudeness, is effort not available to catch murderers and rapists and get them off the streets.  Since every crime out there is something that, in the extreme of non-compliance, police will kill over, you have to ask yourself:  is this law worth someone being killed over?  It won’t happen every time, but sometimes it will reach that point.  Is it worth it?  Eric Garner was killed for refusing to comply with a law regarding the taxation of cigarettes.  Was that tax worth someone’s life?  If it’s not, it needs to be taken off the books and the problem dealt with by means other than “pass a law.”

As part of that, we need to end the stupid war on drugs.  Yes, the drugs in question are horrible.  They destroy lives.  But a lot of the problems associated with them–particularly the crime and violence–are not because of the drugs themselves but because they were illegal.  We saw that with Prohibition.  The “roaring 20’s” were “roaring” because of the crime associated with the illegal alcohol trade.  In addition to the crime generated not because of the drugs themselves, but simply because they are illegal (not talking about illegal use of drugs here–that would be tautological–but things like gang wars over drug trade which is an “add on” from their being illegal), there’s also the severe damage to the US Constitution from the “war on drugs”.  No knock warrants, many times delivered to the wrong house or based on false information, leading to innocent people, and their pets, being terrorized, abused, and even killed.  “Asset forfeiture” where a person can be deprived of cash or valuable property simply on suspicion, without even being charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime.  And if they’re able to get the property back at all (good luck with that) it’s only after spending extensive time and money fighting to have it returned (which is yet another way of depriving them of their property).

On that subject of law enforcement, we need to work on the “us vs. them” mentality of the police.  Instead of “us” being the law abiding and “them” being the criminals we have an “us” of police and a “them” of everybody else.  If I may make a movie allusion here, Robocop had it right in his prime directives.  First was “protect the innocent”.  Second was “serve the public trust”.  Only number three was “Uphold the law.” (Of course, there was that fourth one, but we won’t get into that here.)  We need to go back to “community policing”–“Peace officers” rather than “Law Enforcement Officers”.

Let people defend themselves, and have the means to effectively do it.  Look, the vast majority of people are decent human beings.  They’re the “good guys”.  In a level playing field the bad guys are forced to work on at the fringes because otherwise if even a modest fraction of the majority who are decent turn on them and they end up out of circulation.  But we don’t have a level playing field.  The “good guys” face restrictions that the bad guys ignore (because they’re bad guys) and the “fringes” become a lot larger. (I know.  I know.  “If we let people be armed then…” Except all those dire predictions of what will happen if we let people be armed to defend themselves?  They never materialize.  Fender benders don’t turn into shootouts.  Barfights don’t turn into gunfights.  And blood does not run in the streets.  Yes, I know “country X has strict restrictions and it has much lower crime than we do”.  Well see above about “no simple answers” and go take a look at what their crime was like before they passed the restrictions.  Hint:  you’ll look long and hard without finding a place where they had high crime, passed gun control, and as a result had low crime.  They had the low crime before they had the weapons restrictions.  The weapons restrictions were not the cause.)

A lot of this crime is related to mental health problems.  That, in itself, is a complicated issue.  First off, not all mental health problems lead to crime.  Most people with such issues live their lives perfectly law abiding (or at least as law abiding as anyone else–when the law is so pervasive and self-contradictory as it is, can anyone truly be “law abiding”?).  There are several things that can help in that area.  Many years ago, because of concerns about abuse, it was made extremely difficult to involuntarily commit an individual to in-patient mental health care.  The abuses were real, but the need to be able to make such commitments was also real.  The actions taken to alleviate the former we threw away the latter.  We need to be able to ensure that those who are a direct and present danger to self and (particularly since we’re talking about crime here) others get the help they need to stop being such a danger.  The flip side of that is some people are afraid of getting help because of fear of losing their rights (RKBA is a big one here:  ever been treated with antidepressants?  Lose your guns.  VA says you can’t handle your own finances?  No guns for you.) Such fears keep some people from getting the help they need early, when its more likely to be correctable lest they permanently lose their rights.  Again, we need to find a way to deal with people’s problems without driving them away for fear of such consequences.  And even if now they are a danger and have to have their rights suspended for that reason, they need to be able to have confidence that they can recover and have their rights restored.

There certainly is a lot more that can be done, but that’s a good start.  Those are things that are likely to have an actual, real, effect on violent crime as opposed to “gun control” which won’t.  Indeed, can’t.

So, when someone of the political class, in response to a horrific crime, calls for “gun control” rather than things like the above, it’s not crime they’re looking to control.

It’s you.

 

“First They Came”

It’s always frustrating to me when I see a “gun rights supporter” buy into the “we just want reasonable gun control” lie.  I’ve dealt with part of that, the “nobody wants to take your guns” claim elsewhere.  The questions you need to ask somebody who claims that is “how much is reasonable?  Where is the line?  At what point do you turn around and say ‘no more’? How far does it have to go before you’d agree we need to roll back the restrictions?” And then, take any answer they give you with a grain of salt because, frankly, whenever they’ve gotten a “we just want this” restriction they merely used that as a springboard for more.

One of the tactics the anti-gun folk use to great effect against us is “divide and conquer.” By going after one small segment of the gun community while assuring others that their guns are safe (at least for now), they get a large number of gun owners to sit back and essentially let them chip away at the 2nd Amendment. So we have the following:

First they came for the “assault weapons”
but I didn’t speak up because who needs an assault weapon?

Then they came for the open carriers
but I didn’t speak up because those people frighten the anti-gunners.

Then they came for the Saturday Night Specials,
but I didn’t speak up because they’re just junk guns.

Then they came for the high capacity magazines,
but I didn’t speak up because I only need a few rounds in the tube

Then they came for all the handguns,
but I didn’t speak up because I don’t use a handgun to hunt

Then they came for the High Powered Sniper Rifles,
but I didn’t speak up because I don’t use one of those.

When they came for the shotguns and muzzleloaders,
there was no one left to speak up.

Folks, the anti-gun crowd are not going to leave you alone. Just because they aren’t going after you today, just because they claim that they support your “right to hunt,” don’t be fooled. They say we need to “compromise” but we’ve been compromising since 1934. The ink isn’t even dry on each new “agreement” before they are talking about the “next step.” Each time you fail to support some portion of the community of law-abiding gun owners, you weaken yourself against the time they eventually come after you.

It’s time to stop compromising. Compromise is a strategy of weakness, of minimizing the effect of a losing position.  We haven’t been on the losing side since the mid 90’s.

It’s time to get back our rights.

The Founders could never have imagined “assault weapons.”

Yes, yes, because James Madison, who wrote the Bill of Rights (with input from plenty of others, but he’s the one who set quill to parchment for the final wording) was still alive when the revolver was invented.  Why I’ve got his note right here that says “these deadly repeating pistols, why a person could easily carry four or five of them on his person ready to use giving a single individual enough firepower to kill thirty people in as many seconds.  The Second Amendment was never intended to protect such wanton engines of destruction.”

No?  What’s that?  He wrote no such thing?

Hmm.  How about the Congressional debates over “Richard Gatling and his horrid engine of war that spits out dozens of bullets every second just by turning a crank” and whether it was protected by the Second?  No?  No such debates?

Well then how about “Hiram Maxim has developed this destructive device that one doesn’t even have to crank!  Just depress the trigger and it will keep firing until it runs out of ammunition.” Surely there were debates over whether it was legal or covered by the Second Amendment.  No?  There weren’t?

Well, then, how about “John Browning has developed a firearm that can be fired as fast as one can pull the trigger, holds more than most revolvers, and can be reloaded in less than two seconds.  This kind of weapon was never intended to be protected by the 2nd Amendment.” Surely the courts and Congress in 1912 or so addressed that issue.  No?  They didn’t?

Seriously, the idea that a group of founders that included folk like Benjamin Franklin (one of those present at the Constitutional Convention) and Thomas Jefferson (not present but a strong voice of influence) could not imagine weapon technology improving, even if they did not envision the specific directions, is beyond ludicrous.  If they’d intended to limit the 2nd to the technology of the 1780’s, they could, and would, have said so.

Indeed, it took until the Miller case in 1939 for the idea that some weapons might not be “covered” by the Second Amendment to be addressed by the courts.  In the Miller case, Miller had died before the case came to the Supreme Court.  Only the government’s side was heard.  And the court still didn’t rule unequivocally in the government’s favor.  Instead, they noted that they did not have “judicial notice” that the specific weapon, a short barreled shotgun (“sawed off” in common parlance, but it’s the barrel length and overall length that were the legal issues whether sawed to get that way or not), was an appropriate weapon for military use (nobody had told them that “trench sweepers” were a common weapon in WWI) and remanded the case back down to lower for review on that basis and there it died because, well, Miller was dead and there was no one left to pursue the matter.

People have since cited Miller saying “See, you have to be in a militia” when actually it only addressed whether the weapons was useful to a militia.

The idea that the 2nd only applies to the arms at the time of the writing of the Constitution is a new one, invented by people who don’t like the idea that people have firearms at all. (Don’t think so?  Get one of them to go so far as to support repealing “gun free zones” so long as the “gun” in question is a flintlock muzzleloader or permitting “constitutional carry” of same.)

And, frankly, the Supreme Court agrees:

Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, e.g., Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U. S. 844, 849 (1997), and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, e.g., Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27, 35–36 (2001), the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.

Now, one can make the argument that there are weapons that should not be covered under the 2nd (nuclear and bio come to mind), but there’s a solution to that, and one found within the Constitution itself.  The people who wrote the Constitution understood that it would have to adapt to changing circumstances.  That’s why they put in the Amendment process.

If you want to change the 2nd to accommodate changes in weapons technology, then do so, but do it right:  amend. the. Constitution.  Get 2/3 of the Senate and 2/3 of the House to agree to a proposed Amendment, then get 3/4 of the States to sign off on it.

That’s what the Amendment process is there for.

But just deciding that it means something other than both its plain words and the intent of the folk who wrote it (as found in their writings at the time) is to make the Constitution meaningless. because if they can “redefine” that, then they can redefine anything.

Preparing the roast beast

For Christmas I do standing rib roast.  This year I tried preparing it a little bit different from what I’ve done before.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3-4 rib (about 9 lbs) Standing Rib Roast
  • 1/2 lb butter (real butter, not margarine)
  • 2-3 tbsp of finely minced garlic (I like garlic, a lot, so adjust for your preferences)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp chopped dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp parsley flakes

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Farenheit

Using cotton twine, bind the roast between the ribs to keep the meat as compact as possible.

Soften the butter.  Add the other ingredients and mix well.  Spread the butter/seasoning mix over the roast.

Place the coated roast on a roasting pan:

20171225_091455[1]

Insert “leave in” thermometer to the middle of the meat (not touching any of the bones).  Bake in 250 degree oven until desired doneness.  I like 140 (rare) to 145 (med rare).

Optional, when the meat temperature is a few degrees short of desired increase oven temperature to 350.  This will slightly shorten the cooking time and “brown” the outside a bit more.

The result:

20171225_140835[1]

It makes a scrumptious part of a holiday feast:

20171225_142039[1]