The Dismal Science


Economics is the Dismal Science. Scarcity is the usual reason given for it being so. Personally, I find the most dismal aspect of it to be how many people don’t understand economics. It’s enough to make a man take off his hat, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it.

Does Winnie the Flu kill people? Yes. It does. However, you know what else kills people? A faltering, let alone crashed, economy. The thing is this is exactly the kind of thing you get with Bastiat’s “seen and unseen”. Those directly (or slightly indirectly through opportunistic infections) killed by Winnie are seen. Those who die because a treatment was delayed, or their heat was turned off because they were laid off and couldn’t afford it, or any of a host of other little things of people “at the margins” where the difference between “good economy” and “economy in the toilet” made the difference. Those are the “unseen.” Oh, sure, individually someone sees folk dying but mostly they’re the kind of folk who might well have died anyway. We just get more of the “might” turning into “did”.

They go unnoticed in the general scheme of things. There isn’t a single cause that people can point to saying “see, that’s killing people.” It’s a thousand little things where if things had been just a bit better they would not have died. People don’t make the connection to the the faltering economy, not until it gets truly awful (as in third-world poverty levels). But the connection remains. Hurt the economy and people die who would not have died otherwise.

However, attempt to raise this issue, to explain it to people, and sure as taxes, someone will tell you what a horrible person you are for putting money above people’s lives. They can’t seem to grasp that the money (or rather, the goods and services, and the economy that produces those goods and services) is people’s lives.

And that is pretty damn dismal.

Still Trying to Get my Daughter a Service Dog

First off, let me once again thank everyone who has helped with this fundraiser. We continue to make progress toward the goal. Every little bit helps.

Athena continues to work on the issues left behind by a life of trauma. She also, is making progress. Some of these things, however, will take years. And some will probably be hiding in the wings, waiting for an opportunity to pounce if she’s not careful, for the rest of her life. But we cope and she works hard at it.

Above are some pictures she asked me to post that she drew of Dango. On that note, one of the things Athena is trying to do, in the effort to both be self-supporting and also to use her considerable artistic talent, is to become a tattoo artist. We found a shop owner that is willing to take her on when she turns 16–just a few days away now–but the problem is that apprenticeships are not cheap. Most of the money is just to set her up with her initial equipment and supplies and only a modest amount for the actual training. That’s separate from this fundraiser. We’ll work something out. And, really, we can’t do anything about it until the current pandemic “crisis” dies down.

So, once again, I ask folk to help however you can, whether it’s donating or even simply spreading the word. Any help at all will be greatly appreciated.




Why the Coronavirus Hype is Overblown


Previously, I pointed out why I thought the Wuhan Coronavirus (AKA Winnie the Flu, oh, all right CoViD19) would not prove anywhere near as much of a crisis as people are portraying.  And yet, people keep talking about it in terms that make it to be the plague of the 21st century.  The question immediately arises is where all these claims come from.  Well, they come from several places.

First thing you need to understand is that China lies. They lie to “save face”. They lie to influence foreign and domestic policy. They lie just because they can. They lie when the truth would serve. To say that what China says about the early progress and spread cannot be trusted is to say that Helium Three is “a little chilly.”

The rise in number of cases follows amount of testing done. You test ten times as many people and you get ten times as many positives. That doesn’t mean that the amount in the population has grown ten times as much. Basic statistics.

Then we have cases like the Grand Princess Cruise Liner (other people have cited Diamond Princess–when I went searching, only remembering “something princess” I came up with Grand Princess…so I used that in the previous post and continue to use it here), To say that there attempted isolation once they realized they had infected folk on board was porous was really overstating the reality. While passengers were confined to cabins (mostly), crew dined together and interacted with the passengers. Basically, everybody on that ship was exposed. 290 were tested. Others declined the test believing that if they agreed to be tested they’d have to wait even longer to be released from quarantine. 290 tests. 21 positive. One died. Now, I could count all the folk who weren’t tested who did not get sick, but let’s be strict. That means that out of 290 people exposed to the virus less than 10% (7.2% to be relatively precise) were infected. The one who died could lead one to infer a 5% mortality rate except that runs into the problem of small numbers in statistics. Since you don’t get fractional deaths, the jump is from “0” to “5%” with nothing in between.

The mortality rate is highly inflated for several reasons. One is selection bias. Folk generally weren’t tested unless seriously ill. Folk with mild or no symptoms (Norway recently did widespread testing and found that half of the folk with active infections had no symptoms) weren’t counted. Also, tests so far have only been for active infections. Folk who had a mild case (as most are) and recovered back in December or January (remember a “cold” characterized by a persistent cough that could last for a couple of weeks running around back then? I do.) won’t be counted. Another one is what’s counted as a “Coronavirus death.” All too often (the Italy results that get bandied about so much are guilty of this) if someone has Winnie the Flu and dies for. any. reason. that’s counted as a “coronavirus death.” Heart attack while ill (with pre-existing heart condition)? Coronavirus. Liver failure (cirrosis from years of drinking your meals)? Coronavirus death. Get hit by a bus while infected with Coronavirus? Coronavirus death. (Okay, maybe not that last one, but I’m not so sure.)

In addition, it’s becoming unavoidably clear that the current Coronavirus strain emerged months before China admitted it existed, let alone took any steps to contain it. It has been out “in the wild” for months.

We didn’t even notice–just a somewhat worse than typical, but far from unprecedented, flu season.

To that point, there have been some folk reporting persistent coughs and cold/flu symptoms that weren’t flu and lasted a couple of weeks (I had one and my doctor said, “yeah, that’s going around.”) And, yes, there were anecdotally some deaths, as there always are (people die; it’s part of life). What there wasn’t was any “oh, no,” concern that we were having a lot more seriously sick people than otherwise. The 2019-2020 flu season has been a bit more serious than most, although not as big as some (including the 2017-2018 season).   There was no “this is bad; what’s going on?”

Wash your hands (which you should do anyway). If you’re sick or think you’re sick, stay home to avoid infecting other people (which you should do anyway). That’s really all that’s justified by the actual risk. But to certain people “never let a crisis (even if you have to invent one) go to waste.”

The simple fact is, the mortality numbers are being inflated. They’re being deliberately inflated in order to create just the kind of crisis the Left (and entirely too many on the Right) use to ram through more of their favored restrictions on individual liberty.

And entirely too many people are swallowing it hook, line, sinker, bobber, pole, and reel.

Power and Government: A Blast from the Very Recent Past

Back to Back “Blasts from the Past” again, and again a very recent one because this is so very topical.  Indiana just shut down with a “stay at home” order except for “essential businesses.” Well, my office is an “essential business” so I continue to go to work every day but, still, it’s hitting a lot of people.  The problem is, where is the government getting the authority to do this?  They have the “power” in that they have folk who will cheerfully use sufficient force to make people comply, but from where do they get the authority to put people on the next thing to house arrest?  And so this Blast from the Past:

militarized police

This one’s a bit of a ramble.

When people talk about the government having the power to do something there are two things they could mean.  The first, which can also be worded as “the right” (governments do not have rights–people have rights–governments have power and authority) to do something, is that they have the legitimate authority to do it.  The second, is the have the main strength, the “force majeure” to impose their will on the populace.  Unfortunately, entirely too many people confuse the latter for the former.

A quote attributed to George Washington (probably erroneously) is “Government is not reason.  It is not eloquence — It is force.  Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a terrible master.” Whether Washington ever said that, or anything like it, it remains true.  Indeed, “the license to initiate force to achieve certain ends” is a pretty good definition of government.  What makes government different from other forms of organization is that it has some presumed legitimacy in using and initiating coercive force to accomplish at least some ends.  Government can use the threat of force to take money to pay for things like police, defense (and, yes, roads) and have that considered legitimate.  Private individuals or groups cannot.  To accomplish that, government has power in the second sense above–the main strength to impose upon others and force them to behave in certain ways (pay taxes, obey traffic laws, fight in wars, whatever).

This power, this ability to use force, can indeed be necessary.  In the case of invasion, one cannot take the time to discuss everything in committee, to hope to gather up sufficient volunteers to form a force sufficient to stave off the invasion, to hope that others will voluntarily pony up enough resources to arm and equip that force, train it (and that everybody will voluntarily go along with the training and not say “this is BS” and walk out), supply it, and get it to where it needs–all quickly enough to minimize the damage done by the invaders.  Well, one could but the results are unlikely to be anything we would want.  So, someone needs to be able to say “you must provide arms and equipment for a body of fighting men, ready to act at once to resist invasion” and when things happen they need to say “you, you, and you, go here.  Fight there” and so on.  And that someone needs to be able to enforce that promptly, and without debate.  This is an extreme example of the principle but it illustrates the point.  A nation needs the force of the second sense in my opening paragraph.

That government has the power to do something–in that it’s able to marshal sufficient force to impose that something on the populace–however, does not mean that it has the legitimate authority to do so–the “power” in the first sense of my opening paragraph.  It needs that as well.  The areas in which that first sense power can legitimately be exercised, and the limits to which it can be exercised, must also be circumscribed.  It is this limitation, this structure, that differentiates a legitimate government from tyrannical strong-man rule (whether by an individual, a committee, or even a majority of the people).

It was this that the Founders of the United States tried to establish first with the Articles of Confederation and when experience showed that those articles did not grant enough power to central authority to handle even the issues they had at the time, with the Constitution and its first ten amendments, “The Bill of Rights”.  These spelled out certain, specific powers granted to government and further certain things that were placed beyond government’s purview.  The “power” of government in the first sense.

Since then, however, the Government of the United States has grown far beyond those circumscribed limits.  That process began at the very beginning of the nation but was slow for a while.  It gained momentum in the Civil War and its aftermath.  Picked up real speed with FDR and his “New Deal” and made the jump to lightspeed in the 60’s.

Government kept accumulating powers to itself to dictate this, restrict that, control that other thing.  All without bothering to limit itself to those legitimate powers delegated in the Constitution, nor bothering to avoid aspects expressly forbidden.

But, the government had the power (second sense) to do this.  Congress would pass the law.  The President would sign it (or simply not veto it) or Congress would override the veto.  Law enforcement would enforce it.  Worse even, administrative agencies were granted power to create “regulations” which had the force of law, without bothering with the entire legislative process.  And the courts would permit it.

It wasn’t all one way, of course.  The courts would sometimes strike down a provision of law or an entire law.  Sometimes.  And sometimes the courts would find entire new “rights” to use as justification for overturning legitimate functions of government.

Still, the limits on the power (first sense) of government have come to be largely ignored in pursuit of power (second sense) of government.

And we, the people, have largely been forced to stand by and let it happen because the government has had the power (second sense) to enforce those laws.  Voters, entirely too many voters, would let their legislator’s behave this way–largely because they benefit from some aspect and don’t really see the extent of the harm, or they’ve been deceived into believing that the government legitimately has the power (first sense) to do what it’s doing and so…why fight it.  Those few who have are simply called “crazy” and, indeed, many are.  Robert Heinlein said “tilting at windmills hurts you more than the windmill.” Even if the “windmill” really is a giant, few “sane” people will rush headlong into when the only result is to be knocked onto ones backside, bruised and perhaps bloody (or worse, dead).

The problem is, this can only go so far.  Many will be driven to attempt to use existing political mechanisms to try to push things back.  To be honest, I am somewhat skeptical of how likely that is to be for reasons I’m not prepared to go into here.  In addition, there will be other, less acceptable responses. As the power (second sense) outstrips the legitimate power (first sense), more and more people become disturbed by the dichotomy we can expect to see more and more “crazies”. It would not be that there are more crazies, but that the situation has changed so slightly less “crazy” people are driven to act.  Their actions will be horrible, unjustifiable really (through poor target discrimination if for nothing else).  And please note that I am neither endorsing nor encouraging such action.  The prospect, to be honest, terrifies me.  But those “crazies” will serve as a warning of things to come, a “canary in a coal mine” if you will.  And it will come from not just one side.  Resistance, legitimate or otherwise, to the increasing power (second sense) of government will be seen as an attack by those who like the government gaining more power (second sense)–at least when it’s using that power for ends of which they approve.

The problem is, people who like the increasing use of government power (second sense) in causes they favor often don’t recognize that the same increase in power (second sense) will also be used in causes they don’t favor.  And they presume that the problem is the specific causes government power (second sense) is being used for rather than the government exceeding its legitimate power (first sense).  Instead of reducing government to it’s legitimate power (first sense) they try and use its power (second sense) to shut out people who want to use government for things of which they disapprove (while keeping their own use of power (second sense) intact).  That way lies tyranny.

So hang on to your hats, folks.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

“How Can you Talk Economics When People are Dying”: A Blast from the Past.

Some people have been “pushing back” against the panic over the Chinese Coronavirus (Winnie the Flu), noting the damage these overreactions are doing, and will continue to do, to the economy.  But you know what else leads to people dying?  A faltering, let alone crashing, economy.  Which brings up this Blast from the (quite recent actually) Past.

It never fails.  When I (or a lot of other people) talk about the economic cost of some policy we always get “how can you think of economics when we’re talking about people’s lives here” or “you can’t put a price on human life” or the big one “if it saves just one life, it’s worth it.”  “If we don’t do this, people will die!”

The problem is that economics translates into lives.  And while whatever folk want to “solve” with their economically unviable proposal might “cost lives” impoverishing people, either as individuals or as the economy as a whole also costs lives.

Consider, that an Earthquake of a severity that might kill a dozen people in California, would kill hundreds, or even thousands, in someplace like Bangladesh.  Wealthier societies are more likely to have buildings built of sufficient strength to withstand earthquakes and, thus avoid crushing their inhabitants.  Wealthier societies are more likely to have networks of roads that allow sick and injured to reach hospitals or aid stations quickly–and the more quickly you can treat, the better the chances for recovery.

Or, never mind Earthquakes.  In wealthier societies more people have shelter from weather that can threaten their health, and not just against storms, but heat is a known killer, as is cold.  Having a draft-free dwelling with adequate heating and cooling for the weather saves lives.  Sure, for a lot of people it’s about comfort but many of the very old and very young, or the sick and injured, are less able to deal with temperature extremes.  Heat waves and cold snaps are invariably accompanied by rising death rates (with cold being by far the worse killer of the two).  Adequate heat and air, and modern, high-tech clothing meant to protect the wearer from temperature extremes make a big difference.

Ordinary illnesses and injuries?  People have accidents, get sick.  Once again, that extensive network of roads–a feature of wealthier societies–allows people to get their sick and injured to doctors and hospitals quickly.  And not just via ambulance.  That might be arranged by some government program which allows people to…

Oh, I can’t do it.  The simple fact is that many times, a person can get a sick or injured loved one to the hospital faster than an ambulance can get to them.  At least they can if they have their own car, which is something that is not common except in wealthy nations.

Look, some economists have tried to study this, to try and figure how many dollars (or whatever monetary unit you care to use) of GDP equates to how many lives saved.  Because of the complexities of such analysis results vary.  After all, there are other things that affect death rates than just the wealth of society.  The basic principle, however, is so universal that it’s not even controversial–people live longer, and better, in wealthier societies.

The source for this is a site that does data visualization, but the data is very much real.

The results of all this is that you cannot dismiss economic realities–the cost of doing whatever “good thing” you want to do via government comes at the expense of no longer being able to do something else with those resources.  After all, Economics is the study of cause and effect relationships in the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses.  Scarce, meaning you never have enough for everyone that wants it.  And so, use them for one thing and lose the ability to use them for something else.

In politics, people tend to make categorical decisions.  We must do this, regardless of the cost.  And doing “this” means we don’t do “that.” Political solutions tend to miss the incremental tradeoffs.  How much of “that” are we willing to give up for how much of “this”?

And when the “that” is something as nebulous to most people’s thinking as a Gross Domestic Product, particularly when a lot of that product is in other people’s hands rather than ones own, the very real effects of trading “that” get lost in the shuffle.

It’s very short-sighted and we need to work hard to not do that.

Unless, of course, you want people to die.



One of the most common mistakes people make with regard to economics is confusing money with wealth.  Wealth, real wealth, is the goods and services produced in an economy.  “Money” can be used to obtain wealth.  You can buy stuff with it.  You can hire people to provide services.  But it isn’t “wealth” itself.

Adam Smith’s great insight, which lead really to the explosion of real world wealth in the centuries since his writing, was that the wealth of a society was not, as the merchantilists of his day proclaimed, the amount of specie (gold and silver) in the public treasury.  It was the sum total of the goods and services available to the society.  It includes the things grown and manufactured locally.  It also includes the things traded for.

Where money comes into it is a convenient method for trading.  If I make chairs, I don’t have to find someone who has something I want that’s willing to provide it in exchange for one of my chairs.  I can sell the chair to someone who wants chairs, in exchange for money, and take the money to use it for something I want.  And I can combine the money from multiple chairs to buy something much more valuable than one chair–or even all the chairs one person wants–like, say, a car.  Or I can divide it to buy things where a chair would be really too much.  I may only want a few toothpicks but wouldn’t really want to trade a whole chair for them?  Oh, sure, if I can make chairs I can make toothpicks, but I would probably be better off spending the toothpick making time instead making more chairs.

Money also brings in a time factor.  I can sell the chair today to buy something tomorrow or next week.  And with that, we bring in a whole host of other things:  savings, investment, credit, inflation, deflation, partial reserve banking, and the concept of monetary policy.

In the end, you have money on one side and the “economic output”–the production of goods and services–on the other.

So, in response to fears over the Chinese Coronavirus, Covid-19, Winnie the Flu, we’ve got a whole host of various shutdowns.  Businesses are being shut down or restricted in numerous ways.  People are being urged to stay home and avoid places where they’ll gather with others.  This has–indeed has to–drastically curtailed economic output not just in the US but in the world.  People are losing jobs.  The economy is tanking.

And so we have folk in Washington talking about a “stimulus”.  One suggestion was to simply send checks to people.  Free money.  A figure of $1000 has been batted around.

This would be a bad idea.

Let me reiterate.  Money is not wealth.  Money can be used to buy wealth, but the wealth itself comes from the economic output of society.  If the economic output is reduced then all the money in the world doesn’t make you any richer.  You just have more money chasing the same goods and services.   There’s a term for that:  inflation.

Real economic stimulus cannot come from sending people checks, increasing the money supply, while still keeping the fetters on economic production.  At best you’ll get a short blip while people quickly buy up the available resources before prices rise to accommodate the new balance of money supply to economic output.  And instituting price controls (which I figure is coming next) simply means that the shelves get empty that much sooner with no production to restock them.  The result will be worse than if nothing were done at all.

If one really wants to restimulate the economy, the way to do it is to remove the economic fetters.  If you absolutely must have restrictions to deal with a pandemic which, as I have said before, I don’t think is anywhere near as bad as portrayed, then find other fetters that can be removed so that people can profitably engage in economic activity producing real wealth (goods and services) for the American people.  And maybe, once the Winnie the Flu crisis is over, consider keeping those fetters off anyway.

In short, freedom, economic and otherwise, remains the best “stimulus.”

The Wuhan (Chinese) Coronavirus


Yes, I’m going to call it that despite the outcry about using that descriptor.  It has long been common to name diseases after where they were first identified.  The list of examples is long.  German Measles, Spanish Flu, Rocky Mountain Fever, Lyme Disease (named after Lyme Connecticut), Ebola (named after the Ebola river), and on and on and on.  There’s nothing “racist” about it.  But the Chinese Communist Party declared it’s “racist” and their willing collaborators in government and the media go along with it. (I’m kind of partial to “Winnie the Flu” since that is tailor made to annoy Xi Jinping.)

First off, I consider the panic about it overblown.  This is not the disaster that some folk have been painting. (Yes, Italy has been bad but I’ll get to that shortly.) And there’s nothing about it that requires people to grab years supplies of toilet paper.  Really.  Diarrhea isn’t even a symptom.  A couple weeks supply, a month at most, and you’re golden.  Really.

On the other hand, some people have been utterly dismissive of it.  “It’s no worse than the flu” they say.  And now we get to Italy.

First off, let me be clear that Italy is not a good “model” for what results are likely to be in the United States.  Italians tend to keep very close personal space, as in, next to none.  They engage in a lot more casual physical touch than is generally considered comfortable in American society.  this facilitates the spread of diseases like the Wuhan Coronavirus.  However, the real issue can be seen here:

critical care beds

Note that this is “per 100,000” so that the US has just about five times Italy’s population has already been corrected for.  The simple fact is, America has the facilities to care for a larger proportion of its population in need of critical care than is Italy.  The closest anyone comes to the US capacity is Germany.  A large part of the problem in Italy is that their facilities were overwhelmed–more cases needing critical care than they had beds to handle.  What was an overwhelming crisis in Italy will be “a bit busy” in the US.

Now, this is not to say that the situation in Italy is not informative.  To the best of my knowledge, seasonal flu does not generally swamp Italy’s medical systems.  And so, while the fact that it is a crisis in Italy does not mean that it will be such a crisis here, nevertheless, I think it does point to Wuhan Coronavirus being worse than seasonal flu and probably even worse than the 2009 H1N1 strain.

So how much worse?  To consider that, let’s look at the Grand Princess cruise ship.  They had the disease aboard in a fairly closed environment.  Despite the best efforts of the crew, the ship was simply not equipped to fully isolate passengers from each other or from the crew.  Crew still ate in common and still had to interact with passengers if only to deliver food and other necessary goods.  We have 21 confirmed cases of Coronavirus on the Grand Princess.  Most of the passengers who didn’t show obvious symptoms declined testing.  Even with the attempts at isolation, we can pretty much presume that everyone on the ship was exposed.  Still 290 tests, 21 cases.  Given the situation on the ship despite efforts at isolation we can pretty much assume that everybody was exposed, that gives an infection rate of just under 10% and we can go ahead and round up to that  Estimates of death rates from those infected range from 0.5% to upwards of 8%.  Those higher rates, however, tend to be coupled with inadequate medical care (not enough beds to treat more serious cases–see Italy up above) and with older patients with other underlying health issues.  Also, those figures do not count minor cases which are never recognized as Wuhan Coronavirus.  The person thinks they have a cold, or even don’t show symptoms at all, and goes on about their life.  And I am, perhaps, less inclined to dismiss the “older with other underlying health issues”.  After all, I am older (pushing 60) with other underlying health issues (diabetes).  All told, however, that 0.5% is probably closer to an upper bound, in a developed country with adequate facilities for critical care, than the higher numbers.

Still, at worst case then, we’re talking about a total of 30 million cases in the US and 15,000 deaths.  That’s somewhat worse than the 2009 H1N1 epidemic, but not much.

So, yes, some caution and care is justified.  The current panic, not so much.  So wash your hands, people.  You should be doing that anyway.  And if you’re sick, stay home so as not to infect other people.  Beyond that?  You’re good.  Really.

And once you’ve got more than a couple weeks’ supply of toilet paper, you really don’t need to get any more.  Honest.  They’ll make more.

“A Good Family Man” a moderately updated Blast from the Past.


Once up on a time it was high praise indeed to say of a man that he was “a good family man.”  Television and movies celebrated fathers who cared about, and took care of, their families.  Today, if you say that people look at you like you’re from another planet.  Or maybe they think that you’re referring to a certain cartoon–Family Guy–which in and of itself shows just how far the concept has fallen.

When my Ex referred to me as her “home papa” it took me a number of years before I realized that this was not a compliment.

This is underscored in media representations of fathers.  Once, fathers presented as positive models in shows like Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, and Father Knows Best.  Dated those shows may be and yes, sometimes the father was the butt of the joke (they were, after all, comedies), but that did not take away from the fact that these were loving families that cared about each other with fathers that were devoted to their families.

Contrast that with more recent fare where you have shows like Married with Children where the point of the show appeared to be how much these people hated each other.  Or perhaps Home Improvement where the father was the incompetent moron who caused all the problems. (Can’t give you much more recent than that–I almost never watch television and am, frankly, just too disgusted to bother.)

In older shows, when you had a single father (Ben Cartwright in Bonanza, Lucas McCain in The Rifleman, Steve Douglas in My Three Sons, and so on) it was usually a widower.  (And before you get started, there were shows about single mothers who are widows as well–Victoria Barkley in The Big Valley.)   Of course, even in modern ones, when you do have a single dad it’s often a widower because, well, over the years 1993-2007 (a range for which I happen to have found figures), the mother gets custody 83-85% of the time (making me one of the lucky ones).  More often these days the shows are about single moms.  These are rarely widows.  Either they left (for entirely justifiable reasons, of course), or were left by the fathers.

Oh, one particularly interesting example of “single fathers” was My Two Dads.  The mother was sleeping with two men, had no idea which the father was, so both came to take care of the child.  While kudos to the characters for rising to the occasion in the end, getting to that point relies on remarkably poor decisions on all three of the adults’ parts.

So where are the good fathers in recent years (for which I’ll say mid 80s or later–yes, that’s not so recent, but then, I’m not so young).

A surprising one is John Matrix in Commando.  He’s a single father, who appears to have a great relationship with his daughter.  No mention is made of what happened to the mother but given the totality of the film I’d guess he’s probably a widower.  And Matrix’s entire motivation throughout the film is to get his little girl back safe.

Another one is Adam Gibson in The 6th Day.  Gibson, a devoted family man, sees an “imposter” taking his place in his home and attempts to overcome tremendous obstacles put in place by the bad guys in his effort to return to his home and family.

Roger Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon.  A major part of his character is his devotion to his family (and the stress of dealing with a daughter reaching an age where her becoming sexually active is a possibility) and, indeed, that family and its devotion to each other is a large part of what brings Riggs back from the brink of his own personal Hell.

Gomez Addams in the Addams Family movies (okay, I prefer the 60’s TV show, but the movies are great too).  His utter devotion to his family is unquestionable.  (Okay, there’s the modern portrayal of Wednesday, which is part of why I prefer John Astin’s version.)

Then there’s the single dad with kids who need to “rescue” him by trying to get him a girl. (Sleepless in Seatle would be the archetype of this.) Kind of a reversal of the parent/child role where the child “takes care of” the parent instead of the other way around.

One movie deserves special mention:  “The Family Man” staring Nicolas Cage.  During the “glimpse” Jack Campbell gets to see what life would be like as a devoted family man–considerably less wealthy than he was, but surrounded by people he loves, and who love him.  The glimpse ends, the “angel” (I can argue that it’s actually a demon straight out of Hell) takes it away from him and, although they try to graft on a “happy ending” by showing a possible reconciliation between Jack and the woman who was his wife in the “glimpse”, he can never have that life.  Even if they do get together they are older.  Her father in this reality is dead.  The house they had is owned by somebody else.  The daughter they had will never exist.  And neither of them is the person they were in the “glimpse”.  So that life is closed to them.  Will they make a decent one from where they are “now”?  We’ll never know.

Frankly, you have to look far and wide to find strong, loving, caring fathers dedicated to their families in movies and TV these days.  They’ve fallen out of favor.   And whether this is art imitating life, or life being influenced by art, we’re seeing a lot of disparagement of the family, and the roll of strong, caring, involved fathers in it in society.  I suspect it’s a little of both in a kind of feedback loop.

As it stands, my personal goal is to be the kind, caring, compassionate father seen in many of those early sitcoms (and if you say “Patriarchy”, you just prove that you haven’t paid close attention to those programs.  Yes, the division of labor between inside and outside the home was different from what is common today, but if you look at the division of power and who generally got their way, you’d see something quite different).  One could do worse than choose John Astin’s Gomez Addams or Fred Gwynn’s Herman Munster as a role model.

One could do a lot worse.

One might, for instance, choose Al Bundy (Shudder).

A Response to a Libertarian Group

There was this:


While I can agree with the basic idea, the presentation in that graphic is horribly misleading

In the first item a lot of things get lumped into vague terms like “corporate welfare.” When it comes to things like actual subsidies and bailouts, I fully agree. There should be no such thing as “too big to fail”. If a company can’t survive in the market it should fail, releasing those resources to more productive uses. Many people, however, include deductions for expenses and the like. An argument might possibly be made to base taxes on gross revenue rather than “profit” (revenue-expenses) but that would…be bad I think.

The second issue, however is a horrible misrepresentation of what “limited liability” actually means and is largely what prompted this response. Limited liability is for the investors. It basically means that if the company goes bankrupt, the creditors can’t come after your Aunt Sally (who owned a share or two of stock) for her house to help pay them. It does not mean that the actual decision makers are immune from the legal consequences of their decisions. There are problems with the legal justice system which often shield the rich and powerful from the consequences of their actions but corporation “limited liability” is not one of them.

The next, “economic privilege”, when it comes to government influence is a result of the size, scope, and intrusiveness of government, pure and simple. Once government starts meddling in the economy it becomes a matter of self-interest to the point of survival for businesses to attempt to influence that meddling. More regulation simply makes matters worse by making influence still more valuable (and thus folk who can being willing to pay more for it). “More regulation” to attempt to stop that influence is actually counterproductive. First off, the people who would be creating those regulations already benefit from said influence. Likewise, the folk who already have the influence are going to use that influence to neuter any such regulation, at least when it comes to their influence. Those two turn it into a “bell the cat” situation. And even if you could somehow solve that, the simple truth is that any laws/regulations which have fallible humans involved anywhere in the process is going to have flaws and weaknesses. And the folk with the fund to do so, will now be even more willing to spend those funds to find those weaknesses and flaws because you’ve just made that influence even more valuable. The solution there, paradoxically, is to reduce the power of government, reduce its influence over business and the economy. This makes influence over government less valuable and, therefore, people will simply be unwilling to spend resources on that influence. That, unfortunately, is one approach that’s almost never advocated by those who decry the “economic privilege” of big business and the wealthy “buying” influence over government.

Finally, we have that last one. That’s actually correct as written (IMO). The problem is that many people define “enforce contracts” not to mean just according to what the contract in question actually says, but by what they think it should say. Anybody making a “living Constitution” argument is doing just that. And if anybody talks about “enforcing contracts” and an unwritten “social contract”, run. Likewise, they want to restrict what contracts one is allowed to enter into and what contracts one is not (see “health insurance).

So again, while the concepts I, in general, agree with, the specifics noted leave much to be desired.

My Life Part 6: Vaccines and Tonsils


This covers some assorted things that I don’t have a real “sequence” to, or that I had simply neglected to mention, on the last few parts.

Sometime before I started first grade, my mother took me to someplace I had never been before.  It was a long, low brick building and we joined a long line of people waiting to enter the building.  The people waiting were, like my mother, adults with one or more children in tow.  My mother said it was for vaccinations.  I, of course, had no idea what a “vaccination” was.

The line moved forward rapidly.   Eventually we reached a point where I could see what was going on ahead of me, and what was happening to the kids in front of me.


I was ready to bolt right there.  Those needles looked to my six year old eyes to be about a yard long.  Not me.  No thank you.  And this was before I had dealt with the dentist who gave me a pretty serious fear of needles.  The fact that they were needles was scary enough, without the need for any experience with ham-fisted folk inflicting exquisite pain with them.

My mother told me I was her brave boy, and it didn’t hurt, and… And while I had my doubts about that “didn’t hurt” part, well, I was her brave boy, wasn’t I?  I couldn’t let her down.  So I pressed my lips together and stepped up to the counter (it was a counter and not individual desks) when it was my turn.

First there was that yard long needle.  I don’t know what vaccines it was for, but it went into my shoulder and…didn’t hurt.  Next there was a needle that wasn’t attached to a syringe.  I got jabbed with this one several times in a small area, just enough to lightly prick the skin.  I remember it as being to the inside of my forearm but that can’t be right.  Mandela effect, I guess.  This would have been the smallpox vaccine and, therefore, would have been applied to the shoulder.  On reflection, I think I’m conflating the memory with a TB skin test I had some years later in fifth grade.

My mother told me that the area would blister and itch and that I must not scratch it otherwise it could get infected.

Well, it did blister (as smallpox vaccinations do), and it did itch.  But I didn’t scratch.  It was hard, but I avoided it.  Instead, what happened is that I was a very active six year old boy and in the course of play the bump on my shoulder tore off.  I’m pretty sure it was just a scab at that point but what did a six year old know?  I picked up the piece that had torn off and went running back home with it.  I remember my mother taping the piece back in place with a bandaid, but I doubt that happened.  It would have been filthy and not something you would put over a bleeding wound.  As I said, I’m pretty sure in retrospect it was just scabbing.  I suspect there was some slight of hand there to make me think my mother was putting the piece of my shoulder back in place while she simply bandaged the wound.

It did get infected somewhat, at least as my mother related the tale in later days, but I recovered and then had my smallpox vaccine scar.  It’s completely faded now.  Can’t find a trace of it.

Later, and still before “the dentist” (Part 5 of this series) while we were in school we were given some materials to explain why it was so very important to get vaccinated against Rubella, German Measles.  There were little comics about how a kid, not vaccinated, got it and passed it to a pregnant relative and, as a result, said relative’s child was born blind.  Scare stuff, but entirely valid.  So, once again we were lined up.  The procedure was slightly different this time.  Instead of a yard long (as it seemed to me) needle, they used the air guns to “blow” the vaccine through the skin.  And so we got the MMR vaccine.  One of the “M’s” was supposedly not operative for me.  My mother said that I had had mumps when I was younger but I have no memory of that.

The other medical issue of the time was tonsils.  Back then, mid to late 60’s, tonsillectomy was very common.  And with my recurrent sore throats made me an excellent candidate for one.  And, so, I went into the hospital for one, something Memorial Hospital (either gone or name changed in the interim–can’t find any “Memorial Hospitals” in or near Portsmouth now). I was in a semi-private room with another kid also in for tonsils.  We immediately become friends.

One of the things I remembered was my new friend and I thinking it would be a good idea to press the nurse call button “just because.” Well, we ended up being scolded by the nurse.

Eventually it became time for the surgery.  No food allowed that morning which was definitely disappointing to a growing boy.

My new friend’s turn was first.  Some folk came in and then I heard my friend set up a howling.  Shortly thereafter, they wheeled him out of the room and that was the last I ever saw of him. (He didn’t die nor was there anything sinister. We just ended up going separate ways after our respective operations and, well, the only thing we had in common was sharing a hospital room pre-op.)

Not long after, it was my turn.  I found out why he howled so.  Part of my immediate pre-op prep was to get a needle (didn’t see it, but I’m sure it was a yard long) jabbed into my rear end and the fires of Hell (although I never would have used that word back then) injected into my backside.

I howled.

Afterward my mother, who was there with me, told me what a brave boy I had been. (I’m not sure my mother quite grasped the concept of bravery.  Just kidding.  She was being a mother.)  After the injection, I was turned face up on a gurney (nowadays the beds themselves are on wheels and used to move patients) and I was wheeled into the operating room.

I am told that the injection was probably demerol and the reason it was so very painful is back then the approach was to give the injections quickly to “get it over with”.  The medicine being shoved into the muscle quickly causes pressure which makes it hurt more.  A more gradual injection (more common today) allows the medicine time to disperse and is less painful.

In the operating room they put a mask over my face and…Boom.  Lights out.

While I was out, I dreamed.  In my dream they were talking about having the surgery to take my tonsils out “tomorrow.” And so, when I woke, feeling groggy and just plain not very good at all, I saw my mother there and asked her if they were going to take my tonsils out tomorrow?

“They’re done.  They’re already out.”

And then I got sick.  I have since learned that I always get violently sick to my stomach after coming out of general anesthetic.  Always.  Anti-nausea drugs don’t touch it.  I get violently sick to my stomach when I come out of it.  This isn’t helped by the surgery being in my throat meaning I very likely swallowed a significant amount of blood.  As was explained to me by my ENT after nose surgery many years later, human blood is an emetic.  It makes most people sick.

And so, my throat hurt. (Gee, you think?) But I nevertheless went back to sleep.  When I awoke again, I asked the nurse looking in on me (didn’t touch the call button–I’d learned.) if I could have some ice cream.  You see, my mother had told me before the surgery that I could eat a lot of cold, soft foods like ice cream and Jello after it to help soothe my throat.  The nurse said the doctor had to check me before I could have anything to eat.  I didn’t complain.  I wasn’t really hungry, still groggy and uncomfortable.  I just wanted some ice cream because my throat hurt and I thought it might soothe it just like my mother had said.

So, a bit later that morning the doctor checked me and pronounced me fit to release.  And shortly after I had ice cream.  Chocolate.  In one of those little Styrofoam packages with the little wooden vaguely-spoon-shaped object.

And so, for the next two weeks I was eating mostly soft foods (eggs, grits–we were a southern family, grits was one of the four main food groups–, and yes, ice cream and jello).  Then we switched to “scratchier” (as my mother termed it) foods.  Hamburgers!  One of my favorites.  This was, I was told, to help “clear out” the stitches.  In retrospect, I am…dubious of this claim.  Since I did not go back to have sutures removed, I expect they used absorbable sutures (Dexon was available at the time).

I have been “under the knife” several times since then, most recently for nose surgery (deviated septum and issues with the “turbinates” that were causing breathing problems).  Every time, I’ve been seriously sick to my stomach afterward.

And to this day I am really, really reluctant to push that call button for anything short of imminent death.