Mills of the Gods Redux: A Blast from the Past


Expansion of an earlier post from my older blog.

Folk who know me know that I am not a Trump supporter.  I have not been a Trump supporter.  I am not a Trump opponent either.  When he does something of which I approve, I say so.  When he does something of which I disapprove, I say so for that too.

On balance, I think that he has proven to be better than the alternative we could have had, at least once we got to the general election.

On the other hand, going into the election I had no reason except the word of someone who admitted that you couldn’t trust his word and that everything he said was “just flexible suggestions” as to his being any better than Hillary.  I was able to cite five, possibly six, of the Bill of Rights that he was willing to violate in order to get what he wanted.

And people cheered this.

Still, since then he has proven to be better than I expected and farbetter than I feared, especially in appointing, and getting confirmed, a Supreme Court justice that actually considers the Constitution to be the Supreme Law of the land rather than something to “get around”.  And then he did it again with a Justice that, while not perfect, was at least as good as the one he was replacing.  Neither was the absolute disaster for Constitutional law and the rights of the individual that Trump’s main opponent and the only one who would have had a chance at winning, would have chosen.

So.  I was wrong.  And I have never, ever been so glad to be so wrong about anything in my life.  He’s not been perfect (Civil Asset Forfeiture, the continuing Prohibition II, Bump Stocks, and some other things), but far better than I had any reason to expect.

That said, I keep running into people who are insist on only voting for the “perfect” candidate.  “The lesser of two evils is still evil” is a common watchcry and that doing so is simply a somewhat slower slide into tyranny.

The flip side is that voting for the “perfect” (from my perspective–I expect yours would be somewhat different) candidate when that candidate can’t even get the support of 2% of the voters is a quicker slide into tyranny.

“All or nothing” is a good way to get “nothing.”

I like the metaphor that Neil Gaiman used for his career.  It’s like a mountain in the distance.  And as long as I can keep moving toward that mountain I’ll eventually get there.  Don’t try to do it all at once.  That will fail.  But I can get a little bit closer than I am now.  Then, from this new position, look to see if I can get a little bit closer from that.  And then again.  And so on.

By this chart at the top of this I’m a pretty much a Paelo-Conservative/Classical Liberal.  Some infrastructure things (roads on the chart) I think are appropriate for government, others not.  On the flip side I’m of mixed feelings about education so between them I figure it’s pretty much a wash and the “Paleo-Conservative” label fits fairly well.  Add in that with “health care” and that things like with infectious diseases other folks actions, or inaction, threaten me and it gets a bit complicated.  But still, Paleo-Conservative is probably pretty close.

But look at where we are now.  We’re so far from that “goal” that the Hubble couldn’t see it.  If I had a true Paleo-Conservative candidate to run for office, it’s extremely unlikely he could win (even in a fair election, never mind when the other side(s) cheats).  And if, by some miracle, he (or she) did win, there is simply no way I’d get a paleo-conservative Congress to go along.  Republicans, the so-called “right wing” aren’t even close to that paleo-conservative position.    Consider the claimed desire to repeal and replace Obamacare, while keeping things like the pre-existing condition mandate (regardless of how economically unsupportable it is)?  The claim is often made (with pretty graphs to “prove” it) that the “Left” and “Right” have become more extreme–the Left has gone more Left, the Right more Right–but they really haven’t.  They’ve both moved (or been shoved) in the same general direction.  One may be moving faster than the other increasing the separation between them but “More right” has not been the direction the Republican party has been moving.  It’s only by redefining what constitutes the “center” that this illusion is perpetuated.  And the Democrats?  Well look at that chart again.  Is there anything in the “Total Socialism” in that chart that they aren’t agitating for?

In the end, despite how much the media makes of the issue it’s really a matter of “modern conservative” and “modern liberal” (Republicans and Democrats) having both moved bit outward on the chart.

There’s a concept called the “Overton Window“.  Basically, it’s an expression of the idea that people in general are risk averse.  They’re used to the situation that they find now.  Big changes from that are risky so most people aren’t going to support big changes.  The changes that are made at any given time have to be modest or people will reject them.  (Note also that this tendency toward risk-aversion is why the left, with its promises of security, has had such success, but that’s a topic for another day.) So, we have to pick modest goals and focus on them piece by piece, in an incremental approach, to have any expectation of success.

So, I’m not going to get paleo-conservative, not in terms of national, or even State policy, not for a long time if ever in my life.  But I might get somebody a little bit closer than we are now.  And if I can get that, then the next cycle, maybe I can get somebody a little bit closer than that.  And a little bit closer the next time.  And the same shifting “Overton Window” works here.  As government becomes less intrusive, less restrictive, less all-encompassing, why people can get used to that too, just as they have motion the other way.

The problem, of course, is the other side is doing the exact same thing.  So not only do I have to try to move in the direction I want, I have to resist their effort to move back the other way.  And if I’m not strong enough to prevent that adverse movement, I have to at least slow it down, try and put myself in a position to strike back when I am stronger (or when they’re weaker).  And that might sometimes mean trading.  When you can’t hold everything against a strong opponent then you have to pick your battles.  You might have to give up ground in one area in order to gain or hold ground in another.

People tell me “compromise doesn’t work.” Actually, the cases they site are excellent examples of how very well it does work.  It’s just that it’s been a weapon used against us.  Conservative/libertarian types are like folk sticking to single shot rifles to “not waste ammo” while the other side has been using repeating rifles and machine guns.  Win small concessions, then use that new position as a springboard to win more.  Repeat until you’re where you want to be.  It’s a tactic that works.  So far, it’s worked for our enemies.  Maybe it’s time for it to work for us.

So look at that mountain.  What can we get that moves us closer to the mountain, even if only a little bit?  Get it.  And then keep the pressure on.

The mills of the gods grind slowly, but exceedingly fine.

My Life Part Eight: Hot Rod Road

As I mentioned previously, on moving to Ohio my family lived for a while with “Uncle Denny”.  Uncle Denny was a serious car guy.  I mean really serious.  He had a Ford Model A in his garage that he was restoring.  At the time the car was little more than a shell with an engine (not original–a Chevrolet engine I think–and transmission.  No drive shaft or differential.  The driver’s seat and steering column were installed I think (if I’m not conflating with another project).

Denny had a pretty thorough setup in his garage.  He had an oxy-acetylene welding and an arc welder of the stick type (MIG welding hadn’t really come into its own yet and was not yet commercially available).  He had an air compressor, which I mostly remember for his use with a paint sprayer.

Denny's Garage

Denny could always be found working on his project or on other cars either in his garage or in the yard between it and the house.  Garage was not attached.  The garage is still there (picture above) although the yard is now fenced in.  Frequently back then folk would come over, pull their cars up into the yard, and then and Denny would work on them.

I could often be found hanging out with Denny in the garage or in the yard watching as he was working on cars and eventually “helping” by passing tools to the folk working on the cars.  I got pretty good at selecting the right wrench from looking and visually estimating the size of the bolt head.

About that same time I got what was the first actual “novel” that I distinctly remember reading.  “Novel” as distinct from the very short picture books of my earlier childhood.  I may have read others before this, I don’t know, but none of them have stuck with me enough to distinctly recall.  The book was “Hot Rod Road” (picture at the beginning of this post–and the pic is a clickable link to Amazon if anyone is interested).  The book centered around Steve Barker, a 16 year old car and drag racing enthusiast.  Coming in on top of my exposure to Uncle Denny it made a great impression on me.  Recently someone asked the question of what was the first novel we remembered reading and that one popped up in my head.  Just for nostalgia value I found a copy of it and found that it held up surprisingly well.  Oh, sure, it’s very much a period piece, describing an America that has changed much, but the story was still quite enjoyable.  A coming of age story of sorts centering around drag racing–legal drag racing not illegal street races.  Nostalgia factor aside, I can still read it with enjoyment today.

In that period I was still a big reader of comic books (and would be until the mid to late eighties).  Among the comics I read then were a few “anthology” comics on automotive and racing themes.  I remember one story about some kid who got a Model T and “restored” it.  They largely skimmed over the “restoration” except to have the main character say that he was installing a Chevrolet engine and transmission and that he’d have to beef up the drive shaft and rear end for that.  Then the story had someone next to them at a stoplight laughing at their old car.  They race.  The Model T wins (because, of course, it had a modern for then drivetrain).  The a pic of them driving around the street with the caption “they loved the roomy old Model T.”

At about this time there were two cartoons I tended to follow:  Skyhawks, a series centered around a family who ran an air transport and rescue operation (I was infatuated with all things related to flying) and Hot Wheels, which helped cement my interest in cars and racing.

Based on that, I wanted to be a race car driver.  Bruce was highly disdainful of the idea.  Yeah, you might win a few but then spend all the prize money and then some on rebuilding the car for the next race. While this is, in fact, pretty much true–as the old saw goes, “How do you make a small fortune in racing?  Start with a large one”–I was in no danger of squandering money on race cars (not at 10 years old) and my interests would likely (and, in fact, did) change.  He could have handled that better.

Have I made clear how much I’ve come to despise that man?  Oh, it gets worse.  Trust me.

Denny was very much into actual restoration.  He was quite disdainful of what he called “Hot Rods” where someone would take as a base an antique car, cut off the top, remove the hood and fenders (or leave little fenders mounted on the suspension that just barely cover the tops of the tires)–cars that lose all practicality usable just for show and possibly racing (and generally illegal racing at that since they’ll hardly be competitive in sanctioned events).  And all that on top of having now depleted the limited supply of actual antique and classic cars.  But he didn’t let his personal disdain get in the way of working on cars since while I was there someone brought over such a rod for…something.  I don’t really know what it was.

We only lived with him a short time (and in the house next door for a bit longer) Uncle Denny had a pretty big influence on me.  With him sparking an interest in things mechanical and Bruce inspiring an interest in things electronic it’s no great surprise that I developed and maintained (to the present day) an interest in “gadgets” of all types.

During this time school and my social interactions were something of a mixed bag.  I made a few friends in the local area (including one who actually had Hot Wheels toys and race sets, including the then-new chargeable motorized cars, “Sizzlers”!).  Changing schools, however, did not end the bullying I experienced from my previous schools.  Oh, it was almost never actual fights (which would generally not really be fights so much as me being beat up).  No, it was verbal abuse and social ostracism.  I may also have started what would be a lifelong battle with depression about this time.  I say “may” because I really don’t recall much along that line although within a few more years I definitely would be well into it.

One day, while we were staying with Denny, my mother collapsed.  She was on the phone and she just…sank to the floor.  Things are a bit of a blur after that.  I don’t recall how we got help for her.  I think I may have called the operator (this was before 911 was available in that area, or if it was I didn’t know about it) and we got an ambulance for her.  She spent some time in the hospital and ended up having a hysterectomy including removing one of her ovaries (she ended up needing to take hormone supplements for years afterward to avoid things like growing a very obvious mustache).  I came to find out later that apparently Bruce had picked up a sexually transmitted disease from a “working girl” (as the euphemism was) and got himself “fixed up” but said nothing to my mother with the result that she was not only infected but the infection had time to progress to the point of irreversible damage.

Yes, he was a real piece of work.  I told you it got worse.  And we’re not done yet.  Despite that my mother stayed with him. (Or perhaps not considering…well, I’ll get to those events in due time.)

I think it was in the summer between third and fourth grade when we moved out of Denny’s house and into the house next door.  We’ll pick up there next time.

July 20, 1969, “We Came in Peace for All Mankind”


Communicators in the text may be identified according to the following list.

CDR  Commander  Neil A. Armstrong
CMP  Command module pilot   Michael Collins
LMP  Lunar module pilot  Edwin E. ALdrin, Jr.
SC  Unidentifiable crewmember
MS  Multiple (simultaneous) speakers
LCC  Launch Control Center
Mission Control Center:
CC  Capsule Communicator (CAP COMM)
F  Flight Director

Remote Sites:
CT Communications Technician (COMM TECH)
Recovery Forces:
R  Recovery helicopter
AB  Air Boss

A series of three dots (…) is used to designate those portions of the communications that could not be transcribed because of garbling. One dash (-) is used to indicate a speaker’s pause or a self-interruption and subsequent completion of a thought. Two dashes (- -) are used to indicate an interruption by another speaker or a point at which a recording was terminated abruptly.

04 06 28 51 CC
Eagle, Houston. We read you now. You’re GO for PDI. Over.

04 06 28 57 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Understand. AELD control circuit breakers. DECA GIMBAL AC – closed?

04 06 29 07 CDR (EAGLE)

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/4 Page 309

04 06 29 08 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 29 23 CC
Eagle, Houston. Your alignment is GO on the AGS. On my Mark, 3 30 until ignition.

04 06 29 29 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 29 33 CC

04 06 29 34 CC
3 30 until ignition.

04 06 29 38 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Copy. Thrust translation – four jets – Balance couple – ON. TTCA throttle – MINIMUM. Throttle – AUTO CDR. Prop button – RESET. Prop button. Okay. ABORT/ABORT STAGE – RESET. ATT CONTROL – three of them to MODE CONTROL. 0kay, MODE CONTROL is set. AGS is reading 400 plus 1. Standing by for …

04 06 30 45 LMP (EAGLE)
Hit VERB 77?

04 06 31 04 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. Sequence camera coming on.

04 06 31 32 CC
Eagle, Houston. If you’d like to try high gain, pitch 212, yaw 37. Over.

04 06 31 45 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. I think I’ve got you on high gain now.

04 06 31 49 CC

04 06 32 03 LMP (EAGLE)
Say again the angles, though.

04 06 32 05 CC

04 06 32 06 LMP (EAGLE)
I’ll set them in to use them before we yaw around.

04 06 32 08 CC
Roger. Pitch 212, yaw plus 37.

04 06 32 24 LMP (EAGLE)
OMNI’s in.

04 06 33 09 LMP (EAGLE)
… 10 … 10 percent …

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/5 Page 310

04 06 33 41 CC
Columbia, Houston. We’ve lost them. Tell them to go aft OMNI. Over.

04 06 33 51 CMP (COLUMBIA)
They’ve lost you. Use the OMNI’s again.

04 06 34 01 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 34 05 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Say again, Neil?

04 06 34 07 LMP (EAGLE)
I’ll leave it in SLEW. Relay to us. See if they have got me now. I’ve got good signal strength in SLEW.

04 06 34 13 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Okay. You should have him now, Houston.

04 06 34 16 CC
Eagle, we’ve got you now. It’s looking good. Over.

04 06 34 23 CC
Eagle – –

04 06 34 24 LMP (EAGLE)
– – descent looks good.

04 06 34 25 CC
Eagle, Houston. Everything is looking good here. Over.

04 06 34 29 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Copy.

04 06 34 34 CC
Eagle, Houston. After yaw around, angles: S band pitch, minus 9, yaw plus 18.

04 06 34 46 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 34 59 LMP (EAGLE)
AGS and PNGS agree very closely.

04 06 35 01 CC

04 06 35 14 LMP (EAGLE)
Beta ARM. Altitudes are a little high.

04 06 35 45 LMP (EAGLE)
Houston. I’m getting a little fluctuation in the AC voltage now.

04 06 35 51 CC

04 06 35 52 LMP (EAGLE)
Could be our meter, maybe, huh?

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/6 Page 311

04 06 35 54 LMP (EAGLE)
Stand by, Looking good to us. You’re still looking good at 3, coming up 3 minutes.

04 06 36 13 LMP (EAGLE)
… real good …. about on.

04 06 36 18 CDR (EAGLE)
Our. position checks downrange show us to be a little long.

04 06 36 21 CC
Roger. Copy.

04 06 36 24 LMP (EAGLE)
AGS has gone about 2 feet per second greater …

04 06 36 36 CDR (EAGLE)
… ought to be … Stand by.,

04 06 36 43 LMP (EAGLE)
Altitude …

04 06 37 00 LMP (EAGLE)
… it’s going to stop.

04 06 37 18 CC
Eagle, Houston. You are GO to continue – –

04 06 37 19 LMP (EAGLE)
… closed … GO … at 4 minutes.

04 06 37 22 CC
Roger. You are GO – You are GO to continue powered descent. You are GO to continue powered des cent.

04 06 37 30 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 37 35 CC
And, Eagle, Houston. We’ve got data dropout. You’re still looking good.

04 06 38 04 LMP (EAGLE)
… PGNS. We got good lock-on. Altitude lights OUT. DELTA-H is minus 2 900.

04 06 38 18 CC
Roger. We copy.

04 06 38 20 LMP (EAGLE)
Got the Earth right out our front window.

04 06 38 23 CDR (EAGLE)
Houston, you’re looking at our DELTA-H?

04 06 38 25 CC
That’s affirmative.

04 06 38 26 CDR (EAGLE)

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/7 Page 312

04 06 38 28 CC
It’s looking good to us. Over.

04 06 38 30 CDR (EAGLE)
It’s a 1202.

04 06 38 32 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 38 48 CDR (EAGLE)
Give us a reading on the 1202 PROGRAM ALARM.

04 06 38 53 CC
Roger. We got – We’re GO on that alarm

04 06 38 59 CDR (EAGLE)
Roger. P30.

04 06 39 01 CC
6 plus 25, throttle down – –

04 06 39 02 LMP (EAGLE)
Looks like about 820 –

04 06 39 03 CC
– – 6 plus 25, throttle down.

04 06 39 06 CDR (EAGLE)
Roger. Copy. 6 plus 25.

04 06 39 14 LMP (EAGLE)
Same alarm, and it appears to come up when we have a 1668 up.

04 06 39 17 CC
Roger. Copy.

04 06 39 23 CC
Eagle, Houston. We’ll monitor your DELTA-H.

04 06 39 24 LMP (EAGLE)
… worked out beautifully.

04 06 39 28 CC

04 06 39 29 LMP (EAGLE)
… looks good now.

04 06 39 30 CC
Roger. DELTA H is looking good to us.

04 06 39 34 LMP (EAGLE)
Ah! Throttle down – –

04 06 39 35 CDR (EAGLE)
Throttle down on time!

04 06 39 36 CC
Roger, We copy throttle down – –

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/8 Page 313

04 06 39 37 LMP (EAGLE)
– – … throttles down. Better than the simulator.

04 06 39 42 CC

04 06 39 48 LMP (EAGLE)
AGS and PGNS look real close.

04 06 40 08 CC
At 7 minutes, you’re looking great to us, Eagle.

04 06 40 13 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. I’m still on SLEW so we may tend to lose as we gradually pitch over. Let me try AUTO again now and see what happens.

04 06 40 21 CC

04 06 40 23 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. Looks like it’s holding.

04 06 40 24 CC
Roger. We got good data.

04 06 40 49 CC
Eagle, Houston. It’s descent 2 fuel to MONITOR. Over.

04 06 40 55 CDR (EAGLE)
Going to 2.

04 06 41 01 LMP (EAGLE)
Give us an estimated switchover time please, Houston.

04 06 41 05 CC
Roger. Stand by. You’re looking great at 8 minutes.

04 06 41 10 LMP (EAGLE)
At 7000 –

04 06 41 12 CC
Eagle, you’ve got 30 seconds to P64.

04 06 41 15 LMP (EAGLE)
… Roger.

04 06 41 27 CC
Eagle, Houston. Coming up 8 30; you’re looking great.

04 06 41 35 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 41 37 CC
We copy.

04 06 41 51 CC
Eagle, you’re looking great. Coming up 9 minutes.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/9 Page 314

04 06 42 05 CDR (EAGLE)
Manual attitude control is good.

04 06 42 08 CC
Roger. Copy.

04 06 42 10 CC
Eagle, Houston. You’re GO for landing. Over.

04 06 42 17 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Understand. GO for landing. 3000 feet. PROGRAM ALARM.

04 06 42 19 CC

04 06 42 22 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 42 24 CDR (EAGLE)

04 06 42 25 CC
Roger. 1201 alarm. We’re GO. Same type. We’re GO.

04 06 42 31 LMP (EAGLE)
2000 feet. 2000 feet. Into the AGS, 47 degrees.

04 06 42 35 CC

04 06 42 36 LMP (EAGLE)
47 degrees.

04 06 42 41 CC
Eagle, looking great. You’re GO.

04 06 42 58 CC
Roger. 1202. We copy it.

04 06 43 01 LMP (EAGLE)
35 degrees. 35 degrees. 750. Coming down to 23.

04 06 43 07 LMP (EAGLE)
700 feet, 21 down, 33 degrees.

04 06 43 11 LMP (EAGLE)
600 feet, down at 19.

04 06 43 15 LMP (EAGLE)
540 feet, down at – 30. Down at 15.

04 06 43 26 LMP (EAGLE)
At 400 feet, down at 9.

04 06 43 29 LMP (EAGLE)
… forward.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/10 Page 315

04 06 43 32 LMP (EAGLE)
350 feet, down at 4.

04 06 43 35 LMP (EAGLE)
30, … one-half down.

04 06 43 42 LMP (EAGLE)
We’re pegged on horizontal velocity.

04 06 43 46 LMP (EAGLE)
300 feet, down 3 1/2, 47 forward.

04 06 43 51 LMP (EAGLE)
… up.

04 06 43 52 LMP (EAGLE)
On 1 a minute, 1 1/2 down.

04 06 43 57 CDR (EAGLE)

04 06 44 04 LMP (EAGLE)
Watch your shadow out there.

04 06 44 07 LMP (EAGLE)
50, down at 2 1/2, 19 forward.

04 06 44 13 LMP (EAGLE)
Altitude-velocity light.

04 06 44 16 LMP (EAGLE)
3 1/2 down, 220 feet, 13 forward.

04 06 44 23 LMP (EAGLE)
11 forward. Coming down nicely.

04 06 44 24 LMP (EAGLE)
200 feet, 4 1/2 down.

04 06 44 26 LMP (EAGLE)
5 1/2 down.

04 06 44 31 LMP (EAGLE)
160, 6 – 6 1/2 down.

04 06 44 33 LMP (EAGLE)
5 1/2 down, 9 forward. That’s good.

04 06 44 40 LMP (EAGLE)
120 feet.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/11 Page 316

04 06 44 45 LMP (EAGLE)
100 feet, 3 1/2 down, 9 forward. Five percent.

04 06 44 51 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 44 54 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. 75 feet. There’s looking good. Down a half, 6 forward.

04 06 45 02 CC
60 seconds.

04 06 45 04 LMP (EAGLE)
Lights on. …

04 06 45 08 LMP (EAGLE)
Down 2 1/2. Forward. Forward. Good.

04 06 45 17 LMP (EAGLE)
40 feet, down 2 1/2. Kicking up some dust.

04 06 45 21 LMP (EAGLE)
30 feet, 2 1/2 down. Faint shadow.

04 06 45 25 LMP (EAGLE)
4 forward. 4 forward. Drifting to the right a little. Okay. Down a half.

04 06 45 31 CC
30 seconds.

04 06 45 32 CDR (EAGLE)
Forward drift?

04 06 45 33 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 45 34 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 45 40 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 45 43 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 45 45 LMP (EAGLE)
ACA – out of DETENT.

04 06 45 46 CDR (EAGLE)
Out of DETENT.

04 06 45 47 LMP (EAGLE)

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/12 Page 317

04 06 45 52 LMP (EAGLE)
413 is in.

04 06 45 57 CC
We copy you down, Eagle.

04 06 45 59 CDR (TRANQ)
Houston, Tranquility Base here.

04 06 46 04 CDR (TRANQ)

04 06 46 06 CC
Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.

JULY 1969 AD


Does the End Justify the Means? A Blast from the Past


I’ve never liked the expression “the end justifies the means” either in straight or ironic mode because sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Point out to someone using it ironically that there are cases where it does apply (the means of shooting someone dead is justified by the end of protecting ones family) and they’re “but that’s different” without articulating why it’s different.

The thing that got me thinking about this was the number of times when I was talking about some policy in Realpolitik terms–what might be achievable in the short run even though it falls far short of ideal–somebody will come and look at the “deal making” necessary to get the gain, sneer at the “compromise” and smuggly spout off about “The Ends (not) Justifying the Means”. It’s usually some big-L (Libertarian) type decrying that the policy in question includes a lot of stuff we don’t want–but have to agree to in order to get something we do want and which is actually a net movement in the direction we want to go.

So the way I have generally encountered it is being used in smug sanctimony to dismiss legitimate “you do what you have to, to make the gains you can” and is why we can’t have nice things.

And it’s generally Big-L types (largely because the policies I favor universally push in the “L” direction–I don’t know of anything on a public policy position, either in place or seriously being proposed with a hope in Niflhel of being implemented, which is too libertarian).

People who know me know that I lean very libertarian.  But I also have what I think is a realistic appraisal of the world and recognize that’s a minority position so I need to think more in terms of moving in the direction I want rather than magically getting my ideal society.

In my own thinking there’s three tests where (whether you call it “the end justifies the means” or not) doing something that on its own would be bad becomes justifiable in a particular situation or for a particular end:

1) The end must, itself, be something “good”. “The Holodomor was necessary to get rid of the Kulaks and enforce the collectivization of farmland in the Soviet Union” (an argument I’ve actually heard), breaks down once you recognize that “getting rid of the Kulaks” (by starving them to death) and enforced collectivization were themselves evil. Evil cannot be justified by evil.

2) The means must be necessary to the end. At the very least, one must reasonably believe that said means are necessary. There might be circumstances where I would have to perform emergency surgery on someone (stranded in the wilderness, for instance), but I can’t just cut someone who has an inflamed appendix open when the option of taking them to the hospital is available.  I would include as a special case in this “is the end reasonably achievable by these means”. (No, the “end” of a “fair” society is not reasonably achievable by establishing socialism.  It’s failed every time.  Whatever excuses you give for “that wasn’t real socialism” the fact remains that the attempt failed.  It always does.)

3) The “means” cannot be “bigger” than the good “end” to be achieved–even if we accepted collectivization as a “good” the lives lost in the Holodomor weigh far larger than any “good” accomplished. This one is a bit more complicated in some ways because how do you weigh, for instance, one person killing six attackers in defense of themselves–one life vs. six. But you can’t weigh it like that, or not only like that. Six who threaten the lives of innocents vs. one who does not seems to me a much more justifiable balance. And add in that the six are unlikely to stop with the one, that one isn’t just defending himself but himself and all who would otherwise come after.

It seems to me the “bad” examples of “the end justifies the means” (the kind of examples used to claim that it does not) fails one or more of these tests.

The thing is, people want a blanket statement like “the end justifies the means” to always be true or always be false. This leads to twisting words around to try to make it fit that desired truth/falseness when the simple truth is that blanket statements are rarely (SWIDT?) always one or the other. The real world is more complicated than that.

If you claim it’s always false, then when you have to do something unpleasant toward a longer term goal (like, say, rise in resistance to a government turned tyrannical), then somebody points out that unpleasantness and ask if you think the ends justify the means, well, then you’re left trying to explain how by using this and so definition of words that you don’t really think the ends justify the means and lose sight of the simpler question: In this case, does it? Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I think the three tests I gave provide a good start to determining whether a particular case does or does not.

The Birthplace of American Liberty


When it comes to the origins of Liberty in the United States, people have many ideas.  Some count it from the founding of Jamestown Colony.  There is some justice in that since it’s the step that set everything else in motion.  Some count it from the Mayflower arriving at Plymouth, based on the (largely mistaken) idea that the Pilgrims were looking for religious freedom.  And there is some justice in that since while they were looking for religious separatism rather than freedom, it did set in motion events that would lead to religious freedom in the United States.  Some count it from Philadelphia and the Second Continental Congress, since that is the time and place where the rebelling British colonies declared themselves free and independent of British rule and the reasons they listed for that declaration (particularly if you consider the first draft of the declaration and grievances that, sadly, had to be removed to get everyone to sign on to the document) amount to Britain denying the people their liberty.  And some will count it from the Constitutional Convention (also in Philadelphia) which established a government of strictly limited powers leaving most of the people to their own devices for most things.

And some, of course, go back farther, to the writings of Cicero “On the Commonwealth”, to the Dutch Republics, to Britains Magna Carta, to Greek Democracies and Aristotles writings on Politics, and to the Bible and the dispute between rule by judges and rule by kings.  All of those, of course had their role to play.

However, I contend that a much more direct and solid birthplace can be found in the smallest of the colonies, and today the smallest state:  Rhode Island.

To explain that we first have to go back to the first New England colony Plymouth colony, founded in 1620 by the Pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower.  The Pilgrims were an offshoot from the Puritan sects of the Church of England.  Whereas the Puritans wanted to reform or “Purify” (hence the name) the Church of England (Anglican Church), the Pilgrims were more of a separatist bent.  And so when the Pilgrims were followed by Puritans establishing the Massachusetts colony, the stage was set for conflict between the two branches.

For the most part the conflict was relatively low key.  But it was into this kettle that Roger Williams was dropped.  Williams, had taken Holy Orders in the Angican church but had become a Puritan while studying at Cambridge, thus ending any hope for real advancement within the Anglican church of the time.  And while he did not join the first wave, remaining in England under Archbishop William Laud became untenable and so he emigrated in 1630.

Williams was offered a position in the Boston church to fill in for John Wilson while the latter returned to England to bring his family back to New England but turned it down because it was an “unseparated church”, he having moved beyond simple puritanism to actual separation from the Angican church.  In addition, Williams was taking a position of separation of Church and State.  He began to put forward the idea that Civil magistrates should not enforce religious law, things like Sabbath breaking, idolatry, false worship, and even blasphemy.  He also presented the idea that each individual should be free to follow his own conscience in matters of religion.

These views put Williams in direct opposition to local Puritan leadership who still wanted to purify rather than separate from the Church of England, they considered their way the “true” way and were convinced it was a holy mission to impose that way on others, and thought what better way to apply civil law that in the enforcement of God’s law as they saw it?

Williams was offered a teaching position in Salem, also of a separatist bent, but after the Boston leadership applied pressure on them Salem withdrew their offer.  Williams instead moved to Plymouth, then a separate colony from Massachusetts, which welcomed him.  However, he soon came to the conclusion that even Plymouth was insufficiently separated from the Church of England.  Furthermore, he started questioning the very idea of King’s charters, granting lands to colonists.  The locals, in his view, already owned the land.  What gave the King the right to hand it out?  Within a year he had moved back to Salem.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony (of which Salem was a part) were unhappy with Williams’ return.  Over the course of the next few years he would be called into court several times, finally being convicted of sedition and heresy and that he was spreading “new, diverse, and dangerous opinions.” They ordered him banished, fully expecting him to be sent back to England to face “justice” there.  Instead, he fled southward.

Williams, with a few others, bought a parcel of land from the local natives and set up his own colony of Providence on Aquidneck Island.  Here, he established his ideas of separation of church and state, religious liberty allowing all men (and, indeed, including women in that) to follow their own consciences on religious matters,

The new colony, which would eventually become Rhode Island, welcomed the religious and political dissidents from the neighboring colonies.  Anne Hutchinson and her antinominarians settled here.  William Coddington, John Clarke, Philip Sherman and others.  Williams insisted that any land they use be bought from the natives and not simply “granted” by some Royal Charter.

Over time, Williams views on personal conscience spread outward from religious liberty to a more generally libertarian view.  As he wrote in “The Bloody Tenet yet more Bloody”:

And yet to what other end have or doe (ordinarily) the Kings of the Earth use their power and authority over the Bodies and Goods of their Subjects, but for the filling of their paunches like Wolves or Lions, never pacified unlesse the peoples bodies, goods and Souls be sacrificed to their God-belly, and their owne Gods of profit, honour, pleasure &c…
If the Report of Mr Cottons interpreting that Scrip∣ture of Serving God with all our Might, &c. be true, to wit, of* employing our Civill Armes and Forcesto the utmost, and that against other Peoples professing Idolatrie and Antichristianisme: His Conscience (as I conceive) must needs force on and presse after, an universall Conquest of all Consciences, and under that (like those bloudie Spaniards, Turkes and Popes) lay un∣der that faire cloake, the Ruleand Dominion over all the Nations of the Earth…
Christ Jesus was of another opinion (who distinguisheth between Gods due and Caesars due: and therfore (with respect to*God his cause and Religion) it is not lawfull to deprive Caesar the Civil Magisteate, nor any that belong to him of their Civil and Earthly rights. I say in this respect, although that a man is not Godly, a Christian, sincere, a Church member, yet to deprive him of any Civill right or Priviledge, due to him as a Man, a Subject, a Citizen, is to take from Caesar, that which is Caesars, which God indures not though it be given to himselfe.

Governments (“Kings” as used here) tend to their own self-aggrandizement.  However, in Williams view of Christianity (his own religious belief) depriving a man of his liberty is not “Godly”, nor legitimate civil authority.  It is to “Take from Caesar that which is Caesar’s”.  Clearly, he indicates that each man is a Caesar unto himself.

In this passage you find the germ, put in religious terms but no less valid for being so, of the words that would find their way through Jefferson’s pen “to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Sadly, in time Williams, himself would turn away from these principles.  He would become a persecutor of the very libertarian ideals he put forward in the founding and early days of Rhode Island.  However, the ideals would not die.  They would live on despite his own betrayal of them and they would make their way into the founding of a nation and find their expression in the words and deeds of later generations of patriots, however flawed those individuals might themselves be, men like Samuel Adams and his cousin John, like Patrick Henry, like Thomas Jefferson, like Richard Henry Lee, and many others.  For all their flaws they set the new nation on a path that would lead to more freedom for more people than the world had ever known.

And Roger Williams and the founding of Rhode Island set it all in motion.

How to Prepare Absinthe


There are a couple of videos out on people trying absinthe for the first time and one on people trying the strongest absinthes (generally, in this case, “novelty” absinthes which are little more than gimmicks). Not only do they generally choose, let us say less well regarded varieties of absinthe for these videos but they don’t do it at all right.  Invariably they take it as shots and just knock it back.

That is entirely the wrong way to drink absinthe

I’ll admit that when I first tried absinthe I drank it straight.  At least I had the sense to sip it.  This may be a surprise to absinthe aficionados, but I found it quite acceptable that way.  There was a strong flavor of anise, a somewhat bitter undertaste, and the variety I had available then had a citrusy (shut up, spell check.  That is totally a word) finish.  Not bad.  At least one reviewer of absinthes (LigeiaRessurected on Youtube) considers absinthe too bitter to drink straight.  As always, your mileage may vary.

It was that very reviewer, however, who introduced me to the “proper” way to drink absinthe, the traditional way.  And that opened up whole new worlds.  It went from being an acceptable drink to truly amazing.

The basic principle is that you dilute the absinthe about 3-5 to 1 with ice water, and you don’t just dump in the water but add it in slowly, anywhere from a slow drip to a thin trickle.  The various herbs used in the making of absinthe (wormwood, anise, fennel, others) leave it infused with a number of “essential oils” (“essential” in the sense of “essence” not in the sense of “necessary”).  These oils are fully in solution in the straight absynthe but, as you dilute it they come out of solution forming an emulsion that gives diluted absinthe its cloudy appearance (called “louche”).  By diluting slowly it allows time for each of the various oils to fully emulsify in turn so that the complex flavor and aroma profile can completely develop.  Here patience is rewarded.  The water needs to be absolutely ice cold.

Usually, during the dilution the water is trickled over a sugar cube (I use cubes of monkfruit and stevia sweetener since I can’t do sugar), adding just a bit of sweetness to counter the bitterness of the wormwood.

Traditionally, there is an entire setup just for the preparation of absinthe.  Absinthe glasses are shaped with a “reservoir” at the bottom such that when the reservoir is filled with absinthe and water is added until the glass is nearly filled you have the proper dilution.  Absinthe spoons are basically flat spoons in decorative shapes with holes.  The spoon is placed across the mouth of the glass and the sugar cube is placed on it.  And absinthe fountains are glass urns on raised pedestals with one or more spigots at the bottom.  The urn is filled with ice water, the glass with absinthe, spoon, and sugar cube is placed under the spigot, and the valve adjusted to produce the desired rate of drip.

I don’t have such a set up yet.  Instead, I use a wine glass.  I use a shot glass to measure absinthe into it.  I place the absinthe spoon across the top of it (I do have one of those) to hold my sweetener, and carefully pour ice water from a carafe (lid mostly closed to restrict water flow) over the sweetener cube until the glass is full.

Once done, sip slowly to fully appreciate the mix of aromas and flavors.

Absinthe Myths

This page has been visited by the absinthe fairy.

While I enjoy a good Scotch, good Scotch is expensive Scotch.  Thus, I have spent some time experimenting with less expensive tipples.  One of my recent forays was into absinthe.  I found it okay but not great at first until I learned about the “proper” way to prepare it.  Since then, it’s become one of my favorites, on a par with a good Scotch in terms of personal enjoyment.

However, I run into three common myths about absinthe:  it’s illegal, it will get you high/cause hallucinations, and it’s toxic.

First, let me dispell that first one.  The ban on absinthe was resinded in 2007 making it legal to sell in the United States provided the thujone level (more on that in a moment) is less than 10 parts per million (10 mg per liter specifically).  Thujone is the active component of in wormwood, one of the key, defining, ingredients in absinthe, and which is supposedly responsible for the “hallucinatory” and toxic effects.

So, yes, you can buy “real” absinthe in the US.

At least some absinthes from before the ban was lifted have been tested and found to be well within the current US legal limit. The highest of 13 tested varieties was about 42 ppm. (And we’ll address that, too, here in a moment.)

The claims of hallucinatory effects of thujone are based on two things: very poor research done by a researcher who believed a-priori that alcohol in general and absinthe in particular was leading to the decline of the French and shape analyses of the molecules which led to guesses (which is all they were) that it would have effects similar to THC. However, that turned out to be false and it’s effect is to cause nerves to fire more easily which can leads to convulsions but the dose required is much, much higher than one can practically get even by guzzling absinthe (once again, more on that in a moment). You might get enough to subtly alter the sensation of being “drunk”, but the claimed hallucinatory properties are pure myth.  There is simply no evidence of it being a hallucinogen. It is possible that the “easier firing neurons” caused by low levels of thujone can somewhat alter the experience of alcohol’s intoxicating effect, creating a different sensation but hallucinations are not going to be part of that experience, not unless you’re drunk enough to see pink elephants anyway or unless you talk yourself into it in a pure placebo effect.

Now, perhaps you’re worried about that “convulsant” aspect.  That it can cause convulsions certainly sounds bad.  However, we can run the numbers.  At the legal limit in the US of 10 ppm, a 750 ml bottle of absinthe would have about .75 mg. In tests on mice α-thujone (the most bio-active version) is a convulsant with an LD50 (that is, half of all those receiving that dose die of it) of 45 mg/kg. At 30 mg/kg it had a 0% mortality. For a 90 kg man, that would be 2.7 grams, or about 3600 bottles of absinthe. At the highest tested level in pre-ban absinthes, you would need over 800 bottles of absinthe to hit life-threatening levels.  This would have to be done in a relatively short time because thujone is metabolized quickly by the liver.  And apparently ethanol inhibits the effect so the thujone would actually be less dangerous in absinthe as compared to the pure thujone used in the study.

The LD50 of ethanol is about 7 g/kg body weight.  For a 90 kg man, that’s just over a 630 grams of ethanol, or about one and a half liters of distilled spirits (depending on proof) hitting your bloodstream all at once.  It takes time for the alcohol to be absorbed so you would actually need to drink quite a bit more for your body levels to reach immediately lethal concentrations.  Even so, the ethanol in eight hundred 750 ml bottles (600 liters) of absinthe would kill you long before you ever reached toxic levels of thujone.  One bottle a day for over two years two and a half months (800 bottles) and I think you’ll have much bigger problems than thujone.

The toxicity of absinthe has a grain of historical truth, however, not because of absinthe itself, but because of a confluence of historical factors. An aphid plague seriously depleted the wine grape crops in France in the mid to late 19th century, causing an extended wine shortage. A lot of people turned to absinthe as an alternate tipple. (Once diluted down in the traditional way for drinking absinthe it’s about the same alcoholic content as wine.) The sudden demand for absinthe drew in some unscrupulous (or perhaps just ignorant) producers. Bad alcohol sources were used but especially copper sulfate was used to produce the characteristic green color. Copper sulfate in the amounts used, is toxic, at least if one drinks substantial amounts (like, say, has a glass or two at every meal).  And since absinthe was competition to the wine industry, which, as you’ll recall, was already struggling due to the aphid infestations and subsequent destruction of the wine grape crops) it was in the interests of the wine industry to encourage the belief in the dangers of absinthe as much as possible.

And thus the reputation of absinthe for toxicity was born.  Absinthe properly manufactured and properly served is no more toxic than any other drink of similar alcohol content.

So if absinthe is something you’d like to try, feel free.  And if it’s something you enjoy, don’t let the myths stop you.  Just remember to drink responsibly and read labels carefully.  Absinthes do tend to be on the higher side in alcohol content with many varieties being over 140 proof (70% alcohol content), and some novelty varieties as high as 180.

Spoon theory and masks


Short one today.

The “spoon theory” provides another way of looking at masks and why I am so adamantly opposed to mandatory mask rules.

The “spoon theory” came from someone trying to explain the problems people with chronic health issues face. He gathered up all the spoons on a table then going through various tasks for day took out spoons showing that the daily “budget” of physical and mental energy was being expended. Once the spoons were gone, the person was done for the day.

With my own issues, wearing a mask doesn’t completely stop me _but_, it does increase the “spoon cost” for anything I do while wearing a mask. That means I run out of spoons quicker and am less able to do things. And when I have expended all my spoons on “this absolutely has to be done” tasks, there are none left over for “this makes life a bit nicer to live” tasks. My quality of life goes down precipitously.  When you add in how little continuous mask wear does for the prevention of disease spread, to the extent that the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) recommends against it unless you’re sick or careing for someone who is sick, then the cost/benefit falls heavily on the “against” side.

And I’m one of the lucky ones in that my issues are relatively minor. Other people have it much, much worse.

But politicians feel the need to be seen “doing something”, even when that “something” actually makes life worse for the majority of people.

What Libertarian Party?

So there was this:


Anyone reading this blog much will know that I am strongly, strongly libertarian in my views.  Not full-blown anarchist (or “voluntaryist” as some like to style it), but very much minarchist.  However the “Libertarian” party has become anything but that.  It became blatantly obvious in 2016 when they nominated “Bake the cake” Johnson and “Ban the guns” Weld as their Presidential ticket.  And it continues with their current pick.  Take the above tweets as an example.

Her use of the term “actively anti racist” has three possible explanations:

  1. She doesn’t know what that term means as it is actually used currently in which case she is utterly oblivious to what’s going on in this country and, therefore, not to be voted for.
  2. She does know what it means, doesn’t actually agree with it, and is simply pandering to the Wokies, in which case we can expect her to continue to pander to them if by some cosmic joke she is elected and, thus, is not to be voted for.
  3. She does know what it means and agrees with it, in which case she is a Wokie and, thus, is not to be voted for.

It’s not a matter of disagreeing with her on one particular point (like, say, disagreeing about border enforcement) but rather what this says about her at a basic level.

If she had simply gone “We need to end qualified immunity, police brutality, sentencing disparities, and the war on drugs” I would have had no objection.  But, no, she had to appeal to the wokies with the “we need to be actively anti-racist.”

This is the same issue I had with Trump in ’16. He was all about making deals and while he talked a good game during the campaign he also was about “selling the fantasy” (his own expression from “The Art of the Deal”) and admitted they were “just flexible suggestions” (his words after he’d walked back one of his campaign talking points). Add in his history of supporting left-wing positions and candidates in the past and I expected him to “make deals” which would give the Left much of what they wanted because the squishes in the Republican party would go along with it. While he might not have tried to do as much bad as Hillary would have, given, the Republican opposition to Hillary that would not have been there for Trump (remember, this was my assessment before the election) I fully expected that he would manage to implement more of the Left Wing wish list than Hillary–who would at least have faced token Republican opposition–would have been able to implement.

I was wrong there, largely because the Left went completely insane with TDS, making deals essentially impossible and pushing Trump the other way. (Although he did manage to implement more Federal gun control than Obama did in eight years.) So a big “thank you” to the folk on the Left.

I cannot expect lightning to strike twice in that regard in the unlikely event of a Jorgenson win. I can expect them to continue to behave that way in the much more likely event of a Trump win.

So…Trump 2020.

“But the Police Need…”

This is a stock picture, probably from a training exercise since that looks like a quick attaching blank firing adapter on the end of that rifle.

One of the great ironies of modern US politics is, in great measure, the same people talking about “defunding” or outright disbanding the police are also the ones who just recently were saying that only the police should have certain weapons, whether certain types of guns or guns in general.

This is utterly ridiculous.

My position: Police officers should be forbidden from using any weapons or equipment prohibited to ordinary citizens in their jurisdiction.

Justification: With the sole exception of folk going out to deliberately target police officers, a very small fraction of all the violent crime out there, every threat the police face is faced first by ordinary citizens. Any arguments about the police “needing” certain weapons applies equally well to the ordinary folk who face the threat first. As for other equipment, perhaps the police have a greater need for things like fingerprint kits and the like since the police are specifically tasked with investigations of crimes, it also doesn’t hurt anything to allow private citizens to have them as well. Laws against unnecessarily disturbing a crime scene (Doctrine of emergency applies against that) and tampering with evidence are all the shield against misuse that is necessary.

Note: My personal preference is to resolve the difference by reducing restrictions on what the law abiding “ordinary” citizens can have rather than restricting what the police may have. I simply worded this one to come at the concept from the other side.