Thursday, December 27, 2012

Left v. Right Anarchists: Tempest in a Teapot?

The perennial "what's the difference between 'anarcho-capitalists' and 'market anarchists' -- what makes the former 'right-wing' and the latter 'left-wing?'" discussion is kicking up again on Facebook, presumably due to an aside in my latest piece for C4SS:

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, "anarcho-capitalists" are the slightly addled step-siblings of market anarchists (slightly addled because they conflate "capitalism" with free markets, incorrectly positioning themselves on the "right" -- that is, the wrong -- end of the left-right political spectrum).

In thinking about it, I'm very much tempted toward the conclusion that the real difference between right-wing "anarcho-capitalists" and left-wing "market anarchists" is almost entirely rooted in differing predictions of what society will look like when the state is gone.

There are two reasons why I believe right-wing "anarcho-capitalists" are in error where their predictions are concerned:

  1. Because they conflate free markets with "capitalism" (a state-regulated, mixed industrial economy) they mistakenly assume that certain features of actually existing capitalism (e.g. limited liability corporations) would continue to exist and thrive in stateless free markets. "Market anarchists" may also make some erroneous assumptions (e.g. wage labor would diminish or even disappear), but not the same erroneous assumptions.
  2. Their intentional historical rooting of themselves on the "right"  reinforces the previous error. While politically radical, they tend to be culturally conservative "bourgeois libertarians."

So the "rightism" of the "anarcho-capitalists" is largely a function of their mistaking certain features of the status quo for constants. And the "leftism" of the "market anarchists is largely a function of their assuming the opposite.

But when you get right down to it, is the distinction really that important? I mean, we will find out what the stateless society looks like when we get rid of the state, and both groups want to do that, right?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Practical Case Against Victim Disarmament

I prefer the moral arguments and am going to elaborate a couple of them just so we are clear that I'm not personally a "consequentialist."

It's pretty simple: Until and unless I aggress against someone else in violation of his or her rights, what I own, possess or carry is none of their business, period, end of story. I am almost an Atlanta Declarationist:

Every man, woman, and responsible child has an unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon --- rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything -- any time, any place, without asking anyone's permission.

I say "almost" because unlike some, I don't believe the right to keep and bear arms trumps any other right (if two rights allegedly conflict, one of the two things isn't actually a right). So I can't go for "any place."

If I want to use or occupy someone else's property, their "price" for me doing so -- be it monetary or non-monetary -- is mine to accept or reject, but not to ignore. "Personal bubble" and "underneath my clothing" arguments for a "right" to carry on the property of someone who forbids it, however well-meaning, are ultimately self-serving attempts to get around the non-aggression principle while pretending to honor it.

I'm also willing to entertain the notion that mere possession of certain things, under certain circumstances, might constitute aggression in the form of reckless endangerment. If Party A, who owns a one-acre lot, sues Party B, who owns an adjacent one-acre lot, on the claim that Party B's storage of e.g. a pile of hundred-year-old dynamite that's sweating nitroglycerine and is sufficiently large to blow up Party A's acre, Party B's acre, and maybe some other adjacent acres constitutes that kind of aggression, Party B may not want me on the jury.

But on my own private property, and absent a reasonable reckless endangerment claim, no dice. What I have is my business, not yours.

And if the fiction of "public" property is to be imposed on me for even a microsecond, same thing. If it's "public," my undivided interest in it is fully equal to everyone else's. Nobody is any more entitled to tell me I can't pack a pistol on "public property" than I am entitled to tell them they must do so.

OK, moral argument time is now ended, although the available moral arguments aren't by any means exhausted. Let's get practical:

Last time I noticed, the statistics on gun ownership in the United States were somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 million gun owners and 300 million individual weapons.

If you think it's possible to confiscate 300 million guns from 75 million owners, you are out of your goddamn gourd.

If even 1% of those gun owners chooses to resist the theft, and if those who do resist are on average only able to take down one gun-grabber each, you're going to fill 750,000 body bags in any attempt at such a project.

And I'd bet significant money that more than that 1% would resist, and that on average they'd be far more effective than one killshot in their resistance. I'd be surprised if the final body count came to less than 5 million, unsurprised if hit 10 million, and have no doubt whatsoever which side would win (hint: Not the gun-grabbers).

You're not going to be any more successful in ending commerce in guns. They're valuable and useful objects and valuable and useful objects will be traded. If their manufacture is illegalized in the US, they'll be imported. If they're difficult to import, they'll be manufactured underground domestically. It's just not that difficult. It's actually possible to make a functioning shotgun from a mail-order catalog, a shotgun shell, a nail and a rubber band. Machine tools are everywhere, and "3D printing" of guns is on its way.

"Gun control" is not just evil and irresponsible, it's impossible. The genie is out of the bottle, and out of the bottle it shall stay. You don't have to like it. That's how it is whether you like it or not.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Problem with Bork ...

... was neither that he was a proponent of "original intent," nor that he lacked empathy (I doubt that he did).

It was that he rejected the US Constitution. And that would seem, on the face of things, to be a pretty convincing disqualification for the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Writing in The Tempting of America, Bork held that where the Constitution is silent, the legislature is free to act:

In his 1905 Lochner opinion, Justice Peckam, defending liberty from what he conceived to be "a mere meddlesome interference," asked rhetorically, "[A]re we all ... at the mercy of legislative majorities?" The correct answer, where the Constitution is silent, must be "yes."

The stated original intent of those who framed the Constitution was 180 degrees opposite Bork's opinion.

The Constitution enumerates powers. Those powers it doesn't enumerate, the legislature (Congress) doesn't have -- and per some parts of the Constitution, the states might not have them either.

In other words, where the Constitution is silent, the legislature has no power at all.

Bork didn't advocate "original intent." He advocated "judicial restraint" in explicit opposition to what he himself described as a "libertarian theory of jurisprudence," and tried to pass that off as "original intent."

An Invitation to a Not-Exactly-Party

Not all of our friends use Facebook and the Facebook invite system seems to kick our computers' butts as well, so ...

In the run-up to our family move to Gainesville, we've been trying to make time to drop in on friends, etc., but that project has overall been a failure. We know and like too many people to visit them all in so short a time, especially with so many other things that have to be wrapped up.

So, we are setting aside a specific time and place where our friends can drop in on us (and on each other) if they feel like it.

Place: MoKaBe's
Date: Thursday, December 27th
Time: 6pm-9pm

Not a party, just a get-together. Completely informal. We expect to be done packing that day and to set out for Florida the next morning.

If you don't know what MoKaBe's is, it's the best coffeehouse in the St. Louis area, and it has great food (we highly recommend their quesadillas and French dip sammiches) and indoor/outdoor seating too, making it an all-around great place for a small, informal gathering.

If you don't know where MoKaBe's is, it's easy to find. Just head south on Grand (a major north/south St. Louis street with exits from highways 40 and 44, both north of where you're headed) until you come to the corner of Arsenal. When you see Tower Grove Park on your right, you are almost there. If you see Mojo, Mekong, Mangia Italiano or Pho Grand on your right, you've gone a little too far (unless you are looking for Vietnamese, Italian or Tapas dining rather than for our gathering, in which case you are in exactly the right place).

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crowd-Sourcing My IntarWebz Planning Problem

Wow ... the move to Gainesville, Florida is coming up rather quickly (10 days)! We haven't secured permanent lodging yet, and very well may not until after we're down there, but we have been looking and right now the place we're looking at is a cabin in the woods.

No, not that cabin in the woods. At least I hope not. But a cabin. In the woods.

That means no cable.

According to the landlord, the place is already set up with satellite dishes for both DirecTV and DISH Network -- presumably it would just be "plug in a box, pay and get with it." My guess, given the place's proximity to two small towns (about 5 miles and about 10 miles respectively) and one reasonable-sized city (25 miles to Gainesville), is that AT&T U-Verse and/or some other DSL-type Internet service will also be available; and that the place is well-covered by cell networks, making 3G or 4G a possibility.

So: Taking likely price and likely performance into account, which option makes the most sense for a family of four that probably uses a crap ton of bandwidth?

I say "probably" because although I've never run up against the limits with our current cable ISP, three of us four spend most of our waking hours doing something online. Work (for me, and a little bit for Tamara). Homework (for the kids -- documentaries on Netflix, Khan Academy videos, etc. are part of our homeschool routine). Gaming (Xbox Live for Daniel, hosting an SRB2 multiplayer hangamajigger for Liam). Movies and shows (Netflix, Hulu, Crackle). General horsing around (Youtube, Failblog, etc.).

I guess it's possible that we don't use as much bandwidth as I think. I've banned most use of HD video at any rate. But I'd be surprised if our use of streaming regular-definition video added up to less than 10 hours a day for the household.

Anyway, recommendations appreciated. One recommendation not needed, as it is already in the plan, is "kick the kids' asses off of their machines and make them go outside more."

Which brings us back to the alligator issue. The cabin is near more than one lake. The one it's closest to -- about 100 meters -- is supposedly dry most of the time, but aerial photography indicates to me that it's more like ... well, marshy or swampy ... than dry per se.

Election 2016: OK, so Biden is Out of the Race ...

Per WaPo, just now:

Obama tapped Vice President Biden to head the working group assigned to come up with ways to reduce gun violence following last week’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. ... White House officials say the eventual package of proposals will likely include some new restrictions on guns, particularly assault rifles, and high-capacity magazines. But they say it will also likely involve measures that touch on mental health initiatives and, perhaps, a discussion on the depiction of violence presented in popular culture.

What kind of massive cock-up could possibly have moved Obama to hang that kind of political albatross around his neck?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Yet Another Frenchman I'd Really Rather Have Never Known About

Per Wikipedia:

Baron Guillaume Dupuytren (5 October 1777 - 8 February 1835) was a French anatomist and military surgeon. Although he gained much esteem for treating Napoleon Bonaparte's hemorrhoids, he is best known today for Dupuytren's contracture which is named after him and which he described in 1831.

Sigh. Another thing to put on the "see a doctor about some time" list. According to that Wikipedia article (with handy photo that made the self-diagnosis -- undertaken after the fifth or six time I thought to myself "this callous on my palm is really starting to bother me" -- quite easy as it's an exact match except that mine is on the pinky), Dupuytren's contracture isn't considered treatment-worthy until it's large enough to fail "the table top test" (hand palm-down on a table leaves a gap large enough for a ball-point pen to fit through).

Dupuytren's contracture of the fourth digit (r...
Dupuytren's contracture of the fourth digit (ring finger). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And even then the treatment options all seem to be things I'd rather not do unless absolutely necessary (radiation that just stops the progression, surgery with a high incidence of recurrence, or anti-collagen treatment that might turn all the nerves and tendons in my hand to mush).

Sometimes I wish they'd hurry up with the Hjortsberg routine.
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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quote of the Week

If it has to do with "gun issues" -- which are not, and should never be treated as, separate from any and all other "rights issues" -- you can bet your bottom dollar that the hardest, most concise, on-point shot will come from L. Neil Smith. Like this:

If you remember nothing else about what I'm about to consider here, remember this: the one and only reason politicians, bureaucrats, and policemen want to take your weapons away from you is so that they can do things to you that they couldn't do if you still had your weapons.

And that's pretty much all that needs to be said about that, isn't it?

Friday, December 14, 2012

How to Attract Monsters

  1. Find lots and lots of kids.
  2. Force them to assemble in the same place for several hours every weekday, nine months out of every year.
  3. Forbid them, and most or all of the adults around them, to possess and carry the tools to defend their lives.
  4. Put "gun-free zone" signs all around the place so that the monsters know their prospective victims have been assembled and rendered defenseless for them.
  5. When your plan works out as it predictably will, rush out a statement blaming everyone but yourself for the consequences and demanding more of the same. 
Michael Bloomberg et. al are to Adam Lanza as Charles Manson was to Tex Watson. And should be treated accordingly.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Shopping and Theories

We actually had a sort of "early Christmas" for the kids this year, since there will be a lot of traveling -- first to see relatives, and then to relocate to Florida -- that last week of December.

Liam added a Nintendo 3DS to his collection of gaming machinery, and will probably get a piece of software added to his game-creation setup (he wants to port his GameMaker games to Android in time for the Ouya launch).

Daniel got a tattoo rig (two guns with the assorted barrels, tips, needles, rubber bands, etc. and ink and so forth) and a one-year extension to his Xbox Live membership. The only thing he's tattooed so far are grapefruits, but it won't be long before I get one of my presents, probably on the back of my left shoulder.

I won an online contest and got a piece of jewelry for Tamara -- flamingo earrings. I've hinted to her that I'd like a pith helmet for myself, seeing as how we are moving to the jungle.

Which brings me to the tie-in: We are looking at a mix of possible future residences.

My preference is to either live right in downtown Gainesville (so that Tamara is minutes from work and everything we might possibly need is right there) or way out in the sticks (so that we aren't surrounded by busybodies and the kids can be a lot more "free range"), preferably the latter. None of this suburban stuff. That's the worst of both worlds -- you have to drive to get any place, but you don't have any privacy or room to roam.

I've noticed that the most affordable country places all seem to be waterfront or close to waterfront on various lakes, creeks and rivers -- the opposite of most places, where waterfront commands a premium.

Maybe it's just paranoia, but my theory concerning that backward pricing structure comes down to one word: Alligators. I've come across numerous variants of:

Q: "Are there gators in [that body of water]?"
A: "It's Florida, isn't it?"

So I'm thinking that the "Christmas present for the whole family" this year might ought to be a gun in larger caliber than my old .22 bolt-action rifle. Anyone got any recommendations from a reptile defense perspective? I've been leaning toward an old Mosin-Nagant, just because I've always wanted one, but I could see the virtues of a shotgun or a .40 or .45 pistol over a long, unwieldy rifle.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rental Scams

No, we haven't been victimized by one, but we have detected several. Enough, in fact that I'm kind of flabbergasted by how many are out there.

The one we've run into several times while inquiring about properties listed for rent in the Gainesville, Florida area, works something like this:

  1. You see the property listed on a rental site or Craigslist or whatever;
  2. You email the alleged landlord about the property;
  3. You get a lengthy letter explaining that he (it's always a guy) and his lovely wife/family (he always has a lovely wife/family) had to leave the country for an extended period (and possibly on short notice) to work as missionaries, or for US AID, or whatever, which is why they won't be able to meet with you or show you the house (but you're free to drive by and have a look from the outside).
I was suspicious of the first such response, and after two very similar ones I did a little bonking about the Intertubes. It's apparently very common (the language is boilerplate, like the Nigerian scam; all I had to do was Google a couple of phrases from the responses to find numerous examples).

The next step, presumably is that they ask you to put down a "security deposit" or "earnest money," and of course it has to be a payment to them abroad via Western Union or whatever. After which you never hear from them again.

If you're ever looking to rent, don't get scammed by this kind of thing. 99.9% of the time, real owners renting real houses or apartments that they really own will either be available to show the property, draw up and sign leases, etc., or else they will have delegated that duty to an agent or property management service.

My, How Things Have Changed ...

Google's Gmail went down for a few minutes this morning. It may have been more than just Gmail -- my browser crashed several times in the space of pretty much the same few minutes or a little longer. I wouldn't normally connect the two, except that I run ChromeOS and pretty much everything I do is therefore routed through "the cloud" via Google in one way or another.

So anyway, yeah, I noticed. But in addition to noticing, I couldn't help notice something else ...

Apparently it is newsworthy when a popular Internet service goes down for ten minutes these days. But it wasn't always that way.

When I first "got on the Internet from home," the only option available in my area was America On Line. And it sort of went from "never heard of it" to "most popular thing since sliced bread" over a period of maybe 30 days at the time AOL introduced its "$19.95 unlimited plan" (before that, as an early adopter I paid something like $8.95 a month for 3 hours and an hourly fee thereafter -- my first monthly AOL bill came to about $80).

Since this was the dialup era, the introduction of "unlimited" meant strained modem pools and sometimes an hour of dialing to catch an open modem and actually get online. If I recall correctly, they also limited sessions to an hour during that period, until they could get loads of new modems and phone lines into action.

When the first local ISP debuted, I promptly abandoned AOL for it. And for about six months there, it wasn't terribly unusual for that ISP to suddenly go down for two or three hours, two or three times a week, with no explanation.

It wasn't until the early 2000s that I started seeing advertising language along the lines of "99% up-time guaranteed" and so forth. Stuff broke down now and then, and it was no big deal. Or at least not a big enough deal that a 10-minute period of not being able to check email got "newsworthy."

It's really only been a few years since we hit the era of "24/7 connection, everything must work all the time" expectations. Even if we call it a decade, that means the transition from "Internet ... whazzat?" to "can't live without it, even for a minute" was also only a decade or so.