Thursday, March 31, 2011

South of Guilford

The Kipling poem is so well known that it is constantly in danger of being received as parody. But it turns out it can also wind up as surprising literal. For example, that line about keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs.

Not long out of college, so new to journalism that the ink stains were still damp, and fresh from various part-time jobs that one way or another involved assisting folks who’d gotten hurt, I had a Wednesday off. Wednesday is a lousy day to have off, because pretty much everyone else is at work, but this particular Wednesday was a fresh April Wednesday in the Midwest and the Whitewater River in nearby Brookeville, Indiana beckoned. Without meaning any slander to the majesty of Indiana’s wild reaches, suffice to say that the Whitewater is an ambitiously named watercourse. I enjoyed a leisurely solo paddle on an empty river and was back on the bike by early afternoon, having faced no greater adventure than spooking a couple of otters, having suffered no great exertion than damp knees, and having braved no white water at all.

I was headed south and east on Indiana’s State Road 1, which winds lazily through the hills in the bottom right corner of the state and offered a pleasingly indirect way home to Cincinnati – the direct route holding no appeal on a motorcycle on a fresh Midwestern April Wednesday. I was leaning comfortably into a bend just south of Guilford, when I saw one of those very large over-the-road cement trucks stopped two-thirds of the way across the highway.

As I slowed and straightened up, I saw why.

Wedged under the truck was small sedan, a ’67 or ’68 Rambler. The car had run under the truck at such speed that only a bit of the trunk lid and the rear bumper could be seen from my side. Although not a convertible, it had no roof, or at least it hadn't any more. The crumpled remains of the roof were on the road behind the car.

If you’ve been to enough of them (and I had by then) you know that car accidents have a smell – oil and heat and coolant and gas and blood – and the smell ages in a certain way. This wreck was fresh. The truck driver was sitting in the road near the front of his vehicle, his head in his hands, but unhurt. When I walked around to the far side, where about half of the Rambler had emerged from under the truck, I could see there were two victims in the car. The driver was an elderly man dressed in a dark suit, a shirt that might once have been white and narrow black tie knotted smartly at his throat. He was lying to his right across the front bench seat and he was horribly injured. Next to him, sitting straight up, was a petite figure in a flowered cotton dress, her hands still folded primly in her lap atop her sensible purse. She didn’t appear to be hurt at all. Except that her head was in the back seat of the car.

I've always figured the driver saw what was coming a split second before it happened, and instinctively dove to the right. His passenger -- his wife of nearly 60 years as I'd later learn -- must have been looking at the passing landscape.

By this time another driver had stopped. This was long before cell phones and I sent him up the road to a volunteer fire house I’d seen. I did what could be done, treating the driver in place, stanching some bleeding, trying to reassure and comfort him as he drifted up into brief moments of lucidity. Once he asked me if his wife was OK. I said she was fine. He didn't realize that she was right there, but covered with my jacket so he wouldn’t look up and see her state. Later, the rest of the ride home was cold without my jacket.

Folks who don’t know any better tend to look down on volunteer fire departments. That’s a mistake. The one in Guilford,* like so many, had excellent volunteers, the first of whom showed up maybe 15 minutes later. Within a half an hour, there were half a dozen well trained paramedics and EMTs and a nicely fitted-out rescue truck on the scene. The old man was alive when they transported him. One of the volunteers called me the next day to say the fellow had died over night. The volunteer didn’t know if the man had ever learned that his wife would be waiting for him.

I can’t say I did the man much good, but over the years and decades, and long after I stopped getting paid to patch people up or pull them from the water, I have had a tendency to come upon the accident that has just occurred, or the fellow having a heart attack in the crosswalk, or to be healthy in a camp full of mission workers down with dysentery in remote Honduran mountains, or to be there when a shooting competitor falls out with a heat injury. And – not, I hope, from a place of vanity, but certainly with some pride – I can say that I am the guy you want in those circumstances. [Well, assuming, of course you couldn't have a trauma surgeon or a currently trained paramedic, or really anybody but a lawyer who rode a rescue squad 30 years ago.] But you understand what I mean; it’s another place where Mindset Matters Most.

This morning it was chaos in our house. I woke up late because of an alarm glitch. My little one was home, not dressed for school, and not inclined to be so. The wonderful woman who helps with the house twice a month was there and had a lot of questions about laundry that I couldn’t answer. There was no coffee. So a lot was out of hand, but since no one was bleeding, I was stymied.

Then, lacking only a fanfare of trumpets and a skirl of pipes, my darling bride arrived on the scene. In moments, bitter chaos became sweet order. (Although there was still no coffee.)

“You know,” she pointed out, “You can handle any emergency. But something like this . . .” The rest went unsaid as I covered her mouth with a passionate kiss.** She’s right, of course. And I’m OK with that.

After all, Kipling said if you can keep your head, etc., “you’ll be a Man, my son.” But Harry Callahan made it equally clear that “a man’s got to know his limitations.”

* It’s called the Miller York Volunteer Fire Department .

**At least as far you know.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I wonder if Willard will show her some love.

100 years ago, Wednesday 29 March 1911, the federal government did something right.


I am not here to say that was the first time, or even the last time, that the federal government did something right. But I am willing to bet that it never did anything else quite so right as adopting of John Moses Browning's single-action, magazine-fed, recoil-operated pistol in .45 ACP as the official sidearm of the United States' Army -- Model 1911. Certainly if getting it right were a highly prized a federal virtue, then there would be a General William Crozier Medal for Meritorious Purchasing, since it was Gen. Crozier, as Army Chief of Ordnance, who brought the pistol into service.

JMB's* genius was, admittedly, evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and he would make changes in other models right up until his death 15 years later. But I don't think he can be said ever to have improved the original operation of the gun, a symphony of contained violence, as fewer than 50 moving parts mesh and engage and disconnect with the sort of timing and precision we now seem to replicate only via computer chips. Indeed, despite its Twentieth Century designation, there is something decidedly Nineteenth Century about the industrial beauty of the system.  An excellent set of drawings and explanations can be found here. An animation can be found here.

In practical terms, what this operation means is that almost any shooter is going to shoot better (with more practical accuracy) with a 1911 than with almost any other pistol. That is why, despite even JMB's "improvements" in later designs, many elite shooters choose a 100-year-old pistol design, when the national championship -- or the national security -- is on the line.

Finally, not only is the operation of the pistol a wonder to behold, the 1911 is rightly considered an aesthetic** classic in its original form, or in its modern defensive iterations,

or even when the design becomes merely a skeleton beneath the flesh of a tricked-out race gun.

Yes, it's true. I have said before that firearms are best appreciated and evaluated strictly as tools, with no mind-clouding emotions permitted.***

But let's be honest. Who among us can hope to look so good at 100?

* Jargon is how members of a group  -- doctors, sailors, fighter pilots, fantasy football aficionados -- distinguish themselves from those outside the group, without having to buy expensive embroidered jackets. So "gun guys" abbreviate his name like this. And we know who we mean when say "Col. Cooper" or Mozambique. I'm happy to share these bits of the code with you from time to time, but you have to promise not to embarrass me.

**JMB is spinning in his Ogden, Utah grave at the very notion that aesthetics were any consideration when he designed weapons. But in designing weapons that worked beautifully, he necessarily designed beautiful weapons.

***  Do I contradict myself?
         Very well then I contradict myself, 
         (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
                                Walt Whitman
                                "Song of Myself"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pretty in pink.

To violate even one of Robert's Rules is to court disaster; multiple violations are just plain stupid. Lazarus Long posited (or is it will posit?) that stupidity is the only universally capital crime, and he knew (will know?) whereof he spoke (will speak?). And yet, despite the force of the Rules, and in flagrant disregard of all the cemeteries, jails and bottom tier graduate schools populated with those sad souls who ignored the them, Meghan Brown and Robert Planthaber walk among us still.

Here’s the story. Meghan – who, we are relentlessly informed, was Miss Tierra Verde of 2009 – and Robert – an arborist who is dating way out of his league if you ask me – were at their home in “a very prominent area” when ne’er-do-well and erstwhile pizza delivery guy Albert Franklin Hill* entered their home uninvited. A struggle ensued, with Albert Franklin Hill first grabbing Meghan – who looks a lot like that cute nurse on “Parks and Recreation” – and then turning his malevolent attention on Robert. Megahn ran to the place where her revolver is kept and returned to dispatch Albert Franklin Hill.

Why were Meghan -- have we mentioned she's pretty? -- and Robert targeted? Well Robert has a theory:
We live in a very prominent area and my fiancee wears a $60,000 engagement ring. The pizza man knew we had money because sometimes we needed change for a $100 bill when he came to deliver pizza.
He could have put it more succinctly. He could have said, "We were idiots." (And, not for nothing Robert, but regularly giving the poor delivery guy a Benjy to pay for a pizza makes you a jerk, too.)

I'm not going to cover all the ways in which Miss Tierra Verde 2009 and her consort are lucky** to be alive. But let's look at just two of the Rules they violated:

Limit ostentatious displays of wealth to the red carpet
. You say you are never asked to walk the red carpet? Exactly. A $60,000 engagement ring?*** Unless you are so tremendously wealthy that your ostentatious display of wealth includes a complement of armed guards, showing off your wealth is a bit like the antelope making sure the juiciest haunch faces the lion. Indeed, even with the armed attendants, ostentation may get you uncomfortable attention.

Do not open the door to a stranger at three in the morning
. (OK, I confess. This is not really one of Robert's Rules. Neither is "Do not dip daiquiris from a running blender with your bare hand." Bacardi owns that one.) That said, I think I may have a clue about what would induce someone -- even a beauty queen -- to open the door at that hour:


"Who is it?"

"Hi there Miss Tierra Verde, it's me, Albert Franklin Hill."


"Albert Franklin Hill, ma'am, the erstwhile pizza guy."

"What do you want? It's three in the morning. I may have been the prettiest girl in Tierra Verde**** in 2009, but I'm no fool -- you already delivered our pizza last night."

"Yes ma'am, that's just it. I finally rounded up the change for that hundo you gave me for the large veggie lovers."

"Oh. In that case . . . "

*What is about bad guys and three names? I spent a large part of my journalism career on fellow named Frank Athen Walls. Plenty of others come to mind. John Wayne Gacey. Mark David Chapman.  John Walker Lindh. I suppose the lesson is to pick your child's middle name with great care if you think there is a the least possibility of him becoming a serial killer, an assassin or a terrorist.

** As a Presbyterian, I do not, strictly speaking, believe in luck. But you know what I mean.

***Am I alone in wondering how a 42-year-old arborist affords a $60,000 ring? A friend said this entire story got his "spidey sense" tingling and I don't disagree. The vast majority of home invasions don't have anything to do with pizza.

**** Located at 27°40′53″N 82°43′28″W / 27.68139°N 82.72444°W / 27.68139; -82.72444; population 3,574 per the 2000 census.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reservation for Mr. Galt.

Randian objectivist philosophy is like a finely tailored, Harris tweed jacket in Miami in July: Many people find it attractive. Some folks will even try it on. But almost no one manages to wear it for long.

Maybe that's why it has taken more than 63 years for anyone to manage making a film of "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand's 1,400-page objectivist manifesto, literary doorstop and paean to triumphant self-actualization. The trailer looks nifty -- lots of hats and nighttime cityscapes to please the Hopper fans among us. I'll certainly be sure to see this.* If it's a poor movie, it will still provide a fetishistic thrill to Randian (not to say randy) devotees of muscular capitalism, what with all the speeding trains and industrial sparks. If it's a good movie, and attracts an audience beyond a self-selecting group of Rand acolytes, it will also serve to expose many to Rand's ideas for the first time. Good movie or poor, you certainly can expect to hear her name dropped into more cable news debates and op-ed pieces by people who really haven't any idea what the mysterious Mr. Galt was selling.

I'm afraid my dedication to my own happiness is insufficiently singular to ever be a good objectivist.  My own worldview is wrapped in and grows from my Christianity. So I part company from Ayn and her brood right about the time her protagonist says, "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." (Rand's own obsessive approach to romance makes it difficult to imagine that declaration coming from her mouth, instead of Mr. Galt's.) I understand the concept well enough. I can grasp how rational self interest, universally exercised by everyone, always, is supposed to benefit everyone, everywhere. But tell that to my little boy when an important business event conflicts with a nice day for fishing. You tell him, because I won't.

At bottom, I think Rand's philosophy is untenable because it is predicated on an imagined world where ruthless, unalloyed self-interest is both possible and desirable, when, in fact, such a world would be impracticable and sad. Despite the facile way in which folks from all across the American political spectrum like to invoke it, and despite Rand's evidently genuine love of America,** Randian objectivism is by no means itself an American value system. Instead, the rugged individualism, love of liberty, and dedication to personal responsibility that are central to the best of American character all are rightly understood to exist in a context of sacrifice and service to others. Will Kane stands alone in that street not to glorify himself, and certainly not to serve any self-interest, but rather to fulfill his duty to others.

I also have to wonder how the filmmakers are going to deal with the massively anachronistic "government versus the brave industrialist" skeleton upon which the flesh of the "Atlas Shrugged" is layered. If you aren't already nodding your head, take a minute to Google "Citigroup stimulus," or "Koch Industries campaign contributions," or "procurement revolving door."*** What exactly does a modern iteration of the story do with billions in TARP funds, or no-bid government contracts?**** My guess is, it shrugs them off.

* Extra points to the marketing folks for having the movie open on Tax Day.

** "I can say—not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots—that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world."

*** That you can also search "George Soros campaign contributions," or "SEIU political influence," for similar results strengthens, rather than weakens, my argument.

**** Although the bailout did cause a surge in sales of the book.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ever notice how antiseptics sting?

The less you know, the more you think you know. You needn't trust Robert's Rules for this maxim. King Mongkut of Siam knew it.* Chris Rock pointed out that "people love to not know."** And two psychologists named Dunning and Kruger made it official science.

Dunning and Kruger found not only that the more ignorant people were, the less able they were to recognize and correct their own mistakes. No surprise there. But it also occurred that the less competent people are, the more competent they perceived themselves to be. In a surprising corollary, they also found that the more competent and knowledgeable a person was, the less likely he was to think of himself as an expert -- since he was more likely to know what he didn't know.

So with that Rule/song lyric/stand-up bit/effect in place, let me say at the outset that I'm anything but an expert on military doctrine. And I know it. But in five years as a reporter in the heart of the largest military aviation community in the free world, even I couldn't avoid learning a thing two -- including from some of the guys who put the "no" in the last big "no fly zone" mounted by the United States.

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who knows less, and knows less about what he doesn't know, than just about anyone on cable news. These days, when they are not busy pretending to be experts about nuclear power generation, the hawkish talking news heads, comfortably ensconced in their studios and enrobed in their agendas, invoke the words "no fly zone" as if they were a magical incantation or a mystic's mantra. Who can blame them. Say it with me -- No. Fly. Zone. It sounds so pure, so antiseptic.

Here's the simple truth of it:

Instituting a no fly zone in Libya means killing lots Libyans on the ground at the outset. We are not -- I pray -- planning to sacrifice NATO or US pilots to Libya's reasonably sophisticated air defenses, so we're going to have to neutralize scores of SAM*** sites and "decapitate their command and control apparatus." In other words, were going to smart bomb, cruise missile and HARM**** installations full of human beings who are going to die.

Maintaining a no fly zone means killing Libyans in the air thereafter. Are we only shooting down fighter planes? That's good for one or two humans per plane. What about attack helicopters? Same score. Troop-carrying helicopters? That's good for a dozen. Troop-carrying fixed wing planes? Now you're talking real numbers.

Patrolling a no fly zone means putting pilots (American pilots? British? French?) at real risk of death or capture every day. Engines fail. Ground troops get off lucky shots with shoulder-fired SAMs. Mr. Murphy is an ever-malevolent presence.

So "establishing a no fly zone" is "going to war," whatever else you call it.

Should we go to war with Libya? I'm not here to say yes or no. As any reader of this blog knows, I'm hardly a pacifist. There are things worth killing for, worth dying for. Maybe Libya is one of them.

But let's for goodness' sake be honest with ourselves about the choice we're making. Ya know?

And it puzzle me to learn
That tho' a man may be in doubt of what he know,
Very quickly he will fight...
He'll fight to prove that what he does not know is so!

"A Puzzlement," lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein.

** Yes, I know that's a paraphrase, but come on. I'm not PC -- but I'm also not Chris Rock.

*** Surface to air missiles. The Lybians have sophisticated air defense systems, including S300 missiles purchased during the post Soviet fire sale.

**** High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles track the radar that SAMs use, riding down the signal to take out the SAM site.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Neener neener neener.

Update below.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been the fat kid. Maybe I simply lack the requisite zero-tolerance school administrator sensibility that somehow must rationalize the winner of any fight into the bad guy. Maybe I'm a creature of another, simpler age. But I am damned if I can see how Casey Heynes did a thing wrong.

You probably have seen the video by now, despite the fact YouTube keeps taking it down. Casey Heynes, a 16-year-old high school student in Australia, is being tormented by a gang of nasty little bullies. They are taunting him for his weight while the lead cur in the pack steps in and punches Heynes in the face. He capers around Heynes, laughing and trying to hit him again, while Heynes fends off the blows. Then Heynes has had enough. As I have described here before, Heynes reacts violently enough to end the threat.

As it stands, both students are suspended from Chifley College where, the school says, they provide “a safe, supportive and productive learning environment to promote individual achievement and self-responsibility.” An official there has stated that  both boys will face consequences because the school "does not tolerate any violence.” But that is clearly a lie.

The only explanation for these events is that violence has been tolerated there for quite some time. How else to explain the fact that the vicious little snot who gets his comeuppance 41 seconds into the video clearly believed he could attack Casey Heynes with impunity? If similar assaults hadn’t happened before this – and often – how to explain that anyone that size thought he could hit someone Heynes’ size and get away with it? And how else to explain that the vicious, tech-savvy tormentors were ready to record Heynes latest humiliation?

I don’t know what’s going to become of Heynes and his academic career. I hope all this publicity will end up being good for him, but I have to doubt it will. I'm not sure if Australian authorities and parents have more sense than American ones, who -- if the events occurred here and now -- certainly would expel Heynes, then arrest him for assault and try him as an adult, while the scrawny little "victim's" family sued in civil court.

Happily, 35 years ago, when I was the fat kid and a freshman at St. Ignatius High School, similar events only earned me six weeks of Saturday detention,* awarded by an assistant principal who privately gave me a pat on the back for standing up for myself. Most importantly, they earned me a subsequently peaceful three and half years of high school, free from further taunts or bullying of any sort. (Whack a guy in the belly with a locker room stool, then kick him while he writhes on the ground, and word tends to get around.)

Unless the miserable little weasel Heynes put on the ground is stupid, as well as cruel, I suspect Heynes' actions will have at least that same effect.

* Despite having copied out all of the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" several times over those Saturdays, I find I remember almost none of it, except that it contained a recipe for albatross. Truth to tell, I still have a lingering grudge against Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 

UPDATE: When the school says it does not tolerate "any violence," I wonder if they know what the words "any" and "violence" mean exactly. Consider this incident at the same school from about a year ago.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I'm so sorry, Uncle Winston.

As Dave Barry is fond of saying, I'm not making this up. (Not that I won't make up a news story when it serves my nefarious purposes. I'm just not making this up.) And let me add that, despite some evidence to the contrary, my heart is not entirely hardened to the British. They did a fine job in World War II, for example, with the added benefit that for those few years they were somewhat distracted from evicting, bashing, imprisoning and generally oppressing the folks on the Irish side of my lineage.

But as further evidence that a once great nation is in its final decline, we have this news item from The Press (proudly serving North and East Yorkshire since 1882):

.22 bullet found in Fossgate, York

A STARTLED man has told how he found a bullet lying in a York city-centre street.
Tim Stark said he was unloading items into the MOR Music store where he works in Fossgate yesterday morning when he spotted what he believed to be a live .22 bullet gleaming in a puddle.
He said he immediately called police, who came and took it away.
“I have no idea what it was doing there,” he said.
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said the bullet had been put into safe storage, and CID had confirmed it was not thought to be connected with any incident currently under investigation.
He asked anyone with any information about the bullet and how it came to be in Fossgate to phone the force on 0845 60 60 47.
Mr. Stark was "startled." The bullet was taken away by the police (I'm imagining a teeny-little bomb squad van built out of a Mini Cooper). The bullet was "put into safe storage". (An old crumpet tin?*) The knicker-twisting** hysteria contained in this account is Python-esque. More so the Upright Citizens Brigade tone of the accompanying comments.  My favorite:

Well done that man from the music shop! Where else would one responsibly dispose of a 'live round'?? The bin? I think the right action was taken, if I had any live ammunition in my drawers I would jolly well ask the police to dispose of it!
But then I saw that this comment was attributed to Elton Trowler of Wetwang. (Again. Not making this up.) Surely, I thought, this was proof that the entire story was just The Press having us on.*** But a quick visit to Google Maps confirmed that there is indeed a town called Wetwang in Yorkshire.

Still, there's a chance this is all a hoax, right? I mean, the British don't really say "jolly well," do they?

* I'm unclear on exactly what constitutes a crumpet, and unsure if they come in cans, but I do the know the English call cans tins, so no one can say I'm not being all "hands across the sea" and whatnot.

** See what I did there? Instead of panties in a bunch?

*** Could have been a cheeky colonial and insisted on saying "pulling our leg." Didn't.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Great Expectations.

Perhaps it’s unwise for a new blogger to point this out, but there’s a lot of dangerous idiocy on the Internet.

Not long ago, within the space of an hour, I was engaged in two exchanges that served as stark reminders of this. The first was an online disagreement with a fellow who claimed to be a lawyer, who thus necessarily took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and who, one supposes, must have had occasion actually to read the damned thing at some point. Yet his fundamental position was that the Constitution (originally) and the courts (thereafter) grant us our rights, rather than merely enumerating and protecting them.  Lest you fall into similar folly,  the drafters of the Constitution provided a handy clue rigth there in the Preamble: “ . . . the blessings of Liberty. . . ” And the Declaration of Independence, in which some of the same fellows had a hand, is helpful as well: “ . . . endowed by their creator. . .”*

Next, a Facebook thread dealt with an association by a our new Attorney General that any rational middle-schooler would recognize as a conflict of interest, but which she has denied was any conflict at all. When I suggested that such political and moral tone-deafness were problematic, I was asked, “Well, what do you expect?”

Fair question. And one which, depending upon which word receives emphasis, covers a lot of territory, from the merely categorical to the particularly personal to the wildly aspirational.  I choose – for the moment – to abandon categorizations and aspirations and deal only with prognostications.

So here’s what I expect in these matters:

I expect a never-ending, ever-expanding assault on my personal liberty. I expect, every week, for events to demonstrate that Frédéric Bastiat knew exactly whereof he spoke.** In this I am rarely disappointed.

I expect members of the party in power -- whichever it may be -- to be so hungry to expand their ideology and influence right now that they throw notions of equity, fair play and good governance overboard with both hands, blind to the simple reality that they will come to decry these same "reforms" when -- as will surely come to pass -- they find their particular orthodoxy to be out of favor. For a current example, consider the Florida Legislature's multi-front attack on an entire branch of government.

I expect that efforts to improve government will be either costly and futile, or costly and disastrous.  I expect it is exceedingly rare – and increasingly rare in direct proportion to the amount of power wielded – that anyone in government has even passing concern for those they govern. Indeed, I expect that most in government think of themselves not as the governors of citizens, but as rulers of subjects. (In England this is explicitly so.)

I expect that Stalin was exactly right when he said those who cast votes decide nothing, while those who count votes decide everything.

I expect no benevolence from any government, because I expect power at every level to serve itself not just first, but only. I expect to take care of myself and my own without useful intervention of the government. At the same time, I expect to receive the help of my friends, colleagues and church family  – and I expect them to expect the same of me.  

I expect to do my best to keep my head down and stay off the radar of the tyrants who everywhere abound, but I also expect to fail at that from time to time. When I do so fail, and I come under the direct attention of those who want to harm me or – far worse – those who think they know what is best for me, I expect to come out the worse for wear.

Sadly, I expect that there will come a day when just striving to be let alone will no longer suffice.

But listen, that's just what I expect. Whatever I expect, I try always to keep Cromwell's admonition in mind.*** After all, there was a fellow who, despite the fact  that he was endearingly regicidal, knew a thing or two about tyranny.  

*  Those who still need convincing are referred to Messrs. Seneca, Luther, Hegel, Rousseau, Locke . . . .

** "If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?"

"It seems to me that this is theoretically right, for whatever the question under discussion—whether religious, philosophical, political, or economic; whether it concerns prosperity, morality, equality, right, justice, progress, responsibility, cooperation, property, labor, trade, capital, wages, taxes, population, finance, or government—at whatever point on the scientific horizon I begin my researches, I invariably reach this one conclusion: The solution to the problems of human relationships is to be found in liberty."

*** "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken." This was Cromwell's plea to the synod of the Church or Scotland in August 1650, when the church leaders aligned themselves with Charles II's claim to the throne from which Cromwell had removed his father, not long before likewise removing Charles I's head from his shoulders. Charles II  reclaimed the throne ten years later following Cromwell's death and -- you have to love the British sense of propriety -- posthumous "execution."

"Cromwell's Rule," as logicians refer to it, advises that in searching for the truth, unshakable certainty is poor place to start.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Credit where credit is due.

Up in New Hampshire, they are cleaning up the snow and girding themselves for the start of the 2012 presidential campaign -- the former lingers long there, while the latter comes all too early. But the state legislature still has found time to consider giving those heroic homeland heroes at the TSA the recognition they richly deserve.

As explained at aviation attorney Tim Ravich's excellent Aviation and Aerospace Blawg,* if proposed legislation is approved, those grope happy pornographers at the TSA will find themselves on the state's sexual offender's registry.

Even in a state with the motto "Live Free or Die," will such a provision make it into law? Probably not. But bless their revolution-loving hearts for giving it a try.

* A "blawg" is blog dedicated to matters legal, judicial and jurisprudential. Tim's is; the Sheepdog's decidedly isn't.