Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I keep reading about this on-line test that most of the country apparently can't pass.

On the one hand, I feel much better about my own 84% (how did I miss the one about the 1st amendment protecting religion? What was I thinking?).

On the other hand, this result is more than a little disturbing. I've long thought politicians were generally quasi-criminals, but stupid ones too?

Thanks to Rand Simberg and Glenn Reynolds for the links.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Now That Would Be Entertainment! :)

Strategic principle is often put into practice by arranging an alliance between two or more seemingly unlikely positions to the mutual benefit and advancement of all concerned. A "strategic visionary" is frequently little more than someone who has made the effort to grasp the basic concepts involved and recognised a nascent juxtaposition before anyone else.

Eric S. Raymond wrote a compelling essay a couple years ago about the important role firearms historically played in the development of responsible people and competent citizens. Mr. Raymond relates the convergence of personal responsibility that conscientious gun users develop and practice to the equivalent public duties and character that good citizenship demands. While recognising that this personal development mechanism has fallen into dis-favor in recent national history, Mr. Raymond declines to go into specific examples as to how this circumstance might be rectified.

As a matter of personal conviction, I consider the actress Denise Richards to be one of the most physically arousing women alive. Now, I recognise that her genetic inheritance isn't an accomplishment she can lay especial claim to and that her professional training and experience makes passing judgement on her character based upon her occupational efforts more than a little mis-leading too, but her personal and professional circumstance positions her to take the public stage in a manner not often permitted those in her chosen trade, I believe (and yes, I read this too).

One of the problems shared by historical re-creation and "Reality TV" is the obvious contrived nature of their public presentation. US Civil and Revolutionary War re-enactors overcome this by totally immersing themselves in the character minutia and historical circumstance such that their actual personality becomes submerged - very like the process followed by traditional stage and screen actors, I imagine. Audiences to their "performances" are generally understanding of the amatuer theatrics involved and that the action being portrayed is the feature, not the actors theatric accomplishments. Reality TV programs, on the other hand, are premised on the personality of the featured celebrity and the circumstance de jure being supposed to offer some measure of drama or humor. The participants are measured against the same standards by which any other public performance might be - however "unscripted" they're purported to be. Let's face it, drama in our personal lives rarely turns out happily and isn't something we can schedule at all reliably.

In Ms. Richards' recent on-screen effort, she explicitly avoids resorting to the single most universal circumstance she shares with her potential audience - her ex-husband. Despite the all-too-public nature of their relationship (not to mention its demise), her publicly expressed desire not to damage his relationship with their children speaks well of her as a parent, but denies this legitimately expected programming content that a reality-based presentation such as hers requires. What makes this decision on her part even more pronounced is her decision to include her two daughters in the on-screen presentation and the court proceedings she found necessary to over-ride their father's objections. Her deliberate on-camera confrontation with a magazine editor over the nature of the coverage she recieved was also damaging. Not to make too much of the issue, but someone who spends her working day in front of a camera with the intent of publicly broadcasting the result comes off as somewhat less than genuine for objecting to someone else doing the same thing. The result was to disappoint the most salacious of the potential audience while de-meaning her own public personae to her critical (or only spiteful) observers. In any case, the program suffered and failed to achieve or hold sufficient audience to justify its continuation apparently.

A successful strategy advances the disparate positions of its constituents. For Denise Richards to achieve such positional advancement herself, she must ally herself with others so as to reinforce their individual actions.

Ms. Richards needs continuing occupation that doesn't intrude excessively on her parental responsibilities. Mr. Sheen needs to maintain active contact with his daughters and a viable cooperation with his former wife. Not to be discounted, the two young Miss Sheen each has needs to be accounted for as well; a stable home life with two parents guidance and comfort combined with an opportunity to grow into adulthood as functional contributing citizens of the Republic. Mr. Raymond's essay offers a potential framework into which all of these considerations can be structured to advance each, both separately and in concert.

Presuming Ms. Richards can arrange for further filming of her program at all, a change of venue and a structural re-format would extend the potential audience and remove certain distractions from the production.

One of the principle distractions Its Complicated suffers from is the legitimate concern Mr. Sheen has for daughters Sam J. and Lola Rose's welfare. I'm willing to stipulate that Ms. Richards seeks to involve them in the production as a mechanism to further their financial benefit. By moving the program venue to this portion of Texas, she and their father can jointly purchase some property (I would suggest 20+ acres of undeveloped land) and vest ownership jointly in the two girl's names while arranging for the property to be managed as a blind trust over which neither parent has direct influence. The TV shows premise would shift to Ms. Richards working to build a home for her daughters while she home-schooled them. Given the generally universal love young girls have for horses, it seems reasonable to plan for a non-commercial horse ranch environment that would also accommodate Ms. Richards' love of animals as an initial construction objective.

Mr. Raymond begins his essay thus:
There is nothing like having your finger on the trigger of a gun to reveal who you really are. Life or death in one twitch — ultimate decision, with the ultimate price for carelessness or bad choices.

It is a kind of acid test, an initiation, to know that there is lethal force in your hand and all the complexities and ambiguities of moral choice have fined down to a single action: fire or not?

In truth, we are called upon to make life-or-death choices more often than we generally realize. Every political choice ultimately reduces to a choice about when and how to use lethal force, because the threat of lethal force is what makes politics and law more than a game out of which anyone could opt at any time.

But most of our life-and-death choices are abstract; their costs are diffused and distant. We are insulated from those costs by layers of institutions we have created to specialize in controlled violence (police, prisons, armies) and to direct that violence (legislatures, courts). As such, the lessons those choices teach seldom become personal to most of us.

Nothing most of us will ever do combines the moral weight of life-or-death choice with the concrete immediacy of the moment as thoroughly as the conscious handling of instruments deliberately designed to kill. As such, there are lessons both merciless and priceless to be learned from bearing arms — lessons which are not merely instructive to the intellect but transformative of one's whole emotional, reflexive, and moral character.

I don't know that he was thinking of pre-school little girls and Hollywood starlets when he wrote those words, but they apply all the same. America is a nation of gun users because we were founded as a country on the principle of personal responsibility for the life-and-death nature of our individual liberty. Mr. Raymond further points out:
The Founding Fathers of the United States believed, and wrote, that the bearing of arms was essential to the character and dignity of a free people. For this reason, they wrote a Second Amendment in the Bill Of Rights which reads the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with it, the Second Amendment is usually interpreted in these latter days as an axiom of and about political character — an expression of republican political thought, a prescription for a equilibrium of power in which the armed people are at least equal in might to the organized forces of government.

It is all these things. But it is something more, because the Founders regarded political character and individual ethical character as inseparable. They had a clear notion of the individual virtues necessary collectively to a free people. They did not merely regard the habit of bearing arms as a political virtue, but as a direct promoter of personal virtue.

The Founders had been successful armed revolutionaries. Every one of them had had repeated confrontation with life-or-death choices, in grave knowledge of the consequences of failure. They desired that the people of their infant nation should always cultivate that kind of ethical maturity, the keen sense of individual moral responsibility that they had personally learned from using lethal force in defense of their liberty.

Accordingly, firearms were prohibited only to those intended to be kept powerless and infantilized. American gun prohibitions have their origins in racist legislation designed to disarm slaves and black freedmen. The wording of that legislation repays study; it was designed not merely to deny blacks the political power of arms but to prevent them from aspiring to the dignity of free men.

The dignity of free men (and, as we would properly add today, free women). That is a phrase that bears thinking on. As the twentieth century draws to a close, it sounds archaic. Our discourse has nearly lost the concept that the health of the res publica is founded on private virtue.

As knowledgeable hunters and shooters around the world can attest, the moral and ethical lessons that provide the foundation for civic virtue and personal integrity that gun usage can provide don't actually require they be used to their full design potential - it isn't necessary to actually kill with one to learn the lessons it can teach. With that in mind, Ms. Richards should explicitly include a family known-distance shooting range on the property and arrange for regular lessons and practice for herself and the girls. Since instruction is the intent rather than competition, a distance of 100' (200' max) ought to suffice. A decent backstop berm or other terrain feature to shoot against at one end and a simple concrete slab with awning and a couple benches or tables behind the firing line at the other would be ample. While pre-schoolers are more likely to better accomidate air rifles then .22's as a general rule, the purpose is to begin their introduction to the moral and other lessons that responsible gun usage ought to impart and to bolster their self-reliance by watching their mother doing the same thing.

It's commonly estimated that there are something in the neighborhood of 100 million gun owners in the US alone; if even 1 percent of them watch the show that's 1 million viewers tuning in to see their personal interest being shared in a responsible and entertaining fashion on TV. Not to mention three ladies of varying age helping to pass on one of life's most crucial lessons to each other and anybody else who happens to vicariously join them each episode.

Since no TV show can survive without advertising sponsors (well, they can I suppose, but having some certainly must make production more assured), I think Denise (and the girls to the extent they are able) doing the P90X exercise program would be an entertaining and physically beneficial regular segment of the show. [Trust me, despite my current dimensions, as a former gym-rat I can assure you that there is very little more entertaining on this Earth than watching someone shapely bend, twist and sweat copiously on her way to physical collapse. And very little will build respect faster than watching her succeed in overcoming the physical challenge.] Additionally, the Nutra System nutrition program would make another excellent sponsor for the show as Ms. Richards and the girls make at least one meal each episode on-camera from their menu. The advantages of home delivery and storage the food offers is a legitimate point to bring up as is the dietary considerations a professional actor shares with pretty much anyone else to some degree.

By moving the show away from its present environment Ms. Richards can spend some portion of each episode working on some aspect of the property in addition to filming some regional activity or attraction whether or not she or the girls actually takes part on camera. 3 or 4 minutes of each episode of her doing voice-over for a segment showing some aspect on non-Hollywood life would be an excellent opportunity for other celebrities to have cameo appearances on the show if such could be arranged.

I don't ordinarily insert myself so directly into these strategic examinations, but in this case I can't resist. Ms. Richards is going to need the active assistance of someone who has the basic skills needed to carry all of this off. Now, admittedly much of the major work of building the property will be performed by professionals hired for the purpose. The premise requires that she and the girls at least try to do some of all of it though and a male helper who has some expertise would not seem unlikely under the circumstances. It doesn't really matter what the job title ends up being, there are really only two primary considerations involved; he will work for Ms. Richards (this is a job application, not a proposal for matrimonial dependency) and he shouldn't be an experienced acting professional himself. Ms. Richards will need some area of superior expertise not only for her own continued good mental health but also to bolster her starring role in the program format. Having to help a non-professional work reasonably well before the camera ought to fill both needs admirably. I will confess to tailoring the specifics of all this to permit my own participation to be at least possible. [I will also confess to having to step out onto the front porch and letting my periodic flights of fancy take wing for a bit just to get them out of the way of writing this down.] I presume by this point in her acting career the lady has become reasonably accomplished in helping men technically old enough to be her father through their initial urge to act like a 12 year old upon first meeting her. That being so, whether or not she might consider me personally for the job, someone to meet that need would benefit the program and improve the girl's potential property value by providing a maintenance staff candidate post-production.

By taking the show away from the obviously contrived (or just unseemly) situations it has revolved around over the course of the first season, Ms. Richards presents herself as someone with whom many more people can positively identify then has so far been the case. She will participate in and de-mystify a variety of behaviors that often receive short shrift from her industry and develop an inheritance (with the active participation of their father) for her two children, all while continuing to earn a living in her chosen profession.

Yeah, it's complicated, but like all good strategy it's quite do-able.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link to Eric Raymond's original post.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tears in your eyes

From laughter:
TOP TIP this week comes not from Viz, but from the front page of the Daily Telegraph (yes, the front page).

If you’re feeding the birds this winter and your bird table keeps getting mugged by squirrels, just sprinkle a bit of chilli powder on your nuts. Apparently the birds don’t mind it, but the squirrels hate it. Probably keeps you warm as well. Pip pip!

and its polar opposite.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dodge The Draft, Volunteer Now!

Cross posted to Future Blogger.

Remember all the Democratic concern over a resurgence of the draft? Looks like they knew what they were obsessing over:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year.

(my bold)

Now, I readily grant that there is a substantive difference between involuntary active military service during time of war and 150 hours of involuntary "community service". If it needs be said so bluntly, my derision is cast at the inducement to service, not the nature of the service performed.

On a not-entirely-unrelated note, I was once granted the opportunity to satisfy my misdemeanor debt to California society when I was - several - decades younger by performing "community service". As a result, I have actual direct experience of all aspects of this issue upon which to base my commentary.

It's going to be sooo much fun tormenting the well-meaning over their self-inflicted cognitive dissonance resulting from the distinction between type or conditions of involuntary service and the act of involuntary service itself.

[Note to self: Wait until some obvious Democrat makes the argument the the military draft is akin to slavery but the Obama involuntary service is not. Then break out in peals of soul-purifying laughter at the blazing hypocrisy. Timing is the most important thing in comedy.]

Does anyone actually believe there will be some sort of exemption available for those of us who actually hold down jobs so that we can remain employed to pay the taxes needed to pay for the school and other government expenditures related to just this one program? No, I don't either, so that's three hours out of every work week for all of us apparently.

It just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it? I have to say, my Hope is certainly Changing.

A Stain On The Trousers Of Their Courage

Would it be too much to ask all of you Wall Street investors who are busily cashing up at a loss to pause for just a moment, loosen your belt, reach deeply into your trousers, fondle the contents of your scrotal sack with however many fingers pleasures you then give said contents a good hard flick with your finger-nail?

Once your eyes have stopped watering sufficiently to permit you to stand again, would you then take a further moment to observe that absolutely nothing has actually occurred yet to justify your latest craven display?

I'm well aware that President-elect Obama has made certain less-than-temperate remarks during the course of the recently ended campaign. I'm even shallowly versed in the possibly unintended consequences some of those inclinations might result in should they be enacted. However, since it appears that it actually does need to be said, Senator Obama isn't in a position to make a credible attempt at anything yet and there's absolutely no assurance as to what he might ultimately propose for some future Congress to consider.

Is there even the slightest possibility that you could be convinced to leave some smidgen of a scintilla of an actual financial asset for the rest of us to squabble over come that over-fraught day? I have it on reasonably good authority that even if then-President Obama enacts a tax change immediately after taking the oath of office there's this quaint notion that prohibits making such a change retroactive. You'll have time to bail when circumstance actually warrants doing so.

On a not-entirely unrelated note, it remains an open question how many stock and commodity traders have chosen to exit their office directly through an upper-story window as a result of a completely unilateral decision-making process. I see no reason to believe this mystery can't be extended to include anyone suitably damp-drawered.

Now ... buy it all back. If you happen to be one of those who does so at a profit, you might even be shown the stairs instead. They leave their own mark, of course, but you'll mostly have time for such to fade.

Your stain is permanent, so stand downwind in future.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Breitbart reports that author Michael Crichton died yesterday of cancer.

Our intellectual horizon has been reduced.

A Not-Quite-Rhetorical Question

Is anyone making book yet on how quickly VP-elect Biden goes "under the bus"? I realise that past performance doesn't provide an actual prediction of future trends, but it's still a pretty good way to bet.

If it wasn't going to be so expensive, the next couple years would otherwise promise ROFL, teary-eyed entertainment watching our new political "leadership" compete for dominance with each other.

Serial "Night of the Long Knives" anyone?*

* However deservedly, Republicans hold copyright on the expression "Saturday Night Special".

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Taking a Position

That's Vice-President Palin to you, Senator Government.

UPDATE 12:30 AM, 11/05/08: Since Senator McCain has officially conceded the election, I wish to offer my congratulations to President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden; I sincerely wish them the very best in the years ahead.

That said, I look forward to the opportunity to vote for Governor Palin again in 2012. :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Of Perturbations And Probabilities

(*le sigh redux*)

Kevin Baker's done it again

The near-endless debate over the dreadful State of our national Union has inspired the man to point out an assumption that underlies contentions put forth to advance even the most diametric of political positions. In summary, there is a widespread belief that a "return to Constitutional fundamentals" will somehow eradicate all the current plague of societal woes that beset us. This prescription is often prompted by opinions like the one Kevin notes being publicly aired.

Drawing from the same Billy Beck post as Kevin did allows me to summarize the contention of our age:

Here is the central problem surrounding what you people are talking about:

There is no coherent and cohesive philosophy underpinning it. Everybody's pissed off, but you all have your varying degrees of what you'll settle for.

Everybodys certain they know a better way, but nobodys agreed as to "What" or "How", let alone "Why", to achieve the assumed state of grace. The basic conflict of assumptions extends in both directions of history as well.

Leaving Mr. Beck's actual position to his own able advance, I wish to alter the field of conflict by injecting our potentiality into the equation being cyphered.

In the present iteration examined by Kevin, much is made of distinctual differentiations in the race to Armageddon by the contenders du jure. Instead, I suggest that our steady advancement of technological mastery will provide us with the mechanism to exceed our historical aggregation of limitations.

Liberty is defined as:
lib·er·ty (lbr-t)
n. pl. lib·er·ties
a. The condition of being free from restriction or control.
b. The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing.
c. The condition of being physically and legally free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor.

The open source nature of technology like the RepRap Project promises the means of rapid prototyping technology to anyone willing to make the effort to duplicate the mechanism from the freely provided instructions. This project is explicitly intended to serve as an introductory format for eventual nanoscale manufacturing at the individual consumer level of the economy. I suggest that the ramifications resulting from such an occurrence (in the next decade and a half, I predict) will do much to alleviate the impositions on personal liberty that have accumulated over the preceding two centuries of constitutional tampering and manipulation. The potential suggested in this and other near-future technological achievements makes it plain to me that the better application of our present energies ought to be toward minimizing efforts to inhibit our realising those advancements. Through them we can achieve the terms and objectives set forth by the nation's founders two centuries and more ago and simply supersede the intervening restraints to our natural condition.

The Endarkenment will always remain to tempt us, regardless. Revolutions are enacted by a relatively tiny minority of a given population, so it is indeed true that "(the) 3% can drag - perhaps kicking and screaming, but drag - a significant (and, more importanty, sufficient) portion of the population into the fray". Although, I would seriously recommend close examination of the conflicted motivation and support influencing the "significant portion" thereafter. They may indeed hold their place in the line of resistance, but they'll do so with a baleful eye in the 3%'s direction, I'll warrant. Then we'll see for whom how glorious the Coming Day proves to be.

Since it seems a swim to the bottom of history's compost pile remains an ever-present option, why not concentrate our efforts towards some alternative outcome instead? With the right technology development, and a portion of perseverance on our part, the damn horse very well might sing after all.