. . . so that events like yesterday's massacre in Paris never happen again.
Yes, I am being sarcastic, and doubly so. First, stricter gun laws would have had no effect on yesterday's events. Second, the silly phrase "so that it never happens again," beloved of politicians, insults our intelligence and erodes their credibility even further.
Am I being 'insensitive'? Damn straight I am. And you should be too. 'Sensitivity' is for squishy bien-pensant liberals whose specialty is gushing and emoting rather than thinking. It is something for the 'safe space' girly-girls, whether female, male, or neuter, to demand of the sane.
Liberals love laws, but not the enforcement of laws. Legislating is easy, enforcement is hard. Enforcement leads to incarceration and then to the 'mass incarceration' of certain populations. And we can't have 'mass incarceration' can we?
How about a little common sense? I'd have to check, but I'll guess that France has laws against the smuggling of Kalashnikovs and other 'assault weapons.' Well, how about enforcing those laws?
How about a review of French immigration policy? Radical Islam is the paramount threat to civilization at the present time. Of course, not every Muslim is a terrorist. But the more Muslims you let in, the more terrorists you will have to contend with. And it wouldn't take many to bring a city or a nation to a screeching halt. (See How to Destroy a City in Five Minutes)
Am I blaming the victims? Damn straight I'm blaming the victims. And you should too. While the lion's share of the responsibility obvious lies with the jihadis, politically correct Frenchmen who refuse to face the reality of the Islamist threat must bear some responsibility. Blaming the victim is perfectly legitimate within certain limits. I have made this case in an earlier post
There is an old saying which is perhaps now out-of-date. If liberals took the Second Amendment as seriously as they take the First, they would demand that gun ownership be mandatory. The point of the jibe was to highlight the absurd extremes to which liberals take the First Amendment.
But now the First Amendment is under vicious assault, by contemporary liberals no less, while university administrators and professors, in abdication of authority, stand idly by or allow themselves to be driven out of office.
Curiously, this assault on the First is yet another powerful argument for the Second.
Loaded with double-aught buckshot, the instrument of home defense depicted below has the power to separate the soul from the body in a manner most definitive. Just showing this bad boy to a would-be home invader is a most effective way to issue a 'trigger warning' in a reality-based sense of that phrase.
But let Uncle Bill give you a piece of friendly advice. You really don't want to have to shoot anyone. No matter how worthless the scumbag, he is some mother's son and a bearer, somewhere deep inside under a load of corruption, of the imago Dei. Taking a human life must always be the last resort, and this for moral, legal, prudential, and psychological reasons. You should aspire to die a virgin in this regard, assuming you are still 'intact.'
So here's my advice. Secure your home so that the miscreants cannot get in. That's Job One.
And of course never, ever, vote for criminal-coddling, criminal-releasing and gun-grabbing Democrats or liberals and always speak out loudly, proudly, and publicly for your Second Amendment rights. It is the Second that is the real-world back-up of the First and the others.
If there is divine light, sexual indulgence prevents it from streaming in. Herein lies the best argument for continence. The sex monkey may not be as destructive of the body as the booze monkey, but he may be even more destructive of the spirit. You may dismiss what I am saying here either by denying that there is any divine light or by denying that sexual indulgence impedes its influx, or both. But if you are in the grip of either monkey I will dismiss your dismissal. Why should I listen to a man with a monkey on his back? How do I know it is the man speaking and not the monkey?
Poor Kerouac got the holy hell beaten out of him by the simian tag-team. The Ellis Amburn biography goes into the greatest detail regarding Kerouac's homo- and hetero-erotic sexual excesses. His fatal fondness for the sauce, for the devil in liquid form, is documented in all the biographies.
It is not that the lovable dharma lush did not struggle mightily in his jihad against his lower self. He did, in his Buddhist phase in the mid-fifties, before the 1957 success of On the Road and the blandishments of fame did him in. (Worldly $ucce$$/Suckcess is an ambiguous good.) I've already pulled some quotations from Some of the Dharma which offers the best documentation of Jack's attempt to tread the straight path to the narrow gate.
One lesson, perhaps, is that we cannot be lamps unto ourselves even if the Tathagata succeeded in pulling himself up into Nirvana by his samsaric sandalstraps. To the vast run of us ordinary "poor suffering fucks" a religion of self-help is no help at all. The help we need, if help there be, must come from Elsewhere.
Suppose I sell you my car, transferring title to you in a manner that accords with all the relevant statutes. It is a good-faith transaction and I have no reason to suspect you of harboring any criminal intent. But later you use the car I sold you to mow down children on a school yard, or to violate the Mann Act, or to commit some other crime. Would it be right to hold me morally responsible for your wrongdoing? Of course not. No doubt, had I not sold you that particular car, that particular criminal event would not have occurred: as a philosopher might put it, the event is individuated by its constituents, one of them being the car I sold you. That very event could not have occurred without that very car. But that does not show that I am responsible for your crime. I am no more responsible than the owner of the gas station who sold you the fuel that you used for your spree.
Suppose I open a cheesecake emporium, and you decide to make cheesecake your main dietary item. Am I responsible for your ensuing health difficulties? Of course not. Being a nice guy, I will most likely warn you that a diet consisting chiefly of cheesecake is contraindicated. But in the end, the responsibility for your ill health lies with you.
The same goes for tobacco products, cheeseburgers, and so on down the line. The responsibility for your drunk driving resides with you, not with auto manufacturers or distilleries. Is this hard to understand? Not unless you are morally obtuse or a liberal, terms that in the end may be coextensive.
The principle extends to gun manufacturers and retailers. They have their legal responsibilities, of course. They are sometimes the legitimate targets of product liability suits. But once a weapon has been legally purchased or otherwise acquired, the owner alone is responsible for any crimes he commits using it.
But many liberals don't see it this way. What they cannot achieve through gun control legislation, they hope to achieve through frivolous lawsuits. The haven't had much success recently. Good. But the fact that they try shows how bereft of common sense and basic decency they are.
Don't expect them to give up. Hillary is in full-fury mode on this one. According to the BBC, "She proposes abolishing legislation that protects gun makers and dealers from being sued by shooting victims."
There is no wisdom on the Left. The very fact that there is any discussion at all of what ought to be a non-issue shows how far we've sunk in this country.
That's the silly title of an article in The Nation. The title is enough for me. It implies that we don't have gun control, when in fact we have a lot of it.
And nobody is against it. Everybody wants there to be laws regulating the manufacture, sale, importation, transportation, use, etc., of guns. Does anyone, apart from felons, think that felons should be permitted to purchase guns? So why do liberals routinely characterize conservatives as against gun control? Because they are mendacious. It is for the same reason that they label conservatives as anti-government. Conservatives stand for limited government, whence it follows that they are for government. This is a simple inference that even a liberal shallow-pate should be able to process. So why do liberals call conservatives anti-government? Because they are mendacious: they are not interested in civil debate, but in winning at all costs by any means. And they know that the smear is effective with their benighted audience.
With respect to both government and gun control, the question is not whether but how much.
And with respect to both one increasingly gets the impression that for liberals there cannot be too much. Perhaps here is the reason why liberals never stop calling for gun control when we manifestly have gun control: for them 'gun control' means total gun control just as for them 'government' means totalitarian government.
An appeal to reason works with a few, and an appeal to self-interest with most. But then there are the hopelessly recalcitrant for whom only the appeal to force is effective. The only argument that reaches them is the argumentum ad baculum. Herein yet another reason to uphold Second Amendment rights.
Those who call for the repeal of the Second Amendment not only fail to appreciate its importance but also vastly underestimate the difficulty of actually repealing it. On the latter point, see Charles C. W. Cooke.
Emmanuel Lasker, Die Philosophie des Unvollendbar, 1919, p. x:
Aber eine harte Kindheit macht einen starken Mann.
But a hard childhood makes a strong man.
In the '80s I read a chunk of Lasker's Philosophy of the Incompletable and concluded that the grandmaster of chess was not one of philosophy. But I didn't read much of it and it was a long time ago. Now available in a paperback reprint via Amazon.com. I am tempted to take another look.
Too many in philosophy and other fields confine themselves to the horizon of the contemporary. Explore, get lost, discover.
A marvellous sublunary trinity: chess, philosophy, and a cigar.
Should one be bothered, morally speaking, that the mutual funds (shares of which) one owns invest in companies that produce alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and firearms? I say no. 'Socially conscious' is an ideologically loaded phrase, like 'social justice,' and the loading is from the Left.
For some, alcohol is the devil in liquid form. They should avoid the stuff, and it is certainly within their power to do so. For most of us, however, alcohol is a delightful adjunct to a civilized life. What good is a hard run on a hot day that doesn’t eventuate in the downing of a couple of cold beers? To what end a plate of Mama Gucci’s rigatoni, if not accompanied by a glass of Dago Red? I am exaggerating of course, but to make a serious point: alcohol for most us is harmless. Indeed, it is positively good for healthy humans when taken in small doses (1-2 oz. per diem) as numerous studies have been showing for the last twenty years or so.
The fact that many abuse alcohol is quite irrelevant. That is their free choice. Is it Sam Adam’s fault that you tank up on too much of his brew? No, it is your fault. This is such a simple point that I am almost embarrassed to make it; but I have to make it because so many liberals fail to grasp it. So read your prospectuses and be not troubled when you come across names like Seagrams.
I would also point out to the ‘socially conscious’ that if they enjoy an occasional drink, then they cannot, consistently with this fact, be opposed to the production of alcoholic beverages. You cannot drink alcohol unless alcohol is there to be drunk. Consistency demands of them complete abstention.
Here. Why do leftists lie? Because lying works, and because the end justifies the means in their moral calculus. They see politics as war, and "All's fair in love and war." Therein lies yet another reason for the defense and exercise of Second Amendment rights.
In soul-trying times, 'lead' joins gold as a precious metal.
Addendum on the Art of the Aphorism. Elliot comments,
Your aphorism sparked my thinking. After reading the aphorism, it occurred to me that there are at least two interpretations: one material and one spiritual.
The material interpretation is that 'lead' refers to the metal, symbol Pb, atomic number 82, which can be used to make bullets. This point may be why the aphorism is categorized in the ATF section. The spiritual interpretation is that 'lead' refers to the verb 'to lead' or 'to be led'. In soul-trying times, the presence of wise guidance to lead (or to be led by wise guidance) is more precious than gold. Images of leading out and being led out of Plato's Cave came to mind. Proverbs 8:10-11 and 16:16 came to mind as well. Both passages put wisdom and instruction above precious metals.
It's a wonderful aphorism!
Elliot's comment, for which I am grateful, shows that there is more to an aphorism than what the writer intends. There is also what the reader takes away from it.
The material interpretation is what I had in mind. Lead is not a precious metal. But lead is the stuff of bullets, and bullets -- or rather the rounds of which bullets are the projectiles - are precious as means for the defense of the Lockean triad of life, liberty, and property, including gold. So while lead is not a precious metal, 'lead' is precious.
'Soul-trying times' is a compressed way of bringing the reader to recall Thomas Paine: "These are the times that try men's souls." So my first version went like this:
In these times that try men's souls, 'lead' joins gold as a precious metal.
But I changed it for three reasons. First, briefer is better when it comes to aphorisms. Second, the revision is less of a cliché. Third, while I insist on the propriety of standard English, I was not this morning in the mood to distract or offend my distaff readers, all five of them.
Is the final version a good aphorism? Logically prior question: is it an aphorism at all? Just what is an aphorism? R. J. Hollingdale:
In its pure and perfect form the aphorism is distinguished by four qualities occurring together: it is brief, it is isolated, it is witty, and it is 'philosophical.' This last quality marks it off from the epigram, which is essentially no more than a witty observation; the third, which it shares with the epigram, marks it off from the proverb or maxim . . . (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books, p. x)
My effort is brief, and it is isolated. It is isolated in that it stands alone. But I don't take this to imply that an aphorism may consist of only one sentence. It may consist of two or more. But at some point it becomes what I call an 'observation.' Hence my category, Aphorisms and Observations. Another aspect of isolation is that an aphorism to be such must be bare of argumentative support. No aphorism can be split into premise(s) and conclusion. One does not argue in an aphorism; one states.
"What about Descartes' cogito?" If cogito ergo sum is an enthymematic argument, then it is not an aphorism.
I also take isolation to imply that an aphorism, in the strict sense, cannot be a sentence taken from a wider context and set apart. In a wider context that I don't feel like hunting down at the moment, Schopenhauer writes, brilliantly,
Das Leben ist ein Geschaeft das seine Kosten nicht deckt.
Life is a business that doesn't cover its costs.
That is not an aphorism by my strict definition. For it lacks isolation in my strict sense of 'isolation.'
Is my effort witty and 'philosophical'? It is witty and therefore not a proverb or maxim. These are competing proverbs, not competing aphorisms:
Haste makes waste.
He who hesitates is lost.
Is it 'philosophical'? Yes, inasmuch as it is more than merely witty for reasons that I think are obvious. It is not an epigram.
So my effort is an aphorism. But is it a good aphorism? It is pretty good, though not as good as this gem from the pen of Henry David Thoreau:
A man sits as many risks as he runs.
But my effort, like Thoreau's involves a 'twist,' which is part of what distinguishes an aphorism from a proverb or maxim and makes it witty. It is idiomatic that we run risks. We don't sit risks. The brilliance of Thoreau's aphorism resides in the collision of the hackneyed with the novel.
In soul-trying times, 'lead' joins gold as a precious metal.
My aphorism arranges a collision between the mundane fact that lead is not a precious metal with the less obvious fact that guns and ammo are necessary for the defense of life, liberty, and property. It also exploits an equivocation on 'precious metal.'
As for what occasioned this morning's aphorism, see here.
A neighbor recently introduced me to 66 proof Fireball cinnamon whisky. Turns out the stuff contains propylene glycol, an ingredient used in anti-freeze and other industrial products. Well, as I told the twenty-something counterman at the liquor store, "Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger."
I rather doubt the kid could name the source of the line, and I didn't bother to offer enlightenment into Nietzsche's dark mind. He replied, "I like your attitude."
So we parted in generation-spanning solidarity, me with my whisky, cigars, and incense, but no peppermints.
Whisky is like socializing. A little is good from time to time, or at least not bad. But more is not better.
UPDATE (3/5): Bill H. writes,
Just some clarification, if you don't mind: propylene glycol is relatively nontoxic, and is an actual approved food additive.
Its chemical cousin ethyleneglycol is the quite poisonous one that is used in some antifreeze.
Keep up the good work, though.
I appreciate the clarification. It is true both that propylene glycol is relatively nontoxic and that it is an approved food additive. And it is true that ethylene glycol is used in some antifreezes/coolants. But according to this site, propylene glycol is also used in some antifreezes/coolants.
Another curious fact is that for those of you on a kosher diet, Propylene Glycol Kosher is available, and in quantity. You may purchase 326 gallons for a mere $4, 749.99 and in time for Passover. But hurry, this is a sale price.
My argument against the use of these terms is simple and straighforward. A phobia, by definition, is an irrational fear. (Every phobia is a fear, but not every fear is a phobia, because not every fear is irrational.) Therefore, one who calls a critic of the doctrines of Islam or of the practices of its adherents an Islamophobe is implying that the critic is in the grip of an irrational fear, and therefore irrational. This amounts to a refusal to confront and engage the content of his assertions and arguments.
This is not to say that there are no people with an irrational fear of Muslims or of Islam. But by the same token there are people with an irrational fear of firearms.
Suppose a defender of gun rights were to label anyone and everyone a hoplophobe who in any way argues for more gun control. Would you, dear liberal, object? I am sure you would. You would point out that a phobia is an irrational fear, and that your fear is quite rational. You would say that you fear the consequences of more and more guns in the hands of more and more people, some of them mentally unstable, some of them criminally inclined, some of them just careless.
You, dear liberal, would insist that your claims and arguments deserve to be confronted and engaged and not dismissed. You would be offended if a conservative or a libertarian were to dismiss you as a hoplophobe thereby implying that you are beneath the level of rational discourse.
So now, dear liberal, you perhaps understand why you ought to avoid 'Islamophobia' and its variants except in those few instances where they are legitimately applied.
The quality of 'elite' publications such as The New Yorker leaves a lot to be desired these days. Adam Gopnik's recent outburst on Newtown is one more example of a downward trend: it is so breathtakingly bad that I am tempted to snark: "I can't breathe!" Could Gopnik really be as willfully stupid as the author of this piece? Or perhaps he was drunk when he posted his screed one minute after midnight on January 1st.
Again I ask myself: why is the quality of conservative commentary so vastly superior to the stuff on the Left?
A tip of the hat and a Happy New Year! to Malcolm Pollack from whom I snagged the above hyperlinks. Malcolm is a very good writer as you can see from this paragraph:
The New Yorker‘s essayist Adam Gopnik — whom I have always considered to be quite lavishly talented, despite his dainty and epicene style — beclowned himself one minute into this New Year with a stupendously mawkish item on gun control. It is so bad, in fact — so completely barren of fact, rational argument, or indeed any serious intellectual effort whatsoever — that I was startled, and frankly saddened, to see it in print. It is the cognitive equivalent, if one can imagine such a thing hoisted into Mr. Gopnik’s rarefied belletrist milieu, of yelling “BOSTON SUCKS” at a Yankees-Red Sox game, at a time when Boston leads the division by eleven games.
This beautifully written, erudite piece by George F. Will is the best thing I've read so far about the Eric Garner case. Excerpts:
Garner died at the dangerous intersection of something wise, known as “broken windows” policing, and something worse than foolish: decades of overcriminalization. The policing applies the wisdom that where signs of disorder, such as broken windows, proliferate and persist, a general diminution of restraint and good comportment takes hold. So, because minor infractions are, cumulatively, not minor, police should not be lackadaisical about offenses such as jumping over subway turnstiles.
Overcriminalization has become a national plague. And when more and more behaviors are criminalized, there are more and more occasions for police, who embody the state’s monopoly on legitimate violence, and who fully participate in humanity’s flaws, to make mistakes.
The scandal of mass incarceration is partly produced by the frivolity of the political class, which uses the multiplication of criminal offenses as a form of moral exhibitionism. This, like Eric Garner’s death, is a pebble in the mountain of evidence that American government is increasingly characterized by an ugly and sometimes lethal irresponsibility.
From time to time it is perhaps appropriate that we should relax a little the bonds that tether us to the straight and narrow. A fitting apologia for a bit of indulgence and even overindulgence is found in Seneca, On Tranquillity of Mind, XVII, 8-9, tr. Basore:
At times we ought to reach even the point of intoxication, not drowning ourselves in drink, yet succumbing to it; for it washes away troubles, and stirs the mind from its very depths and heals its sorrow just as it does certain ills of the body; and the inventor of wine is not called the Releaser [Liber, Bacchus] on account of the license it gives to the tongue, but because it frees the mind from bondage to cares and emancipates it and gives it new life and makes it bolder in all that it attempts. But, as in freedom, so in wine there is a wholesome moderation.
Sed ut libertatis ita vini salubris moderatio est.
. . .
Yet we ought not to do this often, for fear that the mind may contract an evil habit; nevertheless there are times when it must be drawn into rejoicing and freedom, and gloomy sobriety must be banished for a while.
Joan Baez, Rock Salt and Nails. "If the ladies was squirrels with high bushy tails/I'd fill up my shotgun with rock salt and nails." This is undoubtedly (!)the best version of this great Utah Phillips song.
When you pull in a half-million dollars a speech, why not celebrate with the "Rolls Royce" of cigars?
Former President Bill Clinton reportedly indulges in some of the world's most expensive cigars, from a Dominican Republic company whose smokes fetch up to $1,000 -- that's per cigar, not per box.
You will recall that the late Michael Brown of Ferguson fame displayed bad taste in cigars along with bad moral judgment when he shoplifted a package of Swisher Sweets in the penultimate adventure of his short life.
Treading the Middle Path, and avoiding the extremes of our first black president and of the latest poster boy of the hate-America race baiters, I recommend to you the Arturo Fuente 'Curly Head,' under $3 per stick. Cheap but good and proportional to the speaking fees a philosopher is likely to pull down.
The inaugural meeting, back in January, Scottsdale Community College, to protest the rising tide of tobacco-wackery. I just stumbled across this shot, a 'selfie' or perhaps an 'us-y' taken by Mike Valle of SCC.
Nicotine is the main psychoactive ingredient in tobacco, and a most delightful and useful ingredient it is, especially for us Luftmenschen. I am thinking of the chess players who make Luft, not war, and of the philosophers whose thoughts are characteristically lofty and luftig even if at times nebelig. Nicotine is good for cognitive functioning, increasing both memory and attention. Studies on humans and lab animals show this to be the case. But we connoisseurs of the noble weed know this to be so without the help of studies. Experientia docet.
The drawback, of course, is that nicotine may be the most highly addictive substance on earth–more addictive than crack cocaine or heroin, and a more difficult addiction to shake, Rezvani said.
Why is that? First, it binds with the receptors in the brain for acetylcholine, one of our most important neurotransmitters and the first ever discovered. Second, because nicotine is usually inhaled, via cigarettes and now e-cigarettes, it hits the brain almost immediately.
“One reason for it being so addictive is that as soon as you smoke, you see the reward,” Rezvani said. The same is true of crack cocaine, he said.
The quotation 'smacks' of wild liberal exaggeration. It reeks of the Big Lie. People have been parroting that Everett Koop line for years. Remember that bow-tied sawbones who occupied the most useless office in the land, that of Surgeon General, from 1981 to 1989? Surely it is nonsense to say that nicotine is more addictive than heroin or crack cocaine. In fact, I will go one better: It is not addictive in any serious sense at all. But of course it all depends on what exactly is meant by 'addiction,' a word I have yet to see any anti-tobacco ideologue explain. It is a word that is used and overused and abused in all sorts of promiscuous connections.
You say you're addicted to nicotine? Well, if I paid you a million dollars to go one month without smoking, would you be able to do it? Of course you would. But if you had been shooting heroin daily for years and were addicted, and I made the same offer, would you be able to collect? No way! This is of course an empirical question, but some empirical questions can be answered from the armchair. This assumes that you have experience of life and some common sense, a commodity in short supply among liberals. It would be very interesting to set up an experiment, but you would need some moneybags to bankroll it. Anybody out there want to pony up 200 million USD? Do the experiment using 100 two-pack per day cigarette smokers and 100 heroin addicts who shoot up daily. You get a million bucks if you go a month without indulging. You will of course be under close surveillance. I predict the following outcome. 90 - 100% of the smokers but only 0-10% of the 'smackers' would collect.
And now for some anecdotal evidence, which is, after all, evidence: 'anecdotal' is not here functioning as an alienans adjective.
I have been smoking cigars and pipes for 45 years or so. Time was when I smoked two loads of pipe tobacco per diem, all the way down, and it was strong stuff. In Turkey where I lived for a year in the '90s I bought a Meerschaum pipe and I smoked an unconscionable quantity of the meanest shit there is, straight Turkish. Stateside the stuff is used sparingly as a seasoning in blends. I don't recommend it straight. Might blow your head clean off. Mine is still intact, thank you very much.
Now here's my point: if nicotine is addictive, then surely I ought to be addicted. But I'm not. I smoke only when I decide to, nowadays, less than one cigar per week. But I smoke the sucker down to the bitter end, reducing the whole of it to smoke and ashes. "But doesn't it burn your fingertips?" Not if I tamp it down into a smoking pipe. The finale is mighty rasty and loaded with nicotine. And I am still not addicted.
I am not an isolated exception. There are all the two-pack-a day cigarette smokers who just up and quit of their free will without a federal program or a 'patch' or somebody holding their hand. I'm thinking of my father, and aunts and uncles, and brother-in-law, and hundreds of others. And they smoked unfiltered Camels and Lucky Strikes, not the pussy brands abroad in the land today.
Now suppose I was smoking crack cocaine or mainlining heroin for the last 45 years. I'd mostly like be dead, but if I weren't I would be addicted in a serious sense of that word. So there is just no comparison. It's a bullshit comparison that only a willfully nescient liberal could love.
Can you call a substance 'addictive' if only some people become 'addicted' to it? I say No. In the case of nicotine, it is not the substance that is addictive but the user who allows himself of his own free will to become 'addicted.' (Those are 'sneer' quotes by the way.) You say you have an 'addictive personality'? I'm going to question that too. You are most likely just looking for an excuse. Why not say you lack self-discipline and that you refuse to take yourself in hand; that instead of doing those things, you blame your problems on something outside of yourself, whether tobacco or tobacco companies, or 'society'?
The case for nicotine, then, is that it is a sovereign enhancer of cognitive functioning. And you can get it without smoking cigarettes or using snuff. I recommend that you stay away from cigarettes and snuff.
There is a lot to say on this topic and lot of liberal nonsense to dispose of. But I'll end today with this aphorism:
The church of liberalism must have its demon and his name is 'tobacco.'
Like many American boys, I read plenty of Jack London: The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Sea Wolf, Martin Eden, not to mention numerous short stories, some of them unforgettable to this day: "Love of Life," "Moonface," and "To Build a Fire." But I never got around to John Barleycorn until years later after I had read a lit-crit study of the American booze novel, and had decided to read every booze novel I could get my hands on. You could say I went on a booze novel binge. So I read Charles Jackson's Lost Weekend, things like that, until I was ready for the grandpappy of them all, John Barleycorn.
Here are some notes from a journal entry of 7 March 1998.
Finished John Barleycorn in bed last night. One of London's best books. What's the gist of it?
One cannot live and be happy unless one suppresses the final truth which is that life is a senseless play of forces, a brutal and bloody war of all against all with no redeeming point or purpose. Man is a brother to the dust, "a cosmic joke, a sport of chemistry." (319).
Only by telling himself "vital lies" can a man live "muttering and mumbling them like charms and incantations against the powers of Night." (329) All metaphysics, religion, and spirtuality are half-believed-in attempts to "outwit the Noseless One [the skull behind the face] and the Night." (329) "Life is oppositional and passes. You are an apparition." (317) "All an appearance can know is mirage." (316)
Ah, but here is a weak point in the London position. An appearance can't know anything, can't even dream or doubt anything. If I am dreaming, then I am, beyiond all seeming, and I cannot be a mere dream object. Here the "White Logic" shows itself to be illogic. Let your experience be as deceptive, delusive, mirage-like as you want, the experiencer stands above it, apart from it, behind it -- at least in his inner essence. Thus there is the hope that he may unfold his inner essence, disentangling himself from the play of specters. But this is exactly what London, worldling and sensualist, did not do. And what he presumably could not do.
There is the 'truth' we need to live and flourish -- which is a bunch of "vital lies" -- and there is the real truth, which is that our life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Religion and metaphysics are further life-enhancing illusions. Alcohol revealed all this "White Logic" to London. What is his solution? Stay sober and dream on, apparently. Close the books of despair (Spencer, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche) and lose yourself in the daily round, the social whirl, the delights of the foreground. Distract yourself and keep your self distracted.
What is noteworthy here is that booze for London is not anodyne and escape but truth serum. Beyond noteworthy it is very strange: the boozed-up, barely-corned, brain is in the proper condition to grasp reality as she is.
Three paths are suggested:
A. The Superficial Man. Lives in immediacy and illusion, oblivious to sickness, old age, and death. Doesn't see that there is a problem of life to be solved. Or rather he doesn't want to see that life is a predicament. He prefers self-deception on this point. He takes short views and avoids the long ones. Keeps himself busy and distracted.
B. The 'London Man.' Sees through the average schlep's illusions. He experiences the nullity, the vanity of success, recognition, love of woman, money and the rest. (See p. 254) But beyond this there is only the horror of the senseless and brutal struggle for existence. So he turns against the "ancient mistake of pursuing Truth too relentlessly." (254) He returns to the Cave, believing that ultimately there is No Exit.
C. The Quester. For whatever reason, he has been so placed in life that he has a glimpse of the possibility of salvation from meaninglessness. He sees deeper than the 'London Man.' He has been granted a fleeting vision of the Light behind and beyond the Noseless One and Night. He works to attain that vision in fullness.
My referrers' list points me to this post whence I snagged these two delightful quotations:
The pipe draws wisdom from the lips of the philosopher, and shuts up the mouth of the foolish; it generates a style of conversation, contemplative, thoughtful, benevolent, and unaffected.
William Makepeace Thackeray
A pipe is the fountain of contemplation, the source of pleasure, the companion of the wise; and the man who smokes, thinks like a philosopher and acts like a Samaritan.”
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
The name 'Bulwer-Lytton' rings a bell doesn't it? You guessed right: it's the same Bulwer-Lytton who penned, in prose of purple, the opening sentence,
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
Getting through to liberals on a topic like this is well-nigh impossible, so willfully benighted are they. So why do I write on these topics? First to clarify my own ideas for my own enjoyment and edification. Second, to provide argumentative ammo for my conservative and libertarian friends. Third, because I am a happy culture warrior and joyful scribbler.
1. Is anybody against gun control? Not that I am aware of. Everybody wants there to be some laws regulating the manufacture, sale, importation, transportation, use, etc., of guns. So why do liberals routinely characterize conservatives as against gun control? Because they are mendacious. It is for the same reason that they label conservatives as anti-government. Conservatives stand for limited government, whence it follows that that are for government. This is a simple inference that even a liberal shallow-pate should be able to process. So why do liberals call conservatives anti-government? Because they are mendacious: they are not interested in civil debate, but in winning at all costs by any means. With respect to both government and gun control, the question is not whether but how much.
2. Terminology matters. 'Magazine' is the correct term for what is popularly called a clip. Don't refer to a round as a bullet. The bullet is the projectile. Avoid emotive phraseology if you are interested in serious discussion. 'Assault weapon' has no clear meaning and is emotive to boot. Do you mean semi-automatic long gun? Then say that. Don't confuse 'semi-automatic' with 'fully automatic.' Bone up on the terminology if you want to be taken seriously.
3. Gun lobbies benefit gun manufacturers. No doubt. But they also defend the Second Amendment rights of citizens, all citizens. Be fair. Don't adduce the first fact while ignoring the second. And don't call the NRA a special interest group. A group that defends free speech may benefit the pornography industry, but that is not to say that the right to free speech is not a right for all. Every citizen has an actual or potential interest in self-defense and the means thereto. It's a general interest. A liberal who has no interest in self-defense and the means thereto is simply a liberal who has yet to be mugged or raped or had her home invaded. Such a liberal's interest is yet potential.
4. Question for liberals: what is your plan in case of a home invasion? Call 9-1-1? What is your plan in case of a fire? Call the Fire Department? Not a bad thought. But before they arrive it would help to have a home fire extinguisher at the ready. Ergo, etc.
5. The president and Congress are fiddling while Rome burns. Compared to the fiscal crisis, the gun issue is a non-issue. That really ought to be obvious. There was no talk of it early in the Obama administration. Why not? It looks to be a red herring, a way of avoiding a truly pressing issue while at the same time advancing the Left's totalitarian agenda. One can strut and posture and show how sensitive and caring one is while avoiding painful decisions that are bound to be unpopular and for some pols suicidal. I am talking about entitlement reform. Here's a part of a solution that would get me tarred and feathered. After a worker has taken from the Social Security system all the money he paid in plus, say, 8% interest, the payments stop. That would do something to mitigate the Ponzi-like features of the current unsustainable system.
6. Believe it or not, Pravda (sic!) has warned Americans about draconian gun control. 'Pravda,' if I am not badly mistaken, is Russian for truth. That took real chutzpah, the commies calling their propaganda organ, Truth. Well, the former commies speak truth, for once, here: "These days, there are few things to admire about the socialist, bankrupt and culturally degenerating USA, but at least so far, one thing remains: the right to bear arms and use deadly force to defend one's self and possessions." Read the whole thing. Some days I think the US is turning into the SU what with Obama and all his czars.
7. Nannystaters like Dianne Feinstein ought to think carefully before they make foolish proposals. The unintended consequences may come back to bite them. Gun and ammo sales are through the roof. Although more guns in the hands of responsible, trained, individuals leads to less crime, more guns in civilian hands, without qualification, cannot be a good thing.
8. It doesn't follow, however, that if, per impossibile (as the philosophers say) all guns were thrown into the sea we would be better off. The gun is an equalizer, a peace-preserver, a violence-thwarter. Samuel Colt is supposed to have said, "Have no fear of any man no matter what his size, in time of need just call on me and I will equalize." Granny with her .45 is a pretty good match for an unarmed Tookie Williams.
9. SCOTUS saw the light and pronounced it an individual right. You persist in thinking the right to keep and bear arms is a collective right? I wonder if you think that the right to life is also collective. If my right to life is an individual right, how can my right to defend my life and the logically consequent right to the means to such defense not also be an individual right?
Addendum. Tony Bevin usefully contributes the following:
You write (#9):
"SCOTUS saw the light and pronounced it an individual right. "
An oft overlooked fact is the definition of "milita" in the United States legal code. It is easily available to anyone who searches for US Code militia (reproduced below, emphasis mine):
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia
This is a repost, slightly redacted, from 2012 to help stem the tsunami of folderol sure to wash over us from the orifices of the mindless gun-grabbing Left in the wake of the Isla Vista rampage.
Without wanting to deny that there is a 'gun culture' in the USA, especially in the so-called red states, I would insist that the real problem is our liberal culture. Here are four characteristics of liberal culture that contribute to violence of all kinds, including gun violence.
1. Liberals tend to have a casual attitude toward crime.
It is interesting to note that Connecticut, the state in which the Newtown massacre occurred, has recently repealed the death penalty, and this after the unspeakably brutal Hayes-Komisarjevsky home invasion in the same state.
One of the strongest voices against repealing the death penalty has been Dr. William Petit Jr., the lone survivor of a 2007 Cheshire home invasion that resulted in the murders of his wife and two daughters.
The wife was raped and strangled, one of the daughters was molested and both girls were left tied to their beds as the house was set on fire.
The two men convicted of the crime, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are currently on death row.
Anyone who cannot appreciate that a crime like this deserves the death penalty is morally obtuse. But not only are liberals morally obtuse, they are contemptibly stupid in failing to understand that one of the main reasons people buy guns is to protect themselves from the criminal element, the criminal element that liberals coddle. If liberals were serious about wanting to reduce the numbers of guns in civilian hands, they would insist on swift and sure punishment in accordance with the self-evident moral principle, "The punishment must fit the crime," which is of course not to be confused with lex talionis, "an eye for an eye." Many guns are purchased not for hunting or sport shooting but for protection against criminals. Keeping and bearing arms carries with it a grave responsibility and many if not most gun owners would rather not be so burdened. Gun ownership among women is on the upswing, and it is a safe bet that they don't want guns to shoot Bambi.
2. Liberals tend to undermine morality with their opposition to religion.
Many of us internalized the ethical norms that guide our lives via our childhood religious training. We were taught the Ten Commandments, for example. We were not just taught about them, we were taught them. We learned them by heart, and we took them to heart. This early training, far from being the child abuse that A. C. Grayling and other militant atheists think it is, had a very positive effect on us in forming our consciences and making us the basically decent human beings we are. I am not saying that moral formation is possible only within a religion; I am saying that some religions do an excellent job of transmitting and inculcating life-guiding and life-enhancing ethical standards, that moral formation outside of a religion is unlikely for the average person, and that it is nearly impossible if children are simply handed over to the pernicious influences of secular society as these influences are transmitted through television, Internet, video games, and other media. Anyone with moral sense can see that the mass media have become an open sewer in which every manner of cultural polluter is not only tolerated but promoted. Those of use who were properly educated way back when can dip into this cesspool without too much moral damage. But to deliver our children over to it is the real child abuse, pace the benighted Professor Grayling.
The shysters of the ACLU, to take one particularly egregious bunch of destructive leftists, seek to remove every vestige of our Judeo-Christian ethical traditiion from the public square. I can't begin to catalog all of their antics. But recently there was the Mojave cross incident. It is absurd that there has been any fight at all over it. The ACLU, whose radical lawyers brought the original law suit, deserve contempt and resolute opposition. Of course, I wholeheartedly endorse the initial clause of the First Amendment, to wit, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . ." But it is hate-America leftist extremism on stilts to think that the presence of that very old memorial cross on a hill in the middle of nowhere does anything to establish Christianity as the state religion. I consider anyone who believes that to be intellectually obtuse and morally repellent. One has to be highly unbalanced in his thinking to torture such extremist nonsense out of the First Amendment, while missing the plain sense of the Second Amendment, one that even SCOTUS eventually got right, namely, the the right to keep and bear arms is an individual, not a collective, right.
And then there was the business of the tiny cross on the city seal of Los Angeles, a symbol that the ACLU agitated to have removed. I could continue with the examples, and you hope I won't.
3. Liberals tend to have low standards, glorify the worthless, and fail to present exemplary human types.
Our contemporary media dreckmeisters apparently think that the purpose of art is to degrade sensibility, impede critical thinking, glorify scumbags, and rub our noses ever deeper into sex and violence. It seems obvious that the liberal fetishization of freedom of expression without constraint or sense of responsibility is part of the problem. But I can't let a certain sort of libertarian or economic conservative off the hook. Their lust for profit is also involved.
What is is that characterizes contemporary media dreck? Among other things, the incessant presentation of defective human beings as if there are more of them than there are, and as if there is nothing at all wrong with their way of life. Deviant behavior is presented as if it is mainstream and acceptable, if not desirable. And then lame justifications are provided for the presentation: 'this is what life is like now; we are simply telling it like it is.' It doesn't occur to the dreckmeisters that art might have an ennobling function.
The tendency of liberals and leftists is to think that any presentation of choice-worthy goals or admirable styles of life could only be hypocritical preaching. And to libs and lefties, nothing is worse than hypocrisy. Indeed, a good indicator of whether someone belongs to this class of the terminally benighted is whether the person obsesses over hypocrisy and thinks it the very worst thing in the world. See my category Hypocrisy for elaboration of this theme.
4. Liberals tend to deny or downplay free will, individual responsibility, and the reality of evil.
This is connected with point 2 above, leftist hostility to religion. Key to our Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief that man is made in the image and likeness of God. This image is that mysterious power in us called free will. The secular extremist assault on religion is at the same time an assault on this mysterious power, through which evil comes into the world.
This is a large topic. Suffice it to say for now that one clear indication of this denial is the bizarre liberal displacement of responsibility for crime onto inaminate objects, guns, as if the weapon, not the wielder, is the source of the evil for which the weapon can be only the instrument.
Keith Burgess-Jackson explains in response to a moronic missive he found in the NYT:
To the Editor:
Dear America: Not that I expect to persuade you, but just so you know, most of the rest of the world regards your obsession with guns and executions as barbaric. Don’t say you weren’t told.
VINCE CALDERHEAD Nairobi, Kenya, April 30, 2014
Note from KBJ: You mean the world that gave us (just off the top of my head, and in no particular order) the Inquisition, the Crusades, human chattel slavery, gladiatorial contests, human sacrifice, conquistadors, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedung, Robespierre, genocide, tribal warfare, the guillotine, the garrote, and the broadaxe? Sorry; we Americans put our murderers to death because, and only because, we value innocent human life. We are "obsessed" with guns because we are obsessed with individual liberty. It you don't like it here, please leave. If you're not here, please shut up and leave us alone.
Well said. The willful stupidity and moral obtuseness of contemporary liberals is perhaps best demonstrated from their lunatic stands on capital punishment and gun control.
Here it is over a year since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Why is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev still alive? We need a judicial fast track for terrorists. Have we lost the will to defend our open way of life, our institutions and traditions?
"First, if your justification of state involvement in marriage is the production and protection of children, then I think you open yourself to intervention of the state beyond what a limited government conservative should be comfortable with. If protection of marriage by the state for such a goal is the standard, many other activities should be outlawed. Adultery, divorce, pornography are all things that create a poor environment to raise and nurture children, but I don't see us banning said actions."
Conservatives are committed to limited government, and I'm a conservative. It is obvious, I hope, that the state ought not be involved in every form of human association. State involvement in any particular type of human association must therefore be justified. We want as much government as we need, but no more. The state is coercive by its very nature, as it must be if it is to be able to enforce its mandates and exercise its legitimate functions, and is therefore at odds with the liberty and autonomy of citizens. It is not obvious that the government should be in the marriage business at all. The burden is on the state to justify its intervention and regulation. But there is a reason for the state to be involved. The state has a legitimate interest in its own perpetuation and maintenance via the production of children, their socializing, their protection, and their transformation into productive citizens who will contribute to the common good. (My use of 'the state' needn't involve an illict hypostatization.) It is this interest that justifies the state's recognition and regulation of marriage as a union of exactly one man and exactly one woman.
If one takes this view, does it follow that adultery, divorce, and pornography should be outlawed? Not at all. Slippery slope arguments are one and all invalid. (Side-issues I won't pursue: (i) Adultery is a legitimate ground for divorce, so divorce cannot be outlawed. (ii) Another freason why divorce ought not be outlawed is that it is often good for offspring.)
Slippery Slope Arguments
But perhaps I should say something about slippery slope arguments. They come up quite often, in the gun debate, for example. "If citizens are allowed to own semi-automatic pistols and rifles, then they must be allowed to own other sorts of weaponry." That is often heard.
There is, however, no logical necessity that if you allow citizens to own semi-automatic rifles, then you must also allow them to own machine guns, grenade launchers, chemical and biological weapons, tactical nukes . . . . At some point a line is drawn. We draw lines all the time. Time was when the voting age was 21. Those were the times when, in the words of Barry McGuire, "You're old enough to kill, but not for votin'." The voting age is now 18. If anyone at the time had argued that reducing the age to 18 would logically necessitate its being reduced to 17, then 16, and then 15, and so on unto the enfranchisement of infants and the prenatal, that would have been dismissed as a silly argument.
If the above anti-gun slippery slope argument were valid, then the following pro-gun argument would be valid: "If the government has the right to ban civilian possession of fully automatic rifles, then it has the right to ban semi-automatic rifles, semi-autos generally, revolvers, single-shot derringers, BB guns, . . . . But it has no right to ban semi-autos, and so on. Ergo, etc.
I have been speaking of the 'logical' slippery slope. Every such argument is invalid. But there is also the 'causal' or 'probabilistic' slippery slope. Some of these have merit, some don't. One must look at the individual cases.
Supposing all semi-auto weapons (pistols, rifles, and shotguns) to be banned, would this 'lead to' or 'pave the way for' the banning of revolvers and handguns generally? 'Lead to' is a vague phrase. It might be taken to mean 'raise the probability of' or 'make it more likely that.' Slippery slope arguments of this sort in some cases have merit. If all semi-auto rifles are banned, then the liberals will be emboldened and will try to take the next step, the banning of semi-auto pistols. The probability of that happening is very high. I would lay serious money on the proposition that Dianne Feinstein of San Bancisco, who refuses to use correct gun terminology, though she knows it, referring to semi-automatic long guns as 'assault rifles,' a phrase at once devoid of definite meaning and emotive, would press to have all semi-autos banned if she could get a ban on semi-auto rifles.
But how high is the probability of the slide in the other direction? Not high at all. In fact very low, closing in on zero. How many conservatives are agitating the right to buy (without special permits and fees) machine guns (fully automatic weapons)? None that I know of. How many conservatives are agitating for the right to keep and bear tactical nukes?
I return to my reader's claim. He said in effect that if the State regulates marriage then we are on a slippery slope toward the regulation and in some cases banning of all sorts of things that are harmful to children. But the argument is invalid if intended as a logical slippery slope (since all such arguments are invalid), and inductively extremely weak if intended as a causal or probabilistic slippery slope. The likelihood of, say, a clamp-down on the deleterious dreck emanating from our mass media outlets is extremely low.
Last week I quit my desert outpost and headed West to Tempe in quest of books and conversation. When in town I often stop at Churchill's, off of Mill Avenue, near ASU, for a cigar.
But things had changed since my last visit. The outdoor tables in front of the store had been moved to the curb. When I asked the man on duty why, he said that a city ordinance demanded it. It is permissible to smoke in the store and at the curb, but not in front of the doors of the smoke shop.
Now that's crazy, but worse is to come. When I asked the man whether I could smoke in the shop, he said I could, as long as I remained there for the duration of my smoking, it being illegal to walk a few feet with a lit cigar from the shop to the tables at the curb. I was going to do it anyway except that not only would I be subject to a fine, but the shopkeeper as well. To protect him, I complied with the absurd law.
Here then we have yet another illustration of the lunacy of the contemporary liberal loon. There is no common sense on the Left, no wisdom, nothing that could be called good judgment or reasonableness. What there is is extremism and misplaced moral enthusiasm.
A liberal is the kind of moral and intellectual idiot who has no problem with the legalization of marijuana and partial-birth abortion, but gets his moral hackles up over a bit of highly diluted sidestream smoke in the vicinity of a -- wait for it -- SMOKE shop.
At some point, self-induced idiocy becomes morally censurable. I'd say that here we are beyond that point.
Greetings from the least free state in the union (so says a George Mason study, anyway).
I thought you might appreciate an example of the terrible policy that leftist irrationality leads to.
I am a proud owner of a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver. I received this gun as a gift while I lived in Texas. In 2012 my wife and I moved to Rochester, NY. I thought that it would probably be a good idea to check the gun laws in the state. I discovered that I had to be approved for a license to keep a handgun in my own house.
Despite this affront to my freedom, I decided I wanted to be a law abiding citizen. I found the application for the license online, only to read this, "...the processing of a pistol permit application can take approximately 6 to 9 months. This time-frame is just an estimate, and not a guarantee. Applications may take longer than 9 months to be processed."
How absurd! I guess if a burglar breaks into my house, I'll kindly tell him to return in 6 to 9 months, at which time I can properly defend myself, my wife, and my baby daughter.
The application packet, which is 24 pages in total (to be fair and honest, some of those 24 pages were blank, and some were directions. They are not all for info that I must provide them.), only grew more absurd. A couple pages in, I learn that I must provide four character references from people who have known me since I moved here and are residents of the county in which I live. Furthermore, since I have not lived here for 3 years, I must provide 3 additional notarized character references from persons from the state or county in which I previously lived.
I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I am having second thoughts about completing this application. There are so many obstructions to me exercising my right that I don't know if I want to exert the effort to break past them all.
Best to you in this new year,
It is small consolation, but it would be worse for my reader if he lived in NYC. Cf. John Stossel's experience with the hoplophobes.
Marijuana legalization may be the same-sex marriage of 2014 -- a trend that reveals itself in the course of the year as obvious and inexorable. At the risk of exposing myself as the fuddy-duddy I seem to have become, I hope not.
This is, I confess, not entirely logical and a tad hypocritical. At the risk of exposing myself as not the total fuddy-duddy of my children's dismissive imaginings, I have done my share of inhaling, though back in the age of bell-bottoms and polyester.
I fail to see what is illogical about Marcus's taking a position today that differs from the position she took back when she wore bell bottoms. Logic enjoins logical consistency, not such other types as consistency of beliefs over time. Here is a pair of logically contradictory propositions:
Marijuana ought to be legalized Marijuana ought not be legalized.
Here is a pair of logically consistent propositions:
Marcus believed in 1970 that marijuana ought to be legalized Marcus believes in 2014 that marijuana ought not be legalized.
There is nothing illogical about Marcus's change of views.
And surely there is nothing hypocritical about Marcus's wising up up and changing her view. To think otherwise is to fail to understand the concept of hypocrisy.
I once heard a radio advertisement by a group promoting a "drug-free America." A male voice announces that he is a hypocrite because he demands that his children not do what he once did, namely, use illegal drugs. The idea behind the ad is that it is sometimes good to be a hypocrite.
Surely this ad demonstrates a misunderstanding of the concept of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a moral defect. But one who preaches abstinence and is abstinent is morally praiseworthy regardless of what he did in his youth. Indeed, his change of behavior redounds to his moral credit.
A hypocrite is not someone who fails to live up to the ideals he espouses, but one who does not attempt to live up to the ideals he espouses. An adequate definition of hypocrisy must allow for moral failure. An adequate definition must also allow for moral change. One who did not attempt to live up to the ideals he now espouses cannot be called a hypocrite; the term applies to one who does not attempt to live up to the ideals he now espouses.
Marcus embraces Pee-Cee lunacy in the following passage (emphasis added):
I'm not arguing that marijuana is riskier than other, already legal substances, namely alcohol and tobacco. Indeed, pot is less addictive; an occasional joint strikes me as no worse than an occasional drink. If you had a choice of which of the three substances to ban, tobacco would have to top the list. Unlike pot and alcohol, tobacco has no socially redeeming value; used properly, it is a killer.
Well, I suppose one cannot expect clear and independent and critical thinking and proper use of language from a mere journalist.
What, pray tell, is the proper use of tobacco? Smoked in pipes and in the form of cigars it is assuredly not a killer. One does not inhale pipe or cigar smoke. And while cigarette smoke is typically inhaled, no one ever killed himself by smoking a cigarette or a pack of cigarettes. (People have died, however, from just one drinking binge.) To contract a deadly disease such as lung cancer or emphysema, you must smoke many cigarettes daily over many years. And even then there is no causation, strictly speaking.
Smoking cigarettes is contraindicated if you desire to be optimally healthy: over the long haul it dramatically increases the probability that the smoker will contract a deadly disease. But don't confuse 'x raises the probability of y' with 'x causes y.' Cigarettes did not kill my aunts and uncles who smoked their heads off back in the day. They lived to ripe old ages. Aunt Ada to 90. I can see old Uncle Ray now, with his bald head and his pack of unfiltered Camels.
Why are liberals such suckers for misplaced moral enthusiasm?
Tobacco has no socially redeeming value? What a stupid thing to say! Miss Marcus ought to hang out with the boys at a high-end cigar emporium, or have breakfast with me and Peter and Mikey as we smoke and vape at a decidely low-end venue, Cindy's Greasy Spoon. For the record: I do not smoke cigarettes.
Just as alcohol in moderation is a delightful adjunct to a civilized life, a social lubricant and an aid to conviviality, the same is true of tobacco.
Which to ban if one of the three were to be banned? Alcohol obviously! Stop being a dumbassed liberal and try thinking for a change. How many auto accidents have been caused by smokers of tobacco as compared with drinkers of alcohol? Are you aware that the ingestion of nicotine increaases alertness? How many men beat their women and children under the influence of tobacco?
I began the New Year right at 2 AM, my usual arisal time, with prayer, meditation, journal writing, reflection on resolutions for 2014 numero uno of which is to finish the metaphilosophy book, some philosophical reading, a bit of blogging, and two online chess games, one 5-min the other 3-min. Won 'em both. Then I headed out into the desert for a little target practice. Lazy dog that I am, I hadn't gotten around to shooting the semi-automatic .22 I bought on 13 July. So I thought I had better try it out. So I put 50 .22 LR rounds through it this morning while standing on uneven desert terrain with no bench to support my hand. I was about 6 or 7 long paces from the target, maybe 18-20 feet. Of the 50 .22 rounds fired, I think I can account for 48 of them. Not bad, I'd say, for someone who doesn't practice as much as he should.
I am not as good with the .38 special snub-nosed revolver, but then its barrel is only 2 and 1/2 inches long. I fired six rounds at the same target, this time aiming for the head. Missed the target twice. The four hits are in a line to the left of the miscreant's noggin.
I am really bad with the 1911 model .45 semi-auto which I didn't fire today. The .22 is on a 1911 frame so I figured I should practice with it as preparation for mastering the .45 ACP 'cannon.' I suspect the recoil of the .45 is throwing me off.
One reason the .22 is a good practice weapon is because the ammo is cheap. I paid $49.37 plus tax for a 'brick' (1000 rounds) of Winchester .22 LR at Wal-Mart in August. The ammo shortage seems to be easing.
Gun ownership is serious business, but then so is driving and owning a dog. Get some instruction and commit yourself to practicing with your weapon. Don't consider yourself proficient until you have put a thousand or so rounds through the piece. Know the law. Don't mix alcohol and gunpowder. Work to promote enlightened gun laws such as we have in Arizona.
I am hosting the first meeting of The Dead Smokers Society on Monday, January 13th, from 10 a.m. to noon at the stoplight at Scottsdale Community College. I have invited all of my friends to smoke and vape with me on the street on the first day of school. This could be REALLY fun. I am inviting you if you can come.
The only rule is: Membership in the DSS requires use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or vapor devices.
I can only applaud this bit of commonsensical, liberty-affirming activism and I hope to be able to attend despite my quietism. I shall sport an Arturo Fuente 'Curly Head,' a cheap smoke, but a good smoke. Here is some background information and argument and polemic from an old post of mine dated 26 June 2012:
Peter and Mike teach in the Maricopa County Community College system. One teaches at Scottsdale CC, the other at Glendale CC. Over Sunday breakfast they reported that, starting 1 July (if I got the story straight), no smoking of tobacco products will be allowed anywhere on any CC campus in Maricopa County, Arizona. And that includes parking lots and closed cars in parking lots.
Now I would like to believe that our liberal brethren possess a modicum of rationality. But with every passing day I am further disembarrassed of this conceit of mine. The evidence is mounting that liberals really are as stupid and lacking in common sense as many on the Right say they are.
What does common sense suggest in a case like this? Well, that no smoking be allowed in classrooms, libraries, laboratories, restrooms, administrative offices, hallways, etc., and perhaps not even in individual faculty offices during consulation hours or if the smoke will make its way into occuppied public passageways.
This is a common sense position easily buttressed with various aesthetic, safety, and health-related arguments. The underlying principle is that we ought to be considerate of our fellow mortals and their physical and psychological well-being. It is debatable just how harmful are the effects of sidestream smoke. What is not debatable is that many are offended by it. So out of consideration for them, it is reasonable to ban smoking in the places I listed above. But to ban it everywhere on campus is extreme and irrational. For no one but Tom is affected by Tom's smoking in his car and while striding across the wind-blown campus.
You say you caught a whiff of his cigaratte as he passed by? Well, he heard you use the 'F' word while blasting some rap 'music' from your boom box. If Tom is involved in air pollution, then you are involved in cultural and noise pollution. You tolerate him and he'll tolerate you.
You say you smell the residual ciggy smoke on Peter's vest? That's too bad. He has to put up with your overpowering perfume/cologne or look at your tackle-box face and tattoo-defaced skin. Or maybe you are a dumb no-nothing punk wearing a T-shirt depicting Che Guevara and you think that's cool. We who are not dumb no-nothing punks have to put up with that affront to our sensibilities.
But there really is little point in being reasonable with people as unreasonable as liberty-bashing tobacco-wackos. So I think Peter and Mike ought to think about organizing a smoke-in. In the 'sixties we had love-ins and sit-ins, and they proved efficacious. Why not smoke-ins to protest blatantly extreme and irrational policies?
There must be plenty of faculty and staff and students on these campuses -- and maybe even a few not-yet-brain-dead liberals -- who would participate. Hell, I'll even drive all the way from my hideout in the Superstitions to take part. We'll gather in some well-ventilated place way out in the open to manifest our solidarity, enjoy the noble weed, and reason -- if such a thing is possible -- with the Pee-Cee boneheads who oppose us.
By the way, that is a joint old Ben Franklin is smoking in the graphic. In this post I take no position on the marijuana question.
You have heard it said, "Celebrate diversity." But I say unto you: Celebrate unity, or better yet, celebrate the dialectical unity-in-diversity of unity and diversity. In all seriousness: avoid the diversity fetish, or, if you must celebrate diversity, celebrate hoplo-diversity:
On his radio show this morning, cigar aficionado Dennis Prager said, and this is very close to a verbatim quotation:
The purpose of a cigarette is nicotine. The purpose of a cigar is taste. All they have in common is tobacco and fire.
Not quite. Agreed, the main purpose of cigarette smoking is nicotine delivery, although some cigarette smokers, not many, care about taste. And it is also true that while cigarette smoke is inhaled, cigar smoke is not. Cigar smoke is tasted. But the ingestion of nicotine via the blood vessels in the mouth (take a look under your tongue, you will need a mirror for this) is also part of what the cigar aficionado is after. He is out for a certain characteristic 'lift' or 'high.' It is mild until you get to the end of the stick. Luftmenschen in particular like this lift. It powers their dialectic. And fiddling with the accessories of smoking gives them time to formulate responses to objections. Every man is a philosopher when he is blowing smoke.
But above the cigar stands, or lies, the pipe.
If the cigarette is a one-night stand, the cigar is a brief affair. The typical cigarette smoker is out for a quick fix, not for love. The cigar aficionado is out for love, but without long-term commitment. The pipe, however, is a long and satisfying marriage. But rare is the pipester who is not a polygamist. The practice of the pipe, then, is a long and satisfying marriage to many partners among whom no jealousy reigns.
This completes the first proof of the superiority of the pipe.
So much for the fallacious 'disproportionality argument.'
If you attack me with deadly force and I reply with deadly force of greater magnitude, your relative weakness does not supply one iota of moral justification for your attack, nor does it subtract one iota of moral justification from my defensive response. If I am justified in using deadly force against you as aggressor, then the fact that my deadly force is greater than yours does not (a) diminish my justification in employing deadly force, nor does it (b) confer any justification on your aggression.
Suppose a knife-wielding thug commits a home invasion and attacks a man and his family. The man grabs a semi-automatic pistol and manages to plant several rounds in the assailant, killing him. It would surely be absurd to argue that the disparity in lethality of the weapons involved diminishes the right of the pater familias to defend himself and his family. Weakness does not justify.
The principle that weakness does not justify can be applied to the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict from the summer of 2006 as well as to the Israeli defensive operations against the terrorist entity, Hamas. The principle ought to be borne in mind when one hears leftists, those knee-jerk supporters of any and every 'underdog,' start spouting off about 'asymmetry of power' and 'disproportionality.' Impotence and incompetence are not virtues, nor do they confer moral justification or high moral status, any more than they confer the opposite.
So, what exactly do Stand Your Ground laws have to do with Zimmerman and Martin? Absolutely nothing, of course. Outside your own home, common principles of self-defense dictate that unless you have reasonable fear of deadly force or harm, you must flee if possible rather than use deadly force. But a “duty to retreat” rests on the ability to retreat. And “duty to retreat” was irrelevant in Zimmerman’s case because — pinned to the ground with Martin on top of him, bashing his head on the concrete — he was unable to retreat.
The other day I headed for the sporting goods department at a local Wal-Mart. I was looking to stock up on .38 and .45 rounds. Shelves were nearly bare and the pickin's were slim. They were out of almost everything except 20 gauge and .410 shotgun shells. A sign stated that each customer is limited to three boxes per day. This is not just a local phenomenon due to the proximity of gun-totin' Apache Junction rednecks.
A Wal-Mart employee said that 7:15 A.M. was the time to get there on days when shipments arrived. But he couldn't tell me which days those were and he had no opinion about the allegation of some that the Feds are buying up ammo like crazy in a sort of 'arms race' against civilian gun owners. According to the Associated Press (AP), Homeland Security is aiming to buy 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition. That is the same AP that has recently been the target of Obama administration document seizures. Something strange is going on here. Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?
Now would our wise and benevolent government, a government that Obama insists "is us," do a thing like buy ammo to starve the civilian supply? Well, would our government use the IRS to target and harrass conservative groups and individuals such as Frank Vandersloot? Would it lie about Benghazi?
So why do gun owners resist Washington and do-gooders such as Nocera? "You don't understand guns," Baum said, "and you don't know gun guys, yet you want to make rules for things you don't understand for people you don't know."
. . . the following surprising statement by Joe Nocera: "But it is equally true that anyone who goes into a school with a semiautomatic and kills 20 children and six adults is, by definition, mentally ill." (Emphasis added.) Well, maybe it isn't so surprising given that Mr. Nocera is a NYT op-ed writer. Surprising or not, Nocera's claim is not only false, but illustrative of complete confusion about the meaning of 'by definition.'
Suppose a Palestinian Arab terrorist enters a yeshiva with a semi-automatic rifle and kills 20 children and six adults. May you validly infer that the terrorist is mentally ill? Of course not. He may or may not be. Were the 9/11 hijackers mentally ill? No. They collectively committed an unspeakably evil act. But only a liberal would confuse an evil act with an insane act. Suppose a young SS soldier is ordered to shoot a group of 26 defenceless Jews, toppling them into a mass grave they were forced to dig. He does so, acting sanely and rationally, knowing that if he does not commit mass murder he himself will be shot to death.
Conceptual confusion and emotive uses of language are trademarks of liberal feel-good 'thinking.' To give one more example from Nocera's piece, he refers to semi-automatics as "killing machines." Question: would a semi-auto pistol or rifle be a "killing machine" if it were used purely defensively or to stop a would-be mass murderer? Suppose it were used to deter an attack without being fired. Is an 'assault weapon' an assault weapon when used for defense? Is a liberal a liberal on the rare occasions when he talks sense?
No weapon is inherently assaultive or defensive. Any weapon can be used for both assault and defense. I can block your attack with my spear, and bash you over the head with my shield. Remember Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative? Reagan claimed that SDI was purely defensive. But even if such a nuclear shield were used for purely defensive purposes, it could be used as part of an offensive strategy -- which is what made the Russkis nervous.
The best proof that liberals do not want to have a serious gun 'conversation' is that they refuse to use the proper terminology. 'Assault weapon' has no definite meaning and it is emotive to boot. The whole point of is is to appeal to people's emotions and occlude rational thought. The correct phrase is 'semi-automatic rifle' or 'semi-automatic long gun.' These phrases are purely descriptive: neither emotive, nor normatively loaded.
Suppose I want to have a 'conversation' with you about abortion, but I keep referring to you as a 'baby-killer' or a 'murderer.' Do you think a productive discussion will ensue?
We may also tax our liberal pals with intellectual dishonesty when they elide the distinction -- which most of them full-well understand -- between semi-auto and full-auto. They ride roughshod over that obvious distinction because it serves their agenda to do so. This shows that they are not interested in truth, but in power.
It is the same with liberals and libertarians who elide the distinction between legal immigrants and illegal immigrants. They ride roughshod over that obvious distinction because it serves their agenda to do so. This shows that, in this respect at least, they are not interested in truth and clarity of thought, but in power and in winning at all costs.
And then they expect us to be civil. Civility, like toleration, has limits.
Here is a particularly egregious example of a liberal straw man argument. In a New Yorker piece, Margaret Talbot writes:
As a nation, we’re a little vague on what the Second Amendment’s protections of a citizen militia mean for gun ownership today. The N.R.A. insists that they mean virtually unlimited access to firearms for every American. . . .
Note the weasel word 'virtually' that pseudo-qualifies Talbot's falsehood, and allows her to pass it off with a show of plausibility. Or is Talbot flat out lying? A lie is not the same as a falsehood, the difference being the intention to deceive which is necessary for an utterance to count as a lie. I am not in a position to peer into Talbot's soul, so I hesitate to impute a lie to her. But if she is not lying, then she is ignorant, indeed culpably ignorant since on a minimal understanding of journalistic ethics one ought to become informed of the positions of an outfit such as the N.R.A. before confidently reporting on them.
How does the Straw Man fallacy come into this? The fallacy is committed when one (mis)represents one's opponent as holding a position he does not in fact hold and then attacking the position he does not hold. So Talbot falsely represents the N. R. A. has advocating the nonexistent right of all Americans, including felons, the mentally unstable, and the underaged, to keep and bear all types of firearms. Having set up the strawman, Talbot then earnestly argues against it.
I exposed another example the other day when I refuted the Wolff-Obama "You didn't build that!" argument.
A third example is the liberal complaint that conservatives are anti-government, as if advocating limited government makes one anti-government. Such a willful misrepresentation speaks volumes about the moral character of the ones who make it.
The liberal noise about gun control has begun to abate, and we can be thankful that all the foolish and willfully ignorant hyperventilation has come to nought, except for having driven up sales of guns and ammo. As a fitting coda to all the sound and fury, I recommend this piece by Larry Correia. It is one of the best things I have read on the topic. I ran it past a competitive shooter and firearms instructor I know and he awarded it his imprimatur and nihil obstat.
More proof, as if we needed it, of the stupidity of liberals. Should we respond respectfully and rationally to fools? Mockery and ridicule are often more effective. Many of the members of Generation Screwed voted for Obama because they perceived him as 'cool.' Rational persuasion is not likely to work on such people. Their perceptions need to be changed from 'cool' to 'uncool' by the ridicule dished out by the likes of Dennis Miller and Adam Carolla.
If you want to win, make the fools look uncool to those who think coolness the criterion, but have solid arguments at the ready for those who can think.
Gail Collins' NYT op-ed gun outburst is another example of liberal stupidity. I won't sully these pages by quoting any of it. Here is an adequate response.
Many liberals feel that civilian gun ownership is unnecessary because adequate protection against the criminal element is afforded by the police. I advise them to think through the following considerations:
Misinformed people oppose self-defense objections to gun ban laws, urging victims to instead rely on police. This misunderstands what policing is and does. Accordingly, when criminals rob or injure them, misinformed victims try to sue the police for not protecting them. Whereupon the police send forth lawyers invoking the universal US rule that the police duty is to discourage crime only indirectly by patrolling the streets and by apprehending criminals after their crimes.
While police should stop crimes they observe, criminals take care to strike when police are not present. In fact, police almost never (less than 3 percent of cases) arrive in time to help victims. For that reason, the statutory or common law of every state exonerates police from suit for non-protection, e.g. California Government Code §§ 821, 845 and 846: “[A police department and its officers are] not liable for an injury caused by ... failure to enforce an enactment [nor for] failure to provide police protection service or ... provide sufficient police protection service [nor for] the failure to make an arrest or [the] failure to retain an arrested person in custody.”
Misinformed persons also urge victims to depend on restraining orders instead of self-defense. But restraining orders are just pieces of paper. A five-year study [PDF] in Massachusetts found that almost 25 percent of domestic murderers were under a restraining order when they killed.
President Obama on Sunday said he would make gun control a priority in his new term, pledging to put his “full weight” behind passing new restrictions on firearms in 2013.
“I'm going to be putting forward a package and I'm going to be putting my full weight behind it,” Obama said in an interview aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I'm going to be making an argument to the American people about why this is important and why we have to do everything we can to make sure that something like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary does not happen again.”
Question: Does any clear-thinking person seriously believe that steps can be taken to prevent such events from ever happening again? Of course not. Then why the empty utopian rhetoric? The "everything we can" is equally silly. There is a way to severely reduce the likelihood of another Sandy Hook type shooting. And that is to to secure every school like a prison. That would be much more effective that any tightening of gun laws. So if we must do "everything we can," then we ought to secure every school, every church, every college campus, etc. like a prison or a military installation.
What comes out of Obama's mouth is just feel-good liberal-left blather, thoughtless verbiage, without contact with facts or evidence, and without consequence for the solution of any real problem. The only real consequence is a further erosion of liberty and an expansion of the state.
What the hell's going on in Florida? The other day an oven shot a woman, and now a dog has shot a man, with an 'unloaded' gun no less.
Tragedies like these show the need for Dog Control. Members of the Dog Lobby such as Duane LaRufus of the National Hound Association will scream in protest, but moral cretins like him and Leroy Pooch of Dog Owners of America are nothing but greedy shills for the Canine Industrial Complex. They routinely oppose all sensible Dog Control measures. Follow the money!
Reason dictates that all dogs must be kept muzzled at all times, and when transported in a vehicle containing a gun, must be kept securely locked in the trunk. Assault dogs, whose only purpose is to kill and maim, such as Doberman Ass Biters and Pit Bulls, must be banned. Such breeds are inherently evil and no one ouside of law enforcement and the military has any business owning them. Food magazines for all breeds must be kept strictly limited lest any dog become too rambunctious. Dog owners should be 'outed' and their names published in the paper. Special taxes must be levied on all things canine to offset the expenses incurred by society at large in the wake of the rising tide of dog violence.
Such reasonable measures will strike extremists as draconian, but if even one life can be saved, then they are justified. We must do something and we must do it now so that tragedies like the one in Florida never happen again.
Firearms, Violence, and the Second Amendment: Some Articles. Linkage does not entail wholehearted endorsement. But these pieces are on the right track. If you care about your country and your own future, then you ought to inform yourself.
A reader referred me to this excellent article by George Reisman. Required reading, especially for anyone who is serious about having a real conversation about gun control, as opposed to a liberal-left 'conversation.'
This article is so good I am tempted to quote from it. But it's all good, so read it all.
Liberals have been calling for a 'conversation' about gun control. The call is both silly and disingenuous. Silly, because it is not as if we haven't been talking about this for decades. So suddenly we need to have a 'conversation'? Disingenuous, because what liberals mean by a conversation is more like: you shut up and listen and acquiesce in our point of view or we'll shout you down! Here is Medea Benjamin of CodePink 'conversing' with Wayne LaPierre:
But suppose, contrary to fact, that our leftist pals were serious about a conversation, no scare quotes. Then we would have to discuss not only gun control for citizens, but for government as well. Fair is fair.
There are foolish and irresponsible and criminal individuals among the citzenry and they shouldn't have guns. But it is equally true that there are foolish and irresponsible and criminal people in government and they shouldn't have guns either.
Besides, quis custodiet custodies? Who governs the government? If we can't govern ourselves, but need government to govern us, then the government, which is composed of the same "crooked timber of humanity" (Kant) as we are, needs some entity to keep it in line. That 'entity' is us, the armed citizenry.
Why do we need to be kept in check, but not them? Come on you feel-good liberals, try thinking for a change. Do you really believe that government is inherently benevolent and composed of angels from above? Do you really believe they can be trusted when we can't? Do you think that they are the parents and we the children? Then you are Chris Rock and and your brain is as 'petrified' as his.