Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Bridge For Sale

No, wait. Not a bridge. That is not what I meant to say. Abridge. That's it! That's the word I was looking for.
Yes, I realize that my starting posts getting back into the swing of this thing have been somewhat abridged, but I am getting back into the swing of this thing. Give me a little time to get my fingers limbered up again and I will be as wordy as ever. Seriously. You will probably be telling me to shut up already. I'm sure the word "headache" will be involved somewhere.
Enjoy the short ones while you can. Just wait until something really gets my goat. If you are new around here, you'll see. If you are not new, well then you already know, so why are you complaining?

Does Everybody Know What Everybody Knows?

I have another one of those phrases that should make you leery: Everybody knows.
Isn't it amazing how, almost every time this phrase is used, it is used to cover some controversial subject that is only being discussed precisely because everybody does not know, or at least does not agree? Yet someone, at some point in the discussion, will throw out the phrase, "Everybody knows (insert your favorite controversy here)," and this person will act as though he or she has uttered some profound truth, which no one can possibly argue against.
That is, of course, the entire purpose of the phrase Everybody knows. It is almost never used to convey information that everybody does, in fact, know. If everybody knew a thing, in a controversial discussion, there would be little point in saying it. You would be that loser who only points out the obvious. These people, however, pontificate with the air of a prophet, not of a loser. They are not pointing out something that everybody knows, nor are they trying to point out something that everybody knows. They are pointing out something that they believe and want everyone else to believe, but they do not want to have to go through the effort of convincing everyone else to believe. If you disagree with them then they want you to believe that, in this context, "everybody" means "everybody other than you." They want you to believe that you are the only fool who does not know this thing and so you are obviously ignorant and not worth discussing. Case closed.
In most situations, the case should be closed, but not in the manner the user of this phrase believes. If a person has to resort to such a fraudulent tactic then obviously that person is probably not worth discussing. If this particular derailment does not work, that person will most likely move on to yet another derailment attempt and nothing of any consequence will ever be achieved.
If someone is trying convince you that your position is foolish but cannot be bothered to offer any reasons why, dismissing the subject with the high and mighty Everybody knows, odds are good that person has just proven their own case foolish, or at least lacking in evidence. The fact of the matter is, when it comes to controversy, there is almost nothing that everybody knows. Otherwise, it would not be a controversy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Poll Tax Revisited

Every time there is a shooting, of almost any kind, the anti-gun crowd comes out in force with their screaming about how everything would be all better if we would just listen to them and take an economy-sized eraser to the Second Amendment. All of the usual arguments have been debunked into the ground (most of these shootings are already in violation of a whole plethora of gun laws, other countries do not actually have lower violent crime rates, "assault weapons" have nothing to do with cosmetics and usually have nothing to do with these shooting events, etc.) and, of course, the specific actions being called for usually have nothing to do with the shooting being used as a springboard (the shooting in Arizona a few months ago, which involved a handgun, caused a renewed cry for an assault weapons ban). Still, occasionally a new argument comes up that almost manages the impossible - almost manages to make the other arguments look intelligent.
I've been seeing one such argument for a few months now. I first started seeing it in the debates around the Arizona shooting. It is probably older than that, but that's when I first noticed it, and it seems to be gaining traction among the fringe elements. Mind you, it is gaining traction only among the fringe elements, because no one else can consider it with a straight face, but it does make an amusing discussion. The argument goes like this: We acknowledge your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, but the Second Amendment doesn't cover ammunition, so the government should declare small arms ammunition to be military ordinance that can only be purchased from state armories, registered, tracked, and at inflated prices. One person I see frequently pushing this argument on the boards actually sets the price at $20 per bullet.
It should not take much thought to realize why no one outside of the fringe elements can look at this argument without giggling.
On the obvious side, you run into the definitions of "guns" and "arms". Without ammunition, guns are not arms. Without ammunition, guns are just funny little statues that make for odd decorations. You cannot have a "right to keep and bear arms" without a right to arm those arms. See how that works? The very word used in the amendment requires that ammunition be included in the right. Otherwise, you only have the right to keep and bear strangely shaped clubs. There is plenty of evidence in the historical record that this is not what was intended.
Slightly less obvious but just as important, this would be nothing less than revisiting the infamous poll tax. "You have this right, but you must pay a fee that only a select few can afford in order to exercise this right." Amusingly enough, the people who push this argument are usually the same people who push the Eat the Rich philosophy. "We hate the rich and will try to penalize them at every opportunity, but we are also going to argue that only the rich can make use of the Second Amendment." How does that even make sense?
It doesn't make sense because it isn't supposed to make sense. These people do not have a coherent argument. They are only grasping at anything that might accomplish their goal of removing guns from their rightful owners.
This argument is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt to render the Second Amendment moot through back door betrayal. Their attempts to separate the individual from the Second Amendment have failed and they know they have no chance of repealing the Second Amendment, so they want to neuter it and are trying to push a plan that wouldn't fool a child.
Guns without ammunition are not arms. Ammunition without guns is equally useless. The two are inextricably tied together. Any attempt to argue otherwise is arguing from falsehood and should be treated as such.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Would You Look At That

I bet you thought this blog was dead, but look down there. There's a new post, and it actually says something other than, "There will be more posts." It is a real, honest-to-goodness post, with opinions and controversy and all of that fun stuff.
I am not making any promises yet on how often I will be posting, but I am back. At the very least, I can get new posts out here on the weekends, when I don't have a billion other things to do.
A little update, for those who are keeping score. Heather and I are both working full time now, office hours with desks and all of that jazz. I spend my days answering bureaucrats and and troubleshooting problems. She spends her days answering people who are apparently genuinely surprised that they have to pay a phone bill every month. These are certainly ... interesting positions, but they pay the bills. The boys are now teenagers, with all that entails. Monday through Friday exists in something of a haze, which I'm sure most working parents would recognize.
I'm putting the blog back together. I'm trying to put other writings back together as well. Time. Time. Time. Dinner is already cooking, and it's not even noon. Do you get the idea?
Take a look at the layout on the blog. I don't remember for certain, but I think went and changed some settings on me. Let me know if you see anything you think could be improved. I don't promise that I will take your suggestions (we all know how I am about doing things my own way), but I am looking for suggestions, if suggestions are to be had. Keep an eye on the news and let me know if you see anything absurd. If it is truly absurd, I have probably seen it (we also all know how obsessed I am with the absurd), but I might miss something. I don't watch TV, so I don't get the up-to-the-minute updates. We'll keep each other informed, and have fun doing it.
See you next time.

Testing The Waters

The busybodies are at it again.
The Food and Drug Administration's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee released a statement Friday concluding that removing menthol cigarettes from the market would benefit public health. The panel was quick to point out that it was not actually recommending the legal removal of menthol cigarettes from the market, but why else release such a statement? Did that really require a year-long study? Is there anyone who does not already know that not smoking would improve health, public or otherwise? This is nothing more than floating a trial balloon to determine what the public reaction might be to such a ban.
The FDA knows that they are on shaky ground with this. The logic is abysmal. Menthol cigarettes account for only about 30% of smokers in America and there is no evidence that the availability of menthol cigarettes increases the likelihood of youth smoking (that favorite bogeyman that is used to justify so much regulation). From a logical standpoint, there is no justification for banning only a particular type of cigarette, which accounts for such a small percentage of overall smokers. This is how it works, though. You start with the small groups who have less defenders. Once you remove their freedoms, it becomes easier to move on to the next group and, as you progress, more and more people have lost freedoms and they did not even realize they were at risk.
Full disclosure: I smoke, and it just so happens that I smoke menthol cigarettes. I know that this is a bad decision, but it is my decision to make. Your decision is whether or not you smoke.
"But I have a right to clean air!" No, you don't. If you do, explain to me those factories, automobiles, processing plants, and so many other commonplace components of modern life that each have a much greater impact on your air quality than cigarette smoke. Unless you are standing in a smoker's hip pocket, or are in an enclosed space with many smokers, cigarette smoke has no measurable impact on your air quality. If every smoker on the planet stepped outside and lit up at once, the overall air quality would not even notice. Contrary to the claims of the Whiny Police, cigarette smoke just does not have that great an impact.
"But I have to pay for your additional health care." Generally speaking, the people who make this claim are the same idiots who insist that we all have to pay for everyone else's health care in the first place. You created the problem. Live with it. Otherwise, I have to pay for your extra health care every time one of you Back to Nature panzies gets hurt on a hike because you don't actually know anything about nature, so we're going to ban wilderness hiking. I have to pay for your additional health care every time one of your "good for the environment" toy cars gets turned into modern art on the highway, so we're going to ban subcompact cars. Stop and consider how the logic can be applied before you attempt to apply it. It doesn't just ban things you don't like.
"But it's bad for you and smoking kills." So? Skydiving is not exactly the best way to improve your life expectancy, but it is still legal. Drinking alcohol leads to far more deaths every year than cigarette smoking, and we all know how well Prohibition worked out.
That, of course, is the point. Prohibition was an abject failure that turned a common past time into a criminal enterprise and created such memorable characters as Al Capone. The so called War on Drugs has done no better (though politicians of the early 20th Century were apparently better able to admit their mistakes). The outright banning of a commonly used product that has otherwise been legal forever has never had positive results, and the Powers That Be have possibly figured that out. So, instead of an outright ban, they want to sneak their way through incremental bans, get the frog used to the hot water before it boils so that the silly creature doesn't just jump out of the pot.
The idea, however, is not logically tenable. If smoking is legal, which it is, then you have no business using the government bully stick to encourage people to quit. If smoking is legal, which it is, then you have no business targeting one aspect of that industry, which is no more dangerous and no closer to illegal than any other. Logically, you have two choices: ban smoking outright (and create yet another criminal era of prohibition) or butt out and mind your own business.
You people who support such a ban, who can't seem to figure out that the same power can be used against you once one of your habits is deemed sufficiently unpopular, are definitely a big part of the problem in modern America. If we all stick together and defend all of our freedoms then we cannot be defeated. Allow this divide and conquer idea to continue, however, and you will eventually achieve the America you deserve.