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A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.
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Monday 9 December 2002
On a list The Git frequents he has been simultaneously labelled a Creationist and a Darwinist! Here's the response to the Darwinist post:
The short answer here is of course, "Yes I'm a Darwinian, but..." Read Matt Ridley's "The Red Queen" for another important selection mechanism.
Summarised as briefly as I can, one of the problems of the origin of life and the diversity of genes/gene functions is a numbers problem. Most mutations are deleterious. There are huge numbers of deleterious mutations for every beneficial mutation. There's not enough time available for evolution from bacteria to philosophers to have happened on Earth.
"For example, consider a gene of 2,500 nucleotides, allowing a 75% error rate (625 essential nucleotides.) The number of possible different genes that could be created by deleting a single essential nucleotide and inserting it elsewhere in the same gene, five successive times, is 10^28. When sequences for insertion into the target gene can be any length, and can come from any of thousands of other genes, the possibilities quickly approach the theoretical maximum -- in this example 4^625 or about 10^370. So the proposed mechanism does not increase the probability of arriving at a wholly new gene by chance. It's still monkeys writing Shakespeare, only now they have word processors with 'cut and paste' functions." -- Brig Klyce
This leads to several possible conclusions, but we will only deal with two here: Creation or life didn't originate/evolve on Earth. The latter idea (it's at least as old as Anaxagoras) was resurrected by Hoyle and Wickramsingh during the years following the latter's discovery of clouds of bacteria sized and shaped particles in space, followed by subsequent discoveries of more and more chemicals in space that only occur on Earth as a result of biological activity.
Moving the origin of life from Earth to somewhere else in spacetime, the Big Bang Universe still has barely been around long enough for the numbers problem above to be solved. The solution to this conundrum has several explanations, but this time consider four. Creation (again), the unlikely must have happened (life exists, therefore it must have happened), life on earth was seeded by organisms bio-engineered by intelligent aliens, or life has existed for ever. The first two do not appear to me to be proper explanations. The latter two are not mutually exclusive.
It seems to me that the whole of Western Science is based on the Christian premise that there was nothing then something arose from the nothing. This poses a philosophical problem of what the nothing before there was something consisted of. To the east, thought that had its origins in Hinduism proposed that the universe and its contents is infinite. No beginning, so no problem of what was there before the beginning. As far as I can tell, there is no definitive and rational way to decide one explanation is correct and the other incorrect.
The original idea of primordial soup to bacteria to philosophers looked good when we thought the primordial soup lay around souping itself up by the bootstraps for a long time. This explained away the lack of results from laboratory simulations that resolutely fail to show much in the way of evolution toward hypothetical precellular life. It became impossible to sustain with the discovery of ever older rocks with whole cells in them. None with the slightest shred of evidence of precellular life.
The discovery that many genes "designed" to perform highly specific functions in higher organisms existed in ancient bacteria requires a better explanation than merely speculating that they *must* have had intermediate functions along the way, or they *luckily survived* in the "silent" part of the intermediate organisms' genomes. This has not been demonstrated. And as genomics progresses, more of these "designer-genes" from the distant past are being discovered. It also seems unlikely that almost any possible gene can perform a useful function.
Hoyle and Wickramsinghe's idea of genes from space was mostly outrageous speculation a few years ago, it's now acceptable enough for the likes of Paul Davies to believe Mars to be the location of the primordial soup. The Git eagerly awaits the results of ongoing experiments on bacteria collected from the upper atmosphere. "I always thought the most significant thing that we ever found on the whole goddamn Moon was that little bacteria who came back and lived and nobody ever said shit about it". -- Pete Conrad
The Git notes finally that he rarely comes to final conclusions. Being a polymath/dilettante he has discovered far too many instances of "consensus" covering up a host of anomalies. Following up the anomalies in the Global Warming Hypothesis is what brought him into this forum. While DaveD accused The Git of being as monomaniacal as Pat Neumann, he is so only in the sense of finding interesting new ideas to add to the grab-bag of Things Worth Thinking About he has collected over several decades of interdisciplinary thinking.
Jonathan Sturm (who used to persistently annoy his mother with the question: "Why is red?" until he realised that some questions have no answer)
PostScript: One of the alternative explanations for Life, The Universe and Everything is Anthroposophy. The Git admits to utter bewilderment in attempting to come to grips with most of Rudolph Steiner's ideas -- *however* he has used and observed the success of his Biodynamic farming methods. He has come across no alternative viable explanation to Steiner's for preparation BD500 (30 gm/acre) increasing the topsoil depth on his hay paddock from ~75mm to ~300 mm in two years. Available phosphorus in the soil increased enormously when compared to an adjacent paddock that was being manured with superphosphate! (opposite to the results in the link below).
The Git is also awed by the sheer volume of experiments conducted by Anthroposophist scientists such as Thun and the Koliskos. He notes that interfarm comparisons conducted by the Victorian Dept of Ag found many differences demonstrating the validity of some claims made by BD dairy farmers. The big one was lower irrigation needs per unit of production, mysteriously unreported in the document above. Hint: farmers who use farming techniques that don't work go broke very quickly.
Some days The Git hates The Internet. Right now, he can't access the statistics at The Counter, The Globe and Mail where Margaret Wente has an interesting article on Dr Chris Essex's and Ross McKitrick's new book: Taken By Storm, or Rational Indifference by Jeffrey A. Tucker at LewRockwell.com.
Margaret Wente wrote:
In 1994, Craig Bohren, an atmospheric physicist at Penn State, made an impassioned speech lamenting what the global warming issue was doing to his profession. "The government's response to clamouring from an electorate frightened by global warmers to do something about global warming is to recklessly toss money to the wind, where it is eagerly grasped by various opportunists and porch-climbers," he said. "Incompetent, dishonest, opportunistic, porch-climbing scientists will provide certainty where none exists, thereby driving out of circulation those scientists who can only confess to honest ignorance and uncertainty."
At its core, the doctrine of global warming is deeply anti-intellectual and anti-scientific. That's because it pretends to certainty and dismisses debate. Yet doubt, uncertainty and skepticism are exactly what good science is all about.
"The whole way you become a scientist is not believing in experts," says Dr. Essex. "Most scientists feel quite squeamish about the idea of consensus."
I suspect that our belief in global warming is at root theological. The tendency to blame ourselves for natural calamities dates back to the dawn of time. Floods and fire, droughts and locusts, were signs that humans had made the gods angry. Eighteenth-century European chronicles are full of accounts of crop failures and plague that must have been brought on by human sin. Today, there is widespread unease that our chief sin is materialism and progress. The signs (melting Arctic ice etc.) are everywhere. There is no time to waste. If we do not atone, we'll destroy the planet.
To say otherwise is like standing up in church and yelling God is dead.
America returned from Thanksgiving holiday oblivious that Washington is still whipped up into frenzy about the War on Terror, the prospects for another attack on the homeland, the creation of a new homeland-security department, and the impending war.
What's odd is that these people are convinced that everyone else in the country is as hysterical as they are, following every twist and turn in the on-again-off-again war, glued to the newspaper's details about the new department, hanging on every new terror war.
No way. My visit to my extended family in Texas has convinced me of what I've suspected for a long time: no one outside the Beltway really cares about or even notices much of what consumes the Beltway people from day to day, not even concerning big issues like terrorism and national security. Okay, some Manhattan residents care because they were hit by terror the last time -- not that anyone there believes that the feds are going to be able to prevent the next attack.
As for the rest of the country, using Texas as a proxy, nothing. Not a word. In answer to a question about a poll showing plummeting regard for US foreign policy, Bush said that his terror war is about "freedom and doing my obligation to make sure our children can grow up in a free and safe society."
Now, this is clearly a goal everyone shares. Every day parents work to make sure their children are safe and grow up in freedom. Is there a living soul who actually believes that Bush is playing any role in ensuring safety and freedom for our children? If so, wouldn't they constantly be expressing gratitude as versus completely ignoring such statements?
Instead, the issues dominating the central Texas town in which I spent a week run as follows: too little rainfall, the merits of a new bridge downtown, the prospects for the local high-school football team, the modernizing tendencies of the new pastor of First Baptist, the produce selection at the new grocery store, the local real estate market, and the upcoming tour of homes.
Within my family, the major issues were the glories of my Mom's new Dell computer and her free-standing turkey roaster (success!). My own cloverleaf yeast rolls were a bigger deal than the prospect of war in the Persian Gulf.
In fact, not once, not once, in seven days of visiting with friends and relatives in all directions -- and these are politically minded people, well educated, and unusually attentive to public affairs -- did anyone provide an expression of thanks concerning Bush's efforts. In fact, national politics didn't come up at all. Once, someone mentioned Bush's wife's suits. Other than that, nothing. It wasn't quite taboo; it just wasn't on the radar screen. This is the first time in 20 years that issues of politics and government were completely absent from discussion.
My nephew came close to raising a political issue over. He is on a high-school debate team, and the subject is what the government ought to do about providing care for the insane (an idea akin to suggesting that the blind lead the blind). But this is a debate that could have taken place in the 19th century as much as the 21st century. It has no unique bearing on current-day controversies or realities. The topic was raised in the same way a boy would discuss his science project.
Now, whether you oppose or support what is going on in Washington, one has to admit it is important, and probably ought to be discussed. Bush is proposing a state of permanent war. He has created a fascistic monstrosity in the form of the Department of Homeland Security that aggressively shreds Constitutional safeguards of civil liberties. The U.S. is preparing to obliterate a poor, defenseless country in the Persian Gulf in order to grab its oil fields for government-connected corporations. Columnists on the left and right have raised alarm bells about the Nazification of America, and no one cares. Is this a good thing or bad thing?
It is both. On the one hand, the indifference of the public is a sign of resistance to our DC masters. All the nonsense about how 9-11 "unified" the country, brought everyone together in the new realization of the importance of civic uplift and the state, is mostly mythical. There is no gratitude shown toward the political, and, in fact, there seems to be less civic unity and nationalist fervor than ever. The government has failed to shore up the public image of itself and its power ambitions, as polls are increasingly showing.
The patriotism in Texas, Bush's home state, is for Texas and for institutions close to home. The Texas flag is far more commonly flown than the national flag. This has always been true, and it is true now. It seems that the common judgment in this land so far away from Washington, a place where the sense of being on a frontier is still quite intense, the goings-on in Congress just seem to have no bearing on their lives.
On the downside, does public indifference grant Washington something of a license to reconstruct the count[r]y in ways of which people are unaware when they should be aware? Quite possibly. And yet from the perspective of the state, an indifferent public can be compared to a bear that is neither violent nor tame but merely asleep.
What about government surveillance powers and the shredding of the 4th amendment? Doesn't anyone care about that? The typical Texan doesn't believe that the government would ever go after him personally, or that the national government really has the power to do so should it want to. All the talk of the impending doom of essential liberties seems like an abstraction. That thing called the federal government is an eternity away, an institution that collects taxes and other dumb things but otherwise has little impact on anyone's lives.
Even more of an abstraction is concern for the fate of innocents abroad to be killed by U.S. bombs. I recall in the early days of my political enlightenment (1979ish), the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, committing every manner of atrocity on a daily basis. I remember thinking: how can the Russian people sit by as their sons engage in a massacre against this innocent country next door? What must it be like to live daily with the knowledge that one's own government is both totalitarian at home and militarily imperialist outside the borders? Why don't people do something to stop the insanity?
Why indeed. Now I think I know the process by which a population comes to tolerate despotic foreign rule. It must be a universal process:- First, the government establishes precedents in small ways and steadily tightens the grip. Second, it uses a crisis as a way of dramatically stepping up what used to be the exception and making it the rule. Third, the government disempowers the people by foreclosing all opportunities for those who do care to do anything about the problem. Eventually, people come to shut out unpleasant information and focus on other things. What would libertarians have these people to do? Must they become intensely concerned for their future and throw themselves into the political battle? Anyone under the age of 60 in Texas who is concerned about liberty is conditioned to support the Republicans, the party of low taxes and small government. But it is the Republicans who are doing this to us! What is the politically active person supposed to do? Back more Republicans? Toil away in the vineyards of the Libertarian Party?
Another traditional option would be to let your president know your views. But the Bush administration is notoriously aloof to outside opinion. Consider the Iraq War. There is a massive and international antiwar movement alive and growing. But how does it affect the Bush administration, which has all the guns? The White House spokesman doesn't even bother to address the arguments of the opposition. You have to be Brent Scowcroft writing in the Wall Street Journal to merit so much as a public denunciation.
What else can a person do? Write a letter to a Congressman and get a form letter back? Bother your friends and neighbors with your political opinions and cause them to think of you as a fanatic oddly interested in irrelevant things? Collect petitions; participate in rallies, sport bumper stickers? None of these options hold out promise of success.
So from the average person's point of view, there is really nothing that can be done about the current state of affairs. As Paul Gottfried says, the power elite are running things and everyone else is disenfranchised and disempowered, so instead people just go on with their lives. Indifference is the only civilized option, or so it would seem. Such is the way average people have come to think about American liberty and the rise of tyranny in our time. The public doesn't consist of "willing executioners" so much as indifferent spectators to the demise of freedom and the slaughter of innocents abroad.
And yet, in a quiet and potentially revolutionary way, these Texans are involved in activities that constitute a threat to the regime. They are refusing to believe, refusing to show gratitude, refusing to be drawn in. Instead, they are raising families, faithfully attending church, passing on solid values to their children, turning off their televisions, and doggedly pursuing normalcy and bourgeois life rather than becoming part of the frenzy that Washington and the media is demanding from all of us.
Where DC demands our first loyalties, the loyalties of the Texas middle class are with family and friends. Where DC demands all authority, the bourgeoisie in Texas is dismissive of such demands as the ranting of the political class. Where DC insists on the supremacy of the nation state, most Americans, it would appear, still believe in the supremacy of individual, family, kinfolk, and faith.
So long as this is the case, the battle to save our freedoms is not won but neither has it been lost. The bear is hibernating, and no one knows what it will do if it is poked on to too great an extent. The uncertainty alone works as a kind of restraint on power.
Thought for the day:
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.
Eno and Byrne -- My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Tuesday 10 December 2002
A fellow DayNoter, Dave Markowitz has become the proud father of a baby daughter. Naturally, there were congratulations all round and The Git in a momentary fit of madness used the traditional Irish blessing: "May all her sons grow up to become bishops". And just as naturally, The Git was taken to task for being offensive <sigh>. Not by Dave, I hastily add, who has accepted rabbis as an acceptable substitute, though this has The Git wondering what the reaction to this change might be in Ireland. Commenting on this, The Git asked whether the traditional Irish blessing: "May the road rise up to meet you; may the wind be always at your back; may the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rain fall soft upon your fields; and until we meet again, may God hold you always in the palm of His hand" was also offensive these days. Apparently so according to John Dominick...
"May the road rise to greet you..." = may the pavement blow up in your face.
"may the wind be always at your back..." = hopefully you'll get blown into it for a bit more damage .
"may the sun shine warm upon your face..." = aha. Sunburn, sunstroke, and future skin cancers.
"and the rain fall soft upon your fields..." = Great. Flooding, too.
"and until we meet again..." = And after cursing me with all of this, you're coming back?!?!
"may God hold you always in the palm of His hand." = where He can squash you like a bug.
No, nothing open to misinterpretation there... ;-)
So, it's just as The Git suspected. It doesn't matter what you say when Merkins are within earshot, at least one of them will find a way to take offence. :-/ Thanks for the heads-up John. Now I have an inkling as to why there is a persistent trickle of email proclaiming The Git to be anti-American. He can't win and he's not about to try!
Still on matters parochial, The Git read the local Saturday paper for the first time in a while. Local rumour has it that reading the drivel inside definitely causes brain damage. There's some evidence for this!
Four-month driving ban for senator By BRETT STUBBS 07dec02
TASMANIAN independent senator Shayne Murphy was yesterday disqualified from driving for four months for refusing a breath analysis -- one-third of the mandatory sentence.
Senator Murphy, 50, of Miena, had previously pleaded guilty to refusing a breath analysis on May 19 while travelling to his then Cressy home.
He was in Canberra when the sentence was handed down in the Launceston Magistrates Court yesterday.
Magistrate Zygmunt Szramka said he used his discretionary powers to reduce the sentence due to Senator Murphy's "extraordinary circumstances" and disqualified him for four months and fined him $250.
It's funny (peculiar), but a friend who was the minimum amount over the limit was disqualified for twelve months. His first and only driving offence in 30 years of driving. But then he wasn't a Senator!
Young women buck driving trend By DANNY ROSE 07dec02
YOUNG Tasmanian drivers have emerged as the least likely to crash in the country.
But surprisingly, it is not the state's young women who lead this safety trend.
Insurer AAMI yesterday released its Young Driver Index, after compiling the year's claims data for 1.1 million policy holders Australia-wide.
It charted the driving habits of Australians aged under 25, and revealed that Hobart's women drivers have bucked a national trend.
AAMI state manager Trent Sayers said: "Young women emerged as being more likely to claim in Tasmania than young men, and in Hobart in particular."
Claims made by young men in Hobart were 14.9 claims per 100 policy holders, while in Launceston it was 14.8.
Hobart's young women drivers claimed for the most crashes... young female drivers in Hobart made 17.2 claims per 100 policies.
Walker saved in bush again By ELLEN WHINNETT 07dec02
A BUSHWALKER was airlifted out of Tasmania's southwest wilderness yesterday -- for the second time in less than a month.
David Haliczer, 45, of Brisbane, was picked up by the Rotary Police Rescue helicopter after activating his personal emergency beacon.
Rescue personnel said he had fallen into a flooded creek on the eastern edge of the Western Arthur Ranges and had lost his pack and all his equipment except for his jacket and personal emergency beacon.
The rescue came less than a month after Mr Haliczer was airlifted out of the same area.
On November 10, he activated his beacon after becoming exhausted and lost in the same thick wilderness.
The hi-tech rescue helicopter costs thousands of dollars an hour to operate.
Perhaps they should leave him there next time... or send him a bill for the helicopter!
Dismay at guns `let-down' By MARTINE HALEY 07dec02
THE National Coalition for Gun Control has slammed Premier Jim Bacon over the handgun issue.
Compensation will be offered for up to 500 handgun models after state and federal governments agreed to a buy-back scheme yesterday.
Prime Minister John Howard said the outcome would make "our streets safer".
But Gun Control Coalition chairman Roland Browne said the agreement would ban only 20 per cent of handguns.
That's 20% of legal handguns. Disarming law abiding citizens is apparently more important than disarming criminals!
The story of the week isn't available on-line. The pilot of a light aeroplane is in court for allegedly masturbating in the presence of his female passenger, both while in the air and during the tour of Flinders Island. He has been found not guilty on one of the charges, and the other has yet to be decided. The story does not mention that the pilot, who is in his sixties, apparently has a chronic urination problem! The Git invites you to speculate at will...
The Git is somewhat less confused about his thinking. Apparently, John von Neumann advised communication-theorist Claude E. Shannon to use the term entropy when discussing information because "no one knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage". Unfortunately, this gave rise to a second and entirely different meaning for the word. There's a big difference between ordered (as in a crystal) and organised (as in a living organism).
Thought for the day:
If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that's read by persons who move their lips when they're reading to themselves.
Thijs van Leer -- Introspection
Wednesday 11 December 2002
John Vogt and Tom Syroid, email I send to you is bouncing -- (reason: 472 ... DNS server failure)
Lots from this morning's Inbox:
Charley Reese December 9, 2002
The American republic died at Appomattox in 1865, replaced by a national government that has gradually evolved into an empire in a permanent state of war.
Most of us don't pay much attention to such stuff as history and perspective. Certainly the news media don't. Nevertheless, there are consequences of living in a war state, both to our own individual freedom and to our pocketbooks.
This past week, President Bush made a big deal about signing a military authorization bill with a $30 billion increase. Here we are, 12 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and without a credible enemy in sight we are still spending nearly $400 billion annually on defense. It is not really the cost of defense, but rather the cost of an empire.
The United States is the largest arms dealer in the world. Since 1992, the United States has exported more than $142 billion worth of weaponry to states around the world. Keep this in mind when you hear Washington politicians decry the proliferation of weapons such as air-to-ground missiles. We've exported more than two-and-a-half times as many weapons as the No. 2 and No. 3 states -- the United Kingdom and Russia, respectively.
In 2001, total world arms transfer agreements were worth nearly $26.4 billion, and the United States accounted for 45.8 percent of them. The U.S. arms industry, by the way, is the second-most-heavily subsidized industry after agriculture. In 1999, the United States supplied arms or military technology to 92 percent of all the conflicts around the globe. This military largesse often goes to nondemocratic countries with abominable human-rights records.
But in addition to being the world's chief arms peddler, we also train the military personnel in more than 70 countries and have our own troops stationed in nearly 100 foreign countries. It has not been unusual for Americans to end up fighting people with American equipment and American training. The missiles on the wings of the Chinese fighter plane that collided with our intelligence aircraft were Israeli copies of American missiles. People trained and armed by the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan founded much of al-Qaida.
It's unnecessary to the real defense of the United States and its people. There is no country on Earth in a position to invade us with conventional forces. Only two countries, Russia and China, have the capability of attacking us with intercontinental ballistic missiles. Terrorists, while they are now receiving the bulk of the government's propaganda attention, cannot threaten our national security in any way, though they can, of course, kill some of us. But remember that in 2001, terrorists killed 3,000 of us, while 90,000 of us died in accidents. Even our own homegrown criminals killed 13,000 people, or four times as many as the terrorists. Police departments didn't get a $30 billion budget increase.
Scaring the home folks with "enemies at the gates" is the oldest ploy in human history for justifying an all-powerful government. Give us your money and your liberty, and we will protect you from the barbarians. Of course, the supply of barbarians proves to be infinite, for as soon as one enemy is defeated or collapses, another is manufactured.
Unless we find a way to reverse course and return to our republican ways, our imperial government will collapse under the weight of its own profligate spending and corruption. A government that lies, keeps secrets, spies on its own people and tries to control every aspect of their lives is a far cry from the American republic that existed from 1787 to 1865.
© 2002 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
By Claire Wolfe Editor-at-Large, Backwoods Home Magazine
To be truly free, you will be an Outlaw.
I don't mean criminal -- although you are probably that, also. I mean a person who thinks "outside the law." When you are an Outlaw, your body (just like everybody else's) may be subject to the dictates of bureaucrats, armed enforcers and various elected fixers, controllers, connivers, pork-barrellers, socializers, corporatizers, fear-mongers, cigar-sexers, bribe-takers, old-boy-networkers and global influence peddlers.
But when you are an Outlaw, your heart and mind (unlike most everybody else's) are your own.
What exactly does that mean, though, in this over-lawed, over-ruled, over-executive-ordered world?
Let's go back for a moment to the statement that you're already a criminal. I've said it before and it always offends somebody: "YOU may be a criminal, Wolfe. But I'M a law-abiding citizen. Don't paint me with your black brush."
Well, sorry. You may not already be an Outlaw. But definitely you are already a criminal. You can't help but be.
In The Tyranny of Good Intentions, Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton write:-
The U.S. Code, which contains all federal statutes, occupies 56,009 single-spaced pages. Its 47 volumes take up nine feet of shelf space. An annotated version, which attempts to bring order out of chaos, is three feet long and has 230 hardcover volumes and 36 paperback supplements. Administrative lawmaking under statutes fill up the 207-volume Code of Federal Regulations, which spans 21 feet of shelf space and contains more than 134,488 pages of regulatory law... Federal law is further augmented by more than 2,756 volumes of judicial precedent, taking up 160 yards of law library shelving." And you're certain you're not breaking one of those laws?
During the Clinton years alone, as James Bovard noted in Feeling Your Pain, "Federal agencies issued more than 25,000 new regulations-- criminalizing everything from reliable toilets to snuff advertisements on race cars." And Bovard wrote that before Clinton's final year in office, when the federal government issued more than 100,000 pages of new regulations.
That's just federal. Let's not even mention the states.
Still think you're not a criminal? .... Really.
So you've never:-
- "forgotten" to report a little extra income on your 1040,
- built an addition on your house without a permit,
- driven without a seatbelt (the Supreme Court says cops can throw you in jail for that),
- given a glass of dinner wine to your 17-year-old,
- smoked a joint,
- disconnected a pollution control device on your car,
- cut a friend's hair without a license,
- installed an "outlaw" toilet,
- carried a pocket knife with a blade longer-than-legal (bet you don't even know what length is legal, do you?),
- been in a room where friends were talking about doing something illegal (conspiracy!),
- put a dollar in a football pool,
- patronized a prostitute,
- taken a tax deduction you really weren't "entitled" to,
- lied to a bureaucrat,
- "willfully" failed to file,
- built a pipe-bomb just to watch it go boom,
- carried money with traces of cocaine on it (like some 82 percent of the paper money in circulation today),
- put prescription medicine into one of those little daily dispenser containers,
- given one of your own prescription pills to a sick friend (search Title 21 of the U.S. Code and just see if you can figure out exactly what you can and can't do with that itty-bitty bottle of Zoloft or Prozac you depend on to help you survive this modern madness),
- owned chemicals that might be used in bomb making (like the bleach and ammonia bottles under your kitchen sink),
- transposed the digits of your Social Security Number on a government form,
- or driven in a car with someone who might have been transporting contraband.
Remember, these days you can be convicted of "conspiracy" for crimes you don't even know about, or for buying legal items that might be used for illegal causes. Some acquaintance gets in trouble and needs to snitch on a friend to get his own sentence reduced -- and you're toast.
You can even be convicted of violating laws that don't exist -- as plenty of "tax criminals" have been. Ask the IRS for copies of the laws you're allegedly breaking and they'll respond with legalistic gobbledegook. I have a friend who once testified as an expert witness in a tax case. Her expertise? Grammar. On the stand, she diagrammed a mega-monster sentence from the tax code and proved the alleged regulation couldn't be obeyed -- because it literally had no meaning in the English language. Still, people get arrested for disobeying it.
Those are just a few of the ways individuals can get in trouble.
Heaven forbid you should own a business and try to get through the day without committing a crime. For example, while Your Father in Washington still permits you, you lucky little person, to disconnect the crazy-making doodad that goes bingidy-bing-bing when you leave your car keys in the ignition and open the door, it's a federal crime for your car dealer to disconnect it at your request. Like, whose car do they think it is, anyway? Well, actually, it's not a federal crime to disconnect only the part that goes bingidy-bing-bing when you open the door and leave your key in the ignition, but it is a federal crime to disconnect the part that goes bingidy-bing-bing when you unhook your seatbelt and leave your key in the ignition, which is all part of the same system but a different set of wires from the other one. (Are you following this? There won't be a test, but there could be a hefty fine later.) Oh yeah, by the way, before you unhook the thing yourself, you'd better check your state law. You wouldn't want the state-o-crats' SWAT team swooping down on you when you're armed only with a pair of wirecutters.
Bottom line. You are no longer a law-abiding citizen. There are too many laws to abide. And it doesn't matter whether they call 'em laws, rules, regulations, or something else altogether. You break them every day.
With laws like these, who even wants to be a law-abiding citizen? When you put yourself at the service of rules and diktats of this nature, you put your life in thrall to the kind of people who make them. Even if you're a member of the infamous Snopes clan, you're bound to be better at figuring out how to live your own life than people who sit around all day cooking up stuff like this and figuring out how severely to punish you if you don't obey.
In the science fiction novel Pallas, one of L. Neil Smith's characters says, "People-- pardon me, journalists and politicians-- have often accused me of believing that I'm above the law. And yet, who isn't? ... The law is created by demonstrable criminals, enforced by demonstrable criminals, interpreted by demonstrable criminals, all for demonstrably criminal purposes. Of course I'm above the law. And so are you." ... Amen, bruthah Neil.
So why not enjoy being above the law? Why not embrace it? Why not do it with panache? Flair? Savoir faire? Pride and shining resolution? Why not, in short, free your Inner Outlaw?
For this is what divides the Outlaw-- D.B. Cooper, Bonnie and Clyde, Robin Hood, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro-- from the mere criminal-- the creep who steals your CD player or the furniture out of the White House. Or the person who breaks the same old everyday laws you do, but breaks them in a sniveling, sneaking, guilt-ridden way, rather than with a jaunty shrug.
Attitude. Attitude. Attitude.
Don't let me give you the wrong idea. You don't have to start holding up IRS offices and distributing the proceeds to starving taxpayers to be an Outlaw. Whatever crimes you're already committing will do. The essence of free Outlawry is the way you live in the face of growing tyranny-- the Outlaw way you think. Even when it's the government that's committing the real crimes, being an Outlaw comes in handy.
You go into a doctor's office a year from now and they tell you, "Sorry, Comrade. Thanks to federal privacy protection, you can no longer get medical care unless you accept a unique identifying number and 'consent' to have your medical records shared with anyone the government wants to see them." The good little citizen, sick, vulnerable, overwhelmed and puzzled, submits. The Outlaw? The Outlaw has already prepared for this and, depending on the kind of Outlaw he is, has options. Maybe he meekly submits, also-- using one of his five pre-built identities. Maybe he knows an Outlaw doctor who trades services for cash. Maybe he makes such a stink threatening to bring a civil rights suit that the doctor decides she'd rather risk the wrath of U.S. Health and Human Services than the wrath of a mad patient who knows his rights (and a good lawyer).
You're driving along minding your own business when you find yourself in the middle of a checkpoint. Who knows what they're trolling for today? Drugs, booze, seatbelt crimes-- or perhaps just "Your papers, please" (an insurance checkpoint). A cop comes to your window and although his words say "please" and "may we?" his tone says, Cross me, muhfuh, and you'll be on your face in the gravel with my knee jabbing a hole in your kidney. "Where are you going?" he asks. "Where are you traveling from? What's that in the back seat? Who helped you load your pickup? Do you mind if we search your vehicle?" The good little citizen, once again, submits. The Outlaw, once again, has options. That might mean anything from playing dumb and innocent ("I'm sorry, officer, are you sure it's okay for you to do this? My high school civics teacher told me they absolutely couldn't do things like this in America. You seem like a nice young man and I'd hate to see you get in trouble.") to calmly refusing any consent to search to covertly making note of all officers' badge numbers, names, and descriptions for possible later use. (You know, like maybe sending them a copy of the Constitution.)
The Outlaw doesn't always emerge victorious from encounters with authority. Bonnie, Clyde, and John Dillinger ended up with their bullet-riddled bodies on public display, after all. You really might end up with your face in the gravel and your nether portions in a world of hurt if the nice officer is having a Justin Volpe moment and thinks you're Abner Louima. Refuse to allow a random search of your vehicle, for instance and, as Boston T. Party describes in You and the Police, a drug dog and handler may be brought to the scene. The handler strokes a baggie of marijuana in his pocket then touches the trunk of your car. The dog goes wild and voila!-- instant "probable cause." (Or the dog simply sniffs you, and the almost inevitable traces of cocaine on your federal reserve notes lead to a shake-down and the forfeiture of all the cash you're carrying.)
Government ruthlessness is a giant purple rhinoceros standing in the path between you and the free enjoyment of Outlawry. It's a rabid rhino. With a cyanide-tipped horn. It's rutting season and it thinks you're competition. It's got a thorn in its little hoofie. In general, it's having a really, really, really bad day.
Yes, resistance to arbitrary power is dangerous. Let's nobody kid herself about that. But resistance is not futile.
In most cases, being an Outlaw doesn't mean attracting attention to yourself. It simply means living, as much as possible, as you wish. More important, it means having the mindset needed to live that way in a world of adversity. More often than confronting, it means ignoring or evading insane and excessive rules. When confrontation is necessary, it means having the knowledge, preparation, and-- once again-- attitude to help you get through the situation without either passively submitting or going unproductively postal.
In practice, that means something different for every Outlaw. But in every case, it means you have an attitude of self ownership (or, if you prefer, of belonging to God), not being the natural subject, and easy target, of any bureaucrat or badge-bearer who wishes to push you around.
- It means recognizing the pathetic state of law and justice around you, and recognizing its dangers-- but resolving to live your life more like a free American than a Stalinist peasant, regardless.
- It means living by your own highest moral and ethical choices, rather than trying to tippy-toe around every persnicketing regulation in every obscure book in every cubbyhole governmental office.
- It means remembering that this is still our America. Not theirs.
- It means remembering that you are still a human being with potential beyond anything those who want to put us all into tight little categories and boxes-- and prison cells!-- could ever conceive.
- It means knowing every day that, despite the chains and travails of too much government, and their very real threats to your security, your heart and mind remain free.
- It means you belong to yourself. That you think for yourself. That you have higher values than any do-gooder, lobbyist, congressthing, corrupt cop, or midnight raider will ever give you credit for. But that's okay. Because it's not their approval you're looking for. Freedom is what you're looking for. And you're only going to find that by being determined to live it.
Gandhi said it: "We must be the change we wish to see." Amen to you, too, bruthah Mohandas, fellow Outlaw.
Claire Wolfe is an internationally known columnist and an Editor-at-Large for Backwoods Home Magazine. Comments regarding Claire Wolfe's articles may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may appear online in "Feedback" or in the "Letters" section of Backwoods Home Magazine. Although every email is read, her busy schedule does not permit a personal response to each one. www.backwoodshome.com designed and maintained by Oliver Del Signore © Copyright 1998 - 2002 Backwoods Home Magazine
Thought for the day:
It is not only vain, but wicked, in a legislator to frame laws in opposition to the laws of nature, and to arm them with the terrors of death. This is truly creating crimes in order to punish them.
Bryan Ferry -- In Your Mind
Thursday 12 December 2002
Fred Reed's rant this week hit several targets:
The Suicide Of Marlboro Man: The Price Of Freedom Is Slavery. Sort Of. A Little, Anyway.
What happens is that, in an independent-minded rural county full of hardy yeomen, the density of population grows, either nearby or at distant points on each side. A highway comes through because the truckers lobby in Washington wants it. Building a highway is A Good Thing, because it represents Progress, and provides jobs for a year.
It also makes the country accessible to the big city fifty miles away. A real-estate developer buys 500 acres along the river from the self-reliant character-filled owner. He does this by offering sums of money that water the farmer's eyes.
First, 500 houses go up in a bedroom suburb called Brook Dale Manor. A year later, 500 more go up at Dale View Estates. This is A Good Thing, because the character-filled independent now-former farmer is exercising his property rights, and because building the suburb creates jobs. The river now looks ugly as the devil, but this is a wacko issue.
At Safeway corporate headquarters, way off God knows where, the new population shows up as a denser shade of green on a computer screen. A new Safeway goes in along the highway. This is A Good Thing, exemplifying free enterprise in action and creating jobs in construction. Further, Safeway sells cheaper, more varied and, truth be known, better food than the half-dozen mom-and-pop stores in the county, which go out of business.
And so it goes. Yesterday, while walking to the bottom of the road that connects us to the main artery (still a mere two-lane road), The Git noticed several things. Frequently over the years he has managed to walk the full distance without a single vehicle passing either way. In the past, no car would pass without stopping and the driver offering a lift. People travelling in the opposite direction would often stop and the driver offer a lift to wherever The Git was walking.
On this occasion, The Git was passed several times by vehicles going both directions and not a single one stopped. It seems the slippery slope referred to above by Fred is happening locally. We now have more shops selling us stuff we could already buy from the existing shops, so the district looks more prosperous. There are more cars and people about, presumably doing more shopping. On the other hand, most of the banks have closed down.
The Git hopes he's long dead before the first shopping mall gets built in Franklin!
Robert Karl Stonjek is The Git's most prized friend. More than any other, he has continued to amaze with his depth of insight, intellectual ability and an incessant stream of fascinating reading material, both his own writing and loaned books. It's a privilege to bring you some of Robert's essays on consciousness gleaned from his email.
One of The Git's enduring enjoyments is listening to high quality radio broadcasts as exemplified by ABC Radio National. Here's a sample from Ockham's Razor:
What Is An Antique? Broadcast Sunday 24 November 2002 with Robyn Williams
Bill Hall: Surprisingly, there's no agreed definition of antique. The definition: anything over 100 years old, was created by Australian Customs authorities so that they could charge import duty on items less than that age, and also so that they could have control over antique artefacts leaving the country.
Many English dealers insist that worthwhile antiques aren't available from the beginning of the Victorian era in 1836. Australian dealers have to be more accommodating, because local furniture wasn't manufactured until then; and locally made studio art glass wasn't widely available in this country until the mid-1970s, when Adelaide's Jam Factory State Craft Studio was formed. So let's agree that an 'antique' is something which is old, without worrying too much about the meaning of 'old'.
By now you must be starting to become uneasy!
It ought to be simple to agree on the word 'bric-a-brac'; it's derived from the French word meaning 'at random'. In England, 'bric-a-brac' is a perfectly respectable term which indicates that an antique dealer sells small items. In Australia, the term is often used disparagingly to imply that the dealer sells junk. Well while this might be true, it's a dreadful slur on a perfectly good word.
'Surely,' you ask, 'the straightforward term "collectable" can be agreed upon?' Sorry, but it can't. Some dealers use it to mean anything which isn't antique, that is, anything less than 100 years old; other dealers use the word 'collectable' instead of the debased 'bric-a-brac'; and a few of us use the word to describe anything a person will buy to form part of a collection.
So none of the three key words used in the antiques trade has an agreed definition. By now you'll have the feeling that within the trade there's murkiness, possibly deliberate ambiguity, and, many would claim, even shiftiness. Such feeling will be strengthened when you start to examine a few of the bargains on offer. And that's when a basic knowledge of science and technology can be of considerable help.
Recently, a dealer friend attended an auction preview when a small, supposedly rare jade carving was for sale. Its age and country of origin meant that it should have been made from a kind of jade known as jadeite (some would call that real jade), not from the other kind of jade known as nephrite, which is common to New Zealand. How could my friend tell if the jade carving was genuine? He was able to recall and to use Mohs' scale of hardness.
Friedrich Mohs was an Austrian, born in 1773, who devised a scale of gem and mineral hardness. He placed the hardest, diamond, at the top, numbering it 10, and the softest, talc, at the bottom, numbering it 1. Harder minerals scratch less hard ones. Diamond will scratch everything, whereas emerald (numbering between 5 and 6 on Mohs' scale) will only scratch softer gems such as topaz and amber. Everyday materials may be placed on the scale, so a steel file is about 7, window glass and a knife blade about 5 to 6, a copper coin about 3, and a fingernail about 2.
Of the two kinds of jade, jadeite and nephrite, the former is harder than the latter and cannot be scratched with a penknife blade. So a quick application of Mohs' scale of hardness to the base of the item, using a pocket knife, was employed to satisfy my friend's curiosity. He assured me that no-one will ever notice the small scratch mark he was able to make. Needless to say, he didn't bid for the item.
Damaged ceramics in many parts of Asia are repaired so that it's clear to the purchaser what's been done to the piece. For example, in South Korea I've handled a white, 300 year old porcelain bowl which was repaired with black clay; and I've held a broken cup which was skilfully repaired over 100 years ago by using metal strips and nuts and bolts.
You see the art collecting philosophy in South Korea is that any ceramics repair should become an important part of that item's history, and it shouldn't be disguised. The philosophy in this country is completely the reverse. Here, any fault must be disguised so that the prospective buyer thinks that the item is perfect. For example, amateur repairers will often apply clear nail varnish in an attempt to disguise glaze chips. Fortunately, science can help the collector not to be tricked by such repairs.
Thought for the day:
Who is Morris Freud? Sigmund's lesser-known cousin, also a psychiatrist. He had a theory that there was an aspect to the psyche even more important than the subconscious. He called it "consciousness," the idea being that we sometimes know what we're doing. It's never been proven.
P. J. O'Rourke
Otway and Barrett -- Gone with the Bin
Friday 13 December 2002
The Git failed to mention the purpose of the walk down the road Wednesday: it was to catch the bus into "Hooterville" and visit the doctor. Sue, a paediatrician who works with the underprivileged in the Third World, suggested that The Git needs advice from a physiotherapist to maintain his aging body-ugly. Red tape necessitates a visit to the doctor for a referral to the physio. Chow pointed out that before physio, a MRI scan is called for, rather than risk exacerbating injuries not detected by the X-rays. The positive aspect of this is that The Git will get to have drinks at The Victoria Tavern with his friends before Christmas. He may even get lucky and manage to have the MRI scan coincide with when The Most Beautiful Barmaid in the World is serving the drinks!
Once every week, or so, The Git receives a phone call, or email from someone wishing to purchase his book: Complete Organic Gardening. It is now long out of print and out of stock and a complete rewrite is required because in order to receive the pittance the publisher permitted The Git to receive, he had to sign away all his rights to the publication. Yesterday's caller mentioned that the woman who answered the telephone when she called the number in the back of the book said that she receives many calls about The Git's book. So, The Git telephoned and left a message that all such calls should be referred to The Git. He is keeping a list of all enquiries so that when the current book is finished, he can supply these ardent admirers.
Funnily enough, even though the now out-of-business publisher owns copyright to The Git's words and drawings, most of the illustrations were in the public domain. That means much of the flavour of the original can be retained. The Git has also been warned that the title must in no way resemble the original, though it's a title he loathes. Unfortunately, such titles as Incomplete Organic Gardening are apparently ruled out, even though it would be a more accurate description.
Mat Lemmings writes:
FYI, I still can't hit either yours or Dominik's site. Any ideas? My ISP can't resolve the domain names at all!! Something to do with the switchover to Factory 55?
Perhaps you could email me your last couple of weeks - I miss not being Sturmed on a Monday!
I'm glad you saw straight through my double negative and realised that missing not being Sturmed actually meant missing being Sturmed!
Could be a whole new entry for the Oxford Dictionary.
"The act of Sturming, to be Sturmed. To be both amazed, confused, humoured and not a little dazed by the consumption of South Australian journalism."
Creates it's own atmosphere, too. Like Billy Connolly pointed out, you never read '"Fuck Off", he hinted', I guess you could say 'he was a most dis/agreeable chap, in a Sturmish sort of way.'
Whaddaya reckon? ;-)
Sturm und Drang: see storm and stress s.v. storm n. 3 d.
[1844 F. L. J. Thimm Lit. of Germany 85 This period, so styled by Goethe, after the title of one of the dramas of Klinger, _Sturm und Drang'.]
1857 C. Kingsley Two Yrs. Ago III. i. 29 One of the Sturm-und-drang party, of course; the express locomotive school, scream-and-go-ahead.
1873 Gostwick & Harrison Outl. German Lit. xvi. 228 That time of _Sturm und Drang', when writing wild poetry was regarded as the object of life.
Note the reference to Klinger -- heh... imagine The Git in a party frock in the middle of a war. Then a veiled reference to sturm-engines. One wonders how "wild" poetry compares to the domesticated sort. ;-)
Miracle of miralces, it seems I can once again hit you 'live'.
Now all we need is for colour TV to be invented and the Yanks to develop a sense of humour and we could really play...
"...and the Yanks to develop a sense of humour ..."
You knew I was going to be swallowing coffee when I read that... Go on, admit it... Bastard! ;-)
Finally, some amusement from Murray Ball, one of the world's greatest cartoonists. He hails from New Zealand, hence the third cartoon after this piece from his rarely seen book, The Sisterhood:
I don't know much about filth, but...
Well Ros' was pretty darn certain. She reckons Pornography is anything depicting men dominating or degrading women. In fact anything depicting men having sex with women. In fact anything depicting men being intimate with women. "In fact I find men disgusting and pornographic, period!" Well this did not leave very much more to be said about the subject and yet the arguments continue. Everybody is against it, everybody knows it when they see it but nobody except Ros' and Ron Cave, our butcher (who maintains it is "having it off with sheep") seem able to define it.
I remember as a little boy being shocked to the soles of my tennis shoes at the Saturday morning pictures when Roy Rodgers kissed a girl. Hoppy, Hopalong Cassidy, would never have done this. (I learned much later that William Boyd who played the blond cowboy was over sixty when he made the Hopalong Cassidy films. He probably just didn't have the energy). Anyway when Roy threw decency to the winds and kissed a woman, right then I knew what pornography was, and I was against it!
And, of course I have been against "it" ever since. The "it" has shifted around a bit but like everyone else I know "it" when I see it.
What brought this to mind was what happened tonight. I have just returned from the offal pit and I am, as a matter of fact, very nearly too whacked to write. My wife and I have just seen an adult video. Fran found it under some "Truths" at the bottom of an old chest of drawers she had bought at the flea market. The cabinet was for me to put in the garden shed and to be used to hold all of my rubbish at present residing in her kitchen drawer. The video was entitled "Hot Nights in Lesbos".
Call us naive if you like, and I admit that its situation beneath the sheets of "Truth" should have put us on our guard, but we simply looked upon it as a bonus, making the $19.95 Fran paid for the furniture itself seem a little less of a "take".
We both love Greece and felt happy that the chest of drawers had apparently come from a home where dwelt a fellow lover of the Ancient World.
As it turned out, "Hot Nights in Lesbos" contained very little about the climate or the island as such. As a matter of fact, I am still a little unclear as to the relevance of the title. We sat down after we had finished the dishes, put our feet up with a cup of tea and a bran biscuit and ran it through. Well it took me no more than twenty minutes to twig to the fact that this was not a travelogue about the Greek Islands. Fran had her suspicions when two naked women began getting over familiar on an extremely large bed in a bedroom that could have been anywhere. When a third woman joined them wearing only black leather thigh boots with three inch heels, a mask and a dog collar with metal studs, I too began to smell a rat. My wife rose, very tight lipped, and went into the kitchen. She returned with a fresh cup of tea and rejoined me on the sofa.
It was not a great movie. I do not believe it was great art. In fact if I had a criticism of the film it would be that it lacked strong characterisation, dialogue or a story line.
When it was over, Fran asked how we could sit through such absolute rubbish then tore off her clothes, flung me over her shoulder and carried me up to the bedroom.
We had a rather good time.
I was just lapsing into my post-coital stupor, when I was surprised to be shoved violently out of bed. Propped on her elbow and slightly flushed she ordered me to get that filth out of the house immediately. I had to put on my boots and drop the offending item down the offal pit.
I'm not sure what all this proves about pornography. I'm too tired to think. What bothers me is that I don't know how the hell I am going to get that video out of the offal pit if we want to see it again.
Thought for the day:
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
Crowded House -- The Best of Crowded House
Saturday 14 December 2002
Honesty is a peculiar thing. Let's define it first. using my trusty WordWeb dictionary:
The quality of being honest.
Oh, great! Honest then:
Habitually speaking the truth.
The Git respects honesty. It's a powerful weapon. "Weapon?", I hear you ask. Consider the following scenario:
Doubtless your wife, or Significant Other has some less than redeeming feature, hair on her upper lip, a squint, a fat arse, an appalling item of apparel, asking questions during the most interesting part of a broadcast... whatever. Point this out to her. Be warned when attempting this experiment at home that protective body-armour is highly recommended, especially in the vicinity of the family jewels!
To be fair, most of us already know this. Some few of us, Australia's Prime Minister included, appear to misunderstand this aspect of honesty. From The Australian:
Asked on the Nine Network if he was prepared to act if terrorists were planning an attack on Australia from a neighbouring country, Mr Howard said: "Oh yes. I think any Australian prime minister would.
"It stands to reason that if you believe that somebody was going to launch an attack on your country, either of a conventional kind or a terrorist kind, and you had a capacity to stop it, and there was no alternative other than to use that capacity, then of course you would have to use it."
Mr Howard's remarks -- including the suggestion to amend a UN charter to permit a country to launch pre-emptive strikes against terrorists in other states -- drew a sharp reaction from regional neighbours.
Honest? Certainly, but also very, very provocative! Not to mention stupid. No mention of diplomatic resolution of the problem in this rhetoric. Not even a hint of picking up a telephone for a chinwag. The predictable reaction from Asia includes Pakistani mullahs advising the faithful that Australia, like America, has declared war on Islam. Howard's "honesty" could very well lead to more attacks on Australians like the Bali Bombing.
So, we must conclude that either Howard wants more Australians killed (while simultaneously lamenting our appallingly low birth-rate), or he was grandstanding for the sake of politics. Outside of Canberra, there is close to zero interest in foreign military adventures. But then our national capital bears more than a passing resemblance to a home for the mentally deranged. Howard might have impressed the Party Faithful, but merely managed to piss off the great majority of thinking Australians.
The problem with honesty as a weapon is that it hurts. The subtext of pointing out your wife or SO's defect is: "Geeze, you're ugly/stupid/irritating!" Howard's suggestion to amend a UN charter to permit a country to launch pre-emptive strikes against terrorists in other states implies that our neighbouring states are deliberately harbouring terrorists slavering at the mouth with the thought of terrorising Australians. We can't be sure if they were before, but we can be certain they are now!
The underlying problem is that people like Howard do not understand that there is a difference between honesty and integrity. The latter is moral soundness and is a quality all too often impugned by misapplied honesty. To be blunt, John Howard and his ilk, being morally deficient themselves, presume all others guilty of the same. They just don't know when to keep their mouth shut.
For those aspiring to this class of people, The Git highly recommends John Cleese's training video: "How to Irritate People". Anyone can make themselves unpopular, but it takes a past master like Cleese to be really irritating. "The secret," he says, "is to let the other person think it's all unintentional". And that's just the first of the many tricks of the trade you can get from this video -- not to mention some great laughs. So, whether you are a parent, a waiter, salesman, chat-show host, or merely aspiring to bomb the crap out of an all but defenceless nation, after viewing this video you'll possess all the know-how you need to irritate for business, or pleasure.
Stan the plumber still hasn't completed the plumbing -- we moved into The House of Steel on 19 January -- eleven months ago. The Git refused to pay Stan's final account until he finished the work, so Stan is suing The Git for non-payment. The amount outstanding is approximately $US400 and would usually be settled in the Small Claims Tribunal, no lawyers allowed. But Stan for reasons unknown has chosen to take it to the Magistrates Court. The Git's usual legal eagle is a friend of Stan's -- heck, The Git thought Stan and he were friends -- so The Git needed another advocate. His friend Lindsay is a top criminal barrister and has agreed to act on his behalf.
Some months ago, the Health Inspector at the local council said we can't hire another plumber and deduct his costs from Stan's bill. Until the dispute is resolved, we have to put up with deficient plumbing! Of course, if The Git had been allowed to do the plumbing in the first place, none of this would have been necessary. In his ignorance, he would have followed the instructions that came with the stove and all would have been well. There would have been no need to rip out and replace undersized pipes. No need to weaken the wall studs on the most wind affected wall!
The Git's friends Steve and Marjorie are to be wed at The Franklin Palais this afternoon. Both are gifted professional musicians, Steve plays guitar and Marjorie the violin. The invitation reads in part: "In lieu of a wedding gift, a small contribution towards the making of a CD of our Czardas music would be very much appreciated". The Git thought of writing "This CD intentionally left blank" on a gift-wrapped CD-R as part of his contribution, but sadly, neither Steve, nor Marjorie are endowed with a sense of humour. Fortunately, they make up for this in many ways, not least in their delightful music.
Thought for the day:
Honesty is the best policy, but he who is governed by that maxim is not an honest man.
Robert Calvert -- Captain Lockheed
Sunday 15 December 2002
The Git is exhausted by yesterday's wedding festivities. In lieu of writing about it, he shamelessly pinched the following satire from The Independent:
By Mark Steel 12 December 2002
Could anyone have a more useless job than those weapons inspectors in Iraq? Does anyone honestly believe there is any vague chance that George Bush might say "Well, fair enough, we couldn't find anything so it's nice to know that he's mended his ways." And then the Pentagon would call off the war, as long as Saddam went on a self-help programme at "Dictators Anonymous", standing up to say: "my name is Saddam and it's now two years and five weeks since I gassed my own people."
The pointlessness is displayed in a tabloid headline: "Iraqis risk Bush's wrath with another arms denial." So to please Bush rather than anger him, they'd have had to say: "I tell you what, we're overflowing with mass destruction gear. It's in the airing cupboard, the one place your blokes didn't look. We've got A bombs, N bombs, a machine for giving everyone in the world Mad Cow Disease. To be honest we'd be grateful if you could take some of it off our hands; we're running out of storage space."
It's like a witch trial from the 12th century. If they're caught, they're guilty, if they're not caught they must be guilty. Which is why the Americans wouldn't let anyone else see the 12,000 word document from Iraq that detailed their weapons itinerary. Even if this document proved Iraq had no weapons, the Americans would say it was a shameful work requiring a land war in response, on grounds of bad grammar and unclear use of tenses. Or that the plot was thinly developed, the love scenes were overlong and the character of Tariq Aziz was left hopelessly unresolved, and the only solution was regime change so this could be cleared up in the sequel.
Everything in the world is now proof that Iraq must be invaded. Yesterday's evidence of a Saddam plot was a shipload of Scuds going from one country to another, neither of which was Iraq. In any case, Scuds are the size of a large truck so they're hardly the most practical weapons to use for terror. Even the doziest guard on London Underground would notice someone trying to sneak one on to the Piccadilly Line.
British politicians nod and repeat every one of Bush's farcical pronouncements, so that together, Bush and the British cabinet sound like these pairs of old women talking on buses. Bush says: "He's proved himself as a monster prepared to use weapons of mass destruction," and Geoff Hoon says: "Yes, weapons of mass destruction, hmm, yes, destruction." Bush says: "He's a threat to the civilised world," and Jack Straw says: "Oo yes, a threat to the civilised world, and you've got to be careful these days."
Most galling is when British politicians repeat the Bush mantra on Saddam's human rights record. In almost every statement a minister makes on the issue, they remind us that "this is a man who gassed his own people". Which is true, and the incident they refer to involved chemical weapons against the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. Human rights groups condemned the attack immediately, and a motion was put forward in parliament, but Jack Straw, who now uses the incident as a reason for a global conflict, didn't support it. Nor did Blair. Nor did Prescott. Nor did Blunkett. Nor did Hoon. Because at the time Britain was backing Saddam. Now, all of a sudden, they're appalled by this act. It's like if Alex Ferguson announced he was bombing Roy Keane, and if anyone objected he said: "But he's been a dirty fouling bastard."
More recently, in January 2001 an Iraqi refugee, who'd been detained and tortured by the good people of the Iraqi state, had an application for asylum rejected by the Home Office. The letter read: "The Secretary of State (Jack Straw) is aware that the Iraqi security forces would only convict and sentence a person in the courts with the provision of a proper jurisdiction. He is satisfied that, if there are any charges against you, you could expect to receive a fair trial under an independent and properly constituted judiciary." Perhaps Jack Straw is under the impression there are two Iraqs, one an evil regime packed with weapons of mass destruction, and the other a charming happy-go-lucky village that comes under Hereford county council. This Government's warmongering wouldn't be more hypocritical if they declared Iraq had to be bombed as it had introduced tuition fees for students and refused to give its firefighters the same pay rise it gave to its politicians.
None of this is to suggest Saddam isn't a monster, only that the impending war has nothing to do with his monsterness. If only he was more shrewd, instead of presenting that belligerent warrior image, he would find more effective ways of winning over world opinion. For example, he could get Mrs Hussein to announce: "If I've made a mistake then I'm sorry, but all I was trying to do, was protect my family, sniff, with just a few weapons of mass destruction, sniff, destruction, pause, just like any mother would do." And who, in their right minds, wouldn't go, "Oh you've got to feel for her, haven't you?"
Thought for the day:
I shall give a propagandist reason for starting the war, no matter whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked afterwards whether he told them the truth or not. When starting and waging war it is not right that matters, but victory.
The Electric Flag -- A Long Time Coming
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