Category Archives: Chestnut of the Week

Fire and Rain

Saw a post of a video of RAND Corporation’s (what a bad name for such a proggie organization) Arthur Kellerman chiding us that having a gun in the home is a bad way to protect our families, patronizingly hitting the old “tree in a thunderstorm” comparison.

“It’s natural to want to do everything you can to keep you family safe, especially if you live in a dangerous neighborhood,” he told the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. “In a thunderstorm, it is also natural to take cover under the nearest tree, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.”

Of course, those who take shelter under a tree durning a thunderstorm are seeking shelter from the rain, not lightning. Sometimes, when you do something to avoid one risk, you expose yourself to another.

You know, like banning guns to avoid the risk of being shot, only to have criminals who ignore bans take advantage of the fact that they can be pretty sure any given citizen will be unarmed and a risk-free target.

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Information as a Contaminant

Not sure the motives involved. They are probably scattered in all sorts of directions. But this has been a theme we’ve heard more and more in the last couple decades or so: Everyone is now dumber for having heard that. I’m sure a lot of it is the comedy value, some of it is cool and chic hipster apathy-about-everything, which overlaps with the phobia felt by our detailphobes against the idea of ever studying anything down to any depth, or caring about anything up to some level of passion.

The theme, condensed, is this: So toxic is some bit of information, that one is the wiser for never having heard of it.

This is a liberal theme. Liberal, as in the modern, statist, never-met-a-tax-or-law-I-didn’t-like version of that word.

It has taken me considerably longer to make up my mind about the second of those two immediately-preceding things, compared to the first. Real life, where such things are concerned, tends to work like a Venn diagram: Two sets overlap, forming an intersection of samples claiming membership in both sets. And then there are samples claiming membership in one but not the other, and vice-versa; finally, there are other samples outside the union, claiming membership in neither one. I have been confused by some episodes, not completely infrequent, of self-identified conservatives throwing up their hands and yelling “Bah! I don’t want to read such stuff!” This makes the Venn-diagram idea seem like the most, and perhaps the only, accurate representation of what’s going on. In fact, in the age of Obama it happens several times a week that Our First Holy Emperor President gives His latest super-duper-awesome-wonderful speech, and conservatives everywhere throw up their hands and yell “Bah!” and make a big show of not wanting to hear it. They think they are wiser for never having absorbed the information.

The problem that comes up for the Venn Diagram idea is, well, maybe that is the case. One certainly is wiser for having the humility to proclaim “while I may take some pride in my ability to keep it all straight and not be distracted, I do have my limits.” And is it at all unreasonable to infer that when President Obama wishes to address us, His goal is to distract? Were that not the case, His speeches would occasionally contain remarkable, quotable things, would they not? They would not roll out like new carpeting or butcher paper, with each square foot entirely indistinguishable from the square foot to its front, back, left or right. As one of my Facebook peeps put it (paraphrasing): “No, I didn’t watch the 2nd-inaugural speech. I have already heard an Obama speech.”

So information sometimes is a contaminant, if it is measured by quantity and not by quality, designed and deployed for the purpose to distract, to such an extent that it becomes a weapon. There are other ways it could be a contaminant. It could be a falsehood, of course. Now, that one doesn’t fly with me quite so much. As I explained before,

Given the choice between a sound knowledge base of verifiable & verified factual information, and the ability to think logically, I would choose the latter.

If I have a good understanding of how to figure out what a fact means, but my head is crammed chock full of silly “factoids” that aren’t really true even though they may be repeated by others verbatim, I should be able to ultimately determine some of these conflict irreconcilably with others. From there, I should be able to figure out which ones are suspect and, eventually, which ones should be questioned, and then reconsidered.

If I have a good solid repository of verified fact, but I don’t know how to figure out what these facts are really telling me, I might as well have nothing.

Fact is merely foundation. You can’t live in a foundation.

So — if it’s false, then learn it anyway, lock stock and barrel. Then go verify it. This is the age of the Internet, for cryin’ out loud. So no, I’m not in this camp. You can’t be wiser for having refused to hear something. There is no way you can come out ahead on that.

I am more-or-less entirely confused with this Phil Mickelson episode, which can only be described, to my great annoyance and continued confusion, in passive-voice: It is felt by someone, somewhere, that righteous umbrage was to be taken against the golfer for merely expressing an intent for exodus from California because of the tax situation. Because nobody seems to have the testicular fortitude to come along and put their verifiable name next to the statement “Yup, that’s me, I’m all ticked off that he said that,” we are left fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out what line has been crossed, or even where it is. Tax evasion is clearly not the issue. Did Mickelson cause offense by merely wanting to leave the state, or by going on the record saying so? What’s the rule? The former is only natural. The latter would be an example of information being a contaminant: He can think what he wants to think, pine away for another state as he likes to pine away…wince and squirm and shiver and wretch or whatever when he gets his latest tax bill. Just don’t say anything about it. Because somebody’s upset now!

I believe this is a liberal trait, because, and only because: Should a reluctance to “sit and take it” appear in Phil Mickelson’s economic class, this would be a major, major fallibility in the real-life application of “tax the rich” theory. I said “if.” So this is not a conservative or liberal understanding, it’s something that simply is. We’ve seen this played out repeatedly, perhaps hundreds of times, the city or county or state realizes that its coffers are dry and it’s seriously in the red — conservatives say, cut spending and make a more business-friendly environment; and liberals say, no just raise taxes on the rich. Conservatives come back and say, you do that and those rich people will leave the state. Liberals say no they won’t.

The taxes are raised, the rich people leave the state, and the problem ends up being bigger than it was the prior year.

At this point, I’m not applying a definition to the liberals insofar as their love for bigger spending and higher & more progressive taxes. I’m calling them out for their inability to learn from experience. For their almost institutionalized procedures and processes to avoid learning. Here, as well as with other issues, we see symmetry up to a point. Both conservatives and liberals claim a monopoly on certain knowledge, of which they charge their antagonists with the crime of remaining ignorant, at the expense of the community as a whole. The conservatives claim to understand higher taxes motivate rich people to leave the state, resulting in lower revenues. For the liberals, I suppose it would be that industrial activity is causing the planet to warm and this will cause some sort of natural catastrophe. Each claims to understand something, to be engaged in a frustrating process of explaining it to their ideological opposites, and that those other people across the net simply don’t understand. So there is symmetry up to a point.

Because there is symmetry, we can compare behaviors. After we compare the behaviors, we see the symmetry has tapered off. We discover an event horizon, after which the two sides are behaving differently.

Every single self-identifying conservative I know, at the very least understands what is being said about climate change. Oh they may get some of the details wrong, but they’re hip to the argument in the general sense. This is, I think, because the whole conservative way of thinking has to do with getting work done and preventing disasters. If they think things are a certain way but there’s a “hitch in the giddyap” about it, they’re going to want to know what that is. When I’m at the firing line, and there’s a cartridge in the pipe of my “empty” pistol that I don’t think is in there, of course I’m going to want to know that it is there. Even though, if I follow all the other safety procedures, nothing bad should come of it, and I intend to do that. Doesn’t matter. I want to know what’s going on with that gun, it’s in the rules. If I’m heading down the freeway in my pickup and I think the load is tied down, but it isn’t, I’m going to want to know all about that. So — I have an idea of what’s going on. I’m very sure. But if I’m wrong, I want to know I’m wrong.

What difference does it make?Liberals do not work that way. That’s what I’m learning from this. Where conservatives build their repositories of inferential information through an additive process, liberals work according to a subtractive one. You know what is a good analogy, coming to me from my professional endeavors: Definition of color, through light, versus definition of color through pigment. You’ve heard that green is a composite color “built” by combining blue and yellow; perhaps you’ve been confused to learn that yellow is a composite color, achieved by combining primary colors green with red. That has to do with light versus pigments. See how it changes everything around? This is why conservatives and liberals often talk past each other; two different worlds. With the subtractive process of pigmenting and inking and painting, if you mix all the pigments together, eventually you get black, because this pigment process is a filtration process. It is subtractive. That is how liberals deal with facts and knowledge. Another analogy: The old thing about how you make a statue of a horse. Some famous sculptor said something like “you start with a block of marble, and you chisel away everything that doesn’t look like a horse.” A subtractive process, and a perfect illustration of how liberals get to the answer they want, by “carving away” anything that doesn’t look like it. They start with the block, and they go carving…”What Difference Does It Make”-ing…through everything that doesn’t look like what they want.

And here, you’d heard so much out of them about how much more open-minded they are compared to the knuckle-dragging conservatives. The truth, as usual, is more-or-less the polar opposite of what they told you. It has to be that way, because they “accumulate” their knowledge by blocking it out, just like finger-paints make white into green by blocking out what isn’t green.

And so we see that liberals have done something strange and unusual with the Mickelson thing, something entirely unique to themselves. In this never-ending back-and-forth about “can we raise taxes on the rich and economically forecast them to just sit and take it, so we can pay back this money we’ve been blowing”…they have made it a bad thing to even mention the problem with the logic. This is not an isolated case at all. We see exactly the same situation with information about unborn babies; when do they develop fingernails, eyelashes, heartbeats, how do they move around. And when do these things happen. It creates problems for the liberal position that says it’s okay to abort, and of necessity must involve an entirely unique way of looking at human beings, and the life they live if they are allowed to live it. Because it creates problems, they’ll do what they can to avoid the information, and bludgeon others away from doing anything to proliferate it.

It has been explained to me that Mickelson makes more money from endorsements than he does from golfing, and one must be ideologically neutral when one is in that business. This explains nothing that was not clear before. But it does create a new understanding, in the sense that the liberals become connected to a situation, to which they were not connected before. The doctrine of “No matter how sure I am about it, if any evidence comes along to indicate I’m wrong, I want to know that right away” is now a political thing. Conservatives support it and liberals reject it.

If I have this right, it goes a long way in explaining why libs are so proud of not watching Fox News, and why they don’t want anyone else watching it either. They are getting to the answer they want, by way of a subtractive process. Like finger-painting, or carving the horse. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit. Filter it out. “What difference does it make” — it away. Chisel it off, by essentially saying: I’m not paying attention to it, and you shouldn’t be paying attention to it either. Go on, sift through your memories and your archives, you’ll find every left-wing argument falls into that pattern. I do not recognize that bothersome tidbit of unwanted information. You shouldn’t be recognizing it either. A subtractive process.

Conservatives and liberals fight about tax policy — and liberals are “offended,” passively demanding an apology, from someone who merely provided (honest!) evidence for the thing that is ostensibly wrong with their plan? No, I don’t think conservatives do this; if they do, then they aren’t really conservatives. It is the cartridge loaded into the pipe. The conservative mode of thinking, an enlightened and additive process, by its very nature, demands that you should know what is wrong with your perception of what’s going on. Resolve this question right now, while the opportunity exists to correct whatever might be in need of correction, before someone gets hurt. Liberals do not believe in this. They do their “thinking” by forgetting. And they do not want to know anything about these things they have chosen to forget.

After all, what difference does it make?

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Right Wing News.

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More Gun Control Idiocy

From :

So, it seems they were serious about trying to crack down on guns. Because you know, for the chillldrun, and all that.

I was at the shooting range today and while I was there, an acquaintance whom I frequently encounter there mentioned this story to me. Blogger friend Philmon was also discussing it over at the Hello Kitty of Bloggin’ to which I replied: “SHH! Don’t give California lawmakers any ideas.” The nine or so they try to pass each year is enough.

New York state has enacted a new law (signed by Governor Cuomo within minutes of its passage by the NY State Assembly) which alleges to provide stronger tools to crack down on gun crime:

Under the new law, ammunition magazines would also be restricted to seven bullets, from the current 10 — owners caught with eight or more bullets in a magazine could face a misdemeanor charge.


Got that? SEVEN bullets is the new limit. Seven. Not ten. This is going to be really interesting, because even here in California ten rounds is OK. That’s considered a “standard capacity” magazine (a term which I suspect dates back to the original federal assault weapons ban of 1994-2004). Because that’ll do it, you know. As any fool knows, it’s that eighth round which turns a gun owner from a peaceful law abiding citizen, into a murderous psychopath. Or was it the eleventh round? Honestly, I can’t even keep it straight anymore. Over at (, a poster left the following comment:

Governor Cuomo is effectively saying that while it’s not going to be allowed to walk into a school and shoot 30 children before changing magazines, it is going to be allowed to walk into a school and shoot 7 children before changing magazines.


Also, this one got my attention:

As for 7 round magazines, will anyone start manufacturing them just for sale in NY? My guess is that few companies will. Even if any are made, they’ll likely be quite expensive. That being the case, most semi-auto pistols in NY will be legally unusable. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t want to take your guns (yet), he just wants to prevent you from using them.


As one guy said…EGG-Zactly. That’s the whole point. There’s no such thing as a 7-round magazine. There are FIVE round detachable rifle magazines available for some semi-autos since several states (even those that allow hi-cap mags as a rule) prohibit hunting with anything bigger than five…and 6-round detachable magazines available for some pistols, but I’ve never heard of a 7-rounder. Many bolt action rifles use five-round feeding devices, but these are intended for hunting from long ranges where it’s unlikely the shooter will have a chance for a “follow-up shot” anyway…not defense.

As a rule, it’s unusual to run across a detachable (or fixed, for that matter) magazine for a semi auto rifle (one bullet per trigger pull) with a capacity smaller than ten rounds. I can give you three examples off the top of my head – the SKS, the Hakim, and the PSL-54c. All three use ten-round feeding devices as originally designed by their creators.


I’m suddenly reminded of the debates I’ve gotten into on Facebook and other places where some self-styled “moderate” demands to know why gun owners “need” high capacity magazines, especially the now-infamous 30 round ones that are standard equipment for most AK pattern (AK-47 and its many relatives) rifles. I have a few questions of my own for these people:

1) Why is the onus always placed on gun owners, to explain to others what they “need,” thereby justifying the reason they should be “allowed” to buy or keep it? Shouldn’t this obligation instead fall on the government (or more precisely, the gun-grabbers within it and without) to explain why they need to take it / ban sales of it? Shouldn’t it be incumbent on them to point out exactly how this move would be of any public safety benefit whatsoever?


Aren’t they the reformers, with gun owners as the defenders of the status quo? It’s like with the proposals to legalize gay marriage – I’ve never understood this nonsensical, upside-down, ass-backwards world the Left lives in, the one in which people who want things to remain as they are are required to justify their position. I thought the world worked the other way around, with those proposing a change being the ones obligated to explain their reasoning – the exact proposal, the implementation, and the benefits that are expected to follow. You don’t go around demanding that people explain to you why they think your idea won’t work or is unwise. Your job is to tell them why it’s a good one. Got that?

Furthermore, since those who ask this question can’t think of a lawful or practical use for a high capacity magazine, they immediately assume that nobody, anywhere, anytime would therefore have a need for such at thing…and since all these mags (in their minds) seem to do is enable mass shootings, we might as well ban the things.

(For my part, I’m just sick of having to stop and reload every ten seconds while plinking at the rifle range. I’m sick of having to break my concentration on the target, change mags, and take aim again. To me, that alone justifies owning a 30-round magazine, if you insist I really need a reason.)


2) Why is it always assumed that high-cap mags – 50 rounds, 30 rounds, 10 rounds, whatever – make a rifle or pistol more dangerous? Why the assumption that this maneuver is going to save lives?  Awhile back, I argued with some nitwit who suggested that Jared Loughner’s massacre at the Gabby Giffords rally in AZ only ended when it did because he had to stop shooting long enough to change magazines…at which point some bystander allegedly tackled him, bringing the rampage to an end. In the gun-grabber’s mind, this observation justifies getting rid of hi-cap mags. My response was simple:

If someone else on the scene had been armed, that person could simply have dropped Loughner with a single round to the man’s chest or head. It wouldn’t have been necessary to wait for him to stop to reload, thus allowing him to kill several more people before someone felt it was safe to attempt to tackle him. Someone could have simply shot the SOB after he’d fired his first or second round, even while he was still trying to gun down rally attendees. If you are a good guy with a gun, you don’t have to wait for the bad guy to pause. You just shoot him, regardless of whether he’s shooting or not.


(To this day, I have no concept of why nobody at that rally was armed and thus in a position to stop Loughner more quickly. Arizona doesn’t even require a concealed carry permit. It’s one of four states where any non-felon over 21 can simply stuff a loaded handgun down his pants, no questions asked.)


Moreover, it only takes a few seconds to change a magazine, even with a device in place to make it more time-consuming to do so. California requires a “bullet button” – an magazine lock which requires the use of a tool of some sort – on all centerfire rifles which use detachable mags and which have some additional cosmetic feature such as a pistol grip. In fact, we’ve got legislation in progress right now to effectively ban detachable magazines, after its author (State Senator Leland Yee (D, San Francisco)) saw a news report on TV showing AR-15 owners legally using them to safely change mags on TV. It’s frustrating that even limiting us to ten rounds AND requiring us to have these stupid little hassle-buttons on our rifles, apparently still isn’t enough for these gun grabber types.

3) Why are rifle magazines the focus of the gun control debate, when study after study shows that handguns are the murder firearm (actually the murder weapon, period) of choice, not “assault rifles” or any other sort of long arm? Is it just because the gun banners have a couple of polls which purport to show this is the form of gun control they’re going to have the easiest time getting through Congress or via executive order? Let’s cut the crap – is this really about public safety, or is it about what they think they can get by the electorate – about being able to pass something so they can claim to be serious about reducing gun crime?

Although extended mags for many models of semi-auto handguns do exist, the majority of handgun magazines hold 8 rounds or less, well under the 10 limit that most gun-control advocates want. (I won’t even get into what a mess NY’s new law is going to make for handgun owners.)

Can someone explain to me how all this is going to make a dime’s worth of difference to gun crime, instead of simply making things more difficult for the good guys? Again?



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Spend More and Save!!!!

I got home last night just in time to catch the newspaper as the lady threw it out of the car to our driveway.  Took it inside, opened it up.

Top headline is,

[Governor] “Nixon touts expansion of Medicaid”
Administration’s new figures show savings; GOP Skeptical.

First sentence of the article:

Expanding Medicaid to give health care coverage to as many as 300,000 Missourians will reduce state spending on the program and release almost $250 million in the next three years for other uses, according to new figures from the Office of Budget and Planning.

This is how spin happens.  Upon first glance, it’s win/win.  Look, our sooper smart Governor found a way to cover 300,000 more people and SAVE $250 Million by doing it!!!   My God, aren’t you glad you voted for him instead of that skeptical, negative GOP candidate?

Now … in a recent discussion that just brought up in the last post on a completely different topic, I had a lefty lecture me thus:

The solution to obesity deaths is to eat more food. The solution to alcohol related deaths is to drink more alcohol. The solution to gun deaths is more guns. Someday everyone will realize how empty and pointless that argument really is.

I wondered what he thought about the idea that the solution to debt is to spend more.  But not really.  Because they have absolutely no trouble swallowing that pill.

First sentence, next paragraph:

Gov. Jay Nixon is pushing lawmakers to accept a federal offer to pay the full cost of expanding the program for three years, followed by a small but growing state contribution.

So it’s not wizardry after all.  It’s not so much that we’re saving any money, we’re just getting “somebody else” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) to pay for it.  For a while.  Until we’re hooked.  And over time we’ll be paying more and more into it, and if we ever decide it’s a bad idea, it’ll be WHY DO YOU HATE POOR GRANDMOTHERS????!?!!?!?!!?!?!!??!!!!!  And we’ll be treated to ads of mean negative skeptics pushing one over a cliff in a wheelchair.  Again.  And it’ll be here forever, and grow into Jaba the Hut.

The next question that should pop into the heads of any journalist worth his salt, or perhaps a mere peon citizen reader — would be — where does the federal government get the money to pay the cost of the program?

It’s not magic fairy dust falling from the sky.

It must either 1) come from people from other states, 2) come from people from all states, including yours, 3) come from your kids and grandkids via debt, or 4) come from devaluing your salary and any savings you have through “Quantitative Easing”.

If the federal government wants to do it in our state, you can bet your bottom dollar seventy-five cents fifty cents quarter that they’d like to do it in all 57 states.

I know the Gods of the Copy Book Headings say you don’t get something for nothing, and of course I’ve been assured they’re all misogynistic patriarchal racist white men who worship satin pantsed men in powdered wigs who crapped in buckets, — but … I’m thinking that hiding spending in one column and pretending that column doesn’t come out of your hide, too … isn’t really savings, no matter what type of vessel you may crap in.

Basically, it’s the federal government playing pusher.  Again.  “first one’s free!”

By the states 2021 fiscal year, missouri would pay 10% of the projected $2.6 billion total annual cost of expansion.

Ah, so the expansion does cost money.  Quite a bit, in fact.  $2.6 billion magical federal fairy dollars, falling from the sky like manna from heaven.

Even in the most expensive year, the article goes on, the savings from other parts of the program plus the expected new state revenue would exceed the costs to the state’s general revenue fund.

Remember, we’re saving money here, because we’ve pushed the cost to another column on another page in another book.  Aren’t we clever?

And it gets better:

About 60% fo the net is the result of savings (now that we understand that “savings” means pushing spending to other books) would come from services provided to adult women and mental health programs.

Why do you hate …???  Oh, nevermind.

And my favorite, Pelosi-esque part is the kicker:

The rest would come from increased revenue from the paychecks and spending involved in the program.

And there you have it. We’re going to save money by spending more money.  What a racket.

Hold still now, this won’t hurt a bit.

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“A Fatal Imaginary Paradox”

Steven Goddard asks the rhetorical question: How do you get an organism to destroy itself?

Simple – convince it that something essential for its survival is making it sick. A great example of this is bulimia. If an individual believes that food is unhealthy, it eventually will self-destruct and die.

As far as I can tell, that is the fundamental purpose of the global warming movement. Civilization can not exist without an adequate energy supply, and greens are determined to make that impossible. They are determined to introduce a fatal imaginary paradox – which will lead western civilization to self-destruct.

Yes, we’ve been seeing a lot of this lately. Christians need to get-with-the-times, knock it off with those ancient hymns written by dead white guys, let the hippies lead the Sunday services with their tambourines and guitars. Men who are single and trying to find ways to attract women, should stop acting like men; shave the facial hair, speak in a higher voice, get into American Castrati mode. The Republican party, just lately spanked in this year’s elections, should stop acting like Republicans…turn a blind eye to that low-hanging fruit represented by the evangelicals and Tea Party people who couldn’t be bothered to pop a chad for Mitt Romney, and imagine these swelling throngs of butt-hurt hipsters who will surely vote GOP, in droves, with a bit of platform support for gay marriage, amnesty for illegal immigrants, exploding government largess, AND don’t forget the silly but creative new social programs.

And then there is technology. What does America have to do to recapture her competitive edge? More college grads, of course! Acres and acres of college grads, each one clutching a spiffy new roll of sheepskin, with a documented specialty in something absolutely useless that ends with the word “studies.” Pity the poor college student graduating just in time to compete for a limited number of jobs, with swelling throngs of classmates equally indoctrinated with equally smug heads packed full with equally silly things. How I pity them. Maybe if we grind enough of them down we can produce a few joules of energy after the coal & nuclear plants are shut down.

I suppose this is all just a byproduct of mass communication. Think back a century before now, which is just the blink of an eye in human evolution. What was communication? I’ll tell you what it was in 1912: You could have distance, you could have instant access to your audience, you could broadcast to multitudes — pick any two out of those three but you could not have all three. The one exception was a radio signal sent out randomly, like the Titanic’s shout-out for help, but that was nothing more than a scream converted to electronic form. Today, communication is one-way or two-way, we can choose one or the other of these at our leisure; you can broadcast, instantly, to whoever is interested, and you can pick up feedback whether the recipient wants you to or not. You can find out their time zone, their nearest major city, their GPS coordinates. You can get their IP address. You can find the time and date of their “page hit.” You can find out what Google query they used to find your page…and oh, is that not embarrassing and titillating at times. You can sell things across thousands of miles, with confidence, enjoying the benefits of highly advanced peer-reviewed digital signature algorithms. You can do practically anything. You can Facebook. You can open an entry on CraigsList. You can blog. You can tweet. And let’s not forget, of course you can “text.” You can send audio, video-still and video-motion. You can put out a live feed. You can make it look like Hitler is taking his own picture with an iPhone, or your pet “LolCat” is very sorry he made you a cookie and then eated it.

You can change the outcome of elections. Oh, yes, absolutely you can do that.

So I suppose we should not be surprised to see so many people seizing these instant-broadcast-communication technologies, and giving instructions to their enemies about how to, um, er, ah, survive. TO: N. BONAPARTE FROM: LORD WELLINGTON RE: WATERLOO. You really can’t blame them, can you? You can blame the enemies for accepting the advice, and then being surprised to learn it never was in their interests…that does seem pretty stupid. And it is. But the fact is, it works a good portion of the time. “Stick your head in this noose and then jump off the chair, you’ll be amazed at the results.” Derr, duh, um okay.

This is an ironclad rule: If it works, it doesn’t matter if it’s silly or tragic. You will be seeing a whole lot more of it, because hey, it worked. No exceptions. So yes, we have a lot of people talking their enemies into committing suicide, and we shouldn’t be surprised to see it.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Right Wing News.

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Michigan Passes Right-to-Work Bills

We’re seeing some stinky chestnuts popping out of a scuffle over labor laws in Michigan, which is about to become the 24th right-to-work state. Some of the words, phrasing, and even the body-language of those who are involved in the fracas on the organized-labor side, are very telling and very educational.

I was drawn in particular to this one:

“Young people don’t know the history of labor relations,” said Diane Petryk, a union member from Lansing. “They have an eight-hour day, a weekend, vacation and more because of labor unions.

“Their grandparents died on the picket lines in Flint, Detroit and other places so that we could have a middle class.”

Uh, YEAH. About that. Let’s get our hooks into this piece before the savage quicksand of forgotten Google queries and Internet time, swallows it up again. Lacking any good way to excerpt from it, I’ll just grab the whole thing:

Economic Myths: The 5 Day Work Week And The 8 Hour Day

How many times have you been in an economic discussion with someone, discussing the benefits of competition, the power of markets, and the overall benefits of capitalism when someone blurts out that in any competitive system, unions and regulations are necessary, for without them, without their interference, we wouldn’t have a middle class, we wouldn’t have a five day work week or eight hour work days? I hear this all the time, I see it on bumper stickers, and it is so often repeated that I thought I’d blog on it and give the readers of my blog an edge on what really happened, and how to respond if they encounter the same topic.

So, who gave us the 5 day, 8 hours per day, work week? Was it really the unions, was it really higher regulations? No, the historical answer is that it was Heny Ford who gave us the 5 day, 8 hours per day, work week. Ford was tired of continuously losing good employees, he was trying to increase employee retention and at the same time increase profits, so he basically doubled wages and implemented a 5-day work week, and in the process effectively invented the modern weekend. It is Henry Ford who is widely credited with contributing to the creation of a middle class in the United States.

In addition, if you look at why Henry Ford did this, you will see that his reasons had nothing to do with charity, and everything to do with increasing profits and dealing with the forces of competition.

What makes those who believe it was unions look even more ridiculous is the fact that Henry Ford despised unions. The tensions were so strong, that Ford hired a former Navy boxer to help him stop the unions from unionizing Ford Motor Company.

Many of those who hold the view that it was unions – or regulations – who gave us the middle class, often hold outdated fears against ‘unfettered markets’, still repeating the now fully debunked Karl Marx view that capitalism, through competition, will bring exploitation of workers, will be a ‘race to the bottom’, and will eventually, [at least] according to Marx, result in class warfare blah blah blah blah. However, if you come back to the real world, you will see that competition does the exact opposite, it increases the standard of living, it increases working standards, it increases pay, and it is overall the working person’s best weapon, not its enemy. This is why unions and the minimum wage have the opposite result, since by reducing competition they don’t make the working person’s standard of living better; on net balance, they make it worse.

So in conclusion, it wasn’t because of unions or regulations that we have a middle class, it was in spite of them that we do, and the next time you hear otherwise, correct them immediately, the working class will thank you.

This event in Michigan is a worthy thing for us to inspect, when we think about chestnuts that are past their prime. To illustrate why, I would ask the reader to think hard about what a chestnut is: In the final analysis, it is simply a message to be conveyed from those who are personally motivated, toward the low-information voter (or participant in the movement). It is a message from those who understand the deleterious consequences involved in bad left-wing public policy, but don’t give a rat’s ass about it, to those who would be more interested in these consequences but are unaware of them; a message from the apathetic to the ignorant. We see this all the time with organized labor. “Give us what we want, or else you will lose, or fail to gain, X.” It is their default strategy.

In this case, the issue is right to work, which puts them in an awkward fighting stance since the rotten chestnut becomes one of: “You are going to suffer some kind of injury if you have the right to work,” meaning, if you have the option of not paying dues to a union. Which means: You aren’t going to come out of this in one piece unless you are forced to give us money. Okay, so that’s the stanza of every crooked salesman there’s ever been, but still. How do you polish that turd? It’s quite a challenge, and it is only met by way of — spin, spin, and spin away. Lots and lots of idle babbling about nothing, and when that fails, resort to the “it just works out like that because I know something you don’t know” posturing. You young people with your 40 hour work weeks, you don’t understand the history of unions!

Well I agree with them in this much: Yes, we should understand the history of unions better than we do. And as is the case with many other progressive arguments, at core it is quite legitimate: When people share a common interest, it is to their benefit to organize and conduct their negotiations as one, for they gain a lot of power in that configuration that they’re missing otherwise. But when the final history is written on the labor union movement…assuming it is recorded at all in any useful way, which with all these chestnuts flying around today I have to question…this is going to be the jump-the-shark moment where the labor unions lost their usefulness, and it actually took place generations ago. Now that we have all this power to use against the boss, how do we make the most of it, and how do we get more? But the wealth that makes all this labor possible is created only by way of the projects and missions and tasks you manage to complete with the boss. He’s on your side, or to put it more accurately, you’re supposed to be on his. If “work” comes to be nothing more than a daily routine in which the two of you conspire to get more and more things at the expense of one another, it’s an unavoidable consequence that less work is going to get done. To put it another way, the business exists because “collective bargaining” is already taking place, and it’s the bargaining the management does partnered up with the labor, with the customer, who is also not an enemy. Sure, everyone’s got their separate financial interests. That doesn’t automatically make someone an inimical force. If it does, then ultimately no trade is possible, anywhere.

And regrettably, there are some nuggets of observed fact in that labor union history, that suggest rather strongly that at times, that might have been the goal.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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What’s a Chestnut?

The Free Online Dictionary defines “chestnut” as “An old, frequently repeated joke, story, or song.” Miriam Webster calls it “something (as a musical piece or a saying) repeated to the point of staleness.”

Put simply, chestnuts are those things “everybody knows.” For instance, “everybody knows” that Republicans hate women, that revenues go up as taxes go up, that Sarah Palin’s an idiot, that George W. Bush hates black people, that “corporate personhood” is some kind of evil Wall Street scam, that the “Palestinian peace process” exists (and when it breaks down, it’s all Israel’s fault).

Put bluntly, chestnuts are what people believe when they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

At Rotten Chestnuts we aim, in our own small way, to change that. To educate. To inform. To praise the praiseworthy and mock the mockable. To entertain, and — dare we hope? — to inspire.

If you’re tired of being labelled ignorant, or a “hater,” or simply uncool for using the brains God gave you to examine the world, then this is a site for you.

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