Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rule of Law

Nobody asked but ...

To say that the rule of law should apply to police is NOT to say that there should be no police.  But to say that the rule of law does not apply to police IS to say that we shall not have the rule of law.

"Everybody counts, or no one counts."
-- Hieronymous Bosch

-- Kilgore Forelle

Ireland #2

Blarney Castle

The grain is in the wood before the sawyer gets to it.  It doesn't matter how you crosscut or rip or turn it, the grain reveals itself, predictably but in an unique way.  The history of the wood is there to see.  Such is the spirit of the Irishman and the Irishwoman.  The Túatha is part of how the stock will be seen, no matter how it is turned.

Most of the history of these people came from this small island on the lefthand upper end of Europe.  The people go back to the originals.  How they got there is hidden in the fog of the past.  It is only speculation how, but somehow Celtic and Gaelic peoples got this far from Europe.  Their common trait was a language, and the Irish version of the language is spoken in no other quarter.

I am not a folklorist nor an anthropologist.  I am not an expert on how these people arose, but I am an Irishman, by as many as 7/8ths of my great grandparents.  My family tree is scattered with Carigans, RyansAllens, and Fitzpatricks.  I come from Protestant Northern Ulster Irish coalminers as well as from Catholic potato famine refugees from LeinsterMunster, and Connacht.  Although I did not get to set foot on Ireland's sod until my 74th year, I have been all my life part of one of the greatest diaspora in human history.  Curiously, I am also part of one of the few grand derangements that approach it.  That other 1/8th is Acadien from Chaleur Bay on the maritime reach of the St. Lawrence.

But let us return to the Túatha and why it is different.  The Túatha, among other things, are organizational entities, social groupings of people but not ones that subverted the people to the maintainance of some organizational imperative.  Most simply stated, the Túath is a social structure likely based on kinship.  Its primary purpose seemed to be as a dispute resolution structure.  A typical Túatha was limited in size so as not to overtax the structure.  It was often limited by delineation of one or more of kinship, tribe, territory, birth and/or origin.  Each Túath may have had different dispute resolution methods from other Túatha, and the constituents of one Túath were not individually bound to one Túath.  A plaintif could choose any dispute resolution mechanism from whichever Túath he or she chose to join and support.  But it was not unusual to see most Túatha go unchanged for trans-generational time periods.

These arrangements tended to support individual freedom.  Non-binding dispute resolutions, in the form of restitution, were suggested by a Brehon.  Brehon law, the term for Irish native law, was administered in Ireland down to almost the middle of the seventeenth century, among the native Irish until the depth of the English conquest.  Administrative structures tended to remain as small as the structures of the Túatha themselves.

In any event, the people of Ireland were relatively relieved of oppression and suppression until the Viking invasions about 1300 years ago.  Previously, there was not much call for bringing segments of the population to heel.  And the Túatha were unlikely ever used for conquest.  But those days were now gone.  A succession of overlords influenced the veneer of Ireland.  In the 12th century, the Norman invasion brought the most onerous period of foreign administration.  The Irish were ruled for 800 years by interlopers from England.  What does it take for a people to still want their freedom after so long?  Why are the overlords so willing to be pinned down themselves to oppression and suppression for so long?  I believe the answer lies in the grain of the people on both sides of the question.  The pattern was likely ingrained in the Irish by the long influence of the Túatha.  What compelled the British to pursue empire, apparently at all costs, lies beyond the scope of this writing.  The Irish descendents of the Túatha, however, never failed to keep the flame of independence alive for nearly a millennium.  Their history is on the lips of every Irish, and their modern memes still call for re-unification of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.  A general cry is "32!," calling for the 6 Ulster counties to join the 26 counties of the current national configuration.

Every tour guide, from the brewhouse to the marketplace, bemoans the injustices of the British occupation, while taking a curious pride in the landmarks left behind.

We saw the multi-dimensional labyrinth of history, wherever we went through the South -- DublinWaterfordMidletonYoughalCorkCobh, and Kinsale.  And into the west, we saw it again at BlarneyDunloeKillarny, and Dingle.  As the trip wound down, the complexity of the past, the present, and the future played along the road through Limerick and Adare to Dunboyne (a lovely village on the northwestern edge of the Dublin conurbation).

I have been to many locales, but I don't believe I have been anywhere in which the individual is a stronger part of the common peoples' makeup.  Ireland is the shockwave rider in the global economy now.  Constantly reinventing itself to stay in the forefront.  There is still a bastion of English oppression, however, in the 6 counties of Ulster -- a ransom that was demanded at the time that England released the rest of Ireland to nationhood in 1922 -- giving rise, as I have written above, to the frequent meme, "32!" which symbolizes the joining of the 26 counties of Ireland with the 6 counties of the Ulster Province of Northern Ireland (UK).

This is not a matter of dreams so that all Irish will become one with a collective, but that they all might live in a similar self-sustaining freedom.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Nobody asked but ... 

After I first became a Prokofiev listener, as a child upon hearing Peter and the Wolf and the ballet music of Cinderella, as a high schooler upon buying the Ormandy/Philadelphia Symphony No. 5, I would hear on occasion that Prokofiev was a victim of censorship.  At the time, I understood that to mean that the composer only put out music which unambiguously promoted Soviet interests.  I didn't understand how that worked.  I was further mystified by the incredible beauty of Prokofiev's music -- I heard no bombastic, missiles-on-parade, statist drivel.  It was while listening to and watching Harry Warren's and Busby Berkeley's sublime 'Remember My Forgotten Man' that I saw how propaganda works, it is through the mothballing of that which doesn't fit the narrative.

Sergei Prokofiev
Harry Warren

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Words Poorly Used #87 -- Open Borders

"Open borders" is a bit of an oxymoron.  Natural borders, such as rivers and mountains, have natural fords and passes which are more safe to navigate than other locations.  The fords or passes are naturally open, when there is no statist intervention.  States can take control of natural openings and fictional openings.   Then crossers find different natural openings, or create artificial openings.  The openings are quite distinct from a border.  A border impairs or negatively influences passage, an opening enables or positively influences passage.  Let there be natural borders and natural openings, without state interventions, without cultural definitions.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Words Poorly Used #86 -- Anecdotal

That evidence may be anecdotal is not a case for dismissing the evidence.  Often people will say that an illustration is anecdotal meaning that the example shown does not in itself constitute definitive evidence of the apparent result.  Let's say that an olympic ice skater has an awkward fall in a competition.  That single case neither proves that he is a bad skater nor that he is a good skater who tends to perform poorly in certain cases.  Multiple falls on multiple occasions are a clearer indicator.  A friend today criticized what he called "anecdotal" cherry picking among the media following POTUS through Europe.  But there is another view, the accumulation of gaffes can be taken for perhaps a significant attribute of POTUS.  Anecdotal evidence is valuable in several ways; it gives a qualitative dimension to data, it can accumulate into statistical evidence, and it can give a nod to possible, maybe probable, trends.  After a bit of recurrence, however, dismissing evidence because it is anecdotal is like dismissing an avalanche because it is snow.

 -- Kilgore Forelle

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bad Behavior

Nobody asked but ...

Voluntaryists often site the condition that minions can get away with murder by wearing a uniform and/or a badge.  I think this cognitive dissonance comes about because of the spade work of higher officials.  The behavior of POTUS and other high muckety mucks is, far too frequently, atrocious.  They do these deeds within the law, skirting the law, on the unstable edge of the law, and outside the law.  No wonder minions think they can place their priorities ahead of common decency.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Photo Bomb

Nobody asked but ...

Why is POTUS in Scotland?  And when will America be great again -- it has been 4 months.  Things are definitely not greater.  And to what former golden era does "again" refer?  On another hand, I'm sure there must be a rule against being that close to a bagpiper.  Nothing good can come of it.  Don't get on an elevator with a bagpiper.  Don't get photo bombed by a bagpiper.  Conversely, if you are a bagpiper, get some pants, and don't get photo bombed by a politician.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Feeding Frenzy

Nobody asked but ...

There is always a carcass or an invalid left after a feeding frenzy.  POTUS' self-inflicted beast feast is no exception.  But to say it was self-inflicted understates the case -- "bigly."  There is a long standing autoimmune system in the body politic.  To mix a metaphor, the swamp endures -- drainage specialists need not apply.  In a recent column, to cite another metaphor, Verbal Vol set forth Robert Penn Warren's famous image from All the King's Men, regarding a spider web.  The trouble for POTUS is that willy nilly doesn't work for long.  Sooner or later, the spider is awakened.   Sooner or later, the swamp stronghold is surrounded by quicksand.  Sooner or later, the wall that you built to keep others out, keeps you in.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Every Time I Go to Town ...

Nobody asked but ...

Someone kicks my dog around.  In this case, my dog is a symbol for something that used to be simple but now is spoiled by too many legislative and bureaucratic cooks.  I am a small bore landlord who is experiencing a changeover in tenants.  I took off the door hardware to take to the hardware store to have it re-keyed.  Upon arriving, I was told that the hardware lady couldn't perform such re-keying any more.  The nest of vipers in Frankfort now holds that I must get a chartered locksmith to do this.  I'm sure there is a reason for this, but I can't imagine a problem that wasn't already against a simpler law.  Isn't anything that you could do with a lock either OK because it's your property or theft because it's not your property?

-- Kilgore Forelle


Nobody asked but ...

The Three Musketeers -- Comey, Christie, Romney -- all are now resident at the Kellyann Conway Home for Government Surplus Minions.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Monday, May 8, 2017

Words Poorly Used #85 -- Agreement

For purposes of this discussion there are two disjunct forms of agreement.  When a seller and a buyer reach a meeting point on a transaction, it is a meeting point of agreement.  The price may not be low enough to suit the buyer, but she is getting something she would rather have than the particular amount of money.  The price may not be high enough to meet all of the merchant's economic goals, but she now has money which was the specific object of the offer -- it is an amount of money that she would rather have than the merchandise.  Both parties have agreed to a meeting of the minds that will make each happier.  The other kind of agreement is where one party is relieved of threatened punishment by the other party, who brings some kind of unequal power to the bargaining table.  The protection racket is the classic example, wherein the muscle guys make the disadvantaged one an offer that he cannot refuse.  If you pay us, we will not break up your place of business.  If you do pay us, in fact, we may keep other miscreants from breaking up your biz.  In this second example, all of the satisfaction is only on one side.  Think IRS.  Think about our really screwy election system.

 -- Kilgore Forelle

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wiggle Room

Nobody asked but ...

How many times will politicos exploit the wiggliness of words to create fictional compartments in the minds of their followers.  As the Jason Robards character said in the 1989 movie, Parenthood, "It's like your Aunt Edna's ass. It goes on forever and it's just as frightening."  In recent days, apparently, POTUS has signed a new Executive Order to give religious institutions more freedom.  Here's my problem -- there is a separation of church and state in this country.  The government, including its executive chief, cannot interact with the churches in ANY official capacity.  Let's go to the document, the Constitution.
First Amendment - Religion and Expression. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What other freedoms can religion have beyond this?  Yet there we have POTUS with a signing ceremony on the White House greensward, basking in the glowing grins of seeming representatives of  handpicked religio-politico elements.  Politicians can only give what the laws allow them to give. Yet here is POTUS pretending as if he is handing out bonuses.  A few weeks ago, I complained, in the joint product of Kenny Kelly and I, that the NRA was "protecting" things that they have no charge to protect, but they collect donations, a ton of donations, for claiming to protect them anyhow, and they make compromises that they have no authority to make.  Aren't there still laws against fraud in this country, or has someone given them all away?

 -- Kilgore Forelle

Monday, May 1, 2017

Influences I

Whenever someone asks me which philosophers I follow, I very quickly branch off into persons who do not seem to be philosophers within the narrow meaning of the term, lover of knowledge. But how could Mark Twain possibly be not that? If asked who are the great wits, I will come up with a list from all over the place. In what universe would we think Lewis Carroll was not as witty as could be?

I was reminded recently of James Burke, the man who authored the unique television shows "Connections" and "The Day the Universe Changed." Burke recently was a guest on the podcast, "Common Sense" hosted by Dan Carlin. Burke and Carlin are two of my favorite analysts who have lived or whose legacy remains in my lifetime. I have learned inestimable amounts from each. This, then, is a piece about name dropping in which we review a short list of thinkers of whom you may have heard, or not. Your encounter with them could have been, as with me, not long enough.

It may be too easy to get buried in a whodunit or other type of thriller/romancer/fantasy/speculator, and fiction may be better for that than fact. It eases off on the need to connect to the real world, the need to block out with elbows and hips, the compulsion to get more toys. As William Wordsworth wrote, "the world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: ... ." Part of getting and spending, is strategic rest whereby we seek refuge in things such as hobbies, calisthenics, running, drugs, and mountain climbing. Very seldom do we seek respite in thinking. After all, thinking beyond the level of a potboiler is very hard work, even impossible for some distracted people like those marching to and from work in Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

There is a scarcity of people such as James Burke, Dan Carlin, Mark Twain, H. L. Mencken, John McPhee, Carl Sagan, R. Buckminster Fuller, Edward Tufte, Douglas HofstadterKurt Vonnegut, Robert A. Heinlein, Ruth Rendell, Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy Parker, Robert Higgs, S. I. Hayakawa, Annie Proulx, Frédéric Bastiat, Al Capp, Cate Blanchett, Walt Kelly, David Byrne, Murray Rothbard, Lysander Spooner, William of Ockham, and Robert Penn Warren.

This is an introduction to a work that I offer as a resource for people who want to think. The above short list has my favorites, but they are as well a substantial veneer on the inexhaustible supply of contributors who have gone to profound depths beneath the veneer. You will find references to others in the words of these people. The thing these writers have is the gift of expression, in language and style that is accessible to those who want to approach linguistic calisthenics slowly.

I too will approach more slowly, writing in appreciation of each and rewarding them with wider exposure. You who take this advice will also, I believe, be rewarded.

Note: I plan to link each of the names above to the WWW, to sites where you can branch on your own.

I plan to cover all of these people in the days and fortnights ahead.  They will be served up in no particular order other than where my fancy leads.  So if I present Robert Penn Warren first, it could be that he is the greatest in my estimation at the time.  But I would be remiss if I expected you to believe that is true.  I would have to spend my effort on why Mark Twain or H. L. Mencken did not come first.  And then I would leave out Robert Higgs.

Robert Penn Warren

I missed Robert Penn Warren's birthday a few days ago.  I had not known it, the birthdate, previously, but I noted it this time, in this research, as it is only five days ahead of mine.  I have known RPW, however, for many years -- casually for my early life, then in brilliant relief from 1962 onward.  I have since then insisted that All the King's Men is the great American novel.  It will always be so to me.

I was a just a 19-year-old college freshman in my first semester at the University of Kentucky.  After getting my first schedule, I went to Kennedy Bookstore.  On the shelves under the placard for Advanced Freshman English I found a text book and a paperback, a $0.75 version of All the King's Men.  I had no idea I was buying a change in my life, a lifelong change, that would affect everything thereafter -- for three quarters of a buck.

We began reading this book the first week of class, and I was struck, as if by lightning, by two extended metaphors early in the text. they were,
The end of man is knowledge but there's one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it would save him.
He learned that the world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and the drowsy spider feels the tingle and is drowsy no more but springs out to fling the gossamer coils about you who have touched the web and then inject the black, numbing poison under your hide. It does not matter whether or not you meant to brush the web of things. Your happy foot or your gay wing may have brushed it ever so lightly, but what happens always happens and there is the spider, bearded black and with his great faceted eyes glittering like mirrors in the sun, or like God's eye, and the fangs dripping.
From these two passages, I grasped the laws of cause and effect.  I also learned of the vastness of cause, and the complexity of consequence.  This is when I saw that my consequences, arising from my actions, were nobody else's but mine.  I was free to frolic in the web, but I could never ignore that consequences always arose from any act, and those consequences belonged to the actor.  When you dance, you must pay the piper.

The two images from Warren are miracles of thrift and wisdom.  In addition to the above lessons learned, I soon saw that the past, the present, and the future were too convoluted, too combinatoric, too complex to afford an easy plan for life.  As Joseph Campbell said, "We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."

James Burke

Not only is the web too confounding for us in its entirety, it mystifies us close at hand.  Anywhere that we are on the web, we can see the strand we occupy connecting to two intersections. Each intersection has strands leading to 4 or 6 other intersections, and each further intersection has connecting paths to 4 or 6 more.  After just a few moves the choices are myriad.  Some of us can keep more straight in our minds than others, but the possibilities soon overwhelm the best of us.  James Burke, in his television series, Connections, took advantage of that multiplicity to observe the surprises among the connections.  There could not help but to exist many, many surprises.  No one really is managing a plan much past three removes -- the options in those three have numbered at least 128.  At the next step, you have passed by 768 choices, then 4,608, then greater than 25k, leading to 150k, which is one step from nearly a million.

There had elapsed 16 years between my experience with RPW and my new find, Burke.  I now had some quantitative idea of how fast and furious were the surprises.  Here is the description, from Wikipedia, for the content of Episode 1:
"The Trigger Effect" details the world's present dependence on complex technological networks through a detailed narrative of New York City and the power blackout of 1965. Agricultural technology is traced to its origins in ancient Egypt and the invention of the plough. The segment ends in Kuwait where, because of oil, society leapt from traditional patterns to advanced technology in a period of only about 30 years.
As you can imagine, there are many more connections and intersections in the real world than in a spider web.  There are more consequences, too.  You own all of the consequences that arose from your vibrating the web.  This is true whether you are alone or in a crowd.

Burke said, "As for the permanent values that are supposed to remain unchanged in spite of our changing knowledge — well they change too. Once it was good to burn women. Wrong to claim the Earth went around the sun. Logical to argue about angels on the head of a pin."

We live in a world of surprises, no matter how much we want for things to be settled, no matter how much we long for guarantees.


So, we see that no one human can possibly gauge all of the permutations.  Both Warren and Burke have hinted at the vastness of possibilities.  They haven't counted the possibilities.  They imply that the possibilities are, in any practical sense, uncountable.  Plans usually involve one or two layers of possibilities.  Detail freaks may get to three layers but then the possibilities get out of hand.  I used to suggest to my programming students that they should never go beyond two uses of nesting in a single structure (3 levels of computation) when writing their programs.  While it may seen logical to see infinitely far in a binary world, which it is, confusion will soon throw you.  I have said if one feels the need to nest more than twice, then one should lie down until the feeling goes away.

The next future essay, Influences II, will cover Robert Higgs, H. L. Mencken, and maybe, Mark Twain.