Tag Archives: Public Crusades

The Benefits of Democracy

27 Feb

The chief benefit of any nominally Democratic form of government is not that it gives the Common Man his say – he is all too often a fool and frequently also a swine –  but the characteristic most commonly named as its major defect; it is inefficient. Not even the most hysterical of rabble-rousers can force it to move swiftly for long, and often they cannot persuade it to move at all. Consequently, many of the worst ideas loose among the chattering classes never move far beyond the college campuses and coffee houses where they are born. Those that do mostly collapse of their own stupidity long before they pose any serious danger to the public at large.

This may seem a fantastic statement, seeing how much Left wing nitwittery we have weighing us down in these modern times, but consider the fate of countries that have – or had – more efficient governments. In Russia and mainland China there were no checks and balances to hinder the visions of the State. The consequences of this efficiency can be counted in millions of deaths, and in widespread poverty, despair, and environmental ruin.

In the United States we are raised to think of the purpose of government to be the safeguarding of the common good, but historically this has never been the case. The purpose of government is, and always has been, to transform the will (and all too often, the whim) of the Head of State into reality, both practical and impractical. The history of this shows clearly that the average Head of State can no more be trusted with planning the future of his people than a five year old can be trusted with a gallon of nitroglycerine. Therefore it can be said that an efficient government is an authentic public menace.

We in the United States have escaped this menace. As we observe the fate of places like Russia or Cuba that did not, we should give daily thanks.

Stupid Argument

13 Feb

I recently caught a segment of a local radio talk-show featuring an argument that has, by my own count, been going on for at least a decade. It apparently comes around every year: the question of whether hunting is, or has ever been, a sport.

Now, the argument that hunting deer includes no trace of fair competition has some basis. But, regardless of what modern language has done with “Sport”, my understanding is that Sport originally almost always had to do with killing animals, or trying to kill people. Hunting or training for war. All less bloody sports came later. That’s simply how it is. Until very recently a “Sportsman” was a man with a gun (or a crossbow) over his arm.

So, can we debate whether hunting deer is humane? That’s an argument with two sides that actually make some kind of sense. Leave whether it is “Sporting” out of it. It may be that “Sport” has come to mean something else, but its origins were bloody. If the people arguing that deer hunting is bad were saying that it isn’t a sport as we now understand the term, it wouldn’t bother me so much. The assertion that it has NEVER been a sport betrays the encyclopedic historical knowledge of a mollusk. It is the kind of smug, ‘don’t you understand that I’m smarter than you?’ argument I am used to from certain elements of the Left that enrage me because they reveal the appalling ignorance of the speaker and taint a serious issue with idiocy.

The Second Amendment/Gun Control Debate

6 Feb

Gun Control advocates like to complain that Second Amendment advocates do not take the subject seriously. They mock the rhetoric of those that hold that the Second Amendment is a protection against tyranny. “What good are handguns going to do against tanks?” they ask.

There are several answers to this.

In the first place, respect for the founding document of the nation is a basic issue. The “Living Document” argument is hogwash; there is a legal method for amendment included in the Constitution. If you want to change something about the Constitution or its amendments, and you are not prepared to undertake to pass an amendment, then you are a scofflaw. Claiming that it is acceptable to interpret the documents so that they are taken to mean something other than what they say is an attempt to weasel out of the necessity of referring any amendments to the People.

In the second place; who said the Second Amendment didn’t apply to Tanks? It doesn’t say anything about handguns; it just says “Arms”.

In the third place, while the authority of a tyranny may be secured with Tanks, it is implemented by the day-to-day obnoxiousness of petty government officials. And such vermin are, and should be, frightened of an armed populace.

Therefore I propose the following revision of the Second Amendment;

The occasional horsewhipping or lynching of an obnoxious government stooge being necessary to the security of a free people, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The First Amendment Is Offensive

23 Jan

The problem with believing firmly in the First Amendment is the company it keeps. There is a blogger in jail in Alabama. I’m not going to name him, because his personal situation isn’t what I want to talk about. From everything I have read he is a raving twit who makes hysterical accusations against anyone he dislikes. He has been sued for that. Further, he has been uncooperative with the Judicial process, to the extent of not showing up for a hearing or hearings. Nevertheless, as matters stand he should not be in jail.

He was jailed because he defied an injunction ordering him to cease blogging about the plaintiff in the suit against him. Mind you, the trial has not taken place. When it does I have scant reason to doubt that this pillock will lose, and will have behaved badly enough that a jail sentence is a real possibility. But the trial has not yet taken place. The Injunction he is in jail for defying is attempting to prevent his from publishing what has not YET been ruled to be defamatory and actionable. The Injunction is clearly a violation for his First Amendment rights.

It’s tempting to just dismiss this. The blogger in question is a poisonous little twerp. The content that the fuss is over seems unlikely to be true, and likely to be found outside of the umbrella of opinion. The dweeble deserves to be in jail or fined. He’s in jail. What’s the problem?

The problem is that prior restraint of free speech does not just keep dweebles from posting fake stories about infidelities they fantasize that their enemies commit. It keeps perfectly decent people from exposing government wrongdoing, before the exposure of a trial. And if you wait until the people whose First Amendment rights you are defending are perfectly decent people, you will be behind the curve and wrestling against a weight of case law put in place to “get” dweebles, and other offensive jerks. A First Amendment that does not protect offensive speech is worthless, if only because it is almost always possible to find somebody who is offended at anything.

So we who care about Freedom of Speech end up defending jerks like Larry Flint, the KKK, The American Nazi Party (can you imagine the door prizes?), and this blogger from Alabama. And washing afterwards.

 

The Crank answers the pressing questions of the day….#3

16 Jan

“Why haven’t there been public inquiries into the banking collapse, to properly fix the blame?”

Because, since the Government started the whole mess by telling banks to lend money to people who couldn’t pay it back, the Government is deathly afraid that if it holds public hearings on who is at fault, it is likely to get told….in public.

Zero Tolerance, Precious Snowflakes, and the End of Western Civilization.

14 Nov

If you even casually read the news, before too long you will run into a story about some ordinary Public School student being suspended for some totally harmless behavior, under one insane “Zero Tolerance” policy or another. A little more in-depth study will quickly uncover tales of bumptious parents raising holy hell because their child has been held to some kind of objective standard, instead of being given the deference  to which they are sure said little snowflake is entitled.

And this, in a nutshell, sums up what is wrong with the Public School System, and why it isn’t going to get fixed.

There was never a time when Public Schools didn’t include a degree of indoctrination. Never. But there was a time when there was an unspoken agreement between the Parents and the Teachers; the Teachers would indoctrinate the little house apes, and in exchange would also teach them to read, write, and do basic math.

At some point this broke down. Maybe it was when Education Policy became a Federal matter, and the Parents no longer felt they were in substantial control of the curriculum. It also might have to do with the failure of ‘modern teaching theory’ to pound the basics into pointed little skills. It doesn’t matter. The agreement is broken. Parents no longer feel powerful social forces pushing them to allow teachers to discipline their kids, so they are ready to raise Holy Hell if a teacher does something they wouldn’t (or wouldn’t have the guts to). In reaction, schools try to develop systems of regulation that allow them to maintain some kind of order, without opening them up to lawsuits. So they make “No Tolerance” policies that they can point to when they are in trouble.

And, predictably enough, in the midst of all this idiocy, the good, kind people who are attracted to teaching children for good reasons, are repelled from it by runaway stupidity. And that leaves the kinds of people who are attracted to teaching for the wrong reasons; the ones who like to exercise petty power over children. Who are even more inclined to make up “Zero Tolerance” policies. And who Parents are less likely to tract. And so on, and on.

It doesn’t seem to me that there is a way out of this downward spiral. Parents don’t trust the schools to discipline their kids because the schools keep proving that they can’t be trusted. At the same time, until Parents are willing to trust the schools again, the schools are going to be so anarchic that desperate Administrators are simply going to overreact at every opportunity.

School vouchers might break the cycle, if the schools that TAKE the vouchers make their policies clear and have the authority to expel students. Otherwise, that’s it. We’re doomed. In a generation or so, so little will actually be learned in Public Schools that the vast majority of high school graduates with be semi-literate simians.

Vice

31 Oct

I’d like to talk a little about Vice. I’m for it. Or, rather, I’m against being against it. The older I get the less persuaded I am that the laws intended (ostensibly) to rein in Drug Use, Alcoholism, Prostitution, and, Pornography do any good in any way commensurate with the harm that they cause.

And the thing is, there are people clamoring to add things to the list of Vices that say volumes about the impulse to control that motivates the Crusaders. People are Crusading against Genetically Modified food, against High Fructose Corn Syrup, against Sugar. A Crusade against Tobacco has been going on nearly as long as I’ve been alive. Some of these Crusades appear, for the moment, to have  some  basis in fact, but many of them are simply the prejudices of the Crusaders, which they want to impose on everybody.

Now, this is hardly new. Read just a little history and you are sure to encounter previous Morals Crusades; factory owners who forbade this and that, Prohibition, and so on. And, often, we take a very superior attitude toward these moralizing ancestors. And then go right out and do the same thing in the name of “The War On Drugs” or “The Obesity Epidemic”.

(Aside; how the hell can we have an Obesity Epidemic? An epidemic is a widespread occurrence of a communicable disease. Is that why the thin people are so hysterical? They think they’re being exposed to Fat Germs?)

In my Cranky opinion the difference between a Victorian Christian busybody pestering people about drink and church attendance and a Modern Secular busybody who wants to restrict what people eat is not visible to the naked eye. I can understand some genuine concern about Prostitutes and Drug Users, but the laws that are used to “Help” them don’t seem to achieve much good, and do appear to have all kinds of unpleasant fallout. The War On Drugs costs huge amounts of money, is the primary cause of most of the SWAT raids gone bad that you can read about on the internet, and attempts to ‘close loopholes’ that previously allowed people the authorities were “sure” were guilty have brought us “Asset Forfeiture”. And Asset Forfeiture is, frankly, the return of the Sheriff of Nottingham without the colorful Medieval costumes. I can accept that drugs like Cocaine, Heroin, and even Marijuana ruin lives. So does alcohol, but it only took us thirteen years to realize that banning that was a huge mistake. Why can’t we drop this idiotic “War? If legalizing everything is a mistake, we can always ban it again.

The current panic about “Human Trafficking” is simply a long discredited Victorian Witch Hunt being recycled by modern Feminists (look up “White Slavery”), and actually accomplishes little other than to place women accused of being prostitutes into the paws of people who absolutely will not listen to them, unless they stick to the Human Trafficking Hysteria script. Who does this actually help? Is it mean of me to suggest that the driving force behind it is a bunch of crabby women who are waking up to the realization that some men would rather pay for sex than put up with THEM?

As for Gambling, where do agents of the Law get the unmitigated gall to raid poker games when every state in the Union is running a Numbers Racket? That’s what a State Lottery really is, except that the traditional Mob run racket offered better odds and probably had more honest books.

Vice isn’t crime that one person visits on another. Vice is what we do to ourselves. It arguably isn’t good for us, but the history of Government attempts to stifle it isn’t impressive. In fact it’s often revolting.

The progress of civilization is seen in the degree to which the common man is able to tell all the people who want to order him about (for his own good) to climb a tree. Anti-Vice Crusades do not forward civilization.

Censorship and Porn

17 Oct

I was born in 1961, which means that I started to be interested in nude girls during the period when the standards for ‘girlie mags’ was shifting from the Playboy standard (no pubic hair, early 1960’s), to the Penthouse standard (soft focus pubic hair, 1969), and thence to the Hustler standard (sharp focus genitalia, 1974). For a while it looked like we’d be up the plumbing with a camera probe by the end of the ’70’s. Of course, as an adolescent I couldn’t buy these magazines. And if you think that stopped me (or any other motivated boy) from getting my hands on them, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell you.

The feminists of the day hated this. They asserted, with some justice, that pornography was demeaning to women. It’s hard to argue, but a lot of everyday things are demeaning. Ask anybody who’s worked in fast food. If they had merely called Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler, and all their imitators tacky and in dreadful bad taste I would agree with them. I’d still look at porn, mind you, but I don’t pretend that it’s Great Art.

The problem is that they want to censor pornography. They want the government to ban it lest their tender sensibilities get hurt. Which means they have learned nothing from the history of the women’s movement; the governments of the past have routinely used censorship of pornography to punish those who want to educate about birth control. Censorship is not a power to grant to the State lightly, because once the State has that power over a category of expression, all manner of material that the State finds bothersome will be classified as belonging to that category.

And banning nudie magazines, or x-rated films, won’t do away with them. Certainly not in this day of cheap printers and digital video. All that it will do is hide it, to a degree, from the feminists, while removing any legal protections from the women who, for whatever reason, pose for it.

I have scant patience for feminism, as a rule. The vast majority of its champions strike me as upper middle class nitwits concerned almost exclusively with their own comfort ahead of anything resembling justice, or common sense. And they seem to religiously avoid anything really difficult, such as the treatment of women in Islamic countries.

I willingly admit, however, that The Sexual Revolution was for the most part NOT to their advantage. There is a song by Stephen Stills called LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH, and every time I hear the line

“there’s a girl sitting right next to you
And she’s just waiting for something to do”,

I cringe. I may not LIKE Andrea Dworkin and her sisterhood of “all heterosexual intercourse is rape” feminists, but when I consider that LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH was performed by a notorious Liberal, I can begin to understand why they are as mad as so many March hares on the subject.

But that doesn’t make them right. Pitiable, maybe. But not right. The spread of porn may be annoying, but it is far less dangerous than a State that believes it has the right and duty to censor what its citizens see.

So, I am against preventing the publication of images or writing that disturbs, annoys, or even demeans people. I do think that local populations should have some degree of control over what is displayed publicly. If a town wants to mandate that “Adults Only” publications must be sold in plain wrappers, I think they should be allowed to. I DON’T think that any local groups should be able to decide that people may not buy ‘filth’ over the internet, or view internet sites that feature it. I DO think that they should be allowed to limit what can be accessed on computers in publicly owned buildings, such as Libraries, because then it isn’t the viewer paying for it, it’s the taxpayers (at least in part). And nobody should be required to pay for something they consider demeans them, unless it is explicitly within the purview of the State (such as War; it’s right there in the Constitution.).

And, having said this, I’m not sure than there is a legal and constitutional way for local populations to do what I think they should be able to do. It needs thought. More thought than simply “Ban it all” or “No Censorship”.

A word on Gun Control and The Living Constitution.

10 Oct

The Constitution is a “Living Document” because there exists a process for its amendment. If you have a proposal (such as Gun Control) which is in clear violation of the Constitution as ratified and amended, and you are not proposing an amendment to address this, I must conclude that you are a scofflaw and a scoundrel. Consequently all your arguments and claims are suspect.

Funding the Arts

6 Sep

I recently had a small argument with my step-mother-in-law. Now, the woman is a saint, on numerous grounds. But she is also a reflexive Liberal. For years she sported a “FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS VOTE REPUBLICAN” bumper-sticker, and couldn’t understand why it bothered me, until I pointed out that the sentiment it expressed was that it was acceptable to interfere with somebody’s right to vote simply because you disagreed with their politics. Once I put it in those terms, that sticker came off.

I was complaining about ‘public art’ that was deliberately insulting, and she said “Well, I think that society should support the arts”, as if that clinched matters. And, with the help of a “Drop it” from my Lady, I did manage drop it. But I can’t agree with her.

I love museums and public art galleries. I always have. And, like most people who benefit from public funds, I would like to see the government continue to pay for my fun. Which isn’t the same as believing it’s right that they do so.

The NEA funds a lot of ‘edgy’ art. New art, that hasn’t had the test of time. Art that, in some cases, seems aimed at outraging some of the people who pay for it (If you have another explanation for Andres Serrano’s PISS CHRIST, I would love to hear it). Now, I have no use for people who might want to prevent others from making artistic statements, however offensive.  But there is a big difference between not censoring something, and paying for it.

It’s easy to dismiss the complaints of people you don’t like. And the intellectual Left really doesn’t like Christians who take their religion very seriously. Oh, they’ll welcome pacifist Christians when it’s time to protest a war, but the idea that Jesus Christ was a savior, and that immersing a figure of him in urine is insulting …. well, they don’t really have a lot of sympathy.

And neither would I, although I was raised Christian and respect the religion. But the NEA is tax money. It is collected from people under the threat of prison.

Throughout history, rulers have used tax money wrung from the peasantry and spent it on whatever art they damned well pleased. And if the peasantry took offense at the Art their betters bought for the palace, well, that was what the executioner’s axe was for. But we are supposed to be a republic. The idea that a social elite gets to decide how to spend tax money on non-essentials like art without giving consideration to who may be offended is, in itself, offensive.

Now, if the people who believe that society should support the arts are willing to stand by when something that offends them gets funding, that would be a matter of principle, and I would respect them. Not agree with them, but respect them. And, frankly, I strongly suspect that my step-mother-in-law falls into that category. But I also strongly suspect that a substantial number would have a hissy cat-fit if they discovered that the NEA was funding the restoration and exhibition of, say, THE BIRTH OF A NATION or TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. Both are widely regarded as legitimate works of art. Wildly offensive, true, because of what they celebrated, but art nonetheless.

So, where do you draw the line? Should we carefully not offend Islamic sensibilities with paintings of Mohammad? And how is that different from Serrano’s little in-joke? And if the answer is only that, thus far, for all the attempts of various pillocks to draw parallels, Christians don’t assassinate people for drawing pictures, and Islamics do.

The other issue is, if ‘art’ cannot exist without support from tax money, what makes its support worthwhile? We are not a poor nation. We support a great deal of art, voluntarily. And, bluntly put, I have small patience with those denizens of the Art World who disparage anything that is popular enough to survive without public monies.

Tax money supports Opera, but not Heavy Metal. Why? Tax money funds the exhibition of works by Roy Lichtenstein. Why not the originals of newspaper strips and comic books? The whole issue of spending tax money on luxury items like art is full of pits and hidden land mines.

Frankly, if the Liberal Intellectual Left wants to go to exhibits of art like PISS CHRIST, they should expect to have to pay for it out of their own pockets. They are not, by and large, poor. Certainly not by global or historical standards. Sure, if the money is not collected from the Great Unwashed they will blow it on art that THEY like (or, you know, food). And that art might be in dreadful bad taste. But, lets admit it, so is a great deal of art in prestigious museums now. And I’m not talking exclusively about recent art, either. I mean, how many renditions of THE MADONNA AND CHILD can you really look at before they start resembling Elvis on black velvet?