Ends, Means and the Arbitrary Execution of Power

My sister used to like to, as a sort of coup-fourré of any argument, snap “So, you’re saying the end justifies the means.”

It stumped me for a while, because everyone knows the ends don’t justify the means. But then I realized she had reframed the argument in the wrong way, and began to retort, “The means don’t require justification!” What I had realized was that she didn’t like the ends, and was attacking the means rather than just coming right out and saying she didn’t like the ends. (Sometimes she also didn’t like the means, because she really didn’t much like it when I did anything.)
I thought of this while I was driving and, as many of us do, wondering about whether I might be pulled over. I wasn’t doing anything wrong I don’t think. I wasn’t speeding, hadn’t done any reckless lane changes. I was driving the Bumblebee, which may not be compliant with all the laws. (I recently had to outfit it with a new catalytic converter to pass a smog test.)
And it reminded me of something Althouse said a while ago that appalled me: She said that universally applying the law would be horrible. I think she even used traffic laws as an example.
I, on the other hand, tend to view universal application to be a necessary requirement for justice and reasonable governance. Speed limit laws? If they were universally applied, they’d quickly be (mostly) repealed. And so it is with, I think, most of the laws—particularly “regulations”, which are of course just laws that have been passed in violation of the way the Constitution allows—would go away were they all enforced.
What this means is that the government gets to pick-and-choose who to prosecute, allowing for the arbitrary exercise of power. This is often done for political reasons, but it’s also just done because it can be.
This is particularly relevant in light of the recent James O’Keefe case, where he was prosecuted for doing what has been standard practice in journalism for as long as I can remember. Burying the lede about Senator Landrieu’s lying, the old media completely unselfconsciously is labeling O’Keefe a “criminal” and an “activist” for doing what they’ve been doing since I was born.
It’s such a dog-bites-man story these days that it’s barely worth noticing, much like the old media itself. “It’s only okay when we do it,” they’re telling us.
But this itself made me reflect on the phrase “the end justifies the means”, and how the thinking of that is meant to be the very epitome of evil.
But when you think about it, the intended end is the only thing that can rationalize any means. I mean, think about it: You suffer many injustices in your day-to-day life, don’t you? (I know I do. Well, maybe not many, but enough.) But you don’t (e.g.) fly a plane into the nearest Federal building because they ripped you off on your taxes.
OK, some people do, but we call them crazy, even if we agree they were poorly treated.
People always end up talking about Nazis when this ends/means thing comes up. But the Nazis had no trouble with the means—the means were, in fact, the point. The end was what was hazy. “We’ll kill all the Jews and life will be great!” Hitler sure didn’t believe that. He thought actually achieving that end would be awful and require him to make up a new target.
Stalin and Mao killed tens of millions. In their cases, the means actually were the ends. Yeah, I know all the blather about justice and immanetizing the eschaton and what-not, but the point of communism (and socialism and environmentalism and fascism) is raw, naked power which is what any dictator ends up with. Power and the ability to continue to exercise it.
(Sort of tangentially related, Matt & Ezra’s Excellent Adventure continues unspoiled. One of them is bound to win the Walter Duranty Award for Oustandingly Naive Journalism.)
Nothing really revelational here, I just always find it interesting when I end up analyzing something I’ve assumed for years and found it not to be all that true.

Burn Dem Bunnies

To show what a terrible person I am, I’m highlighting this story of burning bunnies: here. And confessing, it makes me giggle.

To understand why I think it’s funny, you’d have to be in my head. But if I can, I’ll draw a picture.

It’s also the juxtaposition of something that’s presented in such a horrible way (burning bunnies?) but is actually so ridiculous as to be suspect. I mean, really, how much fuel can you get from bunnies? I know Sweden’s a low-population country, but it’s also a damn cold one. You’d probably have to burn ten bunnies an hour just to stave off hypothermia.

Now, if you read the article, there’s a distinct scolding going on there at well. The photo caption, for example, reads “Many of the bunnies used for biofuel were once pets, a pest control worker said.”

Ahhh, now we get to the meat of it. As it were.

This is somebody official obliquely scolding people for abandoning pets by threatening them with a horrible death. (You have to kill animals if you care about them, apparently.) Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d seriously challenge whether the investment of energy used in hunting, shooting, skinning/gutting/whatever, rendering the fat, turning the fat to bio-diesel can be recouped significantly by said diesel.

But some of you more science-minded guys can put me some knowledge here if I’m wrong.

They Saved Hitler’s Brain!

Well, no, they saved his skull. Or just a picture of it. And it’s up for sale on Ebay!

But as always, how do you know if what you’re buying (on the Internet from a complete stranger who may, in fact, be a dog) when buying a prized historical artifact?

Well (as always) you should check the seller’s rating and comments. And, if possible, you should compare the item against known authentic items (or at least pictures thereof).

So, for your edification, I have here an authentic X-ray of Hitler’s skull for you to compare against.

Good luck, and I hope you win!

Everything You Need To Know About Socialism…and Communism

Everything you need to know about statist “solutions” is encapsulated in this one little story that won’t get much national coverage. Executive summary: Michelle Obama and David Axelrod ran a program for the University of Chicago hospital that shunted off poor patients to other hospitals, and sold this program by telling everyone how great it would be for both the patients and the hospitals.

It also tells you a bit about capitalism and the free markets. And that Michelle and David “don’t care about black people”.

What can we learn:

  • If the state provides a service, it will set the price for that service, and that price will be out of whack with the market.
  • The market itself will be out of whack because of the presence of the government. This will result either in skyrocketing prices or the death of the non-socialized areas of the market.
  • Success in a free market can require a broad strategy of lowering prices, cutting costs, raising quality, raising awareness, positioning, etc. Success in a socialized market requires giving the wives of politicians $317,000/year jobs.
  • Because a socialized market has all the same drives that power and sometimes corrupt the free market , a socialized market tends to have all the same flaws as a free market–unless you count “an embarrassment of riches” as a flaw (and some people do)–but with scant hope of correction, with such rare corrections being temporary and the result of political opportunism.
  • The state doesn’t care about the well being of citizens; it cares only about crushing its enemies, and is a million times more ruthless than a Gates or a Rockefeller. And the state can live for hundreds or thousands of years.
  • The state has no shame. It will say “there is no pork in this bill” or “this will help the poor” even as the opposite is apparent to anyone with the integrity to look.

A lot of people seem to back Democrats because “their hearts are in the right place”; this little trifle should be a reminder that no, no they aren’t.

Just as when the Republicans had power, they abused to enrich themselves at the cost of the rest of us, the Democrats have done the same. It is the nature of state power, and why the Founding Fathers put so many limitations on the state. “The Founding Fathers could never have imagined….” people often start out their plea for the expansion of state power. They then go on to say something that might or might not have been imagined by the Founders.

But guaranteed, they understood clearly the nature of the state to grasp, and having grasped, to clutch.

Minimum Standards

Politics notwithstanding, wouldn’t you think that writing an article about something that hasn’t happened at would violate minimum standards of professionalism? And yet, every few months, we get one of these. In fact, I might be wrong, but this doesn’t seem like the first time we’ve gotten one of these “time machine missives” from Ms. Loven her own self.

I read many years ago that journalists make up the story first, then go out to collect the facts to support it, and I thought to myself, “Self, that’s a colorful exaggeration. I’m sure it’s bad, but surely it’s not that bad. Surely!”

How naive I was. Sometimes, they don’t even bother to collect supporting facts.

The Bat’leth Redeemed

Cracked has a reasonably funny list of the worst fictional weapons.

But some trek-fans around these parts took a little hard that #3 was the Klingon “bat’leth”, excoriated for having no reach (because it’s a two-handed weapon with the blade oriented horizontally to the holder, basically) and the fact that if you do actually point it at someone, the other end (which is also pointy) is aimed back at you.

Well, ha! Take that Cracked!

Who’s laughing now? Huh?

(Some guy living in his mom’s basement because he spent all his money on Trek-related paraphernalia, that’s who.)

I Think I Know What I’d Do

Dr. Melissa writes of people in the recent airline crash into the Hudson. One, who suffered a bloody nose, is ponder that most American of questions: “How much money will make me whole again?”

I like to think, in the same position, I would refuse any money.

The flight was a victim of an act of Vengeful Gaia. The airline suffered real damages–more real damages than the passengers, I would guess. (What does a tow cost from the Hudson for a 747? Was it a 747?)

The pilot produced the best possible outcome (even if our Althouse pal rhhardin dismisses the landing as a trivial example of competence).

Wouldn’t you feel a little wrong about taking money from a company that had done nothing wrong, had in fact done everything right, and was likely to suffer more than you in the long run?

Or would you just feel like you needed to be compensated?

Feedburner Killed, Blooger News, Fractional Teachers and Whole Babies

I killed that Feed Burner widget.

It gave me something like 3 hits total in the past several months. I never saw anything on it that looked interesting, either.

There was some hyperventilating on the right-wing sites that Google was shutting down Blogger.com (Google + Blogger = Blooger?) sites that expressed a negative opinion about Presidential nominee Barack Hussein Obama. Turns out it was some Obama activists.

The ‘net has always operate on the honor system, which is why blaggards have always thrived on the ‘net. Since some political philosophies abhor (deny, really) the notion of objective reality, this means a lot of sites are trashed by political operatives. There’s something akin to the “tragedy of the commons” at work.

I imagine, though, that this is at work in all civilizations. Each corrupt part working to serve its own perceived ends, either minimizing in their minds the damage done or rationalizing it as “everyone does it” , all believing that they, themselves, share no responsibility for the downfall of society.

That said, the wingnuts do need to dial it back a bit. Google’s leftist leanings and justification for China notwithstanding, the idea that they’d lock down opinion sites for being such while claiming it was due to spam is a little far-fetched. Google was just the gun, ’twas the moonbats what pulled the trigger.

Meanwhile, it turns out that American kids are bad in math because their teachers are bad in math (Malkin). No big surprise. That was going on when I was a kid, though it was well hidden: Not being able to do math or write a sentence with proper grammar was a source of humiliation.

It may turn out that shame does serve a useful purpose after all.

Meanwhile, it’s filtered down to my level that the seventeen girls who got pregnant in Gloucester made their pact after getting pregnant, and the pact was to help each other get through school. If true, it doesn’t mean that there’s no problem, just that the problem is different from the one initially expected. (I do love all the speculation about why it would be done deliberately; are those things null and void if they all turn out to be accidental? And, seriously, where on the bell curve does the population sit?)

We live in interesting times.

Coincidence?

As you probably know, Annie Leibovitz’s pix of Miley Cyrus’ have created a bit of a stir.

I think it’s more bimbo fatigue than anything. Hilton, Spears, Lohan and, uh, Spears have worn us out. The Miley pix aren’t, as she says, “skanky”.

But I wasn’t aware that Disney had hired Leibovitz, and she has been recreating famous Disney movie moments for the past couple of years, including one released just a few days ago.

Huh.

Traci Does The News

On an IMDB discussion of Crazy Eights, Traci Lords came up. Traci and I have a “special” relationship, though she’s not aware of it. I had never heard of her before she was exposed as a minor. (Porn stars were not really part of the mainstream awareness back then. There really wasn’t an analogue for, say, Jenna Jameson.) The local NBC affiliate screamed her name across five nightly newscasts.

Obviously the hot ticket for the week. At the end of some of the longest days of my life, this was what passed for news of the outside world. (I’ll talk about my relationship with newspapers later.) Here was the thing about the Lords story:

Every night, they changed the number of movies she was in without comment or reference to previous nights. First it was “over 200”, then “nearly 200”, then “over 100”…I think they closed with “nearly 75”.

A lot of other things said or implied made no sense, either. She controlled her own mega-media empire racking up millions upon millions of dollars. On the other hand, she was a victim of the exploitative porn industry.

But just the changing of a simple, basic fact over a period of five days as if the audience had no memory told me everything I needed to know about what the nightly news guys thought of their audience. Or of facts in general. I’ve never watched a nightly newscast since.

So, thanks, Traci!

It’s sort of ironic that, to this day, I actually don’t know what her story is. I tend to doubt seriously claims of a highly polished machine kidnapping kids off the streets of LA and forcing them at gunpoint to have sex on film. (Linda Lovelace’s claims–er, the second set of claims she made, reversing the first set of claims–seem outright absurd.) I do not doubt there are many sleazy individuals working to take advantage of girls who are down on their luck in the first place, though.

She’s got a book. Maybe I’ll read it. I do owe her that much.