A Busy Weekend; The Largest Crowd; Rights and Diversity; and other important matters

Monday, January 23, 2017

John Glenn must surely have wondered, as all the astronauts weathered into geezers, how a great nation grew so impoverished in spirit.

Our heroes are old and stooped and wizened, but they are the only giants we have. Today, when we talk about Americans boldly going where no man has gone before, we mean the ladies’ bathroom. Progress.

Mark Steyn

If Republicans want to force through massive tax cuts, we will fight them tooth and nail.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.

James Burnham

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

“Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Immigration without assimilation is invasion.



Tomorrow I have a routine maintenance appointment out at Kaiser, and I’m going to drive myself. I’ll leave early enough that no hurry will be involved, and take large unobstructed streets. I drive fine and my glasses are good enough, and I feel up to it, and I think it is as well to be reasonably independent, so I didn’t arrange for a driver. I still won’t drive at night or on a freeway, although I have done both since the stroke, with no incidents; or rather, once when taking Roberta to the emergency room, at night, we encountered a street party requiring me to thread through crowds of revelers in the street, and I managed that nicely.


CBS, Paramount Settle Lawsuit Over ‘Star Trek’ Fan Film







Alas, the settlement doesn’t tell us much about “fair use”, but it sure created work for lawyers, which probably helped the LA economy.


Mr. Trump had a busy weekend and a busier Monday. His visit to the CIA went well, but then he wandered off track into talking about the crowds at his inauguration and various other ambiguous subjects; it’s hard to tell precisely what, because the traditional media are very selective in what they are reporting, and most of the so-called information comes from columnists who mix their contempt for Trump in with their factual reporting. The media score it as a Trump blunder, but then they score most things he does as silly, unwise, blustering, megalomaniac, or worse, so that it’s again impossible – for me anyway – to tease out what really happened. I approach the subject this way: Trump has often in the past shown he is crazy like a Fox. From the first day coming down that escalator and announcing he was a candidate, through the elimination one by one of 17 pretty well qualified Republican candidates, to his highly improbable nomination, and on to his impossible election as President; he has shown that he knows what he’s doing. I start with the view that he’s more in control of his actions than the media give him credit for. He also likes the win, even if it’s over trivial matters; but he’s what we used to call a good winner, usually, once that particular game is over.

Anyway, he is President, and his style is not in question any longer; it is what it is. He is not a professional politician, and didn’t run as one. One his first day he overturned a number of regulations, and froze non-defense hiring. That latter he had to do: the National Debt doubled in the last eight years; his predecessor spent more money than the 44 Presidents preceding him combined. (Yes, he had no control over some of that spending, but he made no real effort to stop it either.) The first thing is to stop the bleeding: if you are in a hole, stop digging. If government is too big, stop making it bigger. That he seems to be trying to do.

Now we’ll see if he can eliminate Bunny Inspectors. I doubt he has ever heard of them, but I hope he has someone looking for federal civil servants doing jobs that the federal government ought not be doing at all (even if they are done well; the government workers may be very competent at their jobs). One such job is federal licenses for stage magician rabbits, and pet rabbits sold as pets by kids in their back yards. I doubt these activities need regulating at all, but if they do surely it is a state matter, not the business of the Department of Agriculture of the United States of America, to send Federal agents to magic shows to see if the magician uses a rabbit and to inspect the licenses of the magician if he does.

We’ve had our discussions of Free Trade here; Trump’s actions in that regard are ambiguous; the trade deals he has got us out of are huge and complex, not free trade whatever they are, and I for one have far more confidence in Trump’s ability to make a deal that I ever had in Kerry or Mrs. Clinton. They do seem to know how to marry well, but that is not an international deal with American jobs at stake. If there are deals to be made, I’d rather Trump were in charge of them than Mr. Obama.

I don’t know what to make of the open war with the press, but it is, after all, only a recognition of an existing condition that prevails when the Democrats are not in the White House. Recall the lady reporter/columnist saying of one Republican President “I don’t see how he won at all. I don’t know a single person who voted for him.” She meant it, too. Literally.

So much for the first days.


I remain dependent on patron and platinum subscriptions to maintain this place, because I must have enough income to have someone pretty well full time to help me look after Roberta; since the stroke I am simply not confident in my ability to do it.  That works, but it is an expense; it is time consuming to hustle for journalism income, which would mean neglecting this place. I can do it if I have to; and of course I have an income from my backlist, and I am working on three books. I’m not in danger of poverty, nor of neglecting my fiction. That goes slowly because minor interruptions take much longer to recover from when I am doing fiction as opposed to non-fiction.  

This remains a Public Site, free to all, without annoying advertisements, but it is supported by your patronage, which I greatly appreciate. If you have not subscribed, or cannot remember when last you did, this would be a good time. I don’t bug you often, but this IS pledge week…



The large crowds of women marching in protest confuses me. With few exceptions, they were orderly – one observation is that they threw their trash in trash cans, not on the ground as many protest marches do. And they were certainly angry enough. But I couldn’t figure out what they want. Leave out Madonna’s dream of blowing up the White House; what do they actually want? Opinions vary. Some want someone else to pay for their contraceptives and abortions, but surely not all of them are in danger of unwanted pregnancy, and some are actually, if quietly, pro-life. Some want Trump to resign, but surely they don’t expect that result? And there are a lot of them, not all from areas won by Mrs. Clinton. And they put the trash in trashcans.

The next few days should be interesting.

For other speculation from the libertarian view, see https://accordingtohoyt.com/2017/01/23/surviving-the-cult/


Most Watched Inauguration in History?


I do not find it hard to believe the claims by the President’s Press Office that the recent Inauguration was the most watched in History.

Why do I say this?

First, we know that the Media has severe bias against Trump and it appears that any means will be used to undermine his Presidency.

Second, viewing habits have changed significantly since 2009. The use of TV ratings to measure the size of the actual viewing audience will grossly understate the size of the audience due to the wide spread use of streaming for viewing events in real time. One possible way to adjust for changes in the use of TV for viewing might be to look at the potential size of the TV audience and then calculate the percentage of viewers watching the event. I do not know what results this would produce, but it might actually support the “Alternate Facts” put forward by the President’s Press Office.

As long as Americans are severely divided we will fall short of our potential. The Media, were it unbiased, could play an important part in promoting Adult Behavior on both sides of the divide and, ultimately, assist in promoting cooperative steps to improving the lot of All Americans.

Bob Holmes

It is a question of fact and definition: who is present? The crowd? TV audience? Internet viewers? It was raining in Washington and no place for small children. I have no way to resolve the question, although I would not be shocked to find either side “won” the count if there were any way of making one. I do wonder why Mr. Trump cares – or appears to care – so much, but I suspect it is part of his distrust of the media.


From Mr. Flynn, whose study of the classics is more complete than mine.

Rights, alienable or not?

Justice was anciently defined as “the habit whereby a man renders to each one his due…” Since a virtue is defined by the good act proper to it, and a good act is in turn defined by its proper object, “jus” or “what is due to each man” has logical priority over the virtue of justice. Hence, “jus” is something much like the Enlightenment “right,” except for its vector. A “right” is something that I demand for myself; “jus” is what I owe to another. However, the former is rooted in the older meaning.
A right is something the defense of which is seen as natural, i.e., belongs to one’s nature. It is not something that you are guaranteed by an authority. Aristotle wrote that all pursue the good as they understand the good. All living things will, in the common course of nature, struggle to maintain their existence. To exist is a good, and the struggle to maintain existence is central to the theory of natural selection. Hence, the desire or impulse to defend one’s own life is both natural and primary, since without it, no other rights attach.
This does not mean that life is guaranteed, nor that it cannot be taken or surrendered in pursuit of a higher good, such as the well-being of society. But even the criminal is seen as legitimate in defending his life against a capital charge. Nor does one suppose that an enemy soldier is doing wrong by shooting back, although we may rather wish he didn’t.
Aquinas argued that human law ought not forbid every vice nor compel every virtue, citing Augustine’s dictum that if harlots were removed, the world would explode with lust. He noted that the death penalty might not be imposed even when justified when an unacceptable evil might result (e.g., killing the hostages along with the bandits) or when the adherents of the criminal are so numerous or well-armed as to incite insurrection by doing so. It would be in any case a last resort to a clear and present danger, precisely because taking a life is a deprivation of a natural good.
Aquinas grounded this in the fact that God permitted some evils for similar reasons, and this allowance for the freedom of the will lies at the root of the right to liberty. Aquinas uses the example of a judge depriving a robber of his liberty against allowing him his liberty to feed his family as the paradigm case of choosing the lesser of two evils.
The third such right, mentioned by William of Ockham, is the right to property. Again, a man defending his own property is seen as justified in doing so, even when the king’s tax collectors have the power to seize it.
And so on. Natural rights are those rooted in human nature. It is the right that is not alienable, not the thing itself. Life and liberty may easily be taken away, but the right to them cannot be taken away. Even a man “chained in prisons dark” may remain “in heart and conscience” free; and a man drowning in the ocean will nonetheless struggle to the end against his doom.

I have to disagree on the end of the Roman Republic. It was not a melting pot overwhelmed by an excess of Celts. The Republic collapsed well before citizenship was extended much beyond Rome itself and her close Latin allies. What brought the Public Thing low was the violence and chaos that overtook politics. They were trying to run a de facto Empire using a city council and the structure just couldn’t support it. Different politicians hired street gangs like those of Milo and Clodius to harass their opponents. There were assassinations and proscriptions; consuls and praetors leaving office were repeatedly hit with lawsuits over their conduct in office (making not-leaving-office a primary goal). Civil wars and coups d’etat. All this stoked demand for a strongman who would set things aright: Marius or Sulla, Pompey or Caesar, Antony or Octavian.

I must agree with your disagreement; I made a remark about the Republic that belongs better said about the later Empire. I defer to your analysis.

The Romans were unusual in that they tended to take their Latin conquests into the Republic rather than simply to rule over them; this was of great value in the Pyrrhus invasion when cities other than Rome remained loyal to Rome. I had this in mind, perhaps. The Romans, by their legends, descended from Trojan heroes; Troy came from a part of Asia Minor where Empires of diverse people were more common than nation-tribe-states, folkish people like the Israelites. The Hittites were an Empire, not a nation state. Etc. But that’s for another discussion.


The Rights Debate

I see the fundamental divide between Progressives and Conservatives/Libertarians as how they view rights. There are. broadly speaking, two types of rights: negative and positive. Here are examples from the US Constitution.
Negative rights are things that can’t be done: searches without a warrant, censoring speech and the press, involuntary servitude, compelling testimony against oneself, taking away arms, quartering troops in peacetime, etc.
Positive rights are things that must be provided: a court system, defense counsel if you are indigent, jury trials, a republican form of government in your state, etc.
The progressives want to expand the positive rights to include health care, food, housing, education, internet access, and a lot more. Conservatives say no. The case against positive rights is simple: if the government must provide them, they can compel them with all the force of government. For example, if there are people without health care because it is too expensive, then tax some to pay for others to get it. If it continues to be too expensive, the government could set prices, set wages, compel doctors to work longer hours or come out of retirement, force doctors to move to “underserved” areas, etc. In short, government could treat health care like we did the armed forces in wartime. And this could be expanded to any of these other positive rights.

Edmund Hack

These are the sorts of questions that used to be discussed in 8th Grade Civics class, but now are not always given in Political Science 101; which is not to belittle the subject, but the schools and teachers.


‘. . . Together with our Russian brothers, negotiate an honored but subordinate position for China and all other sub-civilizations and nations, forming the unified Empire of Man before going on to conquer the stars.’



Roland Dobbins

An interesting, if long, analysis. Roland cautions that you need to read the whole thing. You will almost certainly disagree with parts of it; but it is a way of thinking about reality that is often sadly lacking.


Obama staffers get permanent federal jobs


During his last days in office, former president Barack Obama made over 100 appointments before the new transition took over.

  • By FederalSoup Staff
  • Jan 20, 2017

During his last days in office, former president Barack Obama made over 100 appointments before the new transition took over, the New York Times reports.

President Donald Trump will retain 50 essential State Department and national security officials from the Obama administration, according to the report.

The Trump administration has named only 29 of his 660 executive department appointments, the report notes.


Trump’s Nominees Face ‘Unprecedented’ Democrat Obstructionism






Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.



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