Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Smoke Break

Whenever I stop by my favorite, local tobacconist’s shop, I usually spend a few moments talking with the proprietor about the most recent foolishness foisted upon us by the government.  The proprietor is a veritable fountain of facts in regards to smoking issues, and today he pointed me to a website called  The website was set up by R.J. Reynolds, and on the homepage is a handy dandy clickable map of the U.S. which allows you to click on your home state and find tidbits of information related to the world of smoking.

For example, in my state, Michigan, I was made aware that 66.7 six packs of beer must be sold to generate the same of amount of stolen revenue as 1 carton of smokes.  While in the state of New York, 197.6 six packs must be sold to equal the stolen revenue from one carton of smokes.  Poor New Yorkers.  Each state link also has breakdowns of smokers’ incomes, among other hard facts, for your perusal.  Interesting site.

Posted by John Venlet on 03/31 at 02:35 PM
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How Deep Will the Rabbit Hole Go?

A paper from the CIA website, written by A. Denis Clift, President of the Joint Military Intelligence College, titled “Intelligence in the Internet Era.”  Interesting read.

Link to CIA site via Art & Letters Daily.

Posted by John Venlet on 03/31 at 02:26 PM
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On Theological Logicism

Roderick T. Long has a post up titled “The Unspeakable Logos.”  As usual, I found Long’s post an interesting read, and I consume it as food for thought for my mystical streak.  Within the post, Long discusses some of Plato’s and Wittgenstein’s contributions to this conundrum, among other things.  Long’s concluding statement.

“It’s also unclear exactly how a particular component of the world could be a logically necessary being. A logically necessary being would seem to be one whose essence entails its existence; as Kant pointed out, this means that the cosmological proof necessarily presupposes the ontological proof. But if, as most philosophers now agree, the ontological proof is fallacious, the cosmological proof would seem to fail as well. (One could try to fix up the cosmological proof by framing its premises in terms of metaphysical rather than logical necessity. But my previous arguments about the impossibility of explaining contingent existence, in the sense of “explanation” required by non-logicist theists, will apply just as well to metaphysical contingency, I think, as to logical.) But once God is identified with logic, the threat of divine contingency vanishes.”

Posted by John Venlet on 03/31 at 01:57 PM
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Miss Manners on Vulgarity

“Now we get to the tricky part. How do you shield some people without suppressing others?

By custom. The mannerly principle of not deliberately provoking others, which is the foundation of civilized living, supplies a sense of etiquette about what is permissible where. If you attend orgies, you cannot complain of indecency; if you stumble upon the same activities in the grocery store aisles, you should. The vulgar have their venues and should not expect to be allowed to set the tone everywhere.”

Via a post by Diana Hsieh titled “Contextual Etiquette.”

Posted by John Venlet on 03/31 at 08:14 AM
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I Wonder if John Kerry Will Want This Kid in His Mandated Volunteer Programs

A couple of interesting pieces written by a young man by the name of Kyle Williams.  Kyle is a fifteen year old with his byline appearing at World Net Daily.  Two articles you might be interested in reading.  First, “Why Kerry will crash and burn in November.”  A prognostication from the article.

“Yet, whatever the good news Kerry is getting at this point, it’s not going to matter in November. I’m predicting that John Kerry is going to lose, and he’s definitely not going to lose by election 2000 margins. There are many reasons why we won’t see a President Kerry:”

The second article by Kyle is titled “The origin of legal theft.”  An excerpt from this article.

“Since the beginning of time, people have been drawn to the emotion of being a victim. Valid or not, that emotion appeals to the belief: you have more than I do, thus I have been wronged – I am a victim. In the Garden, the snake appealed to Eve’s emotion: God is keeping you from your potential, but when you eat of this, you will be like God.”

Further into the article, Williams quotes Bastiat, recognizes government plunder for what it is, and has a quip about Kerry which I share below.

“John Kerry is a prime example of the immature parent in his waffling indecision.”

I like the way this kid is thinking.

Links to Williams’ articles via Bad Eagle.

Posted by John Venlet on 03/31 at 08:01 AM
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Law Educators Suing Lawyers who Hand Out Letters

Stopping by the website Citizens for Voluntary Trade this morning I read about a recently filed lawsuit.  The lawsuit was filed by Thomas M. Cooley Law School, out of Lansing, MI, against the American Bar Association (ABA).

Cooley, according the billboards which have started appearing along Michigan roadways, has become the largest law school in the country.  They are suing the ABA over accredidation issues regarding a couple of their satellite programs.

What I find amusing about this, is, not so long, speaking with attorneys I know in this area about Cooley, would bring smiles of derision and deprecating comments.  You know, wink, wink, yeah, Cooley is a “law school” alright, and Yale is just another paper mill.  I can’t figure out if the ABA’s reluctance to accredit Cooley is because they shamelessly billboard advertise, or because Cooley is draining funds from supposedly more “legitimate” law schools.

I wonder if Cooley practices “Moot Court.”

More details here.

Posted by John Venlet on 03/31 at 07:30 AM
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NASA Isn’t the Answer

“If our civilisation is to make the leap from a one-planet to a multi-planet one, then, just as when it made the leap from a European to a global civilisation, the ultimate drivers will not be government programmes (of Prince Henry the Navigator, Ferdinand and Isabella, Kennedy and Khrushchev). Progress will rather depend upon commercial enterprises which serve public demand (the East India company, the Cunard line, the embryonic space tourist companies).”

From a letter written by Stephen Ashworth to Prospect magazine which takes issue with an Oliver Morton article in the magazine which explores spaceflight and the validity of NASA in that endeavor.

Morton’s article was linked via Samizdata where the letter quote was drawn from.

Posted by John Venlet on 03/31 at 07:10 AM
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Downplaying the Commonality

Andrew Sullivan has a post up titled “London Next?” which links to a Guardian article regarding the arrest of 8 young men allegedly plotting to blow something up in London.  Andrew quotes the following from the article,

“Those arrested were all born and brought up in Britain. Security sources played down suggestions of any direct link between the arrested men and al-Qaida. Sources referred to groups of young radicalised Muslims who were “difficult to label” but viciously anti-western. Security sources suggested that the motive of the alleged planned attacks was anti-western but not dictated by anyone in the al-Qaida hierarchy.”

and says this about that quote,

“The small towns they lived in in southern, suburban and rural England are exactly where I grew up, which sends a shudder down my spine. Evil has come to the Shire! What this amounts to, I think, is theological, ideological terrorism that requires no state sponsor as such and no actual network like al Qaeda. And this is surely the trend. It certainly looks as if Madrid was a similarly loosely-connected operation. I’m not saying it means we should ignore state sponsors, like Iran. Au contraire. But I am saying that a policy that focuses entirely on state sponsors is going to miss an important part of the problem.”

Is it just good old British chums gone bad, or is it Islam, the religion of peace?

Drudge posts a link to these “graphic” photos and currently, 9 A.M., has as his main headline “Party for the Dead,” which links to the story about 5 U.S. soldiers killed in a bombing in Iraq yesterday.  It ain’t a wake, either.  Need I say more?

Update:  My choice for best quote regarding partying for the dead.

“To me—never mind the staggering brutality—this is like bragging about soiling your pants. Adults in civilized countries do not act like this. Not Americans. Not Israelis. But in the Muslim world, this is SOP. It reminds me of Carter’s failed Iran rescue a quarter of a century ago; the Iranians took the burned bodies of our soldiers and proudly displayed them on television. Great way to convince the world that Islam is a religion of thinkers, and that the Muslim world is not hostile and primitive and barbaric.”

Via Little Tiny Lies.

Posted by John Venlet on 03/31 at 06:57 AM
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For Our Next Victim

Last night, after returning from my sons’ basketball banquet, I quickly skimmed through the new Time magazine that appeared in the mailbox.  One article caught my eye as I flipped the pages because of the following blurb which appeared in the middle of the page along with a picture to drive the point home.

“A single noisy motor scooter driving through Paris in the middle of the night can wake up as many as 200,000 people.”

When I read that, I wondered how in the heck did they come up with that number.  Of course the number came from some statistical number crunching, but I kind of chuckled and pictured researchers sending “a single noisy motor scooter” through the streets of Paris at night and then phoning neighborhood residents and asking them if they were awakened by a noisy motor scooter that night.

The article begins by lamenting noisy leaf blowers, boom cars, car alarms, barking dogs, airplanes and action films.  Some of those noise makers I dislike myself.  The article then seques into the numbers of Americans affected by too much noise, and postulates possible crisis numbers of too much noise affected individuals.  You know what that means.  More laws and lawsuits.

The article is titled “Just Too Loud.”

Posted by John Venlet on 03/31 at 06:40 AM
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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Fails Safe, Drains to the Bilge

The title to this post is a phrase we commonly used while I was in the submarine service.  The impetous behind the phrase was the design of systems; plumbing, hydraulic, or valves that opened to the sea; if they failed, would fail safe, meaning closed or shut down, and then would drain to the bilge to be pumped overboard.

I thought of this phrase when reading a post at Cap’n Arbyte’s titled “Inheriting Religion.”  Within the post, Kyle mentions,

“According to the CIA World Factbook, India is 81.3% Hindu, 12% Muslim, and 2.3% Christian. The United States is 84% Christian. How do these percentages persist for generations, unless by the hypothesis that most people simply inherit their religion instead of studying to find the “right” one? Why doesn’t the Indian population have an incidence of Christianity closer to the United States, and the United States an incidence of Hinduism closer to India?”

Kyle also mentions a recent discussion he was a part of that chewed on just this subject and he ends his post with the following comment.

“This isn’t meant as a criticism of “most people” — it’s completely natural for children to accept what their elders tell them as truth. It is important to learn from others instead of rediscovering everything on our own. (There simply isn’t enough time.) Without a predisposition toward philosophy, or a person or event to catalyze the study of such issues, believing what your parents taught you is the default condition. However, it would improve the public discourse if people who haven’t seriously studied the diversity of beliefs would be a little more humble in the face of the fact that no matter what religion you believe (if any at all), two thirds of the population of the planet disagrees with you. And they feel exactly the same level of stammering emotional indignation that you do.”

I think the phrase at the top of this post fits here pretty well.

Posted by John Venlet on 03/30 at 02:41 PM
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‘Ten Hut - Recruitment Stories - A Comparison

After reading Rainbough Phillips’ reminisces of being recruited for military service, I am inspired to share my story about enlisting in the U.S. Navy.

Unlike Rainbough’s experience in being recruited to volunteer, which in the end she did not do, I enlisted in the Navy, on a whim.  She lists a variety of reasons for her consideration of joining up, of which I can say only one applied to myself.  The desire to improve my self discipline, at least in regards to dealing with individuals in authority over me.  What follows, is my enlistment story.

On December 27, 1979 I awoke without a headache for the first time in two weeks.  The headache was the result of a twenty-three day micro dot binge.  Taking increasing doses during those twenty-three days did nothing to alleviate my headache, which commenced on the sixteenth day, so on the twenty-fourth day I decided to take a break from tripping away my days.

During the two weeks that this headache lingered, I carried on with my other normal activities, reading the newspaper and books, hitchhiking around West Michigan, and consuming other less mind altering drugs.  So, on December 27th, 1979, with no headache, and a joint in my pocket I hitchhiked into town from the beach house where I was living.  When I arrived in town, I strolled by the Naval Recruiting Office, which I had passed many times before, and, as I looked in the window, finding the office empty of potential volunteers, I wandered in.

When I walked in, a First Class Petty Officer greeted me and I amicably returned his greeting.  I immediately then asked what an individual had to do to join the Navy.  The First Class was more than willing to provide me with this information and I listened attentively.  Once he completed his rote delivery, I inquired as to how soon someone could make this happen.  I was informed that I would have to answer some questions to determine this, so I told the First Class to fire away with his questions.  I fended off the questions rather simply, but I was stopped by one question.  That question was “Have you ever smoked pot, and if so, how often and how long ago?”  I answered this question with my own question.  “What answer would prevent someone from enlisting immediately?”  The answer to my question was “If you have smoked pot more than once and/or have done so recently.”  My answer, which was a bald faced lie, was, “I’ve only smoked pot once, six months or so ago.”  An answer of course which would give me the green light for immediate enlistment.

Once that question was out of the way, I didn’t even give the Recruiter a chance to ask me if I was interested in enlisting.  I told him to get the papers together because I was ready to join up.  I think it shocked him, because he asked me at least a half-a-dozen times if I was certain about this.  I said “Yes,” every time. So, we took care of the paperwork that needed to be completed at the recruiting office and before I walked out of the door, I had a bus ticket in my hand which would get me to the Detroit recruit processing center, which at that time was known by the acronym AAFEES.  The bus ticket was for the day of December 28, 1979.

I hadn’t seen my parents in six months or so, so after walking out of the Recruiters office, I hitchhiked to their house and sprung the news on them.  At the time, I wasn’t sure if they were happy or disappointed about my quick decision.  Even as they pressed me as to my certainty in regards to joining up, I think they were breathing a sigh of relief because of their incessant worry about their adventurous son.  The final comment from my Dad, as I walked out of their house, was, “John, the military will either make a man out of you, or a bum.”  It didn’t make me a bum.

Anyway, the morning of December 28, 1979 arrives and I hitchhike to the bus station and hop on the 7:30 Greyhound to Detroit.  I arrive at the AAFEES station with a slew of other neer-do-wells, ship shape appearing sailor wannabes, and other individuals.  Immediately upon arrival, we are herded together and asked if any of those present want to take a test for special duty positions.  I raised my hand, not having come to understand that one should never volunteer.  So I take the test mentioned by Rainbough, the ASVAB, and pass with flying colors.  Meaning, there is a big push to induce to enlist for six years, rather than four, so I can be part of the Navy’s nuke program.  No matter how many times I declined this “honor,” they always asked me one more time.  I was even taken aside privately, into the AAFEES station commander’s office, for some personal cajoling and offers of recruitment bonuses, in order to encourage me to sign for six rather than four years.  I declined, which, I don’t think made them happy, because I was then assigned to some menial bathroom cleaning while the rest of the hopefuls who hadn’t tested sat around joking and smoking.

By now, it’s six o’clock at night and I’m hungry, tired, and a bit ticked off, wondering what’s in store next.  What was next, was a mass enlistment ceremony, about 100 recruits, followed by a cheap sandwich and a pop, and then we were all bussed to a hotel while being lectured by a Second Class Petty Officer about how we were now government property.  Because we were now government property, and no longer individuals, according to the Petty Officer, we were not supposed to leave the hotel until the next morning when some other Petty Officer would come aknocking at our door.

Fine.  I can crash hard, I think, and wait for whatever comes tomorrow.  So I sack out on the bed.  About an hour later, it’s now 9 P.M. or so, a knock sounds at my door, so I answer it.  Imagine my surprise when I see a young man standing there who whips out a sheet of blotter acid, Snoopies, and asks if I want to buy a few hits prior to being wholly consumed by boot camp.  Recalling my recent relief from my two week headache, I declined, but I didn’t walk away empty handed.  I scored what I thought would be my last joint before 8 weeks of boot camp.  Later, while in boot camp, I would find out this necessarily wouldn’t be the last, but that’s another story.

The next morning, December 29, 1979, at 0600 hours, sure enough there is a knock on my door, and I’m gathered up, along with the rest of the recruits, and put on a train for Chicago, Illinois.  At 2100 hours, I arrive at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center for boot camp.  So, in just over forty-eight hours I went from being a wild and raucous individual, a civilian, to a Navy recruit, wholly owned by the United States government.  I wouldn’t have said it then, but I do now, it was a good experience, for me.

Posted by John Venlet on 03/30 at 12:49 PM
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“Moot Court”

I’ve represented myself in court a few times, divorce court, with limited successes.  Sometimes you have to take what you can get.  Though arguing in court Pro Per, according to my father, is akin to having a fool for an attorney, I thought I did a better job than some of the attorneys I listened to argue for other clients, and I definitely did better than a couple of the lawyers who represented me.  One time, the court clerk even whispered to me during a recess that I was cleaning my ex-wife’s attorney’s clock.  I wonder if it has anything to do with story relayed in this post at Little Tiny Lies.

Posted by John Venlet on 03/30 at 12:10 PM
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Aren’t They All?

“Commenting on the thus far fruitless interrogation of Saddam Hussein, House Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., had this to say:

“He is very good at denial and deception. I am not sure he even knows what the truth is anymore,” Goss said. “I think he’s been surrounded by yes-men and sycophants.”

Chris Dominguez’s response, as posted at Blog.

“That’s very interesting, Congressman, but what does George Bush have to do with this?”

Posted by John Venlet on 03/30 at 08:26 AM
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Will It Really Make a Difference or Is It Just Window Dressing?

Nicholas Provenzo, at The Rule of Reason, alerts us to the fact that The New York Times has a new policy regarding factual reporting and commentary.

”...while their opinions are their own, the columnists are obviously required to be factually accurate. If one of them makes an error, he or she is expected to promptly correct it in the column. After some experimentation at different ways of making corrections, we now encourage a uniform approach, with the correction made at the bottom of the piece.”

Nicholas’ post links to this Don Luskin post and also credits Luskin with keeping the heat on the NYT as the catalyst for the policy “change.”

I’ll wait and see if it makes any difference.

Posted by John Venlet on 03/30 at 08:06 AM
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Theism and Atheism

In a post the other day at this blog, I linked to a couple of posts by the brothers Curt and Shonk which looked at the proposition that statistically the non-existence of “God” could be proven.  I found both posts to be interesting.  This morning, Curt has a continuation post up titled “A tale of a theism scorned—continued!,” which expands on the previous posts.  Curt’s concluding statement.

“But this type of argument actually just proves my point, because here this distinction is not a logical one, but simply a matter of priorities. We find it necessary to accept the existence of food, for example, so we do; God’s existence is not necessary, so we do not accept it. Therefore, we can see that the real basis for belief is not rational, impersonal, but rather subjective and personal, which I do not necessarily consider an intellectual tragedy, but simply the way things in reality are and always have been. If we accept that the ultimate criterion of our beliefs is our subjective, personal needs, then we can perhaps more directly address those needs and even maybe attain a measure of happiness, at any rate more so than if we persist in adhering to abstract, illusory paradigms.”

Posted by John Venlet on 03/30 at 07:59 AM
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