Skip to main content.


This is the archive for April 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

With all the complainin' I do here, I thought it would be nice to talk about someone I've had a great experience with. I've lately been making a point of honing and developing my practical, hands-on skills - the kind that requires actual tools and a good hand cleaner. Owning a 30 year old house that I've done harely any maintenance on in the 5 years I've owned it pretty much forces my hand on that, but rather than just forcing myself to get done whatever needs doing, or paying someone to do it, I've jumped in with all (well, most) of the enthusiasm I bring to learning a lot of other things.

This means a lot of trips to Home Depot, and the like. Home Depot used to be great, but they've really let themselves go lately. I'm sure you're familiar with the "can somebody help me... help meee.... help meeeeee... echoing through the vast empty Grand Canyon of Home Depot aisles, with nobody in sight, possibly for days. I've seen those orange-vested maniacs actually turn and run at the sound of "excuse me...". I swear I once saw a tumbleweed bouncing down the aisle, and there's the story of the guy who died of thirst in the lawn-tractor section, whose body was not discovered for two weeks.

OK, I made all that up, so, Home Depot corporate toady, put the phone down, you don't need your lawyers. And Lowe's is not one bit better. Well, except for the month after the new Lowe's opened up a half mile from the Home Depot I go to - they both had absolutely fawning "associates" and every checkout lane open all day for that month. After that, not so much.

Oh, did I say I was not going to complain? So, I've started preferring Ace Hardware, and they're pretty good, but their selection is limited. Still, it's a far better experience than HD or Lowe's, and even with the limited selection, they have things that the Big Two wouldn't even think to carry. But if you don't live in Tucson, prepare to get jealous, because the real gem only has stores here.

Naughton's specializes in HVAC and plumbing. They're about a tenth the size of an HD, but their selection within their specialty is far better. Good prices too, and they'll order whatever they don't have. But the best is their customer service. It's the prefect mix of helpful and not overbearing.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time to learn how to work with copper pipe - before I needed to, since I expect half the copper in this house to just explode or completely disintegrate any day now, and some of it already has. I read up on the basics, and headed to Naughtons for the first time. I wandered in and looked around for a bit, to get the lay of the land, see where the best watering holes were, that kind of thing. Then I looked up with that expectant look that says "can you help me..." No echo this time. Here, the guy was at my side like he'd been waiting for that look, but wouldn't bother me until I'd sent a clear signal. It's as good as the waitress that always keeps your coffee or drink full, but never interrupts your conversation.

Anyway, I told the guy I was a total noob, and just wanted a random selection of pipe and fittings, and all the other goodies. He was right on top of it, finding all the things I'd need (torch, cutter, solder and flux, etc.), including the ones I wouldn't have thought of or forgotten (burnishing cloth). He showed some of the more expensive varieties, but made it clear that the less expensive stuff was all I'd need to get started. And then he gave me a quick primer on soldering the pipes.

It's hard to explain just how perfect this was. Very few businesses of any kind get this customer service thing down just right. It's partly a function of knowing and caring about the things you sell, but it's also about dealing with customers as people instead of statistics, and approaching the interaction as a person rather than a talking monkey trying to execute a pre-planned and scripted one-size-fits-all piece of performance art. I'm not your audience, I'm a guy that has questions and needs and am willing to spend money to get them answered and fulfilled. The more quickly you move me towards the checkout lane, the less stuff I'll have in my cart, and the less quickly I'll be back.

My second trip to them just now, for a much more mundane purpose, was just as good. And at a different location, too, so it tells me it's the way they operate, not just a particularly good employee - an "isolated incident".

And while I'm at it, have I mentioned that Amazon just completely kicks ass? I needed a bench vice to hold the pipe while I soldered, and since it's a generally handy thing to have. This one from Stanley, was just perfect. Steel construction, removable rubber pads on the jaws with v-notches underneath for holding round objects like copper pipe, and a three-axis adjustable head angle. It's the perfect light-duty thing for what I needed, and it was under $30.00 total price on Amazon, with free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime.

I know, Billy, it's not really capitalism at work here, but occasionally the basic decency, innovation, and moral self-interest of the human race manages to make that wooden decoy function as a pretty good fascimile of an actual duck. Despite all the obstacles to it, a lot of people really do want to trade value for value, and quite a few manage to make it happen anyway.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I've apparently managed to shock Glenn. Though if he thinks I might be right, it's technically not cynical.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here's a brief science quiz for ya. If you pump water up a hill so that it can run back down the hill and power an electrical generator, how much electricity will you net benefit?

The state of Utah was apparently not interested in the scientific question. That's just engineering details to be worked out later. No, the most important question is how much environmental damage will their perpetual motion machine cause?

OK, the project actually seeks to time-shift energy usage by doing the pumping in off-peak hours and using to generate power during peak hours. But it's still a net loss of electricity, despite the claim in the article that:
Symbiotics LLC, in arguing for the project, pointed to hydroelectricity's renewable energy potential and claimed the project could meet about 85 percent of Utah's current peak energy demands if used in concert with conservation efforts.

They still need a power plant somewhere to supply 100% of Utah's current power demands, plus whatever additional this Roosevelt-esque make-work project. That would be, for the math challenged among you, greater than 100%. It's theoretically possibly they'd have to build a new power plant to meet the extra demand. I guess they plan to make it up in volume.

These people better not laugh too hard at the penis thievery panic in the Congo.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Luke made some thoughtful comments on my recent post about not voting.
The thing I don't get about anarchy is that one apparently never submits to the power of anything. Put that way, this objection makes even me uncomfortable, but in any dispute, someone eventually has to get their way. A man, when convicted of murder by one authority, cannot just decide that he isn't subject to that authority, but to another more forgiving one or to just himself. The morality of the punishment can't depend on the consent of the criminal. So somebody has to impose their will, right or wrong, on someone else eventually, and then how are they different from a government?

Luke, you’re right in the essentials here, but you’ve bookended good premises with conclusions that don’t follow.

There’s a couple of premises that your conclusions imply. First, and Billy hits a solid double off the center-field wall with: nobody has any business putting "The People vs ..." on the indictment., is that authority must be centralized and universal. The rejection of that premise is the core of market anarchism. The second premise is that authority is primarily a question of force.

You use three terms in ways that imply you see them almost interchangeably: power, authority, and will. They are not.

Start with “will", because everything starts with will. One dictionary definition of it, and the one closest to how I will use it here, is: “The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action”. All purposeful actions have to begin with will, with the decision to act. You cannot impose your will, nor can you submit to another’s will. Those are useful terms for a more complex series of decisions and actions, but they cannot literally be done. You cannot fully cause another’s actions, you can only influence him to will those actions himself.

Power is the ability to act. Machines have power, animals have power, and human beings have power. But only human beings have direct will-driven power. Machines have power, but act on the will - and actions - of their designers and operators. Animals have power, but act without will. Only human action is derived from will.

Authority is where will and power intersect, and the point of intersection is purpose and value, i.e. goals. The subjectivity of your consciousness means that only you have the full context of both the values you seek and the conditions under which you must seek them. You have the authority to act on your will simply because no-one else possibly could.

Authority can be delegated, but not given up. Delegating authority means to allow another person to make decisions regarding your resources, on the condition that they do so in order to pursue a goal of yours. This can only be done if the goal and the authority are limited to some sub-context of the full context which you alone can hold. Since you alone have the full context, the root of delegated authority always remains in your own will and your own values, and the resources used to pursue those values remain yours until they are traded for something more beneficial to those goals.

The kind of universal authority Billy cites is an attempt to sever authority from that full context. Authority taken rather than accepted means that the goals pursued are not yours but what the “authority” claims to believe are yours. Authority so taken assumes control of the resources without the requirement that they be applied to your goals.

In your example, a man convicted of murder by some “authority” might decide to submit to a different authority who, presumably would not convict him. The root of the word “convict” is the Latin “convictus”, which is also the root of our word “convince”. A conviction is not an action directed at the defendant, but one that is applied to the prosecution.

A conviction is often called a “finding” of guilt, and that phraseology is telling. A conviction in a legal dispute means that the wronged party is convinced, via a process putatively derived from the facts of reality, that the wrong was done by the person in question. It places no obligation on the defendant. It does place a moral right, if not an obligation, on the wronged party to acquire compensation and or restitution from the offender, even by means of force if necessary.

The offender’s submission to this process is irrelevant. In our legal system, we allow and require a defendant to participate on the practical grounds that it makes a convincing finding of fact easier and less prone to error, but it is not a moral requirement. All that is required is that the wronged party be convinced enough to act. You might think that is a low bar, as anyone can claim he is “convinced”, and thus be allowed to use whatever force he arbitrarily deems necessary. But in fact it is a high bar for a rational person. A hunch is not a conviction; a hasty conclusion based on partial evidence is not a conviction; an emotional reaction to loss or anger is not a conviction.

This is where authority comes in. In our legal system, authority for such matters is taken, not accepted. The courts take the authority for punishment and restitution from the wronged, and they take the authority for protection of the defendants rights from him. This seizure of authority severs the power to act from the will of either party. That is why we have criminal proceedings that provide no restitution to the victims, that impose as the only cost on the offenders that of incarceration or a fine paid to the state, and in which no-one has any responsibility for an incorrect finding.

The state takes authority and applies it to goals other than that of righting the wrong, and instead to collective goals such as reducing crime, exacting non-productive (and often counter-productive) punishment (“penance”) on the offenders in order to “send a message” or to conform to some fallacious Platonic notion of essential goodness and badness , and protecting its other political goals. These goals, even though they include things like “freedom” and “rights”, are not in full concordance with - and often in outright conflict with - the goals of the individuals they have supposedly derived their authority from. And worse, as Billy points out, they claim to subsume the goals of those who have no interest whatsoever, and for whose rational goals may be actively hindered by the process.

Market anarchy starts with the root of legitimate authority, the individual, and proposes that any and all proceedings remain tied to that authority. And further, that responsibility for actions taken remain with those whose will those actions are a manifestation of. The bar for action by one who has a conviction of another’s guilt is not only that they be convinced, but that their conviction is strong enough, and rationally enough arrived at, that they are willing to take responsibility for the consequences of acting.

Either party may delegate some part of the authority for his part of the process, and for his actions, to another. But he cannot abandon the authority, and thus cannot disavow himself of the responsibility. No state can take either away without committing a crime in its own right. Those parties that accept delegated authority also accept part of the responsibility for the consequences - and they by definition don’t have the full context that either party has - and so they may require a higher standard for conviction.

Even in this scenario, the accused does not have the easy out of just finding another authority who will protect him against the facts of reality. The wronged party can arrive at a conviction with or without the accused’s cooperation, and they can act on that conviction, so long as they have the power to do so, with or without cooperation. This does not imply the wild west, nor vigilante justice. Responsibility means accepting the consequences of one’s actions, but those consequences will come about whether responsibility is accepted or not. Those who try to protect their clients against the facts of reality will incur consequences to their reputation, to their financial status, to their social status, and even to their personal safety. As will those who pursue retaliation for hunches, for hasty conclusions, for emotional outbursts of violence, or that is out of proportion to the offense and goes beyond restitution, beyond righting the wrong.

When there is no one to fob off the responsibility to, rational actors will be very careful about exercising their power, and irrational actors will see their power rapidly diminished, if they can even build it up in the first place. Rational actors will submit, to the power of reason, to the power of markets, and to the power of social pressure - to the power of consequences that are manifestations of reality rather than stolen authority. Irrational actors who choose to submit to none of the above will ultimately submit to the effects of them, and ultimately to the physical power of the rational actors, whether they agree to or not.

It can’t be perfect, but nothing can be. The present system where power, responsibility, authority, and value are all divorced from one another creates an environment that can only deteriorate. Authority can only be taken and used by force or the threat of force. Wrongs done in the name of that authority cannot be righted except through the extremely high cost and terribly uncertain outcomes of a faceless bureaucratic process in which no-one suffers the consequences of acting wrongly, or, failing that, the massive violence of resistance to the state or outright revolution. And every such incident widens the gap between the so-called collective will and the will of the individuals in which authority resides - thus requiring increased force to maintain that stolen authority, and a higher hurdle to overcome for those trying to convince, or worse, to force, the “authorities” to allow their own interests to be recognized and pursued.

Individuals in a market anarchy have all the powers that a present government has with one exception: they cannot use any resources but their own. They cannot arbitrarily claim the resources, nor the authority, of others. Thus, they cannot isolate themselves from the consequences of acting - from responsibility. Because of this, and because force and violence are the most consequential actions a person can engage in, force and violence will for the most part be absolute last resorts, and then, used only when the need to use them is overwhelming. People who accept responsibility for themselves will not commit acts which necessitate a violent response. They will not commit acts which cause people to - for their own protection - shun them or refuse to trade with them. They will not commit acts in pursuit of their goals that, because of the consequences they know are likely to follow, will take them further from those goals.

And finally, market anarchists understand the fallacy of imposing one’s will in any context. No-one can force another’s body to act on the will of a separate consciousness. The only thing that can be done is to create artificial and arbitrary consequences (your money or your life), in order to convince someone to decide, to “will” themselves, to commit a certain action. Individuals do retain the power of force, but the only thing force can do directly is to prevent action, not to cause it. Dump the idea of imposing will altogether, and government is stripped of nearly all of what currently constitutes it’s power and so-called authority.

I'm browsing through the "search phrases" section of my referrer logs, and it struck me that I've left a footprint on the "world wide web" thing that everyone is talking about. Small as it is, that footprint is a bit of a snapshot of the kinds of services that internet surfers the world over have come to count on from me. Where would the world be without my take on the following subjects? These subjects, after all, must be of vital importance to someone, if they take the effort to type them into such a sophisticated tool as The Almighty Google.

And my favorite:

Mariao Lanza Dysfunctional

As a twisted bonus, now, any future searches for these phrases will now turn up an exact match on this article, doing the searcher absolutely no good whatsoever. My devious world-monkey-wrenching plan is proceeding nicely. Bwahahahah.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I had a nice friendly chat with the Republican candidate for Pima County Attorney (Brad Roach) today. It was purely accidental, he was at the a booth at the home show, and I couldn’t resist asking the group assembled there if the R’s had any plans to grow a spine in the near future. He quipped that they would, but that stem cell research hadn’t progressed far enough yet. My interest was, of course, purely academic, but I stuck around for about 20 minutes since he seemed surprisingly willing and able to hold a decent conversation.

He thinks Roe v Wade was a horrible decision on legal grounds, and that the feds have no business outlawing drugs - though he still thinks the state should ban them. Interesting answers from a Republican. He says he believes in the right to bear arms, and that crime would be reduced if drugs were legalized - but that the problems of increased addiction would be worse. Sally jumped in at this point with the argument that letting people decide on their own whether or not to take drugs is, at it’s core, the same argument gun grabbers use against letting people decide when and how to defend themselves. He didn't, or wouldnt, see it. Not so unusual for a Republican.

I had told him at the start that I had pretty much given up on the Libertarians for being too liberal and too big-government, and he seemed a little non-plussed at that, saying "so you really don't like government?". Toward the end he asked if we were registered Republican, while a cohort with a clipboard sidled up to us. Sally said she was still registered Libertarian, and he turned to me and said, “so you too, or are you an independent?” I told him that I was an anarchist, and he actually was willing to argue the merits of it! The clipboard lady faded back into the background just about then.

I said that I’d heard all the arguments he was about to make, and that I was sure I could talk him out of them, but that I didn’t have time. He seemed a nice enough guy, and surprisingly thoughtful, but that argument would be simply wasted, and there was plenty more interesting things to see. I parted with the recommendation that he should find productive work and avoid politics.

Here’s another potentially valuable member of society sucked into the black hole of government work where any productive abilities he may have will be totally wasted - at best - and some things he said tell me he knows it, but suffers under the delusion that he'll be the one to stay above it. On the other hand, he’s decided that that is his current mission in life, so he’s probably already too broken for it to matter anymore. Maybe I planted a seed, but most likely it’s in salted earth and wouldn’t get enough water in any case. Though it surely will get buried in plenty of fertilizer.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Email out just now to a casual friend who asked about my choice for President.

I don't vote. I don't believe in voting. I don't believe in democracy. I'm a capitalist and an individualist, and those are, separately but especially in combination, wholly incompatible with democracy. I believe in the ideals of the Declaration, and that the Constitution was a repudiation of them. I believe in governance by the *unanimous* and individually revocable consent of the governed. The only forms of governance that are consistent with that are self-governance or governance for hire by individuals.

Voting is a way of distributing power over other people's lives. I don't want any power over other people's lives, and I don't want anyone having power over mine. The only power I want to share in is the power to trade or not to trade, to associate or not associate, to respect or not to respect. Government itself is the second biggest scam ever pulled over on the human race, and it is the cause of most of the problems in the world today. Those that it is not the cause of are nearly insolvable because government won't get out of the way.

There's no utopias, but there is real freedom, real happiness, and a truly good life available to human beings. Government is an obstacle to that, not a benefit. Rules are absolutely necessary for them, but government is about the arbitrary, and the lawless when law is defined as natural law. Government is chaos.

So, my answer is not only "none of the above", but "never again".

Saturday, April 05, 2008


It would have been nice if he'd lived to see the result of Heller. Either he could have seen a basic right affirmed in the Supreme Court, for whatever that is worth anymore, or, given the opposite decision, he could have responded appropriately.

"Stand" is an interesting word in Greek. An hour's research, from not knowing any Greek, led me to the following. I could be wrong on some of this, and would really appreciate any corrections from anyone who knows Greek. I hope your browser and OS support Unicode, or you won't be able to read some of this.

The word for "stand" is "ηισταστηαι". The alphabetic translation is "histasthai", but since the 'η' (h) is pronounced like 'i' (as in "ski"), and the "αι" is pronounced like "eh", the phonetic translation would be something like "iistastieh". "I stand" takes on a new ending: "ηισταμαι" - "histamai", pronounced "iistameh"

Where it gets interesting is when you add some Greek prefixes to it. "απο", ("apo") means "from", in the sense of apart. This gives us "αποσταστηαι", or "apostasthai" ("apostastieh"). "Stand apart" in Greek has become our word "apostasy". Or, "I am an apostate" would be "αποσταμαι" - "apsostamai" ("apostameh"), "I stand from".

Even more interesting, and this is how I started looking into this, is with the prefix "επι" - "epi" - meaning "over". So "επισταστηαι" ("epistasthai" or "epistastieh") means, literally, "to stand over". Why this is interesting is more apparent in the first person form: "επισταμαι", or "epistamai" ("epistameh"), which means, again, literally, "I stand over". You might recognize the basis for our word "epistemology", the study of knowledge.

I said the Greek word "επισταστηαι" means to stand over, but that is the literal translation. The actual meaning is "to understand". This reveals and interesting cultural distinction that separates us from the Greeks. In western culture, perhaps because of two millenia of religious influence, I don't know, our view of knowledge is to understand, or stand under it. Knowledge is something received from above. The Greeks, however, appear to have seen it differently. They stand over knowledge ("επιγνωσιϛ" - "epignosis" - means "knowledge"). Knowledge is something they command, they acquire it and "stand over" it. Their orientation to knowledge is one of dominance and proactivity, where our orientation is one of submission and reactivity.

This site, on Greek letters and pronunciation, was very helpful in this, as was this site, a concordance of common Greek words used in the New Testament.

UPDATE:I shouldn't neglect to link the Online Etymology Dictionary, It's becoming a regular resource for me.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Billy points through Karen to the latest trend in post-ownership home decorating. I won’t quote it, but you can read the sordid details in Karen’s post, or from the original article.

Billy is right on about the loss of honor, but it’s more than that. To say these people had sunk to the level of animals would be giving them too much credit. Even the poor animals left locked in abandoned homes for days will suffer for a while before finally soiling the rug. No, these people have sunk right past the whole animal kingdom. They’re vegetables with volition. And opposable thumbs.

This kind of deliberate, malicious vandalism isn’t just neglect, or a fit of frustration. At best, it’s a blind lashing out at the nearest thing at hand, at worst it reveals a value system that would rather see value destroyed than see it in someone else’s hands.

They’ve been told that the bank is the source of all their problems, and they believe it, desperately, cravenly. This kind of person doesn’t go back to being a normal member of society. Something is deeply broken in them, and they are dangerous to be around.

These are the kind of people who would happily load you into a cattle car if someone convinced them that you were the source of all their problems. And they’d just as happily unload you on the other end, anticipatory drool running merrily down their chins.

You might think that’s a bit abstract, a bit distant, but these are real people - and it’s not just a few. They might be your neighbors - it’s not the slums where this Is happening, but middle class suburban neighborhoods. How many of them do you think are patrolling your neighborhood in black and whites? How many are guarding the guy from down street who is behind bars for smoking a joint? How many are pawing through your bags at the airport?

How many are teaching your kids?

There’s a segment of society, not restricted to the fringes anymore, who have gone feral. They work at normal middle class jobs, go to normal middle class stores and restaurants and gas stations and banks. They seem normal until they can pin all their problems on some nameless, faceless group, and until they sense weakness in a member of that group. Then their aim is to destroy in a blind fury - not to get something they want, but simply to destroy something somebody else has.

At the risk of giving them ideas, I’ll predict that it won’t be long till gas stations are in for the same treatment.