Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts, omphaloskepsis, and other random musings.

Animal’s Daily Random Notes News

A few random tidbits from the morning news crawl:

Duck

Duck

Goose!

Wild Canada geese are delicious if prepared properly.  Some Canadians are adamant in defense of the big birds, however (language alert):

I Was Wrong (and I Bet You Were Too.)  Not only is the world today a better place than lots of folks think it is; the article here is also a description of the value of skepticism in critical thinking.  It’s important to know when you’re wrong and adjust your thinking; I know that if I’m ever wrong, if that far-away, unlikely day ever comes, I’ll be the first to admit it.

Billionaire Democratic donor: Bernie Sanders is a ‘disaster zone.’  And so the autophagia begins.  (He’s not wrong, though.)

Kamala Harris has a sincerity problem.  So what?  So does pretty much every other member of Congress.

And here’s something that maybe Harris ought to read.  Excerpt:

Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and America’s first black billionaire, praised President Donald Trump for the roaring economy and criticized Democrats for moving “too far left.”

“The party in my opinion, for me personally, has moved too far to the left,” Johnson told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble. “And for that reason, I don’t have a particular candidate (I’m supporting) in the party at this time. I think at the end of the day, if a Democrat is going to beat Trump, then that person, he or she, will have to move to the center and you can’t wait too long to do that.”

Oh, there is one candidate in the 2020 race who has the potential to unite Democrats – President Trump.  But given the show members of that party are putting on in their three-ring primary, I suspect that’s asking too much even of Donald J. Trump.

And on that note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily Random Notes News

Some more random thoughts and tidbits from last night’s and this morning’s news crawls:

Eric Swalwell is an idiot.

Ilhan Omar is an idiot.

Alexandria “Crazy Eyes” Occasional Cortex is an idiot.

Mind you, in all three cases, I’m belaboring the obvious here.  But what the hell.

Food is not art.  I’m inclined to agree, seeing as to where it ends up.  I’ve eaten some damn fine meals in my day, but really, it’s all just fuel.  Back in my days in Uncle Sam’s service, we used to say about particularly useless troops that all they did was “suck up oxygen and turn food into shit.”  Well, no matter what the input…

Although most of reason I’m inclined to agree with this is because of the ridiculous celebrity worship of asshole prima donna “chefs.”  Fuck those guys.

A Nebraska school district plans to start randomly testing students for nicotine.  Fuck off, slavers!  And here’s the kicker:  In Nebraska, e-cigarettes are legal for users 18 and up, but lawmakers are trying to raise the age to 19.  Oh, for crying out loud.  More graduated age-of-majority horseshit.  More overbearing nanny-state government.  And in Nebraska, even.  What assholes.

You can’t beat this headline:  Horny Teacher Sentenced to Prison.

Nice.

Now imagine the reporting if the sexes of teacher and student were reversed.  The likely outcome is left as a thought exercise for the reader.

Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I, Dowager Empress of Chappaqua, just keeps piling up the security violations.  It would be nice to think that she might somehow, someday face some kind of consequences for this; most folks would be in Leavenworth by now, making big rocks into little rocks.  But we all know that petty laws don’t apply to the Clintons.

And on that rather discouraging note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

Here’s a fun little mental exercise.  Should dueling be legal?  I’m not talking about sparring on Twitter or in the comments section of some news story.  I’m talking honest to gosh, 18th century-style, pistols at ten paces dueling.

Dueling has been illegal everywhere in the United States, indeed in most of the Western world, since the early 19th century at least.  But let’s set aside our ingrained prejudices for a moment and ask ourselves, in a society that honestly and completely exists under the concept of liberty – should it be?

Let’s do a thought experiment.

Two men (or women, or one of each, whatever) have a serious disagreement, one which cannot be reconciled by any normal means.  Courts have been unable to arrive at a settlement acceptable to both.  Counsel has failed.  They are well and truly at loggerheads.

So both of them, as capable, competent, consenting adults, in full possession of their faculties, agree to pistols at sunrise to settle the dispute.  They meet in a field with their seconds, who oversee the loading of the pistols; they take their places, step away from each other on the count and, when indicated, turn and fire.  One is killed, the other emerges the victor.

I’d use these, just for the sake of tradition.

Now – answer me this – what crime has been committed?

Oh, yes, I know there is a statutory crime committed.  But has their been a moral crime?  Both parties went into the affair knowing that death was a likely outcome.  I’ve read that back when the code duello was more commonly practiced, it was considered the gentlemanly thing to do to just pink your opponent in the arm or leg and claim victory without fatality, but fatal injuries were a normal outcome; it even happened to one of the more famous of our Founding Fathers.

But even in the event of a fatality – what qualifies this as a crime?  Both parties agree.  Both parties know the likely outcome.  Both parties are, presumably, competent to make the decision.  If we are truly to be a society that values personal liberty, we must also be a society that allows people to face the likely consequences of that liberty.  Dueling may be an extreme example of that, but it’s no less a valid one.

So.  Should dueling be legalized?  I’m inclined to say yes.

Rule Five Fifth Annual Commencement Speech Friday

It’s that time of year again, when high school and college graduates all over the country are trying on caps and gowns and making post-graduation plans. Today, for the fourth year, I will present here my own carefully prepared commencement speech to those grads – presented here because there’s damn little chance of my being asked to deliver it in person to a group of impressionable yutes.

So, here it is. Enjoy.

“Graduates of the Class of 2019, let me be the first to extend to you my congratulations on this, your day of entry into reality.

For the last four years you have been working towards this goal, towards this day. That’s a good thing. One of the most important skills you will ever need, one of the most important ways to achieve success in the world into which you are about to enter, is the ability to formulate goals, to plan how to achieve those goals, and to see things through until you reach those goals. Today you’ve shown you can do that. Congratulations and good job.

Now, before you go out to enjoy the rest of this day, before you go out to celebrate this goal you have achieved, let me tell you a few harsh truths about the world you’re entering. I’m not going to give you any trigger warnings; if you can’t handle what I’m about to say, there’s damn little future for you out there in the real world, so cowboy up. Moments ago I congratulated you on your day of entry into reality, so to get you started off right, here is a hefty dose of reality for you.

In spite of what you may have been told during all your years of education, nobody owes you anything, and you aren’t special. Any perceived ‘need’ you may have does not entitle you to anything – most especially, not to one red cent of the product of anyone else’s effort. If any of your professors have told you that, then they are economic illiterates, moral frauds or outright charlatans.

Our wonderful Constitution, which has stood for well over two hundred years as the founding document of our Republic, guarantees you the opportunity to your pursuit of happiness. It does not require anyone to provide you the means to your happiness at their expense. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You have no moral claim on anyone else’s productivity. Accept that fact and you are already one step ahead of most of your peers.

You are entitled to what you have earned through your own efforts, and not:

One.

Damn.

Thing.

More.

If you are accepting a degree today in LGBT Studies, or Women’s Studies, or any of the other assorted bullshit Underwater Dog Polishing degrees our universities crank out today, then you have my sympathies. You are the victim of a fraud perpetrated by our university system, a vicious and cynical fraud that has resulted in you spending a lot of money for no gain. But more importantly, you are the victim of your own poor judgement. You decided to pursue a useless degree, and now you’re stuck. Here is another harsh reality: You are responsible for your own situation. It’s not anybody else’s fault. Nobody else is responsible. You are.

Your university experience had one goal – producing a young adult with marketable skills, someone who can provide value to an employer and to the economy. In this your university has failed, and in choosing this degree, so did you. You have relegated yourself to uselessness in the workplace, and when a few years from now you are working as a barista or checkout clerk and crying over your six figures of student debt, remember what I said a few moments ago: You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You made a decision; now you get to deal with the consequences of that decision. Pull yourself up, look around at the other opportunities around you, and figure a way out of this mess your youthful indiscretion has landed you in.

But you still have one thing going for you. You have shown that you can set yourself a goal and achieve it. Do so now.

So, where do you go from here?

Because nobody owes you anything, including a living, one of the tasks ahead of you now is finding gainful employment. If you’re going to find employment, it will only be because you can demonstrate to the employer that you can provide value to him or her in excess of your costs of employment. Employment is an economic transaction. In any free market transaction, both parties have to realize a perceived gain in value or the transaction won’t happen. If a prospective employer doesn’t think you’re able to provide value to his/her business in excess of your cost of employment, which includes not only your salary but all the extra taxes, fees and other various government extortion that you never see in your pay stub – then they won’t hire you. So be able to present yourself as someone who can provide value, in whatever field you have been studying these last few years.

Once you have gained that employment, once you are in the workplace, remember these three rules for success:

Show up a little earlier than the other guy,
Work a little harder than the other guy,
Never pass up a chance to learn something new.

Words that should never pass your lips include such things as “that’s not my job,” and “I don’t have time for that.” Your reputation in the workplace should be, to put it bluntly, the one who can get shit done. Results matter. Be the one that the boss can count on. Be the one who brings things in on time. Be the one who finishes the job. Be the one that produces value and you will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.

Bear in mind also that you are entering the workforce as a tablua rasa as far as potential employers are concerned. You’re not going to leave these halls and be CEO of General Motors. You will be working in an entry level job, probably not making a lot of money, probably doing work your longer-term co-workers don’t want to do. Suck it up. There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people. Any work that produces value is worth doing. How do you know if your work is producing value? The answer to that is trivially easy: If someone is willing to pay you to do the work, then you are producing value. Bear in mind also that the job belongs to the employer, not to you, and if you don’t meet the employer’s expectations, someone else will.

How do you meet those expectations? Better yet, how do you exceed them? When you are doing that job, keep these things in mind:

Be known for your integrity. Don’t say anything you don’t believe and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who means what you say and who delivers on your promises.

Be known for your reliability. Show up on time, every day, for every event. Show up on time for meetings. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who will always be there when you’re needed.

Be known for your responsibility. If you take on a task, finish it. If you commit to a timeline, meet it. If you accept responsibility for something, own it. It’s yours. Don’t expect anyone else to take care of it for you. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who, when put in charge, takes charge.

Be known for your dependability. Plan your tasks to bring them in on schedule. If that means long hours, work them. If that means working a Saturday, work it. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who can get the job done.

Success isn’t a mysterious thing. It’s not that elusive and it’s not even all that hard. I did it, and you can too, but it does involve one four-letter word:

Work.

Thomas Edison once said “people often fail to recognize opportunity when it knocks, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.” At these commencement events it’s common to be told to follow your dreams, and that’s nice, flowery stuff, but in most cases nobody is going to pay you to follow your dreams. They will pay you to produce value, and that means work. Follow your dreams on your own time.

Finally, I will leave you all with some unsolicited advice:

All through your life, people will promise you things. Most of them won’t deliver. Many of those people will be people seeking political office, and many more of them will be people pushing some sort of supposed business opportunity. Some years ago the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed a fundamental law of the universe, which law is represented by the acronym TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Remember that; if someone offers you something for nothing, they are lying. If someone is offering you something at someone else’s expense, they are offering to commit theft on your behalf. The only moral answer to such offers is outright refusal.

There are only three types of economic transactions and only one of those – a free, unfettered, voluntary exchange of value – is morally acceptable. If a transaction is done by force, that is theft. If a transaction is done by deceit, that is fraud. Have no interaction with anyone who advocates either.

Accept responsibility for your own successes. Accept responsibility for your own failures. Learn from both. Rely on yourself. Rely on your own skills, your own abilities. Many other people will let you down, but you can always rely on yourself.

In her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand presents the protagonist, John Galt, describing his decision to solve society’s troubles by an epic act of creative destruction. He describes the ultimate moment of his decision process with two sentences, two sentences which I have found more inspiring than any long-winded ethical or political monologue ever delivered since the times of Plato and Aristotle. These words are the very essence of the self-directed man of achievement:

‘I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.’

Those are good words to live by. Now, today, you graduates see what has to be done.

Go out and do it.

Thank you and good luck.”

If anyone was offended by anything contained in this hypothetical speech, too damn bad.

Rule Five Locked In Friday

A comment on this article over at Glibertarians provoked some thought. Glibertarians is one of my favorite sites not only because they let me write about guns and outdoor stuff, but because the commentariat there is a good cut above the normal. The comment that got me thinking:

The social justice cadres suffer under the delusion that all of our social codes, all of our strictures on what we can do to one another are about protecting us from them. It doesn’t occur to them that it just might be about protecting them from us. Unremitting brutality isn’t some sort of exception or oddity in the course of human history. It’s historically been the utter norm.

Does anyone think, for a moment, that the men who settled continents, conquered the elements, and defeated any challenger who crossed their path established concepts like individual liberty, rule of law, or private property to protect themselves from bands of marauding purple-haired Women’s Studies and Literary Criticism majors?

Or is it maybe a little more likely that we’ve chosen to bury our more vicious and murderous impulses under a set of standards of bourgeois restraint? Now, they’re insisting that that veneer of restraint is unfair. Holy Shit! Have they thought for second about what their own damnation of bourgeois standards and values implies about the what they’ll be facing then?

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

It’s true that the vast majority of human history has been one of brutality, oppression and violence. That continued until fairly recently; the late 18th century saw, in Western Europe and the New World, the Enlightenment that led to one small group of people in North America proclaiming the blessings of liberty. But it’s true that you can see the endings in the beginnings; just as you can listen to Wagner and hear the roots of modern German death metal, just as you can look at Mozart and Freddie Mercury and see uncanny similarities, you can see a return to elitist brutality in the goals of modern statists:

“Liberty? You’ll have as much liberty as we allow you. Property? It’s only yours after we take what we want to redistribute it to others who haven’t earned it, after skimming off… well, a lot. Individual rights? You have the right to labor on other men’s behalves; the right to submit to the rule of your ‘betters’ for your own damn ‘good.”

They forget what kind of people set up those institutions that protect and defend liberty, property and individual rights. They forget how many people still value them today. They forget to what lengths people who decide they have nothing left to lose will go.  Strength, true strength, does not arise from outrage; it arises from work and achievement.  Confidence, real confidence, arises from the knowledge you can do things no matter what obstacles others try to put in your way.

How much longer will regular folks allow people to be intimidated by street thugs with black masks?  How much longer will people watch Berkeley cops stand by while those thugs run riot in the streets?  How much longer will it be before people have had enough, before the counter-protests become counter-attacks?  How much longer before the perpetually outraged suddenly, horribly, realize what wages their outrage has wrought?

The message to those who would tear down those institutions that define civilization – liberty, property, individual rights – I can only offer the warning voiced in that same comment: We’re not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with us.

Animal’s Daily Notre Dame News

Over at Glibertarians, please check out the first in my Allamakee County Chronicles series!

Now, on a sad note:  I don’t care what religious beliefs you might have, or if you, like me, have none; Notre Dame cathedral has burned, and that’s a tragedy beyond description.

The 850-year old Notre Dame has survived wars, survived occupations, revolutions and riots, and now fire has badly damaged that ancient building – although from first reports it looks like the interior came through better than one might have expected.

Notre Dame is a building with spiritual significance to millions, and of great historical significance to everyone.  The original is irreplaceable; it will be rebuilt, but it will never be the same.

Some stories:

The Notre Dame fire cannot be put out.

Paris firefighters fear it may be impossible to save Notre-Dame from blaze.

Notre Dame fire “catastrophic.”

“Nothing will remain” of Notre Dame.

Now, I won’t speculate as to the cause of this fire.  That would, at this juncture, be simply irresponsible.  There are experts a-plenty who will make that determination.  The building was under renovation, and that can easily lead to accidents in a building said to include almost 60 acres of bone-dry, centuries-old timbers.

But there are groups out there that would like to see places like Notre Dame destroyed; groups that have no regard for freedom of conscience, freedom of association, for history, for culture.  And they have made an attempt on Notre Dame at least once.

It’s very likely the Notre Dame fire was the result of some horrible accident.  Time will tell.  For now, we’ll mourn the lost of a great landmark of Western civilization, and be grateful that at least no lives were lost and that no one was seriously hurt.

And if it turns out that someone did this on purpose…  Well, then, one would hope that the French authorities come down on them like, well, the wrath of God.

Tax Day!

Not actually Mrs. Animal.

Tax time is stressful for all of us, but when you run your own business, things become way more complicated. I’m not sure how many times, I just want to throw up my hands and give up, but we all know that’s not really an option.

When I took over all financial record keeping over 20 years ago, we didn’t have the luxury of spending extra on anything, so I began tracking expenses so we could see the big picture. After a few years, our business income became the primary income, prompting me to create a much more detailed record keeping system.  Every penny is accounted for by category and subcategory, which account(s) are affected, and who was paid.

When tax season comes along, I run a detailed report including the categories I need to include for tax purposes. I visually go through the data to check for data entry errors (I’ve gotten pretty quick with that) and summarize all the numbers. It should be easy to just enter the numbers on the forms, and I’m done. Right?

WRONG!

Most people might not realize it, but tax laws change from year to year. And consequently, the software necessary for that changes each year as well. Tax categories seem to be fairly fluid, so for example what I put under auto services one year had to be split into separate oil change and repair categories the next, even though it’s all totaled on the final form. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it changes back at some point in the future.

To make it more complicated, while there are guidelines as to what is deductible (and at what percentage), where you account for that is not cast in stone. Office equipment, for example, includes furniture and long term assets such as printers, computers and copiers. But, if your furniture is used solely for the business, you can instead list it under supplies with paper, ink and the like. I don’t know about you, but my chair isn’t ‘used up’ at the end of the year, so this really makes no sense to me, but I’ll take advantage of the laws that benefit me.

So why do small things like this drive me crazy? Because it changes the bottom line on our personal taxes!

A pass-through partnership doesn’t pay corporate taxes. Instead everything filters to our personal taxes. But, how I choose to categorize expenses changes how much we are required pay. So if I bought an office chair for the business this year, I can put it either in depreciable assets or office supplies.

  • If it’s a supply, the total amount is expensed this year, and I don’t have to worry about it any more.
  • If I depreciate it, depending on when we bought it, there are several options for spreading out the expense, including a one time complete expense in the current year.

On the surface this looks like I can deduct the full amount either way. But it’s listed on a different line for partner expenses, which changes how the final taxes are calculated.

To put another little twist in the fabric, things like home office and auto expenses are not included on our partnership forms. We also have to submit the self-employment schedule on our personal forms to do that. (Don’t even get me started on self-employment taxes!)

Quite a few years ago, I didn’t notice a category that had previously been on the personal form had moved to the business side. Since I had already submitted our business form, it lead to a series of corrections on both sides. So each year, I don’t file any tax forms until I know I have both business and personal for federal and state(s) completed to our best benefit. Sometimes this leads me to a several variations of calculations which can confuse the software a bit, adding a little more headache.

Since I spend most of my time actually running the business, I’m sure there are ways I could legally reduce our tax burden that I’m just not finding. I wonder how our bottom line would look if a fleet of tax lawyers took a gander.

But I’d rather have a more streamlined, unbiased and fair system. Instead of penalizing success by taxing income, wouldn’t it make more sense to look into a consumption tax system?

Rule Five Terms You Shouldn’t Use Friday

English is a language that’s forever changing; it’s been said that while other languages adopt words and phrases, English chases other languages down dark alleys, hits them over the head and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.  (This observation is made more poignant for yr. obdt. as this Friday finds my own dear Mrs. Animal and me in Japan, where I am functionally illiterate and struggle to make myself understood because I don’t savvy the lingo.)

But even English has standards, and as a popular American talk-radio guy is fond of saying, words mean things.  So here are some words and phrases that people need to stop abusing.

Capitalism

This, like many on the list, is bandied about by plenty of folks who should know better.  Here’s the reason people should stop using this word: “Capitalism,” unlike socialism and communism, doesn’t have an underlying ideology or set of dogma.  There’s no -ism there; it’s just liberty.  What we call capitalism is in fact the free, unfettered, lassaiz-faire of people doing exactly what they choose to do with their own skills, abilities, finances and resources, unfettered by government, unshackled by regulation.  It is people freely choosing what the do with their wealth.  It is the result of free trade, where people exchange value for value by choice, in voluntary transactions in which both parties gain.  It is a market unhampered by any meddling, where the economic trends are not forced from above by fiat but the results of millions of people making trillions of economic decisions, ever hour, every day, in a great freewheeling machine that no person or group of people could ever hope to control without screwing the whole thing up.  This has been demonstrated time and a-damned-gain, see Venezuela, Cuba and Zimbabwe for recent examples.

Gun Violence

Guns are inanimate objects.  There can be no such thing as “gun violence.”  There is only violence, planned and perpetrated by people.

This one is especially egregious as used in policy debates today, because, even though far more people un the United States today are murdered by fists and feet, nobody talks about “fist violence.”  It is only when guns are involved that this term is dragged out.

Whether deliberate or intentional, the term distracts from the real problem – that bad people do bad things – and focuses instead on chunks of plastic, wood and metal that can take no action and possess no moral agency or capacity.  A gun by itself is a moral null; it can take no action and left alone, will never hurt anything or anyone.  It is only when a human being picks up that gun and uses it for good or ill that any judgement of violence can come into the picture.

Privilege

Deriving from a Latin term that translates loosely as “private law,” this is another term that is badly abused in today’s discourse, mostly be people who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

American treasure Thomas Sowell noted that “privilege” is the idea that a white coal miner in West Virginia has some unseen advantages over a black Harvard graduate in New York.  As used in such a manner, it trivializes people and assigns them arbitrary categories based on their skin color, ethic background or religious affiliation; in other words, it’s bigotry, pure and simple.  As a middle-aged white male, I am supposed to meekly acknowledge the benefits of “privilege,” even though my Dad was a farmer most of his life, I went to college on the GI Bill and have worked for and earned everything I have.  I guess my privilege isn’t firing on all cylinders.

Decimate/Decimation

Decimation is a term that originated in the Roman army.  When a legion was seen to have failed in courage, one soldier of every ten was executed, pour encourager les autre.  (Voltaire would have loved these guys.)  The literal meaning of the term “decimate” means exactly that – to reduce in number by ten percent.

So, when a vapid talking head on a news program makes that claim that a certain terrorist group has been “decimated” he is saying that they managed to engage a nation-state’s military and only took ten percent casualties.  That’s a pretty good performance by a bunch of illiterates with AK-47s and an absolute cluster-fuck on the part of any modern military.

Democracy

The United States is a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy.

In fact, our Constitution, probably the most effective governing document in the history of mankind as it was originally written, contains specific safeguards against direct democracy.  The Senate is one of those safeguards.  The Electoral College is another.

Noticed, have you, that those are two institutions that the political Left in this country would like to do away with?

We do not nor should we have government by direct democracy.  That is no more than mob rule or, as Benjamin Franklin was rumored to have said, “two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.”  We have a Republic, with a Constitution that clearly defines the roles and the limitations on the various branches of government.  We have a Senate that was originally supposed to represent the interests of their states, and we have an Electoral College to make sure that a few high-population states don’t end up dictating to the entire country.  Let’s keep it that way.

This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list.  I’ll likely add to it as time goes on.  But it’s a good start.

Any suggested additions?