All posts by Animal

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

The Food Babe Blogger is Full of Shit.  Cute, but full of shit.  Excerpt:

Vani Hari, AKA the Food Babe, has amassed a loyal following in her Food Babe Army. The recent subject of profiles and interviews in the New York Times, the New York Post and New York Magazine, Hari implores her soldiers to petition food companies to change their formulas. She’s also written a bestselling book telling you that you can change your life in 21 days by “breaking free of the hidden toxins in your life.” She and her army are out to change the world.

She’s also utterly full of shit.

I am an analytical chemist with a background in forensics and toxicology. Before working full-time as a science writer and public speaker, I worked as a chemistry professor, a toxicology chemist, and in research analyzing pesticides for safety. I now run my own blog, Science Babe, dedicated to debunking pseudoscience that tends to proliferate in the blogosphere. Reading Hari’s site, it’s rare to come across a single scientific fact. Between her egregious abuse of the word “toxin” anytime there’s a chemical she can’t pronounce and asserting that everyone who disagrees with her is a paid shill, it’s hard to pinpoint her biggest sin.

The problem is, Ms. Hari has plenty of company.  The fact that purveyors of the ongoing pranks and hoaxes around Dihydrogen Monoxide still find new rubes to fool every day speaks eloquently to how science-illiterate most Americans have become.  (Granted, things could be worse – much worse.)

Derp BearBack in the late 1990s when I was writing Misplaced Compassion, I ran into a young woman who vehemently claimed to believe that there was a city of superhuman aliens called the “Inner Earth Beings” who lived under a dormant volcano in (where else?) California.  At the time I toyed with the idea of writing another non-fiction work entitled “Weird Shit People Actually Believe, and the Weird People Who Believe Them.”

Then I found out someone already wrote it.  Go check it out; it’s a great read.  Check out the Science Babe, too.  I have a hard time forgiving her for working on the 2008 Obama campaign, but she’s great on lots of other stuff.

Rule Five Friday – Liberty and Property, Part Two

2015_04_10_Rule Five Friday (1)(Continued from yesterday.)

In a society that prizes liberty and property above all other things, what constitutes morality?


In a moral society, any competent adult should be free to do as they please, with the only condition being that they cause no physical or financial harm to another.  The astute reader will be quick to note that I do not mention “emotional” harm, and that is with good reason; emotional harm cannot be quantified or even rigorously defined.  As an utter intangible, it cannot be used as a rational standard in any discussion of public policy.  The free person should be encouraged to avoid causing unnecessary emotional pain as a standard of everyday living, but the government cannot and should not be the arbitrator of behavior affecting such an ephemeral.

In a moral society, competent people are expected to support themselves.  A moral society must not force free persons to labor longer and harder for the benefit of others who can produce but do not.  Only government has the legal power to initiate force, and only 2015_04_10_Rule Five Friday (2)government has the power to confiscate a portion of a free person’s income and wealth.  (Yes, confiscate is the correct word; government compels taxation by the implied use of force.  If you doubt that, stop paying taxes, and see how long it is before agents of government, men with guns, come looking for you, to either force payment or fling you into jail.)  It is immoral for government to use that power to confiscate income and wealth for no better reason than redistributing it to the indigent – and it is perhaps the height of immorality for politicians to use that power to purchase votes, which is precisely how many political campaigns are run today.

In a moral society, the only acceptable form of financial interaction is free trade.  In free trade, persons exchanges value for value, voluntarily, with both parties realizing gain from the transaction.  This is how wealth grows in a society.  If a transaction is conducted by force, that is robbery.  If it is conducted by deceit, that is fraud.  Any instance of the two should be punished.  Other than that, markets, not government, must be the only arbiter of success in business.  Why?  Businesses can persuade the consumer, but only government can compel.  Since they have this power, government must not be allowed to prop up failing businesses or even failing 2015_04_10_Rule Five Friday (3)industries; government must not dispense favors in the form of subsidies to businesses or industries they favor, or slap regulations and conditions on businesses or industries they disfavor.  As there is a wall of separation between church and state, so should there be a wall of separation between the government and the free market.

In a moral society, no person should be compelled by threat of government force to engage in business or otherwise associate with persons they find morally objectionable.  This happens today and is all the more egregious because it is so unevenly applied; it is acceptable for college campuses to have dormitories restricted to one ethnic group, but it is not acceptable for a Christian baker to refuse to cater a gay wedding.  It is acceptable for a halal butcher to refuse to provide pork for sale, but it is not acceptable for a Jewish bookstore to decline to stock and sell Korans.  We are either a free people or we are not, and increasingly in matters of freedom of association, it has become clear that some people, some groups are far more free than others – and this is not indicative of a moral society.  If I were to open a restaurant, for example, I would refuse to serve patrons who refused to remove their headgear at the table, and that would be my choice – if I lost business because of it, on my head be it (pun not intended), but the choice – and the consequences thereof – must be 2015_04_10_Rule Five Friday (4)mine alone.  It is morally consistent, therefore, to assert the right of a businessperson to discriminate against patrons for any reason of their choosing, and in the next day to join the throngs of protestors that form in the street in front of his storefront to shut the bigoted son of a bitch down.


In a moral society, the products of a free person’s labor belong to themselves first.  Government should only take what is strictly required for narrowly defined roles – such as national defense, border security, coining currency, dealing with foreign powers, and so on.  Note that all legitimate roles of government have one thing in common:  The protection of private property.  This completes the two essential elements of a free, moral society:   Liberty and property.

In a moral society, the free person has one right above all others:  The right to protect their own existence.  Your life is the most precious property you can ever possess, and so the rights associated with that life must be the ones we guard most jealously.  Liberty and 2015_04_10_Rule Five Friday (5)property are meaningless without life itself, and protection of life is a moral imperative.  That translates in modern terms to the right to self-defense and, by proxy, the defense of others.  We have militaries and police forces to aid in this moral imperative, but in the final analysis, it is the right and responsibility of all competent, free people to take responsibility for their own defense and the defense of their loved ones.  For this right to have any meaning, a free person must have access to a reasonable means of self-defense.  That means arms.  There is therefore a moral right to possess and bear arms outside the home for purposes of self-defense and for defense of the community, and that right, as stated in the Constitution, shall not be infringed.


Personally, I do not need a god to tell me these things; I find these facts to be self-evident.  I live by the moral standards I mention above, I advocate for those standards, and I think (I do not feel, I do not believe, I think) that these standards apply to us due to our existence as moral, thinking beings.

Unfortunately, it is in the nature of government to grow ever more restrictive, ever more intrusive and ever more dominating.  It is also in the nature of government to reduce liberty, and in so doing to become ever less tolerant of individual moral decisions.  That is the pass at which we find ourselves today, and if you are a student of history, an examination of other societies at similar times does not give one much cause for optimism.

2015_04_10_Rule Five Friday (6)

Animal’s Daily News – Liberty and Property, Part One

Thoughtful-BearCan an atheist be a moral person?

I have seen plenty of my fellow GOP members say no.  I say bullshit.  As an atheist and a moral being, I can say without reservation that an atheist can be, and most are, moral people.  There is a key difference.  We do not base our morality on the dictates of a higher power, but on our own conscience, our own sense of right and wrong, and our own convictions, reasoned and arrived at through reflection, experience, thought and consideration.

Speaking for myself – and I presume to speak only for myself, in itself a moral decision – I do not need a higher power to tell me what the right way is to behave.  I already know the difference between right and wrong.  I live a moral life not because someone or something else requires me to, but because I choose to do so, because it is the right thing to do.  I have distinct ideas on how a moral person should comport themselves in a free, moral society.  Moreover, I have very distinct ideas on how human society should conduct itself, morally.  How do I define right and wrong?  Conducting yourself in a moral manner is right.  Conducting yourself against accepted codes of moral behavior is wrong.

On what things do I, as a moral person, base my morality?  I base morality on that highest of human conditions, the only one that truly reflects the concept of natural rights:  Liberty.  I base morality on the fundamental right to the fruits of one’s own effort:  Property.

Remember that:  Liberty and Property.

For a person that prizes liberty and property above all other things, what constitutes morality?

Relaxing BearLiberty

A moral person accepts responsibility for his or her own actions and decisions.  If a person chooses to start a business and in so doing accept personal financial risk, they deserve not only the fruits of their effort should they succeed but also the responsibility of the consequences of their errors in judgment should they fail.  If a person chooses to have one, three or nine children, they, not their neighbors, are responsible for clothing, feeding and educating those children.  If a person chooses to drink to excess or to use harmful drugs for recreation, then that person is solely responsible for any health issues that arise from their poor decisions.  To quote the Old Man again:  “You got yourself into it.  You get yourself out of it.”  The result of responsibility is liberty.  To put it simply:  You are free to make your own decisions, to live your own life as you see best, because in the end that life is yours and no one else’s.

A moral person takes care of their family.  This goes hand in hand with the principle immediately above, that of accepting responsibility for your own actions and decisions.  Having and raising children is a choice, and in making that choice you accept responsibility for the little lives that come along in that process.  You accept the responsibility to house them, clothe them, feed them, protect them and educate them.  You may delegate some of those responsibilities – for example, most of us delegate responsibility for education to the schools, however unwise that may be becoming in recent years – but you cannot morally abdicate those responsibilities, and y ou cannot expect someone else to shoulder the burdens of those responsibilities.  Children and the responsibilities that come with them are yours, the product of a choice you made, even if that decision was as fleeting as a one-night drunken hookup.  That decision binds you for life in a way that surpasses even marriage – you can divorce your spouse, but you cannot divorce your kids.  Another quote from the Old Man, who is now 91, with his five children (including yr. obdt.) in their fifties and sixties and who is still very much our father:  “You never, ever stop being a parent.”

A moral person exhibits integrity.  There can be no reliable social interaction without it.  There is no higher esteem known than being someone with whom a person can enter into an agreement based on a handshake.  Integrity is the essential harbinger of trust; trust is the essential aspect of human interaction without which the very foundations of society crumble.  Integrity and trust are essential in marriage, in family, in trade, and in social interaction.  None of those things are possible without integrity and trust.

A moral person shows consideration towards others.  It is popular in this degenerate age to equate ordinary politeness with weakness, but in fact, just the opposite is true.   Good manners and consideration are an unmistakable indicator of strength and confidence.  A moral person considers the people around him, and incorporates that consideration in his actions.  A moral person disagrees politely but firmly when his or her opinions are challenged.  A moral person does not take unfair advantage of others, nor does a moral person act carelessly or thoughtlessly.  It doesn’t matter if you are driving, watching a movie or eating in a restaurant; a moral person considers other people, so that their actions do not intrude or cause discomfort or displeasure to others around.  Now, with that said:

A moral person stands up for themselves and others.  As noted immediately above, a moral person shows consideration, but consideration must come with a caveat:  There comes a time when even the moral person finds himself interacting with someone who does not deserve that consideration.  People who do not reciprocate that consideration do not deserve it.  It is morally acceptable to object to an able-bodied person abusing a handicapped parking space.   It is morally acceptable to object to rudeness, to foul language or bad manners in public.  A violation of civil interaction is an infringement of liberty, and should not be tolerated, but it is the citizenry, not government, who is responsible for rules of personal conduct.

Fishing BearProperty

A moral person produces.  A moral person contributes to the market.  In other words, the moral person works.  That work may be creative, it may be something the person loves doing, or it may be repetitive, low- or un-skilled labor.  However, the key is productivity; any occupation that produces value is honorable and worthy.  As the Old Man is fond of saying, “There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people.”  How does one define value?  This is trivially easy.  If someone is willing to pay you to do the job, you are producing value.  The result of producing value is property.  To put it simply:  If you work, you gain.

Look for Part Two tomorrow, with Rule Five Friday.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Have you been wondering where white people come from?  Wonder no more.  Excerpt:

When it comes to skin color, the team found a patchwork of evolution in different places, and three separate genes that produce light skin, telling a complex story for how European’s skin evolved to be much lighter during the past 8000 years. The modern humans who came out of Africa to originally settle Europe about 40,000 years are presumed to have had dark skin, which is advantageous in sunny latitudes. And the new data confirm that about 8500 years ago, early hunter-gatherers in Spain, Luxembourg, and Hungary also had darker skin: They lacked versions of two genes—SLC24A5 and SLC45A2—that lead to depigmentation and, therefore, pale skin in Europeans today.

But in the far north—where low light levels would favor pale skin—the team found a different picture in hunter-gatherers: Seven people from the 7700-year-old Motala archaeological site in southern Sweden had both light skin gene variants, SLC24A5 and SLC45A2. They also had a third gene, HERC2/OCA2, which causes blue eyes and may also contribute to light skin and blond hair. Thus ancient hunter-gatherers of the far north were already pale and blue-eyed, but those of central and southern Europe had darker skin.

Probably not an accurate reproduction.
Probably not an accurate reproduction.

Then, the first farmers from the Near East arrived in Europe; they carried both genes for light skin. As they interbred with the indigenous hunter-gatherers, one of their light-skin genes swept through Europe, so that central and southern Europeans also began to have lighter skin. The other gene variant, SLC45A2, was at low levels until about 5800 years ago when it swept up to high frequency.

So, in other words, a few genes makes the difference – and that difference really is only skin deep.

Race as it is understood today, especially in the United States, is far more of a social construct than anything else.  There is little science behind the concept; humans have less genetic diversity than chimpanzees.  Still, people obsess over this largely meaningless social construct.  They think that these few genes should affect your opinions; that you must think, feel and (most importantly) vote according to your skin’s melanin content.  That, True Believers, has nothing to do with race; it has everything to do with culture.

Science eloquently shows how race is a meaningless construct, but culture – unfortunately – is another story.

Animal’s Daily News

Yum BearThink it’s a good idea to demand service from people who hate you?  Probably not.  Excerpt:

The thing is, freedom of association—and disassociation—aren’t just abstract individual rights dreamed up as intellectual games. They’re practical knife fight-preventatives. If people can’t play nice, you want to keep them separated. If they’re willing to separate themselves, so much the better. Shaming people who refuse to associate with others for contemptible reasons is a perfectly legitimate response. But forcing them into proximity may not produce ideal results.

Even if people aren’t overtly malicious when forced to serve people they don’t like, just how enthusiastic is their work going to be? Do you really want somebody who hates you to photograph your special occasion? Or care for your child? Or serve you food of any sort at any place or time? There’s a good chance you’re just not going to get best efforts.

Sure that’s unprofessional. And?

 And forcing people to act against their perceived interests is never a good idea.  It doesn’t matter what you think their interests are; it only matters what they think.

It’s an inevitable consequence of a free society that people have to right to be arbitrary – even to be assholes, as long as their assholery doesn’t cause physical or financial harm to anyone else.  That’s why we have to let the Ku Klux Klan have rallies and parades.  That’s why we let looney conspiracy theorists rant on the internets.  That’s why Howard Stern still has a radio show.

The obvious answer is to err on the side of liberty.  Let business owners serve who they want.  When I was a tad, it was common to see signs in businesses of all kinds stating “We Reserve the Right To Refuse Service to Anyone.”  We need to bring that philosophy back, and let the free market weed out the assholes.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

2015_04_06_Goodbye Blue Monday
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

First of all, thanks to the Pirates Cove and (twice!) to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Here’s a surefire sign of inflation; the price of a bacon cheeseburger has jumped 7.7% over the last year.  Now that smarts.  Excerpt:

While traditional indicators show little price pressure, the fabled Bacon Cheeseburger Index, which tracks the cost of the gastronomic delight of the same name, is on an aggressive path higher.

In fact, the price has jumped 7.7 percent over the past year, according to calculations from brokerage Convergex, using government consumer price index data.

The biggest contributor to the surging price was a more than 17 percent jump in the cost of ground beef. Costs for bread, cheese and, to a lesser extent, bacon are on the rise as well. White bread posted an annual gain of 3.4 percent, bacon rose 0.2 percent and cheese was up 7.3 percent in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Honestly, is there anything that is more quintessentially American than the jumbo bacon cheeseburger?  It is probably America’s best addition to the global picture of cuisine. Burgers

Will creeping inflation make America’s favorite food icon unreachable to millions of hardworking (or even not-working) American citizens?

No, but seriously, folks; the Imperial Federal government has been publishing a largely fraudulent inflation index in recent years.  Fraudulent how?  It excludes costs of fuel and foodstuffs from the index of inflation.  Fuel cost have been swinging wildly this year, but food costs have been slowly creeping higher, especially when compared to stagnant wages.

Meanwhile, pols in the Imperial City continue every anti-growth policy they’ve cooked up in the last couple of decades.  Remember what the definition of insanity is?


Rule Five Friday

2015_04_03_Rule Five Friday (1)Here’s the always-worth-reading Dr. Thomas Sowell on the current calamitous negotiations with Iran on their nuke program.  Excerpt:

It is amazing — indeed, staggering — that so few Americans are talking about what it would mean for the world’s biggest sponsor of international terrorism, Iran, to have nuclear bombs, and to be developing intercontinental missiles that can deliver them far beyond the Middle East.

Back during the years of the nuclear stand-off between the Soviet Union and the U.S., contemplating what a nuclear war would be like was called “thinking the unthinkable.”

But surely the Nazi Holocaust during World War II should tell us that what is beyond the imagination of decent people is by no means impossible for people who, as Churchill warned of Hitler before the war, had “currents of hatred so intense as to sear the souls of those who swim upon them.”

2015_04_03_Rule Five Friday (2)Have we not already seen that kind of hatred in the Middle East? Have we not seen it in suicide bombings there and in suicide attacks against America by people willing to sacrifice their own lives by flying planes into massive buildings, to vent their unbridled hatred?

The Soviet Union was never suicidal, so the fact that we could annihilate their cities if they attacked ours was a sufficient deterrent to a nuclear attack from them. But will that deter fanatics with an apocalyptic vision? Should we bet the lives of millions of Americans on our ability to deter nuclear war with Iran?

It is now nearly 70 years since nuclear bombs were used in war. Long periods of safety in that respect have apparently led many to feel as if the danger is not real. But the dangers are even greater now and the nuclear bombs more devastating.

2015_04_03_Rule Five Friday (3)Clearing the way for Iran to get nuclear bombs may — probably will — be the most catastrophic decision in human history. And it can certainly change human history, irrevocably, for the worse.

Speaking as one who wore Uncle Sam’s colors in the last years of the Cold War and the opening rounds of the present global cultural conflict, there was a big difference between the nuke-owning Soviet Union and a nuke-owning Iran.  It is a difference not of degree but one of kind, and it is this:  The Russians are at their heart a sane people, people who love their children and want them to have a world to grow up in.  That made them not want to see nukes used; they built them, as did we, but nobody on either side (except, possibly, a few sociopathic nuts) wanted to see them use.

2015_04_03_Rule Five Friday (4)The Iranians know no such compunctions.  When they get a nuke, they’ll use it.  And the resulting conflagration will probably make World War 2 look like a small-town fireworks show.

It’s become common to compare the Obama Administration’s unconscionable pandering to Iran with Neville Chamberlain’s attempts to appease Hitler.  There are similarities, not least of which is the prediction made by an MP named Winston Churchill after Chamberlain proclaimed “Peace in Our Time.”  Sir Winston told Chamberlain “You had to choose between dishonor and war.  You chose dishonor, and you shall have war.”  Churchill was right then, and he would be right in making the same observation today.

2015_04_03_Rule Five Friday (5)Dr. Sowell concludes:  The road to World War II was strewn with arms-control agreements on paper that aggressor nations ignored in practice. But those agreements lulled the democracies into a false sense of security that led them to cut back on military spending while their enemies were building up the military forces to attack them.

That’s what is happening now, with Iran.  We are dealing with a nutbag nation, a country that lies as reflexively as they breathe, run by a cabal of apocalyptic, Bronze Age shitbags that will take advantage of the Obama Administration’s fecklessness to gain the chance to rain fire on Tel Aviv, or London, or New York – or all of the above.

2015_04_03_Rule Five Friday (6)

Animal’s Daily Tech News

Smiling BearI’ve long been a fan of Hewlett-Packard laptops (and printers, and other peripherals) and not just because my own dear Mrs. Animal once worked for that organization.  Now, that company is producing what Inc.Com is calling the best laptop ever made.  Excerpt:

One of the most interesting findings is that the keyboard is responsive and helped me type faster. Not all laptop keyboards work the same. The Lenovo ThinkPad 450s is another newer model I will review soon, but it uses old-style keys that are much larger. (It’s a matter of taste–Lenovo actually tried using smaller, flatter keys but brought back the big ones.) The backlit keyboard on the HP Spectre x360 feels rigid and durable, and the keys don’t “bounce” too much.

The other major innovation here is the screen. It folds all… the… way… back a full 360-degrees so you can use the Spectre in tablet mode. Because it’s only about a half-finger thin with the lid closed, the laptop performs well as a tablet. You can set it in a “tent” shape for a meeting, almost like a tripod, and show videos or presentations. The hinge feels solid like it won’t get shaky or even break after a few years of twisting back and forth.

I’m surprised how crisp and clear the screen is for normal document editing duties. The Spectre comes in two models, one that has 1920Ö1080 pixels and costs $900 and one that has 2560Ö1440 pixels and costs $1400. The higher-res screen is important if you do any video or photo work, because you are seeing more information on the screen. It also helps presentations, documents, and other content pop. Both uses a 13.3-inch screen.

Facepalm-bearI prefer larger screens, but find this intriguing; my old HP Pavilion laptop is slowly dying, having been new in 2009, and I need a reliable laptop for work and entertainment (I’m partial to Skyrim) and the Spectre should handle that easily, with 8GB of RAM, a solid-state hard drive and an i7 processor.

Complication:  Having been raised by parents who were children of the Depression and having more than my fair share of Scottish blood, I am constitutionally incapable for spending money until dire necessity is reached.  When the current laptop finally dies, maybe HP will have something even hotter than the Spectre.  Who knows?