If you haven’t heard, there was another mass killing, this time in Oregon (Google Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR).

My social media is once again aflame with calls for gun control, or better mental health, or tighter usage practices for psych drugs, or whatever.  The comments get ugly, fast.

I mean real ugly, like wishing harm upon people ugly.

But I wonder something.  Assuming you, gentle reader, are a person of normatively sound mind, can you imagine the complete & utter disregard for human life & suffering that a person has to have in order to be willing to casually walk up and execute people?  How little empathy a person has to have for their fellow man?  Or how deeply a person has to hate everyone else in order to not have some kind of mental check restrain their action?

I mean, this is beyond shrugging at the deaths of refugees/migrants on the other side of the world, or pilgrims during a religious event, or casualties of war.  We all do that, because the world sucks & isn’t fair & if we allowed all of that in we’d go mad.  This is being the instrument of death.  How little must you regard your fellows in order to slaughter them?

Then I wonder, why do we, or perhaps, why does the Western World seem to be generating a bumper crop of violent sociopaths?  I think about all the violence in third world countries, much of it born, or at least steeped heavily in, differences of opinion regarding religion.  Which is tragic & sad, but not something the majority of the Western World has dealt with much lately.

Then I look back at those comments.  Those ugly comments, where people with differing opinions wish harm upon each other in no uncertain terms…

Category: Elsewhere

brailConor Williams writes that liberal opposition to inequality ends where their schools begin.

If the NFL is dissatisfied with the training that quarterbacks are receiving in college, there is a rather straightforward solution to this.

Sometimes, TV shows have to either temporarily replace cast members or cute things up.

I had a dream about a particular ex-girlfriend after reading this onion article.

Russell Saunders reports that science is getting closer to figuring out why some people just don’t die from smoking.

According to a new-ish Rand study, food deserts are not the cause of the obesity epidemic. Relatedly, poor people don’t eat more fast food than the rest of us.

This leaves me torn. On the one hand, aggressive copyright enforcement. On the other hand, memes. How do you pick a side in that one?

TNR explains how patent law is jacking up the costs of car repairs.

The state of Georgia cannot copyright its own laws.

The Microsoft Zune is no longer in production, and the subscription services are no longer available. So if you have one… now what?

Sunny Hundal argues that excessive British secularism is isolating British Muslims and feeding Daesh.

Whether you get formally married or not, the decision to long-haul it really ought to be made actively and not passively.

Shannon Chamberlain lost some serious weight, but don’t compliment her on it.

If we want to help minorities, maybe we should buy them a car.

The combination of automatic birthright citizenship and the requirements of expatriates to pay taxes makes for a troubling combination for young Americans born abroad.

Category: Newsroom

A little while ago, I put up a post Over There about the ascension of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the UK Labour* Party. The post is little more than a bunch of links and blockquotes. I made the decision to play it relatively straight, even including a couple of things that I like about Corbyn. Had I gone another route, I would have used the title of this post.

Labour didn’t have a “primary” per se, but it had the closest thing to which the UK has ever seen. Instead of leadership being determined by active party members, it was determined by more or less anyone who wanted to participate. Or at least anyone willing to drop a modicum of coin to do so.

Combine this with Trumpmania, and it starts to fill in a pretty strong case against primaries. Now, my criticism of Trumpmania is not based (solely) on my disagreements with him and the direction he would take the party… but because he is a tourist. He has little invested in the party. There don’t seem to be very many issues that he has particularly thought about or cares about. He’s found The Issue, and most of the rest is just attitude. If it were Jeff Sessions or Tom Tancredo running on the immigration issue and/or economic populism, I’d be worried about now. I’d be worried that “Wow, this is what the other party is going to be.”

But Trump is Trump, and I still can’t think of him as a potential president. What mostly concerns me about him is the extent to which he has taken an already flawed process and runs a non-negligible risk or distorting the entire thing. He could hand it to Jeb Bush, or hand it to Ted Cruz, depending on how the chips fall. The result is entirely the point. The sticking point is what primaries are supposed to be doing, and what they are doing.

We seem to have fallen into this notion that primaries are supposed to be expressions of democracy at work. Except they’re not, really. The parties aren’t governments that owe particular rights to its people. Parties are organizations with a more sectarian purpose. It is just as legitimate for a political party to choose its nominees by lottery, or people smoking cigars in the back room, than it is with an open vote. People can like, or dislike, the result of these selections (or the process), but that’s not some grand Civil Rights Violation, as it would be if people were being prevented from voting at all, but rather an objection that should be registered by voting for the party with the candidate you prefer. Theoretically, that alone prevents parties from nominating too stupidly.

Of course, the parties (or at least one of them) is pretty stupid when it comes to selection process. Jeb Bush is a terrible candidate. But even before he was a terrible candidate, he was still a terrible candidate. He was practically inviting a revolt by the rank and file. He was inviting 2016 to be the first election in at least 35 years (more accurately 50) where the challengers actually won. I had the outline of a post about what was shaping up to maybe be a huge Bush/Walker battle, but it could have been any number of people (a field that widened as Jeb demonstrated himself a worse and worse candidate). But the challengers went with Trump. Because of course they did because they haven’t a tactical bone in their body, Trump is what happens when you decide to vote with your viscerals, and because primaries are terrible and stupid.

Except… here’s the thing.

In parliamentary systems, which usually don’t have primaries, there are correctives to prevent a party from getting too complacent about its relationship with its rank-and-file. If the Progressive Conservatives of Canada become too complacent, a Canadian Reform Party can pop up, challenge it, and either overtake it as the “party of the right” or (more likely, and what actually happened after a few mutations) force a merger in which it plays the lead role. If the Liberal Party of Canada becomes too complacent, the same thing can happen with the NDP. Which may be what we’re seeing now, or maybe the Liberals will rebound, but either way it’s fighting for its political life right now and that’s a good thing. They can’t just keep on keeping on arguing to the stalwarts “Hey, we’re better than the other guys.”

We don’t have a parliamentary system here. We don’t have a multi-party system with mixed-member districts, but we don’t even have a parliamentary system without that, like Canada does. We have a more complex system with the two parties virtually hard-coded in there. The barriers to entry are exceedingly high. A new party outside the duopoly would not just need to get more votes than the other two parties to win the presidency, but would need a majority of electoral votes or (likely) need to have a majority of the congressional delegations in a lot of states. That’s why we haven’t seen a durable new party in over 100 years and it’s entirely possible that we won’t again for another 100.

We have a two party system and while there is no telling what the parties will stand for in 100 years, there is little doubt that they will either be called the Republican and Democratic Parties or will be a direct rebranding of one or the other. And if there is a revolution within the party, it’s as likely as not to occur through the primaries. While the populist impulse of primaries can lead parties towards more populist candidates, the lack of any primary system can lead to an unaccountable stagnation and if the parties are immutable that’s a real problem.

So I am not yet at the point where I am ready to completely disregard primaries. I would gladly take it as part of a suite of other reforms (getting rid of the electoral college, IRV, fusion tickets, etc), but I’m not there yet on its own. Labour has time to self-correct, Trump is stagnating, and maybe all is a bit closer to being right with the world.

Category: Statehouse

Jason Kuznicki has written a post critical of what he calls the “new presentism” from the academic left. He notes that questions such as “was Shakespeare sexist?” don’t point to any worthy of consideration. The answer is “yes, he was probably sexist” but uninteresting because it tells us too little and relies on a present-day category [read the whole thing, etc., etc.]:

The problem with presentism is that presentist questions do little analytical work for us. At first they may appear bold, but they are entirely too easy to answer. Rather than digging deep, a presentist reviews only his or her own pre-existing feelings; presentist questions answer themselves almost mechanically. The past becomes an empty canvas, on which we paint all of our least courageous judgments.

He also warns libertarians. The lede for his essay advises libertarians to “engage with the past on its own terms. That means seeing beyond boringly obvious historical manifestations of sexism and racism.” In the essay itself, he urges his readers to remember that presentism is a tactic:

We should not infer from certain ugly, anti-intellectual tactics used in fighting social wrongs that racism, sexism, or the like are true or good. This is a path down which I see way too many young non-lefties going. As they do, they lose all interest in liberty: except, of course, for those of precisely their own kind.

A few of my own thoughts on Jason’s essay:

One: Historians need to realize that just pointing out that something is ahistorical or “presentist” means that it’s bad history. It doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. That’s of course what Jason is saying. But I just wanted to drive that home because historians (including yours truly) make that error a lot.

Two: The question “was Shakespeare sexist” is presentist. But the questions “what were Shakespeare’s attitudes toward women as expressed in his work?” or “in what way does Shakespeare ‘construct’ gender in his work?” are less presentist. They may reflect present-day concerns in a way that would’ve been unrecognizable in Shakespeare’s day. They also contain certain value-laden assumptions about the “constructedness” and socially contingent nature of gender. But they’re also open questions for which the answers can be interesting and not overdetermined.

Three: It’s very, very hard–and maybe impossible–not to be presentist in some ways. We’d all do well to heed that point and at least recognize the presentism in our own arguments. Libertarians no less or more so than others. The terms they use to critique government power–“liberty” and “freedom”–sometimes shade into shibboleths that libertarians use as if those terms are eternal truths whose meaning transcends time and place. And anyone who objects to the way that shibboleth is used is “against freedom” or “against liberty.”

One person’s freedom or liberty can be something that to another person helps justify the denial of liberty. “Freedom from want” can sometimes mean “compelling third parties to subsidize others’ lives” and “denying choices to some people in the name of helping them be free from hunger.”* “Economic freedom” can mean “freedom to starve” or “freedom to be taken advantage of by fraudsters.” Not that there’s no common ground here–libertarians usually recognize the need to help the less-well off and to protect against fraud, and at least some liberals recognize that expanding choice in the marketplace is a good thing–but the two freedoms have an inherent tension that becomes clearer when we examine who and in what historical context embraced those freedoms

My point is not to say that libertarians are wrong. We all commit and probably can’t avoid committing presentism. But libertarians would do better to recognize that error, too.

*I forget the page number, but somewhere in The Road to Serfdom (I think in a footnote), Hayek notes that Britain’s post World War II Labour government, probably concerned about fuel shortages, seriously considered a plan to force people to work in the mines because too few people were willing to do the work.

Category: School

Category: Elsewhere

I’m pretty sure I’ve clearly come across as someone who is very critical of police being overly trigger happy here in the U.S. of A.  Far too often I think they are too quick to violence in general, and especially too quick to draw & fire their firearms.  That said, just because an officer shoots someone does not mean it was a case of being too quick.  And just because the person who was shot was black does not mean the officer was in the wrong.

Social media is currently all light up with the hashtag #KeithMcLeod after an officer shot the unarmed Mr. McLeod in a parking lot because Mr. McLeod pointed his finger like a gun at the officer.  If that was all you heard about this, you’d be right in wondering what the hell is wrong with the police, especially in Baltimore, especially after Freddie Gray.

Here is the video.

Notice that Mr. McLeod was doing a little more than just pointing his fingers like a gun.  Notice the aggressive movements & posturing toward the officer.  Notice the hand behind his back like he has something there.  Notice the rapid movement like he was drawing a weapon at point blank range.  Finally, notice that the officer was actually quite restrained & did not shoot until Mr. McLeod made the movement to draw a weapon.

I have to say the officer is justified in this shoot.

I also have to say that cases like this are a clear example for why officer body cams should be required.  If it wasn’t for video, the questions surrounding this would be considerable.

Category: Elsewhere

EmailAddyChangeFor Hit Coffee readers going back to the Age of Half Sigma – as well as anyone who isn’t HBD-averse – you might find this (in which Jayman introduces himself to the people of Unz) a treasure trove of interesting stuff.

Do you fondly remember the Rockford Files? Well, now you can download the famous answering machine messages (or listen to them on YouTube). I was more of a Simon & Simon guy.

Median household earnings for African-Americans are lower in Minnesota than Mississippi.

A Detroit neighborhood is looking for a few good squatters.

Hungary, the site of much resistance to the refugees, looks like be getting another 40,000.

Croatia opened its arms to refugees, only to quickly close them.

And even Germany has its limits, and they’re not alone.

Paul Romer says “Let them come and they will build it.”

Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead. Rather, things to do in California when your bank thinks you’re dead.

Some industrious Russian youths did not accept their prison walls. Also, they wanted a Jaguar.

Some folks in Sunnyvale, California, are suing a family with an autistic child to have said child declared a “public nuisance” and kept out of public. The family moved out, but the neighbors have not dropped their case.

A look back at the Unabomber’s manifesto.

Halo, a producer of ecigarettes, has a pretty great piece on vaping etiquette. The vaping community needs more of this.

Cato takes a look at the pros and cons of guaranteed national income.

It looks like the geeks are giving up on the fake island.

Category: Newsroom

This New York Times essay  [hat tip, Saul DeGraw] relates an experience that’s probably not in itself very common but that represents some of the challenges first generation college students face. The author discusses her first week of class. She and her parents didn’t realize that it was okay and even expected for the parents just to drop their child off and let them begin college. The parents, instead, stayed for several days during the orientation and first few days of class, having to use up their vacation days to do so.

The anecdote fits too neatly into the point the author makes about it. I wonder if there’s more to the story than what the author is admitting. Still, it is a pretty good reminder of how college can be an alien experience for first generation students.

Category: School

I can’t even describe why I love these videos. Perhaps the increasing sense of panic. The mystery of the circumstances surrounding everything. Whatever the case, I recommend giving them a watch:

Category: Theater

The next couple months are going to include a lot of visits from family. In early October, my parents visit. Then, in early November, Clancy’s mother and sister visit, as well as my brother.

I purchased a bunch of Duplos (Legos, except bigger) off eBay, and now we have a station downstairs for the little girl. Which is good because it gives me a little more time in the basement myself, which makes doing certain things a lot easier because I can use my computer console.

I’ve invented a game by which I throw apple cores through the trees outside, into the forest. The goal is to throw the apple between two uprights. I haven’t succeeded yet. Whether they go through or not, they end up deer food.

Lain has been fighting off illness, off-and-on. Runny nose, lack of appetite, lost sleep, and a cough that’s been added to the soup. This may be related preschool, and the germs therein.


Lain has been going to preschool for about three weeks now. It was determined after the orientation that she would not be going with the three-year olds after all. Which is probably for the best, given that she is not quite three and is a little bit developmentally delayed. It’s inconvenient for me personally, though, because it’s two hours instead of three hours. Since it’s located a half-hour away, I am going to be killing a lot of time in the college town where it is located.

When Clancy is around, she is happy to take Lain. It gives her an opportunity to be involved, as well as avail herself of the coffee shop(s) there. Which gives me some down time, which is nice.


I’ve been working on getting a handle on my smartphone’s battery life, which is getting worse. When I first got it, I didn’t need to do any recharges/swaps over the course of a day. Now I’m lucky if I only need to recharge or swap the battery twice. I’m also dealing with an issue where the screen lights up randomly when the phone isn’t in use.

Category: Home


Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.

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