Friday Quote – Penn Jillette

Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color

Penn Jillette

I don’t know if this is an original quote from Penn, or just a pithy comment for atheists. Either way, I liked it when I heard Penn say it on his latest Sunday School podcast. Atheism is not a different kind of faith, but is the absence of faith. Faith is believing that the universe works because that’s the way a deity or deities decided. Atheism says the universe works because of specified principles that we can prove through experimentation. Faith says that the future can be divined through cryptic prophecies that are often retrofitted after the events occur. Science actually predicts the existence of phenomena from the sub-atomic to the galactic in size and scope.

Like many atheists, I do not deny that there may be a God(s). I don’t know if there is a deity or not. All I know is that I don’t have any good, reliable, repeatable evidence for the existence of a deity. And that is one of the reasons that I am an atheist.

Gun Rights Policy Conference 2012

The Second Amendment Foundation wisely decided to hold the GRPC this year in Orlando. Details here. I will definitely be attending on Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 29 & 30). Friday may be more problematic because it’s the last day of the fiscal year. Right now, I’m still planning to be there. To say that I’m excited to be going is kind of like saying the Mongols dabbled in real estate.

Friday Quote – Marko Kloos

Okay, this one is a day late. So sue me.

“You’re not the better human by not fighting back. You’re not the better human for choosing to have no claws or teeth. You’re not the better human for delegating responsibility your personal safety to some underpaid guy or girl with a tin badge. And you damn sure don’t get to claim a halo for your attitude.”


This quote made the circles around the gun blogs a few months ago. Like many of them, Marko managed to perfectly sum up my feelings towards many of the “violence is not the answer” crowd. There is a big difference between avoiding violence and refusing to do violence. As I said in my previous post, I try to avoid escalating a conflict to the point of physical violence and attempt to deescalate if it looks like the altercation is going that way. That said, I’m always prepared to do violence in the protection of myself or my loved ones. Heck, even some of my acquaintances.

Refusing to do violence when attacked is rewarding the predator by making his job easier. Surrendering of liberty, by abrogating the responsibilities that come with liberty, means that even those of the populace willing to take up that responsibility will be forced to give up their liberty.

Is it enlightened to not want to do violence to another? Yes. Should we take steps to avoid violence? Yes, when possible. Will there come times when violence is the answer? Yes.

Hat tip: Say Uncle

Verbal De-Escalaltion and the Concealed Carry Holder

When I look at the differences of how I handled situations before I started carrying and now, the biggest is that I let some annoyances slide. Things that would have before got me into a rage, I just ignore or shrug off. Why? Because now I can’t afford to let things escalate into a confrontation that might become physical. Among the gun blogs, it’s often speculated on why anti-gunners seem prone to threaten or commit violence against their opponents. One theory is that they aren’t regularly carrying something that can cause immediate and irrevocable harm to another, and therefore, have lost respect for the power of violence. I refuse to engage in petty arguments not because I have a gun and can make anyone back down with my violence, but because if I have to do violence, it will not end well for anyone, including myself (see: Zimmerman, George).

The most recent Practical Defense, one of the myriad of podcasts I listen to regularly, was on verbal deescalation. Please give it a listen. The normal host, Alex Haddox, was “rebroadcasting” a podcast from Britain by Iain Abernathy. Being able to stop an altercation from becoming physical – and possibly lethal – should be extremely important to anyone who regularly carries a firearm.

Somethings I picked up from the podcast:

  1. Some situations can’t be verbally deescalated. Criminals and non-reasoning individuals (such as those under the influence and belligerent) should be dealt with by retreat or defense. Keeping your situational awareness may help in avoiding and/or recognizing these individuals.
  2. LEAPS – Listen, Empathize, Ask, Paraphrase, and Summarize; this was surprisingly similar to what I was taught at McDonald’s to “recover” a customer who had a bad experience. Make sure to use “I” statements instead of “You” statement (i.e., “I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time understanding what you just said.” instead, “You’re not making yourself clear.”)
  3. Even when deescalating, be prepared for violence. Even after everything seems resolved don’t let your guard down.

If you listen to podcasts, I highly recommend Practical Defense. If you don’t learn something new with each podcast, then you should go back and re-listen because you missed something. Even on subjects I thought I was proficient, Alex still manages to give me either new techniques or new perspectives.

Short-term vs. Long-Term vs. Historical Reaction to Obamacare Decision

On my way home, I like to listen to the Squirrel Report podcast. It’s usually pretty funny and informative, and I really like the combination of Breda, Jay, Weer’d, and Alan. For their June 28 show, they also had Borepatch on as a guest host. The first hour was dominated by the Obamacare decision. Understandable, since that was perhaps the most dominating story of the day.

Borepatch was making some very cogent arguments on how Chief Justice Roberts used the Obamacare decision to put the Democrats in a bad position. Here’s his blogpost laying out some of his arguments. Not necessarily in the short-term, but in the longer term of when the provisions of Obamacare really start to kick in. In terms of the politics, I think Borepatch is spot-on. I disagree with Borepatch on his seeming admiration of Chief Justice Roberts.

Here’s my issue: when dealing with Supreme Court decisions, you can’t just look at it in the prism of the next year, the next five years, or even the next ten years. Judges, by their training and nature, are loathe to overturn precedent. The heart of the arguments against Obamacare, namely the modern interpretation of the Commerce Clause, has its heart in a 1942 Supreme Court case. If Borepatch’s analysis is correct, then Roberts played a Supreme Court decision for present-day politics, and that absolutely disgusts me.

Ramblings on about the Obamacare decision

To say that I’m disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare is an understatement on par with saying the Titanic got a little dinged up by that iceberg. Especially how the individual mandate was upheld. It’s okay as long as it’s a tax. Bullshit. It is not an acceptable encroachment of personal liberty to tell me I must buy a product or you will take money from me at the end of a gun. Will I continue to buy health insurance? Yes. It is the financially intelligent thing for me to do at this point in my life. Should I be forced to purchase health insurance? No.

The health care system in America functions well most of the time, but it has some glaring gaps. Those didn’t just happen. Like any good problem, it’s an evolution of choices that is now more than the sum of its parts. The problem is not going to be solved with one radical change. There are too many players that have too many vested interests. Health care in America is a complex organism, much like the human body it is supposed to be treating. Remedying a symptom isn’t going to cure the disease, even if it makes the patient feel better for the moment.

This decision also reinforces my reasons not to vote for Romney. First, a vote for Romney will not guarantee a repeal of Obamacare. Even if the Republicans control both houses of Congress, I don’t see Romney pushing for a full repeal. Like any good statist, he will find a way to make it better. Instead of repealing this monster of regulation and taxation, let’s fix it, because that will make us look good. Second, this decision highlights that the political party of the president is no guarantee that the judges he manages to place on the high-court will be friendly to liberty. Roberts, the swing judge on this decision, was one of Bush II’s placements. Can the president be a barometer of the types of decisions the justice might hand down? Sure, but there has been enough of these types decisions that I don’t put much faith in the idea that any justice from Romney will work to protect my rights under the Constitution.

I won’t go into the heated rhetoric of this decision being the one that sends us plunging into becoming the next communist state or the next Greece. It is another step in that direction. I am convinced we still have time to recover from our socialist delusions that the government must protect us from every misfortune. I just don’t see very much support for it in the current body politic.

Friday Quote – Napoleon Bonaparte

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Napoleon Bonaparte Emperor of France (1805-1814)

Although this quote is in reference to military matters, it also has its uses in arguing a position. As hard as it may be, sometimes it’s best just to let someone ramble while making all sorts of logical fallacies. Your opponent may just show exactly how much of a fool they are or at least let you demolish most of their strong arguments before they can start moving the goal posts further or start switching their attack vectors.

Friday Quote – Thomas Paine

“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”

Thomas Paine American Founding Father and author of the Revolutionary-era pamphlet Common Sense.

Common sense tells us to pick our battles. There is little point in arguing with zealots because they are unfazed by the use of logical arguments. It is highly unlikely that anything said will make them stop and re-evaluate their beliefs. FSM knows I used to be like that when I was gripped in the throes of the conservative political dogma.

The only time I know to engage the zealot is when there is a third-party that can be swayed. In one of the great scenes from the movie Thank You For Smoking, the protagonist, Nick is explaining his job as a lobbyist to his son, Joey.

Nick: Okay, let's say that you're defending chocolate and I'm defending vanilla. Now, if I were to say to you, "Vanilla's the best flavor ice cream", you'd say …?
Joey: "No, chocolate is."
Nick: Exactly. But you can't win that argument. So, I'll ask you: So you think chocolate is the end-all and be-all of ice cream, do you?
Joey: It's the best ice cream; I wouldn't order any other.
Nick: Oh. So it's all chocolate for you, is it?
Joey: Yes, chocolate is all I need.
Nick: Well, I need more than chocolate. And for that matter, I need more than vanilla. I believe that we need freedom and choice when it comes to our ice cream, and that, Joey Naylor, that is the definition of liberty.
Joey: But that's not what we're talking about.
Nick: Ah, but that's what I'm talking about.
Joey: But … you didn't prove that vanilla's the best.
Nick: I didn't have to. I proved that you're wrong, and if you're wrong, I'm right.
Joey: But you still didn't convince me.
Nick: Because I'm not after you. I'm after them. (Pointing to by-standers)

We’re not trying to convince the zealots, we’re trying to convince them. The by-standers that will listen to reasoned arguments against the rhetoric. Those who can be swayed.

Anti-Vaccine Proponents – Righteous Fools With a Body Count Part I

I find most forms of pseudoscience just annoying. They’re harmful, but ususally just to the practitioner. Someone who wastes their life chasing UFOs or becoming a Scientologist usually just hurts themself. That expands when an adult drags their children into their delusion, but usually someone outside their immediate circle is not directly affected. (I know there are exceptions. There are reasons a generalization is a generalization.)

Then there are the anti-vaccination conspiracy people. Vaccines are one of the true miracles of modern medicine. They have eradicated small pox, one of the deadliest diseases in human history, to the point where the only samples are in laboratories. Unfortunately, vaccines have become a victim of their own success. Since people are not growing up with seeing their friends and family members suffering from the ravages of vaccine-preventable diseases, the idea that the cure is worse than the disease has managed to take root. In this first post dealing with the anti-vaccine propaganda, I will deal with why I think everyone should be required to be vaccinated unless physically unable.

Vaccinations are one of those subjects where I devolve from some of the more rabid wookie-suited libertarians, especially when it comes to those of us who are urban or suburban residents. One of the truisms held among the libertarians is that “your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.” Essentially, the right a person has to do what they want ends when it will reasonably be expected to cause harm to another. How does that fit into the use of vaccines? For that we need a basic of understanding of how vaccines operate in a populace.

Let’s take a normal small sized city of maybe 50,000 people. In that population there are adults, children, elderly, healthy, and sick people. In that 50,000 there are going to be those that physically can’t be vaccinated. The very young or people with compromised immune systems. In order to protect those individuals from the ravages of some horrible diseases, the city will need to develop “herd immunity.” Essentially, this means that when (not if) a disease enters the city, there are enough vaccinated “blockers” between the carrier and the unprotected population that the disease dies before it can reach the unprotected. More importantly, for this herd immunity to work, there needs to be a high number of blockers. For some diseases the threshold may be 75% of the population needs to be vaccinated, but pertussis (whooping cough) requires at least 92% of the population to be vaccinated for herd immunity. Understanding that, if I choose to live in a city with this unprotected population and do not get vaccinated, then my actions can reasonably be expected to put a portion of the population at risk. How many people do I come in contact with during the course of a normal day? How would I know who could be vaccinated and didn’t and who’s immune system couldn’t take vaccinations.

In the next part, I will take on some of the anti-vax propaganda.

Friday Quote – George Bernard Shaw

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

George Bernard Shaw

What surprises me is less that people dread liberty, but how quickly they will surrender it “for the public good.” They don’t understand that each time they surrender their liberty so that someone else will handle their responsibility, they are giving control to an enitity who may not use it in their interest.