From The Erbo Files
Monday, October 22, 2012

You gotta love a story with a happy ending like this...

A 12-year-old girl took matters into her own hands during a home invasion in southeast Oklahoma.

It happened on Wednesday when the girl was home alone. She told police a stranger rang the doorbell, then went around to the back door and kicked it in. She called her mom, Debra St. Clair, who told her to get the family gun, hide in a closet and call 911.

OK, Mom and the cops both headed for the scene...but events wouldn't wait for either of them.

During that time, the intruder made his way through the house. St. Clair's daughter told deputies the man came into the room where she was hiding and began to open up the closet door. That was when the 12 year old had to make a life-saving decision.

"And what we understand right now, he was turning the doorknob when she fired through the door," said the Bryan County Undersheriff Ken Golden.


The bullet hit the intruder, who deputies identified as 32-year-old Stacey Jones. He took off but did not get far before officers took him down.


Yeah, the goblin managed to survive. But that doesn't take away from what that girl did. She had to have some serious ovaries to make a judgment call like that. I sincerely hope this is her first--and last--gunfight. But she makes a hell of a gunfighter.

Her mother raised her well...and was foresighted enough to provide her with the tool she needed to keep herself from being raped or killed. Or more likely both.

The story comes to us via Karl Denninger, who reminds us:

Your unalienable right to life does not come into existence at 18 or 21. It is just as applicable when you're 12 as when you're 75, when you're a 4'10" 90lb woman as a 260lb 6'2" man.

Your unalienable right to life is meaningless unless you are able to defend it, if necessary, no matter where you may be.

And it is a fact that on rare occasion you may need to do exactly that.

It is for this precise reason -- your right to defend your life against any who may try to take that right from you -- that the 2nd Amendment exists and must not be diminished, abrogated or infringed.

Couldn't agree more.  Self-defense is a human right.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

This blog post was inspired by a question I was asked to answer on Quora by Robert Gluck, which consisted, in its entirety, of the phrase that makes up the title above. Herewith is my reply.

As has been pointed out by other respondents to this question, the phrase "the banality of evil" was coined by Hannah Arendt, as part of the subtitle to her 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The book was her account of the 1961 trial, in Jerusalem, of Adolf Eichmann, who had worked during the Nazi era in Germany for branches of the S.S. dealing with "emigration," "relocation," and "evacuation" of Jewish populations across Europe. Many of these, of course, were convenient euphemisms for "extermination." By "banality," Arendt meant that, for people such as Eichmann who were part of the monstrous bureaucracy of death developed by the Nazis in the process of implementing their "Final Solution of the Jewish Question," dealing with matters involving the suffering and death of so many human beings became a mere matter of routine, "just another day at the office," as it were. (It is perhaps significant that Arendt herself later regretted employing the term, and noted that she would not use it if she were to write the book over again. By then, of course, it was too late, and had become a catchphrase.)

Eichmann, despite his many boasts to the contrary, was, it would appear, no more than a "middle manager" in this bureaucracy of death. He did not dictate the policies that were implemented; this was, of course, done, ultimately, by Hitler himself, and to a lesser extent by Heinrich Himmler, head of the S.S., and Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Main Security Office, to whom he ultimately reported. Nor did he actually kill anyone; in fact, the one time he visited sites where the actual killing of Jews happened (once by firing squad, once in the gas trucks), he was sickened and shaken by the experience. Eichmann's chief concern was that of transportation, shifting Jews around from location to location, locating the trains needed to move them and making sure there were enough people aboard each train so that no trains were "wasted," and ultimately delivering them up for "resettlement in the East" (read: extermination at Auschwitz or one of the other death camps). He may have viewed the lives affected by these operations as no more than abstractions, numbers which had to be shifted around to meet the expectations of his superiors. (A similar attitude is expressed in a quotation famously misattributed to Joseph Stalin: "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." )

Edward Herman calls the development of this "banality" a process of "normalizing the unthinkable," in which, over time, terrible, murderous acts simply become "the way things are done." This was certainly the case for Eichmann as he was made responsible for the "relocation" of Jewish populations throughout Europe. The example of Rumania is perhaps relevant here: the Rumanians were so eager to comply with Nazi demands that their land be made judenrein (Jew-free) that they instituted their own bloody pogroms against their own Jewish population. Eichmann was forced to scramble, quickly arranging transportation so that the Rumanian Jews could be dealt with in the usual fashion. Even though the outcome was ultimately the same, he felt that the approach taken by the Nazis, the "way things were done" to which he had become accustomed, was more "civilized."

It's also true that people in this kind of situation may not be aware of the ultimate consequences of their actions, though Eichmann, at least in the latter half of his career, surely was. This may include, not only those such as the Nazis, but scientists involved in the development of potentially-destructive new weaponry. In the movie Real Genius, for example, Mitch Taylor and Chris Knight are college students engaged in developing a powerful laser merely as a research project for Professor Jerry Hathaway. After they succeed, and Lazlo Hollyfeld confronts them with the question "What would you use that for?", their friend "Ick" Ikagami deflects the question with a joke ("Making enormous Swiss cheese?" ), Knight brushes it aside, thinking only of his own situation ("Lazlo, that doesn't matter! I respect you, but I graduated!" ) and Taylor shrugs it off: "The applications are unlimited...let the engineers figure out a use for it, that's not our concern!" Only when further prompted by Hollyfeld, and upon returning to the lab to find out their laser has been spirited away for immediate military testing, do they realize the enormity of what they've done and begin working on a plan to sabotage it. Whatever "evil" they committed in the design of what proved to be a new weapon surely was "banal" in that sense, and acquired this quality chiefly by virtue of their own ignorance. The real evil, it might be argued, was Hathaway's, in exploiting their labor without informing them of the ultimate purpose, after having diverted funding for the laser project towards remodeling his house. This mirrors the way the Nazis engaged in division of labor to keep groups of people in their lower echelons focused on minor details of the Final Solution instead of on the "big picture"...and corruption was also endemic in the Nazi era as well.

Friedrich Hayek, in his book The Road to Serfdom, wrote, "Advancement within a totalitarian group or party depends largely on a willingness to do immoral things. The principle that the end justifies the means, which in individualist ethics is regarded as the denial of all morals, in collectivist ethics becomes necessarily the supreme rule." This is a contributor to the development of evil as a "banality," if it is viewed as something that one is merely required to do to maintain and advance one's position, such as Eichmann hoping for advancement in his post, or Knight getting his college degree. People are often willing to "go along to get along," as shown by Milgram's experiment and Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment, as well as by the Jewish Councils set up by the Nazis, which did much of the "dirty work" in selecting those who would be put on the trains for "resettlement," perhaps in the belief that they would avoid the same fate or worse thereby. (Ultimately, this would not be the case; many members of the Councils themselves were sent along to the death camps.)

So we have a number of conditions: the participants in evil acts are either ignorant of the consequences of their actions or are willing to suppress or "abstract away" what knowledge they have of them, their actions have been "normalized" by the organization they work in, and they view their actions as necessary to maintain or advance their own position, or to further their own goals. Under these circumstances, yes, evil can become quite "banal" indeed. It is worth noting, in closing, an observation that Isaac Asimov once made in recounting a conversation with Fritz Leiber: a truly "intelligent" villain never just shouts "I'm a wicked bad guy!", he is never a "villain" in his own eyes. Eichmann certainly was not; he even professed that he had been trying to save Jews by his actions, even as he acknowledged that he was to be made something of a scapegoat for the Nazi regime by his trial and execution. Even one of the most clichéd villains of all time, Darth Vader, would tell Luke Skywalker that his ultimate aim was to "bring order to the Galaxy," much as the Nazis wanted to bring "order" to the world. Their examples must stand as a cautionary tale for us all.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Over on the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, DJ, who has been the resident "Loyal Opposition" for over ten years as well as contributing technical expertise to keeping the site thriving, has just announced that he has Stage III liver cancer, probably close to Stage IV. His estimate is that he has no more than a year left, unless he finds a donor organ for a transplant before hitting Stage IV, which even he admits is unlikely.

Please note that the link in the paragraph above is unlikely to be functional by the time you read this, as he has announced the intention to take the post down shortly. He has also disabled comments on the post. The reason?

Please understand as I am telling you this, I am NOT asking for your prayers or sympathy. I do not deserve either. I have known about this for about six months now, and since there have been a few of you asking after my health, I felt that I should come clean as much as I am comfortable with.


Please understand that I do NOT want your sympathy nor your prayers. I just want to be treated as I have always been. I only want to come clean and let you know that I am not going to be around too much longer.

When I read this, I have the uncomfortable feeling that DJ is selling himself short. Besides, regardless of whether he wants, or feels he "deserves," sympathy and prayers or not, he's going to get them anyway from his fellow denizens of the Rott. Including me. Because we're human beings first and foremost, no matter how far to the Right we are of his political positions.

And so I offer mine, with no Imperial Authority behind it, just one conservative geek among many raising a voice.

DJ, there is such a thing as a "Loyal Opposition." To a certain extent, we need having our beliefs and positions challenged on a regular basis, because that forces us to re-examine them, and help build them up and make them stronger. And your opposition is a lot more articulate than that of most of Ogabe's NSDWP minions, whose entire argument could be summed up in large part as "You're nothing but racist, sexist, uncivil bitter-clinger Visigoths who're being not helpful! WAAAHHHH!! MOMMYYYYYYY!!!" Don't think that goes unappreciated, as vehemently as we may argue against you. Besides which, as opposed as you are to the kind of opinions being expressed on the Rott on a daily basis, you've gone above and beyond the call of duty in keeping the site alive so that those opinions could be expressed...and, as a former manager of a virtual-community site myself, I do know something of what that entails, including things like checking in with the site while on vacation in Maui to make sure everything is copacetic. I doubt anyone could ever "replace" you in either of those two roles; they can only succeed you.

Cancer is a hell of a thing. Many of us on the Rott have gone through it, and/or had loved ones that have gone through it. For my part, my father had throat cancer back while I was in college, and has just recently been diagnosed with, and treated for, pancreatic cancer. An aunt of mine succumbed to breast cancer. My ex-wife had a hysterectomy years before I met her, due to uterine cancer. I would bet that not one of us does not at least know, on a clinical level, what happens as a result of this. We're all qualified to sympathize...and those of us who are of the sort inclined to offer prayers are not only qualified, but called upon to do so when "a member of the family" is in need. You may not believe that there's Anyone on the other end of those prayers to listen to them, and intercede on your behalf...but there may yet be. In an infinite universe, anything is possible.

In the same post, DJ has announced his intention to take a series of bike rides around the U.S. and Canada for as long as he is physically able to do so. To him, I will offer one final benediction:

May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be ever at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields,

And, until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.
Old Irish blessing

Friday, March 30, 2012

Over on Facebook, this little bit of feel-good liberal wankery is circulating: (transcribed)

Don't pump gas on April, 15 2012 [sic]

KEEP SENDING THIS Lets [sic] all try this, wonderful if it helps.

Il [sic] do it! If running low, just get your gas the day before on April 14 or the day after on April 16. Every little bit helps.

In April 1997, there was a "gas out" conducted nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On April 15th 2011, all internet users are to not go to a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $1.20 a liter/$3.87 in most places.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it would take $2,292,000,000.00 (that's almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companies [sic] pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on April 15th and let's try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

How quaint...a boycott of gasoline, on Tax Day (or, for some, Buy a Gun Day), no less. Of course, if you do as they say and tank up on the 14th or the 16th, the oil companies will still get their money, as this MSNBC article debunking the whole concept tells us. The article's author points out that Department of Energy statistics show no evidence for the massive drop in gas prices in 1997 the aforementioned spam claims. (Given MSNBC's well-known liberal bias, the fact that they'd run this article is telling.)

As for myself...well, I only generally fill up once a week, so there's a 86% chance I won't be buying gas on April 15th, "boycott" or no. But, if I have to fill up that day, I won't let some anonymously-circulated, semiliterate piece of liberal propaganda stand in the way of my having a working car. Funny how, you know, having an actual job that you have to get to on a daily basis changes your perspective on this, now, doesn't it?

Now, if the liberals are reading this, they would probably say something like, "Well, why don't you just take the bus/light rail/bicycle to work?" Sure, I could do that...except that any of those solutions would take at least twice as long, and maybe three times as long or longer, as driving myself. My time is a valuable resource, too, you know! I have chosen one of the classic tradeoffs of money (in the form of gas) for time here...and if you know anything about engineering, you'll know it's all about tradeoffs.

(Speaking to bicycling in particular, I have hard numbers on this from Google Maps. My home to IQNavigator is 7.3 miles over surface streets, i.e., not on I-25. They time that route as 20 minutes by car...and 54 minutes by bicycle. I'd be spending over an hour a day extra if I tried to commute by that route...a full 1/24th of my precious life's hours. Remember, folks, you can frequently make more money, but, no matter how rich you are, there are still only 24 hours per day. Puts it in perspective, doesn't it?)

. . .

There's one aspect of that little missive that does potentially have a point...the point about the "Middle Eastern oil industry."

Why do we bring in all that oil from the Middle East, anyway? Could it be because the liberal envirowackos--the same kind of well-meaning fools who are circulating the "Don't Pump Gas" screed--have, through their wholly-owned subsidiary the National Socialist Democrat Workers' Party, made it damn near impossible to drill for oil in this country? Colorado, for instance, has an awful lot of oil shale out on the Western Slope...and, if it were allowed to be extracted, not only would it keep us from having to import as much oil from overseas, the royalties from oil production would go a long way towards shoring up the state's budget woes. (Not that we want to encourage the clown car we call "the General Assembly" to spend more money, mind you...)

Instead, we trade off drilling here for drilling there...and any environmental damage that might happen as a result happens to "the little brown people" in Saudi Arabia, etc., not us. And they get the money, too...which they, in turn, spend on terrorist groups that would like to see us wiped off the face of the Earth.


. . .

But it doesn't have to be this way...and, if you read Karl Denninger (and if you don't, why the hell not?!?), you'll know there's a way forward.

Did you know that the United States has even more in the way of coal reserves than we do in oil? And did you know that one of the primary impurities in coal is thorium? And did you know that thorium can be used as fuel in nuclear reactors--reactors of a vastly different type than we have now?

Liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs) are not new; the technology behind them was successfully demonstrated at Oak Ridge Laboratories in the 1960's. The only reason we didn't pursue them back then was that they breed fuel very slowly, and the fuel they produce is very difficult to extract for making nuclear weapons. Sounds like a big plus in this day and age, doesn't it?

LFTRs are also inherently safer than other nuclear reactors. The reactor does not require high pressure; the fluid it uses is a liquid at atmospheric pressure and its normal operating temperature. The reactor literally cannot suffer a Fukushima-type meltdown, as there are no fuel rods to melt down; the fuel and the coolant are the same fluid, circulating through the fixed moderators in the reactor core vessel. This fluid is kept in the reactor by an actively-cooled "freeze plug"; if the reactor loses power, the plug melts, and the fluid drains out of the core into holding tanks below, where it cools and solidifies, as it cannot maintain criticality outside the reactor vessel. They tested this safety feature of LFTRs at Oak Ridge, too--they literally turned off the power and went home for the weekend!

LFTRs also operate at a much higher temperature than regular reactors, around 650 degrees Fahrenheit. This has several advantages; for one, we can use air-cooled combined-cycle generating turbines, for instance, instead of water-cooled Rankine-cycle turbines that require access to large amounts of water. But the big advantage is that we can tap that process heat directly--and use it to run the Fischer-Tropsch process, to convert the coal we extracted the thorium fuel from into synthetic petroleum. This is also not new technology; the Germans were using it in World War II, and the process has been refined (no pun intended) somewhat since then.

By many estimates, the potential energy in the thorium impurities in coal amounts to thirteen times the amount of energy we could get from just burning the coal. So why do we still burn it?

Instead, we could take that coal, extract the thorium, use it to run LFTRs, and use the heat generated by the LFTRs both to run turbines to generate electricity, and to run the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert the remaining coal into petroleum. We could literally replace all our gasoline and diesel fuel requirements this way, ending imports of foreign oil. A second-order effect of this is that we could shrink our military expenditures, as a large portion of our military power goes into making sure we have access to foreign oil. We might be able to cut the amount we need to spend on the military in half this way.

In addition, this way, we don't have to replace our fleet of cars and trucks with hybrids, electric cars, cars that run on hydrogen and/or ethanol, etc. Despite any faults, liquid hydrocarbons are still the most effective fuel for mobile use that we have, both in terms of energy density (both per-unit mass and per-unit volume) and in terms of the energy and expenditures required to make the propulsion systems (internal-combustion engines vs. battery packs, etc.). But, though we're still "burning" our coal, in the form of synthetic petroleum, we're not burning the oil we would have imported but aren't any longer! So we're getting both electricity and transportation, but we're doing it with only half the carbon emissions as before (approximately). Put it that way, and I don't see why the Glowbull Wormening fanatics aren't all over this plan!* (Nuclear waste, you say? LFTRs produce a hell of a lot less waste than other nuclear reactors...they tend to "burn up" their own waste over time, and the fuel/coolant mix can be continuously reprocessed without producing weaponizable byproducts.)

We also wind up with dramatically more electrical power than we would have had by burning the coal--and that's after taking into account the energy expenditures required to produce the synthetic petroleum. So there'd be plenty of energy available to charge up electric cars, or electrolyze water into hydrogen, if you still wanted an electric or hydrogen car for some reason. More energy available equals more economic output...equals more prosperity.

How long could we sustain this, with our proven coal reserves? At least two centuries, even accounting for population growth and assuming no drop in per-capita energy use. At our rate of technological progress, we'll have figured out hydrogen fusion in far less time. (Hell, Star Trek: Enterprise posits that we'll have warp drive before then. I wouldn't go that far, but we're certainly not just going to stand still.)

There are engineering challenges to be solved along this path, to be sure. But no breakthroughs of technology are required, just refinements on what we already know. We can make this work, and do so at a reasonably-competitive price. We can have vastly more energy, keep our cars, and go tell the "weird beards" of the Middle East that they can damned well drink their oil...but, if they try any more shenanigans with us, the retribution that will follow will rank among the great retributions of human history.

What's the tradeoff? Mostly, we have to have the political will to do it...and that means potentially pissing off not only the aforementioned envirowacko contingent, but those companies that are already making comfortable money off the existing energy non-policy. (I'd say, get them on the same side by letting them run the reactors...there'd be profit to be made there.)

Unfortunately, that's a tradeoff our spineless, gutless politicians on both sides of the aisle are unwilling to make.

(Go search Denninger's site for "thorium," "LFTR," or "energy." He's written a lot more about this, that defies easy summary.)

* - Actually, I do.  This plan doesn't allow them to redistribute the wealth of the world from "evil" countries like the United States to all those "deserving poor" elsewhere, while skimming off any amount they like to enrich themselves, and exercising all the political power that goes with it.  But that's kind of beside the point.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Via Michelle Malkin, I hear that Hussein al-Chicago is establishing a new "Truth Team" aimed at "responding to unfounded attacks and defending the President's record."  In other words, another left-wing snitch squad, just like Attack Watch!!! before it. Honestly, this is getting real predictable, and real old, real fast.

Somebody better point Ogabe's chief of staff, Jack Lew, at that team, because he could use a dose of the truth:

“You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes and you can’t get 60 votes without bipartisan support,” Lew said. “So unless… unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate, [Majority Leader] Harry Reid is not going to be able to get a budget passed.”

That’s not accurate. Budgets only require 51 Senate votes for passage, as Lew — former director of the Office of Management and Budget — surely must know.

Of course, we know what he meant.  60 votes is the requirement to pass a cloture motion that breaks a (presumably GOP-led) filibuster. So...I guess what he meant to say was something along the lines of "You can't ram through a lopsidedly-Democratic budget in the Senate of the United States over the strenuous objections of the Republicans without 60 votes and you can't get 60 votes without peeling off a few squishy RINOs who think disagreeing with the NSDWP is 'unhelpful.'"

Of course, the Donks could try, instead, proposing a reasonable and prudent budget that both they and their loyal opposition could see the merits in and pass without needless drama...

Ha. Haha. Hahahaha. Hahahahahahahahaha! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Who are we kidding? Those numbnuts haven't managed to pass A budget, let alone anything anywhere near "reasonable and prudent," in the past three years! (And most of their attempted budgets, in the meantime, have been closer to "complete fiduciary misconduct." )

And the new proposal headed their way from the desk of King Putt isn't any better, with deficits and additional national debt as far as the eye can see.  Aside from the obvious pitfalls in this approach (see "Greece" for an example), the budget mess also, as Karl Denninger points out, makes it impossible for law enforcement to go after the banks for their systematic looting and asset-stripping of the American populace...because those same banks make it possible for the Federal Gummint to keep kiting checks, and even to keep rolling over the existing debt.  Lose that capability, and the Feds either have to quit deficit spending in a hurry (good luck with that!) or collapse, literally, within hours.  This is what is commonly known as "having someone by the balls."

And that's a bit of truth that will never be acknowledged by Sir Golfsalot and his "Truthiness Team."

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