Musings

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Sunni's picture

Stakeholders and Boundaries

Yesterday I read the newest essay at Endervidualism -- a piece titled Contra-Democracy by Ali Massoud. As the title suggests, he's arguing against democracy as a means of collective decision making. If all parties wish to use it, I see no reason why they shouldn't ... but that's about the only condition under which I'd find it acceptable.

Of more interest is his tying voting (not electoral politics, but micro-community voting as a process for making decisions) to being a stakeholder. Massoud puts it bluntly: "If you aren’t a stakeholder, you shouldn’t get a vote." Fair enough ... but he uses an example that shatters the clarity of his argument; he asks, "Why should any man, who after all can't get pregnant, have a vote on women's reproductive or family planning choices?"

A man is a stakeholder when it comes to reproduction; the act requires the participation of both a male and a female (experimental, in vitro science with mice notwithstanding). Ideally, before any sperm come close to an egg, both parties will discuss that delicate issue of potential baby-making, and reach an agreement on how to proceed. Just because it doesn't always happen that way doesn't mean a man should have no voice in becoming a father.

Sunni's picture

Schiavo and Steroids and Federal Power, Oh My!

It's been a fun but very busy week for me, finally getting the first Salon published and advancing other projects a bit too. Today I'm looking forward to some quality time in the kitchen, prepping ingredients for an enchilada-fest, and making a blueberry cheesecake for tomorrow's feast. A nice way to welcome spring, even if it seems to have forsaken us here in the northern states ...

It occurred to me this morning, though, that two recent news items have provided opportunities to drop some really good ideas into an awakening person's mind, to help them realize just how intrusive the govgoons have become.


First is the Terry Schiavo case ... I imagine most people are aware that her feeding tube has been removed. This morning's headline revealed that the robed nazgul have declined to get involved, after some House members took up the cause.

This is a complex situation, no doubt about it. And it's easy to get distracted by a lot of the details ... but the fundamental point to ask people is this, it seems to me: How does a federal legislative body have any standing to get involved here? Yes, it's a tragedy, but the greater tragedy is all the power-grabbing attempts done by those who try to rule others (local, FL, and federal govs). Their involvement means that it will happen more often, not less; and we'll see, across the U.S.S.A., more bad laws that attempt to address the "problem" and which will instead create new ones, and a lot more pain.

Second is the steroid situation in sports. The issue of drug legalization is secondary, again, to the issue of legislative authority. Major League Baseball is a private enterprise, with its own policies and enforcement mechanisms. If the fedgov can come in to MLB and start swinging its weight around, then it can come into Microsoft, or any enterprise in similar fashion. And it will. (A sub-point that can be made here is a comparison between the govgoons' success at their war on drugs and the relatively recent problems of drug use in sports.)

The underlying point is if the state can insinuate itself to this degree into people's lives and businesses as we're seeing in these two cases, it can do so into your life as well. (Yes, I know -- it already is; but we're talking this morning about waking people up. I've found that framing things in a future-oriented structure helps accomplish that. And, once that's done, they begin to see for themselves that a lot of what they thought was "yet to come" is already here.)

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Would You Pay More for South Dakota Chipped Beef?

It will be very interesting to see what the market is for this "service". From the Modesto Bee comes news that South Dakota's governor has signed into a law a bill creating a program for tracking beef from from birth to retail store. Why? Some choice quotes [yes, pun intended]:

Consumers will be able to find out where the beef they buy came from, even the ranch where a calf was born, under a new measure signed into law Tuesday by South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds and aimed at raising cattle prices for the state's farmers and ranchers.

The South Dakota Certified Beef Program allows consumers to visit an Internet site and use a code on the meat label to track the animal from birth, through a feedlot and to a meatpacking plant.

"We believe consumers will step forward and they will be paying premium prices for this premium product," Rounds said Tuesday. ....

Various organizations have promoted high-quality beef, but South Dakota officials said the program marks the first time a government has put its seal of approval on beef products. [Emphasis mine]


Uh, I guess those "South Dakota officials" mean a state gov, as the feds already "inspect" meat that gets the USDA label.

Now, are people really so scared about mad cow disease that there's a demand for this? Maybe in other countries, but I'm not seeing it here. Then again, most of the company I keep is of the sensible sort, and not too susceptible to the scare-mongering going on. More importantly, does anyone know of any govocrat program that has higher standards -- and actually enforces them -- than a comparable private organization?

More details on the program from the Bee article:

"We're going beyond country of origin labeling here. We're going right down to the producer who raised that calf," Rounds said.

Cattle in the program would have to be raised, fed and slaughtered in South Dakota. Farmers, ranchers and processors who join the program would have to follow state standards in raising and slaughtering cattle. All cattle in the program would carry electronic ID tags.

Rounds also signed into law a second measure that allows the state to start an identification program that will work in conjunction with the South Dakota Certified Beef program and also be used to help stop the spread of livestock diseases.

Farmers and ranchers who voluntarily enroll in the Certified Beef program would have to pay licensing fees, which would be used to finance marketing and monitoring of the livestock.


Notice that it's casually dropped in that the cattle will have "electronic ID tags". They'll almost certainly be RFID-chipped, but as that acronym has become a lightning rod, it's being avoided in more and more circles. There's some evidence, which I haven't researched at all and so can't weigh in on, that these chips bring their own health risks to animals implanted with them.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how this plays out. I predict that's going to be a hefty price jump in order to pay for the costs of this program. I wonder if the ranchers who sign up will actually see increased profit as a result. And I wonder what'll happen to the program the first time someone gets a case of food poisoning and decides to sue everyone in that trackable chain ...

Sunni's picture

Questions that Keep Me Awake

I'm behind on work for CASPIAN, and I've much to do before the first Sunni's Salon comes out next week. So, of course the antihistamine I finally took last night interfered with my sleep ... and once I'm awake, my brain tends to kick into gear and it's damn near impossible for me to get back to sleep. Here are some of the questions that typically set the hamsters in my head running extra-fast in their wheels:

Has memetic evolution outpaced genetic evolution for Homo sapiens? How will that "contest" play out in the next 25, 100, 200 years?

Our social institutions and customs have evolutionary roots -- they're derived from choices that improved our survival. If the answer to my first question is "Yes", will social institutions follow memetic or genetic evolution more? And to what end?

What's a good balance for a freedom-loving parent trying to raise children to be responsible, functioning adults in their society, while simultaneously trying to genuinely improve it (i.e., become more freedom-enhancing)?

Can polyamory really work? Heinlein offered a lot of ideas, but I see few examples that I'd call successful; with a few exceptions, poly relationships seem to go against survival, rather than improve it.

Why am I incapable of settling on a favorite color?

And there you have it -- a peek into the Sunni Snake's mind in the wee hours.

Sunni's picture

Help Kill the Stegosaurus

Butler Shaffer weighs in today on the increasing power of the Internet, and bloggers, in decentralizing the mainstream media, which he likens to a stegosaurus. As amusing as his comparison is, I'm choosing a different bit to quote:

There is nothing "faddish" about the collapse of vertically-structured institutional systems, and the emergence of horizontal networks of interconnected individuals. Centralized systems are rapidly becoming decentralized – a matter about which I have written before – producing a fundamental change in how people will organize themselves in society. Because of the Internet, the information-genie has escaped its institutional confines – where it has been controlled, manipulated, and hidden from view, in furtherance of institutional interests to monopolize the content of the minds of subjugated men and women. [Italics his]


A much-needed reminder for me today ... and I think his stegosaurus metaphor may be applicable to much of our current society as well. Increasingly often, I catch myself wondering to what degree our society resembles ancient Rome's as it teetered on the brink of implosion. Not a particularly happy thought, but I'm willing to push through the mess if it means a freer society will emerge.

And that's the puzzler for me: will enough individuals learn from the collapse of the U.S.S.A. to keep the same mistakes from happening? I see so many Boobus americanus around that it's difficult to be optimistic in that regard; most don't seem to want to think, or be fully responsible for their lives. The only real hope I can see right now is if those of us who value liberty can carve out a place where we can keep the torch lit by Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine, Sam Adams, and Patrick Henry burning bright. The way many of us squabble and keep petty grievances alive, I'm none too optimistic on that score. But I'd love to be proved wrong about that.

One man who I think would make a great neighbor is Bob Smith, proprietor of No Force, No Fraud, which is this week's featured site. I recall hearing from him from time to time while I was the editor for Freedom News Daily; he'd point out an especially good entry. And while I had fairly strict guidelines as to how things were supposed to be entered into the FMN database (it was designed pre-blog, so there was a hole which allowed me a little leeway), and what was supposed to go in FND, I'd sometimes sneak in one of his blog-essays. I'm pleased to finally give it a spotlight of its own, small though it may be.

Sunni's picture

Free Market Musings

A very close friend works in the manufacturing industry. I've no experience in that kind of setting, so it's fascinating to hear him talk about what's going on whenever we get together. Of late, almost every time I hear from him I start having Atlas Shrugged flashbacks [LFB link; I'm not an affiliate]. His factory is trying to get new equipment made so they can start a new product line, but at almost every turn they meet with delays. It's apparently impossible to get the quantities of high-quality steel needed to machine the equipment -- the steel just isn't immediately available. The best estimate they have is that it'll be six months to get the steel. My understanding is that two things are contributing to this problem: 1] fewer steelmakers are making steel of the quality required for this project; and 2] China's economic boom is snarfing up much of the steel supply -- as well as other crucial infrastructure materials, including copper wire.

Speaking of China, my friend has had meetings with Chinese engineers, and others who've lived and worked in China, and says that elements of their business culture are evocative of the business climate that used to be the norm in the U.S. Specifically, Chinese companies compete in the marketplace, vying for individuals' business on the basis of merchandise quality, price, and such. Contrast that to our current business climate, where the first step in getting a new product on the market is running to the 'crats for their protectionism, otherwise known as patents and copyrights. In fact, in China, manufacturers don't consider their methods and materials proprietary, or "trade secrets" -- if Company L is working with a new material and having problems, it's common for them to approach Company C to ask them how they've solved them. And Company C actually helps Company L!

Can you imagine how much cheaper U.S.-made products would be without the hidden costs of the government protection racket? Can you imagine how far ahead we'd be, technologically speaking, if all the energy (time and money) that went into patent/copyright procurement and enforcement instead went into research and design? Instead, U.S. companies squabble like 8-year-old boys in a playground spat, sputtering "Mine! All mine! Mine-mine-mine-mine-MINE!!!"

Now that China is opening up, these differences are creating problems, as this Business Week article highlights. I came across the article via this News from Anarchistan post. Odd thing, that: what's a guy who names his blog that doing plumping for the state protection rackets?

"Free markets aren't what the Chinese have. Or rules of contract law, patents, copywrites [sic], and transparency in corporate governance."


I'm no expert in any element of Chinese society, but from where I slither, the Chinese market looks like it has a lot more of the freedom I'd enjoy.

Sunni's picture

The Best Public Policy Is ...

I've long found the realm of public policy intriguing. How, and why, did it spring up? Was it to counter the growing trend of the state supplying "news" to increasingly lazy and illiterate journalists, or was it foisted on us by do-gooders who wanted to expand their reach? Whatever the explanation, I recall being highly skeptical from my first exposure to a think tank's public policy pronouncement. How dare they try to tell me what's best for me?! They don't even know me!, I remember thinking.

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Why I Like Men, and What I Like about Them

Just got back from a run to the big city for various supplies. Had dinner and some interesting conversation with a very dear friend too. He did a lot of reminiscing, which was lots of fun to hear; it also led me to hop into the Wayback Machine too. Rather than recalling specific events, which is what my friend shared with me, I was thinking about people ... mostly various guys who've been important in my life in some way or other. Some were "just" friends, others were (or are) more, some were in that tantalizing gray area in between.

Sunni's picture

Brains ... and Beauty

I'm dimly aware that some Harvard muckety-muck created a furor recently with some comments he made about sex differences. It never fails to astonish me that the politically-correct crowd can seriously entertain the idea that males and females aren't different in some fundamentally important ways -- aside from the reproductive ones, that is. Have they never had the frustration of dealing with a woman with PMS? Or endured the fruitless wanderings of a man who's hopelessly lost, but refuses to ask for directions? Have they never had, or heard, a conversation between a man and a woman that's focused on their respective feelings? It boggles the mind to think that they could possibly have such experiences -- or any of the myriad I've not listed -- and still stubbornly, blindly proclaim that "gender differences" (it's wrong to call it a sex difference, in their lingo) are all culturally-derived and -perpetuated. I've taken on this idiotic idea from time to time, but never pursued it seriously because it seems even more a waste of time than trying to proselytize about freedom; they are individuals who seem totally closed to information that goes against their beliefs.

It was thus with some interest that I read an article to which Skeptical Man pointed me. It's a report documenting huge differences in male and female brain organization. Here are the first two paragraphs from the article, to whet your appetite:


While there are essentially no disparities in general intelligence between the sexes, a UC Irvine study has found significant differences in brain areas where males and females manifest their intelligence.

The study shows women having more white matter and men more gray matter related to intellectual skill, revealing that no single neuroanatomical structure determines general intelligence and that different types of brain designs are capable of producing equivalent intellectual performance.


I highly recommend clicking over to see the pictures, too. If you're interested in more on the subject, the Gene Expression blog covers it well.


Now for something easier on the brain, and the eyes. While shoveling the driveway yesterday, I saw that the wind was carving some very interesting snowscapes. When the sun came out in the afternoon, they became too pretty to resist ... so I borrowed a digital camera and set out to capture both the powerful force of wind and the delicate beauty it was creating. I'm not a very good photographer, but did turn out a couple of interesting shots. Here's a decent shot -- you can see the snow swirling through the field in the background of this much-reduced picture:

Wind-Carved Snow Scene


Have I mentioned before that I love winter?

Sunni's picture

Maybe I Really am a Guy

I've been a tomboy for as long as I can remember. The arrival of my younger brother was a joyous event for me, because it meant there would finally be fun toys to play with -- Hot Wheels and Tonka Trucks and the like. Throughout school (including graduate school), I regularly heard that I was "different" from other girls -- easy to talk to, and my male friends said that I understood them. I don't really know about that, but I do know that I am often as mystified by the behavior of my fellow femmes as males seem to be.

So, this morning I find a web site that proclaims itself "the voice of women", and after just a few seconds of clicking around, confirm that it doesn't speak to or for me. Under their politics section, for example, is just the Repubtards, Demowipes, and Greenies -- okay, I was pretty certain I'd not see the Leashitarian Party, but that doesn't excuse the omission. I couldn't get off the site fast enough.

Last night, playing around with the Gender Genie (found via the Best of Blog Awards site -- the voting is pure teenage popularity poll, but some of the blogs are actually pretty good), I was unable to find a blog entry of mine that scored female. In fact, all the ones I tried scored pretty highly male.

So, maybe I really am a guy in brain ... or maybe just my frontal lobes are more male-like. If so, does that mean that taking some tipple won't protect my cognitive abilities? I sure hope not!

Sunni's picture

Picture Tease

I frittered away some time this morning looking through some little-browsed folders on my computer, and found a good photo worth sharing. I also made good on my threat a while back to "come clean" on another photo's origins. So, if anyone's up for a scavenger hunt, I've just published the two new images in appropriate places on this site. I was kind, however, and didn't bury them too deeply ...

More later, perhaps, after I see to the muse that's whispering sweet somethings in my ear ...

Sunni's picture

A Foot in Two Worlds, and My Head in the Clouds

Despite being very tired from the trip home and the celebrations, I awoke around 3:30 this morning. Something was ... not wrong, but ... missing. I finally realized it was the wind.

I'd grown accustomed to the regular buffeting of the tent in the Arizona desert, and the current of chill air that accompanied every push by the wind. Even when the cold caused us to seek refuge in my companion's family's house, the wind remained an audible presence. To wake up completely warm, with no low crooning that sometimes swelled to a moan, occasionally punctuated by whistles and shrieks -- no tangible evidence of the weather around me -- was disconcerting.

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Goodbye 2004

And not one bit too soon for me ... Yesterday was wrapped up in traveling, so I used the road time for a lot of thinking on this past year. Not surprisingly (to those who know me and/or have read this blog from its beginning), I concluded that I fucked up a lot of things. I'm already working on ways to turn that around -- be warned, you may hear my new mantra (It will be better because I will make it better) a lot over the next few months.

Funny ... I've never made new year's resolutions (figuring if one wants to change, one shouldn't wait until the start of a year to do it) and never really attached much significance to the turning of the calendar numbers over to 1/1/whatever. But, this time, I'm truly glad to be on the cusp of seeing 2004 entirely in my rear view mirror.

Speaking of rear view mirrors, it's time to get back on the road .... lotsa miles still to cover to get home.

Sunni's picture

Sunni Beams!

G'morning all!

I do apologize for the delay between spurts; t'was much longer than intended (and desired). Our last hotel didn't have wireless, and since then getting connected has been an interesting set of challenges. But, I'm now sitting in a wan Arizona morning, taking the chill off with a latte and trying to persuade my fingers to remember how to type.

Too many things to tell about this morning, and I've not the time to read the previous posts and links, although I'm aching to ... as much as I've enjoyed being Nature Girl, scampering around the mountains and through the washes, I do miss all my friends, all of whom I can connect with via email, or through places like this blog. Many eschew the online world as purely virtual, but they're wrong. The connections made through email, blogs, and web sites that a person values are just as real as friendships formed in meatspace. In my experience, they've the advantage of being based on shared values and interests, rather than happenstance ... the few friends I have remaining from high school/college days are those whose interests and/or ways of being mesh well with mine. And it is a very small number. But my online sphere of friends keeps expanding, as I find like-minded liberty-loving people and they find me ... sure, we don't always agree, and not all the friendships endure, but they -- for me thus far, at least -- are more genuine, more real than most of the meatspace-formed friendships I've had.

Enough rambling already ... I miss y'all, but I've been enjoying the quiet and solitude of the desert as well. I've been taking some notes, so perhaps when I return I'll share more details here, or in an essay. Hope everyone had a good Newton's birthday/Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/winter solstice celebration. I've been more reflective than I'd intended on this trip (I think Lobo was right -- I needed the vacation more than I realized); and one thing that's come out of that time is the conviction that 2005 will be a better year for me than 2004 was. It will happen because I will make it so.

Lobo, Snolfs, and Squinkies, I love you all lots -- please share a generous portion of snake pounces among yourselves as fill-ins until I return to deliver in person. All my other friends -- especially Cat, Tom, Susan, Elias & LL, RQ, and too many more to name 'em all -- I miss you too, and thank you for enriching my life with your many contributions.

Sunni's picture

What Price Profits?

My comments yesterday on consumer privacy violations have generated some interesting responses. While I understand and share Nathan's frustration with the apparent valuation of profit above everything else (that's what I'm reading in to his comment, and I'll slither corrected if I'm wrong about it), I also appreciate Mama Liberty's brief but powerful defense of profit and the free market.

That means, of course, I'm going to slither in here and toss my opinions around some.