Choice, vice, and the Protestant ethic for the 21st century…

Note: The following is loosely based on a recent conversation and nicely sums up what’s probably at the core of my life philosophy. It has been sanitized for your protection, or ribbed for your pleasure, or whatever…

Look, if you want to kill yourself, have at it. You want to whore yourself out? Go forth and do great things. Want to chase that high six times a day? You do you, kiddo. Want to escape from the world and go live in the woods or under a bridge somewhere? Help yourself. I don’t have any business telling you how to live – or rather it isn’t my business right up until how you want to live starts having an out-sized impact on those around you who are just trying to live their lives too.

You see, the thing is, I don’t really care about what are commonly called “vice” crimes. Drugs, gambling, prostitution – the old classics. As long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, why the hell do I care what they choose to do with or to themselves? Experience tells me that trying to save someone from themselves is almost the textbook definition of a losing proposition. I’m fully prepared to let people go on drinking and drugging and whoring and gambling to their heart’s content if that’s what they want to do.

Here’s the catch. When their decisions start interfering with other people who are just out in the world trying to do their own thing, I’m perfectly willing to see society crash down on them like the clenched fist of any angry god. When they start killing and thieving and generally making civilized life impossible for others, my level of sympathy with their “plight” drops to damned near zero.

When the drunk climbs behind the wheel or the addict breaks into a home or the gambler starts embezzling from their employer, I cheerfully advocate a policy of zero tolerance and swift, harsh retribution. In life you make your choices and the consequences should naturally follow. It’s not my job to shelter you from those consequences. It’s not society’s job to pick up the tab and bail people out because they’ve made shit decisions.

Some people call me misanthropic. They’re not wrong. Based on a lifetime of observation, I like to think my general misanthropy comes from a place of reason. Couple that with a firm belief in self-determination across all circumstances, and well, there’s a pretty high risk of sounding like an asshole. Of course just because you sound like an asshole doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
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I feel like I’m on to something here. Do the work. Be responsible for yourself. Basic guidelines for life not spent as a complete and utter drain on society. Maybe I’ve stumbled upon the Modified Protestant Ethic for the 21st Century.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Overestimation. As much as I appreciate your belief that a good word from me is a powerful totem for overcoming organizational obstacles, I regretfully must inform you that you have profoundly overestimated my ability to command change in a chaotic world. I appreciate your vote of confidence, but if my serving as the voice of reason is your last best hope, I think it’s best for all of us if you plan now on crushing disappointment. Rest assured that my pleas fall on the same deaf ears as yours.

2. New (old) routine. It took me exactly three days to fall into a new routine of doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. Landing back in the office after almost a week of that kind of decadent behavior has proven to be a hard pill to swallow. Sure, it’s just the old routine back again, but after a brief hint of freedom I can’t help but resent the confining structure just a little bit more than usual. Fortunately it will only take a few weeks of grinding monotony to reset my expectations based on this new (old) routine.

3. Pollen. The weather these last two days has been ideal for top down driving. The airborne pollen that hits you like a physical wall, however, makes it prohibitively agonizing to avail myself of the opportunity. Sure, some people who are more strongly constituted or may just be willing to endure scratchy, bloodshot eyes and the inability to breath through their nose, are out there soaking up the sun. Me? Not so much. Real summer will be here soon-ish. Then I can really enjoy the ride. Sadly, though, I want to be topless now.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

– He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

– He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

– He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

– He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

– He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

– He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

– He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

– He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

– He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

– He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

– He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

– He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

– He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

* For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

* For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

* For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

* For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

* For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

* For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

* For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

* For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

* For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

– He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

– He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

– He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

– He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

– He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock

Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple

Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

How “common sense” regulations are applied in Maryland, or A proposal for common sense voting regulation…

On July 12th, the President of the United States remarked that “it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” It’s a nice bit of hyperbole, but the fact is that federal law prohibits a firearms dealer from selling a handgun to anyone younger than 21. It also prohibits everyone who’s not a licensed firearms dealer from transferring a handgun to anyone younger than 18. Since the very thing he’s telling us is bad and easy to do is already illegal, it strikes me that he could have an enforcement problem rather than an insufficient legislation problem… but let me explain why I would say such a thing.

I only bring this up because if our elected leaders think it’s “too easy” to buy a lawful handgun, I’d happily invite them to try walking through the process here in my native Maryland. The first stop is a 4-hour training course which will run you about $100. This portion is waiverable for those who meet certain conditions – law enforcement officers, current and former military members, and current owners of one of Maryland’s “controlled” species of firearms. The next step is applying for the Maryland Handgun Qualification License. This requires a potential buyer to submit a set of fingerprints ($52.75) and an application to the State Police (an additional $50), then wait for up to 30 days while the application is reviewed. Before you’ve even set foot in a gun shop, the state has already dinged you for at least $102.75 in fees – and that’s just if you don’t need to take the class as well.

If your application for a Maryland HQL is approved, all that means is that you have been given permission by the state to go to a gun shop, select your handgun, and then send the state another application for their permission to actually purchase the firearm you desire. Then you wait and on the 8th day you may be allowed to actually pick up your firearm from the shop… or not. That depends entirely on the store you’ve purchased from. If the state has a longer-than-seven-day backlog (I’ve seen the backlog run as long as two months) in conducting their mandatory checks, some shops will wait for final release to the customer while others strictly observe only the seven day wait mandated by law. Oh, and don’t you dare think about trying to go through this process any more often than once per month.

So there you have it, from start to finish you could be looking upwards of a 60-day process filled with regulatory hoops in order to legally purchase a handgun. I can see how that might be far easier than walking into a bookstore and picking up the latest best seller or heading over to Best Buy to pick up a new laptop… or in a pinch, even walking into a library and checking out a book or using one of their computers. Very difficult tasks, indeed. Unless, of course, the president was talking about people who sell a firearm illegally. In that case, I don’t suppose any number of new laws or additional fees will be much of a bother to them since they’re not bothering to comply with the existing laws anyway.

I’m often curious how many of my fellow citizens might be convinced to support similar “common sense” regulations that impinged on their Constitutional right to vote by requiring state issued identification, a 4-hour voter’s training class, a $100 voting license, and only being allowed to vote one ballot per election cycle – so if you want to vote for president, forget about also voting in the down-ballot race for Senate, governor, or county commissioner. I hope I can be forgiven for thinking that if one freedom can be thus abridged, there shouldn’t be a problem placing similar checks on the others as well. It’s for our own good after all.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

– He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

– He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

– He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

– He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

– He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

– He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

– He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

– He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

– He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

– He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

– He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

– He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

– He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

* For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

* For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

* For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

* For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

* For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

* For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

* For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

* For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

* For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

– He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

– He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

– He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

– He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

– He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock

Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple

Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

What’s changed?

The great debate over the virtue of the Second Amendment rages today as loudly as ever. Both sides scream past each other, fearing that giving an inch of ground will inexorably lead to the tide running hard against them.

There have been firearms in the United States since before we were the United States. The first colonists to wade ashore in Jamestown brought ball and powder in equal parts to hunt on and defend the new world they intended to carve out of the American wilderness.

What you don’t hear about them doing is walking into a tavern or church and taking a pot shot at their neighbors. I’ve not done an exhaustive study on the topic, but I can’t think of a large number of historical example of what we’d commonly call random acts of “mass violence” in schools, businesses, and public places until the latter half of the last century. I have no doubt they happened, what with humans being a particularly violence prone species and all, but a quick look doesn’t point to seeing it happen with particularly great frequency.

So my question, then, is what’s changed? What makes the average American in 2015 more likely to walk into a church to unload both proverbial barrels than his counterpart in 1815 or 1915? Access to firearms isn’t a satisfactory answer. If anything, a gun was easier to get throughout most of American history than they are today. They hung on the mantle, were propped in the corner, or lived in bedside tables without benefit of trigger locks or gun safes. I’m old enough to remember a time when a rifle behind a truck’s bench seat in the school parking lot meant that hunting season was open, not that one of the students (or the teachers) was plotting mayhem and chaos.

What’s changed? Are we intrinsically worse human beings than our predecessors? Are we less able to judge the relationship between action and consequence? Or do we just tend more towards being batshit crazy than our saintly ancestors?

Hello Caitlyn…

Half my friends and family are probably appalled that the olympian formerly known as Bruce Jenner is now called Caitlyn. Abomination in the eyes of God, blah, blah, blah. The other half of my friends are celebrating Caitlyn as a hero for the 21st century. Such bravery in the face of certain criticism and hate, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Color me ambivalent. Disinterested. Nonplussed. If Bruce wants to be Caitlyn, as in all things that don’t infringe on the free exercise of my liberty, I say God bless and have a good life. It’s a short one – far too short to go about wringing your hands and gnashing your teeth because someone somewhere doesn’t live their lives the way you think they should.

Don’t like pornography? Don’t look at it. Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t have one. Don’t like booze? Don’t drink. Don’t like the way someone is talking to God? Don’t listen. Don’t like that Caitlyn Jenner is on the cover of a magazine? Don’t look. No one is forcing a damned thing down your throat. You’re free to take it or leave it – but when you fixate on it, when it becomes an all consuming irritant in your life, when you want to cram everyone else on the planet into your narrow minded mold, don’t be surprised when I think you’re a crate of AK-47s away from being the damned Taliban.

Go live your life. Let other people live theirs. Put on a dress. Put on a track suit. Get out there and allow your friends and neighbors to enjoy the same freedom of conscience you expect them to give you. You’ll save yourself a lot of angst and anguish that way.

Not a sermon, just a thought.