The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle just disappeared from the blog. Sorry!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Let's Start With Cuba

There are too many outrages to talk about so let's just take a couple to discuss...

First is the normalization of relations with Cuba. This is something that would have been political suicide to support only a few years ago. I would have supported dropping the embargo in 1963 but, once it had been in place for 5 years, there was no reason to lift it, I think. And that is probably the thinking of most Cubans today though there are still many who support it as a kind of punishment for the Castro regime. Castro used the embargo as an excuse for the nation's poverty when it was really the fault of Cuba's own government.

One side effect of the embargo was to create a powerful sugar industry in the U.S., much of it in Florida and which helped Florida economically. It also helped Lousiana and Hawaii, both of whom had sugar plantations.

The idea behind embargoes, like boycotts, is to hurt a nation's economy and foster resentment of their governments by their people. I do not think them effective because they are easily painted as attcks by outside meddlers... which is exactly what Castro did with ours. At this point, lifting the embargo will only help Raul Castro maintain his regime and ease the burden on Venezuela (who was helping support Cuba) as oil prices' downward tumble were hurting that economy.

The embargo, at this point, was no longer effective... if it ever was.

The other main outrage has to do with rioting, protests over grand jury decisons, and freedom of speech for license plates in Texas. The protests in Ferguson quickly turned into riots and looting. I do not understand the looting; it only helps make a bad situation worse. It hurts the local economy of the area that was already poor. It has happened numerous times in numerous cities over the years. And it causes even more oppression rather than less. Maybe that is its real purpose: to increase the very conditions being protested in the hopes that it will lead to an uprising. This has happened many times in the past, even our own revolution was a result of protests that created more repression by the Crown in response.

Finally, the kerfuffle in Texas over what can or cannot be on a vanity license plate is silly. I think Texas has every right to restrict what can be on such license plates. After all, there is no right to have an automobile, just as there is no right to have a driver's license.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Different Perspective

Last Wednesday, I posted a piece about an encounter I had with the Long Beach police. Today, I want to relate two encounters with the Long Beach police that were a bit different. I didn't have the encounters, I just witnessed them.

The first was just outside a restaurant in Long beach. I had been sitting in a booth with my then girlfriend who worked on the "Pike" in downtown Long Beach. There were four of us in the booth, just drinking coffee and chatting, when a couple of cops came in and walked up to a booth with a couple of guys in it. They asked one of them to come outside and talk with them. He did. As they approached the police car, they turned and seemed to confront the man they had invited to come outside. As I watched, they had the guy face the rear door of the car and "assume the position." After he leaned toward the car, placed his hands on the roof, and spread his feet apart they began asking him questions. I couldn't hear clearly through the restaurant window but they did not seem to be friendly questions. At one point, the guy turned his head toward the cops and one of them turned it back forcefully and pushed it into the window of the car. He did this hard enough that I saw a smear of blood appear on the window and heard the guy cry out. After that, they let him go and drove off. He came back in and sat in the booth he had left and blotted his face with a napkin. I learned a little later that he had recently been paroled after a burlary stint.

The second encounter involved a young man his roommates had asked us to check on. I was on Shore Patrol at the time, partnered with a guy who introduced himself as "Pineapple" (a beefy Hawaiian whose real name I don't recall). He was a good guy to have as a partner, tough and loyal. The guy that the roommates (a guy and his girlfriend) told us about was supposedly a deserter from the Army. We found him in a greasy spoon a few blocks away, went in, and sat down across from him at a table. Pineapple asked him for some ID and about his status. He said he was visiting the US on a visa from Germany and produced a German ID (driver's license, I think). We chatted for a little while (Pineapple did, I stayed silent). His story sounded fishy to me. And to Pineapple. But we had no real power to do anything so we asked him politely to come with us to the SP station so we could sort things out. To my surprise, he agreed.

As we were walking down the street toward the station, we ran across a Long Beach cop. He asked what was up and Pineapple told him the story... quietly. The cop offered his services and Pineapple said somthing like "He's all yours." The cop asked him a couple of questions I do not recall, they seemed innocuous. Then he asked for the guy's ID and, when he pulled out his wallet, the cop just grabbed it and started looking through it. He found a folded up letter which he read for a bit and then askede something like "How long have you been gone from your base?" The guy was flustered but admitted to being AWOL so we called for the wagon to pick him up. The Marine who worked with the Shore Patrol was not happy with our friend and gave him a lot of grief about bailing out on his unit.

The guy was polite and cooperative. Had he not been, we might not have suspected him of deserting.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Last week, I received an intriguing essay about stateless community. It's an interesting commentary... which I thought my readers might enjoy. I do not think a stateless society (one in which there is no government, if I understood it correctly) can work in the complex societies that have evolved... possibly because of the way they have evolved. The norm for governmental control, for the most part, was autocratic rule. That is, monarchies. Whether we called the ruller "king/queen", "tsar/tsarina", or "emporer/empress" is unimportant... we accepted and tolerated such rule, convinced that rule by the people (the "rabble", if you will) would result in chaos. The form is established early in our lives, we call it "family structure" and I believe it is natural to humans. I posted a comment there which reads:

Personally, I think the concept works well in small communities. In those communities, cooperation becomes essential to survival and prosperity. Self-rule is simple and easily mastered by all constituents (or those who have trouble doing so emigrate to an ordered society elsewhere). However, complex societies appear to need direction in the form of rules. I think we tried, under the Articles of Confederation, to follow the model of a stateless society and it failed. One of the major roadblocks is the desire of some to establish a hierarchy (usually one in which they occupy lofty positions). Bastiat's world was one in which the "norm" was rule by "divine right" and bloodline. Free-thinkers chasten under such states. Early democracies were possible in communities that were simple yet they still had limited freedom and non-universal participation, many still were ruled by those who had money and power; some easily embraced slavery as a part of these societies... suggesting that caste systems were encouraged. I think we are left to find a compromise between autocratic (the elite) and democratic (the members of the society) rule. I think there will always be a struggle between the elites (or those who believe themselves to be) and the rest of us. Like Gordon, I cannot lay out the problem (or possible solutions) in a single (or multiple) comment(s). I can only ask others to consider the possible unintended consequences. And, for that matter, consider the lessons of Ferguson, MO.

As you developed from infancy, the family was your window to society. There was a hierachy in which you played a small role without much impact. As you grew, you rebelled against this hierarchy (think teen years), I think, in order to prepare yourself to enter the greater society. But you have been indoctrinated from birth to accept hierarchial structure and would find anything different to be alien and, possibly, untenable. We search for structure in our lives (at least, I always did) and, so, often compromise our individual freedom for it.

The Founding Fathers tried to find a compromise between absolute democracy and autocratic rule. That this concept has been compromised and manipulated by those who would (and do) rule does not diminish the concept but shows that any system can be corrupted.

Friday, December 12, 2014

I Could Use a Little Global Warming

As I write this "WeatherBug" is reporting it is 46 degrees outside here in Paradise.

I came across a bit of wisdom yesterday... in the form of a column by John Stossel. He is one of the "deniers" of Climate Change. He makes a good case, though, and one which parallels my own (Which is: "Shouldn't we just try to adapt?") He offers that Global Warming (the old term for what is now called "Climate Change") is, on the whole, predominently beneficial. He cites a book by Alex Epstein, "The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels", which argues that we benefit from from this climate change; that it is not the disaster some claim.

I think there are flaws in his reasoning but I agree with him more than disagree. His primary argument seems to be based on the lower number of weather-related deaths:

In 2013, "Climate-related deaths were at a record low — in supposedly the worst climate in history — under 30,000," says Epstein. In 1931, bad weather killed 3 million people.

Sometimes we confuse correlation with causation. There are other factors which may be more important to those lower death rates. Consider the advances in techology which allow us to predict more accurately impending storms, for example, and improved building codes which make for better protection against severe weather. That being said, there are advantages to overall warming of the planet... such as enlarging arable land. We once built communities on the slopes of volcanoes because the land there was conducive to farming. We no longer think the benefits outweigh the risk. Our perspective has changed. But he is correct when he points out fossil fuels have helped us survive harsh winters.

Personally, I think we are wasting a lot of time and money trying to slow or "fix" climate change. I believe our efforts should be directed toward adapting to this change. One of the contradictions of those advocating climate change as disaster is that they usually also seem to hate the uber-rich, the "1%", yet one of the things they complain about is the rising seas. Who will be primarily affected by those rising seas? I don't know of a lot of poor people living along the coasts. And the rich can afford to move. They will adapt. Sure, low-lying areas will see some non-seasonal flooding with rising sea levels and some coastal cities will be impacted. But, on the whole, these will not impact the rest of us and it won't happen overnight. Port cities will change; new ones will replace old ones and commerce will continue. We are an adaptive species and we should not be afraid of change.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I Do Not Think

...sometimes. Well, all too often. And then I speak. Hard to do when one's foot is planted in one's mouth but I manage. And, all too often, when I write I also have a metaphorical foot in my metaphorical mouth.

But this is not about that, it's about an encounter with the police in a place called Long Beach in California shortly after I got out of the Navy. My motorcycle had blown a rod down near Newport beach not long before and I traded it in (after I got it repaired) for a Dodge van, circa 1965, from a dealership just across the road from where I had been working. It was a nice van but it had no radio and no heater.

The next evening, I had a visit from a friend and we went to visit some other friends who gave us wine and marijuana. Then we drove back to my place. Along the way, about a block from my place, we were pulled over by a pair of cops in a police car. Long Beach cops were not known for their courtesy at the time. The cop who came to my window seemed polite, though, as he suggested I get out of my van so he could show me why he pulled me over. It turned out that my license plate light was not working. I thanked him and told him I would get it fixed the next day but that I had just purchased the van and didn't know it was not working.

He had asked me for my license and the registration for the vehicle when he came up to my window and I had shown him my license and pointed to the right hand side of the windshield where the temporary registration had been taped. I guess he forgot that I had also told him at that time that I had just purchased the van (to explain why the registration was on the windshield) because he seemed inclined not to believe me.

As we stood at the rear of the van, he asked me when I had bought it and then asked me if I had been drinking.

I had a glass of wine at a friend's, I said.

Anything else? he asked

Not that I recall, said I.(or was dumb enough to admit)

The conversation went on for a bit and then he asked me what I had in my pockets. Thinking he was talking about my jacket pockets, I told him I had a pair of gloves. He asked me to hold my arms out to my side and then asked if he could check. I allowed that. He then asked where I lived and I reminded him that I had told him earlier that I lived on the next block. He checked my pockets and pulled my gloves from them. He then asked me what I had in the car. I told him there was nothing. He then asked what was in the glove compartment or under the seats. Again, I said "Nothing."

Apparently, he was unsatisfied with that answer because he asked it again and again in the next few minutes. I think he wanted me to invite him to search the van but I wasn't about to.

Meanwhile, his partner had induced my friend to get out of the van (which he did not need to do) and had also asked him for ID. Eventually, they let us go because our "stories" were the same and, after all, I did live just a block away (as my license said).

An incident without much meaning, to be sure. But I wondered... what if I had been black? Or Mexican? Or what if I had been less than polite and cooperative? But I hadn't been any of those things and I had thought carefully before I spoke each time.