August 20, 2003


Every now and then, I get a letter from someone who has temporarily lost their cable TV and, desperate for something -- anything -- to fill the void, they write me asking what my pre-Eject! life was like.

Well, kind of run-of-the-mill, really. Like pretty much every other American Teen, I took a sharp interest in Astronomy, hung out at the local planetarium, got my first-ever job taking tickets, and was soon running the multi-media star shows. Who among us can’t look back to those crazy summer nights in high school, hiding up in the catwalks behind the inner aluminum dome, trying to catch a Frisbee in the strobe lights used to suggest a rocket launch, or blasting Pink Floyd at 380 decibels at 2:00 am while flying through space in a million-dollar installation before we were old enough to get our drivers license?



Anyway, there was this exhibit out in the lobby –- they’re actually fairly common –- that was very simply a hard plastic funnel, like a 6 foot diameter solid tornado. You took a steel ball bearing and gave it a push, and looking down from above, it looked like it was ‘orbiting’ the hole at the center. It would drop down into the gravity well, accelerate, then loop up and out to the flatter region further away –- a perfect elliptical orbit.

It’s a great exhibit, because it simply and accurately displayed a concept that changed the way we looked at the entire universe. Einstein realized that Newton’s mysterious attractive force –- Gravity –- could be explained as a warp in spacetime, like this funnel. It was a new way to see things, a much better way. Science today is hot on the heels of a theory to unify all of the forces in nature: the Grand Unification Theory.

I believe I have come up with such a theory for politics.

Sometimes it seems like half of what I learned this past year has come from the comments section after each of these essays –- and when I say half, I mean, the good half.

One of the things that makes the current political debate so rancorous is that we do a lot of talking past each other, because the old labels no longer seem to apply. As one of my readers brilliantly pointed out in my comments section, it’s not like the vast sensible middle of the nation is divided into Red and Blue camps, Republicans vs. Democrats, Liberals vs. Conservatives, Left vs. Right. Today’s politics are more like a Rubik’s cube, where someone you may stand shoulder-to-shoulder with on one subject, can become, with a simple twist of the issues, a bitter opponent in some other fight.

This is where Whittle’s Theory of Political Reduction comes in handy. (If that’s too wordy we can call it Bill’s Electric Razor.)

I contend that there is a single litmus that does indeed separate the nation and the world into two opposing camps, and that when you examine where people will fall on the countless issues that affect our society, this alone is the indicator that will tell you how they will respond.

The indicator is Responsibility.

Political Correctness, Deconstructionism, Trans-National Progressivism, Liability mania, Crime and Punishment, Terrorism, Welfare, Gun Control, Media Bias, Affirmative Action, Abortion, Education Reform, Social Engineering –- all of it –- will divide people according to their idea of Responsibility.

I suspect that there are really only two schools of political thought, and these are based on competing theories of how the human creature is constructed.

Again, a caveat about the ever-changing quicksand about labels. But with that said, it appears that people we generally group as ‘the left’ are convinced that society is responsible for pretty much everything that happens in our lives, that group responsibility trumps individual responsibility because they see the forces of the group –- culture, history, economic background –- as overwhelming determinants to individual outcome.

Those on the other side see individual responsibility as the final arbiter of human behavior. The United States of America is, without question, the most individual-centric nation in the history of the world. We have enshrined in the structure of our culture impressive guarantees of individual freedoms, and because of that, we see an enormous spectrum of behaviors –- some noble, others... shall we say, ‘colorful,’ and some completely vile and disgraceful –- that are the natural outcome of allowing people a great deal of personal freedom. Such a society will produce a US Constitution, a Bill of Rights, a Voyager probe…and unlimited episodes of COPS and The Jerry Springer Show.

We all profess to be in favor of more freedom. Freedom is the Platinum Visa card. We all want one. Responsibility is the credit rating. Not so much enthusiasm for the kind of discipline needed to earn one of those.

I talk often about evidence, and the idea that we owe ourselves a worldview that conforms to the facts we see around us. And to be fair, we have to admit that there is some evidence that people who believe in group responsibility can point to.

B.F. Skinner is perhaps the most famous of the Behavioralists. He did brilliant and groundbreaking work showing how much of behavior is based on conditioning. These experiments were highly predictive –- when applied to rats. Somewhat less so, although still very compelling, when applied to monkeys. Erich Fromm makes a convincing argument that much of human behavior is based on avoidance of responsibility in his classic Escape from Freedom.

But to understand whether or not these experiments –- and this theory of humanity –- accurately reflect how we are built, we have to get to one of the thorniest philosophical issues since the dawn of human history: namely, is there indeed such a thing as free will? Because if there is not, then we are in fact products of our environments, our cruel or loving parents, our materialistic, ruthless or nurturing state, our religion or lack of it, our economic status at birth, and all the rest. If there is no free will, then Ted Bundy and Timothy McVeigh and Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are just automatons responding to root causes in the environment, mere executors of a pervasive, systemic disease rather than the authors of private agendas and the owners of the consequences of their actions.

If, on the other hand, there is something about being human that transcends Skinner’s box and his wire frame monkeys, if we do indeed, through the unique capacity of self-awareness, have the ability to see how actions we commit that harm others could be unpleasant because we can imagine them being done to us, then we indeed are ourselves responsible for our actions. If this is true, then in the moment of the act of murder, or rape, or torture, we are presented with the most heartfelt pleas for mercy and hideous cries of agony, and nevertheless make the decision to continue our barbaric actions...well, then we, alone, bear the responsibility for what we have done, and while childhoods of horror may have steered us to that moment of decision, they do not absolve us from the consequences.

It has been our long, bloody and noble history to rise to this idea of individual responsibility; because if it is indeed correct, then it –- alone –- is the liberator of ourselves as a species. Individual responsibility frees us from our past, from the fate of our birth, from the millennia of class and caste and of failed ideas that have kept so many in bondage for so long. If we indeed do have the ability to control our own selves, then we can free our own minds from the river of history and experience.

Those on one side see individuals as rafts on that river of culture, swept along inexorably downstream, perhaps capable of a weak paddling, displacing our paths a few feet from side to side. I, on the other hand, and others like me, see human potential as a powerboat, a nuclear-powered hydrofoil, one capable of cruising side to side at will, as easily able to race against the current as with it. I don’t believe people are rafts adrift in the destiny of their culture. I think all people have propellers, whether they use them or not, and rudders too. And rather than commiserating with people about the rapids that they endure and the battering that is their lot in life, we should be teaching them how to start those engines, take the wheel of their own futures, and steer themselves wherever they damn well please.

This issue of free will has been debated since we’ve had language. It’s not going to be resolved on these humble pages. So which view to adhere to: individual responsibility, or the predominance of culture? I say there are vast sets of evidence to prove that both are correct. So here’s what I believe. I agree with the left on this: I do think we are indeed the products of the doctrines that have been fed us since birth. How else to explain the wild differences in human culture from a single species with no detectable biological propensities for intelligence, cunning, hard work or success? The fact that some cultures are free, fair, open, safe, creative and prosperous, while others are cruel, corrupt, repressive and poor –- all while using the same raw human materials –- means clearly culture plays a predominant role.

Which is why we must all fight, fight tooth and nail, fight to the death if need be, to defend this freakish idea that we are individuals responsible for our own actions. Because when we do, we have taught ourselves how to break those chains of history and birth, energized our own destiny, and inoculated ourselves culturally against the dictates of culture.

We are the first group of peasants to transcend the idea of peasantry. Here in America, we believe the words of the often-despicable Huey Long, Every Man a King. We are, as a direct consequence of this philosophy -- the belief that the common man can be trusted to wield great responsibility -- the most successful, creative, powerful, wealthy and free individuals who have ever lived. We are, indeed, in the words of a man who understood more about human freedom and its costs and responsibilities than any of us, “the last, best hope of earth.”

Many years before his election as the nation’s 16th President, this man, Abraham Lincoln, spoke at the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on January 27, 1838. It is worth our time to whisper these words aloud, to ourselves, to be sure that we understand what he is saying across a gulf of a century-and-a-half of differences in rhetoric and speech.

He said:

We, the American People… find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us…We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them -- they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours only to transmit these, the former, unprofaned by the foot of an invader…to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.

How then shall we perform it? -- At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? -- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! -- All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

The idea of individualism, of personal responsibility, is the centerpiece, the granite foundation, of the very idea of a free people. For that reason, it is under direct attack on many fronts from people, who, through motives well-intentioned or ill, find such an idea intolerable because a nation of individuals is immune to repression, coercion, social engineering and control by the elite. The threat, as Lincoln so eloquently foresaw, comes from within and it is here, now, well-established and growing.

We have to fight back. We have to fight back hard.

We have to fight back now.

How much damage has been done, so far? Consider this passage from Prairie Justice, by Will Bittle:

The American West: 1884

From afar, the only sign of the small homestead was a thin line of smoke rising from the chimney in the humble, wooden-frame house. A dusty porch overlooking a small corral, where horses were bred and raised. Out back, a small garden grew just enough vegetables for this small frontier family: a father, worn and weather-beaten, looking far older than his thirty-six years of rising before the sun. His wife, in the kitchen, baking a fresh pie for the two of her four children that survived to the age of four –- but she too was bleached, severe, her hands those of a grandmother from years of lye soap and scrub brushes. A shot rang out from the woods beyond, and moments later, a boy of thirteen emerged, holding a dead rabbit by the ears, while a girl of six hauled bales of hay larger than she was from the barn to the small corral.

A small group of men rode up from over the nearby hills. The father made a move for his rifle, but squinting hard -- his vision had been failing for years, he saw at the head of the party the local sheriff and deputy, along with five other riders, one of which appeared to be handcuffed, his head hanging in shame.

The wife stepped out off the porch, wiping her hands on her apron, and her husband took an unconscious step to place himself between her and the men that had ridden to the small homestead.

“Sheriff… deputy,” said the homesteader, nodding. He was a man of few words.

Howdy Luke,” replied the big man with the badge, his stern face tightening into what was almost a smile. “That a huckleberry pie I smell, Sarah?”

“It is,” she replied. “We got just enough for you and your men.”

“Well that’s right kind a ya, Sarah, but we’re here on business.” The sheriff turned to the handcuffed man in the middle of the posse. “Luke, you recognize this feller?” The Deputy knocked the prisoners dusty hat off and raised his chin. He was grizzled and mean, and his pale blue eyes made contact only for a second.

“Son of a bitch--!" Luke took the hunting rifle from his young son, cracked the breech to see if he had re-loaded –- he had –- and snapped it shut, leveling it at the man on horseback.

“That there’s the son of a bitch that tried stealing my horses two nights ago! I missed him in the dark; I ain’t about to miss him now! Move outta the way fellers!”

“See what I tole ya?” said the prisoner.

The sheriff frowned, shook his head, and looked down at the ground. He nodded at the deputy. “Show him the leg, Bob.”


Bob pulled up the prisoner’s torn trousers to reveal a nasty red gash.

“Luke,” said the Sheriff, looking down out of embarrassment, “I’m afraid I’m gonna hafta take you in.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Pete?!”

The Sheriff sat straight in the saddle. His job was not a pleasant or an easy one.

“This here feller injured himself on your property, Luke -— climin’ over yer barb wire fence. He done got hisself a lawyer from Harvard university and I need ta take you in to get you deposed and such-like.”

“It’s all infected, too,” mumbled the prisoner, sullenly.

“I cain’t believe what ah’m hearin’ here!” Luke shouted.

“Luke, his leg’s all infected-like.” The Sheriff surveyed the corral with a cool professional eye. “I notice that none a yer barb-wire there got any ah them OSHA-mandated cork tips on ‘em. That’s why this feller here got that nasty scratch on his leg.”

“If’n he didn’t want a leg-scratch or a hole in his head, he shouldn’t a been in my corral a-tryin’ ta steal my god-damn horses in tha middle a tha’ night!” shouted Luke.

“Whoa, now, Luke! This here feller’s had a rough time,” said the Deputy, getting a little too worked up for his own good. “He was sittin’ there at the Starbucks cross from the Dry Goods store --“

“Naw, that Sturbucks ain’t worth a tub a' spit!," said the prisoner. “Them fellers always put way too much sugar in their Grande Frappuchinos. Was the one below the whorehouse, right next ta tha saloon.”

“Anyway,” continued the Sheriff, “his pants got all tore up, and some t’ other fellers started laughin’ at him.”

“Done lowered mah self-esteem," said the prisoner, more confident now. “Ya couldn’t understand it -– it’s a horse-thief thang.”

“You just can’t go roun’ lowerin’ a man’s self-esteem like that Luke. You oughts to know that,” said the Deputy.

“You shut the hell up, Bob!” thundered Luke. He turned to the Sheriff. “Pete, that son of a bitch tried ta steal all my god-damned horses! That’s all I got! We should be hanging that low-life horse thief! How the hell am I supposed to feed my family with all them horses gone?! We oughts ta shoot that thievin’ sack a s--!”

“--That there’s hate speech!!” said Deputy Bob, pulling out a notebook. “I’m writin’ Luke’s name down!”

The Sheriff’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Now Luke, you listen to me now, and you listen good. As long as I’m Sheriff ‘a this here county, we are gonna maintain a commitment to a diversity of ownership viewpoints. Do I make mahself clear?”

“So that’s it,” said Luke, eyeing the rest of the posse. Their hands rested nervously on the court-ordered injunctions and restraining orders they had strapped to their waists and legs. “You gonna hang me now, is that it?”

“Oh hell no, Luke! We’re aimin’ to break tha cycle ah violence! I rounded up the therapy posse so we could have ourselves a little man-to-man sensitivity trainin’ seminar, maybe a little group drummin’ and some visualizations, tell you and yer kids and the misses about some ah the root causes concerning horse-thievery and the like. Then we’ll hafta safety-cork that barb-wire, get it up ta code. And I reckon yer gonna need to give this feller four, maybe five horses to make up fer the humiliation and sufferin’ he’s had to endure…”

“And throw in that huckaberry pie, too!” barked the prisoner. “I cain’t even look at a horse no more without getting all nervous and twitchy-like!”

That seems reasonable enough to me,” said the Sheriff.

“Right! That’s it!” Luke turned to his wife, disgusted.

The Sheriff looked down, shook his head. He dismounted in a fluid motion, spitting a bullet of chewing tobacco into the dust. He advanced on Luke with arms outstretched. “Well, now, I reckon it looks like someone here could use a hug,” he said, his voice rattling like a sidewinder.

Luke turned his back on him. “Sarah, you pack up everthang we can fit. Jake,” he said, turning to his son, “fetch Rachel and get the cover on tha’ wagon. We’re packin’ up an' goin’ where men are men and a man’s word is his bond!!”

“Where we going, daddy?” asked the young man.

“We are movin’ ta France, God-damnit!” said Luke.

Times have changed. There were some major problems with Frontier Justice: it was brutal, it was often error prone, and once made those errors could not be corrected by cutting down the offender, apologizing, and sending him on his way.

But Frontier Justice did have one immeasurably attractive virtue. It understood, in a way we are rapidly forgetting, the difference between perpetrator and victim. It realized that the former started into motion a chain of events, and that all of the consequences could therefore be laid at the feet of the individual person committing the crime. It recognized that as a creature with free will, a man at some point had to make a decision to do wrong, and that free-will decision to do good or evil was the centerpiece of their view, and mine, that we should treat people like adults and allow them as much freedom as possible, secure in the understanding that if they abused such freedoms, they would pay the consequences.

And even more importantly, Frontier Justice did not punish the victim. It was crystal clear and steely-eyed in this one essential element, the only one that really matters: it understood who was responsible.

A society, like any other complex mechanism, will seek, and eventually find, equilibrium. If you create a society with unparalleled human freedoms, you must build into it a corresponding counterweight, and that counterweight is the idea of individual responsibility for your actions. That’s why you can do no better, as a blueprint for a happy society, than the folksy sentence, Your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose.

Now if Freedom is the credit card, and Responsibility is the monthly payment, it should not come as a surprise to us to realize that human nature says we want the spending spree, but not to put in the overtime to pay for it. And if this were just happening on a one-on-one basis, there would not be too much to worry about.

The problem is, there are many groups who have taken it upon themselves to preach the elimination of personal responsibility, and they are having a deeply corrosive effect on this experiment in self-determination. Some of these forces do it for money –- personal injury attorneys come to mind –- and others have darker and more obscure motives.

And so we have group identity advocates. Because if you can convince someone that they are not responsible for their failures and shortcomings, and that someone else is –- not a hard sell if you think about it –- then they will be willing to subsume their responsibility into that of the group –- and with their responsibility goes their political power. Then all the responsibility of the group – and all their power –- is concentrated in the hands of the very few who have led them to this position.

People like Jesse Jackson. Or Pat Robertson. Take your pick.

Who controls a nation of free individuals? No one. That is deeply unsettling to people who crave political control the way a heroin addict needs his fix. What would Bill Clinton have been without politics? A wildly successful Little Rock car dealer -– that’s what I think. And his wife? What of her? Who would have heard of this obscure partner in some backwater law firm? What power and prestige and ability to tell others what to do would she have wielded? And it’s not just Democrats –- Nixon was cut from this cloth. Truman –- a Democrat –- clearly was not.

What do you think drives such people? Power. Control.

How do you convince free people to surrender their power? Well, one way is to go in and take it by gunpoint. Sadly for them, Lincoln’s –- and our hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors, foresaw this probability and put the gunpoint in the hands of the people. They assumed that if our system was worth having, if their theory of people was correct, then they could be trusted with such absolute power because they were willing to accept responsibility for it –- as by and large, we have been.

So, taking our power was out of the question. Our power, and its concomitant responsibility, had been granted to us by the Founders. They’d have to talk us out of it. They’d have to con us out of it.

No one wants to give up power. But lots of folks cheerfully want to abandon responsibility. The two are flip sides of the same coin. Get people to abandon responsibility, and their power and freedom goes with it. That’s the way in.

Lincoln was speaking of something overwhelming our innate power, the insurmountable power of free people. He saw, correctly, that such a thing could never happen. We would have to give it up, willingly.

As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

Keep this in mind, my friends: when someone tells you It Takes a Village, remember that the corollary to that philosophy is It Also Takes A Village Leader.

Take a guess who that might be.

Give your responsibility to the group, and you give your freedom to the group. Freedom without responsibility becomes –- very rapidly -- a farce. When laws become farcical, the result is anarchy. Anarchy is unacceptable –- so measures are taken to reduce freedom and increase controls on the population.

That is precisely what is happening at full gallop. Lets take a look at some case by case examples. When we are finished, you’ll see who’s responsible for this cancer, and even better, you’ll learn who can stop it.

Before we go looking for trouble, we have to delve a little deeper into another thorny philosophical thicket.

How much freedom can we allow people?

The answer seems to be, as much as they are willing to accept responsibility for. But a deeper and more interesting question is this: if freedom is power, then how much power are we willing to place in the hands of single individuals?

To find that answer, we have to again try to connect with another rapidly-disappearing trait, one tied directly and causally to the idea of responsibility.

That second essential trait is common sense.

If we had read the above-mentioned Prairie Justice to actual inhabitants of the American Frontier, they would not have found it comical or ironic –- they simply would be unable to follow it. It would, quite simply, read as Greek to them. The idea of punishing the property owner while rewarding the thief would so violate their common sense, their keenly developed sense of responsibility, that they simply could not believe what they were hearing, and that is because for those people, cold, hard reality stalked them right outside their front door, and moronic inversions of cause and effect would quite simply get you killed. That’s why it was called common sense…it was the Minimum Daily Requirement of intelligence and logic that one needed to survive on a daily basis. Those who didn’t have it were too stupid to live, and had been eaten by wolves or prairie dogs, depending on just how stupid they were.

Reality has receded far from the front porch in modern America, and in those isolated towers of law offices, bureaucracies and faculty lounges, all manners of thought inversions can grow and prosper. I recently heard of a woman who sued a car dealership. It seems her son had stolen a car from said dealership, gone on a joy ride -– drunk, of course -– and gotten himself killed. The woman claimed that if the dealership had maintained adequate security, her son would not have been able to steal the car and he’d be alive today.

This is madness.

Responsibility. Freedom. Common sense. Let’s take a few snapshots of society today and see how these three essential elements come to bear.

And watch carefully, because if we apply Bill’s Electric Razor, we will see that every one of the nasty modern monsters we are about to poke with a stick have only one thing in common, and that is this: they all try to convince people to surrender their individual responsibility, and place that responsibility, and that power, in the hands of a governing elite.

To be Politically Correct these days, you must accept the collectivist belief that words are like weapons, endowed with their own internal, innate power, and this power, like that of a chambered bullet, cannot be trusted to be used responsibly and so must be outlawed and banished from the community.

PC advocates have strict rules for what they call Hate Speech, and using such speech essentially makes you a criminal.

So much for the First Amendment. But the Bill of Rights never meant much to these people; indeed, they see it as an impediment to human progress.

Implicit in this belief is that I have the power to harm you by my use of language. Notice that all the responsibility falls on the speaker; the listener, the subject, is completely powerless, and has achieved the highest status with the group: victim. Note also that this worshipping of the victim, is in essence, the elevation of the most powerless and the least responsible to divine status. It is a very basic sleight of hand, that allows the controlling elites to maintain that they are only trying to help the poor and downtrodden, when in reality their actions are clearly nothing more than a naked grab for power that would shame the most ruthless corporate CEO.

Who decides what is hate speech? The group decides. If one person in the group seriously finds something offensive, then that term or phrase or entire concept is added to the list or proscribed terms, and this is how we get to office memo’s being critical of the term “brainstorming” as being offensive to epileptic co-workers.

If we buy into this idea of Political Correctness, we do several things, all ruinous: we give other people the power to demean us, we remove any chance at reasoned debate on any issue, and most importantly, in a group of 300 million professionally offended people, we come to a vocabulary of perhaps twenty or thirty words that have been so bleached of potential offensiveness and meaning that language itself becomes worthless.

If you have not read 1984 by George Orwell, you have deprived yourself of an entire education right there. There lies the eternal dictatorship, the ultimate all-pervasive Superstate. And how did such a monstrosity come into being? By controlling language. Not only controlling what could be said, but by so simplifying and infantilizing language that entire concepts became literally unthinkable because there were no words for them. Here we sit talking about Freedom, Liberty, Responsibility and all the rest. What if the act of speaking one's mind was described only as “ungood.” What if the only adjectives applied to a life of subjection and servility were “double plus good,” the very words subjection, slavery, servility, submission banished generations ago?

You look out into the street and see someone tearing down a poster of Big Brother; the offender is hauled away, never to be seen again. How do you describe such an action without courage, audacity, rebellion, resistance and freedom? You can’t. You can’t describe them to others, and you can’t think about them yourself. Ungood behavior. You’re a prisoner of your limited, puerile language, and that is precisely where the Politically Correct movement wants to take us, to a world where language and thought is rigidly controlled –- by them.

How much better, how much stronger and healthier are we, when we dare anyone to use whatever terms they choose, and rather than sitting as powerless victims, rise in angry and righteous indignation to fight the human filth that use words like nigger, spick, gook, mick, kike, dago, and all the rest? How much more secure, how much more inoculated, are we when we can hear these words knowing that those who use them are discredited and terrified infants so out of ideas and argument that they must resort to such childish tactics to reassure themselves? What words can hurt us when we refuse to be hurt by words? What simple and powerful wisdom is bound up in Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me?

I have been called a few choice names in the course of these writings, and I have quickly learned that I do not want to be admired and respected by totalitarians, willfully uneducated idiots, smug and jaded suburban revolutionaries, and apologists for dictators. If people like that agreed with me, I would be ashamed of myself. I’m proud to anger those people, and whatever names they choose to call me I consider a badge of pride, considering their source. We can indeed judge ourselves by the loathsomeness of our enemies.

The defense against this kind of free -- and repugnant -- speech is not to put our hands over our ears, our eyes, and someone else’s mouth. The way to fight this human virus is to do what we have been doing: hold those who use such language up to ridicule and scorn, to use our own words as a people blessed with freedom of speech, and to let such archaic and diseased notions and epithets die a quick death in the marketplace of better ideas.

It is a far more dignified, self-respecting and adult way to deal with life’s travails than crying and stamping your feet when someone calls you a bad name. Name callers will always exist, even within the competing factions of a PC universe. If we have free will, we can control our own hearts. And if we let mere words hurt us, we have abdicated this responsibility, and given it to someone else.

It's like surrendering an impregnable fortress without a shot being fired.

And how does responsibility weigh on the issue of Media Bias?

Way back in ancient times -- before, say, 1974 -- the goal of a reporter was not to single-handedly bring down the government and become an international celebrity, but rather to report the facts as fairly and evenly as possible and provide the essential information that we use to direct ourselves as a republic. They had enough respect for the intelligence and decency of the American Public to allow them to make their own decisions.

They also knew that in times of war some things would have to go unreported for a while, so that the country and the free press could survive to read about it later.

But now most of the press –- long a somewhat rumpled and disheveled but nevertheless elitist group -– does not seem to be too happy with the decisions being made by the body politic, and have decided that the populace cannot be trusted with this responsibility. And so they color the news, not by out and out lying –- although there is more and more of that, symptomatic of deeper rot -– but by editorializing, by selective interviewing, by counting the misses but ignoring the hits.

They do not think we can be trusted to do the right thing. They, like most elitists, do not think the average American is up to the responsibility.

As a single example, CNN purposely withheld a number of Saddam’s examples of bestial behavior, torture and repression, ostensibly to maintain “access.” In fact, the elite determining what passes for news at CNN were opposed to the war, and decided on their own and without disclosing this monumental decision to present the war in the worst possible light. But if the price of “access” is the rote delivery of policy statements dictated by a mass-murderer -– as claimed by a few CNN reporters struggling to hold on to some shreds of integrity -– then what point is there to such “access” if all they do is mouth the party line of a dictatorship at odds with a nation of 290 million free people? We expect that from puppets like Comical Ali -– from an American news source, it is a disgraceful and shocking indictment of how elitist, arrogant and egomaniacal the news media has largely become. It is the willful destruction of the main pillar that supports our Republic. Such an act is a basic violation of a sacred trust, and I think such willing distortion ought to be legally actionable, tantamount nearly to treason or sedition. It is profoundly, poisonously anti-democratic.

The press hold in their hands enormous responsibility; they bear on their shoulders the immense burden of trust that we have placed upon them. We have trusted that they will do their job of providing the people of this democratic republic the unvarnished information we need to make responsible decisions.

What we decidedly do not need is some arrogant man or woman deciding, consciously or unconsciously, that they will present information in such a way as to influence people according to their own inner ideologies. Sorry, but this is not acceptable. Their personal opinions entitle them to one vote, not forty million.

We ask them to report the truth. Their response, increasingly, is you can’t handle the truth!

Who the hell are they to decide something of that magnitude? Who do these people think they are?

When you hear the Evening News report some new terrorist warning, and a slow-motion flag banner across the bottom proclaims Americans living in fear, who do you think is afraid, you, or some New York news editor? All of this verbiage about Americans living in fear, anxiety, gloom, terror? They’re the ones living that way. We’re getting up and going to work every day. Stop telling us how afraid we need to be, you pathetic terrorist-enabling weenies! We can handle the truth just fine; it’s you we’re worried about.

The Press has the responsibility to report facts. We have the responsibility to inform ourselves enough to make reasoned political decisions. How we make those decisions is none of their business. Give us the information and then get the hell out of the way.

Note to Dan, Peter, Tom, Wolff and Aaron: trust us. We can handle it.

That’s not a plea, by the way. That is a threat.

Trust us, or we will find someone who will.

Deconstructionism. If ever there was an intellectual movement specifically tailored for a certain type of mental illness, this must surely be it.

Deconstructionists believe in collective responsibility and the dominance of culture over individuality to such a degree that they maintain that one of the most striking examples of free will -– the ability to write down what one thinks about something -– is so colored by culture that the author himself has no real idea what he is saying.

Who, then, can truly know what Lincoln, or Shakespeare, or Hemingway was trying to say? Well, you can’t simply read what they say and take it at face value. Any common idiot can do that, apparently. What the hell fun is it being better than everyone else if everyone else can get the same information that you can?

No, to understand the true meaning, you have to take several college courses where some obscure and petty failed writer -– a man with a bust of Salieri on his mantlepiece -– will deconstruct the cultural and environmental factors and tell you what a real author was actually saying.

This level of arrogance is beyond my ability to parody, frankly.

Again, very popular with the professionally outraged crowd, because it allows them to overcome one of their most glaring deficiencies, namely, the lack of any facts or respected opinions to support their lunatic theories. So if they can, by fiat, announce that what Adam Smith really meant in The Wealth of Nations was simply that -– once you strip away the white, male, European, patriarchal and materialistic / hateful culture that he swam in -- we should all share and reduce greenhouse gases and most especially give money to the demonstrators, for they are as the salt of the earth.

This is not coercion of responsibility; this is highway robbery. The idea that a band of nitwits with too much free time on their angry and sweaty little hands, can sit in a small sub-basement classroom at Mediocrity U. and tell Shakespeare what he was really trying to say is simply the most reprehensible hijacking of responsibility it has ever been my unpleasant experience to see.

That is why, when I deconstruct Deconstructionism, all I see is a group of pathetic, talent-free, self-hating fourth-raters secretly sending out a message for someone with some common sense to ride into town and hang them all.

It is my firm belief that in any decent society, in any civilization worth living in, the healthy and the fit have a moral obligation to render assistance to those in need. None of the people I consider friends and ideological companions cares to live in a country where children are starving on the streets. And we don’t, despite what the BBC or Pravda or The New York Times would have you believe. Actually, that comparison was unfair to Pravda.

Welfare, as envisioned, was designed to provide assistance to people who, through economic downturns or other swings of fate, were momentarily unable to care for themselves and their families. This is a noble idea, and one of many prerequisites for a decent and honorable society.

Furthermore, we must accept the fact that through disabilities of birth, or injury, or chronic illness, many people will be unable to make their own way in this world. And of those unfortunate people, there will be a significant number who lack the family and personal support networks available to others, and who will need to depend on public assistance for the rest of their lives. These, too, are deserving of our help, and it seems to me that a decent society has a moral obligation to provide care and comfort for those with such afflictions. A nation as successful and prosperous as we are can not only afford to assist these people; a people as decent and generous as Americans will insist upon it.

That was the plan.

The problems is, as I mentioned before, that we no longer have a safety net; we have created a safety hammock, where an entire subculture of millions of otherwise capable people have come to rely on public handouts for their livelihoods, with no intention whatsoever of assuming responsibility for their own lives.

I can truthfully state that I do not know the numbers, or proportions, of people on welfare who have no business being there, but they certainly appear to be significant.

If we are to speak frankly and intelligently about this issue, we must recognize that there are two sides of this coin of responsibility. The first is the obligation society has to the poor, outlined above.

What is not discussed is the reciprocal responsibility; namely: what obligation does the poor have to society?

I think there’s a simple answer for that, much simpler than most people realize. I think that if we have a moral obligation to help those in need, then those in need have a moral obligation to recover and stand on their own two feet as quickly as possible.

Let’s take a relative compassion test, shall we? Who is more compassionate: those that want to limit the helping hand in order to allow someone to get back on their feet, gain an education, recover their self-esteem, manifest their self-worth, and lift themselves from the crippling depths of poverty, or someone who wants to hand them an endless supply of meager checks, just enough to destroy their self-respect, hobble their motivation, and sentence them, and their children, and their grandchildren, and their children, to squalid and wasted lives?

I oppose the creation and maintenance of a class of people perpetually on the dole because we simply cannot afford it. And I’m not talking financially -– we have the money to do that until the end of time. We cannot afford the human cost. We cannot afford to squander entire generations of Einsteins and Sagans and Mozarts and Da Vincis by condemning them to a life that consists solely of pushing a lever and getting a food pellet. We need all the help we can get in this struggle toward a more perfect Union. Training people how to remain passive, dependent and miserable is not noble, it is not just, and it is least of all compassionate.

But being the person who brings those benefits home from Washington does, I have noticed, put a fair amount of power, prestige and money in the hands of those elites that call themselves “Champions of the Poor.”

If I were elected Champion of the Poor, my first goal would be the elimination of my job in as short a time as possible -– by teaching people how to care for themselves, how to succeed and thrive and prosper -– in other words, how to be poor no longer. Not by their own bootstraps -– I’m not that naïve. But we, together, should be able to provide the assistance to get this much-needed human potential out of the stagnant swamp that forty years of public assistance has put them in.

We have thrown a lot of money at this problem, for nearly half a century now, with no noticeable improvement. Maybe the answer is not to throw just money, but to throw attitudes. It seems worth a try. I don’t see how we could do much worse.

We could be here all day doing this, but we won’t. Just a few more quick observations, then it’s back to the cave until next we see the Bat Signal on a cloudy and threatening night.

I got started thinking about responsibility over the huffing and puffing done by the Perpetually Outraged regarding the death of Uday and Qusay Hussein. We were told they had been “assassinated,” that the US had “murdered Saddam’s children.” We, of course, were the ones to blame. We were the criminals. We were responsible.

There is so much revealed in such an attitude that a rational, responsible mind recoils as if having picked up a white-hot iron bar.

First of all, a brief review of the facts will show that an offer was made for them to surrender -– multiple times. I do not recall Lee Harvey Oswald shouting down to the Kennedy motorcade advising the President to get out of the limousine before someone got hurt, nor does history record anything of John Wilkes Booth slipping a note to Lincoln warning him that if he came back for the second act then grave consequences would result.

Those were assassinations. This was a raid to apprehend or kill two of the most despicable mass murderers in human history. The offer to apprehend being repeatedly made, and responded to with gunfire, pretty much rules out assassination to anyone but disgusting and reprehensible opportunists who will forgo the deaths of 300,000 -– three filled Superbowls of innocent families -- in order to see their own man or woman win the next election.

Then the critics harp on the use of overwhelming force. 200 plus soldiers, Humvees, helicopters… and yet, who would be shrieking the loudest if fifteen or twenty or a hundred US servicemen had been killed in this operation? The audacity of such a claim boggles the mind, given its proponents' endless quest for second-guessing military failures.

Who really believes that these two murdering bastards would put their hands up and march out to face the populace that they had tortured, murdered and raped for so many years? Who believes Hitler would have walked out of his bunker, hands in the air, and surrendered to Soviet authorities for a trial? What astonishing lack of comprehension does such a position reveal? What more evidence does one need to realize how deeply, fatally isolated these people are from the world they claim to criticize?

But here is the final outrage, one that makes all the others Sunday-school peccadilloes.

How dare these people, how dare they, absolve these two mass murderers of the responsibility of the deaths of so many tens of thousands of men, women and children, simply because they cannot get over their loathing of the President of the United States? These people have the nerve, the unmitigated gall, to claim the moral high ground? What depths will such people not wallow in?

Imagine that you are a seventeen-year-old girl tied with electrical cords in a basement in Baghdad. It’s Monday evening. Uday Hussein, a young psychopath given godlike power over life and death since birth, was driving his pimpmobile on Friday afternoon, and saw you walking home from your university classes. He ordered you into the car, took you to one of his compounds, and raped you for three days, sharing you with all of his sycophants. Then, when your family had the temerity to question what might have happened to you, they were brought to this basement. You were raped repeatedly in front of your father and mother, your younger sister, too –- just so she could see what was in store for her. Your 7 year old brother then had his brains blown all over a wall in front of the entire family. Then your parents were killed, or you were killed, or your sister -– the order doesn’t matter, since none of you are getting out of this room. Inhuman wails of agony, pleas for mercy, begging, promising, mothers offering to be raped in place of their daughters, fathers begging to be killed if only they will release his family -– all of this. Perhaps you’ll be raped to death, or beaten to death; perhaps electrocuted with a wire brush plugged into a wall as salt water is thrown onto your lacerated body. Maybe father will be placed into one of the industrial shredders –- head first, if you can imagine such a thing…that would mean Uday is feeling merciful. Feet first will take a few moments longer. No, looks like it’s feet first for him today.

And you? What is your last thought, a pretty seventeen year old girl majoring in Chemical Engineering, say? What is the last thing that crosses your mind before the lights go out on you, your future, and the future of all the children you will never have?

We know, from the pathetic, forever-scarred and infinitesimal minority that escapes such living hell, that the one thing they call for in their last plea to a God that did not save them, is for justice.


That those who did these evil things, that laughed while lives were destroyed by their own hand, face the responsibility for their actions. Not to live life comfortably after the massacre of hundreds of thousands, like that cannibal monstrosity Idi Amin, who lived like a sultan for thirty years after his abominations, courtesy of our good friends the Saudis.

Justice for these animals –- and Qusay, though less flamboyant, was by all accounts more prolific in this hellish competition -– justice for that girl and her family and the hundreds of thousands of other real people who died appalling deaths in darkened dungeons -– justice for them came when these miserable bastards faced the fact that they were trapped, cornered, and going to die. There was going to be no last minute rescue for them, just as there was none for those untold Iraqi families that pampered western idiots dismiss with a wave of their rhetorical and oh-so-compassionate hands.

No, they were trapped, and they were not getting out of that place alive. I hope they were terrified. I hope they shivered and cried in fear. I hope they had, in those four hours, a glimmer, a faint, animalistic, dim recognition that this is how it must have felt for those objects they tortured and destroyed in their palaces of mayhem and grief.

Uday and Qusay got a lot less than they deserved, but they did not get away. They did not escape justice. They did not escape responsibility. And they did not escape the United States of America, last best hope of this earth, for all her manifest flaws and failures.

Who did escape responsibility? Those who called this an assassination. Those who turned a blind eye to children’s graves and acid baths and rallied to the defense of these murdering bastards. They go about their lives today, looking for new apologies for Saddam and Osama and Fidel and Stalin. They walk our streets today, safe and secure, protected -– rightly -– from retaliation for their moral bankruptcy by the society they despise.

If we accept responsibility for our own actions, we are indeed worthy of our freedom.

This idea of individual responsibility is a new one. It works. It needs to be defended. If only a small portion of the mass of humanity can see clearly that this is the key to escape the bondage of history, class, race, sex and economic status, then that is simply a message we need to preach to anyone who will listen.

Many will not hear it. Perhaps most will not. As for me, I don’t give a flying damn about being on the side with the most adherents. I want to be on the side that is correct. Remember, there was a time when three or four people on the entire planet believed that the earth was round, and the entire rest of the species said they were demonstrably wrong, insane, and should be burned at the stake.

Finally, I promised I would tell you who is responsible for the mess we find ourselves in.

Proceed into your bathroom and take a long, hard look in the mirror.

I also promised to tell you who can get us out of this fix. Well, keep looking. While you're looking, make a decision.

When we surrender our responsibility, when we say we are not capable of facing the consequences of being allowed to smoke, or own a handgun, or ride a motorcycle without a helmet, or drink hot coffee in a moving automobile, then we have gained nothing and given away all. There are people who will gladly assume our responsibility in order to have our freedom and our political power. It’s a buyer's market.

As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

We’ve been warned.


Posted by Proteus at August 20, 2003 3:51 AM

Welcome to the Eject! Eject! Eject! commenter community. Please read and understand the following:

1. This is not a public square. This is a dinner party on personal property. Good conversation is not only tolerated but celebrated here. But the host understands the difference between dissent and disrespect, even if you do not. Louts will be ignored until the bouncers can show them the door.

2. This is a voluntary online community. Your posting of any material, whether in comments or otherwise, grants to William A. Whittle, Aurora Aerospace, Inc. and their affiliates, a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, sublicense, reproduce or incorporate into other material all or any portion of the material posted, for commercial or other use.

3. If a comment does find its way into a main page essay, print, or other media, every effort will be made to credit the individual making the comment. So chose your screen name accordingly,!

Now let's see some distributed intelligence and basic human decency! Don't make me come down there every five minutes!


If you were the reader who made the Rubik's cube comment, speak up! I tried to find you and couldn't. I'd love to credit you for that remarkable analogy.

Meanwhile, it's 4 am and I have work in four hours. I will wade back into the sea now, back to Monster Island, and I don't want to be disturbed unless there is a major volcanic eruption or imment threat of attack from outer space.

Thanks for your patience. Let the commentfest begin!

Wonderful, as always, Bill. My congratulations.

Yes, excellent. The last book of essays that I bought were Paul Fussell's "Thank God for the Atom Bomb" and Dennis Miller's "The Rants" (which was as much humor as commentary). I look forward to getting your book, Mr. Whittle.

Much to chew over. Thanks for another meaty, thoughtful post!

Well I think that I speak for 99% of the next 200 commenteers when I say that it was well worth the wait. And I apologize if clicking "Refresh" about 50 times over the last few days (in the hope that The Essay had been posted) racked up a big bill for bandwidth.


I just don't know where to begin. I am stirring this stew of information and trying to pick out the best parts - can't do it. I am overwhelmed with emotion here. You have struck a major chord with me this time. Major, Major chord. I don't think you could possible realize what you've done. Once again, you've articulated for me what I am unable to and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have printed this out and will keep it in my purse to thrust into the face of all of those idiots that I encounter until it is nothing but shreds of tissue lint. Then I will go to the archives and print it out again. Bless you Bill Whittle, Bless you.


I thought the corrollary to "It takes a Village" was "It Takes a Village Idiot"

-Great Work Bill

That is another fine piece of clear thinking. A republic like ours survives on minds like yours.

Bill, you have lain down the gauntlet. I have meekly felt there was nothing, nothing I could do to persuade my sister to change from her way of thinking as illustrated in this exchange:

Mary, to me, as we leave the ICU where our 56yo mom is recovering from heart bypass surgery: I'll see you later, I'm going to go outside to smoke a cigarrette.

Me: How can you even think of smoking after seeing what you've just seen? (I.e., the horrible effects of smoking; our mother is a smoker.)

Mary: Hey, I'm addicted. Just like you're addicted to health and fitness. It's the same thing.


I WILL find a way to get through to her.

Oddly enough, she is total Leftist, America-hater... who would have thought?

Thanks for room for personal rant :) . This essay left me in tears.

Excellent work, Bill.

I prefer Whittle's Electric Razor - will sound great in some grad school lecture..."According to 'Whittle's Electric Razor'..."

Bill - you forgot one of Heinlein's best quotes after your line "What do you think drives such people? Power. Control."

"Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire."

If your book is not a best seller....that will be the real crime here. usual.

Thank you Bill. Simply, thank you.

Those last two pictures of Lincoln reminded me of something... the day I met Jimmy Carter. And gave him a hat.

Though I didn't think much of his administration, nor the changes in our country or its image overseas that occurred during his tenure, I still liked the MAN. He was (and is) by nature a gentle spirit, compassionate, generous, and optimistic. Regrettably, I'd helped vote him into office 7 years before (my first time in a ballot box), atoning for that error later by voting Reagan in to replace him. But I still liked HIM, former President Jimmy Carter, as a person.

And what I saw that day in 1983 really saddened me.

I was an air traffic controller in a mobile unit (a "Mob," the communications equivalent of a "M.A.S.H." unit) stationed at Robins Air Force Base, just south of Macon, Georgia. And as a unit, we were invited down to Plains, Georgia to provide the air traffic control services for an Agcat (agricultural aircraft, or "cropduster") competition. A big fly-in with a lot of crazy pilots. Jimmy Carter, the local ex-presidential celebrity, was the guest of honor. And he stopped by our tiny little 3-man mobile tower to pay us a visit.

I was shocked.

Even three years after Reagan's inauguration, he looked like absolute hell. He had bags under the suitcases under the TRUNKS under his eyes. His hair lay on his spotted scalp like cobwebs, there was no white in his watery eyes, and he was splattered with liver spots. He looked and sounded utterly exhausted. And he stood there among the three of us, wedged into that tiny space, shoulder-to-shoulder with us (no room for any of his Secret Service entourage), and barely croaked about what a great job we were doing, and how much our presence there was appreciated. I wanted to cry.

I had been designated as the official "presenter" though, and so I rattled off this pathetic little two-sentence "speech" we'd agreed upon, and presented him with a "Gator lid," the official green hat of the 5th Combat Communications Group (the 5CCG, the "Mob"). He thanked me, shook my hand, donned the hat, shook everyone else's hands, and politely backed out of our little box. And we all looked at each other and released our breaths in one big gasp.

"Jeezy Pete! What happened to HIM?"

"Did you see all those liver spots?"

"Man, he looked like a set of bagpipes that got left out in a hailstorm."


But a danged nice guy.

Later on -- years later -- I saw a documentary on his last days in office, and all his frantic PERSONAL all-nighter efforts to free the American hostages in Iran before the end of his presidency. About what it had taken from him to accept the full responsibility for the disastrous rescue attempt. And I couldn't even imagine what that must have been like.

I've always accepted full responsbility for my own actions, from the effect on the team's total scores from my bad bowling, to the speeding tickets that I EARN. But the weight of presidential burdens are almost incalculable to me.

Jimmy Carter's ravaged, sagging face showed it to me at point blank range.

Those two pictures of Abraham Lincoln reminded me of it all over again.



For years I have described myself as pro-choice/pro-consequence--and I don't just mean on the issue of abortion (which has co-opted the term "pro-choice"). I lived in Boston at the time of the first ridiculous anti-responsibility lawsuit: a man drank himself into a stupor, stumbled out of the bar several blocks to his car, attempted to drive himself home whereupon he wrecked his car and paralyzed himself. He sued the bar for serving him the alcohol. No one held a gun to his head and forced him to drink. He mentioned to no one that he was going to drive home. He simply drank and paid for his alcohol, and then was stupid.

There cannot be laws against stupidity! Try as we might, mistake-making MUST be part of the fabric of th US. If you are going to allow freedom of choice, some people make BAD choices. If you then free them from the consequences of those bad choices you produce an ever-greater number of bad choices, because the effort required to make good choices is unrewarded.

I played in a basketball game a few years ago. After about five minutes it was clear that the refs were not going to call anything. The game quickly degenerated into a brawl--there was no reward for playing cleanly, so no one did.

I cannot imagine living in such anarchy in everyday life because I never have. Unfortunately, my wife has, being from Central America. And she spends a lot of time laughing at what we Americans call "problems". I want to stand and say, Never Again, but I find myself saying (along with Lileks-- for Wed 8/20), "Hopefully not today. Hopefully today I will not be subjected to abject lunacy and the abdication of responsibility."

Thanks Bill.

Thanks, Bill. I just thought of a thousand different ways of saying that, but decided to keep it simple. You're awesome.

Me: How can you even think of smoking after seeing what you've just seen? (I.e., the horrible effects of smoking; our mother is a smoker.)

Mary: Hey, I'm addicted. Just like you're addicted to health and fitness. It's the same thing.

Brain... Overloading... Cannot... comprehend... insane... statement...

I feel like one of those robots Kirk used to trick into self-destructing.


Rubik's cube is a nice anology but I prefer to think of people that "take their politics a la carte" better. They are not randomly jumbled who can be twisted into the correct pattern with work, they are people that have chosen specific dishes rather than the pre-chosen combination on the menu.

Anyway, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

I have been a lurker since "Courage" (which brought me to tears, BTW). Let me just add my word of thanks for the clarity and precision that you present what I "know", but cannot articulate. The essays, combine with the comments section, are truly a college course better than any one I have ever attended.

You gather people who's souls are crying out to say these words and lead us on a jouney to discover them. Our guts were always with you but you cement an argument that shows us WHY we feel that way.

You are a gift from god and if everyone in this country read you in High School, it would be a better world.


beautiful. It made me happy to read your thoughts and insights , albiet quite "society -spannding ponderation" in nature.

Two points, if you dont mind-
1) rubik's cube, like all analogies it falls short when put to the full test of reality. To be closer to reality, the cubes colors would have to change continually since our thoughts and opinions change thru time.
2)you got past it but, do you really need to delve into the nature vs nurture?? or were you simply trying to bring in Lincoln? In this day and age, for the last 1,000 years it is clear we all have a ruder. Some dont know how to use it, or what is for, or even choose to use it, but they can hear it banging around the stern. ( or if they are deaf, or blind, they can feel the pounding from the deck). Note: another comparision doomed to fall short!!

Mr. Whittle,

I took your advice and looked in the mirror. Scared myself. Now I'm going to sue you. Ok... not really.

Excellent essay. Purely, simply excellent.


The Rubik's commentor was Rick, near the end of the Trinity comment thread.

Must digest. Require coffee to banish sentence fragments.

Excellent essay! You are a writer of unique vision with a profundity of thought!
Could it be that Personal Responsibility has escaped you?
It would seem to me that Pro-Choice is the pinnacle of irresponsible behavior.
The time for choice is just before the act. If conception is not the desired out come then birth control should be used. This is when Choice should be made. Not after conception has taken place. To abort a child is not talking responsibility for ones actions!

Will Bittle...LOL...glad you chose the path that's clear, but where did you ever hear of a huckleberry pie? The best pie ever made...and in WA a difficult one to acquire the ingredients for...have to head for the mountains to pick them for hours. Haven't finished the essay yet, just wanted to ask before I forgot.



Thank you. Just -- thank you.

This "Monster Land" you speak of --

Does it have room for adoring fans? Or is it really a Rock Star Hideaway?

No matter. I believe that you have made my day (week) again by way of publishing another great essay. You are a treasure.

Thank you.

Hi Bill, excellent excellent essay.

I however disagree with the notion that all speech should be allowed. Hate Speech infringes on other peoples rights and causes discrimination. To allow a person to falsely accuse another without 'responsibility' for those actions is criminal. Racial and Anti-Semitic propoganda may lead to heinous crimes, and for this reason it is crucial to teach children correctly. If all American schoolbooks incorrectly stated that black people are inferior, it would lead to many more racial crimes. In our world there are people who are not as educated as the average American, who are unaware of their own responsibilities, and to assume that everyone is responsible and will be punished accordingly, is believing that we live in a perfect world. There are many out there who are influenced by hate. Hate nurtures more hate and it is for this reason that people with 'common sense' should use this 'common sense' to judge whether or not an action, which includes speech is 'evil' or not.

It is the willful destruction of the main pillar that supports our Republic. Such an act is a basic violation of a sacred trust, and I think such willing distortion ought to be legally actionable, tantamount nearly to treason or sedition. It is profoundly, poisonously anti-democratic.

Are these not merely words which the reporter states, can we not merely ignore these words.

I restate my belief that words, whether in the media or via speech, do have a profound effect on us all, and we therefore have to use this tool responsibly.

... And btw those murdering bastards should have been tortured for years before being killed.


A disturbing essay. As a mother, I have realized to my horror that many children today are not being raised to be responsible. They are, in fact, not being raised at all. Dumped in daycares, shoved into government schools full of leftists, and with no attention at home, they are left floundering with no foundation of morals or behavior.

And these are the kids from good homes. We hear about the ones from bad homes -- shooting each other with guns found under crack house mattresses, or starving in closets, or worse.

We cannot survive as a nation with a population of uneducated savages. Leftists know this, which is why they are (not)teaching in our schools and our universities.

I'm off to register the kids for school now. At least I have a Whittle essay to fortify me for the battle...

Speaking of Kim Du Toit, I've always liked this:

From the amazing Kim du Toit's "Let Africa Sink:"

My favorite African story actually happened after I left the country. An American executive took a job over there, and on his very first day, the newspaper headlines read: "Three Headless Bodies Found".

The next day: "Three Heads Found".

The third day: "Heads Don't Match Bodies".

The problem with "hate speech" laws is that they are crimes of thought, not of action, and are purely geared to group rights, not individual. We already HAVE laws about false accusations (libel, defamation of character, slander), and laws about crimes (property crimes, murder, rape, assault). It's a court precedent grown mossy that you do not have the right to use freedom of speech to cause others direct harm- the "FIRE!" in a crowded theater test. As for the schoolbook example, there is a BIG difference between deliberately teaching children hate as part of a state-sponsored effort and allowing people the right to be annoying assholes. Cultural and scholastic review needs to be open to debate in order to function correctly.

So, why do we need "hate speech" laws except to create specially protected groups? Why should particular groups have more "right" not to be defamed or harmed than others?

I agree with Clint's comment about abortion and responsibility. I love your work Bill, but I'm curious how you reconcile your advocacy of responsibility with your pro-abortion beliefs. I can think of few things *less* "responsible" than terminating at pregnancy b/c its not convenient.

I'm not a homophobe nor am I a racist, but I am against abortion. And I am not against abortion because I'm a "religious fundamentalist." I'm againt the fact that a premature baby that is saved on one side of the hospital can be legally "aborted" (a nice word for murdered) on the other side.

I assumed that this discussion would eventually take on abortion because it seems so tied to personal responsibility. I apply my pro-choice/pro-consequence position this way:

If a woman chooses to be sexually active then she has also made the choice to accept the consequences of sexual activity. If that includes pregnancy, that's the consequence.

If she does not choose but rather has sexual activity forced upon her (rape, incest) then she is not forced to choose the consequence, even if that consequence includes an additional human life (the baby).

Abortion as birth control is abhorent. Childbirth for a child of rape and incest is also abhorent, though in a different way. opinion, anyway.

I doubt that Bill is "pro-abortion," any more than I am (and I think that Roe v. Wade was a travesty from a Constitutional standpoint). But one can be against something without necessarily believing that it must therefore be illegal, and particularly federally so. There oughtta be a law against the mentality that "there oughtta be a law..."

It's amazing how often you evoke Huck Finn
without actually mentioning him. The raft
if the river, the pie...

_THE_ "Great American Novel" tells us that
even IF, for our whole life our whole society
tells us we will be condemned to the eternal
flames of Hell for doing a thing, at some point our individual soul cries out "All, right, then.
I'll go to Hell," and makes us do it. Anyway.

This is not modern civil disobedience, mind you. If society says you will be sent to jail for not paying your war tax, you, like Thoreau, may choose not to pay AND to go to jail. To break the law in protest of a war, then to beg cops not to arrest you; to beg prosecutors not to file charges; to beg judges to ignore the facts, and beg governors or presidents to pardon you -- that's ducking responsibility.

Actually, Bill, critics who tell you "Go to Hell," are paying you great compliment. Like
Huck, you accept the price and carry on.

May we all do so, choosing wisely.

But that's sort of like saying "I'm against murder personally, but I don't think there should be a law against it." At a certain level, when third parties are harmed, it is fair to constrict someone's liberty. Even libertarians agree with that premise.

Obviously, that begs the question of whether you agree that at a third party (the unborn baby) is part of the equation. That is where the true debate lies, and I'm not sure that can be settled in this forum.

Excellent post. It occasioned an insight. While reading the bit about labels and names it occured to me that our PC speech codes are not about the victim at all. We see someone denigrated and our natural reaction is a distancing one--we confront the one using labels to cut someone down. Our attention isn't on the victim really at all, it is on our own power. That puts us on the level with the attacker. The attacker supposedly has power and we want to protect our own power by moving in to confront and silence them.

The better reaction is the harder--to lift up the attacked. True support would be to teach the denigrated to stand for themselves, to take responsibility for themselves, and to fight their own battles. We want to excersize our power when we would do better, as human beings and as advocates of personal responsiblity, to teach others to realize and exercize their own abilities. True assistance would be for us to insist that they fight back in their own way, under their own steam.

But then, that means trusting the responsiblity of a third party. It means accepting a more complicated world where suddenly three actors have power--you, the denigrated, and the denigrator. The PC impulse is to simplify by consolidating power in a single actor--the elite writer of speech codes...

Thank you for creating and sharing a brilliant essay. You've put forth the argument for self responsibility clearly and concisely.
I will be bookmarking this for future reference.

Thank you again.

Your essay is so appropo given the recent bombing of the UN embassy in Iraq. Seeing the pictures on TV, my thoughts turned to "Who would do this?", "Who are these monsters?", "What does this do for their cause?", "What are they trying to accomplish that THIS could possibly help?", "How can we fight such an insane enemy that won't stand and fight?", or (place your own comments here, they will only reinforce my point.)

Then it hit me, people like my friend, Steve, who has "Save Democracy. Impeach Bush" on one side of his rear window and a Howard Dean sticker on the other, are probably looking at this and thinking, "There! See?! See what Bush did! If we weren't in Iraq, if we didn't support Israel, this never would have happened!"

These people, who's world view is so skewed that when you start talking about responsibility, immediately throw it back at you, saying, "Well, Republicans are responsible for building up Saddam in the first place, so this is all their fault."

These are the same people who revere the Clintons. You can tell by Bill's pathological abilities to duck the truth, to play semantic games, and never, NEVER under ANY circumstances admit fault, that he was raised in a household where he was never held accountable for his actions. My parents, by contrast, held strict ideas about responsibility and consequences for my actions.
One essay you need to write is on LISTENING. You see, I listened to my parents. I listened to my teachers. I listened to my priests and career advisors. I followed the rules. I didn't smoke or do drugs. I got a college education, got a good job I enjoy doing, don't overextend my credit cards, and life is working out more or less fine for me.

It's these people who buck the system, insist on beating their own path, reject anything they consider established religions, capitalism, and any other system that has PROVEN to work. They and blame everyone else for the fact that they hate their jobs waiting tables (at age 32) because it interferes with their all night partying, they have no money (because they spend it all on cigarettes, drugs and alcohol), hate their parents (who they never listened to), follow some fuzzy, new-age religion based solely on their own experiences and believe structure and can't understand why nothing seems to work out for them. And eventhough they religiously buy lottery tickets, twice a week, they never win.

To these people, life is unfair and the rich and powerful are either lucky or cheaters. To them Bush is the epitome of the lucky cheater. Lucky enough to be born into wealth and power (The Bush family stands up there right among the Vanderbilts and Kennedy's, right?) put his oil-rich friends into positions of power so he can rape and pillage the world's resources.

Unfortunately, when they look in the mirror they hate what they see. And that hatred is directed outward, to the world, their country, and every right thinking member of the human race. They simply can not fathom the idea that some of us can look in the mirror, like what we see, and still think of ways we can be better. Then we turn around and go do it.

Abortion isn't really an issue of personal responsibility, at least not to me and not, from my point of view, for most sane pro-choicers. Between rape, the fact that birth control sometimes just plain fails, and the way pregancies can go south and force a medical choice between the mother's life and the child's, we cannot make abortion a blanket personal-responsibility issue.

The core issues are: at what point does a fetus become a person and the act become murder? A staggering number of early pregnancies are aborted naturally, usually without the mother ever having known she was pregnant, but biology is not morality, nor does the body care about personhood. There have been several answers to this question, but none that I have seen yet that were definitive.

The other issue, the one that makes me pro-choice even though I find abortion personally repulsive, is that the "cure" appears to be sometimes worse than the disease. When abortion was originally leglaized, it wasn't because people suddenly felt it was okay to kill babies, it was because desperate women were dying horribly by the thousands in illegal procedures. Not only that, but unwanted children are treated horribly and quite often wind up dead anyway. (Yes, I know adoption is an option, and the best one that I can see. It's truly weird how few people actually take advantage of it.)

I don't have a morally acceptable answer to the problem of unwanted pregnancies. I can only go with what I see as the lesser of two large and ugly evils- but it's *not* a black-and-white issue of responsibility.

Nice one, Bill.

And there's nothing wrong with a little anger, either.

For ten years, I've been a plaintiffs' personal-injury lawyer. Believe it or not, there's a genuine need for the service I provide; insurance companies are in business to collect premiums, not to pay claims. But this year, I quit. I'm selling my house in California, and moving to Tennessee, where I am not licensed to practice law. No new job; no prospects at the moment, but I'll wait tables before I ever again agree to represent another injured person. Not because those particular claims are illegitimate; by and large, the ones that come to me are not. But because I can no longer be part of the culture, part of the profession, that has done so much of the damage that Bill describes.

Nice start - but this is going to take a while....

Oops, Wrong Weapon - Bullets Instead of Shock

When a Madera, Calif., police officer drew her handgun instead of a nonlethal Taser and killed a suspect last year, it wasn't the first time law enforcement had mistakenly fired bullets instead of an electronic charge.
As a result, the city of Madera and police officer Marcy Noriega have filed a lawsuit against Taser International Inc., manufacturer of the electronic device, and blame the company's training procedures for part of the problem.

Noriega shot Everardo Torres, 24, on Oct. 27, 2002, as he sat handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. Noriega told investigators she intended to stun Torres with her Taser because he had been kicking at the car's window, but she accidentally drew and fired her service weapon.
- Fresno Bee

Thank you for posting about responsibility; it's my favorite topic.

I'll send my small readership your direction.


I was about to comment on abortion, when, as usual, Lab Rat beat me to it and pulled out her reason gun.

My position is this: I do not hold a religious view that an egg becomes a human at the instant of conception. As LR pointed out, many pregnancies terminate spontaneously in the first few weeks, and in no way would I call this loss of a human life.

Conversely, no one can convince me that terminating a fetus an hour before its natural birth is anything less than murder of a child.

Therefore, like so many others, I am forced to -- as Lab Rat says -- accept the lesser of two evils. I believe that through accident or just plain human error in a moment of passion -- and I'm not in favor of legislating those moments out of existence -- people find themselves pregnant. Ideally, this means people, as in COUPLES.

When this happens, there is a relatively short window -- a few months -- where they must make a difficult and painful decision, and if they choose abortion, the sooner that decision is made, the better. I do not believe they have eight or nine months to make that decision, nor do I believe that they require eight or nine months.

No one is pro-abortion. I believe that women do have a right, a freedom, to control their own repoductive systems. Concomitant with that freedom should come the responsibility to make that decision within the first trimester, because while there is no single point on that line, by the time they get to the third trimester we are no longer talking about a cluster of cells, but something that grows daily closer into a someONE.

That's just my two cents on deeply personal issue. I wasn't afraid to address it in the essay, so much as I was tired and it was long, as usual. Besides, here is one responsibility issue that has had no shortage of attention, and there were other monsters lurking in the dark.

Great essay as always - thank you for brightening my day! The Norwegian dream is priceless. I do have to say that I feel abortion doesn't fit too well into the "responsibility" category. I think in the case of abortion, it usually comes down to a distinction of those who believe somebody dies when you have an abortion, and those that do not - the issue's not as good of a fit for personal responsibility as the others.

I have no words to express the way RESPOSIBILITY resonated with me. "Thanks" is too small a word. I've been standing on my little hilltop in my journal for some time, screaming, "responsibility and accountability--that means YOU and ME!"

So, let me as a woman and a mother address the Pro-Choice subject:

The act of choosing; selection.
The power, right, or liberty to choose; option.
One that is chosen.
A number or variety from which to choose: a wide choice of styles and colors.
The best or most preferable part.
Care in choosing.
An alternative.

(from the American Heritage Dictionary)

Pro-choicers are not pro-abortion/murder. They merely say that the individual deserves the option to choose for herself. That then leads to the understanding that the accountability (read: burden) for that decision rests on the individual's shoulders, alone. That means that the person who would choose in favor of an abortion (for whatever reason) is the sole party who assumes the burden, and has to look in the the mirror every morning thereafter, as well as face any fallout from her theological/philosophical belief system.

To take the right to make that decision from a person is disempowering, arrogant, and wrong.

I am an utterly devoted mother. I love my little girl with every fiber of my being. Obviously, I did not choose an abortion. But I reserve the right to make the choice. I want others to stay out of my choice of principles and beliefs. I take responsiblity for my actions, thank-you-very-much. I guess I'm just a grown-up that way.

That is the point of Bill's essay: we must keep in mind that our freedom is not a shining, abstract, Camelot-esque dream. Freedom, and its maintenance, is urgent, immediate, and relevant. The price of that freedom is that every last one of us must take responsibility for our views, our decisions, and the actions we take as a result.

As far as the Political Correctness, I've always found it laughable. It is correctness for the sake of politics, and has less to do with consideration for others in the interest of setting them at ease, than it does dictation of thought as manifested through the way people "should" speak. Yes, 1984 is an excellent example of this. The PC movement seeks to reinvent the wheel as far as I'm concerned. We already had codes of conduct in place to dictate consideration for others. It's called etiquette. Hopefully, we will all continue to practice it in this thread.

Responsibly yours,

Oh dear, I did mean "RESPONSIBILITY", of course.

I beg your pardon for my gaffe.

RE: the "rubik's cube" analogy: I think the surprising truth is that we DON'T find ourselves re-aligning with the changing issues - instead we invariably find ourselves "looking across the barricades into the same faces"[Thomas Sowell - A Conflict of Visions] every time. It is that fact that is indeed the evidence of the underlying dichotomy of viewpoint that you express as the "Individual Responsibility v. Group responsibility" duality.

Sowell traces this divergence back a couple of centuries to the arrival on the philosophical scene of the (somewhat anti-Christian) idea that mankind is by nature "good", and that with proper institutions, training, guidance, etc. we can develop a sort of heaven on earth. Those that have adopted that point of view have a completely different understanding of reality than those who insist that humanity is fundamentally flawed.

They tend to believe that "ends justify means", that control should be left in the hands of those who know best (inevitably, themselves) and that their opponents are not wrong, but evil.

You and Dr. Sowell have a lot in common on this issue. And I hope you view that statement as high praise. It was meant so.

Ok...just got done reading this essay...haven't made it through comments yet. Hopefully once I do I will have something more intelligent to add.

Mr. Bill Whittle...your essays are always very good but this one...THIS ONE WAS A THING OF BEAUTY!

I can't tell you how many times I said, "YEP!" "EXACTLY!" "OH MY GOTT THIS IS RIGHT ON TARGET!", shook my fists in the air in agreement, and yes, once, I actually stood up and applauded while reading. (Ok, twice.)

While reading, I would think of what to say but then you addressed it in the very next paragraph...and I would repeat the above actions.

I will buy your book, probably a few copies but THIS one gets printed. THIS one gets printed MANY, MANY times to hand out to some of these people in this city who do. NOT. get. it!

Somedays, I get so exhausted from the idiocy that spews from people's mouths, that absolute, sheer stupidity...and then comes something like this. I have found a new energy...

I've said this before and I'll say it again, this should be required reading for school...high school and college. I think it would be great if you were to become a speaker who travels around the country, sharing your wisdom.

sigh--I could go on and on...but again, this was the BEST essay I have read. You totally rule.

I didn't plan on getting involved in the pro-choice/pro-life debate, but LabRat's comments caused me to respond.
This debate is all about where you draw the line. I consider myself pro-life but like any sane pro-lifer, understand a law that would allow exceptions for things like rape, incest, or threatening the mothers life. I understand LabRat's point of view and it is the beauty of our system that we get to argue the points and arrive at a compromise. Free speech works (PC doesn't BTW, but that's another email...)

I do want to caution LabRat about equating miscarriages with abortion. If this is the third leg of his arguement, the whole thing will topple over. This is precisely where personal responsibility enters into the equasion. Abortion is ACTIVELY ending a life.

It is a libertarian (my term) mindset that sees abortion, or mortorcycle fatalities, as the lesser of two evils when compared to government infringement on personal freedom. A moralist (like myself) is willing to allow a little less liberty for a little more morality.

What I don't understand is a recent radio interview here in Orlando with a leader of the pro-choice movement, who actually said she would want to know if her daughter was getting a tatoo, but abortion is too important a decision for anyone to interfere with. I'm paraphrasing, but this came out of her in one-sentence, not my summary of her entire comments.

That kind of thinking I just don't understand. I think if we are going to allow abortion to be legal, we should at least require parental notification. The tens of thousands of parents who would help and support the daughter they love far outweighs the tens of parents who would punish and beat their daughter.

Besides, we don't want the government involved in our "reproductive rights" but its okay to interfere with my "parental responsibility"?

Magic thinking...

Hi, and just a quick comment based on skimming through your essay - As I understand it, Libeskind, the architect who's supposedly in charge of designing what goes up on the old WTC site in Manhattan, is a deconstructionist, and it shows, I think - every time I think of all the really beautiful buildings in New York, and then think about Libeskind's *MESS*, I get sad and angry...if there is any place "decon" doesn't belong, Ground Zero is it!


Double good. that have I gloated over your words, I am going to disagree with you.

"...many pregnancies terminate spontaneously in the first few weeks, and in no way would I call this loss of a human life."

Yet, when that happens, the miscarriages are deemed, "loss of the baby" by many.

I agree with Clint and DB. I am against abortion. I'm against it for very personal reasons, (no I did not have one), and because every single female I know that has had one had it because they "messed up". I don't buy into the arguement that "contraceptives don't always work, therefore..." No. That is simply not acceptable. If you are not ready to have a child, then do not have sex. Period. I'm really tired of people having sex and then turning around and ending a "potential life", (since you don't accept they are human life until a certain point), because it's inconvenient for them. Oh, and I'm not Christian or Catholic-this does not come from any religious belief.

What's the solution? Good question. I advocate this country quit being so shy about sex in the first place and start teaching kids what it is, what can happen, what are the consequences. There are commercials and t.v. shows and other such means that attempt to educate but the fact of the matter is, they still fall short because they still glorify it.

In the event of rape or much as I hate the idea of snuffing out a "potential life", I can come to a middle ground and accept the right to abort.

Anything else? No. And you can throw all the facts and figures at me about unwanted children and what it costs us, etc. When you know that YOU would not have been alive today if Roe vs Wade had taken place BEFORE you were born, you might understand where I'm coming from.

And yes, I do know this. It came straight from the horse's mouth.

Ok----fire away...I'm sure plenty of you do not agree with me one iota.

Just for grins, some of you might be interested in checking out this link, which looks at this kind of question in a different light. It was fascinating to compare the demarcation highlighted by Whittle's Electric Razor and the Dynamist vs. Stasist view belonging to Virginia Postrel - both of these have a lot in common.

Two interesting (and very complimentary) views indeed.

Some of [the left] sneer at people like us and call us RINO’s: Republicans In Name Only

As a resident of Missouri, I'll have to say - Show Me.


You've made one substantial error in this essay. And I think I should address it.

You see, you call the belief that words "are like weapons, endowed with their own internal, innate power" a COLLECTIVIST belief. Nothing could be further from the truth! Words are indeed weapons: words can start the fall of entire empires the way a revolver at a duke can, the right speech can shake an enemy worse than a thousand shells at dawn, and it is through WORDS that a fortres can indeed be brought down without firing a shot.

You all know this. You've seen what words, uttered by men of supposed knowledge and influence have done to America. They bound the common knowledge that served the people well for more than a hundred years in steel webs of deceit. Made theft from those more industrious than themselves not merely tolerable, but indeeed MERITORIOUS, a competition to see who can steal more! Words have tied us up, and indeed I simply do not know what writings I can post on walls in a university, for the crime of "Hate Speech"- being a student, I am not exactly a member of the bourgeoise.

The influence of one "trusted" person, telling us that indeed the Iraqis are willing to sacrifice their souls for Sadaam, can indeed cause us to waver and fail. Worse than if Saddam had a thousand missiles pointed an NYC.

But, as with all things, the corollary is present, and quite clear. You see, Bill, we have words of our own. Growing sharper and indeed better than the words of anyone else- I mean, I can't even remember the last time I went to, never mind take seriously the major network news. Why would I, when I have Steven, Misha, Andrew, Damian, Rachel, Michele, and yes, yourself? Our words cut through delusion and arrogance like knives: and when we grow delusional, our words in turn will face criticism, amybe even mockery. We can use profanity, we can speak without regard for effeminate excuses like David Gilligan's "I cannot release my testimony to Parliament due to my STRESS, or I might kill myself!" and above all, WE are not bound to the President- HE is bound to us. So whenever he, or anyone else, makes horrible mistakes and the problem is evident, we will say so outright. We are not bound by the Party line, unlike pratically every leftist I've ever met.

We can handle the War of the Words just fine, Bill. Our armour is flexible, but strong. Theirs may be dense, but it is brittle: and those seduced by their words are slowly awakening to what WE are like.

And in the War of the Words, Bill, is like an Elite Forge. The Knights of Anti-Idotarianism will come back every 2 weeks, and each man and woman finds a store of powerful s/words and nigh-perfect mini-speeches in EACH essay, which multiply exponentially as we consider your words and use our own experience to make them even MORE powerful, to last them until the coming of the Bin Laden Age.

Which, thanks to people like you, will be further away than Eternity.

I try to translate your words into action when they take root in my heart. Helping the poor PERSONALLY, writing to the Canadian government, which just may be waking up, to simply conserving gas so that the Saudis may eat rats in their palaces.

And if everyone understands what we understand, soon or late the whole world will understand America's true power, greater than even economic or military might- the power enshrined at Gettysburg and in the Constitution and in the great speeches.

The power of words.

Amazing, Bill. Amazing. Words fail me.




Whittle is the new commander. By acclaim.




Some years ago I was called for jury duty, and put in a pool for a personal injury case.

The case? A pilot for a major airline was suing his employer, the manufacturer of a flight simulator, and the company that maintained it.

The complaint? On two separate occasions, said pilot bumped his knee in the simulator. No ER, but the court stated at the beginning that damages in "excess of seven figures" would be sought.

They never got to me, which would have meant coming back the next day.

As the judge ordered the continuance, I approached the bench.

"Your honor," I announced, "There is no way I could render an unprejudiced opinion in this case."

"Why not?" demanded the judge.

"Because I ride a motorcycle, and I take responsibility for my actions."

Plaintiff's attorney immediately requested I be dismissed from the jury pool. The judge agreed.

I have been screaming at the top of my lungs for so long about personal responsibility (or the gross lack thereof) that I had all but lost the ability to rationally explain it. Mr. Whittle, thank you for opening up the armory and allowing me to reload the verbal cannon.

I have read each and every essay, but this one strikes me as especially important. Keep up the good work.

Well, Bill...
As I've come to expect, your latest essay is superbly on-target. Many other posters have said so -more eloquently than I ever will. Makes me want to go re-read Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" once again.

A little slightly off-topic note:
You reminded me of a long-ago semester in college, where I was privileged to work part-time in the newly-built school planetarium. It was a GREAT place to engage a young imagination... and the best venue ever for cranking up "Dark Side of the Moon". ELP's version of "Hoedown" also seemed to fit perfectly.


Again and again and again, to idealists all over the political spectrum: it is NOT fair to stress the wide range of beliefs on your side and then try to cram all your opponents into a tiny homogeneous box. I agree that the concept of responsibility is an important dividing line, but by your rules for applying it, I'm on the right .... and Geaorge W. Bush and John Ashcroft are leftists.

Wonderful Bill! And exactly what I always say; it's freedom AND responsibility.

Thank you again, Bill. It was well worth the wait. No surprise there.

The sheriff of Modoc County (Bruce Mix), here in the People's Republic of California, will issue a concealed weapons permit to any honest citizen who wants one and is willing to take the day's class.
I asked him why he was so different form the sheriffs/chiefs of police in the urban areas of the PRCa. He said: "As far as I'm concerned, there are only two types of people: those who are willing to take responsibility for their own lives and actions, and those who are not."
You called it, brother.
From someone who's politics are "somewhere out on the lunatic fringe of the Libertarian movement."

You're singing my song. Two quick notes.

I think you give postmodernism too much credit. It allows no theoretical structure that would give culture (collective or not) any authority. Its epistemological nihilism dressed in Paris. At root, it's a cynical power play. He who smirks last wins.

I love "common sense," and love its deep philosophical and theological heritage. Give me common sense--right reason with a dash of caritas--any day. I always think of Jeff Smith in the well of the Senate trying to explain the difference between a pat on the back and a punch in the nose, and a little lookin out for the little guy.


I can think of nothing more destructive to a human being than being protected from the consequences of his actions. Yet many people seem to desire it, either for themselves or for others. Perhaps Heinlein (and H.L. Menken and others) was right, and the issue is not consequences so much as control.

Nicely done, Bill, as usual. I do have to quibble, though, with your characterization of "frontier justice."

First of all, such summary "frontier justice" was always illegal.

Second, it happened in other parts of the country besides the "frontier" (and to add to that, the "frontier" of, say, 1875 was a considerably LESS violent place than New York or Chicago of 1875.)

And third, you said:

" Frontier Justice did not punish the victim. It was crystal clear and steely-eyed in this one essential element, the only one that really matters: it understood who was responsible"

Well, if you're talking about some Hollywood vision of "frontier justice", you may be right, but that's not what actually happened. Often times there really WAS ambiguity about who was actually the 'criminal' and who was the 'victim'. If you read up about the range wars, you'll see that often times the agents of the cattle associations could literally "get away with murder" because there was nobody who dared to testify against them, while the small ranchers and sheepmen who opposed them often were hanged for murder when they acted in their own self-defense.

Not trying to undermine the substance of your thesis, which I agree with, just saying that the whole notion of the American West as some idyllic Marlboro Country scene where Men were Men and Justice Prevailed is a myth.


Trevelyan, I have to make one comment regarding your excellent post.

My own belief, regarding the power of words: Yes, words can be a weapon. No one who has listened to the power of poetry and song can argue that.

The key is simple: Like any other tool that can be a weapon, you have to be willing to take responsibility for using them.

In Texas, I believe they call the principle "Fightin' Words", or so I've heard it called by folk from there. If you use language that you know is going to offend the listener, then you bear the responsibility for having said it, and you have to live with their response. I have no more sympathy for a burglar complaining about getting shot by a man defending his home than I do for a man complaining about getting the shit kicked out of him for calling a black man 'nigger' to his face.

Bill, there's a word for people like you -- libertarian.

This essay sounded vaguely similar to another one.
Oh, and according to the US Census, the population of this country is closer to 292 million.

Your essay is wonderful as always. I was, however, deeply disturbed by your remarks on abortion, even abortion in the first trimester. And I am frankly rather angry that the otherwise-intelligent Linda asserts that a pregnant woman can decide what is and is not murder.

As you said in your post, Bill, there is a certain point at which a fetus becomes human. This is a philosophical issue. It's certainly not at birth. Is it at the end of the first trimester? Trimesters are an arbitrary human measurement. The truth is, we cannot say when it becomes human and therefore I assert that we should err on the side of caution by assigning the status of "person" to a fetus at conception. With that status comes the protection of the Constitution. It does not matter if that person is the product of rape. Full legal protection. Abortion should only be legal when it is extremely likely that both the mother and the child would NOT otherwise survive.

I don't see why this view is unreasonable. I'm not a religious individual. I believe god is only that which gurantees one plus one is always two. Morality comes from us, but not because we decide what is moral. It is because, when we reach our moment of decision, we know what is moral. Some things are not black and white. We must avoid those things. We must not act if there is a possibility that what we do is murder.

When I saw Responsibility was posted I worked through lunch just so I could have a free hour to read it before I left work.

Now I'm going to walk home.
It's not a short walk,
but I feel strong.

Thank you Bill.

I'd like to direct people to a very helpful website. It's located at . At this site is a 4-page test which will place your political position not just on the economic left-right scale, but also on an up-down authoritarian-libertarian scale. You might be interested to see where you stand.

I am three points right (capitalist) and three points down (libertarian).

That is simply the best essay I've ever read. Period.

I'm a libertarian (for the most part) and a professional writer (I know! I was surprised to find out they pay us for doing this too!) and I have to say that I am humbled. Not only by your writing - which is perfectly paced and eloquent - but by your sharp insight as well. I've often tried to make the point of personal responsibility in conversation and in commentary, but I've never succeded to anything approaching this level. The best I can usually hope for is a competant presentation of the concept and an adequate, exausting defense of my points.

But what you've done here is beyond outstanding. In my wildest dreams I never could have stated so perfectly what our problems are, who's responsible for them, and where the solutions can be found. I applaud you, sir. Simply brilliant.

You have a new fan, Bill. I'll be visiting your site often.


Erm, minor error in my HTML... that site is The Political Compass.

Great essay, but like many others, have to beg to differ on the subject of abortion.

The idea that being "pro-choice" means being pro-responsibility contains a planted axiom: that the unborn child/fetus is undeserving of protection.

Why do we have laws? To protect the strong and competent? No: the laws exist to protect the weak and helpless.

If the fetus/unborn child is human--and every human being was once at the exact developmental stage that all fetuses/unborn children go through--then it is worthy of legal protection.

Since there is no longer a societal consensus on this--as there was, back in the "Dark Ages" of (say) the mid-sixties--the law must step in and draw a line somewhere. As a pro-life person, I'd like the line to be drawn as early as possible: as a political realist, I recognize some compromise is necessary.

But the notion that an unborn child/fetus is merely a "clump of cells" or even a "tumor" (as I have heard "pro-choicers" argue), even up until the point of delivery, is an obvious nonsense.

And--OBTW--there are more botched abortions now than in the "bad old days". The reason? The numbers have gone up so dramatically, that even with "legal, safe" abortion, the raw numbers of mothers rendered sterile (or killed outright) has gone up, not down.

Just for a double shot of Bill Whittle, I would all suggest you follow RESPONSIBILITY with COURAGE.

It's a heck of a 1-2 punch.

This brings up the new one: AUTHORITY

It's something that aviators and seamen understand, but the totalitarian Left does not - that responsibility and authority go hand-in-hand. Captains wield absolute authority - but bear total responsibility. The pilot-in-command is ALWAYS the first at the mishap site.

The problem comes when this balance is disturbed - as it is today.


You forgot to add something in about Easter Island, a trip to Bulgaria, and the life cycle of the Drospohilia fruit fly. I know you can do it. Just eleven or twelve more pages should do the trick.

So, anyway, among other things I drive submarines for a living. This is a quote we live by on the boat, by the irascible Hyman G. Rickover:

"Responsibility is a unique concept: it can only reside and inhere within a single individual. You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you. You may disclaim it, but you cannot divest youself of it. Even if you do not recognize it or admit its presence, you cannot escape it. If the responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else. Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible."

But of course, our culture is one where the captain of a ship is fired for things of which he might not even have had knowledge. The operating concept is having only one belly button you can poke when something goes wrong.

While I'm trying to school the Ineffable "Shavin' Bill" Whittle I might as well add $.02 about frontier justice. Professor Joel Trachtman over at Fletcher told me about a book by a guy named Ellickson called _Order_Without_Law_, which Prof. Trachtman says is

"about cattle farmers in Shasta Valley. Ellickson shows that although the law about lost cattle says one thing, farmers don't rely on it and have their own "rules," which make more sense. These informal rules are enforced by reputation and social interaction--if you violate these rules, you can't be sued but you might be shunned."

This might be useful to you when not reading those old Westerns...


Great essay sir.

Beentheredonethat provides us with a classic example of the Standard Troll Response -- comparing me with the Unabomber, and running away without so much as a name or address. What a brave fellow you must be, Been. May I call you Been?

Once again, a few dozen pages of reasoned argument, to which he replies with "You're like a crazy man!" That's quite an argument you wield there, Been? May I call you a coward and a dolt, by the way?

Been, I didn't read anything beyond the title of the link you sent me, because I didn't need to to get your point. One thing that you may want to consider, however, is this TINY LITTLE DIFFERENCE between me and Ted; namely, I write essays using what reason, fact and logic I can muster, and he blows up people who disagrees with him.

I don't expect a moral-equivelency leftist like yourself to understand this subtle difference, Been, but you might consult with the victims of his policies -- not to mention the victims of yours -- to see if they are able to percieve the nuance between making an argument and mailing a bomb.

These waters are a little too deep for you, Been. May I call you a deluded simpleton, by the way? Or would that be too personal?


As usual, your essay is elegant in its logic. You have the ability to frame issues like few others - I so admire that. And, as usual, I have directed FR to your thread. In my adult life, I have always preached the notion of responsibility - but you have captured the notion far beyond my meager ability to articulate. I fear, however, that huge segments of our society celebrate being victims. It will be a long struggle against a stubborn current to right the ship, I'm afraid.


I suspect that some people will have a difficult time reconciling your pro-choice position and your comment,

"We cannot afford the human cost. We cannot afford to squander entire generations of Einsteins and Sagans and Mozarts and DaVincis...."

As for me, I must say that the abortion issue is very difficult to place my hands on. Some of the previous comments have helped, actually.


Anyway....awesome stuff. When you are finished creating something from thin air (your book) I will be the first in line for several copies. Hopefully, one will be autographed!!!


Outstanding. Nothing more to be said.

I was going to comment on the troll Beentheredonethat, but Bill, you got there first. Thanks, pard. I'll holster my six-gun now and ride on.

...laughing so hard I have to hold onto my horse's mane...

I always want to say more; but it seems I'm forever left speechless by the essay in question, beaten to the punch by previous commenters, or (more commonly) both.

So as usual, all I have left to offer is a simple - but heartfelt - thank you.

Yes, yes, yes, and YES!!!! Everything you said in this essay should be considered "common sense". Thank you for saying these absolutely essential statements, Bill. Thank you for being a thinking human who's willing to state their ideas and thought patterns in such concise, organized, and factual essays. I feel re-energized with the knowledge that although I'm alone here in the often extremly ignorant and PC California, at least I'm not alone in my ideas. Long live Bill!

I know I am not one of those people who post profound comments- I am usually so in awe I am unable to-
I do not agree with you on everything, notably on gays and abortion- but agreeing with everything would make me more of a sycophant, not a fan- and a fan I am-
You sir, are glorious! I often share your essays with friends and families, so even if I disagree with ytou vehemently on some issues, I find your insight to be invaluable-
Carry on Bill!

Bill, sorry you took my posting as a troll, it was not meant as such, and certainly not to imply that you're anything like him. 'Ole Ted was an unrepentant/cold/calculating serial killer who should have been hanged. His writings alone should have been enough to prove that he wasn't insane and was responsible for his own actions.
But I think his manifesto has some hints of truth to it that I believe should be exposed to a wider audience. If you can take the time to read it I think you'll find yourself agreeing from time to time (especially in the beginning with his analysis of Leftist thought). If nothing else he's a good bad example and provdes lots of provocative ideas which are definately worthy of discussion.
Unfortunately, when people hear that it was written by the unabomber, then tend to not want to read it (and that's not necessarily unresonable), hence the short post without the disclaimer as to where the link was pointed. And for the cowardly anonymous nature. Be assured that the other link indeed points to the US Census Bureau.
P.S. You can delete my messages with good consience if I have offended you or disrupted your message board. I assure you that I'm no lefty and I really was impressed by your writing.

just to add to what Bill said. We all agree that it is about an individual right to life, liberty and the persuit of happiness. And yet we all seem to part when talking about who's right to life. In my quest to understand what it means to have inalienable rights, and studying the progress of a growing child, I discovered that a baby's blood does not mix with the mother's blood. It is a seperate individual who's life is dependant on the mother. Because it is not able to live without his/her mother does not change the fact that he/she is an individual.

Go look at the 4D ultrasound from GE. Who's right? And who cannot speak?

Great essay, but I do think it's marred by how it's about Responsibility, you mention 1984, and in the essay you use the phrase "pro-choice" with a straight face.

As for when life begins, I think that's too important a subject to making feeble guesses on the subject. If you don't put a soild point on that issue, it's going to creep.

Bill, you've hit another one out of the park, making the words visible that so many of us have floating around in our heads unorganized. Thanks for giving clarity and unity to the important concepts of what it takes to make a successful person.

To clarify my own position:

No, I do NOT believe that the high natural background level of abortions makes do-it-yourself morally okay, as I tried to make clear. I was just pointing out that they happen, they happen a lot more than people realize, and the perception of it as a loss of a child rather than an immune reaction is highly subjective. To an expectant mother who knew early on she was pregnant it's a massive personal tragedy; to her body, it's the elimination of an inviable embryo, one of several it's probably performed for various reasons without her knowledge before.

An embryo is a potential child, but it no more follows that a 38-cell blastocyst is basically the same as a human than it does (to borrow an analogy so old it's got moss on) that an acorn is basically the same as an oak tree. Now, at some point it goes from a mass of mitotic, rapidly differentiating cells to what everyone would recognize as a child, and it is quite impossible to draw the line clearly. Therein is the stony, cold ground of the abortion debate. I don't believe that individual freedoms are so paramount as to permit murder, but in an example with so much and so strong doubt and disagreement as to whether it IS murder, I believe that strong legislation such as the previous illegality of all abortion should not be present. (I also agree with Bill in that I think late-term abortions pretty clearly are, and I wouldn't agree with them unless it was clear that not having one would result in the death of the mother, in which case the family should have the right to make a choice, as hideous as it would be.)

As for not having sex until you're ready to have a child, that strikes me as a seemingly logical extent of personal responsibility and the viewpoint of abortion as murder but highly unrealistic. I don't have children and I don't really want them; I'm not a population activist or anything else, I just don't really want a child and believe it follows morally that I should not have one, as I would likely be a poor mother. Am I then obligated morally to be chaste until menopause or changing my mind? Should we be slaves to reproductive biology? Catholic priests are required to abstain, and we all know how well that seems to work out for them as a group.

As I said before, I don't really have a morally acceptable approach to unwanted pregnancy, because I haven't found one yet and suspect it might not exist under current technology. I would really like to see legal abortion restricted to the first trimester. I would also really like to see adoption pushed more. And I would be thrilled to the tips of my toes to see, as serenity suggested, actual sex education instead of waffling from authority figures.

As a side note, I would suspect that the estimated number of deaths from botched abortions previously is much lower than the actual number, for two main reasons: 1, Many women left the country in order to have it done in Mexico or Cuba. 2, given that a doctor would lose his license if word got around of it, the death or sterilization would probably not be recorded as such or at all. Thus only those due to "back-alley" coathanger-wielders would likely go on official record. Many more backalley procedures stayed off the record because the woman did NOT die or suffer so severely as to require hospitalization.

damn, 96th!...I wanted to be one of the first 10 read and comment...Thank you for your writing .

Hi Bill. Regards. Like the general idea, but I'm not sure I understood this section:

"It has been our long, bloody and noble history to rise to this idea of individual responsibility; because if it is indeed correct, then it – alone – is the liberator of ourselves as a species. Individual responsibility frees us from our past, from the fate of our birth, from the millennia of class and caste and of failed ideas that have kept so many in bondage for so long. If we indeed do have the ability to control our own selves, then we can free our own minds from the river of history and experience.

Are you suggesting that human beings can control themselves? Can we will ourselves to be better people? Doesn't this really contradict human experience and history -- that changing ourselves is difficult and we must often settle for small, incremental change?

See what I'm getting at? I'm making a common objection against rationalism. It seems to me, humans are partially, but not wholly rational creatures, and that virtues are hard to inculcate and follow even by the best people.

But that leads us to conclusions beyond personal responsibility. It leads us to the group, to society, to inculcation of values and support meeting virtuous goals.

The Troll King in Peer Gynt tells the hero, "To thine own self be enough." Your rationalism and individualism can err on the side of the troll king. We are not enough by ourselves. We need others, and they impact us.

None of this degrades the concept of personal responsibility as you describe it -- but it does change its context a bit, and possibly its priority. I'd need to think more about it.

Anyway, that's my reaction.

"I just don't really want a child and believe it follows morally that I should not have one, as I would likely be a poor mother. Am I then obligated morally to be chaste until menopause or changing my mind? Should we be slaves to reproductive biology?"


No, but you should be prepared to accept the possibility of pregnancy. Frankly, I really would like to see more sex education in schools, but I would also much rather see an end to most (not all; in the case of rape or incest, which are extreme cases) abortions. I hate the idea that a couple doesn't have to be responsible for their actions.

Of course, I'm not saying that abortion is an easy choice, but it must be easier for said couple than having to deal with raising a child; otherwise, they wouldn't be having an abortion. And that simply does not sit well with me.

Thank you for the essay. Thinking about your words will make it easier for me to live up to my responsibilities in the coming years, and to know why I am doing it.

One quibble:

We were told they had been “assassinated,” that the US had “murdered Saddam’s children.” We, of course, were the ones to blame. We were the criminals. We were responsible.

You cite this as an example of idiotarian thinking. I think they have a point. Not only the soldier who shot Uday and Qusay but his commanding officer and everyone up to the President of the United States and the American people who elected him is responsible for their deaths to some extent.

And I hope you are proud of that. We are responsible for what we do right as well as what we do wrong.

I think I understand your complex stance on the convoluted issue of abortion.
Compromise is good at times this is not the time! Not when life is at stake.
Remember Life comes before Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness in another great essay.
I have always lived by a simple principal, KISS “Keep It Simple Stupid”
I also love the idea of Choice.
I just think the time for the Choice is before a man and a woman create a baby.
Waiting till after you have created a baby then deciding what to do with it is both irresponsible and quite vulgar.

Another winner, my friend.


Great post. It's no fun to write about all the point on which I agree, so I'll join with the dissenters on the abortion issue.

As many others, I don't equate opposition to the "pro-choice" position with having a broad desire to control people and their lives.

While I understand that pro-choicers don't want to be called pro-abortion (who would?), the moniker "pro-choice" is at least as misleading because it is overbroad (does this include vouchers? ice cream?) and implies those who disagree are "anti-choice". (The same can be said for "pro-life".) Anti-choice on abortion. That's it. Not on the right of a woman to control her body, make reproductive choices, express freedom, or any other overly-broad categories to which abortion belongs or with which abortion may be implicated.

This can easily be tested by making a list on column "A" of all the choices you can think of that a woman might want to do with or to her body, or choices she may want to make in respect of her reproductive life. You could even add a column "B" and check off whether these choices are matters to which some material number of Americans might object on humanistic, aesthetic, environmental, religious or philosophical grounds. Finally, on column "C" check off those on which there is any significant movement to legislate a restriction on the choice. Column "A" would be very, very long, spanning a wide range of choices: nose job? breast job? appendectomy? hysterectomy? have sex? position? whipped cream? birth control? have children? number of children? age to have children?, etc.) A very long list of important and personal choices. Column "B" would have a lot of check marks, since many people have opinions (sometimes strong, some religious, etc.)on these matters. But Column "C" would be pretty short, and abortion is by far the most controversial. So, pro-choicers shouldn't pretend to be more pro-choice (or pro-women's rights) than anyone else, and pro-lifers shouldn't pretend to be more pro-life (or more moral) than anyone else, except insofar as it relates specifically to the abortion question. I think pro-abortion-rights is better than pro-choice, although even that is flawed in that many opponents of the status quo would still support some limited abortion rights.

Bill's explanatory note on abortion invites a host of follow on questions. I'll keep it to one.

Bill seems to say there's no specific tipping point in the first trimester at which a fetus becomes human enough to deserve protection, but yet he's sure we've reached it by the third trimester. That point may be unknowable to Bill (and to anyone else), but it must be somewhere. Bill suggests there is a small window in the first few months in which we should consider that the point hasn't been reached. Of course, someone else says the window should cover the first six months, another thinks the window closes only after the baby clears the canal and takes its first breath, and yet another disagrees with Bill and considers the point was reached when the biological process kicks off at conception -- no window at all.

But if there's a point short of birth at which it is reasonable (and moral) to take the choice away from the individual and make it as a matter of law, how should we determine that point? The worst solution I can come up with: "let's take a vote", is better than all the alternatives I've heard. Certainly better than letting nine people decide for us.

Linda's comment that:

"the accountability (read: burden) for that decision rests on the individual's shoulders, alone. That means that the person who would choose in favor of an abortion (for whatever reason) is the sole party who assumes the burden, and has to look in the the mirror every morning thereafter, as well as face any fallout from her theological/philosophical belief system."

This approach is not really helpful, because it doesn't address the core issue -- what about the fetus? Certainly, if the fetus is human in any sense worth considering, then the fetus bears the burden of the abortion much more severely than the aborting mother. Each and every time. We wouldn't let a parent off the hook for killing her toddler just because she was willing to take the blame.

Linda's argument reminds me of the bumper sticker slogan "Against Abortion? Don't Have One." Well, I won't. But that's not really the end of it, is it? "Against Lynching Blacks? Don't Lynch One." Granted, if a fetus hasn't (and shouldn't have) any rights, then why would any freedom-loving person want to interfere? In the same way that if a slave was not a human in any way worth considering, then we might accept a slaveowner bravely agreeing to take on the sole metaphysical or religious responsibility for hanging his slave. But people eventually got around to concluding (wisely, I think), that slaves weren't property but people. At that point, we don't care if the plantation boss is willing to look himself in the mirror every morning and face the fallout of his actions -- we're going to outlaw lynching. None of this proves that a fetus is (or should be considered) human or, if it is (or should), whether it is on day one or thereafter. But if a fetus does have rights (from conception or at some point thereafter), then all the arguments about choice, personal responsibility and autonomy, are not automatically dispositive.

We are back to having to reach some consensus on where we're going to consider Bill's missing point to lie. That consensus might be that the issue is so fuzzy and the burdens of an unwanted pregnancy so great that we should just stay out of it all together. And yet even those of us who generally share Bill's predisposition to freedom can't square with breaking the bones and snuffing out the life of a baby just before it emerges from the birth canal. As beautiful as the dainty glass slipper of our libertarian theory may be, we won't cram the big foot of that reality into it. It's just too gross.

So we should have a big monster debate. Not exactly over when life begins (who the hell really knows?) but when we're going to say life begins for purposes of people wanting an abortion.

And we'll live with the crappy compromise, at least until we decide to change it, because it was the best we could come up with. Just like we do with a bunch of other hard questions.

But no punting the big issue up to some small group of high priests to nullify all our thoughts on the topic and decide for us. That's no way to run a railroad.

A couple small points about Roe v. Wade:

1. I'm amazed how many otherwise educated people think that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, abortion would be illegal. It's just that we would then be free (we'd have the choice, if you prefer) to make it illegal. Or not. Or sort of. Or only on Tuesdays if the Packers make the playoffs. Whatever.

2. As I recall, the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade more or less said that the court did not have to decide whether the fetus was a person. That was bullshit. That's exactly what they had to decide, if they were going to decide anything. And in effect they did decide that, since, as memory serves, the Constitution, while it doesn't actually say anything about privacy or a right to it, does say that no person can be deprived of life without due process of law.


P.S. One other minor quibble:

"Einsteins and Sagans and Mozarts and DaVincis"?

This is one of the I.Q. test questions, which one doesn't belong, right?

Sagans? Please.

Without gratuitously insulting someone you seem to admire (although it is tempting), don't you think it's a mild exaggeration to put him such august company?

I loved the essay, and must also state that Bill was right to include the choice of whether or not to have a child as one which responsible adults should not be forbidden by others from exercising. An embryo is not a POTENTIAL child, for this implies that this 'potential' will be necessarily actualized in the natural order of things, when, in fact, spontaneous abortions occur all the time. Rather, an embryo is a POSSIBLE FUTURE child, and where it's supposed 'rights' (with no concommitant choices, obligations or responsibilities) are measured against the rights and responsibilities of an actual and presently living, breathing human being possessing cognition, volition and self-conscious awareness, the rights of the latter to control her own bodily processes must assume ethical priority.
A professor of mine once wrapped it all up in a neat and tidy nutshell when he said that he would be willing to grant personhood rights to fetuses when they organized and lobbied to demand such rights. Unique DNA proves nothing, unless one wishes to indulge in a chemical rather than functional definition of human being.

My apologies to Beentheredonethat. I would apologize whether or not he agreed with me. All I ask is that if you have a contrary position, state it and defend it. You actually seem like quite a nice fellow once you get past a one-sentence post.

Welcome, and I hope to see you here often.

Wow. That was an hour very well spent.

However Mr. Whittle, I am afraid I must now hate you, for the excellence of this essay will force me to spend several hours reading everything else you have written.


I came back to make one more quick point. Many hear would be shocked to hear the sexual discussions of today's teens. Now, I'm not one of these hypocrites that forgets what I was like as a teen (like these post-hippy parents who are SHOCKED to hear about "binge drinking" on their child's college campus. Please.)
But I am shocked to hear how some teens will not even blush when discussing hooking up and that blow jobs aren't sex. These are YOUNG teens, mind you. Not yet driving.
Personally I think the top two reasons for sexually active teen culture (and eMpTy V isn't one of them) is the availabilty of condoms and the escape hatch that abortion provides.

"No, but you should be prepared to accept the possibility of pregnancy. Frankly, I really would like to see more sex education in schools, but I would also much rather see an end to most (not all; in the case of rape or incest, which are extreme cases) abortions. I hate the idea that a couple doesn't have to be responsible for their actions."

I do, and I agree fully with that statement. I was merely pointing out that the logical extension of "don't have sex unless you're ready to have a baby" is unacceptable.

In my ideal world, there would be good birth control procedures with acceptable consequences that never fail, society would stop pretending that post-pubertal children are sexually innocent and start working to realistically teach them about sex, its consequences, and the options available, people would also teach their kids about personal responsibility and moral culpability, there wouldn't be a double standard for boys and girls on sexual behavior, a pregnancy carried to term would not derail and nearly ruin a woman's life in terms of career, education, and social standing, and abortion wouldn't even be a question.

Bill, you're a wonderfully gifted writer. Your words speak plain truths in a very moving fashion.

You probably don't need a dog. A wife might be a nice thing. But one thing you definately, definately need to get is A GOOD EDITOR!

You'd easily provide one with copiuos amounts of great material...keep up the good work.

And I am frankly rather angry that the otherwise-intelligent Linda asserts that a pregnant woman can decide what is and is not murder.

And what is the alternative to that, Duppy? For the government to decide that? Even ACTUAL murderers have access to juries.

You PRETEND that it is impossible to believe other than you do, but that is absolutely wrong... you must either call a huge proportion of our citizens incapable of making an ethical descision (because they disagree with you), OR you must concede that a resonable person might ethically disagree.

And if a reasonable person might disagree, that person may indeed choose a path you disdain, and tough luck for your desire to control her actions.

A great deal of the pro-life movement is pure authoritarianism... the enemy of responsibility.

Not everyone agrees that a particular collection of cells is the same as a child. The 'miscarriage' argument is one that purports to prove that not even you actually believe a petri-dish fetus is really a baby-equivelant, because you do not react to a miscarriage in the same manner you would to a infant's accidental death.

You don't hold a funeral for a miscarriage, do you? Case closed... you DO treat them differently, hipocrite.

I don't expect everyone to share my belief that humanity is concurrant with intelligence... but I DO demand you respect a pregnant woman's judgement on the matter. Because you do NOT have the only answer here.

Great as usual Bill, your points about the Demonic spawns supposed "assasination" rang very true, and I for one am still in bewilderment that anyone considered those two worthy of anything but execution.


The abortion thing.

It is the women who have to create the life, therefore they get the choice. Period.

Men, we have no attachment PHYSICALLY after the seed is dropped. That men think we should be able to tell women what they can and cannot do with there body is insane.

Obviously hypothetical, but would anyone even be having this conversation if men had the babies?

Thanks again Bill.


Beautiful, just beautiful. I am inspired by your eloquent writings, and everytime I get the priviledge of reading one of your essays, I am glad that I had the opportunity to be born in a country that has men of letters such as yourself in it. The ideas of freedom and responsibility are inextricably entwined, and always have been, and the recent trend of trying to have one (freedom) without the other (responsibility), is the one thing that has the potential to destroy this nation. All other problems we have can be solved, if we can keep these two ideas together in the hearts and minds of the US.

Salamantis, your professor seems like a piece of work. I suspect there are lots of people in ICU's throughout the world who do not meet his criteria for personhood. Also, spontaneous abortions mean that an embryo in not a potential child? Really? They're maybe-knda-might-be-people? And while unique DNA doesn't equal a fully formed human, why is it so outrageous to view it as both a chemical and functional indicator of when our individual human lives begin? Some of you are arguing that late term abortions are wrong because they're taking the life of a human being and early abortions are okay because they're not. If you're advocating a woman's right to make that decision I must respectfully insist that you tell me the point at which we go from talking about a non-human clump of cells to a human clump of cells. "Let's make the best of a bad situation and have a vote" doesn't really settle anything.

bill: At no point was it stated that *because* natural abortions happen, the early-term fetus is not a person. It was used to point out that granting the early-term fetus full personhood has tremendous consequences and implications.

YOU tell ME at what exact point it goes from a mindless collection of mitotic cells to a person. The fertilized egg? They fail to implant more often than they do. Should we hold a small funeral with every used sanitary napkin? The two-cell stage? Three? Sixty-four? The world in general would love to know. Biology is replete with smooth continuums, and development from embryo to baby to is one of them. Frankly maybe-kinda-might-be people is as valid a description as any we've come up with so far.

You can't handle the truth!

Reminds me of when the networks refused to re-air the 9/11 footage... because it would inflame public opinion.

We apparently do not have the intelligence to not degenerate into a raving, howling mob if our betters show us what we are not emotionally ready for. We are apparently children, to be led by the hand, and protected for our own good.

This is why I threw away my TV and only get my news from the internet.

I will not be condescended to, Sam Donaldson. I will not have my newsfeed censored by those who purport to champion free speech, Ted Turner. I will not tolerate 'news' that sells out accuracy for access, CNN. I will determine what I may know, see or investigate, and whose opinions I (provisionally) trust. You have failed that test.

Like some here i liked your essay exept about abortion rights, it has nothing to do with religion or not, the reason is that i think the child is an individual before the birth.
I have big problems drawing the line where start to be a child: conception , 1 month 2 months ? As time passes i am more and more near the conception, but i am not decisive.

Relating to the participant salamandis

"A professor of mine once wrapped it all up in a neat and tidy nutshell when he said that he would be willing to grant personhood rights to fetuses when they organized and lobbied to demand such rights."

I could say that a children with 4 years or a mental disabled person cant do that too.

English isnt my native language so pardon any mistake.

Tman says:
Men, we have no attachment PHYSICALLY after the seed is dropped...

Tman doesn't have any clue about being a father, about how vitally important men are to their children and their wives, how without fathers there would be no human race. Without a long line of fathers who loved and would die for their children, Tman, you would not exist. Your love for children exists in your very DNA. It takes a strong culture of death to plaster it over.

Men have no physical attachment to their children??? Look at my children and see how much they look like their father. Try to hurt them -- you will die quickly at his hand.

So many men have been emasculated in our culture that confronted with the miracle of creating life, they shrug and walk away, leaving the woman to dispose of their child as though it were nothing more than garbage.

Fathers are just as hurt by our abortion culture as women. Fathers have been told they are not necessary, not important, not crucial to every step of a child's development. They aren't even allowed to say if their own child lives or dies -- even a third-trimester baby perfectly capable of breathing and surviving. This is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I carried my children for nine months. They will live on this planet for ninety years or so. Just because I carried them does not make them more mine than their father's, and the decision if they live or die should not rest with the mother who shares only half their DNA.

This, too, is responsibility. The oldest, most important responsibility on our earth.

I could say that a children with 4 years or a mental disabled person can't do that (lobby for rights) too.

I could say that 4-year olds and the mentally disabled ALSO have less rights and RESPONSIBILITY than normal people.

Could it be that as you become less sentient, the less capable of responsibility, and therefore the less rights you have?

Could it be that as you approach zero sentience, as a fetus clearly does, your rights and responsibilities also drop to zero or near-zero?

Could it be you just illustrated my argument? Thank you.

Do you have a scientific measure of sentience?

Could we get less right for hippies if we prove they are less sentient?

Another great essay, Bill. Looking forward to sharing the book with a lot of people.

Add me to the same group as Clint, Duppy, LabRat, etc. I can't equate Responsibility and a pro-choice stance, but a number of thoughtful people are struggling to explain it. Something that helped me (a Christian, but also a hard science type) was a debate between Prof. Fish (Deconstructionist) and Prof. Robert George. I found a link to George's paper:

To the question of when a human life begins, here is an excerpt from George's paper:

"A human being is conceived when a human sperm containing twenty-three chromosomes fuses with a human egg also containing
twenty-three chromosomes (albeit of a different kind) producing a single-cell human zygote containing, in the normal case, forty-six
chromosomes that are mixed differently from the forty-six chromosomes as found in the mother or father. Unlike the gametes (that is, the
sperm and egg), the zygote is generically unique and distinct from its parents. Biologically, it is a separate organism. It produces, as the
gametes do not, specifically human enzymes and proteins. It possesses, as they do not, the active capacity or potency to develop itself
into a human embryo, fetus, infant, child, adolescent, and adult."

He carries this forward even further in the paper. From a purely scientific standpoint he makes the case for "life begins at conception". Worth reading the whole thing.

Thanks again, Bill.

Somewhere on the well-known and loved-by-all website, there is a reference to the abortion debate, which I found really compelling.

Jane refers to one analytical dilemma we could call the "marble problem." Which shows part of the complexity in dealing subjective judgement. If we have a big ole jar of marbles, which is essentially full, we can probably get nearly universal consensus that the jar, in fact, contains a lot of marbles.

At the other end of the spectrum, when the jar has three lonely marbles, we'll get a virtually unanimous opinion that the jar, indeed, contains very few marbles.

However, if we start with a full jar and take out marbles one by one, there is not a specific number of marbles at which everybody will magically decide the jar no longer contains a lot of marbles.

I suppose if we got all mathy about it, we could define a function that determines the number of people that think the jar has a lot of marbles, based on the number of marbles still in the jar, but that doesn't address the fundamental problem that everyone recognizes the extremes, but has no universal way of figuring out when one transitions from one extreme to another.

For anything mundane, people will shrug and decide (usually) "to each, their own." For something which is, quite literally, a matter of natural rights and law to a large number of observers, then folks just won't let it be. Compromise is reached only painfully and at great length if it arises at all.

That's my $0.02.

Excellent essay. One among many.

Don't be too concerned about the Unabomber comparison. I must have been one of the few people who read (okay, skimmed) the whole manifesto. Most of it is rubbish, but the linked section and the following one about oversocialization have some merit, I think. Maybe an old saying applies to the manifesto: even a stopped clock is right twice a day.


I think you might be missing the point that the gentleman is striving to make.

In terms of PHYSICAL attachement - no men don't really have any. Psychological, real, emotional, personal attachment to the very root of their beings - in a true father, yes. But never physical.

If a guy "makes his contribution" walks out and gets hit by a car, the child can still come to term and nurse. If the female who has just had intercourse dies unexpectedly, then the child's chance for survival is absolutely zero.

Following the train of thought a bit further, we would note that the mother, by this same standard, really has no PHYSCIAL, BIOLOGICAL, CONCRETE attachement past birth. Otherwise there would be no such thing as a surrogate mother.

However, in any of the above cases, it is more worthwhile to note that whether or not pops (or ma) has any PHYSICAL attachment really doesn't have a darn thing to do with much of anything.

Wow, Bill, better than I expected -- and I've come to expect a lot for you!

The part that grabbed me the most was when you wrote about PC speech codes changing the language result in changes in our thinking.

Looking at the "pro-choice" epithet; the vagueness of "pro-choice" is, I think, akin to the vagueness of "The Pill." It's subject -- and our desire to be delicate about public discussion of it -- make the short-hand popular.

But the short-hand also makes it -- in the case of "pro-choice" -- confused. The question changes from "Is a fetus a human being" to "Are you an anti-Choice tyrant, or not?"
Pro-choice, anti-abortion, pro-life, anti-choice... Words are used as weapons to secure the nature, not the honesty, of the debate.

As far as racial slurs being erased from our vocabulary (regardless of the context); Kinky Freidman has a song called "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore" in which there is the line:
"I had you pegged for slightly-anemic well-dressed country nigger."

In recent years, recordings of that song had the n-word bleeped out, even though Freidman put the words into a character who was clearly an ethno-centric racist.

Which bring to mind an episode of "Little House On The Prairie", in which a very young Todd Bridges played a kid whose family had moved out west after having been freed from slavery.

The white kids in town had never seen a black kid before, ran the gamut from wide-eyed curiosity (Laura), to wary mistrust of him, and he felt like an outsider.
He joined the school, of course, and the teacher (I forget her name right now) was giving a lesson in dealing of things we might not like. Some of the kids stood up in turn and told of things they don't like:
"I don't like doing my chores,"
"I don't like when Nellie eats my cornbread,"
"I don't like when Paw shags the hogs," and stuff like that.
Then the teacher, eager to give the new student some feeling of inclusion in the class asked the Todd Bridges character; "What about you? Is there anything you don't like?"
Bridges looked at his classmates dejectedly and said softly; "Bein' a nigger."

It was a powerful moment. I wonder if the inclusion of the "n-word", having been so successfully ridiculed in it's meaning straight into unspeakability in ANY context, means that that episode will never air again.

Reading through this essay, I find myself wishing that there were a political organization that lived up to it. I think I'd enjoy voting for The Responsible Party.

As for abortion, I like this quote: "Life begins at conception. HUMAN life begins at age 25."


30, J, but that is a GREAT quote.

Thank you for another inspiring essay. As I read it, I remembered a recent conversation with a co-worker. I once shared the political viewpoint of this person and it is still very disconcerting to her when I voice views so different.

We were having what I thought was a lighthearted conversation about the California recall. She expressed the expected dismay about Arnold's candidacy. To abbreviate the conversation, it ended with her noting her support for Howard Dean, whom I don't support. Suggested I might be voting Republican for the first time in my life. She gasped (she really did) and said, "You're not serious?" I assured her I was and said I thought most voters in the country agreed with me. And, then ZING! "Does that really make you feel better." I'm sorry to report here that I was left speechless. The utter arrogance of this comment from a person I respect in many ways left me with nothing to say. The elegance of this insult - both to me and to so many others in the country was a triple play. I simply ended the conversation.

As I read your essay (see there is a connection!) I was struck that this is the arrogance that you speak of and it is a danger to our country. However, I choose to have faith in the ultimate sensibility of most Americans. We are at a turning point in our country. I want to believe we will go the right way.

Thank you again for giving such an articulate voice to the beliefs of so many of us.

Henderson, Nevada

As one of my favorite people said to me many years ago when PC was coming into fashion: "Political Correctness is Fascism!"

She couldn't have been more right.

Keep up the good work, Bill!

Bill, I love your essays. Lincoln is one of my great heroes as well. I recommend to everyone "Lincoln's Virtues" by William Masters, an ethical biography of this greatest of Americans.

I have been talking about personal, individual responsibility for so long that I had lost the words - your essay gave them back to me, and gave me many more than I ever had. Thank you!

There is another phase to personal responsibility - letting other people make their own choices and suffer/enjoy the consequences. Staying out of other people's minds, bodies, and souls (if there are such). No coercion, no fraud. It is really hard to get this across, though.

Do you have words for it?

Bill, I mentioned you in a satire piece I published Wednesday: The Lifecycle of a News Story

By a strange coincidence, the piece touches on a few of the themes you list here, most notably the one about "The Media" portraying the American People as "living in fear".

Anyway, Great essay. Thanks.

Bill, I wanted to put a comment on your post about writing your wonderful pieces, but I didn't have access to the "MonkeyPants Big Bag O' Quotes."

Found what I wanted, however:

"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."
-Robert Heinlein

Imperial Falconer

Very good, sir, very good indeed.

There is another phase to personal responsibility - letting other people make their own choices and suffer/enjoy the consequences. Staying out of other people's minds, bodies, and souls (if there are such). No coercion, no fraud. It is really hard to get this across, though.

Do you have words for it?

I do not, Tish, but I know someone who does. I must now believe in reincarnation, for this man who I will quote is surely an earlier life of Bill Whittle.


Do not forget that the law is force, and that, consequently, the domain of the law cannot legitimately extend beyond the legitimate domain of force. (ed: collective, legitimate self-defense).

When law and force confine a man within the bounds of justice, they do not impose anything on him but a mere negation. They impose on him only the obligation to refrain from injuring others. They do not infringe on his personality or his liberty or his property. They merely safeguard the personality, the liberty, and the property of others. They stand on the defensive; they defend the equal right of all. They fulfill a mission whose harmlessness is evident, whose utility is palpable, and whose legitimacy is uncontested.

This is so true that, as one of my friends remarked to me, to say that the object of the law is to make justice prevail is to use an expression that is not strictly exact. One should say: The object of the law is to prevent injustice from prevailing. In fact, it is not justice, but injustice, that has an existence of its own. The first results from the absence of the second.

But when the law, by the intervention of its necessary agent, force, imposes a system of labor, a method or a subject of education, a faith or a religion, its action on men is no longer negative, but positive. It substitutes the will of the legislator for their own will, the initiative of the legislator for their own initiative. They no longer have to take counsel together, to compare, to foresee; the law does all this for them. Intelligence becomes a useless accessory; they cease to be men; they lose their personality, their liberty, their property.


Does this help?

You can find the rest of this excellent book online at this link.

Pay special attention to the first chapter, as it has a powerful explanation of the 'broken window' fallacy.

"Not everyone agrees that a particular collection of cells is the same as a child. The 'miscarriage' argument is one that purports to prove that not even you actually believe a petri-dish fetus is really a baby-equivelant, because you do not react to a miscarriage in the same manner you would to a infant's accidental death. You don't hold a funeral for a miscarriage, do you? Case closed... you DO treat them differently, hipocrite."

This is a classic example of someone asking me a question and then answering it for me, and then calling me names to boot. Not a sound strategy as it only makes your argument look hysterical. Not that you don't have a point, its just a little bit buried in unnecessary hostility.

Although you wouldn't hold a funeral for a fetus (what would you say at this funeral?) most women consider it an outright disaster when they naturally miscarry. They truly have 'lost the baby.' But that's not my point.

I consider myself a libertarian, and I live by the maxim, "Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose." Or anyone else's nose.

My point on abortion, sir, is this: since, as you point out, no one has the only answer, we are swinging our fists in the dark. That no one can reasonably disagree on. My _opinion_, which is open to debate, is that the possible consequences of swinging in the dark outweigh the benefits of the swinging, and legislation is necessary to stop what MIGHT BE an American Holocaust. Hopefully we will someday have an irrefutable scientific answer.

This same reasoning dictates my position on the death penalty. Although I do not object to it, a substantial number of people do. Again, we are swinging in the dark. Who decides? The victim's last wishes? The family? The judge? Again, we require legislation to settle this problem. (Note: I do _not_ imply a moral equivelancy between abortion and the death penalty.)

And lastly, I must say I find your position on the mentally handicapped nothing short of shocking. Must one be able to assert their rights in order to have them? If that's the case, I think I will go challenge Micheal Moore to assert his right to retain his tongue. Sorry, Mike, you didn't assert strongly enough. Perhaps you should start lifting wieghts.

LabRat: You wrote: "At no point was it stated that *because* natural abortions happen, the early-term fetus is not a person. It was used to point out that granting the early-term fetus full personhood has tremendous consequences and implications."

Salamantis wrote: " An embryo is not a POTENTIAL child, for this implies that this 'potential' will be necessarily actualized in the natural order of things, when, in fact, spontaneous abortions occur all the time."

I guess you could read this a couple of ways but it sure looks to me like Salamantis is indeed saying that because spontaneous abortions occur then embryos are not potential children. This is faulty reasoning. Just because some embryos spontaneously abort after a week doesn't mean that every embryo at that stage must be viewed as not yet human. Surely some "embryos" will "abort" of natural causes at, say, 8 months. Does this mean they were not human lives at that point?

And yes, granting full personhood (or at least the basic protection of life) to the early term fetus has tremendous consequences and implications. So? Should the weight of the consequences determine when life begins? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

You wrote: "YOU tell ME at what exact point it goes from a mindless collection of mitotic cells to a person. The fertilized egg? They fail to implant more often than they do."

What does the rate of implantation have to do with whether or not a fertilized egg is the start of a human life. It would not be technically accurate to say that a zygote is a fully formed human being. I would argue, however, that it IS technically/medically/scientifically accurate to say that a zygote is a human life (unless you adopt the hyper-functional criteria of Salamantis' professor).

Look at a human life (any human life) and then look backward. When did that life begin? When did that human become a human. Most people would agree that at eight and a half months it's a human and prior to conception it's not (duh). So what are we to do with the "smooth continuum" in between?

The pro-life side says that when the sperm fertilizes the egg, they unite and quite literally cease to exist. They stop being what they were and change to form something brand new, with heretofore unseen DNA that henceforth will direct the ontogenesis of the organism from that point onward throughout its entire life (whether one week or ninety years). And that human life, as we know it and experience it, begins at this point. And, also, from this point onward, this life is deserving of the most basic protection society can offer. This seems perfectly reasonable to me.

The pro-choice side (near as I can figure) says that in the earliest stages this clump of cells is not a human life because it's just a clump of cells. It may become a human life later and, indeed, it will become more human as time goes by, but for now it's not. And since it's not a person, we (the state) must not interfere with a woman's most basic decisions about her body and her life. The problem I have with this is the complete arbitrariness of the question of when human life begins. At some point aborting a fetus must go from being okay (because it's not a human) to being wrong (because it is a human). I have yet to hear an argument for human life beginning weeks after conception that doesn't strain both my common sense and the text of my grade school biology book.

I stand by my original two points. Why is the idea that life doesn't begin at conception somehow more scientifically valid than the idea that it does? And why shouldn't those who advocate abortion rights have the responsibility of proving conclusively where that cutoff should be?

I am another customer for your book to be. I have done my best to help my youngest son, who recently left home, to understand responsibility and I plan to give him a copy.

A great topic and a good essay. I do hope that you get a good editor for the book. I don't mean a copy editor, a real editor. If the publisher doesn't provide one you might want to consider paying for one. You can't let them dictate how the book turns out but I have seen the positive difference a good one can make.

I tend to agree with you on the abortion topic but you might want to consider leaving it out. It just distracts people from your real point.

I am not an editor but here are a few nits and comments:

The phrase, "Sometimes it seems like half of what I learned this past year have come from the comments " - have come should be came

In the section, "the goal of a reporter was not to single-handedly bring down the government and become an international celebrity, but rather to report the facts as fairly and evenly as possible" - While reporters were better than journalists things were not all good in the past. See the book Scandalmongers for a view on muckraking shortly after the country was formed.

350 million -> 290 million

This last one is me looking for a good definition and an example of deconstructionism. "So if they can, by fiat, announce that what Adam Smith really meant in The Wealth of Nations was simply that – once you strip away the white, male, European, patriarchal and materialistic / hateful culture that he swam in, was that we should all share and reduce greenhouse gases and most especially give money to the demonstrators, for they are as the salt of the earth."

Are the arguments quite this crazy? I would like a link to a specific instance. Not that I want to doubt you but incredulity is getting in the way. :-)

Ah, so you do indeed treat a miscarriage differently than a infant's death. You attempt to weasel, to evade, to accuse, but in the end you do admit it (with all manner of ifs, ands or buts attached).

My _opinion_, which is open to debate, is that the possible consequences of swinging in the dark outweigh the benefits of the swinging, and legislation is necessary to stop what MIGHT BE an American Holocaust.

Ah, the precautionary principle given new life. Ignorance presented as compelling argument.

You need to do better than that before you can justify using force (the law) against your fellow citizens... whatever a given fetus is, its mother most certainly IS a fellow citizen.

I consider myself a libertarian, and I live by the maxim, "Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose." Or anyone else's nose.

I consider you an 'only for me' libertarian, which is to say you live by the maxim, "Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose... unless I feel you are doing something that I believe wrong, in which case... Get her, coppers!"

"Or anyone else's nose?". As always, in tiresomely predictable fashion, you construct your argument such that it can only be intelligible if someone already accepts your argument.

We are arguing that a 'anybody else' does not yet exist, in case you've forgotten. A pumpkin seed is not a pumpkin. A cumstain isn't thousands of lost and dying souls. And a zygote may well be your intellectual superior, but it isn't a human being with rights yet.

You know, I just had a rather amusing idea regarding Ryan Waxx's theory that less sentience=fewer rights. Although the IQ system is not perfect, it seems relatively sound to me. So, if Ryan is right, why don't we give each person one vote for each IQ point? That way our dear Wise Man Whittle gets around 200 votes, people like us get around 130, and Noam Chomsky will get... peanuts. I'm beginning to like Ryan's philosophy. :)

You know, for a while I closed down these comments. That was boneheaded of me.

I'll tell you what I have come to believe for my own sanity: I own the essays, you guys own the comments. Just about all of you should have your own blogs -- many actually do -- and the depth and breadth of intellect here is a real source of pride and humility for me.

With that said, I -- just as a regular commenter here, nothing more -- do have a request, and that is this:

Can we move off the abortion issue? Let me explain why, and why I left it out of the essay.

Abortion has gotten more air time, and generated more debate, than any other subject in modern political history, and for the first time in a long time, I'm not seeing any new arguments here. Certainly no one seems to be changing their minds. Which is fine, of course, but I for one think there are many other areas in which we are giving up our personal responsibility -- areas that get nothing likethe amount of face time abortion gets.

So speaking as a host of a party that has gone upstairs to bed, can we perhaps wind down the "you said / I said" abortion thread, realize that this is a terrifically complex and well-beaten issue, agree to disagree, and perhaps explore other areas where we can learn more and restate less?

Just a thought. Like I say, you've all behaved so magnificently in the past you have the keys to the place. Say what you feel you need to say.

Oh and regarding eeditores? We don' need no steenkin' eeditores!

ARMIES of editors, working three shifts, would not be enough to straighten out some of these essays. But that's exactly what I'm going to need, both for the book (one essay to go!) and for the MYSTERY PROJECT!

Hee hee!

I have a sec-ret
I'm not tell-ing
Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah YNAH!

> Some of them sneer at people like us and call us RINO’s: Republicans In Name Only, which seems to indicate to me that they can not conceive of a Republican who is not a racist, homophobic, Christian Fundamentalist.

I've always heard and used RINO to refer to folks who are basically go-slow "govt will do it all for you" folks.


I read all your essays and really enjoy them.

I am also a practicing obstetrician so I think that I see the abortion debate played out in front of me all the time.

Culturally we treat miscarriages differently than deaths of live borns. However, most patients that suffer a SAB (spontaneous abortion)go through the classic five stages of grief the Kubbler-Ross studied. I have had patients breakdown completely when I tell them that they have miscarried their 6 week gestation. I have had patients that have had funerals for this tissue. That may seem odd to some but it is our culture that causes us to treat it differently.

I have had patients break down in tears in my office when they find out that they are pregnant with an unwanted child. I try to console them the best that I can and I give them information about abortion, adoption and carrying to term.

For those in horrible relationships, those that have been taken advantage of because of age (and I can't tell you how many 11 and 12 yr old girls I have seen who are pregnant)or slowness or who have been raped; I sometimes think that abortion might be the right answer for them. But I never tell them that. It is not my job to impose my morality on them. I try to tell them to make that decision quickly because the decision will become harder and the procedure more difficult as the pregnancy progresses. My impartiality makes my heart weep. I became an OB to help birth babies and as such I can not do elective terminations of normal fetuses.

To let you know my true biases, I am Catholic and had 20 years of Catholic education...elementary school..nuns, Jesuits in High School, College and Medical School. I did not do elective terminations while I was in residency training.
One day one of my professors asked me why I didn't do terminations and I told him. I asked him why he did. He stated that he did them because they were legal to do. That struck me as a poor justification for doing them.

Fifteen percent of all recognized pregnancies end in a SAB and probably 50% of all fertilized eggs miscarry. Neither of these facts can in any way shape the abortion debate.

So when does life begin? Obviously it begins at conception. IF there is no conception no baby will result. The question is when does this life become worthy of legal protection? I have delivered babies as early as 22 weeks that have survived. I have had patients that have had terminations at 28 weeks.

But I have come to the conclusion that elective abortion should be legal at least in the first 12 weeks. Far too many women suffered severely when abortion was illegal, and too many died. Where I trained there were once 2 wards that were full of patients at all times who were there because of complications from illegal abortions. While in training I can think of only five instances where we had to hospitalize patients because of complications from legal abortions. None died.

I know some of you will say well what about a women who finds out that her baby will not be normal. In those instances where there is a lethal or near lethal anomoly, terminations should be allowed. These are not elective terminations for the convience of the mother. These are heart wrenching difficult decisions and these should remain legal.

Anyhow that's what I deal with every day.

Just for the record. My wife works with someone who buried her six month old fetus. It died naturally and was aborted naturally. They gave it a name (swear to G*d). They visit it every 6 months. So there are people who do have funerals for their lost babies/fetuses/whatever.

I'm with Bill (aren't we all?) on the abortion issue. I think the option should be available, but used after a heavy dose of "what are my other options". And it shouldn't be available as a form of birth control. You obviously aren't being responsible for your own actions if you use it more than once in a lifetime.

Congratulations Bill, another excellent essay.

I am posting a link here some folks may enjoy browsing, it is a speech to the Joint Session of Congress by Vaclav Havel, then President of Czechoslovakia (they weren't split apart yet)in 1990, and his theme is repsonsibility:

"For this reason, the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human humbleness and in human responsibility. "

I had a hard time finding a link to the speech, and although this person spells his name incorrectly, the speech is there!

Very well written, Bill. I am a Democrat, and I see it from the opposite side of the fence. The assumption of most Neo Conservatives is that if you are liberal, you are somehow un-American or even labeled as a "traitor".

The only Democrats getting ink and airspace are the few that take outrageous stands on the issues. Most Democrats are really no different than the Republicans which you describe. Oh, there may be some ideological differences, but the gap is really not as far apart as the professional talking heads would have you believe.

Regarding the post preceding my last one. Wait that's confusing. Regarding Ryan Waxx's last post. Yes, that makes more sense.

I can see that we're not going to agree on this, Ryan, and that's fine with me. I maintain that until you can scientifically demonstrate that an abortion is not murder, it should be illegal, and there are many people on both sides of this argument who can see that it is a valid opinion backed up by caution and calculation.

And since you are in the business of characterizing what kind of Libertarian I am, I think I should point out that you exhibit signs of being a "stay outta my way" libertarian. Such people form their political opinions largely around their desire to justify being rude and belligerent.

Government is a necessary evil. Manners are just plain 'common sense.' Get with it.

And lastly, I must say I find your position on the mentally handicapped nothing short of shocking.

And I find your abysmal ignorance disturbing. I did nothing except describe the system that already exists in America today.

Firstly, I was discussing the mentally disabled, which is a stronger condition than mantally handicapped. I'm not talking about the merely dim: I'm talking about those who cannot live by themselves.

Just like a 4-year-old, a mentally disabled person must live with parents or other guardian to ensure their health. Neither may decide on their own to go live independantly (unless of course they prove they are competant to do so).

A parent may punish a mentally disabled person, or a 4-year old.

Do I really need to continue, or are you going to sit there and argue that a mentally disabled person or a 4-year-old has exactly the same amount of rights as a 'normal' adult?

Take your manufactured, posturing outrage to someone who cares.

Ok, Bill. I just now saw your request, and agree that it makes sense.

No one's going to convince anybody here, there are better forums for this question, and there are much bigger fish to fry.

In fact, if you could delete all my comments about abortion as an opening peace gesture?

Damn! I read it then I read it again. Tomorrow, I think I'll read it again. Thank You!

Nothing here deserves to be deleted. And to Mark the Obstetrician, I'd like to say that was the most eloquent, rational and compassionate opinion I believe I have ever heard on this issue.

I also agree that most of America -- the solid, sensible middle -- are much closer, Republican and Democrat -- than the barking lunatics on either side would have us believe. It's a good thing to keep in mind, and yet another reason why the elitists in the media -- and I work with them every day -- are not to be trusted because they see the middle of the country as backwards, stupid, uninformed, lazy and base. It's projection in it's most naked form, but they can reach 200 million with their opinions.

That's why I think these blogs are the very opening salvoes in a revolution of information supply and demand. I do believe, firmly, that we are all making history here in this very cyber room.

That is logical, Captain.

Plenty else on the plate, anyway- obesity? Hate speech again? Animal rights? Euthanasia?

Getting my tail to bed at a reasonable hour for once? Sounds responsible.

You're right, labels are often inaccurate, especially when some PC nitwit and his merry band of self-righteous thought police don't know how to use a dictionary. Like when they think that "phobic" means "one who doesn't like something" or "one who is disgusted by something". Sure, calling someone "phobic" is a nice personal attack and usually gets them to back down, because God knows no one wants to be accussed of some kind of irrational FEAR! ::gasp::. That doesn't keep such attacks from being irrational, illogical and cowardly, though.

Well, lets start off on a new foot then.

Here's a thought to mull:

Bill is much more of an optomist than I am. When it comes down to politics... I admit I'm one of the most bitter cynics you'd ever have the displeasure to meet.

In fact, I often refer to him as the only man who can make feel like this world has a future. Because I despise sappy, peppy crap... any appeal a writer must make, he must make to my head as much as my heart.

Few can do this without sounding sappy and insincere.

Now, to the question:

Bill says that we must perely look in the mirror to see who can turn this around... but I doubt. I already believed in personal responsibility, and so did many of you, I wager.

The problem is, that those who want to control others are already in the seats of power. Nearly no one enters politics in order to tell the government what it CANNOT do, and those types can't compete on patronage.

People who wish to control others, move towards those positions. The rest of us just keep the world moving along despite them, throwing them wads of our earned money so they can fight over it, praying that they are too busy fighting over my money to bother with my liberty.

So I say: Look, we are seriously outnumbered here. Moreover, we are on the enemy's battleground, with him already holding the high places.

Yeah that's cynical, but its also real.

So... what? Do we just look in the mirror, shrug, then go back to work tomorrow? Or do we throw ourselves against the barricaded wall to be slaughtered against the merest outriders of those who wish to command our actions through law and manipulation?

Do I ignore the silly PC restrictions at work, only to be thrown out and eat out of a dumpster?

Do I vote Rebublican or Democrat, when their essential differences is how they wish to control my life?

Do I go big L Libertarian and join a doomed cause?

Oh well. I guess I'll stick to trying to convert my friends to the 'new' idea of personal responsibility. Maybe it'll come back into fashion before disco does.

Where would Ashcroft be without politics?

Ah... a guy can dream, can't he?

Ok Mr. much as I hate to make my arguement on something and then not back them up when someone debates, I will refrain from anymore talk on that subject.

I'll just go back to cheering you now--because, as usual, even though I've been saying these things for years, (that you covered in this essay), you, ONCE again, say it far more eloquently than I do and I am left with nothing to add.

You never cease to amaze me.

Ryan, we may be grossly outnumbered, but so were the Defenders of the Alamo, and look what happened to them!

Yes, slaughtered to the last man.

Okay, now that we have your cynical fix out of the way, let me give you an example.

At work today (in Hollywood, on a TV show) some junior exec came in with a black T Shirt with HUGE white letters saying BUSH LIES. A week ago, he wore a similar shirt with BUSH LOST in big white letters.

That was enough for me. The first thing I did was go here ( ) and buy this shirt. This will drive him up a freaking TREE, because the smug bastard thinks everyone on the floor agrees with them (and they do -- everyone except one. I am HORRIBLY OUTNUMBERED.)

I am also going to get a black T-shirt with identical white letters It will look exactly like his BUSH LOST shirt, only it will read:



Now when I wear that, he will look and feel like an idiot. If I hear a PEEP, an IOTA of complaint I will get an conservative attourney and see if Fox wants to take on this issue -- unlikely, since I work at Fox -- as does this idiot.

I'm fighting back. Everybody there already likes me a bunch. They're going to hate the shirt, but I suspect not the wearer. I'll debate anybody who wants to talk about it.

We make our own desintinies. Numbers are irrelevant. It's the willingness to fight, not the immediate outcome, that matters in the long run.

Remember the Alamo!

If the religious right could make enough of a difference in the Republican Party to influence policy, so can the small-l libertarian.

Jerry Falwell is threatening to take his ball and go home if the GOP doesn't stop being so danged tolerant and noncommital on the gay issue. I say, let him- there's a vacuum to fill and more centrists and lovers of personal liberty than he knows to fill it with.

(Okay, now I'm really taking off for the night.)


High praise coming from the woman with the most beautiful weblog on the internet. That kind of style, and an interest in astronomy, too? No wonder all the meteors come out when you're looking.

Now when I wear that, he will look and feel like an idiot.

I'm sorry, but you are mistaken. He'll feel exactly the same way that you feel about him now...

"this idiot"


"smug bastard"

... for example.

No, true believers will never be convinced of anything, no matter what. I've spent a couple days recently trying to get some moron to admit that the blackout occured under a regulated area of the grid (the 3 transmission lines). Folks, if people can't be conviced of simple, yes-or-no facts after pages of debate, a T-shirt is spitting in the wind.

I doubt the T-shirt will do anything. Maybe you'll survive at FOX, but I rather doubt you'd last past a year at ABC if ever you wore that shirt.

But hey, let us know what happens.

Dear Bill: Terrific!!!! Thank you!!!! As for me, I am Pro-Homosexual, Pro-Heterosexual, Pro-Gun, above all, Pro-Individual. Freedom AND Responsibility. Liberty AND Justice. Liberal? Conservative? "Left"? "Right"? E.g.: What is Camille Paglia? What was Ayn Rand? What was Pim Fortuyn? Pim Fortuyn, defender of Western Civilization: With his death and in his death, the battle lines were drawn: Individualists vs. Collectivists.

Dear Bill,

As always, fantastic posts, and great Comments. I always learn something new from the Comments section, but it is your words of wisdom that particularly resonate with me. I have been in many situations in my young life (just turned 24) where I could have taken the easy way out, not accepted the responsibility for my actions, and floated away on a happy little raft of denial...right into the FUCKING GUTTER! Whether it is the moral, political, or personal cesspool into which you wade, that is the muck in which people who have no conception of the meaning of responsibility (especially personal responsibility for their actions) wallow eternally. Taking responsibility, and acting when it is not popular, much like being honest, have never been easy. In fact, all of those things are damn hard when you think about it, especially in the face of the ever growing section of our populace that lives in the cesspool I just mentioned. I applaud you for saying what I have though for many years, and I am glad to look in the mirror every morning and like the responsible chap I see therein. Thank you beyond words Bill, you are a godsend!


Good Lord, man!

Your writing resonates deep in the soul. You set up harmonics within us that shake loose ideas and set them like a master mason.

Damn fine job, Bill.

As Mike McDaniel said above, a second key part of the idea is Authority. You cannot cleave Responsibilty from Authority or vice versa. It would seem they are the dual aspects of the concept. But I see them as part of a ethical triumverate: Responsibilty comes from acting on your own inherent personal Authority to decide how to behave at any point in time, but both are driven by your Duty to yourself, your family, and your species.

Others far wiser than I have stated many variations on the theme: "Duty is the most sublime of words" "Duty is heavier than a mountain, death is a light as a feather" "Duty is ours, results are God's" "England expects that every man shall do his duty." The list could go on and on. But where does our duty lay?

At its lowest common denominator, our duty is to raise up the next generation as best we can. Sadly, this duty is often failed. Sometimes, those whom you despise do admirably on this point. I loathe, detest, and abhor both Clintons, with Hillary greater than Bill, but I will grant them one very honorable mention: they together seem to have raised a decent child into a useful adult. Congratulations. I personally am trying to raise two kids, and it takes more than I sometimes have (how did I ever survive being a teenager? I know my Dad doesn't have the patience I do, but he somehow managed; therefore, so must I). But it is the most important duty I face.

To my family, I have many duties. Driver, teacher, confidant, husband, father, chief cook and bottle washer, etc. They stress me out, make me happy, drive me nuts, and make the day complete.

What is our duty to ourselves? To act in accordance with our beliefs and as we see fit in each and every circumstance. How do we meet this test? That answer is the one that determines just what we see when we look in that mirror Bill was talking about.

Living where I do, I see people from all the different rungs of our society. How they act and react according to their duties to society, family, and self seems to reflect in how they do. A neighbor of mine is quite poor, but he is always dressed in clean clothes, acts politely towards all, his children are well-mannered, and the house he lives in is always well tended. I would say that he is living up to his duty in all regards. Others in the area seem to be failing in their duties, either personally with trouble with the law or trouble with spouses and neighbors, their kids are always breaking things or trashing other folks' homes.

It almost seems like there is a shortage somewhere, and people seem to duck out from the tough things. As Bill said, they surrender responsibility for thier own actions. Or they don't accept authority for themselves or others. Or they duck their duties. Not all do these things, but they seem to be regretably numerous.

Sapper Mike

I wasn't gonna mention this but at 4 in the morning its funny as hell so I think I will after all. Yesterday I gave an oral presentation of my final paper for an English 112 class. There are 27 Commies and 2 religious nuts in this class.

"This country has three mutually exclusive options. One,"
*BANG* "This is a bible. Two,"
*BANG* "This is a communist manifesto. Three,"
*slap* "This is a copy of the Constitution."
"Here we have conservatism, liberalism, and common sense, respectively."

29 college students and 1 professor recoiled. What? a college student who's not a communist?! I swear they were about ready to throw Molotov cocktails at me. Lucky they didn't have any.

Anyway the point is I stole (borrowed?) a few ideas from Trinity and just wanted to say thanks for everything.

Excellent writing. I must say though that when I loaded the page containing Responsibility, I was excited when I looked at the scrollbar on my browser window and noticed that this was a very long page. I was mildly disappointed to find out that a very significant portion of the page was comments, to which I have now contributed.

When the book of essays comes out, I'll be there to help drive it up the sales ranks.

Brief note in defense of the Deconstructionists: True, in recent decades, the rhetoric and jargon of deconstruction has been hijacked by shoddy thinkers. And it's been used to justify everything from the emasculation of language by the politically correct to delusional sermonizing about cultural relativism.

But the original line of thought feeding true Deconstructionism -- from Heidegger to Levi-Strauss and Saussure, and on to Foucault and Derrida -- was quality stuff. Common sense tells us that "language is a tool for thought." The Deconstructionists nuanced this by additionally asserting that -- as language is a tool, so its shape governs, to some degree, the uses to which it can be put (i.e., "to a hammer, everything looks like a nail"). And beyond this, that language is a shared tool; and that "intertextuality" -- the play of language on language -- is constantly, and willy-nilly, reforming our invidual handles on the world.

As your essay so eloquently clarifies in its passages on Orwell and on the impoverished language of political correctness: much of the struggle of thinking clearly -- a prerequisite to accepting responsibility -- is a deconstructionist struggle. It's a struggle to master terms (e.g., "pro-choice" vs. "pro-life"). A struggle to understand the ways in which rhetoric is both meaning-less and meaning-full. Of discerning and resisting the restrictions terms can impose on thought, and conversely, by recognizing and exploiting the liberties terms can confer.


Speaking up! The Rubik’s Cube analogy came from me. I have to admit I actually blushed when I realized that you were referring to something I wrote. It’s like having Wolfgang Puck tell you he likes your potato salad. :-)

Thanks for writing another great essay. I read it this afternoon while rocking my 2-year-old daughter to sleep for her nap. (I’ll have to ask my Mom how she did this sort of thing without a wireless LAN and a laptop.) Came back tonight to comment and there’s already more than 160 comments. (!)

Dave Griesemer

I consider the Constitution to be the foundation of this nation. Personal responsibility is the very bedrock upon which that foundation was laid. From that foundation we have built “a shining city upon a hill…after 200 years, two centuries, she [America] still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.” (Thanks, Ron!!)

At the bedrock level that Bill has chosen for this essay, you (and Thomas Sowell) are correct. The issue is truly black and white. As we move upward through the foundations and into the homes and buildings that make up our shining city, we start to encounter shades of gray. You and I may have differing views regarding the proper balance between diplomacy and military force. However, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the issue of responsibility, "looking across the barricades into the same faces" at Michael Moore and Dominique de Villepin (who is a man.)

In contrast to our “shining city upon a hill” they have created an outhouse in a swamp. Instead of the granite of personal responsibility, they have chosen to place their foundation on the quicksand of responsibility by committee. (For more information, pick up any of the travel brochures for france.) The beacon on the hill draws the best and boldest out of the swamp. There was going to be more to this, but I just had an image of Queen Hillary sitting on her “throne”… Medic!!!

Here is my dilemma: I favor limited government. I am a government employee. I contribute to the political action committee of a labor union. I contribute to the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation (and their PACs.) And on and on. On several occasions, I have either directly or through proxies contributed to BOTH candidates in a given race.

I came up with the Rubik’s cube analogy as a way to help me sort out the contradictions. I put my efforts (and the votes of my wallet) into the causes and beliefs that I favor. Sometimes this ends up canceling my efforts in another area. I’m not delighted about that. I just can’t find a political party that reads the Constitution as a finished document. (“Needs more cowbell.”) Until a political party exists that meets my needs, this is the best I’ve come up with.

Ryan Waxx

Some of the above may also apply to your questions, but I’ll throw a few more cents in anyway.

I believe that this world, right now, is the best place to live that it has ever been. I think we are headed in the right direction.

We romanticize the past and give short shrift to the accomplishments of today. As remarkable as the performance of our military was during the Iraq war, it pales when compared to their conduct. “Proud” can’t even begin to describe my feelings for those men and women. They are the future of this country. From where I sit, that future looks pretty bright.

The problem is, it doesn’t make good news copy. “Man Gets To Work On Time for 3000th Consecutive Day” doesn’t sell a lot of papers.

We face a mountain of problems and challenges. It’s daunting to look at all we still need to overcome. Spare a moment to glance back down at the climb we’ve already made. Just in recent decades we’ve had the Great Depression, WWII, the Civil Rights movement, the Space Race, Watergate, and the Cold War. Looking back, they all seem a forgone conclusion. The reality was that every step we took to overcome them was as difficult as the course we face ahead.

Remind your public servants that they are there to serve you. Sort out what you’d like society to become.

Then, turn around and get back to work.


I must disagree with your assessment of the sexual discussions young teens are having. (And the activities behind those discussions.) The buck must stop with their parents. The stopwatch for parents starts ticking at birth and runs through puberty. You have that long to create and install a moral compass in your child. It is difficult, mostly because it is a tedious and thankless process. No one writes a glowing performance appraisal or gives you the keys to the Good Dad washroom. Being present and being a parent is much duller than “quality time” and being your kid’s best friend.

When puberty hits, time’s up. You have just become rodeo parent. Your only hope is to keep from being bucked off before the hormones stop playing ping-pong with their brains.

Just to start, I would like to request that people who provide links to other sites on the web please include the actual text of the URL in the comment, not just a hypertext link. Thanks. (Or maybe someone could explain to me why that is not a good thing to do, and I will quit.)

my comment:

It has been pointed out by fairly reliable studies of birth statistics that the socialist ?democracies? of Western Europe, for whatever reasons, have of their own volition so reduced their birthrates that they are not even maintaining their own populations. The populations of these countries are expected in fifty years to total as little as 70 per cent of present levels. Meanwhile, the populations of other cultures are expanding vigorously. It doesn?t take much projection of the trends to conclude that the ?convenience? of eschewing the burden of raising a child by having an abortion OR by using less drastic birth controls, can ultimately amount to the suicide of a culture. Of course, this is not the immediate intent of the woman who is making that choice, nor of her mate, her parents, friends, counselors, legislators, whatnot. But even back in the 60?s the Soviet Bloc countries were seeing that the widespread use of state-provided abortion was beginning to have profound demographic consequences.

Everything counts.

This is not practice.

Reality is what it is regardless of what I believe.

Gravity works whether I want it to or not.

In India, in the early 90?s a study was carried out showing that of 8,000 abortions performed in Bombay after parents tested for the gender of the fetus, all but ONE were for female embryos. Meanwhile hundreds of murders of brides by immolation are reported each year in which the husbands or the husband?s family are found to have burned the bride to collect insurance or extortion payment. In India, female children are regarded as a burden for parents--- the family is obliged to pay a dowry at marriage, and can expect a female child to provide far less income to the family than will male children. Of course, over time the selective abortion of primarily female fetuses is bound to create a surplus of males and a shortage of females, which will itself have profound consequences for Indian society.

Here are a few websites:
Or you can do your own search using keywords including gender selection abortion India et cetera.

I first read about this issue in a Spanish-language Peruvian newspaper (had a friend from Peru I worked with in Cincinnati) and I?ve searched for two decades without ever seeing it addressed in any American mass media. To me it poses the ultimate dilemma for the feminist/pro-choice people: If a fetus is after all a lifeless bit of undifferentiated tissue devoid of any inherent sacred life or rights beyond those of a few mucus cells from your lip, then NO ONE has any business challenging the practice of selectively aborting female fetuses.

I?m sure there will be disagreements on that. It will be interesting to see the supporting rationale.

Let?s step back a second and think about a fairly fundamental issue: Why are we here? Is it to just have the most fun possible? To experience all the latest hot fashions at Rock Bottom Prices? To Party/Shop/binge-eat/ fuck/ relax/ travel/ read/ game/ spend / impress friends / skip school / retire to the most exclusive gated community ?

It is a pretty challenge to reckon just what are our responsibilities to future generations, especially when available science is so ambiguous about global warming/cooling, nuclear power, smoking, triglycerides, cholesterol, deep fat, and the long term consequences of sitting for days in front of your computer awaiting Bill?s stinking essays. But one thing seems to be certain: We DO have some responsibility to ensure that there WILL be some future generations?

Say, *I?m* not past my child-bearing years....

Any of you lovely ladies care to take a dip in the genetic pool?

(... the sound of crickets fills the ether...)


David March
animator & fiddler

Perhaps the abortion comments could be broken off into a separate thread?  I agree they shouldn't be deleted (I'm tempted to comment myself, but will restrain myself), but they do interfere with comments having to do with the essay itself.

I know you asked to leave it be but I came late to the discussion and just had to put my 2 cents in.
First off 2 things
1-I'm pro choice
2-abortion is evil, but a necessary evil

For example there have been cases of people abandoning just born babies and leaving them to die in dumpsters or puting them in a box and leaving them at a church or hospital thinking someone will take care of it. Wouldn't it be better to let these people have an abortion and kill a group of cells that MIGHT become a person or deny them that choice and let them kill an ACTUAL person.
I know that there are only a few sick individuals that do things like this but these people are going to kill their baby anyway.

I used to be a democrat and I used to think that the very word "liberal" meant "one who supports individual liberty". I don't know where or when this all got twisted around but the point is about six years ago I went independent. Socially speaking, I'm politically in line with all the rest of you. Freedom is not easy, its got a dark side to it. You have to be tough to handle your freedoms effectively. The right has the nuts who want to outlaw choice and homosexuality, the left has the nuts who want to outlaw kinds of speach and guns, and both sides want to keep drugs criminal (which was not specifically discussed in this libertarian manifesto, but if you agree with it, by extrapolation you have to be for drug decriminalization and all the freedoms of self-destruction). You can talk about being a "new breed" of conservative or even liberal, but make no mistake, you are not the types that have the influence in the respective sides. A vote for a republican or a democrat is not a vote for freedom folks.

Posted by LabRat on August 20, 2003 09:46 AM:
The problem with "hate speech" laws is that they are crimes of thought, not of action,

John: Speech is an action, not simply a thought. I may dream of killing Saddam Hussein, but until I commit the crime, I cannot be held responsible. Similarly I may think of screaming fire in a crowded theatre, but until I physically scream FIRE I cannot be charged with a crime.

and are purely geared to group rights, not individual.

John: ... And who has the responsibility to classify a speech as to protect the individual or society, are two people considered a group, where is the line?

We already HAVE laws about false accusations (libel, defamation of character, slander), and laws about crimes (property crimes, murder, rape, assault). It's a court precedent grown mossy that you do not have the right to use freedom of speech to cause others direct harm- the "FIRE!" in a crowded theater test. As for the schoolbook example, there is a BIG difference between deliberately teaching children hate as part of a state-sponsored effort and allowing people the right to be annoying assholes. Cultural and scholastic review needs to be open to debate in order to function correctly.

So, why do we need "hate speech" laws except to create specially protected groups? Why should particular groups have more "right" not to be defamed or harmed than others?

John: LabRat I must disagree, you first claim that we HAVE hate speech laws, while your point is that we do not need them. Either they are needed or not? If you disagree with all speech being controlled then how do you distinguish between whether shouting FIRE in a crowded theatre, calling a person 'nigger', publishing a libelous article in a newspaper, creating a book such as Mein Kampf, or inciting violence in a rally constitutes a crime, or does it not? I believe that speech is as dangerous an action as any other.

It should be classified with the tool of 'common sense' for protecting the individual AND in turn groups and society.

Sorry, John is my mailbox name, sort of a protection from the free speech on the net. hehe ie. John = Leron.


Thanks for your response. First off, I'm not sure where you disagree with me. MY kids are 9 and 5 years old and I'm doing my best to be a positive influence while that clock is ticking! A friend once told me that puberty is like a long, dark tunnel. You put your kids in one end and stand at the other end, hoping that you prepared them well enough so they come out the other end in good shape.

The teens I'm talking about are my friends' kids, neighbors, older siblings of my children's friends, etc. Granted, this may all be heresay and bragging, but the fact that they talk openly about it around adults is a change from my generation.

I disagree with the whole concept that "kids will have sex, make sure they have condoms." I think, based on your statement, that you'd agree with me that they should be properly taught about sex.

I'm think that the "free love" generation, who feel sex is a recreational activity that is almost sacred in it's need to be protected, has given rise to the next generation of sexually active children and they turn a blind eye to the possiblity that the availability of condoms and abortions may contribute to the problem.

Of course that's assuming they believe it is a problem, which of course I do.

Bill Whittle writes:

"Political Correctness, [...] Social Engineering – all of it – will divide people according to their idea of Responsibility."

You're actually on target, but the coin you just hit has two faces. Responsibility is a byproduct of Liberty. One does not come without the other.
That's why I think you could have written:

"Political Correctness, [...] Social Engineering – all of it – will divide people according to their idea of Liberty."

It is consistent with the "new right" you describe (pro-gay and else). What differentiates you (and I also) from "right wingers" is that we hold Liberty above other values and even when choices we disapprove of (for instance about taking drugs) are questionned we answer: freedom (and of course responsibility. intoxicated people should deal with it, not "society").

I'm pretty sure you did the "self gov quizz" where results are shown as a point on a two axes graphic: economic freedom and individual freedom. Freedom=responsibility.

Oh, I'm just gonna finish reading the essay and I'll get back on that topic later.

Not long before I read this essay, I posted this on econlog: outsourcing

It compares the analyses of outsourcing done by a Berkeley economist and by myself. While we agree that outsourcing is just ordinary economic activity, his instinct was to talk about public policy implications and mine was to talk about the implications for personal responsibility.

I'm not trying to be a jerk Bill, because I like coming here and I love your stuff, but there is a point that needs to be made. What is abortion, if not a complete and total ducking of responsibility? And to be fair, I didn't appreciate the instant dismissal of those with similar views early on in the essay.

Thanks for the space. And please continue writing.


"A professor of mine once wrapped it all up in a neat and tidy nutshell when he said that he would be willing to grant personhood rights to fetuses when they organized and lobbied to demand such rights."

Does your professor then deny such rights to the mentally handicapped? To the terminally ill? When Negro slaves were still in human bondage on the plantation in the antebellum South, were they any less human in his eyes bcause they couldn't "organize and lobby to demand their rights"?

I'll repeat what I said in an earlier post: the laws exist to protect the weak and helpless, not the strong and competent. If your professor denies this simple and obvious truth, he does not understand the meaning of civilization.

Wow! The essay's been out, what, two days now? And we're already up to almost 200 comments? Hoo-WEE! A day off running errands, and I come back to find myself WAY past the original comments that I wanted to respond to, and with the subject matter closed off from discussion. Dad-gummit!

I will say though that some really great insights have been expressed here already. One of the best ones, I thought, was contributed early on by someone who didn't leave a name. As arguable as it was, I thought it made an interesting comparison of fetal rights with slave rights, about the legal impotence of a sector of our population right up UNTIL the day they were officially recognized as humans. Not necessarily definitive, but compelling nonetheless.

I'm pretty non-committal when it comes to the abortion issue. Regardless of which way the political winds blow, it will have little effect on me, so I've paid it little attention. Instead I've waited for a compelling "pro-life" argument that was based on something other than religion, or the "sacredness" of human life, or the "potential" of a blooming person-to-be, or just a general personal revulsion at the idea. Each are fine for an individual's opinion, but none of them are, TO ME, concrete enough (or universal enough) to build legislation upon. And to that end, I have vaguely favored the "pro-choice" side of the debate, though not with any great fervor.

And that's why I've really been enjoying this discussion, especially comments like the one from Mark the Obstetrician. That was an enlightening front-line viewpoint, well expressed and moving.

Also interesting catching a glimpse of the mega-trend consequences that David March just pointed out... about the effects on national and global population numbers. I don't know that, on an individual level, that would be a real pertinent consideration. But from a LEGAL standpoint, that might prove more relevant than a fuzzy definition of the value, of the potential, of the likelihood, of another "sacred" human life. I don't know. Interesting though.

But I agree with Bill that the topic is just too volatile, too personal, and with its opponents too deeply entrenched to get anywhere in a snappy little comments section like this. It would rack up a whopping bandwidth fee on a website dedicated solely to that one issue... and this ain't it. So I'll begrudgingly leave it at that.

Stupid errands.

As for the value of looking at yourself in the mirror (not a pretty sight when you're 46 and forget to "suck it in" first), while that, singlehandedly, might not shift the course of American destiny and shape future policy toward a greater national acceptance of personal responsibility all in one subtle stroke, I think it IS a vital first step. Acknowledge your own role in your current situation. Accept that your informed choices have consequences, some possibly good, some possibly bad, that you and you alone will have to bear. Then, starting with that...

... don't back up on the freeway because you just overshot your exit. YOU made the error (whether for good reason or not), so YOU pay for it. Don't inflict your problem on everyone else by inconveniencing and endangering them just so that the fix-it will be easier for you. Continue down to the next exit, regardless of how far away it is, get off and get back on and drive back the legal, safe, SINGULARLY inconvenient way.

... don't sue your neighbor for slipping on their icy sidewalk (not much of a problem down here in Orlando), just because you CAN. Either accept the inherent risks of walking around on snow and ice, or don't go out.

... recognize that driving a moving, maneuvering, jostling vehicle with a paper cup full of hot coffee either in your hand or in your lap comes with certain potential repercussions that you, and you alone, invite into your life by accepting that risk. And if the unlikely spillage should then occur, endure your pain and embarrassment like a responsible adult and pay your own damned medical bills.

... take a commercial flight with the obvious foreknowledge that you're stepping into an inherently unforgiving environment, and into a machine that was designed FIRST for aerodynamic and structural functionality, and SECOND for your comfort. And while you're at it, recognize that the flight crew is there FIRST for your safety, and SECOND for your convenience.

... remember that nobody else OWES you anything (beyond what you might have contractually agreed to), and you "deserve" nothing you haven't EARNED.

Get the individuals of the world to acknowledge and accept these basic tenets, and the larger group issues will follow suit automatically. And an individual can start by looking in the mirror.

The problem is, try selling this to someone who knows he/she is just one lawyer away from a six- or seven-figure windfall just for threatening someone else with bogus charges that will cost them more to defend than settle.


Sometimes I think that the "duty" that Sapper Mike referred to might be the same thing. Or at least they dovetail nicely together. "Responsibility" might be your acknowledgment of your own role in the creation and resolution of your own situations/problems, but "duty" could be seen as your "responsibility" to others, which includes, at its most basic level, the ever-reliable Golden Rule.

How litigious would this country still be if we just started with THAT little rule again?



I must concur with every one else's praise - start the pre-order list, please.

I have one insight which may help: it is of utmost importance to match the punishment with the crime. Responsibility is avoided, and resentment festers when "punishment" exceeds the "crime", and bad behavior is encouraged and mainstreamed when the "punishment" isn't strong enough. I could site so many examples it would dwarf a BW essay. The extension of these thoughts, I'm sure, has been extended somewhere else. But, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.

Thank you, Bill!

I especially liked the part about providing help for people who need it. You articulated something that I hadn't been able to (I know--you hear that a lot!), that being appalled by the welfare mentality doesn't mean being unsupportive to people who are truly unable to care for themselves.

I heard a story on NPR this morning (I know, I know, but I was out of audiobooks, and my head hurt too much for music!) about a town in NC where the major employer, a textile mill, went bankrupt. People were understandably unhappy about it, but a huge safety net swung into operation, setting up a central clearinghouse in a church to help people with unemployment benefits, taking care of immediate financial crises like potential evictions or foreclosures, helping them find new jobs, and providing government funded training for them. "This isn't so bad," I thought. "Job hunting can't be easy in a small town where 4,000 people are all looking at once, and they paid into those unemployment programs all these years. I agree with them being helped like this."

Then they mentioned that one of the problems in helping them find new work was that so many of the potential replacement employers required a high school diploma, which only about *half* of the newly unemployed had. I was staggered. And then they interviewed a man who said that at his age, he really wasn't cut out for school, and it was unfair that after making $15/hour, he should have to go back to $7, just because he didn't have a high school diploma.

The people from the Pillowtex factory who take advantage of the government assistance to pay their bills while they get their G.E.D. (Non-US readers: that stands for "General Equivalency Diploma", a way of getting a high school diploma by passing a test) so they can qualify for another job are exercising responsibility. The ones who whine about things being unfair while they collect their government checks as long as they can get them--well, I don't feel much sympathy for them. But hardworking me will pay my taxes and support both types.

Bill - an excellent essay. I delivered a six-minute speech last year about individual responsibility that might shed some further light (or perspective) on the topic. It's posted here. Keep up the good work.

Regarding the cop that pulled her service pistol rather than her Taser---

My wife and I were taught at Gunsite last year (a great 10-year wedding anniversary present we gave ourselves!) to keep our lethal force on the right (strong) side of our bodies, and non-lethal force on the left (weak) side.

If you're trained to use the Modern Technique of The Pistol, going "to the right" becomes an instinctive reflex, triggered by the need for lethal force, that ultimately terminates in pulling the trigger on center mass of the threat. You should be able to put a round in center mass within 1.5 seconds of the command to do so--starting with a holstered weapon.

Going "to the left" is very different, so you don't end up triggering a reflexive pull-and-shoot of the deadly weapon. So that's where you want to put the non-lethal force options, like a flashlight, taser, or whatever.

In other words, think through the possibility of this exact situation happening, IN ADVANCE, and make explicit decisions to reduce the probability of making a horrible mistake.

Another example: many negligent discharges happen immediately after people finish dry fire practice. That's because the practice reinforces the reflexes of slamming in a clip, chambering a round, pointing, and pulling the trigger. So when they go to reload the gun with a live clip, the reflex is to follow through past the chambering of a round with pulling the trigger. Bang.

Responsibility doesn't just happen after the fact. It also requires thinking through what you're going to do, predicting where problems could arise, and taking steps to avoid those problems.

Thank you so much for this essay. And I thought I was outraged by the left BEFORE! The section about the death of Qusay and Uday really filled me with righteous indignation towards those that speak an ill word against the job our soldiers did there.

If the issue comes up in the next presidential debate, I'd like to see Bush answer it the same way you did.

Chris, great speech


Mr. Whittle, that was absolutely breathtaking! The way you weave logic, common sense, and basic emotions into a coherent tapestry is absolutely amazing. You describe my view of society so well, I almost think you reached into my mind, took my most personal thoughts and feelings about the world, and placed them here for everyone to see.


A lot!

I mean it!

WHEW! Thank goodness there's an abortion debate going on, so this can get lost in the midst of it.

I find myself here to defend Richard Nixon, all due to deciding it was time to really read about him, instead of parroting everything I believed about him at the time. You do him a great disservice in saying he craved power. The man voluntarily gave it up TWICE, once after the 1960 election when there were clear election violations (read about this one sometime--the democrats clearly pulled a fast one) and again during Watergate, when his family wanted him to keep fighting. He served as a lawyer in New York prior to becoming president and most have said that he was excellent. He would have been one of the first to see the Islamic menace and he would have handled it as fairly as he did the communist menace in the 50s.

I strongly suggest you take a look at "The Contender" by Irwin Gellman. He looks at the evidence of many of the "facts" about Nixon and finds them untrue. You may also feel differently about Truman after reading the book (interesting how he has gotten a pass on all the corruption in his administration.)

As Americans, we can no longer let lies about our leaders go unchallenged. There has been a pattern, starting with Johnson, of trying to smear presidents and force them out of office. The folks who use lies and misrepresentation got their start many years ago and if you try to look back on it, with an open mind, you can see how much stronger they are today.

If the issue comes up in the next presidential debate, I'd like to see Bush answer it the same way you did.
Unfortunately, my friends, our president doesn't have a way with words. Yes I know thats a terrible understatement. BILL WHITTLE FOR PRESIDENT!

So who shall be Bill's running mate? How about Newt Gingrich? P.J. O'Rourke?

After praising Bill for his essay yesterday I continued to read the comments as they were posted, and I have to say that I'm nearly as impressed by them as I was by Bill's work. What a bright and thoughful band of malcontents you are!

Now it's time for a little infernal advocasy:

I'm as big a proponent of personal responsibility as the rest of you - I'd never file a frivilious lawsuit or live off the "dole" (unless some hideous mishap prevented me from caring for myself, and may any gods that exist forbid THAT). I also agree that it's more compassionate - and more economical - to teach a man to fish instead of just giving him one to eat every day. However, I see problems with the small-government mentality as it applies to this huge, pluralistic, information-based civilization we've built for ourselves.

My opinion is that there MUST be some government contol over industry and individulas. Just enough for the "prevention of injustice" as Lincoln says, but probably more than most of the commentors here would like. We had our experiment with laziez-faire capitalism in this county - remember reading about ten year old kids working 80-hour workweeks and getting their hands chopped off in canning machines? I do, and I don't want to see such wage-slavery come back into existence. I don't trust powerful companies and rich men to automatcally do the right thing - to behave "justly" - so I support government controls on industry. I guess you could say that I want someone to make sure that such people and organizations are, in fact, living up to THEIR responsibilities. Just as "your right to swing your fist ends at my nose", so Dow Chemical's right to earn a profit ends in my back yard.

Libertarian politics work well in a frontier society - why do you think Heinlien set most of his stories on the biggest frontier of all - but I question SOME of their validity in a densly-populated, technologicaly-advanced economic empire like America. All this discussion about personal responsibility is wonderful and I agree with the vast majority of it, but without just a touch of "big brother" how do we ensure the other guy is taking care of HIS responsibilities?


"Hate speech" laws and "speech codes" are flat-out un-Constitutional, voided by the First Amendment. The criterion is "clear and present danger" -- NOT a "right" not to be offended. I repeat: Does the speech pose a _clear and present_ danger, NOT "are somebody's feeling hurt?" Reading "The Turner Diaries" is Constitutionally protected, _acting_ on it is _not_ (and can get you the death penalty). You can call someone a "nigger" but you can't stop me from marrying one (Supreme Court, Loving vs. Virginia, 1967). If you want to erect a billboard quoting Leviticus 20:13 or Romans 1:26-27 (or Mark 16:17-18!), that is your absolute right, but you can't stop me from making love to someone of my own sex in my own home (Supreme Court, Lawrence vs. Texas, 2003). As for "hate _crimes_", we already have a quite old, and most effective law to deter those actions: the Second Amendment.


Excellent essay as usual. I only wish I could articulate my thoughts so clearly. But there's one statement you make in your article that is, quite simply, false, and I want to help you correct this mistake.

Near the end of the essay, you say, "Remember, there was a time when three or four people believed that the earth was round, and the entire rest of the species said they were demonstrably wrong, insane, and should be burned at the stake."

This is simply not true. Not since the 3rd century B.C. have most people believed that the earth was flat. That's when Eratosthenes measured the angle of a shadow cast in Alexandria, compared it to the angle of a shadow cast in Syene (a town in Egypt, very close to the equator) at the same time (noon on June 21st), and from that difference calculated the size of the earth. He came amazingly close: he calculated a value of 250,000 stadia for the earth's circumference, or about 25,000 miles. (We now accept a figure of 24,902 miles for the earth's circumference measured at the equator -- Eratosthenes had an error of less than 1% in his calculation, quite an amazing feat). Later (around 150 AD), Ptolemy made another measurement, based on the parallax movement of the star Canopus. He came up with a figure of around 18,000 miles for the earth's circumference, significantly less than Eratosthenes' figure.

There is a popular myth that says that Columbus believed the earth was round, while his detractors believed the earth was flat -- so everyone urged him not to go, believing that he would fall off the edge of the earth if he sailed too far to the west. This is also, quite simply, false. The actual argument between Columbus and his detractors was over the size of the earth, and whether Columbus' ships could carry enough food & water for the journey. Columbus accepted Ptolemy's figure of 18,000 miles, and believed that the distance to China was short enough to be reachable by sea. His detractors accepted Eratosthenes' figure, and claimed that the trip would take too long, and that Columbus was not setting out with enough food and water for his trip. As it turns out, Columbus' opponents were right: if Columbus hadn't bumped into a little landmass that neither he nor his opponents had known about, he and his men would all have died of famine and thirst before reaching China.

You can read more about the history of the flat-earth/round-earth beliefs, and the various calculations the Greek philosophers made, at the following links:

The Round Earth and Christopher Columbus
Shape and Size of the Earth
The Myth of the Flat Earth
Medievals and Flat Earth

i did wish to imply from my last comment that we derive our rights from the Constitution or from Supreme Court decisions upholding that Constitution. Our rights are inherent in us as individuals, God-given if you will, or Goddess-given, and merely _recognized_ and _protected_ by the Constitution and the courts. The all-important (and formerly all-but-forgotten, now hated by some) Ninth Amendment states this explicitly: "The enumeration in this Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people."

Many of you undoubtedly know who Salam Pax is, the Baghdad Blogger, if you don't he is someone living in Baghdad working as a liguist for different media types, and also is blogging about the situation in Iraq, his post today is about how it will take a long, long time for the reconstruction and it touches on the light bulb going on in his mind about the resposibility of the citizens of Iraq and what is the dawning of a new era, but it won't be easy. I thought you may enjoy reading his comments:


now, a technical question, how do I make that link show up as a hyperlink? I happen to think the hyperlink looks nicer, and if you want to know the text of the link, hover your mouse over it and look down in your system tray, most browsers show what the "link" is, in text.


Thank you EB for that datum.

(my ignorance is vast, and growing each moment.)

David March

Bill W,
Sorry I brought up the abortion thing. I should have known better, it seems to always get out of hand.
This might get out of hand too but here goes.

Although the USA is the greatest nation to ever exist we are not without our problems.
I believe that the most important one is the way we elect our officials. Which only branches out to become a myriad of other problems.
We elect our officials just like we fight wars. We even call them campaigns.
Take a look at history the great teacher and you will find there are two ways to win a war.

Overwhelming odds or deceit and treachery.

A two party political system split down the middle leaves only one way.
So through pandering, promising, spin, talking out the side of their neck and a whole other bag of tricks (leaving the state so as no quorum can be established in the legislature, the race card, class warfare ect…) Our professional politicians divide and conquer the American people.
So what do we end up with? Honest men of character and principle. Hardly!
Here are some ideas that might help.
1 Free media before elections.
2 Eliminate all political contributions, except those from individuals with a cap to make the poor mans voice equal to the rich man.
3 Out law lobbying except by individuals representing themselves.
This is only a start, but you have to start somewhere.

I woud bet pots of money that somewhere close by there's a link to a websource that wouldn't even require Bill or GHS or any of the other extremely helpful regulars here to go to any trouble beyond just pointing it out....

How do we Mac users format text in our posts to create "bold" "italics" "underscore" etc?

How do we create hypertext links?

How do I keep all my "smart quotes" from Microsoft Word from turning into those pesky question marks?

How do we sound a lot smarter than we actually are?

David March

Greetings again Bill,

I regret that much of this forum has become a discussion on abortion. I suspected as much the moment I read your casually stated pro-choice posture early in your essay. On FR, I asked that people refrain from commenting on the "RINO" aspect of the essay and focus on the larger issue...RESPONSIBILITY.

As I stated earlier, I preach this trait to people with great regularity - from my children to those who work for (with) me. Our society is overflowing with victims and critics. And, what we have in our media today are a bunch of generally liberal critics looking for victims. In fact, too often, the press is all too willing to inform people that they are, or have become victims. Few people ever have the conscious thought of, "no, this is bull, I accept that I am a product of the sum total of the choices that I have made in my life. Now, I am going to continue to choose to get where I want to be". Rather, our Jerry Springer, Jesse Jackson, Hillary Clinton, ACLU, et. al. segments of society prefer to keep us as victims. A daunting challenge, indeed.

But one that must be fought.


It seems that David Hecht would deny those freedoms to women, for if one does not control one's own body, one is indeed a slave. And, as I do recall, they and blacks DID organize and lobby in the US, and were wisely granted their human rights.
Listen, folks, there are things that should be mandatory (like passing a driver's test before being allowed on the road) and things that should be forbidden (like getting on the road while roaring drunk), but there are also many things that should be neither - otherwise, we're not talking about a free society. Those things which should neither be mandated nor forbidden, but should be left up to personal choice, include, in my opinion, abortion, euthanasia, gambling, drug use, homosexuality and pornography - in other words, the so-called Christian fundy/Muslim moral 'sins'. Some may believe that some or all of these activities are immoral or mistaken, but other people should have the personal right to commit what some may think are immoral and mistaken actions, and bear their own personal responsibilities for them. I consider myself to be a social liberal, a fiscal conservative, and a foreign policy realist. I wish there were a viable presidential candidate that shared all these positions.

David March,

Most of the questions you ask (about bold, italics, links, etc.) are basic HTML. See Dave Raggett's Intoduction to HTML, among hundreds of others, for a tutorial. The basic idea is that you use tags enclosed by angle brackets (like so: <tag>) to mark off parts of your text that need special treatment (like making it bold, or turning it into a link). The opening tag looks like this: <tag> and the closing tag looks like this: </tag>. Boldface text is marked with the B tag, italics with the I tag, underlined text with the U tag:

<b>bold</b> yields bold text.
<i>bold</i> yields italic text.
<u>bold</u> yields underlined text.

Links use what are called "tag attributes", which are extra information that gets tacked on to the tag like so:

<tag attribute="value" attribute2="value2"> ... </tag>

Note that attributes are (usually) found only on opening tags; closing tags omit all attributes. Links use the A tag (stands for Anchor) with the HREF attribute (stands for Hyperlink REFerence), like so:

<a href="">Eject! Eject! Eject!</a> yields Eject! Eject! Eject!

Get it? "Got it!" Good.

I meant, of course:

<b>bold</b> yields bold text.
<i>italic</i> yields italic text.
<u>underlined</u> yields underlined text.

This is getting rather off the topic of responsibility, though, isn't it? Anyone else who has questions about HTML is invited to E-mail me instead of putting the comments on Bill's already-overlong comments page here.

Shell makes some good comments about responsibility. It has been my belief for quite some time that we should not extend welfare, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. to people who do not have a high school diploma or a GED. In this great country of ours everyone is offered a free education, and up to the age of 21 to complete it. If you did not take advantage of that very generous societal offering, you should not whine or hold you hand out. You should recognize yourself for the lazy leech on society that you are and fend.


"Speech is an action, not simply a thought. I may dream of killing Saddam Hussein, but until I commit the crime, I cannot be held responsible. Similarly I may think of screaming fire in a crowded theatre, but until I physically scream FIRE I cannot be charged with a crime."

Right, but what makes a law a "hate crime" law as opposed to one of the laws I already mentioned is the THOUGHT and INTENT behind the crime. If you beat the crap out of a white man, it's assault. If you beat the crap out of a black man and also call him a nigger, it's a hate crime. (Unless you're also black, in which case it's assault and possibly also a hit album.) But both men are equally beaten up, equally harmed. Why does there need to be a "hate" provision?

"And who has the responsibility to classify a speech as to protect the individual or society, are two people considered a group, where is the line?"

I'm not sure where you're going with this, as what I was getting at was that in order to classify it as a "hate" crime, you must identify some element of it as a crime against a member of a group as opposed to an individual. A crime against me is a regular crime; a crime where the criminal calls me a cunt in the process is a hate crime against women. The problem of classifying hate crimes in terms of identifying groups against which hatred is directed is one of the pitfalls I see in such laws, as in effect they would create "protected" groups.

"LabRat I must disagree, you first claim that we HAVE hate speech laws, while your point is that we do not need them."

No, my first claim was that we have laws against various forms of crime, including directly harmful speech. Hate crime laws as we know them specifically include extra provisos and punishment for "crimes of hatred" in which the criminal's intent is identified as being motivated by hatred of a particular group. I do not, in fact, believe that speech should be totally unlimited; I agree with the "FIRE!" test. I believe that punishing people for their thought or intent rather than their actions, as distinguished between "slander" and "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion", is fundamentally wrong.

My argument is that we do not need *specific* hate laws, because the laws we have are already adequate and singling out groups in such a manner is a dangerous and rather unAmerican precedent; all citizens should be equal before the eyes of the law . In the cases in which they do not cover the deed, as in "Protocols" or "Mein Kampf" being legal to publish an distribute, or Klan rallies being legal, I question whether it SHOULD be illegal. A rally does not pass the "FIRE!" test, and neither does flag-burning or a Salman Rushdie book. Giving someone ideas has never been and never should be a crime; acting on those ideas is subject to law.

Run, don't walk, to the nearest repository of books to obtain a copy of Freedom Evolves for a great discussion of the meaning of freedom and responsibility.

In short, it will help establish that free will, and indeed our status as conscious beings, is dependant on our ability to take responsibility for our actions. Although B.F. Skinner and company speak partial truth when they treat all organisms (ourselves included) as pre-programmed machines of reaction, an important point is often missed: we are the authors of our selves, we write the program today that will be tested tomorrow, and must earn our status as free agents by accepting responsibility for the heuristics we've chosen.

Can we now get away from "right/left" and "liberal/conservative" and find new labels (yes, labels are necessary) to distinguish those who fault the world when an individual goes awry from those who blame the individual for not defining themself in a responsible form?

I, for one, would rather accept blame for my inadequacies than forfeit my status as free-willed.

I just thought of something while at work today. Instead of applying "Whittle's Electric Razor", why not say that we're giving someone an "Electric Razor Whittling"??

(Anything to get off the abortion thread.)

Great writing! And bang on target.

Reminiscent of Prof de la Paz in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:

"A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as 'state' and 'society' and 'government' have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame... as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world... aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure."

remember reading about ten year old kids working 80-hour workweeks and getting their hands chopped off in canning machines

You are right that we need some form of government regulation of industry, but that doesn't affect Bill's thesis about RESPONSIBILITY. In a modern society, there are so many more ways of ducking responsibility than in a frontier society, and one of the duties of the state is to make sure that people live up to the duties/responsibilities they have towards other people.

I don't object to my employer setting me to work at a dangerous machine, but they need to do one of two things:

1) Tell me the risks, and warn me that keeping myself safe is my responsibility. Then they have to give me the authority to exercise that responsibility. Which they generally don't want to do, because that includes the authority to turn the machine off if it would be irresponsible to continue operating it. This is how aviators work - and that sense of responsibility shines through whenever Bill writes about flying on this site. And that authority is part of the dream of flying.

2) Tell me to get on with the job, and accept that responsibility for themselves. They are responsible for my medical bills, for my future income, and for my childrens' education if the worst happens. It's their choice whether they live up to that responsibility by making the machine safe, or by taking out insurance to cover the cost if it doesn't. I have given up responsibility to the boss, but then I gave up authority when I took the job and the two go together.

In the bad old days, they would just do neither, so nobody was responsible for the safety of the staff. The staff didn't have the authority to take on that responsibility, and the boss ducked it. And the government rightly put a stop to this.

Now (in the UK at least - I don't know if the US has the same problem but I think it probably does) we live in a world in which we expect the government to take responsibility for safety. There is a zillion-page safety manual from on high - if you don't obey it you go to jail (even if you are perfectly safe) and if you play by the book but have an accident anyway then expect the government to bail you out. And half the time the manual is numbskull stuff written by a committee none of whose members are responsible for anything. And then someone gets killed and nobody is responsible.

When the government regulates, it should do it in a way which fosters responsibility, not which undermines it.

I won't touch the abortion issue with a ten foot stick, but there are plenty points of conflict between accepting, or deflecting, responsibility.

A topic that hits rather close to home is the on-going debate between
hyper-active legislators vs. marginalized gamers.

Bringing up a child is a heavy responsibility requiring no small amount of courage, but it does not entitle parents to regulate another grown adult's hobby (the exploitive kind excluded of course: i.e. kiddie pr0n).

At the ripe old age of 23, I continually find myself disgusted with the passive/reactive way some parents execute their duty.

(Bill, do you need a RIO? ;) )

Just a quick response to something Salamantis mentioned in his/her last comment...

You said, "Those things which should neither be mandated nor forbidden, but should be left up to personal choice, include, in my opinion, abortion, euthanasia, gambling, drug use, homosexuality and pornography - in other words, the so-called Christian fundy/Muslim moral 'sins'."

First of all, I say to that a hearty "90% AMEN!" In my opinion, nothing done in private by a single individual, or between two consenting adults should be "mandated or forbidden." Only the extent to which their activities directly negatively impact another (like smoking in an enclosed public space, or cranking their stereo up to 11 at 2:00 in the morning) should be considered in such legislation. And by that, I am NOT including the "INdirect" negative impact of someone taking offense at the mere IDEA of someone else doing something they object to (like being "bothered" by the idea that the neighbors might be engaged in sodomy next door, or taking offense that a heathen neighbor might be working on the Sabbath).

With that as my broad standard then, I respond to your short list thusly... (1) ABORTION: that's foggy for me, but until the nation's legislative branch determines and defines it as "murder" to do so, then you and I are in agreement. It should NOT be anyone else's business, and should not be "mandated or forbidden." If, however, the national concensus changes, such that it DOES become "murder," then no, I wouldn't agree. If our society agrees, by majority, that in America it IS "murder," then that should NOT be an individual choice to make. Wishy-washy, I know, but then it's not really "my issue." (2) EUTHANASIA: absolutely. I agree with you completely on this one. Plus, I personally include its corollary, suicide. Teach and advise against it all you want, but do not mandate against it. (3) GAMBLING: another big "amen." (4) DRUG USE: here you lose me. If it could be contained to a private environment, then okay. Do your worst to yourself. But the problem is that, like excessive drinking, the mind-altering propensities of such substances tends to erase the sound reasoning that says things like "I will not drink/toke/snort and drive," and "that complete stranger didn't mean anything by that last remark." To that end then, I would agree that drug use and "excessive imbibement" should not be mandated while in the privacy of one's own home. But the minute it extends into the public domain -- the minute "your" drug use endangers MY life -- sorry, but that's where I think a legal line needs to be drawn. (5) HOMOSEXUALITY: no problem with that. And (6) PORNOGRAPHY: to the extent that we're talking about renting/buying/watching it, again, no problems. No restrictions, and none of anyone else's business (the same applies to prostitution as well, as far as I'm concerned). I'd draw the line at the CREATION of some forms of pornography though, like kiddy porn and snuff films. But I suspect that we're in agreement on that as well.

Good to hear someone else say it though.



P.S.: and yes, this WAS a "short one" for me.

Bill Whittle isn't really like the Unabomber (and neither is Victor Davis Hanson) despite sharing some fundamental themes. Whittle sees the basic problem to be where one finds the locus of responsibility -- in the individual or in the group. On this point, Whittle and Kaczynski agree. The individual. Consequently, both Whittle and Kaczynski critique leftism (or collectivism). However, they differ profoundly on the issue of technology. Kaczynski is a technophobe. He thinks that technology reduces freedom and that scientists are constructing a world of ever-greater restrictions. Whittle, by contrast, comes closer to being a technophile and perceives no fundmental incommensurability between modern technology and human freedom. This difference gives Whittle confidence about the future but drives Kaczynski to nearly nihilistic despair and a desperate attack upon the 'system' in the quixotic hope of returning us to "wild nature."

While I prefer Whittle's vision (and deplore Kaczynski's terrorist methods), the Manifesto is well worth reading. For anyone interested, here's one website:

It deserves a careful reading, for both its insights and its flaws.

Jeffery Hodges

You are to me, what Abraham Lincoln is to you, Bill.

Thanks for the stimulating read.

Great essay, Bill. Even got in a few good clean whacks at the deconstruction crowd.

Trouble is, though, your essays tend to go on and on a bit. Like the guy said about Mozart: "Too many notes."

But I'll be durned if I can figure out which ones to leave out.

My problem with legal euthanasia is not with any moral issue, but that the option of euthanasia seriously erodes the doctor-patient bond. In countries where it is legal, there is a high proportion of "suspicious" euthanasias where it's unclear that the patient actually had a choice in the matter, or was not coerced. When it's much more convenient to your doctor and your family that you die, and you're in a position of relative helplessness...

I think the Hippocratic Oath is much like the Bill of Rights in that it allows some abuses, but prevents a multitude of others, so much so that it shouldn't be violated or monkeyed with without extreme deliberation and good cause.

Not a post debating abortion, just a tangential issue. Labrat: the reason more people don't choose adoption is... well, have you talked to anyone who's tried to adopt? The adoption and fostering systems in the US are and have long been awful. It's heartbreaking, because as Mr. Whittle says, no one really thinks abortion is a good thing, and people on both sides tend to agree adoption is a better idea, where feasible. I keep thinking how much could be done if all the energy wasted on debating legality could be poured into fixing the system and providing a viable alternative.

Re: hate crimes.

The problem with classifying hate crimes is not found at the extremes (assault, murder), but in the "details." An example:

Suppose someone is caught painting graffiti on a city wall. A logo, or a drawing, or something else. The crime? Defacing public property? Public nuisance? Something like that?

Now suppose the graffiti is a swastika painted on a Jewish synagogue. Is this just defacing publich property? Should the criminal get off with a slap on the wrist?

Our moral compass often tells us that examples of the second type require harsh penalties. Perhaps it is our collective historical conscience telling us that speech that reflects the Holocaust is so awful as to carry a stiffer penalty.

Sooo...the argument gets extended.
* If the Holocaust, why not the victims of slavery? OK, we say (again our collective conscience speaking). Can't use racial epithets against descendants of former slaves.
* If descendants of slaves, how about descendants of other populations: Irish, Japanese, Latin-American, Italian, et al? OK, says our conscience, not them either.
* If those special groups, what about homosexuals?
* If speech, why not other actions? Discrimination from joining a group, for example? No, every group must be open to every person.

Then the argument gets used to make examples of offenders of egregious crimes--the rapes, assaults, and other attacks. Make the punishment worse, the rationale goes, because Hate was a motivator.

Eventually we forget the nature of the crime itself, and focus only on the motives--especially if the perpetrator is of one group and the victim of another group (regardless of the groups!)

...and the argument gets diluted until it has no resemblance to the original intention--an expression of our collective conscience toward the memory of truly horrible events.

Hate Speech comes to mean anything that anyone says to anyone else that offends them. Soon the degeneration of free speech will say that only speech which denigrates WASP males will be allowed, because all other speech will be deemed Hate.

Its a slippery slope argument, but its all I've got at the end of my work day.

I just loved it Bill...ALL of it.
Thank You

Joyce T

Wow what an incredible essay!

Unfortunately it just reminds me of the fact that neither of the 2 major political parties live up to the points brought up herein-- as J Greely and Casey pointed out, scanning the comments I hadn't seen a solid suggestion as to where to put our votes in the 2004 election. Anyone care to say, with regards to this essay specifically, who matches up the closest?

I've voted Democrat in the past, simply because I feel they put less restrictions on personal liberty (at the expense of financial liberty) relative to Republicans who as of late seem to be putting more restrictions on personal liberty (and giving more financial freedom).

I'm scared of having freedoms taken away from me-- like censored movies, control over what goes on in the bedroom, abortion, making posts like these.

I'm scared of businesses who want to control the political landscape in order to pass laws or overturn laws that hold *them* responsible for their actions at the expense of consumers.

I'm scared of any movement towards religion entering the government- the 10 commandments in the courthouse issue that recently came up for instance.

So whom should I be voting for? Bush seems to religiously charged and authoritarian for my taste, Democrats seem to want to exacerbate the problems highlighted in this essay and I know that the independent parties aren't going to win a Presidency any time soon. When it comes down to a close election, who shall I vote for?

I guess it'll just have to be for myself, or Bill :)


Here's a grossly over-simplified nutshell explanation of the differences between the two main parties in this nation:

Democrats have no problem with you shoving a gerbil up your ass, and they will tax you at a high percentage rate for that privilige.

Republicans want you to keep as much of your money as possible, but don't you dare shove a live gerbil (or anything else for that matter) up you ass.

You're welcome.


I would take issue with one thing for starters: the notion that Americans are "Individualists" par excellence. When I came to this country as a child, before political opinions clouded my mind, it struck me right away that Americans were much more conformist, much more obedient and much more "conventional" than most of the people I knew back in Europe. I know this is so counter to received opinion as to be counter-intuitive, but think about it; the average American more of an individualist than the average Frenchman or Italian? Give me a break! As a nation, we're the descendants of Central European peasants; maybe it's the German influence, but that might explain our basic drive to conform. Even our most flamboyant excesses of "individalism" are really just attempts to conform to a commercialized fantasy of what we've been told constitutes individualism.

I hadn't realized Erich Fromm had covered this ground before, but it's always seemed really obvious that a basic human instinct is to avoid responsability at all costs. I think that the drive towards security (however illusory) and avoidance of responsability is the most salient feature of the American Middle Class, not any fantasy of individualism.


VRWCman/Dave - bahahahahhahaha roofles :P

Nice one... unfortunately, true.

I'd rather be able to shove a gerbil up my ass and pay more taxes then save what little they can cut out of the budget and not be able to satisfy my sick bestial cravings!

Yeah. no seriously, your quote should be printed on t-shirts!

Interesting gerbil analogy Dave... but if it were that simple we'd all vote republican. I mean, yeah, in principle you should be able to insert a gerbil into any orifice you please, but how many of us really would want to live in a communist state just for that privilage?

Look at it this way. If the US were suddenly in the clutches of Noam Chomsky, sure you'd be able to sodomize gerbils, but there wouldn't be any gerbils because the people who import them and the people who market them would have all quit their jobs to live off the government. We would go into gerbil withdrawl!

Now would you rather shove your gerbils illegally, or lose the gerbils entirely?

I cannot believe I am arguing this.

I suggest Thomas Sowell's "A Conflict Of Visions" to you. It also deals with the same dichotomy that you deal with here, although it calls them "The Constrained Vision" and "The Unconstrained Vision". One holds that man is perfectable, and one contends that he is not. Those DON'T line up the way you might think. If man is perfectable, then man needs the efforts of these Philosopher-king types (Call them Liberal Party members) to get them to perfection.

Far better to recognize the fact that man is not perfectable, and build a society that deals with it.

By the way, isn't the expression "Your right to swing your fist (not arm) ends at the tip of my nose."? Liberals say you don't have the right to get your fist anywhere near my nose, it's intimidating. In fact, you should be punished for even MAKING a fist....

I was going to address this to Bill. I have been self-editing, as I have read the comment section. I have now reached the end and have changed my mind. I am addressing this comment to all of the participants.

I came upon this essay as a post from one of my bookmarked blogs this afternoon. It is now 5 hours later and I have to tell all of you that I have found it very rare to find so many people with whom I can agree wholeheartedly.

…I just deleted about 4 paragraphs of babble.

Bill, I wish to thank you for both the essay, and the forum.


An expansion on Russ:

Suppose someone is caught painting graffiti on a city wall. A logo, or a drawing, or something else. The crime? Defacing public property? Public nuisance? Something like that?

Now suppose the graffiti is a swastika painted on a Jewish synagogue. Is this just defacing publich property? Should the criminal get off with a slap on the wrist?

That's why judges have a range of sentences they can emply. Obviously, the swastika artist should get close to the max for graffiti drawing.

And then you paint over the swastika and get on with your life. A swastika doesn't necessarily mean the painter is a hardcore anti-semite... a lot of the fools are more like little kids who just discovered the word 'fuck'. So, of course, they keep saying 'fuck' 'fuck' 'fuck' 'fuck' 'fuck' 'fuck' 'fuck' 'fuck'...

Until of course you take the little monster over the knee for a discussion of the subject of civility. And no, you don't overreact and beat him with a 2-by-4.

Just like you don't ovveract to a spraypainting vandal by giving him a assault-level penalty. Spraypainting ANYTHING isn't assault, and all of your outrage doesn't make it so.

Here is a CLUE: The holocaust didn't happen because a couple spraypainters didn't get punished enough and were able to spread 'evil thoughts' out to the mindless masses. Capice?

To answer GHS, and to further clarify my previous remarks:

I forgot to include the word 'consequences' in my previous post. When people who exercise rights are responsible for their actions, it means that they must be responsibe - that is, held accountable for - the consequences of those actions. With this in mind...

There is often a disconnect between the moral/ethical and the legal in our country. For instance, the pursuit of homosexual behavior by homosexuals (although I'm not one, not that there's anything wrong with it...I have an 'old lady') has been illegal in our society for a long time; this does not mean, to me, that true love between two homosexual people, or its physical expression, ever WAS immoral/unethical. It was the forbidding LAW that was wrong, not the behavior, just as laws that consigned blacks to slavery and disenfranchized women of their voting and property-owning rights were wrong.

This is why I consider pre-RvsW laws forbidding abortion to have been wrong; because they warped wombs into jails that imprisoned those born with them. Legality ain't always morality.

As far as suicide goes, perhaps we should legislate a death penalty for all who attempt it ;~). But seriously, safeguards should be emplaced and maintained to ensure that such a terminal choice is indeed freely elected rather than being coerced.

Gambling can cause people to blow the rent and food money on bad bets, and hurt the wife and kids - at which point the wife should divorce the weak-willed louse and find someone more responsible (reverse gender if the inveterate gambler is female).

I agree that people should not put other people at risk with drug-taking behavior (that was included in my saying that driving while drunk - or blitzed on any other drug, BTW, should indeed be forbidden, as it endangers the life and health of others). It is a case of a person blindly stumbling into a room with other people inside and uncaringly swinging his/her fist hither and yon, with no regard for the noses that inhabit the immediate proximity. Justy as people may commit crimes of passion, they may also commit crimes of intoxication - in which case, society should indeed hold them responsible for the damage they inflict. An added point is that I believe that people who become hooked on addictive drugs should be forcibly detoxed if that addiction results in harm to others, for then they have lost their ability to choose, and it should be restored to them, so that they can once again make responsible choices, rather than being further compelled by their addictions to make irresponsible ones. But the most harmful and addictive drugs - tobacco and alcohol - are legal, mainly because they are harder for the government to suppress without mass population revolt than are many illegal but less addictive drugs, such as cannabis or psychedelics. But no, they shouldn't be driving or operating heavy machinery or be operating on my appendix, among other things that put others at risk.

We also agree concerning pornography; its production should only involve consenting adults, and its consumption should also be restricted to adults, as should prostitution, gambling and drug use. However, a pregnant teen should be able to decide for herself whether or not to bear a child, and it makes no sense to me for us to jail a nineteen year old for having a relationship, homosexual or otherwise, with a seventeen year old. These circumstances need to be judged on a case-by-case basis, with puberty being a major demarcation line.

I also agree with you on prostitution (and should have included it in my list) as long as it is not pimp-coerced. A person who owns their own body should definitely be permitted to rent it out for previously agreed-upon compensation, if that is what they want to do.

Over to you.


You don't ban guns/gambling/driving to everyone just because some will make bad descisions when doing it.

Likewise, you can't argue that because some other countries abort in ways you find morally objectionable, means neither that we are heading down that slope, nor that all abortion must be banned.

This, like most analogies, isn't perfect. But it holds up this far: If you wish to ban something, it isn't sufficient to merely say some will misuse the action in question.

That said, I'd still rather not discuss this issue much... its not something anyone
s going to be convinced of, and it is NOT germane to the issue of responsibility, since both sides believe their position best champions the issue of responsibility.


Oh, and Robin Munn let off this howler:

Not since the 3rd century B.C. have most people believed that the earth was flat. That's when Eratosthenes measured...

And of course, the very moment Eratosthenes made the measurement, the truth was made known worldwide via the internet. And of course, no one dared disbelieve him, since there was of course no disagreements among the scientific community, of which the peasants who burned people were obviously a part:

Somewhere, some time in what is now known as Germany:

"Yar! Burn that there heretic! Get the wood, Jarvis!"

"Not so fast, Sven. I read in dis here 'scientific american' dat the earth really is round, jes like the fellow said"

"Well, uh, ok Jarvis... but what's a 'American'? For that matter, I thought you can't read?"

"Oh, my bad. I'll get the kindlin."

That said, I think the earth-is-center-of-universe controversy would have made for a better analogy, but then Gallileo had friends in the Church (his most bitter critics were fellow scinetists, not the Church per se).

In Texas before Lawrence, it actually was legal to insert a gerbil up your anus. It was illegal to make love with another human being if that person was of the same sex as you. The tyrants of the "Right" want to send their Moral Gestapo into your bedroom to stop you from making love. The tyrants of the "Left" want to send _their_ Gestapo into your bedroom to search for guns so you can't defend yourself against _any_ Gestapo. The choice between the two tyrannies is like that between Uday and qusay.

Well, I thought that was a great essay, Bill. I liked it over most of your other essays, namely on the grounds that I found it dealt more with issues I had strong opinions about (personal responsibility) and it applies more uniformly to places outside the States than others (guess where I live; just today I saw a movie at the largest mall in the world; yeah, bitch)

Starting with my two cents on the original article, (and don't expect me to remain coherent; I'm the metaphorical eclectic hyper hummingbird) yes, personal responsibility has degenerated into a "blame Canada!" -esque quagmire of stupidity. (I loved that song, for anyone who knows it) Unfortunately, there is little incentive for any kind of "honor" among these people; there's what, self satisfaction? Pfft. Today is the "me" generation! Give me my million! That's why the best cure for this is to effectively neuter some of these lawyers' power. For example, "loser pays" legislation and reward caps. (such as 2x medical fees in compensation, or two months salary punitive, but these are just guesses) Also, one problem I have (totally my problem, though, to avoid being PC) is that ocassionally it almost seems like you're bashing on all liberals when you only mean the kind like Micheal Moore, since I am a liberal/centric Canadian.

Now, to move on, I think that personal responsibility can be made into a very grey issue. Just an example, if one person really, really needed to go somewhere but couldn't drive, but the other person didn't feel confident enough to avoid, say, a four-car pileup, would it be responsible to avoid the risk, thus insuring something bad for the first person, or take it, endangering even more people? To apply it to birth, is it more responsible to terminate the fetus? Is it more responsible to place the burden on the state? Or is it more responsible to burden yourself when you cannot handle such a burden? The first option avoids shirking responsibility later (or making a mistake at some point), but can cause complications and is also irresponsible. The second places the burden on someone else to avoid an ethical decision, and the third could destroy one person's life and turn the child into a criminal all for the sake of responsibility. And the fact that it's morally grey and can never be defined for certain creates another problem. (You can't say a child will be a criminal until they commit a crime)

Since I've run out of coherency for the day, I plan to resort to snippets now:

About (India's? Africa's?) "abort the girls!" strategy: If I cut off my nose to spite my face, I have to live with the consequences just as much as these people; as Rachel Lucas would say, they're asshats. (backwards asshats, I might add)

About 'The Lemon' and "The Life-Cycle of a News Story": Ha ha ha! That was awesome!

About me: I'm a shoe.

About abortion: I'm "pro-choice". Or "anti-life". Depending on your political preference.

About the political compass: I'm one point left (Liberal) and two points down (Libertarian) which makes me comfortably centric and erring on the welfare/individual rights side of the coin.

About religion, since I'm a lurker turned poster: I'm atheist/agnostic, depending on how much I care.

About welfare: git them lazy asses out of it!

Eric G. You may now lynch me.

Nooooo! I didn't mean it!

Mr. Whittle-

Little late but thank you for the fine compliment.

Astronomy has always been one of my biggest passions and I feel extremely fortunate to have seen what I did see.

Glad ya like the site...worked my tail off on it with no formal training!

That was the coolest! And it took less than a day to read! WHOO!!

Everyone go to

The main thing I have been trying to burn into the cerebral cortex of my kids' brains is responsibility for their own actions. I tell them that no one is to blame if they screw up except themselves, and they better be ready to face the consequences when they do.

You should be required reading in every high school. Can't wait for the book.


Hmm. I had this good post responding to the abortion thread all ready to go (that brought up things not previously mentioned in these comments), but then I find out that Bill wants that discussion stopped. Oh well.

Let me just say this instead: I enjoyed your essay, Bill, and I agree with many of your points. I linked to it on my blog, so you may get one or two more readers. My blog doesn't have that big a readership. ;)

One quick comment on something that came up in several comments. Why preface a comment with "I'm not religious, but ..."? Being religious does not preclude the ability to reason--some of our greatest thinkers were deeply religious. Christian, even. A lack of reasoning ability is not tied to being religious.

Just look at how many 'non-religious' people go through life just parroting what they see on TV. Or what they hear on NPR. That sounds like a lack of reasoning ability to me.

Anyway, thanks for the essay, Bill, and good luck with your book.

Right, but what makes a law a "hate crime" law as opposed to one of the laws I already mentioned is the THOUGHT and INTENT behind the crime. If you beat the crap out of a white man, it's assault. If you beat the crap out of a black man and also call him a nigger, it's a hate crime. (Unless you're also black, in which case it's assault and possibly also a hit album.) But both men are equally beaten up, equally harmed. Why does there need to be a "hate" provision?

LabRat I agree on your argument on the classification of the crime, I however disagree with the extent of protection. In BW Essay it was stated that all speech should be free, and I disagree with that. Speech which incites violence and discrimination is a crime and should be dealt accordingly. Whether one calls it 'hate' or 'defamation' or 'whatever'.

Speech itself cannot be controlled by banning, if you classify 'nigger' as an abusive word and ban people from using it, then another word will soon emerge. The idea is to deter the act from causing damage.

Schools teaching hatred to children, who have lesser defense mechanisms for understanding and logic, teachers who abuse the trust associated with their positions have committed an act which in turn causes crime, it is the 'responsibility' of the teacher, and if they do not want to take that responsibility, then the responsibility of the state, to ensure that speech is not abused.

Speech is an extremely powerful tool and to classify it in the 'words can never hurt me ' category is to declare that the fundametalist clerics preaching hatred to America and to Western civilisation had no responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

...And as far as extent of punishment based on intent. Should a person who succesfully drives home drunk without causing an accident be punished? Effectively he has not 'touched' anyones nose.
... And if caught should he be punished to the extent of a person who drives home drunk and causes an accident?

That is where 'common sense' comes into effect.

Chris mentioned that he believed Americans were more conformist rather than more individualist. Not according to Stanley Milgram, we aren't.

I will 'splain. No, there's no time, I will sum up. (I have to hurry through this, as I will shortly be leaving for the MN State Fair, where I will get the pleasure of watching James Lileks fill in for Hugh Hewitt. Weep with envy, Bleat-ophiles!) *ahem* Sorry. Back to the point.

In the 1960s, behavioral scientist Stanley Milgram performed a number of experiments to determine how strongly we would obey authority. He brought in his test subjects and sat them down in a room, where a guy in a White Lab Coat and holding The Clipboard (the authority figure) would be running the show.

The subject was told that he was participating in an experiment to determine how punishment effects learning. He had a panel in front of him with a button and a dial. He would ask someone in another room a series of questions. Whenever the other guy got a wrong answer, the subject would administer a 5-second jolt of electricity, then turn the dial up a notch. At the right end of the dial was a big red "XXX" label, indicating a fatal dose of juice.

The other guy, of course, was NOT connected to any electrodes. As I said, the REAL purpose of the experiment was to determine Americans' obedience to authority. As the person on the "recieving" end of the electric jolts kept screaming louder and louder, the subject would be told by the guy with the Lab Coat and the Clipboard to "Keep going, this is important." Long story short, 65% of Milgram's American subjects would, at the urging of the authority figure, administer a fatal dose of electricity.

As bad as that sounds, it turns out that Americans are the LEAST obedient people on earth. When these experiments were performed in other countries, the rates went up. Germans had the most obedient population, with 85% of the Krauts administering the fatal jolt. This goes a long way to explaining why we had to go kick their asses twice in the preciding 100 years.

Dave's analogy of Republicans and Democrats is rather simplistic. On it's surface it sorta makes sense. But the two political parties are more like a sliding scale.

Parts of the Republican party don't want you to be able to shove a gerbil up your ass because the thought of it is disgusting to them. Part will look at the health care costs (it can't be a healthy thing to do) and attempt to pass a law to stop the activity. Part could care less, just don't tell them about it either (that would be me).

Parts of the Democratic party will let you shove the gerbil up your ass. They'll even promote the activity (freedom and all that). But there will be parts that wouldn't allow you too either. PETA comes to mind (those poor defenseless animals!). As well as those that look at the potential health costs associated with the action (again,it can't be a healthy thing to do) and would pass a series to taxes to help pay for the costs. The anti-smoking crowd is a good example of this (I'm not saying that they are all Democrats either - it just seems that the majority of them are).

There are Republicans that will tell you how you should act. There are also Democrats that will tell you how you should act. IMHO, both look at you and think you can't make a decision on what's best for you without their help and input. I can't stand either kind.

I think there are a lot of people (label them the silent majority, middle America, the great unwashed, whatever) who go through life making decisions about their lives and taking responsibility for those decisions. They turn a blind eye to "those politicians in Washington" because, for the most part, the politicians don't impact them all that much.

I'm rambling and will quit now. This is much longer than I had intended - and I take full responsibility!

Thanks for another great essay Bill.

D*mn! I try and get cute with italics and screw up the whole post.

fixed get those bad italics away

now fixed once more, pesky italics

Ryan Waxx,

Please stop putting words in my mouth.

"And of course, the very moment Eratosthenes made the measurement, the truth was made known worldwide via the internet."

Of course not. But do you realize how long a century is? Eratosthenes was a famous philosopher, and when he wrote a book, it got discussed among the philosophical community.

"And of course, no one dared disbelieve him, since there was of course no disagreements among the scientific community..."

I never said that either. Of course there were disagreements among the philosophical community (in the times of the Greeks, "science" and "philosophy" were not two separate concepts, they were considered one and the same). If you'd bothered to read the links I provided, you'd know that. The third link especially, Myth of the Flat Earth, mentions some of the dissenters, such as Leukippos and Demokritos. But the point is that there was general consensus among educated people that the earth was round, very early on. Note that Eratosthenes was by no means the first to claim the earth was round. That honor goes to Pythagoras, the philosopher/mathematician/geometer, all the way back in the 6th century B.C. Aristotle, living in the 4th century B.C., also claimed that the earth was round.

If you'd read the fourth link I provided, Medievals and Flat Earth, you would have seen, near the bottom, the following: "The spherical conception of the earth was unknown prior to the 5th century B.C., and it appeared early (if not necessarily first) among the Pythagoreans. A powerful idea, sphericity seems to have triumphed almost completely in about a century, and Aristotle probably considered his proofs of sphericity in *On the Heavens* common knowledge among the educated."

Finally, we seem to be talking past each other on one point. I'm talking about educated people, people who had read Pythagoras and Aristotle and Eratosthenes. You're talking about peasants, uneducated people who had no time to learn to read because they had to work pretty much from dawn to dusk to keep themselves fed and clothed. Well, I'm not a medieval historian, so you shouldn't take my word for it, but I invite you to go to any medieval historian and ask him the following questions:

1) What was the general attitude of the uneducated towards the educated in medieval times? Was it one of respect or of derision? If an uneducated man, talking to a scholar, heard him claim the earth was round, what would his reaction be?

2) Was it the uneducated people who had others burned at the stake, or was it the educated people?

Then go get a second opinion. And a third. I think you'll find the answers surprising: I think you'll discover that 1) the uneducated took the answers of the learned on faith, even if (like a round earth) it didn't quite seem to make sense, and 2) it was scholars, not peasants, who had people burned at the stake.

For what it's worth, I agree with you that the heliocentric vs. terracentric debate would have been a much better example.

Gah! I meant "geocentric", not "terracentric", of course.

"This level of arrogance is beyond my ability to parody, frankly."

Just curious. Is this a shot at Frank J.??


Great post as ussual.

Lets do a thought experiment to test whether a fertilized egg is the same thing as a human being.

Let's say that you are visting a fertility clinic. You noticed when you came in that there is a freezer and looking closer you can tell by the log that there are 4000 fertilized eggs stored inside.

After taking a seat, another visitor asks you to watch her small baby while she vists the restroom. While she's away, a fire breaks out and quickly rages.

Now, given the extent of the fire, you must quickly get away. Unfortunately, there's only enough time to save the 4000 fertilized eggs or the baby, but not both.

Which one do you pick?

Lurker: Not a fair thought experiment, really. Replace your 4000 fertilized eggs with another baby. Now which one do you pick? And what does that prove? That one of the babies was more human than another?

Surely we can do better in our description of the problem than that.

The Libertarian web site has a review of
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

(I DID IT, thanks Robin!)

^^^ Sorry, I got a little carried away with my new html powers and I forgot to mention that the theme of the book (and the review) has to do with many of the topics we are discussing here, fighting tyranny, the place of government, the responsibilities of citizens. And no I do not think it is a big stretch include a so-called children's book to the topic at hand.


My G-d, man, 241 comments!

I guess that comes from having the clarity of thought that comes from being a friggin' genius. And the courage to say what needs to be said, without apology or hesitation.

Congratulations on another outstanding post.

It's me again, I have to leave for work soon, so my rampant abuse of power will be curtailed forthwith, but for those of you who were interested enough to read the HP review I posted above, but you did not know the Ayn Rand reference, here is the new "cliff notes" i.e. the Amazon Reader Reviews for the book mentioned in that review.

Russ: It has been said that a fertilized egg is equally human as a living breathing person. If one truly believe this to be true, then the only choice is to save the fertialized eggs, leaving the ababy to die. That's a 4000-to-1 ratio. You made a strawman of my point by changing the ratio to 1-to-1. Are you saying that a fertilized egg is worth exactly one four-thousanth as much as a baby? Didn't think so.....

Now, why don't you answer my ORIGINAL question?

I thought I would post this quote from a Washington Post article:
"They are in a bit of a state of denial," board member Douglas D. Osheroff, a Nobel laureate physicist at Stanford University, said of NASA's managers. "They don't want to admit they played a part in the loss of seven astronauts. But if people do not accept personal responsibility . . . there will be no changes."

If you want the whole article its here:

If ever there was an example of both the idea of personal responsibility and the idea of 'collective awareness' (or shirking personal responsability in other words) in one place NASA would be it. Where else do you have men and women like the astronauts accept personal responsibility for their choices, they know that the shuttle can kill them but they accept it and go on anyway. Yet when an accident does occur their bosses say that it's everyones fault and thus no ones fault, instead of saying that there were things they personaly and individually could and should have done that might have prevented this from happening and accepting their personal share of the blame

Lurker: I am going to take Bill's advice and move our abortion/thought experiment discussion off of the comments section to email.


Thanks EB for the link, I've not yet read the latest installment of Harry Potter, but the first four were wonderful. And I think that you make an excellent point in bringing up Ayn Rand. It seems to me that Mr. Whittle's readers tend to be innately libertarian whether they consider themselves so or not, and Rand is an essential read for anyone who takes personal responsibility seriously.

Now we really need to question what role Bill should play in the new administration. I am onestly think that he should be President. He lays out the Platform with such clarity.

I'm buying your book. Maybe enough copies for an inner-city school classrooms!

These words must spread.

Frank J is one funny SOB.

Damn straight.

I hadn't been paying attention the comments for a day or so, but obviously they went in the right direction.

I laughed at the dimocrats,
I shook my fist in anger,
I looked in the mirror and cried.

All hail Bill, another job better than well done.

Black Oak--

As I said, the gerbil analogy (anal-ogy?) was an imperfect nutshell oversimplification. My point was that by and large, most Republicans will be appalled at the thought of a gerbil going Up There, and most Democrats would say "Hey, whatever floats your boat." Then there are the people like me who say "Leave the damn rodents alone and let me keep my money!" Amazingly enough, we want our cake AND we want to eat it too.

And speaking of eating, the trip to the State Fair was wonderful. You haven't lived until you've tried the Battered Australian Potatoes. (Battered as in "deep fried", not "abused" spud slices.) And meeting with Lileks was as much fun as one would expect. My only regret for the whole day was that I didn't bring "The Gallery of Regrettable Food" for a 'graph. (There's always next year.)


No, VRWCman. That gerbil analogy makes far less sense in a democrat vs. rebliublican scale than it does on a libertarian/authoritarian scale.

An authoritarian leftist... for example PETA would make anal gerbelling a felony to protect the animal.

An authoritarian rightist... for example Pat Robertson... would make it illegal also, but this tine as part of the array of vice laws.

And as you approach the libertarian end of the scale, the question becomes less of "what right do you to shove a gerbil up your ass" than it does "what right does government have to use force to prevent you from shoving a gerbil up your ass".

But now that you have the gerbil firmly lodged in your anus, who is going to pay the emergency room bill for fishing george the gerbil out?

Welcome to legislation in the 'out there. WAY out there' zone...

Oh, and a parting thought...

Democrats, Republicans...

From the gerbil's point of view, averyone is looking like an asshole :)

Good night.

Damn! I could have been the third commenter but I wanted to reflect and now look. Crap.
Bill I have a VERY major complaint about your latest essay. Here it comes.
You state that the non-racist conservative as a 'new thing', as if we old conservatives were racist prior to, um, sometime.
There is nothing about racism in conservatism. Conservatism, by it's very nature sees human beings as individual. Racists see individuals as part and parcel of a group. Racism is a collectivist idea. It's telling that the only ex-Kleagle of the Klu Klux Klan seving in the United States Senate is a 'liberal' Democrat.
Sir, you insulted the very basics of conservatism. Conservatism is also singularly uninterested in other's sexuality, we want neither to hear about, nor tell you about it. I don't want to hear about your sex life, homosexual or heterosexual because it is none of my business. My sex life, or rather, at my age mostly ex-sex life is none of your damned business. The only time someone's sex life is any of my business is when it involves me or mine. In the case of forcible rape involving two (or more) strangers it is my duty to stop it if I can and, if I can't stop it, be part of the societal solution as the victims are, however distantly, part of the 'me or mine'.
It is my contention that modern liberalism is inheirently racist, sexist and all of those other Bad Things (tm) because it turns individual human beings into part and parcel of a group.
That one mistake in an otherwise great essay had me so furious I waited a week before mentioning it. During that week I, if you'll pardon the expression, stayed so mad I chewed railroad spikes and shit thumbtacks. I am, however, a believer in individual responsibility and thus will pay for the Preperation H myself.

Two major effects have been left out of essays like your own, perhaps by calculation if not cowardice. Those are the Drug War and the Art World and their effect on the pivotal problem of the spoiling of our children's education as citizens.

Consider the effect of the Drug War on high school kids. This is their main dose of blatantly "government imposed" special education, visiting cops included. Despite programs like DARE causing drug use to in fact go up, worse is that when kids figure out that they were LIED to about the dangers of marijuana (or magic mushroom camping trips) which are in simple fact statistically minuscule compared to alcohol use, they quickly adopt an attitude that government and even adults in general are just jerks who don't deserve their respect or trust. They have to figure out how to take these fully available drugs safely on their own since they were not taught that, and it's hard to be responsible when such drugs are not regulated by the FDA and they mistrust legitimate warnings about narcotics too. They have to do this with alcohol too, due to the drinking age. This tainted educational effect is vastly amplified when they get around to dropping acid under such circumstances, under the life-changing influence of an "expanded consciousness." Prohibition doesn't work at all for LSD which is distributed on tiny squares of paper. Just like abortion, prohibition of it does more harm than good, no matter how anti-drug soccer mom's are.

Any surprise thus that the vast majority of anti Drug War activists are also blanket anti Bush and anti War on Terror? They conspiratorially blame "the government," not understanding that we really do have representational government and that it was THEIR soccer mom who voted for the "tough on drugs" politician. If reminded of this they blame mom's voting record on anti-drug propaganda, including the commercials linking drug profits (caused by prohibition not drug use which prohibition does not stop at all) to terrorism.

"Prohibition goes beyond the bonds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes." – Abraham Lincoln

(continued) The billion dollar Art World has a corrosive effect too: ever since Duchamp's toilet (!) was elevated to a million dollar object, there has been no distinction between great versus worthless art tolerated. Again, what does this teach our kids? It's all a cynical power play. Even though any kid could whip up a perfect copy of a Mondrian, they don't, and not just because Mondrian sucks in the objective sense that the content is banal, but since the value lies in the artist's signature in a sort of religious icon worship in which the celebrity artist is deified. And why should a student learn to paint any more, a slowly won skill which will harm their effort to get attention from an Art World consisting of a few dozen academics and dealers of postmodernist persuasion. It's con art, and is in part responsible for churning out willfully idiotic graduates. The Nouveau Riche buy into high society by purchasing such "art," and ridicule anybody who thinks clearly as being unable to "appreciate" it. We have here the inversion of the Emperor's New Cloths being taught to students, with real world examples!

"We tend to think and feel in terms of the art we like and if the art we like is bad then our thinking and feeling will be bad. And if the thinking and feeling of most of the individuals composing a society is bad, is not that society in danger?" – Aldous Huxley

I am a former Harvard trained scientist who gave up academic plans to study brain molecules due to Drug War red tape. Research into safer alternatives to existing high potency street drugs is not being done and your children are dying because of it, Soccer Mom! Now I am an artist who has bitterly discovered the postmodern Art World, turning sculptures into chandeliers to make a buck. I am posting pseudo-anonymously to avoid ready identification as a potential drug user and anti-government activist. I am one of the repressed, and hope your essay will get to students in time that they may grow to set us free.

Peter is right. It seems that racism is more prevalent among liberals than in the conservative movement. True racism is the belief that your race, ethnicity, social status, etc. is the determimative factor in what you are and become in life. There is a huge faction of liberalism that institutionalizes this form of racism. These people accuse others of racism if they do not consider race or ethnicity in every situation.

The conservative view is exactly what Bill has described in "Responsibility." We, none of us, are to be victimized or privileged by our skin color or where we started out in life. It is the responsibility of each of us to strive to become what we wish to be.

We must work to marginalize the adherents of group think and to support those who recognize personal responsibility as the backbone of what this country was, is and should be.

What does it tell our kids to think when John Ashcroft, responsible for terror defence, is forced to spend his time busting bong shops and chasing down nudie magazines? Conservatives and not leftists are responsible for much of our mess too.

Tim writes: Yet when an accident does occur their bosses say that it's everyones fault and thus no ones fault, instead of saying that there were things they personaly and individually could and should have done that might have prevented this from happening and accepting their personal share of the blame."

re: NASA
The CAIB will be coming out with their final report soon (Aug. 26), and I have been following a lot of their work by reading the transcripts on their web page. One of the things that is important to distinquish about the personal responsibility issue and who's head should roll, if I read your comment accurately, is that a witch hunt against a single person, or scape goat for which to place all blame, negates the true reason to do an ivestigation of this kind. To actually find and fix the problems, plural, that led to the tragic event. Not just point a finger at someone and fire them, which fixes nothing.

The CAIB will determine that the Shuttle is still an "experimental" space craft, and that it should be treated as such. Having many successful launches and returns from orbit is not the guage of success in this case. Many, many people at NASA have the responsibility for safety, and they have been beguiled by their successes, into thinking that foam falling from a strut on launch is acceptable, because in the past it only caused minor damage and was a maintenance issue, and not a "throw up the red flags" emergency type issue.

After the tragic events of Apollo 1, Challenger and now Columbia, there will undoubtedly be a change at NASA to help create a management culture which will work within realistic safety margins in order to continue an inherently risky business. But space travel is still experimental and not routine. And there isn't one person at NASA who is personally responsible for this tragic accident in which 7 astronauts lost their lives.

I wanted to take the time to mention that even though I don't post very regularly here, I do think about things I've read here long afterwards, the essays and the comments, too. Thanks to everyone who took the time to post thoughful commentary, even if I disagree with you I often think about what you've said, and I realize it is a major investment in time to just read everything here..... so thanks to everyone for their contributions. I really enjoy coming here.

I am on a dialup connection and the last thing to load on the page is the "before and after pics" of Abe, and I have to say they are not a compelling ad for consuming responsibility! The afteraffects seems quite harsh! Blissful irresponsibility and ignorance will leave one's demeanor and appearance less ravaged and more smooth, and our present pop-culture mores will no doubt be seldom consumers of such a stoic, medicinal brand called Responsibility.

It occured to me that prior to seeing the final report of the CAIB, readers may be interested in reading an overview of what has transpired to date, and I heartily recommend Bill Harwood's excellent reporting here.


Your litmus test of responsibility to measure where a person stands on social and political issues has a fundamental flaw. It is one dimensional. It only addresses the source of responsibility as the individual or society. In other words, who does one blame, the individual or society?

You need a second dimension to your responsibility test: to whom is an individual responsible? In other words, what is the level of responsibility an individual has for others? Is an individual going be self-centered, or is he or she going to consider the effects of their choice on other people?

I agree with most of what you wrote, but I was a little disappointed in your essay. You captured my attention with a great little story about the Actor's Nightmare as a way to introduce responsibility, but you left it hanging. You did not follow through and tell the whole story on responsibility. You correctly identified the source of responsibility as that of the individual, but failed to link an individual's responsibility to his or her community. (You implied it in a couple examples, but never explicitly came out and addressed it.) The actor in the nightmare not only fails in his responsibility to himself, but more importantly, he fails in his responsibility to others.

The previous comment makes a lot of sense. It was John Wild of Northwestern University who, in his book EXISTENCE AND THE WORLD OF FREEDOM (Prentice-Hall 1963, Part III (FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY) Chapters 6-8, pp. 101 - 155), performed a phenomenology of the concept of responsibility, revealing its fundamental for-to structure, that is, people are responsible FOR X TO Y. I highly recommend it.

Jamie, Peter, and all those who have been trying to work out whether RESPONSIILITY is a "liberal" idea, a "conservative" idea or neither.

The problem is the curious nature of American politics. The origin of the term "conservative" is those who wished to defend the status quo in the face of various revolutions in Europe from 1789 onwards, hence the term is used to describe those who wish to maintain a traditional national character.

In America, that means the term can be applied both to those who want to uphold the values of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (i.e. individual liberty) and to those who want to uphold the values "traditional" Americans actually valued (i.e. Christianity). It can also stretch to those who want to protect traditional Americans as a group without regard to values (racists etc.) All these groups can legitimately claim to be "conservatives" and do - and since they are all found within the Republican party it is easy to think they are the same thing. They obviously aren't.

These people then call their political opponents "liberals" without regard to their actual views. And American socialists are happy to call themselves "liberals" as well because what feeble chance they have of getting themselves elected is higher that way.

Conclusion: neither "liberal" nor "conservative" in common American usage actually says anything at all about what a person thinks.

In the rest of the world it is a lot easier because the traditional values do not include individual freedom. Those who want to conserve traditional values are "conservatives", those who value liberty are "liberals" and socialists are "social democrats" because that sounds better. And they all have their own political parties.

Of course, in France the conservatives are socialist, the socialists are worse, and the liberals have less than 3% of the vote.

This post on individual responsibility is interesting.

I have just started reading "Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties", by Paul Johnson. I started reading it because some people claim that the book is the best available history of the 20th century. I certainly find a lot of interesting stuff in the book that my school never got around to discussing.

There were many wars, genocides, and other disasters in the 20th century.

According to the ex-leftist Johnson, group responsibility is the villian. Individual responsibility is the hero. Many many names of (ir)responsible intellectuals are explicitly called out, with citations to the writings where they clearly did damage.

I know I'll disagree with the author in various places as I read more of the book, but I find it highly interesting.

Wonderful essay, as always. I was inspired to write about the role that incentives play in increasing or decreasing personal responsibility, especially in the context of social welfare. Too long to be a comment so I blogged it here. I also found a never given commencement speech by Neal Boortz that is almost a companion piece to your essay.

Rarely have such long interludes between posts been so worth enduring.


Bill -

Your works are brilliant. Thank you for the inspiration.

Eb said:The CAIB will be coming out with their final report soon (Aug. 26), and I have been following a lot of their work by reading the transcripts on their web page. One of the things that is important to distinquish about the personal responsibility issue and who's head should roll, if I read your comment accurately, is that a witch hunt against a single person, or scape goat for which to place all blame, negates the true reason to do an ivestigation of this kind. To actually find and fix the problems, plural, that led to the tragic event. Not just point a finger at someone and fire them, which fixes nothing.

The CAIB will determine that the Shuttle is still an "experimental" space craft, and that it should be treated as such. Having many successful launches and returns from orbit is not the guage of success in this case. Many, many people at NASA have the responsibility for safety, and they have been beguiled by their successes, into thinking that foam falling from a strut on launch is acceptable, because in the past it only caused minor damage and was a maintenance issue, and not a "throw up the red flags" emergency type issue.

After the tragic events of Apollo 1, Challenger and now Columbia, there will undoubtedly be a change at NASA to help create a management culture which will work within realistic safety margins in order to continue an inherently risky business. But space travel is still experimental and not routine. And there isn't one person at NASA who is personally responsible for this tragic accident in which 7 astronauts lost their lives.
I just read your comment EB, and no I wasn't trying to single out one person at NASA as being responsible, although it seems that the way they are treating Linda Hamm (I think that was her name) is pretty darn close to a scape goat. I beleive that they moved her from a flight controler post to one of their other Nasa centers. The problem I have with this is that a)they said that she didn't allow the photos to be taken, but there are a lot of people that could have gotten them taken if they really wanted to and yet they, like her, didn't think it was that serious b)she wasn't technicaly qualified, well there are a lot of people including Sean O'keafe, the Nasa adminastrator, who aren't technically qualified. Also her husband is a Nasa astronaut and it seems pretty hard to beleive that a woman like that wouldn't do her damndest to protect the crew if she beleived they were in danger.

There are a lot of things I could say but what I was trying to say in my first comment is that from that article, and not just that article but several things I have seen and read, my feeling is that some of the people at Nasa in positions of authority are going to try and continue with bussiness as usual. Instead of taking the caib's findings on the chin they are going to try and soften the blow. I thought of something after my first post, I was not trying to make a blanket statement about the general competence of all Nasa employees it might have seemed that way, nor was I even making a blanket statement about Nasa bosses.

I have a strong inclination that there are some people at Nasa who are shirkers, but of course you find these people everywhere, my fear is that there are people like this in positions that could foul up and undermine the CAIB. I whole hartedly agree that it was totally irresponsible to treat the space shuttle as an operational vehicle, but maybe I'm putting words in your mouth all you said was that they are going to start treating it as an experimental vehicle, to my mind after reading about the shuttle I feel that it should always have been treated as an experimantal vehicle. Only six airframes were ever built (counting enterprise which was basicly identical to columbia as far as just the airframe is concerned)and in almost thirty years it has flown less than the X-15 did in six or seven. I think Nasa has to be an awfull example of, for want of a better term, socailism.

Bear with me for a minute while I explain, we have a state run manned access to space program which aproved through consensus our one and only, official 'space transportation system'. Rather than building several competing designs and testing them and seeing what works and what doesn't we pour all money into one design and one organization which is contrary to how it works in any and every field that I can think of. I am a beleiver in the forces of a healthy, free market.
Beyond that I have a personal desire to go into space and I don't think Nasa is going to ever solve the problem of routine space flight on a massive scale, at least not the way Nasa is now. I have a lot more faith in the xprize teams, if you haven't heard of them then then you might want to head over to, they may be a bunch of space cadets but to my mind they are tackling the problem of space flight right i.e. they are each starting with there own notion of how to put people in space (but not orbit) then they are each seperatly building vehicles and seeing what works and when it doesn't work they go back to the drawing board and more importantly they aren't begging for scraps from the government they are either funding vehicles out of pocket or finding private investors. So people can say they're crackpots but they can't say that taxpayer money is being wasted and the federal government can and does regulate the vehicles but they can't limit project budgets to a paltry percent of the gross national product. I'm sorry I realize I have gone a bit off topic not only for this comments board but also in my reply to Eb's reply.

Nasa has needed something like the caib for awhile to do house cleaning. I guess, even six months later, it still gets to me that it took the Columbia accident for this investigation to take place. To my mind Nasa's proper function is the same as Naca's was, to be a research orginization not an operations orginization. I hope I have been clear enough, I'm not as eloquent as Bill Whittle or some of the other commentors but these comments are my opinion. I just remembered that I haven't said thanks to Bill for the wonderful essay.

Thank you Bill not for just this wonderful essay but all of them, they should be required reading at school.

I hope that the Caib is able to make the necesary changes and as a citizen and a voter I will do my best to play my part in any way that I can. If anybody is intrested these are some sites I have found that are pertinent to spaceflight or, at least they amuse me,
this is the Caib's official site

As an aside, the reason that I said thet the Nasa adminastrator isn't technicaly qualified is that he doesn't have a technical background and he doesn't have a degree in either engineering, physics, or science. His background is in adminestration and acounting his degree is in acounting. This is not to say he isn't, at least, somewhat qualified for the job. I do feel that he is doing the best job he knows how to do I will leave it up to each individual to decide if that is good enough or not. My point is that if they are going to remove Linda Hamm for not being technicaly qualified then there are other people that could be removed for the same reason.

I hope that nobody takes this as a personal attack except Nasa, they need to change and I will shout it from the rooftops. I do think they can do a good job but like every orginization they pick up beuracracy over time, or their method becomes outdated, and they need to clean house or they will be replaced. If anything in this is flat out wrong in terms of facts somebody please tell me. If somebody disagrees with me well I'm sure I don't even need to say anything I will find out
Now that I have made this comment way to long I will bid good day
p.s. I absolutly agree that no one person or even the whole orginization could be put on trial for anything they have done, this accident like every other is the result of dumb luck, or fate, or even statistics depending on which way your views lay (hence the word accident).
p.p.s(I'll quit now I promise)I know a witch hunt is absolutly distasteful I wasn't trying to say that we should be pointing the finger at the guys at Nasa I was trying to say that that it's their responsibility to look in the mirror point the finger and say 'Their is something you could have done' and then move on and do everything they can from that point on I also think that a lot of the men and women there have done this but I am troubled because there are some who haven't, who don't want to admit nasa has a culture problem.

After thinking some more about Bill's Responsibility essay, I suppose essay is the word you would use unless you prefer manifesto :), I have a quote that might be able to sum it up. From the Beatles Abbey Road album:

"...your gonna carry that weight..."

I don't suppose this is a Beatles crowd is it, or maybe it is.

I am responsible FOR myself TO myself.

Bill, You do yourself a disservice with your "simple words of protest". They are indeed simple, and by their use, show that the PC brigade are winning their war on rational thought. Already they have stripped you of the vocabulary needed to articulate your disgust, and so you resort to expletives. They may now disregard your essay with as a rant of no consequence by one of a simple mind.

Such is their intent - no rational thought is possible once the vocabulary to form a reasonable argument has been stripped fromthe populance. Society descends into a mob whose actions are easy to control through emotive retoric.

Only if you allow it, Anonymous Coward. I will not let someone dictate how I write or think or speak.

Those PC police will never have control over me because I won't let them.

If someone gets offended, that's on them...not me. That is the whole point of "Responsibility" Society needs to quit blaming everyone else for how they feel, what happens to them, where they's all on the individual's shoulders, not mine.

Tim, I enjoyed reading your reply, and I am also sorry if I misunderstood your brief first comment, I can see now that you are not trying to take the easy way out by resorting to the technique of firing someone as an "example." When the press briefings first started after the accident I really liked Ron Dittemore, as he was personable and engaging, and I did not care for the demeanour of Admiral Gehman, and now after a lot of reading, I respect Gehman tremendously! And I am sorry for Dittemore, because he believed what people told him, namely that the foam wasn't an issue. As it turns out the computer models they were using were inadequate to come to the determination that the foam was strike was benign.

(As you probably know, Tim, a lot of NASA stuff is sub-contracted out now to private industry, so while the "free market" isn't at work at least government is getting out of the business of some of the NASA project support work, etc.)

And I also agree with you that we should return the comments back to the original Topic now, but I enjoyed reading what you had to say and I am glad you took the time to clarify what you meant, sorry if I misunderstood at first.

Mark writes: "You need a second dimension to your responsibility test: to whom is an individual responsible? In other words, what is the level of responsibility an individual has for others? Is an individual going be self-centered, or is he or she going to consider the effects of their choice on other people?"

A perfect example of that question happened to me yesterday when the power went out in a small neighborhood where I was shopping. As people got in their cars to leave, the stores chased everyone out, none of the traffic lights were operational.

The through traffic on the main road was proceeding through the intersection, the people on the cross street were stuck. Some we able to turn right to merge into traffic, no such luck on people wanting to turn left.

The people driving on the main road were all driving responsibly, obeying the speed limit, staying in their lane.

A police car showed up very quickly (the power had been out about 20 mins by then, but a lot of folks had stayed by the store in case the power came back on) so an officer arrived and got out to direct traffic. In his official capacity he was allowing the people who were stuck to get going and turn left. Otherwise, all the responsible people would never have stopped and allowed the opposing traffic to proceed. At least it seemed that way to me! (Yes, I wanted to turn left.)

Some people would say that a driver should have gotten out and directed traffic. And since I was stopped there less than 5 mins maybe it could have come to that, repsonsible citizens acting repsonsibly for the greater welfare of all.

I was just glad that I, 5'1" didn't have to get out and try to persuade the Jeeps going by at 45 mph, that I was acting for the greater welfare of all and to STOP.

People should, upon occasion, also be held responsible for their actions to their surrounding society at large, when those actions can adversely affect that society; a corporate or individual polluter who reduces the life spans and/or damages the health of the area populace through poisoning their air, soil and groundwater has shirked a responsibility owed to an entire population. People should be free to manufacture goods, but this freedom entails the obligation and responsibility to those who might be sickened by the waste byproducts for keeping the manufacturing process clean and self-contained.

"After the tragic events of Apollo 1, Challenger and now Columbia, there will undoubtedly be a change at NASA"

It would seem so. But was there a change after all the failures of the early programs? Was there any lasting change after Challenger?

In my opinion, NASA has outlived its usefulness. It should be disbanded. The Air Force can handle military space operations for the next 50 years, and I think it's high time outer space was passed on to the private sector. NASA, like any other government program, has no motive to be efficient or responsible.

It's the same as the government making pens. I have a government pen. It's broken, but I keep it to prove a point. They have no business making pens, the damned socialists! What does the constitution say? Hmm, no pen amendment. No Space program amendment either.

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." -US Constitution, Amendment 10

I assert the people's right to make pens and spacecraft, without the government taking THEIR MONEY in order to compete with them.

But I digress. I shall stop myself now.

Great essay, Bill.

Regarding Deconstructionism, you may well say "This level of arrogance is beyond my ability to parody, frankly."

However it is not beyond the folks at Monash (their ability, mind you - not arrogance) who present for your amusement the Postmodern Generator.

You could write a Berkely Pol Sci or Lt term paper with this thing - probably get good grades, too.

Eb said: "After the tragic events of Apollo 1, Challenger and now Columbia, there will undoubtedly be a change at NASA"

Lord Duppy said :It would seem so. But was there a change after all the failures of the early programs? Was there any lasting change after Challenger?

In my opinion, NASA has outlived its usefulness. It should be disbanded. The Air Force can handle military space operations for the next 50 years, and I think it's high time outer space was passed on to the private sector. NASA, like any other government program, has no motive to be efficient or responsible.

It's the same as the government making pens. I have a government pen. It's broken, but I keep it to prove a point. They have no business making pens, the damned socialists! What does the constitution say? Hmm, no pen amendment. No Space program amendment either.

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." -US Constitution, Amendment 10

I assert the people's right to make pens and spacecraft, without the government taking THEIR MONEY in order to compete with them.

But I digress. I shall stop myself now.
I agree that Nasa didn't realy effect lasting change after the Challenger accident and that any jobs that are realy DoD jobs should be seperated from Nasa.

However I don't agree that we should get rid of Nasa, unless it has become so inflexible that change is imposible. To my mind it is important that we have an aeronautics and space research agency that builds vehicles and tests designs as a compliment to private research. Nasa still has a lot of unique resources in terms of wind tunels and test stands etc. that would probably be lost or scraped if Nasa was just disbanded.

The problem as I see it isn't so much that we have Nasa, it's the fact that Nasa is pretty much all we have. I concede that Nasa is a monoply and, like every monoply, it will try to defend its status as a monoply and keep the status quo, but in the last few years I have seen the start of development in the private sector, some groups have been spectacular failures and some are starting to succede,and a lot (maybe the majority) are still trying. My opinion is that for the moment we should just wait a little while and see what happens.If you go over to you can read that the president has said he is going to wait for the caib final report to come out before he makes a decision, I don't always agree with what our president does but in this instance I do. I know that I am waiting expectantly for the Caib final report to come out this tuesday and I can honestly say that if the outcome of congresional deliberation is to disband Nasa I would be gravely disapointed and that if the outcome were equivalent to no real effective change I would be equaly disapointed.

I sincerly agree that it is absolutly wrong for the government to take our money to compete with the private sector but to spend tax money on research vital to defense and helpful to private citizens and companies not only is beneficial to the country but is part of governments duty.Doing basic and advanced aerospace research "provides for the commen defense and promotes the general welfare"

Bugger. I really shouldn't let things I mean to discuss get away from me like this.

"I however disagree with the extent of protection. In BW Essay it was stated that all speech should be free, and I disagree with that. Speech which incites violence and discrimination is a crime and should be dealt accordingly. Whether one calls it 'hate' or 'defamation' or 'whatever'."

Well, we probably essentially agree on that score, then. I tend to give Bill's essays a certain quibble-free Margin of Rhetorical Error; given the context of the essay, I decided he was addressing the "speech codes" that universities and the European Union had imposed, and not in opposition to things like libel laws and the suppression of speech leading to a very clear and present danger. (In order to write well in this style, one does have to sometimes sacrifice precision for flow.) The line on the latter is fine, but in the context of, say, a Klan rally, I'd call it the difference between speaking for an hour about the perfidy of Jews and niggers and doing the same speech with the coda "Now let's GO GET EM!"

"Schools teaching hatred to children, who have lesser defense mechanisms for understanding and logic, teachers who abuse the trust associated with their positions have committed an act which in turn causes crime, it is the 'responsibility' of the teacher, and if they do not want to take that responsibility, then the responsibility of the state, to ensure that speech is not abused."

If by "the state" you mean the state setting public school standards, then yes. Public schools, as well as federal courts and other state-run bodies, do not have the same individual liberties on speech that a citizen does when acting in a private capacity.

And words can indeed never hurt me. It's the jumbo jet up my nose that's going to hurt me. We react to speech with speech, and violence with violence.

Bill -

Brilliant. I'm a newbie and you can add me to one of your [huge group of] loyal readers.

Found my way here via Charles Johnson. Thank you for eloquently stating what is in my heart.

I'm going to take a slighly different course, here. I totally agree with the importance of responsibility, and I think it is interesting where that leads.

If you don't believe in responsibility, your intellectual excuse for not doing so probably runs something like this:

We are all simply the result of a long string of mindless events. From the beginning of the universe all events have been caused by previous events and these inexorable previous events caused me. In the same way, these events cause my so-called "thoughts" and my behavior. There is nothing in me that is independent of this process, so there is nothing in me that can be "responsible."

So if we do have responsibility, I think this suggests that there is something in us that is independent of this universe. I think that we, as human beings, have part of our being in this world and part in another, different, spiritual, world where such things as real choices actually can be made.

Brad said: I'm going to take a slighly different course, here. I totally agree with the importance of responsibility, and I think it is interesting where that leads.

If you don't believe in responsibility, your intellectual excuse for not doing so probably runs something like this:

We are all simply the result of a long string of mindless events. From the beginning of the universe all events have been caused by previous events and these inexorable previous events caused me. In the same way, these events cause my so-called "thoughts" and my behavior. There is nothing in me that is independent of this process, so there is nothing in me that can be "responsible."

So if we do have responsibility, I think this suggests that there is something in us that is independent of this universe. I think that we, as human beings, have part of our being in this world and part in another, different, spiritual, world where such things as real choices actually can be made.


While I am a bit reluctant to head the comments towards theology I just want to say that the argument could be made that responsibility is the natural result of self awareness, that as soon as we became self aware we also became aware of our actions and the consequences that they may have.
As for why we are self aware, people have been trying to solve that one probably since right around the time we actualy gained said awareness. I think that this page could streach out to 10 to the 17th power comments and we would not come up with an answer to this basic question.
Not that I'm trying to sleight religion, my personal faith is very important to me just as everyones own individual faith in whatever god they beleive in is important to them. But I beleive that we are creatures of evolution in a universe that started with a bang, what came before that is where my faith in some creator comes in.
What I am trying to say is that you can beleive in a random and not created universe and still beleive that you are an inteligent creature totaly responsible for your actions. The coralary to that is faith in a god doesn't automaticaly make you a beleiver in personal responsibility, you can beleive you are a servant of gods will and thus any actions you take are through that god.
I can alredy tell that this is quite a land mine I am setting so I will try and defuse it somewhat by saying that I am not atacking religion I am simply trying to defend the decent atheists out there. God bless them all

Public service announcement: I just printed out the essay plus all the comments. 106 pages. Egads. Glad I'm at work.

"Abortion as birth control is abhorent. Childbirth for a child of rape and incest is also abhorent, though in a different way."

My mother was raped and I was conceived. She didn't abort me because she considered abortion abhorrent. Plus, she said, I wasn't to blame so why should I be punished? She loved me and brought me up. She told me many times that I was the best thing in her life. My birth was not abhorrent -- to her or me.

I urge you to rethink your position.

I resisted saying this earlier in the comments because I didn't want a turd in the punch bowl like this up too high. But there's one seriously discordant note that makes the rest of this thing sound like empty bluster. It's when you refer to Misha whatever as your "liege lord and master," as if the two of you are fanboys in a Vulcan-costume-wearing circle jerk club. Not only does suddenly paying cutesy fealty to his delusions of fanboy grandeur sort of jar with the rest of your piece about democracy and freemen, but you know, he isn't that great to begin with, I mean, he's no Den Beste, or no you for that matter, and I daresay the number of genuine idiotarians who have felt themselves smoted by his mighty hammer is countable on one fingerless stump.

Just thought I'd reintroduce a note of reality here. Outside the blogosphere, his pretensions of whatever are material for a Christopher Guest movie, and you do your essays no favor by sucking up to that tiny audience instead of aiming for the bigger one.

Bless you Sandy. Me, too. I didn't find out until I was an adult that I was the result of a rape.

Our country, this blessed experiment in self-rule, is based on the premise that we are what we make of ourselves, not what our blood or our parentage makes us. There are no peasants or nobility in America. We don't kill the children of murderers (Keanu Reeves, anyone?) nor do we stone to death the wives of political opponents (As Alec Baldwin wanted to do to the family of Henry Hyde.)

In America we are not held responsible for the crimes of others. This is the foundation of our justice system, the foundation of Bill's essay on responsibility. If you believe that you must be responsible for your own actions, do you not also believe that you cannot be held responsible for the crimes of another?

Many of you would have had no problem ending my life, in utero, because of a crime committed against my mother. I don't say this as a lucky living human being, I say this as an American: That's not what America is all about.

"And words can indeed never hurt me. It's the jumbo jet up my nose that's going to hurt me. We react to speech with speech, and violence with violence."

Thanks for the thoughtful reply, I however still disagree with speech not causing damage, I suppose that is where we agree to disagree. I believe speech to be an action like any other. Where does responsibility start, from the speaker preaching murder, nurturing hatred, or only the final act? When you mentioned violence, is that excluding violence through speech or is it all violence except for violent speech?

Are drugs in schools minimised by education, through speech, or is it ONLY the end user who is finally responsible? When sex education is not taught by parents or society, is it the childs responsibility to learn what is correct? Does a book or the media fall under your speech laws or are they separated because of the medium?

I disagree, but as I said earlier that is where you and I and BW differ.

Sorry, about braeking the prohibition (as the two people above also did), but this NEEDS TO BE SAID:
Question to the two people who were born as products of rape: Your mothers MADE CHOICES to give birth to you, in spite of the trauma accompanying your conception. Would you really want to legally FORCE ALL women to give birth to all rape (and incest) caused pregnancies? All this will do is give immense power to potential rapists; they may simply say to themselves, in their sick minds, that even if they are jailed for committing the rapes, if they succeed in impregnating the victims with whom they are so destructively obsessed, that their genes will be bound forever and they will have a link with that person that no law can break, or else there is a good chance that their victims will die seeking illegal abortions. How sweet for such a sick mind.
In a town next to mine, a fundamentalist Christian incestually and forcibly impregnated his fourteen year old daughter. Apparently the abuse had been going on for some time. The 'father' opposed his daughter receiving an abortion, saying that the preganancy was a judgment of sin from God, but, luckily for the poor girl, parental consent was not required in such a case, and I and several others contributed the cost of the abortion.
Do you really desire to pass a legal mandate that encourages and enables rapists and daughter-molesting fathers the nation over with such perceived and actual power?

Sorry to jump back to a post 20 up, but this is quite a serious error:

"speech codes" that universities and the European Union had imposed
(Labrat's post of 5.17pm on the 24th)

The European Union doesn't impose a speech code. There was one attempt to legislate against one form of offensive speech (holocaust denial) but it was vetoed by the UK. Some of the individual EU countries have hate speech laws, of varying severity. Most of the infamous cases, including the Nazi memorabilia on Yahoo! involve the French law. The German law is stricter, but the Germans are not daft enough to try to enforce it on the net.

Thanks Jonathan, I stand corrected. Missed the distinction between proposed and enacted.

And I suppose we shall have to agree to disagree, Leron. I think the ability to discuss openly is too important to restrict with laws based on thought and intent rather than actions; someone saying ugly and inciteful things can always be replied to, but once you start making ideas and expression crimes, the slope becomes very damn slippery indeed.

Strong, breathtaking essay! The one you’d want to re-read and send the link to all your friends. That’s what I did, but the more I read into it, the more obvious it became to me that the root and that lethal flaw that cause all these was not the human nature that tends to dodge the responsibility and crawls into the position of the maximum comfort and complacency, but the very language.

The words have tremendous power, and you’re the great example of it. But the language is flawed, and therefore the more verbal the society is becoming, the more power have those who have education and eloquence to twist and distort the language. The real battlefield in all those things, you’ve listed: media, PC, deconstruction, etc., is the language. Language is like Medusa; the more you star into her face the more petrified (in our case, corrupted) you become. Noam Chomsky has turned from the respectable scientist into a raving moon bat, precisely because he, as a linguist, started to deconstruct words (especially those without the direct referent, like nation, patriotism, etc.). That led him to deconstructing the meanings, and then to denouncing the structures that abused them.

The frontier justice was effective because it dealt with very few words and much common sense. And the common sense often comes directly from heart. Another word, we all know often enough who the bad guy is without any lawyer, but we were told not to trust our hearts, but rather listen to one who is a “professional”. Or because in a similar case other people have decided such and such. “Freedom without responsibility becomes – very rapidly – a farce. When laws become farcical, the result is anarchy.” Not anarchy but a state where few have power, including the power to turn justice into a circus ring any time they have an opportunity (see OJ Simpson trial). Laws have no protection from people. People were made in God’s own image, therefore they have a slight chance to produce someone who is simply good and just once in a while.

The mistake was and is to put words before people. This takes us to the thousand year old dilemma: Rome vs. Jerusalem, perfect laws vs. just people. From its very inception America was Israel by Spirit, Rome by Law. And that was the FLAW. Laws, no matter how perfect (and the ones our founding fathers put together, were the best ever) can be amended, twisted, misinterpreted by the elite lawmakers, who are far from being just. Ancient Hebrews use to entrust the power of judgment to the chosen few, who were simply known as just men without blemish. Unfortunately this could work only on a very primitive tribal scale. Something like this existed in the Wild West for a while. But Rome has prevailed as it did before, and as Rome it will end. Sorry for the prophetic tone – such topics call for an elevated position.

As one of your commentators has pointed out, the “government is lying” thing starts early in life of Americans. And the “education” system that awards children for becoming complacent “self-celebrating” (“we celebrate ourselves” was placed on one school entrance) weasels, skilled in postmodern rhetoric is in place.

Mistrust of the government is a good and healthy thing, and genuinely all-american. Consequently it causes more young people take “blame America first” position: if America is the only superpower, who else is first to blame? As a former inhabitant of the former Soviet Union, I can testify that the opposite is far worse. In other words, I’d rather prefer the excess of criticism to the excess of hysteric jingoism. All those softheaded marchers in Berkeley worry me less (unless if they become violent) than that red-faced bullies weaving the big patriotic “stick” and beating a cabbie for wearing a turban. They find a great poetry in strapping explosives to a one-year old during the carnival celebrating blowing up Israeli daycare? Less people will send their children to UCB as the result.

Your essay is a thundering exception from all this “Bush is good, Gore is bad, liberals are shit, conservative a bigots” endless bickerfest that infest much of the blogosphere, making it very tiresome to tread. Bush, Hillary, left, right – who, the f… care! The liberation of millions of Iraqis, ridding the world from the bloody cannibals was mighty right thing to do. For that we have to praise US Army and Government, especially in context of Axis of Weasels pathetic sabotage. And if the real reason was the replacement of Elf Aquitaine crooks with Halliburton ones and grab the vast oil wealth – well, we will sigh and accept that most of the good things in politics come as collateral. And if we learn that Bush and Co will not stop sucking up to Saudi princes and pocketing their blood stained money soon, or stop Ashcroft from using much needed Homeland Security money to chase benign smut peddlers - well, we might consider someone else next time. The main thing is, that the true battlefield, the battle of words, is not lost to smug tongue twisters yet. You’re the proof of this!

To Sandy and "a girl":

My position, as stated in previous comments is "Abortion as birth control is abhorent. Childbirth for a child of rape and incest is also abhorent, though in a different way."

I stand by that, with this caveat--I am not advocating immediate abortion for any victim of rape or incest, but rather that the option be allowed. What I am trying to articulate (albeit poorly) is the position that abortion is wrong, but that there are circumstances wherein something as "abhorent" as abortion should be an option.

I am glad that your mothers chose to bear you, keep you and nurture you into thoughtful adults. Clearly they were mature enough to do so. Many are not that strong, and for them there should be other options.

My issue with the "illegal abortion, except for special circumstances like rape and incest" take is that it's logically inconsistent. If we grant the fetus full personhood, then abortion is murder no matter what the circumstances were; the developing child is not responsible in any way for the circumstances of its conception. Providing a loophole for those cases is basically a tacit admission that the fetus isn't as "valuable" as a humanlife as an infant or child, which substantially weakens the original argument for banning abortion.


Personal responsibility is just not taught. I have worked hard to teach my kids that every act has a consequence. If you are not home at 7:00 as I said, you will be grounded, lose a privilege, etc.

Just as hate is learned, so is responsibility. If you teach your kids to own up to what they have done, they will be all the better for it.

I commend you for thinking and writing. Something that is sorely missed in the media-driven world we live in.

I have to go, they are talking about Kobe on TV.


I've greatly enjoyed your other essays, but somehow, not really this one. Please accept this as constructive criticism, and I'm sorry that on this one I just can't join the chorus of adoring approval.

I find the essay that you've written here to be distinctly sub-par compared to the others. In this one you've failed to bring much to the table that would not be brought by many of the columnists on Townhall, NRO, or by Limbaugh (and I have nothing against any of those). What makes your essays unique is the way you add something epic, like for example the description of the SRBs on the space shuttle, or the first time the jets "tricked" you with an unexpected flyover at an airshow. This essay really had none of that. The cowboy story doesn't do it.

Also, you lowered yourself to using profanity and cursing to make a point. Anyone can do that, you're better than that.

But the worst of all is the following:

One of the things that makes the current political debate so rancorous is that we do a lot of talking past each other, because the old labels no longer seem to apply. Rachel Lucas is a gun-toting, idiot-intolerant, pro-gay, pro-choice conservative. My Liege Lord and Master, Emperor Misha I, the Hammer of Idiotarians, is a deeply religious, formidably armed firebrand who smashes with righteous fury any homophobic or racist morons who darken his cyberdoor. And Kim Du Toit, the rootin’-est, tootin’-est bad-ass hombre who ever lived, a veritable poster boy for the idea of an assault rifle in every crib, is a former South African who marched in the streets against racism and took huge risks fighting for the equality of all of his fellow citizens before he came home to America.

They, like me, call themselves conservatives, but we are indeed a new breed: pro-choice, pro-gay, vigorous defenders of equality of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. We’re big on freedom and big on responsibility.

The left hates us. We are harder to attack than the racist, homophobic, misogynists that they formerly could comfortably lambaste as right-wingers. (And they deserved to be lambasted, by the way – and I’m not even sure what lambasting is, but it does sound nasty and severe.)

These lines: such self congratulation. Such batting away the pro-life opinion as if it was held by annoying flies (rather than, in all probability, the majority of folks who find your writing so inspiring). Such pompous back-patting of your own self as being part of a "new breed", while at the same time insulting conservatives and implying that the left's attacks on them in previous times (before the Blessed Coming of The Most Excellent New Breed) were legitimate.

And you don't see the irony, as pointed out by someone above, that you speak of responsibility and the dangers of 1984-style thought control, but somehow don't regard "pro-choice" as an Orwellian euphemism for an exceedingly irresponsible practice.

As far as the whole essay goes, it doesn't much matter what your opinions are on abortion. The section I quoted above really adds nothing whatsoever to your line of argument, needlessly alienates many of your biggest fans, and, in a real sense, vandalizes the rest of the piece for no decent reason.

But it's your site, and your freedom to write what you please. I ask only that you give fair minded consideration to what I've said. I hope to remain a big fan of one of the generally most inspiring writers I've read.

WARNING(S): Computer in shop having virus excised. Using laptop. Legs going to sleep. Long day, hard work. Tired. Incoherent. Too many comments to comment on. But must speak when opportunity presents itself. Apologies in advance.

Brad said, "If you don't believe in responsibility, your intellectual excuse for not doing so probably runs something like this...", which was then followed by an interesting intellectual exercise in counter-reasoning which I personally don't believe even crosses the minds of the "anti-responsibilists." Because I just don't think they think about it... at all.

Everything these days seems to be based on short attention spans, instant gratification, sound bytes and visual flashiness. People stand in front of a microwave that's nuking up a full four-course meal in four minutes, tapping their toe, checking their watch, and murmuring, "Come on, come on, come on." We want results, PERFECT results, and we want 'em NOW. We want bargain prices, great deals, and we BELIEVE in seizing any pot of gold that avails itself to us, regardless of who else pays the price. People act as though "looking out for #1" is the same thing as "screwing numbers 2 through 292,000,000." And that's just "responsible priority-setting" to them. That's how the people who ARE ahead GOT ahead. There's no cognizant rationalizing about genetic inevitabilities or long sequences of random universal acts leading to their current actions. There's hardly any thinking AT ALL. They just "want" and "need" and "demand." They see someone else getting something that they wanted, and they cry "UNFAIR" at the injustice of it all. Someone else gets rich just by finding the ass-end of a roach in their Coke, then by God, they start LOOKING for chips of glass in their Gatorade and the tips of pinkies in their pre-packaged hoagy sandwiches. Someone they know goes for months and even years living off unemployment and/or welfare and/or a bogus disability claim, so THEY seek out the same lazy "opportunities" and vote in the next candidate that'll promise more of the same legislature. Their shiftlessness got them fired from a job they didn't like anyway, but after a "lawyer-friend" shows them the light, they sue their former employer for whatever slimy concoction they can come up with, with the lawyer's assurances that it'll be cheaper for the employer to settle out of court (for a tidy little six-figure windfall) than to fight the outrageous claim to a losing win (staggering legal fees, court costs, and a claimant who has nothing to counter-sue for).

Eastern Airlines had an L-1011 crash on short-final to the runway at Dallas a couple of decades ago, killing all but a handful aboard. The crash investigation ruled that the accident was the result of a weather phenomenon known as "wind shear," a phenom which, at the time, was hardly understood (even by the experts), unpredictable, undetectable (no technology existed for it at the time), and unforeseen in that particular instance. In other words, no human was responsible, anywhere. No one knew, or suspected, or even had a clue how to contend with wind shear at the time. And that L-1011, and the hundreds of people aboard, just had the unmitigated bad luck to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

So naturally, the heartbroken relatives, the outraged loved ones, and the general greedy scum (led by the parasites of the legal profession) came out of the woodwork, and filed hundreds and hundreds of lawsuits against Eastern, claiming everything from incompetence to negligence... as if Eastern wasn't already reeling sufficiently from the losses of the members of its own "corporate family" (the flight crew), the multi-million dollar technological asset of the L-1011 itself, as well as their damaged reputation. And despite the findings of the NTSB's investigations, the juries (more shortsighted irresponsiblists) awarded these "victims" their righteous five- and six-figure sums, which all but pushed Eastern the rest of the way over the abyss of bankruptcy toward which it had already been slipping and sliding anyway.

And no one had done anything wrong.

THAT'S what irresponsibility is to me... blind, self-centered callousness and greed, perpetrated by people who never once thought about any long genealogy of random causes and effects that led them to their current state of moral corruption. They're members of their own rotten club by default, not design, conscious or otherwise.

Sandy said, "My mother was raped and I was conceived. She didn't abort me because she considered abortion abhorrent. Plus, she said, I wasn't to blame so why should I be punished? She loved me and brought me up. She told me many times that I was the best thing in her life. My birth was not abhorrent -- to her or me."

Plus this one... "Many of you would have had no problem ending my life, in utero, because of a crime committed against my mother."

Though someone else already addressed this point (like Salamantis, who said, "Your mothers MADE CHOICES to give birth to you, in spite of the trauma accompanying your conception. Would you really want to legally FORCE ALL women to give birth to all rape (and incest) caused pregnancies?"), I still felt I needed to concur with them... in my own overblown way.

No one that I've EVER heard speaking on this subject has EVER implied that abortions following rape or incest were okay because the FETUS had done something wrong... that snuffing out the embryo's existence was okay because they deserved it. Abortion is not a "punishment" for a "bad" clump of sub-dividing cells. And "life" is not an automatic "reward" for it either. "Life" is more than just throwing a switch and "existing." LIFE incorporates a full-on all-systems social involvement with the rest of the world, for years and decades on end. And ALL of that needs to be taken into account when making such a decision. "Having a baby" includes "having an adolescent" and "having a teenager" as well.

That your mother CHOSE to carry you through to term shows me what a great mother she was. But not all mothers-to-be are so decent and noble. Many are simply not able to handle it, period. And many shouldn't be ALLOWED to handle it. And as wonderful an idea as adoption may be, the fact is that in its present form, the adoption process is so cumbersome and inefficient as to hardly be worthy of consideration. Orphanages and foster homes are overflowing even in this day and age, and far too many of those are appalling pits of torment and neglect. Kids spend their entire pre-adult lives "growing up" in what is, at BEST, an unanchored, uncommitted environment, and that is heartbreaking to read and hear about.

Having a baby without either the intention of keeping it yourself, or without some pre-arrangement with a permanent adopted family already secured is, in my opinion, a rotten thing to do a newborn human being, and should be avoided if ANY better alternative cannot be found. If you have no choice, that's one thing. But if you do, there are many MANY instances in which you'd be saving more than just the mother's life by terminating the pregnancy. You'd be saving the baby's as well. And I don't just mean "physically."

That having been said, however, I agree that abortion as a substitute for basic birth control is a blasphemy. I'm talking strictly about the aforementioned rape and incest cases here, some dangerous medical situations, and even some cases in which the mother is simply not capable of BEING a mother, and has no safety net of relatives, friends, or even professional organizations to fall back on. Introducing a human child into an existence of psychological and emotional torment, physical abuse, neglect and abandonment is NOT a noble gesture. That's not a "life" worth living...

... in my tired, momentarily over-passionate opinion, of course.

Leron, talking about the impact of words, said, "Are drugs in schools minimised by education, through speech, or is it ONLY the end user who is finally responsible? When sex education is not taught by parents or society, is it the childs responsibility to learn what is correct? Does a book or the media fall under your speech laws or are they separated because of the medium?"

Damn good. Well said, dude.

And Nighternet, in the midst of an interesting comment post, said, "And the common sense often comes directly from heart."

That's one point, among all the good ones, that I couldn't quite buy into... completely.

Common sense, much like most general opinions and social perspectives, tends to come with some pretty individual and cultural definitions. In one country, for instance, it's just common sense that a thief who has his hands lopped off will never steal again. In another, it's just common sense that a woman is incapable of levelheaded reasoning and competent self-guidance. In another, it's just common sense that a man who shows you the bottom of his foot considers you to be beneath him. And in the event of such an offense, it is perfectly reasonable to kill the bastard.

Even here at home, to many it's just common sense that you spend your life working toward a pension and a golden retirement plan, while to others it's just common sense to live for now, because now is all you really have.

I always cringe when I hear people say "he's got no common sense." He DOES have common sense... he has HIS (or her) common sense.

It's like that great scene from "All In The Family," when everyone was scrambling madly around preparing to take Gloria to the hospital to deliver her first baby... and the three-minute sequence with Archie and Meathead up in the bedroom arguing over the proper sequence for putting on shoes and socks, with Archie arguing for the "common sense" of putting on both socks first and then both shoes, and Meathead arguing for the "common sense" of putting on one complete sock-and-shoe combo before moving to the other foot and repeating the process.


Unlike me at this tired hour.

Sorry, sorry, sorry. But don't worry... it'll probably be another five days (and another 150 comments) before I can get back to this comment section again.

Don't hate me because I'm ugly.


And to Matteo, who slipped one in while I was "bloviating" back there...

You said, "And you don't see the irony, as pointed out by someone above, that you speak of responsibility and the dangers of 1984-style thought control, but somehow don't regard "pro-choice" as an Orwellian euphemism for an exceedingly irresponsible practice."

As if it was a "fact," and not just YOUR opinion, that being "pro-choice" is "an Orwellian euphemism for an exceedingly irresponsible practice."

But I've already thrown around too many words on the subject. So (for once) I won't repeat myself.

You do continue to make certain presumptions though, again presenting them as "facts" (or very nearly so), like when you said, "Such batting away the pro-life opinion as if it was held by annoying flies (rather than, in all probability, the majority of folks who find your writing so inspiring)."

What pre-existing bias of your own makes you think that? I think I've read more "pro-choice" opinions in here than "pro-life" (in all their mixed and shaded forms).

Otherwise, though I disagreed with most of your assertions, you at least presented them well. And that's all we can ask for.

Goodnight... for real this time.


Next morning... a little better rested.

Just re-read last night's entries, and my last one -- addressed to Matteo -- sounded much more hostile than I remember feeling, and a little more "intense" than intended. Sorry about that. I meant it when I said your comment was well-expressed, and though I also meant it when I said I didn't agree with most of it, I thought they were still valid points, legitimately derived, even if they were completely delusional (just kidding).

Unfortunately, particularly in the case of THIS comment stream, if I wait until the ideal moment of total mental clarity and sufficient time to think and write well, a hundred more comments appear, many of which say just what I wanted to say in the first place, and I miss my shot.

In other words, good work all. It's always a good read. And again, to Matteo, sorry if I came on too strong.


When does responsibility begin for driving while intoxicated? Is it when the driver is cited for DWI? Is it when the driver kills himself or others? Or is it when the driver makes the decision to put the keys in the ignition and drive away?
I think most would agree that it begins when the decision is made to drive. Degraded as the decision making process is at that point, it still doesn't relieve the burden of making plans to get home BEFORE drinking.
When does responsibility begin for an unborn child/fetus/ball of tissue/tumor? I suggest it begins when you choose to engage in the act that could lead to childbirth. So how does one reconcile personal responsibility with abortion?
"Gee officer, I didn't know that if I had 6 beers and drove home that I might crash into that mini-van."
Responsibility for choices begins prior to the outcome of those choices.

Hi Bill,

Still writing good stuff, I see. Another fan of yours left a link to this article in our little forum and naturally I had to check it out.

There's an interesting book out called 'The Quest for Cosmic Justice' by conservative scholar Thomas Sowell that I just read a review about, and it reminded me of some of what you've shared here.

Keep up the Good Fight!

You are perhaps the most brilliant blogger I've read recently, perhaps that is because your thoughts on the subjects contained in your essay increasingly mirror my own.

I work with gang members for a living. I see the effects of culture and upbringing. But there is no denying that even with the bitterly deprived young peole with whom I work are capable of free exercise of self will.

The culture of victimhood has fugged up our country more certainly than any other because it has taught people that they cannot swim against the tide of their circumstances.

The message of America, the real America that my parents transmitted to me like mother's milk, is that any man or woman can rise above the circumstances of his/her life to greatness.

Within the Victim States of America, people have abdicated their self-efficacy. They believe their paths are dictated by circumstances of birth, the alignment of the stars, and "the man keeping them down." We have begun to follow in the steps of classist societies like that of old Europe.


Hey Silverback - I agree with most of your posts and all, but there's a mistake:

That L-1011 was a Delta Airlines flight and Delta is still operating. Eastern went away due to an idiot CEO, I believe.

This does not take anything away from your truthful description of the lawyers ...

Thanks to Jimmy Antley... I think. Even with this dusty old brain sputtering along on just three cylinders, I coulda' sworn that was Eastern. Maybe I was just getting it crossed up in my head with Eastern's 1011 crash in the Everglades. But you're definitely right about one thing... no one crash brought Eastern down. High end mismanagement, disastrous battles with brutal unions (my brother used to be a mechanic for Eastern, and watched these union bastards sitting in the maintenance hangar in lawn chairs, tossing bolts and nuts and old tools into a running jet engine as a means for their outright extortion), as well as the fact that the company was basically just a write-off money-pit for the Rockefellers, brought Eastern to its collective knees.

Still, I coulda' sworn that was them in Dallas.

Oh well. The original point is still valid, even if the names wound up changed.


Eastern Airlines went away because of consistently shitty service. I was unfortunately on the recieving end of an EA shitserve in 1986. I didn't shed a single tear when they went tits-up.

And as for the Delta flight that crashed in Dallas, my old man was on that very flight about a month before it crashed.

And speaking of responsibility (that, not abortion or plane crashes, is the over-arching topic here), I've been watching "Failure Is Not An Option" on the History Channel. It's the story of NASA's Mission Control. Our Captain would love it, and I'm sure that he's watched it too. I'm right in the middle of the story of Apollo 1. To this day, flight director Gene Kranz remembers what he told his fellow controllers on the Monday morning following the fire:

Space flight is terribly unforgiving of carelessness, incapacity, or neglect. I don't know what the Thompson Committee will find as the cause of this accident, but I know what I find: WE were the cause.

The simulators weren't ready. Our software in Mission Control didn't function. Procedures weren't complete. Nothing we did had any shelf life. And no one stood up and said "Dammit, STOP!"

Now from this day forward, Mission Control will be known by two words: Tough and Competent. Tough, meaning we will never again shirk from our responsibility because we're forever accountable for what we do, or for what we fail to do. Competent, meaning we'll never take anything for granted; we will never stop learning.

When you leave here today, you will write these two words "Tough and Competent" on your blackboard, and they will never be erased. They will serve as a constant reminder of the sacrifice of Grissom, White, and Chaffee. That's all."

Does anyone know if these words are still on the boards at NASA?

(Perhaps) ...we are in fact products of our environments.

Nuh. Were that the case, the Soviet Union would still be thriving. Those people were indoctrinated to the nth degree. They _still_ managed to rise above their environment.

Case closed.

Absolutely amazing. How do you do this?
I'm on your side, certainly. Actually, i am trying as hard as i can to change things in my area. NO one will listen to me yet, but it's only a matter of time. You believe what i believe.
Keep writing!

Bill's "Actors Dream" reminds me of my own re-occurring nightmare. I worked my way through college as a cashier in a supermarket.

I have nightmares all the time about standing there, at a register with a long line of people with very full carts. I'm conscious that it's been about 20 years since I punched a register, and I have no idea why I'm back working in a store. I'm trying to remember how to do this, but the keyboard is all greek, the buttons are all wrong or missing, and I'm staring at a piece of fruit and not remembering the look up code or even how to ring it up now. Usually things get worse from there, the whole system goes down or some other emergency so I never get to ring up those bananas!

Similarly, I'm sure everyone has had the Exam nightmare. You're late for class, you rush in to the room, manage to find your desk (sometimes) and discover today is an exam, you don't remember studying for it and you can't even remember what the subject is.

I don't have the exam nightmare, but due to my poor attendance during college, I have a recurrent nightmare where I get the class schedule on the first day and never bother to go to class...flash forward in the dream, and now it's the middle of the term and I can't find the classes, or, if I do, I'm failing. dreams. Some are the greatest. others still horrify me.

"Posted by The Great Santini, Responsibility for choices begins prior to the outcome of those choices. "

Small choices which may seem to carry insignificant responsibility may in fact cause a great deal of harm. The idea of unprotected sex may be fun at the time, that extra drink of alcohol may be a simple action which if not thought out clearly and not understood, leads to a much greater causality of effect.

As soon as that drink too much is consumed, the person who steps into a vehicle has placed other people's lives at risk, and it becomes his responsibility to the rest of us. Therefore driving drunk is illegal.

As soon as the preacher convinces children to kill all Americans, the outcome of the actions has begun, and for that they should be responsible.

As a society we have different standards for children than for adults, when in fact many adults are as easily influenced if not more so than children.

"John - Randi In May this year, the Independent Television Commission (ITC) in the UK ruled that two programs, "Crossing Over" and "6ixth Sense," were in breach of the Program Code, but would not have been, had they been clearly presented as entertainment. Why? Is it obscene? Adults can go for this nonsense, but kids can't? What are the standards here? "

A person driving a getaway car is not simply a vehicle driver, the intention of his actions have allowed him to be an accomplice to robbery.

Just some thoughts...

To VRWCman: I saw that show on the History Channel, too, "Failure is Not an Option" the story of the NASA Flight Directors, Controllers and the history of Mission Control.

It seems a few folks on the CAIB were watching, too! I saw the press conference on C-Span and one guy mentioned the show, and then later in the day O'Keefe actually READ THAT piece you posted, verbatim, to his staff.

Bill Harwood has a website where he is putting up summaries of the report findings, well worth a visit for folks who can't wade through the whole CAIB report, Bill Harwood's page here.

to Tim, this is what they said about Linda Ham in a press briefing:

"Let me give you a specific case in point. Much has been made of the fact that the MMT didn't meet every day. NASA regulations require that they meet every day. So I had my board go back and see what were the meetings scheduled for the previous two shuttle missions? Guess what? They met every third day.

"So Linda Ham was doing her job according to the standards and precedents that were set by the establishment," he continued. "Even though the rules say you have to meet every day, you don't really have to. So that's an organizational flaw and she was performing her duties in that respect in accordance with the standards and precedents that had been previously established by her predecessors. And her predecessor's bosses had let that go on.

"So we feel very, very strongly that just moving the people around won't fix that problem. Unfortunately, we live in a town here in Washington, DC, in which they frequently demand someone pay. But we on the board were not influenced by that" and the board did not assign personal blame for any real or perceived errors in judgment.

Could a more experienced or proactive program manager or MMT chairman have made a different in Columbia's case?

"We feel there's some part of this, maybe even a lot of these problems, could have been mitigated by a stronger, a more suspicious, nervous kind of a person," Gehman said of the MMT and its chairman. "But our conclusion, our very, very strong conclusion is even if you had really brilliant people, really spectacular people, if you had the very, very best person you could get, that it would be a low probability bet that you could count on them to overcome the flaws in the organization. That is a low probability course of action."

How accepting personal responsibility could have changed the world:

Richard Nixon stands before the nation. "Yesterday there was a break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters," be begins. "Members of my staff have long tried to convince me to engage in some sort of 'dirty tricks' campaigns against my Democrat opponents. While I neither planned nor approved the actual break-in, I was party to the discussion and idea phase. I accept responsibility for my part in this stupid political shenanigan."

He pauses, and gathers himself.

"I am relieving of duty all of those who had any direct involvement, including my Chief of Staff, Bob Haldeman. I apologize to the nation for this lapse in judgement. I will use the rest of this term, and, God-willing, my second term as President, to rid the political process of such underhanded thinking."

Nixon wins landslide reelection in 1972, and Watergate is but a bad memory.

Bill Clinton stands before the nation. "I am personally embarrassed that my private indiscretions have become public. Nevertheless, I admit to having had an improper and sexual relationship with Miss Lewinsky. This matter now is rightly resolved between me, my wife, my daughter and our God. I ask you for the decency to allow us to resolve this crisis in a private way.

I apologize to Miss Lewinsky for abusing my office for personal gratification. I apologize to the American people for withholding information about my conduct. I ask only for the time to heal my family, and the chance to get back to work for the American people."

The impeachment proceedings never happen, and the Clinton presidency is neither tarnished nor distracted through the remainder of his second term.

I'm sure if we tried we could come up with other examples where, had the person acted with an upright character and a strong sense of personal responsibility, history would have been altered.

Actually, Clinton did say something to the effect of what I wrote before. But he said it only after he was caught and cornered, thereby making his statements seem self-serving, instead of contrite. Had he made those statements instead of the finger-wagging "I did not have sexual relations with the woman" remark, he could have avoided the whole problem, I think.

As close to perfect as it gets.
I would lay all my talents at your feet should you decide to step into the world of politics. I'm serious about that.


VRWCMan: I've worked at the Johnson Space Center, for a NASA Contractor. Never saw a blackboard in the area at all, myself, but I can tell you that Grissom, White, and Chaffee are most certainly not forgotten. Neither are the members of the subsequent crews to give their lives in pursuit of the dream of space. Little things, everywhere: If you go drinking at the Outpost, across NASA Rd 1 from the JSC, signed photos of all the astronaut crews are on the wall, but the Challenger and Apollo 1 photos are larger and in places of honor. In fact, the Challenger photo (and now, presumably, the Columbia photo) is on the wall of EVERY restaurant and bar in the area. If you have a company party or your kid has an athletic event, it's likely to be held at the Ed White Youth Center. And so on.

The essay is extremely insightful; however, you err--in my humble opinion--in the Deconstruction section. I grant, and cheerfully, that current lit crit is so far in left field that it's out of the park, but you must realize that any text is subject to interpretation. Training does make for more insightful readers, and the opinion concerning a text of a person with a third grade education is not of the same order of value as the opinion of someone with a PhD even when we don't agree with the doctor. All opinions are not equal, and the Deconstruction section comes close to suggesting that they are, which smacks of pandering. Another problem I have with so many of the bloggers on the right, though I often agree with their notions, is their penchant for name calling. A solid argument does not need to include, indeed should not include the attack on the man. I suspect this feckless trait is the result of relative youth. At least I hope it is. Again, a good read that has given me much to mull.


I have the exact same dream, and I imagine for the same reason; my attendance was not exactly exemplary. I did however manage to graduate in four years from a quality university. My mother was not proud of my grades, but she was thrilled that I got out in four years, when hardly anyone else managed it in under five.

As Leron points out responsibility begins at the inception of action. We cannot undo our history, so it is incumbent upon each individual to always consider what effect his actions will have on his future.

Just a few minutes ago I read an article thesmokinggun has posted. It is from 1977 and is an interview with Arnold Schwarznegger. Clearly he never thought that someday he might be standing for office as the Governor of LaLa Land or he would not have been so candid in his responses to the interviewer.

Responsibility means never having to say I regret that. One may screw up and have to apologize, but taking responsibility means that the time has been taken to consider the now and the later, and assuming the consequences of the actions then taken.

Back in my skydiving days, I never met any serious leftist/socialist types at the drop zone. When you're up there in freefall with two loose ripcord handles, running out of altitude and ideas, you have the rest of your life to take responsibility for your own survival.

Also, all the fighter pilots I've met have been somewhere to the right of Attilla the Hun on the spectrum. Funny that.

And as for NASA's "failure is not an option" mentality, life (and especially rocket engineering) ain't that simple. That's why I have books like _To Engineer is Human_, _Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Disaster_, and _Design Paradigms: Case Histories of Error and Judgement in Engineering_ on my bookshelf. Lives often depend on how well I've done my work, and in the near future I'll be staking *my* life on it as well. There is no room for arrogance or complacency in spaceflight- and keeping a personal awareness of that is part of being, well, responsible.

Thanks Eb that press breifing quote makes the point better than I could, but I'm gonna give it a try anyway.

While a lot of people could be said to bare responsibility for the columbia accident the real problem is the flawed orginization. Why it is flawed I think is because like everything else in the universe Nasa tends towards entropy a good example was in that quote where it said the MMT was supposed to meet every day but over time the rules laxed and they were only meeting every third day.

So to my mind the accident was the culmination of a lot of little decisions, and some big decisions, like that. probably streaching back to 1958 ('57?) when the agency was founded. It occured to me that this can be directly tied into the argument on responsability .

Personal Responsibility, among other things, is one of our weapons against the steady growth of entropy and beuracracy. Anyone who has heard the theory of entropy knows that by this theory things tend to break down and not build up, whether its a solar system, an orginization, a spaceship, or a stove. Anybody who has looked at a history book knows that no nation lasts forever and, since I don't think we are that much different than the ancient Greeks or Romans, I am inclined to think no nation ever will.

So why fight it? Because throughout civilised hisory it has been the nature of man to strive for a set of ideals and that is what sets us apart. It is exemplified in the engineers that tried to stop the challenger launch and in the guys at the alamo that fought, to a man, against hopeless odds for what they believed in.

Gene Kranz said "we were responsible... one said 'dammit, stop'" and that is what you have to do. You have to have the faith of your convictions, an understanding of your personal responsability, and the courage to, among other things, say 'dammit, stop' when you know that something is wrong.

Tne truth about the shuttle accident is that part of the blame rests on us, the paying public, we are the ones who by and large want a space program but don't want to foot the bill. Its our responsibility to say either fund it properly or get out of the bussiness of manned space flight.

I once read the phrase "Interplanetary flight is at our front door C.O.D., it's ours when we pay for it"

So our responsibility is to gaurd against breakdown and decay not just at Nasa but in the Nation at large, it is how our republic works unless I missed something. I plan to exercise my right to vote, not just at the national level in '04 but localy in a couple of weeks when they are going to try and pass some amendments to the Texas state constitution. This is my responsibility as a citizine, to try and be as active in government as I can.

I believe Democracy works, as long as the people take a strong interest in government and how the nation runs, otherwise you get laws like prohibition, you get a nation run by special intrest groups. I beleive in Nasa as an orginization as long as the employees are aware of their duties and as long as 'we the people' are aware of our duty to watch, question, and prod the Government.

I had just intended to thank Eb for that press quote it gave me something to chew on, but this is what I immediatly thought up sorry if its a little 'rough draft'

Quote: "failure is not an option... it comes bundled with the package"

I read that somewhere as a joke but I realize now that it is a simple fact. You can minimize failure, and if you are responsible you will do your damndest to minimize fialure, but you can never eliminate it. You have to accept it or you can never deal with problems properly

I just went to this site about european software patent law, I know that a lot of people are wondering how this is related why should I care. Well I think it is related this is a law that seems to me to infringe on human rights and I know that this probably isn't a crowd of europeans but if it is happening over there then there is probably some law here that we should worry about. If you want an explanation go there it is to long to post. But to boil it down as simply as posible, probably to the point of oversimplification a copyright protects your individule work but a patent can effect the whole feild of work.

A quote from the site sums it up pretty well:
" If Haydn had patented "a symphony, characterised by that sound is produced [ in extended sonata form ]", Mozart would have been in trouble.

Unlike copyright, patents can block independent creations. Software patents can render software copyright useless. One copyrighted work can be covered by hundreds of patents of which the author doesn't even know but for whose infringement he and his users can be sued. Some of these patents may be impossible to work around, because they are broad or because they are part of communication standards."

Imagine if a mathematicle formula were patented, owned, that you had to pay for the use of a natural universal constant. Imagine if Google were patented, it could attack just about every search engine for some kind of infringement

I think this is related because I think that this is a great example of the need to take responsibility to defend freedom. If that isn't enough I feel a personal responsibility to spread the word about this law that might be passed in europe to at least warn what might be in store for us here.

This is the website here

at least check it out

Just one more thing this evening. There was a man that owned a patent on the horseless carriage and every automobile company used to have to pay him royalties until Ford (I think) refused to, they took it to court and Ford won. Don't remember the mans name but I saw it on the history channel.

hey bill congratulations on a full forum. responsibility: excellent stuff.

yup im a real rubiks cube example. tho generally contrary. i think its a good thing to challenge. even challenge the challengers: we should be free to carry guns, smoke tabacco or crack cocaine; smoking weed or injecting heroin are good examples of responsibility. we make our decisions and either suffer or handle the consequences. there are too many laws restricting individual freedoms and not enough protection from the actions of those who cant handle the responsibilities that come with them. those who would legislate do so for their prejudices and control rather than to stop a few (most drug users are normal middle class working people hliving a normal life) losers from robbing to feed thier habit

hate speech; at least when someone is free to talk shit you can see them for who they really are. the good thing about hate speech laws is not stopping those who would say bad things but exposing those who hate the laws for protecting the people they hate.

the thing to remember is that for all our 'progress' in the last few hundred years and possibly the most politically correct misconception we have is to flatter ourselves that we have actually moved out of the dark ages. were in deep, we just dont like to admit it. we think were civilized. pfff the abortion issue is so sanctimonius. what value this precious human life until it turns into the 'type' you dont like or that doesnt like you. bomb them and be proud.

if you can sue a bar for selling you drink or a tabacco company for giving you cancer then a mother should be able to sue the state legislator who would make abortion illegal. a deformed child, downs syndrome spasticated limbless mute, loved and wanted by both parents is a blessing as is any other child. abortion is not the answer. education and protection most certainly is. however, i remain pro-choice and i round on those who would force life where it is not thier own decision.

imagine being the product not so much of your mum and dad but of an unknown, uninvolved, unsupporting unconnected and unconcerned self righteous legislating protector of their own concience who wouldnt lift a finger to help you from the day you were born and who would probably call you a half caste cripple loser nigger who shouldn't be allowed on this side of town. sure once your born its all different. live live live. rob steal rape and plunder. eat the rich. eat the self righteous.

and gun lovers should be shot, then we'd all be happy.

this thing about cnn, hey if you dont like it dont watch it. freeeee speeeeeeeech!!!!! yes? free to lie like a sly fox or twist nd turn any way you like. you want free speech and no hate speech laws, yet you want to 'fix' the media for talking in a way you dont like. make your mind up dummies. personally i think cnn are as bad as the rest. no reality any more. just packaging for ratings.

why are we here david march? to animate and fiddle of course. dont get any lofty ideas bout life having meaning. what does it mean to be on death row or under a pile of baghdad rubble?

go die fighting.


Okay. I'll take up that dropped gauntlet, alpha, and "challenge the challenger."

You said, "... we should be free to carry guns, smoke tabacco or crack cocaine; smoking weed or injecting heroin are good examples of responsibility. we make our decisions and either suffer or handle the consequences."

If only you could "suffer" and "handle" those consequences ALONE.

The extent to which YOU should be legally able to do those things should be inversely proportionate to the extent to which they will endanger ME. It's that simple. If you want to smoke, IN PRIVATE, until your lungs dissolve, you should be able to do that. Have at it. Send me a postcard from your deathbed. But the minute you force ME, against my will, to ingest that stuff, then you've exceeded your rights. You DON'T have the right to kill ME. As for the cocaine, well... if people could retain the "responsible clarity of mind" to restrict their suicidal addictions to the privacy of their own homes, that'd be one thing. I'd still object to it from a "moral" standpoint, but I wouldn't insist on legislation making it illegal. Self-destructive and stupid maybe, but that's YOUR problem, and your responsibility. The problem is that, while under the influence of ANY mind-altering substance, you lose that little voice of introspection and responsibility, and do things that your unaltered "common sense" would normally not consider, like taking your happy little uninhibited state of mind OUT of the privacy of your home and into the public mainstream, where once again you endanger ME. And THAT'S where we stop your swinging fist from getting any closer to my nose. And this is before we get into the issue of what an addicted person becomes willing to do to feed that addiction. But then you grazed that subject when you said...

"... those who would legislate, do so for their prejudices and control rather than to stop a few (most drug users are normal middle class working people hliving a normal life) losers from robbing to feed thier habit."

Every "loser" that robs to feed their habit endangers ME. And every "normal middle class" drug user "living a normal life," WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE, has the potential to do the same, not because they're inherently bad people who don't deserve to have "fun" any way they want, but because, WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE, they're no longer the same considerate, responsible people they'd normally be.

Almost every person I've ever known has got "funny" stories of driving home so blind stinking drunk they don't remember how they got there. "Whew! Don't know how I made it home alive! Hee, hee, hee!" Gosh, that IS funny. Why do we have DUI laws again? Are those just an exercise in "prejudice and control" too? Or might they have something to do with all the lives that are put in a dice cup when they cross paths with a driving drunk?

Outright Prohibition failed, and, for a multitude of other reasons, rightfully so. Alcohol abuse laws are a second-tier attempt at controlling the problem, saying (as I half-heartedly allowed above) that as long as you can keep your drinking to yourself (as in, in private or a controlled environment) you can legally imbibe. But cross that line... inflict your altered states on others beyond your "controlled environment"... and you've gone too far. Unfortunately, we get daily reminders of why this isn't good enough. Normal, responsible, "middle class people," who would normally agree with the intent of these laws, cease to make normal, responsible decisions when under the influence. And we start rolling the dice. If we're lucky, their IRresponsible decisions are restricted to succumbing to an unhealthy case of the munchies, or waking up naked in the backyard. If we're NOT so lucky, then they stumble out into the public domain with an aggressive chip on their shoulder, or a loaded pistol twirling playfully on their finger, or the keys to a car in their hand. And you might say, "then now that person must pay the price for their transgressions." Good thought... if only we could be assured that they'd pay it ALONE. But all too often, thanks to those tumbling dice, they take someone else with 'em. And there's no "prejudice and control" behind mandating against that.

Further on you said, "...the most politically correct misconception we have is to flatter ourselves that we have actually moved out of the dark ages. were in deep, we just dont like to admit it."

Define "Dark Ages." And while you're at it, define "we." If you mean "individually," then I'd allow that human nature hasn't changed much over the eons. But that's as far as I'd go with that. We still have to be "guided" off the harsh, animalistic, self-centered path every now and then, either by good parenting, peer pressure, force, fear of retribution (legal or divine), or even (God forbid) intelligence, "common sense," or a responsible nature. But we CAN be made to "see the light." If you meant "as a group" though... as an historical trend... then you just couldn't be more wrong (unless you did have another definition for "Dark Ages" that I don't know about).

You said, "... if you can sue a bar for selling you drink or a tabacco company for giving you cancer then a mother should be able to sue the state legislator who would make abortion illegal."

You're right. You shouldn't be able to sue for ANY of those things.

You went on to say, "... a deformed child, downs syndrome spasticated limbless mute, loved and wanted by both parents is a blessing as is any other child. abortion is not the answer."

That's a nice thought... for the parents. I'm glad for people who can so love their deformed, spasticated, limbless, mute children. Now what about the child's perspective? Let's talk about the full and rich life THEY'RE going to enjoy. Being loved and comforted and supported by great parents (for the rest of their stunted LIVES) does not come close to making up for all the loneliness and isolation, the frustration and torment, not to mention the physical irritants, agonies and constraints, all the experiences of a "normal life" missed or wasted, and the constant dependence on others for everything from eating to pooping to scratching an itch from the never-ending bedsores. And all that is under the umbrella of a couple of GOOD parents. It goes beyond mere nightmare status if the parents are NOT good... if all that love and comfort and support does NOT exist.

Now, none of these, by definition, make a potential human "unworthy" of life. But these are considerations, beyond the mere nurturing desires of the parents, that need to be taken into account. And they're considerations that I don't believe hard-line "pro-life" legislation WOULD take into account. Enough on that subject.

You said, "... this thing about cnn, hey if you dont like it dont watch it. freeeee speeeeeeeech!!!!! yes?" PLUS "... you want free speech and no hate speech laws, yet you want to 'fix' the media for talking in a way you dont like. make your mind up dummies."

There's a difference between an individual expressing an opinion, popular or un-, and a major news network (THE major news network) INFLUENCING that opinion. One has the right to do that, the other does NOT. I can presume a certain amount of bias and misinformation coming from an individual. I cannot AFFORD to presume that from my frontline source of global information. It HAS to be as accurate and impartial as it can possibly be, or it is worthless to me.

Like it or not, in this fast-paced, interconnected, interactive world... and in this interactive COUNTRY where national policy is based on the concensus of the masses, and in which, therefore, the "masses" HAVE to be well-informed... the broadcast media is our first line of offense (so to speak), and as such, MUST be as unfiltered and factual as possible. Because it affects so much more than just our entertainment choices. In other words, CNN shouldn't be allowed to exercise that kind of "free speech." YOU can, and I can, but CNN canNOT. Period. It has an obligation. It has a responsibility.

That's where THIS "dummy" has made up his mind.

Enough. I've done it again, and bloated the comment stream. Just can't keep it short, I guess.

Back to the treetops.


Got Angst? (tm)

This is nuts. It takes so long to DOWNLOAD the COMMENTS, I may have to get a broadband connection JUST TO READ'EM!
David March

One brief comment (and this time I really will keep it brief) on the free speech thing.

I do find for some reason that liberals, when criticised, surprisingly often will object to the criticism being offered based on some notion that such criticism somehow contravenes their freedom of speech. In the interest of brevity, I will (in lieu of particular examples) point out that university officials attempt to deflect criticism of vociferous fringe professors by this technique rather frequently. I seem to recall the Dixie Chicks trying this too.

Criticism of CNN for its actions in Iraq is not a freedom of speech issue to me (though here I am afraid I will disagree with the always trenchant Greathairysilverback--sorry!).

The First Amendment only proscribes goverment interference with speech and writing, not individual criticism of same. Saying "I call on the government to punish CNN for what they have broadcast, and to prevent them from broadcasting such in future" is, I think, pretty clearly a request for government action proscribed by the First Amendment. Saying simply "I find CNN's actions and broadcasts reprehensible, and I urge everyone to not watch them anymore;" or "The Dixie Chicks spout poorly-thought-out political nonsense, and I urge everyone to not buy their discs anymore," for example, are in no way violations of anyone's freedom of speech (as such is defined by the First Amendment).

Back to minding my own business...

JK Saggese.

I just want to address the comment concerning responsibility for pregnancy after engaging in sex being compared to responsibility for auto accidents after driving while drunk.
Both car crashes and unwanted pregnancies are indeed accidents. However, one may drive completely sober and obey all the traffic laws and STILL become involved in an auto accident. In such circumstances, no fault is ascribed to the sober careful driver. And forbidding all driving because of what might happen to the sober and careful is not a realistic option. Likewise, one may responsibly engage in sex using birth control, which is not 100% effective, and still an accidental and unwanted pregnancy may result. The pregnant woman should not be forced to bear any unwanted consequences when she has endeavored to engage in sex resonsibly. And forbidding all recreational (as opposed to procreational) sex because of what might happen to responsible sex partners is also not a realistic option.

Is it possible that America has this many morons populating its land mass?

I'm just curious.

Dear lenin,

Your addition skills appear to be commensurate with your ability to grasp the vast trends of history which have so discredited your namesake.

David March
animator & fiddler

p.s. Perhaps I misjudge you and you are in fact just an atrocious speller, who much admires that fine woven cloth...

I must say GHS that was a wonderful response to a confusing and incoherent rant, and there was nothing wrong with the length (if you have a blog, I definitely want to read it!). I would also like to agree with you with the comments on drug use. It is very convenient to think of the users as being in a box and not affecting others by saying what they do at home is none of my business, but all too often, someone else's life is ruined because we gave the user a chance to screw up.

Of course, if everyone had the education and understanding not to abuse drugs, then we wouldn't have to make them illegal. But if everyone had a good, unbiased education, then we wouldn't be having most of the arguments we are having today. I don't see that happening any time soon, so I have to put up with the solutions we have available while also spending my time to make sure that this one control on individual liberty doesn't grow to become anything more.

Also, if that was an excellent rebuttal to a long comment, D.M. yours was just as good for a short one. Loved it.

Hey - this is neither the time nor place - but what the heck! And it's probably old news.

But Lt. Smash is back from Iraq. He writes about his return here. It's worth reading about someone whose gone and shouldered some heavy collective responsibilities for us all, in our stead. And did it gladly. And has now come home to his loving wife.

Left me speechless.

I would like quote from the eternal text The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy, By Douglas Adams (God rest his soul). "Those who most want to rule, are the ones least suited to do so."

I would also like to say that i got goosbumps when i read the last line of your article, well done.


I was going to put a couple of comments on "Responsibility" in on Wednesday, when there was 29 (fairly lame, "gee Bill, you're just great") postings. Didn't get around to it, and I get back today and there's 300!


Looks like it's become a pro/anti abortion type thang - got some views on that, but nothing that hasn't been said, by the look of it.

On the essay - sorry, Bill, I thought it was a little weak. The idea is good, but it's just way too fat - lose the "wild west" stuff, for example, and generally tighten it up. It'd be maybe half as long, but more punch.

To JKS: sounds to me like you and I are in complete agreement actually. I too do not think the CNN thing is a "free speech" issue... but "alpha" did. He/she seemed to think that CNN could say anything they wanted under the implicit protection of our free speech tenets. My contention (however badly phrased) was that free speech has nothing to do with CNN since theirs is not a venue for expressing personal opinions (except in interviews and editorials). And their supposed "journalistic integrity" goes right out the window when they use their power (of trust and reliability) to SHAPE public opinion to their own ends rather than merely INFORMING the public of the facts. To me, if they take on the guise of impartial professional journalism, they forego the right to color the truth or selectively report. They are obligated, by their own self-anointed mantle of unbiased reporting to stick to "just the facts, ma'am." Period. And I too am not calling for government intervention or sanction here either. Just expressing an opinion of disenchantment with them, and clarifying (for alpha) the difference I see between an individual's right to free speech and CNN's right to play God's of Information.

So I think we're actually in complete agreement here.

Salamantis: good one. I liked that analogy.

To "lenin:" well, you may have nothing to say, no point worth considering, and a bit of an issue with adult forms of expression, but at least you keep it short. That's more than I can say for myself.

DM: slick and funny, as always.

Thanks, Defenz.

AR: I read your attached article. Very cool. Worth the detour.

And to Mike: great quote. Kind of like Woody Allen's old classic, "I wouldn't want to join a club that would have me as a member." One of the biggest problems I have with the current means of presidential campaigning is that the only candidates who even survive to the last round are the ones with the most political ambition (typically). And for me, that's the LAST kind of person I want in office... a master of the game, a glad-hander, an ace schmoozer, a slick persistent wheeler-dealer who's so focused on that office that they're willing to put up with more than a year of that crap. By the same token, I have to recognize that the kind of person I'D want up there probably wouldn't last a month among those agenda-driven sharks anyway. So if you want someone who'll stand a chance of actually getting anything done, ya' kinda' gotta' go with the dude/dudette who comes closest to your own beliefs AND has the tenacity and political grit to see this whole repulsive process to the end.


What was I talking about?


Brilliant! I am grateful and ispired by you. Look forward to the book and the piece on magic.

i agree with some of your points ghs but you are inconsistent. the culture of the drug user generates spillage onto the street indeed. as does the culture of the tabacco smoking gun toting drinker. our laws are inconsistent. if we had no gun shops we'd have no columbine-esque disater figures. if we diddnt breath other peoples smoke we'd all be healthier - and that applies to the carbon monoxide of the internal combustion engine too. drinkers can kill themselves but drunk driving is inexcuseable. we are completely confused in our legistlation. apply your drug concerns to guns. theyre fine on the range, in the home, in the army, but in the street? ban them, theyre more dangerous than drugs. no-one ever drew blood with a loaded reefer.

similarly with cnn, the views of fox offend many but they should be free to say what they want. shaping the news is what tv stations do. cnn have no obligations beyond fox or anyone. you saw through them afterall. whose truth is it? if you went to do some independent reporting in iraq you were officially a target for the us military. the unprecedented governmental control of the press during the singlemost important global event of the century so far badly needed a balance, and cnn diddnt even give it. how could they from the back of a humvee? all they could do was be contrary. al jazeera on the other hand really presented a different case but how much syndication did that get? better not screen it, amercian citizens cant handle the responsibility of making thier own decisions. according to you they cant even handle cnn.

incoherantly ranting makes more sense than smoking.

Surprisingly enough, no one has mentioned seatbelt laws yet. This fact struck me when somene 50 or so comments back posted that we should be free to drink alcohol, smoke cigrettes or crack cocaine if we wanted to. In a perfect world, where EVERY man is an island, this would be true.

But no one is really an island, and unless you're Tom Hanks in a moderately entertaining movie, no one is alone on their islands. To paraphrase from James Burke's magnificent "Connections" TV series, whether or not a car coming down a street hits you may have to do with someone you've never met properly adjusting that car's brakes.

So. Given that no man (nor woman) truly is an island, are seat belt laws justifiable? My own experience would prompt a grudging, reluctant "yes", only because I was in an accident in which my use of a seat belt undoubtedly prevented property damage (another vehicle) and may have prevened injuries to those passengers.

I'm too damn tired to give the full version, so here's the short version: Some asshole decided to make in illegal turn right in front of me. I hit his car and my van caromed towards another vehicle in the oncoming lane. Because I was belted in, I was instantaneously back in control of my van and was able to steer the other way, avoiding another crash by (as the driver of the oncoming car later told police) two inches. If that much.

Had I not been belted in, I would probably have been knocked out by the first impact, rendering me incapable of avoiding the second. But where I was alone in the van, the oncoming truck had two people in it. Because I buckled up, two people went on their way, literally shaken but not stirred.


Apropos of seatbelt laws, one could also discuss the far more convincing case for motorcycle helmet laws, but I'll limit myself to one comment:
emergency room personnel have a slang nickname for helmetless motorcycle riders involved in roadway accidents; they call them 'organ donors.'

I had to dig out an old civics book to find this
but I wanted the exact phrasing.

The first amendment to the constitution of the united states of america:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

To my mind you can substitute the technology of today, television transmission, and arrive at the conclusion that CNN can transmit anything it damn well pleases, or that I could get a permit and transmit whatever I wanted to. It is incumbit upon the listener/viewer to make up their own mind and not be swayed, just as it has always been the resposibility of the reader of books and newspapers, material from the 'press', to arrive at their own conclusion. Its not like influence of the media is anything new, there has always been yellow journalism to a greater or lesser degree, it has always been up to 'we the people' to make up our own minds.

On the issue of gun control alpha said: "if we had no gun shops we'd have no columbine-esque disater figures"


I couldn't disagree more, human nature is what it is irespective of the availability of guns. What is a gun? A bit of metal, some springs and gears,
a holow tube and a bolt. The same discription could be aplied to a clock or an automobile engine or a stapler. The gun is just a machine, a tool. When you are talking about heinous events like columbine you are talking about the darkest impulses of human nature that act regardless of the instrument. I do not honestly beleive that outlawing guns would save one life, and there are several reasons for this. Firstly guns are very redily available illegaly, secondly there are all sorts of things in the average houshold that would be virtualy imposible to outlaw that could be used as weapons.

The trouble with gun control is that the people pushing it don't seem to realize it isn't instrument its intent. You could outlaw every peice of technology that could conceivably be used as a weapon, thus rendering us technologicaly equal to the caveman, and human nature being what it is we would procede to do what the cavemen did. Whack each other with big ole rocks.

So my contention is unless and until you can figure out some way to change human nature outlawing guns is pointless.

I do agree that in an ideal world we wouldn't have guns, but the last time I looked we were at least ten decimal places from ideal.

One more thing on the gun issue.

Alpha said: but in the street? ban them, theyre more dangerous than drugs. no-one ever drew blood with a loaded reefer.
Thats just it, the person on 'the street' if he or she has a gun it probably isn't any more legal than that reefer. This hypothetical person probably isn't supposed to have either but is easily able to obtain both through illegal means. I seem to recall seeing a statistic a few years ago that said most firearm related homecides were caused by illeagle weapons

I had to go back and read my original incoherent, late-night, epic-length response to alpha to find out what I'd said that made it sound like I thought CNN had done something illegal, unconstitutional, or at least deserving of sanctions... because that's not what I'd meant or thought I'd said. But since several people have commented on the basis of that assumption, I must presume that the error in expression was mine. And I think I found it.

I kept saying things like, "One has the right to do that, the other does NOT." And worst of all (I now see), I said "In other words, CNN shouldn't be allowed to exercise that kind of "free speech." YOU can, and I can, but CNN canNOT. Period. It has an obligation. It has a responsibility."

Yes, I see the problem now. And the bad is mine. I guess I was a little overly passionate that night or something. I can see what I MEANT hidden in there among all the assertive language, but I sure didn't say it right. Let me try it again, here in the well-rested light of a later day.

CNN, for me, was the last bastion of responsible reporting for the longest time. I'd long since given up on local news (with their chummy "candid" banter, their GQ and Cosmo anchors, shallow half-assed research and reporting, and their amateur-hour "acting," going from happy-face to sad-face, back and forth, as they read off "tragic" news and "happy" news in sequence) OR the big-3 network news programs, with their sensationalizing, mood music, and over-the-top special effects (although I held onto a fading appreciation of Peter Jennings for the longest time). CNN just SEEMED to stick to the mechanics of cold, clinical fact-relating, and that, to me, was dependable.

So, after even THEY poisoned the last "drinkable well" with their mishandling of the Iraq thingy, I was really disappointed. To me, they shouldn't have been "allowed" to do that (yep, that's where it sounded like I was calling for legal action), which I'd meant in the same vein as saying, for instance, "they shouldn't allow the winners of the "American Idol" competition to call themselves "American IDOLS," when all they are are SINGERS (albeit arguably "good" ones)." None of them writes their own music, plays their own instruments (at least not in competition), or contributes anything more than the voices they were born with (that, plus a little stage presence maybe). The point is, I'm not calling for official government intervention or sanctions in either case, just expressing my dissatisfaction and disappointment. Of COURSE they can call their show and their winners anything they want... and of COURSE CNN can legally and constitutionally do what THEY did. But they SHOULDN'T do it. It discredits them, and disenchants me, and in CNN's case, it sets the dangerous precedent of misinforming the people who influence the direction of national policy. They shouldn't be "allowed" to do that... not legally, but ethically. That's what I meant.

CNN enjoys the same right to free speech as everyone else, BUT, in my opinion, as credible professional journalists, they have a responsibility to refrain from opinionating and promoting their own agendas. In their influential position, misrepresenting or excluding pertinent facts IS actually dangerous to the nation, unlike the average Joe Blow and his outspoken disgust over something like flag-burning.

Anyhoo, I'm rambling... AGAIN.

One more thing though before I go. In alpha's last little missive, he/she said, "... apply your drug concerns to guns. theyre fine on the range, in the home, in the army, but in the street?"

Well, (a) as Tim so ably pointed out, a gun is just the means to an end, a tool of lethal capability which, in its absence, can be replaced by just about anything else from tire irons to kitchen knives, which can, in their turn, and guided by the same dire intent, be just as lethal. (b) It IS currently illegal to walk around with a gun in the streets, unless you've got a permit to do so (which probably 95% of the violent users do NOT have). And (c) while a "reefer" may not qualify as a lethal weapon, any person in a state of altered consciousness (from ANY form of substance abuse) has the capacity to do things that they would normally never consider (or things that they've OFTEN considered but wouldn't normally act upon). And in their hands, once again, anything from a letter opener to the steering wheel of a car becomes a potentially lethal weapon. So, in my opinion, at the very least, they are both worthy of having the strictest legal controls placed on them.

As for seat belts and motorcycle helmets, I personally don't think that either should be mandated by law. I use both myself, since neither inconveniences me or mitigates the driving or riding experience, but I don't think a cop should be able to give me a ticket (with its commensurate fine, points, and effects on my clean driving record) because I failed to protect myself from myself. Sell me on the wisdom of it through advertising, persuade me with insurance benefits, DISsuade me against NOT using them with insurance penalties if you like, but don't make it against the law to choose not to. Otherwise, pretty soon, with all the statistics about accidents in the bathroom, it'll be illegal not to have a rubber safety mat in the tub, punishable by fine and possible incarceration (yes, I exaggerate).

Enough. Must run. Must shut up.


On the CNN issue, a quick excerpt from an article I wrote:

"The man in the street or the common person desires to be entertained. Their interest rests with entertainment and not with changing the world or making a difference. This opens another avenue to be exploited. Films such as Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" and many other slanted documentaries and films hone in to entertain and shock the viewer.

The ability to "shut ourselves out" from the hardships and suffering of others, whether near or far is crucial in order to focus on developing ourselves and performing our day to day tasks, yet it is this guilt which we feel for not thinking or performing which leads us to feel connected to the suffering of the less fortunate. For one to take action one must have something to gain or lose and to truly research a subject takes time and patience, which the common man trusts the perceived professionals, the journalists and media, to perform. This is a no-win situation, the media exploit the publics desire to be entertained and feel connected to the world, providing tainted information to increase readership / viewership, while the consumer wishes to be entertained."

Guns are like drugs: useful tools and harmless recreation in the right hands, harmful to lethal in the wrong ones. The difference is, a gun doesn't cloud your mind unless you've been severely brainwashed.

If nothing else, I would be in favor of second-amendment rights for one big reason: a gun is the final word in the battle of the sexes. With any other weapon, including bare hands, a small, petite woman like me is at a huge disadvantage to any reasonably fit man. I'm not afraid of men, but in the clutch martial arts just ain't gonna cut it, and I do believe in being prepared.

You can't change human nature, even if you try to take the tools of violence away. Better to give the law-abiding and upstanding a chance to defend themselves against the criminal and the predatory than to screw them in pursuit of a hopeless ideal.

Seemingly there are at least a few irreducible conflicts between individual liberty and the “aggregate” rights/duties of society.

Regard two situations that have arisen in the last two decades:

1) Many diseases that had been considered essentially “controlled” and “controllable” by antibiotic drugs have evolved forms that are resistant to all available known drug protocols, or susceptible ONLY to an extremely limited number of specific antibiotics. Tuberculosis in particular has become a deadly and virulently INFECTIOUS pathogen. The most typical problem scenario of the last decade is for a homeless indigent person diagnosed with tuberculosis to be treated and released with instructions to follow a complex and specific course of antibiotics. The homeless indigent is frequently a multiple substance abuser, with mental impairment that makes self-administration of complex protocols pretty much impossible.

Public health officials have found repeatedly that such patients quickly abandon or sell their antibiotics, and go about their lives exposing EVERYONE they contact to the new virulent, drug resistant form of tuberculosis. The ONLY reliable treatment option is forcible confinement of the patient until the antibiotics have killed the infection.

Does society have the right--- the obligation --- to restrict the freedom of an otherwise non-violent person to prevent that person spreading a deadly disease, particularly if that person resists or is incapable of observing voluntary limitations on his behavior?

2) AIDS. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome--- As early as 1984 (if not much earlier) I was reading front page articles in the NORFOLK VIRGINIA newspapers that described in detail what was then known--- that the disease was spread by sharing of body fluids containing a virus. The primary infection paths were intimate sexual contact, especially anal intercourse because of the delicacy of the anal mucus membranes, and intravenous drug use by groups sharing their needles and syringes.

Claims of deliberate suppression of this information are absurd. The information has been available for anyone with a second grade reading ability for two full decades. The problem is that there is a very large component of humans that simply will not or can not resist their hedonistic impulses, regardless of the KNOWN consequences.

[If that statement seems “judgmental” SO FUCKING WHAT? It is nonetheless a simple brutal inarguable FACT. I do not exclude myself from that judgment, because I’ve done plenty of stupid impulsive things full knowing that there were dire possibly fatal consequences if things went awry. I’ve stopped most of my stupid behaviors, and most of the things I’m confessing in this vague way were acts that would never have affected anyone but myself directly.]

Over the decades it has been seen that AIDS also is evolving and throwing multiple mutations that resist all known treatments. In San Francisco, where the city government is arguably the most “gay-friendly” and supportive municipal government in the world, public bath houses known to be sites of high-risk unprotected sexual contact had been briefly closed. They were allowed to re-open as treatment for AIDS appeared to be slowing morbidity and new infection rates AND because of the gay community’s activism in promoting the use of condoms.

Well, sadly, there is a persistent and growing group of mostly young gay men who simply refuse to practice safe sex, knowing full well that this will spread disease, and that new strains of AIDS have arisen that can not be treated.

Again I have to ask, “Does the society have the right to take action to prevent the spread of a known deadly pathogen by people who are infected with that pathogen, including but not necessarily limited to confinement or quarantine of individuals known to be carriers, and especially individuals that refuse to constrain their own dangerous behavior?”

This applies to persons of either sex who knowingly continue to engage in unprotected sex after being diagnosed with AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia, whatnot. For many decades there have been laws that made it illegal to engage in sex after a person had been diagnosed with syphilis until the disease was confirmed to have been eradicated.

It is bizarre beyond any comprehension to me that our schools will expel a child for making a “pointy-index-finger-GUN” gesture, or for sharing a cough-drop with another student, but that we are paralyzed at the inherent conflicts in cases where individual mis-behavior constitutes a real and present danger.

In many ways this reflects AGAIN the pernicious creeping influence of litigation promoted by a system that rewards gutless and amoral attorneys for lawsuits over issues where the defending party has not even committed any infraction of law.

David March
animator & fiddler

Abortion for me is an easy question. The ancients knew what it was about 2,500 years ago without the benefit of ultra sound.

For me it is about enforcement. Do I want to give government officials the right to poke around in my daughter's and wife's genitals for evidence of a crime? Do I want them doing that sort of thing weekly to prevent crime? Do I want to make the women of this country wards of the state? Do I want every miscarraige treated as a murder investigation? Do I want a lot of women in prison for murder who don't deserve to be there because I know justice is not perfect?

I know my answer. What is yours.

GreatHairySilverback you said prove why somebody should be legaly required to wear a seatbelt or helmet. Upon reflection it occured to me that nobody should be legaly required to wear a helmet, its their own business if they want to splat their own fool head. However I can think of a good reason to require seatbelts, supose somebody was in an accident and they weren't wearing a seatbelt, they crash through the roof of their car and go sailing through rush hour trafic. Suddenly they are no longer Joe Sixpack private citizine, they have become a deadly missle and a menace to others. A bit morbid but the point is that it affects others. A variation on a saying thats popped up several times on this page springs to mind 'Your freedom to sail through the air ends
at my nose'

I realize this is a bit of a simplification of the issue but I think that is a reasonable way to say it. However I think the real issue is personal choice and common sense, and I don't think there is an effective way to legaly inforce common sense. A hefty fine for failing to buckle up doesn't make too much sense, so while wearing a seatbelt isn't only a simple way to protect yourself but also considerate of others, if somebody simply won't do it then no amount if fine can compel them to do so. I know people that, if they felt strongly enough about it, would gladly pay a fine to defend their right to break their fool neck in an accident. Useing more or less that exact phraseing.

I want to close this by saying thank you GHS for saying that I pointed out something ably as most of the time my writing and phraseing feels, to me, like I'm trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together, with an hourglass running out. I end up jamming things together and hoping for the best.

tim, well put about gun related crime using largely illegal weapons. my point is really about culture. there is a gun culture in the usa unlike many other parts of the world, one which cannot be legistlated into oblivion with the push of a pen. the british french and germans all manufacture guns but you cant buy them in the street. you cant get a licence for a firearm very easily at all, but you can have a legal weapon if you want one, you can be a member of a gun club, you can go hunting on private land. theres nothing you cant do with a legal gun in europe that you cant do in the usa. if the solution for the overspill of illegal drugs is to ban drugs, hey, solve gun crime with illegal guns by banning them. conversly, legalise drugs. have drug clubs, be a licenced user. its about responsibility.

ghs, basically cnn started saying things you diddnt like. thats not their problem. its their job to survive as an entity. thats what the modern world is about. not facts, survival. they made decisions they thought they could survive. they have. when we have a world that is about truth, then we'll have a world where we find iraqs wmd. the agenda for the invasion of iraq was set before 911. all that was needed was to convince the voters. truth, responsibility, cant put presedential responsibilities onto a tv station. thats why i'd like to have seen more of what al jazeera had to say. they felt very obligated, but to a different set of criteria. as a free man i think im entitled to judge them for myself. i have no problem with ther lies or ommissions emmitted by cnn or fox. just because i vote republican doesnt mean democrats shouldnt get airtime. in the free world we seem a little threatened by offering people freedom of thought even though we use that mantra to criticise our enemies. how much responsibility are we actually able to handle ourselves? not much it seems according to you guys. wooops there goes bill's theory.

seatbelts and helmets...a helmeted motorcyclist coming through my windscreen head first is more likely to reach my nose than a soft peach like impact of a head on laminated glass. i still think its safer to wear a helmet, buckle up and drive in a country where you are far less likely to find a gun being produced in one of those road rage moments..

abortion. i think the doctor with the 12 week idea had it about right. if we can execute someone after they have been born, then we can surely determine circumstances requiring a termination before they have been born. again, what price human life? one rule for some another for others. thats why i think we still live in the dark ages, were all mixed up, we think we know all the answers, then we go and create anthrax spores in government laboritories and complain that someones actually using them. we are totally fucking cluless, and self righteous with it. kill the enemy. shoot them, cluster bomb them. put a 12 year old on death row for aborting a foetus why dont we? now thats what i call civilisation. now were really making progress. lets roll...

came back as i have a responsibilty to take care of and put my name to the above post.

Subject:Rednecks (Leftish logic)

Two rednecks, Bubba and Cooter, decided that they weren't going anywhere in life and thought they
should go to college to get ahead.

Bubba goes in first, and the professor advises him
to take math, history, and logic.

"What's logic?" asked Bubba.

The professor answered, "Let me give you an example.
Do you own a weed-eater?"

"I sure do." answered the redneck.

"Then I can assume, using logic, that you have a
yard." replied the professor.

"That's real good." the redneck responded in awe.

The professor continued: "Logic will also tell me
that since you have a yard, you also have a house."

Impressed, the redneck shouted, "GAWL-LEEE!!"

"And since you own a house and a house is tough to
take care of by yourself, logic dictates that you
have a wife."

"Betty Mae! This is incredible!" (Bubba is obviously
catching on).
"Finally, since you have a wife, logically I can assume
that you are heterosexual rather than homosexual"
said the professor.

"You're absolutely right! Why that's the most
fascinatin' thing I ever heard of. I can't wait to
take this here logic class."

Bubba, proud of the new world opening up to him,
walked back into the hallway where Cooter is still waiting.

"So what classes are ya takin?" he asks.

"Math, history, and logic," replies Bubba.

"What in tarnation is logic?"
"Let me give you an example. Do ya own a


"You're a queer, ain't ya?"

That kid who messed up the Internet a couple of weeks ago deserves to be held responsible for his actions. I was going to write and suggest the perfect punishment, but then I started reading a science-fiction short-story collection, and I found that Isaac Asimov had gotten there first. From "The Winds of Change", copyright 1983 Nightfall Inc. This is the criminal speaking:

The combination of hypnosis and direct neuroconditioning has only been perfected recently. . . . Look! We live in a computerized world. I can't do a thing anywhere--I can't get information--I can't pay for anything, or check on anything, or just plain do anything--without using a computer. And I have been adjusted, as you surely know, so that I an incapable of looking at a computer without hurting my eyes, or touching one without blistering my fingers . . . It's been almost a month of hell. I can't go through eleven more.


Lincoln may be the greatest man that lived in the nineteenth century. But the greatest ever? You wil have to admit that there is at least one competitor. I'm quoting from memory here, so this may not be word for word:

The battle for France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Hitler knows that he must break us in this island or lose the war. Therefore let us brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, though Empire and Commonwealth endure for a thousand years, men will still say: this was their finest hour.

"the british french and germans all manufacture guns but you cant buy them in the street."

This is not true, at least in the British case. (I don't have statistics on hand for the French and Germans, although I do know from specific cases that illegal guns continue to be used in France in the bad mostly-immigrant neighborhoods.) Use of illegal handguns in crime rose forty percent after the 1997 ban, and has been slowly creeping up ever since. They aren't getting them from the Gun Fairy.

"theres nothing you cant do with a legal gun in europe that you cant do in the usa."

Bullshit. You can't carry one for self defense (most American states have legal open carry and many others have legal concealed carry with an extra permit), you can't use one to defend your home, and you can't hunt on public land. (As you can with many public lands here, mostly Bureau of Land Management territory.) In fact in Britain, you cannot legally carry ANY weapon for self defense. No knives, no pepper spray, not even a knitting needle.

Your perspective on "Europe" is also a bit too broad. In some European countries, all men over eighteen are mandated by law to be armed. Surprisingly enough, they have very low crime rates.

"conversly, legalise drugs. have drug clubs, be a licenced user. its about responsibility."

This makes no sense, as you appear to be saying people aren't responsible enough to be allowed to own and use a certain class of lethal weapon, but are to be allowed substances that not only have lethal potential, but that alter your capacity to be responsible in the first place. (Note: I am indeed in favor of the legalisation of some drugs, though not all of them. But being in favor of one but not the other strikes me as hypocritical, unless I'm reading you wrong.)

As for the CNN thing, it seems to be that GHS is criticizing them for their lack of ethics, not that they're exercising their freedom of press and speech or saying things with which he disagrees. He's an idealist; newsrooms have been about profit rather than any sort of journalistic ideal since the first Gulf War.

Frankly, all that angst without much in the way of logical backup just makes you sound a bit silly.

First of all, thanks LabRat. I was still fumbling with how to rephrase myself for the third time without actually rephrasing myself for the third time, when you stepped in and summed it up nicely. Thank-you.

Alpha, you said, "...ghs, basically cnn started saying things you diddnt like. thats not their problem. its their job to survive as an entity. thats what the modern world is about. not facts, survival. they made decisions they thought they could survive. they have."

Well, (a) it wasn't that CNN "said" something I didn't like. It's what they DID that I didn't like. They didn't lie, they didn't misquote, they didn't alter facts. They simply chose to be selective with what I should or shouldn't know, and that selectivity was based on their own personal agendas. They went above and beyond the call of their "duty" as responsible journalists, and, much like a teacher who decides to teach her students only creationism, when evolution and the related sciences are required and expected parts of her curriculum, I don't think CNN should be "allowed" to do that... AGAIN, not legally, but ethically. And because I, perhaps foolishly, once placed personal stock in the clinical and complete accuracy of their reporting, I am now disappointed by their bad faith practices, and they have lost me as a viewer (oh dear, oh dear, how will they ever recover from THAT blow?). (b) Yes, it's their "job" to survive as an entity. But one wonders then how they ever managed to "survive" BEFORE this shift in professional ethics, back when they were merely one of the most powerful, prolific, and successful news agencies in the world. And (c) yes, they made decisions they thought they could survive, and they have. In my book, they are now "surviving" at the same level as "Dateline" and "48 Hours," as a marginally enhanced tabloid news show. And in the future, I shall grant them just that much credibility.

You also said, "... i have no problem with ther lies or ommissions emmitted by cnn or fox."

Well, here's where you and I differ. Because I DO have a problem with their lies and omissions. 'Nuff said there... I hope.

You said, "... how much responsibility are we actually able to handle ourselves? not much it seems according to you guys. wooops there goes bill's theory."

Actually that's the whole POINT behind "bill's theory." That in a society with this much vaunted freedom, we NEED to start accepting more responsibility. We... anyone... can HANDLE the responsibility. Unfortunately, we usually choose not to. And his essay (and this comment stream) are replete with examples.

It requires conscientious effort, and a certain amount of the courage that Bill specifically addressed. The whole point is that freedom -- with any hope of lasting beyond a handful of generations without imploding in on itself out of blind, self-destructive laziness and greed -- must include a little wisdom, foresight, and an eye on the bigger picture. Unrestrained blanket "freedom" to do any damned thing you want just because it "feels good," or bumps up the profit margin, or momentarily assures your corporate "survival," is a doomed enterprise. So "how much CAN we handle?" All of it. How much are we WILLING to handle? That's the fodder for debate, as well as a damned good essay.

You said, "... if the solution for the overspill of illegal drugs is to ban drugs, hey, solve gun crime with illegal guns by banning them. conversly, legalise drugs. have drug clubs, be a licenced user. its about responsibility."

Well, I believe illegal guns ARE "banned"... because they're illegal (seems kinda' obvious). But "drug clubs?" How do you license someone to poison themselves, mortally addict themselves (and yes, I'm looking a little beyond marijuana here, which actually does have a LITTLE room for leverage, in my opinion), AND suspend their capacity for rational, responsible, introspective thought, especially when that latter issue can then take the self-destructiveness out of the "club" and into the general public? How do you "contain" a club member to the club when they no longer understand the importance of that containment? Do you just lock 'em all in until they've "sobered up" (or are no longer able to continue paying for their hits), or do you just make them promise not to do anything stupid when they leave? I know... we could have them sign waivers, absolving the club ownership from liability when (not "if") they go out stoned and do something lethally stupid.

It's a whole different ball of wax when the "toys" you want to legalize make their responsible use a moot point. So, you're right... it IS about responsibility... just not the user's, because they won't be exhibiting any.

You said, "... i still think its safer to wear a helmet, buckle up and drive in a country where you are far less likely to find a gun being produced in one of those road rage moments."

A good thought. Truly. Of course, even with guns available aplenty, people under the influence of road rage still continue to do lethal harm with any implement at their disposal, not just guns. In fact, without knowing the statistics, I'd be willing to bet that guns play a minor percentage role in the overall tallies of injuries and deaths due to road rage. But I don't know that for a fact.

One thing you said that I thought was intriguing was, "... abortion. i think the doctor with the 12 week idea had it about right. if we can execute someone AFTER they have been born, then we can surely determine circumstances requiring a termination BEFORE they have been born. again, what price human life?" (my caps)

An interesting perspective. I must ruminate on that.

As for your final little diatribe about our seemingly contradictory standards of "civilization," and comparing that to the Dark Ages, well... if you can't tell the difference between the wide open, vocal, freely opinionated, interconnected, wildly creative, individualistic, and socially successful nature of THIS society from the repressive, knowledge starved, battered herd nature of the Dark Ages, I don't think we're ever going to find enough common ground to hold an argument on.

And one final note, for Tim: I never called for anyone to "prove why somebody should be legaly required to wear a seatbelt or helmet." I was just saying that, if a society wants to get me to follow the "safety rules," they should (and I quote myself here), "... sell me on the wisdom of it through advertising, persuade me with insurance benefits, DISsuade me against NOT using them with insurance penalties if you like, but don't make it against the law to choose not to." That's all.

Otherwise, we are in complete agreement on your other points.


Well, apparently somebody's going to have to hide this danged soapbox from me, because I can't seem to resist standing it on it. Dad-gummit.

Sorry folks. Return to your lives. Nothing to see here.


Unfortunately, CNN's agreement to self-censor stories that embarrassed the Iraqi Baathist regime in exchange for access is not a new capitulation as far as the news world is concerned. Remember the movie "The Insider"? 60 Minutes deep-sixed a Jeffrey Wigand interview because their CBS masters were threatened with a suit from the targets of the investigation, Brown & Williamson, at the moment a corporate sale was being negotiated. Those supposed monuments of integrity, Mike Wallace, and Don Hewitt, knuckled under to the corporate pressure and quashed the segment. Lowell Bergman actually quit 60 Mintutes over the incident, and his full interview with Wigand was aired only after Bergman blew the whistle on the whole sordid affair to the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.
I have not watched 60 Minutes since.

thanks. good points all round. this is all very helpful.

labrat, i mean about buying guns in the street in britain for example that there are no gun shops in the high street. there are hunting suppliers and the occasional air gun to be found but there is no gun shop in every town by a long shot (haha). i refer to gun culture. drug culture. spillage, denial, contradictions. i think that a gun too, like a drug can distort judgement.

my drug club is just an idea. i prefer to toy with crazy ideas than with drugs or guns so i appreciate the counter-reasoning. i of course retract my "bullshit" point about guns. i'd like to see figures for death by gunshot per capita in the usa /uk? that would be interesting, i havent found any in my brief search so far. it seems were all heading for one big global shoot out so we should all get tooled up as they say sooner or later more is the pity.

in the survivalists dream, when society has fallen apart, he who lives by the gun shall drink. but there will be more blood than water. it will be an awesome test of humanity when it comes.

but i digress. on cnn, ghs, you prove my instincts correct, though i dont think ive expressed myself well on the subject; its personal between you and cnn. my point is simply this; our societies in general, across the western world, tend to rely on television, radio and other media for our news, our entertainment, and in many cases our social life, structure, reference and information. we get what we ask for; someone else controlling our intake. whatever we think we might want from them, it is not us they exist for. there is no television by the people for the people. these are independent companies.

what a blessing the internet is. amidst all the rubbish and horrors lie real people saying what they really think and really know, in their millions, not just in their relatively few cable tv channels or national networks controlled and presented by overpaid self important ponsified egotistical bullshitters, doing somebody they're in bed with's bidding. having said that, the cult of the hero lives on here. were still human on the net.

ethics and responsibility play second fiddle to survival; to power. these are our societies rules. from cnn to the microsoft. from gm solutions to soylent green (yes i know that was fiction, so was 1984). its a cruel and ruthless world we live in but this is OUR choice for a society. it is GOOD. it is RIGHT. you have to take the good with the bad. tv culture, gun culture or drug culture. all part of the same story. the only solutions are what they call 'final' as we march towards total global control. totalitarianism in the name of freedom. american freedom that is. "its not only your right as an american, its your patritic duty" negates the self evident truths that apply to MANKIND. survival over ethics again. still, enjoy the mess while youve got it, its called life.

" i think that a gun too, like a drug can distort judgement."

Oh, do enlighten me as to how. There is a very large difference between the object altering your perspective, as does a hit of crack, and a person forgetting the power he holds in his hand- which applies to drugs, guns, cars, power tools, and any other number of objects.

I have been raised within the "gun culture". My father was raised in a rural area where all the males twelve and up knew how to shoot, and my significant other began learning when he was five; I hang out with plenty of gun culture. Given that all the drooling right-wing gun nuts I know will spend twenty minutes yelling at you if you so much as let the barrel of an unloaded gun drift in the general direction of a living thing you don't actually intend to shoot, let alone if it's a loaded one, I have difficulties believing that the "gun culture" encourages this loss of awareness.

"i'd like to see figures for death by gunshot per capita in the usa /uk? that would be interesting, i havent found any in my brief search so far."

14.4 in the US in 1998, .54 for Scotland and .41 for England and Wales the same year. (That was the most recent I could dig up on short notice for that particular statistic.) However, the US rate has fallen since then and the English rate has risen. Assault, armed robbery, home burglary, and muggings are now higher in per capita rates in England and Wales than they are in the US.

Additionally, once you break down the actual statistics, the vast majority of shootings occur in dysfunctional inner city settings and skew the statistics- take out gang violence, and our rates are comparable to Europe. Don't blame "gun culture"; NRA members have a lower homicide rate than the average population. Blame the culture of violence and desperation in these communities.

"it seems were all heading for one big global shoot out so we should all get tooled up as they say sooner or later more is the pity."

You aren't much of a student of history, are you? If you can honestly look at the twentieth century and say we are closer to global conflagration NOW than we were in, say, 1969, or in 1939, then I seriously question your perspective. The rest of your ranting doesn't show much more.

Dude, get with the times. People stopped holing up in bomb shelters with tinned peaches when the Berlin Wall came down. People have been hollering about the end of the world and civilization since the beginning of recorded history. That there is violence and ugliness inherent in human nature is not news. We've been working around it for five million years.

Sooner or later everyone has to stop brooding over the supposedly awful condition of the human race and get on with living. Except Ted Kaczynski, and look how he turned out.

The above post is mine... no more posting right before bed for me.

okok so im going to give up drugs and buy a gun. i promise not to point it at anyone but i understand im entitled to use it against you if you try and get me with yours first. quite what chance i'll have im not sure, being that you'll likely be pointing yours at me before i have the right to point mine at you. now i think about it, knowing that your hiding a weapon somehwere in your house, i should just go straight round and take over your whole neighborhood.

and if im unduly worried about civil and global unrest, whats the gun for? do i need one or do i just want one coz its cool?

gun culture it seems has totally distorted your judgement. you think a gun is a good thing to have and to be around. it is not. you see how deep your problem is?

and to enlighten you, as you are apparently not a gun toting crack head, as to how a gun, yes just like a car or a powertool can distort judgement. its about what your judging. given a gun, procuring my next hit of crack could be easier. no gun and im less likely to get it. no need to think about changing my ways. the gun gets me what i need. no-one will mess with me. i need food? reach for the gun. its the hunter in me. its my inflexible freind. my cash card. its ok, it works. good decision.

also, the bigger distortion is that your gun will make you feel like a real man, maybe even a real american, both of which of course, you already are.

thanks for the gun death figures. are you suggesting that the armed crime figures in the uk are higher per capita than for the us because of the gun laws there?

i think the rising gun crime in the uk can be attributed in no small part to imported culture, not least from the glamourisation of guns and the 20 deaths per minute exported in us tv shows and movies over the last 50 years. wheres the ethics in the media? good question.

beneath my ranting are thoughts taken from bills essay here. responsibility. hopeful, wishful thinking. what american corporation answerable to the bahamian department of finance needs to be responsible? it needs to feed itself apparently so that the people can lick some of the dribble from its chin. thats how capitalism works. the means justify the end. along the way we the people think something should be done about all the wrongs around us. we complain about cnn when its only a symptom of our very own self created system. its capitalism. it works. get over it. lick the dribble and be happy. "Sooner or later everyone has to stop brooding over the supposedly awful condition of the human race and get on with living."

thats why the drug and gun comparison interests me. we dont want high taxes and heavy legistlation yet we want to impose ethical morallity and perpetuate our security. these factors conflict, and bill quite rightly picks out 'responsibility' as a guide. i just think hes a bit picky with his targets when all around is about money by defenition.

i still like the idea of drug clubs, they sound like fun.

"and if im unduly worried about civil and global unrest, whats the gun for? do i need one or do i just want one coz its cool?"

I honestly could not care less whether you have or want a gun or not, any more than you likely care whether I take drugs. I only care when someone else confuses their preferences for societal good as a whole and tries to take away MY choice.

"gun culture it seems has totally distorted your judgement. you think a gun is a good thing to have and to be around. it is not. you see how deep your problem is?"

Oh gee gosh a' golly, you really have me there. Because I disagree with you, I'm obviously suffering from a deep psychological sickness. Where can I get help!?

Tell you what, sport: why don't you try getting some actual evidence to back up your position and get back to me? Try answering these questions:

1. How does an object made of metal and carbon turn a rational, peaceful citizen into a murdering thug? Really, I don't want to hear again that it DOES, I want to hear HOW. Nobody I know with a gun has ever killed anything besides a legal game animal or a paper target, so I'm very curious to hear when they're going to start shooting the neighborhood children.

2. Why should effective weapons be purely the property of the lawbreaker? Clearly gun laws, up to and including total bans, do not prevent criminals from getting them: so why should we disarm the law-abiding and leave the criminal armed? And why should guns be treated differently than cars, which also have lethal potential, also frequently fall into the hands of criminals, and kill far more people every year than guns do? Is the capability to defend yourself against all comers something that people shouldn't be allowed to have unless they have officially vested authority, even though policemen kill more people in direct encounters with criminals than armed citizens do?

"no gun and im less likely to get it. no need to think about changing my ways. the gun gets me what i need. no-one will mess with me."

Great, but I'm not a crackhead. You've just described the criminal mindset, period. How is a gun special with respect to this? Why does a person willing to use force to get their way in everything change because they have a gun? Why won't they have a gun if they're technically illegal? He's already willing to break the law to get drugs and whatever else he wants, why would he suddenly stop and go "oh, wait!" when he wants a gun? And even if all guns were vaporized off the face of the planet tomorrow, what would stop this person from using a knife or a nailed ballbat instead? What option then would a person smaller and weaker than him have?

"also, the bigger distortion is that your gun will make you feel like a real man, maybe even a real american, both of which of course, you already are."

Uh... no. For one thing, I'm really, honestly not a real man, unless I've exchanged my ovaries for testicles and conveniently forgotten it. The fact that you've forgotten this even though I explicitly said I was female earlier in this exchange writes your own bias very large, in neon letters.

It has nothing to do with being a "real man", or that I wish I were, or that I think I need to be armed to be a real American. I have a gun and the ability to use it as a practical matter, the same reason I buckle my seatbelt every time I get in the car even though I'll very likely never need it. And I don't care if others don't; that's their own choice and their own business.

"are you suggesting that the armed crime figures in the uk are higher per capita than for the us because of the gun laws there?"

Not at all. I'm suggesting they show that gun control, even as extreme as a total ban on all handguns, DOES NOT WORK, as it very clearly does not keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

I think what draconian gun control there HAS done, as *can* be illustrated in statistics, is made criminals a little bolder: as in the high and climbing rate of muggings and the fact that half of all British burglaries are committed while the victims are at home, whereas only thirteen percent of US burglaries are. Interviews with criminals almost invariably show that they are more afraid of encountering an armed homeowner than the police.

"what american corporation answerable to the bahamian department of finance needs to be responsible?"

Why are we talking about corporations when the topic was *personal* responsibility? Why blame the system (capitalism) when people's choices are all their own? They choose where to spend their money, they choose to elect their representatives, who choose to appoint regulatory bodies, and they can choose to un-elect them as well. They CHOOSE to consume whatever culture they wish. It is not forced upon them, they are not rats in a Skinner box.

The ONLY ground in which morality can be sown is INDIVIDUAL responsibility.

" we dont want high taxes and heavy legistlation yet we want to impose ethical morallity and perpetuate our security."

Who is this "we", Kemosabe?

"i still like the idea of drug clubs, they sound like fun."

Well, go have fun. Places where people take all kinds of drugs together already exist. They're colloquially referred to as "crackhouses".

silverback wrote:
... recognize that driving a moving, maneuvering, jostling vehicle with a paper cup full of hot coffee either in your hand or in your lap comes with certain potential repercussions that you, and you alone, invite into your life by accepting that risk. And if the unlikely spillage should then occur, endure your pain and embarrassment like a responsible adult and pay your own damned medical bills.

Actually, if you're referring to the case of Stella Liebeck, you'll be interested to learn some facts that didn't quite make it into Jay Leno's monologue, such as:

Stella wasn't driving the car. Her grandson was. The car wasn't moving. And the coffee was -- deliberately! -- so hot that it caused third degree burns over 6% of her body, requiring skin graft operations. She was also held to be partially at fault and damages were reduced accordingly.

No "reasonable person" would *expect* to receive a cup of coffee so hot it would cause third degree burns.

To quote from :
The trial court subsequently reduced the punitive award to $480,000 -- or three times compensatory damages -- even though the judge called McDonalds' conduct reckless, callous and willful.

Don't believe everything you hear in a comedy routine.

Sorry GHS, I reread your post and my own and I see where I made a goof, I read 'sell me on the wisdom...', and thought 'A challenge'. I personaly agree that it's realy not the states business to say 'wear a seatbelt or you get a fine', I was really just taking an opposing view for the sake of takng an opposing view. If there is one thing that gets next to me is somebody that puts words in other peoples mouths, and for doing that, by saying you said 'prove it', I am trully sorry.

I guess somebody needs to hide my soapbox too

Hi Alpha,

You seem to be confused on some issues, specifically the intent of Criminal Law: Criminals carry weapons (illegally), to ensure victim control during criminal acts. They break laws for a living, and, feel no compunction about stealing or buying guns on the blackmarket, to ensure their safety and dominance during those crimes. When you can assure me (prove to me) that criminals will obey any law, especially one that was (in fact) written to affect, to disarm (only) Law Abiding Citizens, their victims...I'll give up my Gun.

The follwing may seem a bit out-of-context, but, bear with me.

"If the people do not declare their rights, I cannot protect their rights." (Justice Hugo Black of the United States Supreme Court)

I am Gordon Arthur DeSpain, a 5th generation (Supreme Court Legally Defined) natural born Citizen of the (Supreme Court Legally Defined) Republic of Texas, one of the "several States" conjoined to form a union of States, called, "The united States of America," and, I reserve my Constitutional Rights without prejudice.

I am not a 14th Amendment citizen of the (Supreme Court Legally Defined) corporate entity, the "United States" (located within the 10 Sq. Mi. of the District of Columbia, including but not limited to, its Possessions and other Dominions), and, I eschew any and all privileges, immunities or benefits accrueing thereto.

I am 1/16 Comanche, and, 17th generation American descended from Thomas Beale of the Mayflower. My ancestors and relatives fought in every major war that occurred in American history, sometimes on both sides."

The text down to the 14th Amendment disclaimer is effectively the same statement made by Oliver North when appearing before the Senate Committee investigating the "Iran-Contra Affair." It protected him from prosecution. The lack of this statement allowed the unjust prosecution and conviction of Admiral Poindexter.

I am bearing arms open-carry in Texas, in response to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA VS TIMOTHY JOE EMERSON" (an Individual Right of the People, that cannot be infringed). I've been bearing arms for a long time, but, not open-carry before their decision, and have had no problem with the local Law Officers, who are well aware that I'm packin'.

I applied for a Concealed Handgun License, took the "Carry Course," jumped through the Hoops, pushed all th' buttons, and, had an Epiphany as I was filling out the final papers. I decided that I couldn't participate in an unconstitutional "Rent-A-Right" scheme attached to an unconstitutional (Quasi) Noble Title..."Concealed Handgun License Holder."

To put that in better perspective: even now, I don't really need a Gun in normal circumstances, because, I'm the "ex-King of the Punching Bag at Gilley's (Ernie Hicks and I were punching the exact same thing, but, he out-weighed me by 50 lbs.)." I'm trained in several different forms of Martial Arts, but, I'm gettin' a little old for that, at 62, and, I never liked hurting people who were too stupid to back away, anyway. Never wanted to have the first fight, never backed away from one, and, did everything I could to prevent one (training and natural inclination). Just the sight of a Gun on my hip saves me a lot of hide and trouble...I guess. At least, its been a long time since anybody got up in my face.

Which, at long last, brings me to the point: The FBI estimates that there are more than 1,000 Serial Killers roaming America at any given time, yet, only one or two are killed or captured in a Decade. The rest just seem to vanish into history, like Jack the Ripper.

During the debates over the Texas Right to Keep and Bear Arms, in the Constitutional Convention, a Republican Senator stood up and said, "I don't believe a Citizen of this State should feel a need to be armed against his neighbor." Well, I have a problem with that: My neighbor (four doors down) was David Allen Brooks, and, he and his friend Elmer Wayne Henley invaded this house at least two times that we know about.

David Allen Brooks, Elmer Wayne Henley, and, their mentor, Dean Coral, murdered 17 young men and women (teenagers) in Pasadena, Texas, most of them from this neighborhood. According to FBI studies, Serial Killers have a habit of frequenting places where other serial killers have been before.

I'll keep my Gun, thank you. Nobody in my family will become a victim, as long as I live. That's my responsibility as described in numerous Circuit and Supreme Court decisions that Law Enforcement has no duty to provide for my personal protection, or, even to fight for my life. In fact, they have standing orders to hide behind their vehicles until the shooting stops, the perp runs out of bullets, and, there's lots of bodies laying they did at Colombine, McDonalds (California), Luby's (Texas), and, everywhere else there has been a mass killing in the last fifty years.

They are expected to count the bodies...part of their job, ya know?


Man! Some great commentary here, scads of good stuff, and all in a row! You "guys" (duly noted, LabRat) did yourselves a service, if for no other reason than because all this fine opinionating has given ME nothing to add... for once. And that's got to be a relief for everyone.

To Tim: my response to you was not an admonition, so no apology required. Just a clarification on all my "longwinded pedantic verbosity" (Bill didn't think I could get all three of those words in one sentence).

Loved the declaration, Gordon.

To Leslie: I never knew the name Stella Liebeck, and I don't watch Leno (or anything after 10:00... I'm not a night person, as illustrated by the incoherence of my ramblings when I stay up too late to write this stuff). But I enjoyed the education in your comment. I wasn't trying to be too case-specific with that example... more like "recognizably general." I guess I could have referred to the mother who netted a hefty six-figure windfall when her son fell off his new skateboard "because" the toy manufacturer who built it hadn't included a disclaimer on the box that specifically stated that the board did not come with brakes. Or the distraught mom who sued (and won against) K-Mart (I think) for "allowing" her son to break into their secured glass gun case, steal a pistol, rob a nearby bank, and get his dumb ass shot in the ensuing pursuit. Stuff like that.

You know (as long as I've got nothing to comment on anyway), as reprehensible as the greedy opportunists like that are... as sickening as the professional legal leeches are who encourage such hyper-litigious behavior... as frustrating as it is that the courts cannot seem to find a way to block and penalize those who attempt to foist frivolous lawsuits on the system... what bugs me the most about it is that none of the aforementioned problem children would have a fake-gammy leg to stand on if the danged juries would just quit rewarding them for their blatant abuses of the system. All the wretched perpetrators aside, none of this would be happening if the friggin' panels of "my peers" were just doing their civic duties (rather than "putting up with the inconvenience"), paying attention, and thinking more responsibly than expeditiously.


So there.

And NEXT from left field... !


Thanks, GHS,

It's the declaration that I carry in my Gun Bag, wherever I go.

There are lots of things about that declaration that many people don't know (i.e. - Full name, upper and lowercase letters), but, it's the way you recover Citizenship in the State of your birth or permanent residence. And, consequently, your Constitutional Rights.

If you'll look at the requirements for eligibility to receive a CCW or CHL (i.e. New Mexico), the first question they ask is: Are you a citizen of the United States, residing in New Mexico? The purpose is to establish you as a (virtual) "citizen of the United States," temporarily residing in New Mexico. This allows the State to grant (rent) a Quasi "Noble Title," which has a 14th Amendment 'privilege'(and, immunity from prosecution) of "Bearing Arms Concealed" attached to it (granted by the United States), which is denied to all other Law Abiding Citizens of the State.

It's a blatant violation of Article 1, Sections 9 & 10 of the Constitution and employes a deliberate corruption of the 'intent of the Framers' of the 14th Amendment. It usurps power to the Federal Government to grant 'rights' in the guise of privilege.

Did you ever study any of the Anti-Discrimination Laws or Supreme Court Decisions on Individual Rights? You can't deny rights to one class of Citizen, while allowing all other classes of Citzen to exercise the same rights. The inverse applies with equal force - you cannot 'grant' rights to one class of Citizen, while denying that right to all others, because it's the defining characteristic of Noble Titles.


Brilliant! Words fail me. One of the best essays I've read on this site. I wish they gave us those texts at my school!
I don't have much time right now but I will post something longer and better later on. Rock on, Bill.

I've got to give this one to some people I know. It's great. The observation that people should be given as much freedom as they take responsibility for is just amazing. Nothing of that sort had ever dawned on me, and then I came to your site and there it was. Thank you very much for writing this essay. Keep up the good work.

Mr. Whittle,

Necessary disclaimer...I have read all of your essays, and I think you are a powerful writer who has firmly grasped many essential truths.

HOWEVER, in the spirit of this essay, you have made an error in judgement. You got a lot of comments on the subject of abortion, many by people who point out that your position is broadly inconsistent with the point of the essay. I agree, the subject is not the central point of the essay, and it would be better if the comments focussed on the topic at hand. Unfortunately, if you knew the subject was especially contentious (and who doesn't?), and you didn't want to get sidetracked onto it, WHY DID YOU BRING IT UP? If it was not a question you felt like addressing here, it should not have been included in the essay. Especially since your position is not shared by all of your audience, ensuring that it would be challenged.

Take RESPONSIBILITY for raising the abortion issue. You are a good writer, even a great writer, but you NEED a great editor as well, and a great editor would have cut the abortion references as unnecessarily obstructive to the thrust of your essay.

I have always thought that the trouble with enforcing a gun ban would be the actual act of takeing the guns away from the people that own them. I'm not sure of an exact figure but I would bet that there are more licnesed gun owners by percent in the U.S verses the U.K., maybe even verses all of Europe, so there are a lot more people here that would oppose more restrictive gun laws. I don't think that there are a lot of people, if they were faced with having their guns confiscated, who would gladly hand them over. I know there are people who would say more or less "You have got about a minute to get of my property." Failing that drastic of an action I know a lot of people who would lobby hard to get a gun ban repealed.

Its like prohibition, and just as prohibition failed to stop anybody who wanted a drink from getting one, a gun ban wouldn't stop anyone who realy wanted one. I seem to recall reading a figure that there were more alcoholics by percent during prohibition than there have been since.

gordon, labrat, ghs: brilliant. thanks for all the help. im copying all this to digest slowly - theres a lot of info here, a lot to think about.

labrat i thought about the man / woman issue and plummed for man in the end. it was a more concise metaphore. suffice to say, you have balls.


"i'd like to see figures for death by gunshot per capita in the usa /uk? that would be interesting, i havent found any in my brief search so far."

Hi LabRat,

Here are the stats you were looking for, and guess who lives in South Africa :)

Definition: Total recorded intentional,homocides committed with a firearm

Source: Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1998 - 2000 (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention)

Top 100 Murders with firearms

Country Description Amount
1. South Africa 31,918 (2000)
2. Colombia 21,898 (2000)
3. Thailand 20,032 (2000)
4. United States 8,259 (1999)
5. Mexico 3,589 (2000)
6. Zimbabwe 598 (2000)
7. Germany 384 (2000)
8. Belarus 331 (2000)
9. Czech Republic 213 (2000)
10. Ukraine 173 (2000)
11. Poland 166 (2000)
12. Canada 165 (1999)
13. Costa Rica 126 (1999)
14. Slovakia 117 (2000)
15. Spain 97 (2000)
16. Portugal 84 (2000)
17. Uruguay 84 (2000)
18. Lithuania 83 (2000)
19. Bulgaria 63 (2000)
20. United Kingdom 62 (1999)

Top 100 Murders with firearms (per capita)

Country Description Amount
1. South Africa 0.73 per 1000 people
2. Colombia 0.53 per 1000 people
3. Thailand 0.32 per 1000 people
4. Zimbabwe 0.05 per 1000 people
5. Mexico 0.03 per 1000 people
6. Costa Rica 0.03 per 1000 people
7. Belarus 0.03 per 1000 people
8. United States 0.03 per 1000 people
9. Uruguay 0.02 per 1000 people
10. Lithuania 0.02 per 1000 people
11. Slovakia 0.02 per 1000 people
12. Czech Republic 0.02 per 1000 people
13. Estonia 0.01 per 1000 people
14. Latvia 0.01 per 1000 people
15. Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of 0.01 per 1000 people
16. Portugal 0.01 per 1000 people
17. Bulgaria 0.01 per 1000 people
18. Slovenia 0.01 per 1000 people
19. Switzerland 0.01 per 1000 people
20. Canada 0.01 per 1000 people
21. Germany 0 per 1000 people
22. Moldova 0 per 1000 people
23. Hungary 0 per 1000 people
24. Poland 0 per 1000 people
25. Ukraine 0 per 1000 people
26. Ireland 0 per 1000 people
27. Australia 0 per 1000 people
28. Denmark 0 per 1000 people
29. Spain 0 per 1000 people
30. Azerbaijan 0 per 1000 people
31. New Zealand 0 per 1000 people
32. United Kingdom 0 per 1000 people

Just a quickie here ("Yeah, right," you're all saying). I'm out the door to work, so must keep it short.

To Sam Barnes: having spoken with Bill by phone several times since the posting of this essay, I can tell you that he HAS mentioned regetting the inclusion of the abortion issue in its writing. Not because it isn't relevant to the point, but because, as you pointed out, it just opens up such a can of worms. He does however "take responsibility" for it. As such, the debate for him now is whether or not to leave the essay intact, as is, for the published hardcopy version that he hopes will be ready in time for Christmas.

To everyone: speaking of THAT (and don't tell him I told you this), he also stated that he was pushing to post his 13th and final (before publishing) essay so that it appeared here on 9/11, a fairly pertinent anniversary considering the theme of many of his essays. So, if all goes as planned... a week from Thursday.

Ssssh. Remember, you didn't hear that from me.

So (ahem), anyway... about gun control...

I have always thought that the trouble with enforcing a gun ban would be the actual act of takeing the guns away from the people that own them.

I agree with you that there is no way the US government (or a State for that matter) could disarm its entire population. But if they only wanted to disarm a small group they could do - remember Waco. [And, if Waco is anything to go by, the Constitution wouldn't delay them for very long either]

The individual may have the right to bear arms, but the State can always bear bigger arms.

Hello again! Back in black for more comments on the essay. Here goes.
As far as political correctness goes, Bill has said exactly what I thought on the issue. The only thing I have to say about it is to refer you all to the book "Farenheit 451", where all books are illegal because of an excess of political correctness; no books, no philosophical thoughts, nobody gets offended.
The Husseins. That's the part I wanted to get to. Qusay, heir apparent for ruling Iraq, every bit as ruthless and violent as his father was, and Uday, the ultimate pimp. Of the two, Qusay probably has more blood on his hands, but Uday is the one who most earns my contempt, largely due to his history as a serial rapist.
Has anyone here ever read "Without Remorse", author Tom Clancy? Excellent read. Unlike the other books, it's a book about personnal vendetta, not a technothriller. You will see how this rejoins the Uday situation. Please bear with me for a bit.
The plot; John Kelly is an ex-Navy SEAL, just returned from Vietnam, who recently lost his wife in a car accident. He meets and falls in love with a twenty-year old girl who just escaped from a drug ring which uses runaway girls as slaves and outputs for their rapist tendencies. After a month or so, they begin planning a life together, then Pam (the girl)'s past reaches out when the druglords snatch her back and kill her at the end of an eight hour long mass rape.
The rest of the book follows Kelly's revenge against them.
Now that I've told you the plotline, everyone here try to put themselves in Kelly' position and just imagine what you would feel like if your wife/fiancée/girlfriend/the-girl-you-like just got kidnapped, raped and executed in such a brutal way. That's exactly what's been going on in Irak ever since the sad day Uday's sexual "maturity" kicked in. Uday has long since forfeited his right to life.
No, wait a minute. Whatever I want to say, Clancy can say it much better than I, so here's an excerpt.
"In any just universe, a person who exploited helpless girls simply did not deserve the privilege of breathing the same air used by other human beings. Perhaps he'd taken the wrong turn, been unloved by his mother or beaten by his father. But those were matters for psychiatrists or social workers. Lamarck had acted normally enough to function as a person in his community, and the onyl question that mattered in Kelly's mind was whether or not he had lived that life in accordance with his own free will. That had clearly been the case, and those who took improper action should have considered the possible consequences of those actions. Every girl they exploited might have had a father or mother or brother or sister or lover to be outraged at her victimization. In knowing that and taking the risk, Lamarck-" (the pimp) "-had knowingly gambled his life to some greater or lesser degree. If he had not weighed the hazards accurately enough, that was not Kelly's problem, was it?"
Replace the name "Lamarck" with the name "Uday Hussein", and Kelly by the U.S. soldiers who killed him, and you have my opinion on Iraq.
Uday was not a misunderstood, mentally retarded person, was he? Next to Qusay he was probably the most spoiled brat in Iraq. According to his teachers, he wasn't even a bully or anything, but a perfectly normal kid, in school. We can assume that he was as normal in conception as any one of us. So no one can say he didn't know what he was doing in engaging in serial rape against the young girls of Iraq. he knew perfectly well what he was doing in engaging in what is possibly the most abominable crime in human behavior.
Rape. It's often spoken of, so it seems that the full implications of that word have worn off a bit. Everybody take a step back and consider exactly what is meant by that one word, "rape". Here's one way to define it; the ultimate act of contempt for the human being that is being assaulted, and also, in my view, the ultimate act of contempt for human nature and human dignity in general.
Human dignity, people. Over the five thousand years of recorded history, men and women all over the world have fought and died for many principles -liberty, independence, individual freedom, the right to practice one's religion, sovreignty, human rights, the right to hold unpopular opinions. All of those principles, and many other, much more personal ones, can ultimately be reduced to a single, unifying equation. I call it human dignity. Back to Tom Clancy; he calls it "a recognition that the human will has its own force, and mainly for good". ("Debt of honor").
Five thousand years of recorded human history have allowed us to progress to the point where we can recognize that notion. Uday knowingly and deliberately spat on it. In doing so, not only did he show contempt for his victims -real human beings with a family, feelings, and their own conscience -he also spat on the conscience which the human race itself has develloped over 5000 years.
That was the broader, philosophical implication of his crime. He attracted the anger of humanity itself, and he paid the price for that.
Extreme left-wing critics respond by saying that those who suffered from his crimes were not Americans, they were Iraqis, and he should therefore have been given to the Iraqi people for their revenge. Personally, I admit that I would have much preffered it if he had been killed by one of the girls he exploited, or a someone close to them for whom their death was a heavy blow. But things can't always be perfect. There was no way Uday and Qusay were going to just walk out of there with their hands out. If we'd tried to capture them alive at all costs, it would, first of all, have cost us more men -that would have ended human lives, and that's a big deal to commanders in the field who have to explain to the parents why their son/daughter was killed in Iraq, even if it isn't to the political theorists in the New York Times. Second, it would have been harder, more complicated, and longer -it would have given them a better chance to escape. In which case, the Iraqis wouldn't have any more vengeance than they did.
That's it for those murdering cocksuckers. I agree entirely with what Bill wrote, but I thought the philosophical side of Uday's crimes -against the human conscience -deserved to be explored more.
Thanks Bill. I look forwards to your next essay. Hope it's this good.

Last comment. I recommend every Tom Clancy book, particularly the more recent ones, to everyone on this site. Other than Bill Whittle himself, there is no philosophical thinker on American principles better than Clancy.

Artoo recomended every Tom Clancy book and, while I havn't read every single one of his books, I would like to second that. I would like to add that the Tom Clancy video games are pretty good. Which brings up an intresting point, I personaly don't buy the idea that playing violent video games can make you do anything that you wouldn't do anyway. You are still ultimately responsible for your actions and if your grasp of reality and morality is so weak that you actualy can be swayed by a bunch of polygons then you had a big problem before you even sat down to play.

The nice thing about metaphorical balls is that they don't require maintenance or accessories.

As for Tom Clancy, I tried reading one of his books once. The phrase "techno-porn" popped to mind.

to Artoo;
Uday and Qusay were suicides, and their implement of choice turned out to be a blunt instrument- the US Army. The only question we need to ask (rhetorically) is why did they take so long to get around to it? Better yet, if the Iraqis had a "2nd Amendment" would the Hussein Brothers have lasted this long?

"I personaly don't buy the idea that playing violent video games can make you do anything that you wouldn't do anyway. " ~Tim

I think this would be an interesting theme to explore for a while, so I shall open up the topic further.

I took high school P.E. last year to fulfill my last few graduation requirements - was anyone aware that dodgeball and "red rover" have been taboo since Columbine? At my school I have/had quite a bit of freedom to be a snot when I so chose, so I openly contested the notion that dodgeball would turn us all into shotgun-wielding sociopathic killers. This, of course, sparked quite a debate in Calculus, my only intelligent class.

As for videogames, however, I have no doubt that they can and do psychologically affect players. That doesn't mean I oppose them. I'm quite a gamer myself. A 1998 (?) game called System Shock 2 had a very noticable effect on me. I doubt many of you have heard of it, but suffice it to say that it is designed to be a horror story. It is the single most nightmarish experience I have ever had, period. And it made me paranoid for weeks. And I loved every minute of it.

But I shudder to think that that game might end up in the hands of a thirteen-year old, or worse. I do not think that child would ever be the same. That's why it's rated M, the videogame equivelant of R.

Even games that aren't so scary have their effects. After starting to play first-person shooters, I found that my instinctive inhibition to killing was weakened. Intellectually and morally I knew that I would never kill unless it were in defense, but I somehow found the idea of pulling the trigger less fundamentally repulsive. Does this mean video games turn kids into killers? Absoloutly not. Does it mean that they play a key role in mental conditioning? Yes, it does. And it is the resposibility of every parent (not the government) to see that children are not exposed to this potentially dangerous medium.

But can we just say "let parents handle it" and leave it at that? Well, we should be able to. But it doesn't work so well. I'm not advocating censorship here, I'm just pointing out that the videogame problem is worse than many of you realize, and hell if I know what to do about it.

There is another game, which I've never played, called Soldier of Fortune. The game sports totally realistic weapons, accurate graphics and sound effects, and a location-sensitive damage model that allows the player to blow parts off of human enemies as they scream in pain and occasionally plead for mercy. I've heard (but not verified) that the enemies actually contain five quarts of simulated blood, and you will see nearly all of it if you shoot them in the head or heart. That's just too much for me.

I don't think playing video games is dangerous to the youth. I'm still not out of high school, and although I don't play computer games very much, I don't think they're that much of a danger. I've played games involving a lot of shooting starting back in sixth grade, and it doesn't make me inclined towards murder or anything. I enjoy those games when I play them, the same way I enjoy action packed movies, because they're just games or movies, not reality.
That's me personally. I don't know how much it affects other people my age, but I don't think it's that bad.

People Who Should Not Be Granted The Right To Keep, Own And/Or Bear Arms:

1) Unsupervised children.

2) Those judged by an accredited mental health authority as either emotionally unstable or mentally deficient, or both.

3) Those who have been charged with or convicted of a violent crime. Those who are charged but with such a crime but are subsequently acquitted should have their second amendment right restored upon acquittal.

4) Those who have made verifiable and believably serious threats to kill legally innocent others.

These are all classes that society has good reason to suspect will most likely be unwilling or unable to discharge (pun intended) their Second Amendment rights responsibly.

Are there any additions to this list, or any arguments with the legitimacy of the classes I have listed?

I worked at Atari Games for several years between 1993 and 1996. When Pokemon games seemed to be causing epileptic seizures among a very tiny number of children playing the games in Japan, a bunch of Atari staff were posting the articles from the newspapers, and the problem was very briskly and vigorously debated--- which at least reassured me that the people working on the fighting games which Atari was developing were definitely concerned about the question.

I was always very uncomfortable with the value, or worth of the violent games which I found myself assigned to, and eventually I left Atari largely because of my distaste for the grotesque instructions for more and more extreme violence that was coming from our management. But I never had any sense that the violence of fighting games as an industry was responsible for any kids’ violence. In fact, it always seemed to me that there is a cathartic benefit---- a release or dispersal of violent energy--- by an activity that injures no one, except for the hours without number spent learning and perfecting the stupid twitch moves that lead to mastery of the game and no other human activity of any value whatsoever.

The critical thing for me was the news that came out from Rwanda and the splintered former component republics that had comprised Yugoslavia. We saw tens, even HUNDREDS of thousands of people who could not possibly have had any significant exposure to videogames chopping each other to bits with modern guns, knives, bricks, and GARDEN IMPLEMENTS for God’s Sake!

IT reminded me fairly forcefully that the human capacity for violence is present and potent without any need to fix the blame on any DEPICTION of violence in any medium of entertainment, thank you very much. Last week a friend showed me the controversial game “Grand Theft Auto.” It’s a joke. It is so absurdly unrealistic I can’t understand how anyone could believe it capable of provoking criminal behavior in an otherwise moral/ethical person. The notion is absurd.

Actually, in the very first scenario the criminal ended up being slaughtered by the police...

David March
animator & fiddler

To be fair I want to say that there have been a couple of games that have impacted me, but no worse than some of the horor movies I have seen. I certainly agree that there are some things that you shouldn't expose young children to, but that is more heavily the burden of the parent, and not the government or the companies that make the games. So I want to ammend my earlier post, an adult certainly shouldn't be so impresionable as to be swayed to action by a game, but a young child most certainly is that impresionable. I would no more let a seven year old kid play Resident Evil than watch Lethal Weapon. I have played those games but I am not more inclined to hurt somebody because my Parents gave me a sense of right and wrong, and taught me that I am responsible for my actions. The trouble isn't the games it's that so many parents have defaulted on their responsibility as parents.

To Salamantis specificaly, I know that the list you made was about people who shouldn't have guns but I want to add that an unsupervised child shouldn't be handling a Playstation any more than a .22. Both should be supervised activities, although obviously a kid playing Duck Hunt doesn't need the same amount of supervision as a kid on an actual duck hunt.

Great stuff in the comments everybody. It strikes me that Bill has hit on a method of "growing" a blog without blogging, to wit: letting the commentators do it. However, I think I speak for most here when I say "Hey Bill! We need some more content ovah heea!"
I eagerly await some more new entries (they need not all be essays). However, a new essay would be the jackpot.

I remember when the song "Convoy" came out (most of the commenters here probably weren't even born yet). Ask anyone who WAS around at that time what happened to the sales of CB radios after that song's release. They went through the roof, through the atmosphere, and into low orbit.

What about discos (and worse, disco ATTIRE) after the first couple week's run of "Saturday Night Fever?"

I remember watching a 60 Minutes article on the nationwide orgy of college campus vandalism and party-hearty destructiveness that followed in the wake of the movie "Animal House."

And why is it that you never hear about crowd violence following a Dan Fogelberg concert? The riots and fistfights and shootings at concerts, when they occur, always follow concert acts which, by their nature, fire up the crowd's anger or their sub-cultural zeal... heavy metal or acid rock sometimes, rap quite frequently.

As a chauffeur, I was there for the shooting and near-riot that occurred at the House of Blues here in Orlando at DISNEYWORLD! I drove in "Big Punisher" (a disgusting 500-pound bag of talent-free ego and obnoxiousness, whose out-of-control drunken entourage showed up twenty minutes late for the concert because they were busy humping each other in the back of the limo under the lights of the hotel's drive-through, and then hit a Disney parking lot employee with their rented Hummer), and before the night was out, we were hunkered down in a barricaded alleyway, surrounded by cops (facing outward), waiting for a break in the screaming crowd so that we could make a dash for the hotel again. "Big Pun" thought this was all really funny, by the way.

People ARE affected by what they watch and hear. At the very least, it can affect their tastes and their appetites, and at worst, it can affect their behavior. Not always, not necessarily negatively, but the problem is, not very predictably either.

Now, having said that, I DON'T believe that watching violent movies, playing violent games, or listening to inciteful song lyrics necessarily leads people to DO those things they've seen or heard, but I think it DOES immunize them to the pain and the waste that such actions can cause. People around you become less and less "real," once you've been fed a steady enough diet of mayhem and disaster and blood-flinging hyper-stunts. And to me, it requires no great stretch of the imagination to understand how it could lead a couple of social fringe-element kids to shoot up their classmates at Columbine... NOT because any song lyrics or video games or Schwarzenegger movies "MADE" them do it or "compelled" them to (those two already had the propensity to do what they did, I believe), but just because the OUTCOME had no meaning to them. The senses of pain and anguish and tragic loss were not components of their world, thanks to the contributions of the endless streams of movies like "Terminator," and Playstation games like "Blood Bath III" (yes, I made that up), and "gangsta rap" (or whatever), and so were not relevant factors in their "thinking."

So again, I don't think any music or videogame or movie LED them to do it, but I DO think it helped turn their ideas for a "wild ride" into nothing more than a game for them. The people whose lives they ended and turned upside-down meant nothing to them... they were cardboard cut-outs, moving targets in a shooting gallery... just like in the games and movies. And their subsequent legacy of infamy was nothing more to them than a high score on the biggest score list of all, history.


So to speak.

Also, any time you make a hero (by popularity) out of someone... if the theater crowds cheer, or the sales of affiliated merchandise skyrockets... you ARE telling the impressionable among us that what that "hero" did is okay, is even appreciated and applauded, and could thereby make THEM popular by doing the same.

So watch what kind of people (and actions) you make into heroes. There's a reason campus vandalism shot up after the nation cheered John Belushi for starting food fights, smashing guitars, and demolishing the fat kid's parent's Lincoln Continental in "Animal House."


At the risk of revealing myself to be a total wishy-washy waffling make-no-final-commitment kind of guy, I have to admit that Great Hairy's comments make a lot of sense. OF COURSE, I acknowledge that people ARE influenced by the CONTENT of the entertainment products to which they are exposed, or in which they are steeped.


(Jeez. Listen ta me... Where's my SOAPBOX??)

I would have to concede that kids raised in a moral vacuum, devoid of the tempering effect of caring loving parents--- watching and playing a diet of enhanced-violence/ sexually degrading deviant perversion Godless unwholsome stuff --- are probably going to end up becoming so many little Jeffrey Daumer clones.

But it is the ABSENCE of positive guidance, not the presence of violent thought or image, that is critical. Children raised without any toy guns or violent video games can nonetheless become monsters.

David March

Suppose you take a random sample of 2000 kids and give half of them a bloody, wildly unrealistic, gorey shoot-em-up game, and give the other half Flight Simulator. You specify that they must play their game at least 2 hours a day until they're 18. If you then tracked all the participants in the study for 10 years, and you controlled for income, family status, & all other variances between the two groups, I have very little doubt that you'd find that the test group (violent game) would show a small but noticable increase in the commission of violent acts over the control group (non-violent game).

What should the government do?

In a free society, absolutely nothing. In a free society, the government is not permitted to deprive you of a choice because of a statistical probability that you *might* do something; or even if it can be shown that your neighbor, or the kid down the street *did* do something.

This is the crux of the personal responsibility issue. If you want liberty, you have to accept that perhaps there may be a little more unacceptable behavior as some people misuse their liberty. If too many people abuse their liberty, then society has to look at one of a limitted number of causes: 1) The limits of acceptable behavior are not being clearly communicated, 2) The consequences of exceeding those limits are not a serious deterent, 3) The perceived odds of being brought to task for breaching those limits is low enough that the risk of consequence doesn't exceed the perceived benefit of the offending behavior. This is a simple equation. It can be boiled down to a few words: Deterrence, or, as I prefer to phrase ir, "Don't tread on me."

Contrast this philosophy with that of the evil hordes of regulatory nannies, governmental busy-bodies, and various tongue-clucking motherhens who so earnestly desire to run everybody else's life (for our own good of course). Everything must be prevented! Nothing bad can ever be allowed to happen, no matter the cost. You MUST pay for an airbag in your new car, whether you want to or not. ("Oh," you argue, "I didn't pay for it. It came standard." Do you *really* believe GM stiffed their stockholders the $7-800 it cost to design, build & install that airbag? No! They either jacked up the price of the car, or took away some other options, or cut corners on quality somewhere)
You're 5' tall, weigh 90 pounds, need the seat pushed all the way up to the steering wheel in order to drive, and the airbag will likely kill you if it deploys? Tough.
The extra cost prevents you from buying a new car, forcing you to buy an older, less safe, more polluting used one instead? Oh well.
THEY know what's best for you. They have their statistics (which half the time they aren't even educated enough to properly gather or interpret, and which, by the way, were financed with your tax dollars).
Crap, lunch is over, and I barely even got my blood pressure over 180!

I remember Convoy! I think I was 10 or 12 and I tried to convince my parents to get a CB radio because of that song! They were smart (and cheap) enough to say no.

Interesting comments on the influence of video games. Tie that back to Tweedledumb (Qsay) and Tweedledumber (Uday). They grew up LIVING the violence. It made them absolutly immune to the effects of their depraved actions.

Oh and Jumper, I think you'd notice more than just a small increase in violent crime. I'd bet you'd see a large increase between the two groups.
Something else you'd probably see too. The kids forced to play "Evil minion slave killer VII", (I made that up too GSH) that came from a solid home, with good parents, would want to opt out of the study in a short period of time. They wouldn't LIKE it.
The kids playing Flight Simulator that came from a bad/broken home, with crappy parents, would soon be playing "Evil minion slave killer VII" in their spare time.
It illustrates how important we parents are.

Just for another perspective on gun ownership (it may have been posted but, alas, I'm at work and don't have time to check).

States can be defined as self-organizing groups that retain the sole franchise for granting the authorization for the lethal use of force. They can say this murder is illegal, but that artillery bombardment is part of a just war.
The second amendment is based entirely around that delegation of power.

All warfare is communication (of a sort) - do X or I'll kick your scrawny butt off the mortal coil.

The ownership of guns is a way to prevent the state (which retains the sole franchise) from exercising a veto over the delegation of the use of violent force.

Without the right to own guns, the state can simply make firearm ownership a capital offense (ultimately all offenses are capital offenses, but that's a story for another day). And once the state makes such a declaration there is no final appeal. Well, that changed a little bit with the whole non-violent protest principle of Gandhi - but that works only in certain kinds of situations.

In this fashion, the breaking of the state's absolute veto on the use of lethal force is as important (if not more so) than the traditional checks and balances between the three branches of government.

And before anyone pops up and asks "What about knives and the use of lethal force?" - let me preempt. Guns are tools which excel at killing people - beyond that, they have limited utility and can be substituted for in most applications. Knives aren't that effective a tool for violence and can't be effectively substituted for. By way of analogy, making cars illegal is a fundamental blow to freedom of movement, even if people can still walk. It's pretty easy to draw the connection between cars and freedom of movement, but more difficult with walking, since cars are pretty exclusive in usage, while feet and legs are used for a whole bunch of semi- or non-transportation related tasks.

Heavens! Let life happen for a few days, and look what's happened over here! I spent over an hour and a half, just trying to catch up. My brain is so full, it's buzzing.

To add to the current conversation centering around parental supervision re: video games, there was actually a study done at Purdue which suggests that violent games can serve as a safe outlet for youngsters' agression. The writeup can be found if you follow this link. As fair warning to the unwary--this is a .pdf, so you will need Acrobat Reader to view it.

The type of intervention we receive from our parents is profound. I believe that in my core.

Yet, the basis for this belief is only anecdotal. My father is a gunsmith. As a result, I was first introduced to firearms at the inquisitive age of five. We went to the range. My father placed a watermelon at one end, and took me and his .357 to the other. Bracing me between his knees, he placed my hands on the gun. After taking careful aim, he helped me pull the trigger.

I watched the watermelon disintegrate. He plucked the gun out of my hands, and tilted my chin up. Very gravely, he said, "Now you know why you don't play with Daddy's guns, right?"

I nodded without a word. That lesson always stayed with me. When I was older, we would go shooting together, and I went on my first dove hunt by the age of nine.

Now, I have over three decades of safe firearm handling under my belt. I've even been a range safety officer, and received compliments from police officers for my safety-consciousness and accuracy on the range.

I use this to illustrate and underscore the excellent points made by others in this thread, particularly David March. He wrote,

"But it is the ABSENCE of positive guidance, not the presence of violent thought or image, that is critical. Children raised without any toy guns or violent video games can nonetheless become monsters."

This is true. Mine is an example of responsible, positive, caring parental involvement. Be assured that my husband and I plan to instruct our daughter in the same manner--when it is appropriate to do so, based on her maturity.

That's my two cents'. I believe that nurture and nature balance one another out. A child may have an agressive nature, but strong parenting skills can mold that into something positive; something that can be turned to productive use. Or, it can help identify truly disturbed children, and get them intervention before the problem can turn into something--at worst--murderous.

It isn't the video game or the time spent on the range that creates violent individuals. It is the attitude and sense of responsibility imparted in tandem with the activity that forms the crossroads of choice in how the young person reacts to it, and copes.

That's all. Sorry for the pointless ramble. I just knew that I'd better get in here whilst I could, before the topic spun off again!

Regards to all,

Oops--that was "duck hunt", and not "dove hunt". Sheesh! (And even after I'd proofread!)

Black Oak: Back in the Stone Age, when "video game" meant a 300 pound arcade version of Asteroids, we kids had to get by on our imagination. We played games of Dungeons and Dragons that were every bit as violent, gorey, and blood-soaked as any video or computer game on the market today. Our parents would've been aghast to hear the atrocities perpetrated by our charcters ("Slay them all, God will know his own" barely even scratches the surface). We all came from solid, moral, two-parent homes, but we still had an enormous appetite for pretend mayhem. (BTW, of that group of friends, we are without exception solid upright members of society now; not a serial killer, pillager, or arsonist among us).
The key difference between what we did and modern video games, I think, is that in imagining the results of our characters' actions, we were constrained by our own imaginations (augmented as they were by what we'd seen in horror movies). Today with video games, the kids' fantasy-violence is portrayed for them graphically through imagination of an adult. That's a little chilling when you think about it. You are of course 110% right about the importance of parents. Everyone's born a virtual beast, and parents are the most important players in teaching the restraint, self control, and empathy for others required to domesticate that animal and become a true human being.
A. Retaliation - I am uncomfortable when someone says the State "retains" any kind of right (sorry if I'm reading too much into your words). Only people have rights. Any right the State possesses is simply "on loan" because we the people have chosen to excersize this right collectively, for the sake of efficiency or efficacy (eg, the US Army is far more capable of dealing with Saddam than 149,999 fellow citizens and me with our .44's and our deer rifles), or to help minimize abuse of a right (hence our personal rights to retribution are usually excersized collectively through the courts).
The policeman only has the right to pull his S&W and shoot an armed robber because the victim has the right to defend himself and his property, and the cop is acting as the victim's proxy in excersizing this right.
The fundamental human right, from which all others are derived, is the simple right to be left alone, and be secure in person and property. Take for example your right to free speech: Your right to be left alone precludes anyone using force to shut you up. The right ends with shouting fire in a crowded theater since that would violate the other patrons' right to be secure in their person.
Could expound on this forever, but gotta go

I wonder how many of those thousand kids that played flight sims for a decade would become airline pilots. Actually I think a true control group would be to not let those kids play video games. I admit that I wasn't born untill after 'Convoy' was released, the first time I heard that I think I asked my dad more or less "You mean people actualy listened to that?", but I do agree with the point that people are influenced by what they watch and do, for better or worse. The world is an awfuly violent place and I think that maybe 'the society of concerned busy-bodies' has cause and effect mixed up, game makers look at the violent and grizly world around them and make their games
not the other way around. Games like 'Medal of Honor' pride themselves on being technicaly acurate depictions of WWII. Personaly I would take a good flight sim over a shoot 'em up any day, but thats my choice and I wouldn't deny somebody the right to go out and buy every gory game on the market. The trouble is that some people would infringe on others rights in that way because its easier to blame games, movies, and rap than absentie Parenting.

Just as there are thought provoking and inteligent movies there are thought provoking and inteligent games, but both are equaly rare. I know that some of the things in 'Final Fantasy' have influenced me as much as '2001: A Space Oddesy' and the forces that would try to censor and destroy what they percieve to be 'bad' would have a corosive effect on creative expresion. How long would a song with the phrase "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" (Folsom Prison Blues by Johny Cash) stand, or a movie with the concept of a homecidal computer(2001: A Space Oddesy), or a game where a large part of what you do is stomp on turtles (Super Mario Brothers).

It is the best work of every medium that explores the issues in an inteligent way and it would be a sad and antiseptic world if we couldn't discuss the issues of life and death, or any other topic we damn well pleased, in any way we chose. A few lines up I mentioned the game 'Medal of Honor' and it was pretty grizly, no more or less than the opening of 'Saving Private Ryan', but having played it I know that it gave me a sense of the hell those men went through so I can be safe at home, playing pretendo commando in front of a tv.

Jumper -

I don't think you're reading too much into my words - but I did, perhaps, express myself less clearly than I would have liked.

As you correctly point out, the state has no innate rights of its own - it is simply a clearing house for collective actions (or economies of scale, if you will). The key characteristic that makes states difference is the violence franchise. This franchise is not a natural right in any sense - it's simply a reflection of the fact that states that don't effectively control that franchise become failed states (e.g. Somalia and Sierra Leone).

The only way to prevent the state's absolute and total control (and abuse) of that franchise is to limit the state's ability to control the tools necessary to exercise violence. In the case of the cop you mention above, the state's proxy uses deadly force against someone who has not secured the state's blessing. Let's say the cops come into a person's house and forcibly seize their property. If that person resists violently, then the state may grant it's proxies the use deadly force against someone who has not secured that permission.

Gun ownership ensures that the people can ensure that any decision regarding the state's decision to grant or suppress the use of violence is not uncontestable.

Anticipatory Retaliation,

Somehow, I still read you to imply that I must have the States blessing to apply deadly force in defense of my life, my family, or, property. This is totally wrong, as you would realize if you studied the history and foundations of the 2nd Amendment. The Constitution does not 'grant' rights, it merely 'enumerates' the ancient "Rights of Man," in a Readers Digest condensed form. It does place limits on the power of governments.

The reason they cannot be infringed, is, they are fundamental to the expression of freedom, life and liberty among men...all of the first ten (the remainder are designed to strip away rights). And, of the first ten Amendments, nine have been, are, and, may be, secured by the 2nd. They actually predate the creation of man (animals, insects, birds and fish have the "Right to Self-defense), and, were first enumerated in ancient Sumeria. Ur Nammu (King of Ur) issued a decree in 2300 BCE, prefaced by, "I am restoring the laws of my ancient ancestors, the gods of heaven and earth..." Among these laws was the "Right to Keep and Bear Arms" in defense of ones life, whether, Orphan, Widow, Small Vendor, or, Lord in danger of assassination, with whatever weapons he/she was able to acquire.

Sumeria survived as a sophisticated, cultured, viable, educated, literate, erudite, enlightened, and, wealthy civilization for more that 4,600 years because of Laws that ultimately influenced our Forefathers in writing the US Constitution. I'm sure they had no idea where these Laws originated, but, they came down to us through a succession of writers and civilizations all the way back to the beginning of civilization.

We are not required to 'secure' the "Right to Keep and Bear Arms" from anyone, it is fundamental to the unenumerated, 9th Amendment "Right to Self-Defense," that is specifically mentioned in the "Declaration of Independence." It 'enables' the "Right to Self-Defense," specifically noting (enumerating), and, effectively securing the right to possess and use the most effective tool available for that purpose.

"Let's say the cops come into a person's house and forcibly seize their property. If that person resists violently, then the state may grant it's proxies the use deadly force against someone who has not secured that permission."

That's one of the scariest statements I've ever read. It assumes that the Police have this 'power' as an inate 'right' and the property owner may be slain for resisting the seizure or destruction of his property, because their entry, forcible or not, has the imprimature of a State. It implies that property owners have no rights, and totally bypasses, negates Constitutionality. It implies that I must secure permission from the State to fight a battle in progress, which they instigated.

[note - from things I've read recently (on Keep and Bear, the current local Department Policy (in Louisiana) appears to be No-Knock Raids, during early morning hours. Residents are handcuffed and interrogated, and, the property trashed, while they search for anything (a "fishing raid") that might be illegal...without suspicion of criminal activity. I'm from Texas, so, all I know is gleaned from newspaper reports linked from KABA.]

You know a civilization is in trouble, on the cusp of collapse, when those in power deliberately write laws or surreptitiously usurp powers that infringe the ancient "Rights of Man" (enumerated or implied in the "Constitution," or, "Bill of Rights"), that the average, Law Abiding Citizen must be forced to obey through 'Official' gangs of thugs in uniform.


Yep, yep, and double-yep.

You're right, Jumper... in a free society, the government should do nothing (about "depriving you of a choice because of a statistical probability that you *might* do something") ... at least not by mandate anyway. Promote a little introspection and self-censorship on the part of the film and music and videogame industries perhaps, but impose legal barriers and official morality standards? Never.

And you're right, Mr. March... the problem begins with the abrogation of parental responsibilities. A kid growing up in a moral and disciplinary vacuum is going to seek his/her boundaries elsewhere. And Madonna, P.Diddy, the Terminator, and Duke Nukem have the advantages of spectacle and rockin' soundtracks to keep their attentions.

But, in my opinion, it can't ALL be laid at the parent's feet. More time in a kid's day is spent outside the parental sphere of influence, and the influences "out there" are far more enticing, exciting, and above all, popular with their peers. So merely being a good, attentive, positive mentor to your kids these days is not enough. Nowadays you have to compete with the constant high-decibel, high-energy, high-adrenaline sideshow that perpetually bombards your kids on TV, on the Internet, in the theaters, in their Walkman headsets, and in the hallways of their public schools. It's an unfair battle, in my opinion, which, though winnable (there are a lot of success stories out there), can be easily overwhelming to a couple of full-time working parents, or worse, to a single parent.

So sayeth the fat silver-haired bastard that's never had any kids of his own.

This is why I WISH (notice that I am not calling for government intervention here) that these alternate sources of "inspiration" for our youth (i.e.; music, movies, internet, computer games, et al) would take some conscientious steps of their own, to look beyond their immediate profit margins, and consider the long term ramifications of their constant pushing of the proverbial envelope. It's not their "responsibility" to teach our children, or mold their personalities, or develop their sense of "goodness and empathy toward others," but I think it IS important that they recognize the definitive influence they have on the general social psyche, and act a little more "responsibly."

Movies like "2 Fast 2 Furious," while flashy and visually dramatic and clearly hopelessly implausible to an adult, are just plain "cool" to a barely legal teen driver looking for a fun way to become an instant legend in his own time. It doesn't MAKE him/her DO those insanely dangerous and endangering things necessarily, but it does eliminate one more reason NOT to do it... the theater filled with their cheering peers can suddenly make such behavior entirely acceptable.

And you're right Linda: I think you're father did you (and the rest of us) a great service with that .357-and-a-watermelon example.

And to all those of you who hold the Microsoft Flight Simulator so dear, bless you all. I live on the danged thing. Just got the 2004 Anniversary of Flight edition up and runnin'. And I too will take that over just about any other computer game on the market (although there are some great oranges out there to go along with this great apple).


It's just good to hear so much sound reasoning coming in from "out there." Keep it up.


I don't know if the author is truly who it says, but I found this while cleaning out an inbox and thought you all might like it:


We, the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help
everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid any more riots,
keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior and secure the blessings of
debt-free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great grandchildren,
hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines
for the terminally whiny, the guilt-ridden, the delusional and other liberal

We hold! these truths to be self-evident: that a whole lot of people were
confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim-witted that they require a Bill
of No Rights.


You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV or any other form of
wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is
guaranteeing anything.


You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on
freedom, and that means freedom for everyone - not just you! You may leave
the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc., but the world
is full of idiots, and probably always will be.


You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a
screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool
manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.

You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americ! ans are the most
charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we
are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of
professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of
another generation of professional couch potatoes.


You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from
the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.


You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap,
rape, intentionally maim or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of
us want to see you fry in the electric chair.


You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat
or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if
the rest of us get together and ! lock you away in a place where you still
won't have the right to a big-screen color TV or a life of leisure.


You do not have the right to demand that our children risk their lives in
foreign wars to soothe your aching conscience. We hate oppressive governments
and won't lift a finger to stop you from going to fight if you'd like;
however, we do not enjoy parenting the entire world, and do not want to spend
so much of our time battling each and every little tyrant with a military
uniform and a funny hat.


You do not have the right to a job. All of us sure want all of you to have
one, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take
advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid
before you to make yourself useful.


You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that y! ou
have the right to pursue happiness - which by the wa! y, is a lot easier if you
are unencumbered by an overabundance of idiotic laws created by those of you
who were confused by the Bill of Rights.

If You Agree, We Strongly Urge You To Forward This To As Many People As You
Can. No, you don't have to, and nothing tragic will befall you should you not
forward it. We just think it is about time common sense is allowed to

Written by State Representative Mitchell Kaye of Cobb County, GA.

Anticipatory Retaliation, -

Gordon seems to have stolen most of my thunder, but I'd like to clarify that
1) resort to violence *is* a natural right *when used to defend one's life and property, or assist another in doing so*;
2) the collective assertion of the right in no manner implies that we, the people, have surrendered individual recourse to the right. I retain the right to use lethal force and less-than-lethal force when my life, or another person's life is threatened. Afterwards, the State will likely ask 12 of my peers to decide whether or not I was justified, i.e. whether the circumstances warranted recourse to the level of violence I selected. If my peers decide that I over-reacted, I will be forced to pay a severe penalty. This mechanism of restraint ensures that an individual's inappropriate application of violence doesn't escalate into a clan war.

This works when the State is clearly more powerful than the individual parties involved, and is acting as a nuetral, disinterested 3rd party. Sometimes only the second condition (nuetrality) is required, but only if there is a long cultural tradition of accepting the outcome of mediation.
It doesn't work where the state is incapable of or unwilling to evenly and fairly apply punishment in order to deter illegitimate use of violence: Sierra Leone, Congo, Liberia, Somolia, the Lincoln Country War, the streets of Verona in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet...

An ordered society doesn't require that only the state possess the right of violence. Some quite stable governments/cultures thrived in the midst of legal duelling (Not that I would advocate this, but consenting adults, and all that). An ordered society requires only that I be confident enough in my future that I'm not running around preemptively killing my potential enemies, and instead, carry out some economically productive activity.

Hi Jumper,

Actually, I was just getting wound up, and, decided to wind it down. However...

"It doesn't work where the state is incapable of or unwilling to evenly and fairly apply punishment in order to deter illegitimate use of violence: Sierra Leone, Congo, Liberia, Somolia, the Lincoln Country War, the streets of Verona in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet..."

To this list of countries, you must add most of the 1st world countries in the world, including the "united States of America." I can assure you that will find no justice in Texas or most other State or Federal Courts today, because they are focused on Firearms conviction rates to the exclusion of Constitutional Rights. Unless, you have enough money to hire a really good Lawyer who can play their game, you're powerful, employed by government, or, you've 'rented' a Quasi Noble Title ("CCW/CHL License Holder"), with the requisite "immunity from prosecution."

But, the basic premise of you're statement was meant to imply only counrties where they are unable to deter violence. However, if you think about it, and, read enough about the subject, the situation is exactly the same in America, Britain, Canada, Australia, or, any other country in the world. No-one, no Government in the world, no local Police Department, can assure you of any more safety than you would find in any of the countries you name. When someone decides to kill, he'll acquire the means to achieve his objective, and, somebody's gonna die.


Ach, got sidetracked and forgot to finish the sentence: "...and, somebody's gonna die"...unless, his intended victim is prepared to fight with the tools to "give as good as get" (a hit with a single-shot .22 trumps a miss with a .500 Smith and Wesson).


It just ain't quite that bad yet, Gordon.

Our governments (local, state, Nat'l) are doing a fair-to-middlin' job of deterring theft and illegitimate violence. Not great, but not that bad *in most places*. We'll know when they're doing a great job when nobody goes a little out of their way to avoid "that neighborhood", or rushes themselves to leave a particular area before dark.
But you know what? I don't think there's ever been a place or time where there weren't bad neighborhoods. Before the crips and bloods, there were the Puerto Rican & Italian gangs, and before the Italians, there were the jewish gangs, and before that the Irish gangs, and on and on... Jeez, read Dickens if you want a description of some bad neighborhoods. Or Shakespeare. Or the Bible. Read ancient Irish literature! One of the great Epics in ancient Irish literature begins with an organized cattle-rustling raid.

With the exception of one gentleman who immigrated here from northern Africa a few years ago, I don't know anyone who's gone hungry because one of the clans in the city dispatched an armed band in company strength to steal *all* the food when a ship unloaded at the docks.

If somebody builds a shack in my woods, I'm fairly confident I won't have to win a gun-battle to kick his sorry ass out. One phone call, and some nice sheriff's deputies will come out, to enforce my property rights for me (after all, that's what my property taxes are for - their salaries). Odds are the squatter will even leave without a pitched battle.

I've got a monitored alarm system on my house, but I don't have bars on the windows, or razor-wire, or Claymore mines, deadfalls, and tiger-traps in the woods around it. Yea, I keep a loaded revolver under the bed. But my wife and I don't sleep in shifts, one standing gaurd, the other resting with their hand on the grip of the gun under their pillow.
If I take a walk in my woods, I don't need to carry a rifle unless it's deer season. I'm pretty confident people aren't going to come running out of the underbrush wanting to cut my arms off with machettes, and abduct the neighbor's kids to be child-soldiers in their Revolutionary Peoples Army.

By and large (unlike Great Britain, where people aren't permitted to defend themselves) the bad guys here are sufficiently afraid of us, and being caught, that they usually break into empty homes when the occupants are away.

Unlike Lincoln County NM in the 1880's (? my history's grown a bit imprecise) or the big Montana range wars, if I shoot someone trying to steal my horse, the thief won't have been dispatched to my place just so the big rancher could get me out of the way to water his cattle at my spring. The gov't might use eminent domain for that purpose, but that's a whole 'nother topic.

Unlike the streets of Verona during the Renaiseance (? I'm lost without a spell-checker), I don't feel the need to get three or four of my brothers & cousins just to walk down the street. (Admittedly this might be true in some neighborhoods in some US cities)

We've got it better than any bunch of human beings anywhere, anytime in history! (As PJ O'Rourke pointed out, "You think you'd like the good old days? I got two words for you. Modern Dentistry") We are very secure; crime is lower than it's been in decades. It's still got a long ways to come down. I'm prepared. I'm alert. I never operate at less than condition yellow outside my own home. I maintain situational awareness at all times, and especially at the ATM, the liqour store, etc. But I'm not going to let myself get a bunker mentality either.

My biggest fear is that people are going to just let all of it slip through their fingers, just piss it all away. All this got started with B. Whittle's essay on responsibility. My fear is that too few people today "get it" for a free nation to endure.
This vast, silent majority that some of we libertarian/limited gov't types say is on our side... They are. Sort of. Right up until some issue touches them personally. "I'm against more government spending programs!" they say, with a determined frown, and a little stamp of their foot. Until someone suggests that the National government might foot the bill for their parents' prescription drugs. Then it's a stampede to see who can get to the Treasury Department's printing presses first.

That sound you hear in the background? It's the gas being turned up a little bit. and all the happy frogs are still merrily croaking away, watching Survivor and American Idol every weekday night, and NFL football on Sunday.

I basicaly abstain from reality tv because on more than one ocasion watching it I have literaly said "thats it, pack it up we aren't a civilised society. a civilised society wouldn't produce that". It is sickening the way most of those shows exploit the weakneses of human nature, all for the sake of ratings.

The few times I have watched those shows I couldn't help but think of that one movie with Schwartzineiger, where he's on some game show to the death, Deathmatch ? I know that its just a cheesy sci-fi but I wonder how much longer untill Survivior becomes a lot more literal. Don't die and you win a million dollars, or maybe just don't die.

Very good assessment, Jumper,

I agree on most points, but, my experience (over the last few years) has proven (to me) that Gun Owners are considered Criminals by the Criminal Justice System no matter what Gun Laws may be in effect in that State. The implication is that Gun-Owners "aren't trained" to make decisions in a life and death situation...only Cops are privy to the knowledge of 'proper' use of deadly force, and, they will literally charge you with the crime of "Defense of Hearth and Happiness" for usurping their right to be heroes.

The first strike against Gun Owners is, that (by definition) they own Firearms and in an emergency may use them before dialling 911 (more victims = a call to hire more Law Enforcement). Their infinitely repeated advice seems to be, "...point your phone at the armed assailant, and, scream, Freeze dirtbag! I'm dialling 911."...personally, I'll dial 9MM, and, we'll fight it out in court.

A majority of news articles (about a citizen successfully defending him/herself with a Firearm), repeat their assurance that it's much too dangerous to do it yourself, apparently, even when there are no options. Wouldn't want to be known as a vigilanty, ya know, looks bad in the news article by the local lefty parrot, who shiveringly describes your weapon in a breathless rush, as, "...a vicious, high-powered, .22-Caliber Semi-automatic, single-shot Revolver"...(San Antonio Express News, joke).

Many Courts in Texas are operating under the rules and principles outlined in Sarah Brady's little "Handbook of Courtroom Ettiquet," and, I've watched it take down several people who were clearly innocent of charges. The Court accomplished this by simply leaving them setting in Jail until they were forced to drop their "Not Guilty" plea, enter a plea of "Nolo Contendre," and, accept "Adjudicated Probation" (typically over 200 hours of Community Service) because they could no longer afford the financial strain and mental anguish suffered by their families while they sat it out in Jail.

And, Texas is definitely not the most virulent offender of "Constitutional Rights."


Great work as usual Mr. Wittle.

If more people in this country accepted personal responsibility for their actions, perhaps the scourge of abortion would disappear all on its own.

Abortion is the unmistakable symptom of the moral degeneracy that rages across this land, there are no excuses (at least none that I can think of) in this day and age for accidental, unwanted pregnancies. Our flippant, careless attitude towards sex as a recreational activity has led us down this path, to stand at a point in history where personal responsibility is washed away by a sea made up of the blood of innocents, and called “choice”.

Thanks again.

I do not see that there is anything that makes this day and age any different than prior ages. If you look at history, sex has always been regarded as a recreational activity to a greater or lesser degree. I am not personaly in favor of abortion, however compared to the alternitaves, and I don't mean the better alternatives of adoption and planed parenthood I mean the hideous alternitaves of illegal back alley abortions that either kill or maim the woman, or child abandonment and infanticide which goes back as far as recorded history and is not something new, compared to those alternatives abortion is humane.
AND ultimately it is not the right of government to control a humans body it is also not the right of any group or individual to condem somebody for what they find personaly distasteful. It is easy to simply condem those women as recless and irresponsible but it was the choice they made and they are the authors of their own detiny responsible for their actions, answerable to the person who is often the harshest critic, self. Since I have not been through what they have been through I will not condem and judge those women as lesser or deserving of contempt

Two poems on the issue of reproductive choice

1) The Fundamentals

"Abortion is murder!", the witch-burners bray
As they kneel on their hard wooden floors to pray
That all the damned heathens will see the light
And be saved from Hell's bondage by bonfire bright
And Cain's crosses glowing in southern night.

Our mothers and sisters and daughters and wives
Are reduced to receptacles, their whole lives
Possessed by one purpose: to nurture cells
More worthy of life, for they might be male
Like Jesus - thus wombs are warped into jails.

Poor Eve is the pattern primordial, damned
By gender, as race consigned sons of Ham
To servitude, their God-burned cross their coal
Complexion, and if one should flee their fold
Love says, "Scourge the body to save the soul."

If knowledge of ethics is primal sin
Then 'teaching all nations' commits again
That error, but teach they must, for their bane
Is difference; they're driven to all souls train
For Heaven, where all seraphs sing the same.

2) Pastoral Counseling

Her weeping is a tiny, tinny sound
Crawling from the fallen receiver.
Precautions have failed us. We have
A Situation to address. She
Came to me for consolation
A troubled teen unable to
Handle her desires: nor I mine.
Her flesh was firm and ripe
And mine weak.
I have betrayed faith, flock, family
And the trust they and this girlchild
Placed in me. Unable to
Bear this revelation spreading further
I choose my sole recourse, to betray anew
And to embrace iniquity and
Lie with abomination.
I lift the receiver and speak to her
In practiced tones, both balming and commanding.
Go to the clinic, I tell her; I'll pay for it.
And shiver as ghost nails
Rake my back like a lover's clutches:
A dead hare crossing the grave of my convictions.


Thanks for the response to my post. My primary point remains that including the abortion reference diminishes the essay by thoroughly sidetracking the discussion--and I'd point to this thread of comments as proof positive. I'm glad to hear that Mr. Whittle has considered this, and I would very strongly suggest he edit out the reference.

Secondarily, I'd really like it if Mr. Whittle decided to unflinchingly address the "can of worms" in another essay. If he does, I hope he doesn't fall for the usual libertarian tendency to view the issue as a question of liberty, because that would be 1) simplistic, and 2) wrong. Since you can make an equally coherent argument for either side that depends on liberty, BOTH arguments must be missing the point--or, more accurately, talking past each other.

The central question on which the two sides differ is this: when exactly do rights vest in a person? NO position on the libertarian vs. statist axis has an answer to this question, because the answer is independent of the principles in dispute here. Simply stated, you can't answer the question of when rights vest in a person by an appeal to liberty.

Mr Barnes -

Excellent point, one I've been trying to make to people on both sides of the issue for a long time. It frustrates me to no end when otherwise intelligent people "talk past each other", neither side's arguemnts addressing the other's because they refuse to acknowledge the unstated assumptions of their point of view. That said...

Now that you've put the REAL question on the table, we must realize that it affects far more than just abortion.

If a set of "rational" criteria (based on nuerological activity, or somesuch) is put in place, does it apply to infants born with severe nuerological defects? If so, then we are sanctioning infanticide under some circumstances.

Does it apply to victims of trauma or illness? e.g., If I lose control of my ATV & smash into a tree, how deep must my coma be before I'm declared "civilly" dead and lose the rights of a citizen: specifically, protection from positive actions that will result in my physical death (such as "pulling the plug")? These questions become more and more relevent as medical science's ability to prolong physical "life" grows. When does a body hooked up to the heart/lung machine, the dialysis machine, etc cease to be a citizen, cease to be a person, and become a cadaver, to be kept "alive" only until the organs can be removed for transplant? As I understand it, there is no definition right now. It is up the heirs (who stand to inherit the person's estate), the doctor & hospital (who would rather use the resources on someone with better odds of recovery, and who may have a stake in harvesting the organs). The conflicts of interest here are chilling.
Almost any purely medical criteria that allow late-term abortions also permit infanticide, and termination of many elderly, comatose, perhaps even the catatonic.

The general question - "What's the difference between a metabolicly active, genetically human entity and a human being with the rights of a person?" - is both far more interesting, more important, and more far-reaching than the narrow issue of abortion.

Living Will

Not You-thanasia: I expire!
So I take this statement - personally.
Thus I must be careful, clear, precise
And shape well this first draft of heart's desire
For fickle future guarantees
Not one revision ere demise.

I love my life, and can't conceive
What it could be like to lack for it.
I plan to spend my last breath's force
Struggling to draw just one breath more
And my last heartbeat loving leave;
But one can't love life unaware of it.

I require not movement, nor pain excised
Nor sex, nor peace of sanity
But consciousness. If paralyzed,
I can still read and watch TV
Listen to music and feel the sea
Or taste an apple, or smell bread bake
Remember, imagine, communicate
Know, think, experience, learn, create.

If I'm in pain, do what you can
To dull what you can without addling my brain;
Permit me to bear the rest of it
And if I'm brain-damaged or deranged -
Even if living is dim or strange -
Please help me to make the best of it.

But if rendered vegetal, ne'er to wake
That's death, as I define the term.
So don't feed a zombie on a tape
Or respirate just to stymie worms.
Just let my flesh wither when it's cored
For it's of no further use to me.
What others need, to them afford
And powder the dross for sun or sea.

If anyone still cares, the above-mentioned "Bill of NO Rights" was written by Lewis K. Napper. Thanks to a mention on Paul Harvey's show, it is frequently mis-attributed to a state representative from Georgia. Napper makes runs for office on the Losertarian Libertarian ticket, so don't expect to see him elected to anything anytime soon.



Oh my, how close you were! If you would have only taken your Responsibility essay one step further. That one step was to explain that the people whom you and I detest are angry that they have been "forced" (by their ancestors) into a state of having to be self aware. They are angry at the little amoeba that crawled out of the primordial ooz and decided it was going to evolve. They are angry at the "monkey" that decided it was going to come down out of the tree and walk upright. ( I don't nessessarily believe in evolution, I'm just using this to make a point) They are very angry at the gall of those who decided they wanted to understand things. Why, because all of these things lead to them being forced into doing something that is very hard. Accepting Responsility. They are angry that they can't screw anyone anytime they want (like the animals). They are angry that they can't sit in their tree tops and chew payotee and run naked through the forest. Basically, they are angry that they can't act like animals. They want to be dolphins, apes, and birds. But they can't. Because they are "stuck" in their humanity AND THEY HATE IT. That is the core philosophy of those who seek to destroy America from within. They hate everything that causes humanity to evolve, and they cling to those things that would send humanity back to a more animalistic state.

They very conveniently forget what happens to the week and sick in the animal kingdom. Or maybe they don't....hmmm.

Anyway, Great essay. As most of them have been.


Hard Question, Hard Answer

Why are we the only ones?
Of all life,
We commit mass homicide,
Kill ourselves,
And befoul our only home.
Only we.

After painful meditiation
I've come to believe
That we are infected
With a blessed, damned disease
Called consciousness.

Caught between beasthood and divinity
Between being of the world and not of it
Between knowing none and knowing all
Between perfect self-ignorance and supreme self-understanding
We are the creatures of individual possibility.
In the natural world there is neither good not evil;
With awareness comes the capacity for both.
That same infection which permits art, altruism,
Fidelity and loving care, allows violence, indifference,
Dishonesty and psychosis,
For it spawns personality and its child
Personal choice.
I have come to believe in both the divinity
and the diaboly of human nature
And that they are inseparable.
Our disease is terminal
And all we can do is make the best of it
By striving to treat its more virulent symptoms
While harvesting its blessings.

The Curse

Since time immemorial we as a species have been individually lonely. Communication has been a poor substitute for communion, and the walls which stand between individual awarenesses can never be fully breached. Empathy is imagination rather than experience. In the most fundamental sense, we ultimately live - and die - alone. Even the search for deity may in the final analysis be a desperate attempt to achieve a oneness with the divine which we are irretrieveably denied with other human beings. Existential isolation has been considered by many as the cruellest curse of consciousness.
But - what if the walls between us fell down, all of them, to the last brick? What if we could indeed feel the experiences of each other as keenly as our own?
There are more than six billion of us now. At any moment there are thousands of births and deaths, and millions of orgasms and moments of intractable pain. Love and hate and courage and fear wash over multitudes like the waves of the sea. If that sum total could be felt by all and each, I cannot see how our egos could withstand it. The sheer force and intensity of it would of necessity sweep selfhood away. Our isolation is insulation, permitting us space in which to exist as ourselves, and our curse is a misunderstood blessing.


The paradox of the writer, the painter, the sculptor, the composer...

To: create the understood.
To: forge originals acceptable to the masses.
To: communicate a newness accessible to old archetypes, an archetype itself - which, though created, must seem discovered, dug from the depths of our common human mine - to care.

The paradox of the reader, the spectator, the audience...

To: recognize, from a perspective bound to the past, the genius of new directions.
To: apprehend the pathways which point to a future not known
To: take the universal personally, probe it, appreciate it, know it well enough to celebrate the rare occasions upon which it is expanded - to care.

Mach's Principle

Sometimes I think about the stark fact that at every moment, people whom I've never met die and people whom I'll never meet are born. No one of them affects me, but the knowledge of that vast unperceived collectivity moves me immensely. On a different scale, thi resembles Mach's Principle: the gravity one hydrogen atom manifests for another at the other end of the universe is miniscule indeed, but from the frame of reference established by the existence of all matter springs the gravity which grounds us on this earth and links it, sun and moon together.


Long ago, the night held monsters. The darkness was filled with power and mystery, and our ancestors huddled around the comforting campfire, directing only furtive, frightened glances into the threatening dark beyond. Around the campfire there was sight and safety, and the glowing embers seemed to embody a universal truth. Our ancestors gazed not at each other, but into that common light, that warm shared center.
Now, of course, the monsters are gone. They've been killed off with guns and flashlights and dictionary entries. But still we circle the lights in our dens, receiving truth, and gazing not at each other.
We have forgotten what darkness is; forgotten the awe and the wonder which knitted us together as a tribe. We must relearn this splendor for our own salvation. It is time to turn our backs upon our electronic campfires and, hand in hand, stare into the void, and reclaim mystery, remembering that we all live upon a coal, still warm and glowing in its center, only recently spun from a fire which yet floats in the magic darkness.


Appreciate what you're saying, but I might suggest that whether we stare at the darkness or the light matters less than that we stand together "hand in hand," with others, while we contemplate either, or both, or the twilight between the two. It doesn't matter how you occupy or anesthetize your mind if you do so lost in isolation, depression, and anomie.

There is mystery aplenty of which to be in awe. To follow your metaphor (albeit awkwardly), if one possesses the curiosity to look closely at the "light in our den", one sees that there's darkness between the individual pixels of light on the screen.

Every advance in quantum physics seems to make existence itself that much more of a mystery.
Transcribe the human genome? Guess what. We know next to nothing about protein folding. It's like we found the wiring schematic for a circuit board, only to discover that we have only the vaguest notions what resisters, capacitors, diodes, or transistors are, and even less of an idea how they function.
At the end of the 19th century, people (with the exception of a few eccentric physicists) were pretty sure mankind knew just about everything that mattered. The head of the patent office posited that his job was obsolete because everything useful had already been invented.
Today, my head spins at the amount of darkness still remaining inside the light of knowledge. The more we learn, the more profound we discover our ignorance really is. I almost wish for the days when it was possible to be a "Renaissance Man", equally at home in the worlds of electricity, chemistry, medicine, engineering, philosphy, and arts. (Then I remember antibiotics, and modern dentistry, and decide I'm rather well-off right here & now)

I must admit that beneath the flint-skinned pragmatist, there lies a romantic. How many times can one possibly read The Lord of the Rings? But in the end, I just don't think we need any more darkness. Our most brilliant scientific minds cannot answer the most elementary questions of time, space, and matter. Philosophers, theologians, and psychologists cannot explain the monsters living in the darkness within our own hearts; although some will point out that chimps share an amazing range of the "evil" once thought to be uniquely human: murder, warfare, internecine civil war, backstabbing political manuevering...)

Afraid that was a little bit long and rambling, but to sum it up, fight the complacency, nourish your curiousity, see the wonder and the mystery, and do so with somebody.

Lenses: A Love Song for Salman Rushdie

We are wanderers all
In the shapeshifting dunes of our days
Seeking amidst the sandstorms
The sight of a sheltered course
So we sift our pasts to cast our futures
And grind lenses to focus our lives.
Most are less than original
But each has its own eccentricities
Fitted for one eye, one terrain;
No lens is universal, and no path.

Most of us hide our quirks of vision
From others, and even from ourselves
Lest some fatal slip should betray us
And hew to some hard line or other
Packed by souls of similar stripe
Who confuse the safety of numbers
With the security of a way well chosen
And who, fearing the very existence
Of the walkers of other ways
As challenges to their own the wisdom of their own decisions
Strive to herd those they *must* consider misled
Back to the 'proper' route, or failing that
Seek to end their journeys.

But some crazed few of us
Too honest for our own damned good
Craft our lenses from every gritty grain
Of the wide beach of experience
Fusing them carefully in insight's crucible
Until they crystallize clean and true
And then we wave them radiantly
Before the wondering, wandering world.

These folks or followed, or killed, or both.
Poets and messiahs are the glaziers
Of living visions, and well wrought lenses
May powerfully concentrate the common gaze
Promisisng pathfinding clarity.
But- remember this:
Art is metaphor, and metaphors are chameleons.
They are colored by our journeys
As surely as they shape them.
Empty and aimless are those who lack lenses
If such pathless ones exist
But stumbling blind are those who
Given the lenses of others
Wear them as if they were windowpanes
And polish them not with their lives.

its to long

"Berekike Tarver" wrote in message
> Farah tried to plead with the US troops but she was killed anyway - includes link to source
> ml
> The death of two innocent Iraqis was thought so unremarkable the US
> military did not even report it, but Peter Beaumont says it reflects an
> increasingly callous disregard of civilian lives in coalition
> operations
> Sunday September 7, 2003
> The Observer
> Farah Fadhil was only 18 when she was killed. An American soldier threw
> a grenade through the window of her apartment. Her death, early last
> Monday, was slow and agonising. Her legs had been shredded, her hands
> burnt and punctured by splinters of metal, suggesting that the bright
> high-school student had covered her face to shield it from the
> explosion.
> She had been walking to the window to try to calm an escalating
> situation; to use her smattering of English to plead with the soldiers
> who were spraying her apartment building with bullets.
> But then a grenade was thrown and Farah died. So did Marwan Hassan who,
> according to neighbours, was caught in the crossfire as he went looking
> for his brother when the shooting began.
> What is perhaps most shocking about their deaths is that the coalition
> troops who killed them did not even bother to record details of the
> raid with the coalition military press office. The killings were that
> unremarkable. What happened in Mahmudiya last week should not be
> forgotten, for the story of this raid is also the story of the dark
> side of the US-led occupation of Iraq, of the violent and sometimes
> lethal raids carried out apparently beyond any accountability.
> For while the media are encouraged to count each US death, the Iraqi
> civilians who have died at American hands since the fall of Saddam's
> regime have been as uncounted as their names have been unacknowledged.
> Mahmudiya is typical of the satellite towns that ring Baghdad, and the
> apartment block where Farah died was typical of the blocks to be found
> there - five storeys or so high, set among dusty paths lined with palms
> and stunted trees. In Saddam's time, the people who lived here were
> reasonably well-off - junior technicians for the nearby factories run
> by the Ministry of Military Industrialisation. These are not the
> poorest, but they are by no stretch of the imagination well-off.
> When the Americans arrived, say neighbours, the residents of this
> cluster of blocks liked the young GIs. They say there were no problems
> and that their children played with the troops, while residents would
> give them food as the patrols passed by.
> But all that came to a sudden bloody end at 12.30am last Monday, when
> soldiers arrived outside the apartment block where Farah and her family
> lived. What happened in a few minutes, and in the chaos of the hours
> that followed, is written across its walls. The bullet marks that pock
> the walls are spread in arcs right across the front of the apartment
> house, so widely spaced in places that the only conclusion you can draw
> is that a line of men stood here and sprayed the building wildly.
> I stood inside and looked to where the men must have been standing,
> towards the apartment houses the other way. I could not find impacts on
> the concrete paths or on the facing walls that would suggest that there
> was a two-way firefight here. Whatever happened here was one-sided, a
> wall of fire unleashed at a building packed with sleeping families.
> Further examination shows powder burns where door locks had been shot
> off and splintered wood where the doors had been kicked in. All the
> evidence was that this was a raid that - like so many before it - went
> horribly wrong.
> This is what the residents, and local police, told us had happened.
> Inside the apartment with Farah were her mother and a brother, Haroon,
> 13. As the soldiers started smashing doors, they began to kick in
> Farah's door with no warning. Panicking, and thinking that thieves were
> breaking into the apartment, Haroon grabbed a gun owned by his father
> and fired some shots to scare them off. The soldiers outside responded
> by shooting up the building and throwing grenades into Farah's
> apartment.
> The randomness of that firing is revealed by a visit to the apartments.
> Windows are drilled with bullet holes; ceilings in kitchens and
> bedrooms and living areas are scarred where the rounds smashed in.
> Hodhbain Tohma was on the roof, fiddling with his new satellite dish to
> make it work, when the soldiers came. 'I heard the shooting first, then
> an explosion. Then I heard women screaming. I looked over the roof and
> saw a line of soldiers on the path firing weapons wildly towards the
> building as a helicopter arrived above us. The shooting all seemed to
> me to be on one side.'
> Abdul Ali Hussein was in the apartment next door to Farah's when the
> shooting began. 'I was asleep when we heard the shooting, and then an
> explosion blew open my door and filled my apartment with smoke. I
> grabbed my family and took them to another room and covered them with
> my body.
> 'I went to see if anyone needed my help next door. I went into three
> rooms, saw Farah lying in the kitchen near the window. She was injured
> and burnt, but still alive. I ran to get cotton wrapping and bandages
> to try and treat her. We didn't have enough and so tore up a head-cloth
> to try and stop the bleeding. The soldier shouted at me: "Where are the
> fedayeen ?" They told me to leave her because she was dead.'
> As we were talking, a weeping man in a head-cloth arrived - Qasam
> Hassan, the brother of the second fatality, Marwan. Qasam told us how
> Marwan died. 'When I heard the heavy shooting, I was in another
> apartment building visiting friends. My brother was worried, so he went
> out to look for me. He was not carrying any arms. He could not find me,
> and as he came back to the building the Americans shot him. He ran and
> fell behind the building and died. Among all of them they only had one
> translator. How could people know what was going on?'
> What is most curious about this story is that, when I called the US
> military press office in Baghdad, it said it could find no record of
> the raid or of the deaths. It is curious because the police in
> Mahmudiya have told us how US military policemen delivered the bodies
> to their station the next morning; how the local commander had
> expressed his commiserations; how the same Iraqi police had complained
> that the new troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, who arrived fresh
> from the US last month, had apparently reversed the policy of the
> previous US unit in the town to take local police on raids.
> It became less puzzling when I spoke to Nada Doumani, spokeswoman for
> the International Committee for the Red Cross, who confirmed what she
> has said before - that despite repeated requests from the Red Cross, it
> can neither get information nor figures on civilian deaths during
> raids.
> What happened at Mahmudiya would be disturbing enough if it was unique,
> but it is not. It is part of a pattern that points not to a deliberate
> policy but perhaps to something equally worrying, an institutional lack
> of care among many in the US military for whether civilians are killed
> in their operations. It is not enough to say, as some defenders of the
> US military in Iraq do, that its soldiers are tired, frightened and
> under pressure from the simmering guerrilla attacks directed against
> them. For it is the impression that the US military gives of not caring
> about those innocent Iraqis that they kill that is stoking resentment.
> Iraqis have been killed at vehicle checkpoints and killed in their
> homes in night-time raids. Policemen have been shot down doing what US
> forces have asked them to do, trying to keep the peace. Indeed, the
> allegations that US soldiers are too 'trigger happy' even led to
> complaints, in mid-August from Ibrahim al-Jaffri - then holding the
> rotating presidency of the Iraqi provisional government - urging US
> troops to exercise more care before firing.
> 'All we want are answers,' said Qassam Hassan. 'All we are asking for
> is justice.'

a very biased view of personal responsibility and free will. free will is posited as a justification for responsibility and power is presented as being directly proportional to personal responsibiltiy. no thought appears to have been given to the role that personal responsibility has played in mankind's ever growing attachment to property and ego. natural law can be as destructive to human freedom as social conditioning. the question not asked is "for what purpose was the word 'responsibility' originally drafted?". until we have a common agreement on what "responsibilty" means it is a bit presumptuous to debate its merits. words like freedom,will,responsibility,victim, and the like are laden a priori with subjective values. before we ask ourselves "is there such a thing as free will?" we could ask "does the word free have some objective meaning?" or "what exactly is will?". maybe one reason debates like the nature or nurture question have been going on with little resolution for so long is that nobody quite knows exactly what it is they are arguing about.

after reading many comments on this article, bill, i wondered "does bill think about what his motivation is in publishing this forum? does he see what a propagandist american patriot he is and if so is he pleased with himself?" preachers preach mainly to themselves.....rigid belief systems belie weak faith.....whistling in the dark..... those kind of ideas come to mind for all they are worth. i don't know anything really but am still intrigued by others who claim they do. do you think that you know something, bill?

A little bird whispered in my ear, as I was passing time while the computer was backing up its hard drive, to type a key word search for "responsibility" which brought me to your website Bill. Responsibility has been a life lesson for me, and continues to teach me over and over again, for I am responsible for what I am creating in my life. One commentator, Dale, indicates the need to define responsibility, so here's my version- the empowered ability to create peace and harmony. Anything other than peace and harmony in life is the role of a victim, as I have come to believe. And it makes a lot of sense that I was born on American soil as we are indeed the most individual-oriented society in the world with presumably the most freedom of any organized nation. However, we are learning as a government the often painful lessons of irresponsibility as we continue to play referee to the world thus reaping what we sow overseas. Freedom mandates responsibility, on an individual basis this is far more profound than as a society. How free we are to move about and choose as we will is directly related to the degree by which we are taking responsibility for our own life. It's my belief that a path of responsibility awards the greatest gifts, namely peace and harmony, and of course, freedom. So thanks for putting yourself out there Bill. All the best!

Love your essays. Quick scan of comments revealed
many great responses. However, the abortion angle may not have included the following: Intercourse, by its design, is an invitation to life. Thus, the pregnancy can never be unwanted or an accident no matter what the intent was when it took place. That's what it was desisned for. One must take responsibility for controlling one's urges. Thus far in history, no conclusive proof has been found that rebukes the idea that human life, thus personhood, begins at conception. Until then, it is irresponsible to engage in intercourse unless the parties involved are willing and able to care for the life they have invited into the world. (It's just plain rude, too. Imagine being invited to a party and upon showing up the host says your not wanted after all...and shoots you.) Abortion then, is the most heinous abdication of responsibility. So is complaining that resisting the urge is too much to ask. How spineless. Sex is fun indeed, but neccessary? Beyond our ability to resist? Nonsense. For too long, and especially since the late 50's and early 60's, sex has been reduced to a pathetic, self-gratifying, masturbatory (even when there's a partner) exercise. The Hussein boys were an extreme example. It debases us and whoever we do it with when we make it something more important than it really is: a very pleasurable spasm. We've allowed it to color to much of our lives, to define us to strongly. The irresponsible attitudes about sex cause bad marriages and the divorces that follow, the transmission of diseases, the waste of time obsessions with sexuality and sexual identity crises (gack!), as well as the myth of unwanted pregnancies and the cheap justifications for whacking the kid.