Tim Bray, Punishing Peter Jackson:

On a recent 10½-hour flight I watched The Desolation of Smaug. Now we have to work out how to punish Peter Jackson for this travesty.

(If you don’t know who Tim Bray is, he helped develop a lot of web technologies. Also, he worked on the project that computerized the Oxford English Dictionary, an enterprise that Tolkien also worked on many decades before digital computers came along.)

Long time, no blog

February 17, 2014

I didn’t realize it had been that long. When I have time for such things these days, I mostly use it to update Amanda’s mission blog. I’ll try to do some more soon, though.

Amanda is leaving

October 29, 2013

In a few minutes we’ll be leaving to take Amanda to the airport. I just set up another blog for her where we’ll try to post her mail: http://amandainbrazil.wordpress.com.

Anachronism

October 19, 2013

The other evening I was helping Andrew with his homework. They’re studying American symbols, and he had a worksheet on the Statue of Liberty. Question 1:

The Statue of Liberty raises a ______________ in her left hand.

“Torch,” he said and wrote that down. Question 2:

The Statue of Liberty holds a _________ in her right hand.

“Book,” he says, and starts to write.

“I think it’s supposed to be a tablet,” I say.

“Nuh-uh,” he replies, “they didn’t have tablets back then!”

So I had to explain that “tablet” meant something different back before we had iPads and such.

Primum non nocere

September 4, 2013

If I were ever to get myself elected to public office, not that that’s likely to happen, my motto for governing would be: primum non nocere. It’s attributed to Hippocrates, although there’s no evidence he ever said it, and means “First, do no harm.”

People seem to think when something bad happens you have to do something to try to fix it. And so for thousands of years when people got sick “healers” would brew up noxious potions or apply leeches or try other absurd things that more often than not only made the patient get worse. Then a couple of hundred years ago some doctors realized they didn’t know enough, and had the courage to step back and observe the course of diseases, while making the sufferers as comfortable as possible, but without trying treatments they didn’t really know would work. This, along with the discovery of microbes and other scientific observations, led to modern medicine, which actually works in many cases. (People still expect doctors to do something to cure them, though. Many drugs are overprescribed, for one thing.)

The same thing happens in politics. Something bad happens, and politicians and bureaucrats rush to pass a new law or implement a new policy or establish a new government program, because we have to do something even if it doesn’t actually do any good, in fact even if it makes things worse. We desperately need politicians and officials who will follow the example of the early scientific doctors and observe and study before trying to fix things.

War

August 28, 2013

So, there’s talk going around that we may be on the verge of some sort of military action in Syria. Exciting, especially when one of your offspring is wandering around the middle east.

Anyway, I’ll just repeat something I said earlier:

…it’s a practical mistake and a moral error to get involved in a war unless you’re committed to fighting it to the end. Unless you have a clear goal that won’t be accomplished until your enemy surrenders unconditionally or ceases to exist as a political entity, and you’re willing to put all necessary resources into achieving that goal, you have no business using military force.

Limited wars are immoral wars. If it’s not worth an all-out fight, don’t start fighting.

Immigration

July 8, 2013

I’m not sure what to think about the immigration bill Congress is currently considering. The biggest problem with illegal immigration is making illegal something that is natural and beneficial. As it stands now, if Joe from Ohio wants to move to Texas to look for a better job, that’s fine, but if José from Oaxaca tries to do the same thing he’s breaking the law. Somehow that doesn’t seem right; everyone should be able to try to find a job wherever they like. On the other hand, Congress is so dysfunctional these days it’s hard to believe that the proposed legislation, another big bill that many Senators don’t seem to have taken the trouble to read, will be any kind of improvement.

Anyway, the real problems that immigration opponents are concerned about don’t really arise from immigration per se. The come instead from “multiculturalism” and the welfare state. “Multiculturalism” pretends to be about respecting other cultures, which of course we should do, but as practiced it’s really more about attacking Angl0-American culture. But people immigrating to a new country should be adopting the culture already there, not expecting those already there to accommodate their preferences. This includes attempting to learn the language commonly used in the host country. (This works both ways; an Anglo who moves to Mexico shouldn’t expect his new neighbors to change to North American values and habits and start speaking English.)

As far as the welfare state is concerned, that’s probably a topic for another post, but while we absolutely have an obligation to help those in need, government involvement always seems to corrupt and distort what might otherwise be charitable actions.

So my immigration policy would be: get the government out of the business of “helping” people, insist that people who move here educate themselves in the principles of American democracy (which unfortunately would put them ahead of a lot of native citizens) and try to learn English, and then let anyone willing to meet those conditions come here and help make our country a better place.

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