L. Neil Smith's
Number 91, September 25, 2000
Stupidity Abounds

Edward Dunnigan and Carl Bussjaeger are on the money. Politicians are criminals by definition. They run the most efficient protection rackets ever devised. If non-politicians think they and their bureaurat (sic) minions are inefficient, government still holds the bigger gun. Congress, with the exception of Ron Paul, consists of gutless prostitutes, and the news media are their pimps. They engage in legalized larceny, and most if not all elections are rigged.

Brian Monahan bj43@earthlink.net

Dear Sirs and Mesdames:

Out here in Orange Co, Calif., inventor Charlie Gabbard has invented a "pursuit intervention termination management system." In plain English, a thing that will, when zonked by a laser, stop a car in its tracks. Mr. Gabbard says it is fool-proof, for use only by police, et cetera.

My maiden Aunt Matilda! No way! Not now! Not ever! Of course there will be abuses by the police state against law-abiding citizens. Does anybody remember the Mercy Offramp Killer? Lots of pretty women, killed (and worse) at the Mercy offramp in San Diego Co,, Calif. Turns out to be an "officer of the peace" dong all the dirty work.

Of course the criminal class will get this technology. And anything with a double-barrelled, high-faluting name like "pursuit intervention termination management system" will have malfunctions up the kazoo!

Would you like this thing to stop your car in the desert, at high noon, with "last chance for gas, 65 miles ahead—too bad, you missed us, 65 miles ago?"

Spread the word, if you will, folks. This idea's a bad 'un!

"Archergirl" Renata archergirl@netzero.net

p.s. Edit this anyway you see fit. Meanwhile, I'll be throwing fits —they stick to the wall if you throw hard enough.

Dear Sirs:

What the heck does Steve Trinward mean when he says, "you can take the truly radical step of voting for the ALP/WLA ticket of Smith and Suprynowicz."

I thought Neil wasn't running for Prez since he didn't receive his million signatures.

Also, people keep suggesting that a vote for Bush would be wasted as he is not very different from that environmental hypocrite, Al Gore. Well, Alec Baldwin, Robert Altman, Kim Basinger and others have all promised to leave the country if he is elected. Think of it. We just might empty Hollywood of all those fascists, socialists, pinko types. Only Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell, and Mel Gibson and a very few others would be left.


Take care

James J. Odle bretta35@mail.anonymizer.com

I'm too stunned to comment on this; I just wanted others to feel my pain. :-)

The article says you can respond at editor@energy.com.


According to a recent article in the New York Times, the freedom of choice that deregulation has brought to energy consumers may be psychologically overwhelming.

Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, believes that endless choices can lead to a "tyranny of freedom"—the sense of persecution that comes with the responsibility to make a choice.

To Schwartz, having a variety of choices increases the likelihood that the choice will be wrong—leading to regret and, ultimately, depression.

A noteworthy statistic: the incidence of depression is now ten times what it was in the year 1900, according to estimates.

"Over what domains in life are you supposed to have control?" Schwartz told the Times. "Nobody gets depressed when you can't control the weather, and years ago nobody got depressed because they couldn't control your telecommunications or electricity either, because those things couldn't be controlled. But now you can, or you're told that you can, and so you're going to be continually frustrated."

In his book The Costs of Living: How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things In Life, [ http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bschwar1/CostOfLiving-Preface.htm] Schwartz explains that the tyranny of freedom "leaves people frighteningly alone—indecisive about what to do and why, unsure of who to trust and depend on, unprotected from the harsh misfortunes they may encounter".

Research would support the claim that consumers are torn between freedom of choice and freedom from choice.

Barbara Caplan of Yankelovich Partners, a research and consulting firm, has identified this as "the paradox of our time". According to her firm’s surveys, a majority of the population wants more control over all of life’s details—but a majority also yearns for simplicity.

Not all choices are overwhelming or unpleasant, though.

"People want to make choices about clothes and restaurants and what houses they live in," Wendy Kaminer, a public policy fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, told the Times.

Scott Cattanach sendtoscott@yahoo.com

I wanted to drop a line and say how much I enjoy the site. I've been very busy reading all the back issues.

I also wanted to ask about submissions. I have been working on an opinion column which I would like to see published in a venue where it can reach a decent sized audience.

I have already tried syndicating it—although not by myself as yet. However, I would also like to get feedback from like-minded people as well.

I call the column 'The Common Sense', and a selection of columns resides on a very bare bones site at http://www.geocities.com/erik_nocturne/erik_nocturne.html, should you or anyone else choose to review it.

Thank you.

Stuart Sanders Stuart.Sanders@IHE.com

With respect to the "well-regulated militia" portion of the 2nd Amendment, and in reply to several letters, it's informative to look at the institution of the militia, in its origins and as it actually existed in Colonial America and during the early-national period.

In the English-speaking world, the militia derives directly from the "fyrd", the armed levy, of the early Anglo-Saxon kingdoms; most of the Germanic peoples of Europe had a similar institution. In point of fact, since an unarmored farmer wasn't much use except to soak up arrows and sling-bullets that might otherwise have hit a real soldier, in Saxon England only the "select fyrd" was usually called out; men who could afford helmet and armor. Every five families had to provide one man so equipped. The entire fyrd was only called out in the worst emergencies, like the Norman invasion.

After 1066, the Norman kings kept up the institution; it was a cheap way of bolstering the defense forces, and gave them a weapon against their own barons—the fyrd, being Saxons, would gladly turn out to chop up their social superiors.

In the fyrd and similar setups, all adult free males who were members of the community were required to turn out with their weapons when called on; to hunt down criminals, to repel invasion, or of course to carry out an invasion. In early days, the same assembly of armed freemen was usually the local court and/or political legistlature; a well-known example is the Scandinavian "Thing", where kings were elected. (From among the royal clan, of course.) The archaic Greeks seem to have had a similar institution.

The medieval kings of England also used the militia as a source of trained recruits for their armies. The famous "bow laws"—which required all men to keep a longbow, and forbade any sport but archery —were a byproduct of this. The French never managed to build up an equivalent corps of archers, largely because they didn't institutionalize the endless practice needed.

Elizabeth I's famous speech in 1588 ("I have the heart and stomach of a King, and a King of England, too") was given to the assembled militiamen of southeastern England, gathered to repel the invasion threatened by the Spanish Armada; most of them were carrying bows. God help them if they'd ever had to face Parma's veterans, of course.

By the time the American colonies were founded, the English militia was usually limited to about 1/3 of the males in a given county, at most—those who could afford the arms, and were trusted by the Lords Lieutenant of the county in question. It went moribund after the English Civil War—aka "The Wars of the Three Kingdoms"— mostly because militia troops, even the best of them (the "trained bands") fared very badly against professionals, whether Royalist or Cromwellian.

Nevertheless, "Whig" writers in England were deeply attached to the militia; not for its military effectiveness, which was slight, but because it was an alternative to a standing army of professionals, which they feared might be an instrument of Royal despotism on the Continental model. This animus died out after Parliament (and the Whigs) gained control of the army's funding, and thus of the army, but like many 17th-century notions it remained stronger in the Americas than in the homeland.

The militia became a more widespread institution in the American colonies, not least because property ownership was more widespread there than in England. And because the Indians were a constant menace, of course, and slaves in areas where the Peculiar Institution was strong.

However, it's important to note that among ordinary people (as opposed to political theorists) militia service was regarded as a tax, an imposition, not a privilege.

It involved being put down on the rolls, required to keep certain equipment (usually at the individual's expense) and to turn up for drill, sometimes as often as once a month. In time of war or insurrection, militiamen were called out to fight, often at considerable distances from home, and under martial law with punishments for non-performance up to and including death.

Sort of a conscript National Guard, to use modern terms.

Hence when a New England town wanted to lure, say, a blacksmith or miller, or shipwrights, they'd often vote him and/or his employees exemption from militia service. Most people in most places at most times regarded militia service as a pain in the patootie, and dodging was widespread. Of course, it was risky; the authorities might get you, or in frontier areas where Indian raids were a real threat those who shirked faced being "hated out" or outright lynched by their neighbors.

So what a "well-regulated" militia meant in the late 18th century was a situation where every free man was compelled to enroll in the militia, keep arms, and train for combat. The firearms were registered, and a central directory of them and their state of maintenance was maintained by the militia.

Membership in the militia was regarded as a form of "civic duty", rather like jury duty, only more so. Theorists during the Revolution and after were keen on "civic virtue", like turning out to drill with your neighbors.

Even so, and despite stringent efforts, only about 1/5 of the male population kept the arms prescribed by law. Muskets were expensive, the equivalent of the price of a car today, and not very useful in everyday life.

Hell, they weren't even very useful for everyday crime; the standard murder weapon of the period was a knife, hatchet or club. Murdering someone with a single-shot smoothbore weapon was downright risky; you'd probably have to finish them off with the butt, anyway. Muskets were extremely inaccurate, and deadly only when used in mass formations by trained men. Rifles shot straighter, of course, but they were even more expensive than muskets and quite rare except among specialists like frontier hunters.

When the militia was actually called out, it usually meant a period of scrambling while suitable weapons were rounded up, often by confiscation.

After the war of 1812 the old-style universal militia faded out of existence, as people became more mobile and more resistant to impositions of this type; it lasted longer in the South, where the white population needed to keep armed vigil over the slaves.

Joat Simeon JoatSimeon@aol.com

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