Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pratchett of the (I found a good one and felt like writing it)

     Agnes hadn't seen a mob like this before. Mobs, in her limited experience, were noisy.  This one was silent. Most of the town was in on it, and to Agnes' surprise, they'd brought along many of the children.
     It didn't surprise Perdita. They're going to kill the vampires, she said, and the children will watch.
     Good, thought Agnes, that's exactly right.
     Perdita  was horrified. It'll give them nightmares!
     No, thought Agnes, it'll take the nightmares away.  Sometimes, everyone has to know that the monsters are dead, and remember, so they can tell their grandchildren.

- Carpe Jugulum, p 319, when the villagers of Escrow have risen up against the Magpyrs, and are quietly making their way to Don'tgonearthe Castle. Pretty close to the end, but kind of the beginning of the end, when the story is all laid out, and we get down to the bit where we find out if the story has a happy ending or not, or sometimes both.

Friday, April 10, 2015

To Beat the Devil

Kris Kristofferson wrote a song.

Yeah, I know, Kris Kristofferson wrote a LOT of songs, and lots of other people sang them too.

But this is a song called, 'To Beat the Devil', and we should all listen to it for a little while.

Senate Bill 941 is progressing in the Oregon Senate, and many of us are writing our legislators, and our local governments, to try to stem the tide, while outside money floods in to the coffers of our opponents.  It's easy to feel like a thing is inevitable, and that we can't win, and it's easy to want to give up.  When all you get is silence when you try to talk to your public servants, its easy to just walk on and forget it.  And THAT, that feeling right there, THAT'S the devil that Kris sings about.  The little voice inside that says 'you aren't making a difference'.

The very richest people keep getting richer, and the very poorest keep getting bought.  The Left and Right just lie and steal and cheat, and it feels like the whole damn place is going straight to pot.

The best we can do it keep singin'.  Keep singin', because somewhere, someone DOES want to hear.  And if we all keep trying, sooner or later, we can beat the devil.

At the very least, we can drink his beer for nothing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pratchett of the (Unsuitably long time period)

One of the things he might see, perhaps, was the face of Two Fire Herb.  This was not a nice face. It was podgy and had tiny little pupils in its eyes, and looked like a living example of the fact that although people could be oppressed by kings and emperors and mandarins, the job could often be done just as well by the man next door.

- Interesting Times, p 154, when he's with the Red Army in HungHung, and he can't help but notice that Lotus Blossom has the sort of a face that makes a man think of potatoes. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Right or Left Mk II

Expanding more on my political theory, I received a couple apt comments, both regarding the moral flexibility of those on the Left.  Now, being that they were not particularly generous, I'll leave them off (if you're into that stuff, they're not hard to find) but they do bring up a point.  The political Left is ostensibly interested in equality of outcome- that is, at the end of the day, everyone has basically the same or reasonable similar quality of life. After all, this is the proper goal of Communism, is it not? The Right, on the opposing hand, is similarly built on equality of opportunity- if everyone has the same opportunities, then the fact that some end up with more and some with less is not seen as inequality, it is seen as compensation for their particular talent, or business acumen, etc etc.

This is a point that is, I think, valid, but it is parallel in some respects to mine.  For one, my theory is more to the mindset of the Left and the Right, rather than the political realities.  What I intend to explore is the mindset of the people at the ground level who identify with either side of the most common political spectrum. In some ways, what I am suggesting is less about Left Aisle vs Right Aisle, and more about Left Brain vs Right Brain.

I'm not going to go into any psychological or physiological discussions, because I'm not prepared to make myself readily knowledgeable to discuss them.  However, the comparison is something we are all familiar with- people who are on one side are math and precision oriented, people on the other are art and culture oriented.  Which is which is not germane to our discussion, and actually runs opposite of what side of the political discussion one falls, so we'll leave that discussion for another day, to prevent confusion.

The Political Left, as we discussed previously, is largely preoccupied with the quality of the individual in the position of power.  This can be seen in the tendency of the Left towards a Cult of Personality, and in the prevalence of ad hominem commentary in political debate.  This plays directly into the idea of prosecutorial discretion- when one can assure the quality of the person elected to a position, one can rely on their expertise and their judgement to apply the law in a way that assures the best possible outcome. It would not be unfair to assume that their biggest fear is that the wrong person will be in charge, and make the wrong decisions.  They are inclined to extend enormous amounts of power to the ruling authority, which they then must protect at all costs.  It is unsurprising, then, that the Left tends to judge politics on quality of character- as long as the person in question is of sound moral judgement (at least in their eyes) then previous errors or thin resumes are not a stumbling block, but a learning experience.  It is ok to be wrong, as long as you are a good person.  The reverse of this is that there is also a tendency towards character assassination in elections.  George W Bush is widely regarded as a figure of low intelligence, caricatured as a fool, and attacked for his not-infrequent spoken gaffes, while other political figures such as John Kerry and Joe Biden, who are absolutely as prone or more to similar statements, are vigorously defended.  This does not represent a cognitive disconnect, because the person is not being attacked or defended because of those actual qualities- the qualities attacked are simply a tool to attack the person.  The tool itself is actually irrelevant.  In myriad ways, that sums up the arguments of the Left.  Laws and details are tools, intended to be used by intelligent and reliable leaders, to properly lead and administer the country.  If the rules are unnecessarily strict on their face, this isn't a problem, because a wise leader will know when to refrain from applying them.

The Political Right, by comparison, is preoccupied largely with the Rules themselves.  Rules must be obeyed with dire consequences.  It is important to note here that this does not apply merely to political rules or the Rule of Law.  It also applies to religious law, as well.  The Right has a vested interest in defending the Rules, no matter what they may be.  Don't like a Rule? There's a Rule in place on how to change it.  Until then it must be applied evenly.  An example of this can be seen in the Right's tendency to encourage strict adherence to written laws such as the Bible, the Constitution, and similar.  During election cycles, the Right tends to focus on arguments that cite their opponent's record, their past transgressions, and their failure to live up to their chosen Standards.  Because the Right assumes that all rules are absolute, their goal is to write them as specifically as possible, generally referring to previous rules as much as they can.  It would be fair to say that the worst nightmare of the political Right is that the person in a position of authority will pass the wrong rules, especially rules that contradict other rules.  Contradictory rules are anathema to the Right, because all rules must be followed at all times- if two rules contradict each other, and therefore cannot be followed, then the situation requires immediate justification, either through new rules, the repeal of the less important (importance being, of course, laid out according to the rules) rule, or possibly the expungement of the offending system of rules (the logic here being that the presence of one offending rule is indicative of the whole system being corrupt and/or at odds to the preferred system of rules).  Did I use the word Rule enough in that paragraph? I did that on purpose. Rules Rules Rules.  That's what drives the Right.  Whereas the Left encourages the proliferation of laws as Tools to be used by the right person, the tool itself being rather irrelevant beyond its usefulness, such an approach is untenable to the Right.  The Right seeks to write the rules in a specific enough manner that the person in office is immaterial- after all, they are only there to faithfully execute the rules.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Working Theory on Political Ideologies

I've been mulling a concept for the last while that I'd like to float here, and it has to do with how people from various aspects of the political spectrum relate to the state.  Here is my working theory.

People on the Left of the political spectrum rely on the qualities of the person in the position, and people on the Right of the political spectrum rely on the qualities that the position gives to the person.

My first supporting anecdote comes from the bucolic hamlet of Washington, in the District of Columbia.  David Gregory, a Journalist of Impeachable Standing (tm) is shown on national television in possession of an item that is strictly forbidden to non-government persons with the District.  For now (even though we all know what the item was) lets just put a placeholder there, maybe some raw milk, or hallucinogenic substances. Many people on the Right of the spectrum have lobbied vociferously for his arrest and prosecution, neither of which have been forthcoming, for possession of the illegal item.  The people in political power in the area, who are on the Left, had no intention of bringing charges against Gregory, and were indeed surprised at the outrage- it was being used as a prop device on a political broadcast, and they had no intention of prosecuting an ally of theirs for his choice of prop.  Contemporaneous to this act is the story of Shaneen Allen, a young mother, who incidentally found herself in New Jersey with an object that was forbidden to her there.  She was not aware, at the time, that this object was forbidden, but ignorance of the law is not a valid defense.  She was charged, and through a fortunate coincidence her situation gained national attention and the presence of some very high value lawyers.  She subsequently entered a pre-trial diversion program which amounts to expungement after a period of probation.

 Why were these two cases treated in such different fashions? My hypothesis- prosecutorial discretion is seen as a FEATURE, not a bug, to the Left.  Discretion allows the person in the position to decide whether or not it is appropriate to proceed with charges. Shaneen Allen was proceeding with an activity that fit the description and perhaps the spirit of the law, as written (accepting that possession of the item in question is generally seen as evidence of being political opposition to the powers that be in New Jersey and elsewhere), and was therefore charged.  David Gregory was in violation of the LETTER of the law, but is both an ally and an advocate of the political establishment, and was acting in a way that did not violate the spirit of the rule.  It is because the PERSON in charge elected not to press charges that David Gregory was not charged.  It was not due to some overlooked clause in the law itself.  The ability to avoid prosecution for David Gregory is seen as well within the scope of duty for the prosecutor.

My next supporting anecdote is a great deal more apocryphal, but I am confident that we can all find examples in our own history that fill in the details.  Especially in cases of recreational pharmaceuticals, there is a marked tendency of people on the Left to be remarkably sanguine about breaking the law, even including laws that they themselves are in favor of.  I would recommend the level of illegal intoxicants on a college campus (wherein a large majority of the general populace leans to the Left)as an example. Another stark example would be the fact that Diane Feinstein (an ardent anti-gun politician) is widely rumoured to be a California Concealed Weapons License holder, or the fact that Michael Bloomberg, who is financing the larger part of the national gun-control movement, has continual armed security.  I also recall a story from last year, wherein a famously anti-gun political activist admitted to carrying a gun illegally in DC, Chicago, and New York, where he almost certainly had close contact with people who were supposed to arrest him for such activity.  Most recently in Ohio, a state level politician with anti-gun bona fides was caught carrying a firearm at an airport.  There is an air that most laws will be broken pretty much all of the time.  Contrast that with many on the Right, who are iron-rigid in their belief that the law must be followed at all times- when they are eventually found to be in violation of the law, it creates quite a disturbance.  Quite frequently, being found in violation of a law that they supported is toxic to any political aspirations.  They take great pains in hiding their transgressions, to varying degrees of success.

My hypothesis- Those on the Left are confident in the discretion that they afford to the enforcement of the rules, and thus they are much more relaxed when those rules are broken.  Those on the Right assume that they will be held to task for their transgressions, and are therefore more likely to hide or suppress them.

The next part of my working theory has to do with WHY this would be the case, and it relates to the first statement I made.  It is my theory that the Left views the law as a collection of things that CAN be applied, if the situation warrants it, while that Right views the law as a binding, no-exception contract.  The Left relies on the quality of the person holding the office; they must be the kind of person that can be trusted with the enormous amount of power that they are being given.  The Right, on the other hand, relies on the qualities of the office itself; these are the duties to be performed, no more, no less.  If there is ever to be an exception, the Right requires that it be codified, while the Left requires that the person responsible for executing the law is given the flexibility to apply that exception.  This is a fundamental difference in the approach to governing, and seems to be self-sorting.  Each ideology attracts those who approach in that view, while the other sees those actions as ridiculous or even abhorrent.  In this, I don't believe there can ever be a truly acceptable compromise- each group is quite literally pursuing totally different agendas.

OK, that's all I've got for now.  I'm going to keep polishing this theory, because I think it is important to know how people approach government.  As a Liberty-minded individual, I have a vested interest in seeing liberty increased- as such, I believe we need to know how to accomplish that within the framework of BOTH parties.  In this way, we can do our best to advance freedom no matter who is in power in Washington.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Foolishness of letting your Enemies choose your virtues

     Another thing that I wish I didn't have to say, but to everyone that is sharing those pictures of the murdered civilians, the burned Jordanian pilot, or a politician or celebrity, while expounding on the virtues of Enhanced Interrogation and the comparison in what we consider cruelty-

External examples can NEVER be justification for one's own morals. 

     The Islamic State is one of the most vicious, ludicrously violent groups that I have ever seen.  I would say that they easily outstrip any of the other regional extremist groups, including Boko Harem, in sheer grandstanding barbarism.


     That has zero bearing on whether or not I consider waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques to be acceptable in intelligence gathering.  For now, I'm going to completely avoid explaining what my views on that subject are, in fact.  This isn't about what views I hold, but it is about using someone else' values to set our own.

     Morals, whether cultural or personal, cannot be applied with any consistency if they are set by an outside group. When you define yourself by your comparison to someone else, you relinquish the ability to set your own values.  We see this applied in politics on a regular basis.  The two major political parties can have functionally zero commonly held beliefs- the core tenets of the two parties are, on their face, mutually exclusive (exactly how this translates into identical outputs over the last few decades is curious, but not germane).  This puts the two parties in position to dictate each other's terms.  Their core values are defined by not what they stand for, but who they stand against.  If all the oppositional talking points are stripped away, it can be said that they stand for effectively nothing- by defining all their views by external sources, there can be no internal consistencies.  In the same way, justifying torture by virtue of it not being quite as torturous as the opposition is not taking a stand, it is simply saying 'but they're doing it MORE!' on the scale of a global war. 

Put it another way- I would never consider hitting My Lovely Wife.  NEVER.  It simply is something that would never happen.  There have been, in various places over the last few years, news stories of men and women who have killed their spouses, for various supposed reasons, using methods at varying degrees of cruelty.  Just because there are people in the world that do awful things cannot excuse or justify doing slightly less awful things.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Wait, which people are going to leave me alone?

Because I forget. No really, I forget! I want to be engaged, I really do, but the thing is... The thing really is that I want to not be hassled. I don't think I hassle too many people, and quite honestly I want them to reciprocate.

I've been following a couple of gun-rights groups on the book of Face recently, and I've been following closely the happenings in Olympia Washington, home of the world famous beer by that name, but more to the point, home to Washington State Capitol. Things in Washington are currently... not pretty.  I594 pretty much hosed the people of Washington, and I've been watching, because I fully expect that my home state just south of there is poised on the brink of that precipice.  The response, though, has brought out some people that I would rather not be associated with. 

As you may be aware, on January 15th, in the midst of what I would consider a good and productive rally, several people took it upon themselves to be asinine in the Capitol building.  Yes, yes, I hear, 'Patriots Doing Patriot Things!' 'Shall Not Be Infringed!' etc etc, but actively handling your weapon while dressed aggressively is the right way to get shot.  It's stupid, and asinine, and not goddamn helpful. It harmed the cause and it detracted from the good that was being done on other fronts.  Today, that same group, with some wiser and more experienced leadership, managed to stage what I would consider to be a much less damaging, and by extension much more useful, rally in the same place.  Nobody was arrested (even though they fully expected to be) and the local newspaper had to try REALLY hard to paint them as dangerous crazies, which of course we all knew to be their goal.  Way to make it hard for the media to paint you as crazy, folks!  This is an endeavour which I approve of.  The social media fallout, however, from these various actions, is what draws my title.

See, I'm a 'Leave me Alone' party member.  I don't adhere very well to any particular outside dogma, I'm lousy at toeing the party line, and I'm a devout skeptic and  questioner of authority.  In short, I'm not a joiner.  As such, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that there are some people on the side of 'Liberty' that are absolutely every bit as dangerous as the people who are their political enemies.  I've seen posts by people that should be natural allies that accuse each other of not only political errors, but of deep and irreconcilable character flaws, of TREASON.  Treason, of all things! Look, anyone who wants to read the constitution of these United States can find the definition of treason! It's ludicrous to accuse someone of the highest crime against your country because they would rather wear a tie and try to work inside the legislative system.  What it really boils down to is ideological purity, and guess what?



In fact, there are many times in my life when I will happily change my views on any given subject just to be a pain in the ass to people that think they know what's best for the world.  It's my nature. And come the revolution... well, come the revolution, I'm damn sure not going to change.  And it is without a single doubt that I state these people who purport themselves to be 'Patriots, fighting to retake our country' would shoot me in the face for failing to live up to their standards. They would be just as ruthless as the Communists, the Nazis (to hell with your Godwin's law, I'm not discarding what is the biggest example of injudicious batshit crazy of the last four generations because people point fingers and say 'but Godwin's law! See above, re: conformity.), the Hutu, and Slobodan Milosevic. It is my suspicion that the person most likely to institute a concentration camp in this country is Joe Arpaio, and person most likely to institute forced 're-education' is Elizabeth Warren. Read that twice, also, before anyone yells libel.  I have simply stated my own suspicions. These 'Patriots' are zealots at a very high level, and a true zealot will justify nearly any action if it satisfies their internal belief system. 

So which group is it that will leave me alone? Which group is it that will let me live as I want to do, with a minimum of outside influence.  Hmm?

Goddamn crickets, because there aren't any.  People like me don't join groups. It's kind of our nature.

And anybody that walks onto my property dressed those guys that walked into the Capitol in January, with gas masks and trenchcoats, is going to get shot.  This shit isn't funny.  Leave me alone.