Archive for October, 2015

Directional Sanity

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

This week I learned two things about American politics — as improbable, at this late date, as that may be. Some among us can study things quite awhile and still miss fairly obvious things. Anyway, the two things I learned are 1) All, or nearly all, of the disagreements have to do with which direction to go; and 2) the electorate is being subjected to one lie after another about this.

Over and over I’ve been seeing disputes about direction, falsely represented to the people as disputes about extent. A great example of this was CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla’s question that set off Sen. Ted Cruz on his rant-heard-’round-the-world:

Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown, and calm financial markets of the fear that a Washington crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show you’re not the kind of problem-solver that American voters want?

And, depending on who summarizes what follows, for your benefit, you’re going to get a story about a brave Senator speaking truth to left-wing biased media power — or a story about how Republicans can’t handle tough and honest questions. As usual, everyone’s got an opinion. But how many remember the actual question?

It has the appropriate punctuation at the end, but I don’t really see a question there.

The premise is shaky. Is a resolution to raise the debt limit really about where a debt limit should be? Or is it about…just getting it raised? “…prevent a government shutdown…calm financial markets…”

One of the most wrong-headed people I know, is fond of saying “It’s true to a certain extent.” She says this when something is undeniably true, but to acknowledge the undeniable truth would be to concede defeat about something she wants. And I don’t think she’s ever been compelled to go without something she wants, so she goes after this “certain extent” thing. She doesn’t really have any such certain-extent in mind, she’s just avoiding things. The same is true of liberals when they argue with you on the Internet.

Them: Tax cuts hurt the economy, raising taxes would help the economy.

Me: A tax, by the very definition of the word, places a burden on whatever it is taxing. Therefore, that is just the sheerest nonsense.

Them: Well look here now, taxes hurt when they’re too high OR when they’re too low, what we have to do is find the optimum level.

Which is really just more nonsense. I reply with the analogy about the drag being imposed on an engine by the fan belt, the alternator, the power steering pump, fuel pump, oil pump, water pump. These devices help the car, true enough, but the drag isn’t what makes the car go. If science could provide some way of achieving the same functionality while cutting the drag in half, you’d go for it right? And it has, and we did.

Furthermore, progressives are — progressive. If the application of the word contains a shred of honesty to it at all, it is because they don’t believe in standing still. There’s no “certain extent” or optimal level of anything. We all know it. Liberals argue as if we could achieve this optimal level, and they’d go away happy. The ensuing years would not bring any of them back to say something like “It’s a problem that the rich aren’t paying their fair share” — they wouldn’t say that, because everyone would be paying their fair share already. Does anyone believe that? If you do, you’re just wrong. Progressives progress.

Why do they lie about it, and pretend to be struggling with the fine location of some midpoint? Simple. If people knew what The Left really does want, very few among us would ever support them.

I suspect most guys understand the problem here. Not all of us, just the ones who ever said: “She thinks I’m invisible even though I treat her like gold, she’s lavishing all her attention on that guy who’s an asshole and a jerk.” Any guy who’s been in that situation. Which is most of us. But, eventually we do solve the problem. How did we get that done?

Turns out, there’s always one reason why women don’t make any damn sense, it’s because women are people and people don’t make much sense. Young dudes, you want to write that one down and keep copies of it? You’re going to find in the upcoming years there’s a lot of wisdom in it. Chicks don’t make sense, because chicks are people and whoever said people make sense? You think dudes make more sense than chicks? To solve the problem: Discriminate. Start discriminating, and don’t ever stop. There are two kinds of chicks, because chicks are people and there are two kinds of people.

Some are assholes to people who are nice to them, and nice to people who are assholes to them. Others — including you, without a doubt, if you’ve ever been inclined toward this business of “She’ll spend more time with me when I treat her well” — at least have the polarity hooked up properly. You may be learning some things right now you’ve been needing to learn, but it does take a certain level of maturity to do that: Be nice to people who do good things for you, and when people are assholes, just leave them be. Oh yes, that’s a maturity thing, a growing-up-right thing. So now the next thing is: She’s broken, you’re not, you want to try and fix her? Be careful. Don’t waste your time on others who have yet to get this basic wiring diagram hooked up right, those who have the polarity reversed. This will suck the life right out of you. You’re running through this thing called “life” just one time, and it isn’t a dress rehearsal. The future is not guaranteed.

The point is, everything is like that. All the disagreements, anyway. “Oh no, we don’t want to get rid of the debt limit entirely,” they might say. “We just want to up it to nineteen or twenty trillion dollars or something.” Nope. That’s not an honest expression of the disagreement. The disagreement is about whether there should be a ceiling at all. It’s about whether debt matters. It is, like everything else, a dispute between broken-people and not-broken-people.

There are disagreements about Caitlyn Jenner being a female or a male. Again, an honest presentation of that disagreement wouldn’t involve that particular individual at all. The disagrement is not about whether s/he is a man. It’s about gender itself. And again, it’s about directions and not increments. One direction says gender is natural, irreversible, and maybe disguisable but nevertheless undeniable. The other direction says gender is nothing but a social construct.

The Left, as we know it today, pulls this crap pretty often. “Oh but it’s not one or the other, there are shades of gray in between.” They have yet to define how that matters. Increments show that a measurement is relative; when we observe that a point on the Earth’s surface is East of one thing but West of another, this proves the relativity. It does not, however, show that East is West, or vice-versa. And the same is true of relative measurements that deal with abundance and absence, like heat & cold, light & darkness. So, no. Even if you can define your increments of something like gender, which would really just be more nonsense, this still wouldn’t show that men are women, or women are men. These are two different things.

This has been invading our culture for a long time now. You see it in our movies. One of the things kids today don’t understand about Star Wars, for example, is that when it first came out back in the 1970’s it was commonly called a “Space Western.” What does that mean? It means, right up until Darth Vader turned out to be Luke Skywalker’s father, it was about good and evil. The Grand Moff Tarkin, and then the Emperor, were Rufus Ryker; Darth Vader was Jack Wilson; Luke and Obi-Wan shared the role of Shane. Today they’ve gotten rid of that, and it’s lost to history that the franchise held an appeal to us because it was a tale of good versus evil. Bad guys, nowadays, can be bad just by wanting to hang on to their stuff. Good guys are “good” in the sense that they have good excuses for stealing stuff. All sorts of crimes are ultimately redeemable, as the bad guy becomes a good guy. Nothing’s off-limits, not even slaughtering unarmed “younglings” in a Jedi temple. It’s heartbreaking to see, but today’s kids are lost in the same desert that surrounded us, back in the day, within which the first two Star Wars movies were a welcome oasis. But it isn’t just Star Wars. Good and evil are just relative terms, all over the place, with the result that the characters are uninteresting and nobody wants to see the movies a second time. But Hollywood just keeps doing it.

You see sanity taking an extended holiday with the “isms,” too. Racism, I think, is when you are picking winners and losers based on race. Silly me! Nowadays, you’re a racist if you don’t discriminate against white people. And if you do discriminate this way, it shows what a wonderful not-racist you are. It’s just one more example, we’re not debating increments, we’re debating directions. It’s a conflict between people who do, and do not, have their directional bearings in order. It’s about the direction in which you’re marching, not about how far you go before you stop. And, about half of us have our wiring throughly screwballed.

All lives matter, or black lives matter? Supposedly, there’s something wrong with “all lives matter.” But what?

Liberals, being twiddlers, are continuing to twiddle and twiddle away, twiddling to find the perfect set of laws that will make us all perfectly free. Laws, of course, don’t do that. They prohibit, by their very nature, things that otherwise would be allowable. This makes us less free. In response to this, their counterargument is the same as it is with all of the above — well, yes, but what we have to do is find this perfect balance. More nonsense. If liberals ever did find the perfect concoction of laws in Year N, they’d be right back in our faces in Year N+1 to say “there ought to be a law.” The progressives have to keep moving. So again, this is about directions and not about increments. And their direction — that we need to outlaw more things, in order to make ourselves more free — is not reasonable, rational or sane.

Directional sanity eludes us yet again, when we go to a mandated “sexual harassment course” in the workplace. These courses, I have discovered, offer very little by way of helpful instructions about how to sexually harass. What they’re about, is a whole new set of rules that are put into effect whenever someone has decided harassment has taken place. In short: She gets an itch between her ears, and everybody’s guilty. Does “she” have good judgment about such things? A sense of fair play? Is the bitch even sane? None of it matters. And why do we have these rules? Drum roll, please: to foster a workplace environment that is non-hostile, non-threatening, and fair to everyone. Yes, they say that with a straight face. Being forced to work one cubicle away from a crazy cat lady who’s spoiling for a legal fight, and being guilty until you can prove your innocence, means you’re in a “non threatening workplace” somehow. Again, we’re not arguing about incremental stops within the spectrum, we’re arguing about the endpoints and about nothing else. When it comes to sexual harassment, the endpoint that’s won the argument for the time being is the nutty, nonsense-universe one.

Part of that is because the concept of “everyone” is being teased and tortured through endless, nonsensical debate, as well. The workplace that is “non-threatening to everyone” is only non-threatening to some. The others don’t count.

And then there is one of my personal favorites: If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. This was a jump the shark moment for President Obama, because for a brief moment the whole country could see that liberalism is based on falsehood. It is a sick game of make believe. Lots of liberals have come out since then, to protest that what President Obama really MEANT to say was that the business couldn’t exist without these roads and bridges and what-not. Indeed, this was all part of His remarks when He said that silly thing. The problem is: None of that provides any justification, not even in the slightest, for saying “you didn’t build that.” This is just further evidence that we’re not really arguing about increments, we’re arguing about directions. And President Obama’s direction, as He accidentally revealed, is: That business is not yours. Property is not yours. I’m a popular dictator, so that means the entire country is going to engage in this game of make-believe, that you didn’t really build anything. He was quite explicit, after all.

I suppose from the above, it might look like I’m saying with some more years of living, more years of accumulating experience, some more clear-headed thinking about what people really want other people to do — the increments start to lose relevance entirely. That life, ultimately, with this greater experience, eventually is reduced down to just the compass points. That as the airplane of this experience gains more altitude, the bearing becomes more critical. That people who say “Oh we don’t want to go all the way, we just want a little bit” are to be ignored, because their supposedly intended stopping-points are mythical. Which would have to mean, as we learn more about the true motives, the disagreements become much simpler, not more complicated. And that when all’s said and done, everyone doesn’t necessarily share the same ultimate goals, after all.

Why, yes. That is exactly what I mean.

Every Sports Press Conference

Friday, October 30th, 2015

By way of Chicks on the Right.

Memo For File CXCIX

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

Hillary Clinton’s non-testimony testimony this past week has me waxing philosophical. Next year I’m closing out my first half-century on the planet. That’s a rather ethereal, fluffy reality that’s hard to grasp. I know how to grasp it though: The probability that I’m past the midpoint, has ceased to be a likelihood and is now a certainty. What am I to do with that bit of cheerless information? First, we can distill it further: If life is a book, maybe I’m not yet on the final chapter but I know I’m in the final part of it. My perspective on the whole thing no longer matches the perspective of: A young adult, a teenager, a toddler, a baby. My dreams and complaints bear only a passing similarity to their dreams and complaints. Whereas, the complaints of those with one foot already in the grave, assuming they still possess all their faculties, match mine thought for thought and syllable for syllable.

One should strive for the most uncomfortable paradigm shifts, both large and small; that’s how we learn. Have I got any more earth-shattering humdingers headed my way, from this point forward? Perhaps, but the evidence suggests I should keep an eye out for just the smaller ones. On the other hand, if I’m wrong, it would be beneficial to jot down what I don’t expect to see changing, throughout the course of my second-half-century…or beyond. Think of it as a bread crumb trail.

The geezers have it in common with me — I have it in common with them — that we’re distressed the younger minds don’t show some more curiosity. This lament from the middle-agers precedes me by a great deal: “Leave home, pay your own bills and solve all the world’s problems while you still know everything!” Exasperation gives way to humility. We ask ourselves, “Was I that arrogant at that age? Did I show that much confidence about so little understanding?” and after just a moment or two of honest reflection, someone like me has to answer: I was worse.

Maybe that closes the matter. Sit down Grandpa, drink your Ensure and stuff a sock in it. I’d actually be open to this, but for one thing: That’s one of the things I’ve been noticing. The “Beverley Hills 90210” societies in which the young enjoy a complete monopoly on coolness, cachet…it being their turn to talk, all of the time…they don’t do well. Sometimes they prosper, on paper, as in pulling down very high numbers of dollars at their jobs, and blowing very high numbers of dollars on frivolities as well as essentials. But they don’t do well over time. How could they? The wisdom doesn’t accumulate, doesn’t get passed down from one generation to the next. No one in his sixties has anything to say that’s worth saying unless he looks like he’s in his thirties. And on average, whatever that guy’s saying isn’t going to reflect reality too well, since his facial features don’t. You can’t fight reality on one front, and claim to be its ally on another. That’s another thing I’ve noticed.

You want to find someone you can trust? Or, apply some test of trust to the people you’ve found already, or who found you? Look for the man who is willing to admit to his faults. Not, I hasten to add, eagerr to admit them. Just willing. Eagerness to admit faults is yet another problem, and that’s yet another thing I’ve been noticing in this first half-century. It stands to reason that men who are eager to discuss their mistakes are also eager to make some more. No, look for the guy who is eager to inspect the effects, to identify what he wants to do better next time. And to compile an inventory of mistakes from that.

Before I learned those things, I had very little interest in politics. I remember my revulsion against Ms. Clinton’s husband, when he came on the scene, had a lot less to do with political ideology than it did with public behavior. It was connected to my profession. Bill Clinton reminded me a lot of many people, not just one or two, who had made my life a bit less bearable. In hindsight, I know their role was to educate me, show me how to take responsibility for communicating details, by taking very little responsibility for it themselves, or none at all. This is something I needed to learn. Had I spent the entire time around people who took this responsibility on my behalf, I wouldn’t have learned it.

I haven’t been putting much thought into whether other people needed to learn the same thing. Maybe that’s a mistake. I’ve been blogging here & there about a bit of this and a bit of that, but I haven’t explored this particular bunny trail too much. Grandpa’s been sitting down and shutting his cakehole, as ordered. Anyway, I had this flash of inspiration about my “real job”: I excelled at making complex computer network systems behave a certain way, but ultimately this talent wouldn’t be worth a whole lot if I couldn’t communicate what these certain-ways were, or what they were supposed to be. This was a very sobering, even unpleasant, realization because that meant I would have to figure out how to communicate with people who thought differently, saw life differently. I would have to achieve some skills in places where I had no talent at all, in order to make use of the other places where I had more to offer. Rather like a potato or cabbage farmer, who knows how to grow the biggest produce for miles around, but can’t drive the cart to get it to market. I still remember that little jolt of economic panic, as if it was yesterday. What to do?

I noticed there was a certain personality type that always seemed to be around when I failed this way. President Clinton served as a living archetype of this, back then, and he still does, now his wife does too. These people make good leaders and colleagues for someone else, not so much for people like me. At least, I used to think that. Lately I have begun to entertain the idea that they don’t make good leaders for anybody at all. And as far as good colleagues…well, I suppose that happens now and then. You can make entire collectives out of people who think and strategize and speechify this way. And they’ll be very happy working together, and be fun to watch occasionally. Although they won’t get a lot done. Very little that’s positive, anyway.

But that’s not a problem for me to solve. People like me need to avoid having people like them, as colleagues or bosses. They aggravate me, and I anger them. That’s a fourth thing I’ve learned. I learned it awhile ago. My revulsion against the modern liberal, actually, came out of this. Until that point, I thought Jimmy Carter’s streak of failures was some sort of an anomaly, hanging like an albatross around the neck of one failed past president. Around this time, I began to realize that Carter’s pattern of failure was the modern liberal’s idea of success.

A fifth thing, which continues from the fourth thing, would be a list of the things we don’t want to see in these leaders. Or shouldn’t want to see, anyway. This is perhaps the one realization I’ve had, from the five decades, that would have helped me out at an earlier time.

1. The first thing we should not want to see in our leaders, is eagerness to be the leader. People who harbor this kind of zeal to bark out orders to others, make bad leaders. I remember one gentleman, no longer with us, who didn’t work this way. He’d hang back, let everyone make their own decisions about how to do their work from one hour to the next, one day to the next, one meeting to the next. Then he’d come alive, like a fly-eating house plant, when a question surfaced that would require some authority to be answered properly. Until that happened, he knew how to lie dormant and let the team resolve the smaller issues the way the team saw fit to resolve them. Contrasted with that style, the “little emperors” constantly barking out orders cause a lot of trouble. They destroy morale, because they want to hog all of the credit whenever something good happens, and when something goes awry you can count on them hunting for somebody to blame.

2. A very close second: We should make a much better effort to weed out those who work the crowd’s emotions too much. It really isn’t very important which emotions, positive or negative, make up the candidate’s stock-in-trade; doesn’t matter if they’re working up the crowd’s enthusiasm, wistfulness, loneliness, fears. When you’re talking about people who can achieve results no other way, have made a Maslow’s Golden Hammer out of strangers’ emotions, you’re talking about people who only pretend to have any control over the situation at all. This is why you see leaders looking for scapegoats. If they generate the results they want by working the crowd’s emotions, and they’re not getting the results they want, well…yes, that has to be someone else’s fault, of course. How could it be otherwise?

3. We should be paying very close attention to how leaders delegate. Be wary of the leaders who shun details. This is tricky because delegation is a necessity in even the simplest of projects, and it is in the nature of delegation to entrust details to someone else. The question is, what does the leader do with these delegated-details? The leader we don’t want, thinks he’s too good for them. Think about the relationship between the captain of your passenger ship, and the ship’s engines. Yes there are layers of officers and engineers between the skipper and the engines, nevertheless the former “owns” the latter, and should be ready to go down with the ship if he doesn’t know them as well as he thinks he does. In fact you, “captaining” your commuter vessel, have a similar relationship to the rivets that keep the bridge intact that supports your combined weight. Such captains are captains of not just the ships, but the parts, the crew, and most importantly, the strands of trust that form the webbing that keep it all afloat. So stay away from leaders that delegate, as a way to discard, duties and details.

4. In the same way we need to be avoiding leaders who shun details, we should be avoiding leaders who conceal them. We should be making a particularly keen effort to avoid leaders who make a sport out of this sort of (occasionally) clever obfuscation, as we’ve now seen both Clintons do.

5. Process and outcome. I’ve noticed things about this before. What’s the job, is it one of generating a certain desired end state, or is it one of following a defined process? The leader should match the job. The litmus-test question is only obvious: What do you do if you’re put in a position where you have to pick? Sometimes it’s appropriate to blow the results, because the process demands that you fail. Some leaders are a good match for this. Others are a bit like James Tiberius Kirk with the Kobayashi Maru Scenario.

6. We should stay far away from leaders who mistreat rules. I mean, the ones who seem to think the whole point of having rules is to hurt society. These would tend to be the ones who, overall, can be seen citing rules as reasons for not doing something. Can’t build that dam, it would violate the Endangered Species Act; can’t prosecute that crime, don’t have enough evidence that the guy did it. Most murder mysteries on the teevee have someone like this, it’s usually the killer: “Fine Lieutenant Columbo, you know I killed him but you have no proof!” During the five decades I have noticed, both in fiction and in real life, that it’s the same people who are everlastingly wandering around in these stink-clouds of stalemate, constantly coming up with new ways to say the same thing: “Aw shucks, I guess that’s the end of the trail and we’re going back empty-handed.” It isn’t that these people lack vision. They have a very strong vision, and it’s a vision of not getting the job done. A real leader is someone who starts the exercise with a vision that the goal WILL be attained, the question that lingers is how. What’s it take to do it, what has to be done, who’s the best person to do them. In my fiftieth year, I’m old enough to remember when that was part of the definition of “leader.” I guess that’s changed, somehow. We need to change it back if that’s the case.

7. A real leader believes in the rising tide lifting all boats. You’re looking at the wrong guy if he’s often seen to make a big deal out of who has how much; whose “turn” it is to pull out a victory; “everyone has to get a trophy or else no one does.” Call ’em what you will, the pivot-point people, the see-saw people, pie-people, zero-sum, balancers. They don’t have their eyes on the prize. This gets into outcome over process, again. Like Gen. George S. Patton said, “Have taken Trier with two divisions. What do you want me to do? Give it back?” That’s how you see it when your bus is teetering on the edge of a cliff, and someone manages to pull it back — you don’t care if that person is a man or a woman, gay or straight, right? And you’d never think of saying “Let it fall, we’ve had plenty enough [blank] people saving the day for now, we need to see some saves by someone in a different ethnic or economic group.” A real leader sees victory in victory. The team scores, the team succeeds, the team prospers. That’s the right mindset.

The distinction we’re really making here is between excellence and mediocrity. It can be hard to recognize this because the mediocre leaders have their followers, and the followers don’t see those leaders as mediocre. Jimmy Carter was a good example of that, and so are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. That’s what makes these spectacles embarrassing, even by proxy against those who are merely watching, not supporting. It’s awkward because there’s supposed to be something special and extraordinary about Obama and Clinton, and even their most exuberant fans cannot say what this is.

They can’t, but I can. What makes them extraordinary is their ability to sell liberalism. Period, full stop. This has a powerful potential to convince people there is something remarkable about the people, because there is something remarkable about this feat. Liberalism is not easy to sell. At least, not across a decent stretch of time, throughout a sustained cycle of “buy some, experience it, buy some more.” It isn’t easy to sell that way because it’s not a good idea. It takes a special liberalism-salesman to sell it that way.

When these “fans” of rock-star liberal politicians talk up how special and amazing these rock stars are, they’re talking about that.

Feminism Wants Your Soul

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

About three minutes in, the video-collage of the cishet white males doing their — whatchamacallit? Confession or something? That was really creepy.

I can certainly see why, in a saner time, college professors tasked their students to read Atlas Shrugged, one of the core points of which is what a valuable and vital tool guilt is, to people who wish to make oppressed lower-class playthings out of other people. Thinking persons who are not shackled by guilt, cannot be ruled this way. Such complete inter-class subjugation requires either brute force, or the “sanction of the victim.”

It’s really true.

By way of The Barrister at Maggie’s Farm.


Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Ten posts a month, then six, now down to about four. I suppose I should say something.

I’ve been working evenings and weekends, since about the beginning of summer, on a project that demands some specialized skills offered by not too many other people. I’m already gainfully employed the forty hours a week, and I’m learning that in spite of my past experiences working many more hours than that, these days I’m not too gifted at time-management with the 41st hour and onward. But, because of what I did manage to get done, along with other achievements on other things, I learned a couple of weeks ago I scored Employee Of The Month. Which is actually a real thing, where I work. Lots of people you have to beat to make it to the final round, I mean up to a hundred, really smart futhermuckers too. And there’s money involved. A good-sized chunk of it, when you consider that every month someone is snagging this spot. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse levels of money. Ruth’s Chris…mmm…

Om nom nom nomI am honored. I am humbled. I am…befuddled. There’s a bit of a story behind that. More about it later.

While all this is going on, at the beginning of the month a screwball opened fire with several pistols in a community college, taking out nine and hurting another nine. It happened up in one of my favorite cities, Roseburg, OR. Not that I know anybody who lives there or anything. But Roseburg is a handy halfway-point between my boyhood hometown, and where I live now. We’ve spent many a restful night in the North part of the city, when journeying there by car. Which is something we haven’t done for awhile. Nevertheless, we’re very familiar with the place.

Those who wish to know my thoughts about it, could peruse my Facebook page, which has been updated pretty constantly on that as well as on life’s little events. While the blog languishes. This is not a courteous or proper way to treat my readers…and although we’ve been calling this “The Blog That Nobody Reads” for over a decade now, the truth of the matter is that there are some. The question that may be lingering now is whether someone’s writing.

To summarize. I’m shocked and saddened like anyone else — and, I am just completely blown-away by the lack of shame, and knowledge, on the part of those who seek to further restrict the American citizen’s ownership and responsible use of firearms. The deficits seem to be embiggening, in the shame as well as the knowledge. They’re reached bedrock in both of the pits, and are continuing, against all odds, to dig further. It’s as if every active-shooter event makes them more ignorant than they were after the one that came before, and more brazen than they were after the one that came before.

A common refrain is that doing something is better than doing nothing. This is yet another example of liberals failing to understand the motives of their opposition. This is a special strain of ignorance that is shrink-wrapped with a companion-brand of matching apathy, with a side order of pride in the apathy. See, liberals don’t know what motivates conservatives, because they don’t care what motivates conservatives. They’re proud of not knowing and of not caring. They’ll be the first to tell you so, and they’ll also be the first to opine about it. If you merely recognize all of these things at the same time and point out what this means, that they’re forming opinions about a matter on which they have yet to gather any reliable facts, they’ll surely take offense. It is not within their method of understanding the world around them, to recognize that their offense is taken at the mere calculation of the sum of the parts, which they have so unabashedly provided.

They speak of magazine capacity restrictions. So far, reports have held up that the shooter had six weapons on him, seven more at his home. So although the state of Oregon doesn’t have these restrictions in place, nevertheless it seems that whole topic has already gone ’round and ’round in this case, and screwballed its way into irrelevance. They want background checks, but the shooter, again according to the information we have thus far, acquired his weapons legally and therefore in accordance with these background checks. They want registration databases. Again and again I’ve asked the question: How does that work? Alright you have a database record that says one person has all these guns. Then what?

They are displaying their deficits not only in relevant knowledge, and in shame, but also in strategic thinking. These questions of “How’s that work, exactly?” consistently fail to evoke any sort of reaction, let alone coherent response. Like a small child who wants a toy, they just want their stuff and that’s pretty much the end of the conversation.

I don’t trust them when they say they want to stop these shootings. I believe they do have emotional reactions in the wake of the incidents, and there may be some revulsion mixed in there. But I think if they were to stop and self-inspect for a bit, they might discover there is some lust mixed in there too. As in “Oh, maybe with this latest shooting we can get some of the things we want that we couldn’t get last time.” Not so much preocuppied with preventing the next shooting, as with exploiting the last one.

The repeated discussion does not seem to be getting us anywhere. The time has come, I think, to recognize this as what it is: A mental enfeeblement.

I’ve discussed this before. And it isn’t even a groundbreaking idea, psychologists have been exploring it for years. People tend to want to control other people, and when people experience difficulty maturing naturally, when their growth is stunted, of when they’re damaged for whatever reason, they start to go off on some endless question for The Perfect New Rule to make everything better.

As far as these feelings of loss of control go, every mass shooting certainly does — pardon the pun, it’s unintentional — trigger them. The feelings are reasonable. It is the response that is in error. It isn’t even sane.

The American citizen’s right to keep and bear arms goes all the way back to the founding of our Republic. The gun culture which forms a symbiotic relationship with that right, actually predates the written constitutional recognition of it. They’ve both been with us all this time; and the active-shooter phenomenon as we know it today, is a relatively recent thing. Gun-grabbing advocates know this, understand this, and are willing to admit to all of it. Once again, they have no problem with the parts but object to the sum of them, bristle at the act of mere calculation. For the sum of the parts is simply that gun control is not, and cannot be, the answer. This is clear and obvious proof that there is something else busted, some other gasket blown, some other gear stripped. Hacking away at the leafy part of the weed gets us nowhere. And worst still, if implemented, it may diguise the deeper problem.

If I write a web service and it crashes and with a malformed error message, that is two problems, not just one. Part of the reason my wife and I got our fancy dinner last night — oh yes, I’m starting to get outspoken about this, I figure I’ve earned it — is that I treat that as two problems, not just one. And ALWAYS, always always always, fix the problem with the error-reporting first. No exceptions to this. If there’s a time constraint in place and you need things working now-now-now, that’s an organizational problem and not a software problem. Take your time. Make it fail correctly, then worry about making it succeed.

There’s something else broken. Anybody who thinks it’s acceptable behavior to gun down innocents to make some sort of statement, has some threads stripped in their bolts upstairs. We’re all going to be safer if these people can somehow be denied access to the hardware? Who can conclude such a thing, save for the most mentally lazy, and the most assuredly removed from the immediate situation?

It’s just another “Those People” Conversation, about what most-recently-tweaked New Perfect Rule should be imposed upon distant strangers. How should we twiddle with the public policies, under which those people shall be living? There are people walking around, among us, building (hopefully not often) things we actually use, sharing highways with us, voting, and even accumulating levels of influence far greater than what’s available to the average voter. But not thinking. My questions about How Does This Registration/Background Check/Magazine Capacity Restriction should actually WORK, remain for the most part unanswered…can we stop pretending there is rational thought going into this rule-twiddling?

It’s a mania, a psychological malady.

We see it across a whole spectrum of other issues. Communism itself, is really little more than this sort of zaniness, rolled out to ultimate consequences. Just a bunch of shameless twiddlers, wrecking their havoc upon the innocents, the “Those People.” кто кого? They have no strategy in mind. They certainly have no desire to live under their own Perfect New Rules.

They are the McDonald’s fry cook who gets a half hour for lunch break, and can be seen sprinting over to Carl’s Jr. as fast as his little legs can carry him. No wait, they’re less like the fry cook than the executive who gets the job of revamping the menu.

Trump Built This, Obama Built ThatIn fact, this gives way to a whole nother complaint I have about twiddlers. They are not people who twiddled with the actual work — and settled on a method they discovered to be superior, through the school of hard knocks, repeated practice, process of elimination, all that good stuff. They are idea people. Thomas Sowell’s “Intellectuals”:

At the core of the notion of an intellectual is the dealer in ideas, as such — not the personal application of ideas, as engineers apply complex scientific principles to create physical structures or mechanisms. A policy wonk whose work might be analogized as “social engineering” will seldom personally administer the schemes that he or she creates or advocates.

When one reads the history of their perseverence in the face of repeated failure, until they ultimately prevail after many years, sometimes decades, or even a full century — one is tempted to credit them with a positive attitude. The temptation subsides when you realize how little the upper layers of consciousness have to do with the struggle. It’s a lot more like a sexual urge, or some involuntary reflex like a cough, sneeze or hiccup. They’re not invested in the slightest, not even so much as sunbathers on a beach being surprised by a mock-interviewer with questions about an entirely fictitious “White Privilege” tax.

Nevertheless, they’ll hop on that stupid bandwagon, and every time. It shows what good people they are.

Why is it they’re never quite done showing what good people they are? After awhile, it comes off looking like an attempt to hide something. One has to wonder what that is. Are they hiding it from themselves? Just how much salving does a non-guilty conscience require?

We cannot keep our rights, any of them — except perhaps by random, and increasingly unlikely, happy accident — unless we fight these twiddlers. And all of the time, about everything. It is a chore of necessary upkeep, just like an oil change. Just like controlling any other sort of parasite. Driving the locusts away from the corn, or the moths away from the sweaters. It’s a pain in the ass, and sometimes you feel a bit foolish about it. It doesn’t matter, it’s a job that has to get done.

We’ve tried ignoring them, and we lost our health care system as a result.

They contaminate our processes. In an increasingly complex society such as ours, process is important. Not a one among us can afford, any longer, to try to be an experienced practitioner in everything. Here and there, now and then, the endeavor will call upon us to pick up a rulebook, checklist or execution script, and implement each step, with faith in the axiom that someone who assembled this was doing something to validate what they were saying, or at least talking to someone else who had so validated. But, we have the twiddlers. Twiddling is not validating. So…today, the technologies we use are complex. We all have to follow processes and we don’t have time to validate everything. Which processes were built by a validator? Which ones were built by a twiddler? It’s the same problem you have looking over a family tree constructed from dozens of different sources, going back hundreds of years — all content, no foundation. This fellow way up here on the upper branches, was really the father of all his children? There’s no way to know for sure. Questions of verity, much of the time, weren’t raised until the fingers that wrote down the names and dates had long ago crumbled into dust. Thus it is with our processes; no way to know.

My Book SaysThis touches back upon the celebration last night, with the Missus and me. We were celebrating the triumph of outcome over process. “Process” and “Outcome” loom large in the “weaknesses” section of my employee performance review, at the close of my first year back at The Place Where It Didn’t Go So Well. The powers-that-be put it right there in writing that I made my contributions to outcome, and in so doing showed the benefits of my experiences working at previous employment situations that placed a premium value upon this. But I caused distress to engineers who were more concerned about process, which is something I still don’t fully understand to this day. After about three years, the tension exacerbated over the differences between my processes and theirs, and I had to walk the plank. Interested friends and relatives urged me to consider the whole experience a one-off, ignore the bad feedback. But, my confidence was shattered, for a time.

Hence, my befuddlement. My own processes have not changed. How could they? I’ve been at this too long and I know what I’m doing. But I suppose these don’t work everywhere. These are processes built, in fact evolved over time, to generate a good outcome; they do not justify themselves through any other means. And once I’m left to implement them in a place where the importance of outcome is subjugated, and process becomes the point, they don’t work.

They work where I am now, and in other places, places where the project stakeholders ask “Does the damn thing work?” It is not a slope-foreheaded moron‘s question. It may be a simple question, and therefore it may even be an unsophisticated question. But it’s important. The distinction between process and outcome is important. What’s the goal?

Public safety is one area of life where outcome should be the supreme goal. It isn’t that process doesn’t have a place. Visit a gun range sometime, one where accidents have never happened. You’ll see process flying thick and fast. But it is process that, and this is key, is justified by positive outcome, with a history to support that. The process does not take the top spot. The bosses do not say, as they are heard to say in certain circles where twiddling reigns supreme, “If you didn’t follow the steps we’d rather leave the problem unsolved.” That way, you see, lies disaster.

The best-case scenario possible, ever, in an environment of process-over-outcome? Over time you will discover you are building a golden fortress of “perfect” process, that is a static structure sitting on a dynamic foundation of reality. It will be perfect within the snapshot of time. But it won’t last. Only a dynamic structure will endure on dynamic ground, and to get that you have to have people who think for themselves. That’s what it takes to react to situations on the ground.

Hey, if this was all baloney — well, I suppose that’s what we would’ve been eating last night. Baloney. Mmmm…fillet mignon…mmm…

Only downside, for Mrs. Freeberg anyway, is this. Following the events of my disgrace four years ago and the shattered self-confidence that went with them, I made a point of keeping my silence about how people did their jobs. Who am I to say, after all? They’re probably keeping those jobs; I hadn’t kept mine. (So I have been opting to confine my opinions to how they were doing their voting.) Now, the genie has been let out of the bottle.

First time I ever intoned, “As August Employee of the Month, my verdict on how that person did his job is THIS…” I got back an exasperated eyeroll. Along with a quite understandable inquiry of, Omigosh. Is that going to become some sort of a thing now? The start of pattern?

The answer to which is: You’d better believe it cupcake. Yes, there is a humility aspect to being a good Christian, and pride goeth before a fall, of course. But this is a business that requires confidence. Genuine confidence, not just cosmetic bluster. You have to form a vision of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it that way, then implement all sorts of tiny pieces for some extended period of time, confident that the eventual results will be what you have in mind. Without that, you can’t do anything. But if there somehow still is something virtuous about nursing such self-doubt, well, ya know I’ve more than done my time.

I always did know I was doing it right. I think we all know that on some level, everyone who’s actually built anything. Just like we know the twiddlers are wrong, and that they’re not harmless. This isn’t a complicated problem for us to solve. Herbert Spencer said it best:

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools.

And there you have it. The definition of what a “twiddler” is, a statement of the problem, and a strong suggestion of the ultimate answer, all rolled up into a single artful, elegant statement.