Archive for July, 2016

What’s Excluded?

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

Liberals are a strange beast. They hear Donald Trump saying “Make America Great Again” and take instant umbrage to the implication that America somehow isn’t already great. I guess in their world of must-think-this and must-not-think-that, they’ll not be permitting anyone to think America isn’t great.

Well, I suppose it’s good to see liberals and conservatives agreeing that America is great. Although I do have my doubts about that. Seems this famous speech is still drawing rave reviews…

I have noticed that there is an almost physical impossibility involved in declaring something “great,” until one takes the time and trouble to declare what something is. I alluded in the post previous to some of the life’s lessons I have learned from developing software; that is one of them. You don’t have to look far to find some sales exec extolling the virtues of his company’s software products, how powerful they are, how flawless they are…quality, bug-free, robust, scalable, etc. But you’ll notice they seldom get around to talking about what makes them so. Processes? It must be processes. Design? Implementation? Testing? And then sometimes you’ll have the opportunity to work there, and it turns out it’s like watching sausage being made.

Over time I have been forced to accept an inconvenient truth. There is no definition to be gleaned about what something is, for no such definition actually exists; not unless there is a prerequisite definition of what is to be excluded. In more concise terms: In order to define what something is, you first have to define what it is not.

We have across-the-board agreement that America is great? Very well; what makes it so? It isn’t the sunshine, the irrigation, the quality of the soil we have in mind. Some might be inclined to emit some glurgy syllables about the wonderful people; but, it seems everyone has some codification rattling around in their craniums, somewhere, about which groups of people suck, and many among those sucky people are Americans. So that’s not it.

Because of the exclusion rule, I have come to hold the truth to be self-evident that open-borders advocates do not, and cannot, believe in American greatness. They do not believe America is great now, they do not believe it’s ever been great, they don’t believe it is in America’s destiny, the probable or the optimal, to ever reach greatness. How could they? They believe in entropy.

God Himself is not above the exclusion rule, or I suppose chooses not to bother with getting around it. If we know anything at all about the Kingdom of Heaven, we know that it is exclusive. It goes without saying we’d have a lot fewer worries if that were not so. But it is, and it’s not hard to see why. If we take it upon ourselves to pronounce, breezily, the way liberals pronounce it with so many other things — “From this point forward, anyone can get into Heaven” — just the most cursory level of responsible thinking would compel us to spare our next thoughts for what is about to happen to Heaven. We already know there have been expulsions from it, and for defined reasons; there’s been no call for the Divine Wisdom to re-think those.

I think everyone gets this, whether they’re willing to admit it or not. This Trump fellow has caused a great hue and cry with his talk about building walls. As the critics against the wall-talk engage in their monologues about how bad walls are, how we ought to concentrate our energies on bridges and not walls, I have noticed the subject matter tends to spiral inward, Nautilus style, like a bit of astral detritus zooming along toward the event horizon of a black hole. Into a singularity: I am a good Christian, and Donald Trump is not. Or: His followers are not. It all seems to go toward me & my friends in, and those other assholes out. Every time. And just like the absorbed body can’t ever escape the black hole, the conversation never seems to veer out of that ever again. They speak out against the evil of building walls, while building one. What were Pope Francis’ exact words about this? “A person who thinks only about building walls — wherever they may be — and not building bridges, is not Christian.” That’s a perfect example. The Pope seeks to define what Christianity is, by declaring what can never be a part of it.

It works. But, by working, it reforms the Pope’s statement into an unworkable contradiction against itself.

I’ve noticed liberals have a tendency to attack things, very subtly, by nibbling around the periphery of a thing, attacking the definition of what makes the thing itself, by challenging any attempt to keep anything outside of it. The Republican party, for example: They need to be broader and more inclusive. The Boy Scouts should let homosexuals be scoutmasters. America should let in more immigrants, by which they mean but cannot bring themselves to say, illegal immigrants. Exclusion rule. So I’m theorizing that when liberals break down exclusions from a group, what they really seek to do is to destroy that group itself. How to test it? Simple; take something we know liberals do not want to destroy, see if they have the same desires.

They’re struggling for control of the House, Senate and White House. They have just one of those three things, and have a good chance of losing even that one in November. Where are the calls to make the democrat party the Big Tent party? Let in some stragglers? Hey I like hanging onto my money, I want lower taxes…can I be a democrat too?

Test fails. That proves, or at least fails to falsify, the theory. Everyone with a working brain believes in the exclusion rule, that you define what a thing is, thereby making it stronger, by defining what cannot be part of it. Everyone. But some among us seek to pretend otherwise, because they want to hide what they’re trying to do.

Destruction for Destruction’s Sake

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

SNUL, and insert standard boilerplate “sorry super busy” excuse here; but, I should totally take the time to re-post this…someone else tried to do that, in a closed group, and failed because it was a Facebook friends-only post.

So he put out the call to the members to send me a friend-request. Good enough, but the thoughts really belong over here in the first place…

Beginning at the beginning…or, Why we argue about politics. More precisely, Why the people who say we should sweeten the discourse by simply not discussing anything, are wrong…

Routines of self-amusement aside, a human effort can involve an endeavor to create, preserve or destroy. Those three, nothing more — but — keep in mind a strategy is different from a tactic. A lot of preservation is invested in the destruction of something that, unattended, would destroy. And a lot of destruction is invested in the creation or preservation of something to do the destroying.

Destruction for destruction’s sake is appealing to the childlike mind because it involves instant gratification. When you’re talking about civilization, it also holds appeal for those who are invested in bringing about civilization’s end, perhaps with an eye toward building a new one atop the ruins.

And the Storming of the Bastille, 7/14/1789, was all about that. The truck-attack that took place on the anniversary of that event, also, was all about that. Liberals coming out of the woodwork to say “They shouldn’t do anything in response, because blah blah blah core values,” also, are about that because that’s acting in preservation of a destructive agent. Notice: These “core values” are undefined (although we know they don’t include protecting the innocent from harm). There’s a tip-off for you: One of the reasons creation and preservation are more boring than destruction, why they demand an ability to work and receive motivation from delayed gratification, is that these require strong definitions. Destruction is appealing to those nursing some phobia against defining anything. You don’t need to define anything at all, other than is the wrecking ball sufficiently massive to topple the structure. Everything else is up for grabs, so you can wink wink, nudge nudge, “everybody knows,” mumble, and chant slogans written for retards that rhyme.

I’m finding the wink wink nudge nudge “we all know” stuff is measurably wearing on me, like the sense of fatigue that descends upon one involved in a genuinely physically exerting task, such as riding a bike up a steep incline. Most especially: “We all know why Trump is just as bad as Hillary,” or “Barack Obama is a lightworker,” or other arguments that won’t hold up to inspection. We-all-know, all too often lately, is simply a euphemism for let’s-not-go-into-it.

We have to distinguish a lot between creative vs. destructive energies in software development. Not consciously, but I find it’s necessary when analyzing the aftermath of something, be it good or bad. Over thirty years, the most common thing I have seen, by far, is this: The implementer is compelled, by decree from the guy who signs his paychecks, to raze something to the ground and start over again. That comes as a consequence of the guy knowing how to write code, knowing how to eventually make it all work, but failing to document his progress. It is exasperating for both parties involved, but in the lead-up, I think more-so to the manager who’s writing the checks. He does not mean to be a destroyer; he does not mean to be into the instant-gratification. The simple fact of the matter is that timesheets are being signed and money is being spent, so there must be some gratification somewhere.

So for decades now, I’ve been trying to learn how to do this, to document the potholes and twists & turns in the road ahead…as well as the road just behind. Revolutionaries who march in the street and chant stupid things that begin with “Hey hey, ho ho” don’t need to worry about any of that. They, as individuals, as well as their movement as a whole, are all riding on pure adrenaline. It looks like admirable, gritty determination, and certainly they like to think of it that way. But they’re not really thinking about progress, forecasts, disappointments, renewal of strategy, persevering against long odds…how much is done, how much is left to be done…any more than a warehouse worker absentmindedly popping the bubble wrap is thinking about how many bubbles are left in the roll.

Destruction is fun. Destruction is quick. Destruction doesn’t require architecture or strategy. It is appealing to the childlike mind.

Memo For File CCIII

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

This past week ended with me making it to fifty. Perhaps that is why reality, and the recognition of it, has been on my mind a bit lately. One of the sobering things about fifty is, like forty and thirty, you know the enthusiasm that surrounded your childhood birthdays is gone and it isn’t coming back. Nobody says “I’m forty-nine and a HALF!” They don’t say, in this bracket, I can’t wait until my next birthday. When people ask if it’s your birthday you don’t say “Heck yeah, where’s my presents!?” And fifty brings an additional splash of cold water, because up to now I’ve had the luxury of thinking, I’m going to check out of this plane of existence before I reach a 100 but I’m still on the first half. When you reach fifty, that’s a mathematical impossibility. I’m not on the first half anymore, unless I’m destined to achieve triple-digits, an outcome we can discard rather safely, I think. So that’s it. Done deal. My center-of-gravity is over the brink. I could ignore that if I choose, but what’s the point? It’s reality. Nobody’s making it out of this alive.

Cool GameBut maybe that’s not it. Maybe what has inspired these thoughts is the news. It made a big impression on me earlier in the week, when I prowled through several pages of new e-mail, clicking open links for further reading as I went, and when I was done I had these browser tabs all the way across my screen…which is typical…what was out of the ordinary was that every single story had something to do with reality, and the avoidance of it. Every single one.

Starting with that annoying Pokemon thing.

While the old, familiar faces are front and center, “Pokemon Go” has taken location-based gaming to a whole new level. The free app-based game creates a sort of “digital world” around physical sites using local time and GPS location, so that digital creatures “interact” with players in real time.

La[u]nched on July 6, the game was installed on more U.S. Android phones than Tinder by the following day, according to app analytics specialist Similar Web. On July 8 “Pokemon Go” was installed on 5.16 percent of all Android phones in the U.S, it said.

As I understand it, you point the device in a direction and the app will use the camera to render the objects in your field of view like always, but then superimpose this creature that isn’t really there. I am impressed by this explosion of energy surrounding this unreality-game. Have to congratulate the designers, visionaries and implementers for having their finger on the community’s pulse, or for their happy accident. We’ve already had our nation’s First Lady launching her years-long promotional campaign to get fatties off the couch and move their asses; she and her costars never enjoyed this sort of success.

People, I continue to learn, really get excited over the little opportunities life presents to ignore, deny or contradict reality.

I wonder if President Obama is feeding off that sort of excitement-burst when He pretends that a speech about fallen Dallas police officers is an occasion to discuss Himself, or that that Black Lives Matter protests are peaceful

“You’re not seeing riots, and you’re not seeing police going after people who are protesting peacefully,” Obama said Saturday, downplaying the escalating crisis gripping the nation. “You’ve seen almost uniformly peaceful protests.”

In the context of the growing wave of violence and animosity directed at police, the president’s remarks appear downright disconnected from reality.

We'll Never Know…or, could He just be playing to a crowd that’s feeling this burst. Or maybe this has nothing to do with what people find exciting or titillating? Could it be just a maturity problem? A failure to develop the intellectual hardiness we use when we take in unwelcome information? An unnaturally high F.Q., or Fantasy Quotient?

That much does seem to be a problem plaguing at least some of the loud, outspoken types involved in these stories, many of whom have inserted themselves into these stories. How many among them would start a “This conversation’s not over until it’s over the way I like it to be over” back-and-forth marathon, upon reading something like this

Failed liberal policies, not racism, are mostly responsible for the condition in which poor African-Americans find themselves. Welfare dependency and the narrative that because one is black one will always be discriminated against keep many discouraged and defeated.

There are more African-American politicians today than ever, even in the White House. Why isn’t their narrative inspiring the next generation? I think it’s because if the poor were to become self-sustaining they might not need liberal politicians. Poor African-Americans are a core Democratic voting bloc, despite receiving little in return from the politicians they help elect.
What is the biggest lie and worst narrative of all? It’s that politicians can deliver economic and social salvation. Hating the police will not affect this narrative nor will it improve anyone’s circumstances.

Or this

[I]t is no accident that Western values of reason and individual rights have produced unprecedented health, life expectancy, wealth and comfort for the ordinary person. There’s an indisputable positive relationship between liberty and standards of living. There is also indisputable evidence that we in the West are unwilling to defend ourselves from barbarians. Just look at our response to the recent Orlando massacre, in which we’ve focused our energies on guns rather than on terrorists.

Saw an excellent article in The American Spectator by Jeffrey Lord pointing out exactly this problem.

Here we go again.

Yet another hotly reported media narrative stamps itself on the national dialogue only to find — oops! — maybe there are actually more facts to be discovered before we know, as they say, “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

This time around the media narrative surrounds the Minnesota shooting by St. Anthony Village Police Department officer Jeronimo Yanez, the shooting victim one Philando Castile. Says a police audio tape of Yanez:

“I’m going to check IDs. I have reason to pull it over. The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery. The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just ’cause of the wide-set nose.”

Then we learn that there are pictures out there of the robber — one of two — committing the robbery, gun in hand. And indeed there is a similarity between one of the robbers and Castile.

Now. How did we learn any of this? From a narrative quite different from the mainstream media’s all-too-predictable “racist white cop kills black man” story — a different narrative that went viral over at Conservative TreeHouse. The TreeHouse story drew instant wrath from liberal websites. Over at Mediaite John Ziegler put it this way:

Shocker! It Looks Like the Media May Have Bought a False Narrative in Philando Castile Shooting

The trouble here is that this presentation of a false narrative instead of the presentation of facts keeps happening over and over and over again. X occurs, the mainstream media jumps for the convenient liberal narrative of the moment — and the facts be damned.

We do have a problem with some “minority communities,” as they call them, becoming estranged from the police personnel who protect and serve them. I’m sure it goes both ways, people on both sides of the divide behaving differently than they’d behave if the divide was closed. But it impresses me that this continues to happen; the examples emerge, and the lately-arriving facts start to create problems for the examples.

Why does it keep happening? It is the advocates whose agendas are connected to the quality of these examples, who get to pick them. Why do they pick such lousy examples, that are damaged so badly, or undone entirely, by lately-arriving facts? Did they not know “Hands up, don’t shoot” was a fraud? Maybe they didn’t care?

I’m settling on that last one, that they just didn’t care. I have to keep in mind, Pokemon-Go has finally motivated people to get up off their asses and exercise. Michelle and Beyonce couldn’t do that. People have a fascination with pretending the unreal is real. There’s just no getting away from it, and I have to think this fascination extends to pretending the unverified is verified.

There’s also a tendency for people to stick their heads in the sand and avoid acknowledging what actually is verified, even people in high level positions:

We’re in a global war, facing an enemy alliance that runs from Pyongyang, North Korea, to Havana, Cuba, and Caracas, Venezuela. Along the way, the alliance picks up radical Muslim countries and organizations such as Iran, al Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamic State.

That’s a formidable coalition, and nobody should be shocked to discover that we are losing the war.

If our leaders were interested in winning, they would have to design a strategy to destroy this global enemy. But they don’t see the global war. Instead, they timidly nibble around the edges of the battlefields from Africa to the Middle East, and act as if each fight, whether in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya or Afghanistan, can be peacefully resolved by diplomatic effort.

This approach is doomed. We have real enemies, dedicated to dominating and eventually destroying us, and they are not going to be talked out of their hatred. Iran, for example, declared war on the United States in 1979 — that’s 37 years ago — and has been killing Americans ever since. Every year, the State Department declares Iran to be the world’s primary supporter of terror. Do you think we’ll nicely and politely convince them to be good citizens and even (as President Obama desires) a responsible ally supporting peace? Do you think ISIS or the Taliban wants to embrace us?

No, we’re not going to talk our way out of this war, nor can we escape its horrors. Ask the people in San Bernardino or South Florida, or the relatives of the thousands killed on 9/11. We’re either going to win or lose. There is no other “solution.”

That, too, is something I’m noticing over and over again…people choosing their favorite narratives, as if they were choosing a favorite flavor of ice cream, without regard for what’s actually true…

On Monday Detroit Police Chief James Craig announced that the DPD has launched an investigation into Detective Nathan Weekley after his social media post went viral drawing over 40,000 views and a number of complaints.

The officer’s post was highlighted by the left-wing Michigan National Action Network revealing to liberal supporters of Black Lives Matter that the officer called the BLM movement “terrorists” and said that the only way the people would understand how important police are is to stop going to work.

“For the first time in my nearly 17 years as a law enforcement officer,” Detective Weekley wrote, “I contemplated calling into work in response to the outrageous act perpetrated against my brothers. It seems like the only response that will demonstrate our importance to society as a whole. The only racists here are the piece of (expletive) Black Lives Matter terrorists and their supporters.”

Over the line? Of course it’s easy to say so. But it’s not quite so easy to actually draw the line…across one issue and a great many others, keeping it straight as you go. Since when is calling someone a racist out-of-bounds? I’m seeing people do it quite often and not all of them are getting in trouble.

Phil had a good point to make about that…

I always find it fascinating that the people who scream the loudest about racism make absolutely everything about race. There’s nothing more racist than that.

Speaking of reality: John Hawkins came up with an intriguing thought exercise, of what would be going on in the world right now if white privilege really did exist the way some people seem to think it does. Interesting read, chock full of other things I don’t see happening…

1) We’d see frequent discussions on whether bumbling white dads or negative portrayals of southerners on TV and in movies were unfair to white people.

2) The government would be turning down talented black and Hispanic students to allow less qualified white students to get in via Affirmative Action.

3) Minorities would be LEAVING the United States, not making dangerous treks through the desert in the middle of the night to get in.

4) Falsely calling someone a “racist” would be considered to be just as repulsive as being a racist.

5) There wouldn’t be an option to press 2 for Spanish.

Say what you like about these, but at least they’re tests. And I guess the problem really does come right down to that, some of the ideas that are getting the best, most and brightest attention, and repeated most frequently at the highest decibel levels, are untested. Perhaps it is more accurate to say, the tests are wrong. The ideas are tested in terms of how much passion they can arouse, how much attention they can get. Not on the basis of whether they’re correct.

And here I must confront a paradox. It has been a permeating theme, around here, for the last twelve years that people have a tendency to estrange themselves from reality when they feel like they can afford to do so. Rounding up examples of me saying this, or something like it, would be time consuming and a bit pointless. First few times I made mention of this, it was in the context of Saddam Hussein’s old regime being declared, with blustering and theatrical confidence, to be clean and free of any WMD’s by our fellow anti-war citizens and their advocates; seldom correct, never in doubt. What has happened since then has gotten a bit twisty. People are still estranging themselves from reality. But, it doesn’t seem to be because of a feeling of stultifying abundance, or any sort of perception that they’re living high on the hog and reality has become optional.

Quite to the contrary. They’re voting to elect democrats, over and over again, even when they don’t agree with the democrats who are getting their votes. For the same reason the Depression-era voters kept re-electing FDR to further damage the economy. Their feeling is one of desperation.

It Must Be TrueBut not completely. There are several different things happening at once here. It’s a mixed bag. People who say “Black Lives Matter is having a peaceful protest” are, quite obviously, of the opinion that if this statement is not correct, the lack of correctness will be costless to them. They are not in the line of fire. Maybe there is a loss of reputation that would come into play? But that doesn’t seem to count today the way it would have counted, let’s say, two hundred years ago. That bothers me more than anything. It’s like we’ve lost honor. Maybe that’s it. People can’t trust each other. This can be observed in the e-mail, often. People spread rumors, they get embarrassed when the rumors turn out to be false, and then they go back and do it again.

Sometimes they deny things that are actually true, and get told in front of everybody “Here’s a link.” Same embarrassment. Oops, my bad! And again, they go right back to it as if nothing happened.

So we’re going through an extended chapter here, in which reality is not to be taken that seriously, and reputations don’t matter much. Affluence and abundance have something to do with it, or at least they did. Maybe they still do. Desperation, and a feeling of dependence, also have something to do with it. “Must help spread the fable to make sure I can keep getting my vittles.” I guess the bottom layer of the Maslow Pyramid is something we’re enjoying in abundance, and there’s something higher up that is scarce, worth trading away the level of trust others could reasonably place in us. Which in generations past, would have been an irreplaceable thing.

I guess this observation comes down to only just that. It used to be, “If I say this thing that might not be true, my reputation could be wrecked and I won’t be able to get it back again.” That’s given way to, “If I say this thing that might not be true, some political agenda will be advanced, some group will benefit from that, and my stature within that group will increase. And who cares if it’s true or not, anyway?”

Working Classes Versus Smirking Classes

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Perfect description (via Bird Dog at Maggie’s Farm).

You want a pithy, one-sentence summary of what happened in Britain’s recent referendum on leaving the EU? Try this, from a woman in a call center in my district: “It’s the working classes against the smirking classes.”

Now the British class system is so tortuous and complicated that we struggle to understand it ourselves, let alone explain it to friends from overseas. But my hunch is that most Americans will recognize her sentiment.

She feels taken-for-granted, over-taxed, over-regulated, ignored, patronized, lied-to, laughed-at, disdained. She doesn’t expect her politicians to do everything she wants. She’d just like them to listen from time to time.

I have noticed people tend to feel a false sense of confidence regarding overly simplistic solutions to problems…over there. The acceleration of mass communication that has taken place over the last century and a half, or so, has made this easy to see.

It is the assurance of lack of expense that is the trigger; or at least, lack of frequent expense. De-personalization. I recall when people said not so jokingly, “just give it a good kick” when the teevee set wouldn’t pull in the signal. Nobody would think to say such a thing today. Is it because we think of these devices as less disposable than back then? Certainly not. We’re more educated about how electronics work? Hard for me to see; back in the 1970’s, kids didn’t just play with electronics, they actually built them, and the grownups shared this interest in how things function. Whereas today people just think about whatever is on the user interface. So it isn’t ignorance that triggers the “kick the teevee” mentality. It is distance from the source of the problem, coupled with an accumulated sense of frustration.

That’s your “smirking class” for you. They are people just like you and me, who have made the mistake of saying “What Those People need to do, is…” And they inspire the same sense of frustration in others when they do that.

In these modern times, this is a common problem; in previous times, it was a rarity, or didn’t happen at all. People from one class, affect the struggles of people in other classes. This has created the same effect that would arise from a spirited and widespread rejection of conservatism, without any such active rejection taking place. It is a deterioration brought on by way of insufficient faith, of insufficient defense, insufficient vigilance.

We have a conflict between working classes and smirking classes, because it has become an exceptional case that anyone fixates on their own class-workload. The fix is in the First Conquest Rule, that everyone is conservative about whatever he knows best.

The One Thing the Government Is Supposed To Do

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

So it’s clear to me, now, that when it comes down to a physical contest, we are not obliged, nor allowed, nor expected to defend ourselves. And this is not about gathering factual information, or statistics, to determine the best way to make our communities safer. If it were about that, the gun free zone would be living on borrowed time.

This is about culture conflict, straight-up. Guns bad, drugs good, cops bad, criminals good — who ya calling a criminal, anyway? Women good, men bad, up with ethnic, down with white, up with gay, down with straight, up with grass, down with tobacco, up with lady Ghostbusters, down with James Bond…it’s all about dividing us and tipping the scales in the ensuing culture-conflict, has nothing to do with actually fixing anything.

Except, it seems someone somewhere is choosing the culture. Christianity hasn’t got anything to do with guns…not much, anyway. Just one single thing fastens the issues together, the notion that human life is sacred. And yet when you look at the advocacy groups and the individuals that make them go, the alignment is nearly perfect. If someone opposes gun ownership, odds are they’re not too friendly with Christianity. Some Christians don’t like guns, but it’s hard to find one who will actually begrudge someone else’s decision to own one. They don’t look down on it with sneering contempt like the godless liberals do.

The day after Independence Day, I look around and notice it seems to have to do with independence…versus, dependence. It’s a disagreement of opinion about how government is supposed to function. What are our leaders, anyway? Is it a huge win for us when they escape accountability? Some people seem to think so, and these seem to be the people who think tax cuts are some sort of awful terrible idea. And, guns are bad. And that masculinity is bad too. Okay so when I put all this together, we’re not getting a very appealing picture…having a tough time seeing how anyone can be drawn to it. We react churlishly to anyone showing some individual capability to handle his own concerns, like health care and self defense…except for the strong girl thing, we’re supposed to like that just fine. But “strong” is not the same as being able to defend oneself against a threat. (In fact, that’s the whole idea of owning a gun, right?) So we vote in these leaders and pay high taxes, the higher the better. Make The Rich Pay Their Fair Share, and all that. And these leaders figure out where the money is supposed to go, in order to accomplish…well, we don’t know what. And if they get busted for something, they skate, because they’re just super wonderful mega awesome people or something.

So, after they get all our tax money, they use it to provide the defense against bad guys that we’re not allowed to provide for ourselves? It seems that is not part of the mindset. And that concerns me more than anything else. Providing for some defense for the weak and helpless, against those who would do them harm, is the one thing government is supposed to do. That comes before roads, park benches, sidewalks, mail. That is one of the biggest reasons our leaders are supposed to be accountable to us. Seems to me we’re slowly but surely losing the whole ball of wax.

Thomas Sowell is wondering what we’re celebrating in early July these days. I hate to say it, but I’m starting to wonder that too.

I have a question about this. I think it all comes down to this: Why do we bother with civilization? Some would say it’s got something to do with buying packaged and inspected food off a grocery store aisle as opposed to growing it ourselves, and maybe wiping our asses with quality toilet paper instead of dead leaves. I don’t think that’s it. I’m very sure we’re doing a lot of things with the grocery-bought food, things that even in this advanced era take up a lot of our time, that a hundred years from now will seem pretty wasteful and crazy. I don’t even want to ponder what’s going to happen to the toilet paper thing. But would it be reasonable, in that future utopia, to say “Back in 2016 they didn’t have civilization yet”? I’m gonna go ahead and call that a no, so that means it’s not reasonable for me to say civilization had not yet started in the early 1800’s, which was missing the toilet paper and the deodorant and the air conditioning. They still had civilization, didn’t they?

Civilization, I say, is — I can’t take your stuff away from you just because I’m bigger and stronger. That’s it. Period. Well, that and this too: We have a system of laws, and those laws do not privilege you with a reduced penalty for the same crime just because you are politically powerful, or worth a lot of money. That’s part of civilization too. But first comes the non-brutality. Criminal and civil law. Redress of grievances, protection of the innocent. The strong come after the weak, there are protections put in place. There are preventions before the fact, and penalties after the fact, to protect the weak and undeserving from the strong and malevolent.

If we’re missing one of those things, it’s hard to call a society civilized. And it looks like, without a change in course, we’re losing both of them. Once the course changes, life will get better, but not until then.

Happy Independence Day, Please Do Your Part To Show Your Smarts

Monday, July 4th, 2016

…and don’t go putting the cheeks of your ass on counters where they serve food. Don’t be a butt-dummy.

Memo For File CCII

Friday, July 1st, 2016

My wife and I lately have been engaged in an effort to embiggen the horizons of someone who’s been raised into poverty. Who this person is, is entirely unimportant, what’s important is that I did not say “raised in poverty.” I said raised into, which is such a broadly experienced and frequently-reoccurring problem nowadays that I’m afraid it’s stained us all. It is rewarding in that it is morally clarifying. Every bad habit that leads to an impoverished lifestyle, you don’t have to think on it too hard to see the cause-and-effect connection. At the same time, it’s frustrating. “Think globally, act locally” — so much easier said than done, especially when you stop to consider how many other people are making the same mistakes.

And, of course we have the mindset. Compassion means, somehow, that you have to disconnect an impoverished living situation from any actions that led to it. Which, out here in the land of reality, is the surest way to sustain poverty. Just keep saying to yourself nothing I did caused this, it just happened to me. Keep treating poverty as something outside your control, an event of bad luck. Envision your control as a nothing, and that is what it will be.

Over and over we have to keep asking ourselves: What is it about the human condition, that compels us to destroy ourselves? There is poverty, and so much more. We work hard at being, and staying…poor. Me, in the e-mails:

What makes people impoverished? These days, we here in the U.S. labor under intense social pressure to affix our agreement to the unwritten dictum: Poverty is to be thought ­of as unavoidable for those who are encumbered by it, a consequence of birth status. This is a disgraceful bit of poppycock, and an insult against the persons come & gone who lived in prior eras, within & outside of the United States. In this nation, in this time, we enjoy a birth status that has opened up more opportunities than any other, so far as we know within all of human history…Poverty, in the US of A Anno Domini Twenty Sixteen, is, mostly, decisional. Intergenerational poverty in the United States, today, with some statistically negligible exceptions, is always decisional. The best foundation by far for arguing some exception to this, is going to have something to do with geography. Transportation is cheap today. The world is small. Never been smaller. Some people say that’s heartless. I think it’s heartless to allow generations of dignified human beings, through the failure to insert an unpopular opinion in the discourse at the opportune moment, to wallow in poverty when it is absolutely unnecessary for them to do so.

Poverty, I have noticed, probably shouldn’t even be a noun at all. It’s more of a verb. “I’m povertying my kids.” “We’re povertying ourselves.”

One of the worst habits I have seen is to skimp. It holds appeal for those who have taken that first step, that step of “I’m tired of never having any money and I’m going to do something about it.” Seems quite logical, right? And, people do work their way out of the misery this way; they do win. It must be an effective habit, because in this modern era in the United States, we have a lot of slop. There are always ways to spend money more wisely. The problem starts when people neglect the income side of things, forget to ask themselves “How much money am I bringing into the household, and how much money could I be bringing into it?” I think just about everyone is guilty. Certainly, I’m not entirely innocent. The sin is one of lack of moderation.

I was raised in a household in which we were obliged to drape the gently used paper towels over the roll of newer paper towels, thus forcing the next paper-towel-user to tap into the reservoir of the “refurbished” before depleting the inventory of the newer. Also, contaminating said inventory. That’s penny wise and pound foolish. It was Depression-era living, kept around 35, 45 years after the Great Depression was over. Not rational. So you might say I’ve spent a lifetime wondering about the proper balance. Thrift is thrift, after all. Look how the rich people live. They’re thrifty — but, not like that. Nor should we expect them to be “thrifty” like that. You have to live sanely to live richly. I’m speaking generally.

The balance is not hard. It has to do with opportunity. You spend less when spending less does not mean you’re buying less — unless buying less is your intention. You spend less when spending less does not cost you something in terms of opportunity.

There are other ways to avoid poverty. One of the other ways I earn for myself a reputation as a heartless bastard, on the subject of poverty, is to ask that most uncomfortable of questions: What have you done to actually help someone lately? It is not my intention to chide. I’m not sitting on a suitably lofty, superior moral platform from which I could do such chiding. The people who object to this would be surprised at the coldly logical rationale, if they could only understand it: Our economy is based on people helping each other…still…for the time being. Here is a person who hasn’t made the economy work for them, the economy is driven by people helping people — so, what have they done? It is surprising how often “never” surfaces as the answer, if we’re going to think on it honestly. You invariably find a long, sloppy trail of get-rich-quick schemes in their wake. Schemes that were never supposed to actually help anyone else. This does not mean the poor-person is being punished for selfishness. You might think of it as an engineering thing: “I think your problem is over in here, somewhere.”

After you dedicate some real time and some real passion to helping other people, and negotiate in such a way that you don’t give away the store, there are other things. Get a skill. You’re born with talent, but a talent is not a skill. Don’t call the boss a skull-fucking moron. Don’t get (someone) pregnant without intent, or at least, planning and dedicated resources. Ah yes…and don’t confuse a formal education with intelligence. Or skill!

Are your friends idiots? That’s a good way to stay poor, hang out with a bunch of slackers with no ambition. How often does “no money for a beer run” emerge as the most pressing problem of the moment? That’s a warning sign.

I’m particularly keen on this one: Say you do help someone else. Or, someone else helps you. Where does the learning happen? Which way does it go? If the person who needs the help does the teaching, and the person extending the help does the learning, that is not a formula for success. Again, it goes back to cold, calculating, values-neutral engineering. And it’s rudimentary engineering. Doesn’t require any brain-horsepower at all, just requires focus. For people to receive help, and say to themselves “Hey, I should have been in a position to help myself, I wonder what that guy did differently from what I did” is not natural. It requires effort to embark on that thought process. But improvement of the situation requires nothing less.

I said there is poverty and then there is so much more. We also work hard at being, and staying…dependent. There is that Brexit vote. One of my Facebook friends, native of Scotland, is a bit upset with me for finding the event so fascinating now that it’s a done deal, and there’s really no news. I sympathize, absolutely. My defense is two-fold: One, there was not much of a story before the vote — a lot of the hubbub in the aftermath of the actual vote, has been generated by those whose job it was to report on it before the vote. And they were lazily phoning it in, because they generally figured it was a safe bet that the Remain side was going to win. Now the vote is done, and they’re surprised, bruised, anguished, butt-hurt. Which brings me to the second part of my sniveling excuse…the story has changed. I guess Britons cannot relate to this, but as a damn Yankee I’m really not inclined to care much about votes on memberships and policies in Europe. I do care, though, about this weird mental disorder, this addiction to dependence. The Stockholm Syndrome.

EuropeThe more years I see come and go, the simpler this situation becomes for me. This is a phobia. People have a fear against independence. I suppose they/we always have. Some of us are inclined to defeat such a phobia, others are inclined to learn to live with it, co-exist with it. Like Gollum in The Hobbit, their eyes become accustomed to the dark. Except their obsession is not with power, more like with its opposite, the continuance of a powerless state of being.

Part of the reason I see it as a contrast between light and dark, is the behavior. The addiction to dependence, the phobia against independence, these have a demonstrated tendency to lead to dishonorable behavior. The “Remain” folks would like a do-over. This is exactly the behavior we see in our independence-phobic friends, the liberals, over here in the United States: “Let’s vote, and vote, and vote again, until the vote comes out the way we want and then never vote on it again.” We also see the resolve to live in narratives, to become one’s own self-fulfilling prophecy seemingly without consciously realizing it. The Brexit vote, say the Remainders, will lead to financial chaos and ruin…and they’re working hard to make it happen.

We work hard at being, and staying…ignorant. I see President Obama went on quite a tear on this issue of calling radical Islamic terrorism what it is…

He hammered [Donald] Trump over his “dangerous” mindset and “loose talk and sloppiness” about who exactly America was fighting, implying that Trump’s remarks were actually driving Muslims who might be prone to radicalization into the arms of ISIS.

And he doubled down to repudiate Republican campaigns that he was abetting terrorism by refusing to use the words “radical Islamic terrorism.”

“What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change?” Obama asked during remarks at the Treasury Department. “Would it make ISIL less committed to try and kill Americans?” he continued, using a different acronym for ISIS.

“Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above,” he said. “Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away.”
Mike Rogers, former head of the House Intelligence Committee, faulted Obama for treading the same kind of political terrain as Trump with his angry remarks.

“This was the chance for the President to try to bring us together. I think he is so focused on this presidential campaign he let himself go,” Rogers, now a CNN commentator, said on “The Lead” with Jake Tapper. “I just don’t think it looked presidential.”

I suppose some among Obama’s fan-base will take issue with that last comment, and they’ve every right to their opinion. But that just makes it all the more bizarre. President Obama’s point, here, is that He is justified in going through the motions of trying to solve a problem, without ever once verbally acknowledging what exactly that problem is…because there isn’t any reason. Yes there’s a nod toward “driving Muslims into the arms of ISIS,” but the pronounced emphasis in this particular diatribe was on “why should I?”

His message is essentially a shoulder-shrug. And yet He put such passion into it that He lost his composure, in so doing denigrating His own office. I mean, even more than usual.

Compare and contrast with a similar session of feckless-excuse-making, last year:

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he refuses to describe the Islamic State and al Qaeda as groups fueled by “radical Islam” because the term grants them a religious legitimacy they don’t deserve.

“They are not religious leaders; they are terrorists,” Obama said during remarks at a White House event on countering violent extremism. “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Obama said the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is “desperate” to portray itself as a group of holy warriors defending Islam. It counts on that legitimacy, he said, to propagate the idea that Western countries are at war with Islam, which is how it recruits and radicalizes young people.

“We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie,” he said.

That is, at least, coherent.

Somehow, with this most recent outburst, Obama managed to launch something of a back-n-forth discussion about let’s-not-call-it-what-it-is. And that is the part that concerns me, as well as fascinates me. I even heard one radio guy, certainly no lefty-leaning Obama suporter by any means, denounce the common sense objection of “How you going to solve a problem without calling it what it is?” as “mere rhetorical flourish.”

I guess what’s happening here is that people are really weighing whether or not there’s an up-side, because they are taking the down-side seriously. And maybe that’s to their credit. My problem with that, though, is that I’ve seen so much of this, in families as well as in politics. “Don’t say X, because if you say X you’re going to tick off Y…and Y flies off the handle at anything and everything, so when Y starts wrecking Z it’s going to be all your fault.” I have to ask, at this point, does this ever work? Who’s ever seen this work? I really want to know.

“Crazy Auntie Mabel” is an alcoholic who’s prone to temper tantrums, cannot take responsibility for her own impulse control, so everybody else has to do it for her…walk on eggshells, don’t say the wrong thing. And above all, make sure and call each other out for saying something to tick off Mabel! “Whaddya think you’re doing??” Sorry…can’t relate. There’s a split here, I’m on one side, perhaps on the minority side. And that’s probably because I make a point of not being around people like this. Well, I’m not seeing much inspiration to reconsider that.

This is as self-destructive as the other two, up above. When there is truth, and we make a point of not acknowledging it, we also make a point of not considering it. We begin to behave as if the true thing is not a true thing. This matters, when the thing-that-is-true has something to do with solving the problem that immediately concerns us. Pretending it’s untrue, means compromising our effectiveness at getting the problem solved. Pardon my density, but what part of that is unclear to someone?

We have become so proficient at preserving our own ignorance, that it seems to me our elected and appointed officials are enjoying increased latitude they didn’t have before. To brazenly lie to us, brazenly cover up the lies, brazenly conceal things from us, brazenly admit they’re in the middle of pretending truth is falsehood and falsehood is truth, even right in the middle of insisting how worthy they are of our unreserved faith. At times it seems to me they’re even bragging about it (video behind link auto-plays). I’m not sure what this means. I guess we, as a society, are getting away from the idea that you have to understand a problem in order to do something to productively address it. If that’s the case, I have to wonder where that leads. Can’t be good.

We work hard at being, and staying…aggravated. This is another thing we do to destroy ourselves. It is yet another declining standard. Seems to me we’re stumbling around, especially in the heavily populated areas, being aggravated and occasionally wondering why we’re so aggravated. Unfortunately, it is even more occasional than that that anyone ever consciously or vocally notices: It isn’t supposed to be like this. We shouldn’t be this aggravated this often.

And it isn’t because we’re pre-disposed to being aggravated. There’s a lot of justified aggravation. Far more than there should be. We have built a system that exists to gather aggravation, like a lint trap in a swimming pool filter gathers detritus to keep it out of the pumps — and fling it in our faces like a monkey flinging poo.

I was making a bee line toward the checkout stands in a grocery store the other day, with a bottle of wine in hand. Just that. 1.5L of white wine, nothing else. And I found myself thinking about this scam we have going…supposedly we live under a system of just laws, because the laws are written and ratified by elected officials who are beholden to us. The reason I was thinking it was a scam, was because the self-checkout lanes were all empty and the human-monitored checkout lanes were all full. The lines were snaking backward, into the aisles.

You can’t buy alcohol in a self-checkout lane.

The problem is not that the law happened to be inconvenient to me, in the moment. There is a defense against that, that pretty much all laws are inconvenient now & then, that’s why they have to be laws. That much is reasonable. The problem is a question: Who the fuck wanted this? Whoever said “Without government, who’s going to stop me from buying alcohol in a self-checkout lane”? And while we’re pondering that one, we can think about another question that rises to confront us: With all the self-checkout lanes empty, and all the human-checkout lanes full, who does this law help?

And so I was not in the proper frame of mind to lay my eyes on the sign, affixed to the front of the human-operated checkout lane, several minutes later as I made my approach: Starting July 1, county law will require the store — not to give us bags. We have to bring our own. Now, this is California and we’ve got our share of Gaea-worshipping idjits, to be sure. My irritation here is that they, I’m assuming, have little or nothing to do with this. Oh sure, you’ll find some quotes here and there from those who can’t duck the responsibility and are flailing about for an excuse…

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of the ban, joining Sacramento and about 150 other communities in the state that have banned plastic bags that are not reusable. Supervisors said they wanted to end the use of such bags to protect the environment because they essentially last forever.

“This, to me, really is a no-brainer,” said Supervisor Patrick Kennedy. “It has the most benefit for the least inconvenience.”

Supervisor Phil Serna, who introduced the ordinance, said the bags have become ubiquitous and people will adapt to their demise by reusing bags.

Can we drop the phony pretense? This is about fucking with people. Period, full stop. Somehow everything seems to keep coming back to that. And we wonder why we go around aggravated all the time. The answer is, we keep voting for people who want it that way.

No, really, they really do want it that way.

It’s rare when a politician is as honest about his strategy as the New York City councilman largely responsible for the plastic-bag fee about to hit New York City. For his candor, Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) ought to be considered a new American hero.

Here is progressive politics in 2016: “It works by irritating us into changing our behavior,” Lander said of the bag tax.

It works by irritating us. There can be some debate about the accuracy of one of those verbs, but not the other. Government, when it’s being honest, acknowledges it isn’t your buddy, your helper, your protector, your go-to source for inspiration and dreams.

Nope, the government is now proudly proclaiming itself your irritant.

We work hard at being, and staying…helpless. The Trump phenomenon has revealed this unfortunate tendency on the part of many so-called conservatives who, oddly enough, we see constantly braying about something they call “principles.”

“Never Trump” agitators continue to work themselves up into a sanctimonious lather, indulging in a puritanical alarmism about Trump they normally pooh-pooh when it threatens one of their favored heterodox candidates. Gone are the “half a loaf is better than none” lectures they delivered to hector conservatives into supporting Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many other imperfect and idiosyncratic candidates warmly welcomed into their “Big Tent.”

In Trump, they see untold horrors. But Hillary, as the Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens put it, is a “survivable event.” George Will, who has made a career out of tailoring his stuffy but substanceless conservatism to the sensibilities of pretentious, PBS-style liberals, now punctuates with it one more act of preening about supposed GOP indecency.

He is the shocked puritan, who can’t understand how Paul Ryan could end up endorsing such an imperfect man, as if Ryan were presiding over a canonization proceeding rather than a party convention.

I suppose these people, and I, are talking past each other when we speak of “conservatism.” To me, it’s a very important thing because a lot of it is invested in stopping liberalism, which I see as toxic. So it strikes me as odd when people add their voices to such a stoppage, and then when a champion emerges who doesn’t tickle their fancy, suddenly their “principles” compel them to pronounce him inadequate and suddenly liberalism is a “survivable event.” That looks to me more like a cessation of upholding principles, than a continuance of upholding principles. How else should I be reading it?

But I suppose there is an appeal in being helpless, waiting it out while the wrong people are in charge. It spares you from the burden of having to develop a workable plan. Perhaps, for this reason, there is a relationship between this, and the above-mentioned ambition to remain ignorant. It all has to do with the avoidance of actual problem solving. The latest example, at this point, is Pope Francis’ weird comments about gun manufacturers:

“There is an element of hypocrisy [for a Christian] to speak of peace and then manufacture weapons,” Francis said Sunday, according to three separate Italian-to-English translations obtained by the Washington Examiner‘s media desk.

The press was quick to react.
Francis did not outright use the word “hypocritical,” and he did not say that it’s impossible for a Christian to deal also in weapons. Both points, however, were heavily implied.

Engaging in an imaginary conversation with a Christian who is involved in the weapons business, the pope said, “‘No, no Father, I do not manufacture weapons. No, no. I have only invested my savings in the weapons’ manufacturers.’ Ah! And why? ‘Because personal interests are highest.'”

Francis continued, saying in a colloquial manner that the behavior of these men calls into question their ability to be good Christians and to follow Christ’s example…

Well, you know what else you have to manufacture when you manufacture guns? Bullets. Bullets aren’t cheap, and some among us who have made the decision to own firearms also burn our way through bullets; some of us more than others. It isn’t just because we love the great outdoors and are drawn to the smell of gunpowder, although there is that. We are directing our household resources toward this so that if we ever need to have such a weapon, God forbid, we’ll be properly equipped and ready to handle the situation.

Pope Francis ignored this aspect entirely. And I have noticed many among his defenders continue to ignore it. Many among those who do not defend him, but don’t criticize him either, see nothing wrong with these remarks. It is quickly becoming normal for people to entirely fail to factor it into their thinking, that a gun can ever be used for self defense. Even though, to many a gun owner, that is the entire point of having one.

What’s really being normalized, I’m afraid, is victimhood. It’s a “shit happens” mentality. If you get mugged you get mugged, just hand over the wallet, and turn over the information to the police so they can fill out the proper forms and report the statistics to the FBI at year-end…if you survive, that is.

Why don’t we have enough money? Why don’t we know what we need to know? Why are we aggravated so much of the time? So desperate, so helpless, so disillusioned, so insecure? It is by choice. Just because we don’t consciously realize it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. We’re choosing this.