Citizenship

So, I was thinking about citizenship today, what with voting coming up and all.
 
And that got me thinking about my time in Boy Scouts, specifically the three merit badges that deal with citizenship (Citizenship in the Nation, in the Community, and in the Nation, and in the World).
 
None of which I earned while I was old enough to vote, which I think this is a good lesson for us. Voting is a right of citizenship, but not necessarily an obligation, which is how it gets portrayed. It is, least of all, our highest or only obligation as citizens.
 
Children and felons have as many obligations as citizens as citizens eligible to vote. In fact, even de facto citizens (businesses, resident aliens, etc.), have responsibilities to their adopted homes.
 
And so, here are some thoughts on some of our responsibilities as citizens based on the Scout Law:
 
1. Trustworthy: Obey the laws of your community, even when you’re not going to get caught breaking them. If you’re in a position of responsibility, don’t spread (even unintentionally) our state secrets to our enemies. If you’re in a journalist, report the news impartially and honestly. In any job you have, don’t steal time or money.
 
2. Loyal: Love your country for its best parts and work to change its worst. Honor our flag and our institutions for their promises of liberty, including those yet-unfulfilled. If you’re a soldier, fight bravely. If you’re drafted, serve willingly. If our country taxes you, don’t renounce your citizenship or try to hide your money overseas.
 
3. Helpful: Help your neighbors when they’re in need. Mow someone’s grass when they’re on vacation. Hold doors open for people. Look for opportunities to serve. Find your talents and share them.
 
4. Friendly: Treat people with respect, even if you disagree with their beliefs, way of life, or background. Get to know your neighbors and their kids. Join neighborhood clubs and organizations.
 
5. Courteous: Say please and thank you. Keep your voice down in public. Don’t park in handicapped spots. Push your carts into the cart corrals at stores after you load your car. Pay attention for other people and make sure you don’t unintentionally make their lives harder through your poor behavior.
 
6. Kind: Be thankful for your blessings. Understand that not everybody has had those same blessings. Volunteer at homeless shelters, food pantries, and literacy programs. Tutor someone.
 
7. Obedient: Obey your parents, even when you’re not a kid. Obey your spouse, your religion, and your nation’s laws. (Take this with the usual caveats.)
 
8. Cheerful: You live in the freest, most prosperous country in the world. People of all backgrounds have found success where you live in any field they’ve chosen to work in, although often times overcoming unfair obstacles. Be happy that you’ve been blessed to live in the USA.
 
9. Thrifty: Don’t waste resources (gas, water, electricity). Save money to protect yourself from bad times. Save money even when you’d rather buy yourself something nice. Take care of your clothes, your toys, and the rest of your stuff. Learn how to fix things around your home. Try not to spend money on things when you can’t pay it back.
 
10. Brave: Be willing to fail at new things until you get better at them. Understand that who you are right now is not who you have to be five minutes from now, as long as you are willing to try, to learn, and to fail sometimes. Try hard at school to learn new things, and try hard at work to get better at your job. Apply for promotions and leadership programs. Stand up to racism, sexism, and bigotry when they appear, but be as courteous and kind as you can be when you do.
 
11. Clean: Keep your home and personal appearance neat. Don’t spread diseases to your neighbors through unsafe activity. Stay faithful to your spouse and keep yourself chaste before and after marriage. Don’t poison your body with alcohol, sex, or drugs.
 
12. Reverent: Say thank you to God once in a while. Remember that there is something much, much bigger than you can understand that cares for you and that has certain expectations for you that you should try to meet. Treat matters of faith with more respect than you do other areas of life.
 
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Butchers and Vets

So, the other day I was looking up some stuff on pistol/rifle ammunition.  Basically, I’d like to spend less money on ammunition and switch to only having to buy one for both guns.

The .22LR is the cheapest ammunition and there are plenty of good rifle/pistol combinations out there that will use the same ammo.

But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about (but wheee! guns! I learned to shoot on a .22 rifle in Boy Scouts)

What I wanted to talk about were people’s comments on using a .22 rifle for hunting.  For small game, they said, it worked great.  Rabbits, mice, uh, squirrels, and such–perfect.

But when it came to larger game, i.e. deer (not bears), the argument against using the .22 rifle wasn’t that it was inaccurate, hard to use, or inefficient.

It was that it was inhumane to try to kill a deer with a .22.

(.22 indicates the caliber of the ammunition the gun uses–.22 is .22 of an inch, .45 is .45 of an inch, etc.  Bigger calibers mean bigger bullets, which mean more damage, usually).

Here were people talking about hunting, commenting on the humaneness of how an animal was killed. Using a .22 is an almost guarantee that the animal will die slowly and be in a lot of suffering.

[*to me, this is one of the best reasons that .22’s make good home defense firearms.  They are enough to scare away a burglar (who, I imagine, is not thinking to himself “hmm, he might shoot me, but the caliber is small, so maybe I can take him anyway” and is instead thinking “Eeek! a gun!”).  At the same time, if I did shoot someone, the chances of a .22 round killing them would be less than with a more powerful gun–and I, like a lot of people, am not looking to go around killing people, just stopping them.  You don’t have to agree with this; but I kind of think that we should be trying to use the minimum level of force to keep ourselves safe, and not necessarily the maximum allowed by law].

Which I think says something important about the hunting community, which is that hunters care about animals, which isn’t all that surprising.  Farmers love their farm animals, all the way to the dinner table.

Knowing that something is going to be your dinner doesn’t stop you from wanting it treated well before that.  Hunters are hunters, but their also conservationists and nature-lovers.  Hunters love the animals they kill.

I think this is a good contrast to vets.  Vets also love animals, but their goal is not to kill them.  Sometimes they do, but not with the intention of eating them.  In fact, vets spend years studying how to make sick animals healthy.

On the other side of the planet, though, are butchers.  Butchers might know a lot about the anatomy of a cow or pig, but nobody should mistake what they do as love.  Killing and cutting up an animal are a job.

You might even be able to confuse a conversation with a butcher about a cow with a conversation with a vet about a cow.  Both can identify where all the organs are, what physical problems an animal might have, and so forth.

The difference, of course, is in why they know that stuff.  Vets know stuff to heal, butchers know stuff to kill.

All of this got me thinking about euthanasia and abortion.

The first rule of medicine, of course is “First do no harm.”  The Hippocratic Oath explicitly prohibits abortion and euthanasia (and probably lethal injection).

So, like 2 millennia ago, at a time when Western Civilization enthusiastically embraced slavery, pederasty, war for conquest, and all manner of inhumane things, its doctors were still like “Nah, we don’t kill people.”

But not our doctors.  The moral vector of the vanguard of our medical community seems to be much more akin to butchers (we kill these babies so we can sell the parts).

Of course, vets euthanize pets all the time.  But then, to complete the analogy, if doctor and a vet are euthanizing patients for the same reason, then we’re saying that the same medical protections that apply to old dogs apply to old people (or young people).

But, like, it’s not like there hasn’t been a side history of evil-doctoring.  Just in the last century, and without invoking Godwin’s law, we have the Tuskegee experiments, the Guatemala experiments, the Milgram experiments (which were both unethical and good at showing why people do unethical things), and a host of others.

[Maybe those of who are a little skeptical of “science” wouldn’t be so skeptical of it if it wasn’t so easy to point out horrors inflicted in its name.  Like, you know how atheists are always like “more people have died from religion blah blah blah”?  Go look up and see what scientific socialism has done recently…]

So, I guess, in a sense, my big complaint is our looseness in what we call “medicine” and “physicians.”

I think historically, these things have been healers, and the idea that killing people or babies is somehow a form of healing just strikes me as fundamentally wrong.

I’ve argued this before, but the goal of medicine should be to make the human body work as it’s supposed to.  (This is why Viagra is medicine but contraception is not–the one restores the body to a state of wholeness, the other degrades it to a state of illness).  I just can’t see any squaring of the killing of humans and calling such practices “medicine”.

But, then again, Orwell was fighting against doublespeak back in the 1940’s.

But then again, maybe today, the medical community would embrace Boxer’s trip to the glue-maker as “health care” and require taxpayer funding for it.

 

 

 

Sympathy for the Devil

I don’t like Donald Trump.

I don’t like his politics, I don’t like his personality, I don’t like what he’s done to the Republican Party.

But, like, I can sympathize with parts of his movement.

Look, there are a lot of white nationalists, KKK-ers, and Alt-Righters who are deplorable human beings that have a natural home in Trumpville.  Screw those guys.

But there’re plenty of other people who are just sick of being told what bad people they are, when they aren’t.

Let’s define Gaslighting, first, though.

There was an old movie, called, I think, “Gaslight,” where a guy convinces his wife/girlfriend that she is going crazy by moving pictures, creating noises in a sealed attic, and adjusting the gaslights without her knowing he’s doing it.  When she tells him about these things, he tells her it’s her imagination, and she assumes she’s going crazy.

A similar fraud has been perpetrated against America over the last several decades.

Essentially, the Left has tried (and largely succeeded) to convince America that the reality that it sees is not the reality that exists.

Do you believe that people are equal and should be treated so?  Surprise! You’re a racist!

Wait, you don’t commit any acts of racism?  Surprise! You’re still racist because you engage in micro-aggressions!

You think that people who are genetically male or female are male or female?  Your ideas aren’t based in science or reality!  You’re a transphobe!  That human with a penis in the girl’s shower?  That’s a woman because ze zays zo!

What’s that you say?  You don’t care what they call themselves, as long as your teenage daughter doesn’t have to shower with girls with penises?  You’re still a transphobe because people should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want to, as long as Bruce Springsteen says so!

You notice that women don’t have as much muscle mass as men and so maybe we shouldn’t put them in hand to hand combat? Sexist!  You notice that old people get sick and maybe we shouldn’t ?  Sexist!  You noticed that women take more sick days than men do and that maybe they get promoted less because of it? Sexist!

Remember how you donated money to breast cancer research?  Remember how you wore red in support of women’s heart health?  Remember how women you knew got sick and died from diseases like that and you felt bad and tried to support their families?

Fuck you.  Don’t you know that the only time Republicans care about women’s health is when they’re talking about Hillary?  None of your support of those things counts because you want to not pay for Planned Parenthood to kill babies.  You hate women, reality be damned.

Reality be damned all around.  You’re actions and beliefs don’t define who you are.  The Left does.  And if the Left says that, in contrast to all your actual actions and beliefs, you are sexist, racist, anti-LGBT, then you must be.

Oh, also, the lady who says she wants to be in charge of the largest army the world has ever known and doesn’t want you to own any protection and whose husband was a rapist and she helped cover it up says that you’re “deplorable.”

So, yeah, I get the appeal of a guy who says “I don’t think you’re racist and sexist and anti-LGBT.”

Still not voting for Trump.

 

Scientia Contra Scientitatem (vel Fides et Sceientia, Manus in Manu)

Here’s an article titled Math is Racist, which is a misleading name.

Essentially  profiles a professional mathematician (sounds like a data analyst to me) who trucks with the Occupy Wallstreet crowd.  She claims that mathematics is being used to hurt poor people on loan applications, criminal sentencing, and so on.

A few thoughts:

1) It’s crazy easy to hurt poor people.  Want to not live by minorities?  Move somewhere with high property taxes.  Want to enmesh them in the criminal justice system and feel good about yourself at the same time?  Enact usurious vice taxes on things like cigarettes and alcohol and outlaw cheap vices like marijuana.  It’s not like you need to be a statistician to think of ways to hurt poor people.

2) One of the things they make you learn when you become a statistician is something called discriminant analysis, which is a fancy way for coming up with mathematical rules for separating things into groups.  The classic example is that you have a bunch of different flowers that look alike but are different flowers.  You create a mathematical model based on the size of the petals and sepals and it classifies them.

You don’t always get perfect rules to tell them apart, but you can do a lot better than random chance.  So, for example, if you had four types of flowers in a hat, picked one out and then randomly said it was one of the four types of flowers, you’d have a 25% chance of being correct.  Using discriminant analysis, you might be able to move that up to a much higher rate of accuracy (maybe 75 or 85%).

When talking heads talk about computer algorithms to predict our behavior, what they’re really talking about is discriminant analysis.  When you buy some stuff on Amazon, it uses discriminant analysis to figure out what “type” of person you are and then selects other stuff that your “type” might want to buy.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  But it’s not supposed to be perfect.  Amazon has an almost infinite number of products–if it randomly picked something to suggest, it would have a negligible chance of picking something you’d want.  But if it can improve that chance to even a few percentage points, it’s a success.

When you get turned down for a loan or face harsher penalties for crimes based on your zip code, credit score, and other things, that’s discriminant analysis.

3) My problem with the title of the article is that the profilee is clearly not anti-science.  She’s anti-a-particular-application-of-science, which is a very different thing.  She doesn’t not believe that discriminant analysis is a real mathematical tool, she believes that employing it in  loan applications or criminal sentencing is wrong.

A better way of looking at this is that she’s anti-scientism, which I’d define as the belief that “Science” and the scientific method is the only reliable guide for human understanding.

In a sense, anti-scientism is the entire underpinning of books like Frankenstein or Jurassic Park, which are essentially reframings of the question “Science tells us we can do this, but should we?”

4) We have a big problem politically (on both sides–but not with enlightened people like me who are moderates), wherein each claims that the other is “anti-science.”  (Liberal friends, you may not know that that conservatives think that you are the anti-science ones, but, like, it’s a thing. You need to read more NRO).

Sometimes the problem is legitimate dogmatic anti-scientism (opposition to an earth age in the billions of years or a belief that nuclear power is unsafe).  But that’s not really what we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about whether or not certain scientific methods or tools should be employed, which is a discussion of ethics.
Ultimately, ethics is something I have a hard time letting scientists police themselves on.  Scientifically, neuroscience can eventually tell us (maybe now?) which parts of the brain we could manipulate in order to create hordes of willing slaves, but nothing in the scientific method is gong to tell us whether or not we should.
I mean, heck, science tells us that H-bomb and mustard gas are super good ways of killing people, it tells us that forced chemical castration is possible, and that poor children are more likely to grow up to be societal drains.
But nothing in science or scientism can tell us not to gas the Southside of Chicago or chemically castrate the entire barrio population in Sao Paulo.
Instead, the woman from the article makes to me a very appropriate faith-based argument against using a scientific method to the detriment of people.
5) Faith is a funny thing, since it can be either deistic or non-deistic.  Lots of people believe in the golden rule because they think that a supernatural power wants them to.  Lots of others who are atheists believe in the golden rule because that’s the “right thing to do.”
But there’s nothing scientific about it.  It can’t be tested or created in a lab.  Sure, there can be studies on reciprocity in the natural world or game theory on outcome optimization and whatever, but nothing in the inductive scientific method could produce it.
Which means that believing that humans should obey the golden rule becomes a tautological “People should do this because people should do this.”  At this point, I’d argue, we’re talking about a belief that cannot be only rooted in logic or reason, which is another way of saying faith.
The great strength of science is answering the question “how?” and the great strength of faith is answering the question “should?”.
6) This implies, I think, that in order to utilize science to it’s best, we need faith to inform us (just as faith is best when it’s underpinned by rational and logical criticism).  Neither can exist in a vacuum.  Both are necessary for the survival of the other.

Doing Things the Hard Way (DTTHW)

A few months ago, I built a bedroom set for my goddaughter that included a storage bed, vanity table with mirror, and a little side table.

They turned out okay, and I’m sure that for the $800 or $900 I spent on materials and tools I used to build it, I could have bought her a much nicer looking, commercially made bed.

She seems grateful, but somewhere in my stomach is a little pit of doubt that says, “If they break, that’s your fault.  She can’t return them if she doesn’t like them.  She doesn’t really understand that your gift to her was the hundred hours or so you spent making them.”

Those are all okay things with me, because to me, the gift was as much for me as it was for her.  Am I proud of the work I did?  Sure, I guess.  But I have a really good idea now of how to build a storage bed and stuff, and I know what mistakes I could avoid if I made the same kind of set again for someone else, and I know that I would be successful if I ever needed to do those things.

I started out woodworking (cough…if you can really call it that) maybe a year ago, when I built a compost bin for my backyard.  That was followed by a few night stands, a storage bin for my basement, and some extra stuff to frame and pretty-up the solar panel installation I have on the side of my house.

Each time, I’m sure I could have gone to the store and bought a piece of furniture that was better-made than what I did at home, but with each project, I got a little bit better and made fewer dumb mistakes.  I also acquired more confidence that I could take the next step in what I wanted to build, and in what I believed it was possible for me to build.

But that confidence transfers to other things in my life.  If I can build a night-stand from scratch, surely I can grow my own potatoes or plant a cherry tree.  If I can re-floor my basement (which I did after it flooded a year ago), I bet I can build some cabinets down in my basement, or maybe install a new vanity in the bathroom in a year or two (or finish my attic, but shhhh, don’t tell my wife that’s on the horizon).

I guess for me, there are lots of times that there are easy ways of doing things (go to the store and buy furniture, use a calculator, ask someone to pick me up from the car repair shop) and harder ways of doing things (build my own desk, do that math problem by hand, walk the two miles home from the shop), and to me, there is more than just virtue in doing things the harder way.

Let me take a step back and tell a story.  When I was younger, my dad bought me and my brother new bikes for Christmas.  I was maybe 12 and my brother a few years younger.  My dad didn’t put them together.  Why would he?  He had two sons capable of putting together a few bikes by themselves.  They were our bikes–why wouldn’t we have put them together ourselves?

Note:  This was the same kind of house where if you wanted a sandwich, you made your own.

I was lucky enough to inherit a basement bedroom and bathroom after my older brother moved out, but when the toilet’s internals needed to be replace, guess who ended up with the ballcock in his hands?  Why would my dad have to fix it?  It was my bathroom…

Later, when I was in college, I lived with a few roomates.  One time, when our toilet started running, I went out and spent 7 or 8 bucks to buy new stuff for it.  My roommate had never fixed a running toilet, so I asked her if she wanted to watch me fix it so she could learn how to do it.  Her response: “Why would I want to do that?”

I don’t think I’m a better person because I like to do things for myself, and that I try to DTTHW.  But I know that being a bad craftsman teaches me to appreciate the work that goes into hand cut dove-tails, that taking the time to work my way through math problems reminds me of how easy it is to make mistakes, and that walking home from the car shop gives me time to think and notice parts of the street that I never pay attention to when I’m driving.

I do think that DTTHW makes me a happier person, though, because I feel like I have control of my life.  If I want a new gaming computer, but only have $600 to spend instead of $2000, I know that I can buy the parts and put together the machine myself.  I also know that if I don’t like the way the rockwall in my front yard looks, I can arrange it so that I do like it.

In short, to me, happiness is being able to arrange the world the way you want it.  The more control you give yourself over being able to change things to how you want them, the happier I think you’ll be.   Cooking a good meal with my wife has always been a happier occasion than eating a good meal.  Looking at something nice that I built to make my life easier makes me happy because I was able to be in charge of making my own life better, which, I think, is exactly where you want to be.

[This is turning out to be a much longer post than I intended.  My apologies. I’m sure there’s another thousand words in me about “kids these days!” but I’ll save it for a later time.]

 

 

A Grammatical Reading of the Second Amendment

The second amendment is variously interpreted by those on the left to mean “Only the army has a right to have guns,” and by those on the right that “blah blah blah…people can own guns” or “we make up the militia that has a right to own guns.”

Both readings are wrong, and my junior year high school Latin class proves it.  There is, in fact, only one clear meaning to the amendment, which is “Because the government needs an army, the people need guns.”

Here’s the text:

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The second clause is pretty straightforward grammatically (“the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”).  Here, “the people” means what it does anywhere else when used by the founding fathers: “we—the citizens.”  Any other reading of this second clause is wrong.

The first clause (“a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state”) has long been recognized as what grammarians call an absolute (in English, it’s in the nominative—or subjective—case, in Latin it’s in the ablative, in Greek it’s in the genitive.)

An absolute clause has three interesting features to it:

1)      It lacks a proper verb, instead getting by with just a participle.

2)      It has a semantic connection to the rest of the sentence (i.e. it shows cause or circumstance).

3)      It is grammatically absolute, meaning “untied” (from the Latin absolutus, which mean, well, “untied.”  It’s the same word that gives us the theological word absolution, in the sense of our sins being untied from us).  That is to say, it’s grammar pieces (subjects, verbs) are not connected to the grammar pieces in the rest of the sentence.

It’s the second and third points here that help to elucidate the Amendment.

The connection between an absolute and the rest of a sentence is always as a qualifier, showing an idea of “because [the absolute], then [the other clause]” or “when [the absolute], then [the other clause]”

For example, another absolute in English might be “The day being rainy, we played inside.”  We properly see a causal connection between the first and second parts of the sentence and understand it as “Because the day was rainy, we played inside,” and not as two separate ideas like “It was rainy.  In a completely unrelated event, we played inside.”

Absolutes always show this kind of kind of connection between the two clauses.  The absolute gives the circumstance or reason why the second clause happens.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but this causal connection has to be there.  It’s an essential part of what it means for something to be an absolute.

An absolute not connected causally wouldn’t make any sense, as in “Tigers being striped orange and black, there is tea in the pot.”  Our mind naturally tries to put a connection between the two, because that’s how English works, and when we can’t find the connection, we reject the sentence as nonsense.

So, then, what’s wrong with reading is as “Since a militia is necessary, we, the people who make up the militia, get to have guns” or “We, the militia, are necessary and so we need guns” or “The people who are part of the militia need guns”?

It’s the third feature of absolutes that tells us why.  Namely, an absolute is unconnected grammatically from the rest of the sentence, which means that the subject of the first part cannot be the subject of the second part.  This means that the “militia” in the first part cannot be referring to the same thing as “the people” in the second part.  They’re not interchangeable.

Again, this is an essential feature of the grammar.  Something like “The cat being tired, it took a nap” would have to be read as “Because the cat was tired, something besides the cat took a nap.”  Again, any other reading would be a misinterpretation of what the grammar says the sentence has to mean.

So if the militia is not the people, what is it?

It’s the army.  Which we need for our security.  Because sometimes the British or French or Indians, or whoever, shoot at us or invade our country or try to steal our land or whatever.  Accordingly, the government (the citizenry incorporate), need to put together an army for the defense of our freedom from time to time.

A posse might be good enough to hunt down Senor Bandito in a Western, but if we’re gonna stop the British, we need a legit, well-regulated fighting force at our disposal.

So what about the second part? And both parts together?

Well, what was the colonists experience with armies?  In the 1760’s, the British army had protected them from the French and (some) Indians.  But a decade later, it was shooting Crispus Attucks in Boston.  Armies were necessary, but there had to be some check on the government using them against the people.

(The teacher in me really hopes light bulbs just went on above your heads)

Therefore, since we need to have an army sometimes, but also because that army can both protect and threaten our liberty, we have to have a way to discourage the army (and the government) from using the army as a tool of oppression: namely, we arm ourselves, as a polite reminder to keep their guns pointing at our enemies and not us.

Accordingly, the only fair reading of the second amendment is, to paraphrase, “Because we have to have an army, the people that the army is supposed to be protecting need weapons, too.”

It was the Founders’ answer to quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  Who will guard our guards?  We will.

There are implications to this.  First, it gives a definitive answer to the “Why are we allowed to have guns?” question.  The answer is not hunting or even personal self-defense.  The raison d’etre for our right to arm ourselves is to protect us against the army that we need.

(I will lead it up to the reader to decide if cops in riot gear and armored cars constitute a well-regulated militia or not.  And whether or not the Founding Fathers, who went to war when an unarmed black man was shot by police in Boston in 1773, would like what we’ve got going on in our communities).

More importantly, though, it completely destroys the progressive idea that somehow, the writers of the Bill of Rights felt the need either to say “we can have an army” or alternately “our army can have guns,” which would have been akin to “we can have secretaries” or “our secretaries can use pens and their pen-using is so controversial that we will amend the very laws of our government to enshrine their pen-ability in perpetuity.”

And my Dad told me that majoring in Classics was a waste of time.

Real and Imaginary

So there’s an element of the unequal treatment of blacks by police officers that I’m not sure has achieved much attention.

Namely, the matter of feelings.

Here’s the set-up:  some asshole puts up a flag with a swastika on it in his front yard.  He’s disabled war vet, a little disheveled in the brain pan, but is not actually a direct danger to anyone.  He just likes to think of himself as part of the neo-Nazi community.  He’s a fanboy of Hitler, much like a Brony admires Twilight Sparkle.  There is no actual danger here.

His neighbor, a kindly Jewish woman, feels threatened by this and asks the man to take it down.  “Free speech, you wrinkled old hag” he responds, thinking the matter settled.  The woman calls the police, who approach the man, who is then charged with intimidation/terrorization/hate speech/whatever local ordinance covers this.

“Hooray!” responds progressives, “the racist is going to jail!”  No actual threat has been averted, no danger deactivated, however.  The woman felt threatened, even though no actual threat existed.  The same level of actual threat exists to her, even with the man gone.  That is to say, a threat exists outside of one’s own perceptions.  It is its own thing.

Now, we move locales.  A police officer, new to the job perhaps, pulls over a car with the music thumping.  He approaches the car and is greeted by a black man.  The police officer, due to bias, racism, nervousness, or whatever other feeling, thinks himself threatened by the black man.  No actual threat, but the officer’s feelings are no less real than the old Jewish woman’s.  He orders the to get out his ID, and so the black man reaches for his glove box.

Seeing an unexpected movement, the officer, already in a state of heightened fear, starts putting bullets into the car and into the man, killing him.

Did the officer fear for his life?  Did the old woman? Of course.  Was there any actual, tangible danger to either?  Had either actually been harmed? No.

But both were made to suffer fear, and in both cases, both the neo-Nazi and the black man ended up being victims in a scenario where neither intended to give offense.

College campuses today are filled with trigger warnings, speech codes, and safe spaces.  These are meant to protect the student not only from real threat, but also from perceived threat, which is another way of saying imagined threat.  The girl in college who demands that all men resembling her rapist be removed from the school is not proposing a solution to a real threat any more than the phantom fears of whites in the 1940’s that kept blacks (or Jews) out of certain neighborhoods.

The school movements that claim that the mere mention of slavery in a book should allow some students to be exempt from studying it are figments of the same imagination-indulgence that allows us to say that if a police officer feels threatened, he is justified in shooting.

If his feelings are, well, feelings, and not accurate appraisals of a situation, and his feelings end up killing someone, he’s a shitty cop.  Just as we demand evidence in a criminal trial, we need to demand actual things as justification for actions.

All of us have known teachers (either as co-workers or as students) who didn’t have the mental toughness to deal with unruly students, which is a fundamental part of the job.  If you can’t do the fundamental part of the job, you shouldn’t be doing that job.

A teacher who can’t control a classroom should be fired.  A cop who misreads a situation to the point where someone dies should be fired.  A doctor who messes up diagnoses to the point where people die.  People who are bad at their jobs should be fired.  A student who can’t study because of paranoia shouldn’t be in school.

These might not be criminal offenses, and an officer who panics and shoots an innocent man probably is not a criminal, but he certainly is a bad cop who should be fired.  Training is training, and the job is the job.  There will always be people-in any profession-who make it through the training but then can’t hack it in the real world.

Like any other kind of job negligence, the family should be compensated by the police department who put someone out into the streets with a gun who shouldn’t have been there and the offending officer fired (and probably blacklisted from law enforcement).

But we can’t have our cake and eat it too.  We can’t both say that a police officer has to deal with real things and not just his fears, but then also turn around and allow our students special exemptions from learning for the sake of their imaginations.

That is to say, we can’t fairly allow some members of society to impose their will on others based on the imaginary without allowing everyone to.  Everyone has to live in the real world.

Flint is What Happens When Atlas Shrugs

Back when I was a middle and high school teacher, I often had to write students up for dumb stuff they did in the classroom.  They’d have their phones out during class or they’d be talking when they weren’t supposed to be or whatever.  Usually phones.

Anyway, so school policy would be for me to ask them politely for their phone so I could confiscate it and then give it back at the end of class.  Usually the kids complied.  Sometimes they wouldn’t.  At this point, I would have to ask them again.  Again, some of them would refuse.  At this point, I’d crouch down on my old-man knees next to their desks and whisper to them something like, “Look.  I’m not mad at you.  I’m not angry.  I’m not yelling.  I just need you to hand me your phone.  You’ll get it back.  I’ll make sure.”

At this point, almost all the kids have given me the phone.  Sometimes they would still refuse and, again crouching down by them, I’d say “Look, you know what happens if you refuse, right?”

At this point, their friends would usually be lobbying for them to “just give him the phone” because most kids are good kids and they don’t want their friends to get into trouble.

Some kids are just kids, though, and even when they know they’re going to get sent out of the room and get detention and have their parents called and maybe get suspended because they just got called down to the office for the third time that week, they still refuse.

At this point, I’d sigh, walk to my classroom phone, call the main office and ask that they send an administrator down to remove the child from the classroom.  Sometimes it was the dean, or a principal or vice-principal.  Sometimes it was the school safety officer.

And the kid would be escorted down, just like a perpetrator being escorted by the police, all because he had refused to comply with a very simple command.  A very routine situation, in which the kid was clearly in the wrong, had escalated almost to the level of a legal action.

Then, later, I’d have to fill out an incident report describing why I had asked for the child to be removed and what the problem was and how I  handled the situation.

For this last part–how I handled it–I would write down that my interactions with the student resulted in “the natural consequences of his/her actions.”

I’d like to comment on this idea that I hadn’t really punished the student, but that their getting sent out was just a natural consequence of their behavior.  That is to say, a reasonable person, if asked what should happen to someone who did something bad and refuses to obey an authority figure, would describe exactly what had happened: the offender would get hauled off somewhere. (Conversely, an unreasonable person would say that I “should have just left him alone”).

But, like, they’re kids, so they’re dumb and they don’t do what’s in their best interest to begin with, and they don’t think very far ahead.

But I don’t want to talk about just the kids being punished.  In a classroom of 20-30 kids there would always be the ones who “got it.”  These were the young adults in the sea of teenagers.  And you could see the frustration in their eyes while their class would be interrupted while some kid was getting in trouble.

Every once in a while, I’d look up from my little tete-a-tete with phone kid and lock eyes with the good kids and mouth “I’m so sorry about this.”  We understood each other.  They were as frustrated as I was.

There wasn’t a formula to produce them.  Some were rich.  Some were poor.  Single parents, two parents, whatever.  Sometimes they were twelve, sometimes they were eighteen.  What they had in common was that they were humans who had decided that they weren’t going to act like children anymore.

Those kids grew up to be leaders.  They grew up to be competent humans.  They’re the ones who work at the DMV and don’t mess up your paperwork.  They’re the ones at the office who refill the toner cartridge in the printer, even if they have to go google how to do it.  They don’t mind learning how to do something so that they won’t have to rely on someone else to do it.

Simply put, they’re the glue that holds society together.  They become the secretaries at your grad school that make sure your idiot professors (who make three times what they do) can sit around and BS all day instead of doing the administrative work that has to happen.  They’re the assistant principal who actually runs the show while the principal runs around being head cheerleader.  They’re the garbage truck guy who doesn’t just leave your cans lying in the middle of the street.

They’re the people who push the motherfucking carts into the motherfucking cart corrals at Walmart.

And they are fleeing the hell out of mainstream America as fast as they can.

You can call it brain drain, but it’s really competency-drain.  The competent humans are sick of picking up after everyone else’s messes and are segregating themselves from the rest of the population.

Atlas has already shrugged.  The John Galts are already gone.

Especially in places like Flint.  Flint has a population of 99,000 people, none of whom are even remotely capable of being competent humans.  Because competent humans do not sit around and let two separate governments that they elected poison their children.

If any competent humans had existed in the past, you can bet that at some point they thought to themselves “Hmm, we keep electing politicians who can’t balance a budget and can’t figure out how to provide basic services.  I could stay here, or I could move to another place where people have their shit together.”

It’s not hard to imagine where that line of reasoning went [hint: it’s why I moved from Illinois to Indiana.]

But Flint isn’t just Flint.  Flint is everywhere.  Detroit is Flint.  Stockton is Flint.  Harrisburg is Flint.  Apparently, most of Appalachia has been, is, and always will be Flint. Chicago is going to be Flint (I can’t even imagine the covered-up-oh-no-shit-piles that Daley the Younger left for Rahm Emmanuel upon the former’s departure).

But not everywhere is Flint.  Naperville, Illinois is not Flint.  Carmel, Indiana is not Flint.

People from Chicago could very well imagine their city government poisoning them.  People from Naperville could not.

The difference is that Chicago is full of children; Naperville is full of adults.  Chicago’s civil service is a jobs program whose main goal is not providing service, let alone civilly; Naperville’s civil service is, well, a civil service.

Charles Murray says that this is the white community “coming apart.”  And in part, this is true.  White Flight in the 1950’s and 1960’s was middle class whites trying to escape from poor blacks.  Today we’re seeing the same thing only with middle class whites fleeing from poor whites.

But that’s not the only problem.  Sure, competent humans have abandoned poor communities in droves, leaving them with ill-provided public services.  But the problem has metastasized into a national crisis, most evident in this presidential race and its dearth of support for actual, real adults running for office.

The Democratic Party has not seriously considered nominating a governor for President since 1996.  The Republican Party will not break bread with Kasich or Christie because they had the gall to be actual executives, which involves making actual complicated decisions instead of just giving nice speeches.

The same assholes who kept forwarding the little “miss me yet?” pictures of W in 2010 now refuse to support his brother because he speaks a foreign language.  The majority of Republicans want to either elect a used-car salesman who just got endorsed by a woman who found the job of governing Alaska, a state so rich in natural resources that the residents all get tax rebates, too difficult and quit or a man whose claim to fame is that he’s really good at making the government stop working.  The hope of conservatives in the party is a nice-looking, well-spoken, first term senator who talks very, very pretty.

At the same time, the Democrats have narrowed their field to two, one of whom literally made a career out of defending rapists, and the other of who lives closer to Canada, physically and mentally, than he does to Washington, D.C.

Some of us saw this coming. When the US in 2012 straight up looked at two candidates, one of whom was a competent, sober human being, and the other of whom was, well, not, and they picked door number two, that was it.  The American Electorate had firmly put themselves in the “children” camp.

There is no return from this.  The children aren’t going to grow up.  There is no super ego in America any more, just id.  Those of us who read our Nietzsche knew it was just a matter of time coming, anyway.

Like dogs resisting getting their nails trimmed, the large majority of Americans can no longer even see what’s good for them, let alone enact those things necessary for their survival (i.e. not poisoning one’s children unto death) or thriving (i.e. higher taxes and less spending).

But really, how could you expect a citizenry to be self-governing when they can’t even put their goddam carts away at Walmart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deals with the Devil

I do not see a future for Conservatives in the Republican Party

For years, Conservatives have known that there is a white supremacist underbelly among many of our co-Republicanists.  For years, we conservatives have been willing to let them vote in the Republican party in order to try to make political gains, thinking that even if they were the ones pulling the levers at the booth, we would be pulling the levers in Washington, using them for our own benefit.

It turns out we were wrong all the time.  We thought that as long as we were the captain, we could control the rats.  Now the rats have mutinied and we will go down with them.

Some history and some definitions

The great debacle really starts in the early 1900’s with Roosevelt.  By progressivism, I mean the idea that a government, run by smart people, should pretty much be given free rein to control whatever they think necessary in order to improve the lives of the citizenry.  From population control to food and drug standards to management of the economy, scientists (biologists, sociologists, statisticians, etc.) would see to it that the government and country was run in terms of the big picture, where individual liberties were sublimated to the greater good.

Progressivism was embraced by pretty much everyone in the ruling class, who, well, were already ruling.  Telling people “you’re so smart we want to put you in charge” isn’t a terribly hard sell.  This was especially true in the early 1900’s when higher education became more and more specialized and foreign to the layman.  In the 17- and 1800’s, plenty of smart, ambitious men could self-study and accord themselves well in educated circles.  A willingness to learn a little bit of Latin (for show) and access to a library of a few hundred books could get you a classical education.  By 1900, a sociologist, a physician, and a statistician lived in entirely different worlds of training, background, and thought.  Moreover, nobody could get to be a political economist without going through the (now) very stratified lanes of undergraduate-graduate-doctorate degrees.  The autodidact was gone, mostly because there was too much didact for any one auto to learn.

Whether for good or ill, this multifrucation of the sciences fed into the zeitgeist of progressivism.  Why leave society to its own mercy when there were so many people who were experts (and had the credentials to prove it) in solving its problems.  At heart, I think this is still why the Academy is so dominated by progressives.  It’s understandable that someone with a PhD in economics feels like they should have a little more control over an economy than Putzy the Burger-Flipper.

[*things have only gotten worse in higher education.  Jobs that used to require a general degree and some on the job training are now filled almost entirely by people with ultra-specialized degrees.  Try getting a job as a librarian without a degree in Library Science.  Cardinal Newman, by the way, warned about this centuries ago…]

The reaction against Progressivism was called Conservatism, which argued that maybe it was a bad idea to put the government in charge of everything and change things because maybe the experts would get it wrong.  Maybe the way things had always been done were done that way because it turns out that that was the correct way to do them.  This idea is closely tied together with Russell Kirk.

But there was another reaction to Progressivism that was rooted in an economic argument.  This is most closely associated with Friedrich Hayek, who basically argued that the experts couldn’t make good decisions because the questions were so complicated.  The government would be bad at running things because no one person or group could take into consideration all the data that society, as a self-organizing collective, could.  The government’s decisions were bound to be short-sighted and insufficient because not even a panel of experts new everything going on at all times.

Eventually, conservatives also ended up as the “sanctity-of-life” island in American politics, almost by default.  Progressives had always been more comfortable with the idea of government-sanctioned, -endorsed, and (from time to time) -forced sterilization, abortion, and euthanasia.  This was not immediate, though, and has much more to do with 1980’s politics than with any inherent belief in conservatism.

[It has always seemed silly to this author that the proposition that people should not be legally allowed to kill other people even needs to be argued]

The Problem and Its Very Bad No Good Solution

Conservatism was, therefore, essentially an ideology of skepticism in both its geneses.  Conservatism says “It’s preposterous that the government says it can make everyone richer and the way we’ve done things thus far have turned out pretty good anyway.”

In many ways, it’s an ideology of salutary neglect.  People are probably doing what’s best for themselves anyway, and government would just muck things up if it tried to get involved.

This turned out to be a hard sell, mostly because of human nature in a Democracy.  Franklin Roosevelt’s government may have done some very bad things to the economy, in aggregate, but helped out a lot of people individually.  Those individuals wound up with plenty of real belief that FDR had helped them personally, because he had.

[*Free Marketers will talk endlessly about the visible and invisible effects of economic policy, and that few government programs consider the enormous harm their solutions will cause.  They are absolutely right, but this plays terribly in the press.]

When Barry Goldwater ran for president saying that he was going to not do so much, this turned out not to be what people want to hear.  The conservative answer to a lot of problems (even rightly so) is “let’s not poke around because we’ll probably make it worse,” which doesn’t play as nicely as “I’m going to get you a bigger house and free college and other stuff.”

Conservatism also took some very stony-hearted, albeit principled, stances, especially in the area of civil rights.  Civil Rights was wholly a Republican-led movement politically in the 1950’s and early 60’s, and the fact that it is no longer is the greatest tragedy in modern American politics.  Goldwater’s opposition to desegregation as government policy, even though he himself agreed with it privately, would lead to the mess the Republican Party is in today.

Goldwater was not a racist, nor did he think segregation was a good thing.  He was opposed to government interference in business which led to his opposition in government telling businesses that they had to serve all customers.  It would be fairest to say that Goldwater was anti-Jim Crow and anti-desegregation for the same reason: both were government interference in business.

But this principled stance eventually became a cancerous tumor in the Republican Party.  Goldwater’s principles did not attract liberal-minded individuals that said “Wow, this guy really believes in liberty,” it brought in racists.

It’s not like racists completely abandoned the Democrat Party (I grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago.  Almost all the racists I knew growing up were Democrats).  But the Democrats were more comfortable with the idea of government intervention in business.  Moreover, the conservative, Kirkian ideas of tradition played well to Jim-Crowers.

And so, over the years, racists came into the Republican party and began departing from the Democrats.

Conservatives knew this was happening all along.

Conservatives, personally had little appetite for racism, but were willing to allow their principles to be used as cover for racists.  When Goldwater got the support of the deep south, he might have said to himself, “they must really love the free market down there!” but in his heart he knew “they must really hate niggers down there.”

And today it’s not just niggers.  Are you a white person who hates Jews?  Catholics?  Mexicans?  The Republican party is your party.

Sure there are racists in the Democrat Party.  If you’re a black person and you hate Jews, you’re a Democrat.  And, like I said earlier, I knew plenty of racist Chicago Democrats growing up.

But the grandchildren of segregationists in Alabama?  They’re Republicans now.  Sure they talk about “immigration” and “demography” and whatever, but they really are just racists who don’t like the idea of white people not being in power.

They are fundamentally anti-conservative in economic sense.  To them, minorities in the USA are taking jobs and benefits that rightfully belong to white people.  Welfare isn’t a problem.  Government jobs aren’t a problem.  A big government isn’t a problem.  The problem is that the big ol’ government teets are beset with so many non-whites, that the white little piggies can’t get what they deserve.

And conservatives knew this was happening.  And we allowed it to happen because we needed the votes.  We thought that even though we were letting Satan vote for our guy, our guy would be the one to put in limited government/tax reform/free market whatever.

And we said, “But we’re not racists.  I’m not racist!  I like Thomas Sowell and Alan Keyes and Walter Williams!  I want economic and social policies that will empower and enrich black humans!  I oppose the black genocide of targeted abortions!”

And we’re not racists, but we let them into the party.  And for too long we’ve sat at the same table and broken bread with the little rat bastard monsters so that we could get our guy into office.

Conclusion

But it hasn’t worked.  Regan’s presidency was a fiscal nightmare.  Bush the Elder got us stuck in the never-ending saga of “As the Saddam Turns”.  Bush the Younger took budget surpluses and pissed it down whatever rat holes he could find, with a happy little smirk on his face as he decided the Middle East abattoir was a few knives short.  So much for conservatives looking for the invisible consequences of actions…

And so here we are today.  Conservatives trying desperately to survive in a party of nativists, here at our invitation.  And we won’t.

We won’t because there is a very sad truth about Conservatism in the United States in the “free-market, limited-government, sanctity-of-life triad” sense.

We’re just not that popular.  We never have been.  The Republican Party doesn’t give two shits for us because we don’t bring in the votes.  We’re token intellectuals at best.  Hired guns to lend our principles to the service of Racism, Cronyism, and the Military-Industrial complex.

We are not the masters in the Republican Party.  We are the pets.

There is no hope for Conservatism in the United States.  It will continue to be a niche political philosophy, ill at home in the republic that needs it.  The nation’s fiscal status and social fabric are torn beyond repair.  Like the Caesars of old, our political leaders can only win by promising bigger circuses and cheaper bread.  American society has no appetite for hardship as a character building exercise and no will or motivation to fix its own problems.

We are alien here.  As we have always been.  Go to Mass, confession, and your job.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  And remember that there is another world awaiting those who love their neighbors as themselves.

And in that blessed place will be no Trumpkins.

 

 

The New Eugenicists (which is a good name for a band)

I just finished a book about genealogy, DNA, and history, called The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures, by Christine Kenneally.  There was a lot of interesting stuff in there about how people have used genealogy  in their self-identifications, including some very good chapter on Eugenics.

There was a very, very, large moral blind spot in her work though, and that’s the connection between the pro-abortion movement and eugenics.

I’ll not dwell on the connection between Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood, and the eugenics movement of the early 1900’s, which were so much more widespread that most people understand (or refuse to see.  I have lots of pro-PP friends who don’t want to see the connection).

I’d rather talk to the modern Eugenics movement, which is very present at most levels of society today.  At the most banal, this shows itself in the “abortion prevents poverty, crime, and welfare payments” section of the pro-choice movement.  At its most pernicious levels, it’s the casual genocide against unborn with actual or potential diseases or defects.

It is not a great secret that overwhelming majorities of parents, when faced with a down-syndrome child in utero, choose to kill it rather than raise it or offer it for adoption (for the most half-assed politifact check ever, see their partisan two-step around Rick Santorum’s claim at http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/feb/27/rick-santorum/rick-santorum-says-90-percent-down-syndrome-childr/).

That by itself needs to sink in.  When offered a down syndrome child, most parents kill it.  After the Americans with Disabilities Act, after the TV show “Life Goes On,” most parents still choose to kill their child.

Dr. Kenneally devotes a large chunk of her book to Huntington’s disease and other Mendelian diseases (which are solely expressed by genetics; i.e. if you have a certain gene, you have the disease), most closely following the career and work of a Huntington’s researcher who himself has Huntington’s Disease.

The doctor and his wife, fearful that the disease would be passed on to their own children, chose to have children by creating embryo’s ex utero, then only implanting the non-Huntington’s ones.  The author did not ask him any questions about his choice to use a procedure which, had it been practiced his own parents, would have meant he would have never lived.

I think Jeff Carroll’s life is probably the strongest argument that we ought not arbitrarily kill humans because they will have diseases or disabilities.  Huntington’s will claim his life a some point in the next 20 years, but in his lifetime, he made tremendous advances to humanity.  Had Stephen Hawking’s parents known he would develop ALS, should they have killed him?

I could sit here an make a list of famous people with disabilities (they already exist:http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/article_0060.shtml), but I don’t think it adds more to this discussion.

People, all people, are potential resources for humanity.  We don’t know where the man that invents the cure for cancer will be born, or what genetic problems the woman that enables faster than light travel will come from.  From a purely utilitarian perspective, we do not need to worry about producing “too many” children.  We are not in a situation where we can only take the children with the most genetically beneficial traits.  The glory of humanity is that genius comes from anywhere, sometimes in broken packages.