Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
I should admit up front that, in most cases, I am no more compassionate than I am tolerant. It's not that I am (or claim to be) heartless, it is just that I have priorities, and compassion ranks rather low on that list. If we were to make a list of common virtues - fair, honest, just, compassionate, etc. - it is say to say that, for me, compassionate would not make the top ten. What I am writing today does not exactly describe me, but I am the exception. Take an honest look around you and you would know that is true.
The point of this bumper sticker, of course, is that conservatives are not compassionate, do not believe in compassion, or, frankly, are heartless monsters. No one who lives in the real world can honestly make this claim, and yet modern Leftists do make this claim often. How does that work? Well, "real world" and "honestly" are a couple of very important parts of that sentence and the specific modern Leftists who make this claim do not exactly have a good working relationship with either concept.
Reading the attitudes expressed in these posts, it should come as no surprise that most of the people with whom I usually associate would be labeled as conservative (many are like me and only seem conservative in some areas but even they are often more conservative than not - what might be surprising is the number of friends I have who could not be described as conservative in any shape, form, or fashion). I often irritate the hell out of them (there are many conservative ideologies with which I simply will not play along) but it usually works out because my core beliefs (TANSTAAFL and MYODB) are such that the pitfalls can be worked around.
My point is that I know many conservatives, and I know these people on a personal level. I see their daily activities and their political pontificating. I don't just see what they say they believe, I see what their actions demonstrate they believe. Let me tell you about the conservative who spends every winter helping to collect Christmas toys for under-privileged children, regardless of what kind of weather that means standing around in. Let me tell you about the conservative who cries at the funeral of a stranger, because that stranger was important to a non-stranger. Let me tell you about the conservative who always has a meal for someone who needs it, even though that conservative lives on a limited fixed income. Let me tell you about the conservative who has given a home and a family to children who lost the original through abuse and neglect. Don't tell me conservatives aren't compassionate because I will call you a liar.
That is the basis of this warped modern Left, though. Deny reality, lie about the other side, and apply labels that just don't fit. If you disagree with them about healthcare, they won't look to see why you disagree. They'll just say you have no compassion. If you disagree with them about immigration, they won't look to see why you disagree. They'll just say you have no compassion. If you disagree with them about how taxes should be spent, they won't look to see why you disagree. They'll just say you have no compassion. It is so much easier when you don't have to debate with your opponent. Just insult them, deny their humanity, and ignore them.
It may be easier, but it isn't true and it isn't right. "You're racist." "You don't care about the environment." "You don't care about the poor." "Do it for the children." "You have no compassion." Whenever you hear these phrases (or many more like them) you should be warned that you are probably not dealing with someone who is arguing through facts. You're dealing with someone who wants to derail debate by punching emotional hot buttons. You are not dealing with someone who is interested in honesty, reality, or an exchange of ideas. You are dealing with a bully who is only interested in getting his own way, by any means necessary. Bullies have no place in the realm of policy debate.
Mature adults can disagree without resulting to childish non sequiturs. You'll notice I didn't say "childish insults" because "insult" is in the eye of the beholder. Much of what I say can be construed as insulting, but it cannot be construed as non sequitur. In a real debate, one fact (or opinion) follows another, in an identifiable line. When you have to jump to something that does not follow from what is being said, that is not a real debate and it is a tactic not being used by a mature adult.
Of course, mature adults don't assume that something they do will annoy someone else just because that someone else doesn't do it. Assuming people to be that thin skinned says more about you than about anyone else.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Let me be perfectly clear right up front. I don't believe in tolerance, at least not in the way it is defined by the modern Oh So Tolerant crowd. The idea that we should tolerate everything and everyone is laughable. Rational judgment is part of what it means to be human, and that includes judging between what is and is not tolerable.
Should I tolerate the man who is trying to kill me? Of course not. Should I tolerate the man who tries to steal the food from my children? Absolutely not. Should I tolerate something that is abhorrent to my core beliefs? How is that even possible?
It is not and cannot be tolerance or the absence of tolerance that defines proper behavior. It is, rather, the reason for that tolerance or absence of tolerance and it is the action (or actions) taken in response. Only this standard can produce proper behavior. Don't believe me? Take a look at the behavior of the crowd whose claim is that tolerance, itself, is the standard.
These people preach tolerance in all things and constantly use that standard to attack anyone they deem as intolerant. Of course, in most cases, simply disagreeing with them is grounds for being deemed intolerant (good thing I admit to being intolerant - rather takes the sting out of their attacks). If you cross one of their lines, they feel fully justified in falling upon you with all of the wrath of their so-called tolerance.
It was those preaching tolerance who felt justified in stealing every issue of a college newspaper because it contained an editorial they deemed to be intolerant.
It was those preaching tolerance who felt justified in invading and disrupting a college speaking engagement because they deemed the speaker (who had been invited by the people who were there to hear him) to be intolerant.
It has been those preaching tolerance who have suggested that insulting the president should be an arresting offense (never mind the fact that they hurled insults and more at the previous president).
It has been those preaching tolerance who have claimed in one breath that there should be no debate about the Ground Zero Mosque (because "we were not attacked by Islam") and, in the very next breath, declare that all religion should be banned (I guess we were attacked by "all religion" when I wasn't looking).
This has been an ongoing problem, as should be suggested by the list of examples (that first listed instance happened about five years ago, if I remember correctly), but that last example was the reason I decided to write this article. I participated in that "debate" and was almost stopped dead in my tracks by the direction it went. One group of people do not want a particular building erected in a particular location and they are intolerant, yet some of the very people screaming at them about intolerance declare that all religion should be banned. That is supposed to be an example of tolerance?
Of course that is not an example of tolerance. What that is an example of is the fact that most people actually think the way I do on this subject, they just don't state it as such because they believe that would make them look bad. Human beings are not tolerant creatures. We tolerate what we believe is right to tolerate and we do not tolerate what we believe is not right to tolerate. The only thing preaching tolerance accomplishes is convincing people to lie about their motives and claim to be tolerant when they obviously are not.
Being intolerant is no sin. Being intolerant for stupid reasons is. Acting stupidly because of your intolerance is. I don't tolerate stupid people, but I don't run around slapping every stupid person I see (that would be quite an exercise program). Why would I? That would be a gross overreaction and it would not accomplish one single useful thing.
Be honest about your life. Don't lie about what you will or will not tolerate and certainly don't lie about the fact that there are things you will not tolerate. Check your reasons for those, though, and make sure they make sense. Check your actions in regard to what you will not tolerate and make sure those actions are in proportion. Make sure you are not making things worse. Make sure you are not acting the same way you claim to not tolerate.
Most of us won't tolerate a fly in the kitchen, but we don't swat the fly with a bomb. Think about it.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
The specific action this time is Reid's declared decision to tack the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors) Act as an amendment onto the upcoming defense appropriations bill. A defense bill that almost always passes easily with bilateral support. A defense bill that pays for our military. A defense bill that should never be twisted for the purpose of supporting the campaigns of our professional criminal class in Congress.
The short description of the DREAM Act is that it is an illegal immigration amnesty act. Period. The longer description is that it gives a path to amnesty to "undocumented aliens" who entered this country before the age of 16, have been here at least 5 years, and have received a High School Diploma or GED or are attending college. It also gives a route to extra scholarships and grants for said "undocumented alien" to continue his or her education. The DREAM act has been floating around since 2001 and has had so little support that it has rarely even come up for vote, and has never seen even the possibility of success on those rare occasions when it has made it out of committee.
To say that the DREAM Act is controversial is to say that stepping on a land mine hurts.
This story gets worse when you add in the fact that this simple defense appropriations bill has already been weighed down by the addition of an amendment to repeal the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, hardly a noncontroversial amendment itself.
Of all the low down, dirty, rotten tricks! In essence, the Democrats (and Reid specifically) are attempting to hold the defense bill hostage by loading it up with Easter Eggs which are great for their party but unpalatable to the other side. They are taking a bill that would normally have bilateral support and turning it into just another ideological battleground. In this manner, the Republicans either have to vote for something they strongly oppose or vote against something they strongly support. Then, of course, the Democrats get to lie about the results either way. If the law passes it's, "See, even the Republicans are for this," when everyone knows the Republicans were only voting for the military, and if the law fails it's, "See, the Republicans really hate the military," when everyone knows the Republicans were really voting against the DREAM. It is a lose-lose for everyone except far left career criminals.
This should be impossible. This should be illegal! A single bill should not require people to vote in two different directions. A bill that has no chance on its own should not be forced down people's throats by tacking it onto an easy win. The entire bill amendment/rider process is flush with corruption and abuse and needs to go away yesterday!
Some states include in their constitution a prohibition against just this behavior. By their state constitutions, a state bill must be about one subject and only one subject and cannot be used to sneak additional laws into play. I have said for decades that we need an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that does the same. Everyone talks about corruption in Congress, but no one does anything about it. This would do something about it. This would remove one of their most blatant tools of corruption. Of course, if we trimmed them back to Constitutional authority and took away their assumed power to pass laws on anything and everything that enters their crooked little minds, that would go a long way toward stamping out their corruption. It is a bit more difficult to be corrupt when you have nothing to sell.
This is not about Right or Left, Democrat or Republican. This same practice occurred under Republicans and will occur again regardless of which party holds office. This is not even about whether or not you like the laws in question. If you like them so much, get up off your lazy butts and campaign for them to have a chance on their own! This is about the inherently corrupt process of making a Frankenstein's monster out of disparate, unrelated bills and forcing people to vote against their conscience or true desires.
Everyone wants a better America, but you cannot have a better anything through corruption. The corruption will always eat through and destroy what you were trying to build. If you truly want a better country then fight against corruption, even when that corruption appears to be on your side.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
This statement is not exclusive to the creatures (and no, I will never refer to indiscriminate murderers as human beings) who attacked us on September 11, 2001, but it certainly applies. That attack was barbaric, plain and simple. Regardless of one's opinion on war or anything of that nature, the people on those planes, the people in those buildings, the people who were only going about their daily lives cannot be defined as combatants in any meaningful way. Nearly 3,000 innocent bystanders dead, not as collateral damage, but as intentional targets. The distinction matters, though there are many who try to cover it up.
If you disagree with war at all times and for all reasons then no amount of discussion will persuade you. We don't speak the same language, so it is a waste of time for us to speak. It amazes me, though, how often it is these very people who make excuses for the other side yet refuse to even hear a defense for ours.
If, however, you and I do speak a common tongue, if you can find meaning in the words I write - whether or not you agree with them - then I hope that you will at least consider what I have to say.
I believe in force as an answer to force, but never as an initiating factor. Translation: It is never justified to initiate violence but it may be justified to retaliate. For defense, to stop violence, to prevent further violence. I believe these may all be justifiable uses of force. There really are times when nothing else will work but to fight fire with fire.
If you have to fight then people are going to get hurt. If you have to fight a war then people are going to die. Going in with your eyes closed will not change reality. To make matters worse, when you fight a war, some people who die will be those who were only caught in the crossfire. This can be minimized, but I know of no way to prevent it completely. Accidents happen under the best of circumstances.
Those who love to bash America and America's military love to talk about collateral damage while ignoring how much effort America's military puts into trying to avoid or minimize such damage. I am something of a history buff and I know of no major military force in history that has put so much effort into trying to avoid or minimize collateral damage as the modern American military. To dismiss this fact is to argue through dishonesty.
Collateral damage cannot be compared with what happened on September 11, 2001. That was not collateral damage! Those were not unintended targets! Nearly 3,000 civilians died because they were targeted for death!
Has America ever attacked civilians in such a manner? Yes, we have, in a declared war - which this was not! - as a last ditch effort, and nearly 70 years ago. Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even America's bombing targets have been carefully selected as military targets and to minimize civilian casualties. Think about it. With America's overwhelming bombing capabilities, how long could any war last if we were not intentionally holding back to minimize collateral damage? There are few nations in the world who could stand against us if we played by the same rules as the creatures who attacked us on 9-11.
But we don't play by those rules, and it is past time that the America bashers acknowledged and admitted that fact.
On this day, nine years ago, 2,974 people were killed because some people still believe that violence in the name of religion is acceptable human behavior. Those people were monsters and those who support them are monsters. 2,974 people died - and countless more continue to die - because monsters have been allowed to roam this world unopposed. Other people make excuses and stroke their own egos, but the monsters are still roaming this world. Have you forgotten what those monsters are willing to do? We have not!
Friday, September 10, 2010
I sincerely hope that I am not alone in believing both sides to be wrong, but watching the news coverage on this topic is discouraging, to say the least. Does no one else notice that there are two distinct levels to this argument or that the two levels are not inherently tied together?
It boils down to this: There are those who say that building a mosque at the site of the 9-11 attacks is the epitome of offensive and disrespectful and there are those who say that America's ideal of religious freedom does not allow for prohibiting this building. Does no one else notice that these two statements do not answer each other?
To make matters worse, there are those on one side saying that this building should be legally blocked and there are those on the other side saying it isn't disrespectful because "it isn't a mosque and it isn't at Ground Zero."
In other words, the whole thing is muddled almost beyond repair because no one can even agree on what it is that is being argued.
Let's be absolutely clear here.
There is no legal recourse for blocking this building, nor should there be. Creating such a recourse would be diminishing our ideals of freedom and thus giving in to the very creatures who attacked us in the first place. That is unacceptable. Don't give me the "we're at war" answer either. Go back through my blog and see that I am well aware of that fact. Religious freedom is religious freedom and we, as the first nation to enshrine that freedom, cannot go against it without betraying our very existence. Unless and until that building is used to actively promote or engage in treason, the building cannot be legally blocked simply because it is of a certain religion. The location does not magically make the religion illegal!
Now that I have angered the very people who are usually on my side, I hope you will continue reading.
Erecting that building on that location is a slap in the face of every American who died on 9-11, every American who lost loved ones on 9-11, and every American who felt the pain of 9-11. Claiming to use that building to bridge the gap or create peace is a lie, whether intentional or not. That building will not bridge the gap nor create peace and it is utterly impossible to honestly argue otherwise.
It does not matter that the building will not actually be a mosque. It will contain a mosque, it will be built with Muslim funds, and it will be named for a Muslim holy site. No matter how many multi-faith uses it also contains, you cannot connect those dots in any way that doesn't say it will be a primarily Muslim-use building.
It doesn't matter that the building is not at absolute Ground Zero. The location was specifically chosen for its proximity to Ground Zero. Even those who are trying to erect this building refer to the location as a part of Ground Zero. Claiming that two blocks away makes it not Ground Zero is splitting hairs in the worst and most useless way.
We are not at war with Islam. That argument is accurate and valid. Muslims died in the 9-11 attack. Even dismissing the creatures who performed the attack, that argument is also accurate and valid. These arguments, however, do not change the fact that the creatures who performed the attack did so in the name of Islam. It is not the fact that they were Muslim that makes this disrespectful. It is the fact that they attacked because they were Muslim and believed that the attack was upholding and honoring their religion.
A Muslim cannot erect a Muslim-use building without using that building to glorify Islam. There is nothing wrong with that. A Christian cannot erect a Christian-use building without using that building to glorify Christianity, a Hindu cannot erect a Hindu-use building without using that building to glorify Hinduism, etc etc, round and round we go. A person who truly believes in a certain faith is going to at least attempt to glorify that faith in everything he or she does. That is a no-brainer. You cannot, however, attempt to bridge the gap or create peace between a religion and people who - whether right or wrong - believe they were attacked by that religion by erecting a building which glorifies that religion on the site of the attack. That, too, is a no-brainer.
I have a difficult time believing in Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's sincerity. He does not strike me as a stupid individual and yet he is bent on performing what appears to be a stupid action. He claims that he wants to erect this building to foster peace when it is plainly obvious that it is doing anything but fostering peace. There is a contradiction here, and I do not believe in contradictions. Either the man is an idiot or he is lying. Neither answer is exactly flattering.
If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf chooses to go forward with this disrespectful act then he must be allowed to do so. No other action is fitting to the American ideal. That does not, however, mean that anyone has to like it or quietly accept it. It is also within the American ideal that we speak out against what we believe to be wrong. No one else should help him pretend that this is a respectful act. We cannot legally stop him from being offensive, but we can let him know that we are offended. If your neighbor is offensive, you do not seek to legally stop him from being so (assuming, of course, that his behavior is merely boorish and not actually illegal), but you don't reward him for his behavior either. You do not attend his gatherings, you do not associate with him, and you do not claim that he is a good person. If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf insists on being a boorish neighbor then he should be shunned as any other boorish neighbor would. Let him have his building, then let him try to claim his high ideals when no one uses his building except for those who are as offensive as he is.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Neither side seems to understand that those are both oversimplified. You have to spend money to make money, but you also have to be careful where you spend your money and I've never worked for a company that didn't spend as much time cutting spending as it did spending. Cutting the budget is great and often necessary, but you do have to eat and pay the bills. You are liable to dislike the results if you decide the utilities bill is something you can cut from your budget.
That nicely sums up the problem with the ongoing debate. We'll ignore, for the moment, the fact that America is not a business (we'll come back to it though) and simply take the two sides for what they are. The first statement does still apply. While we do not often think of it the same way, you do still have to spend money at home in order to make money. You have to spend money on the gas to get to and from work (even if you work from home, there is still an effective travel expense in higher utilities or internet bills). You probably have to spend money on eating away from home. In most careers, you have to spend money on having the proper clothes and grooming. You may have to spend money on child care. Yes, even at home you have to spend money to make money.
However, you do not spend money on that fancy three-piece suit and claim that it is an expense to make money if you work at the local grocery store (maybe, if you hold a few specific positions at that store, but that is unlikely). You don't spend money on that shiny new game console and claim that is spending money to make money. You don't spend money on a brand new F150 and claim that is spending to make money when you work a minimum wage job six blocks down the street.
You have to spend money to make money, but you have to spend money the right way. In your home budget, when your spouse questions your extravagant spending, you don't get to dismiss those concerns by simply saying, "I'm spending money to make money." If you can't show how you're spending money to make money, the next bit of money you spend might be on a divorce lawyer.
Likewise, you can't just cut spending anywhere you want in order to save money. You have to eat. Even if you grow your own food, you will probably still have to spend money on basic supplies and tools. Unless you prefer the Stone Age (and can somehow get your family to play along), you probably do not have the choice of cutting the electric bill from the budget and, if you live in town, you won't be cutting the water bill either. There is a certain amount of spending that cannot be cut, though most of it can possibly be reduced (use less electricity, eat cheaper foods, etc.). You cannot, however, reduce expenses to zero and still be a household. Reducing expenses to zero results in homelessness, quite the opposite of a household.
A nation is not a business (told you we would get back to that). That is, a nation is not in the business of making a profit. A nation does not do things for the purpose of making money. A nation makes money for the purpose of paying required bills and providing required amenities, like a household. A nation is a very large household. Aside from removing the profit motive, however, we have seen that the rules don't change very much. They do change in one significant way, though. A nation does not get to say that it requires a certain tax because that tax would generate a certain revenue. That is the province of business. A nation must say that it needs this revenue to cover this expense. That is the province of a household. I have no sympathy when I see those budget reports that say the government is losing X amount of dollars by not charging X tax or fees. Too bad! It's my money, not yours. You are the employee, not the employer. Show me why you deserve that extra pay and then we can discuss it.
As long as our nation is spending extra money on unnecessary Playstations, F150's, and three-piece suits before paying the basic, required bills, though, I don't want to hear any crying about how it can't afford to pay the basics. There is a certain kind of person who answers every budget discussion with, "You want this but you don't want to pay for it," and then believes the discussion is over. No, I want this and don't want to pay for a Playstation and this. If this basic, necessary expense can be covered by eliminating the cost of the Playstation then why should I pay more before the cost of the Playstation is eliminated? Don't tell me you need more money while you're still spending to play before you've paid the bills. I have to pay the bills first and the government should be no different.
You have to spend money to make money, but you have to spend the right money in the right way. Right now our government spends so much money on extra bells and whistles that there is absolutely no point in even discussing raising taxes on anything until those bells and whistles have been addressed. We on different sides of the debate will no doubt disagree on what constitutes an extra bell and whistle, and we should be discussing that, but most of us agree that there are extra bells and whistles, which are costing us a fortune. Yes, we need to spend and cut but, like any household, we need to look at where we can cut before we start looking at where else we can spend.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new winner for the Stupid Lawsuits award!
Dear Mr. Smallwood, there are no chemicals or subliminal brainwashing in Lineage II that would cause you to be addicted. What you are calling "addicting", most people would simply call "entertaining". It seems to me that most people who play these games want them to be more entertaining and so suing a game designer for providing exactly what their customer base wants does not even come close to making sense.
Is it possible to be addicted to video games? Sure it is. I am an avid gamer myself and I am certain that there have been times when my wife has questioned my addiction levels. That is not, however, the game maker's fault or responsibility. They are providing a product we have paid them to provide and, if the game is "addicting", that just means they are doing a good job.
I have to say, I have never played Lineage II. I never played Lineage either. If it is that entertaining, maybe I am missing out. I have played other NCSoft games and they generally do good work. It would be a shame if they had to make their games less entertaining just because of certain idiots in their player base.
I have seen some people commenting that maybe these game designers should have some sort of counselling position on staff, someone who would pop in and "chat" with players who are spending "too much time" playing these games. Why? That is not the game designer's responsibility! Most of these games already do pop up in-game messages that say something on the order of, "You have been playing for an extended amount of time. Please take a break." Personally, I find even those messages to be annoying and intrusive. If some game designer decided to add some sort of teeth to the "take a break advice", I would simply take my game money elsewhere. I have no doubt that I am not alone in this regard. I am paying you. Shut up and provide the service and product I am buying.
There is a dark underbelly to this story. According to papers filed by NCSoft in their defense, Smallwood was engaged in real money transfers. Not being specifically familiar with Lineage II, I have to generalize this from my knowledge of other MMOs, but basically it means that he was either buying or selling game currency with real money, a practice that is expressly forbidden in the Terms of Service. It is so forbidden, in fact, that all of Smallwood's game accounts were terminated and banned in 2009. It is rather amusing that Smallwood did not realize that he was "addicted" until after he was banned, isn't it? There couldn't be an ulterior motive to this lawsuit, could there?
Open and ready access to the courts for redress of grievances is an American principle that certainly needs to be maintained. However, we need - just as much - to develop a system that will prevent trash lawsuits like this from clogging up our courts. This kind of lawsuit is largely to blame for the expense, inefficiency, and just plain frustration of our judicial system. Not to mention the fact that, if it does go to trial, NCSoft has to waste time and money on a defense when the defense should be as simple as "He's an idiot - case closed." There are a number of steps between here and a full-fledged trial, though. Hopefully a judge at one of those steps will toss this case into the trash heap where it belongs.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Let me be clear that this is not a review for this movie. I have not seen The Expendables and probably won't be seeing it any time soon. That isn't a statement against the movie; just a statement against theaters. I dislike crowds and so I have to really want to see a movie before I will brave the masses to see something on the big screen. I will probably see this movie (and it does look like I will probably enjoy it), but I will wait until I can watch it at home and not have to put up with the pushing and shoving and noise and mess of going to the theater. While I do think I will enjoy it, I don't think I will enjoy it that much.
So why am I complaining about a movie I haven't seen but expect to enjoy? Because it really irks me when the marketing department tells me that I am going to see a movie that is not the movie on the screen. I walked out of Antonio Banderas' Desperado for that very reason (I was promised a cool action movie and got a cheesy comedy that just happened to also have some action instead).
The Expendables has been billed as a ... tribute might be the right word ... tribute to 80s action movies, complete with bringing together, for the first time ever, three of the biggest 80s action icons in one movie.
The first problem with that premise is that one of the three is not an 80s action icon. Bruce Willis is an action icon. There is no doubt about that. However, he was not such an icon yet in the 80s. In the 80s, Willis was a romantic comedy icon ("Moonlighting", anyone?). He had one stand-out action movie in the 80s (Die Hard which, to be honest and fair, was one of the nest action movies from the 80s) but the bulk of his action credit, and his status as an action icon, didn't come until the 90s.
It is a somewhat trivial complaint, I agree, but a legitimate complaint just the same. Would it still be cool to see Willis, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger together in an action movie, despite their being action icons from different decades? Absolutely! That, however, leads us to the second problem with this movie's premise.
Willis, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger aren't really in an action movie together. They all three appear in the same action movie and they even have a scene where they all three appear together, but that's as far as it goes. Their scene together is not an action scene; it is a talking scene. Three of the biggest names in movie action are finally brought together in one scene and they ... talk. Someone seriously missed an opportunity here.
The movie that is supposed to represent the glory of 80s action movies and star three of the biggest action stars ever, doesn't. It has, essentially, cameo appearances from two of them, and boring cameos at that. The bulk of the movie stars modern action stars or wrestlers who haven't even made it up to "action star" yet, and that is not what the marketing department promised.
None of this means that The Expendables will be a bad movie. I have already said that I expect to enjoy it. I like Jason Statham and Jet Li and, from what I've read, they appear to have prominent roles. I do think, however, that there will be quite a bit of disappointment with this movie and it will probably be disappointment that the movie doesn't deserve. It won't be disappointment with the movie itself, but disappointment that the movie was not what was promised by the marketing department.
The Universal Bill of Rights
1. Every person has the right to be the sole authority over his or her own life unless the exercise of this right would initiate force, fraud, or coercion to directly infringe on the freedom of another.
2. Every person has the right to defend himself or herself against force from any other person. Every person has the right to prepare for this defense unless the exercise of this right would initiate force, fraud, or coercion to directly infringe on the freedom of another.
3. Every person has the right to be secure in his or her own possessions and to be the sole authority over those possessions unless the exercise of this right would initiate force, fraud, or coercion to directly infringe on the freedom of another. At no time and for no reason shall this right be violated without provable cause, due process, and just compensation.
4. Every person has the right to speak, write, or print anything or to express themselves in any other manner unless the exercise of this right would initiate force, fraud, or coercion to directly infringe on the freedom of another.
5. Every person has the right to be secure in his or her own belief and all the practices of that belief unless the exercise of this right would initiate force, fraud, or coercion to directly infringe on the freedom of another.
6. Every person has the right to freely associate or not associate with any other person or persons and to use any legally owned property for this purpose unless the exercise of this right would initiate force, fraud, or coercion to directly infringe on the freedom of another.
7. Every person has the right to equal protection under the law, where he or she is judged only by facts relevant to the present situation and no distinction is made for non-relevant facts, opinions, or beliefs.
8. Every person accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial where innocence is assumed and guilt must be proven. Every such person has the right to full and fair representation where all relevant evidence is reviewed and only relevant evidence is considered. All such people have the right to abstain from self-incrimination.
9. Every parent, because they are responsible for their children, has the right to limit the rights of those children toward the process of teaching responsibility for those rights. Every person has the right to expect parents to be responsible for their children. Every child has the right to expect their parents to provide protection, support, and education. Every child also has the right to expect their parents to only limit the child's rights in direct proportion to the child's understanding of and ability to be responsible for those rights.
10. Every person has the right to expect their government to perform those limited functions required of government to the best of its ability and using only such means as are actually required to perform these functions. Every person has the right to expect their government to make no attempt to perform extra functions which would limit the freedom of the people. The people have the right to demand or force the removal of any government which violates this right.
The Universal Bill of Non-Rights
11. Any person unwilling or unable to afford any other person or persons any of the preceding rights shall have his or her rights curtailed in direct proportion.
12. No government has a right to govern but does so only by the will of the people. No government has the right to perform any functions which would limit the freedom of the people and which the people can do without governmental interference.
13. No agency, business, or any other collective group has any rights or privileges as a group. All such groups are made up of people and it is these people who possess rights and privileges.
14. No person has the right to anything that was not earned, freely given, or acquired through legal contract.
15. No person has the right to succeed. No person has the right to wealth. No person has the right to expect anything more than to try. Everything beyond trying shall be seen as a bonus and not a right.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Getting Rights Right
Do People Have a Right to Services?
Here lately, I’ve lost track of how often I hear people talking about rights. Every time I turn around, someone is screaming about his right to this or her right to that. Frankly, it’s gotten to the point where I cringe every time I hear it, which is pretty sad considering how ardent a supporter of rights I am. My apprehension with this, however, is understandable when considered in the proper light. It is virtually impossible to defend rights to the fullest when people can’t even agree on how to define them.
One of the most visible examples of this in the current public discussion is the so-called Single Payer Health Plan. This plan, under various modified forms and differing names, is basically modeled after the socialized medical systems that can be found in such countries as Canada and England (though it is interesting to note that both of these countries have actually been moving or considering moving away from this system and toward more privatization in recent years). The central point of any such plan is tax-subsidized medical services that allow all people to have at least basic access without payment rendered at the time of service or due at a later date. I won’t just say “without payment” because, unless one doesn’t pay taxes, the service has actually been paid for, only before the fact. In this way, it is similar to an insurance plan, though usually without a deductible or co-pay. The only significant differences are that the payments are controlled by the government through taxes and that no one is allowed to opt out, neither the patient choosing to not use this form of insurance nor the doctor choosing to not accept this form of payment.
Also central is the justification for the control issue that is necessary for the plan: everyone has a right to medical services.
This is difficult to argue against without sounding like an ogre. Whenever we see someone who is sick or in pain, most of us want that person to have the necessary help. We don’t tend to think past that point. With Step One right in front of us, we often don’t think we have time to worry about Step Two and we’ll just deal with that when we get there. While wanting to fix the immediate problem is a natural human desire, refusing to look past the immediate problem frequently gets us into more trouble than it’s worth.
What if the solution we demand in Step One creates a problem in Step Two? In this case, we haven’t really solved anything; we’ve only postponed the problem. Postponing the problem is exactly what we’re doing when we confuse the issue and assign the value of “this is a right” where it does not belong.
In the example of Single Payer Health Plans, if everyone has a right to medical services, someone MUST provide those services. In Step One the patient has received service, but in Step Two the provider has been forced to render service, regardless of personal choice. Can it really be a right if it forces the violation of another person's rights? A carpenter has a right to not build a house. A farmer has a right to not grow crops. Does a doctor not have the equivalent right to not provide medical services? Why can I force a doctor to operate on me when I can’t force a farmer to feed me? Has the very act of graduating from medical school somehow changed the doctor’s rights and, if so, why aren’t students warned of this before they enroll?
While some may argue that it is issues of health or “quality of life” that alter this situation, I believe that my choice of counter examples demonstrates at least the inequality of this philosophy. Surely we all agree that food and shelter are equally health and quality of life issues. Yet even when we do step into these areas, we do not insist that every provider must play within the same government mandated game. We interfere only on a case-by-case basis where we actually deem it necessary and leave everyone else to play their own game. Why the insistence that health care be given its own all-encompassing set of rules?
Furthermore, if health care is a right, what happens when no one can provide it? If we can force doctors to render service, can we not also force eligible students to enter medical school so that we maintain the necessary amount of providers? If those who believe that health care is a right cannot embrace the logic of this idea, perhaps there is a flaw in their understanding of rights. Why is it appropriate to force one class of people but not appropriate to force another class toward the same purpose? It is an inconsistency that cannot be answered.
The reason for this is a faulty definition of rights. When properly defined, one right cannot cancel out another. I have the right to write this essay and you have the right to not read it. My right to write cannot force you to read and your right to not read cannot force me to not write. That’s the way it works, or at least that’s the way it should work.
By this definition, the only way I have a right to medical care is if I can provide it to myself. A right to health care otherwise would cancel out the provider’s right to free association and remove his right to govern his own labor. In any other situation, we would quite rightly call this slavery.
No one has the right to inflict slavery on another person, regardless of the situation. While it would certainly be nice to help people have access to medical services, we should be careful to not falsely define this generosity as a right. Courtesy isn’t a right, no matter how much better it might make the world.
If one wishes to defend rights, start by defining them correctly and consistently. If one wishes to promote access to health care, start by remembering that there are people with real rights on both sides of the issue. Both of these can be done at the same time, but they cannot be done as the same thing. Doing so is actually a promotion of slavery, and slaves don’t have rights.
Besides, who would you rather have cutting you open: the provider by choice or the provider by force?
Saturday, August 7, 2010
There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
Mind Your Own Damn Business
Those may seem like simple rules, but they cover a wide range of behavior and circumstances. Odds are that any new law proposed, any stump speech, any referendum - in short, anything that comes from or pertains to government - can be measured by at least one of these rules (being able to be measured by both is actually quite common) and, if a decision cannot be made based solely on that measurement, such a measurement will at least provide a better understanding, rendering the decision-making process much simpler.
There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Nothing is free. This cannot be stated more simply or more accurately. If some Talking Head is promising freebies, look at the other hand. Look up the sleeve. Look under the rabbit. Look anywhere and everywhere except where said Talking Head is directing your attention. The only thing you are really being offered is a Bait-and-Switch. There is a cost and if you can't see it, that just means it is more securely hidden than most.
The most common example of this Bait-and-Switch tactic is where the freebie really is free to you (financially speaking, at least - there are still too many other strings to count), but only because someone else is being forced to pick up the tab. You may think this is a great deal, right up until the time the cards are shuffled and it becomes your turn to pay the bill. It always works that way. Agreeing that someone has the authority to force someone else to buy something for you is the exact same thing as agreeing that someone has the authority to force you to buy something for someone else. There is no getting around this truth and your turn to pay will come around.
Any time someone starts talking about freebies, that is the time to start suspecting the worst. That person is either too stupid to know the real costs or is intentionally lying to you. Does either answer really describe someone you want to be in charge of anything?
Mind your own damn business. I cannot express clearly enough how disgusted I am that society as a whole has forgotten this rule even exists. There was a time when this was among the most basic and common education for children. That time was not even that long ago. Although it was already fading from popularity then, it was including in my upbringing, and I have not yet hit forty. Little more than a blink, in cultural terms.
Granted, even when this rule was commonly taught, most people did not live by it. This is one of the great hypocrisies ignored by those who want a return to "the good old days". There were no good old days. They have never existed. There were things that were done better then and there are things that are done better now. For the most part, the trade-off has been almost exactly even, with a net gain of zero.
Are you trying to get a law passed over something that has nothing to do with you and cannot impact your life? Shut up and mind your own damn business. Are you trying to force people to live your way when their way isn't affecting anything more than your precious sensitivities? Shut up and mind your own damn business. Are you offended because someone else took his or her life in a different direction than you took yours? Shut up and mind your own damn business.
Let me be absolutely clear. There is nothing in this rule that precludes civil discussion when we disagree, but there is a world of difference between civil discussion and legal action. You have every right to try to change someone's mind. You have no right to try to force that change when it is none of your damn business.
Whenever someone is proposing a law that you know does not pertain to him and you know does not pertain to you, stop and ask yourself: "What's the point?" Is there really a problem here that needs to be addressed or is there some unpopular group that someone wants to smash? Remember the corollary rule from TANSTAAFL: If you agree that someone has the authority to smash Unpopular Group X then you also agree that someone has the authority to smash Unpopular Group Y. Guess what. You are in Unpopular Group Y. I don't care who you are, I can promise you that there is something important to you that falls into an unpopular minority. Do you really want someone to have the authority to smash unpopular groups just because they are unpopular?
The backside of both of these rules boils down to people's tendency to forget that there is a backside to everything. Whatever you approve of in one direction will eventually be used against you in another direction. I have always said that the best way to protect my rights is to protect all rights. If I don't hand over that hammer, it can't be used against me.
Evelyn Beatrice Hall, in attempting to sum up the philosophy of Voltaire, said "I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it." (This quotation is commonly misattributed to Voltaire himself because of how Hall worded the paragraph in her book The Friends of Voltaire, where it first appeared.) While this quote deals specifically with speech, the basic principle is almost universal. Defend all that is not outright indefensible, or have no defense yourself.
Friday, July 30, 2010
DC Comics has decided to give Wonder Woman a makeover. More specifically, they have completely redesigned her costume so that it no longer even resembles the traditional Wonder Woman costume. According to Wonder Woman writer J. Michael Straczynski, the new look is an answer to the question, "how does she fight in that thing without all her parts falling out?" Frankly, while I usually admire Straczynski's writing, anyone who actually believes that question deserves an answer needs to rethink writing for comic books. Comic book costumes, whether male or female, have never been about realism. They are about achieving a certain look and the only look this new costume achieves is, "I'm going to the mall and hopefully I'll be met there by someone with better fashion taste."
If you couldn't tell, I think the new costume stinks. It doesn't stink because it removes the traditional red, white, and blue. While modern comics writers' continued attempts to remove Americanism from their products is annoying and offensive, the American look on a character who is not supposed to be American never made a great deal of sense. It doesn't stink because they put Wonder Woman in pants, though the idea of an Amazon warrior princess wearing spandex pants makes about as much sense as putting Batman in dayglow pink. It stinks because it is a bad design that doesn't even pay homage to the icon of Wonder Woman. And it looks suspiciously like they just copied one of the old Donna Troy costumes and added some "updates".
Wonder Woman does not belong in black pants and a leather jacket any more than does Superman (Anyone remember that lame costume design for Superboy?). It is a ridiculous clash with the character. Wonder Woman is an Amazon warrior princess who now looks like a teenager's fashion nightmare.
That jacket? "She can close it up to pass unnoticed...open it for the freedom to fight..." Really? A major superhero is just going to close up a jacket to "pass unnoticed"? Closing up the jacket is going to "hide" the striking woman who stands well over 6' tall and is wearing shining bracelets-gloves-things and a glowing lasso? Somehow I don't think so. Besides, I'm looking at your drawing and there is no way she is closing that jacket. Let's just say it wouldn't stretch that far.
The pants? An Amazon Warrior princess in pants? Really? That makes sense to you? Okay, so the old granny panties didn't make much sense either. Then how about we update her look to a Greek-styled armored skirt? That gives freedom of movement and can be sufficiently long enough to keep the squeamish from whining. Also, you might want to take note of the fact that the color black does not belong anywhere near anything worn by Wonder Woman. She is not Catwoman or Batgirl.
The top is fine. It's still red, still has the "W". I am amused by the fact that it is also still low-cut enough that I have to wonder how it answers the "parts falling out" question.
DC does this occasionally. They change an iconic character's look, trying to "update" it and make it fresh, and it always fails. Every time they end up reverting to the iconic look to prevent an army of fans from storming their offices. They've done it with Batman, Superman, Superboy, Flash, and who knows who else. You would think they'd learn eventually.
In short, this is not Wonder Woman. This new design would only barely fly in an Elseworlds or what-if type story, but it becomes official in the mainstream Wonder Woman comics today. Anyone taking bets on how long it lasts?
Let's see if I can attach a few pictures for comparison.
This new thing they're calling Wonder Woman.
I won't even go into the stupid redesign of Wonder Woman's origin since no one will pay attention to it anyway. Wonder Woman is an Amazon warrior princess from the island of Themyscira, no matter what the geniuses currently in charge try to claim.
Copyright note: The images in this article are used for reporting and comparison purposes only. These images do not belong to me and I make no claim to them. Wonder Woman and all associated imagery belongs to DC Comics.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
That is not really what I want to discuss today, though. I realize that I am in the minority here and there is no indication that American public opinion will change in my lifetime. We will continue to treat post-adolescents as though they were 8-years-old and then we will continue to wonder why they have no idea how to act like adults when the time comes. Then, of course, we will continue to wring our hands and claim that we do not know why this is, because we are too busy "protecting the children" to pay any attention to reality.
Skip it. No one will pay attention anyway.
What really caught my attention here was a talk with Chris Segrin, University of Arizona department head of communication and psychology professor. Segrin has apparently done studies on the subject and he is clever enough to notice that the previous situation (using child porn laws against sexting teens) didn't make sense. Now he wants to do studies on sexting at the college level.
“If college students were doing this, it would be much more difficult to catch them.”
Catch them? Catch them for what? Are we saying that a university department head is not aware of the fact that college students are not minors? Sure, there is the occasional 16 or 17-year-old who is ahead of the curve, but their numbers are so small as to relatively not count. College students are legal adults. When it comes to sexting, there is nothing to "catch them" about. It is none of your business.
There is no argument that sexting is not the most brilliant activity in the world, but then, most of a teen's activities are not the most brilliant activities in the world. If you haven't noticed that then you probably don't spend much time around teens.
This kind of ties in with a report I read the other day claiming that colleges don't do enough to keep students from drinking? The reason? They don't nag college towns into cutting down the number of places one can acquire alcohol or requiring stricter standards for those who sell alcohol. Really? Those are a college's areas of responsibility? Silly me, I thought colleges were for higher education.
Somewhere along the way someone got the hair-brained idea that our colleges were supposed to be something more like 19th century finishing schools. According to this line of thinking, colleges are supposed to be brainwashing ... excuse me, I mean teaching young adults about everything from acceptable social norms to how to make the perfect protest sign. Meanwhile, education (you know, the kind parents are actually paying for, that comes in curriculum and textbooks) standards are dropping like rocks and the value of a college deploma is slipping closer and closer to worthless.
Maybe of these so-called professors spent a little less time micromanaging things that are none of their business and a little more time teaching the subjects they are being paid to teach, we might find that some of these "problems" fixed themselves. You'd be amazed by what people can do when they actually learn.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I am curious as to whether or not your newspaper continues to employ a legal department or are people like Paul Krugman allowed to write libelous statements in your editorials and get away with it simply because it is called an opinion piece?
In the article titled "Who Cooked the Planet?" dated July 25, 2010, Krugman writes the following paragraph:
"You’ve probably heard about the accusations leveled against climate researchers — allegations of fabricated data, the supposedly damning e-mail messages of “Climategate,” and so on. What you may not have heard, because it has received much less publicity, is that every one of these supposed scandals was eventually unmasked as a fraud concocted by opponents of climate action, then bought into by many in the news media."
This is a blatant lie and I have a very difficult time believing that Mr. Krugman does not know that it is a lie. It has been argued that the importance of the emails was overstated; it has been argued that the emails did not mean what people claimed or thought that they meant; it has been argued that the emails did not invalidate the science. It has not been argued, let alone charged or proved, that the scandal was a fraud.
An accusation of fraud is an accusation of a crime and for a newspaper to print that someone has been proven to have committed a crime knowing that no such crime has been proven is libel. Ask your legal department, if you still have one.
I fully realize that Mr. Krugman believes that he is above the common man and thus able to say anything he pleases with impunity, but this is not legally true. He is bound by the same legal standards as all the rest of us and you, as a prominent newspaper, are even more bound.
I am sure that you will prepare a correction for this before any lawyers become interested, though I am equally sure that you will bury that correction so that no one ever sees it, except by accident. You should be aware, of course, that bloggers will be quite interested in such a gaff in such a major newspaper.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Once upon a time, there was a people who were imbued with a magical idea. They dreamed of no longer being in bondage to another, of becoming their own masters. They dreamed of freedom.
These people did not have all the answers - they were not perfect - but they had an idea, and ideas can be powerful tools. Ideas can give rise to actions, and actions shape the world. The actions of these people did more than just shape a world. They created a new one.
Their dream was so bright that they fought and killed and died for its cause. They threw aside all normal precautions and laughed in the face of fate, not just to secure their own freedom, but to secure the freedom of all who would come after. They believed and, in believing, they reached out and formed a new reality.
They knew that only in freedom is there real security, real peace and real success, not just for a fortunate few, but for more people than had ever been imagined. Their dream was planted in corpses and watered in blood, but its fruit was the sweetest that had ever been tasted. For a change, people could dream, and they could even think of reaching their dreams.
Once upon a time, there was a people who dreamed of freedom. But time carried on and, as happens all too often, the dreamers awoke to a world that was not of their dream. They cried in vain as they discovered that their heirs had forfeited all that had been gained through blood and sweat and tears. They wailed in frustration as they saw that the chains they had fought so hard to remove had been locked back in place, not by force of arms but through voluntary complicity. The new people who should have been free had made themselves slaves out of laziness and cowardice, ignorance and greed.
In the world that is now, people are more afraid of those above them, rather than less. In the world that is now, there are rulers with more arms and more power than the dreamers ever knew in their own time. In the world that is now, these rulers grow fat with the plundered wealth of their people while still hungering for more. In the world that is now, those who are sworn to protect are seen as the enemy, and far too often this perception is true. In the world that is now, no one is safe and even the innocent must fear the justice of the land.
Once upon a time, there were people who believed, and they thought their belief was strong enough. For them, perhaps, it was. It did not carry down through time, though, and the world changed. The new people still mouth the words, but they no longer understand the meanings. They run for shelter at every perceived threat and never fathom their own responsibilities. They feel faint whispers of the echo of a dream, but they don’t really comprehend what it is they have lost. Only a pitiful few feel the primal hunger for freedom. Only a lonely, small band remember the dream.
If only this were just a fairy tale, but that is not the case. Once upon a time, we were free, but now has killed the dream. Is there no one left who believes?
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
"Every American is required to buy health insurance, like it or not." (paraphrased) Barack Obama - March 23, 2010
Yes, folks, I am still out here, just not quite settled in enough to go back to full time blogging. [Yes, things are going well. Thank you for asking.] However, I happened to notice the historical juxtaposition and had to say something. Those of you who remember what "liberty" means know exactly what I am saying. As for the rest of you ... Sorry, I make it a point to keep the language here family friendly and find that I cannot complete that sentence while maintaining that rule. Read between the lines and you should be able to figure it out.
Rest assured that I am still following the news as closely as ever and will be back to commenting in depth just as soon as I can.