07 November 2012
Want to know what I learned today?
I learned it doesn't matter a fig which party wins and which one doesn't. It doesn't make a lick of difference in the world I live in. So the election happened. So what? One rich dude is more popular than another rich dude. Hoo-fucking-ray. And to me, at my level of existence? Nothing changes. Nothing ever changes at this level. The election was today, and tomorrow, just like every other goddamn day, I'll go back to eking out an existence on the bottom rungs, half a paycheck away from complete and total disaster. Sometimes I'm just glad I paid cash for my car. It doesn't take much to put me out of my warm bed and into my car. Permanently. And does the election of this rich guy or that rich guy change it? Nope. Never has, never will.
I'd desperately love to be in a place where it mattered, but as time passes, that seems less and less likely. Hey, Scrooge. Welcome to the surplus population. Neither side wants my votes, no one actually cares what people at my level of life want or need. They wouldn't know how to help even if they did. Or they wouldn't be willing to. Not enough political capital in the poverty line.
So fuck 'em all. I was an independent. I was something like a libertarian. Now, not so much. Not an anarchist. Nothing so...self-righteous.
Nope. Now I'm just a nihilist. The ultimate independant. Who gives a rat's ass?
This election is over. But after the dems get done spiking the ball and the repubs get done questing and post-morteming, it'll be christmas recess. And then it's Jan 20, and the new guys take office. Or the old guys. Whatever.
Then, after the state of the union, (another sick joke perpetrated by people who don't care on people who should damn well know better by now), campaign 2014 will kick into high gear. And you only wish I was kidding. You and I both know, gentle reader, that we'll be lucky if we get six weeks of anything resembling actual work out of the fuckheads we just sent to washington. Hell, we'll be lucky to get one week of anything out of them other than the same regurgitated shit they feed us every day.
HL Mencken said democracy was the idea that the people know what they want and deserve to get it, good and hard. Well, here we are. Bent over, lubed up, and ready to take it. Again.
And don't give me this I voted for kodos bullshit, you damn fuckwit. It wouldn't have bloody well mattered. It never fucking matters anymore.
I'd leave the country, but where would I go? Not like the rest of the world wants us around anyway. Not like I can afford to leave. I can barely pay rent. How'm I supposed to move? Mobile society...Easy to be mobile when you're living out of your damn car. And yes, I do plan for that. If I have a bad week, that's where I'll be the next month. People say take a vacation. Can't. Gotta work. Don't have time for a nervous breakdown. Can't afford the luxury of going insane. Just going to work until there isn't enough of me left to draw breath. I know I'll never retire. I'm pretty sure that I'll never own my own home. I guess I'm starting to make peace with my failure. Maybe a little bit.
Once I'm done working for my student loan companies, then maybe it can end. Then maybe I can put aside enough to get a gun, and some ammo. And that can be the end... There's a lovely new twist on the christmas carol for you. Scrooge realises he is the surplus population and hangs himself from his silk bed curtains like we all know we should.
I suppose it's unfair to blame this all on the election, though that was certainly the catalyst.
I always thought of myself as smart and rational. But I'm not. Not really. Just deluded like every other person who voted. It didn't matter what you did today, because it won't change anything either way. It was never going to. The Law of Entropy demands that society, like everything else, decline and fade away into chaos. And there was never anything we could do to stop it.
And I find myself further deluding myself with regrets that are not my own, but wander through my brain. Maybe this, maybe that. Somehow all this is my fault. Somehow all that is wrong with the world is my fault, because I'm not good enough, or passionate enough, or...whatever.
You go vote for whoever like you. I don't care anymore. I have more important things to do. I need to work, I need to feed my household. I need to maintain. I don't have time for national issues. I don't have time for city issues. From now on, I have time for local issues. And by local, I mean my extremely local. If I know you, good. If I don't, go get bent on your own damn time. I don't care anymore what happens to the country, because I can't spare it any thought. I need to worry about ME, and MINE.
16 November 2009
The movie 2012 was interesting. It was not the sort of movie that I would have sought on my own particular volition, this is true. Nevertheless, it was quite well done. It does require a certain degree of suspicion, as well as a major act of suspension of disbelief. That said, such a suspension is by no means peculiar for most moviegoers, especially given the sorts of things that we are asked to believe on a regular basis by Hollywood's cameras. If we can feel comfortable with sentient, mechanical aliens who have a surprisingly human outlook on the universe, as well as the ability to transform into technological objects a la Terminator 3; surely we can choose to believe in the destruction of Earth for no really apparent reason. Other than that the sun suddenly decided to microwave the Earth like some sort of cosmic potato, without poking the skin first, that is. This is all fine and good, really. I mean, I'd like to do that sort of thing myself someday when I'm rich and can afford to throw out perfectly good potatoes and unscathed microwaves. Sadly, at present, I have need both of my potatoes and my microwaves.
That being said, though, there are points when the writers stretch the boundaries of willing belief so far that they test the meaning of the very concept. It is interesting, too, to consider just where the science advisor for the movie might have been during the writing and filming of the picture. Tahiti, Nepal, Delhi, Hawai'i or even Washington, D.C. These would all make perfect sense, really, as it was more than apparent that he or she was never really on set. Or that he had never actually read the script in the first place. A last-minute replacement hire? Do science advisors even have understudies?
Anyway, back to stretching the bounds of suspended incredulity. They made efforts to make the movie at least feel vaguely like hard sci-fi. It was hard at times to know whether or not they took themselves seriously. I am content to allow them the benefit of the doubt, but there were moments when I felt the ghost of the Day After Tomorrow creeping up behind me. Or into me. Through my optic nerves. The problem was, Day After Tomorrow took itself quite seriously indeed, and their epic failure at even the basics of proper scientific writing only made the movie that much more painful.
There were similar moments in 2012. Anyone with more than a passing familiarity with things like neutrinos, geology, tsunami physics, seismology, astronomy, astrophysics, aircraft, vulcanology, and a host of other branches of the scientific spectrum would likely have found 2012 to be unbearably painful to watch. Indeed, I too, felt this pain, though my scientific acumen is limited at best. There are some things I do know however, and that was most of what the movie either deliberately, or unintentionally, got horrifically wrong.
I know, as do many others, that Neutrinos are exotic, subatomic particles that have such a small size and high energy level that they don't really interact with normal matter. They are also extremely rare. Hence the reason we build the detectors at the bottom mine shafts in antartica and fill them with water. That way, there will be matter to watch the neutrinos not interact with, and if they do interact, we'll be able to pick out their infinitesimal energy emission from the background radiation of the universe. Let's be honest, a sudden spike in solar neutrino emissions is not going to cook the planet. If the planet gets cooked that way, the first thing we notice will most certainly not be the rolling boil of the water in our neutrino detectors.
The science started worse than that with the whole mayan calendar thing, but that's a thing I'm not going to get into. The gravitational disturbance of the alignment of our solar system and the galactic core happens, according to the movie, every 640,000 years or so. These things have happened before, therefore, and while there were no real people to record the event, and the geological record makes no mention of the planet cooking like a potato, or perhaps a marshmallow, in a microwave, we are assured that it has happened several hundred thousand times over the life of the Earth. Colour me...unconvinced.
There is also, by way of unconvincing, enough water on the planet Earth, to cover everything completely in water, with the exceptions of the summits of Everest, and perhaps K2. This, we all know from the movie Waterworld, is how the world ends anyway. Here we find a prequel to that movie whether you want it or not. So there.
Okay, final summary: The movie sucked as hard science fiction. There wasn't enough hard science in 2012 to pass a high school physics class.
That said, it had many good moments, when it got at intensely human issues, like saying goodbye to family, saying goodbye to friends, saying goodbye to perfect strangers... You get the idea. Mortality goes a long way toward tearjerking, and this movie does a fabulous job of those moments when it gets far enough away from the science to let feel the heartache. And that's what's most valuable about the movie, I think. The Lama in the movie gets it right, I think, the little bit he speaks. It is his example more than anything that is valuable. The time comes to choose, and he chooses to stay, knowing that the end is inevitable anyway for him, and that he has done what he could to aid the future. His example is the one most worthy of emulation, I think. He makes simple gestures that have a great impact on the unfolding of the future. Sometimes it does take grand gestures to save the world. But sometimes, the little ones make the big ones worthy of the grandeur. Big heroism, the movie says, revolves on the fulcrum of little heroes. Little heroes that loom large in their example and their impact on those that matter to them.
I didn't check my watch during the movie at all, and that's more than I expected out of it. I am quite pleased with it, though I'm not really sure it's worth more than one, maybe two watchings. It's possible, I suppose, but it needs to be said that my standards for worthwhile movies starts at 1 watch-check, and any more checks than that makes a movie a failure for my system. No watch checks simply indicates good story and engagement, so it's a pretty broad brush. This was not Dark Knight, or Star Trek, which, in addition to being no-watch-check movies, were genuinely thrilling to watch. My overall rating, after the watch check test, is around e stars.
And the science people know what I'm talking about.
05 May 2008
Brown v Texas established what is usually termed a Three-pronged Test. This test defined the prongs as the Subjective Severity of the Intrusion, the efficacy of the measure in question, and the Degree of State Interest in the desired result of the given measure. The Supreme Court of Michigan applied this test to the Checkpoints mentioned in Michigan v Sitz. The Michigan Court focused primarily on the Severity of Intrusion, and the Efficacy measures, while tacitly conceding the State's important interest in the desired aim of reducing drunk driving. The Michigan Court claimed that the violation of privacy required for this measure was severe, and that the measure was ineffective. Thus, they ruled the procedure inconsistent with US CON. Amendments 4 and 14.
SCOTUS noted in their ruling that the question of efficacy is not within the purview of the courts. The Opinion stated in no uncertain terms that the ideal procedure shouuld be left to the determination of the relevant experts, rather than the whim of the courts. This is probably wise.
The second bone of contention between SCOTUS and SCMI is is the difference of interpretation of the question of Severity. SCMI posits that the intrusion is severe and extensive. SCOTUS disagreed, reasoning that the the degree of intrusion, ie violation of privacy, is much less severe than SCMI would have them believe. SCOTUS cites teh average stop length for the checkpoints in question as being around 25 seconds. Further, a checkpoint of this nature contains more than one officer, usually roadblocks, and significant advance notice. As a result, the checkpoint is less likely to cause undue emotional stress, compared to the routine roving patrol stop conducted by a single officer on a dark road at night. As a result of this difference, SCOTUS reversed the lower Court's Opinion, reinstating the checkpoint measure as valid under the 4th and 14th Amendments.
15 November 2007
- Bridge Players - Righties come down comically hard on a bunch of housefraus for a political statement written on the back of a menu at a bridge tournament. Lefties are stupidly happy that some of them managed to escape the oppression of Amerika to play cards in a nation most famous for it's heapin' hankerin' for dead students. And poisonous toys.
- Ron Paul - "Dr. No" apparently debating whether or not to return money donated by white supremacist group. Can't imagine what the answer might be.
- Kos - Left-wing loony tune to work at Newsweek, to be counterbalanced by right-wing loony tune. Only time in history where the words "screw them!" have turned up more Google hits for blogs than pornography.
- Hilary Clinton - Flags fell over. Big deal made. Hillary denies using the dark side of The Force to do it. Althouse implies a great deal from a small reaction.
- Hugo Chavez - told "Por que no te callas?" ("why don't you shut up?") by Spanish King Juan Carlos. And clean your plate too, you socialist jackass. There are starving children in Venezuela.
- Wonkette - Joins RedState in fight against "Paultards"; willing to temporarily set aside differences, bottles of gin.
We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming shortly.
17 October 2007
There seems to be some confusion as to whether certain new political developments in Iraq are a help or a hindrance to the American effort. This confusion is very apparent at the Asia Times, where Pepe Escobar says its bad news, and Sami Moubayed says its good news.
The event in question here is the recent uniting of Moqtada al Sadr and Abdul-Aziz al Hakim under the blessing of Ali al Sistani. The key considerations here:
1) al Sadr and al Hakim have been kinetic enemies for the last 4 years; they seem to be setting this rivalry aside.
2) This merger is widely believed to be the creation of a new Iraqi Nationalist bloc.
3) Should this alliance work out, it will effectively merge the Mahdi Army (al Sadr's militia) and the Badr Brigade (al Hakim's militia).
4) al Hakim is backed by the US as well as Iran (which seems odd).
5) While al Sadr and al Hakim do not agree on the role of US forces, they do agree that AQI is a mutual enemy.
6) This new bloc is unified under a plan that denounces foreign interference (by all actors, not just the US) and the right to armed resistance to occupation forces.
Exactly what this means to US interests in Iraq does not seem to be entirely clear. About the exact same thing, the two authors have these opening statements:
Pepe: "The ultimate nightmare for White House/Pentagon designs on Middle East energy resources is not Iran after all: it's a unified Iraqi resistance, comprising not only Sunnis but also Shi'ites."
Sami: "Good news came from Iraq this weekend - the best news for the US, probably, since Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the prince of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was killed by a US air strike in June 2006."
There's no debate as to the facts of what's happening, as outlined above. However, over the course of his article, Pepe seems to be putting a preponderance of importance on the fact that this new bloc reserves the right to armed resistance, whereas Sami seems to believe that the alliance itself, along with al Sadr's 6-month stand-down of the Mahdi army, carries more importance.
I would suggest that at this point, the right to armed resistance has been exercised constantly but hasn't really been enumerated; even Sunni actors that are currently cooperating with the American forces accept that their cooperation is a means to an end of American presence. They may still want to kill us, but not right at this moment. As with all handshake-COM deals that Petraeus endorses in FM 3-24, there is going to be more ambiguity than might be comfortable.
As far as a union between the Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade, this seems to be a mixed bag given al Sadr's opportunistic tendencies. But there's simply no way that al Hakim isn't aware of those tendencies, so he must have taken them into account. Grand Ayatollah Sistani has also given his blessing to this pact, which may suggest that this truce between the two is genuine.
There's a gap in whether this is good or bad news, and the gap looks to be centered around what a surge in Iraqi nationalism means in the context of this potential merger. Those who thing that the Americans are championing a soft partition suggest that this is a bad thing, as it bespeaks a rejection of that very principle. But that's nothing that the Iraqis haven't made clear already: they categorically do not want to be partitioned.
On the other side of the debate are those who see a unified and independent Iraqi state as a necessity, and the current goal of the American effort. A rise in nationalism and the creation of a powerful nationalist party would in this case be an excellent thing, even if it would be nice if the militias weren't attached to it.
However, in all of these considerations, it is worth noting that Pepe Escobar is described as an "extreme traveler," while Sami Moubayed is a Syrian historian and analyst.
Ultimately whether this is good news or bad news is largely dependent upon how the American effort reacts to it. Tolerating al Sadr is not high on my list of things to do, but a stable, unified and free Iraq trumps everything else.
01 October 2007
Religion is a curious conception. It has both elements that are individual, and elements that are Statist, for lack of a more accurate word. In addition to those two conceptual areas, Religion also contains a credo, a set of ideals and standards which are, more-or-less, held by the enture community. But these three things are in constant flux and conflict. The Statist and Individual elements war with the Credo, while the Statist wars with the Individual. These three things form what is, in essence, the Three branches of Religion as an organizing body.
That part of Religion which I called a moment ago the "Credo", is in effect, what the Community of Faith believes. These are those things that are often termed Canon, Dogma, Scripture, or whatever. What is universally true, it seems, is that these are central concepts. They are a core of understanding and a centralize set of signposts to guide the thinking of the community as a whole. What is also true, is that no community is homogeneous in its belief. Some elements of the Credo will take precedence over others. For example, in the argument often raised against Christianity, few believers truly feel that Leviticus is a good base for a legal system, though there are some who feel this way. These differences in belief and priority mean that Credo alone is not sufficient to bind a Religion together. All the Credo contributes to the Religion is the bones and the conceptual structure, which is why so many Religions share a few core ideas: Evangelism, that is the drive to spread the Religion, Salvation, the rescue from the woes of this world, either in this life or in some life hereafter, and the idea of Transcendance, that there is some higher power to which we are inevitably responsible to. The details of these things may differ, but they are present in nearly all cases.
The second part, the Statist, consists of all those elements of a Religion that are intended to guide the construction of a society. Viewed properly, the Ten Commandments are exactly such a creation. The Statist Element is not truly concerned with the Divine, though it draws its power from the link between itself and the Divine. This aspect of Religion is why human societies have, until very recently, really, had religious elements to their governments. In the ancient world, it is true, there was no true separation between the religion and the state. And indeed, our world today is a notable exception to the Old Ways of governance. The Statist element also guides the place of the faithful in a secular society, or a society where they are not the ruling group. "Give to Caesar that which is Caesar" is emblematic of this guiding idea. Not all Statist elements are so generous to a non-believing host state, but there is guidance nevertheless. The Statist provides only that in today's world, but it helps to prop up the centrality of the Credo as the base for its legitimacy.
The final, third part is the most vital portion of any Religion. That element, of course, is the Individual Faith. Practice of Religion can be based purely on the Statist and Credo elements of the Religion, but it will be hollow ritual performed merely for the sake of performing. The element that transforms empty ritual into a powerful and inspiring display is the Individual's faith. The Faith of any individual is just that, individual. It is subject to the conscience of no other, nor is it subject to the rules and limitations that the other two elements have. By it's nature, Faith leaps the gap of reason and rationale. How can we, as finite beings, percieve or comprehend the infinite? How can we prove or disprove the existence of an entity that is at Its essence, empirically unknowable? Faith is that element that solves the Jacob's Ladder of Reason, providing the balance. Faith can exist in isolation, without the Credo and without the Statist elements of formal Religion. And even in this isolation, it need not lose any of its transcendant power.
So what, you ask? Why go through all this? Only because these things seem to me to be the vital essence of what we know as Religion. Because Religion plays a role in our society as it does in all societies. Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, even Atheism in its American incarnation are Relgions under this conception. But Atheism, you say, is not a religion. Is it not?
Consider for a moment. Atheism contains a Credo: There is no God unless His Existence can be proved, likewise with the Hereafter. Atheism is also Evangelical, seeking to spread itself through the society and gain adherents. The Statist element postulates that government should be based in pure science and all reference to a deity or Divine entity should be abolished. The Statist and Credo here, as in other Religions, support each other in an unpleasant circle of logic. As for Faith, it is clear to me, that Atheism is a Faith as much as Christianity or Islam. There is no rationally acceptable proof for the existence of the Divine. However, proving the opposite is a mathematical impossibility. Ergo, to believe that there is nothing to this world beyond what we can verify with science, and that there is no God, takes a leap of faith as surely as it takes a leap to believe in the Divine.
And again, we have the question of "why". The answer is because we need to examine ourselves critically and reflect upon what parts of our Religions are really needed. In our time, the Statist element is weakest and most counter to the ideals of American society, with the exception of the Guidance upon how to coexist within a society that does not build itself around your own Credo. The Credo is still a great part of modern Religion, as it provides the individual faithful with a solid, stable community in which to engage with their Faith and their rituals. But again, in our society today, the Individual Faith is the most vital element. This is the element that will guide us in making our decisions, that will give us hope in the dark times. We must, as individuals and as communities of faithful, decide which elements of our Credos, which elements of Faith and Statist, are truly needed for our present existence. We must consider how we interact with our society, and how much a part our Religion really ought to play in that interaction.
09 August 2007
Consider, for a moment, the Commandments. There are, indeed, strictures in Scripture against making oaths falsely, perjury, murder, theft, and adultery. Yesterday many of us saw what seems to have been a violation of the commandment not to kill. "Thou shalt not kill" sayeth the Lord. And yet, the bible is filled with death and murder. Why? How can this be so if we are commanded as a people of faith not to take another human life?
Because one life matters no less than any other. Those who would take from us that divine gift forfeit their own lives. We are people of morals, so we do not do murder. But we are not to be held helpless when attacked and confronted with violence. It is not written in the Scripture, nor should it be, as it presents ideals, but there is a corollary to "Thou shalt not Commit Murder." It is this: "Meet violence with swift violence, that those who would use violence to oppress are swiftly dealt with."
There is no moral stricture against self-defence. Indeed, it is a primal calling from within us. There is no justice in allowing one's self to be slaughtered, just as there is no true virtue in suffering unless it is for a cause. We must not delude ourselves into pacifism. Evil walks abroad in forms that are pleasing, and in forms that are frightening. We must be vigilant and prepared to answer that evil and vanquish it. Not with prayers, but with the strength the Deity put into our hands and minds.
And you no doubt answer me that "those who live by the sword shall likewise die by it." True enough. But that is not an argument against violence as much as it is a warning to those of use who would defend the others, to those who are willing to raise their hands against the evils in this world. With conflict comes risk, and if you do not wish to risk your life to stop man in his inhumanity, then you have little business proclaiming your virtue in refusing to take up arms. It is said, by men wiser than myself, that all evil requires for its prosperity is that men of goodwill should sit upon their hands and do nothing. The Deity asks that we have faith in Him. And so we should, trusting that He gave us the strength to do that which we must do. We ought not ask for miracles, putting the Lord to our own tests. It is we who are tested, our strength, not the Lord's. And is with that feeble strength that we must show ourselves faithful.
04 February 2007
It is a problem within our society and our educational system that students are not encouraged to learn as much as possible about everything. Those who do pursue such goals are looked at as geeks and nerds and are reviled in schools by their peers. And this is unfortunate.
The greater the body of knowledge possessed by a single person, the greater understanding of the world that person will be able to maintain. And without this body of arcane and seemingly useless knowledge, our society rapidly becomes divided between those who know, and those who do not wish to know.
And, it needs to be said, I suppose, that those who do not wish to know will always outnumber those who know. We can see it in these days without looking too hard. Creationism and intelligent design are proposed by those groups who do not wish to know, who are willing to subsitute a simple falsehood for the reality that they see as being devoid of redeeming value.
We must work to encourage all children and adults to learn widely about as much as possible. The universe will open up before us like an oyster if we can simply have the knowledge to grasp the cosmic knife that is our ability to understand our world and each other. Without this, the universe will remain cold and invincible to our attempts at grasping its pearls.
02 February 2007
They have neither the will nor the political capital to do anything meaningful to fulfill their agenda. They will not defund the troops. (third rail, anyone?) They cannot do that and hope to have a viable candidacy for President in 19 months. And so they fall back to non-binding resolutions that do little more than waste everyone's time. They make no difference whatever if they are non-binding, and are therefore utterly devoid of any meaning larger than present political expedience.
General Petraus stated in no uncertain terms that this sort of behaviour from Congress provided aid and comfort to our enemies. And it does. These enemies are watchful, perceptive people. They will see our politicos will failing in this war, and they will work harder as a result, perceiving that they are winning. Petraus was right, but that's not really a surprise. He was and is a Soldier, not a politician. A Soldier understands the ruthlessness required to win any conflict. A politician may know it, but he will never acknowledge that as necessary when it would put him down in the polls. We cannot allow our foreign policy to be run by public opinion and 535 armchair generals.
Congress confirmed Petraus without objection, unanimously. This would, normally, mean they had faith in him to do the mission, right?
They'll send him over, but they're going to their best to see to it that he fails. "Best" of course, means they'll bicker about the Troop Increase and pass non-binding resolutions that mean nothing, and in the end simply run spin for the polls.
It was interesting to me, to watch when the President revealed his surge plan. A sea change followed it that was a little shocking, even to me. Within hours, the whole political establishment, Democrat and Republican alike, decided that the very thing they'd been calling for, IE, increased troop presence, was exactly the thing they couldn't allow. And why not? Because Bush said it was his plan, and ergo, bad for their poll numbers.
It's a sad commentary, I think. And it is unfortunate that the people who lived through Vietnam did not learn the right lessons. Among those lessons are two that are vital to today's conflict:
- You cannot fight a war "kinda-sorta." Either you fight it, or you don't. Pick one, not both.
- Be sure you're on the right side. The side of increased liberty is the right side, as in Iraq. Differentiated from Vietnam, when were fighting for colonialism first, and the result of our own folly in the communists second.
When, someday, we have a refurbished set of politicos, perhaps they will be of my generation, and perhaps, if we are fortunate, they will apply the lessons that our predecessors have clearly failed to learn.
"Those who fail to learn History are doomed to repeat it. Those who fail to learn history correctly--Why, they are simply doomed."~Achem Dro'hm; The Illusion of Historical Fact, CY 4971