Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Biggest Spelling Nazi Laugh of the Day

A phrase we keep hearing in the discussion of the Trump candidacy is "lesser of two evils". We hear Trump defenders saying "even if you don't like him, he is the lesser of two evils", we hear opponents saying "I am tired of voting for the lesser of two evils" and skeptics -- myself included -- saying "how do we know he is the lesser of two evils?" With the phrase being bandied about so much, you would think the proper spelling of those words would be seared into the minds of any person following politics. And yet, today on Townhall's comments, I found the following:
...when you ID the lessor of two evils...
Now, how on Earth did someone come up with that one? I grant, spell check would not choke on it, as "lessor" is a real word, but who could not properly spell "lesser"? Does he really mean "someone who leases two evils"?

Well, it gave me a little chuckle today anyway.


By the way, I want to make clear, as I have elsewhere, that I do not believe in the "I am sick of voting for the lesser of two evils" school of thought. If we must choose, then obviously the less evil is the best choice. IN this case, I refuse to vote for Trump, not because of this reasoning but (1) because I am not convinced he is better than Hillary, most notably because while both are bad, he is inconsistent and bad, which is more dangerous than wrong and consistent. (2) by electing him we end up tarring the entire right with his actions and beliefs, which may do more harm than four years of Hillary and (3) given the unusual situation of two incredibly unpopular candidates, both possibly facing court cases during the election cycle, there is a chance for a third party ot make a decent showing.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Problem with Species Conservation

I have written before1 on the topic of endangered species, and the many issues involved. First, and most notably, there is the simple fact that, in a very real way, protecting endangered species is against nature. After all, species have always gone extinct, and always will. it is a vital part of evolution. Not only do species change, but those members of a species who do not often find themselves dwindling away to nothing. To try to prevent this is, in a very real way, to try to stop evolution2. After all, if the old species is not allowed to go away, what niche will the new variants occupy? How would we have fared if our simian ancestors were "preserved" or if dinosaur conservation had been an issue in the past? I hate to be a curmudgeon, but perhaps sea turtles and snail darters and others exist in such small numbers that they risk extinction because they are just remarkably inefficient.

Which brings me to the second issue, numbers. We cannot simply say "there are X of this species, it is endangered", but that seems to be precisely what is happening. Recent news talked about grizzlies in Yellowstone, and the debate about removing them from the list. According to some experts, they are still "too few" to no longer be endangered, but rangers argue they are numerous enough the park cannot support more. This points out a problem I mentioned before, top level predators, large omnivores, even a few large herbivores and scavengers, require massive ranges to support them, especially those who exist in food-poor zones. Given the need for such large ranges, they will never exist in large numbers. How many tigers can the tundra support? How many polar bears? The food needs are simply too great for them to have ever been numerous. Even if we froze the globe and eliminated all environmental "threats", as well as all competitors, the polar bear would still not be terribly numerous. It is simply a matter of carrying capacity of the environment. And no endangered species list -- or cap and trade scheme -- will ever change that fact.

And that brings me to the matter which inspired this writing, the third issue I mentioned previously, and what strikes me as one of the biggest problems with any scheme to protect endangered species. But, before going into details, let me ask a question to illustrate this problem:

Is the Preble's jumping mouse a species?

Or, maybe even a better one: are Maine coon cats a species?

How about pit bull terriers?

To answer the last two, no, at least in general. For the most part, despite the wide range of appearances, sizes and shapes, the various breeds of cats and dogs are not considered separate species. On the other hand, the Preble's jumping mouse, which is almost indistinguishable from a host of other jumping mice, and many claim is absolutely identical to the Bear Lodge Meadow jumping mouse, is a separate species. So, while a doberman and a chihuahua are the same species, two mice even experts cannot agree differ in any way are not.

Which brings us to the problem, a lot of "endangered species" would, but for the list, be considered subspecies, at best, or maybe simply variations in color, markings or other traits. Many differ from one another in quite minimal ways, being capable of interbreeding and being indistinguishable by any but an expert (and sometimes not even then), yet to preserve an absolutely minute genetic variation, possessed by a tiny population occupying a single location, we will impose hundreds of millions of dollars of costs on land owners, businesses, farmers and others.

And that is absurd.

But then the emotional arguments start. The moment you argue that protecting a trivial micropopulation differing only in a minute coloring variation, the endangered species list supporters will make it sound as if are Cruella deVille, wishing to wipe out all big cats on Earth to make a nice batch of Chanel no 5 with Extra Civet. Instead of reasoned argument why they think preserving this trivial little population matters, they will wax enthusiastic about the wonder of nature, or else present the mythical "possible cure for cancer"3 argument, neither of which is really valid.

Let us look at this realistically.

First, millions, even billions, of species have gone extinct and the same number will in the future, it is part of existence. In many cases, they only "went extinct" in the sense that part of their population evolved into some other species and the remainder died out. Thus, it is even questionable if they died out at all. After all, if a tiny subspecies is disappearing, is it not possible because some other variant, either evolved from it, or from a common ancestor, is doing a better job?

Second, despite all those extinctions, life went on. There is lots of scare talk about the negative impact of extinction of this species or that, but in truth, the countless past extinctions did not end the world, nor will those in the future.

Third, if a species is small enough in numbers that it is endangered, either because it is spread so thin, or isolated to a tiny region, then how much impact could it be having now? If it numbers in the dozens, what could they be doing now that will cause the world to end if they were not there?

Fourth, most of these endangered species are not species, but subspecies, with similar, nearly identical species performing the same tasks in nature. Often it is competition from these rivals that is the reason they are endangered. Thus, even if they disappeared, some very similar species is likely to remain doing the same thing.

Thus, it seems simply absurd to worry that any species disappearing will have some negative impact. There is just no logically reason to assume this would be the case.

Of course, I am not suggesting we go out and intentionally wipe out species, that is needless cruelty without purpose. On the other hand, species have vanished in the past and life went on. The disappearance of, say, the dodo had so little impact no one other than a few mariners noticed. And the same is likely true of most species on the endangered species list. And thus, to argue we must pay to keep them alive "for our collective good" is simply absurd.

Now if individuals want to buy up these habitats and pay to preserve the species out of their own pockets, I say more power to them. As a supporter of the market and property rights, people have every right to pay out of pocket to preserve whatever they wish. But when it comes to imposing costs via government, I have to say I see no justification for doing so.


1. See "Extinction""The Mythical Cure for Cancer", "Why "Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst" is Bad Policy", "Environmentalists Versus Evolution", "Environmentalist Inertia", ""Better Safe Than Sorry" Usually Leaves Us Even More Sorry, And Much Less Safe", ""Better Safe Than Sorry" Revisited", "Certainty and Pop Science" and "Primitivist Delusions".

2. In particular, see "Environmentalists Versus Evolution". A similar trend in sociology can be found in "Cultural Imperialism and Preserving Cultures".

3. See "The Mythical Cure for Cancer".

Nice to Get Confirmation

A very brief thought here, about an article that is now somewhat dated, but, then again, more recent articles also support the same premise, so, though I intended to write this a while ago, I still believe the premise is valid.

In "The Most Absurd Debate..." I argued that, while many think the Trump candidacy points to a split up within Republican ranks, I would argue the Democrats show equal signs of splitting. And this article, I found on Townhall, seems to support that thesis.

I wrote enough in the earlier article that there is little for me to add here. But, to offer a brief summary, it seems, on the right, the nativist/populist/nationalist/paleocon wing of the Republicans is splitting from the economic conservative/libertarian wing. Social conservatives and moderates seem to be somewhat split between the two, with some moderates accommodating Trump despite his rhetoric, and others remaining in opposition, and social conservatives seeming to split based upon their other beliefs, whether they are more libertarian or populist/nationalist.

On the left, the split seems to be between the more dedicated, doctrinaire socialists, and the (I know this will make some cringe) more moderate Clinton-Obama wing which seeks a more gradual drift to the left. There are probably other forces at work as well, some other internal factions drifting to one side or the other, as on the right, but I am not well enough versed in Democrat factionalism to tell at the moment precisely who is choosing which side.

What is clear is that, in both parties, there is a strong division, and this current election cycle is highlighting that divide. Whether it heals in subsequent elections, with one or both parties emerging reunited, or becomes a permanent schism, remains to be seen. As I argued in "Minimal Reforms", among other posts, our system has been designed to strong favor the preexisting two parties (congressional committee appointments, the primary system, campaign finance laws, and so on), but it is not a completely insurmountable obstacle, and it is possible, if the schism becomes acrimonious enough that one or the other party could split to form a new third, or even fourth, party in future elections.

Which is actually kind of an interesting prospect, as the one massive hurdle facing third party presidential candidates is that, even if elected, they would not have congressional allies, since third parties have made even less headway in state elections (mostly because of the catch-22 situation where a congressman from a third party would have no committee clout, which they cannot gain until sufficient third party candidates are elected to congress). If an existing party fractured, with congressional representation being split, it would actually create the ideal third (or fourth) party, one with existing membership, congressional representation and, at least in part, an existing and experienced party infrastructure. So, perhaps, this party infighting may be the only chance we have to see a viable third party in our lifetimes.

On the other hand, pressure is strong to close ranks. Everyone fears splitting the party will give the election, and congressional control and all the rest, to the opposition, and thus parties tend to close ranks despite very strong factionalism. If it could keep paleocons, necocons, nationalists, libertarians, moderate Republicans, social conservatives and others int he same big tent, this worry can accomplish a lot.

However, out present situation is unique in that both parties are in the throes of internal conflict. So maybe, just maybe, if it appears both parties may fragment, it will overcome this reticence, and allow a restructuring that would be otherwise impossible.

Friday, May 20, 2016

(OFF TOPIC) Not So Spooky

I think I have heard just about the most idiotic "spooky coincidence" theory ever. Even more stupid than those "Lincoln and Kennedy" ones. The one thing that makes it even worth mentioning is that, unlike many such "coincidences" it does not make up facts -- so many do -- the information on which it is based is correct, it just doesn't seem all that coincidental.

According to this "spooky" coincidence, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, when assassinated, was riding in a car with a license plate reading "A III 118". And, checking pictures, this does appear to be true. Granted, the pictures all seem to come from web pages repeating this coincidence, but I will accept, for the moment, that the car is that of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and is not touched up.

So, why is this "spooky"?

Well, according to those who promote this supposed coincidence, it is interesting because World War I, sparked by this assassination -- well, really by his cousin's reaction to this assassination, and the subsequent Russian response, but close enough -- ended in an armistice on November 11, 1918. And the tag has "A" for armistice, then III118, which one can read as 11/11/18, the date of the armistice.

I have a few problems with this.

First, III is not 111. If I were reading this, it would seem more natural to read the III as Roman numerals for 3. But then the date becomes 3/1/18, which is either January 3, European style, or March 1, 1918, US Style. Neither of them particularly significant dates in the history of World War I.

Then again, I am also a bit puzzled by the "A". After all, the Archduke was from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and routinely spoke German. To him, "A" would have nothing to do with an armistice, which he would call a Waffenstillstand. So, this really only works for English speakers. Or, rather, English speakers ignorant of Roman numerals who can easily confuse an I for a one.

As I said, not exactly impressive.

Then again, in the annals of paraeidolia -- seeing things where there is nothing -- this is hardly even the worst offence, at least there is something there, even if the natural, logical reading is completely unlike the one given.

Which brings me to the reason I bothered to write on this. Though I labeled this "OFF TOPIC", it really isn't, as this example shows how easy it is to twist simple facts to support any argument, provided you have a willing audience. And that is one of the reasons we have so many conspiracy theories. It is absurd, for example, to believe oil companies are all colluding to raise prices, it is obvious nonsense. Consider how much they compete in normal circumstances, how many come from different countries, have differing agendas, and so on. Yet, whenever there is a shortage and prices rise, some economically illiterate reporter will show full oil tanks and scoff at the idea of a shortage, and lemming-like viewers will accept it and begin calling for government action, all because they are willing to accept a seemingly plausible explanation.

And thus, I guess the Archduke's death car is on-topic after all.


For this who buy into such stories, allow me to explain the problem: Oil companies need to keep tanks full, to be able to ship at a moment's notice to sellers. However, a shortage can make it more costly to keep those tanks full. A shortage is not an absence, it just means buying the same amount is more costly. Then again, even if all oil ran out tomorrow, those tanks would remain full for a while, as the companies do not instantly ship out every gallon the instant it hits the shores, or comes back from refineries. They need to have some on hand to fill orders until the next shipment arrives, and a little more to have some "wiggle room" if shipments are delayed. Thus, even if there were no more oil, some tanks would doubtless remain full for a time. So showing them means nothing, and tells us only that the reporter displaying them knows nothing of the oil business or economics.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

If'n Yer So Smart, Why Ain'tcha Rich?

I have seen what has to be the most stupid comment in recent history. Looking at Townhall.com I have seen a number of Trump supporters telling everyone that his wealth proves he would make a good president, that he cannot be irresponsible or an egomaniac or otherwise incompetent because he is so wealthy.

To which I reply: Warren Buffet. Bill Gates. Every actor in Hollywood. Even Hillary Clinton's cattle futures.

There are many who are rich whose policy ideas I would not consider accepting, many who have been much more successful than Trump. Both Gates and Buffet are more wealthy and do not rely on marketing their names to account for a huge part of it. Neither has bilked investors, bailed out using bankruptcy and left investors holding the bag, or puffed up their net worth by saying their name is worth billions.

And yet, I do not think either would be a good president.

Let's face it, you can be good at a profession and still not understand how government works. In fact, you could be good at business and still not understand how economics work in theory. Think of the number of investment geniuses who still denounce large fortunes and high salaries, not grasping the simple fact that such sources of free wealth MAKE investment possible, drive the growth of new enterprises.

So, do not tell me his bottom line makes Trump a good candidate. Tell me what he will do that makes him a good candidate, and so far all I have seen are (1) he will switch parties, (2) make any promise that seems popular at the moment, (3) promote entirely unworkable plans if it will gain votes and (4) sue or insult anyone who upsets him. Combine this with a long history of being friendly with Democrats, including Hillary, and using government favors and manipulating laws to his advantage, and I see no reason I could ever choose to vote for him.

Quite honestly, if wealth is a sign of brilliance, Hillary made a goodly sum on Whitewater and futures, and at least she is consistent. I may hate her policies, and think she is unscrupulous, even believe her policies are destructive and harmful, but at least I know where she stands.

Fortunately, this is not a two party state, and so I do not have to hold my nose and vote Clinton, but it is frightening that the Republicans have selected a candidate who even made me consider it.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Quick Grammar Nazi Note

I promise soon I will post a substantive essay, but for the moment I have to share two particularly silly grammatical errors I ran across the other day.

My son was listening to one of those would-be talking heads who populate Youtube, in this case an aspiring anchor woman presenting a report on the top ten military fiascoes, or something similar. As expected, some of them were arguable (eg Vietnam, the Second Gulf War, etc), but also predictable. As was most of the content. No WMDs, no gain to the US, the "senseless slaughter" of Vietnam, ignoring that the Viet Cong were all but eliminated after Tet and so on. I was a bit surprised to hear such a partisan presentation include the Bay of Pigs, but then again, if you are talking about military fiascoes that is a hard one to ignore.

So, overall, a rather tedious, forgettable presentation. And one to which I paid only intermittent attention as my son watched it. At least until the presenter got to the Bay of Pigs and began to mention the "amphibian invasion".

At first I thought it was just a slip of the tongue, as she clearly did not mean to imply giant mutant frogs and newts were sent against Castro, and the rest of her diction seemed professional enough that I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and assumed she knew the proper word. But, lo and behold, come her description of the Gallipoli campaign, once again the amphibian invasion was mentioned. As I know the campaign involved ANZAC -- made up of Aussies and Kiwis, not frogs and newts -- I had to conclude that, for all her airs, this woman simply did not know the difference between "amphibious" and "amphibian". Nor was it simply one additional mistake. From that point on, the report was littered with repeated mention of "amphibian" invasions.

On a positive note, at least one Youtube comment writer did know the difference and made mention of it. On a more negative note, everyone who helped her with this presentation, and everyone to whom she showed it before posting, as well as most Youtube viewers, didn't seem to know the difference. So, though there is a tiny bright side in the form of one sarcastic comment by someone who knows the difference, it is overwhelmed by the evidence that the majority of Youtube viewers and posters do not.

Then again, perhaps I am reading too much into this. There was one other error which suggests pretty strongly neither the presenter nor any of those who helped, has a terribly strong grasp of grammar. It is one of those errors that just screams "I am trying to sound ingenuous, you troglodytic Philippines!"* In this case, the explanation that the second Gulf War was fought "under the auspices that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

Yes, you read that right.

It is one of those errors that screams "I read a lot, but don't always understand it all." It is close enough to the meaning that you might miss it if you are just breezing through paying little attention. Well, not really. It is actually pretty far from any sensible meaning. But it fits with the general sense of what "under the auspices" means, and so it might slip by if you don't listen to every word.

Then again, what does it say that someone trying to sound professional and educated can't tell the difference between auspices and pretext? Or maybe justification? (Depending on your slant on the overall story.) Or that not one Youtube comment writer -- a notoriously snarky lot -- made mention of this error, as one did about the giant frog invasions mentioned earlier?

That's it, not a lot more to say. It is not a common error -- at least as far as I know -- but it is an amusing one, and one where the context makes it seem a bit more surprising to me. So I felt the need to share. Should I run into others making either of these errors, I will be sure to update this post, or perhaps write another, as I would hate to see these two specific bits of nonsense become as commonplace as "try and" or "would of", or even "rediculous", "where you at" or "I could care less".


* Yes, I intended "Philippines" in place of "philistines", and I know "ingenuous" means something completely different than it sounds. That is the joke. (Sad that I felt the need to write this, but I fear if I don't some dolt will write a "Gotcha you grammar Nazi!" comment about it.)


Spell Check Update: It probably won't come as much of a surprise, but the Chrome spell check does not recognize "troglodytic". On the plus side, it has not yet been programmed to accept "rediculous", which I fear will eventually be accepted the way "indexes" was, despite there being a perfectly good plural ("indices") already available. It is just a matter of time before the "living language" crowd insists "rediculous" is "just as valid" as "ridiculous".

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Very Quick Note

I do apologize for not writing recently. I have one essay I started last week and which is mostly finished, and I should post that soon, but other than that one essay, I simply have not found the time recently. I hope to write more later this week or early next.

A bit of personal news, I feel I need to share. As of today I am no longer a Republican. Officially that is. I wanted to withdraw from the party late last week, but Maryland close their on line voter forms until Monday. I was busy with work yesterday and could not get to it, but today I completed the paperwork to unregister as Republican. I am almost certainly going to continue voting Republican in state and local elections, but as I cannot support our presidential candidate -- and feel I cannot even just remain quiet and wait for him to lose -- I felt I had to leave the party.

Nor can I, in good conscience, leave the party for now, wait for the arrogant oompa-loompa with a comb-over, trademarked name and a trophy wife to lose, and then return to the party. The fact my party would nominate someone this far from my beliefs, essentially a Democrat who decided to spout stupid populist nonsense, has made me doubt whether the Republican party represents my beliefs any longer. And thus, it would take a serious shakeup within the Republican party for me to consider returning.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Not Sour Grapes, Rather a Matter of Principle

I wrote a long while ago an essay about why I was a Republican ("Why I am a Republican"), and at the time I thought it was the right position for me. And, in all honesty, the Republicans still seemed to me, until this morning, the best choice to achieve real change. And on a local level they may still be. But, as a matter of principle, I cannot remain in the party.

As I see it, being in a party is both a privilege and an obligation. By joining, you get the right to have a voice in the nomination of those running (which is why I so detest open primaries -- see "One Bad Idea"), but, in exchange for that privilege, you have the obligation to close ranks after the primaries and support the nominee. And I did so over and over. I had no  love for McCain (as my old posts make obvious -- "82%? So What?" and "And on the Other Side", though after the nomination I also wrote "At Last", "Winning By Losing? Not A Chance!", "Learning Too Much From History", "Abandoning the Party", "Selling Out", "A Difficult Decision" and "What I Want in a President"), but I supported him. Nor did I want Romney, but there too I threw my weight behind him. It was the right thing to do, it was the obligation part of party membership, a matter of principle, a point of honor.

But I find I cannot do it this election. I held out as long as I could, hoping people were not that stupid, not that mindlessly angry that they would accept Trump's sudden change of heart and empty words and snake oil salesman traveling show. But they did buy it, at least enough that, combined with whatever crossover voting sabotage took place, Trump was clearly going to win the nomination as of last night. And so, were I to remain a Republican, I would be required to not only vote for him, but give him active support. And I find I just cannot.

It is not sour grapes, nor is it the problem I mentioned in "Single Issue Voting", "Principled Voting or Suicide?", "Jacob Frank and Hillary Clinton", "The Need for Realism", "A Problem With Certain Conservatives","The Inability to Compromise" and "The All or Nothing Mistake", voters refusing to vote for anything less than perfection. As I said, I supported McCain and Romney,  even George W (of "compassionate conservatism" [see "Why I Reject Compassionate Conservatism"]), despite lacking any fondness for them. And I would have supported even what I would consider really bad choices in this election. Even if they had nominated someone I detest, such as Huckabee, I would have backed him. But I cannot do it for Trump. He simply is not a Republican, not anything close to conservative, and I honestly believe he will possibly rule left of Hillary, or, if not, will certainly try to institute measures I find abhorrent due to their anti-freedom bent. It is not a matter of political disagreement, for once I honestly think my party (or now former party) is running the greater of two evils this time.

Thus, I must reluctantly remove myself from the Republican party.

This does not mean I will not vote Republican, I still support their candidates in local elections, and may in the future even support a presidential candidate. But for now I cannot belong to the party, as I cannot in good conscience fulfill my obligations.

I will not be voting for Hillary. Possibly I will abstain, voting only in local elections, as it is no longer completely futile in Maryland (just mostly futile), and leaving president blank. Or, perhaps I will throw in behind a Libertarian or Constitutional candidate, provide they adopt positions not too far into the fringe. I won't be joining either party (see "Why I Am Not A Libertarian"), but they may get my presidential vote this year.

I am not sure how many other Republicans feel this way. I know some comments I have read suggest many will be voting as I am, and some even leaving the party for the same reasons. Sadly, I am concerned that Trump's win, despite the predictions of his faithful, will not "energize" the party, and bring in "Reagan Democrats", but rather will shatter the party, accelerating the rate at which disillusioned conservatives and other abandon it and seek third party alternatives.

And that may be a good thing in the long run, the Republicans, because of an accident of history, tried for too long to embrace the conflicting identities represented by the libertarian/neocon/modern conservative wing (see "A True Conservative Platform", "The Case for Small Government" and "Minimal Reforms" for my take on the beliefs of this segment, the one to which I belong) and the mercantilist/protectionist/19th century Republican/paleocon wing. (Among other divisions.) Perhaps by driving us away, and eventually raising one of the third parties to prominence, this confused identity will be resolved. (Cf "Why Republicans Lose, We Eat Our Own", "Confucius, Aedes Aegypti, Pluto, Sub-Species, Conservatives and Republicans" and "Conservatives and the "Big Picture"".)

The downside being that, for a number to years, as this process works itself out, the Democrats will have unprecedented access to government office. But we will survive. If we could survive four terms of FDR -- or one of Carter -- we will survive this. And, in the end, we will probably be better for it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Trump Analogy

I keep hearing really stupid comments about the Trump campaign. Such as "He is the presumptive nominee", or "in any other primary, he would be assumed to be the nominee" or "anyone else with that many delegates would be considered the nominee" and so on.

Sorry, no. In any other race where no one had secured  the necessary delegates and the competitor had not conceded, things would be just as they are now. In a race with candidates still running and no one with 50%, we would be hearing about delegates and second and third votes and everything we are hearing now.

The problem is, we are not familiar with this situation, as the last few times it happened were not in our lifetimes, but there have been several brokered Republican conventions and, surprise, in several the nominee did not have the most delegates going into the convention. The only reason we do not think about these past conventions -- besides Americans' general indifference toward, and ignorance of, history* -- is that they took place so long ago we don't remember them ourselves.

But, as this is such an unusual situation, I shall offer a simple analogy for everyone who says Trump should be the nominee because of his delegates, or that Cruz should drop out, or at least we should call Trump the presumed nominee. To better understand the situation, let me ask you this: In a baseball game, if one team leads by 7 runs at the end of the seventh inning, are they the winner? Should the other team concede? Should everyone refer to them as the "presumptive winner"? If not, then how do you make those assumptions about the Trump campaign?

I know it won't help, and we will continue to hear that Trump should win, even if he does not have 50% of the delegates, and so on, but I hope, at the very least, this analogy has shown a few how silly such arguments are.


* I don't normally agree with those who speak about America's poor education, or our ignorance. In my opinion, the majority in most countries is relatively ignorant. Knowledge -- or rather knowledge as knowledge, knowledge for its own sake, rather than specific, practical information -- tends to be important to a relatively small group no matter what nation. Other individuals may have a hobby, or an interest, where they have special knowledge, but by and large, most people do not have an interest in accumulating a broad knowledge on numerous topics.

However, I do note that Americans, perhaps because our own local history is relatively short, tend to have less interest in history than most. Oh, we have people who know every detail of every war, who reenact battles, who can recite the family lineage and so on, but we just seem to have a great deal of indifference to the big picture, the broad sweep of history. Not everyone, but a lot of us.

The best example would be when the absurd film Gladiator was in theaters and I griped about how bizarre it was to see a film where an emperor was killed 8 years early in his reign by a non-existent general to restore a republic that was never restored. The reaction of almost everyone was "who cares?" However, had the film depicted Abe Lincoln in a fist fight with Hitler to save Gandhi from robot sharks, everyone would have declared it absurd. The point being, we have an interest in history, but only over a very brief span of time, and usually only on those topics which are prominent in pop culture, anything beyond that tends to be quietly ignored.  (I made similar comments on an IMDB board.)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Upcoming Posts

I have been reading my recent posts and it strikes me that, as well as being far too infrequent, my recent writing just does not seem up to my usual standards. Some may say those standards were not terribly high to begin with, and that may be true, but however high or low they were, I still can't help but feel recent posts have not met them.

In order to try to bring my writing back up to something like a consistent level of quality, I am going to try to set a few goals for myself.

First, I am going to finish off the series I have left incomplete. For example "Free Market and Federalist Confusion" has been lacking its promised sequel for some time, and the series "Monetary Issues Made Simple Part I" and "Monetary Issues Made Simple Part II" has been lacking the promised third installment for even longer, as have "A Timeline Part One", "A Timeline Part Two" and "A Timeline Part Three", which are missing a promised fourth (and perhaps fifth) chapter. There are others, but for the moment I shall try to concentrate on these.

Once that is finished, I hope to complete the half dozen or so unfinished posts I have hanging around. Actually, there are far more than that, but many were abandoned for good reason. However, about six to eight of them actually are still worth completing, and those I intend to revisit and complete.

With luck, this shall all be done in the coming week, or, at most, two. As I said, I am not happy with the present pace of my writing, and so I hope this new plan will not only improve the quality, but also pick up the pace a bit.

So, if you have been reading and are not terribly impressed with recent posts, please return, as I hope to restore my earlier level of writing.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Most Absurd Debate Since ... Well I guess the Republican Presidential Ones, Or the Democrats

I have found what must be the most bizarre debate I have ever seen on IMDB, and trust me, that site has some doozies*. First, because of a high "hipster quotient" there is always a "more PC than thou" factor making every argument sound like a faculty inquisition at Ann Arbor. Second, thanks to many "authentic foreigners", most American hipster posters are in auto-grovel mode, attesting how horrible Hollywood is, how much they love incomprehensible films, and making as much noise as possible about how horrible America is. And then on top of that, there is the simple film snob/art snob thing, where everyone claims if you don't like something it is a sign you've had a lobotomy. So IMDB debate is always pretty silly, but this one just struck me as both particularly absurd, and a good example of what is wrong with a lot of current social and political thought (and not just on the left, as some paleocons would be perfectly at home in this argument):

Snowden's leaks have helped isis
by ameer-jabril » Mon Jul 27 2015 11:33:26
For all u gullible types who think snowden is some white savior.

Re: Snowden's leaks have helped isis
by Nitrometh » Wed Jul 29 2015 13:57:28
And Coca Cola says Coke has ended thirst in Africa!

Re: Snowden's leaks have helped isis
by ameer-jabril » Fri Jul 31 2015 14:09:17
hey truth hurts.

Re: Snowden's leaks have helped isis
by Nitrometh » Fri Jul 31 2015 14:27:53
It sure sounds like it Jabroni! Try some Vagisil next time

Re: Snowden's leaks have helped isis
by ameer-jabril » Fri Jul 31 2015 18:19:48
Says the tea party Obama hating white red neck who probably never bothered to read the article.

Re: Snowden's leaks have helped isis
by Nitrometh » Sat Aug 1 2015 00:16:10
Post Edited: Sat Aug 1 2015 00:19:45
Aww did i hurt your feelings lil Jabroni? Maybe you missed the important bit in the article where they say
And they might be aided by something else, as well - The New York Times reported this week that ISIS has
First off, they're not even sure when they say "might be". second off its a report from NY Times, haha more proof of it being a planted news by the US govt.
A govt will go to any length to convert the sympathizers into dummy haters with some money being thrown to the media like doggy bones and what better way to discount a whistleblower than to mix him with ISIS in a cooked up story full of uncertainty.

Post deleted Post deleted

Re: Snowden's leaks have helped isis
by Nitrometh » Tue Aug 4 2015 13:37:57
well Bacon hater i hate to give you some newsflash but a) Not a white boy, b) Not interested in your "zionist" propoganda c) Don't buy NY times story and d) Stop blowing up people man in the name of they lord man.
P.S do you snip the hotdog tips before you eat?

Re: Snowden's leaks have helped isis
by ameer-jabril » Thu Aug 6 2015 10:11:49
Zionist LOL!? Thats rich coming from a western twat living under a zionazi puppet government. Its called truth and sometimes it hurts. And i very much doupt u ain't white. White people always seem to be the rampant racists and intolerant bigots on the internet. Probably cause yall don't got the balls to say what ya think to black and brown Muslim peoples faces. And that bacon comment pretty much seals the deal u an intolerant white western atheist pos and the real zionist shill.

Re: Snowden's leaks have helped isis
by Nitrometh » Fri Aug 7 2015 05:42:32
Lol the fact that you even think i am Western is hilarious. Secondly the only people having issues with whatever you call Zionist is bacon haters, you know the people that blow *beep* up around the world for "world domination"? Yeah, i can see you are one of those so regardless of me being Asian or Western or Australian or whatever, i think the world has more problems with you blow up dolls than anybody else right now. How long before the likes of you flee the country and join ISIS like your fellow brethren?
And make your mind up. I am either an Atheist or a Christian or a Zionist. Jeez, what next you're going to call me a Buddhist or a Hindu? lol.
Are you one of those mentally challenged bacon hating people who cannot differentiate between Jews and others?
Let me quote what Zionism means "Zionism (Hebrew: צִיּוֹנוּת, IPA: [t͡sijo̞ˈnut], translit. Tziyonut, after Zion) is a nationalist and political movement of Jews and Jewish culture that supports the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel"
See, now i can either be a Westerner or an Israeli, a Jew or an Atheist. The fact that you don't even know what you're accusing me of totally negates this "propoganda" topic. How's that for sealing the deal?
Maybe when you get your 72 virgins in outer space we will believe your propoganda. Say hi to pedo for us. :)

My first issue upon reading it was trying to figure out exactly who stood when politically. At first, with the title and the opening salvo, I thought perhaps the original poster might have some conservative leanings. But his subsequent dive into "who's the Zionist" territory made me doubt that. Of course, he could be a paleocon, as they seem to throw around "neocon" and "Zionist" as much as -- or even more than -- most liberals, but since the poster also engaged in "who's less white" arguments, I began to suspect he may be some flavor of black nationalist.

Which left me wondering about the other party. His anti-Islam sentiment sounded like a lot of the more hostile nominal conservatives, the ones who toss around insults about "muzzies" and "sandni**gers" and such, and some of his rhetoric definitely fit the bill. Even his anti-Zionism stance could be part of some paleocon beliefs, or maybe one of those "only Christians can be conservative" groups. But then I had to contend with the facts that (1) he seemed to be standing up for Snowden and (2) he too was engaged in proving he was less white than his rival and (3) he did the same to prove he was less "Western".  His comments were somewhat coherent in places, but in others he was a bit raving, so, after some thought, it seemed most likely he was some flavor of libertarian. Not, I note, the traditional variety, but probably one of the -- incoherently named -- libertarian left. The anti-Moslem bit didn't fit well, but the suspicion of government, the general acceptance of anti-West, anti-white equating to good, and all the rest, it seemed to fit. Even the periods of occasionally lucid arguments made sense, as sadly, while the libertarian left is, by its very nature a tissue of contradictions, the proponents tend to be somewhat intelligent, and so, for all the nonsense they spout, every so often come up with something not just clever, but actually coherent. (It helps that they know enough traditional libertarian philosophy to sometimes stumble across consistent philosophy, despite their incredibly self-contradictory beliefs.)

Of course, I may be wrong, the Zionist bit is kind of oddly worded, and could mean a lot of things. (It really does not help that this debate is quite badly worded and almost impossible to follow at times.) The respondent could be nothing more than a conservative who has drifted over into that "fear of government" paranoia to the point that he believes Snowden is someone worth defending. And, perhaps he is simply pointing out he is not Western or white. On the other hand, the prominence given to those features makes me wonder.

In any case, the basic outline of this debate does show one of the big problems in our present society, as does the Trump campaign. Both of our major political movements seem to be fracturing, and fracturing in ways that are troubling. The left is breaking into the traditional, already pretty liberal, left, and the radical half that thinks we have not gone far enough in emulating European liberals.

On the right we have even more fragmentation. We have the traditional Republican party, which wants to move toward less government, but is willing to do so in moderate steps, and thus is accused of being RINO, establishment, sell out and the rest. To a degree, this is a somewhat valid charge, as the mainstream Republicans often hold somewhat contradictory beliefs, accepting some degree of intervention and regulation in whatever areas they think best, basically selling "Democrat Lite" policies on issues where they believe in regulation. On the other hand, even with all their shortcomings, they are at least interested in less government and less spending, so, for all their faults, they still represent a force moving, albeit slowly and awkwardly, in the right direction.

Then we have the Trump supporters, well, some of them. These are the "revolt now!" types. Those who have become disillusioned with the current state of affairs and imagine that the only solution is sudden revolt. They are right in one respect, the current situation is unsatisfactory, but they are quite dangerous in almost every other respect, since sudden change, even if in the right direction, is prone to produce more harm than good**. Not to mention that, at the moment, their upset with the government has led them to support someone who has no real beliefs at all and is simply manipulating them for his own aggrandizement.

And then we have the conservative wing of the right, the true government minimalists. Granted, even among them there is some dispute about how small government should be, but more than mainstream Republicans, this wing of the Republicans, along with a core of true small government types among the libertarians, are dedicated to the right goals. Unfortunately, many of them are also unrealistically idealist. The people who refused to vote of McCain and Romney, who will not support any candidate who does not match their beliefs 100%. And thus, while right on the issues, they are often wrong on the means, adopting such an uncompromising position they effectively embrace the greater of two evils, just so they won't taint their hands by embracing the lesser.

And then there are all the others, the paleocons, the nationalists on both sides of the aisle, and so on. But by and large they are growing ever smaller as political movements, being absorbed into these other groups, or fragmenting into ever smaller subfactions.

Which is why we see things such as the debate above. Where, a few years ago, I would have expected to see relatively clear lines between Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, since neither party has been very good at expressing a coherent belief system, we get instead this terribly fragmented political field, with such intraparty squabbles that it is sometimes hard to see a party at all.

In a way, it is amusing, as a few years ago there was so much worry over polarization***, and now, today, I am seeing instead the exact opposite, two parties in the process of pulling themselves apart. Granted, the Republicans more obviously, but still, do not discount the far left of the Democrats and influence it is having. The Democrats may not have an obvious Donald Trump analogue, but Sanders is doing more to the party than most commentators imagine. I would not be surprised to see a "Trump of the Left" in 2020 or 2024. (Maybe even Trump himself if he changes parties again.)

But, predicting the future is tricky business, especially when things are in such flux. So, for now, I will content myself with observing that, at least, we now seem free of the "polarization" that worried so many, though I might add the old admonition about being careful about what you wish for.


*  For some past examples, see "Fascist Bully Boys", "The Occupy Mindset", "Should I Laugh or Cry?", "Self-Sustaining Beliefs", "Faux 'Realism'" and "A Revealing Comment". Though, I also found a few sensible comments, as I describe in "So I am not Alone", "A Perfect Quote" and "Renewed Faith in the Public".

** For my arguments on this topic see "Traffic Lights, Predictability and Conservatism", "Reforms, Ideal and Real",  "In Praise of Slow Changes", "The Benefits of Federalism", "Conservatism, Incremental Change and Federalism", "Power and Disorder", "Redundancy as a Protective Measure", "Adaptability and Government", "Inflexibility and Bureaucracy", "The Case for Small Government", "Doing Something", ""Doing Something" Revisited", "Doing Something Revisited, Again", "The Glory of Eisenhower?", "Private Charity", "Private Charity Take Two", "A New Look At Intervention", "Justification", "Hugging You to Death", "Did Deregulation Fail?"  and "Why Freedom is Essential".

*** Even I discussed this topic, though I did argue polarization was not unusual given a two party system. Though, I also argued with the rise of the "Angry Right" and "Angry Left", the polarization would, in the end, probably favor the left, unless the right tried harder to reach the shrinking pool of moderates and independents. See "The Futility of Blame", "Technophobes and Conservatives -- The Risk of Assumptions", "Missionary Zeal and Human Discord", "Clinton and Bush Killed the Center", "One Bad Idea", "On Extremists, Moderates and Polarization" and "In Defense of Civil Debate".



After I wrote and posted this, I realized the debate continued on the following pages. I had been initially reading it at work and was called away when I got to the bottom of the first, so I forgot about it and never read the rest. (I cut and pasted the page and mailed it to myself as a  reminder to blog about it, but did not get to the next page.) I admit, I have not yet read on, so I may have made completely incorrect assumptions the later pages dispel. If so, I do apologize. On the other hand, what I did read was incoherent and politically peculiar enough it still supports my later argument, so even if I erred in my assumptions, the rest of what I wrote still stands. We have gone from one time fears about "polarization" (somewhat absurd even then given the factions within both parties, especially the Republicans [though blue collar Democrats definitely differ from the rest]), to an openly fragmented pair of parties that seem to have difficulty preventing their eventually dissolution.