Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Woops . . . didn't see that coming."

The Twentieth Century was one 100-year-long lesson in the Law of Unintended Consequences (now that I think about it, it’s ironic that the acronym spells LUC).  Look at the outcome of WWI.  No one really wanted to spur Germany to transform into a tyrannical giant that would swallow up over 11 million souls after it was finished, but that’s what happened.  When we stopped short of stomping in Saddam’s guts in the first Gulf War, we didn’t do so in the hopes that it would create a 7+ year war with Iraq in the future.

The thing is that no matter how noble an action, no matter how morally right and justified it may be, that action will inevitably produce some consequence that we seriously did not intend.  Let’s take a hypothetical situation through to its logical conclusion.  A good friend of mine has always claimed that alternative fuel technology exists, but the technology is held back because the fat cats of the oil industry want to get every last cent from every last drop of fossil fuel.

I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be great if something like a water fuel cell existed, and the only fuel we ever needed was water?”  Sure, it’d be awesome for me and most people.  We’d just hook our shit up to the hose and we’re good.  But then think about how many lives that sort of technology would ruin.  “Jack, the fat cat oil douche bags have billions of dollars!  Their families will never have to lift a finger for the next 3 generations!  They don’t need anymore money!”

Oh, if only the sole employees of oil companies were the big wigs at the top running shit.  Sure they’d be okay, but what about the thousands of normal employees that make a living off of fossil fuel?  Think about it: how many people would be completely screwed if gas stations became obsolete?  What would they do?  Where would they go?  How the hell would they eat?

We can broaden the context a bit to technological advancements as a whole.  Any time we innovate or advance, some group of people are inevitably boned by it.  Just look at the Navy.  The technology on ships is constantly being improved upon with the goal of reducing the manpower required to run it. 

Right before I got out, my specific work space was getting a huge system upgrade.  While I salivated at the things promised by the upgrade, I was also keenly aware of what it meant in terms of staffing.  We would no longer need 6 operators, but only maybe 3.  Eventually, the system will be so automated that it will be able to be accessed remotely from shore, and the only personnel needed on the ship would be the maintenance guys.

Just take The Dark Knight for example.  The consequence of Bruce Wayne running around town fucking up bad guys dressed as a bat was some psycho running around Gotham fucking up good guys dressed as a clown.  That was one of the big, overarching themes of the film, the notion of escalation.  While it's admirable to try to make the world a better place, we have to remember that there are people out there who profit off of the world being a shit hole.

If there were no war would there be a Northrup-Grumman?  If there were no sickness would there be a need for doctors?  If there were no asshole criminals would we need police and lawyers?  These people provide very valuable and noble services, but their livelihoods depend on people being shitheads to each other, or for the random fury of nature to open up whole truck loads of misfortune on entire civilizations.

We just have to realize that despite our best intentions, we’re going to ruin someone’s life.  Even the most altruistic deeds of good faith and virtue may actually cause harm to someone, somewhere.  In a world of limited resources and competing interests, someone is going to go hungry.  It's foolish and pointless to believe otherwise.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dumbass Idea of the Week

The Mullet Bandit . . . sigh.  Why does a guy from Ohio who has become known for holding up banks have to wear a mullet?  Doesn't he realize that he's only perpetuating the stereotype that we Ohioans are weird and backward?

Jesus Christ, we can't even rob banks without looking totally lame.  Just for the record, I've only maybe seen one person here in Columbus that has a mullet.  Anyway, happy Memorial Day, and here's a picture for your visual edification.

How much you wanna bet that a friend had to talk him
out of wearing scarlet and gray?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

This may be shocking, but history doesn't change

We're all Sherlock Holmes, some of
us just suck at it more than others.
I get a lot of my inspiration to write stuff from my adventures on Crooks and Liars.  There are some fairly well reasoned people there, but most of them are complete wackoes who have given up on anything that even closely resembles intelligent discourse.  Mostly, it's just a bunch of cynical hyper-Liberals that beat the progressive ideological drum, sometimes even in the face of their own logical fallacies.

I don't really care to discuss Huckabee's bullshit history lessons, but rather the overall competition between perspectives of history.  Here's the quote that did it for me: "I'll never trust white men history again."

It's difficult for me to understand why people can't view history objectively.  I mean, I know that almost all historical interpretation is fairly subjective, but that doesn't change the facts of what happened.  When you take all the perspectives of history and combine them, then you realize that history is objective, you just need all the perspectives to see the objectivity of it.

Here's an example to clarify exactly what the fuck I'm talking about.  Let's look at the American Revolution.  Now, from an American perspective we were trying to preserve and enhance our democratic way of life.  We believed that the taxes imposed on us, which we were unable to oppose because we were barred from representing ourselves in Parliament, were ridiculous and restrictive.  We also believed that the crown was wrong to keep us from moving west to settle.  Those are all very valid points, and the perspective is correct.

Joseph Ellis: To some, what he has said about the American
Revolution is bullshit simply because he's a white male.

From Britain's point of view, however, the things they were doing were also compeltely justified.  Taxes were raised to pay for the French and Indian War, a war that had the aim of protecting the colonies that was fought by the British regular army.  They wanted to pay for that war, and of course it made sense that the colonists pay for their own protection through tax hikes.  And as for not allowing them to settle beyond a certain point, that was only for their protection.  Those are also very valid points, and the perspective is correct.

Competing perspectives doesn't mean that history is "wrong."  History is never wrong, it's merely the people who write about it.  History has already happened, it can't be changed, and it's up to us to discover the truth. 

The problem today, especially with progressivism, is that people think that only one specific perspective of history is the "correct," version.  People don't realize that unless a version of history is completely making up facts or erroneously recounting an event, then it's not wrong simply because it leaves out some facts.  Compare the historical perspective of the landed Southern planter class to the slaves perspective.  "America sucked ass," we could imagine the slaves recounting.  "America was fucking balling out of control," said the planters.

Both perspectives are correct but slanted.  Of course the slaves thought America sucked because they were getting their fucking feet cut off and shit, but they're leaving out the fact that America was really good to people who weren't slaves.  And of course the planters thought America was awesome because they were rich as hell from all the "free labor," but they leave out the fact that they "owned" human beings and treated them like livestock to be bought, sold, and brutally repressed.

Richard Hofstadter: White male, therefore also
bullshit apparently.
So just because a perspective only focuses on one aspect, that doesn't mean it's bogus history; it doesn't mean that it is not truth.  It just means that it is an incomplete perspective.  Now granted, if you only focus on one brand of history because it's what interests you, ie. your focus is on social history rather than military history, then that's okay.  You just have to remember that there's other perspectives out there.

So I'm sorry for all of you Marxists, but viewing history as nothing more than the history of class struggle, although meritorious and truthful in some respects, is not a complete view of history.  Ignoring historical perspectives doesn't make you anymore knowledgeable or enlightened, in fact it just means that you've sacrificed one brand of tunnel vision for another.

(Fun Fact: my brand of history has always been intellectual history.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

If Sarah Palin gets the 2012 nomination . . .

. . . we’re fucked.  My heart sank when I heard that she might be seriously considering running for president.  Although I get that she is really good at stirring the pot and getting a lot of attention, I think she lacks the intelligence and prudence that makes a good president.  She is akin to Wendell Philips, or William Jennings Bryan: an agitator who will not be remembered in 50 years.

As I’ve said before, when she first came on to the scene with John McCain, I was genuinely excited.  Picking a woman for his running mate was a good political move.  Picking Sarah Palin was a bad political move, and that started to become apparent after the televised VP debate with Joe Biden.  Granted, Biden is a moron and sounded like a bumbling fool, but Palin showed herself to be woefully devoid of any substance beyond the standard talking points.

Palin is bad for the Republican party for several reasons.  The first being that she is not a candidate that comes even close to appealing to independents or politically moderate people.  There is virtually no chance that she will convince anyone other than a Republican to vote for her, and most Republicans would likely only vote for her out of principle (I, for example, could not vote for a Democrat in good conscience).

She’s simply too radical and too divisive.  She’s the type of politician that does not want to compromise, and this is not the time for such politics.  Americans are frustrated that nothing substantial is being done in DC, and they’re pissed that we can’t do something as simple as pass a fucking budget without endless partisan bullshittery.

This is the best we can do?
And it’s people like Palin that perpetuate the problem.  She’s not interested in the political process—making deals, prioritizing her policy goals and discerning which need to be sacrificed and which cannot be—she’s only interested in Sarah Palin.  She’s only interested in her own popularity and status as a demagogue.  She’s a polarizing figure, and she does not possess the necessary leadership qualities required to get two diametrically opposed parties to work together.

Palin is so polarizing that her presence would actually polarize the Republican Party itself.  Lambaste me all you want, but if she were to get the nomination I would just say “fuck it,” and abstain in 2012.  I know I always preach the “less worse,” doctrine, but her actually being elected would destroy the Republican Party, and it’s precisely because of how radical she is.  And I know I wouldn’t be the only Republican to say “fuck it,” in 2012.

As I’ve said in an article before, the problem with the Republican Party is that it’s gradually becoming more right wing as time goes on.  The thing is, however, that it’s not even a “good,” right wing.  I can get behind some Libertarian ideas, but the Tea Party is not Libertarian.  A good Libertarian, I think, doesn’t believe in contradictory crap.  If you believe in the freedom of choice, then you have to believe that women have the right to choose whether or not to keep a pregnancy, even if you think it’s morally wrong.  If you believe that “all men are created equal,” then you probably shouldn’t shit allover people of other cultures simply because they’re not Christian or weren’t born in America.

The pissed off face of an honest man.
So this brand of right-wing arch conservatism is not the kind we need.  Giving Palin the nod would only drive out moderate Republicans, like me, and then you’d be left with a party of radicals who will never win an election.  I actually kind of like guys like Ron Paul.  I think some of his policy ideas are a bit too far, but I agree with a lot of what he’s been saying.  He’s a guy that knows what he believes, and from what I’ve seen he doesn’t contradict himself often.  But can Ron Paul win a presidential election?  I don’t think so.

Hopefully this is just a horseshit ploy for her to become more famous, and she’s not actually seriously considering throwing her hat into the ring.  If that’s the case, then it would only confirm my suspicion that she would make an awful president.

I think I’ve pretty much given up hope on winning in 2012, but I am making this vow to all of my readers today: if Sarah Palin wins the nomination for 2012, I will declare my allegiance to the Republican Party officially dead.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blogger still sucks my ass, but I cooked up a solution

Myself and others have been boned by blogger this past week on the whole comment thing, but I've created a solution.  I got the idea from Silverfiddle's blog Western Hero, which is a good blog btw that I highly recommend (especially if you find some of my sentiments too liberal for your personal tastes).

Silver has his comment thing set up so that it comes up as a pop-up window.  That has solved the problem.  You should now be able to post comments to CFGM under your blogger profile if you were previously unable to do so.

Don't forget to read my actual article for today.  It's a doozie =)

Total and Utter Annihilation®: Made in the USA

 . . . because I'm a sick fuck.
There’s a lot of inventions, the fruits of which we all enjoy, that were not hatched in America.  Contrary to Obama’s assertion a while ago, although Ford conjured up the first mass-produced automobile, the Ford Motor Company did not invent the automobile.  Even seemingly simple things like the steam engine or vaccination were not invented in America.

We might not have invented some of the things that have completely revolutionized human living, but we have invented one thing that changed the world forever: complete and utter destruction.

Near the end of World War II, Robert Oppenheimer and co. harnessed the power of the atom and turned it into a weapon of unimaginable and unprecedented destruction.  With the invention of “The Bomb,” we had finally granted ourselves the power to completely and irreversibly destroy ourselves.

The United States of America invented the capability to destroy the world.  Oppenheimer is often quoted, but I think we seldom take in the gravitas of his words: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Somewhere along the line we collectively decided that coming up with The Bomb was probably not a good thing.  It may have been an inevitable thing (Hitler was developing it the same time we were, and the Soviets were all over it), but it was definitely not a good thing.  In that time, however, we recognized the huge advantage that it gave us.  Who would oppose a country that had that sort of capability?

Bobby O., the founding father of the

Fortunately we’re fairly benevolent, and I don’t think we’ve ever taken the world hostage with our capabilities, but we learned a valuable lesson from all of that.  We learned that in a world of jackals and wolves, the one thing that sets a nation apart from others is its ability to extinguish life.  After a bunch of horrifyingly bloody wars, we then figured out that efficiency in killing would further set us apart from other nations.

Even though we decided that nuclear weapons are a bad thing, and we should probably never use them except in case of retaliation, and that we should only have them for the purpose of deterrence, we still understood that efficient killing is how you make yourself safe.  We scaled down our nuclear arsenal, but we improved every other method of bringing death upon our enemies while sustaining as few friendly casualties as possible.

Compare the numbers of fallen American military men and women now to 30 years ago.  In Vietnam, 50,000 Americans were killed, over 100,000 wounded, and around 1,500 were MIA.  Before that, the numbers were far more staggering.  Compare the monthly loss of American lives in WWII to the monthly loss of life in Iraq during the height of its violence.  We lament the fact that we’ve lost over 7,000 brave men and women in Iraq after nearly 10 years of war.  The perspective changes, I think, when you consider that after a campaign that lasted a little over a month in the Ardennes Forrest in WWII, American losses numbered nearly 90,000 (19,000 KIA, 47,000 wounded, 23,000 POW or MIA).

America might not be leading the way in green energy technology, and we might suck when it comes to electronic entertainment (sorry, but Japan has us whipped on that).  But what we can do is kill just about anyone, anywhere, at any time.  We don’t even need nuclear weapons anymore.

60 years ago, that dude on the left in this photo of the
Ardennes Forest would have been fragged.
Just look at the Navy SEALs for example.  Last year they sniped some Somali pirates from a damn boat.  At night.  Not long ago they waxed bin Laden.  If you have an American after your ass trying to kill you, and he has (SEAL) in his official title, you’re probably fucked.

America is on top because the world knows that they can’t possibly stand up to our military might.  We can kill people better than anyone on the planet.  It sounds cynical and horrifying, but it’s the truth.  No one ever said that being a world super-power would not be a messy business.  I don’t think, however, that we have lost our soul yet, so perhaps it’s not as dreary as it may appear.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Liberty? Freedom of choice? What the fuck ever!

For all the bullshit that Democrats spew forth about Republicans being antithetical to liberty and the freedom of choice, they seem to have an extremely shitty track record on that themselves.

Sure, they have the whole Pro-Choice movement thing with abortion.  Apparently, the only choice that should be afforded to Americans belongs to women, and that choice is whether or not they want to terminate the little living organism growing in their wombs.  That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but lets take a stroll down
Reality Lane.

This week the Senate is moving to avoid the expiration of the Patriot Act.  This is being spearheaded by none other than Harry Reid.  *GASP* a Democrat?!  My world has now turned upside down!  I don’t know what to think anymore knowing that a Democrat supports something that was widely criticized as violating personal liberties!

Maybe that loon Camping was right?  Perhaps the apocalypse has come since the Democrats are supporting such “draconian,” legislation (btw, I fucking hate the word draconian, so consider the quotation marks as an indication of mockery in this case).

"My choice IS your choice, assholes!"

I’d hold off on looting the local supermarket for bottled water and canned goods, because anyone who has paid any sort of attention know that a large portion, if not all, of the Democrat party has been living a lie for quite some time.

As Harrison pointed out yesterday in his article “The War Against Scotland: Ronald McDonald,” the Democrats do all sorts of crazy shit to try to limit choice, in this case not allowing McDonald’s to put toys in their happy meals and get rid of Ronald McDonald.  That’s just one example.  A while ago, I wrote about how they’re trying to limit the sodium content in our food.

“Jack, you stupid asshole!  It’s for your own good!  They’re trying to improve your health and the health of kids!”  HTNS, I’m thinking of a phrase that begins with “fuck,” ends in “yourself,” and rhymes with “luck yourself.”

How I choose to live my life is my choice and my choice only.  I’ll pay the consequences for it.  I don’t need a politician to tell me how much salt should be in my food, or what the healthy choices for my kids are.  As I stated on Capitol Commentary, my kids aren’t fat because I’m in control of what they eat.  I have the money, I drive the car, so I’m the one that’s ultimately responsible for what they eat.

Oh and how about school choice?  Sorry poor kids, but you have to wait until public education stops sucking asshole before you can get a real education.  No vouchers for you, because that choice somehow makes everything unfair.  Nevermind the fact that you’re poor and your parents can’t afford private school.  I guess school choice is something that is only available to families who can afford it.

If you believe that women have the right to choose whether or not to terminate their pregnancies, effectively end the existence of something that had the potential to be a living, breathing person, then why the hell do you believe that I don’t have the right to choose what I do with myself and my family?  Sometimes I get the feeling that you’re all about freedom of choice as long as it is the choice that you would make.

You're all hypocrites!
So please, don’t give me any bullshit lines about how Democrats are the last bastions of freedom and liberty in America, because if they were then the Democrat controlled Senate would drop the whole Patriot Act thing.  I distinctly remember nearly the whole of Democrats in America lambasting Bush for his “illegal” wiretaps and shit like that, but once again anything goes as long as the person pushing for it runs on the blue ticket.

Stay off my phone line, stay out of my food, and for fuck-sake let my kids have their McDonald’s toy whenever I take them every couple of months.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Comments update: Blogger is sucking ass

Apparently they are having a problem with people being able to sign in to post comments.  I am one of the afflicted.  So please know that I am, indeed, reading all of your comments and wishing that I could respond to them.

I know Harrison, I need to get my own webpage.  And to those of you who are visiting/commenting for the first time, thanks for stopping by!

When Evil is Triumphant

I know this makes me a giant dork, but it's a good picture.
I generally don’t like to refer to “good” or “evil” as entities, because they’re not.  I don’t believe that either can be used as a subject in terms of a force that imposes itself on the world.  Evil, used as a noun as opposed to its use as an adjective, is merely a word that encompasses those actions of man, and conditions of this world, that pervert, stifle, and destroy individual good.  So to say that evil is triumphant is metaphorical, since there is no entity called “Evil,” that seeks victory over its antithetical entity “Good.”

That being said, there are two kinds of evil, and only one of them is truly triumphant.  The first kind is that which is very easily observable and discernable by nearly all peoples.  Murder?  Evil in nearly all cultures.  Even cultures of violence have a sense that there is a difference between justified killing and murder.  Stealing?  Even thieves understand that stealing is wrong: although they steal from others, they become indignant when someone steals from them.

The first kind of evil, blatant and highly visible, is difficult to curb but not impossible.  You can punish those who partake in it, remove them from society that they may never be allowed to perpetrate it again.  For the most part, it is easy to avoid.

Nancy Pelosi
Far worse, however, is the brand of evil that perverts and twists one’s soul without them even realizing it.  Take this situation for example.  This girl, Tina, was raped by a member of her church when she was 15.  The man raped her twice and impregnated her.  When the church found out what had happened, they convinced her that it was her fault that she was raped and impregnated, and got her mother to agree to send her away to Colorado to birth her bastard child.  They then forced her to give the child up for adoption.

For years the case went nowhere because when she reported the incident, her assailant was nowhere to be found.  Once he was found last year, she was contacted by the police, and trial proceedings started.  Her mother still believes that it was her daughter’s fault and that she’s lying about the sexual activity being non-consensual.

This is the evil that is triumphant.  It is nothing for a malevolent character to commit acts of atrocious nature.  When evil corrupts the good and makes them believe that their horrifying actions are actually virtuous and upright, that is when hope is lost.  These people, Fundamentalist Baptists, call themselves Christians—God-fearing no doubt—and yet they have completely misinterpreted Jesus’ ministry.  So misguided is their interpretation that they are blinded to the good that Jesus espoused.

Instead of comforting this girl and ostracizing the sinner, instead of turning a rapist over to the authorities, these disgusting examples of human depravity thought that the girl had somehow sinned.  Not only have they committed an evil by persecuting the victim of a crime, but they have done worse by perpetuating that evil every day that they preach their vile doctrine of putrescent hatred and vitriol.

If evil were an entity, it would rejoice in the fact that there’s never a shortage of fools who are so susceptible to being effortlessly and utterly subverted by its seductive caress.  The evil that is disguised as good, the horror that masquerades as virtue has poisoned their souls and they don’t even know it.

One of life’s greatest tragedies is that evil can so easily be construed as good, justified as benevolent, and that it is done so by people who truly desire to be pious.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Valuable Lesson

I didn’t think it would be right to just dismiss the whole Rapture thing in an installment of “Dumbass Idea of the Week,” because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there really is a valuable lesson in this little fiasco.

For those who have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, Harold Camping, a self-proclaimed “bible scholar,” and preacher with no credentials to back either of those claims, predicted that the Rapture was supposed to have taken place this past Saturday, May 21st, specifically at 6pm allover the world.  Needless to say he was ridiculously wrong.  His prediction came from some math formula he cooked up using numbers from the bible, and he even took into account the days lost due to the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar (I was actually impressed with that).

He finally spoke abut his fail-boat prediction, and when asked how he felt he used the word “flabbergasted.”  Not only is he bewildered, but his numerous followers, some of whom dropped money to advertise this thing, are also in complete disbelief.  A friend of mine got defriended by some dumbass on Facebook because she apparently bought into it it, too, and of course he made fun of Camping about it.  There is a lesson to be learned here.

We’re all guilty of this same exact shit.  We have our own beliefs, principles and ideas we’ve held to be true for our entire lives, and when we’re faced with evidence that suggests our beliefs are not true, more often than not we simply dismiss said evidence as false.

Sometimes we dismiss evidence contrary to our belief even when that knowledge is indisputable, even when it overwhelmingly challenges our beliefs as misguided or even fallacious.  What makes it even worse is that we tend to group ourselves with likeminded individuals who serve only to validate what we already believe to be true.

I know this because I’ve been guilty of it in the past.  I know how it feels to think that there are tons of people who agree with you and think you’re right.  It feels great to be validated, to have people you respect tell you that you’ve hit the mark.

It takes a brave person to admit when they’re wrong or mistaken.  It takes an even braver soul to leave the comfort of his cronies and venture out to places where nearly everyone disagrees with you.  I can say, though, that if you’re unwilling to admit when you’re wrong then you might as well count yourself as one of those weirdo Rapture people.

Now of course many of my readers will say “well I’ll admit I’m wrong when someone actually proves me wrong,” but that is already a fail attitude to have.  I go into every discussion knowing that I may be wrong.  I always believe that I’ve probably missed something, or that there is some other angle to perceive the issue that I’ve not considered.  At the end of the day I might reject things that are logically fallacious—especially when someone tries to pass speculation as fact and cannot recognize the difference between the two—but rarely do I deny factual information.  Even so, I don’t necessarily deny facts, but rather I may deny its relevance or the presenter’s interpretation of it.

As always, we are here.
Politics today is so bitter because no one wants to admit that they’re wrong.  So in the face of facts or logic, both sides dismiss any fact or line of logic that are contrary to their opinions as fallacious, propagandistic, or as outright lies.  To be sure, there is a lot of that stuff—lies and misinformation—out there, but if we get stuck in the trap of believing that it’s all a lie unless it jives with our inner sentiments, then we’re all caught looking “flabbergasted.”

It’s okay to be wrong, and once you’re willing to admit that you might be wrong on just about everything you believe then you’ve taken the first step to actually discovering Truth.  Otherwise, you might still be futilely waiting for the Rapture.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dumbass Idea of the Week

Well it should come as no surprise that the hard-core fail apocalypse prediction is this week's #1 dumbass idea.  Probably thousands of people told this dude that the bible says that not even Jesus Christ knows the day and the hour, but that didn't matter.

Sorry pal, but it's no surprise that you suck.

How fitting.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My analysis of Obama's Israel policy

You'll have to read it at Political Realities today.  I'm glad that Larry asked me to write it for PR, as I was planning on writing it for CFGM.  I'm allowed to be full-on academic over there =)

Anyway, give Political Realities a visit today and check out my piece on why my take on Obama's Israel-Palestinian conflict is so radically different from that of the conservative blogosphere.  You can click on this article's title which will lead you directly to my article, or you can click on the Political Realities link if you want to peruse the site.  It's a good one  =)


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ideas are Important. Wat?

He had NOTHING to say about politics
I think I've finally figured out why it's so difficult for me to discuss just about anything that has to do with politics with Liberals and some extreme right-wing conservatives.  First, two quick stories.

A few weeks ago someone on Crooks and Liars posted an online study in how much U.S. citizens know about American civics.  The study posted the group's findings, and it even included a 33 question civics test.  I'll say that the test was moderately challenging.  It wasn't difficult for me, but I attribute that to the fact that I majored in American history and Political Science in college.  I can imagine where it could be difficult for someone who hadn't.

Anyway, I only missed two questions, and they were economics questions that were really ambiguous and poorly worded, and surprisingly many people on C&L did just as well or a little bit worse than me (I can't attest to how many did it entirely off the cuff like me or looked up answers they didn't know).  Well, one of the questions asked "Which of the following to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas have in common:" and the correct answer was something along the lines of "all believed that there are certain universal truths that human beings can discover and understand through the power of reason."  For me, that question was a no-brainer.

One jackass on C&L, however, stated "I don't know what the hell Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas have to do with American government or why this question would even be on an American civics test."

Story 2:  I was out with some friends of mine for all-you-can-eat wings night at Quaker Steak.  A mutual "friend," of ours, a bleeding heart liberal, came with us.  We'll call him Clay.  I was talking politics with another friend of mine, and somewhere in there I mentioned Aristotle.  Clay says to me "well Aristotle didn't really have much to do with politics.  He was more of a philosopher."

Natural rights theory?  WTF is that???
Being a political scientist (I call myself that even though I don't have graduate degrees in it), I was immediately flabbergasted.  When I told him that Aristotle coined the term "human beings are political animals," he got upset with me and wanted to end the conversation.  Then when I got home, I had a friend of mine post an amazon link to Politics by Aristotle and apparently he deleted that whole thing from his FB wall.

The reason I have so much difficulty talking politics with almost everyone on C&L, with jackasses like Clay, and with morons like marie on Capitol Commentary (the author, Harrison, is a stand-up guy and is awesome in political discussions, btw) is because none of these people have a fucking clue, not a shred of knowledge base in political theory.

Why?  I don't have a fucking clue.  Probably because they think that things like ideas and political theory don't matter.  It's no wonder that they're so easily able to contradict themselves and their own ideologies, because they don't even know where the hell they're getting their shit.  They probably heard someone on Fox News or CNN say something salient that they accepted as true, and they ran with it.

News flash, morons: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas--among others--laid the groundwork for what we all know to be Natural Rights theory.  John Locke didn't just make this shit up out of nowhere.  He was well read in the classics, and he understood the same basic principle that these intrepid men did: that there is such a thing as universal truth, and we can know it if we just stop being dumbasses.

John Locke didn't say that humans have the right to choose only a democracy.  He said that when the government has infringed on the rights of the people, the people have the obligation to rise up and choose their form of government.  Sharia might be shitty, but the people have the right to choose it.  We might say that Sharia infringes on people's rights, but it's not for us to forcefully impose our standard of living on another people.  They must come to that conclusion as we did.  We can tell them how we think on the subject, we can sanction them because we believe they are violating their people's rights, but if the people choose it, who are we to stop them?

Guess which one represents me in this photo.
Telling a sovereign people that they do not have the right to choose their form of rule completely goes against everything a conservative American believes in.  How can you believe in the freedom of choice if that freedom is only valid so long as they choose what you think is best?

Ideas matter, and because of that it's up to us to educate people about them, not force them to believe us.  You simply can't force a way of life on a people: the people have to want it.

If your political theory or philosophy comes from any news network, if it comes from the blogosphere or some op-ed piece you read in the Washington Post or the New York Times, then you've already failed, and you know nothing of politics.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's time to play "Racist or not Racist"

I’ve got a little scenario for you, and before you continue to read after I’ve described the scenario, I want you to think long and hard about how you judge it.

Let’s say that we have a school that is 86% white, a white principal, and about four or five black teachers.  One day, the principal tells the black teachers that they are “unfit to teach white children.”  As if that wasn’t horrifying enough, the principal then proceeds to make the teachers read an article that explains how black teachers aren’t fit to teach white students.

The result?  Immediate lawsuit, the principal would likely be dismissed, and this would be in the national headlines labeled as a big racism scandal.  What do you think?  Is this an example of racism?  If not racism, at the very least it’s a case of asinine and ridiculous discrimination, likely based on the flawed, slanted scholarship of a bigot who hasn’t caught up with the times.

Well that happened recently, but not in the way you think.  A group of white teachers in a Pennsylvania elementary school are suing the former principal of that school, who is black, who told them that they were unfit to teach black students because they are white, and assigned them an article to read about how white teachers are unable to teach black students.

If the reverse situation is racist, then this one is, too.

How much coverage will this story get, and how will the context be framed if it gets more than just the blurb I stumbled upon?  I would imagine that this story is not going to get much coverage, seeing as how the article I read was dated yesterday.  Even better, this incident happened between 2008-2009 when he was principal of that school.

We all know that if the roles were reversed, if it had been a white principal denigrating the ability of black teachers to educate white children, this would have been allover the news the moment word got out.  It would be plastered across every liberal rag and blog, and CNN would likely be having a discussion about how white people are all racist.

I can see the headlines with my waking eyes: “Racist Republican sociopath hates black teachers.”  But that’s not what’s going to happen in this scenario.  It will likely be pushed aside, ignored, chocked up to a black guy exacting justice for the hundreds of years of slavery that he’s never felt.

This will be labeled “reverse racism,” which is as perverse as anything that Orwell imagined with NEWSPEAK.  Some people are stuck in some twilight zone where it’s only racism if it’s white on non-white.  It’s “reverse” racism, it’s justified racism, if it’s black on white.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Something for Nothing

They got got.
So many people seem to want a free lunch these days, and so few of them realize that there’s no such thing. The unintended consequence of being a compassionate human being is that the seedier elements of society will often take advantage of that compassion and nearly make it impossible to root them out.

I’m not going to use welfare as an example of this, because that’s all that’s ever used. Instead, I’m going to use ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover. I truly believe that they’re doing a good thing. They help out some seriously fucked families that are on the brink of ruin—some of them even beyond that point.

That philanthropy has been exploited, however, and in the following example we’ll see just how fucked up and shitty human beings can be. This is the true face of human nature.

This ordeal is with the Leomiti and Higgins family. The Leomitis invited the 5 orphaned Higgins kids into their home, and ABC came out to build a home to accommodate the Higginses to live with the Leomitis. The Higginses claim that the Leomitis systematically kicked them out of their house, and that it was all a ploy by the Leomitis to get a new house from the network.

That’s pretty awful, but here’s where it gets worse. The Higginses filed a law suit, not against the Leomitis, but agains ABC. Why? Because they say that ABC now owes them a house because “ABC promised us a place to live.” In this interview on the Arbams Report, Abrams argues that it’s ridiculous to sue the network, because the network had nothing to do with these kids getting kicked out. The Higginses attorney continually ignores the fact that the Leomitis should be sued, and asserts that it’s ABC’s responsibility to house these kids.

Let’s put aside the fact that the argument on the part of the Higginses and the attorney is completely asinine, and lets do a little bit of speculation. Let’s just look at the logic of the whole argument first. ABC stated that their goal was to improve the Leomitis’ home to accommodate the Higginses. At no point did ABC tell the Higginses that they were going to make sure that they all had a place to live for the rest of their lives, nor did they take on the responsibility of housing them. They merely sought to improve their living arrangements at the time of production.

Therefore, the whole argument the lawsuit is based on is fallacious. ABC held up their “promise,” to give them a place to live, and the kids got kicked out of that place. As Abrams repeatedly makes clear, the true people on the hook for this are the Leomitis. If anyone should be sued, it should be them.

So this begs the question: why the fuck are they suing ABC? My answer is that the attorney knows that the Leomitis are probably poor as shit. She probably figures that even if she sued the Leomitis, there’d be no reward for it. So instead, the lawsuit is directed at the American Broadcasting Company, a multi-billion dollar operation that constantly gives out free houses to people. She’s going where the money is. This has nothing to do with fairness or these kids getting a fair shake, because if that’s what it was about then the Leomitis would be getting sued. This is all about getting something for nothing.

My heart bleeds for the Higginses, honestly it does. It’s unfortunate that they had to lose their parents and then go through this ordeal, but we don’t even know why they were ejected from the Leomitis’ home. And what’s more, we’ll likely never know because they won’t be sued. Doesn’t make you wonder if the kids were justifiably thrown out? Perhaps the Leomitis couldn’t afford to care for the kids.

And now the Higginses all believe that someone owes them something. I hate to say it, but no one owes them a god damned thing. Everyone gets shit on in their life. There are tons of kids in Africa who are not only orphaned, but have to live with AIDS for the rest of their life. Why don’t they get a free house? Why are the Higginses insisting that they be the lucky ones?

This scenario happens every day. Every damn day we have whole families stuck on life-time welfare, and they have no intention of getting off of it. And to make matters worse, we have a bunch of fools who think that they should be allowed to do so. A friend of mine, a social studies teacher, told me that when he asked his high-schoolers the question “should welfare recipients who are unemployed be made to work in order to receive benefits,” and an astounding 80% of his students responded “no, because that would be just like slavery.”

Sorry Liberals, but even a good deed has unintended negative consequences. We’ve created an entire generation of entitlement asshats that will grow to be nothing more than a burden on the taxpayer and hard-working Americans who are not content to be on the government teat.

Keynesian economics doesn’t work when you’re getting nothing in return from your “investment.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Deconstructing "The Watchmen": The Comedian

Well not entirely. I could probably write a whole fucking dissertation on that movie and its intellectual content, but I like to keep things relatively short here. So I want to make this a multiple part series, not in successive order, but I’ll periodically revisit the subject to go over some ideas represented by the characters of the universe. The first in this series is going to focus on The Commedian.

He’s a fairly fucked up character. It’s odd because he’s supposed to be a hero, since he fights on the side of the Watchmen who generally fight for justice in a perpetually unjust world. He hurts civilians, he blew away some Vietnamese chick he impregnated (while she was pregnant with his child), and he tried to rape the original Silk Spectre (another member of the Watchmen). Why the hell is he considered a hero?

His whole purpose is to portray the irony of imperfect justice in an imperfect world. He’s a gritty, nasty, and unsavory person who is tasked with protecting people from injustice, even if that means protecting the people from themselves. As he’s firing canisters of tear gas at rioters who are revolting against the authority granted to the Watchmen, the Night Owl, almost pleading for him to stop, asks “what happened to the American dream?”

“It came true. You’re looking at it,” he responds.

The unintended consequence of liberty is that eventually society becomes so free that even the slightest infringement on liberty is seen as an aggregious affront to freedom.  Machiavelli knew that the only way one could avoid civil unrest entirely was to repress the people.  The American Dream, the idea that democracy and a sovereign people is realized in a society, means that unrest will eventually foment, even for the stupidest reasons.  The freer we are to allow human nature to surface, the uglier it manifests.

“The Comedian saw the true face of human nature and chose to be a parody of it,” opined Rorschach. The Comedian knew that human nature was an ugly thing, capable of perpetrating horrifying evil. And to deal with that, perhaps to prove a point, he personified that and lived that irony. We often glorify those who fight for justice, sometimes not realizing that they might be just as awful as the people they’re putting away, and that’s the joke.

You have people who say they love America and everything we stand for, but then they shit on every Muslim they see because in their mind “every follower of Mohammad is a terrorist.” We have some who say that although people ought to be free, ultimately they’re too stupid to make the right decisions, so government needs to just make the decisions for them; who cares if they don’t like it? Who cares if they don’t agree with it? They should be made to agree, and if they don’t then they must be stupid.

We have some people who swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, and then they go off an waterboard people in secret prisons, torture inmates in Abu Ghraib, or shoot civilians in cold blood without provocation.

The Comedian came to the conclusion that the world is hopeless.  How can there be hope when even the heroes are villains, when the saints are sinners?  That's a conclusion that I came to myself not too long ago.  For a long time I agonized over the state of humanity, and I lamented the fact that I brough two beautiful and innocent children into this evil.  It's a pill that not many are willing to swallow, and even fewer are willing to do so with a smile.

It’s all a joke, and what can you do but laugh? I said that to a friend of mine—a good bleeding heart liberal—in a discussion we were having about politics. I was trying to convey the idea that it’s all one big ass joke, and she frustratingly scoffed at me, “well it’s not a joke because it affects people’s lives!”

“Yes,” I replied, “and that’s what makes it sad.” Laugh or cry: that’s all you can do. Like The Comedian, I choose to laugh.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"God is not here today, priest."

That line comes from two movies: The Exorcist: Beginning and more recently The Rite with Anthony Hopkins. In the Exorcist prequel, Fr. Marin recalls an SS in WWII Poland saying that to him right before he executed some small children. In The Rite, Anthony Hopkins’ character, who is possessed (sorry if I ruined the film for you), ominously growls that line to the principle character.
Tuscaloosa owned.

Title explication aside, I got the inspiration to write this article when I read about how victims of the tornado stuff going down in Alabama are turning to their faith for comfort in the wake of the disaster. I don’t necessarily blame them or fault them for doing so, as I can’t criticize someone’s grieving process.

So this is more about the nature of God’s presence among us. Most faiths believe that God is here with us, in some form of existence, and that he is constantly imposing his will upon the world. “If it’s God’s will,” you’ll often here believers say. Sometimes people pray for God’s favor, or for him to do stuff for us. When I got my current job after nearly 7 months of searching (apparently a BA in history and political science means little to anyone here in Columbus, even with Summa cum Laude attached to it), my fundamentalist aunt proudly proclaimed, “see, prayer does work!”

At the risk of upsetting or alienating my theist readers, I’m going to have to say that I agree with the Nazi. God is not here.

Now before you get all incensed over that, just remember that I do believe in God. Although I have my doubts—more often than I’d like—I have faith that God probably exists. I can’t know for certain that he does, but then again that’s the whole thing with Faith: it’s a theological virtue that has nothing to do with knowing.

Be that as it may, I don’t believe that God exists in the way that is traditionally believed by Christians, the Catholic church included. I am a Deist, so I believe that although there is a creator of all things I don’t believe the notion that this creator constantly exerts his will. I believe that he created the universe and the physical laws by which it would govern itself, and that’s it.

This sort of answers the question of theodicy, that burning question in our hearts of “if God loves us so much then why does he allow us to suffer the evils of the world?” Why does God allow some to die but others to live? Why does God allow good people to suffer in unimaginable ways?

The short answer is that he neither allows nor disallows these things to happen. They just happen. They happen because he created the human experience and wants us to have that experience. I don’t think God wants us to suffer, but life isn’t all about unicorns and rainbows (yes Bowser, I linked to my own article).

So no, God doesn’t answer our prayers. I got the job because I was lucky. God doesn’t grant good things to the pious and horrible shit luck to the unfaithful. Actually, quite the contrary. Usually it’s the pious and virtuous who get shit on the most in life.

I don’t pray because I have nothing to ask from God. Just like everyone else, I was put on this planet to live my life the way I see fit. If I fuck that up then it’s my fault. If someone else fucks it up for me, well then that’s not my fault but it’s up to me to change it if I can. And if I can’t change it, then I have to cope with whatever shit hand that has been dealt to me.

God will not strike down my enemies. He will not help me win the lottery, and he won’t part the sea to give me a lifetime supply of free sushi (I am addicted to the stuff). He will not provide for me via earthly, temporal goods or money, and he will not grant me any sort of favor just for worshipping him. Good people die horrible deaths because that’s just what happens sometimes. Shit happens because he’s not here, or at least does not exist in the way that we imagine. It’s not that he’s apathetic, I’m sure, but more that he would probably rather let nature take its course.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dumbass Idea of the Week

Texas schools are going to blow $2 million to install a camera that is supposed to help track what kids are eating.  This is all in an attempt to keep kids from making themselves fat, apparently.

This is about as retarded as banning chocolate milk from schools.  Check it: kids eat one meal a day at school, and I'm doubting that it's that one single meal that's making them fat.  It's more likely that mommy and daddy don't promote an active lifestyle, and they probably let them eat whatever they want at home.

I saw a fat little girl at the supermarket the other day.  She couldn't have been older than about 4, but she was about as wide as she was tall.  And what was she doing while walking around?  Sucking on a god damned blow-pop.

Two words: Personal Repsonsibility.  Parents, don't let your kids get fat.  Government, stay the fuck out of my kids' eating habbits.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's art, idiot.

I was talking to a good friend of mine on Skype the other day, and we got on to the subject of art.  He asked me, “why do people think that art has to be entertaining?”  That’s a pretty deep fucking question especially coming from an artist.
Think about it.  American society is all about entertainment.  The common idiot-talk of the day is that everything should have some sort of entertainment value to it, or people just don’t pay attention to it.  How many people would rather skip an opera to go to an action flick instead?  How many people would rather watch the movie based on a book rather than read the book itself?

Not art.
How many movies these days actually have any content to them?  Take Avatar for example.  That film was retardedly successful, and it has about as much content as Sarah Palin’s skull.  I mean just think about the premise itself: humans are trying to get some sort of metal ore called “unobtainium,” by fucking over some blue, tribal aliens.  Unobtainium?  Really?  James Cameron thinks you’re so stupid that he has to explicitly name the intent of his bullshit.

For those who saw Avatar, did you at all feel insulted?  Probably not, because you were way too busy being entertained.  So what real content did Avatar have to it?  That we should be more understanding of native peoples in their natural habitats?  How vacuous can one movie be for fuck sake?!  And, to top it off, it won all sorts of awards and shit.

Compare Avatar to something like Wozzeck, or Les Miserables.  Hell, compare it to something far less obscure: The Watchmen.  The Watchmen didn’t get very flattering reviews, and I almost guarantee that it’s secretly because the dip shits reviewing the film simply just didn’t get it.  It was a super-hero film, so that meant that it had to be entertaining.  Instead, it actually tried to say something real about humanity.  It actually had content, and it suffered at the box office for it.

“But Jack, when you see a fine work of art, aren’t you entertained by it?”  HTNS, do I have to be entertained by something to like it, or to appreciate it?  Do you even understand what it means to appreciate something?  To be entertained is synonymous with being amused.  And not all art amuses me.  Some art makes me sad.  Some art makes me feel indignant.  Some art makes me long for a distant love.  Much of it is far from entertaining, because that’s not the point.  And that’s not to say that art can’t be entertaining.  It’s fine if you’re entertained by it, but that’s not the purpose of art.

Not art.
Artists don’t create art for the sake of making you feel good, or to escape your life.  They create art to do the opposite.  Good art shows you something about the human experience that you may not understand.  How many of you know what it’s like to seriously consider suicide because your world has come crashing to your feet (Javert)?  How many of you know what it’s like for your wife to cheat on you and despise your existence (Wozzeck)?  Who gets that everything is just a god damned joke (The Commedian)?

Sure, entertainment has a place, and not all of it is devoid of content.  But art goes beyond making you feel good.  The purpose of art is to make you feel as human as possible, and maybe, just maybe give you something far more valuable than watching some half naked, blue alien chick.