I’m not a “conservative,” I’m an 18th-century Enlightenment radical

From Charlie Martin at pjmedia.com/lifestyle/ : Does buddhism require you to be a liberal? The short answer is no ….

I don’t think it’s necessarily so. In fact, I think Buddhism, real Buddhism, is inherently more in tune with libertarian “conservative” politics. (This isn’t the place for this particular rant, but I scare-quote “conservative” because I think it’s a bad term. As I was telling someone last night, I’m not a “conservative,” I’m an 18th-century Enlightenment radical.)

Absolutely! So am I.

And regarding the rant….as usual the “liberal” progressives have managed to at once de content and blacken + distort the abstract philosophical meaning of the words conservative and liberal…as I have whined about in the past. Politicians do this to avoid being pinned down, progressives to control the message and short circuit dialogue. Going back to the discussion on political philosophy, progressives often called liberals are not at all about liberty in anything but the most puerile sense and conservatives are generally cautious, not reactionary, and are pro liberty in its more robust sense. Progressives are generally about changing human nature by government fiat.

Libertarians…the old liberals, are about core human rights, property rights, equality before the law, the rule of law, financially competent government, citizen dominated politics, de politicized + meritocratic bureaucracy and minimalist + open regulation. In other words an eighteenth century Enlightenment radical!

Ignorance is Bliss?

But only if your ignorance is buttressed by a life untroubled by interaction with the greater world, and the outside world is untroubled by interaction with you. 

Ignorance is not about technology or science (or it can be but usually is not,) it’s about the willingness to see things as they are not as you wish them to be, the strength to change your mind when the evidence shows that some alternative is superior, the arrogance to ignore the milling masses if need be and the humility to listen to the quiet voice of reason.

Some comments from some folks who understood …
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
― Aldous Huxley, Complete Essays 2, 1926-29
“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Collected Works
 “Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but usually manages to pick himself up, walk over or around it, and carry on.”
― Benjamin Franklin
“Beware the man of a single book.”
― St. Thomas Aquinas
“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”
― Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl

WIRED | The Surprising Truth: Technology Is Aging in Reverse

An interesting discussion, at least for a futurist / SciFi writer.

If you know someone is x years old then you can know (generally) that they will almost certainly live y more years and will be almost certainly dead in z years.

However if you know a technology (defined almost as you like but embodying knowledge) is x years old then you can (generally) expect it to last at least x more years.

So as x gets larger Tlife gets longer but Plife stays the same…so aging, that is the rough measure of, age/life, is opposite for tech vs us biotypes… An interesting idea to roll into a story sometime.

The Surprising Truth: Technology Is Aging in Reverse

A favorite author and a man with profound knowledge lays it out for those who want to listen. Those who do not want to hear will not even try.

Monster Hunter Nation

I didn’t want to post about this, because frankly, it is exhausting. I’ve been having this exact same argument for my entire adult life. It is not an exaggeration when I say that I know pretty much exactly every single thing an anti-gun person can say. I’ve heard it over and over, the same old tired stuff, trotted out every single time there is a tragedy on the news that can be milked. Yet, I got sucked in, and I’ve spent the last few days arguing with people who either mean well but are uninformed about gun laws and how guns actually work (who I don’t mind at all), or the willfully ignorant (who I do mind), or the obnoxiously stupid who are completely incapable of any critical thinking deeper than a Facebook meme (them, I can’t stand).

Today’s blog post is going to be aimed at the first group…

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Massacres of the innocents have happened in every society in every era that there is record of. Rationales are always sought and found, sometimes such good ones that the hideous crime becomes an almost understandable reaction, or ‘just one of those things’ rather than the monstrous (out of all reason or proportion) act it should be seen as.

It seems very clear to me that the modern massacre is largely a symptom of the banal and brutish celebrity culture along with the essentially ethics deprived (depraved?) news channels and news producer/editors.

Why do I say that?:

  • Celebrity culture?  Because so many of those on TV are so obviously no more deserving of anything than anyone else randomly plucked out of the crowed and made famous.  These people are famous for nothing, they are often famous for a few hours, days, weeks, then gone, except for questions in games of ‘cultural knowledge.  Some damaged person, hating the world, believing themselves deserving of so much more, hurting because they cannot make the grade, sees these celebrities and says, ‘why not me?’  And there is no rational reason in evidence.   (There may be a logical reason and many ‘idiot celebrities’ are far from the fools they make themselves out to be and their fame far less ‘given’ than it appears, but that is not obvious to those without a great deal of comprehension from the other side of the TV screen.)
  • The News Channels? :  Every time there is some new item, multiple guns, bombs, ‘Kevlar jackets,’ bandoliers, it then becomes the norm because its driven into the psyche of those watching by hour after hour after hour of banal repetition but know nothing talking heads who are desperately searching for new ways of saying the same damn thing again and again and again.

I see a lot of headlines decrying (as always) a culture of violence and/or a culture of guns.  I will not deny both are certainly somewhat valid criticisms of US culture, and both obviously are part of the massacre problem but they are not the direct triggers that the above two elements are.

The culture of violence trope: video games and violent entertainment in general,war metaphors in public discourse,  the gang problem, murder rates, rape rates.  Is massively overplayed because it is so very close to home to the largely urban population that lives with the problems endemic with even small rates of violence in highly concentrated populations.  And the politicians and dreamers who believe (or make-believe) that somehow there is a way to perfect the human animal and make them peaceful.

  • The games I played as a kid were as violent in their inane way as any video game or movie and to be honest the fact that the movies and games are so realistic these days is probably in general a violence reducer not producer, most of us do not want to die in ugly painful ways.
  • The use of violent and war metaphors in public discourse is again as old as man and is used because it is one of the few ways we can talk about mass movements and wholesale changes that can be commanded.  I agree this is a poor set of metaphors because they do not work in the civilian sphere (war on poverty, war on drugs, war on obesity …  gahh its all bladerdash (bullshit for you younger readers.)
  • I’ve said it before and will say it again, violent crime is in general decreasing not increasing in our society.  Most of the vicious crime in our society occurs in essentially tribal settings of gangs, where trust is utterly familial or feudal, whereas in the ‘trust based’ societies of the sub and ex urbs violence is rare because the trust thing alows folks to start talking before they start swearing or shooting and because resorting to violence is seen as a failure on all parties part.

The Culture of Violence trope is a reflection of life in the US, a country and over society, with vastly different life styles for many sub populations. The urbanites wishful thinking that there is somehow a cultural baddness that can be sopped up and made to go away is just fantasy.

The culture of guns trope: guns in the games, guns in the movies, the guns as a false icon of individualism, the effectiveness of gun laws,  the effectiveness of policing,  guns as violence accelerant.  This again is a trope that has come out of Europe and out of the Urban environs.

  • To a large degree America was all about the gun from the early days.  In some cases owning a gun was a requirement for a settler.  It was only as later waves of settlers came to the US from the largely disarmed Europe to settle in the cities where guns were rare, did this fact begin to be forgotten.  Guns were rare because the cities were generally full of poor hard-working men and women, guns were general expensive to buy and use while not needed for hunting for range combat with raiders in the city. Generally there was a move to make sure that the urban masses were disarmed so that the police could maintain control in case of riots etc, so guns because most common in the hands of criminals. Mind you these populations were not noticeable less murder prone or peaceful they just did it with fists, hammers and knives.
  • Guns are an icon of America as the leading light of the individualist state, and guns are a central fact of life in the world which means that unless you turn your back on reality guns will be in the equation.  Trying to make that fact go away by wishing is not sane.
  • Making out that taking guns out of the population is mostly about making the society safer is wishful thinking encouraged to make it easier to carry out   Anti gun laws are about controlling the population by making sure that the gov’t agents (police, etc) has the vast preponderance of force
    >>This is a protection racket writ large:: When inevitably the politicians’ (emergent group, not necessarily individual) stupidity and cupidity make the Public Protection, function of the police impossibly expensive to maintain, if the taxed population is disarmed they have no choice (or rationalize that they have no choice) but to accept higher taxes, or draconian laws to get the criminals off the street.
    >>The cities with the most draconian gun laws are generally less safe than the ones with the least restrictions.  In fact in general the more certain a thug is that the potential victim is going to be unarmed the more likely the thug is to act and the more violent those actions are going to be, to frighten the victim and the victim’s circle of acquaintances into acquiescence.
  • Generally the presence or potential presence of a gun in a ‘discussion’ is going to tend to make it more polite.  Concealed carry and open carry has spread quickly in the central US and the general trends in violence are down, not up.

The US gun culture is simply a fact of life that was bred into the country/state at its birth and is inextricably mixed with its reality. While the desire to disarm the populace so it will be more peaceful has been a trope for many years it is more fantasy than lie and more lie than practical solution. The unfortunate fact is that many people living in peaceful surroundings think that anti gun laws could work, the reality is that they only work so long as the social infrastructure providing that peaceful idyll exists. That infrastructure has nothing to do with the existence or non existence of guns, it’s all about money, when the money dries up the barbarians creep in.

In the real world the police are only able to deal with criminals after the fact. That is too late in most massacre situations. The massive cost and potential for abuse/loss of liberty of putting more police on patrol and giving them the legal tools to try and stop this sort of thing before it gets ‘too bad’ makes that solution untenable. The fact is that there is no ‘solution’ to the massacre ‘problem.’ Like terrorism, you can mitigate and reduce but not eliminate. The most reasonable ‘direct mitigator’ is likely to be a radical libertarian one. More guns not less and those guns should be in the hands of those with the most interest. Those who are seen as targets and victims or the protectors/mentors of those who cannot protect themselves.

NaNoWriMo 2012, water under the bridge and other thoughts…

So obviously I dropped the ball on NaNoWriMo 2012, and I started out doing so well with all the best intentions.   However with a daughter’s wedding and thanksgiving to survive and real work requiring attention so we can continue to pay the bills (not to mention a semi major home construction project gone a lot over schedule) I just ran out of the mental and chronological resources to ‘get-er-done’ as it were.

Catching the Watcher is not done-fore however I have continued to work on it though at a lot slower rate.  Its now upwards of 40K words and (I think) roughly half done, hopefully I can wrap it up sometime in January.

So obviously I am not a ‘real’ blogger either  … real life intervened and I heeded the call.  Despite all my toys and channels of access I still could not find it in me to even put a few thoughts down, post a picture, etc.   Maybe I should blame it on the new iPad with its beguilingly sharp yet tiny text and butter smooth reaction to my every touch, along with the strikingly fast LTE link and up-rated WiFi.  But then again I can do all sorts of blogging from the iPad so it should really be an enabler of more doing not more slacking off.

I could blame it all on others or on my own failures as a person.  But the fact is that life is impossible to regulate.  There is only one me on this thread of time from past to future and a practical infinity of other threads are bustling against me at the wave front of now.  To change frames, the water is flowing under my bridge and it will never come back.  But its good to watch it slide past every once in a while and realize that in no possible world can I ever realistically aspire to perfection, let alone reach it, but in aspiring to do the best I can with the now I have, I at least make progress in a direction I get to call ‘right’ as in right for me and the world as I understand it.

WSJ | There are few permanent victories or defeats in American politics, and Tuesday wasn’t one of them. The battle for liberty begins anew this morning.

Good pep talk from the Wall Street Journal

Mr. Obama’s campaign stitched together a shrunken but still decisive version of his 2008 coalition—single women, the young and culturally liberal, government and other unions workers, and especially minority voters.

He said little during the campaign about his first term and even less about his plans for a second. Instead his strategy was to portray Mitt Romney as a plutocrat and intolerant threat to each of those voting blocs. No contraception for women. No green cards for immigrants. A return to Jim Crow via voter ID laws. No Pell grants for college.

This was all a caricature even by the standards of modern politics. But it worked with brutal efficiency—the definition of winning ugly. Mr. Obama was able to patch together just enough of these voting groups to prevail even as he lost independents and won only 40% of the overall white vote, according to the exit polls. His campaign’s turnout machine was as effective as advertised in getting Democratic partisans to the polls.

There were several other pieces today that said some of the same things, essentially you cannot win against the progressive / liberal patchwork with a pure social conservative / fiscal conservative mantra.

The Republican side was made up of:

  • survivors of the old line right center Big Business Republicans
  • evangelical social conservative/moderate
  • moderate libertarians
  • constitutional originalists
  • small business owners
  • And a rather long list of single issue activists
  • anti immigrant
  • gun rights
  • anti-abortion
  • anti-tax

The problem seems to be similar to one that the democrats used to lay claim to, Big Tentism…trying to pander to too many one topic interests to the detriment of a centralizing theme.  No party can offer blanket coverage for all the rather distantly touched special interests without weakening itself.

The centralizing theme of the Republican party is, personal responsibility and non intrusive government, based on the rule of law centered on a relatively strong reference to the Constitution.

The centralizing theme of the Democratic party might be seen as common responsibility, government central mediator, based on the interpretation of law referring to the constitution among other iconic law systems.

A key problematic special interests in the Republican party today is Big Business (as a themed entity not as the people in the companies,) not because Big Business is evil but because its interests are really more in line with the Democratic Party centralizing themes, not the Republican party’s.  The only reason Big Business tents in the Republican camp is because the Democrats demonize it, and the actual ‘People’ (i.e. agents) who are the cells of the Big Business are generally very much aligned with the centralizing theme of the Republican party.  But the Players and the Companies when operating in aggregate (or for the company) are much more likely to support the Democratic baseline than the Republican one.

Various single issues activists, particularly the semi organized Tea Party activists of various sub stripes, have pushed their way and their interests into the Republican party.  As above providing huge clubs to beat the overall party to death with.   The TP has tried to remake the Republican party in its image…which purposely does not exist.  This has again and again wrecked the chances of the party by putting up candidates who are very easily caricatured by their opponents and driven into defeat.

That’s not to say that some of the single issues activists are not right and that they all should be driven out.  The gun lobby while demonized is a strength in the party as long as it sticks to the line it has in recent years, this resonates well with personal responsibility and non-interference.  Anti tax when not carried to caricature.  Pro life, when not carried to the level of stupid anti-abortion extremism (as I’ve said before almost everyone is pro-life, most are modestly anti-abortion, but the paternalistic-extremism of an Akin or a Mourdock is nuts in this day.)

Consistency to theme should be considered strongly:  For example:  Pro-Life –>anti-abortion, anti death penalty,  limits to the pursuit of extra territorial murder (drone wars.) pro scientific medical advances (with ethical limits.) In other words limit very tightly the ability of the government to kill anyone unless they pose an immediate threat to the US, which of course has to be defined pretty damned broadly but still consistently.  (i.e. OBL raid was a perfectly reasonable action.)

If you look at the paragraph above you would realize that the Catholic Church while staying out of politics is going to support the Republican theme much more strongly than it did,does today.

Same goes for immigration, we are a nation of immigrants, and the nation needs the flow of immigrants because population growth is inherently good for the US economy in every way for the foreseeable future.  Yes borders should be protected from military incursion (which I think we do pretty well) but no country with a border as long and open (no geographic obstacles like seas, cliffs or rivers) as the US’s can seal its borders without imposing a police state, which largely stops people coming because there is no reason for them to want to go into bondage, who really wants to go to North Korea, all their walls are to keep people in, not out.    Like abortion this is a sore point with fundamentalists but at the end of the day I have never seen anti-immigration sentiment that is not at base about fear of the other or of having to compete.

One of the biggest most fundamental issues that the Republican majority has to come to grips with is that the US has always been about creative destruction and that nothing can stay the same in an evolving world.  We have to compete on the global stage in every venue and that means that in some niches we go up and others we go down.  At the end of the day nothing can protect you as a person from the winds of economic and social change and trying to do so just fosters tyranny. The only thing that provides you a shield is flexibility and the willingness to learn and adapt, which in general the average American has been better at than the rest of humanity, partly because of the freedoms that the country provides to fail and try again.

The Republican party needs to focus on the themes I think it stands for:  personal responsibility and non intrusive government, based on the rule of law centered on a relatively strong reference to the Constitution.

    • Moderate taxes (limit on income taxes, everyone pays income tax
    • Moderate, smart and regulation (stop regulators getting captured by those they regulate)
    • Pro immigrant
    • Pro small business  (not anti big business, just stop giving them special treatment)
    • Pro gun
    • Strong defense
    • Pro Life (not anti-abortion) (anti death penalty)
    • Pro Free trade even if it hurts

Then you have my dreams:

  • One term at a time (no re-elections, you can be president as many times as you want, but only one term at a time, then you take a break before running again.)
  • Individual Health Care:
  • Individual Retirement.

A world apart

We each live in a world apart from all others with only limited senses, knowledge and above all time, to understand the worlds of others, we tend to associate with those of a similar mindset either on purpose or by happenstance [family, region, career, religion, etc.]  We associate with the similar because its easier and more effective than having to form a common base with someone whose world is very different.

Is the internet while making many things more common on one level, is breaking down some of the commonality that provided the ability to quickly relate to those you meet on a day-to-day basis?

With that rapid assimilation gone do we tend to live in a field of strangers who are getting less familiar all the time.  And does that limit trust, the trust that is so critical to the success of the greater American culture?

The above is just a restatement of concerns expressed many times before.  I guess I just had never thought through the ‘world apart’ metaphor and the reason we are worlds apart, even when we are touching each other.


The Lefty Bosco Picture Show, a cartoon or soul teaser?




You are the co-star of The LeftyBosco Picture Show. In a variety of styles and subjects, from playful to poignant, Keith DuQuette, aka LeftyBosco, presents a drawing a day. Daily drawings by Keith DuQuette engage, inspire and challenge you to add your witty and wise comments. Play along with LeftyBosco and his friends – or have fun watching from the sidelines. The punch line starts here.

Catch it at GoComics.com

George Washington, A Human for the Ages

George Washington Circa 1782

Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Rules of Behavior

A man’s intentions should be allowed in some respects to plead for his actions.

 WASHINGTON, letter to the Speaker of the House of Burgesses, Dec 1756

There is a Destiny which has the control of our actions, not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of Human Nature.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Mrs. George William Fairfax, Sep. 12, 1758

I shall not be deprived … of a comfort in the worst event, if I retain a consciousness of having acted to the best of my judgment.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Colonel Bassett, Jun. 19, 1775

It is with pleasure I receive reproof, when reproof is due, because no person can be readier to accuse me, than I am to acknowledge an error, when I am guilty of one; nor more desirous of atoning for a crime, when I am sensible of having committed it.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Governor Dinwiddie, Aug. 27, 1757

Some quotes to think about in these days of chaos that are also potent with opportunities for renewal and change, they are words of a human as true today as then.  The man who spoke or wrote them would not recognize the world of  today.   Those living today might have the same trouble with the world twenty years hence,  but the quotes will be as true then as they are now and were in the eighteenth century.