Must-Watch SFF: Orcs!

  • by Gitabushi

Orcs-2011

With my daughter home for the summer, I end up actually watching visual entertainment.  We browse Amazon Prime for movies that include topics I can use to highlight conservative principles and the values I want them to learn.

But we also encounter movies and television shows I’ve never heard of.

This one just looked stupid.  I had to watch the trailer to see just how stupid it was.

Surprise! It wasn’t stupid.

It was actually a very enjoyable movie, with a solid premise, good writing and decent acting.

It’s always hard for me to do a review without giving away spoilers, so I tend to focus on descriptions of what the author (or movie, in this case) does well, what it doesn’t do well, and my reaction to various extremely-generally-described elements.

I’m probably going to have to do that again. But bear with me. And see the movie, if you can (free on Amazon Prime).

The premise of this movie is that orcs are real, but they’ve been bottled up (suspended animation? Dimensional portal?) in a subterranean realm since mythical times.  They nearly obtained their release decades ago, but were stopped by chance.  Recent activities have opened their path to the surface Earth again, and the orcs are now making their best attempt to destroy or subjugate the human race.

What this movie is not:

A comedy, although the trailer makes it seem like one (the canoe seen isn’t as funny in context as it is in the trailer).  But it is funny at times.

A campy movie, although it has some camp.  The movie escalates in seriousness and in the stakes as it runs, as a good story should.

A professional movie, although the special effects were better than I would have expected.  But they were clearly on a tight budget to get things done.

A goad Bad movie.  Because it simply isn’t a Bad Movie.  Okay, okay, it could be seen as a bad movie due to its production values and lack of brand-name actors.  But if you can suspend your disbelief for the cheesier aspects, honestly: the stronger elements of the movie make it a good movie.  Not a great movie, but a good one.

What this movie is:

A very well-written, decently well-directed, decently-well acted movie.  It has a decent premise, and takes the premise seriously.  The actors over-act at times to fill space.  The moments they try to conceal their limited budget are obvious (“thousands” of orcs marching by seems likely to be a half-dozen running in a circle with obvious sound effects), but done as well as you can expect.  The overall impact is better than most of the fanfic movies I’ve seen on YouTube.  It drew me in, made me care about the outcome.  The climax battle wasn’t over as quickly as you might expect, heightening the sense of dread from the orcs’ overwhelming force.  The writing, plot, and acting made me care about the actors.  The characters had depth (the GS-9 rivalry was spot on), and the main character grew/changed throughout the story in a plausible manner.

A fairly good Pulp Revolution movie.

I’ve often run to IMDB to find out what other movies a set of actors have been in. This is the first movie I’ve ever watched that made me run to Twitter immediately after to find the main actors’ twitter handles to praise them.

Watch it as soon as possible, and leave your comments.

 

Contesting the culture

Usually I leave the political stuff to Gitabushi, but I’ve been thinking about something. Gita recently talked about the current struggle between Right and Left.

Well, I was talking a little with Kaiju the other day about the continually raging culture war. After decades of liberal takeover and entrenchment in entertainment, news media, and education, I feel like some of those on the Right have finally begun to wake up.

The Alt-Right is part of a reaction to the spreading decay of political correctness and social justice crusading. I’m not going to dive into what I think of the Alt-Right other than to say I think some of their impetus is understandable and that though there are a lot of decent folk who have been driven to join or sympathize with them, they are just a different shade of what is being termed the Control Left. They’re all collectivist bomb-throwers.

A popular talking point of the Alt-Right is that Conservatism has failed and therefore the Left’s own tactics must be taken up against it. “We don’t like the Alinsky dirtbaggery of the Left, but we need to win,” they say. As if it’s a binary choice – become what you despise or lose.

I’m of the mind that there are several reasons the Right has lost so much ground up until now. First, it’s unorganized. Until the Tea Party, I can’t think of any concerted efforts to primary squishes and run staunch, fighting candidates. And because the Right hasn’t infiltrated and embedded itself into high levels of educational institutions or media outlets, workers in those industries who don’t subscribe to orthodox liberalism are usually closeted and fragmented.

Second, not everyone realizes there’s a cultural war on. I think especially over the past few years more people have awoken to this fact, though. They tire of being called bigot, sexist, racist, transphobic, or whatever the slur de jure is for folk who don’t agree with the latest Leftist dogma. Remember a few years ago when transsexualism was seen as disordered and abnormal? Well now if you haven’t all of a sudden changed your mind because Bruce Jenner has boobs, you’re a terrible person.

Third, we’ve failed to contest. How many “family” sitcoms these days now inject random normalizing messaging about SJW pet issues? How many gay characters do we have now compared to the actual size of the gay population? If you watch TV, then the gay/pedophile Catholic priest joke is probably within your realm of experience, as is the criticism of the Church and Christians in general as anti-Science™, but when’s the last time you heard a joke about Islam? Why are the chief pop-star spokesmen for Science™ major celebrities of the Left?

The first two reasons, I think, have begun to swing. As a result, the Right is beginning to fight back, if not reclaim some lost ground.

Twitter and Facebook are largely Leftist spaces, though Twitter’s got a healthy Conservative population. Many of the Pulp Revolution crowd and allies have kindled dialogue and offered alternatives to Lefty-dominated publishing outlets like Tor.

Gamergate, for all it’s slandered, has woken up some to the rank hypocrisy of the Left.

On YouTube and in other new media, we’ve got a lot of fresh talent pushing back against virulent Leftism, from the Conservative brand of Louder with Crowder and Ben Shapiro to the Classical Liberalism of Dave Rubin.

In the spiritual sphere, Bishop Barron, of whom I’ve written before, has also created a huge online presence.

 

By engaging with different, often younger, audiences in a variety of places -but especially online- and with talented communicators to carry our messages, I think we stand a chance of reversing some of the damage that’s been done. The up and coming Generation Z is apparently the most conservative generation since WW2. By reaching out to them and engaging in outlets that they’re more likely to find, we can counter some of that cancerous liberal PC programming. We have strong voices working to take back the culture, and so as Kaiju mentioned the other day on Geek Gab – if we don’t see the kinds of shows, stories, commentary that we like, we can’t just bitch. We need to support what we like, and we need to create.

-Bushi

bushi

 

How to Stop the Left from Destroying the United States

  • by Gitabushi

 

A man with a history of violence, steeped in Rachel Maddow conspiracy theories and Bernie Sanders ideology, tried to kill Republican Congressmen simply because they were Republican.  This was the latest occurrence in escalating violence and anti-democratic tactics by the Left.  The questions raised by this shooting include: Are Democrats and their allies in the news media responsible for this?  What should the Right (and Republicans) do to stop it?

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The idea that the Right is Fascist and the Left can do anything necessary pervades the Left’s worldview.  Otherwise mild people are convinced that Donald Trump is a unique menace to the United States. This worldview is summed up in the prevalence of the self-described #Resistance movement.

Doesn’t the Right embrace the idea of individual responsibility?  Is the Democrat Party’s  worldview responsible for the shooting of GOP officials? Yes and no. Directly responsible? No. Blameless? Certainly not.

Words are just words, not actions, not force. But words are also orders, and encouragements, and goading.  “I was just following orders” is not an excuse. You are responsible for what you do.  But “my hands are clean, I didn’t pull the trigger” is also not an excuse. At some point, words expressing intent should be taken seriously

I hate to go here, but I have to: Hitler didn’t personally kill 6 million Jews.

He stirred up hatred, accused them of selfishness, blamed them for all of Germany’s problems. He said it was okay to punch them. And worse.

Don’t forget, Obama used religious imagery to tell his followers they were righteous. Told them to punch “back” twice as hard. He threatened financial executives with mobs and pitchforks if they didn’t cooperate with his goals.  He praised the Occupy movement, stirred up anger and hatred in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The inevitable rise of Leftist violence should have been expected when Obama hung around with a Leftist terrorist who had gained enough status to never be held accountable for his crimes.  The Right tried to use it politically: “Obama pal’d around with terrorists”, but we didn’t draw the lines to see where it would lead.  And, of course, the Left’s control of the Overton Window was used to protect their Lightbringer: Obama having an unrepentant terrorist as a mentor was downplayed; if mentioned at all, Bill Ayers’ current status as an accepted leader for the Left was seen as a repudiation of Ayers’ past rather than the approval it was.

But even the strongest critic of Obama didn’t realize it was leading to the overt Leftist violence we see today.

We should have realized when the news media looked at polite, peaceful Tea Party gatherings and called them violent racists, that it was an indication of more than just partisan rhetorical sniping. They were building the case for violence against the Right. Distorting views of our character. De-legitimizing our concerns. Demonizing us.

Mainstream news outlets have pointed out the shooter had no ties to any violent extremist groups, as if that is exculpatory. In fact, it is damning.  This man was unremarkable in his associations, but felt justified to shoot Republicans just for being Republican.

This is just an escalation of the general attitude on the Left.  Remember, Obama ensured his IRS subordinates would face no penalty for targeting conservatives just for being conservative.  He shielded any and all his subordinates from penalties for their actions in support of the Leftist cause, to include Lois Lerner, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and her aides (for Benghazi, and for divulging secrets), Bradley Manning, and all his officials who broke Federal Records laws by using private email accounts to conduct business as a blatant ploy to avoid citizen oversight (again, to include Hillary Clinton).

So what do we do about this?

There seems to be two sides. 1) Use the same tactics the Left uses, against the Left. 2) Keep doing what we are doing, hold to our principles.

I find both tactics to be unsatisfying.

Two intelligent, thoughtful participants in this debate are Jim Geraghty and the anonymous Ace of Spades blogger.  I don’t have a link to the twitter debate they had, but Geraghty references it here, as well as summarizing his argument.

I can’t disagree with Geraghty for distinguishing between words & actions, but the best argument against Geraghty’s point was made by Geraghty himself mere days before he debated Ace of Spades: At what point is Islamic rhetoric criminal? Applying that to the #Resistance, at what point does the rhetoric of Democrats and their news media allies actually become responsible for the violence the Left is committing?

 

The thing is, Ace of Spades makes a compelling argument that the Right cannot simply sit endure and outlast Leftist violence and destruction of democratic values in the US.  Read this article summarizing the violence by the Left and how the Left encourages it. The rise of violence was telegraphed by Hillary’s campaign deliberately instigating violence, but we responded to it only in the political sphere, and not even much there.  And even after the shootings, some Democrats are still encouraging more violence. (all three links are to thought-provoking Ace of Spaces HQ articles)

And this list of violence by the Left against the Right truly is mindblowing, to see it all in one place.

Whatever the Right has been doing, it isn’t working.  We need to hold the Left responsible.  The simple fact, is that most political violence is perpetrated by the Left. Endemic to Marxism, encouraged by Alinskyism.  It has always been that way throughout history.

“By any means necessary” & “The ends justify the means” are ideas rejected by the Right, but embraced by the Left since the original rise of the Communist movement.

In some ways, it is a process vs outcome argument.

The Left only cares about process if it gets them what they want. The Right sticks to process even if outcome is against them.

The Left exploits this. They know they can depend on the Right to keep following the rules. Even as the Left doesn’t recognize any rules.

That’s why we have this violence. That’s why we have porn. The Left is losing power in normal processes.

This just leads us right back to the debate between Geraghty and Ace of Spades: what do we do about it?

One major proponent of following the new rules set by the Left is Kurt Schlichter, who not only predicted this escalating wave of Leftist violence, but makes strong arguments for embracing those new rules, simply because the Left wants them.  To be accurate, he isn’t just arguing for Tit-for-Tat like Ace of Spades, he’s arguing that if these are the rules the Left applies to itself, let there be no double standards.

In some ways, Schlichter’s argument fits with the Right: we follow processes, we follow the rules.  His argument is that we stop thinking the process/rules are what’s written down, and start thinking of the processes/rules as demonstrated by the Left.

All respect to Kurt Schlichter, but I’m not going to shoot Democrats. I’m also not going to call for violence on them.  It isn’t really that I don’t want to stoop to their level, or fear I lose my soul if I use their tactics to win.  I simply can’t do it.  I can’t kill, I can’t advocate violence to install my preferred political outcomes.

But continuing to follow the processes and rules, as written, while they attack and kill us? No.

My take: continue to follow the rules, because that is our most basic nature.

But change the written rules.  Strengthen and improve the processes to make them serve the democratic process, rather than help the Democrats seize and wield power un-democratically, as they do now.  We have unprecedented power at all levels: control of the Presidency, Senate, House, SCOTUS, governorships, and state legislatures.  But we are barely using this power to enact our political agenda.

We should be using this power to enhance criminal penalties on the Left’s current tactics.

Use every democratic process at hand to change rules to to allow dismissal of judges. Then fire ones who don’t rule based on Constitution.  Use democratic processes to change rules to to allow dismissal of bureaucrats more easily. Then fire the ones enacting Left agenda.

There has to be a way to criminalize the heckler’s veto without damaging free speech. One idea that occurs to me is re-writing laws (and prosecutorial discretion policy) to penalize mob actions.  Free speech is an individual right, not a collective right.  If you are in a mob, and the mob shouts down a speaker, you aren’t using speech to counter speech you don’t like, you are using the mob’s power to shut down free speech.  We can make that illegal, while still encouraging individual free speech, right?free-speech-voltaire.jpeg

We gotta do what we do: stick to the rules. But use our power to change the rules: increase transparency, liberty, and choice.

Change the rules to reduce non-accountable exercise of power. Change the rules to identify & reduce Marxist influence.

Then make them follow the rules and enforce them fairly, but fully.

Use Rule of Law to punish Leftist violence harshly. Every time.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on the Broken Sword

The Broken Sword, perhaps the best known and most renowned of Poul Anderson’s novels, is the third book of his that I’ve read, and with that I put a notch in the last of his Appendix N entries.

My feelings on this one are mixed. Of the three I’ve gotten to thus far, my favorite has been the High Crusade (which Gita just recently reviewed). The Broken Sword is a skillfully crafted example of what a fantasy story can be when a talented writer just lets loose and does what he wants. Goblins and dwarves? Of course. Christ plus a bunch of Norse gods? Sure. Throw in some Celtic godlings and crap while you’re at it! Cursed sword, changeling berserker, elf vs troll war, oodles of magic – get it all in! Why?! Because it’s fun and cool!!

Before we get into spoiler territory, let me just say that there’s a lot to unpack here. The Broken Sword has plenty going on. Anderson’s fluency with Scandinavian (and other) folklore is on full display, and though this one perhaps contributed less directly to the worlds of D&D and vanilla fantasy tropes than Three Hearts and Three Lions, that’s not for lack of creative and wondrous material.

Now let me get to some specifics. *Spoilers ahead!*

“Be nice to your sister”

Ok, let’s just get this out of the way first. There’s a lot of incest. Now it’s not really distastefully done; it’s reasonable for the characters given that they’re unaware of their siblinghood; it’s integral to the story. Yada yada yada. Sorry, it just bugged me. To expand upon that a bit:

Leeerve

I found the amount of ink spent not only developing but emphasizing the love between Freda and Skafloc to be excessive. We get to have to read about their lovemaking, kissing, cuddling, yearning for one another, tickle fights, and all those tender moments. It may have been a little too much for me had it been a non-incestuous union, but in this case, yeah. I just got sick of reading about it.

Pacing

This may very well be on me and the fact that I spaced out my reading of the book for so long (it’s only like 200-something pages, if I recall correctly), but I found the story a bit slow until the last quarter-ish. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty of action and interesting happenings, but I felt like it was all setup and not really the main event. I mean we knew there was this magic sword waiting to be reforged and wielded; we knew Skafloc was (probably) going to find out eventually about his parentage and that he was banging his sister; we knew that Skaloc and Valgard were heading for a showdown. But none of that stuff happened until the end. That’s fine, I guess. Really that’s the point of the climax. But I felt like it was a long wait for the payoff.

Drow and gods and things

That said, there’s a lot of cool stuff going on. I found the sparingly employed appearances of the Norse gods to be exciting (Odin is a prick, by the way) and was pleasantly surprised to see Irish deities and spirits showing up, as well. We even get mention of shen and oni, though they’re not prominently featured (nor do they need to be). One of my favorite parts of the story is when Skafloc sets out to Jotunheim with a Celtic sea godling. Though I did find it a little lame when Anderson tosses in couple lines that basically say “and the two had many awesome adventures and kickass brawls, but I’m not gonna write about those, so.”

The story also offers the earliest use I’ve come across of the term “drow,” which these days just evokes Drizzt and his crew of OP, Forgotten Realm goth elves. So that was pretty neat.

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Demon sword 

The titular broken sword turns out to be the cursed blade Tyrfing, a weapon right out of Norse mythology. I’ve been saying for a while that Durindana needs more love, but really I welcome the namedropping of any non-Excalibur weapon. Nothing against Excalibur or the sword in the stone; they’ve just been done to death.

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The Broken Sword also most likely played a role in the inception of Moorcock’s Elric character. It’s been noted that Moorcock was an Anderson fan and that his whole Chaos/Law alignment system smacks of Anderson’s Three Heart’s and Three Lions. So does his demon blade, Stormbringer (and also Mournblade, I suppose) strongly resemble Tyrfing in some regards: perilous, evil, a tool of malicious gods, and also granting a supernatural strength and fighting prowess. When wielded, Tyrfing’s grim influence affects Skafloc’s personality, driving him to cruelty , fury, and violence. So does Stormbringer possess its own demonic personality – a dark will that Elric must subdue and overcome.

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Stumble

It happens to the best – a scene that makes you scratch your head. I complained about this in my thoughts on King David’s Spaceship and Triplanetary.

There’s a part in the story where Skafloc has infiltrated the troll-occupied castle of Alfheim, the former seat of Imric, Skafloc’s kidnapper and foster father. He seeks to steal away the secretly hidden broken sword and have it reforged. As he makes his way to Valgard’s chamber, he encounters a troll sentry. They do battle and he slays his foe. Though he worries about being detected, no one seems to have heard. Ok, good.

So he climbs some stairs and proceeds to the lord’s quarters, where he finds Leea and Valgard. His antagonist is asleep, and he wishes he could kill him but decides he cannot risk the noise.

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Aw come on, Poul. Maybe you wrote yourself into a corner and didn’t want to revise or overthink this, but just feels nonsensical. Skafloc has just brawled with a killed a troll outside in the hall and no one had heard. But now that he’s facing a sleeping enemy (I’ll note one of the strongest and powerful leaders of the troll army and one he’s got a grudge against), he’s afraid that he’ll make too much noise? Let’s not forget that Skafloc is almost elfin in his grace and agility while still a superbly strong human man. And he’s not up to the task of clamping a hand over Valgard’s mouth and quickly slicing open his throat? Meh.

Not really a major sticking point, but it stood out to be as a “wut” moment.

The elves!

This may warrant a write-up of its own, as I’ve had longish Twitter debates on the topic, but Anderson writes of a different, older kind of elf than we see these days. Tolkien popularized the image of elves as tall, graceful, honorable, and good. That’s not to say that elves have historically been villains only, but it certainly used to be a more common role for them and fey in general.

But the Broken Sword is pre-Tolkien, and we get another look at elfin kind. When it comes down to troll versus elf, the latter comes out looking pretty good. They’re fair to look upon, often merry, and usually they don’t come across as especially cruel or sadistic. However they’re pagan beings – they cannot bear holy words or symbols, and they fear the White Christ. They perform unholy magics, such as being able to call upon the dead (though this is a rare and dark ritual). When they can get away with it, they steal human infants. They’re wanton both in bed and in battle.

Now Tolkien may not have meant his elves to just be guys with pointy ears who live in the woods and are good at archery and magic. To be fair to him, his portrayal of the elves of Mirkwood in the Hobbit was a little more sinister than the image we all have now of Orlando Bloom as Legolas. May not be his fault, but that’s what we’ve got, and that’s what D&D elves, for example, tend towards.

Contrast that again with Anderson’s elves, who favor cavalry and wield strange alloys unknown to man, because they cannot bear the touch of iron. They also don’t shy away from familial banging and other sexual depravity (so far as I remember Tolkien’s elves do some cousin kissing but not too much closer than that).

By the way, for some reason I always picture Leea as that evil elf chick from Record of Lodoss War.

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Speaking of Leea, one interesting point about Anderson’s elves is that for most of the story we’re led to believe that they are incapable of love. We do see that Leea is fond of Skafloc and jealous of Freda. It’s not until the very end of the story, though, that Anderson drops a bomb on us. Imric makes a comment about elves being unable to love, and we get an aside from Leea about him being wrong. So really she aided Skafloc and Freda out of love for him.

Skafloc and his shadow

I remember not being particularly impressed with Holger, the protagonist of Three Hearts and Three Lions. Likewise I was underwhelmed by Skafloc. At first he was too arrogant and cocksure (thinking to know better than his foster father); next too enraptured by his sister; and finally too angsty and brooding. These were perhaps all understandable and human ways of acting, but I didn’t find them super attractive in a hero we have to spend so much time with.

He did have an interesting arch, ultimately. His transformation when wielding the cursed sword was tragic (but fun), as was the way he undid himself in the end.

I honestly found Valgard to be a more engaging character much of the time. More and more often these days we get villains who are evil because of their parents or because of society; because they’re victims. I think that’s fine, but it is often lazily done. Ultimately the choice to be good or evil is just that – a choice. And that is reflected in this antagonist. Valgard is clearly conflicted about his wickedness. There are a few times when he laments his evil deeds and shows remorse. But in the end he lays the blame upon his father, Imric, and curses his life. Instead of atoning and taking responsibility for himself and his actions, he decides to say “f it” and just be evil. So I did feel sorry for the guy – he was dealt a crap hand, and even in the end when he bests Skafloc and is about to claim the evil sword, it betrays and kills him right off. Dang – at least Skafloc got to have some fun with it! Still, he was a dick and he deserves what he got.

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In conclusion

Anyway, those are the main of my thoughts on the book. I felt like the buildup was slow but worth it – the ending was tragic but satisfying. Not among my Grand List favorites, but definitely a cool story worth a read. On the classic 5-point scale, I’d give it a 4/5.

 

-Bushi

bushi

Benghazi: Still Waiting for Justice

I wrote this on 27 November 2012.  It has some minor inaccuracies, but it was what was known at the time:

Here is what is known about the Benghazi slaughter.  There is no dispute at all on these points, they have been supported with testimony and eyewitness statements to the press:
1) There were threat streams based on actionable intelligence:
a) Ambassador Stevens knew he was on a target list
b) The head of security wanted more security, and protested when security was reduced
2) the Obama administration claimed there was no actionable intelligence
a) 9/11 is still the anniversary of a successful attack on the US that Islamic terrorist organizations are proud of and wish to emulate/perpetuate
b) President Obama did not attend Presidential Daily Brief meetings to go over intelligence and provide guidance for addressing threats
3) Requests for increased security, and requests to not reduce security were denied
a) repeated requests for increased security were rejected, culminating in someone in the chain of command saying “Stop Asking”
4) CIA agents (former SEALs) heard of the attack on the consulate
5) They were ordered to stand down
6) The CIA says orders to stand down did not come from anyone in the CIA
7) Several CIA agents did not stand down, but attempted to rescue
8) After failing to rescue, they retrieved one body, but failed to retrieve Ambassador Stevens’ body
9) In the rescue/retrieval attempt, they came under attack
10) the attack proceeded for 7 to 8 hours
11) This attack was observed/recorded by two intelligence drones using Full-Motion Video
12)  The CIA Agents under attack were in contact with others not in the same location (unknown what level they were in contact with and where: Tripoli? Italy? CIA HQ?)
13) The CIA Agents expected support. They were using laser target identifiers on targets [saw this in a report. It wasn’t supported by what was shown in 13 Hours movie, so maybe this part wasn’t correct]
14) The video of the attack was available to the President stateside
15) By law, the President is to be informed within 15 minutes of an attack on any Ambassador (among other events).  This is not a law the President can sidestep or ignore.  The President is the senior Executor of Laws, but is not above the Law himself.
16) The Intelligence Community correctly identified this as an organized attack, with no connection to a protest
17) The Obama Administration claimed the attack grew out of a protest of a YouTube video
18)  The Obama Administration told relatives of the dead CIA agents that they would “get” the person responsible for the video
19)  Relatives of the dead CIA agents have been told provable lies by the Obama Administration
20)  The Obama Administration continued to claim that the attack on the Ambassador was related to a YouTube Video. This was known to be false before the attack was concluded.  The Obama Administration has never adequately explained why they blamed the attack on the YouTube Video.
21) The Obama Administration has attempted to explain their focus on the video as based on the Intelligence known at the time.  This has been proven to be 100% false. The Intelligence Community knew the attack was an organized assault.  The intelligence drone FMV shows that there was no protest, and that it was an organized assault.  The Intelligence Community has clarified that their talking points never mentioned a protest, and specifically mentioned an organized assault by known terrorist organizations.
22) The Obama Administration has offered the only explanation as to why the reference to an organized assault by known terrorist organizations was removed: they claim it would have tipped off the terrorist groups.  This explanation has never been mentioned by the Intelligence Community.  The Obama Administration has still not explained at all what they were trying to conceal from the terrorist organizations, or what negative result would have occurred from the terrorist organizations being “tipped off” that we knew it was a terrorist attack.
Those are the known facts.
They paint a clear picture of an Administration that deliberately lied to US citizens.  With President Obama making specific references to his actions having put al Qaida on the run during his campaign speeches, and the temporal proximity to the Presidential Election that was extremely close at the time and extremely close in the results, it is an obvious conclusion that the Obama Administration concealed their actions and statements in order to preserve their political future.  The conclusion is so obviously apt and probable that President Obama should either provide an explanation to the contrary, or resign.  Absent such an explanation, the media and the populace should be applying pressure for one outcome or the other.
Since the election, the Obama Administration has refused to provide any answers to the questions that existed since before the election. The only explanations given have been inadequate or ridiculous even at first glance (specifically: pushing the video angle so as to not “tip off” the terrorists).
For example, President Obama has attacked the character of those who criticized UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and said that they should “come after” him.  But he has refused to answer even the most simple questions about his actions on 11 and 12 September 2012, and why his administration pushed the notion that the video caused protests that resulted in the deaths of the 4 Americans.
Obama has the information that would answer almost all the questions about the issue:
1) Why was security reduced despite actionable intelligence threat streams?
2) Why did the administration initially claim there was no actionable intelligence, when it has been proven there was?
3) How did skipping the PDBs impact security levels in Libya before the attack?
4) What preparations were taken to heighten security on the anniversary of 9/11?
5) Did Obama watch the video of the attack?  If not, why not?
6) What orders did Obama give while the attack was going on?  To whom?  Were they carried out to his satisfaction?  If not, was anyone punished?
7) Obama claimed that “as soon as he found out what was happening” he gave orders.  What time was this, exactly?  If it was not while the attack was occurring, why not?  What does the President define as “what was happening”?
8) Was an order given to stand down?
9) If so, who gave it?
10) If not from the President, was that authority delegated, or arrogated?
11) What consequences have been imposed for the stand down order?
12) If no stand-down order was given at all, why were the CIA agents under the impression they were told to stand down?
13) Were there any standing orders to not attempt relief in the case of an attack?
14) If so, why?
15) If not, why were no assets activated to attempt a rescue or combat support?
16) Why did the CIA agents expect combat support (actively designating targets with a laser)?
17) Why did the Obama administration blame a video for protests when Intelligence informed them it was an organized assault by a terrorist organization?  Blaming the Intelligence Community for bad Intel or trying to conceal information to not tip off the terrorists are inadequate explanations, already disproven as justification.
18) Why did Susan Rice go on five television shows to push the video angle?  Who told her to do that?  Who authorized the information she delivered?  What wording was written down, and who wrote it, and based on what information?  Who participated in the development of the talking points she delivered?
19) Why is the Obama administration not cooperating with investigations into the matter (specifically: why is the President declaring his chosen spokesperson as off limits, why did the SecState visit friends in Australia instead of meeting a scheduled hearing, and why did the Obama administration choose to bring revelations of Petraeus’ affair to light days before a scheduled appearance at a Congressional hearing when the information had been known for at least 6 months?)

My Political View Is Founded on Grasp of Human Nature

I recently got caught up in a huge conversation on Twitter, when a bunch of Progressives tried to shame someone I follow for asking for donations to attend school.

They insisted it was hypocrisy on her part to ask for help, since it betrayed conservative values.  My take was that the principle of Individual Freedom doesn’t preclude conservatives asking for help. She’s free to ask, others are free to help, or not. What would betray conservative values would be complaining about government assistance not being enough to let her be comfortable as she tries to go back to school.  Conservatives can, and do, reward people for trying to improve themselves and their family’s lives.

The essential disconnect in that discussion is the Left thinks the Right is against anyone helping anyone, whereas the Right is actually against the notion of the federal government helping anyone, largely because government “help”  encourages dependence, which doesn’t actually help people at all.

But that’s not the point I’m trying to make.

I also don’t like the term “conservative” because most of the societal conservatives were trying to conserve are well and truly dead.  “The Right” doesn’t work all that well, either, because the Left’s Overton Window incorrectly puts Fascism on the Right, and doesn’t recognize that Alt-Right is a Leftist ideology.  This, of course, is based on the idea that the most consistent way to understand the Left and the Right spectra is the Left’s “group/collective rights” versus the Right’s “individual rights.” What I think the Right wants most is to restore our society to the understanding of limited government and expansive individual rights as described by the United States’ Founders and as enshrined in the Constitution as written. Should we call ourselves Restoratives?

But that’s not the point I’m trying to make either.

The conversation proceeded from the discussion of whether accepting help is acceptable for conservatives to other topics, and the most recent and longest-running discussion has been Vouchers and School Choice.

The Progressives are against those, and insist the problem with education in the US is we don’t shovel enough money into the bonfire.

They cite “many studies” that show that Charter Schools don’t work, harp on the failed Charters Schools, and corruption.

I don’t deny those things happen. It seems to me, however, they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Sticking with the current system certainly doesn’t ensure every child is well-educated, or that schools don’t fail, or even avoid fraud, waste, and abuse.

No system is perfect. No solution is perfect. The Left uses those imperfections to fight against the Right’s policy, but then uses an entirely different standard of “if it helps just one person” to support the policy they prefer.

If no system is perfect, then how do we decide what solutions to try?

Here, then, is the foundation of my ideology:

Most human attributes distribute along a bell curve.  Height, intelligence, talent, longevity, of course…but the attributes salient to my view are: laziness/industry. Some people work for their ideals, regardless of compensation, but most people work just hard enough to have the quality of life that makes them comfortable.

Discomfort is the source of all change and growth.  People will avoid what makes them uncomfortable, and will choose options that make them more comfortable.

Demand for money and material goods is literally unlimited.  Willingness to work for them is always limited, but distributed along the bell curve, so as population increases, so will income & wealth disparity. But that’s okay, because people have different motivations and different levels of comfort.

Natural consequences from decisions are the best way to teach people to make good decisions. It means people will suffer from bad decisions, which the Left uses to argue the Right is cold-blooded. What they fail to recognize is that shielding people from the natural consequences of their decisions actually creates and extends misery, because it obstructs people from gaining maturity and learning to make better decisions.

Everyone wants to improve their life a little bit. They want to do better and have more money this year than last year, and they want to feel like they can do better this month than last month.  Failing that, they want to hold on to what they currently have.  This is how a temporary government benefit becomes an entrenched, permanent interest.

Competition is always good.  Competition is an incentive for innovation: finding ways to do the same thing faster and/or cheaper, or finding ways to increase the quality while retaining current costs.  Without competition, there is no incentive to cut waste, because everyone wants to retain at least what they already have, right?

Wealth cannot be distributed. Wealth can only be created and destroyed.  This is because wealth is partly an attitude (your minimum requirements for life are less than what you have), and partly a sense of satisfaction from being rewarded adequately for creating value.

Money can be redistributed.  This is how wealth is destroyed.  Receiving money you didn’t earn destroys wealth because you have done nothing to deserve it.  Receiving money you didn’t earn engenders defensiveness, ingratitude, and entitlement.  Receiving money you didn’t earn  reduces the incentive to create value in the world, and is thus corrosive to human spirit.

Moreover, government assistance is set by government policy.  At best, it keeps up with inflation.  It is not designed to let you be better off than previously.  As such, people who depend on govt assistance must turn to other means to improve their life, and too often these other means are fraud or criminal behavior.  Thus, receiving government assistance is an inevitable moral hazard in and of itself, due to human nature.

Government regulation can be (and sometimes clearly is) necessary to ensure competition is fair.  This is because information is not always freely available, and those providing goods and services often have the power to control or manipulate information for their own advantage.  Look no further than the “many studies” that show charter schools don’t work.  Those studies are mostly done by those who have a vested financial and socio-political power interest in keeping the public education system exactly as it is.  The thing is, with the internet and processing power, information is becoming more and more accessible.  For example, many brick-and-mortar store retailers are in financial difficulty because so much is available online.  People were hesitant to purchase highly personal items, like clothing, without trying them first, but information availability has found ways to make this easier to accept, and people are embracing it.  How this works in education is that it should be easier for parents to locate successful charter schools that fit the needs of their family, if more of them exist.  What was once an impossibly-complex problem is now as easy to resolve as Amazon making used books available.

I hope to see a world where even a town of a few thousand has multiple charter schools…instead of one high school of 250 kids, a Voucher system could make it possible to have 5 schools of 50 children each, or even 12 schools of 21 students each, with enrollment at each ebbing and rising according to performance and needs of the parents…maybe some schools doing all their classwork in 2 12-hour day weekends, and others holding classes in the evening instead of the day.  Choice is always a good thing.

We should return to following the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, as written; significant changes to how we do things (like abortion rights, social security, etc.) should only be enacted through Amendments to the US Constitution.  Yes, that makes it much more difficult to make changes than just getting a handful of judges to make a ruling, but that is actually a good thing.  The difference between the Wisdom of Crowds and the Screwups of a Committee are the amount of deliberation and length of processes ideas must survive to become law.

To sum up:

  • Incentives influence behavior
  • Discomfort is a motivator for change and improvement, comfort reinforces staying the same
  • Competition makes everything better
  • People making individual choices will always be better than a central govt picking winners and losers
  • Information proliferation makes it more and more possible to personalize all sorts of services. Schools of one school and one teacher could be cost-effective in a Voucher system
  • Everyone has the right to experience the natural consequences of their behavior. This is the best way to have a mature, independent citizenry
  • Wealth is enjoying at least slightly more comfort than you require, earned by your own efforts.  As such, wealth cannot be distributed
  • Government assistance is inherently morally hazardous
  • The nation needs more Tough Love treatment of citizens from government at all levels, even if that seems cold-blooded. Church and other non-govt organizations are the best way to care for those who fail to make good choices, as the help is not permanent, nor entitled
  • These points are all perfectly in accord with the nation’s Founders, and this is shown by the wording of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.