Orcs and trucks

I had given up on Shadow of Mordor, not knowing how near I was to finishing it. Every now and then I felt an itch to go back and make an attempt. Even if I wound up ragequitting again, killing orcs and pitting brute against brute was fun in stretches.

Well, I beat it this weekend. And I even ran into that Bloodlicker guy at one point near the end, no joke. He wasn’t alive long enough to do much licking, but.

The game’s got a lot going for it, and I’d heartily recommend picking it up during a sale (or for full price if you’re one of them rich folk with dollars to burn). That is, of course, dependent on a certain tolerance for (well-done, albeit) Middle Earth fanfic. The writers put together a decent story, but there are some pretty egregious changes to Celebrimbor and Sauron and the nature of the ring. If you can get past that and just slay some orcs, though, it’s good fun.

Mordor isn’t quite as barren and Verdun-y as I imagine it was intended to be, but there are all sorts of barby things and sinister towers. Orcs quarrel and grumble and brag amongst themselves as you slink around. Power struggles go on and orcs get promoted or die with or without your intervention.

There are many little touches that make for an immersive and enjoyable experience. You may kill orc captains, but they don’t really “die” until you cut off their heads, which so far as I can tell is random. I ran into this drunk orc (that was his “thing”) three or four times, and with each encounter he became more and more disfigured. At the end he was missing half his face, replaced by metal plating.

Being able to ride beasts was cool, as were many of the wraith powers. The biggest draw for me was the ability to dominate (ghosty-mind-control?) enemies. Not only can they help turn the tide of large skirmishes for you, but the ability affords you a bit of flexibility in accomplishing your objectives.

The quest I was stuck on was tied up in dominating a particular warchief, but he would only show up if you grabbed one of his followers and made him squeal for help. The problem was, this dude would always be hanging out in the middle of a fort with a big posse. Every attempt I made to lure him off by himself failed and led to a never-ending battle that ended in either retreat or the death of the follower.

Finally it occurred to me that I could just get one of my own lackeys to challenge the warchief. So long-story-short, I did. Little did the chump know that his bodyguards were also my creatures. And so I just showed up and it was no difficult task to overpower and dominate him.

It was pretty fun to send my captains and warchiefs on missions, too. By the end of the game I had a strong enough group that they were able to wipe out the Black Gate captains and forces almost on their own (I helped a little).

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So that’s Shadow or Mordor.

I’ve also been playing a bit of American Truck Simulator, which isn’t something I’d ever have imagined myself getting into.

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But with all the politics injected into everything and the culture wars raging, sometimes a game like this can really hit the spot.

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I mean, sometimes it all just makes you want to kill hordes of orcs. And sometimes it makes you just want to deliver construction equipment from Flagstaff to Carson City while listening to streaming country radio.

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-Bushi

bushi

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Frustrations with Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • by Gitabushi

I’ve been reading more slowly lately. Life, plus an obsession with a mobile game* as a stress reliever.

I am really trying to like Pulp. There is much to like about Pulp. But there is also much to dislike about Pulp.

Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) provides some good examples of both.

I’ve read enough of ERB and Robert E. Howard that I can get into a pulp mindset where I turn off my writing critic and just enjoy the story.  And *still* ERB annoys with some of his poor plotting mechanics.

I have to conclude that ERB was great at coming up with an amazing archetype of a hero, and then just writing about his bad-ass character. His fame comes from being the first to have such a bad-ass character, rather than from actual writing talent.

Maybe that’s harsh. I know it’s going to irritate some people. But look, I’ve read The Monster Men (which was one of ERB’s later works, and an attempt to be more literary), and while it still had some problems, it was actually a fairly well-written book, with some twists, some character complexity, proper foreshadowing, etc.

But I’m still in the midst of slogging through Gods of Mars, and there are just so many examples of poor writing.

I feel like nearly every 3-4 pages there’s an example of poor writing that jars me out of my Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

Sometimes it is having incredible luck that saves John Carter from failure/death or otherwise continue the narrative. One would be irritating, but there have been at least 10 so far…way too many.  Examples: How was it John Carter to Barsoom returned just in time to encounter Tars Tarkas? How was it Tars Tarkas wasn’t the Green Warrior surprised by the unexpected jumping tactics of the Plant Men? How did Thuvia and Tars happen to be right at the location where the damaged air car of John Carter, Xodar, and Carthoris comes to ground?  Why does Thuvia have the ability of nearly perfect telepathy with beasts? Is this something other Barsoomians have? The answer seems to be that ERB needed something to get the characters through a nearly-impossible situation, so he just pulled something out of the air and ran with it.

Or the characters encounter an obstacle, and what do you know, they just happen to have the ability/item they need, right at that moment, but ERB just forgot to mention it before then! This is probably the most irritating, because it gives an impression of first draft writing: if your writing leads you to put your characters into a difficult situation, you go back and add the solution earlier in the work, at a time that it won’t seem unusual or significant.  Call it effective foreshadowing, call it effective preparation to  avoid a deus ex machina, I don’t really know the right way to put it. But ERB completely misses the mark for this in A Princess of Mars and Gods of Mars.

One that bothers me even more, however, is when ERB is inconsistent with the world and the rules of the world he himself set up.  In A Princess of Mars, he explains at length that the Green Men have rifles capable of amazing long distance accuracy, and the marksmanship skills to use them at incredible ranges. Yet when the Green Men would reasonably use that advantage in a way that might hurt the main characters, the Green Men conviently forget to use them.  A prime example of this (which I just read, and pushed me over the edge to needing to write this complaint) is when the Warhoons are chasing John Carter’s band after he rescued Tars Tarkas, but the Warhoons merely pursue them instead of shooting their mounts from underneath them. Another example is several pages earlier when John Carter merely follows Tars’ escorting guards through the dungeon, intead of attacking them immediately to free Tars. And immediately following when John Carter regretfully feels forced to ambush Tars’ guards, clearly feeling it was not up to his standards of fairness.  This bothers me because John Carter had not hesitated to attack far more than just four Green Men warriors previously, and he had killed one with a single blow from his fist before. Why would he hesitate in this situation, and why would he finally decide on a somewhat-dishonorable ambush? Inconsistency.

There are other things to like about the book, but this isn’t really a book review. I like it better than the Land that Time Forgot, because when I put The Gods of Mars down, I do want to pick it up again.  But it isn’t compelling me to reach the finish like The Monster Men did.

I’m not saying the book sucks.  But it does spur contemplation on the nature of successful writing. Should I sacrifice quality for speed in writing? Should I just come up with a great character and not stress plot and consistency?  Why does the best of SFF pulp have this many problems, but the best of Western and Detective Noir do not?

Okay, come at me.

* Kingdom Rush. My obsession is finishing every level without using any of the one-time use special abilities you can purchase with diamonds.  I’m almost done. I’m stressed because the new job I mentioned on Twitter as getting hired for FIVE MONTHS AGO still hasn’t given me a start date. Long story there.

MUST READ SFF: Replay, by Ken Grimwood

  • by Gitabushi

It should be no surprise by now that I like books with good stories, good characters, and ideas that challenge me.  Who doesn’t want to be entertained?  But there are so many options for entertainment, so when I read, I want my mind to get a workout.

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This book does that.

To be honest, this book may be generation-locked.  The main character was born in the 1940s, and so is in college in the 1960s, and the culture of the 1960s has an impact on the plot. Growing up in the 1970s myself, I didn’t live 1960s culture…but most of the books I had available growing up were written in the 1960s or early 1970s, and set in the late 1950s and 1960s, so I was familiar with the culture.  For someone who never had to dial a rotary phone or never lived before there was cable TV or microwaves, maybe the book will lack some impact.  I don’t know. If you are one such reader, try it out and let me know.

However, Grimwood does an excellent job capturing the normality of those early times.  The protagonist goes back to his youth, but brings his adult sensibilities with him. And if you can imagine how society has changed just from the introduction of widespread use of the birth control pill, you can imagine how his mature assumptions clash with the culture and society of his youth.

The entire book is written with bedrock-solid descriptions of mainstream life in the United States. It feels real. The characters actions and reactions seem real. The author thinks of aspects I didn’t (and maybe couldn’t) and plays them to the hilt. The result is a book that makes it extremely easy to willingly suspend disbelief. It is easy to get drawn in, to care about the protagonists, what they want to do, and why.

It is also intersting to see things fall apart when the main character gets to experience one of the most common wishes of humankind: “If I knew then what I know now.”  Jeff gets several lifetimes of that wish fulfillment, and it still never turns out like he expects.

From that point of view, the book can be seen as a comfort: you are already doing pretty much the best  you can. More knowledge wouldn’t make your life better, it would just move you along to encounter new problems. Life is life. Stop pining for how things could be different, and start appreciating what you actually have.

In the end, you may get a “Groundhog Day” vibe out of this book, but rest assured: this preceded Groundhog Day by several years.

In fact, I would like to challenge all writers: Take the premise of this book, or Groundhog Day, or Flash Forward, and write your own stories. We have endless takes on zombies, vampires, young adult dystopias. Enough!  These three formats are crying out for additional exploration.

But first, you have to read this. Find it and read it. Let me know if you think I steered you wrong, but I think you’ll love it as much as I did.

Oh, and give me a review of the review. Did it make you want to read the book? If not, what else should I have included to help persuade you?

Replay Radar

 

MUST READ SFF: The Monster Men, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • by Gitabushi

I have embarked on an exploration of old Pulp, with designs of writing some pulp stories myself. Where better to start than with Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs?

Having recently finished ERB’s “A Princess of Mars”, and the library term having run out on “The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian” by REH, I decided I should read some more Burroughs.  However, I didn’t want to limit myself to Barsoom stories at this time, so I picked up The Monster Men.

monster men

The Monster Men is an intriguing mix of different ideas: the hubris of science, the nature of souls, love and loyalty.  At times, it seems as if ERB was writing in response to Shelley’s “Frankenstein”; at other times, I wondered if he was trying to establish his protagonist as a Christ figure.

In the end, it is none of those, although those elements certainly do play a role.

Lately, I’ve been consumed with the notion of Willing Suspension of Disbelief: it is a prerequisite to enjoying a story. For instance, I can’t get into Star Trek because my expectations for The Next Generation were so high that when they lost me, they ruined my ability to accept any premise from that universe. Likewise, I enjoyed “Orcs!” because the verisimilitude of the GS rank battle, combined with what struck me as a precisely-correct shift of tone from farce to seriousness, convinced me to buy into the premise.

But I hadn’t seen The Two Towers film. As such, when the scenes that parodied that movie played, I wasn’t jarred from the story as anyone who had seen that other film would be.

I could delve into this more deeply with other examples, but the point is: obtaining and maintaining Willing Suspension of Disbelief isn’t something the writer should take for granted.

I very nearly choked on the premise of this story: that man could create life from scratch. Modern Science has only recently mapped the human genome; I don’t care what texts Professor Maxon had available to him, there was no way he was growing humans from scratch.  But I finally decided to swallow the premise (key word: “Willing”) and take the premise at face value.

Before I had completely accepted the premise, however, the book started getting really good.  This occurred at approximately 20% of the way in  (according to my Kindle; page numbers are meaningless when you are reading Kindle e-Book publications). At that point, multiple actors began to reveal their competing goals and techniques for reaching those goals.  What was a relatively simple story suddenly became extremely complex.

From that point on, I had to finish the book to see what would happen. My Disbelief was fully Suspended. There were points were the pacing slowed, but I was already committed to the story and to reading the fates of the various characters.

And I wasn’t disappointed.  Burroughs ends this story extremely well, with a somewhat surprise ending that, at the risk of ruining it for you, he actually fully telegraphed earlier in the book.  Fortunately, he did it in a way you will either not notice, or forget in the ensuing pages of action.  Masterfully done, in fact.

Moreover, Burroughs drops some challenging ideas into the story, particularly regarding the nature of humanity, souls, and morality.  When I say “challenging”, I don’t mean the ideas are complex, novel, or controversial.  I just mean that he raises questions and has the characters consider them; this process compels the reader to actually consider these issues in the hypothetical context. Perhaps the reader is already clear what they think, perhaps it is an entirely new idea; either way, I have to believe the reader is forced to think on the concept.

The novel doesn’t really get preachy, however.  It isn’t a Message story, although it has some Messages in it.  This is how I like my books: don’t beat me over the head with what you think is the Right Way to Think About a Moral Issue.  Just raise the issue and then show me the consequences of people’s decisions and actions.  Make your case.

ERB did, and did it well.  12 hours later, I’m still thinking, “Huh. What if this other character had followed through with that action? It would have been horrible!” To me, thinking about the ramifications of different characters doing different things is the sign of a good story: it means I’ve begun to think about the characters as people, with agency and options. It means I found their decisions and actions to be realistic.

There is some stereotyping that most Social Justice Warriors would probably now denounce as racism.  I wouldn’t, because they are stereotypes that serve the story. Burroughs needed people to act a certain way, and the setting made the racial choices obvious. But I don’t think he reduced the humanity and agency of anyone, and the choices they made were based on realistic cultural influences. Giving a Chinese character a “Your Raundly is Leddy” accent throughout the whole damn book is annoying, but the character itself is treated with the utmost respect.  I see nothing racist about this book at all, although there are indubitably racial elements.  Noticing race isn’t racist in and of itself. This more firmly establishes in my mind the opinion that charges of racism leveled at ERB are undeserved.  My mind can still be changed, but that window is closing.

However, the novel had some other problems.  Mechanically, his writing is sometimes poor: there are run-on sentences, confusing clauses, loss of clarity in who is speaking or acting.

One of the more interesting weaknesses, however, is ERB’s Show-Don’t-Tell problems.  He “tells” way too often.  This would be a much better novel if he showed the reader what he wanted to tell us.  Motivations should be revealed more in dialogue and descriptions of actions, rather than just telling us what someone wanted or meant by their words.  And yet, taking it to another level, his telling the reader about motivations and actions served as showing a deeper level of moral character and integrity of the characters in the story. So I can’t give him a failing grade in that area the way I do mechanics.

Finally, in this book, ERB’s descriptions are rather muted and plain, much like they are in “A Princess of Mars”.  I find myself comparing him to REH with ERB coming out the loser, badly. But to be fair, REH is a master at vivid description, at making you feel you are actually present in a 3D world, so anyone would pale in comparison.  ERB’s descriptions were adequate, so he barely passes here, too.

From now on, I’ll be including a chart that captures my rating of the story based on several aspects.  Here is the chart for ERB’s “The Monster Men”:

Monster Men Radar

The book is public domain and can be downloaded from various online locations. I recommend you do so.  This is a book worth reading!

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.

 

 

 

 

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.