Overwrought Think-Piece O’ the Day

  • by Gitabushi

Progressive ideology. Political power shifts. Societal pendulums. Global Warming. Defeating Evil.

What do these things have in common, besides the letter “l”?

All these different issues cannot be discussed rationally without accurately identifying and applying feedback loops.

For instance, in the case of Global Warming Climate Change, the theory is that the increase in carbon dioxide from human activity is driving the Earth’s temperature spiraling upward. However, the only way this can be true is if factors influencing or controlling the earth’s temperature are, in total, a positive feedback loop. Meaning, the various elements snowball, so the more carbon gets into the atmosphere, the easier it is for carbon to get into the atmosphere in the future.

However, to make this argument, one has to be aware of several negative feedback loops, such as the logarithmic nature of carbon’s impact (the more carbon is in the atmosphere, the smaller effect any given unit of carbon has) and the likelihood that increased carbon in the atmosphere encourages plant growth that has a cooling effect.  Meaning, there are certainly elements that tend to resist change, that absorb changes into a cycle that brings temperature back to equilibrium.  The fact that the world has had both extreme temperatures during different ages, yet keeps within a relatively small, stable range, indicates that negative feedback loops are more powerful than the positive feedback loops in our global climate system.

Regarding defeating evil, the one thing I remember from the 1st Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever is that evil can never be fully defeated. Individual incarnations of evil can be defeated, but since some measure of evil exists in every single human being, evil will always return.

lrdflsbncc1978

Setting aside the notion of evil, that’s why it is so difficult for there to be a permanent one-party rule in the United States.  One significant negative feedback loop is the election interests of individual politicians.  If one party succeeded in complete domination of the political scene, the powerless party would dissolve and the in-power party would split in order for individual politicians to seek power by championing the interests of a minority.  Party overreach usually means that it never even gets to that point.  The Democrats were hailing their permanent majority just 8 years ago.  Now they almost lack the power to stop Constitutional Amendments.

Progressive Ideology assumes a social Positive Feedback Loop, in which human society inevitably progresses toward their assumed and preferred utopia of human enlightenment.

As a fan of science fiction, I have imagined what an Individual Rights Society might look like (call it Conservative, or Libertarian, if you with…neither seem to be fully appropriate terms), but even in my imagination, it is impossible to sustain.  Human nature is too obvious: there will always be people who see their advantage in claiming group rights over individual rights, and there will always be people eager to dictate groups rights to the exclusion of individual rights.

But is the reverse true?

Consider this tweet:

I think she’s 100% correct. However, the problem is that even after the precedent is set, it isn’t a precedent the GOP can use in retaliation against the Democrats.  This is because there simply is no GOP-leaning senior bureaucrat population.  The federal bureaucracy mostly embraces the Progressive mindset.  Where it doesn’t, it correctly sees the Democrat Party as more supportive of the unelected bureaucracy’s power.

As a result, where there should be a negative feedback loop that acts as a check on Progressive overreach, I fear that Democrats (and/or Progressives, and/or Leftists…there’s a huge overlap, but not complete) have metastasized in government to the point that they can enforce a positive feedback loop for their preferred policies.

Maybe not.  The Deep State’s attack on the US Constitution is out in the open now, and the GOP does have an unprecedented advantageous position to begin dismantling it, just like Walker is doing in Wisconsin.

However, let me clarify what I mean by the Left enforcing a positive feedback loop.

Normally, overreach results in the pendulum swinging back, as individuals exercise their political and social rights to disagree and oppose.  But the nature of Leftist ideology is to embrace and empower group rights, not individual rights.  They control education, so they can teach you the history and values they want you to have.  They control entertainment, so they can craft narratives in which the Progressive ideology always turns out to be correct. They control the news, so they can make it seem like the GOP following Democrat precedents is an outrageous, unprecedented scandal.  They control the federal bureaucracy, so they can pick and choose which of the millions of pages of regulations to enforce to punish individuals for opposing their agenda.  They can make the process be the punishment so that you can’t even fight back against things like EPA overreach without bankrupting yourself.  They control the judiciary (mostly), so they can re-legislate and nullify laws they don’t like (up to and including declaring a Constitutional Amendment to be Unconstitutional).  They can allow non-citizens to flood the nation to outnumber citizens and get representation and federal funding based on illegal aliens.  They can channel taxpayer money to Progressive organizations like Planned Parenthood, and get money back from Planned Parenthood to fund Democrat politicians.  And they can use all these various institutions to move the Overton Window to make it impossible to even talk about alternatives to their vision.

If Hillary Clinton had been elected, there would have been significant erosion of 1A and 2A rights.  So we dodged a bullet there.

But even with Donald Trump duly winning the election, even with the GOP controlling Congress, controlling approximately 2/3 of the governorships, controlling a majority of state legislatures, and conservatives about to control the Supreme Court, we find ourselves on the defense from the Deep State attempting to sabotage the Trump Administration.

The battle is in the open now, but despite it being open, I’m not at all certain the GOP can win.  Too many people would rather be right about Trump than protect the normal order of Constitutional governance.

If we lose this, we won’t lose our rights immediately.  But it will be a slow erosion.  Some negative feedback elements do still exist to slow, and sometimes even turn back, the growth of the Leviathan State.  But if the Deep State wins, expect to see more and more of the negative feedback loop mechanisms dismantled.

My bottom line: sure, a Trump administration is going to be a shit-show. It will be clumsy. It will make mistakes. But the more conservatives pile on, the easier it will be for the Deep State to win in their battle against the POTUS, and we’ll all be the worse off for it.

The Deep State has declared war on the rightfully-elected President of the United States.  By choosing to go to war against the President of the United States, the Deep State has declared war on the US Constitution.  You have to choose a side. There’s gotta be away you can defend the Office of the Presidency without defending Trump the man himself. Find it.

 

Overwrought Think-Piece O’ the Day

A thought on contemporary SFF

Some of my SFF analyst/author/blogger cohorts talk much recently of the coordinated expunction over the past several decades of literary giants like Brackett, Merritt, and the old pulp fiction stars. As I’ve said before, I can’t speak much to that. I’m not immersed in the industry or the history, and my understanding of what qualifies as “canon” is hazy.

I have, lately, been listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History episodes on WWI. It’s hard-hitting stuff, and across the several hours I’ve listened to so far, he’s made several side references to Tolkien, Lewis, Wells, and their ilk, who were all contemporaries and (in Tolkien and Lewis’ case) participants in the Great War. This, combined with some of my recent reading about these guys has gotten me thinking.

Here’s the thought, on Twitter:

thought

 

So why is the Song of Ice and Fire series a litany of rapes and ignominious murders (and I say this as a general fan of the series)? Well, perhaps in part because the writer and the target audience aren’t seeing these kinds of horrors all around them, and there is an appetite for this kind of entertainment. Don’t forget, people are brutal creatures.

list-10-things-you-may-not-know-about-gladiators-e

I’m not saying this is to be praised, and I certainly cheer for those authors who work toward a return to the pulp heroics of times past. But I think there are numerous factors at play here, and we can at least be grateful that we aren’t craving escape from rationing, and conscription, and death on a grand scale.

-Bushi

bushi

A thought on contemporary SFF

Walking Dead, Season 7: Far-Right Tutorial

  • by Gitabushi

There are plenty of spoilers in the following piece.  If you aren’t caught up on the story, well, at some point you have to take responsibility for being weeks behind.  There has been plenty of time for everyone to catch up on the storyline, so I’m not even going to try to avoid spoilers.  I’ll put it below the jump, however.  And the spoilers will be minor, I think.

Continue reading “Walking Dead, Season 7: Far-Right Tutorial”

Walking Dead, Season 7: Far-Right Tutorial

Guitar Lust: Kramer DMZ 2000

  • By Gitabushi

One of the things that annoys me the most about a guitar is if you take a guitar out to another location to play it, or move from indoors to outdoors, and the change in temperature and humidity causes the neck to bend differently.  Suddenly, the strings fret out. Or the action is suddenly higher.  You have to get out an allen wrench and make adjustments to the truss rod.

Or even worse, you purchase a guitar, and over the months or years, the neck slowly warps, twisting or bowing or even developing humps that make it nearly impossible to have low action without buzzing or fretting out.

Guitar manufacturers are aware of this, and they dealt with it in a number of ways.  First, of course, is the truss rod that allows you to adjust to the changes.  Other solutions have included dual carbon-fiber truss rods (that can deal with twist), baking/drying/aging the wood so that it will less susceptible to environmental conditions, using three-piece necks with the grain of the middle strip running opposite to the two outside strips to cause any wood movement from environmental factors to work in opposition, and using other materials that are less susceptible to environmental changes.

In an excellent example of that last approach, in 1976, the Kramer guitar company made aluminum-necked guitars.

The guitars featured an aluminum skeleton neck, with a distinctive forked neck, attached to a normal wood body.  The neck has wooden inserts usually, but not always, the same type of wood as the body, with the intent of providing a more conventional, less cold feel for the guitarists fretting hand.

In 1978, they came out with the DMZ line, including the one I have, the DMZ 2000.  The DMZ portion was a marketing emphasis on its Dimarzio pickups.  The 2000 being that it was better than the 1000, I think.  Or maybe just that there was a series, because the 3000 is just a Strat-style guitar, without extra features, and the 4000 and 5000 series are basses…no one in their right minds would say a bass is better than an electric guitar, right?

Like all Kramer aluminum-necked guitars, the DMZ 2000 featured an ebonite fretboard. That’s something I really appreciate, because I really like ebony as a fretboard for a number of reasons.  First, I like the appearance of black fretboards.  Second, I fancy that I can hear an impact on tone; guitars with ebony fingerboards seemed to have an extra chime to the attack.  Or, at least, I used think that.  I can’t seem to tell the difference anymore, so maybe it was all in my head in the first place. After all, there is no way to swap out fretboards on the same guitar to a/b the tone.  Third, ebony has always been the easiest and fastest to play on.  I really can feel that rosewood fretboards are more difficult to play on, because the softer, more open-grained wood of rosewood literally clings to skin and slows down the release.  I know the difference is microseconds, if not nanoseconds, but I have tested this out on many guitars, and I really can feel the difference.  Ebony-style man-made materials (like ebonite and other materials like acrylic) are simply faster.

diagram

The DMZ 2000 also has two coil split toggles, so you can get eight different usable tones from the two pickups, including some good single coil tones either singly or in combination.

All that aluminum does make the guitar pretty heavy.  It’s a drawback that doesn’t bother me much, but might bother someone with shoulder or back problems.

The guitar is very comfortable to play standing up or sitting down.  Personally, I love the tone and ergonomics of playing this guitar.

I got mine from a local vintage-focused guitar shop.  I was surprised to see it listed at just $850.  I had heard about these and thought they would be collector-priced well beyond my willingness to pay, maybe something above $2000.  A quick search showed that the price was pretty much in-line with what they sold for on Reverb, or maybe slightly lower.   I didn’t regret buying it.  It is one of my favorite guitars: collectible and a great player, but also durable enough that I wouldn’t be afraid to take it out to a gig.

There are other aluminum-necked guitars made by Kramer, of course.  The DMZ line was the second wave, running from 1978 to 1981.  From these pictures, you can see the first wave, as well as how the second wave changed during its production run:

robdutch1

You can find out more about Kramer’s aluminum-necked guitars here.

…man, I really want to choose “robots” as one of the categories for this post, but I’ll stick with accuracy and refrain.

 

Guitar Lust: Kramer DMZ 2000

The Opposite of Populism

  • by Gitabushi

Have you noticed the mainstream media, pundits, and even Democratic Party officials are decrying populism lately?  Actually, if you pay attention to the news at all, I don’t see how you could miss it.  Barrels of ink have been spilled by the Democrat Operatives with Bylines (Glenn Reynolds’ characterization of the mainstream media, although the phrase has been taken up by his guest blogger, Ed Driscoll, as shown by the posts in the link) decrying populism since Donald Trump won the election.

Barrels of ink could be spilled exploring the phenomenon that populism, a cornerstone of Democratic Party policy and power, is suddenly a problem when Republicans embrace it (temporarily or not).

They hate populism because Trump rode a wave of populism to win the election.

As I am fond of noting, to Progressives/Leftists, “democracy” is whatever gives them power or helps them retain it, and “facism” is any process or act that results in them losing power.  That’s why every Republican is always Literally Hitler.

If Populism is so bad, what is the opposite of Populism?  Elitism? Has that served us well?

Actually, I think the opposite of Populism is Principles.

Populism is the notion that whatever the majority of The People want to happen should become law simply because the people want it. Usually the Court system is the way Leftists make this argument, but they will use Congress when they can (“We have to pass the law to find out what’s in it”), and lately have fallen in love with Executive Orders (“If Congress doesn’t act, I will“). And, of course, mob rule has also been one of their favorite weapons, if it is their mob and their rule.

Principle is when you want to follow the rules, even if it harms you personally; and when you want to follow the system, even if it makes it more difficult to do the things that are already obvious should be done.

An example: I am currently a government contractor. It is not a bad way to make a living, but there is no security. The contract you work under is usually re-competed every year, and another company could win the bid at any time. The rules for your employment are also far less friendly than that of government employees.  I would like to be employed by the government.  In fact, I have even applied for a position.  Donald Trump promised he would institute a hiring freeze on government employees. If I voted in a populist manner, I would have voted for Hillary Clinton. It was actually voting against my personal interests to vote for Donald Trump. I stuck with principles.  I want the future to be better for my children and grand children.  I think that as bad as Trump might be, electing Hillary Clinton to be POTUS will result in her establishing many more incentives that will make life worse for all people in my children’s and grandchildren’s adult life.

So what is Elitism, then?

In my opinion, Elitism is merely Populism for Elites.  The Elites want a huge influx of Illegal Immigrants, so they get the huge influx, even if the federal government has to sue to keep a state from enforcing federal laws. The Elites want same sex marriage to be legal, and so a fundamental Right to Marriage suddenly appears where none existed before.

I assert that we should resist and reject Populism in all its forms.  We should follow the laws of the United States, as written. If we do not like the laws, they should be changed by the processes allowed to us. Executive Orders should not be used to legislate. Executive Orders should not be allowed to stipulate not enforcing duly-enacted laws.  The Supreme Court should never re-write a law to make it Constitutional, like it did in Obergefell and “Obamacare” rulings.  If a law is UnConstitutional, it should be temporarily halted until Congress writes a new law.

Maybe we need a Constitutional Amendment to establish the process by which SCOTUS strikes down laws and how they are then re-written?  Because I don’t think it would be helpful to the United States if a law was passed, then overturned by the Supreme Court, but the rewriting vetoed by a President who didn’t want the law.  Without any rules for the process, the system could be exploited for Leftist gain.  More than it already is, I mean.

And while we’re at it, I think we need to develop a Constitutional Process for the other two branches to be able to overrule SCOTUS in some circumstances.  SCOTUS deciding to re-write laws to fit what it considered Populist Wishes, and the inability for anyone to stop it, is the biggest gap in our system of checks and balances.

The Opposite of Populism

An Attempt at Even-Handedness: District Gerrymandering

  • by Gitabushi

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/supreme-court-out-of-redistricting-thicket/article/2608902

So here’s the issue, as the article above explains, and as non-partisan and objective as I can make it:
When you set up districts for House of Representative elections, you must try to have approximately equal number of voters.   You can’t let one Representative represent 100k people and other represent 4k people in the same state (due to rules of minimum representation and a cap on there being only 435 Representatives, there will be an unavoidable disparity in total number of voters represented by a Congressman between, say, California and Wyoming).
Because population is not even, the size and the shape of the districts will be uneven.  It only takes a second of thought to realize there are many ways to draw the districts to include approximately the same number of people, and different lines have different strategic impacts.

But let’s say districts in your state have 100k people each.  You can put the mix any way you want it.  Let’s also assume there are only two groups we are dealing with: whites (notional majority at 70%) and blacks (notional minority at 30%)

Obviously, not all blacks vote Democrat, and the Democrat political message also appeals to a significant number of whites, but for the sake of the mental exercise, let’s just assume black = Democrat and white = Republican.

You can draw the lines so that blacks are spread out across districts, say no more than 20% of any district.  That means that to the extent that blacks political wants/needs are different from whites, they have been effectively silenced.

Since the Democrat political message was calibrated to appeal to almost all blacks (through playing up racial differences, stirring up resentment and distrust between the races, etc), arranging to allow them greater political voice would result in more political power for Democrats.

They redrew districts so that blacks would be a sufficient majority in more districts, thus pretty much guaranteeing those districts would elect a Democrat Representative.  To the extent that blacks political wants/needs are different than whites, the whites in those districts have been effectively silenced.  But it maximized the number of districts whose representatives were elected by blacks, and thus maximized the number of Democrat Representatives.

But those districts can also be redrawn so that blacks are all concentrated in the smallest number of districts possible. To the extent that the Democrat message appeals to blacks, it would guarantee those districts would vote Democrat, that blacks had a voice, and no other voices were political silenced. But it minimized the number of Democrat Representatives by concentrating blacks into the smallest number of districts.

This is what the GOP has done since taking over legislatures and governorships across the nation.

To be fair, this last method is probably the most “fair”, in that (to the extent that the political wants/needs of blacks are different from those of whites), blacks have a number of Representatives proportional to their actual portion of the citizenry.  In our notional example, 30%.  Obviously, Democrats would prefer to maximize the voice/power of a group they consider (for good reason) to be the most reliably-Democrat population group in the US.  As a result, GOP gerrymandering is Evil and Racist and Unprecedented, unlike Democrat gerrymandering, which is Noble and Done for All the Morally Superior Reasons (because, if pressed, they’ll admit that defeating the GOP is *always* the morally superior outcome. Which just means that to Democrats, seizing and holding political power is a moral imperative).

Now, one unavoidable fact is that the GOP has broadened its appeal at the state level so that they were able to capture more state legislatures and governor seats.  Those political victories mean that they have the support of a significant majority of people.  It would actually be immoral to ignore or silence those voters to impose a system that favors Democrats just because it favors Democrats.

The interesting thing brought up in the above article is that there are risks for Democrats in their strategy to maximize their power.

If the GOP gerrymandering plan is maintained, then to the extent that Democrat political stances represent or are preferred by blacks, they are guaranteed victories in the black districts.
If the Democrat gerrymandering plan is restored, then to the extent that their political stances represent or are preferred by blacks, they maximize their political power, but at the risk that the GOP might split off black voters and/or the risk that black turnout might be lower than whites for reasons of enthusiasm.  Compare the difference in vote percentages and voter enthusiasm between the two Obama elections on the one hand and the Trump election on the other. Trump received a higher percentage of the black vote than McCain or Romney, mainly because of the Democrat candidate. But the black turnout was also lower for Trump than for either of the Obama elections, again, mainly because of the Democrat candidate.

What that means, however, is that if you have your districts set up to have, say 55% black voters, that might deliver the district to Democrats in a normal year.  But what is a “normal” election year?  At 55%, it doesn’t take much voter discouragement to make the percentage of black voters drop below a critical number and deliver the district (and Representative) to the GOP. Or it doesn’t take many blacks deciding that Democrat regulation is killing the jobs they want, so maybe voting for Trump *can* Make America Great Again.

And that’s exactly what we saw in this past election.

The House and Senate did swing a few seats to Democrats.  But not many, and far below what was expected to be a significant pendulum swing back to Democrats.

It makes me think that the GOP should redistrict exactly like Democrats want it, but with the margin for black representation razor thin.  And then campaign in those black districts to the maximum extent possible, and be sure to work hard to represent them as effectively as possible in Congress, delivering on promises, providing jobs, getting blacks off of welfare, keeping their families intact, etc.

It could be interesting.

An Attempt at Even-Handedness: District Gerrymandering