Democratization of Choice? Can’t Think of a Catchy Title

– By Gitabushi

We are in a very weird time, politically speaking.

cce7c95e2aabb2624efb4fa590e7f33e
Leftist Spokesmodel is Not Amused by my Unwillingness to Pay for her Birth Control

The Left is moving farther and farther Left. They seem to feel encouraged by their victories in matters like Same Sex Marriage, Govt-funded health care and successful use of the Overton Window to protect their preferred politicians.

At the same time, the Right has had a series of victories that, in the United States at least, leaves conservatives with control of the Supreme Court, the Presidency both halves of Congress, 33 Governorships, and a majority of the state legislatures.  I’ve seen it said that Democrats lost more than 1000 seats during Obama’s terms, if you include state positions.

From another perspective, however, Democrats have won more overall votes than Republicans in the US, it just hasn’t translated into victories because of the way their votes are concentrated in urban areas.

There have been conservative victories in individual gun rights, conservative victories in religious liberty; we’re making some progress in dismantling the Democrat money machine, appear to be ramping up to defund Planned Parenthood (striking a blow for human rights of the most vulnerable), and widespread vote fraud is finally getting attention. (There was no proof of vote fraud previously because Democrat officials had successfully prevented us from looking).

Simultaneously, there is a great realignment, as Democrats doubled down on identity politics, driving moderates into voting GOP, no matter how reluctantly.

The thing is, there’s something else at work here.

Information explosion.

Amazon could not have been successful 30 years ago.  It was impossible to gather the information and present it in a way that people could make informed choices.

Just as the internet and computing power have gathered information and enabled algorithms to help people make better choices in their purchases, these same elements will also enable individuals to make better choices in the government they want.

This, more than anything, will destroy all the Leftist politics that rise from Marxism.

Marxism and its descendants, like Communism, socialism, Progressivism, Feminism, etc., are all predicated on one-size-fits-all governing, with choices given to you by an all-powerful, all-knowing government.  But these isms always fail, too, because a central government can’t do as well as individuals making choices that work bets for them.

However, many aspects of life were easier to implement via government.  I’m sure there are many examples, but right now I’m thinking specifically of education.

With credentialing, standards, infrastructure, payroll, etc., it was just easier to let govt handle education, providing school systems that served local geographic areas.  Economy of scale made it work poorly, but still work.

Vouchers have the potential to cause an education revolution, however.

But linking education dollars to the student rather than to their local school, it opens up the possibility of all sorts of schools opening up in competition to the govt school. It was never cost effective to have more than one school in a small town of 2500 people with, say, 240 in the high school.

With vouchers, though, it becomes cost-effective to have 12 schools of 20 students each, all competing to be the best school so that parents will want their students to attend. Of course, it wouldn’t break down that way.  The most popular school would probably grow (why not capture more of the voucher money?), while less popular schools would probably specialize to try to retain what they could of the voucher income.  So maybe one 100-student school for average students, a military school for discipline problems, a 40-student college prep school offering only AP courses and requiring a test to get in, and two or three Vo-Tech schools focusing on different practical skills for those who least suited for college.

It would have been impossible to organize, staff, and fund this much diversity in a small town before, dealing with all the accreditation and public school dollars.  But the internet and computing power will allow us to Amazonize education, letting parents (or the students themselves) choose the best way to spend their education voucher dollars.

Sure, there will be mistakes, and failures, and bad choices.  Some kids will be worse off in this sort of system. But despite our best efforts and high ideals, students are already being failed and left behind by our current education system. Throwing more money at the current system hasn’t helped…it just sucks up money to no effect. The biggest advantage of the Voucher system will be the innate incentive for schools to fix problems and minimize damage to the students.

Vouchers provide economic incentive and economic freedom to experiment and innovate.

And this will happen in other areas, too. Expect the information revolution to come to Health Care soon. And energy consumption.  Why can’t we have a nationwide grid that allows me to buy energy from Wyoming if they can provide it to me cheaper?  Sure, the power plant in Wyoming can’t push the electrons that far, but energy is somewhat fungible….we should be able to make power companies source-agnostic, and buying electricity should eventually be as competitive as your cellphone service.

The Left is going to collapse. It’s going to be interesting to see what takes its place for the people that *want* to give up their liberty in exchange for security and/or preferential treatment.

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?

dilbert2

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

CAN READ SFF: The High Crusade, by Poul Anderson

  • by Gitabushi

I picked this book up from the library at the same time I picked up “The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian.

51ylLMuLTCL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Conan has been okay (that’s a post for another time), but at one point I just didn’t want to start the next story, so I started reading this book.

It instantly drew me in.  It wasn’t a “can’t set it down” book, but I actively wanted to finish it, actively wanted to know what was going to happen, and actively cared about the characters.  That hasn’t been the case very much, lately.

Let me pause a moment to say that I think the book is adequately reviewed both by PC Bushi on this site, and by Jo Walton. I have zero disagreements with anything either of them said.

That said, this still isn’t a must-read book. It is entertaining, and made some interesting points, but it was merely solid, not amazing.

What I liked about the book:

— I think the framing device was perfect. I remembered the opening, and kept it in mind as I read the story, wondering exactly how it was going to end up with the individual reading the book that told the story I was reading.  The revelation of how the individual was reading the book was satisfying as well, although not clever or unexpected.

— I liked how the medieval characters considered themselves the height of civilization and sophistication, and how that played against the trope of superstitious and backward Christians from the Middle Ages.  This, too, was done effectively.  It is interesting, however, to contrast with Robert A. Heinlein’s J. Darlington Smith, a man from earlier times revived from a stasis field in his book “Beyond This Horizon.”

Smith was intelligent, but unable to catch up with modern education because he was simply too far behind. This is plausible, since we learn best as children, and because we learn the state of the art math, science, culture, etc., as a sort of integral mass.  Even a genius from the past would have a difficult time catching up with modern technology because he would have to learn the basis to the basis to the basis to the basis to the basis for many of the things we take for granted.  Not to mention having his head crammed full of knowledge and information about technology and societal norms that would no longer be operative and would have to be unlearned or forgotten.

In the High Crusade, however, it is lampshaded by positing a technology so mature that knowledge is less important than merely memorizing which button to press and which dial to turn, and how far.  In fact, this lampshade works pretty well.

Edited to add:

However, I would have liked to see more of the younger adventurers catch on to the alien technology more quickly, and especially see the children grasp it intuitively, but it doesn’t hurt the story that Poul doesn’t make the choice to include this.

— I liked the characters.

— I liked the writing in general.  It was almost comforting to encounter a true writing master again, for the first time in a while.  Every character was described in just enough detail to meet the needs of the story. Technological issues were handwaved just enough to meet the needs of the story without seeming like too much of a dodge. The story progressed well, with excellent pacing. Dialogue was all believable, and perfectly done despite having to represent archaic thought processes and communication. The action was detailed when it needed to be, summarized when appropriate. In short, this book has no flaws I can think of.

— I liked the fact that I didn’t have to wade through the latest diversity fashion archetypes. It was nice to not have some politically-correct notion shoved in my face over and over.  That’s not always the case even in other professional fiction (I’m looking at you, later Cherryh and McMasters-Bujold works), so it was nice.

However, if you have a problem with Christianity, Faith, or traditional roles for men and women, this book is going to trigger you over, and over, and over, and over.  Which is why you should read it, probably: face your fears.

In the end, I can’t put this as a Must Read because I don’t think I’ll ever want to read it again, and I don’t feel the need to add it to my collection.  You should read it, but your life and grasp of Speculative Fiction will be fine even if you don’t.51ylLMuLTCL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Dealing With an Epidemic

  • by Gitabushi

Islam may actually be a Religion of Peace.

However, it is clearly suffering from an epidemic of violence.  I’m not arguing that Islam is an infection, I’m arguing that Islam has been infected with a mental disorder of violence and terrorism.

An epidemic is defined as “a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.”

This epidemic is not affecting Lutherans, as has been pointed out.

virus

What did we do when Ebola was infecting large populations in African nations?  We sealed their borders. We didn’t let people out.

Terrorism has clearly infected the Muslim population.  It is a virulent ideology that is spread on the internet, in specific mosques, in majority-Muslim areas in the West. One of the causes is when a Muslim cannot reconcile the wealth and success of the West with the rules and laws of Islam that the Muslim believes should be the predicates of wealth and success. To resolve the cognitive dissonance, many Muslims turn toward violence.

There are few certain signs to indicate when the mental infection has progressed to intent to commit violence.

This infection kills those around it more often than the host individual. And the victims are the most vulnerable: children, the elderly, the unsuspecting.

If Islam has a complaint with the West, this infection pushes Muslims to target those who have no connection with those complaints.  The parents of the children of Manchester were just children themslves when the West “occupied” the Islamic Holy Lands (on bases willingly provided by the Saudi government) to combat Saddam Hussein in 1990.

With innocent children the deliberate target of Islamic terrorism, it is a supreme irony that some Westerners try to shield the rest of the Muslim world/community from the consequences of trying to stop Islamic terror.  The children of Manchester were undoubtedly innocent, but the Muslims they attempt to shield certainly include terrorists who haven’t acted yet, youth who are drifting into terrorism, moderates who support terrorism with “charitable” donations, and a multitude of people who may not conduct terror themselves, but support it and cheer when innocent Westerners are killed in a successful terrorist attack.

There are some other symptoms of Islamic violence besides just terror, however. Female Genital Mutilation. Honor killing. Execution of homosexuals and women not following rules of chastity. Enforcing rules of modesty.

These symptoms are endemic to Islam in Islamic nations. They bring this mental illness when they flee to the West, and then it too frequently (even once is too many) metastasizes into terrorist attempts to murder masses of innocents.

We need to contain this mental illness in its own borders until it dies out and Islam is fully, truly, and demonstrably (by *Western* standards) a religion of Peace again.  There is simply no justification for allowing anyone into the West that doesn’t meet our standards for peaceful assimilation.

This is how we treat physical infections. We should treat this mental infection the same way.

 

Bonus thought: with the outbreak of measles in Minnesota because refugees aren’t required to have vaccinations, an argument can be made that containing the mental infection also prevents physical infections from spreading, too.

Three Things I Think about Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • by Gitabushi

1) At the risk of re-igniting the running battle about Hard SF vs Soft SF, it hit me that some of the resentment from Soft SF proponents seems to be they think the labels were initiated for Science Fiction, and that “Soft” was at least inadvertently derogatory.  But there are many things that have those labels without “Soft” being derogatory, but descriptive.

In fact, I think the term came from descriptions of science.  Math is intrinsic to Hard Science. Soft sciences are those in which quantifying knowledge is difficult, and much research is qualitative.  As Soft science concerns itself with society, politics, economics, psychology, etc, so does Soft Science Fiction concern itself more with the people than with orbital mechanics, axial tilt, etc.

I don’t know. Maybe it will help people to accept the designations as valid descriptors if they can understand it wasn’t terms developed within the Science Fiction community.

2) Larry Niven, I think, really hated the term Sci-Fi.  I know some people really hated the term, at least.  I think SFF (Science Fiction/Fantasy) was the preferred term.  Personally, I prefer Speculative Fiction, for reasons I will explain below.

But to be honest, I don’t really care that much. To be perfectly blunt, Sci-Fi is much easier to say than SFF or Speculative Fiction.

I think Sci-Fi was hated because it seemed to be derivative of Hi-Fi, a faddish term in audiophile circles.  But Hi-Fi isn’t a faddish term anymore, and Wi-Fi is ubiquitous and normalized. Should we bring back Sci-Fi? Did it ever really go away, or was that just my reading circles?

What term do you prefer?

3) I prefer the term Speculative Fiction. I prefer that term because to me, the best Science Fiction and Fantasy are those stories that challenge me, that make me think.  Science Fiction is, at its best, an exploration of what it means to be human, what ways we can change and still be human, why humans are the way we are, and what changes to our environment might do to the nature of humanity.  Fantasy, in contrast (when it is in contrast…it isn’t always), is an exploration of large themes of Good and Evil, of Power, of individuality.

Both speculate on world and societies close to ours, but not ours, exactly. This allows the the author to fully explore the aspect(s) of humanity that he wishes to highlight.

Maybe there are stories that are just stories of cool events, that don’t explore issues of loyalty, courage, responding to threats, the nature of civilization, etc. I don’t really want to read those stories.

Oh, yeah: PC Bushi, the slavedriver, requires me to include a picture every time.

Here’s a Speculative Fiction story in just one cartoon:

Newsletter-Cave-1-.jpg