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This is the archive for December 2006

Sunday, December 31, 2006

I got my first tangible material benefit from blogging the other day (aside from the whopping 5 bucks I've earned from those Google ads). Warren Meyer, over at Coyote Blog, sent me a copy of his first book "BMOC". To be honest, I didn't figure I would write about it unless A) It was really good, or B) It brought up some issue I thought would be fodder for the kinds of things I talk about here. Well, it didn't provide any fodder.

I picked it up Christmas morning, with the intention of reading a chapter or two in that little lull that always comes after the presents are opened. You've heard the cliche "I couldn't put it down"? Well, next thing I knew dinner was ready, and after eating I picked it right back up and finished it.

I had kind of assumed it would be another one of those libertarian fantasy novels. You know the kind, Montana secedes from the US; or a small band of people decide they won't take it any more and go off somewhere to found their own government; or a lone rebel plots to take down the system by finding and eliminating the few key people who keep it going, etc. I've taken to calling it "LibFic". So I thought this would be more of the same: a book from a fellow libertarian blogger whom I've had on my blogroll almost since I started this, and a book that was in a niche - a very narrow niche - that I like.

Turns out that it was a pretty mainstream corporate espionage novel, complete with a murder to be solved, a young, attractive and competent protagonist, and more than one opening for a sequel. It fits the genre that is popular today, (with dramatic but generic names like "Malice of Intent"), and as such is entertainment, not great literature. But it is a good story, and while it is not overtly libertarian (seems that Warren forgot to include the 70-page speech painfully "integrated" into the plot that outlines his entire philosphical edifice), it does have a refreshing libertarian sensibility that is usually absent from books in that genre.

Usually, the bad guys are the evil corporate CEO that can only make a profit by killing people to cover up his destruction of the environment, or the rich guy who kills everybody that stands in the way of his plans to sell arms to terrorists so that he can make a killing when the stock market collapses after the next attack. In BMOC, the bad guys are the media, the lawyer, and the Senator, who conspire to kill an innocent girl in order to gin up a lawsuit against the entrepreneur of whom she is a customer.

In the process, the book paints a picture of the media/legal/government complex that is as damning as the portrayals of the millitary/industrial complex, or the profit/oppression complex that is usual the root of all evil. Warren pulls this off without lengthy digressions to explain to us that this cabal exists, and why it is so bad. Instead, he just shows it in action, and each example serves not to "interrupt our plot for this important message", but to further the plot and to draw the characters.

In books today, we are bombarded with anti-capitalist and anti-individualist messages subtly woven into the plots and characters of our fiction. We are never told that we should see capitalists and individualists as the bad guys, authors just assume it and build the stories from there, and usually build very good stories. And so we never think to question those premises, but we absorb them nonetheless. The pro-capitalist and pro-individualist counter to this is usually to build a story designed explicitly to "prove" the opposite premise, and if it's a good story, well that's just a bonus.

Warren has taken the former approach, and it works. If he had marketed this to the mainstream, instead of to the libertarian niche, readers who don't know or care what a libertarian is would read it and absorb Warren's premises without ever getting the cue that they should be explicitly questioned. In that, it has the potential to be much more effective than most of the previous LibFic put together, with the happy side effect of being profitable, and thus self-sustaining.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford, who was President for something like 5 minutes when I was 10 years old, might just be responsible for my first ever political memory. To put some context on my general state of awareness at the time, I remember watching the moon landing on TV. I think it was the first one, but I can't be sure - I knew it was important for some reason, but really didn't know why. Most of the news for the next several years is a blur to me now, "remembered" only from subsequent reading and TV coverage.

I have only three memories related to the war: Some guy giving me the peace sign from a car in traffic, and my getting very upset because I thought he was calling me a two-year-old; my Mom telling me that the people coming back from the war had never seen the then very new John Hancock building - to me, the idea of a building ever not being there was unthinkable, and so they must have just always been away at the war; and at some point asking my parents why people had to fight wars and being told that it was because some people were trying to tell other people what kind of clothes they could wear and what they could eat.

When Nixon resigned, I was eight, and don't have any recollection of being aware of it as it happened, at least not so far as recognizing it as important. (I've come full circle now, eh?) So the first thing I do remember as a specifically political thing was Ford's "Whip Inflation Now" program, which came complete with buttons emblazoned with only the acronym "W.I.N". The thing I remember is that word got around that you could turn the button upside down and make the acronym "N.I.M.", which stood for "No Immediate Miracles".

I thought that was very clever at the time, though I'm not sure I could have told you what inflation was, why it needed to be whipped, or why doing it immediately wouldn't work.

Friday, December 15, 2006

From Andrew Sullivan , via Billy, I see this charming video of a precocious 8-year old mouthing her parent's - or somebody's - platitudes about the virtues of athiesm, the vices of religion, and how what we really need is a world full of empathy and absent Republicans. I'll just say that whoever's behind this is... well, lets ask little Ricky Sherman.

Ricky is the son of a prominent atheist activist from Buffalo Grove, Illinois - just a few miles from where I grew up. Call it divine intervention if you will, but in the extended quote labled "Memory Lane" here, Ricky, in his tender innocence, inadvertantly nails it when asked what "we" are. "We" of course, being Ricky's father by himself, with the unwilling inclusion of a kid who just, unlike the little girl in the video, can't get the parroting quite right.

Please don't think I'm one of them. They're not really atheists - leftism is their religion. People who do this kind of thing to their kids could use a dose of that ol' time religion, right upside their heads. It's not the answer, but it would be an improvement.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My nephew started Kindergarten this year, unfortunately in a government school. I fear for the future of this amazingly intelligent child, but at least his mother is determined to protect him from an environment that is overtly hostile to intellectual growth and achievement. And, he's got some of the same genes I got, and shows every sign of being the same arrogant, stubborn bastard I've always been, so there's hope for him. I just wish I was there to help.

Anyway, my sister tells me that the grading system in this cognitive hell is a greatly simplified one, one that seeks to boost a child's "self esteem" while at the same time eliminating any hint of those things that lead to genuine self esteem. Rather than the horribly competitive and distinguishing marks such as A, B, C, D, and F, the new system rates students as "Beginning", "Developing", or "Secure".

Beyond the mind-numbing (deliberately so) political correctness of the terms, the thing that struck me is that the highest pinnacle to which a young mind can aspire is to be "secure". Isn't that just the perfect microcosm of everything that is wrong with not just our obsolete government education system, but everything that is wrong with this country as well? Forget achievement, forget weighing risks against benefits, forget striving to be better, smarter, faster, stronger, whatever it is - just strive for security.

Let's teach our young people, who are at this point in their lives all potential and little actuality, who should have a whole life of value production ahead of them - but who have yet little to their names besides what has been given to them - to seek first and foremost to protect what they have. Teach them to stay where they are, to start from nothing and to make sure they don't lose it. That way, when they grow up and still have nothing, and no idea how to go about getting anything, and see every other person who strives for something as a threat, they will naturally seek out the only means available to them to have something instead of nothing - and that which will protect them from a big bad world of a rapidly diminishing population of producers.

And so the curtain closes, endarkenment prevails.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

No, not those kind of pigs, but these. Javalinas are common around the peripehery of Tucson, and they're mostly harmless. But not always.

As a side note, I've always heard around here that they are not actually related to the better known Suidae - a vital component of breakfast - but Wikipedia says different. Oh well, around here, we call 'em "pigs", and everyone knows what you mean.

Anyway, this particular band of a dozen or so roving wild "pigs" attacked a woman walking her three chihuahas, (which are also as common as rats around here, and often mistaken for such), and managed to injure not only the dogs, but the woman. I used to live about a mile from where this happened, up in the foothills right on the edge of town, and I can tell you, the pigs are thick as theives around there. (As were the coyotes - I fell asleep to their back and forth howling every night - and the woodpeckers, who thoughtfully woke me up at the crack of dawn by frantically hammering the metal chimney pipe, so that the sound echoed through the entire house like it was a full brass band.)

Coming home very late one night, I stepped out of the car to a pitch black apartment parking lot, only to hear the sound of snuffling all around me. When my eyes adjusted, I looked down to find that I was in the middle of a whole pack of 'em, just sniffing around in the dirt looking for food, not minding the slightest bit that I had practically stomped their toes while blindly stumbling across the lawn. Well, I was on the hood of my car in a flash, but they never even noticed, not even when I started throwing empty coke cans at them (and a few full ones) to get them to move away from between me and my front door. They eventually did so, in their own sweet time, and we parted company still friends.

Though I've heard stories about them attacking dogs, and even infants, I've always chalked it up to a once in a blue moon thing that gets passed around as having happened to the "best friend of a guy I used to work with's uncle". I've always been more than happy to share the neighborhood with them. They've never bothered me, but then again, I never went through the neighborood dragging around bait on a chain.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Billy points up a disturbing subsection of the "designer baby" trend that first appeared a few years ago when a lesbian couple who were both deaf chose to have a child by a deaf surrogate father, specifically so the child would be deaf as well.

Billy's conclusions are just about right, and it is indeed sick for any parents to want such a thing. The blather about "culture" is just another manifestation of the cancerous moral and cultural relativism and aversion to judgement that allows for much more horrific things than this.

But what about the child? In the outrage a few years ago, the implication seemed to center on the damage done to the child by this choice, and Billy is not entirely clear on whether this factors into his outrage as well. But the truth is that the child is not damaged or diminshed in any way, and this is important to remember.

The specific child that results from this choice (assuming no actual genetic manipulation) could not have been born any other way. The choice here is not for this child to be born either deaf or hearing, but for this deaf child to be born or not. And unless you subscribe to the belief that it is possible to be harmed by being brought into existence, that anyone could be better off if they were never born, then the only conclusion is that this choice is an unmitigated good for this particular child.

(Note that there was some mention of the parents in such cases whitholding corrective measures for the child once born, and I could make an argument that this aspect of it is child abuse)

For the "normal" baby that might otherwise have been born, it's not such a great outcome. And for the parents who prefer crippled children to whole ones, (and the society that produces such people), well, they are damaged almost beyond repair. It's they I feel outrage for.

The child will have an uphill battle for a decent life - in part because of his disability, but mostly because he will be brought up by parents who see him as some kind of trophy, or worse, a living political statement - but for him the opportunity to live at all is the best thing that ever will happen to him.