Friday, April 29, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
My earliest memories are from the time my family lived in USAF housing in a suburb of Tokyo (Chofu/Fuchu). Before moving to Tokyo, we were in Okinawa, where my dad was part of the team to help oversee transfer to the Japanese government. He was very impressed with how prepared their people were for every meeting. My parents had great praise for the hard working professionalism and civilized nature of the Japanese. We kids loved watching "Utala Man" cartoons and going to the Yomiyuri Land amusement park.
Billy Beck has expressed similar praise over the years, having worked there a number of times.
It's heartbreaking to see the devastation, but important to realize that life goes on in most of Japan and they're quite civilized not to engage in looting.
Friday, January 21, 2011
I criticized Corcoran on the comment section of his article on the day of the shooting. However, on Jan 12, he posted a "flow chart" (his website is down, but you can see it on the RSS feed):
TJIC: Next question: do you think that a schizophrenic individual shooting up a politician, a judge, and a dozen civilians in Arizon served any purpose at all, or advanced civil rights in any way? If you answer “yes”, stop here. Your conception of “useful” differs radically from TJIC’s. Step 6: Congratulations – you agree with TJIC that the Arizona shooting was a tragedy, of which no good will come. Next question: do you think that an armed revolution, including assassinations, is morally legitimate in the US today? If you answer “Yes”, stop here. If you answer “No”, congratulations, you agree with TJIC.If he had said that on the day of the shooting, I probably wouldn't have bothered to comment.
Radley Balko: "But he isn’t remotely libertarian, an ideology where the non-initiation of force is a pretty fundamental principle."As I've argued here and elsewhere, I think the most effective action at this point is time is massive, non-violent civil disobedience. Not because I think that violence against particular individuals in government is an aggressive initiation of force—as has been documented on this website and elsewhere, many in the government have been employing the use of force against people who have done nothing to hurt anyone else—but because (1) such an act will be widely perceived as an initiation of force, ignoring what the government has done to people, and (2) the net result will be a pointless waste, accomplishing nothing positive. But at some point, if the government gets sufficiently awful and if peaceful attempts fail, I will change my mind about engaging in violence, as was done in the American Revolution, so long as attacks don't involve the killing of innocents. I hope like crazy that we never get to that point in my lifetime. With that in mind: I am TJIC.
Saturday, January 08, 2011
"Yes, the quality of political debate is abysmally bad. That is a direct result of how the exercise of political power has more intensely affected the lives of citizens. Voters recognize how all the government programs, laws, regulations, taxes, etc. are dominating their lives and threatening their futures more and more each day, so they are understandably alarmed and getting more desperate to stop the “other side” from taking advantage of them.(My comment here and here.)
"All of this is the predictable result of putting moral questions up to a vote, of rulers making election contests into mock battles, pitting one “side” against another. (Warren mentions the “Coke vs. Pepsi” mentality, which is spot on.)
"Around the 2010 election, I read somewhere [added: here via Beck] that an election is nothing more than two or more armies getting dressed up, marching to the battle field, then counting which side has the most soldiers and awarding the spoils of victory to that side without actually drawing blood. And, as Billy Beck has pointed out for many years: “All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war.”
"My solution? Stop voting. Stop giving your permission to politicians to wield power over your neighbors. Work with your neighbors to solve problems via reason and persuasion, instead of resorting to force. Government, by definition, is the use of force."
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
I predict that the politicians who win the elections tonight will all violate their promises. They will exploit their power to give one group special privileges at the expense of all of our individual rights. It looks quite a bit like 1994 and we all saw how the "Contract With America" turned out to be mostly useless.
Projecting forward, I think Obama's people are going to exploit the image of Republicans as being obstructionists to try to boost his ratings for 2012. And, there's a good chance the GOP will offer up yet another pathetic candidate who will sap the enthusiasm of voters who would have voted against Obama.
Never underestimate the ability of Republicans to screw up any advantages they have at a given point in time.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
"Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology some time and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day."
Apparently, Anita Hill turned that message over to the campus DPS, who forwarded it to the FBI.
I don't know if Anita Hill lied to the Judiciary Committee two decades ago, but bringing her forward to make a public spectacle was inappropriate. They had interviewed her, found no real evidence, and should have dropped it at that, regardless of Nina Totenberg. And, while I don't agree with most of the Democrats' political objections to Clarence Thomas, I have other objections to many of his opinions, particularly the law-and-order cases when he helps to winnow away individual rights.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Billy Beck makes some observations about Glenn Beck, with which I tend to agree. I don't get the ubiquitous hostility and charges of craziness directed at him. His emphasis on faith at the Lincoln Memorial rally pretty much proved most of the pre-event hysteria dead wrong. It wasn't a "right-wing" political festival. Instead, it was a boring gathering of milquetoast religious speeches, something which isn't going to do any good to further the individual rights of Americans.
I've never listened to or watched Savage or Levin. I can't really argue too much about Billy's opinion of Hannity. For one thing, he tells people who phone him "great Americans" without knowing anything about them, other than the fact that they call him a "great American". But he's still smarter than Bill O'Reilly or any of the chumps at MSNBC. (Yeah, I know, that's not saying much.)
I was, however, surprised to see faint praise for Rush Limbaugh. I don't agree, because I don't think you can put your finger on "the bounds of his logic" because he so often makes ridiculously specious arguments with no logic. When Limbaugh is on the right side of an issue, or making a valid point about freedom and individualism, most of the time he's backing into it by accident, or at the very least, unable to universally apply such principles across party boundaries.
What Congress Critter thought this would be a good idea? I'm all for mocking politicians and see no reason to show them respect. They are, after all, whores and thieves on the scale of trillions of dollars. But those people seem to think highly of themselves and the "dignity" of their profession, so what moron figured bringing Colbert before their committee made any sense?
Stephen Colbert is very quick-witted and can be very funny at times. But his always-on "Opposite Day" shtick gets tedious after awhile. And, his character is hard-wired to lampoon Republicans/"conservatives"— some of them make it so easy—but any good satirist ought to see just as many, if not more, targets among the Democrats/"liberals".
Monday, September 20, 2010
When Rick Santelli, from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, stated on CNBC (Feb 19, 2009) that traders ought to engage in a "tea party" to protest the insanely irresponsible mortgage bailout, which was rewarding poor economic decisions at the expense of everyone else, I was a bit moved. At least some people on the national scene were getting just how reckless the Obama/Pelosi/Reid machine was and the level to which Americans ought to be resisting. To be fair, Bush signed TARP with a few Republican supporters, including McCain, so the Democrats were only accelerating the large-scale looting of the efforts of taxpayers started a few months before. And, while TARP was unprecedented in its scope and scale, it was the logical progression from all of the travesties mainly tracing back to FDR's authoritarian meddling in the economy in response to the Great Depression.
All of the political horrors being splashed across the news from the start of the new administration convinced me that in order to dissuade the government from trashing the free market with more of these legislative abominations, it was going to take the kind of determination and courage shown by the Sons of Liberty, who carried out the Boston Tea Party. Widespread non-violent civil disobedience could have warned the politicians away from going as far as they did, but that sort of movement never materialized. People were content to hold rallies and rely on elections, rather than demonstrating their resolve to shut down the machine of government through non-compliance.
When I saw news footage of tea party rallies in the days which followed, I quickly realized from the placards and t-shirts being shown that a good number of these people were rather ignorant, or at least hopelessly naïve. They had all sorts of different agendas, most of which were recycled Republican/"conservative" positions, rather than more principled advocacy of individual rights and across-the-board opposition to government abuse of power. Many were able to enumerate the misdeeds of the Democrats, but few had the insight to recognize that the vast majority of the GOP politicians were similarly unethical, but just in slightly different ways. At best, the tea party movement has targeted RINOs. Unfortunately, it hasn't done anything to weed out the more irrationally religious candidates and pundits, or the law-and-order types.
When the immigration stupidity in Arizona became associated with a large number of self-proclaimed tea partiers, I saw no reason to hope that this "movement" was going to accomplish anything for liberty, but could turn out to be a net loss—if for no other reason than people who could have taken a stand for individualism against the Democrats were going to be drowned out in the debate. The media focuses on the more vocal, more sensational, oversimplifying the issues and pigeonholing people. And, when political opportunists like Sarah Palin and Mark Williams hoisted the tea party banner for their own agenda, I realized that the people who were sincerely interested in liberty and reining in government on principle were going to lose the opportunity to debate the important moral questions. Instead, people are distracted by Cordoba House ("Ground Zero Mosque") and other irrelevancies.
Meanwhile, Democrat supporters have happily cherry picked the most irrational, ignorant self-proclaimed tea partiers as being representative of the movement, in addition to playing the race card because a few idiots (or perhaps agents provocateur) showed up at rallies with signs which were racist (or, at least, which could be portrayed as racist). But the race thing started before the tea party became hot, as one liar after another cynically accusing anyone who opposed Obama's agenda of only doing so because he was black, and not on the principles of freedom.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Balko puts himself somewhere around Ron Rosenbaum's position in his ridiculous Agnostic Manifesto. The comment sections both of those links are rife with excellent refutations of Rosenbaum's specious arguments. I cite one of my contributions below. The comments are so plentiful, I wonder if Rosenbaum has had the opportunity to read them all, or enough to see the errors he made. I would also hope that Radley saw enough to rethink his endorsement, so that in the future he could find (or make) better justifications for calling himself an agnostic.
I know Radley Balko has sneered at "smug atheists" in the past, which reminds me of one of my criticisms of atheism, before I realized that perception was wrong. For one, contrast the attitudes of the faithful who think they're going to heaven and all the rest of us infidels are going to burn in hell. No atheist I know could ever come close to that level of smugness, which when carried to the extreme leads to hatred, cruelty, and murder. You'll not find anything like that from an atheist qua atheist. Sure, there are plenty of people who are assholes about their disdain for religion, as with any group of people. To me, the "New Atheists" display an earnest, active resolution to enlighten people who may be ignorant about atheism (believing some of the nonsense Rosenbaum writes, for example), both as a way to protect non-believers from the ages-old bigotry against them, and as a way to redirect the energies of people away from the frivolities of imaginary things.
Smug? Consider the scientists, engineers, or musicians who put time and energy into studying a particular problem, trying to invent something good, or even just trying to understand what others have done before them. Confidence, satisfaction, and even joy are quite reasonable when things which don't make sense (or are not very good) are pushed off the table. But oftentimes, as was my own personal case, an outsider who sees this attitude mistakes it as an annoying smugness. But I suspect most of that misperception is driven by ego—not wanting people we may not like (for whatever reason) to be right or wise or smart.
Sometimes, one must put aside ego and work to be as honest and rational as possible. Read Hitchens or Dawkins, be open-minded, and don't fall for Rosenbaum's straw man model of atheism. If you're a self-described agnostic, you may realize you misunderstood the atheist arguments, and thus didn't have an accurate idea of what it means to be an atheist (which, of course, is a broad category which includes many variations). By all means, avoid becoming a catatonic skeptic, because that isn't wisdom. It's avoidance.
Here's my first comment (#28) at Balko's place:
Despite the common misconception, Richard Dawkins and other atheists do not have an absolute, 100% disbelief. In The God Delusion, Dawkins has a [Spectrum of theistic probability] scale from absolute belief to absolute disbelief, with agnostics in the middle. He puts himself close to, but not actually at, 100% disbelief. The common analogies are comparing a rational consideration of the possibility of a deity to the rational consideration of the existence of a teapot in orbit between Mars and Earth, or the existence of fairies in the bottom of the garden. Strictly speaking, I can’t rule out the teapot or the fairies, because tomorrow someone could actually provide proof. But I feel quite safe in disregarding such a “possibility” as too trivial to concern myself, like an infinite number of other similarly trivial “possibilities”.
That’s not agnosticism, either.
I identified as an agnostic for about 15 years. I considered atheists to be smug and often hostile to good people of faith. But I realize now that what tethered me to the theist side of the fence was residual Christian fear and guilt, as well as a kind of desperate hope that there was some kind of higher power. I even described myself as an agnostic leaning towards Deism.
I cut the tether [see #75 for more details] when I read someone point out how cruel it is to convince a child that their beloved grandfather would be burning forever in fire because he wasn’t baptized. All of the seemingly “well-meaning” traditional religions are poisoned with such hideous fundamental ideas, because it is necessary to inculcate people with fear and/or hate in order to keep them from “straying”, i.e., using their rational mind and dismissing religious tales as ridiculous fantasy–not to mention identifying the truly horrible aspects and applications. Leaders can only control the minds of religious followers so long as they use such despicable ploys. Even the Eastern and New Age religions are often poisoned with a worship of death over life. (Without such poison, they’re just silly fluff, mere fads.)
So, once I freed myself of that irrational anchor, I decided that, while I can respect people of faith who treat others respectfully and appreciate how much their beliefs mean to them, I should never again respect their actual beliefs. I don’t include the non-supernatural, rational beliefs like the 'Golden Rule' and [rules like] don’t commit murder. But I give no special exceptions for brises, religious education, slave garb for women, etc.. No, it’s not for me to decide how other people raise their children or treat their wives, but I also don’t have any reason to overlook cruelty and deception just because it falls inside some conceptual fence of “faith” (a wholly unvirtuous human quality).
I regret wasting my time on the agnostic fence and I would highly recommend that anyone who now considers him/herself an agnostic to critically question why. Read god is Not Great (Hitchens) and The God Delusion (Dawkins) if you haven’t already, rather than relying on hearsay about these people. I have a couple bones to pick with both, such as Dawkins’ utilitarian approach to morality and Hitchens’ occasional broad brush condemnations. But they do make excellent arguments against theism and agnosticism.