Thursday, November 28, 2013

Random Musings: Gun-Free Zones and the Cargo Cult

There have been a number of commentators comparing Liberal thought to Cargo Cults, the mistaking of the trappings of a condition for the causes of the condition. An example of that is the pushing of home ownership as a means to middle class affluence. The plan was to reduce the barriers to owning homes rather than to develop the traits within people to overcome the barriers. The resulting housing bubble that resulted popped and with echoes that still must be reckoned.

Back to gun-free zones, I think that there is a cargo cult thought pattern at work. The purpose of carrying weapons for virtually everyone who does is to be ready for self-protection at a moment’s notice. That speaks of a sense of insecurity, because if one truly felt secure then one would not bother lugging around multiple pounds of metal on their person. It is the rare individuals who comprise the “virtually” qualification that drive the perceived need. A safe place could be defined as where the perceived need for a weapon would disappear as no aberrant individuals could possibly be about. A place that truly felt secure to all present would de facto be a gun free zone.
So a safe place is a place where people don’t have a need for weapons. For a long time we in America have been accustomed to that sense of safety and security, even to the point of feeling violated when reminded that it is not absolute. Some refer to that feeling of violation as hoplophobia, the irrational fear of weapons and those who wield them. People crave the security we have when weapons are not necessary. True security is difficult and even show security is intrusive (looking at you, TSA). So why not cut to the chase and mandate de jure acting as if a place is secure. If you don’t allow guns, then no one will see guns and not be reminded that there is a reason to feel insecure. They’ll never see the gun until they come face to face with a person who is not part of “virtually everyone”. Not feeling insecure is a far cry from being as secure as possible, and that is the failure of the cargo cult reasoning at work.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Not an Inducement to Compromise

Supposing that President Obama were to attempt another item on his legislative agenda, a big if considering his current cellar dwelling poll numbers, it strikes me as impossible that Republicans in Congress would have any reason to deal with him. I’m looking beyond the usual Donkey/Elephant games and at the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches.

President Obama has decreed delays to the enforcement of portions of the Affordable Care Act despite the clear letter of the law setting the dates. He cites his enforcement discretion to essentially say that the letter of the law has to come second to his assessment of what is necessary to accomplish the intent of the law. Most everyone knows the moves are more in the spirit of ameliorating the political blowback he and congressional Democrats are experiencing now that the long foreseen realities of the law are coming into effect.

The kicker for me in all of this is that his actions are about avoiding what have proven to be the politically unfavorable aspects of his crowning achievement passed on a pure party line vote. But imagine that some Republicans had broken ranks and sold their votes in return for some compromises in the law. You know, classic politics. Say it was something like “No plans covering elective abortions shall be eligible for subsidies.” The President’s poll numbers would have dropped even faster as much of his far left base would have thrown back their heads in howls of indignation. Even safe district Democrats would feel the breath of primary challengers on their necks.

So what would a far left originating President do under such political pressure. Probably what he is doing already: exercise enforcement discretion and let the Republican backers wail and gnash their teeth at his sudden yet inevitable betrayal.

We’ve already seen that he is willing to ignore messy requirements when they are of his own making. Can anyone doubt that he wouldn’t do the same to provisions that he didn’t want in the first place?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Playing with the New Tool

Writing is one of those things that you either talk about doing or actually do. I have written in the past, both on this blog and in the full on novel sense. The novel writing includes having "won" National Novel Writing Month a couple of years ago. Having done that I no longer feel the need to repeat the experience now that I have stripped myself of the excuse.

What I intend to do is set myself a certain amount of what JC Hutchins refers to as word herding each day. I have just gotten myself a new computer (a Surface 2 with type keyboard) for the express purpose. It doesn't feel too bad currently, and we will see if it does or does not promote carpal tunnel syndrome. I sold the idea of getting it to my wife as holding myself to a minimally expensive mid-life crisis, far cheaper than a sports car.

So whether the words show up here or through, I promise to be getting the words out. For smaller bits and news, you might consider checking out my Twitter feed @Tedwade73.

Now to keep myself honest on this.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Polite Suggestion to Peter Jackson

During the course of expanding the Hobbit to three movies, Peter Jackson is drawing from various appendices and histories. As a fan who has seen much of the controversy over the ending of The Lord of The Rings, I wish to offer an ending scene for The Hobbit that might resolve the outcry.

Following a Council discussion that decides to send scouts into Mordor to see if Sauron has truly returned, the scene fades in to a high view of the blasted lands of Mordor. A giant eagle soars into the shot. The camera angles low over its shoulder, and on the horizon the Tower of the Eye can be seen. Cut to the Tower and the burning, lidless eye, perhaps not as magnificent as later. The eye turns its gaze upward, the spotlight of its attention seeking and finding the great eagle. As the gaze lands on the eagle, the bird bursts into flame and falls to the ground extra crispy to feed the growing orcish hoard.

And that would settle once and for all why the giant eagles didn't just fly Frodo to Mount Doom in the first damn place.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A quick thought on resolutions

This year I have resolved to exercise more. I had been on a calisthenics program that was working well for me (I was doing honest to God push-ups for the first time in my life) but I had let it slide for all the typical excuses. Yesterday I started back up again and today I have the anticipated soreness.

Something I did not do was resolve to diet. I won't be going crazy eating whatever, but I an not making special pains to go beyond moderation. The way I see it, I want to get into shape to better enjoy life.

The short way off putting it: I would rather force myself to do something unpleasant for an hour a day than to keep myself from NOT doing something all day.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Origin of the Housing Bubble

A question that friends of mine could not answer regarding the housing bubble was why weren't the banks in question so avariciously predatory before 2000? The typical answer was that a new generation of bankers had spontaneously decided to throw out decades of best practices in favor of taking short term profits and leaving the mess to be cleaned up after they took their severance packages.

Those fiends definitely existed (looking at you Countrywide). What most people forget, however, is that there was a push on the lending industry by the government to overthrow the decades of lending practices in favor of achieving social justice. An interagency government task force was established in 1994 to address the perceived racism in lending practices that resulted in greater rates of African and Hispanic Americans being turned down for mortgages. Check it out for yourself.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Is the Cyberpunk World Coming?

I have been a fan of Cyberpunk sci-fi since I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer on the advice of a friend back in 1990. Back then all I was into was the cool attitude, lively characters and good suspense. Since then I have come to see more of the philosophy behind the punk with the works of Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson.

All of the stories involved dystopian futures where the mass of humanity is subsisting off the admittedly nifty technological dregs while all of the real wealth was held locked away by the corporate elite. Government was scarcely to be seen, and without that there was nothing to slow the ever increasing divide between rich and poor.

Most of the stories never stopped down to explain the absence of government. Most of the time the implication was that it was essentially bought out by the corporations to look away and keep up only a pretense of regulation. The one work that comes to mind that does address the absence is Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. He comes right out and lays his world where
the Invisible Hand has taken away all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity
and hyperinflation that has people wielding wheelbarrows full of $50,000 and $100,000 bills with the portraits of Edwin Meese and Ronald Reagan. The fault is laid at the feet of laissez faire economic policies for not restraining the corporate interests, and the result is corporate interests trumping all else.

Being of a libertarian bent, this type of reasoning struck me as sensible as voodoo. Lately however, I find myself thinking that we may actually come to see this dystopia come to pass. Unlike Cyberpunk it will not happen because governments are subverted but rather they have over reached. Given the sovereign debt issues springing up in the developed economies of the world, I see a time where they will lack the revenue to do anything more than pay the bills accrued by previous generations. Japan has been there for the last twenty years. The EU, I don't think, is long for the world. China will not be able to maintain its pretense of prosperity for long. And I shudder to think how the credit downgrade is going to hurt the US.

If that happens, what is going to fill the vacuum? A UN meta-government is a non-starter, who is going to pay their bills when the US can't pay its own?

I don't know if the second part of the Cyberpunk equation, domination by world spanning corporations, will come to pass. I personally doubt that. Large corporations can not adapt fast enough to avoid obsolescence at the hands of smaller enterprises without the government enforcing crippling start-up regulations and ever shifting personnel obligations.

All that I do see is that we are in for some massive changes within the next decade.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blame the Voters

Heard a new sound bite from Jerry Brown. He claims that he won't raise taxes without voter approval. That's the dodge he used when he was called on the increases in city taxes on Oakland. Nothing heard yet on how hard Brown pushed to get those measures passed.

In the same vein, Whitman is still running the Clinton Senate ad. Good call from where I sit, particularly compared with the ads Brown currently airs. Brown's ad directly calls the debate ad a lie and clings to the statement that Brown lowered taxes.

So the lesson is: if taxes go up, blame the voters. If the voters force a tax cut, Jerry will be the genius behind it.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Imminent Sleight of Hand

I wrote earlier that ads are running against Meg Whitman for not voting for nearly three decades. I saw the ad again this morning and caught that it was paid for by California Working Families for Jerry Brown. The link above doesn't really have much to it, which is good because it will automatically redirect to the official Jerry Brown for Governor site.

The working families site only makes a brief attack on Whitman for trying to spend her way into office. I think that the Brown campaign is going to try to pull a fast one. From the looks of things it would seem that Brown is going to use fake grassroots groups to do much of the actual spending during the campaign. Then Brown can use his personally low spending numbers and Whitman's spending of her own money as a rhetorical point throughout the election. Meanwhile, those who would have been donors are giving Brown all the benefits of their money without tainting his hands with their filthy lucre.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Apprenticeships in Life

Debates about Abby Sunderland's attempt to sail around the world has started debates all around that same planet. Heck, it is starting one even here in my house.

There's no argument about who should be paying for the rescue, or at the very least should be looking for a second mortgage to pay the costs. The source of contention is whether the parents were negligent in allowing Abby, and by extension her brother, take on these voyages. The wife and mom-in-law are of the mind that the Sunderlands are crazy.

My position comes from ideas I've had that our culture does not challenge adolescents to learn to take on the world as adults. That attitude is all over the coverage in how news readers insist on referring to Abby as a girl, or worse yet as a child. Please, at the least, refer to her as a young woman.

In order to teach adolescents to take on the adulthood there have to be adults taking responsibility to teach them and to someday say that they are ready to take on the challenges. Something like a solo trip around the world is one whopper of an example, but a similar decision has to be made for anything a teenager might want to do. A number of years is only a single criterion. Some of the others are:
  • The adult has to accurately gauge the skills of the adolescent.
  • The teenager has to accurately know the extent of their own skills. This, with the first point above, leaves no room for empty self-esteem.
  • The adult has to keep setting challenges so that the adolescent's skills keep improving.
  • The teenager has to learn how to motivate herself to keep expanding her skills.
  • The adult has to know just what the magnitude of the risks in the challenge are. I asked my wife, who grew up with horses, whether she would allow our daughters to take up show jumping. She has no problem with that, but I bet that someone whose only knowledge of the sport is pictures of Steve Reeves in an wheelchair would think that would be negligent.
  • The teenager has to learn how to gauge risks with clear eyes.
It surprises me the number of conservative minded people who are jumping up to make blanket statements about teenagers' capabilities. That, in my mind, is too close to saying that people outside the teacher/student (typically parent/child) relationship are competent to judge better than the teacher.

The real problem is more that too few adults are willing to really do the hard work of training their adolescents. Look around at the twenty- and thirty-somethings who are flat out refusing to grow up and take on mature responsibilities. I'd bet my keyboard that you will find parents who thought that all they had to do was look after Junior's self-esteem and that he'd figure the rest out on his own.

Teenagers are not adults. Neither are they children. Teenagers need to be taught how to be adults and to handle responsibility. Not full adults, but an intermediate step, Apprentice Adult.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No Rest for the Voter

Just when we thought is was over, commercials are coming on TV for the November gubernatorial election. The one I have seen the most so far has been the one that replays Meg Whitman's wholly non-responsive response to a question about her not voting over the past 28 years. While she was nominally taking responsibility for her record, not giving the reason is going to keep this an issue.

My advice on this matter is to again take responsibility but to also embrace an emerging demographic. I would suggest an answer like this.

"It is true that I had not voted for many years. The reason I did not vote is that I was complacent. Government was not an important issue in my life at the time. At least, I did not think it was important. During those years, the Legislature, Governor's office, and regulatory agencies in Sacramento were expanding their budgets and granting themselves ever more influence in our lives. While they were doing that, I abetted it by being complacent. And over those same years, the rates of voter turnout have dropped while Sacramento careened out of control.

"The commercials imply that it is hypocritical for me to be running for Governor when I have not performed the minimum asked for of citizens in the past. I answer that it is not hypocrisy but an awakening. My neglect, and the neglect practiced by millions of other voters, have ultimately created the crisis we now face, and now we have to wake up and see the problem fixed. That awakening is happening, and the citizens of California need to either lose their complacency and engage the process or to re-engage by overcoming the despair that their vote cannot create a difference."

Those who haven't voted in the past but are now pissed off enough to get out on the streets.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Reflections on a Bumper Sticker

I passed a car with a bumper sticker calling for the repeal of Prop. 13. First time I had ever seen one like that, probably because almost everyone likes the control on property taxes. It makes it quite easy to be able to count on politicians being bound from jacking up taxes at a moment's notice.

Sounds kind of like rent control. I wonder what bumper sticker owner thinks about keeping landlords from raising rents whenever they feel like it.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

This Would Truly be Ironic... I Think

It is really hard to know what exactly is ironic, but this situation would be if it happens.

Imagine: a Category 5 hurricane is barreling down on New Orleans. The damage is expected to be devastating, to say nothing of the oil slick that the storm surge will bring ashore.

Then, as the storm hits the site of the Deepwater Explorer fire. The oil slick, coating the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, prevents water vapor from rising up and feeding its heat into the storm. Starved for heat, the Hurricane dies out and hits the coast as little more than a tropical storm.