Minutiae
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"Chuck Norris doesn't read books; he stares them down until he gets the information he wants out of them."
- ChuckNorrisFactsdotcom

Tuesday, October 31, 2006
It's only true if it works in the real world. And on that note, another dose of
disgusting reality. Pragmatism in the service of prioritization is rarely pleasant. That's why we employ those rough men standing ready in the night. I belong to Planned Parenthood and I voted for Bush. Reconcile that one.

There is wisdom in the idea that it's foolish to change horses in midstream. There's also something to the notion that diapers and politicians should be changed often and for the same reason. If your theory isn't accomplishing what you want in the real world, find a new theory. Theories are only tools. If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

'Anywhere but here' as a goal, will work to get you elsewhere, but it may not get you to a better place. Setting out without a clearly defined destination seems to be the main criticism of the conduct of the war in Iraq. So how exactly would the Democrats handling of things be any different? They've had years to come up with something besides the Vietnam exit strategy, and they've still only managed to offer: 'well at least we're not THEM.'

I don't want another 8 years of Clintonesque ignoring the problem as the world screeches toward yet another cataclysm. Leaving Iraq prematurely didn't fix the problem the first time around under Bush I. You can't just call a guy Hitler and then leave him alone for another decade. You can't say that 'oops we broke it so bad that we don't know how to fix it, so we should just slink home.' Am I the only one who sees this? This is not a real choice.

Waterboarding isn't nice. It's very very psychologically stressful. The feeling of drowning (or suffocation,) induces panic. Did you see GI Jane? Our special forces used to do it for training, just like they practice exposure to pepper spray. (Though they also gave it up because 95% of the population can be broken if stressed badly enough, and the other 5% won't be deterred, regardless of guilt or ignorance.)

This is the same principle as throwing kids into the deep end to teach 'em to swim. It's just not a very optimal strategy. It may work, but it's indiscriminately cruel, and it'll just leave the smart ones with a grudge. As Heinlein observed: "Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig." Some people are just thuggish jerks, and some people really were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Justice depends on our being able to tell the difference. Most people can be reasoned with, but some must be tamed with whip and chair.

Interrogation isn't supposed to be pleasant. That's the whole dramatic aspect of the detective or Perry Mason mystery genre. This is the same psychological principle as solitary confinement or pink prison wear. Prison isn't nice. Thugs and terrorists aren't nice. War isn't nice. Stop expecting nice. Do you really think that we have room to afford a right to silence for people who believe that they're engaged in Holy War against the Great Satan? 'Cause if so, then we just kinda have to lock 'em up in Guantanamo forever. And if not then we have to have some way of making them talk.

These things are designed to break the individual will; much like regimentation, barking drill instructors, and uniforms. Fatigue and stress dull the wits and reduce resistance, enabling more easily coerced compliance. This is also the basic principle of a siege or terrorism. The problem is the Stanford Prison Experiment phenomenon combined with the Salem Witch Trial phenomenon and the Noriega problem.

That same problem exists in every prison today. Power that can be abused will be abused, and if your system doesn't account for that, you'll see it on the news one day. (Or you'll be haunted by the ghost of Arthur Miller...) But nonetheless, someone has to wield the power and make the decisions. We have to have police. We have to have an executive branch.

I swear, 2008 is going to be an epic election year. This one is just hard to get very excited about. So much sound and fury... About half of the senators on both sides are patently incompetent bastards who clearly deserve to lose.

But then... Somehow people like Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy, and Ted Stevens keep getting elected despite: glaringly public corruption, insanity, vehicular homicide, and prior leadership in the freakin' KKK. Basic rationality is clearly too high a standard for somewhere between 25-50% of the voting public, especially with regards to the senate.

Combat stress can affect civilians too. The thousand yard stare is a diagnostic feature of Post-Traumatic Stress Reaction. Eventually the tiger will lose patience and eat Roy. Even Patton snapped. Slavery is as old as the code of Hammurabi, though it goes by many names.

You know what solves the problem of slavery and genocide? Guns.
According to Title 10, USC, Section 311, all able bodied males between the ages of 17 and 45 not serving in the armed forces or state national guard units are considered the unorganized militia, as well as all commissioned female officers of state national guard units.

"That the People have a right to keep and bear Arms; that a well regulated Militia, composed of the Body of the People, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe Defence of a free state..." -George Mason, declaration of "the essential and unalienable Rights of the People," later adopted by the Virginia ratification convention, 1788

The militia is the whole of the people. (If the national guard were the militia they wouldn't be over in Iraq right now.) The people have the right to alter or even overthrow their government. It's a built in safety feature necessary in any system this powerful.

Well over 100 million people were killed by their own governments during the last century. We need people with a long fuse (and a big bomb on the end of it,) who just want to get on with their own lives, but who will tolerate only so much nonsense before steps are taken. It takes quite a bit to get Joe Sixpack up off the couch, but it's generally very serious by that point. Someone said something once about awakening sleeping giants. I dimly recall being warned that I wouldn't like it if someone had to pull this car over. The second amendment passively guarantees the first.

That's why the civil war was so very culturally profound. In the US african americans gays and Jews and Korean immigrant store owners have discovered that: 'hey, victims that shoot back put a stop to that nonsense right smartly.' Between the Bill of Rights and my trusty 12 gauge I'm not so worried about the cuckoo tendencies of my fellow man. "Don't start nothing, won't be nothing." (That's also why the legal roots of gun control laws in the united states are directly traceable to Jim Crow laws.)

We are literally a nation of riflemen. We have a non-military gun for nearly every adult citizen, just sitting in our nation's closets. Our poor rural rednecks hunt with guns for fun and food every year. Yet the streets do not run red. All of the younger men that can manage to afford it play first person shooter videogames. Our army uses FPSs to train our soldiers in actual combat.

We play war games for fun. We build battle bots for a TV colosseum. We build space craft in the salt flats just 'cause. We practically have a channel devoted to military strategy and tactics. We do have an aerospace channel, along with a dozen 24 hour educational stations. Who exactly are we kidding here? We're not just new Rome. We're new Sparta.

Whole countries of educated people will follow psychotic megalomaniacal orators down the path of ruin and murder. If you stare into the abyss for too long it will look into you... Or you'll come out on the other side of that furnace transformed.

"We could say that every age has its own post-modern, just as every age has its own form of mannerism (in fact, I wonder if postmodern is not simply the modern name for *Manierismus*...). I believe that every age reaches moments of crisis like those described by Nietzsche in the second of the Untimely Considerations, on the harmfulness of the study of history. The sense that the past is restricting, smothering, blackmailing us." - Umberto Eco

(See: Nihilism, Suicide Bombing, Torching Paris, Midnight in the garden of Gesthemane, Existential Crisis, Zen Buddhism, Hippies, Quarter Life Crises, et al.)

The problem with relativism and existentialism and all that rot is that they're quite literally intellectual wanking. It's great fun to juggle ideas around, but the problem with a philosophy that starts and ends at nothing is that it just doesn't get you anywhere. It doesn't produce anything or offer any answers. 'Just because I can' is the rationale of playground bullies and Darwin Award winners. Relativity is grand and all but you do still have to have the place to stand with your giant lever. Otherwise it's just a big useless stick.

Pursuing pleasure and power just for the sake of themselves without a larger frame of reference, tends to end badly. So what's fundamental? What's universal?

I believe that Afghani women and Iraqi men (and really anyone who isn't planning to kill, own, or convert me,) are endowed by their creator with the same fundamental human rights that I am. Women have a right to vote. Women have a right to preach. Women have a right to drive. Women have a right to own property. Women have a right to wear makeup. Women have a right to bear arms. Women have a right to wear miniskirts. Women have a right to enjoy sex.

Individual rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not things that we will compromise on. So what path is gonna get us closest to the ideal of universally honored individual human rights? Choose that path. 'Cause that's the only way we're going to manage to avoid that whole M.A.D. deal.

Game Theory explains an awful lot. The Great Game never really ended. (The term itself explains quite a bit about the utter bastards running the intelligence services throughout human history.) Realpolitik tends to be dangerous and uncomfortable.

Grow up. Get serious. Tune in. Pay attention and vote your conscience. This is not rocket science, this is other people. Are you familiar with other people? Then figure it out. Everyone else is just like you, only weirder.

posted by Rachel 10/31/2006
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Mmmm. Tasty
brain food.

posted by Rachel 10/31/2006
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