Epic Fail-out

26 11 2008

The neo-barbarians are here.

I am not referring to skin-clad savages wielding axes and spears, of course. Those are the old-school barbarians, and their so-called “barbarism” was largely the result of a bad PR image crafted by their supposedly “civilized” opponents.

The creatures I call “neo-barbarians” are not foreign enemies or rivals. These are home-made barbarians. We can’t defend against them by locking the gates, because they’re already in our midst, trying as hard as they can to destroy our civilization. From within.

These are the people who don’t understand civilization or how it works, and wouldn’t like it if they did. People who think that civilization is just something that exists, and all they need do is enjoy what they do understand- luxuries, a high standard of living, and easy work for high pay. Responsibilities are something for the Government to worry about. Everybody has money, but the Government is always broke. Deficit spending, and ever more “vital” social services for which the Government has to spend money. The most vital program, of course, is buying votes to keep the Government in power, but it gets harder and harder for the Government to get anything done. (roughly paraphrased from H. Beam Piper)

Still worse is the incessant babbling of “rights” with absolutely no mention of responsibilities. People complain about not getting enough from the Government but do everything possible to avoid paying any taxes. People complain about getting screwed over by the courts but exhibit outstanding initiative in getting out of jury duty.

There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Everything we have- including our rights- involves some sort of cost. The price of having all those inalienable rights is the responsibility to be a good citizen. Serving your country (in one form or another). Obeying laws which make it possible for three hundred million people to operate a high-tech, mobile society with the fewest possible problems. Paying for the Government services you receive. Voting in elections. All of these things are the bare minimum responsibilities to pay the price for our civilization.

As I have mentioned before, the United States of America is not a democracy. Our country is a constitutional democratic republic. We (the People) elect representatives to run the government for us. The original Constitution only allowed for the direct election of US Representatives (Senators and the President were selected without direct voting from the People), because the founders were terrified of the People being able to vote themselves into servitude in pursuit of Government largess.

This has historically been the downfall of all wealthy republics, and the United States is taking the same self-destructive road. In order to keep the masses of people happy and comfortable, Rome paid for lavish public spectacles in the circus and provided free bread to the poor. Whole generations of people grew up in Rome demanding this largess, never bothering to seek jobs- the Government would take care of them. Sooner or later, such social programs end up consuming all of the republic’s treasure. When this happens, the republic either collapses from the weight of all the freeloaders or expands militarily to pay for the masses of citizens who contribute nothing. Anarchy or Empire. Neither choice is particularly appealing.

Our Government is promising to spend trillions of dollars to appease the masses. The odd twist in our American version of the fall of Rome is the nature of those masses. In Rome, it was the masses of people in the City who were dependent upon the Government for their livelihood. In America, the masses are the corporate sponsors upon whom the Government depends for its livelihood.

The difference in definition is of little consequence. Even if the Government spent those trillions of dollars pouring money into the pockets of individual citizens, it would have the same toxic effect upon the future of our republic. For what seems like the best of reasons, we are headed down the rocky road to Anarchy or Empire- probably both.

Have we- as a species- lost the ability to learn from the mistakes of the past? The current program of corporate welfare (Government-subsidized failure, really) is merely a thin veneer over generations of failed fiscal policies. Throwing good money after bad never works. All we are doing is stealing from our nation’s future prosperity, and thereby rendering that putative prosperity less and less likely.

We can do something about it. Assuming you can pry yourself away from the orgy of consumerism that the holiday season has become, sit down and contact your elected representatives. Failure to do so makes you complicit in the fraud and outright theft now taking place in Washington DC. Even this would not be enough. Representatives and Senators are supposed to ignore the wishes of the electorate if doing so were in the best interests of the country. For far too long, however, our Government officials have been willing- even eager- to ignore the wishes of their constituents if it were in the officials‘ best interests.

Here’s how to deal with this problem. Pay attention. Find out how your Representative and Senator voted on various issues. Penalize them for self-serving decisions by kicking the lying bastards out of office. Senators can be tough to handle for most Americans. A senate term is six years, and most Americans can’t hold a coherent thought for that long, much less remember how their Senator voted.

The House of Representatives is another matter entirely. A House term is only two years. With a little effort, even Americans can remember whether or not a given Representative deserves a new term. Better still, if you can’t remember, vote in somebody else. Always err on the side of replacement when it comes to Gummint Oafishals. They are supposed to be public servants. In my opinion, that gives them a degree of completely undeserved status. Our elected representatives are more like parts in a machine. When the parts quit performing their designed function, they get discarded. Think of your Senator or Representative as a malfunctioning part and treat ’em that way. We might start to get better results from the Government.

Eventually.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: Smaointe by Loreena McKennitt

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Random Brain Squeezings

18 11 2008

I’m skyed on painkillers at the moment, so stand by for some seriously uncategorized blather.

GUN PORN

President-Elect Obama said that he was not interested in taking peoples’ guns away. I tend to believe him. That said, I also believe he would sign legislation making the ownership of firearms extremely expensive and difficult, provided it looked like it might pass Constitutional muster by the Supremes. Since Congress (led by Mad Queen Nancy and Hopping-mad Harry Reid at the moment) has a history of metaphorically shooting themselves in their collective feet and a demonstrated cultural disdain for the intellect and abilities of the average American, I am somewhat concerned that they might try to send this sort of legislation to the new President. By the way, a Republican-led Congress would be no better (my opinion). In lieu of trying to bury the Second Amendment, they’d be vigorously trying to exterminate the First.

As an aside, I am still waiting for someone to respond to a question I asked here more than a year ago about why Democrats seem to vigorously defend and expand the scope of the Bill of Rights- with the exception of that pesky Second Amendment.

THE BAREFOOT BUM

He’s in my blogroll, up there at the upper right. The very first entry. The man has a first-rate mind, and I generally manage to learn a few things every time I visit. I don’t necessarily agree with him on a lot of things, but he has a fine grasp of logic and has an exquisite command of the English language.

And yet, I find myself visiting his site less and less. Barefoot Bum is a fervent denouncer of capitalism. On the other hand, I have no tolerance whatsoever for communism. This discontinuity of world view tends to make reading some of his work difficult for me, despite his intellectual abilities. In my opinion, capitalism promotes mediocrity but allows for excellence. Communism punishes excellence and mandates mediocrity. Given my personal intolerance for stupidity, this description (and the utter failure of every communist government to date) makes communism a very tough sell. My brace of small copper coins. Do with them what you will.

STAND BY …

Those whackjobs from the Westboro Baptist “Church” (aka Phreaky Phredd Phelps and his Phucked-up Phamily & Phriends) will be staging their annoying “protests” near the military bases in my area over the next couple of weeks. For those of you blissfully unaware of their antics, the WBC is the alleged church from that bastion of intellectual prowess in the midwest (Kansas) which “protests” at the funerals of dead servicemen from Iraq and Afghanistan. In reality, they’re extremely litigious ass-hats who do their very best to be as offensive as possible without quite going over the line into legally actionable activities. They want someone in the community where they stage these attention-whore spectacles to lose control and attack them, after which they will cheerfully sue the local government for failing to protect the WBC folks during the lawful exercise of their First Amendment Rights.

This is how they make their money, and they’re very good at it. Most of them have had a lot of legal training on how to avoid actual slander or libel while being actively and deliberately objectionable. They say and do things that gets almost every single American fighting mad- even hardcore pacifists. I’m reasonably certain that Phreaky Phred and company could get Quakers to start throwing punches.

Of course, the WBC won’t be dealing with Quakers. They’ll be doing their level best to antagonize tens of thousands of sailors and Marines, many of whom have served in combat recently. If it weren’t for the fact that it would swell the WBC’s treasury, I could almost relish the well-deserved ass-kicking the Phelps Phamily & Phriends could receive here. Knowing what they’re doing and why, however, I have joined my voice to those of the many supervisors and non-commissioned officers urging restraint and- where possible- complete avoidance of the “protests” and the people involved. I truly hope the  local police are out in force to protect the WBC from the wrath of my brothers and sisters who still wear my country’s uniform. I also hope that my brothers and sisters in arms comport themselves with the discipline and integrity they have shown around the world and stay away from these obnoxious jackasses.

DAN QUAYLE IN DRAG

Speaking of obnoxious jackasses, will everybody please quit paying attention to John McCain’s former running mate? If we quit feeding her with interviews, perhaps she would disappear into the obscurity from whence she came. The best way to get rid of an attention whore is to stop paying attention to her. Nuff said.

KEY-RICED!

Since when does Christmas shopping start before Halloween? To quote Lewis Black, “How long does it take you people to shop?”

I’ve been seeing christmas decorations at most of the local retailers for the best part of a month. What’s next- a “pre-Christmas Sales Event” right after the Super Bowl? Why don’t we just call it “Commerce Day” and have done? Any resemblance to religious or historical meaning in this “holiday” is entirely coincidental.

AND LASTLY,

I send my hopeful thoughts to maq0r and LeinadO, who live in Venezuela and are working for a peaceful transition of power away from Hugo the Horrible. There are a lot of anti-Chavez politicians running for many powerful regional offices on Sunday, and Chavez has publicly announced that he will send tanks to make sure that the elections turn out the way he wants them to.

Current status: Groggy

Current music: San Jacinto by Peter Gabriel





Tangled webs, etc.

10 11 2008

Can anyone tell me what is so dangerous about allowing homosexuals to get married? Before you answer, I categorically reject any so-called “explanation” based on scriptures of any religion.

While I’m waiting for an answer, let us delve a bit deeper into the morass. Why does any government entity in this country have to get involved in a religious ritual such as marriage? I’m pretty sure that is a direct violation of the Constitutional prohibition on establishment of religion. If you want to legally formalize a relationship with another person, the most the State (however defined) should have any control over is the legal paperwork (assigning heirs, acknowledgement of shared property rights, etc). The actual joing of two people need not involve religion in any way, shape, or form. If a legally united couple wants a religious ceremony, that is a separate issue between them and the religious venue of their choice. As far as the State is concerned, the signing of the legal documents should be all that matters.

That alone would put “paid” to this nonsense playing out in California. A bunch of religious extremists managed to get a simple majority of voters to agree to deny basic civil rights to a minority segment of the population. Astonishingly, 70% of black voters in California voted in favor of this. Historical context seems to have eluded those folks. Try re-wording Prop 8 to read that marriage is defined as a union between a white man and a white woman, and perhaps those black voters would understand the problem.

To his credit, the Governator seems to be trying to get this bullshit tossed out. The newly-passed Proposition 8 seems unlikely to pass Consitutional scrutiny in any case. I’m pretty sure the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution applies Federal Constitutional restrictions to the States. In other words, the States cannot override the US Constitution- regardless of whether or not it might be the “Will of the People”. The phrase vox populi, vox dei doesn’t really mean, “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” It actually means, “My God! How did we get into THIS mess?”

One cannot help but wonder why the historically liberal Californians voted to deny civil rights to a minority group. This is the same state Will Rogers famously described as being like a bowl of granola (what ain’t fruits and nuts is flakes). The state where certain cities passed ordnances levying fines against whomever might set off a nuclear weapon within city limits. The only colors that seemed to matter to people in California are blue (the state registers overwhelmingly Democrat because of the large populations in the south of the state) and green (money or eco-friendliness, take your pick). Apparently, however, they have a problem with pink.

How about minding your own damned business, California? If you don’t want to be homosexual, that’s your business. If your neighbor does, that’s his business. The reverse of both statements also apply. The fact that church groups get their panties in a bunch over the subject should serve to remind people that the Government has no business legislating morality. Period. Full stop.

I have heard some people claim that the majority of voters chose to approve Prop 8, and therefore it should become Law. Here’s a clue for those who say such tripe: Tyranny of the majority. back in the 1800’s, a majority of voters decided that human beings with black skin only counted as 3/5 of a person. Up until the early 1900’s, a majority of voters decided that women did not have the right to vote. There is a reason the founding fathers crafted their new nation as a republic.  The Founders clearly were concerned about allowing the majority to dictate laws injurious to the minority, and set the nation up to prevent that to the extent possible.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Guess what the voters in California are doing?

 

Current status: Irked

Current music: Boadicea by Enya





Not This Crap Again!

1 11 2008

Fundamentalism is wrong. In my opinion, fundamentalism can be defined largely as a total lack of imagination and humor. No matter what sort of fundamentalism you happen to encounter, the adherents of said world-view will be the most unapologetic ass-hats in history. Hard-core Randites, Scientologists, Christians, Anarchists, Eco-freaks, Muslims- the label doesn’t matter.

Case in point: Back in the depths of time, my friends and I played Dungeons & Dragons. This harmless pastime kept us usefully annoyed throughout much of High School and dramatically helped broaden our intellectual horizons. During my Junior year, some D&D players (not in my group) were wont to play the game at the local community center, which was managed by the Parks and Recreation Department.

The christian fundie-loonie community went batshiat insane. This was back when fundamentalist christians were trying to pass themselves off as the “Moral Majority” (in fact, they were neither moral nor a majority). They were incensed that kids were being permitted to play a game which the fundies considered to be promoting satanism. The religious zealots rose in a body and demanded that no one should be permitted to “practice witchcraft” (their term) on public property. They raised such a stink that the Parks Dept. decided to hold a public hearing on the subject.

For those of you too young to remember, at the peak of their power, the so-called “Moral Majority” somehow managed to get a lot of political influence far exceeding their numbers. In my opinion, this was accomplished by means of the “squeaky wheel” philosophy: They were loudmouthed pests who could and did mobilize at the drop of an unchristian thought or word. Accordingly, politicians were scared shitless of them.

There were five members of the Parks & Rec committee. They opened the meeting and opened the floor to public comments. As I recall, there were roughly twice as many people speaking in favor of allowing people to play D&D in the community center as there were against. The fundie-loonies were easy to distinguish from their opponents- they were all wearing ties and long faces with permanent sneers. The pro-D&D crowd was very eclectic- bordering on exotic. They were also much better speakers. One portly gentleman stood at the podium and waved a handful of binder paper over his head and thundered, “This is what you’re trying to prohibit: pieces of paper!” The papers were all character sheets for D&D.

The meeting ran late, since there were so many people who wanted a chance to speak. At the end, the committee members spoke. Two of the members read prepared speeches denouncing D&D. After the vote, D&D was banned from Park & Rec property by a vote of three to two.

That was more than twenty-five  years ago, but the successors of the religious fundamentalists are still out there. At Gen-Con this year, a charity auction was held to raise money for Gary Gygax’s favorite charity, the Christian Children’s Fund. When he was alive, Gary had donated money to this charity many times. The auction was a rousing success, raising $17,000. The organizers duly wrote a check to the Christian Children’s Fund for that amount.

Yesterday, the Christian Children’s Fund turned it down, because some of the proceeds were the result of sales of D&D paraphenalia.

Cue massive facepalm.

Facepalm

Facepalm

That amount of money could have fed a lot of starving kids. Hell, for that kind of money, they could have kept Sally Struthers in a feedbag for nearly a month.

This is what happens when you allow your fundamentalism to get in the way of the job at hand. The purpose of the Christian Children’s Fund is to help starving children. It is their reason for existence. But they would prefer to let children starve to death rather than accept money from D&D players. People this stupid should not be permitted to handle anything more dangerous than crayons.

Why so much hate?

There's No Hate Like Christian Hate

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: You Don’t Believe by Alan Parson’s Project