Captain America Pensive

Couple of articles/blogs posts on the election

First this one from Medium.  TL;DR, Clinton was immensely flawed as a candiate and had Sanders been the nominee he would have beaten Trump.  I think this is spot on for the reasons the author gives.  The treatment of Sanders by the Democratic party drove people away from Clinton and made it harder for them to eventually support her.

Next, this one about Trump and his embrace of the GLBT community.  Trump appears to really not care about social issues very much which should make people who constantly harp on conservatives to stop promoting social conservsatism so much.  Time will tell how that works out.

Lastly this article from the Guardian that makes the comparisons to the Brexit suprise on the same grounds.
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Captain America Pensive

Saw this and it made me think

"Imagine if Trump supporters had shut down major metro areas after a "historic" Hillary win? Media would destroy them."

My thoughts...absolutely true. The media would be all over such events. During the election we heard that there was a shooting at a polling place in California and that was scary since I was at my precinct from 6AM to 8PM. Turns out it was totally unrelated to the election. Still, rumors flew and I don't know know how this was reported on election day. We all feared it, but it didn't happen.

Then the election ended and I was surprised as anyone. It was a possibility, but honestly after 2012 the idea of any of the upper midwest or PA flipping was just such a will-o-wisp that I figured it would never actually happen. Then again, the coal country went to Trump for a reason. Free trade agreements are a net positive, but for parts of the US they are a negative. Yes, it might be better everywhere for plants to move to Mexico, or parts to be shipped in...but for those that lose their jobs? For the coal miner who see their job disappear and as a result the shopkeeper has less business? Free trade proponents for too long ignored those issues and Trump gave them a voice and a person to vote for that they feel will actually make their lives better. Him not being a politician actually makes people think he is better equipped because they know that the politicians track record is constant lies to them to get their votes and they are forgotten after election day.

Then I see this video of a group of black teens beating a white man because he voted for Trump.

Then there is this person who said that it would take casualties on both sides before her side gets justice.</span>

Much of her anger is just that...anger and she is able to express it and get it out and hopefully turn to positive action. It goes back to how this might have been covered if this was an angry white man who said that there would be violence and casualties because of Clinton's election? Would it get just a passing mention on the news or would the pundits talk breathlessly about how violence was incipient? I don't know, but I suspect it would be treated differently.
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Captain America Pensive

My civic duty

Today I'll work as a Judge for the election. It's kind of neat to be a Judge even if it's only for an election. I wonder if I should call myself Judge David...naw.

At any rate, I'm hoping for a huge turnout today to justify me using vacation to do this. I've been disappointed the last few elections in the turnout. Everyone wants to go early and vote because they think the lines will be horrible. They really aren't. The worst I ever saw was 2010 and that was still less than 30 mins. Then again Guadalupe county has a great elections staff.

So, go vote today if you haven't already. I don't know what the results will be and neither does anyone else.

Captain America Pensive

The end of the road and the start of a new one.

There is the desire when things are bed to stand athwart the disaster and yell stop.  I'm past that point and figure that the time is now to throw kerosene on the flickering flames and watch it all burn.  Will that be bad for a lot of people, including me?  Yes, but as I told a friend this weekend, there cannot be unity in the US anymore.  If there is any unity it is an illusion.  Compromise means both sides giving up something and we haven't had that as far back as I have been alive.  Compromise is not, you get what you want today and I might get what I want tomorrow, only tomorrow never comes and you still get what you want.  Compromise isn't you'll delay getting what you want for a few months or years and I never get what I want.  Compromise is for fools and I am done with it.  I want to watch flames purify the cesspool that we have become, even if it means that I get burned.  It is through the flames of destruction that we might return to something resembling what we used to be.  Its doubtful and I give it less than 1% chance of happening, but our current path is a 0% chance.  
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Captain America Pensive

The Social-Government Complex that Eisenhower Warned Us About

This morning I was listening to the radio and the program played the famous last speech by President Eisenhower, traditionally known as the "Beware of the Military-Industrial Complex" speech.  It is often used to warn people of the potential evil of the armaments industry that, post WWII, became a permanent fixture in our country.  President Eisenhower was correct to warn us about this potential threat.
Overlooked in his speech, however, is another warning...

"Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in the newer elements of our defenses; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research – these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.
But each proposal must be weighed in light of a broader consideration; the need to maintain balance in and among national programs – balance between the private and the public economy, balance between the cost and hoped for advantages – balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between the actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration."

Think about how we try and solve almost every problem today...and the frustration that it brings to us all?  Every solution must be a grand slam that is spectacular and costly that will miraculously solve our current difficulties.  And rarely are they balanced...instead we are told that we must act NOW to solve this problem...and every solution is to spend more money, to further unbalance the public and private economy, to provide the desirable as opposed to the necessary, to subjugate the individual in favbor of the national, to ignore the cost in the future for the reelection today.

This may be the root cause of our frustration because we have become conditioned to the provender of the national milch cow, promised always that someone else will pay for the costs at some point down the road.  Promised that only through increased gov't action can any solution ever be found.  And with each unfulfilled promise, more of our individuality is subsumed into the superimcumbent nation-state.  We have, in short, given up our essential liberties in return for temporary prosperity deserve neither liberty nor prosperity.

Eisenhower warned us of the Military-Insutrial complex and the danger of a large organization that, given an ever increasing supply of public money, could corrupt the United States and dictate public policy to ever grater levels until they controlled the policy of the United States.  I suspect that if he could see the Social-Government complex that rules us now he would be quite perturbed that we blithefully ignored his warnings.  We now have a government that spends more money on social programs than the entirety of the rest of the budget (in FY2013 Social Security, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Agriculture accounted for just over $1.9T of US gov't expenditures or 52%. This works out to spending 11% of our GDP for FY2013 on social programs.  When the Congress recently cut the SNAP program by 1% (a reduction of $8B over 10 years) caused wailing and gnashing of teeth that hasn't been seen...well since the last time that there was a reduction in the increase of spending.  When sequestration was put into place, the President's administration told us that it would create terrible hardship...cutting a massive $85B out of a budget that spent $3,800B or 2.2% of the budget (and since the budget was $74B more in 2013 that in did we really "cut" the budget, or reduce its increase).

But as opposed to getting lost in the numbers...because that way lies madness...look instead at the political impossibility of actually cutting spending.  Sequestration cut across the board and was roundly criticised...and has been the only way to actually slow down the increase in spending.  Try and cut SNAP and be told that you want poor people to starve.  Try and reform or reduce SS or Medicare and you are throwing seniors off of a cliff.  Reform military pensions and watch the fur fly.  Unfortunately cutting anything is impossible...because we have allowed the Social-Government complex to take control of our nation's priorities and politics.
Captain America Pensive

Why John Scalzi is wrong about White Straight Male as a dificulty level

Recently Hugo award winning author John Scalzi wrote a blog piece about how to explain "white priviledge" without using the word priviledge.  His basic point is that if life were a video game that being a Straight While Male would be like playing on the Easy difficulty.  I disagree with him on a number of levels most notably the level of selfishness that it alludes to.  I would note that jordan179 had some thoughts on this in regards to a similar sentiment posted in another persons journal.

To play inside his analogy, the question becomes, what amount of difference does playing as a S-W-M make as opposed to say getting more points assigned to INT, or WIL, or starting cash?  The answer, of course, depends upon the level of selfishness of the individual which I call the victimhood index. With a high victimhood index, one sees one's failings as the fault of the difficulty level, or a bad starting character, in other words...they are the victim of another person or of fate itself.   A low index, on the other hand, has the person looking at how they have performed with what they were given and recognizing that their life and their happiness is truly what they make of it.  A low victimhood index teands to result in a more successful outcome long term because the individual realizes that sometimes the long play is to give your children more starting cash, or a higher EDU modifier, even if that means that you don't get everything you want.  In short, to continue the gaming analogy, I may get killed in this team deathmatch, but I'm gaining XP for my account and eventually I will be better.

Victimhood index is really a measure of selfishness where the individual's current well being is more important thatn the future well being of others (namely their kids).  I look at my Grandmothers as an example. One of them worked as a live in domestic while her Mom and Sister raised her two kids after her husband abandoned her. She didnit without assistance from anyone outaide of family.  She eventually was able to get a factory job closer to home, but she scrimped, saved, and lived frugally. She demanded that my Mom got good grades and sent her to college even though it meant more sacrifice for her. That enabled my Mom to not only attend college, but to eventually earn a Masters Degree and raise three children who all went to college.  My other Grandmother raised her family during the height of the Great Depression.  While my Grandfather was a Fireman he often got paid in script (essentially an IOU from the city).  They made ends meet by growing their own food, and taking in boarders.  That sacrifice had her children go to college and her grandkids as well.

My priviledge if you will, is in large part due to the sacrifices of my parents, my grandparents, and back many generations.  I treasure those sacrifices because it has given me a chance to give my children more than I had...and to call that Straight-White-Male Easy Difficulty insults those sacrifices.  We choose what to make of our lives.

I did have one other point I developed at lunch with a friend of mine today.  We were talking over this issue and she brought up an interpretation that I think also has value.  I won't do this complete justice, but the essence was that we can choose to allow the "patriarchy" to control us, or we can realize that it is an illusion and control ourselves.  She also had a nice insight into the selfishness that I alluded to earlier.  It shows a lack of realization in something much larger than oneself.  This could be religious (the belief in an afterlife), or the desire to leave behind a legacy (better for children), but if you lack that belief...all that is left is satisfying yourself in this life.
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Captain America Pensive

WorldCon, DragonCon, the Hugos, and what not

This past weekend moonsinger and I got to go to WorldCon (aka LonestarCon 3) in San Antonio.  We had last attended WordlCon in 1997 when it was last in San Antonio.  Due to expense and having our special needs seven year old with us, we decided to only do one day and not purchase a full membership.  I was extremely worried about how Alastair would deal with the con and would we be able to attend any events/panels.  In the end, this proved to be the most positive aspect of the Con for me.  The con had a kids track in one room called the Rangernauts and in addition to some kid oriented activities (like making frankenstein stuffed animals, or live action angry birds) they had other activities like slot cars and model trains, and games for the kids to play (including some D&D).  After staying with Al for a bit and showing him how to play with the slot cars he was hooked and I took off to see a panel or two.
The last time we attended WordlCon in 97 I remember it being huge with lots of people everywhere and tons going on.  I didn't get that impression this time.  In a way that was quite nice.  It seemed more private and comfy.  I was much less worried about my kids (7 and 13) at the crowd levels and I ran into a number of poeple that I knew.  mycroftca
and forestcats were in town and we have known each other virtually for years.  It was such a pleasure to finally meet them and chat extensively.  Whta wonderful people.  We also saw isyllt and her husband and son and it was great to visit with them for a bit.  I wish that we had not been so exhausted and gotten to sup with binaryathena and bugcatch.  We also ran into the Arnolds and Rhiannon went around with their daughter to some panels.
As for the panels...I went to a few. 

  • The Yard Dog press one I caught the last 10 minutes of and it was fun but not spectacular.  Not their fault, it was an industry panel and they brought all their authors up and had them say a few things.  The best part was seeing hutson speak.  I hadn't seen her in ages.

  • I went to a panel on building starships and it was pretty good.  The panelists were David Brin, Greg Benford, and some others.  It was a good panel with some interesting discussions on what life might be like on other worlds.  Most of the discussion centered on the way to buld starships with what we know now.  So it was all STL and looked at solar sails and lasers driving them.  Interesting, but not fascinating.

  • I went to three other panels only in part.  One was a discussion by five women who work for NASA.  One is an astronaut ( and another is working on new spacesuits designs.  I caught the tail end of the panel and wish I had made it for the entire panel.  It was interesting to hear about life on the iSS.  Later on, the same crew came to the Rangernauts and gave the kids an up close look at a space suit (even trying it on), and some awesome NASA swag.  Rhiannon got an autographed poster of three of them and she was a little fangirl about it.  I was so proud.  I also got to see a panel on writing combat scenes (the last 15 mins).  It had Bujold and Moon on it and I enjoy both of their books.  Overall it was fine for what i term "light" combat writing where the fighting isn't the main purpose of the tale.  They talked about how heavy things are, and how unweildy, and how tiring.  It reminded me of Crichton's Timeline where they see the men at arms practicing with the local knight and are amazed at how fast they are.  People tend to forget that warriors who train for war (especially pre-gunpowder) had to strong and fast.  In a way they were the pro-athletes of today.  Assuming that a normal person could pick up a sword and compete with them is similar to saying that a normal person could put on pads and play with a BCS college team.  It stretches credulity.

The rest of the time I spent in the exhibition hall.  They had an Artemis Starship Bridge Simulator Artemis Starship Bridge Simulator demo set up which is amazingly cool.  I am going to have to get the local SA Catapult office to do a LAN session with this.
Which brings me to the Hugo awards.  I was pulling for Captain Vorpatril's Alliance to win, but Scalzi's Redshirts won instead.  I have no desire to read Redshirts as the concept I found uninteresting.  I hear it was well crafted, but...
Lastly, there was some ongoing discussion about DragonCon vs WorldCon and which one is "better".  We went to DragonCon many years ago (in the 90s) before we had kids.  It was amazing, huge, stupendous, overwhelming...and easy to get lost in the shuffle.  I would be willing to go back to it sometime, but no way would we be able to take Al.  Also, being on Labor Day is an issue and driving to Atlanta is a two day affair.  Its not worth taking them out of school for a con.  There is certainly more to see at DragonCon than at WorldCon...and I struggled to find any authors that I like at WorldCon (Brin, Moon, Bujold were the few that I can think of).  In theory, WorldCon is a great place to meet and chat with authors.  For Example, my best memory of WorldCon 97 was spending an hour talking with John Steakley (Vampires, Armor) after his panel and finding out that he was a character and a half.  He could enliven any conversation and was so happy to just sit and chat with us.  This time, I didn't really get a chance to chat with anyone.  Being there with the kids and only for a day also mean that parties were out of scope and I suspect that would have been a great time to mingle.  Perhaps at some point in the future.
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Captain America Pensive

Syria, to intervene or not to intervene, a vexing question

There are two exremely interesting aspects of the debate over what action the US and the rest of the world should take in regards to Syria's use of NBC weapons against their own citizens.  The first is that, as we saw from 1999 to 2003 the politics of intervention for most politicians is purely a matter of who is in power at the time.  In 1999, Clinton's administration justified strikes in Iraq, not to distract for the Lewinsky scandal, but because Iraq possessed chemical weapons and the US had to do something about it.  The Democrats supported this (in general).  Also in general, the GOP opposed it saying that it was "wagging the dog".  Fast forward to 2003 and you see almost the exact same quotes but just reverse the parties.

Now we find ourselves in 2013 and once more an administration is threatening an armed intervention in the middle east and pointing to NBC weapons as the casus belli.  The usual players have come out, and, for the most part, the support breaks down on party lines.  What I find amusing is the lengths that each group will go to justify their support or lack there of.  Listening to the Mike Church program this morning he had a guest (not sure who it was) that was saying that he cannot support going into Syria for two reasons.  One is that we would be fighting for Al Qaeda, and the second is that its a purely civil war that has no impact upon US interests.  He was wrong on both accounts.  On the first (that we would be fighting for Al Qaeda he makes the error that assisting the Free Syrian Army in the South (who started this fight) would benefit the more recent rebels in the north of Syria who have backing from Al Qaeda.  While this is true in a short term sense...a longer view would show us that allowing the conflict to continue and expand has a high probablity of allowing the rebels in Aleppo to gain a foothold that can lead to more destabilization in the future.  On the second, US interests, he is also incorrect.  For one, Syria borders our most reliable ally in the region as well as bordering Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon (all of which we have an interest in).  Syria also has ports on the Mediteranean Sea and is a close client of an increasingly hostile Russia.

Which brings me to the second interesting aspect of the Syria conflict...under what circumstances is the US justified in intervening?  Currently there are three reasons that the US should intervene in Syria of varying levels of importance.

The first, and perhaps most important reason, is that the world community has, since 1918, placed a severe stigma on the use of chemical weapons.  While the record of punishment for these uses has been spotty at reason that we do not see this happen much more often is that governments that make use of such weapons.  The Chemical Weapons Convention is the governing body for the worldwide control of chemical weapons.  It is noted that Syria is not a signatory of this convention, but is a member of the Geneva Protocol on checmical weapons which applies to both international and internal use.  Of course, as with all such international agreements they are worth the paper they are written on if the signatories are not willing to enforce the provisions.  If the international community does not want to enforce the treaties that they have created, then why create them?  If we, meaning the world community, is serious about prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, then intervention in Syria is indicated by some group.  The US, The UN, NATO, the Arab really doesn't matter who does it, but it must be done.

The second reason is that our interests are at risk here.  Syria and Israel have gone to war multiple times since 1948.  Lebanon, as a Syrian client state via Hezbollah, most recently fought Israel in 2006.  Jordan is another strong ally of ours in the region, and Turkey is a member of NATO and the rebels in Aleppo are quite close to that area.  Not to mention that Syrian also borders Iraq and continues to be a client both of Russian and Iran.  We can pretend that none of that matters to us, but since stability in the region is both a short and long term goal fo the US, pretending that our ignoring this problem will not hurt us is shortsighted at best.

The third reason that we should intervene is because out President set conditions for that intervention.  When President Obama told the press a year ago that the use of chemical weapons would be a red line that Syria could not cross he committed the US to intervention if that line was crossed.  It has been, and now we face the stark choice of drawing another red line and thus losing significant credibility.  Think of a parent who tells their child "No, you can't do that or you will get in trouble" and then when they do that...they don't punish them but instead say "next time you will get in trouble".  When that happens, eventually the child ignores the parent and the parent has lost their ability to discipline the child.  We may not like the fact that we placed that red line down...but backing off from that would be detrimental to our reputation as a country.
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Captain America Pensive

When art clashes with politics

Today I saw some friends discussing the Rage Against the Machine and Paul Ryan brouhaha.  It reminded me about Rush (the band) asking Rush Limbaugh to not use use Spirit of Radio as a bumper music.  This is not a new controversy.  For example Chrissie Hynde was asked many years ago about Rush Limbaugh’s use of a song (My City Was Gone) she wrote as the opening bumper of his radio program and her response was that as long as he paid for the use of the song she was OK to take his money.

Laura Ingraham wrote a book called Shut Up And Sing about this topic as well as it being the title of a documentary about the Dixie Chicks in 2006.  The point being that we pay to see art not to hear the political views of the performers (with some exceptions for political performers like Limbaugh, Jon Stewart, etc.).  As part of reading about this I came across an article in the American Spectator titled Rush v Rush

"The public performance of Rush's music is not licensed for political purposes and any such use is in breach of public performance licenses and constitutes copyright infringement," Rush's legal representative Robert Farmer wrote Rush.

This is, for Rush the band’s sake, not legally correct.  According to a music attorney (Larry Isser) consulted by Rolling Stone about this topic the band doesn’t likely have a legal case to block the use of their music.

[R]adio networks are covered under blanket agreements for "public performance" of all songs in the publishing catalogs of ASCAP, BMI and, in the band Rush's case, SESAC, the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers. The fact that Limbaugh's show has a political agenda does not interfere with his right to play music, so long as it's paid for, says Iser.

"What he did is in fact the essence of what 'public performance' is," Iser says. Networks like Premiere, which syndicates The Rush Limbaugh Show, "all take public performance licenses for the performing societies . . . Artists who make money from public performance royalties don't have the right, typically, to control who plays their songs. Once they choose to add their songs to the public performance catalog, they're out there for anyone [with a licensing agreement] to use."

Read more:

This is different, by the way, from when the McCain campaign used certain songs (most notably “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne) in various campaign videos and ads without securing the correct legal licenses.  Those are copyright infringements as opposed to public performances.

Which leads back to the original point.  It seems that the lead guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello, is upset that Paul Ryan likes his music saying that he embodies the “Machine” that they are raging against.  So what?  Mr. Morello is entitled to his opinion as is Mr. Ryan and frankly Mr. Morello should be happy that he is getting the publicity for his music.  In the end I don’t care what performers think politically because very few of them actually are qualified to speak on politics, but they have a right to do so.  If a politician uses their music improperly, they have a case and should pursue it…otherwise, Ms Hynde has the best attitude…take their money all the way to the bank.

Mr. Morello’s “outrage” is even more ridiculous in that he is upset that someone likes his music whom he sees as the target of his rage.  He seems to think that he owns the interpretation of his art once it leaves his studio.  Nothing is further from the truth.  Look at Rush (the band again) for an example.  Some of their music was influenced by Ayn Rand, most notably the epic 2112 which was influenced by her novella Anthem as Neil Peart said in a 1991 interview

The inspiration behind it was ... It's difficult always to trace those lines because so many things tend to coalesce, and in fact it ended up being quite similar to a book called Anthem by the writer Ayn Rand. But I didn't realize that while I was working on it, and then eventually as the story came together, the parallels became obvious to me and I thought, 'Oh gee, I don't want to be a plagiarist here.' So I did give credit to her writings in the liner notes.

There are other songs that Rush has written that appear to be screeds against Communism in which the Oaks and the Maples argue over the unfairness of the Oaks being taller and grabbing up all the light.  The final stanza offers this warning

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
'The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light'
Now there's no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw

Peart has maintained that there is no hidden anti-Communistic message in the song

"No. It was just a flash. I was working on an entirely different thing when I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I thought, "What if trees acted like people?" So I saw it as a cartoon really, and wrote it that way. I think that's the image that it conjures up to a listener or a reader. A very simple statement." -- Neil Peart, in the April/May 1980 Modern Drummer magazine

And thus finally to my point…yes, finally…the artist creates their art and they have their interpretation of it, but each viewer has their own interpretation of it as well and both are valid in their own way and the artist cannot enforce their interpretation on the viewer.  If I see a strong anti-communist or even anti-socialist message in The Trees, then that is my interpretation and if you have another, feel free to let me know your take on the song.  Then I will explain to you how “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid is a very nasty and dirty song.  Or, I can just let Quentin Tarantino explain how Tog Gun is a movie about a man’s struggle with his homosexuality (just a warning, as with any Tarantino clip this is chock full of profanity).

Somehow I think that Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr might disagree with his interpretation…but darn is it funny.