Put On Blast

I groused on a social media site about how I thought both major political parties in the US were venal and stupid, and someone unleashed an absolute masterwork of rhetoric on me in DM. It was unconvincing, because they apparently knew me about 1% as well as they thought they did, but still… mastery was in motion.

Over the last week, I mentioned on a social media site that I thought both the Democratic Party and the Republican party were venal and self-serving, evil.

A well-meaning acquaintance from waaaaaay back took it upon themselves to warn me away from such statements, and took issue with a number of actions undergone by the GOP as proof that they were evil… and since the Democrats were not doing those same things, clearly the Democrats were… apparently less evil.

They were rather unclear on the actual results of the Democrats’ inactivity; they didn’t actually say “less evil,” or even “good,” it was just about Republican activity. They took the conversation to private messages (direct messages, or DMs), which was … probably a good thing, but it was also vastly amusing.

That message chain was over 380 messages long. They wrote 286 of them. It was a work of art, really, and utterly unconvincing for some pretty simple reasons, few related to their actual assertions. (This is why it was amusing to me.)

It was a rhetorical masterpiece, manipulative from the very beginning, and clearly so, whether they intended it to be or not. I don’t know how self-aware my acquaintance is, but if they were trying to say “members of my tribe are definitely not evil,” and they expected to be representative, I think it’s safe to say that they actually more or less validated my original assertion without meaning to.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t know if they were trying to assert that they were representative. Nor do I know if they had any curiosity about how evil I thought the parties were, or what I thought about individual members of the various political parties, because at no point did they bother to indulge any curiosity about what I meant.

(This was also amusing to me, because I’ve written clearly about how I see the parties and how I see the parties’ members, and at one point they said they actually were aware of my public stances, even though the entire lecture was predicated on an assumption that my public stances were … not what I actually think at all.)

The “taking it to direct message” was a smart move on their part, because posting a lecture on social media – even if it weren’t piecemeal like DMs are – makes one look arrogant, and DMs allow a tone that a generalized lecture does not. Also, taking it to DM allows manipulation through familiarity (“remember when…”) that public messages do not. Privacy also prevents observation and public correction; when a hundred people see a statement made in error, one of those hundred might observe the error publicly… and call it out.

It also implies that the one being corrected (me, in this case) is being protected by the lecturer (“I’m keeping your shame in the shadows, not calling you out publicly”) and that carries with it an assumption of shame.

I remember this person; I don’t know that we’re friends, exactly, as we’ve had no conversations of any depth whatsoever for the past … probably decade or so. If we have had conversations, I don’t remember them.

This actual unfamiliarity coupled an assumption of insight was the cause of the first error they made, actually, because I don’t consider them to have any actual insight into my thought processes or motivations, and they were literally trying to speak to those thought processes. (And that’s despite me writing publicly for decades now. I may not publish on a consistent basis, but I still publish, and the Internet doesn’t forget. My stances have changed over time, but I’ve tried to be honest about that, too, including acknowledgement of ideas and views I think were in error and hopefully out of ignorance. Ideas like… “the Democrats might actually be the good guys.”)

If my brother, who knows me well, had said the exact same words, they’d have carried an impact, because my brother does know how I think, and why, and he has access to an authority in my life that randoms from the Internet do not.

Of course, the randoms from the Internet could always… ask. I like to think that’s what I’d have done, had I chosen to correct someone on the Internet: find out if they’re actually wrong, first, you know? After all, this was initiated on social media, a medium that has as a primary flaw a … lack of representation of nuance. As people are rarely without nuance in their actual lives (regardless of how they appear on social media), you’d think the first thing would be to isolate what is actually being thought before setting phasers on “kill”… at least, if the lecturer has any social awareness themselves.

The lecturer started off with a long string of messages (short ones, and they were sent before I realized I even had any direct messages, as I don’t lurk on social media sites very much) where not only was my expertise questioned (“people like you rarely know as much about unrelated subjects as you think you do”) but my motivations questioned (“people who say such simple things are overly certain without cause” and “people are willing to undertake extreme actions”) and an explicit disassociation (“I’m no longer following you”).

(These are not quotes. I’m not likely to quote my lecturer here except by accident. Some of the words may be the same, but I’m not copying and pasting anything. All quotes should be assumed to be paraphrases filtered through my own lenses. I do have the entire conversation logged, because it was hilarious, but still: I’m going to avoid identifying the lecturer if I can.)

They also claimed specific expertise: they had multiple degrees and their parents were college professors, you know. So they knew. People with certitude could be dangerous, and my assertion exposed certitude. (You might even say the lecturer was certain. That is, if you thought things like that were funny, like I do.)

That brings up another rhetorical trick they used, actually.

I like words. I read quite a bit; I don’t know if I read more than the average bear or not, because I don’t know how much other people read quantitatively, but I think it’s safe to say that I read a lot. I believe most of the people who know me would agree with that statement. (I don’t read the most out of my circle of friends, I think; I know someone who I think reads more than I, for example, but I think even they would say that I’m pretty well-read.)

I read things in many genres. I read nonfiction and fiction. In nonfiction, I’ll cover history, philosophy, math, programming, music, science, the mechanics of writing (most books on writing are not written especially well, go figure!); in fiction, it could be anything: mysteries, fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction, horror. These are representative, not limiting. I’ll read almost anything I find interesting if I can.

The result is that my language is … broad. I read a lot of words, and words I like will enter into my lexicon. (Words like “lexicon,” for example.) When I write, I try to use words that are clear enough, I guess, but I’m often writing as myself and therefore, especially as I warm up, I use words that are more natural for me to use and retain my voice, as opposed to restricting myself to a simple set of 1000 words like Randall Munroe’s “Thing Explainer” book.

I could restrict my vocabulary more than I do, I suppose, and when writing for specific purposes I do, but in private messages where my conversational partner assumes familiarity? I’m more likely to use the language that occurs to me innately than I would otherwise.

My lecturer took exception to this. I used a word whose meaning I thought would be fairly clear from usage, and not only did they go pedantic on me (“that is not what that word means, specifically”) but they declared that I sounded like a self-educated high-schooler, along with a specific term that I’m sure was supposed to be an insult.

Oddly enough, I am a self-educated high schooler. My comment to that, written through laughter (because it was funny!), was that I had me a high school diploma lying about somewhere, if I could only find it… (It’s also been recorded as an actual fact that insulting the person you’re trying to convince is very effective. It worked for Trump, right? I’m pretty sure my lecturer would have gone ballistic at having such a equivalence pointed out.)

But notice what’s happening, rhetorically: they were trying to use my very language against me. They didn’t ask what I meant (even though I thought it was clear through usage); any attempt to clarify was met with disdain for the term.

And it goes on! One of the other rhetorical manipulations they used was simple entrapment through falsification. They started off (in public) enumerating a number of sins of the GOP, sins that … honestly, probably are sins. (They were presented without specificity, and in very coarse terms, were probably accurate; it’s when you drill down that you find that there might be some justifications for those particular sins. Note the use of the word “might.”)

I didn’t bother addressing those. Why would I?

I was making an assertion of venality on the parts of both major parties, after all; if someone presents evidence (even lacking nuance) that validates that at least half of my assertion was true, why would I disagree? They were saying that I was right, after all.

Of course, they took issue with my statement that it was both parties and not just one, making it an attack on the blue tribe as well as the red tribe, and there was the source of the offense. How dare I say the blue tribe is bad, too?

So in the lecture they presented a number of grave acts on the part of the GOP, and challenged me to dispute them, saying to tell them anything the Democrats had done that was “as awful as” this, or that, or the other.

I did not dispute the acts themselves. I could have; those descriptions lacked nuance, after all. And they didn’t take place in a vacuum, and what’s more, if the Democrats had wanted to do some of them, they would have (and they’ve tried, in some cases. But they failed, so they “didn’t do them.”)

But … disputing them would have been both a strategic and tactical mistake, on multiple levels.

For one thing, strategically, those terrible things agreed with my assertion that the GOP is evil and stupid. Disputing them defends a party I do not want to defend.

For another, tactically, disputation gives a falsifiable angle of attack; there are a lot of rhetorical ways to address such disputations. You could go for precision (“You said this happened in January 1995, when ACTUALLY it happened in early February, you don’t know what you’re talking about”) or widen the scope of the disputation to incorporate external facts (“Well, you’re failing to account for von Moltke in 1887, who …”)

Lastly, it’s a strategic error about intent. I had stated early in the lecture (when I had finally started paying attention to it and interacting) that I had no intent of trying to convince anyone of anything, that my lecturer should feel and think what… you know, they felt and thought. My permission wasn’t necessary, nor was my approval, but I wholly feel that people should be who they are. I was making a statement about my own feelings, after all, and I didn’t mind what anyone else thought. I’ve said so publicly and in many forums.

If you think I’m trying to convince you to think what I think, you’re missing something very simple about me: I’m happy to influence people positively, I guess, but it’s a passive influence. If you think what I think because of something I said, it’s because you read something from me and thought – to yourself and for yourself – hey, he might be right.

I try really hard to not decide things for other people. I don’t even tell my kids what is right to think; I tell them what I think and why, and if they find that compelling, we agree. If they don’t, we disagree, and everything’s fine between us; if they tell me what they think and why, well, maybe I’ll change my mind. (I’ve changed my mind and behavior inspired by arguments from my kids multiple times. I’m proud of them.)

So… for me to dispute these claims about the GOP… what would it serve? I’m not trying to tell my lecturer that they’re wrong, after all; if they don’t realize their own contextual errors, well, who am I to correct them? And that their error reinforces my own decision – I think their assertions lacked nuance, but the result was the same, after all – well, that only makes a disputation stupid.

I may not be the sharpest light bulb in the shed, but I ain’t outright dumb. When my “opponent” makes my point for me, I will let them.

But the request was to show what the Democrats had done that was “as evil as” those acts, which were mostly focused on legislative actions to counteract Democratic motivations.

That, too, was really pretty elegant on the part of the lecturer. Note what they’re doing: they’re ascribing a generalization to all Republicans.

It’s like saying “All Republicans are racist” because some Republicans are racist. (After all, the non-racist Republicans – were they a thing – would surely eject their racist brethren, right?)

But that’s not the way the world works, on any level, and actually indirectly ties into why I think the Democrats are venal and stupid, too.

It’s worth pointing out that neither party is monolithic. I know a lot of people in both parties, and members of both constitute my “inner circle,” people I do listen to with great intent. I think they’re good people, even when they agree with the things their parties do with which I disagree. I understand these people, and why they agree with the things I find wrong. This is important. I know them, they know me, we respect each other, we can dialogue in good faith and we know it. The parties are evil. It doesn’t mean that the people who make up the parties are evil, individually, although they might be. This is something my lecturer seemed to fail to understand, based on what they said to me.

I used the word “racist” a few paragraphs ago, right? … what does that word mean? It has a technical meaning, I guess, but applying it technically to anyone will lead to a conclusion that all people are racist, and if all people are racist, this deserves a reaction, and any racist’s assertions should be discounted.

But “any racist’s assertions should be discounted” is an assertion. And if all people are racist, well, that implies that the person who says that is also racist, and therefore that assertion too should be discounted. Taken to an extreme, the implication is that mankind is beyond redemption, that any person can be attacked for any reason (at the very least, you could accuse them of being racist, and they could deny it; but wouldn’t a denial be exactly what a racist would offer?)

It’s a black hole of suckitude. (It also lacks nuance. It’s why I can know people who I think actually are racist, without deciding to excommunicate and cancel them without reprieve.) And one of my greatest problems with the Democratic Party as a whole is this whole leaning into a failure of terminology and nuance. For a Party as a whole to lean into being unable to assert what a woman is… that’s awful. You can carve out specifics all you like, but to be unable to generalize? There’s a rot in that oak, and it needs to be chopped down and burned.

And words matter. If you can’t use words, you can’t discuss. If I say “the GOP is evil” and you change what the understanding of “evil” is to suit your purposes, I lose the ability to talk about the GOP being evil. (Does the new definition even mean that I think the GOP is evil?) We can’t come to a meeting of the minds, because that requires an ability to establish a common ground, and if you change the meaning of words, there is no common ground. You’ve built a wall between every human, that you can erect at will.

That’s a dominance game, and it’s insidious and explicit, and it is what I consider to be evil, and yes, I do consider it to be worse than most of the short-sighted things the GOP does. The GOP can be countered by an electoral cycle (and a lot of education about rational thought.) The destruction of the ability to teach rational thought (“what does that even mean? Let’s change it”) … that’s something that requires burning down a culture and rebuilding it.

I think that is evil, and a great evil, at that, maybe even the greatest. It provides a mechanism to invalidate the ability to do good. And my lecturer never once asked me about what I meant when I referred to it. They didn’t care. They had an axe to grind, and they were a-grindin’.

After a while, the conversation ended, with them asking me to stop messaging them (remember, they messaged me initially), and I accepted that request. That was around message number 330 or so. They then sent nearly seventy more messages to me, reprimanding me for writing as I do, for thinking as I do, adding a few other rhetorical manipulations (“I told someone something positive about you, and you didn’t know about it, how could you not be overwhelmingly grateful for something you didn’t know about?”) along the way.

I remain unconvinced. If I really, really cared about what a casual acquaintance thought about me, specifically, and assigned power to their perception, I might have been swayed, but given that there was no exchange, no consideration for anything I thought or said, it ended up being funny to read – and in some ways, it might have convinced me that my original assertion (that both major parties were evil, and that one party’s evil was more difficult to address than the other’s) was even more true than I thought it was.

Journalists and Twitter

Someone on Mastodon had a link to an article, “Journalists (And Others) Should Leave Twitter. Here’s How They Can Get Started,” with an interesting (and valid) pull quote:

“This should have been a pivotal moment in media history — an inflection point when journalists realized how dangerous it is to put their fates in the hands of people who claim to revere free speech but use their power to control it…thanks to a combination of journalistic cowardice, inertia and calculation, business as usual prevailed.”

The article keeps its hands wrung over journalists – of all principled people – obeying the rules about what is acceptable on Twitter now:

Beyond that, thanks to a combination of journalistic cowardice, inertia and calculation, business as usual prevailed. Today, some journalists remain banned, or restricted. The journalists whose accounts were fully restored are back to tweeting, though some remain banned and/or restricted. Their organizations never stopped using the platform even when their employees were being restricted.

My thought is: why not? Why would these fine upstanding people care now? The only thing that’s changed is the nameplate of their corporate master: it went from a proxy for the FBI to Elon Musk, and honestly, the slop they feed upon should be tasting about the same as it did.

What’s new here, after all? If they posted something against the acceptable narrative two years ago, they’d have been muted and banned, if not cancelled. They knew it. So they stuck to what the egregore told them to say, in the way they were supposed to say it (“add a little individuality, please, so the rest of the egregore thinks you’re a rebel, thank you – now get a tattoo so you’ll be unique just like everyone else!”).

Now there’s a new lord and master; maybe it’s a little less of an egregore than it was (one thing I have to give credit to Musk for is not being as susceptible to groupthink as so many seem to want to be.) But it’s just a different master, with slightly different rules, and apparently less locked-down than what the old masters preferred; Musk actually allows people I don’t like to say things I don’t like! How dare he!

And this is supposed to be more restrictive? Because now the things you can and cannot say are different? Journalists should have howled when their narratives were being tuned for them, no matter whether their careers benefitted or not. The tuning is the problem, not who did it or what the tuning’s results were.

Journalists who were fine with the FBI dictating their content but not Musk… I get it, I empathize, but let’s be real here: those aren’t journalists any more. They’re shills. They’re paid spokesmen, soulless and vain, at this point, no matter what they tell themselves, no matter how much gravitas they can muster as they issue their sales pitches for The Party.

It doesn’t matter what side they’re on. They should be celebrating the cacophany. Sure, they might not like the restrictions, but … so what? The restrictions aren’t new. They’re just different. They’re protesting the changing of their muzzle, when what they should have been doing was protesting the existence of a muzzle at all.

And most of them chose to strap their yokes on, willingly.

The Flaw is in Hating

I wrote a post on Facebook a long time ago (years!) about the flaw not being in WHO you hate, but THAT you hate. This is me capturing a thought line on the subject for posterity (and for the Fediverse, because I haven’t inflicted myself enough on the Fediverse for my satisfaction yet, apparently.)

“The flaw is not in what groups you hate. The flaw is in hating.”

I’d forgotten having written that, but I’m not sure it’s wrong. It also got me thinking.

It’s representative, to be sure. It’s not any better to hate one group than another, even if different groups deserve different visceral reactions.

Once you open the door to hate, it becomes a weed, a stain on your soul, spreading and growing.

So I started evaluating myself, thinking of possibilities. How do I feel about each group, and why? How compliant am I with my own assertion?

I don’t expect to be fully compliant, after all; I’m not perfect in this any more than any other way. Weeds are “a thing.” So is hate.

  1. Nazis. Communists. By extension, Leftists, and Rightists. (Think of it as a scale: Nazis, Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Communists. How do I feel about the people who occupy edges?) It turns out I largely don’t care about the *people* who feel subscribe to these political movements; my only concern is how these political agendas are expressed in public life. Be a Communist if you like. Advocate Communist ideals. Be a Nazi if that’s how you are. I won’t agree with you, but I’ll certainly try to respect you, because if I don’t, how will we EVER manage to build a bridge such that we might convince each other of anything? I believe Nazism is wrong; if my goal is to convince you of that, how will my hatred further my goal at all?
  2. People of a different skin color, haha! Yeah, right. I had to throw this in, but it made me smile to write it; I have relatives of “different colors,” and the idea of hating someone because they look different would be… ironic at best. After all, *I* “look different.” And my melanin levels ain’t exactly pure, whatever that means, either. Hatred of people with different eyes, or hair, or skin, or physical attributes… hah, no.
  3. People of a different religion, or people of MY OWN religion that believe theologically incompatible things. Nope. There’s an incredible array of experiences out there, and just because someone’s different experiences lead them to different conclusions – or they’ve accepted conclusions that fit cultural influences – doesn’t give me a good reason to hate them. I can disagree with them – often energetically, I guess, because I have strong emotions myself – but hatred? Nah. After all, I’m sure I’m an apostate to someone out there.
  4. People who hate me. … Uh, no. Why would I let someone else’s emotions dictate my own? If they hate me, why would I ever let THEIR HATE guide me? if I want to be in opposition to them, why wouldn’t I simply choose to ignore their feelings of resentment? (Besides, this approach usually annoys them to no end. Not only is it less strain on my own cognitive abilities, but if they get annoyed that I don’t hate them back… I win!)
  5. People who serve me poorly, or people who treat me poorly. Nope. Can’t do it. These are usually two different groups; people who “serve me poorly” would be, like, waiters or people who fulfill my requests incorrectly. Look, misteaks happen; maybe I expressed myself unclearly, maybe they’re just having a bad day, maybe they just missed something. It’s not a big deal. I can’t understand people who go off on the service industry, no matter WHAT service industry it might be.

    And those who treat me poorly? Well, I already mentioned people who hate me – previous point, right? – but people who treat me poorly would do so without malice, I guess, just being myopic or self-serving. But if I can’t bring myself to hate those who treat me poorly deliberately, maliciously… how could I ever justify hating someone who treats me poorly by accident, as it were, because they don’t really recognize how I feel about how they act toward me?
  6. People who suffer in comparison to me, people who “have it worse.” Likewise, people who are blessed in comparison to me, those who “have it better.” Heh, no. I would love to “have it better,” and thank God I don’t “have it worse,” and I try to treat others as I’d like to be treated in their circumstance; if it’s someone who “has it worse” than me, I want to see their situation improve, and someone who “has it better,” well, if I were in their position I wouldn’t want someone tearing me down. Can’t hate either group.
  7. People who do what I wish I were able to, or people who resent what I am able to do. See prior point. I’d rather teach those who wish to do as I can, and someone who resents what I am able to do while they cannot? Well… I mean… why would I let that affect how I feel?

I identified one group that did actually cause a visceral negative reaction, and toward those I think I would have to say I have hatred:

Anyone who’d rather die than let someone else live. This covers a remarkably wide set of people, unfortunately: people who’d deliberately murder, or rape. People who would hurt a child. People who’d steal for their own amusement or benefit without need. People who consume others.

That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in redemption; a murderer can grow and recognize their error. A rapist is harder to forgive, but if I say redemption is possible, I either believe it or don’t. (A core political flaw I see every day on Facebook is related to this: people imply “yes, people can change, but not THAT person, ever. I will never, can never, forgive. Here’s a scarlet letter to put on your forehead forever.”)

I don’t believe in my right or ability to eternally condemn someone else. I’m not God, or whatever would be in that role – and I don’t believe society is in that role, either.

But I think that my “group of people I hate” – being those who cannot countenance others – attempts to expand itself daily. People jump into the group willingly, in the name of virtue signalling and appeal to others, others whose names they do not know, and whose approval is fickle and entirely dependent on the demonstrated willingness to disapprove.

It takes constant effort for me not to relearn resentment.


On a reread, it stands out to me in today’s political climate that I left gender and sexuality out of my list of groups that might be hated. In retrospect, that would have been somewhere in the first three or four of the “list,” I guess, being similar to the other entries in that region.

But my opinion about those of different gender and/or sexuality … well, my feelings about such people should be obvious. Why would I hate anyone because of their gender? Why would I dislike anyone because of who they like? How would that make any sense at all? Their choices and physical attributes do not affect me, why would I feel so strongly as to hate them?

Of course, there are people who act poorly – regardless of their internal or external attributes. But I covered that at the end of the original post, and there’s nothing unique about gender or sexuality that would require any additional explanation.

God Bless the United States of America.

I was having a conversation a few days ago – just before the Fourth of July – and someone said they’d opened up Facebook and been frightened by all of the people posting American flags, thinking it was related to a conservative social media platform being launched.

Given the timing, no. It’s the Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day. It’s people celebrating America.

You can also see a number of people – athletes, politicians, activists, ordinary people – protesting America. One athlete was hurt by the fact that the national anthem played during a medal ceremony, feeling like she’d been set up to hear it. This is an American athlete, competing to represent America at the Olympics, planning to protest America there on the international stage.

We have battles over education, with people suggesting that it’s wrong that we teach of America’s strengths and deeds, saying that America’s imperfections corrupt the national character, and we should be teaching that – that America’s character is corrupt.

With such a thought process, no wonder they shriek that our governmental system should be replaced with Socialism, built in their image. Socialism! For the people! We’ll get it right this time, maybe without killing millions and wrecking the most productive country the world’s ever seen! Surely American can endure the cost, unlike any other country in the history of the world!

These people… there are words, but I don’t think they’re worth typing.

They have every right to say what they say. In many cases, they’re right, too: America’s bright and shining past has occasional shadows to meet the dawn. I can’t pretend America’s national conscience is spotless, not when she turned away undesirables (like the Jews) fleeing the Nazis in World War II, not when we have the Trail of Tears, not when we have the Jim Crow era, not when we had a war over slavery.

But what these protesters and activists are missing is that they should also be celebrating their ability to say those things. For better or worse, you can’t say “America hides these dark truths” – when you’re talking openly about those truths. If what you said was accurate, brownshirts would come by in the night, at the behest of the government, and take you away. Your platforms would be removed.

Those athletes who want to represent America are being celebrated by America – not for their caustic attitudes, but for their freedoms. I do not agree with the negative sentiments. I remember history. I can look around and see how these same people would do in most other countries in the world.

In most places, as soon as they said such things, they’d be silenced: “If you don’t want to represent us positively, we don’t want you to represent us,” which is a sentiment that you find in American citizens, too – I have friends who’ve decided they won’t watch the Olympics if such athletes of ours are there. But here, in America, they have the express right – an inalienable right – to say what they want.

They can hate America and everything it represents. They can say that it’s the worst country on the face of the earth. They can lie and say that it hates the downtrodden, the nonnormative, the poor, minorities of every stripe… and fear only idiots.

In other countries, they can’t.

In America, they have the express right to defend themselves against idiots as they need.

In many other countries, they can’t. If they’re a member of the downtrodden, the nonnormative, they are fixed statically in place and cannot improve their station. Only others can do that for them.

And they want to hate America? Again, they have the right. And it’s stupid.

As I started off with, I have no problem acknowledging that America is not and has never been perfect. Even the choices made can be read multiple ways – for good and for evil.

But I’d say that of every country that has ever existed on Earth, America has tried the hardest to respect all of mankind, and has always tried to improve. Perhaps not wisely – our government is made of fallible humans – but the intent has always been there, and the claim of government for the people, by the people, of the people has been a true one for most of our history, maybe even all of it.

But we’re ceding that “for the people, by the people, of the people” to true believers, people who are convinced they’re always right despite distinct evidence to the contrary; our government is becoming an edifice of impossibly proud people who are convinced that they, armed with special and secret knowledge, are called to govern against the will of the maddened crowd they stir up.

My hope is that they’ve gone too far at last, Democrats and Republicans both. My hope is that in the next series of elections, we sweep these proud fools into the private sector, where they can preach and scream at their mirrors trying to convince the shells that look back at them of their wisdom and worth.

Make no mistake: I wish no harm upon any of them. If you do, I will tell you you are wrong to do so. I pray for the safety of every citizen, every day, and I mean that – we need violence even less than we need surrender, because violence will not and cannot be controlled.

But we would be far better off if those who represented us on the national and international stages believed in us and our country as well. A politician or athlete who becomes famous for saying we’re beyond redemption should be met with silence and censure, and ignored until they themselves are redeemed.

America is the greatest country in the world, and even after she’s gone, is likely to maintain that position for centuries.

God bless America.

How To Fix Our Culture in Forty Years

American culture is broken, and badly. It’s broken to the point where there’s a civil war going on – thankfully, still at the “civil” part, mostly – and that civil war is going to break the national identity and bring chaos into America, first, and spread to the rest of the world, to humanity’s detriment.

The war is not between blue and red, between Democrats and Republicans. Those poor souls arguing back and forth are victims of the war, not combatants.

The war is between reason and irrationality.

The Democrats and Republicans are both largely on the side of irrationality. “Why do they fight, then?,” you ask. It’s because that’s what irrationality dictates, of course. There is no reason, there’s only the pursuit of power; there is no consistency, there’s only perspective guided by the moment.

It’s how the Democrats can howl at a Donald Trump for being a sexist pig, ignoring that they championed Bill Clinton. Why not sacrifice a few of our uglier sisters, after all, if it helps elect Bill Clinton instead of someone from the other team?

It’s how the Republicans can screech at a faithless Joe Biden, ignoring that they held up Donald Trump as the “champion of Christendom” while he proudly claimed that he’d never repented, never asked for forgiveness, because he’d… you know, never done anything to repent of. It’s not an understatement to suggest that Trump should have been the exact opposite of what Republicans should have been supporting.

To be fair, pragmatism sets in: you endure the warts of “your guy,” whether those warts are physical flaws (which are easy to look past but less easy in the television age than it should be), or flaws in presentation (like being a poor speaker, like Nixon or Bush or Biden or, for that matter, Trump), or more serious issues… like philosophy (Obama’s, or Harris’, willful ignorance of the Constitution) and actual moral failings (aaaaand we cycle back to Trump).

You endure those warts because you’d rather your ideas have proponents in power, as opposed to the “other side’s” ideas. If the other side is wrong, and all you have to do is suffer a blow to your conscience to do “right,” well, there you are: you’re an evangelical supporting Trump, for example, or a true and genuine feminist deciding that twelve women being abused by Clinton was an acceptable cost.

For example.

The Actual Combatants

The real war, as stated, isn’t between those poor sad sacks using incredibly flawed beings as the avatars for their political parties.

The war is between postmodernism and pretty much any other philosophy.

Postmodernism is a relatively recent branch of philosophy in human history; it started in the late 1800s but really took off in the 1960s… in America. In Europe it underpinned a lot of subversive political approaches, like Marxism.

Some of the questions of postmodernism are actually pretty understandable, even from a rational perspective: Is there a way to understand truly objectively? Is there an axiom or set of axioms that can be derived purely from reason? Can we actually know something that doesn’t rely on prior knowledge?

It’s a little like a problem dictionaries have: can you define a word without using the word itself in the definition? That kind of self-reference is a “tautology,” like saying “a pizza is pizza-shaped,” and if your dictionary uses those, it’s not a good dictionary.

What postmodernism does, then, is ask – seriously – what knowledge we actually know, if we take our ability to observe out of the picture. What knowledge is axiomatic? Is there anything?

Let’s be clear, too: these questions are absolutely worth asking. I have no issue with exploring to the edge of the envelope.

The problem is that these questions are barbed. Asking questions like this is fine as long as you can ask without having to be fully committed: you have to be able to accept negative responses.

And that’s really the problem: postmodernism asked questions about the boundaries of human knowledge, and since humans are the ones asking about removing humans from the questions… the questions end up being unable to be answered by humans.

This is important: given that humans are asking the questions, there is no human knowledge that exists without humans.

Thus, postmodernism manages to destroy the concept of the “knowable,” in an attempt to find the boundaries of knowledge. Just like the opposite of an atom’s existence is its nonexistence, postmodernism destroys the idea of anything being concrete.

Postmodernism’s god is irrationality. It has no other choice. To assert reason is to assert the knowable, and the knowable is exactly what postmodernism destroys in its own definition.

When reason flees, mayhem rules. Dogs lie down with cats. Frogs fall from the sky. I watch “The Bachelor.” Republicans support Donald Trump, a lifelong Democrat, and Democrats support Kamala Harris for the position one heartbeat from the Presidency, when she couldn’t even get her campaign to survive to the first Democratic caucuses… and Biden accuses the Ukraine of corruption.

Remember, Donald Trump got impeached for talking to the Ukraine about corruption. It’s not quite the same circumstance – Trump implied that there was a quid pro quo that benefited his campaign, and I’m not sure Biden’s cognitive facilities would even allow him to think about that even if he wanted to – but it’s still rather ironic.

The Solution

I’m (hopefully) rather clearly on the side of reason. I don’t care what actual philosophy dominates the lives of others, really, with one exception: I reject postmodernism.

I have no problem with what you, or with what anyone else, believes – as long as it’s something, which is something postmodernism wouldn’t allow.

As soon as you say two and five is seven, you’ve made an assertion incompatible with postmodernism.

My thought is that we could fix American culture relatively easily, but it’d take time, because of the hold that postmodernism already has.

But it can be done.

My Plan

My plan would be to vet every teacher at every educational level. College, high school, primary, kindergarten, every person given the authority to teach our young people.

The vetting would be a litmus test. You’d first ask about postmodern philosophy and its implications: “how does one know that two and four are six?” and “how do you define ‘green?'”, progressing through the basics until a simple question of whether the teacher agrees with postmodernism or not.

If the questions indicate that the real answer to that final question should be “yes” – after all, they might believe postmodernism lock, stock, and barrel without calling it postmodernism – then we gently remove them from their role and put them somewhere where they can cause no harm.

Perhaps we put all of them together on a farm, where they can learn a useful skill other than wrecking our youth. They can even feed themselves on that farm, which would have the secondary benefit of instructing them rather definitively on the errors of asserting that knowledge doesn’t exist: they’d either learn that it does (and thrive) or die from starvation because all their wishes and hopes and dreams won’t help them grow anything.

Every teacher would be vetted like this, and they should be! After all, their job and function is to impart knowledge to future generations, and if they believe that knowledge does not exist, how can they possibly fulfill their role?

It would take a while to really have an effect; after all, we have had sixty years of postmodernism in America, and the last fifteen years have shown us a cruel philosophy taking root at every societal level. We’d have to endure the momentum we’ve already ceded, and fight it daily.

But if we want to survive as a country, and as a species, we’d better get to it.

And fast.

On Impeaching Trump

I’ve been thinking about the impeachment of Donald Trump a lot. I’ve changed my mind about how I feel about progressing a number of times, and I think I’ve come to a conclusion I’m satisfied with.

I don’t think he should be impeached. It’s not a simple decision, nor is it one I find totally satisfying, but I think in that direction lies wisdom – and an alternative that works just as well…

Maybe. If it doesn’t work as well, then impeachment wouldn’t be workable in any event.

Note: I’ve amended this article to factor in information that was new to me. It affects some of the reasoning I used, and invalidates some it. I am not absolutely sure it changes my conclusion, although it does serve to diminish some of the “moral authority” used by the GOP in defense of Trump. See the bottom of the article for the correction.

On January 6, a group of goons attacked the Capitol of the United States. They invaded Congress; six people (I think!) ended up dead. It was as unfocused an attack as much of the violence over the past year has been, without clear goals and with no real hope of success outside of general mayhem (and causing a response to it).

It was violence for the sake of violence. It was inspired and enabled by two primary sources.

One encouraging source for the violence was the lackadaisical response to the riots over the past year, which had many politicians excusing it as “the only valid response to offense” (hint: it wasn’t) or supporting those who were arrested for participating. This was at nearly all levels of government, including members of the current House of Representatives and, for that matter, Vice President Harris, who offered to help arrange succor for those who rioted. Ironically, some of those same Representatives were, um, rather upset at the riots at the Capitol, when they themselves might have been in danger.

The other encouraging source was President Trump himself. By insisting the election that he lost was stolen, and by dropping hints that people weren’t going to take it, he created an environment ripe for his supporters to make a decision to act on his behalf.

It’s conceptually no different than the riots over the past year, of course, but he was the President. He had a responsibility to serve even those who defeated him, and represent their aims. His verbiage was not a direct incitement – at no point that I’m aware of did he actually direct rioters to act – but he leveraged a situation and social environment where such action was implicitly approved, in perception.

On January 7 or thereabouts (I didn’t keep a diary or timeline), I was furious at Trump. I remain furious at him. My mostly-negative feelings about him were fanned into flames of active dislike of his Presidency, and I felt that Representative Pelosi should have written articles of impeachment that morning and walked them over that morning and the Senate should have removed him that afternoon. Mike Pence would become President for two weeks, mostly babysitting a peaceful transition, Trump would be walled away in his crib, yowling all the while, and his role as Commander in Chief would be muted; his followers would have been enraged, but they were likely to be enraged already because he had lost the election.

Why wait, after all? If Trump actually incited insurrection – regardless of how silly it looks strategically – then he’s acting against his own office and role. There’s no question about duty here; his legal challenges to the election were legitimate (albeit silly, and largely thrown out on merit) but once those legal challenges were presented and dismissed, the election was over and it’s time to accept defeat graciously, for the sake of the Union he says he loves. Continuing to grind the same bitter axe diminishes America, and that makes him unfit for office, especially when people take him seriously.

So waiting… that means that either the case against him is actually weaker than it appears… or the Democrats were afraid when they needed courage most.

If the impeachment case is weaker than it appears, then impeachment would be difficult; they’d already tried to impeach Trump once with really weak decision-making (if you’re going to impeach, you do it with the expectation to win, or you don’t proceed; there was no chance, with a GOP-majority Senate, that an impeachment was going to succeed based on a politically-driven interpretation of a transcript) and in this case Trump’s own use of language would defend him.

If the Democrats were afraid, then… golly, we need to have a general recall, not just an impeachment. Remove Trump, sure… but remove the members of Congress, too. They’re already corrupt, given their support for breaking the law over the last year; they already capitulated to the Presidency in various ways. Chuck Schumer actually said that President Biden should use his Emergency Powers to act to work around Congress – and note that Senator Schumer is a member of Congress. That’s an abrogation of duty. Schumer can find common cause with the President all he likes, but abrogation of his duty is … wrong. He shouldn’t be advocating for ignoring the checks and balances our Constitution set in place.

The Democrats in Congress, if they felt they had a case for impeachment, should have had the stones to act. And act quickly. They should have been brave, and chosen fearlessness, and trusted the country to do right, in the end.

If they had an actual strong case for impeachment and held back, then they were wrong. They were false. They betrayed the country just as much as Trump did. That’s just as treasonous, in a different way, as Trump.

The alternative to them being sniveling cowards who don’t deserve their positions is that the case for impeachment was too muddy to be effective. This is more likely honestly. They can still be sniveling cowards, of course, but I still feel the case for impeachment requires vague interpretation of paralipsis, which is not a trivial undertaking to be approached lightly. (See the Kavanaugh hearings, as well as the first Trump impeachment.)

So a few weeks later, with impeachment being stalled, Biden became President in a mostly-peaceful transfer of power. There were sparks, of course; Antifa burned the Democratic Party headquarters in Portland, if memory serves, because they’re like a dog that has no master; when Trump was President, the Democrats were all “aw shucks, boys’ll be boys” and once Biden became President the Democrats became the target, being substantially the same as the Republicans: the party holds power, not the people.

I despise Antifa because they’re stupid (there are few actual fascists around, including Trump, and I find goal-less violence to be absurd and gross and evil) but at least they’re consistent.

Yet the impeachment of Trump continues.


He’s already out of office. His legal standing in the government is not going to change if he is successfully impeached; he’s not a member of the government now.

There are two possible goals. One is shaming him, and the other is preventing him from office in the future.

Shaming him… honestly, I’m not sure this makes any sense. This is Donald Trump we’re talking about here; his sense of shame is not especially well-developed, or else he’d struggle to be, well, Donald Trump. I admire an internal locus of control, having one myself, but Trump’s locus of control is so internalized that he approaches the appearance of sociopathy. The “shame” for Trump was in losing the election; nothing afterward is going to make much of a difference, it’s just piling on and he would use it to further his grievance.

Plus an intent to shame someone feels faintly gross to me, because it feels so personal. I feel like it’s motivated by dislike; I don’t care if someone doesn’t like Trump (I don’t like Trump myself) but attacking someone out of dislike … lacks honor and integrity. It’s the act of a bully… a description that is often used to describe Trump, as well. It’s a return to McCarthyism. We don’t need that. We shouldn’t want that.

Preventing him from seeking office in the future, though… that holds water for me. Trump represents a brand of crazy I don’t want to risk, and I can see the Democrats and the media encouraging another Trump in the future; I don’t think they’ve learned much from 2016 or 2020. (They selected Harris as VP, after all.) I would hope that the GOP would be smarter than to fall for the same trick twice but there’s no guarantee. 

The Democratic trick from 2016, after all: “Let’s give that moron a platform, and give him the illusion of momentum, which turns into real momentum, and he’ll eliminate the good GOP candidates and our terrible candidate will surely win! … wait, our bad candidate lost to their worst candidate?”

Thanks for that, Democrats. Yes, I blame the Republicans. And I blame you, too.

Does preventing Trump from seeking office again really help, though? It’s hard to tell. Trump’s old, remember. In three years, will he want to run again? Will the GOP be so stupid as to vote for him again, when he’s proven that a milquetoast like Biden could beat him in the general election? (This is why he keeps banging the drum of an illegitimate election, to avoid this conclusion; but in courts, when given the chance to make their point about stolen elections, the judges laughed them out of court on merits, regardless of the politics of the judges. This isn’t a good sign for a “stolen election.”)

So my thought is that an impeachment serves little purpose except to muddy the waters for Biden’s early Presidential term. I don’t care for Biden – he’s a milquetoast and I think he’s a puppet for people I do not trust – but I still want his term to be successful, because I’m an American. An impeachment focuses on the target of the impeachment, not the current sitting President; the impeachment is effectively that of a private citizen at this point. (Author’s note: see the end of the article. This last sentence is less relevant than I had thought it was, when the article was written.)

So: cancel the impeachment.

If Trump actually committed crimes for which an impeachment would be justified were he still in office, then classify those crimes as federal crimes and prosecute them as such.

If that wouldn’t meet a legal barrier for the burden of proof, then the impeachment would fail among similar lines; that’s not a trial, that’s a witch hunt. If the accusations would be undeniable, legally, then Trump is convicted, and he’s barred from future office; everyone wins.

No impeachment necessary.

Of course, after I wrote this, news broke that Trump’s legal defense team resigned, because he insisted on a legal strategy that wouldn’t hold water and apparently continues to do so.

Trump is not much of a stable genius for someone who’s such a stable genius. He acts mostly like a childish bully.

At this rate, who can say? Maybe an impeachment would actually work, against all odds and expectations, because Trump’s such a dope.

More changes!

After I’d had this published for most of a day, a discussion with a friend in which I used some of the same logic I presented here turned out to be wrong.

I’m leaving the original content in place, although I’ve marked it, because I’m an honest person and I said what I said, even if it was in error.

Basically, my assertion was that the 45 GOP senators who’d said they’d not vote to impeach Trump had some constitutional grounds, as Trump is a private citizen now. It turns out that this is not true – the Senate has impeached an official who is no longer in office: Secretary of War Belknap, in 1876. The impeachment was not successful, but that’s not relevant. The key is that impeachment after the office has been vacated has been attempted, so precedent exists.

I still think a federal trial is a wiser approach, but I can’t pretend that’s supported by Constitutional history.

Bye, Trump!

(This is a repost from Facebook – why did I post it there instead of here? I do not know. But it belongs here, so here it is. It’s also a faintly ironic read, considering that after I posted it, Trump has continued to protest his electoral loss.)

Bye, Trump!

It is with an almost palpable joy that I read that President Trump started the transition to Joe Biden.

I think in many ways my fear was that he’d declare himself the winner by fiat, even now, despite not really thinking he’d go that far.

I guess that’s why I’m glad to see him gone, even though I cannot really admire his replacement or Joe Biden: I don’t trust Donald Trump. He’s not been as tragic a President as many have painted him – there’ve been good things for many people, and that’s how it usually goes for every President – but with Trump there’s always been a lurking fear that the lizard-person hiding within the bloated shell would emerge and show us the values he’s always told us he had.

A transition means the Trump term in office is finally at a close. Finally.

Now the hope is that his age and experience in office overwhelm his pride somehow – and he goes away, politically, to fade into memory. My greatest fear is that Trump will return in 2024, or inspire politicians of any persuasion by his methods.

That last isn’t really a fear; it’s an existential dread. And worse than that: it’s not just politicians. You see evidence of Trump’s mindset in the rank and file of every party; read Facebook and you’ll see it on any post dealing with politics. What’s terrible and tragic is that the evidence of Trump’s mindset isn’t an indicator of political party; you see it just as much in “blue” as you do in “red.”

Hint, people: we’re not “blue” or “red.” We’re human. As soon as you decide you cannot associate with someone else because of their politics or skin color or what invisible being they believe in – or don’t – you’re saying “blue” or “red” is more important. It’s not. Maybe you just decided you can’t associate with me. C’est la vie. Good luck out there!

I imagine Biden will surprise me much as Trump has; I can imagine so many realistic scenarios for his term that most results would fall under the “I thought that might happen” heading, starting with “The House begins efforts to remove him from office in February 2021” to “He turns out to be the first successful isolationist President of the century.” (Let it be the last, please!)

I mostly hope that Biden is a weak President. Let Congress resume its actual power and responsibility, not as opposition to the Executive branch but as the representatives of the people; let Congress govern instead of restrain.

That’s been Congress’ great failure under Trump, actually, and where Trump was strongest. Trump drew clear lines. They were not good lines, but clear ones.

He even asked Congress straight up to fix those lines: when he said he’d refuse to extend DACA, he said rather clearly that he wanted Congress to make DACA into law. He said he’d sign it as soon as it hit his desk… and Congress punted, being consumed with its own version of “Orange Man Bad” and trying to get rid of someone whose primary function in office seemed to be to beg for Congress to limit that office and the damage it could do.

Way to go, Congress.

I will not miss Trump, I hope. I really hope we don’t look at a President Harris in early 2022 and think “hey, Trump’s version of zero tolerance was better.” (Trump’s “zero tolerance” crap … I … no.) I really hope we don’t see Trump mess with political weathervanes in the future; my desperate hope is that he retreats to his golf courses and limits his influence to mulligans on every rough. Let him start his own cable news network, if he likes, and let all four thousand viewers stew in his particular miasma if they like.

I am willing to let him have his own private island, just like I am willing to accept a Biden/Harris ticket to make him go away.

But please, let it end there: let Trump and the division he inspired and could not heal pass away. Let us unite behind an American President and stop yowling at each other over who we did, or didn’t, vote for. Let us see each other as members of the human tribe, despite our failures and flaws, and together we can actually grow.

Let us grow.

Dividers in Chief

I saw a reference to Donald Trump as the “Divider in Chief” recently, and the comment made me laugh.

The context was that of the pandemic and response to it, and how to frame the response: the model most people take is that of motorcycle helmets, and the model the poster preferred was that of sewage systems; when you refuse to wear a helmet, you are the one who pays, but if you dumped your sewage in the street, everyone suffers the consequences for it. (There’s irony here, but it’s secondary.)

The comment that made me laugh was the “Divider in Chief,” though, because otherwise the post was pretty good. And its point was probably apt; Trump could have phrased the response to COVID-19 such that people responded more appropriately, and if people had responded more appropriately early on, not only could more lives potentially have been saved, but more lives might be affected less even now.

I say this, typing from my home office, wondering how a good friend is doing in surgery, surgery that might have been delayed due to strained medical resources, while also hoping a close relative isn’t being ignored by his own doctors who don’t feel like they can take the time to actually properly diagnose him. I am in this world. I have skin in the game.

But “Divider in Chief…”

We are flotsam, droplets in a sea of ignorance. We are not pearls among coal; we are not diamonds in a plain of glass.  We are the coal, we are the glass. From dust we are formed, to dust we shall return. Every one of us.

It’s one thing to believe in a messiah that will rescue us from our state, staunch the bleeding and cure the disease… but it’s foolishness to rely on the messiah to change the world first.

Yochanan ben Zakkai, a rabbi from the time of the destruction of Judah, said “If you have a sapling in your hand and people tell you that the Messiah has come, plant the sapling and then go and greet him.” This does not diminish the role of the Messiah; it simply recognizes that a Messiah whose duty and power it is to actually change everything can do so after you plant the sapling… and if you know anything about the history of messiahs, well, it’s a safe bet that the sapling will outlive the so-called messiah anyway.

(This was after the revolution of Bar Kochba, a man that another great rabbi, Akiva, proclaimed as the messiah… and this was but one of many proclaimed as messiah who’ve somehow left the world in its current state.)

Our leaders… they are not gods. They are not special. They are not messiahs in any mystical sense. They are coal, glass, dust just like we are. If they have power, it is because we assigned it, not because they are special or wise or … anything. Any access they have to greater things, we gave them

And if we gave them, we can take them away. The implication that we cannot suggests that we are lesser beings, that there are lesser beings of less worth than others.

I reject that suggestion.

Otherwise, I would expect election by the general populace to conform some kind of power to heal upon the elected; a President becomes a sort of god, who can wave a wand and heal the world, and who bears the guilt of not doing so.

To be fair, an elected official does bear some additional responsibility; we do not choose candidates who do not seek power, and to seek power is to seek responsibility, too.

After all, “Divider in Chief” is funny in part because in some ways it’s apt. Trump certainly bears some responsibility in this, although his detractors also bear responsibility; in my opinion, his opponents should have been willing to accept the possibility that he was greater than they claimed, and he should have been a strong enough person to reach out despite their opprobrium. Neither situation occurred.

(Follow the logic: there was nothing Trump could have done to make some of his detractors willing to acknowledge anything good he did – and yes, I asked; at best, it was “even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while,” and even that kind of grudging response was rare, and became more rare over time. So what would Trump, who is a simple transactional thinker, get by reaching out to such people? Nothing – and so, in the nature of such transactional psychology, he stopped trying, which only amplified the criticism, which only meant he had even less investment in trying to satisfy the unsatisfiable. Both groups bear guilt here, and I’m quite sure that both groups would point to the other and say “they started it!,” thereby completely missing the point. Guilt isn’t only about having started it – guilt can be found just as much in voluntarily continuing it when you have a choice.)

I would love to see Americans stop worshiping their leaders. We made them; we can remove them; we shouldn’t see them as guides, but as simply people who’ve been called upon to be reliable. They will not succeed, every act they make is a chance for failure and glory; when you take 100 shots, you have a lot of chances to miss.

Their only chance for true success is to do less, but the current climate is to demand they do more.

So we as a people need to recognize our own complicity in creating failure, and stop saying stupid things like “Divider in Chief” – Trump’s a divider, yes, and he’s certainly not done anything to tell Americans that he’s not who he always said he was. 

But “in chief?” No.

That’s us.

Books that Shaped You

What books helped shape your political and moral opinions?

A lot has gone into my reading list. Here’s a list of the things I think were most important, with a focus on fiction:

  • Starship Troopers. Often derided as fascist, this book… isn’t fascist. It’s not a complicated book, but it does contain a lot of essays about political theory and the application of force: a lot of its message is “You don’t own it if you’re not willing to defend it.”
  • The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand was not a … good writer, but the Fountainhead’s focus on personal creativity and adherence to individual vision was, and is, inspiring. There’s a lot to find distasteful here – her view of personal relationships was… um… not profitable to anyone who didn’t enjoy the concept of Fifty Shades of Grey, but she avoids bonking her readers over the head quite so much with morality plays in The Fountainhead, unlike some of her other books.
  • Dune. Dune is a fantastic book for communicating ideas about perspective and control. When the Imperium itself is 10000 years old, the value of an individual life… it ends up looking like what it is: a drop of water in a vast river. It’s still valuable, but it can’t scream that it’s the point of the river, nor is it in control.
  • Foundation. In addition to being a rollicking set of adventures, the perspective shifts about what’s important and what things drive economies and political engines are wonderful. And then Asimov breaks the model with an outsized predator just to show the system in action.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird. Anyone who can read this without being affected is a robot. Accepted groupthink along tribal lines died for me for once and for all when reading this book… even accepted groupthink that agrees with the premise, that racism is wrong and evil. It is wrong and evil… but it’s not a set of definitions that can be applied without reason. I may agree with groupthink, but it’s because I agree, not because it’s groupthink.
  • Lucifer’s Hammer. An apocalyptic book about a comet’s calves hitting the earth, it’s a lot like Starship Troopers in that it focuses heavily on the issues one would care about given a lack of comfortable privation.
  • A Wizard of EarthSea. Illustrated the idea that a hero didn’t have to act like, or look like, a traditional hero. Wizards who didn’t focus on blasting spells at enemies? Wizards who were not white? Even gender issues were addressed. Fantastic book, fantastic series, fantastic author.
  • The Wheel of Time. As a prospective author of fiction, this series gives me hope: if people are willing to pay for crap like this, then maybe I can some day retire by pumping out similar dreck. An author whose best material falls under the quality level of Robert Jordan’s offerings really should never be willing to write such that others can buy it. Books not linked because I’m a kind person and I don’t want someone to accidentally read this and blame me.

This is hardly a list of “good material” – I mean, I’m leaving off the Jubal van Zandt series, Lord of the Rings, Dragonlance, The Mote in God’s Eye, Night, Neuromancer… really more books than I can even think of at the moment. But these are the books that I can think of right now that shaped my political and personal philosophies the most.

What about you?

Education in 2021

Education is going to have to change in the world of COVID-19. Here’s what I think it should look like when things have stabilized.

It’s not really COVID-19 that’s the motivator; it’s just the proof that we should have changed education a long time ago. And I’m not an educator, unless you count my experience homeschooling – but that experience isn’t really useful for what I see education becoming.

What it should look like

The goal is to be as in-person as possible, without adding unnecessary risk to being in a classroom.

I think what should happen is that every classroom become a hybrid in-person/distance learning environment.

By this, I mean that students should be able to attend the same class both remotely and in-person.

The infrastructure for this wouldn’t be too difficult: you’d need a reliable internet connection, a monitor dedicated to broadcasting remote students’ video and audio to the entire classroom, and two cameras: one pointed at the teacher’s station (presumably around a whiteboard) and the other pointed at the in-person students. You’d also possibly need a monitor dedicated to the teacher, so the teacher would be able to filter or mute as needed.

A student would have the option of attending in-person (obviously), or – if they’re feeling ill – remotely. If they’re feeling poorly enough, absence is also an option.

The actual classes conducted would be recorded (for future reference, primarily by students unable to attend at all).

The conference software would have to be able to broadcast as many feeds as were available; the teacher would also have to be able to control the conference (imagine a dog barking in the background of a student’s home; the teacher would need to be able to mute that student temporarily.) The students would have to have a way to ask for attention in such a way that it was difficult to miss without being disruptive.

We have the technology for all of this today. We may need better infrastructure, but I don’t think that would be too difficult.