Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

On Nations, Races and Ethnicities

October 16, 2019

The simplistic view of race and such that we are sold is this:

  • There are a few races, and they are different solely based on their skin color. These races include White European, Yellow Asians, Black Africans, Red Indians, and possibly some other minor groups no one cares about.
  • These races broke up into different groups with a separate culture and language called ethnicities. IE, the Spanish and the Germans are just two European ethnicities.

This leads to absurd conclusions like “White Nationalism” is a thing, or even that Hitler said that he wanted Whites to rule the world.

The truth is incredibly complex, and very much different than what you have been told.

First, a race is not just people separated by skin color. It is people separated by lineage. While people who believe in the Bible would like to claim that all people can trace their lineage back to Noah through Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and so we are really one race with three sub-races (and so many sub-sub races based on the grandchildren of Noah), not everyone in the world accepts the Bible as historic fact. And so they don’t claim to be descended from Noah, and don’t claim to share a common ancestry.

Or, put another way, the common ancestors are so far different that they might as well not exist. That is to say, you will find two groups of people who claim that they have no common ancestor. They will treat the other race as if they were from a different planet altogether.

Racism is using this feature of groups to discriminate between people. For instance, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints forbade descendants of Ham from holding the priesthood, that is an actual example of real racism — treating people differently based on their ancestry. (That policy has been removed by revelation since the 70s, and today all male members may receive the priesthood, regardless of their ancestry.)

What is not racism is treating people different based on their skin color. Indeed, for the vast majority of human history, nobody even seemed to care about skin color at all. They might had said they preferred one color over another, but this is no different than preferring brown or black or blonde or red hair, or blue or green or brown eyes.

We don’t have a good word to describe people who judge people based on their skin color, so we share the word “racist” for them as well. However, just because someone is discriminating on race doesn’t mean they are also discriminating on skin color. Take the example of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We did ordain people who had black skin, because we did not believe they were descended from Ham. And we refused to ordain people with white skin, because they had ancestors who were descended from Ham. So the church was racist in the sense of ancestry, not skin color.

While many groups do not claim a common ancestry, some do. Indeed, over time, they have grown apart in their language and culture, for a variety of reasons. One of the many patterns you’ll see is that when two groups of people come into contact with each other, they will either maintain their separate identities but exchange language and culture, or they will integrate into an entirely new group, often remembering the two groups that they came from.

A good example of separate ethnicities is in Europe. The Iberian peninsula was originally inhabited by a group of people now lost to history. Over the millennia, we had Phoenicians through the nation of Carthage settling the Iberian peninsula, followed by the Romans, and then as a great crossing ground during the 5th Century AD when groups of people shifted all around the region and Rome was sacked multiple times. With the introduction of Islam, the Iberian peninsula was conquered by the muslims, only to be reconquered. What resulted is a group of people living there of many different races and integrating many different languages and cultures. Although some of the people can trace their ancestry back to Germanic Tribes, their culture and language is so far removed from them that they are now considered a separate people. That is, the same race of people can form multiple ethnicities.

Discriminating against people due to their ethnicity isn’t unheard of, but we don’t usually use the word “racism” to describe it. It’s really weird to hear people say that Americans were “racist” against Irish and Italians.

This is a message I hope people take to heart.

  • Just because you hear the word “racism” doesn’t mean it is describing discrimination based on skin color. It could also be discrimination based on race or ethnicity.
  • Trying to construct a race of people based on their skin color is a fool’s errand. People have never associated with each other that way, and they likely never will. They much rather identify with their ethnicity and race, not their skin color.

If you’re a “White Nationalist” (an absurd idea if there ever was one), I beg you to reconsider. You’re not *actually* for creating a nation of people who *look* like each other. What you’re after is creating a nation of people who *behave* like each other. What you really want to do is create a nation based on a single ethnicity, not skin color, and certainly not race.

What is interesting is that the word “nation” itself comes from the word for “birth” and you’ll see its root in words like “prenatal” and “neonatal”. Nations originally were peoples who were united by family bonds. Thus, the United States, and each of the states, are not nations, and never will be. They are supra-national entities. If we are to be quite literal, if you are pro-America, you are not necessarily nationalist. You are simple pro-American, because America is not a nation but an idea, a set of rules that we govern ourselves by and unify behind.

Thus, it really isn’t right to call people like President Trump “nationalist” at all. They should simply be called American. It’s really not right to refer to the federation of states called the United States as a nation, nor is it correct to refer to any of the 50 states as a nation. We can correctly refer to particular groups within the states, and sometimes across the states, as nations, such as the Amish and Mennonites. But unlike pretty much every other planet on earth, the United States is not bound together by birth, and so we are technically not a nation.

City of Tacoma Candidate’s Forum at the Virginia Taylor Club

September 24, 2019

Last night I went to the Virginia Taylor club to hear the City of Tacoma candidates. They each had about 2 minutes to introduce themselves, and 2 minutes to answer questions, so it really wasn’t a lot of time to get to know them and their positions.

There were several themes that came up. I’m going to share what I heard and what I think. Feel free to add your own comments below.

Homelessness. Living in NE Tacoma, homelessness really isn’t a huge concern. Occasionally we get people setting up camp in our area, so we call the police and they’re gone. The hardest part is just checking from time to time to see if homeless people show up. In other parts Tacoma, it’s a different story. There are lots of homeless, they are causing a problem, and so it came up a lot.

Homelessness is a problem in two ways: One, you have the obvious problem of homeless people. Homeless people end up addicted to drugs. They are a safety hazard, both in terms of violence and crime as well as the garbage and waste they create. They make our city look dirty, they make people feel uncomfortable to walk the streets, especially at night, and cause all sorts of other problem.

Ideally, we’d just get these people homes and that would be that. But the thing is the vast majority of these people used to have their own homes or apartments, but now they don’t. Also, we know from experience that just giving people stuff doesn’t make their lives better.

One of the problems is that the price of housing is going up in Tacoma, but I’ll discuss that in a separate area.

The problem of drugs cannot be overstated. There is a huge drug crisis in the homeless community. If you don’t start out on drugs, you will end up on drugs rather quickly if you are homeless in our area. We can blame the climate or any other number of factors, but it’s a fact that there is a huge drug problem in the homeless community.

The drug problem is so huge that we often ignore the other big problems which I mentioned earlier: Sanitation, rape, violence, poverty, malnourishment, disease, etc…

Mental health is also a concern, but I am of the mind that it only affects a few people. That said, once you are homeless and on drugs, you are going to have mental health issues! I’m not convinced that psychiatrists and proscription medicine will fix this, but removing the underlying causes might.

The second way homelessness is a problem is it makes residents really angry. They get angry at the council, at the police, at the courts, at the politicians, at the homeless, and this can be a real problem.

My favored approach is what I call the “justice-mercy” approach.

  • Justice: Make homelessness illegal. Make all the activities we don’t like illegal, like defecating in the streets, leaving garbage out, carrying disease, etc… The police strictly enforce the law, picking up everyone who tries to sleep on the streets at night and dumping them off in the city jail. The courts fine and punish people according to their crimes, and if they are addicted to drugs, sentence them to rehabilitation and such. That is, we do everything in our power to write fair laws that keep the community safe, and we enforce them.
  • Mercy: At the same time, we engage the faith-based and charity communities to tend to the needs of these individuals. And they are individuals, not a group! We implement whatever policies we can to remove whatever red tape we can that prevents people from helping in positive ways, and we perhaps even supplement these efforts. IE, we provide police protection to food shelters for free, or work with these communities to help them identify people and their issue.

One of the candidates brought up the problem with writing laws saying “you must be THIS compliant to serve food to the homeless”. The issue is that the homeless people aren’t getting healthy food anyways, so in our efforts to remove the possibility of food-borne illness (the same standards we keep our businesses to) we remove the possibility of sharing food at all. There are two ways to go about fixing this: Providing the training and/or facilities needed to feed the homeless, and letting the community volunteer, or remove the red tape and put up yellow “caution” tape instead. IE, “We really wish you would have proper hand-washing facilities, but if you don’t at least provide hand sanitizer, and if you don’t even provide that, shame on you please do better next time.”

Opioid Crisis. The City of Tacoma has joined lots of other governments in suing pharmaceuticals for selling drugs they knew were harmful or addictive without proper guidance to doctors. This is entirely just and fair, and I think the drug companies should be held to account, at the very least, to prevent this sort of behavior in the future.

That said, we have way too many people addicted to opioids. How do we fix it?

Some want to build “Safe Injection Sites.” Yeah, this is not going to happen. This is a terrible idea in so many ways.

Some want to support methadone clinics. I don’t know much about methadone but what I do know is it is dubious. If doctors think they have a cure for opioid addiction, I’m game to let them try it out, but I want to make sure that they are actually doing science and not just putting bandages on wounds.

My favored approach would look like this:

  • Decriminalize opium. That is, if you are abusing opioids it is not a felony. However, people who go outside of the regulations concerning prescription, distribution, and consumption should be punished.
  • “Punish” users with mandatory treatment programs. Whatever that looks like, you have to get treated for opioid addiction if you are caught using them.
  • Punish proscribers, distributers who go outside of the boundaries with big fines, maybe a revocation of their license.
  • Subsidize opioid treatment programs. It saves us a ton of money to have people get treated than to clean up after the mess they leave, which too often involves criminal acts, dead bodies, broken families, and more.
  • Warn people about the dangers of opioids and the warning signs. Start teaching them from an early age about things like this. Include how to contact the helpline or whatnot.
  • Train police and other services in how to identify and handle these sorts of cases, so that people know they can turn to government officials when these things happen to them or their loved ones.

Criminal Justice. The issue seems to be here not that the Tacoma police and courts aren’t doing enough, but that we aren’t being told what is going on. There was a recent murder in a public park, and the city provided insight into what happened and what they did about it shortly afterwards, which seems to help people understand what is going on behind the scenes. I think when you have the Black Lives Matter-style reaction to things happening in our community the best thing to do is just tell people what’s going on and not to jump to conclusions. Ideally, this would look something like this:

  • For major crimes or incidents  (due to severity or exposure), immediately issue a press release explaining everything the city knows (which typically isn’t much.) Then provide an in-depth list of things the city does in these cases, and where in that process we are at. Provide an estimated timeline with the caveat that no one can predict how long things will take or what the outcome will be.
  • At every step of the process, or regularly, provide updates on the crime or incident. Each time an update is provided, give clear and complete context around the situation. and describe what has happened as well as what is happening next and an estimated timeline.

This is the sort of thing that would do well on a wordpress website.

Transportation. The bus system in Tacoma sucks. Rail isn’t going to make things better except to help people get to work in Seattle. People talk about alternative modes of transport but we barely keep our roads functional as it is.

The City of Tacoma is old. It has that old-style grid layout. I don’t know what people intend to do about that.

Personally, maybe we should stop pretending we are a city and just accept the fact that we are a bedroom community. Either that or we try to find a few good businesses to smooth things out down here. I don’t see any startup thinking that Tacoma is ideal for their employees, who are young and dangerous and going to be wealthy one day.

Urban blight is a problem in the US, but not so much a problem in Tacoma. I think that’s because we really don’t have an urban core. We are, for better or worse, a suburban community. Maybe we should just accept that fact and build a ton of Park & Rides so people can catch the train to Seattle.

The thing about Tacoma is we basically have a blank slate. What *should* a modern American city look like? If I were to gamble, I’d say that the office buildings are not the future. People will all work from home. The future of Tacoma, therefore, SHOULD be a community where people live, not necessarily where they work. We *should* be suburban sprawl with some dense commercial areas that people visit when they want to look at clothes or do their weekly grocery shopping.

Jobs. Everyone talks about bringing jobs to Tacoma, but one candidate pointed out, “You don’t bring businesses in by saying you’re cheaper.”

Personally, I don’t want to see Tacoma turn into Seattle.  I don’t want more people moving into the city, I don’t want more jobs. If we get the jobs we supposedly want, you’re going to get people who make a lot more money and that’s going to make housing even less affordable for people who don’t have those jobs. See, for instance, San Francisco. Plenty of jobs, but do you really want to look like that?

We might want to look at *trading* jobs, lower-paying jobs for higher-paying ones. You have to be careful here. Rich people want someone to make their lunch for them, and so unless they’re willing to pay $15 for a sandwich, they’re going to have to keep the cost of living low in Tacoma, so that people can make a living selling sandwiches.

I think the trend nowadays is not to concentrate people into office buildings. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, made it clear that he doesn’t want to hire so many people in one area that those working entry-level jobs can’t walk to work. I can’t disagree with that.

Growth and Rising Real Estate Prices. The City of Tacoma is growing along with the rest of the Puget Sound area. We’re predicting a massive increase in the number of people living here. The problem is that developers spend the same amount of money to develop property in Tacoma as they do in Seattle, but they get much greater return for their investment in Seattle than in Tacoma. The idea was proposed of removing the red tape that makes it more expensive to develop property.

Personally, I would prefer we stopped building apartments in Tacoma altogether. “Affordable housing” be damned. The way you make housing affordable is you get a job that allows you to live in the area where you want to live. If you can’t make enough money to live there, then move to a place where you can afford to live. Section 8 housing should disappear.

Ultimately, I would like to have a city where you don’t need a 6-figure income just to own a house. That means we have plenty of houses for sale, and plenty of land to build more houses, but not so much demand and high-paying jobs that people crowd out the lower income level.

ICE Detention Facility. This is just one group who doesn’t want to enforce our immigration laws vs. the other group that does.

Conclusion:

I think it was useful to hear the candidates and their issues. The one “progressive” in the room sounded positively insane compared to the others who actually wanted to see Tacoma grow into something cool rather than just spout of national partisan political lines. If this is what the election looks like in 2020, I feel sorry for the democrats.

The future of Tacoma, as I’ve said earlier, is that of a bedroom community. Let’s not attract tons of high-paying jobs. Let’s build a community where blue-collar workers can run their own businesses, own property, and raise families within city limits. Let’s show the world that you don’t need to be a Seattle or a New York or Los Angeles to be a successful city.

Ending Digital Segregation

June 14, 2019

Here’s a great article to catch up on the topic and what we should be aiming for: https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/273963/conservative-civil-rights-movement-end-internet-daniel-greenfield

When the internet first started, most people thought it would be a fad, like chat lines. (You won’t remember those unless you were there.)

There were two things that we had before the internet of the 90s. One was the university networks that allowed supercomputers to communicate with each other at dreadfully slow speeds. The other were BBS boards you literally dialed into with your modem, downloaded some messages and some files, but you couldn’t do much else.

When the internet first appeared, it was not easy to get connected to it. Dial-up modems were the preferred method, but that meant that you would only access the internet for a few moments at a time, not all the time. You would treat the internet like a better version of the BBS — call up, send and receive your emails, then download a few files, and that’s it.

The next generation saw the idea of “always on” internet, and eventually the familiar song of the modem connecting to the internet faded from memory. This was the late 90s, when people knew you could go to any library and access websites filled with information.

This new technology was really the culmination of many things, and people saw the internet as just a really, really big BBS, with lots and lots of forum posts and emails and such.

Live-chatting became a thing in the early 2000s, I recall, and next thing you know bulletin boards became active and alive. Email became near constant, and we started to enter a new phase of human existence, where we spent most of our waking hours connected to people digitally.

The first revolution that truly swept humanity was something I’d like to call the “wisdom of the crowd”. Before, it would be impossible to ask a million people a question and get a million answers. But with the internet, not only could you ask millions of people a question, but you can ask them many questions. And their answers came in digital form, which meant you could categorize and organize them nearly instantly. This was a new, valuable resource to be mined. We discovered fairly early on that it could likely solve all sorts of problems in human existence, from predicting consumer behavior to even solving mathematical mysteries. The Open Source/Free Software movement that Linux is the poster child of is part of this revolution. We are still living in this movement because now we’re not just collecting answers, we’re collecting vast collections of data detailing every aspect of every life that we can measure, and we’re making tremendous discoveries because of it. (Not all of it good, of course.)

The second revolution came as we started to see the internet as a tool of propaganda and influence. Yes, it was a resource to be mined, but it became a resource that individuals were relying on for their own thoughts and ideas, and now we wanted to know how to use it to influence those thoughts and ideas. It is long rumored that the “flat earther” movement is really an attempt by the CIA to see how hard it is to get a bad idea into society, and how far it will go and what lengths it will take to stamp it out.

We recognize that the internet is now the major component of every marketing campaign, every sales pitch, every political campaign, and every PR campaign. If you want to communicate, you will use the internet to do so. No tool is as effective as the internet in influencing people, and influencing a lot of them. (The truth is that there is a method of influence that is far more effective than the internet — face-to-face contact — but most people ignore this because compared to the internet it is so much more expensive and difficult to get right.)

I think we’re coming out of this revolution at this moment, where it is no longer a new idea to think that we can influence people through the internet, but it is accepted knowledge and now we’re trying to figure out the details of how to do it right. Indeed, conservatives see their bans from these platforms not just as an inconvenience, but as keeping them from the very tools they need to exercise their right of expression.

Early on, we noticed that people would self-select the communities they participated in. This meant that different communities would have radically different characteristics. One would be full of fervent Christians, another full of people obsessed with characters in a particular movie, another full of enthusiasts about a particular piece of technology. Well, people would naturally segregate into communities that identify by politics, but they would also mingle with each other in other communities. For instance, you would have Star Trek fans that were liberal and Star Trek fans that were conservative, and they would participate in their respective liberal and conservative groups, but also come together in the Star Trek group.

We used to live in small communities made up of individuals with wildly different interests, and we used to get along just fine. A village, for instance, would contain all sorts of people. A family with many kids would have kids with different interests as well. But we used to learn how to get along because we had to. A factory didn’t have a very big population to choose employees from, so they would rather their employs learned to get along with their differences than try to exclude one or the other group from participation.

This is no longer true with the internet. As we started to self-segregate, we realized we liked it. Republicans like other republicans. Democrats like other democrats. Star Trek fans like Star Trek fans and Star Wars fans like Star Wars fans. It’s so much easier to stay with the same people than it is to get along with a diverse population.

We are now at the culmination of this experience, where we have an important decision to make: Are we going to eliminate the last vestiges of communal living, and completely divorce our population into highly specific groups that never see each other, or are we going to force people to get along?

Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and others, by banning certain people from participation on their platforms for no other reason than a large number of people find their behavior disagreeable seems to be the direction we are going. We are segregating our society into groups along political lines. Who knows but one day maybe Google will ban Star Trek fans because so many more people like Star Wars? The end of this is an absurd state where people exist as a community of one, never seeing any other person, or at least any other aspect of a person, than that aspect for which they agree. Conservatives will go off in one direction, and liberals in another. They will build their own forums until they begin disagreeing with themselves, and then you will have 4, then 8, then 16, and so on forums and none of them will ever cross. If you want to cross from one group to the other, you have to put on sheep’s clothing and pretend to be one of them, but if you get found out you will be summarily “executed”, which on the internet, means “banned”.

The other direction is the direction that is logically sane and reasonable. In places where people are free to get together and talk to each other, you may not ban anyone simply because they are disagreeable. Now, we may decide certain kinds of behavior are totally unacceptable (IE, sharing child pornography or threatening others and such) but we would have a deep and detailed discussion before changing any of these rules or adding new categories. We would also very carefully consider each case to ensure that it does fall foul of the laws and such, using our judicial procedures. In other words, if we want to ban someone from these forums, we’d need to use the government to do so, relying on the laws as written and debated, and the courts as constituted. No one may be banned, no video may be taken down, no forum closed without a court order, probably after a trial by jury.

This latter part is honestly troubling. I know how fast the internet moves. By the time a lawyer has put together the paperwork for the initial filing to start the motion, the internet has already evolved into the next version of itself, and the point is moot. I don’t know a better way to handle this, other than to turn our judicial system into a program that is open for everyone to see, with an additional layer of review on top for those cases which run afoul of the code itself. This is probably the only way things can be done on the internet.

As such, the following changed would be needed to make:

  1. No platform that provides public access can forbid anyone from participating in it except according to the law. Either you are a closed group (and heavily moderated) or you are open. (We’d need a lot of clarification of what these thing mean, but the general idea I think is sound. This is the way I think most people think of the internet.)
    1. Granted, most internet companies today are going to say, “We are closed”, so either we need to force them to admit they are open, or we impress upon the people who use these forums that they are not open, they are discriminatory and how, and they do not welcome other opinions on their platforms.
    2. We must also provide open forums some sort of protections, maybe even government funding, as these are critical to our future. I am open to even having the open forums run by the government itself, as a proof-of-concept.
  2. If you want to get a legal ruling on a case to ban someone or remove them or their content from an open forum, then you can either use the courts as established, or you can use a program that has been approved by the government to make a decision. You may NOT use any sort of human review, especially by anyone who works for your company, except for the court system. (For closed forums, do what you want, and if they complain, make fun of them for it.)
  3. If there questions about the algorithm for an open forum, you must answer them, so that anyone can understand exactly how the algorithm works and why it banned certain things. If your algorithm is shown to be wrong, it must be fixed, and you may recover damages due to the faulty algorithm, but no change can be made to the algorithm without approval of the government.
    1. In order to expedite the construction and maintenance of these algorithms, companies which use them must have embedded on their team government agents, much like how we handle FCC compliance. Proper procedures and documents must be filed. Laws, guidelines and rules must be kept.
    2. In order to gain visibility into the algorithm, the source code must be published, along with any associated data (such as ML training sets, models, parameters, experiment results). In addition, when a ban is decided, it must explain why the ban was put in place sufficient that someone can reverse-engineer the algorithm and determine where the error was made if they believe the ban was improper.
    3. If they do find an improper ban, they can sue for damages as well as the costs of investigating the ban.

I think something like this is the technical and legal system we need to protect individual rights and get us past this new revolution.

Who knows what the next revolution will be?

The Third Way

June 9, 2019

Anciently, and in modern times, there are two philosophies that completely contradict each other.

On the one hand, you have the philosophy of hedonism. This is the idea that you should do what feels best, as that is what is most important in life — obtaining as much pleasure as possible and avoiding pain.

This isn’t a terrible philosophy. It certainly works well with animals. And you can train them with beatings and treats. (Treats seem to work better, of course.)

The other philosophy is stoicism, which is the philosophy that seems to do much better for humanity. At the core of stoicism is the idea that there are things you can do, and there are things you can’t do. Learn to accept the things you can’t do and thus the things you have no control over, and focus your attention on the things you can do. Stoicks often engage in delayed gratification, suffering a little bit today so they don’t have to suffer so much tomorrow, or so they can reap a reward in the future. Stoicks also think of the “big picture” and their role they have to play in it.

These two philosophies can pretty much sum up all the codes of living that has ever existed, and I think is the root of the “conservative” vs. “liberal” divide.

What amazes me, however, is how wrong these philosophies are in the face of Christianity. I propose a “third way”, a sort of coalescing of the two philosophies that can only happen because of the contradiction that is Christ.

Christ is the ultimate source of justice and the ultimate source of mercy. With a word, he can bring the punishment of all of the bad things you have done in life crashing down on your head. Or with a word, he can withhold some or all of these punishments and reward you for righteousness that you didn’t participate in.

The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Combined with the fact that Christ himself is God made flesh, that he is the walking contradiction of a force of nature combined with a mortal, fleshy body, that he is, as they say, “Fully God yet fully human”, and you have the beginning of a neat little philosophy, that this world is actually pretty important.

Many modern Christian embrace a sort of esoteric sort of Christianity and thus deny Christ’s humanity. They imagine that this world is a temporary stop, a test, and that it will ultimately be replaced with a better world. This is not what Christ taught: He taught instead that this world is indeed the very place where he intends to build his ultimate paradise, and he will do it with a fleshy body that can eat and drink.

The core of Christian philosophy has some very strange ideas worth pondering:

  • The idea that there is no separation between this world and the spiritual realm: They are one and the same.
  • The idea that sin is not only a part of our nature, but a necessary part, a part we must not discard but own and overcome.
  • The idea that there is a reward in this life for righteous living, as well as the next, and that any injustice we suffer here will be ultimately made right.

Stoicks engage life thinking of things they can do and things they can’t do. Christ declares, “Nothing is impossible.” Meaning, you should be engaged in what others would consider pointless exercises in futility. Stoicks learn how to accept the world the way it is, while Christians decide that the world in its current state is intolerable and must be changed into a better state.

Hedonists are often the butt of Stoick jokes, but they are right to a degree: We should pursue pleasure, we should strive to avoid pain. We should seek the good and reject the evil. In addition, Christianity adds that the bodies we have given are not to be denied but to be embraced. For instance, sexuality is not something foreign to out nature, but a very critical element of our nature, something that is good when treated within the bounds the Lord has set, but evil when not.

Indeed, in Christianity, all things have a purpose. We are not to deny ourselves things, but to engage them for a worthy cause.

There is a lot more to say on this, and I think I have only begun to understand Christianity as a philosophy, having lived it for most of my life. I am sure there will be much more to say as I mature and understand the nature of God better.

The Pendulum Swings: A Roadmap

June 9, 2019

Study history, and you see that humanity, or rather, the societies that make up humanity, swing from one extreme to another.

One extreme is the ultra-liberal, idyllic lifestyle where no one seems to care about the enemy at the gates.

The other extreme is the hyper-conservative military machine that conquers because it must for survival.

In between is the sort of happy medium we wish we could live in, but no one has ever experienced but for short periods of time.

As the pendulum swings towards fascism and militarism, I am going to lay out a roadmap based on my study of history and scriptures.

First, you need a law. Without a law, you will just have warlords running around doing whatever they want for selfish purposes. All successful civilizations came through their hyper-militant phase because they had a law which they wouldn’t violate, things that were not even questionable. Those laws need to be God-made, not man-made, and I highly recommend the Law of Moses, the same law that has allowed Israel to survive until the current day. Keep in mind that the Law of Moses is not what the Marxists told you it is, and it certainly is NOT the law that the Jews try to keep today. It is much more practical and simple than that, and far more fair.

Second, you need leaders. In the Bible, the people of Israel would always default to leaders who had a connection with God. These were humble people who were filled with revelation and the spirit of God. These are people like Gideon. They did not seek their role as leaders but it was thrust upon them. These are the sorts of leaders you need. Someone who has a family, who has a connection with God, who has a purpose that far exceeds anything of this world.

That said, do not choose incompetent people to be your leaders, no matter how righteous they say they are! Good leaders are effective, so keep your eyes open for a pious, righteous man who says God speaks to him and who is capable of leading people. They are rare, so pray that God will send them to you in the time of need.

Third, you must, for yourself, live according to the law of God and you must be willing to enforce that law against your neighbor should the need arise. When Moses lead Israel to possess the land they were promised by God, the inhabitants were overcome with fear and doubt as it became clear that Israel was unstoppable and God was on their side. In desperation, it is rumored that they asked the prophet Balaam what could possibly be done. Balaam pointed out how it was the individual righteousness of the people of Israel that gave them God’s favor and thus victory in battle. So they sent prostitutes to pervert the men of Israel.

When God told Moses about it, Moses was also commanded to slaughter all the men taken by these women. There was a huge bloodbath. Those who did not pick up the sword to kill the unfaithful were not counted worthy.

This story should frighten everyone. On the one hand, if you are the sort of person to be taken in by the temptation to sin, you should fear for your life. When hyper-conservatism comes back, there is a good chance that you will be one of the many to be purged. You should be aware of what the laws of God say now so that you can avoid committing the more serious sins for which blood is required. (IE, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, and don’t lie.)

But on the other hand, it calls into question whether the righteous are really as righteous as they think they are. If God commands you to pick up a weapon and kill someone, can you do it, knowing that you are in the right? If you hesitate, then you will hesitate in battle, and that will lead to ultimate defeat. When it comes to battle, there is no room for being wishy-washy. It is kill or be killed, and only those who know they are in the right and God is on their side will do the killing. Those who do not have the flame of moral conviction burning in their heart will end up killed.

Even the Romans understood this. Before every war and every battle, they entreated the gods through omens. If the omens were not good, they did not go to battle. Whether the gods existed or not is irrelevant, really — the few times they ignored the omens and went into battle anyway were epic defeats, a self-fulfilled prophecy if there ever was one.

The moral degenerates in our society are being put on notice. We’re not joking when we talk about a purge. It seems the Rubicon in our story is pedophilia. There is no way we’re ever going to accept that, as we know for a fact that it is absolute evil to abuse little children for your own sexual gratification. Even the hardest of criminals knows that that is wrong, and will pick up a weapon in righteous fury to exact justice.

But pedophilia is not even the end of the slippery slope, a slippery slope that began with divorce and extra-marital sexual relations. As long as we tolerate those things, we are on the slippery slope that will take us way past pedophilia. I think our society is waking up to that and wishing we were back in the 1850s.

The scary truth about Hitler is not that he was a totalitarian monster who decided that individual rights were meaningless unless they served the state and society at large. The truth is that what propelled him to power was righteous anger and fury at the absolutely perverted state the Weimar Republic was in. As people came to understand the depth of the depravity of German society, they were more than willing to pick up arms to exact justice.

Had the Germans chosen a God-fearing man who was excellent as a leader, I imagine Germany wouldn’t have lost WWII. Had the people of Germans reminded themselves of the importance of personal righteousness, they wouldn’t have gone off the rails. Had they had a law given by God to guide them, rather than the arbitrary whims of a corrupt leader, they wouldn’t have been lead astray.

Go find your nearest Bible. Read the first five books of the Old Testament, and write down the important bits of the law. Write down what was and was not a capital offense, and how justice was dispensed. Write down what the other crimes were and what their remedy was. (IE, if you menstruated, touched a dead body or ate shellfish, you were unclean, but all you needed to do was purify yourself and you’re good to go. If you stole, you needed to restore what you stole. If you murdered, you had to be executed — by a family member of your victim.)

The Bible is what lead our European ancestors to victory. It is what will keep our society together through this difficult time that seems to lie ahead of us.

Christians Cannot be Victims

June 9, 2019

A lot has been said about victim culture, the “Oppressed Olympics” and such.

Hearing scriptures where the Lord explains what he experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane, how he was treated unfairly and put on trial for no crime at all and executed without even a single corroborating witness, it is clear that the Savior, who bears all the sins of the world despite having committed none himself, is the clear winner of the “Oppressed Olympics”.

We who believe that the Savior exists and holds the world in the palm of his hands have no business playing the Oppressed Olympics. We can’t look on anyone who plays the victim and think they are any worse off than our God. We can’t look at ourselves as comparable to Him in that way either. Feed us to lions. Hunt us down and kill us. Force us to recant or face certain death. It doesn’t matter — we know that our victory is through Christ. Death doesn’t phase us.

This is power. Power is the ability to act, the ability to affect the world. When you refuse to play the Oppressed Olympics, you are free to choose for yourself what course of action you will take. Does the entire world conspire to kill you for no other reason than existing? Doesn’t matter. We will move forward anyway.

I heard a comment online, and I’m afraid no one will be able to corroborate it, but it went something like this. In WWII, the Americans were especially reliable to the allies and especially troublesome to the Nazis. According to the reporter, when their unit, a non-American unit, was in trouble, they would radio for help. If they got any other nationality on the other end, they would talk about how bad they have it and how they just don’t have the resources to help because everyone is having a bad day. When Americans picked up the phone, they would just ask for your location. Then they would move in to rescue you, despite the challenges. The Americans seemed to know where the enemy was and their numbers better than the allies did, or they didn’t seem to care. Only when the Americans got close would they ask for details on what the challenge was, how many the enemy were at and their location, etc…

The Nazis also learned not to kill the American officers. The reason was simple: The officers were telling the enlisted men to stay back, to follow orders, and not pursue the enemy. See, the weakest, laziest and least suitable soldier among the Americans was far better than the most disciplined of the allies. Why? Because they didn’t seem to care. They would execute on their orders, they would shoot the enemy, and they would pursue them if they could. When an American officer was killed, the unit wouldn’t fall apart as the European units would, they would come together, and charge at the enemy. American units with officers were far more tolerable for the enemy than ones without!

This is power: The ability to act despite all challenges, and thus the ability to create the change needed. Who is more likely to act: Someone who pretends that they are somehow winning the Oppressed Olympics, or someone who believes that no matter how bad things are, they are put there for a reason by a God who has seen far worse?

As I ask people, if it came to a shooting war, would you rather have a Christian zealot in your foxhole, or an atheist who has deduced that their cause is just?

Christians should take heart. Go ahead and threaten us with lions and death and torture. It will not stop us from acting and creating change. Indeed, it will inspire us.

The God Pill

June 6, 2019

 

Why did Tiananmen Fail?

June 4, 2019

Today, June 4th, marks the anniversary of the events that unfolded in Tiananmen Square when students protested the communist party in China. Their goal was to obtain some form of democracy. They failed. Let’s examine why.

Reason #1 they failed was because they did not have an army. I hope this is obvious to everyone. As Mao said, government comes out of the barrel of a gun. He was a third-world tinpot dictator but he was smart enough to recognize this truth which today is forgotten in too many ways.

Reason #2 they failed was because they didn’t know how to organize. I am told that they believed that they needed to operate on unanimous consent. The heritage of the English people includes parliamentary procedures that were developed over thousands of years. In the US, we call them “Robert’s Rules of Order”. If you don’t know how these work and how it bind people together into a collective unit, you need to study them until you do. As long as you don’t understand parliamentary procedure, you will never be more than an individual, easily defeated by people who do know how to organize.

Reason #3 they failed was because they didn’t have a leader. Democracy has been a failed experiment every time and everywhere it is tried. If the first order of business of a democracy is not appointing a dictator, a monarch, to lead the people, then democracy is doomed. The Founding Fathers tried to bring 13 distinct and individual governments together through parliamentary procedure. They saw how the English government was organized and how little the king actually did, and questioned the need for such a person. However, it became readily apparent that without someone who can bring all the information together, make decisions and act on them quickly, everything would have failed.

Reason #4 they failed was because they did not have a plan other than “democracy”. Leaders bring vision and purpose to people, and compel them to action not out of fear but out of shared goals. Leaders drive consensus. They find the things that unite. No leader can succeed without having a plan.

If I were a student in that group, and it was that year, and I knew all I knew now, the first thing I would’ve told them was that their idea was stupid and doomed to fail. If you want to be a martyr, go set yourself on fire. If you want to beat the communist party, you join the communist party. You work on it from the inside. You get power and authority. And when you get enough power and authority, you determine the fate of the country. Will you make a different decision than the leaders have made up until the 1980s? It depends on whether you learn or not.

I am told that when the USSR brought down the Iron Curtain. that the leaders of the USSR could not understand how Western society, government, and economics worked. They couldn’t understand how hundreds of millions of people could spontaneously act in unison to build an economic engine, an unstoppable government, a society that by all appearances would last a thousand years.

The secret to our success is that we don’t need government. We don’t need democracy. We don’t need someone to tell us what to do. All we want to do is get married, have kids, eat food, wear clothing, and keep a shelter over our head. If you let us be, we will create fantastic wealth. If you try to abuse us, we won’t. The self-governing individual becomes sovereign not because other governments recognize them as such, but because they don’t depend on government for their daily bread, clothing, and shelter.

These Chinese students, had they understood this, wouldn’t have wasted six seconds thinking about rebellion. They would’ve worked to build up their families no matter what condition they found themselves in. Communists are people too, just as selfish and greedy as anyone else. They need sheep to be shorn. As a stoic might say, you were born into that position and you can’t free yourself, so just learn to live with it and make your life as comfortable as possible.

The change that needs to happen in Chinese society will happen when hundreds of millions of families wake up and realize they don’t need government anymore, when government officials realize they can’t control the people, that they have nothing the people want. It will happen when the communists realize that they are only a few people, while the people are many. It will happen when the Chinese people learn to turn themselves into citizen-soldiers, when they learn how to self-organize, when they can appoint a leader, and when they have a clear vision. At that point, they will become unstoppable.

Is Failure So Bad?

May 31, 2019

An encounter at work has got me thinking. One of my coworkers, who I was relying on, failed to deliver what was promised. After giving him considerable more time to accomplish it, or at least drive it forward, it became clear that it wasn’t going to happen in a reasonable time frame, and waiting or cajoling progress would be fruitless. So I undertook the task for myself.

He realized what was happening, and he was obviously excited about it. In my field, you live and die by your ability to produce working things and designs. The depth of your knowledge and experience mean nothing if you can’t deliver something that achieves the goals that everyone else is counting on you to accomplish.

The sad reality is that having delivered the goals, no one thinks very hard about how it came to be and who should get rewarded. They are just so relieved that the work got done, and they instantly turn their attention to the next project. At least when something fails people know who you are. No one knows the names of the people who succeed so brilliantly that it makes it look effortless.

Anyway, there is considerable tension. Maybe I’m not showing enough emotion about it, because I am so detached and right now I am hyper-focused on finishing the project as other projects are pressing. This is the umpteenth time someone tried to do something with me and failed. It’s simply not a new experience for me. (Of course I have had people pull through, to varying degrees, so it’s not incredible when someone actually does what they said they would either.) I can’t help but think that my lack of emotional response is troubling.

Is failure really that bad? As a younger parent, I used to get concerned when my kid would fall off his bike and scrape his knee. After a few episodes, I’ve come to know it’s no big deal. Just disinfect it — yes, you don’t want to get it infected, I’ve seen that too — sob your tears, and move on with your life. Does it hurt to fail? Of course. But is it bad?

No, because when you fail, you learn something. I’m looking forward to being able to present a positive message to my co-worker. Yes, you said you would do things, no you were not able to do them, and now let me explain to you why you failed and how we prevent it next time. How many times have I had that conversation in my career?

Are you going to be put in our company jail for failing? (Would that make you feel better? I know my kids sometime expect punishment, and it’s better to give it out quick and sharp than let it hang over their heads.) Are we going to fire you? No, the only reason I’d let someone go is if there was absolutely no hope they would ever get good enough at their job to keep them on. If you’re willing to change, to learn and grow, then I have plenty of patience to expend in your account, because I have seen people learn and grow and I Lord knows I have as well.

I love the piano analogy. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to get back into it. When you play a piece, and you make a mistake trying your best, what do you do? You try it again. You play it slower. You take it apart and try to put it back together again. But you keep trying. There is no success in piano. We all know that it can be made better. There isn’t even a clear finish line. Why play the piano at all, when at best, you’ll be mediocre and tolerable?

Is failure bad? Why do we fear it? I would rather try and fail than never try at all. One of the lines that has earned the most attention on my resume is my dramatic and complete failure at trying to start a business. I can list of all the things you shouldn’t do, and I know exactly what I would do differently next time. That’s valuable information.

How the Government is Supposed to Work

May 29, 2019

I often refer to the fact that the structure that the Founding Fathers setup is designed to protect individual rights, and that its engine seizes up when it tries to do something contrary to that. Let me try to describe to you first what politics actually is, what government actually is, and how the Founding Fathers tried to arrange things.

Government is the institution wherein people put their martial powers. Everyone, each individual, has within themselves the power to bear arms and shoot bad guys. Government is that thing that we allow to tell us when to bear arms and who are the bad guys we should shoot.

It’s important we maintain a distinction between government and other institutions:

  • Businesses exist to make people rich.
  • Churches exist to spread their religious message and encourage people to live rightly.
  • Charities exist to help poor people.
  • Families exist to raise children.
  • Governments exist to kill people.

If you doubt the simplicity of this message, ask yourself, what would happen if any one of these organizations asked you to kill someone? It is only government that has a chance of getting you to actually do it. The others aren’t entrusted with this sort of power

Politics is a sort of misnomer as it is related to the word “polite”. Politics is the game we all play (every one of us) to manipulate government for our own ends. We all want to be in control of deciding who lives and who dies. Every time you ever said, “We should do this”, what you are really saying is, “People who don’t do this are bad and we should hurt them.” “People should drive on the right side of the road”, we say, “and if you don’t, we’ll hurt you.” These sorts of feelings are exactly the domain of politics and government.

Politics is a team sport. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the only way you can win in politics is to get a majority to support you, or rather, to own the issues that the majority supports. People who are serious about politics from special interest groups. Special interest groups carry one or two issues and represent them throughout all of government. They form alliances, they attack the credibility of their opponents, and they push their single issue through every chance they get. Political parties in the United States are where these special interest groups come together. Take apart any party, at any level, and you’ll see they are nothing but a bunch of special interest groups and the people who want those things.

I say “in the United States” because this is not how it works in other countries. There’s all sorts of ways to organize politics, and I think ours isn’t the worst.

How was government originally structured? This is how the Founding Fathers put it together.

  • At the most basic level you have the individual. Individuals have rights, that is, things that they are commanded by God to do. Anyone who tries to stop them is going to get hurt.
  • Individuals come together to form families, the most basic government.
  • Families come together to form communities, and communities come together to form towns and counties all the way up to the state.
  • The state is the atomic unit of government, being completely self-sufficient and sovereign. No one can tell a state what to do, as they have enough government power that they can easily wage war if they so desired.
  • The states come together in a loose federation, consigning only a few, specific powers to the federal government.
  • The federal government is composed of three branches. In order of power, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial.
  • The legislative makes all the laws, sets all the budgets, and writes all the rules that everyone has to live by. It is composed of the House and the Senate.
  • The House is elected by people living in districts every 2 years. When the people get mad, they will elect new representatives to the House. If things are good, they will leave them alone.
  • The Senate is composed of senators appointed by the state legislatures. They serve for 6 years. So if there is a bad year, at best, you can only replace 1/3 of the senate. Two bad elections in a row means 2/3 of the senate is replaced.
  • The executive is composed of the president, acting alone. He is elected every 4 years by the state legislatures through the electoral college, not by a vote of the people. He can do practically whatever he wants except write new laws and punish people for breaking laws. He serves either until his term expires or he is impeached and removed by the House and Senate respectively.
  • The judicial is made up of several courts, with the Supreme Court at the top. Appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate, justices serve for their lifetime. Aside from a few very specific kinds of cases, the Supreme Court is limited by the legislature in what cases they can hear.

In such a system, you can break down the power into these factions:

  • The people.
  • The states.
  • The House.
  • The Senate.
  • The president and his administration.
  • The federal courts.

Let’s see what it would take for one to subvert the government and infringe on personal rights.

First, you need a law, or you need a House and a Senate who tolerates a president who acts outside of the law. In order to get a law passed, you need a majority in the House and the Senate and the president not to veto it.

Next, you need to hunt down people who break that law. This is the president’s domain, and he acts practically alone.

Then you need to take people to court, and get a conviction. This relies on the courts, ultimately, the Supreme Court. Unfortunately for them, criminal trials require a trial by jury.

So you need a jury to accept the law and the guilt of the individual.

Finally, you can punish the person.

You can try to subvert this, but you’ll run into problems.

If the president tries to abuse his power and rule as a dictator, then the House can be elected by the people to impeach him. The senate, composed of the states, will remove him from office. So the president can do whatever he likes — as long as he keeps the people and the states happy.

Suppose the people want to oppress each other. They’d have to form a majority — in a majority of the states. That’s because they need the House and Senate to pass laws and they need the states to elect the president. That said, in order to do this, it would take many, many years of consistent election victories to pull it off, and then you’d have to wait for the justices to die (or remove them by impeachment.)

Suppose states wanted to oppress their own people. If a majority of the states were so inclined, then they could maintain the senate. But the people would not be so easy to control, and the House would oppose them. Thus, states have always found frustration in the federal government, and they prefer to keep themselves independent of it, leaving each other alone. However, the fact that people can freely travel and trade between states means that the states must compete with each other for trade and people.

You can imagine all sorts of scenarios and you’ll see how every time, they are thwarted by the constitution of the federal government.

Broadly, you can divide the types of perversions of government into these categories:

  • Dictatorship or monarchy, with one individual trying to exert control over all others.
  • Aristocracy, where the elite by virtue of their ability try to control everyone else.
  • Plutocracy, where the wealthy try to control everyone else.
  • Oligarchy, where specific groups of people try to control everyone else.
  • Theocracy, where religious people try to control everyone else.
  • Democracy, where the majority voice tries to control everyone else.

Each of these perversions finds a natural expression in the Federal Government, but none of them can dominate the others.

Nowadays, we have changed, substantially, the nature of the federal government.

  • States are considerably weaker than they used to be. The number of intrusions into state government are large.
  • The senate is popularly elected, making them a “mini-House” that favors smaller states.
  • The courts see themselves as the sole arbiters of what is and is not lawful, or as they say, “Constitutional.”

We have lost the influence of the aristocracy, and given ourselves over to plutocracy, oligarchy, and democracy. There are even monarchical tendencies of the president when the government is divided.

How do we get back? I think we need to roll back the clock to before the Civil War. We need to put states back in a position of power, and give them the chance to choose their own senators. This will drive people to view state politics as primary and the federal government as secondary, which is where their attention should be.