In the past several elections, I've usually posted my own "(un)Official Voter Information Guide." This year I failed - not because there weren't props I didn't care about, but partly because the entire political system has me more depressed than ever.
If you care how I did vote - I voted no on every proposition with two exceptions. I left prop 4 blank, because while I support parental notification for abortion, I just didn't feel comfortable enough with the bill this year (since I hadn't read the text). And I voted yes on prop 5, which was a last minute change of my mind. This marks the first time I've ever voted for something that increased spending (shock!) - though it did at the same time reduce costs. I almost voted no, but at the last minute I noticed that former LP candidate for Senate Judge Jim Gray was a supporter; I've met him, and I liked him. Also - while on libertarian grounds the bill is extremely iffy, I ultimately decided that the benefit in terms of human freedom outweighed the negatives of the particular bill. I don't think it will pass, anyway- but I feel okay with my decision to vote for it.
Anyway, to my ennui. As you can tell from some of my more recent posts, I've been particularly irritated at all the Obama worship. Yes, I hate McCain just as much, and I've had shouting arguments with my father over that - but at least my dad and most other McCain supporters don't regard him as some savior. He's just another politician to them, and they recognize that they're voting for a "lesser evil". This is a contrast with Obama supporters, many of whom positively seem to think they're voting for Jesus Christ Himself, come to save us from all the evils of the Bush administration. As both an anarchist and a religious person, I find any kind of worship of a politician to be profoundly disturbing. Honestly, every time I see that picture of Obama with the word "Hope" or "Change" under it, I want to scream.
The truth is that, when it comes down to it, there's a dime's worth of difference between the two candidates. McCain is a mealy-mouthed liberal of a Republican, and Obama is a junior senator who most people really don't know (he abstains so often, how could anyone really know what he believes?). He's not even a paragon of Leftism that conservatives make him out to be, either; his health care plan isn't truly "universal", he voted for FISA and to reauthorize the Patriot Act, he's postured about invading Iran and Pakistan, he voted for the bailout to Wall Street...I could go on. Essentially, both candidates are moderate Republicrats, both of whom are willing and eager to lie, cheat, and hide their records in order to obtain the highest offices in the land.
As an anarchist I could go even farther, but I'll leave it at that. The real truth is that you might as well have flipped a coin today when voting for President. The only substantive difference between the two is the speed with which they might draw down troops in Iraq, and the degree to which their policy proposals will be approved by Congress. Obama, as a Democrat, will have an easier time - and that is unfortunate, because I prefer an adversarial system with one party in the executive and the other in the legislative. Even better if the Senate and Congress can't agree. So, purely strategically - and only as long as the Democrats have control of the Congress - a Republican president might be preferable. But it's so weak that I wouldn't even vote if Obama and McCain were the only choices.
This is insanity, people. He's not a hero. He's not a savior. He's not even honest. He's a fucking POLITICIAN. An especially silver-tongued politician, sure, but a politician nonetheless - and as such he keeps company with the very scum of the Earth.
This kind of political idolatry turns my stomach, especially when it's infecting children. Give them a real role model. If that role model has to be black, choose an honorable figure like Benjamin Banneker, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, or Martin Luther King, Jr. (flawed as he was). But even for them, this kind of sickening display is inappropriate. None of them are bringing the Word to you from Heaven. The greatest thing you could learn from any of them is to be a strong individual and think for yourself.
Edit: The original video was removed, so I've replaced it with a backup.
"The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed." 1) Look at the list and bold those you have read. [I'm adding: For series of books, I'm bolding only half if I've read half] 2) Italicize those you intend to read. 3) Underline the books you LOVE. [I'm also adding: strikethrough the ones you HATED] 4) Reprint this list in your own LJ so we can try and track down these people who've read 6 and force books upon them ;-)
1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen 2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien 3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte 4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling 5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 6 The Bible 7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte 8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell 9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman 10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens 11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott 12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy 13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller 14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (Sonnets, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, The Tempest) 15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier 16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien 17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks 18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger 19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger 20 Middlemarch - George Eliot 21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell 22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald 23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens 24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy 25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh 27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky 28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck 29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll 30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame 31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy 32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens 33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis 34 Emma - Jane Austen 35 Persuasion - Jane Austen 36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis 37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini 38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres 39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden 40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne 41 Animal Farm - George Orwell 42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown 43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez 44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving 45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins 46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery 47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy 48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood 49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding 50 Atonement - Ian McEwan 51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel 52 Dune - Frank Herbert 53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons 54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen 55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth 56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon 57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens 58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley 59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon 60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez 61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck 62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov 63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt 64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold 65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas 66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac 67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy 68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding 69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie 70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville 71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens 72 Dracula - Bram Stoker 73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett 74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson 75 Ulysses - James Joyce 76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath 77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome 78 Germinal - Emile Zola 79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray 80 Possession - AS Byatt 81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens 82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell 83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker 84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro 85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert 86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry 87 Charlotte's Web - EB White 88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom 89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton 91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad 92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery(in English and French!) 93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks 94 Watership Down - Richard Adams 95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole 96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute 97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas 98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare 99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl 100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
Another year, another (u)VIG, this time for a primary election. I read the ballot so you don't have to! I realize I am horribly late with this one - hell, I didn't start this till 2am on Super Tuesday morning. But maybe some of you will see it and care before you go to the polls, or at least it might provide some interesting post-election wrap-up for you. On we go!
So the first question on the ballot, of course, would be - who are you voting for as your party's candidate for President? Well, let's look at these choices...
Oh. God help us.
Well, it isn't all bad. I see Ron Paul on the Republican ticket, that's who I'll be voting for, of course. And Mike Gravel on the Democrat ticket, he's pretty cool. But the rest of them... Well, let's just say I'm not very excited about the prospects for who will actually be the next "leader of the 'free' world". I hate to say it, but of the front-runners, Obama seems the least evil; but (as we all know) when you vote for the lesser evil, you still get evil. He's not nearly as hip and exciting as many of my peers seem to think he is; just another re-packaged mainstream candidate, champing at the bit to deliver you more of the same.
So with a heavy heart, I turn to my favorite part - the propositions. Let's see what we have here...
Don't bother to vote yes on this one, we passed it in 2006 when it was called "1A" - but for some convoluted procedural reasons it got added to the ballot again this year. If you're interested, I favored a weak yes vote on 1A.
HAHAHA. New spending on schools. I guess you can guess how I'm voting in this lovely, but it doesn't matter what I say, because California is going to gladly pass it anyway. We love spending more money on the broken California school system, just hoping against hope that throwing money at the problem will make it go away SOME day.
To get into specifics about this prop, while it doesn't pass any new bonds (that's a nice change), it does create a lovely, ginormous new bureaucracy so that community colleges can be administrated from the state level. BAD. Taking control out of local hands is ridiculous, no matter how much autonomy they claim they'll be granted. Local Boarrds of Trustees are the right way to manage local public schools.
The other thing that this prop does is reduce fees from $20/unit to $15/unit. Now, I know, I know, you college students are thinking...great! 25% discount for me. (I know, I'm assuming selfish voting, which is not necessarily the case) But hear me out. Lower fees means more money taken from the general fund, especially under the new spending plan that the proposition establishes. The proponents of the proposition say it "does not raise taxes", but come on - how is this new spending going to be paid for in the long haul? We can't keep borrowing ourselves into prosperity forever. Community colleges should be less expensive than normal college, but they should still be essentially user-fee based unless you're on public assistence (which roughly 25% of community college attendees are anyway).
This is a silly scheme for certain legislators who would've been term-limited out to hold onto their seats. It says it "reduces" term limits, but because of the way the system works, it actually increases them for most people who actually serve.
If you vote yes on this, you're a sucker.
Now THESE are actually a little tricky for me on libertarian grounds.
On the one hand, I'm all for increased freedom. That's the standard libertarian in me. These tribes want to put in more slot machines? Awesome! Why should I give a crap? The more the merrier. On the other hand, it increases taxes on the casinos, and I never vote for new tax increases. Decisions, decisions.
Another issue is that of monopoly/oligopoly. Not only does this only apply to Indian tribes, it's only a handful of them. This is essentially a boon for a special interest group. Is that something we want to be supporting?
In the end, I'm not sure how I want to vote on these. I'd like expanded gambling in California - hell, what I actually want is free gaming all across the state, not just on the land of a few Indian tribes. And the new taxes aren't that bad a deal for the casinos, given the vast quantities of increased revenues they'd be capable of. I also have a sore spot at the Indian tribes for campaigning for Cruz Bustamante during the recall campaign. Though of course I'd never vote based on that alone, it does give me pause about the "special interest group" issue. I hate State-legislated oligopolies in all their other forms, so why should Indian gaming be different?
In the end, I think I'm going to vote no on these. But it's not a strong no. I'd say I'm open to arguments, but...I'll be voting in about six hours.
Okay, so I plan to update you on my recentdrama soon, but for now I just have a public service announcement.
Do NOT See "Meet the Spartans"
I would pay another $10.50 to get that hour and a half of my life back. If I didn't have someone to make fun of it with, the experience would have been entirely without merit - but it's still not worth seeing even for mocking value.
Seriously, people. This was one of the worst movies I've seen in years. I would be embarrassed to have my name associated with that kind of trash. Kevin Sorbo should be ashamed for being involved. It is an unfunny comedy, entirely without a shred of redeeming value, and it is a disgrace to the genre (founded by Zucker/Zucker/Abrahams and Mel Brooks) which spawned it.
In overcoming my own conservative biases, and subsequently in arguing about certain political changes with conservatives, I have found myself resorting frequently to history. It is part of what has convinced me, so I figure it may convince them. But up until now I don't think I really had a coherent explanation of why it should convince them - and so sometimes I apparently come off as a little crazy. For example, in a recent argument with my father about anarchism, the topic of public roads came up - and I brought up the origin of the interstate highway system (which was built originally for the movement of troops). He didn't understand the relevance, and since I didn't explain myself very well, I can understand that. But perhaps if I organize my thoughts I can do better in the future.
A common trait that people give to "conservatives" is resistance to change. I've always felt this is a wholly inadequate description, however; conservatives propose changes all the time, after all. As a conservative I wanted to see all sorts of things change - the abolition of the welfare state, stronger border security, etc. A better description is that conservatives resist change to institutions they perceive of as traditional. There are many reasons for this, but the primary one is that many conservatives are essentially social evolutionists - they believe that if some institution arises and persists for long enough, it is probably because it has some evolutionary value, and so it should not be altered or abolished lightly. This instinct is not without merit; clearly, many social institutions have contributed to our survival and success as a species, and we would be worse off without them.
However, there is a problem with this instinct if it ignores history - because not all traditional institutions have arisen because they make us more evolutionarily viable. Many have arisen merely because of an imbalance of power, and many have only persisted because people resisted change too early. The reason that the origin of the interstate highway system was important to my conception of the problem is that the lingering conservative part of me sees it as a false tradition. The benefits we use it for today are not the reason it was built or successful in the first place; pointing to it as some innovation of government for the benefit of the people is wrong because it wasn't built for the benefit of the people (directly).
I like pointing to the history of marriage licensure for the same reason. Conservatives resist changes to licenses because they think it is a true tradition - but it is not. The only reason marriage licensure arose in the United States was as a means of preventing miscegenation, something that most conservatives clearly are not interested in today. So it is a tradition that "snuck in", so to speak; it piggy-backed off of corruption and a power imbalance (racism), and then remained - not because it provides some true evolutionary benefit, but merely because once it was implemented for long enough that inertia set in, and it became increasingly difficult to reverse.
Another important institution which a knowledge of history sheds light on is the patent system. Patents arose as monopoly privileges granted by the king, and then by parliament - not to encourage innovation or sharing of information, but essentially for the same reason that lordships were granted. So the current theoretical foundation for why patents are valuable is completely ahistorical - patents did not arise because they have some real value for society, they arose because the king wanted to give benefits to court lackeys. And so it goes. This doesn't directly speak on the value of patents from a theoretical foundation, of course, but it certainly knocks one of the pillars of justification out.
Hopefully this has made some sense, I'm still formulating my thoughts on this topic and I need to organize them more. This post was just to get them down in some fashion so that I can analyze them better. Let me know what you think.
Heinlein is by far my favorite classical scifi author. What follows are some of my own favorite quotes - unfortunately, due to space constraints, I'll have to leave out basically the entirety of the Notebooks of Lazarus Long (click that link!), but you should get the picture.
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." --Robert Heinlein (as Lazarus Long), Time Enough For Love
"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life." --Robert Heinlein, Beyond This Horizon
"A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame ... as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world ... aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure." --Robert Heinlein (as Professor Bernardo de la Paz), The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
"I am an almost extinct breed, an old-fashioned gentleman- which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-bitch when it suits me." --Robert Heinlein (as Jubal Harshaw), Stranger in a Strange Land
"Of all the nonsense that twists the world, the concept of 'altruism' is the worst. People do what they want to, every time. If it pains them, to make a choice- if the 'choice' looks like a 'sacrifice' -- you can be sure that it is no nobler than the discomfort caused by greediness... the necessity of having to decide between two things you want when you can't have both. The ordinary bloke suffers every time he chooses between spending a buck on beer or tucking it away for his kids, between getting up to go to work and losing his job. But he always chooses that which hurts least or pleasures most. The scoundrel and the saint make the same choices...." --Robert Heinlein (as Jubal Harshaw), Stranger in a Strange Land
"No matter how lavishly overpaid, civil servants everywhere are convinced they are horribly underpaid-but all public employees have larceny in their hearts or they wouldn't be feeding at the public trough." --Robert Heinlein (as Friday), Friday
"'Love' is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." --Robert Heinlein (as Jubal Harshaw), Stranger in a Strange Land
Be sure to have a slice today in celebration - after calculating its circumference and area.
Second: I've seen this meme going around for a very long time, so I decided to finally participate. Under the cut, you will find a list of "The most significant SF & Fantasy books of the last 50 years (1953-2002)", courtesy of Backseat Driving. I've bolded the ones I've read and italicized the ones I own but have not finished yet.
Looks like by this guy's criteria I have a lot of reading left to do. Oh well. I've already got my own list to get through first. Are there any of these in particular that I should add to it? I bought Le Guin's The Dispossessed recently, and if I like it I'll probably also read The Left Hand of Darkness.
Damn! If I was one of those girls' parents, I would be proud as hell. Go tell 'em what they can do with their ruttin' "orders."
I've never seen "The Vagina Monologues." I have no idea if I'd like it or not. Nevertheless, I admire the bravery of these girls in standing up against brainless censorship. I love the double-speak in the article, too - "When a student is told by faculty members not to present specified material because of the composition of the audience and they agree to do so..." How much agreement do you really think was going on? How much choice do you imagine they supposed they had?
Respect for authority figures (in action, if not thought) is reasonable to a certain extent to ensure social harmony. Even, occasionally, against unreasonable requirements. So I wouldn't encourage many public school students to engage in confrontational behavior of this sort as a matter of course; at least in the current climate, it's better to stick it out until it's over. But occasional challenges to authority by individuals let them know we're not just sheep. As long as there is respect for the rebel, this nation of individualists will not fall wholly into collectivism. And that does give me some small hope.
Potentially unrelated observation: It is ironic to me that conservatives seem to be the biggest champions of social collectivism in the US these days. That's a topic to think on.
One thing that I find particularly compelling is analyzing economic behavior through the actions of kids or children's stories. They're simple and expressive - anyone can understand them. I bring this up because of a couple articles I read recently, and because of one I read a while ago (though I'm sure they're not the only examples of this phenomenon):
As is my annual wont, I shall take some time to remind you of the story of the first real Thanksgiving. This year, from Murray Rothbard's Conceived in Liberty, via the Mises Institute:
In mid-December 1620 the Mayflower landed at Plymouth. In a duplication of the terrible hardships of the first Virginia settlers, half of the colonists were dead by the end of the first winter. In mid-1621 John Peirce and Associates obtained a patent from the Council for New England, granting the company 100 acres of land for each settler and 1,500 acres compulsorily reserved for public use. In return, the Council was to receive a yearly quitrent of two shillings per 100 acres.
A major reason for the persistent hardships, for the "starving time," in Plymouth as before in Jamestown, was the communism imposed by the company. Finally, in order to survive, the colony in 1623 permitted each family to cultivate a small private plot of land for their individual use. William Bradford, who had become governor of Plymouth in 1621, and was to help rule the colony for thirty years thereafter, eloquently describes the result in his record of the colony:
All this while no supply was heard of…. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length … the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves…. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land … for that end, only for present use…. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.
The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's … that the taking away of property and bringing community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing…. For this community … was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The strong … had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice…. Upon … all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought … one as good as another, and so … did … work diminish … the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst men…. Let none object this is men's corruption … all men have this corruption in them…. (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–47, New York: Knopf, 1952, pp. 120–21.)
The antipathy of communism to the nature of man here receives eloquent testimony from a governor scarcely biased a priori in favor of individualism.
The first Thanksgiving, in 1621, was truly not the real one to be thankful for. Famine prevailed, and during that year half the colonists had died. This continued well into 1622, and it was not until market liberalization in 1623 - the end of communism for Plymouth colony - that harvests became bountiful and truly something to be thankful for. Private property prevailed once again, demonstrating again man's inability to create prosperity through forced collectivization.
So if you sit down to have a meal with your family this evening, as many American families do, be sure to reserve some thanks for God's blessing of the marketplace, which has provided your bounty. It gives all men the chance to be free and simultaneously prosperous.