Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation


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Gerrymandering: Surprises lurk in the shadows

 

The House is, for all that every member is up for re-election every two years, not likely to flip to Democratic control any sooner than 2022, and probably not even then. The reason is simple, the party in power gets to stack the deck every time the census comes around. Gerrymandering doesn’t have to happen, the politicians do it that way to prevent random cases of democracy breaking out.

But there is no way to gerrymander the senate. Each state gets two senators, and they are elected at large. There is not way to rig the game to make sure one side isn’t given a fair chance to win.

The clearest example I know of is California.

 

Calif voting record

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California is, by the numbers, a fairly blue state. 2/3rds of her voters voted for Obama.  What does her House delegation look like? These days it’s pretty close to those numbers; prior to the passage of Prop. 20, in 2008, that wasn’t the case.

What does that mean for the next president (who needs to have some support, somewhere, if anything productive is going to happen)?  That, as they say, depends. Incumbency is a pretty powerful thing. Lots of people say “turn the bums out”, but when pressed think their bum is ok.  I remember, some years back, being at a party. It was a party full of Quakers. Of liberal Quakers. Liberal Quakers who had David Dreier as their Representative.

The host of the party, a moderately liberal Quaker, had a David Dreier yard sign, in 2002. When asked why he said, “He’s done good things for Monrovia”.  That’s the power of incumbency.

But, lots of states have so gerrymandered their House districts that the Senate is at greater risk. Looking at the House Delegations (and remembering incumbency) seats look safer than they are.  But years of being disenfrachised, on the one hand, and the present level of disarray in the Republican Party had already put some Senate seats in moderate play.

Then Scalia died. The level of obdurate, obviously partisan, obstructionism the Senate got a huge spotlight.  The Senate, you see is supposed to be above that sort of thing (not that they have been for, at least 20 years) but before this they could appeal to the “Senate’s tradition of bipartisanship” and folks would believe it.  The real problem is there was a bout of this a few years ago, which was resolved with the “Gang of 14” who were supposed to see to it that, so long as no “extreme” judges were nominated, there would be “up or down votes” on nominees.

That failed. It very quickly became obvious that the definition of “Extreme” was anything to the left of Roberts.

But the public could ignore than when it was Federal judges being stymied. The crises at the district (and circuit) levels isn’t that visible to most people. The one time they pay attention to the recommendations of the Senate Judicial Committees is when there is a Supreme Court nominee.

Which couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Republican Party.

Because the question of who gets to appoint justices to the Supreme Court is usually theoretical. It’s something policy wonks worry about, but most people don’t watch the court closely enough to consider it. They see nominations as random. They don’t look at actuarial tables and wonder who is likely to die.  This year it’s right there, in the open.  And those blue states with Red Senators… suddenly have a big reminder of how much their vote matters.

 


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Making things

I have a Patreon, mostly to deal with writing about making things. I’m not sure how much political ramblings would go over. On the one hand, keeping different platforms for different things seems to be a recipe to let some things slide, on the other there is something to be said for keeping those things more likely to irritate paying customers to a minimum.

The other aspect is, of course, that I shall probably start to delay the release of things I write; so as to give some incentive to supporting most of what I have to offer, which is writing, and putting the political up on a delay seems counter to the purpose. I do know that having sat myself down to write about this and that was inspiring to write more about other things, so it’s also a case of habit (though I really don’t like the keyboard on the Dell Envy. I may fire up the Pavillion and use it as a writing platform; use this for games and photo editing).

So this isn’t going away, but if you like this, and feel like putting a bit in the tip jar, there’s now a place to do that.

 

https://www.patreon.com/Pecunium


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He’s not a dove, he’s not a hawk: Trump’s a thug

A couple of weeks ago Salon had a piece up saying we need to consider Trump’s foreign policy ideas because they were “better than Hillary’s”†

In the first place it’s not true. The keystone of this is the idea Trump opposed The Iraq War in 2003. He didn’t. He opposed the way it was run, but he didn’t think it was a bad idea. It was, in fact, perfectly in line with his way of thinking. Soup to nuts.  He never has had any grasp of how the world works. His ideas about diplomacy are little more developed than that of a mid-level mob-capo trying to keep three blocks of Little Italy paying his bag men every Friday.

Even earlier, when it was rumored he was thinking of trying to run against GHWB for the 1988 race, he ran an “open letter to the American People” he was willing to spent almost $100,000 (which was a lot more money back then) to say,

It’s time for us to end our vast deficits by making Japan, and other who can afford it, pay. Our world protection is worth hundreds of billions of billion of dollars to these countries and their stake in their protection is far greater than ours…

Make Japan, Saudi Arabia, and others pay for the protection we extend as allies. Let’s help our farmers, our sick, our homeless by taking from some of the greatest profit machines ever created — machines created and nutured by us.  ‘Tax’ these wealthy nations, not America. End our huge deficits, reduce our taxes, and let America’s economy grow unencumbered by the cost of defending those who can easily afford to pay us for the defense of their freedom.  Let’s not let our great country be laughed at anymore.

In 1988, two years before Desert Storm he said we should be squeezing Kuwait for 25 percent of their oil revenues because, they couldn’t sell any oil without us.  That’s, to be polite, a hegemonic imperialism. To use plain-language, over the circumlocutions of diplomacy… his view of foreign policy is, “nice little economy you got here, be a shame if anything was to happen to it”.

He’s talked about assassinating leaders he doesn’t like.

When it comes to domestic policy… The reason Putin likes him is Trump thinks China was too restrained when the machined-gunned students protesting in Tiananmen.

When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.

This is in keeping with his rhetoric about protestors at his rallies, where he says things about how in the past they would have been leaving on stretchers.

This is not a person who is, in contrast to anyone the Democrats have entertained as a candidate can be called any sort of “less adventuresome”.  Trump doesn’t have a specific country he want’s to invade.  No, he thinks he can threaten our “enemies”, bully our neighbors (Mexico is not paying for a wall), and extort our “allies”.

He’s no dove. He’s not a hawk. He’s a toddler, who wants you to think it’s reasonable to give him a sawed-off shotgun, with a hair trigger.

†Salon is a confused mess; there are often good stories, but since it’s both a place of original content, and a content farm repackaging things from other places, married to a clickbait site recycling things with lurid/sensational headlines it’s impossible to say they have any coherent stand on things. The New Republic may be fetid swill, but at least they have a coherent band of thinking.

The best example I can think of to show this editorial instability is the way they deal with the Daily Show since Trevor Noah took over. It’s been a mix of “Noah is killing it” and “OMG the Daily Show has been ruined by this inept poser who doesn’t really understand politics, humor, nor the need to go for the throat, woe is us!”.  Often in the same sidebar.


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Donald Trump and the politics of torture

I guess, like Arlo Guthrie, doing the chorus again in concert, it’s come ’round again on the guitar.

I ain’t proud.

Donald Trump is a moron. Not in the sense that he’s stupid. He’s not. He’s a canny bastard, and a pretty good politician (in an age where “politics” has long moved from The Art of the Possible” to the realm of the panderer; appealing to prejudice has always been a useful tool to the candidate,  but it’s rarely been required to keep the office, once gained. That’s a whole ‘nother topic).

This however is either ignorant; beyond belief, or evil.

Blitzer brought up Salah Abdeslam — a chief suspect in the Paris attack who was detained last week and who it has been speculated might have connections to the Brussels attackers — and asked Trump whether he would begin “torturing him right away,” since Belgian authorities have said Abdeslam was already talking to investigators.

“He may be talking, but he’ll talk faster with the torture,” Trump said, suggesting torture could have prevented Tuesday attacks which have left at least 30 people dead.

The amount of wrong in that sentence is massive. The errors are layered, from top to bottom, like sheets of pastry, and it only gets worse as he goes on. Extracting information is something I’m good at.  I did it for a few years as a journalist.  I did it for more years as an Army interrogator. On top of those skills I spent years teaching others how to do it.  I understand the theory, and practice, of interrogation a lot better than he does.

If Abdselam was talking, there wasn’t anything to do to “make him talk faster, and, contra Trump (and the Right Wing Wurlitzer) this is wrong too:

“I would be willing to bet that he knew about this bombing that took place today,” Trump said. “We have to be smart. It’s hard to believe we can’t waterboard which is — look, nothing’s nice about it but, it’s your minimal form of torture. We can’t waterboard and they can chop off heads. “

That is 100 percent what’s wrong with torture as a tool. Trump is sure Abdselam knew about Brussels. How is he sure?  Well Abdselam is Muslim, and he is supposed to have taken part in a different attack; hundreds of miles away, with people who had no connection to the attack on Brussels, but he’s a Muslim so…

Even if Abdselam were aware of the Brussels attack how would Trump get it out of him?  How would Trump know to ask? That’s the main problem, one can’t just say, “what do you know” and get the subject to vomit up the info you want. Assume, for the sake of argument, that Abdselam *did* know about the Brussels attacks. The interrogator doesn’t.

We can also assume, that if he knows, he doesn’t really want to give up the info. Hitting him will only remind him that the info is important. If he knew about them, he also knows there is a time limit. If he holds out long enough either his confederates can get away, or the plan will have been carried out. So where does The Donald start his line of investigation?

Seriously. Where does one start? “Tell us about the other plans!!!!”.

Weak. It tells the subject you don’t know.  He can spin yarns until the plans he does know about are immaterial to the investigation.

“Tell us about the people you know in…”  Where?  How does one choose where to start?  He was arrested for attacks on Paris. Logic implies that any information he is guaranteed to have is about things in Paris. Ok, he’s Belgian. Maybe he is involved in something happening in Belgium.  Maybe the five months he’s not been caught after Paris have convinced him it’s safe to go back to plotting.  But against whom?  His MO is to work some distance from home (which is not a bad MO, if one can bland into the local environment; there is less chance of being IDed by someone at the scene, which means other leads have to be followed. If one is careful one’s odds of avoiding capture go up, a lot).

So how does one choose what line of investigation to start?  Which is the answer the victim is refusing to yield? Which, “I don’t now about that” is the lie which justifies torture?  When the victim *is* ignorant, and honesty leads to pain, what will keep them to telling the truth when just giving in and confessing to the required crime will stop the pain?

Because that is what will happen. One of the principle part of SERE school, where pilots and aircrew are trained in what it’s like to be tortured, is that everyone breaks.  Everyone. Even when it’s known that the tortures are part of the drill, and one won’t be maimed, much less killed, they all break. So why do our politicians, and pundits, pretend that “bad guys” are different?

Because it sells. Because there aren’t enough people holding them to account. Because part of the narrative is comforting. The fable that we can be protected, if only we have the resolve to “do what must be done.” It’s a convenient lie, that safety can actually be created by force of will. It can’t. Bad actors will figure out how to do bad things.

If you don’t believe me just look at prisons. In environments where the state has total control, weapons are made, assaults; even to the point of murder, are committed. Conspiracies for revolt are made, and carried out. If we can’t stop it in places where the populace is constrained, contained, and enslaved, what makes us think torturing a small subset of those who are freely able to move will?

Fear sells. Torture advocates (you can’t call them apologists when they use the word, and say we need to do the deeds) are selling fear, and fear is like yeast, once you put it in the dough, it won’t stop so long as it is fed.

 

 

*though like him I’m tired, even if I’ve not been singing the song quite as long.


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Navel gazing

Today was a day of difference.  We started by meeting Merav’s parents’ friend/guide near the Jaffa Gate, and heading to the Churches of the Holy Sepulchre. Off we went, left turn on to the street of the Greek Patriarchate and then right past the Cloisters of the Greek Orthodox, and into the plaza in front of the complex which is the Holy Sepulchre.

The Holy Sepulchre, as with all the other churches in Jerusalem is a mishmash of tradition, legend, and superstition. The story is Helena, Constantine’s mother, came to Jerusalem to poke about and found not only his tomb, but the crosses of both Jesus and the Two Brigands. Conveniently the tomb was right by the crosses (she tested the veracity of them by touching sick people. One of them healed people, the others did not, ergo she had found, The True Cross).

On top of all that she found the slab of stone on which Christ’s body was prepared for burial, and the tomb of Adam.

It’s no more plausible than George Washington and the Cherry Tree, or Alfred and the Cakes. Which is fine by me. I dont think the point of all this isn’t to see the actual sites (which, absent a whole lot of evidence which would have already come to light, ages ago. The point is that Jesus death, if not his life, was tied up with Jerusalem.  If one wants a sense of place, to engage in communion with that sense of place, one needs a focus.

The churches (and there are many, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Coptic, each jealously guarding the piece of turf they have staked out, and arguing about who gets to do what, where, and when), manage to do that. These have been places of pilgrimage for going on 1600 years (that’s for the Christians, add the people who came through here on their way to Jerusalem; for any of the three festivals one was supposed to hie oneself to the Temple to observe, and it’s connections stretch back no one can know how long).

It’s a variation on the only heretical scene “The Last Temptation of Christ”, where Paul declaims the actual life, or death, of Jesus is immaterial because the message is what matters.
I didn’t come to Israel as a pilgrim. I came to visit family. On the other hand it IS is a place of pilgrims, and this is a week for pilgrimage. So we went; I’m the only Christian in the family, and I’m not much for performative religiosity. I am not going to bend down to kiss things, nor climb the Spanish Steps on my knees. What I do take to heart is continuity, so putting my hands in the deep hollow on the door, trailing along the wide, dark, band of stained stone; crossing the incised graffiti carved by others heading all the way down to the purported location of the true cross… those are meditative, connective; Communal.

The shared sense of what the teachings in Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles are what tie the various sects of Christianity together. Climbing the stairs to the Chapels overlooking the Stone of Unction the common threads are visible. The Catholic Chapel is cheek by jowl with the Greek Orthodox, where Armenians, Russian Orthodox, Lutherans, Romans, Greeks, Baptists, Anglicans, Congregationalists, Quakers, et alia, all make their personal acts of worship; or observation.

I stood, as in the Women’s Gallery of an Orthodox Shul, listening to the Greek Orthodox liturgy below me, joining in the responsorial Kyrie Elieson: one with the entire body of the faithful.

That, I think, is the thing I was trying to sort out before, how the thread which warps its way from Judaism, to Christianity; and also to Islam, binds up the separate warps of our personal beliefs, bound in the passage of the years, and the variations of the weft spun by our different creeds. It’s all tied up in this city. Even for the devoted, who like myself, are not very devout.

It is, by virtue of historical accident, the Omphalos of the world for something like one third of humanity. That sense of connection  to the rest of humankind, not the fripperies of the fables told of the churches here (be they the Temple, The Dome of the Rock, or the Tomb of the Holy Sepulchre) are, I have come to see, what I ended up making pilgrimage to find.

For the moment, I can rest my scallop on the mantlepiece.


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The mind goes where it will

Israel is small, in the same way California isn’t.

Much of what people think of as “California” is in a narrow zone, not more than 50 miles from the sea. Much of what people (or at least I) want to see is within fifty miles of Jerusalem. It’s not that I don’t want to see the Negev, I do. I love the desert, but desert abides and I can carry *my* desert with me. A brief sojourn in another desert is much like feeding a sourdough starter; the calmness the expanse of desert gives me is renewed.

People talk of how looking at the vastness of the sky makes them feel small an insignificant in comparison to the empty vastness of space.  Not me.  I look at the sky and feel enlarged. So There is so much out there that EVERYTHING is insignificant, so I am equal to galaxies. I am become the universe. Not so the desert. The Desert is unforgiving in a way “space” isn’t.  No one ends up in space without preparing.  One can’t just hop on a horse, jump in the car, walk out of town, into “space”.

But “The Desert”?  It’s right there (or was, when I lived in Calif.)  All it took to be in the sere and sandy “wastes” was a couple of hours. But being in the desert, where the wind sweeps from the dry interior to the drier area behind the hills which gird the peopled piedmont, that makes you feel small. The desert will kill you. Water?  It’s there, but you have to know where it is, and how to get it. Food?  The same.  Shelter?  Non-trivial.  But people live there.  People have lived there since time immemorial. Learning how to avoid dying there was something I started doing when I was about nine.

Sitting three miles up Rattlesnake Canyon, with a plan to head up toward Chair Rock, and down the backside, over toward Boy Scout Trail and back to Indian Cove… that takes planning. In that trek you will walk across deep sand, up narrow draws, across open rock faces; and over boulders. Scramble, and climb and saunter. By turns you will cold and overheated. You will sit in the sun to warm yourself, and hide in the shade to cool off.

It sounds trite, but the desert will test you. It’s not that the desert hates you. The desert doesn’t care. No place cares, but the forest, or the city, or the plains don’t seem to be so open about it. The desert makes you feel small because you have to plan for everything. The cold of winter, the heat of summer. The bites and stings of bugs, snakes, scorpions and plants.

In exchange… you get nothing.

And nothing is wonderful. You can sit, where the wind is all you hear, look down from some rocky fastness, and think. You can hie yourself to where the only evidence of humanity is the odd contrails of people in planes, thousands of feet above you.

Introspection is possible there as no place else I’ve been. I understand the desert  hermits. It’s not that god is any closer in the quiet places, it’s that they were.

Which wasn’t what I meant to talk about at all.


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I am as a stranger in a strange land

I’ve been in Jerusalem for about a week. It’s sort of like my trips to Germany… I don’t speak the language (and unlike Germany I can’t really decipher the signage; except that most f them here are tri-lingual, so I can * but not with any rapidity). As with Germany I don’t mark as being foreign (I suspect the beard I’ve grown since Sept. last, married to my hat-wearing habits, has something to do with this. {photo}), so I get a lot of Hebrew tossed at me when I do things like go for my morning coffee. This means I don’t feel out of place when walking about (which I sort of did when in Korea), but am at a moderate disadvantage when dealing with random interactions (which was not true in trips to Ukraine).
Jerusalem. Setting aside any religious sentiment I might have, it’s a city pregnant with meaning.  I was reared in the USA. I am a grandchild of Europe and a student of history. That, in itself will color one’s views. When Reagan said the US was a City on a Hill, he was making reference to Jerusalem. When people use the metaphor of “Crusade” it refers to Jerusalem. For a good three thousand years the ability to control trade has meant people fought for control of the city on these hills.

That’s on top of the religious significance three different groups attached to it. Which significance led to Rome’s most troubled province, and the revolt it had the hardest time suppressing **. Jerusalem was seen as the center of the world for a large part of the history which shapes the culture Westerners grow up in.

The same way being a Native English Speaker makes London something of a mental homeland, so too does being reared with a European perspective give a strange sense of place to Jerusalem.

But it’s more than that. We are here to visit family. My wife’s cousin has a son who is turning thirteen. We are here for his Bar Mitzvah.  So Israel, which is more than just Jerusalem is place to which I have a direct connection. A connection to which my christian sensibilities also disconnects, in more than a few ways.

But I am also, in many ways, a Californian. How does that relate?  The landscape, and the weather, are like unto  that of “home” (where home is that place one feels innately at ease, just by virtue of being present).  We went to Qumran, and thence to Masada. It was a day of rarity. Neither of our guides had ever been to the Dead Sea on a day of rain.  In Jerusalem the rain came down in buckets. In the wild hills above the sea there we had some rain and the smell of water on dusty rocks. Setting aside my views of the interpretations of the totality of the Dead Sea Scrolls *** I could see myself living a moderately hermetic life in the area. The climate, the smell, the appearance are all of piece to the places in Joshua Tree where I was wont to retire to collect my thoughts, when I was living in South-ish California. The hill about Judea, are as those I lived in San Luis Obispo, and wandered when I lived in the San Gabriel, and San Fernando Valleys.  Israel looks like home.

The day before we were in the Old City; though we didn’t go to the Christian Quarter (and I am mixed on visiting it, as I was already seeing pilgrims heading into Israel last week, and next week is Holy Week; which means crowds, married to the decided risk of encountering the sort of Fundamentalist American Christians I don’t enjoy being around when they are home. I don’t know how tolerant I can be of them here ****). But we went to the area of the Hulda Gate, and wandered the layered ruins, running a mixed gamut from the Umayyids, to the Second Temple and the Byzantines, and the Outre Mer and some First Temple. My spiritual landscape piled in heaps; with bits of order in the rubble.

Standing on the far edge of the Valley of the Cross, looking at the geography all the military history I’ve read: from the accounts in Kings, and Numbers, to Josephus,  and then the Crusades, and Lawrence, and Allenby and the War of Independence; et sequelae… all of it made plain by the way the hills, and walls, control the valleys. It’s a nexus; all trade passing here is controllable. That, married to religion, has made this small patch of dirt a cockpit for not less than 3,000 years.

Which brings us back to Masada, not the Masada of landscape
It’s a lot to digest.

 

 

*which is, like a Rosetta Stone, helping me acquire the skills to decipher the signs
** which is a large, if not the greatest, reason for the anti-semitism in the Gospels. Rome was REALLY pisssed at Judea. They expelled all the Jews from the province, and renamed it Palestinia. They tore out all the trees, and gave it over to grazing, changing the landscape, creating desert and altering the climate. They were doing this while the Ur-text of the Gospels were being written. Sympathetic treatments of Jews weren’t going to be any help in converting Romans to Christianity, but I digress.

*** I don’t think they are all the work of the sect in Qumran.  I think de Vaux engaged in a lot of overreach as he ascribed all the discovred texts to Qumran, and tried to shoehorn some very divergent ideas into a coherent whole. I think either they were texts brought with candidates to the group, and so discarded as not relevant (with the option to be reclaimed if they decided the community was not for them), or they were the valuable objects of people who were fleeing the chaos further North as rebellion approached, then raged.

**** I already had to bite my tongue at Katros’ House where someone tried to engage me in the horrors of American Divisions; given that they were giving off a strong Fundamentalist vibe.


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On Roosh and PR

Before it fades to the usual background, I have some thoughts about Roosh. Roosh wasn’t new to me, nor was the Manosphere. I’ve been aware of it since the middle-80s when “Father’s Rights” started becoming a thing.¹ In the intervening years I spent some time in the bowels of the internet, bearding some of these idiots in their dens. Which is where I first encountered Roosh the Doosh.²

Roosh is a scammer. He’s of the grifter mindset. He wrote a number of tracts on how to “Bang *insert country*”. They were banal examples of “How to Pick Up Girls” which mostly boiled down to, “go to someplace where your money buys more than it does here, and pretend to be rich”. This trick works. But that’s all it is, a trick. I’ve seen it play out in Ukraine, where the hotel I was staying in was being used for a “bridal fair”. The Americans who were there, were (in a word) repulsive. Women were things to buy, and poor women were the best of the best, because, “they would be grateful, and obedient, for fear of going back to poverty”.

That’s what Roosh sells. It’s why he struck out in Scandinavia and had to engage in rape in Iceland. Yes, rape. He not only admitted it, he said he knew it was rape when he did it, but, “having sex is what I do”.³ The problem for Roosh is that his business model is not great. He sells e-books about how to engage in power-tripping in places where Euros and Dollars go further. Not only is that a limited market, but it’s one with limited subjects. Unless you think the economic landscape in Poland, or Brazil has changed a lot, a new edition isn’t really going to sell.

It also costs money to do the “research”.

So a few years ago he decided to try converting to a different sort of guru. He started trying to sell social commentary. The problem was, that niche (telling angry white men how tough they have it because ANGRY FEMINISTS ARE DESTROYING THE WORLD) is full. AvFM is soaking up what money there is for that.

So Roosh went for shock. One of his tricks was to argue the problem with rape isn’t that it happens too much, but that women get to do something about it. He argued the way to “stop rape” was to make it too costly for women to be alone with men. He said that, on private property, rape should be legal. That way women would never allow themselves to be alone with men, so they would never get raped. Two birds with one stone. 1: Rape stats would fall. 2: the dread bogeyman of the PUA movement, “false rape” would disappear.

Non-PUAs noticed. That was when Roosh moved from annoying creep on the near fringes of the Manosphere, to What The Fuck, that Asshole is a Menace. He thought he’d hit the bigtime.

Because, for all they whine about Evil Feminists the MRM/PUA crowd don’t really think they matter. They think they feminism is a dead letter, because (like liberal) lots of people are afraid to self-identify as feminists (in part because assholes like Roosh gin-up hate mobs). They fail to take into account that a lot of the ideas of feminism are now seen as standards of decent behavior. This bit him in the ass when he decided to take his new schtick on the road for a series of seminars.

In Montréal he got hounded, pretty much shut down by people who didn’t like him telling his venues what sort of shit they were letting but space. Then he got seen in public, in a disguise. When he tried to put some moves on a woman in a bar, she tossed a beer in his face and he was chased out of the place.

He needed to regain some traction. Being shamed, by feminists (that some of the people chasing him out were male was even worse, this is a guy who thinks “do you even lift bro” is some sort of insult to other men. So he hit on the “Meet-ups”, and tried to riff on the Canada tour, which had some success before Montréal.

A lot of folks are talking about how either there was a great victory, because they were shut down, or a great failure because anyone paid attention. On the whole I think it’s a bit of both, but, in the short run, the pushback played into Roosh’s weaknesses, and he made lemonade. There was no way he was going to have more than 150 successful get togethers. He had four planned in NYC, and another one in Hoboken. There aren’t enough dyed in the wool MRA/PUAs to get more than 2-3 to show up to those. If he’d said he was having 20, and named 20 big cities, mostly in he the US, I might have thought it plausible.

Do I think he planned it all out? No. Honestly, I think he over reached. I’m guessing some 30-60 dudes said, “I’d be willing to host a meetup” and Roosh ran with it. Then he over-reached, assumed 1: all those dudes would actually do it (even with the best of intentions, and most willing of people, one needs redundancy to get that many disparate meet-ups going. Because people have lives). But he committed.

And got some pushback. I think that was a big part of the plan. I’m guessing he figured the pushback would be just enough to get the meet-ups talked about enough to spark interest. What he didn’t count on was how skittish MRA types (even more than PUA die-hards) are. I’m guessing the reaction started out well enough; with more dudes saying, “hell yeah! I’ll stick it to feminists!”, but then the volume of response, married to the ridiculous nature of, “Do you know where the pet shop is”, sooper-seekrit spy-shenanigans, caused even those few who had committed to it to waffle, or back out, and the flood of, “I’ll host in Topeka” types never showed.

So he got to save face, and gain some credibility with his base (because of the doxxing), rather than have to admit to an abject failure. I don’t think he planned that aspect of it. I think that was a fortuitos side effect of the years he’s spent being an offensive waste of carbon. In the long run, I don’t think he can last. His writing is getting more bitter. Less, “oh yeah, banging broads is easy” and more, “The world is shit and women are why”. Even if AvFM weren’t on the scene Roosh has neither the writing chops, nor the sort of backstory, which make converting that from a small base of angry fanboys to the sort of 30-60,000 dollars a year scam of AvFM.

He’s a one-trick pony, and this is pretty much his trick now. I don’t think he can keep racking up successful failures. So yeah, this could have gone a lot worse for him, but wasn’t a win.

¹Are there Men’s Issues that society needs to address? Yes. Are they what the Manosphere is talking about? Mostly no. For those that do matter are Men’s Rights Activists doing anything to improve things? No.

²I stopped needing to encounter them tertially when Dave Futrelle started his blog about the Manosphere, where I spent a fair bit of time, in the course of about five years. The nice thing about it was a pretty good commentariat, and a “honey-pot” aspect. LOTS of MRAs/PUAs/Bog Standard Misogynists/&c would show up to “teach the ladies” a thing or two. We had regulars, and intermittents, ad drive bys. Some, the NWOSlaves, and David Mellers, and Brandons were in turn ridiculous, terrifyingly comical, and depressing in their pathologies, and normalness. Others (the CrackMCees, and Peter-Nolan© types) were just ludicrous. Most were pathetically consistent in what, and how, they argued.

³He also seems to have engaged in rape in other places too. He admits to one in Poland, and has said he “can’t go back to Poland”. The implications are he left for fears someone reported him to the authorities for something.


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On the politics of infallibility

A lot of Catholics are up in arms about the stances His Holiness the pope has recently taken.  They tell him he ought to stick to the “moral issues” which they aver are the sole province of The Church. They are hypocrites.  By and large they are massive hypocrites. Yes, the pope is a moral steward.  Yes, the prime focus of The Church’s magisterium (to borrow a concept from Stephen Jay Gould) is one of “morality”, but given both the scope of the text used to justify that claim, and the breadth of pronouncements they have accepted in the past, it’s ridiculous to the point of hubris to pretend the question of how we steward the Earth (which contains the part of God’s Creation given over to the Dominion of Man ) is outside His Holiness’ purview.

I could point to the parable of the talents; and argue that just as much as the question of broadcasting the good word (best done by example and not exhortation, were one to ask me; and it seems Pope Francis) so too is how we take care of what God has actually given unto our hands. Refusing to care for it could be said to be as bad as burying it in a field.

But more to the point, those same Catholics who now sing a song about how the pope isn’t as permanently infallible as all that*.  Which isn’t (though they have denied it) new for them.  They have been fond of bruiting papally inflexible infallibility on matter of the the US Culture Wars they favor (e.g. homosexuality, abortion, same sex marriage, birth control), but oddly contrary to Church teaching on things like capital punishment, and war.

Which is, at one level, fine.  There are some moral issues on which people of good will can disagree** but it’s offensive for those same people who berate, upbraid, and abuse those with whom they disagree by using one set of the Church’s teachings, while vehemently pursuing goals which are in complete opposition to Church teachings more forcefully expressed.

Take Birth Control.  The Church is ambivalent about it: Rhythm is completely sanctioned.  Hormonal is somewhat sanctioned (in that a doctor recommending it for reasons of health is completely acceptable; as a friend of mine found out when she was converting.  She’d been on the pill for… about eight years (at the age of 21) for debilitating periods.  She asked what she needed to do when she got married (she was still a virgin, though affianced).  He told her to keep taking it, until they wanted to have children, as her health trumped all.

The Church makes no exceptions for capital punishment; yet many of those who yell that The Pill = Abortion = sin unforgivable, not only look the other way at capital punishment but laud its application (yes, I am looking at Scalia, the Cafeteria Catholic).

So those self-same people telling me the Pope is WRONGER THAN WRONG CAN BE about climate change, while screaming blue murder about Abortion/Birth Control/Same-Sex Marriage and ignoring capital punishment are hypocrites, more worried about the motes in my eye, than the beam in theirs.

The Church does not demand I abandon reason. She says God gave it me for a purpose (though one could argue the tale of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil says it’s not necessarily a blessing), and not to use it is a sin.  It’s refusing a gift of God.  She also admits She has been in error (e.g. Gallileo, and the sophistic justifications of Inquisitional excess***), and even were a doctrine made Ex Cathedra, that doesn’t mean one can’t argue against it; merely that one can’t ACT as if it weren’t so.  A later pope might decide the previous one were in error.

For the Pope is a man, as other men; and is subject to all the foibles and weaknesses of men. Pretending he isn’t, when it suits one’s politics; and is when it doesn’t despoils all one’s arguments.



*which he never was. Ex cathedra says that certain type of papal declaration are; when Ex cathedra is invoked, are infallible matters of doctrine.  It has never said being raised to the papacy makes one superhuman, and incapable of philosophical error.

(though the question of what defines a person of good will is somewhat tricky. I, for one, don’t accord that status to either Scalia, or Alito; as things they have said, written, and done, lead me to believe they put their personal opinions ahead of more broad investigation of moral questions.  They accept injustice because it pleases them to use the law as a shield against preventing those injustices which serve their prejudice, but I digress)

*** the legal fiction that the Church didn’t condemn heretics to death; it was merely the choice of the temporal power


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More thoughts on awards, and community

I’ve been following the conversation at Black Gate, about the proposal for “The Awards to be Named Later” I’ve also been following it at File 770. I’ve also seen things said about parts of it on twitter.  I’ve been following with a mix of hope and despair.  This is, I think, a serious attempt to propose, a sort of modus vivendi, between part (what one would like to think is the larger slice) of the Puppy camp, and wider fandom. That’s a ground for hope. A mindset of perpetual war isn’t good for any of us.

The despair comes from seeing those same comments.  There is a lack of self-awareness to the position the puppies have put themselves into.  Even if we assume (arguendo) that Fandom (with a Capital F) hates them (which I don’t), the means by which they attempted to deal with that hate weren’t going to smooth the waters anywhere.  Hell, if we assume Fandom hated them, then what they did was tailor made to entrench it.

I don’t think Fandom hates them. I think Fandom is upset with them.  Setting aside the first year, which wasn’t more than moderately offensive (based on I don’t know what, some basic cluelessness about what the Hugos are, and how they work is my best guess), the second and third iterations were about as tailor made as one can imagine to mobilise a strong, and angry, pushback.  Attempts were made to subvert the process, in the interest of hijacking the awards.  The rhetoric was heated, but the Puppies was apocalyptic.  Nothing less than the future of SF Fandom was at stake.

The mythology of the Puppies doesn’t help.  If there is a super-seekrit cabal of SJWs skewing the awards for purely political purposes… well there isn’t.  The simple mechanics of the awards are such that too many people have to be involved.  Year in, year out, the Cabal has to have enough votes to edge out the rest of the field.  Each year, they have to include just a few more of those secret voters.  But they can’t put in to many, or they would show.  And each year’s worldcon has a new committee administering the Hugos. So it’s a fresh chance each year to make a mistake that outs the conspiracy.

So I’ll argue it’s not possible.

Which is, IMO, a large part of why fandom got so upset.  The Puppies were trying to gaslight every fan who took part in the Hugos of the past 15-20 years.  Telling them they were, if not deluded, then completely duped.  That’s never going to go over well. Hell, it doesn’t go over well when 1: it’s true, and 2: can be proven.  When it’s amorphous, contrary to reason, and at odds with experience…. people are going to develop strong feelings.  Strong feelings which aren’t going to fade in a month.

One of the things Maynard is unhappy about is the accusation that he is saying people who aren’t “the right sort” aren’t fans.  I feel for him.  I take him at his word he doesn’t think that.  But the Puppies made it pretty plain that, as a group, they do.  The entire rhetorical device of “wrongfans” and “wrongfun”, married to the idea of a vast wellspring of silent fans who were rising up to take their legitimate seats at the table; after years of active exclusion… that’s a narrative which says the Fans who have been reading things, nominating things, and voting for the Hugos, aren’t doing it legitimately.

That’s gonna get pushback.

I understand that the pushback stings.  But (and this is one of those points where we do have a fundamental disagreement), the Puppies have to accept the people who are unhappy with them have a legitimate grievance. I don’t think they need to ask forgiveness, but (in the face of a legitimate grievance) saying,

I fear the Hugos have already been permanently destroyed for this purpose, between the hated Vox Day and the No Puppy slate voting and raucous cheering and Vonnegut Memorial Asterisks. They cannot be salvaged without the kind of overture the anti-Puppies seem to be incapable of making.

Is not going to be taken in a neutral way, even by people who aren’t against the idea of people getting to together to praise those things they like.

Presenting the award as 1: a way to fix a different award, and 2: because the people doing that award are “doing it wrong” is also not going to go over well.  Yes, I am making an argument about tone.  I am saying that if Maynard wanted to get enthusiastic encouragement, support, and aid, which comments like this one seem to imply,

As I’ve said before, I appreciate that the folks here have, for the most part, been quite reasonable and courteous and non-inflammatory. Compare with the folks over at File 770 (to mention one site where I’ve read the comments).

But just as I thought we were moving toward a proposal that we could all agree on – which is still my fondest hope – it blows up in my face. All because I pointed out it could be something everyone could agree on and still remain true to what they believe. What I got back was “Oh, Puppies like it? Go away, this is for adults.”

I’ve dealt with Internet hate before, and this proposal has gotten a lot of it. What’s disheartening is that it’s arisen in a context where I’m trying hard to bring people together. I’ve already said that this proposal was just that, a proposal open for discussion. I’ve said more than once that my views are changing about parts of it. I haven’t put up a rewrite because I’m not sure that posting a new version in the comments here is all that good an idea.

Then not antagonising those whom you wish to take part is important, esp. if the group you want to have help you, “doesn’t think the Hugos are broken”,* matters.  I also don’t think the comments, on the whole, elseweb are “inflammatory”, per se. Are they upset?  Yes. They’ve been having something they love attacked for a couple of years; with at least one more year of attacks promised. The Puppies don’t see it that way.  That’s irrelevant.  Fandom, as whole, does.  Telling them they are “doing it wrong”, that they don’t appreciate story; that they praised things for other than the story, and then admitting one has never read the stories being decried… not going to win people over to your side.

That tone deafness has been at the heart of this thing.  It’s hard to believe the Puppies are people of good will; honest actors, when they misrepresent their position.  It’s hard to say, “Storytelling isn’t what this book was praised for” when one hasn’t read the story.  It’s rude to tell people they are wrong about the reasons they state they liked something.  It’s foolish to do that when one hasn’t actually read the material.

It’s ridiculous to be upset they aren’t greeting such things with open arms and paeans of praise. To accuse those who misunderstood one’s intent, when the ideas are unclear, and one admits they were unclear, in an environment where some of the people taking umbrage have been vilified, attacked, threatened; in some cases for years, is to lack empathy.

The “web of trust”, is ill-thought out.  It’s incredibly dependent on start conditions; esp. as it has two tiers of power: one of the rank and file; who can only vouch for 3-10 people, and one for the inner circle, who have unlimited vouching powers (and one presumes the same unlimited power to downgrade someone).  Given the way the leadership of the Puppy factions has talked about the non-puppies I can’t fault those who think this is a con-job, a way to make a pretense of inclusion while being certain the “SJWs” are kept from taking part.

I’m with Scalzi on this.  I’m a fan because I say I’m a fan.  If all that’s meant with “the Web of Trust” is to verify I’m a real person, not a persona created to game the system, then any known person should be able to vouch for me.  No one should be able to “unvouch” me.  There is no reason for that, save to pursue an ideological purity.  The purity in question seems to be “likes message fiction”  But, as the comments make clear, there are no objective criteria for message fiction.  “If the “message doesn’t get in the way of the story”, it’s ok,”  but the lines on where that happens are… past the point of unclear, rising to the level of shibboleth.

As long at the trust/distrust metric is in the proposal, it’s doomed.  Because all it will take is a small number of people who have a strong agenda to get access to the no-limits on trust/distrust to completely unbalance the pool.  If I read the rules correctly, it would only take 10 to conduct a wholesale purge. That’s a recipe for feuds. Those are just problems with the ways voters are en/disenfranchised.  It doesn’t address the problems of the adminstrators being the arbiters of what counts as “all about story”.  Fans are passionate.  Fans are fond of hair-splitting differences.  Fans are going to contest the administrators.  I can see administrators who have unlimited power to reduce “trust” doing it if their judgement is questioned.  The very nature of the word “trust” in the process makes it more easily justified.

Fixing that will be work (that, or it will break the system completely).  WSFS has a means to do this.  In part because the purpose of WSFS isn’t to hand out the Hugos, but to host a party for fans. The business meetings are a direct outgrowth of that.  Every SF club/organisation to which I’ve belonged/attended the business meetings of, has had a lore of arcane practice to deal with the cultural love of minutiae, trivia, disputation, and so keep an even keel.  It often makes Young Turks cranky [I know, I was once a Young Turk] and can stifle change. There are times the resistance to rapid change is detrimental.  On balance (as I’ve become an older turk), I am more content with that.

Can The Awards to be Named Later be made to work?  Yes.  Do I think the present schema is functional?  No. There is a lot of paperwork to be done.  There is a greater need for money than Maynard seems to realise.

But the greatest hurdle is trust.  If (and it’s big if) this award is to have any traction in Greater Fandom, the Fans have to trust that all is aboveboard, and open, and not just someone trying to stick their thumb in our eye. I either need to be convinced the Hugos are broken (they are not yet, and I don’t think they will be: in response to need the change is as sudden as we can make it), or that this award is complementary.† Right now I don’t see that this is the case. The mechanisms are open to abuse, the criteria seem to be colored by the wider culture war, and the arguement for them (that the Hugos don’t represent “good story telling” doesn’t feel affirmative; but reactionary.

I don’t know that those things can be fixed, because I don’t think the Hugos are broken.  Do I think a conversation about what good storytelling is should be had?  Yeah.  I’m all for it. Do I think talking about what the messages in various works is is relevant?  Yeah.  Do I think Maynard (and the Puppiesº) should participate?  Hell yeah. What makes me a fan is I like SF, and I take part in the community. If they like SF, and want to participate, then I’m all for it. The more the merrier.  Will it be acrimonious?  Yeah, some of it will be.

Acrimony between fans isn’t new.  Beale’s hatred of Scalzi (and Scalzi’s active, caustic, disdain in return) isn’t the first long-running fan-feud.  Won’t be the last. But if the Puppies want to take part in Fandom, they have to take part in Fandom, not demand that Fandom take part in Puppydom.

*I, for one, don’t think the Hugos are broken.  I don’t even think the process is broken.  I think there is a small group who wishes to break them.  As a problem it requires a very different solution.

†If it’s not complementary, in some way, then I don’t need to be involved.  I also am not likely to pay much attention. I find most “Libertarian” fic to be preachy, expository and driven by message, so I don’t follow the awards.  I’m not against reading “libertarian” books, but winning a Prometheus doesn’t imply to me that I will like it.

ºTo which group Maynard does not belong.  He disavows membership, and I take him at his word.