Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Reparations (II)

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Continuing a discussion of reparations, with several long digressions…

Kill or cure?

WeirdDave at Ace of Spades proposed an open thread based on the idea that you have obtained the keys to a time machine and you have both a 50 caliber rifle and Dr. McCoy’s medkit. The question is, whom would you kill or cure in American history? European history is excluded because, well, Hitler is obvious.

I have to say that reading the comments at Ace of Spades is an acquired taste. They tend to wander off into tangents, and many of the regulars know each other and engage in in-jokes. One of those is that the regulars are referred to as “morons” and “moronettes”. It’s understandable if someone reading my blog would not want to read those comments.

In any case, the commenters suggested various people that they would kill or cure; a lot of them would kill Woodrow Wilson, for instance. Interestingly, no one suggested just sitting down with an historical figure and explaining the future to them so they would (with luck) make better decisions. I suppose that’s because the challenge is “kill or cure”; “educate” is not one of the options.

The thing is, only one person noted that he would not take any action prior to his own birth, which is the very first thing that I would say.

For instance, suppose you saved Lincoln or killed Booth in the expectation that Lincoln would run Reconstruction better, changing the whole dynamic of the post-war South. That might, in the best case, produce much better race relations today — which would be nice, but those race relations would be among people who are not us.

The people who are living today were born to people who lived in a history where Lincoln was assassinated. Reconstruction and its aftermath caused some people to move North who otherwise might not have; some people to move South who otherwise might not have; some people to meet, or not meet; some people to die untimely, or not; and so on, and so on. Bad race relations mean that some people who might have become friends, who might even have married, did not and so the children who might have existed did not and their descendants do not either.

And we can point to others in history as well. Suppose a time traveller killed Woodrow Wilson before he became President. World War I would have been different — maybe a lot, maybe a little, but different. So some young men who came home in our history would not have come home — and so none of the descendants of their children born after the War would now exist. Conversely some who didn’t come home would, and so their descendants might exist, but not the descendants of those people their sweethearts married instead when they didn’t come home.

Without Wilson, would the reparations (there’s that word again) imposed on Germany have been more, or less, onerous? Would the leaders of many nations have behaved differently? Would the First Great Depression have happened? Would it have been less bad, or worse? How many people who travelled to escape the worst effects would not have travelled, or how many more would have done so? Whom would they have met and married that they did not in our history? What children would they have had that they did not, or not have that they actually did?

Would World War II have happened earlier? Later? Not at all? Would someone other than Hitler have led Germany? Would Germany have won? And, once again, how many who died as a direct result of World War II would instead have lived, and how many who lived would instead have died?

As with the much smaller tragedies in my mother’s family, if these immense tragedies had been averted or altered in any way, we who were born after them would not be here. Yes, those alternate histories that might have been could be much better than our own — but they are not ours and never, ever could have been.

To be continued…

Reparations (I)

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

So, I’m back …

I see that the demand for reparations has slithered back out from under its rock again.

Here are some personal anecdotes relevant to a discussion of reparations:

  • My mother and father met at an American university. No surprise, right? Well, my mother’s parents were preparing to move the family to South America when she was a toddler, but her father was killed in an accident and she and her mother remained in America.

    If he had not died, my mother would have grown up in South America and even if, by some unlikely event, she had ever met my father, it would have been in entirely different circumstances and she would have been a quite different person. Even if they had somehow met and married, they would never have had the children that they did.

    In other words, if my mother had not lost her father when she was two, I would not exist.

  • Speaking of my mother’s father, he was stolen as a baby and brought up by the people who stole him*. He figured out that he was not their child so he ran away when he was fourteen and ultimately ended up staying in my great-grandmother’s boarding house, where he met and married my grandmother.

    If he had not been stolen as a baby and had not had a miserable life with those people, he would have been an entirely different person. He might have met my grandmother, but under different circumstances, and even if they had met and married, they would not have had the same children — specifically, they would not have had my mother, and therefore my mother would never have had me.

    In other words, if my mother’s father had not been stolen as a baby, I would not exist.

  • And speaking of my great-grandmother, the reason she was running a boarding house in the first place is that her husband had died while my grandmother was still a child, leaving the family destitute. My great-grandmother converted the family home into a small boarding house so the family wouldn’t starve.

    If my great-grandfather hadn’t died, he would have been able to continue to support the family and there would have no boarding house for my grandfather to stay at, so even if my grandparents had met elsewhere and married, it would have been under other circumstances and, again, even if they had had children, those children would not have included my mother.

    In other words, if my grandmother’s father had not died relatively young leaving the family destitute, I would not exist.

  • Speaking again of my great-grandmother, she was orphaned as a small child by disease. Her entire family died in an epidemic, the neighbors collected enough money to ship her off to live with a distant relative, and it was there that she met and married the boy next door.

    If not for the tragedy of losing her entire family, my great-grandmother would likely never have had any opportunity to meet my great-grandfather, and in any case she would have been a very different person. Though she might have had children, those children would not have included my grandmother, and therefore my mother would never have been born, and neither would I.

    In other words, if my great-grandmother had not lost her entire family to disease, I would not exist.

I’ve gone through this recitation of tragedies because they were tragedies to the people who experienced them. And yet, if I could go back in time and make them unhappen, that would mean that I would not exist.

It is only this history, including these tragedies, that could have produced me.

And not only me, of course; my great-grandmother had other descendants. Furthermore, all these people that I have named, and all their descendants, have interacted with other people and therefore changed their lives so that they had children that they would not have in another history, or didn’t have children that they would have in another history.

To be continued…


* I don’t like to say he was “stolen” because it makes him sound like a piece of property, but I don’t have a good alternative word. I used to say “kidnapped” but a friend interpreted that as indicating that he came from a wealthy family and was taken for ransom. No, actually, his father worked on the railroad and his mother had died bearing him. The family had very little money. No, the wet nurse who was supposed to take care of him because his mother had died simply took him and departed for parts unknown (which in this case was Chicago).

Equality

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” Winston Churchill

In the status quo ante, people who got their health insurance through their employer* and developed a health condition while employed found themselves trapped in their jobs, unable to move to a new job or start a small business because they would face budget-busting health insurance premiums due to their pre-existing condition.

Thanks to Obamacare, everybody who gets their health insurance through their employer is similarly trapped, unable to change jobs or quit due to their inability to pay the budget-busting premiums. Of course, the problem is worse now because in the status quo ante, one could “go bare” and not pay the premiums at all.

Obamacare has achieve the inherent virtue of socialism.


* Thanks to World War II federal wage controls, instituted before the great majority of today’s Americans were ever born.

This cannot be real

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Ye gods.

What country do I live in?

Celebrating the president’s signature policy achievement.

“Oh my God, are we under arrest?”

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Here’s a report of what it means to be a subject of Barack Hussein Obama.

I note this in particular:

… the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.

“They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,” she said. “Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.”

I have news for them. Yes, they were indeed under arrest. You know what the test for that is?

Ask, “Am I free to go?”

If the answer is, as in this case, “Not if you want to keep breathing”, then yes, you are under arrest.

But they were not the criminals in this situation.

The Perils of Propaganda, again

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Watching the behavior of politicians today, I can only reiterate what I said here:

I’ve been reading a bit about World War I (long story how that happened). The subject is really quite fascinating in a tragic sort of way, and there are occasional disturbing resonances between that time and today.

For instance, propaganda.

Of course, propaganda then was far less sophisticated and far less intrusive than it is today, but the governments did see the benefits of controlling what their populations learned of the enemy and of the governments’ own conduct.

The need for propaganda intensified as the war dragged on. It had been expected to last weeks or months (no one was foolish enough to claim “days or weeks”), but it continued for years with no end in sight, and people had to be encouraged to keep feeding their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers into its maw.

The propaganda backfired, though. To quote a book I read called A World Undone,

People everywhere were being told that this war was no continuation of politics by other means, no traditional struggle for limited objectives. It was a fight to the death with the forces of evil, and the stakes were survival and civilization itself. It is no simple thing to make people believe such things and later persuade them to accept a settlement based on compromise.

The results of all the propaganda would be tragic. By raising the stakes of the war beyond the limits of reason, the propagandists ensured that whichever side lost would feel terribly, irredeemably wronged. And that whichever side won would find it difficult to deal rationally with the populations it had defeated.

I doubt our modern propagandists, who throw around accusations of terrorism and hostage-taking, see any lessons to be learned from World War I.

This will not end well.

Even a cat may look at a king

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

But subjects of Barack Hussein Obama may not look at their national parks. Not even from the public roads.

I note a comment in the article linked above:

“They won’t even let you pull off on the side of the road,” Hagen [secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism] said. “I just don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Seriously? You don’t know? Do you ever get out of the house?

Did you think I’d gone away?

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

No, I haven’t gone away. I have thought often about blogging on current events but, well, the only reasonable comment to make on current events is that it is safest to comment on current events only in private to trusted close personal friends with no record of the conversation.

I should not have commented on current events on this blog, but I spent my formative years in a free country and old habits die hard. There’s no point deleting the blog since it’s already archived and cross-linked with every phone call, the complete text of every email, every web access, every credit card or check purchase, and every move of my cell phone or vehicle. But there’s no point adding to my dossier.

Hateful blue state vermin, IV

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

I think I’m going to have to stop reading Why Evolution Is True. The commenters there are so utterly loathsome that it’s bad for my blood pressure. They’re still yammering on ignorantly about Oklahoma, but I’m not going to link to them because they don’t deserve it.

They object to Rebecca Vitsmun, an Oklahoma atheist who survived the Moore tornado, saying,

I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord.

Ewwww. How dare she respect the feelings of people who are injured, grieving for their dead, homeless, destitute, or shell-shocked! The only reason she would say that is because Oklahomans are so utterly evil that we would burn her at the stake or something if she dared criticize Christianity!

Here are samples of what passes for thinking over there:

BillyJoe: But she still felt she had to put an accommodationist statement right at the end.

Ant (@antallan): Fear of social approbation kicking in?

Ant (@antallan):* oops! :-O the other one: opprobrium

Pete Moulton: It is Oklahoma, after all.

Voltaire 2: I just hope her god-fearing neighbors don’t come after her and blame the poor woman for not being an xian. Maybe SHE brought this disaster upon us, for not worshipping their deity!

Those toads! I have absolute confidence that her neighbors do not care about her religion or lack thereof. There are bigots like Westboro Baptist Church and Lizz Winstead who pretend to believe that natural disasters strike people because they are bad people, but nearly all Oklahomans, like nearly everybody else in America, know better than that. No one, and I mean no one is going to bother Ms. Vitsmun in the slightest. They probably already know or suspect that she’s not a believer, and they do not care.

But no, the ignorant bigots at Why Evolution Is True go on with their paranoid fantasies:

Greg Esres: A good atheist should always be prepared for that sort of layup; it’s the one we all fantasize about. In the meantime, OK authorities will be trying to take her child away, since she’s obviously an unfit mother.

Oh yeah, we do that all the time here! Does Greg Esres have one particle of evidence to back up his paranoid fantasies? Of course not. He’s built up this delusion of fly-over country as this weird, alien, Fifth-Century hellhole where people like him would have to disguise themselves lest the ignorant peasants storm the hotel with torches and pitchforks. And he shares his delusion with others and they all build it up with more and more lurid details.

What a bunch of vermin.

rosie: Stupid Christians will look at this event as a sign of end times.

Some people are stupid. rosie, Greg Esres, Voltaire 2, Pete Moulton, Ant, and BillyJoe spring to mind. Rational people don’t judge the entire population by what the stupid part of it thinks. So I’m trying not to judge atheists by rosie, Greg Esres, Voltaire 2, Pete Moulton, Ant, and BillyJoe, but it’s hard even though I’m an atheist myself.

neil: I am still waiting for some idiot preacher to say that the reason god let the tornado happen is that the folks in OK aren’t praying enough.

Yeah, you can wait for that, and probably some idiot preacher will say something like that. And meanwhile idiot media vermin will say that the reason the tornado happened is because of sequester. Or conservatism. Or just living in fly-over country. Idiots say idiotic things. Witness the comment thread on Why Evolution Is True.

Here’s my experience with the crazy superstitious red-state Christians. I have been asked three times — just three — in my adult life about my religious beliefs.

The first was when a much older gentleman asked me if I was Catholic. He was, and he just wondered. I said no, and that was the end of it. We worked in the same office amicably until he died some years later.

The second was when a contractor, whom everyone regarded as a religious fanatic, asked me if I believed in God. I said no and … what do you suppose the red-state fly-over-country ignorant superstitious irrational fanatic Christian did? He gave me books that he thought would convert me! And when I told him that I found them unconvincing, can you imagine what the red-state fly-over-country ignorant superstitious irrational fanatic Christian did? He dropped the subject! The horror! I don’t know how I survived. I’m a real atheist martyr, I am.

And the third time was when a very dear friend who happens to be a devout Christian was struggling with the conflict between his religion and the science of evolution. Like many intelligent people in that position, he had come to accept a weak form of intelligent design: the universe, the Earth, and life are all old; all life derives from a single common ancestor via evolution; but there are a very few cases where God showed His hand by helping evolution along. He asked me if I believe that the flagellum was the product of intelligent design and I said I didn’t know but I didn’t think so. And he dropped the subject too.

That’s it.

That’s my entire story of oppression by red-state fly-over-country ignorant superstitious irrational fanatic Christians.

The blue state vermin over at Why Evolution Is True do not have a single clue about what life is like outside of their sheltered little existences. I ought to just feel sorry for them for their crippled imaginations, but it’s hard. It’s very hard.

Hateful blue state vermin, III

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

With respect to the vile vermin named Lizz Winstead, who thought that a tornado wiping out two elementary schools and a hospital along with most of a town was a suitable target for bigoted political “humor”, cullen observed that, “I doubt she made similar jokes about hurricane Sandy.”

I had the same thought, and last night I tried to come up with a comparable “humorous” observation about hurricane Sandy. This is the best I could do:

God got tired of NYC not cleaning rats out of the subways and sent hurricane Sandy to do it for them.

Ha ha, right? The dead, maimed, homeless, freezing, and destitute were just collateral damage so let’s all laugh.

No, it just won’t do. Somehow I need to work in that God was trying to exterminate what I regard as life unworthy of life, like the vile vermin named Lizz Winstead did.

I guess I won’t quit my day job. I don’t really have a talent for hate-filled, bigoted, eliminationist “humor”.