Sunday, June 19, 2016

Let's All Vote At Them


Something that occurred to me while on another forum, what if the EU doesn't accept a Brexit "Leave" vote majority? It's not like we have to look very hard to find other examples of the EU rejecting a plebiscite they don't like - Ireland's numerous votes rejecting the Lisbon Treaty come easily to mind. I do have to say that I'm finding it difficult to visualize a British government capable of taking the Iceland approach to recalcitrant officialdom, so just how is the UK going to counter an EU siege of their island Castle? It's not like the EU hasn't already undermined the moat or anything like that; can you see the for-so-long-stymied hordes being released by France charging out of the Channel Tunnels on the British end of things? The acts of piracy on the contested fishing grounds of the North Sea? All those banks on Jersey being "invaded" by hordes of heavily armed EU cops and regulators?

The possibilities are rife, as they say, so I just don't see the EU politely taking their aspirations for world dominance (and the loss of all that British cash) and quietly giving up just because their British lackeys couldn't get this one simple thing right the first time 'round.

I'm not sure there IS a large enough pop corn supply for this show.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

History Matters


I've been flouncing around this idea for some time now; time to say something it seems.

Through much of the 1920's Germany was a battleground between numerous militant ideological groups, some of them actually German. Prominent among these were the groups generally lumped under the rubric "communist", who for the most part actually were an invading ideology from the not-quite-yet-established USSR. Countering this ideological invasion was a collection of mostly domestic German political factions, many of which were themselves socialist in nature, and the actual German government. The accepted history is that Adolph Hitler found employment with the German military intelligence establishment infiltrating many of these groups. By means obscure today, Hitler rose to legitimate political prominence by achieving control of one of these socialist political groups and "successfully negotiated" a merger with at least two others, resulting in the much-decried National Socialist Democratic Workers Party. And that's how arguably the raging flaming asshole of human history defeated an ideological invader and became a national hero. Briefly.

In related action, the leaders of the nascent USSR infiltrated their ideological invasion agents into the United States during the same time period. That invasion proved marginally more successful than in Germany in that no centralized opposition arose in the USA, but there can be no question that it occurred, as confirmed by the many former Soviet official documents that have become public knowledge in recent decades. The limited success these invasion agents achieved is of less modern importance than is the fact they developed many times their numbers of fellow believers and even more of those who achieve personal success by advancing arguments and beliefs long since disproved. This is an example of a successful change of a national political context.

Nearly a century of history later, we find ourselves targeted for ideological invasion by a different group of ideological activists. You know ... Muslims.

Human historical experience regarding ideological disagreement resolution doesn't offer much opportunity for a different process taking place this time, but one can always hope. And it is a process. A pattern of reinforcing incitements will continue to take place, many of them seemingly "obviously" unconnected (by those who don't take inspiration from them). And now that ideological conflict resolution process is blatantly occurring within the United States.

This promises to be a long, drawn out series of events dominated by more own-goals and blue-on-blue casualties than victims of actual attack, and that's not counting the casualties experienced by the ideological non-combatants of our attackers. There is no "enemy headquarters" to attack, the primary combatants make every effort to subvert our social and political structures against us, and there is as yet no widely adopted ideology specifically countering their beliefs for us to rally 'round.

Everything takes place in a context of events and beliefs. Hitler's "heroics" against communist invasion and domestic political success don't make him a good, or even arguably sane, man. People in similar-seeming circumstances to those from the "Good Hitler" days makes identifying with his actions and statements from then more understandable, but the cure for that is to improve the similar-seeming circumstances. New context leads to different beliefs resulting in different actions chosen. The trick for us today is to discover the means to arrange a new context for Muslims that makes their own "Good Hitler" ideological activists unacceptable to them. Good trick that, I agree, but it's what I've got so far.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

HEMA Thoughts


There have been several instances of HEMA members remarking on the politics and beliefs of others in recent months on HEMA forums and member's personal sites. In each instance, moderators of the various HEMA Facebook pages eventually resolved the discussions but were required to do so by repeated persuasions and/or ex officio diktats.

I believe there might be a better way to confront this circumstance in future.

A Proposed HEMA Standard:

Whenever any HEMA member believes the behavior or stated beliefs of someone involved with HEMA might be problematic, they should first seek to answer two questions on there own initiative before airing their concerns on any HEMA-associated forum.

First, "Is the person or group imposing their behavior or beliefs onto unwilling others?"

Second, "Are they infringing on other's study or practice of HEMA as a result of their beliefs or behavior?"

Unless, and to the degree, either answer is "Yes", then a problem with a measurable degree of objection and correction has been identified, and HEMA moderators should immediately be requested to resolve the potential for conflict.

To the extent the answers are "No", then a distinction of personal taste and social circumstance has arisen, and an assumption of HEMA neutrality is the appropriate response.

HEMA Alliance is an international organization, dedicated to the scholarly study and re-creation of historic European martial arts forms and practices. It is only to be expected that individuals or local groups from our many different country's of origin will find it necessary to motivate and structure their pursuit of our shared field of study by means different, or even unacceptable, to members from other locales. It should be remembered that beliefs and practices are frequently largely malleable responses to temporary circumstances, and that so long as the specific combination of these do not inhibit the free pursuit of HEMA study's and practice, they should be regarded as unrelated to HEMA.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Detour Ahead


Here in the Land of the Free, the Oklahoma Highway Robbery Patrol just got a helping hand to further their efforts at collecting the largess of others into a more easily distributed package.

It used to be the crooks were the one's without the badges.

I hear New Mexico is scenic.

When Reality Is Revolting, Forbid Reality


Charming. Political Socialism at its finest.

All of which leaves one to ponder; just how many lynchings happen in a setting convenient to a photographer "capturing the moment" (and the perpetrators) in the act? And in such numbers that the government feels compelled to "do something about it" - other than actually creating the conditions that aren't conducive to lynchings being considered a practical option in the first place, you understand.

Well, it could never happen here. Oh, wait ...

Monday, June 6, 2016

"Don't Do The Crime ...



... If You Can't Do the Time."

That's the famous aphorism isn't it? And, on its face, a sensible enough conviction; we all should be ready to accept the consequences resulting from our actions. In the case of our criminal actions, the courts determine our sentence and we ultimately fulfill that sentence will-we, nil-we., or so goes the theory.

And if we have been convicted of a felony and completed the decreed penalty, still we forever bear the legislative Mark of Cain as we attempt to return to the ranks of "good citizen".

Unless you live in the US state of Virginia (and only committed a "good" felony, of course), in which case you get some of your Constitutionally guaranteed rights (sorry about the video auto-start, blame The Atlantic) handed back to you. For the current voting cycle anyway; no telling what some subsequent Legislature and/or Governor will come up with down the temporal road.

The God Of Abraham may indeed be the vicious, cruel, and vindictive individual He is touted to be in the various editions of His Book, I hold to my more general Agnosticism on that topic too, but I don't think acting so on our own claimed Constitutional Authority is in any way consistent or even reasonably arguable. Unless you choose to argue from a basis of your personal fear and cowardice.

Can we take as a given that laws are, or at least ought to be, written so as to punish those duly convicted of violating them (and reasonably expected to inhibit committing said crime just by consequence of their very existence)? If that truly be the case, why do we think it such a good idea to impose a lifetime penalty as well?

If commission of a given action is deemed worthy of imposition of a period of incarceration (or "only" just a financial penalty), isn't it only honest and consistent with the stated justification for our having Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights (capitalized to drive home a point about the source of said rights) (for the record, I consider rights to be an intrinsic component of the human condition, regardless of any individual's viewpoint regarding how that human condition came into existence) that individual exercise of those rights be temporarily suspended pending completion of the duly adjudicated penalty imposed? If an action taken outside the law deserves a limited penalty, why do we insist on imposing a lifetime penalty anyway?

If you are afraid that some convicted felon might offer a threat to you just by his (or her's; let's not add sexism to your burden of justification too) very existence, maybe the more logical, not too mention effective, method for you to pursue is to increase your individual defenses against anyone doing you harm. Because we all only have to look at incarceration rates to recognize how effective a deterrent criminal laws are, don't we?

I also abhor the petty politicization that Virginia's recent restitution of certain civil rights has taken, but I also recognize the strategic inevitability of that occurring. I just happen to believe that making "good citizenship" an easily achievable standard works to all our better long-term interests as a nation built on the exercise of individual human rights.

What's your excuse?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

It's All In The Timing, Phil


A couple of years ago now, Phil Bowermaster organized a project involving contributed ideas from others; the below is a re-wording of my suggestion that didn't make the submission cut. The principle objection I can remember being raised was, in so many words, "Why would Jeff Bezos do any such thing? What's in it for him?" What seemed a foregone conclusion to me then, wasn't at all obvious to Phil (or anyone else, come to that) a year-and-a-half ago. With Jeff Bezos' recent announcement regarding off-planet production and heavy manufacturing plans, I'm prompted to dust this submission off, re-tool it in ways large and not-so, and see if anyone notices. Herewith, My Proposal:

How Jeff Bezos Can Hire Humanity.

[last edit made to this document on January 14, 2015 by Phil Bowermaster]

The basic idea being suggested here is that Jeff Bezos (of Amazon.com fame) spends the money necessary to develop an online game quite similar in concept to that developed by the US Army to teach potential recruits the conceptual basics of soldiering competencies.  From the Americas Army wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americas_Army), details of the game’s progression to gradually more difficult actions and capabilities needed by the individual player suggests a model for how such a game format could teach players how to successfully conceptualize, operate and/or maintain complex machinery remotely, both individually and in coordination with other players.  One possible mechanism whereby players could test their skills development would involve modifying at least some Amazon.com warehouse operations to permit remote operation of material handling and loading machines (basically modified fork lift trucks). By performing stipulated and rigorously measured portions of the functions of that company's order fulfillment operations, in cooperation with the on-site human staff already locally employed, a real-world process development laboratory could be created at little added expense.

As the Americas Army game experience makes clear, it becomes a fairly straightforward (if by no means easy or cheap) development process to create a game format that applies the same compendium of instruction concepts for use within progressively more complex and radical environments.  Like underwater archaeology and marine salvage.  Like air, land, sea and even extra-planetary search and rescue operations.  Like orbital clean-up operations in association with other private companies as well as government extra-planetary agencies. Like orbital mining and refining operations (not to push the point too hard).  Like lunar (or undersea) exploration and development.  Like orbital construction and tourism.  Like continued exploration and colonization of Mars and other orbital bodies within our Solar system.  As a straightforward extrapolation of related-seeming technologies, exploration and resource acquisition operations in the asteroid belt might be developed from terrestrial undersea or deep underground mining operations skill sets learned in the game.  

In the near-immediate time frame: universal language translation programs developed by a consortium of bi- or multilingual individuals working remotely through dedicated server and data storage devices managed and marketed within the game environment.  Physical security monitoring and response operations so that individuals can be employed to remotely carry out traditional security observation and emergency response tasks on a continuous basis and, not incidentally, earn a living through the game environment while developing their more technical skill sets.

The game would be structured in several layers of play experience.  The initial level would test player skill and general knowledge levels and supply the means to begin further developing those through game interaction.  By doing so, players can “teach themselves” to transition to the next level of play.

The second level would offer individual players the means to transition from simply playing the game, to performing game functions in an occupational setting.  Initially these would be in the Amazon test-of-concept order fulfillment center or the security services suggested earlier in this document, but these and future players would move on to other, more technical, types of work as quickly as their ability permits and opportunities can be made available.  These opportunities do not necessarily require a purely business motive; scientific research and public service operations both come readily to mind as alternative possibilities for player development through remote operations performed through the game interface.

For those players who wish to develop a more general academic knowledge base, the game interface could be linked to any of the host of online education portals that exist. Documenting continuing education is already part of corporate structure, incorporating that into the game format shouldn't pose too excessive a problem. Additional, more specifically focused, levels of play are certainly possible, but itemizing a list of that nature exceeds my limited editorial skills. Suffice it to say that I envision the game process described here as being a species of digital skilled trades hiring hall and training school to develop the host of technically skilled employees for an industry that doesn't actually exist yet that Jeff Bezos will be needing to hire around the world to remotely construct and operate the orbital facilities he has described elsewhere. Ultimately, all of the above tasks (and more, I'm confident) performed by humans, working part time on multiple projects and jobs, in remote cooperation with as-yet uncountable other humans, designing, building, operating and maintaining machines and facilities big and small for use in every conceivable environment that human science enables human or machine access to.  And all of those people working directly for, or as a result of being trained by, Jeff Bezos (well, one of his companies).

Alternatively, we can just sit around between rioting stewing in our frustrated juices, watching the planet's accessible resources be further consumed, while we await the promise of fusion AI to save/doom us all.

While I envision this type of work being comfortably performed from a space in one's home smaller than an ordinary American bathroom (about 15 cubic meters or so - 2 x 3 x 2.5 meters roughly), one of the obvious early investment and partnership opportunities arising from such a planet-spanning effort is construction of a location in local neighborhoods that provides the residents with a game participation site outside their private home or apartment. There seem to be a number of vacant former book stores available for re-purposing in recent years.

One of the most pressing challenges humanity currently confronts is how we will collectively transition out of the undeniably collapsing Industrial Revolution social and economic model we currently experience.  The game concept presented here is one possible mechanism for achieving that transition on a widespread and minimally disruptive basis.  It remains only to develop the platform necessary to spark the growth of that process throughout the human species.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Strategy Of Politics

From my Facebook page:
Let's add some Classical Strategy to our politics, if I may (besides, to quote the Inimitable Tam, "I hate to waste my good stuff on an away game")?
Let me see if I've got this right; half of Democrats are against the other half's choice of candidate, more than half of Republicans are against Donald Trump, but we can expect both party's registered voters to vote in monolithic block lockstep, right?
Also, what part of the New Media/We Are The Media aspect of blogging/vlogging/twitting/facebooking/whatever-you-call-it denies us (you know, the non-traditional media people) the opportunity over the next five months to organize and promote a campaign around an alternative to the oh-so-distasteful R/D candidates on offer, and their same-as-usual policies?
We (and our candidate/policy choices) don't have to be "best", or even all that much "better" really, the distinct difference of choice - the almost mythical "valid alternative opposition vote" - is what is being promoted most prominently.
"Never Trump", "Hate The Bern", "Crooked Hillary"; that's a lot of opposition to offer a chance to vote against what they don't want.
Or, we can all whine at each other about how inevitable the end is.
A strategy combines several often seemingly unrelated circumstances into a coherent (and when possible unrecognized) succession of actions toward a desired goal or objective. Like, say, taking the Democrats opposed to whichever candidate gets that party's official nod along with the Republicans opposed to the Trump campaign and encourage them all to "vote against" the despicable candidate being forced upon them. Since we can't actually vote "No" for public office candidates in American elections, that means we have to promote a different "Yes" for them to hate less, and give them a reason to want to "wait for next time".
This strategy needs a recognizable opposition candidate (and thanks to the Libertarian Party, Gov's Gary Johnson and William Weld are right there for us to organize around), and a very few specific national policies to focus on that will permit a campaign of "stabilize the country/economy while not actively making things worse", with the D/R campaign's policies being the obvious "worse" alternative. A focus on a "keep what we got while we take the necessary time to choose what else we want" campaign theme will permit traditionally non-libertarians the conviction they are defending the country from the rash choices of the other candidates without committing the country to a "wrong" course of action (since stability can be argued as a kind of pause in the action, as it were).
I am more than a bit doubtful that a Johnson/Weld Executive branch would have all that much of a free hand in too-radically changing current domestic or foreign policy, given that the Congress will still be firmly in the control of one or the other two parties. A Commander-in-Chief with little-to-no interest in a militarily aggressive foreign policy would have to be convincingly swayed by the military service chiefs of an extant threat before a military option would be authorized in all likelihood, and such a President would also seem likely to seek Congress's overt approval before taking more than short-term defensive action. I fail to see a serious downside politically for the dissenters in any of the three parties involved (given that the LP basically IS the Dissent Party).
I can just see it now; Vox Day and the Alt-Right partnering up with the Mainline Republican and Democratic Party stalwarts, while the opposition Democrats and Republicans self-righteously hold there noses, all in an effort to make sure none of them gets what they want politically. If we The Interneteratti (and I claim that even if it isn't particularly original) can't make political hay from all that while setting up having a good laugh come November, then we deserve the cut cheese being plated for us by the Powers That Be.
I have to admit, this isn't particularly insightful nor is it especially daring, but it serves to illustrate the profound lack of individual vision and critical thinking skills that seems rampant these days. If you don't like what the world presents you with, apparently we should all just sniff and snivel our way into supine acceptance rather than make things more the way we think is right. The above may not be all that good a way, but it is at least a different way.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

My Hobby; My Rights

Anyone in the least familiar with the discussion surrounding the general topic of "Human Rights" (see also: Civil Rights) will likely be aware of the distinct viewpoints regarding whether, or possibly to what degree, rights are an individual or collective phenomenon. My own belief is that this dispute arises mostly as a result of a general lack of mutual understanding about the nature of rights.

Human rights are an inherent component of the individual human condition. At their most basic conceptual level, human rights devolve from the principle of "right to property", or the idea that we each of us inherently possess the right to ownership of our individual selves; all rights are extensions of this fundamental principle. Thus, rights are both individual and universal among human beings. The generally misunderstood part of all this is that rights are also limited in the means and degree to which we may each express or exercise them in our collective existence within human society, if only as a necessary precondition to there being such a thing as "human society" at all.

I am a recent life member of Historical European Martial Arts Alliance, and, here in Tyler, of East Texas Historical Fencing. As a HEMA member, I am a practicing martial artist (with a, to this point, somewhat theoretical scholastic bent), and like all such I own weapons (though it must be acknowledged that, as an American living in Texas, it is only to be expected that a goodly number of those weapons are only notionally "historical") (cough/NRA member/cough). To own such is a direct extension of my inherent human rights, but the active exercise of my right to such ownership is constrained and infringed upon by the self-same inherent rights of all other members of human society with whom I inevitably interact. To quite cheekily paraphrase: wherever two or more of ye shall gather together, there too is society.

Having determined that rights themselves are an entirely individual experience, it remains universally true that ownership is distinct from use. A martial artist cannot use the weapons being studied without regard for others, and neither can ordinary human beings use (exercise) their rights without regard for other human's exercise of their rights. Much like the United States is made up of 50+ different ways to collectively exercise individual rights, the Earth is comprised of (what is it now, 168?) many different ways for societies to organize the collective expression of individual, universal human rights. HEMA Alliance being international in structure makes this realization an everyday experience for we individual members in our efforts to interact with and learn from each other.

The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution stipulates in part: "... shall not be infringed." This is a specific limitation on the federal (national) level of government within the cooperative construct between now-50 individual States, and demarcates the legislative boundary of the several states internally, but has no direct application to individual citizens therein. One of the foundational assumptions to creation of the USA was that governance of human society ought to be the minimum necessary collective balancing of exercise of each individual human's rights within the boundaries of a stipulated society. Providing express limits on how and why government may limit the exercise of human rights has the intended benefit of maximizing individual opportunities to use the rights we all own.

HEMA designates procedures whereby stipulated persons may regulate and, when necessary, infringe upon individual members exercise of their human rights within the collective HEMA society. Would the "real world" had it so easy. Instead, we tiredly trudge our collective way through often-obstinate individual efforts to achieve short-term, personal goals using methods having long-term, wide-spread consequences, but which are in themselves arguably legal. In HEMA (as in many other physical activities), we wear protective equipment to prevent individual injury from our or another's exercise of weapons. In life, we find ourselves having to resort to the law should there be injury resulting from the exercise of our rights. If I only get to have one or the other, I'll take the second option every time. Fortunately, door #2 includes the possibility for HEMA membership, so it has that to recommend it.

How well or honestly any given example of human society achieves the laudable goal of equable exercise of human rights is beyond the confines of this essay, but if I have managed to add some clarity or understanding to the practice of my hobby or my philosophy then I will not have wasted either of our time.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Kodak Moment

I'm in Oregon for my son's wedding, which is tomorrow, and I volunteer to drive us over to McMinnville (about 25 miles away from Dallas) so he and my 11 y/o grandson Asher can get haircuts.  In an effort to lessen the stress levels for his almost-wife (and decade + partner) Amy, we bring my 9 y/o granddaughter Rayna along with us.  So, we're driving along, the local oldies station on the radio, and this classic from the 60's comes up in the play rotation.  Duncan and I start spontaneously singing along to the lyrics; it was one of the more emotion laden moments of my life.

I could feel the eyes rolling in the back seat the whole time.

It was great.

I've also discovered that I've been living alone for way too long.  I need to do some research and find something to help me restore my patience (which was always in short supply) and develop a better ability to focus my attention in the moment (without the usual elevated intensity of martial arts/shooting practice).  I train to keep my mental focus during crisis events; there ought to be something similar for relaxed conversational settings and the like.  There's the occasional time when it's desirable to be a competent asshole, sitting around with your family ought not be one of those times though.