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28 July 2014 @ 12:41 am
My habit of writing that I had years ago has been refocused into a variety of other endeavors, and it hasn't resurfaced in the form of blogging so much. It's a little disappointing to me, as I enjoy seeing what I was thinking and talking about months and years ago. So I do keep trying to keep up some level of this sort of writing. I also think about why I may not be here as much as I used to. Part of it is that my writing energies have been focused on a couple of fictional works, on video games, and spending time with my family.

Another reason that I haven't been writing, I am ashamed to admit, is that I have been having such a nice time, anything I said would seem like bragging. The last six months, I have been a contract worker again, running my own business, and working from home. The best part is my "new" contract is to continue the work I've been doing for the past five years. The company I had been employed with was purchased, and I declined to be purchased as well. Instead, we agreed to a contract arrangement, which, frankly, pleases me no end.

There was a lot of planning and panic and trepidation regarding the startup of my new business. My previous attempt at self-employment ended in ignominy and an enormous tax bill, and resulting my taking employment in the first place. I refused to be a bad businessman this time. I got an accountant, special bank accounts, tax numbers, and corporate identity. Money goes into a special account from which taxes are paid monthly. It's a good feeling to write myself a nice fat check each month, knowing that everything is in order. Bills get paid, and the gig appears to be long-lasting. Not only do I get to work from home, I have very strict rules about when I can go into the office that pretty much limit office time to meetings only every month or two. Communication with co-workers happens by email and by chat, and the periodic phone meeting.

The best part of the new arrangement isn't what I do, but what I don't do. In my prior employment, I wore several hats. I was the server admin, the network manager, the IT procurement guy and the general troubleshooting guy. Except for the specialty equipment in the lab (which the lab folks handled expertly), if it had a switch, I was eventually in charge of it. While I can do this work (and there wasn't anyone else doing it at the time), it's not really my favorite work, and it frequently got in the way of what I really liked doing, which is writing code and adding features that helped the business work better. Now, not only do I not have the responsibility to fix or manage anything, I'm generally not allowed to. Like a huge weight lifted from my shoulders, my enjoyment of my job went way up the day I stopped having to give a shit about all the electrons and magic smoke in everything. All of my time is spent doing just the one part of my job I really enjoyed. It is fantastic.

I have friends who have shitty jobs and friends with no jobs. I know folks dealing with cancer, and I've known folks who didn't survive it. I have a job I really enjoy, I get paid really well. I'm healthy, my family is healthy. But feeling bad for my friends takes some of the enjoyment out of it.

Another result of this change is the opportunity for a change in location. The money is good enough to start saving, and the job requirements don't include any specific location. Several times over the last decade, my wife and I have discussed moving to the Pacific Northwest, but until now, we've never had both the means and opportunity to do so. Now we have both. Another factor we have been considering is our daughter's schooling. She starts middle-school this year, and we don't want to disrupt her friendships and activities at the high-school level. Se we either go soon, or we have to wait until she's done with high school. Our house is too small for us, so moving is really no longer a matter of "if", but rather "when". So the current plan is to move in June of next year. Now, we're saving cash and furiously researching neighborhoods around Seattle. It's very exciting, after having been in the same house for 16 years, to finally contemplate moving. And the Cascades really thrilled me when we visited them. We're all looking forward to the move.

Part of me, however, is very disturbed by the idea of leaving Texas. I have ancestors who came to Texas as soon as Anglos were allowed here, and their graves are all over the state. The dust of the state has been long incorporated into my DNA. I'm not sure I can live without BBQ and tex-mex in my diet. Leaving this state is big change, no matter where I might end up.

This is balanced against a set of irritations and frustrations that have developed over the years from living in this state. Culturally, I'm not so sure I fit in very well in this state at all. I enjoy being in Austin, but everyone admits that this city is very different from the rest of the state. Governor Perry has led a corrupt and tone-deaf administration that has swept money into the pockets of his friends at the expense of all the other people here. The cruelty of his administration is seen  whenever they turn away federal funding for welfare, education, or health care. The election of Ted Cruz has been a particular source of embarrassment and irritation, one that has highlighted for me how far distant the culture in this state is from my own preferences and ideals. I'm tired of waiting for my fellow Texans to clue in when they all seem so confident that their insanity is genius.
06 February 2014 @ 09:39 am
I just finished Joseph Atwill's book, Caesar's Messiah. I didn't really take me a month to read, I just put it down several times to play video games and be a dad. It's a well-written book that kept me mostly enthralled throughout. But it's also bringing forward some tremendous ideas that frankly take a little time to digest -- and this is coming from the perspective of a guy who already assumed the Bible was largely fiction!

I think what Atwill did really well was to create an understanding of the Gospels as a whole unit, and not a collection of disparate pieces. Scholars have long debated the meaning of the differences between the Gospel tales, and have tried to tease understanding from their respective lacunae. Atwill demonstrates several times that these gaps and textual conflicts were inserted on purpose in order to achieve specific results. Sometimes this was to indicate that there were more than one character with the same name. Other times, the effect was to highlight puzzles hidden in the text. And it is these puzzles that bring out the messages that were presumably embedded to benefit the Flavians.

The key to understanding the New Testament, according to Atwill, is Josephus' "Wars of the Jews". The "history" created by Josephus is our only window on what happened in 1st Century Judea, and it primarily centers upon the actions of the Romans in their conquest. Atwill found that Josephus' description of Titus' campaign, through the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and Masada, was perfectly reflected in the ministry of Jesus in both chronology and character. Many stories only partially relayed by the New Testament were completed in "Wars of the Jews", and most of the puzzles required a careful reading of both the New Testament and "Wars of the Jews".

The resurrection scene in the New Testament -- that point when the disciples discover the tomb of Jesus is empty -- has caused many debates because each book relates a slightly different tale. People arrive in different orders, at different times, and have different encounters depending on which book is read. Atwill uses the time clues in each story to create a single, coherent story. In the process, he discovers the humor intentionally implanted there. First, it become obvious that the tomb Mary first discovers wasn't Jesus' tomb, but the one for Lazarus! Then, as each set of followers appear at the tomb, another set encounters the last and assumes them to the 'angels'. This comedy of errors continues on through all four books and results in the recognition of a key point: there were several messiahs active at the same time -- several Jesuses! -- and their followers didn't recognize each other.

One persistent target of this Flavian satire is particularly hard to read about: the famine during the siege of Jerusalem. Reports that the inhabitants (with well known eating restrictions) resorted to cannibalism was a continuing joke, all the way up to the proclamation of Jesus that he was "living bread", and that his companions were to "eat of him". The story in "Wars of the Jews" about a woman named Mary who kills and eats her nursing child is used multiple times as the basis for a number of jokes in the Gospels. Even the "resurrection" of Lazarus is shown to be another reference to cannibalism.

Atwill comes up with several reasons behind the invention of Christianity, and specifically about why certain elements exist in the New Testament. Primarily, the purpose was to co-opt the militaristic Messiah cult popular at the time, replacing it with a passive, stoic cult more amenable to Roman interests. Secondarily, they wanted a cult that would be attractive to the illiterate underclasses while being obvious satire for the patrician class. Titus wanted folks to mock and hate the Jews, and he wanted to trick the "true believer" Messiah cultists into worshiping him as Christ. Crucially, these works together were key in promoting his dad, Vespasian, as divine so that the Roman Senate would confirm Vespasian as a God. There was, in short, a lot of heavy lifting Titus expected from these works; more to the point, he got a lot out of them.

It is in the last quarter of the book that Atwill really shines. He comes out with an understanding about how the Maccabees fit into the history of the Jewish rebellion, and thus in the Gospels -- also explaining why there are so many people in the Gospels with the same half-dozen names. He breaks out the crucial components of the Jesus story to show which parts derived from the popular messiah cult, which came from Flavian preferences, and which were recycled truisms and prophecies from prior messiahs and prophets. He names the people involved in the creation of Christianity. He explains the mechanic for how the Early Church was formed in the Seven Cities of Asia -- alongside the Imperial cult! He also reviews the dates provided by Josephus in his "Wars of the Jews" and determines that most, if not all, the dating within is highly suspect, as Josephus was far more concerned with matching prophecies from Daniel than having a quotidian fixation on correct dates.

Although I was shocked and surprised by many of the assertions made in this book, I never found myself disagreeing with Atwill's understanding of history. He repeatedly makes his point using nearly every verse in the Gospels, and drags the reader through a series of conflicts in the texts, along with their resolution. I think this would be a difficult book for a practicing Christian to read and an impossible book for a biblical literalist to comprehend. Even I found the book to be troubling in its expose of just how much of the cruelty and evil inherent to Christianity was there on purpose. Accepting what Atwill says is challenging and disruptive, but I'm afraid that arguing against his points would be a much more difficult challenge.

Now I understand why the major media went out of their way to vilify Atwill and confuse his points. This is a dark, dangerous book that I would only recommend to my friends interested in history or Western occultism, because, frankly, I don't expect that anyone else would be able to cope with it.
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23 January 2014 @ 08:18 pm

This particular link to an article about the study on “Bible Mindedness” from Time magazine was specifically chosen to highlight a really nasty choice these editors made. By calling the cities selected as being the least Biblically minded as “godless” is a spectacular dig against all forms of Christianity that weren't among a set of Protestant cults developed in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries.

From the article: “The study defines “Bible-mindedness” as a combination of how often respondents read the Bible and how accurate they think the Bible is.”

Both the act of obsessive re-reading of a book, and the belief that the book is literally true and without flaw, are particular manifestations of Protestantism in general, and more particularly in US forms of Protestantism, like Baptist, Adventist, and independent “Bible” churches. These forms of Christianity require the Bible to be their source of authority, as they reject all other aspects of the faith as Catholic window dressing.

Catholics respect the Bible and they certainly know the Bible, but they don't need the Bible. They have the Pope and the traditions of the Church to guide them. They have Saints, they have theatrics, they have a feast or a festival on every day of the year. The ancient city of Rome has been the (nearly continuous) home of the leader of the Church, the pontifex rex since the 2nd century. Their church is so old, even their mythology has a mythology. The Bible is an important pillar of the Church, but it's not the only one for Catholics.

But Protestants reject the Catholic Church. They claim the Catholics are doing it “wrong”. They reject the authority of the Pope, the value of the traditions, and most especially, the paganism of the festivals. The piety of these various Protestant cults was measured by the degree to which they stripped away the joy and pleasure from their practice of faith. Without a history, a leader, or an ancient location to worship, the only thing Protestants had left was the Bible.

Pretty much ever since there has been a Bible, people have jockeyed for the authority to interpret it. When Protestants reject the Pope, part of what they are rejecting is the notion that only the Pope has the authority to interpret the Bible. Baptists, for example, take pride in their tradition that every person has the authority to interpret the Bible for themselves.

The problem is that the Bible wasn't written for the common layman. It wasn't supposed to be a form of casual divination or a catch-all source of authority. It wasn't even originally intended to be in English (primarily as that language hadn't yet been invented at the time). The stories in the Bible were written many centuries ago, about lands and peoples long ago and far away, in languages that are no longer spoken. It is inadequate to state merely that the context for these tales is difficult to comprehend, as the scale of that difficulty is itself difficult to comprehend. The idea that anyone could randomly read a sentence or two from the middle of any book and get something theologically meaningful and valid without years of prior study is the apex of foolishness.

This study by the American Bible Society is much less a measure of the relative religious correctness claimed by the various participants, then a PR campaign by Protestant Bible worshipers to legitimize their one-dimensional theology. What does it really show? Well educated, professional types that tend to vote Democratic and entertain progressive ideals don't spend much time with the Bible, while poorly educated, blue-collar worker types that tend to conservative, Republican ideals only have the Bible. What this has to do with how well we treat each other isn't obvious to me.

30 December 2013 @ 10:07 am
For the holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, I received Joseph Atwill's book that claims the Gospels were a deliberate fiction created by the Flavians (who were the Roman dynasty after Nero). At this point, I'm about a third of the way in, but I've already got a few things to say. (Warning: if you like your Jesus all hippie and new-agey, you probably ought to skip this book and the rest of this post.)

First off, it thrills me -- no joke! -- to finally read a book about Early Church history that changed my mind. If you've been playing along at home, you know that I wrote a book stating that the Gospels were a fiction created by Constantine. While I think I did a good job showing how Church history (as we know it) didn't begin until the Council of Nicea, I was less precise with the issue of who actually wrote the Gospels. It also required me to wave my hands a bit at any writings presumed to predate Constantine as being forgeries. While I didn't invent any of the claims, I was able to put together a reasonable explanation.

Atwill's textual analysis of the Gospels is exhaustive, albeit shaky in some places. To my mind, he has adequately shown the Flavian influence and motivation behind the Gospels. His primary point was that the Gospels were written to show that Titus was the "Son of God" and "Son of Man" predicted by Jesus, and further that Jesus was of a type predicted by Moses. In the process, he provides a new reading of the Gospels that makes sense out of every verse by positing that the Gospels were a cruel satire of Titus' campaign in Josephus' "The Jewish War". Many verses which are generally interpreted metaphorically, Atwill contends were literal "prophecy" of things that actually happened.

A brief example is the "fishers of men" episode. In the Gospels, Jesus arrives at a town near Galilee famous for smoked fish, and he tells the boat owners that they will become "fishers of men". While I had always been taught that this was a mystical reference to the evangelical efforts of the Early Church, Atwill provides a more concrete reference. Four decades later, Titus lead his army to a sea battle on the Galilee where they destroyed the boats of the rebellion and left thousands of dead floating on the waters. For days afterward, Galilean boat owners were casting their nets upon the water to draw up the corpses of men. They were literally fishing for men. This is representative of the cruel, black satire Atwill claims the Gospels were written to capture.

The result is unpleasantly satisfying. The dichotome between loving Jesus and angry Jesus is resolved by showing the loving Jesus to be a misunderstanding of the underlying context. Many of the verses that made no sense theologically or even contextually become clear by reading with the Flavian bias. The anti-Semitism that has plagued Christianity from the beginning is shown to be a deliberate, primary effect created by the Gospels. And finally, he shows that the intended result of creating Christianity was to appropriate and redirect the violent, anti-Roman messianic strain of Judaism into a tax-paying, pacifism appropriate for Roman rule.

What this means for me is that I have to go back to the drawing board with my theory. I still hold that Christianity, as we know it, began in Nicea. What I now need to do is to connect Flavian Christianity to Constantine.
10 October 2013 @ 12:09 pm
I've seen this article going around on FB and noticed that it has stirred up some strong reactions. Here's my take.

First, a note about the article, as this has drawn some attention in itself. It's a PR release about a presentation occurring in London the Saturday after next. This is not "journalism", nor is it "a lie". There really is a presentation, and this guy Atwill is scheduled to speak. Some have pointed out that the headline is bogus: to this I agree. There is no ancient confession spoken of in the article, nor, as far as I can tell, in the material Atwill is presenting. But sketchy headlines are hardly unusual.

What Atwill says is that, in his reading of the Gospels, that the historical record of Emperor Titus' military adventures in the Mid-East closely match with the reported ministry of Jesus. What he sees there is an indication that the story of Jesus was cribbed from the history of Titus. The rationale he suggests was that Christianity was a Roman invention devised to quiet rebellious Jewish sects in Palestine. He also places the date of this invention in the 1st Century.

I think it is very possible that Titus' tour was the basis for the story of Jesus' ministry, and even more so if we assign the creation of the Gospels to the 4th Century with the rise of Constantine, as this would have been one of the primary reliable historical records of 1st Century Palestine available to the 4th Century Romans. Whether this was to quiet rebellious Jews is beside the point: by the 1st Century, there were more Jews living in Italy than in Palestine. Why bother? My premise that Constantine created Christianity as a philosophical and patriotic vehicle for his takeover of the Empire. The use of Jewish texts and mythology was appropriate since Jews were familiar across the Empire.

The reason that I so easily accept Atwill's connection between Titus and Jesus is twofold: primarily, it was pretty standard Roman behavior to use historical records as templates for new writings, but also because it answers the question of which predescessor story was used to craft the Gospels
21 July 2013 @ 10:13 am

I just realized I haven't written here in a long while. This was not planned.

Looking back at some of my earlier posts, I can wrap up a couple of things. I still really like my Motorola RAZR M: like every smartphone before it, I use it persistently. Lately, I've been reading books and learning Spanish... besides the usual Facebook and Feedly addictions. I only use G+ to post the occasional science link, but I do monitor it. I went back to FB for most link posts because I actually get feedback there. Google changed how they do buildings in Earth, so the amateur-crowd-built front has fizzled and I haven't spent a minute on another building since.

Life is good. For the moment, everyone is healthy and enjoying the Summer. My job is still fulfilling and fun. The three new cats are grown up and all four get along generally well. We hit the gym every Saturday so Zoe gets two hours pool time and I get some workout time. The plan has been for me to go on mornings, Tues and Thurs -- that just hasn't quite happened yet. Maybe this week will be when I start that back up again.

The origin of the word ketchup has always befuddled me, and I've never liked the explanations I had heard until recently. In my youth, I assumed it had something to do with tomatoes, but I was very wrong. The word comes from the East Indies, where they had a tradition of creating a fermented fish ("ket") sauce ("chup") that they called "ket chup". The history of fermented sauces goes back a long way: Romans loved "garum", their fermented fish sauce. In Asia, the practice of making fermented sauces with fish was popular along the coasts, but inland they used... soybeans, to make soy sauce!

In Europe, where the use of fish sauce had long since been forgotten, traders brought back "ket chup" with them, and it was embraced with great enthusiasm. Over the centuries, a variety of vegetables were fermented into sauces. Even today, in some places in Europe and America, you can still get ketchup made from fermented cabbage, beets, and turnips. But the fermented vegetable that has stolen our heart is the tomato. Which is why we tend to purchase and use "tomato ketchup".

20 February 2013 @ 09:37 am
Since the Winter holidays, I've been playing Skyrim with some absurd frequency. It's an amazing, immersive game that does the whole "D&D" thing so well it makes Diablo look like Rogue. This whole time, I've only played the one character I started with. As he's started to edge up toward level 50, he's begun to top out on some of his most used skills.

Last night, however, I'm afraid I may have jumped the shark. For those who don't play this game, suffice to say that I may have made the game too easy: you'll probably want to skip the rest of this little essay.

After I had become the archmage at the college of wizards, I began to obsessively use my archmage robes and the Morokai mask in most situations, only switching to my armor when combat came in too close or with too many opponents. My character is a Nord, so he is naturally good in hand-to-hand combat, but my playing style has been to sneak everywhere with firebolts loaded in both hands. Wearing the archmage robes and the dragon priest mask, I was able to lob out twice as many shots before running out of magic juice, so my preference wasn't a surprise.

I had come to a place in the game where I was a much stronger opponent than nearly anything I encountered. What made me such a badass was the "Impact" perk, that made every double-cast destruction spell stagger the target. Since a staggering opponent doesn't run at you or fire arrows or cast spells, double-casting a low-cost spell like firebolts would stop and, eventually, kill any single opponent. Dragons and deathlords alike fell before me and I rejoiced at the sounds of lamentations from their women.

Then I realized that there were better magic robes I could be wearing: those that regenerated magic potential faster, or further decreased the cost of casting spells. Before I spent my hard stolen coin on incrementally better threads, I stumbled over a better idea.

I had read about a particular exploit, but it required me to accumulate a significant collection of alchemical reagents. Once this was done, I spent a few hours (real time) making increasingly powerful potions until I was able to enchant anything to ridiculous levels. My goal was to create a ring that was at least twice as good as my fancy robes, so I could wear my armor all the time, but not suffer with slow regeneration.

Success! Now, I have a plain silver ring that effectively eliminates the cost of casting any destruction spell. I can cast Thunderbolts or Incinerate repeatedly, without touching my magicka. Then I took it one step further: I created a necklace that regenerates my magicka so fast, all magic is now effectively free. Not only do I no longer have to worry about picking a spell with the best balance of power vs. cost, I don't have to carry around any magicka potions anymore!

In my first test with the ring of power, I cleared a room with ten high-level draugers in about thirty seconds -- while still in the adjacent hallway. Some of the corpses were piled around the door frame, while the rest had been blown back against the furthest wall. It was glorious.

But now the cat's out of the bag, so to speak: I could use the same trick to create a set of lightweight armor far stronger than anything available in the game, allowing me to carry nearly unlimited quantity of loot, easily pick any lock, and defeat any opponent without even using a weapon... but I probably won't. Over time, I'll probably build another set of armor, and I'll probably "enhance" it more than normally allowed, but if there's no danger, the game loses some of its flavor.

We just downloaded "Dragonborn" last week, and I'm loving the new encounters and new environment. After my session last night, we added "Hearthfire". I'm looking forward to exploring these add-ons and building my own castle. I don't think there is necessarily any potential that I'll lose interest right away, even with my fancy rings. If anything I may have just eliminated one of the sources of persistent irritation I have: keeping up with and carrying around enough potions to keep me going through the biggest fights!
24 January 2013 @ 10:12 am

This essay by Forbes contributor Thomas J. Basile is delightful on several levels, not the least of which is his bitter moaning about the impotence of the Republican party. Once you get past the reframing front-loaded into the first half of the article, there are some pretty bald observations of how the GOP have defeated themselves, or at least created a situation that allowed a black Democrat to become President.

It was the reframing that got my attention, and I think it's worth reviewing in this context -- not just because the thrust of the article is favorable to Democrats -- but because he pulls out all the stops to demonize Obama. In the very first paragraph, Basile refers to Obama's "ideological crusade to... 'remake' this nation", attributing this attitude to Obama's "hubris". As a progressive, I've been underwhelmed by Obama's center-right administration, and his predilection to take on right-wing issues and stances as his own. It's ludicrous to pretend his policies are exotic or bizarre when, by and large, he's taken on the exact same policies as his neo-con predecessor.

I recognize that part of the GOP playbook has been to plaster the President with labels like 'liberal', even 'socialist', but after the policies and actions of his first term, it sounds like wishful thinking to consider Obama as being anywhere left of Eisenhower. Trying to affix Obama's "liberal" label with a "hubris" pin is an astounding bit of satire.

The old Republican saw in the second paragraph about Obama not running for anything before becoming President is verifiably false. After all, it was "Senator Obama of Illinois" who was first inaugurated as "President Obama". Yes, he used tools and tactics to build a great advantage, and that probably has a lot to do with his experience as a legitimate grass-roots organizer, but to ignore his Senate experience is to belittle his accomplishments.

The "political war machine" in paragraph three is a marvelous bit of selective amnesia. Let's set aside the dozens of PACs and SuperPACs that ginned up hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in an attempt to "change the workings of American politics" and "sway public opinion" in favor of the GOP. Let's ignore the astro-turf "tea parties", the NRA-fueled paranoia, or, even, the campaign organization set up by Mittens and his buddies. It was Obama's campaign organization that was a "war machine", as if this existed in a vacuum and had no prior example in politics.

In case you missed it, another one of the slanders the right-wing keeps ineffectually throwing at Obama is his connection to the Chicago political machine of the 50's and 60's. Given that most of the people involved in that system are dead, and the little fact that Obama actually worked to eliminate some of the last vestiges of that system, it's disingenuous to pretend that OFA is anything like, or has anything to do with, old-school Chicago-style politics. Not that reality has stopped the GOP from saying crazy things yet.

Now we talk about the "progressive agenda". You know -- radical things like equal rights and equal pay and universal health care. Basile persistently uses phrases to indicate that (a) Americans oppose progressive ideals and (b) Obama is forcing these ideals "down the throats" of the American people.  His proof? "More people in this country self-identify as conservative as opposed to liberal. Ask virtually any group of people and the majority of them will tell you they would choose a government that costs less, taxes less and provides fewer services over a government that costs more, taxes more and provides more services."

While I've never seen a poll that produces these results, I have seen many thousands of people marching for civil rights, health care, equal pay, and demanding corporate accountability. I don't think I've ever seen people march to abandon Medicare or Social Security. When was the last time you saw tea baggers marching to eliminate overspending and waste in the military? It seems to me that most people want the services that government provides, and most people are happy to pay taxes to that end. There is a rather small percentage of the population (ie: about 2%) that may disagree, but the fact is that the system benefits the vast majority of Americans and they like those benefits.

Frankly, I don't see Obama forcing anything on anyone. His tepid support for even the most widely held progressive stances leaves a lot to be desired. It seems that the only ones forcing their agenda on folks are the Republicans, who insist that draconian taxes, regulation and control is appropriate for women and minorities, but not for corporations or the very wealthy.

The point Basile is really trying to make is buried in the eleventh paragraph. "Obama's victory was not a vindication of his policies." That is, it was his "political war machine" that won the election for him, not his support of wildly popular progressive issues. I suppose if you're trying to sell the notion that the GOP could become relevant in national politics again someday, if only they could "remake the nation" and "sway public opinion" as effectively as Obama has, that this position makes sense. When the rubber meets the road, they'll find this nonsense to be as flaccid as a wet newspaper.

Basile does give it a rest for a few paragraphs, and lays out a series of missteps and mistaken directions taken by the Republicans over the prior campaign -- all without blaming Obama, the "liberal media" or any other right-wing strawman. He places the blame exactly where it belongs: on Republicans. He makes a number of good suggestions that I'm sure will be ignored. He also seems blind to the motivations that drive the balkanization of the party, but no doubt some patriotic words will help.

So he ends the piece much as he started it: with some dog-whistles and logical gyrations to entertain the True Believers. His hopes are for a Republican party that can support the "natural tension between freedom and collectivism", and for "an army to turn this mismatch into a fair fight for freedom."

I have a hard time believing that "freedom" is a word that means anything for Basile beyond whatever privileges are held by rich, white men. I recognize that there is a philosophical difference between progressives and conservatives regarding the cost and benefits of providing for the welfare of all Americans. Despite the many studies that show public welfare improves the lives of many, conservatives insist that this is a bad thing, for some vague moral reasons that always seems to look and smell just like racism.

Finally, the suggestion that there was some sort of "mismatch" in the prior campaign because Obama won is patently ludicrous. In the final tally, the Republicans raised and spent more money than did the Democrats, so if there was a mismatch of any sort, it was provided to the Republicans, through the Supreme Court's decision to allow the SuperPACs to be freely funded by corporations and deep-pocketed individuals. Basile may tell himself stories about how unfair and tyrannical the political system is, but he's only seeing what he wants to see.

19 December 2012 @ 02:43 pm
After several years as a loyal HTC phone user, I made the jump this morning to a Motorola phone: the RAZR M.

Early last Summer, I considered upgrading my phone, but after looking at what was available, realized that my Incredible 2 was superior in many ways to the various offerings at hand. Granted, the Inc2 set a pretty high bar, so it wasn't like I was suffering. At the time, my primary required features were: Android ICS, removable mini-SD, and at least 1GB RAM. 4G would be nice, but it wasn't a requirement. It surprised me how many Verizon smart phones were still sporting Gingerbread, which I had discovered meant that the hardware probably couldn't support 4.0.

Fast forward to today. I see that one of the phones I had been watching was on sale (the Incredible 4G). Rummaging around on the VW website, I noticed that several phones were on sale. After comparing features, I realized that the Motorola RAZR M had all the features I wanted.

It also got me away from HTC. I had enjoyed my association with HTC: I liked Sense, and felt like the updates on my prior phones had gone well. For the Incredible 2, which was promised at sale to be upgraded within months to ICS but never got it, I felt let down. I didn't know if it was an issue with Android or Verizon or HTC -- in fact, I didn't care -- I just wanted to use an OS that was still supported.
After Google bought Motorola, and HTC started supporting Windows phones, I could read the writing on the wall. For the best continued Android support, there was only one obvious choice: Motorola. I guess we'll find out how well that will work for me. I expected my contact list would be transfered automatically, and it was. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that all of my apps from the old phone were automatically downloaded to the new one.

In the meantime, I've got a new phone with a bunch of new features to discover.
Current Mood: geekygeeky
17 December 2012 @ 12:52 pm
It's human nature to seek to prevent calamity. When children die, we ask, "How could that have been prevented?" Sometimes, the result is legislation that circumscribes danger. Other times, we make cultural adjustments to save lives.

We sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between good ideas and emotional reactions. When floods or wildfires take lives, we mourn, but can do little to contain water or fire when it comes with a vengence. But when people kill people, especially when children are the victims, we like to think that there are specific solutions that would have prevented the tragedy. Unfortunately, for every solution, there are other people who feel the cure is worse than the disease.

In an effort to prevent any further advancement in gun control legislation, some folks like to make arguments like: "There's no point in passing gun control laws, because criminals don't obey laws."

It's beside the point to argue that criminals wouldn't obey gun laws. However, it's not irrational -- in fact, it's a proven tactic -- to assume that the people who make their living selling guns aren't going to do things that endanger their livelihood. These are the people the gun control laws primarily impact. It's not a 100% complete solution, as guns would still find their way into the wrong hands. But most folks who shouldn't have guns find it far more difficult to get them due to gun control laws already in place.

Let's compare gun control laws to existing laws intended to prevent teen smoking. Granted, the law does not directly keep teens from sneaking or stealing tobacco products, but consider this: teenage smoking is at record lows, primarily because of federal efforts to enforce the law where most people buy their smokes. A criminally-minded business owner could certainly put tobacco into the hands of kids, but it's at the risk of losing their livelihood and freedom once they're caught. Most business owners follow the law, as a result many more kids have no easy access to tobacco.

It's been pointed out that existing gun control laws wouldn't have prevented last Friday's tragedy, as the guns used were properly licensed. But this is actually a great argument for much better gun control laws, perhaps even bringing regulation of guns and ammo to the same level used for cars, cold medicine, or bakeries. Again, it's not 100% protection, but it's better than what we have now.

Finally: the tragedy in Connecticut was also played out on the same day in China, where no one has access to guns. There, a man stabbed 22 school children. Some like to point to this as proof that "even if you took away all the guns, this would still happen." Well, folks, those 22 kids in China are still alive today, which is something that can't be said for 20 kids in Connecticut. If you're serious about preventing a total gun ban in the US, you may want to avoid this argument, as well.