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    • The Technology of Violence and its effect on prosperity and freedom
        Prosperity is two things: 1) How much you can produce with your technology and social organization; 2) Who gets how much.   The second is determined by a number of factors, but the simplest is the structure of violence.  Those who aren’t good at fighting, don’t get as much of the surplus created by [...]
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When Fear Is All Around You

Kevin Drum has a new article up at Mother Jones that is, in my opinion, worth reading. Actually, I’m not 100% sure it’s worth reading because I was too lazy to do anything but skim through it, but I got the general idea. Basically, the National Park Service wants to bring a higher level of security to the Washington Monument and Bruce Schneier thinks we should just shut it down.

Kevin Drum, like me, could really care less what happens to the Washington Monument. I didn’t even know people visited it. Like most Americans, I just see it in movies and I think, “Oh… the Washington Monument.” That sums up my opinion on the whole thing. But Drum sums up my opinion on something else very clearly: the intellectual laziness of Bruce’s attitude.

Maybe we should just shut it down. But that particular issue aside, I think Bruce’s attitude needs some major pushback.

There’s a certain class of people to whom his prescription sounds great. Refuse to be terrorized! Stop being such babies! I’m a member of that class. I would happily accept a slightly increased risk of terrorist attack in return for a less intrusive security regime. I think we’re way too willing to let fear rule our culture. On a purely personal level, this stuff infuriates me.

But those of us who feel that way really have an obligation to understand just how out of the mainstream we are. I’m willing to bet that most of us are a bit nerdy, sort of hyperanalytical, maybe even slightly Aspergers-ish. We’re comfortable — too comfortable, probably — viewing the ebb and flow of human lives as an accounting exercise. We’re also very sure of ourselves, generally pretty verbal, and we have soapboxes to shout from.

And, at a guess, we represent maybe 10% of the population. At most.

I have a friend who does not represent this 10% of the population. Like most people my age, she pretends to be non conformist and unique… but really isn’t. At least on this particular issue, her non conformism is purely commercial. If I go out in the middle of the night to take a walk or stop by the 24 hour drug store to grab some eggs, I get a tut and a shake of the head from her. “Oh… that’s smart. You’ll get raped and killed.”

Neither of us have spent much of our lives in particularly bad neighborhoods. We have been comfortably safe in suburbia and have never had our lives threatened in any way. But like most Americans we watch the nightly news and stories about murder and general destruction are plastered across the screen. Yes, I do run the risk of danger if I go out at night. I try to let this frighten me or deter me but… it just doesn’t. I don’t care.

Maybe I’m just a reckless young person who believes in her own invincibility. My answer to that is: well, I’ve been reckless for a while now and I’m still here, right? Or maybe I’m just an idiot. Actually, I’m probably just an idiot, but I think I’m losing my point here.

The point is, I have a certain attitude about the things I do, and it’s a simple one: I do what I want. I run the risk of dying when I get in a car to drive. Hell, I could drop dead or be struck down at any moment. My attitude is the exact opposite of reckless belief in my own invincibility. I know the grim reaper could pay a visit at any time, unannounced, and I wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it. That’s why I don’t care about death. It’s inevitable. I accept her dark embrace. And I’m not going to sit around and be so worried about death that I forget to live. As far as I’m concerned, she can call me anytime, because frankly I would rather die young knowing I stood up for something than die old and realize I threw my life away.

Our modern society is deathly afraid of death. Go figure. And violence. And since I was a child, terrorism was thrown into the mix. When you can’t even go through a scanner at the airport without having your private business groped, you have to stop and take a look  around you and wonder, “why?”

I am growing up in an age of fear and it is getting old fast.

We’re afraid of Cancer. “Watermelons cause Cancer!” a Woman’s Health article screams at at us when we’re in the Grocery Line. Jesus Christ. EVERYTHING causes Cancer! Who cares??? Eat a god damned watermelon! They’re friggin’ delicious!

We’re afraid of teen pregnancy and sexual activity. Oh my goodness. It’s not that hard. Teenagers want to have sex because they’re HORNY. Just teach them about sex education, give them some condoms and birth control pills and send them on there way. Everyone gets sex and everyone wins. Simple.

But then, what about morals? Our culture of sex and drugs is degrading our preciously valued beliefs and traditions! The sky is falling! No, it’s not. Who cares about morals? Morals are boring. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone else do what you want. I have low moral fiber and I am proud of it.

But… Terrorism kills people! Yeah, it does. But Terrorism isn’t just about violence. It’s about using violence… to make people SCARED. I’m sorry, but groping my hoo ha when I’m at an airport is not the way to fight Terrorism. Closing the Washington Monument would just tell our enemies just how afraid of them we really are. I’d rather we stood up to them.

And most importantly, people are scared for America. Or of America. Which one? I don’t know, probably both. China is gaining influence, the media tells us ominously. And we are declining. Our standard of living is declining, our government is imploding from the inside out. The economy is down and won’t get back up for a while, if ever. What are we going to do? We won’t be the world’s biggest superpower anymore! By 2040 white people will be a minority! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

It’s all mass hysteria and it’s all silly. Stop giving into fear. That’s what you do. Don’t sit there and complain and let it happen. Don’t say, “America is doomed” and then go to Wal Mart to buy cups.  Do something. Vote. Get your shit together and get yourself organized. Protest. Raise Hell. It’s what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. They cared a lot more about that than “Family Values” and “American Security.”

And most importantly, stop being afraid for America. Fight for her if you love her. Don’t just let her go.

 

A 16-year-old is buried alive, nobody cries

I’ll bet that girl did, but apparently nobody heard her. Here’s the story:

Turkish police have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive by relatives in an “honor” killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys. The girl, who has been identified only by the initials MM, was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-meter hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman. … Media reports said the father had told relatives he was unhappy that his daughter – one of nine children – had male friends. The grandfather is said to have beaten her for having relations with the opposite sex. A postmortem examination revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried. Her body showed no signs of bruising.

Yup. A sixteen year old girl was buried alive for talking to boys and nobody gives a shit. I mean, seriously, who cares? Tiger Woods porked a Porn Star! Angeline is bored with Brad!

The always reliable Peter Doau tells it like it is:

First, let me say this: the brutalization of women and girls cuts across all religious and cultural boundaries, so this isn’t just about dis-‘honor’ killings, though few things are more heinous than a father murdering his daughter (after dispassionately discussing it with other family members). It’s about the things males do to females and will continue to do unless the outcry is loud enough that the world begins to take notice.

I have no patience for anyone trying to blame this hideous act on Islam. None. If you want to get on an anti-Islam soupbox, do it somewhere else, where people who aren’t ignorant don’t have to listen to you. This is not about Religion. This is not about class. This is not about Race or Origin or Ethnic background or location, this is about that girl and millions of others like her who suffer and die because they have a vagina. This is about the human spirit, and the simple fact that women are not viewed as human beings in our society, and haven’t been viewed as human beings for a very long time. What happened to that girl isn’t an isolated incident. It is pervasive, like an ancient and sickening disease. And it is everywhere.

Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, cannot bear to listen to the stories his patients tell him anymore. Every day, 10 new women and girls who have been raped show up at his hospital. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair. “We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear,” said Dr. Mukwege, who works in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of Congo’s rape epidemic. “They are done to destroy women.”

[...]

I could post thousands of these and it wouldn’t capture the depth and breadth of the problem. It comes down to this: there simply isn’t sufficient public outrage about gender-based violence to spur political action.

[...]

Sometimes I feel like we were all born into an alternate universe, a psychotic, twisted, perverted version of what life should be. Our existence is marked by unimaginable violence, hideous acts of evil against the most innocent among us. It’s like living in a perpetual horror movie.

Setting aside the existential conundrum, one thing I know for certain: we can’t stop jumping up and down, screaming at the top of our lungs, donating money to organizations that help women, telling our friends and families, doing everything in our power to stop these male monsters from continuing their savagery against women and girls.

Hmmmmm… do any of you know anyone who jumps up and down, screams at the top of their lungs, donates money to lady friendly organizations, and tells all of their friends about violence against women and girls? I don’t.

And maybe its time we do.

As a Wiccan I’m often asked why folks like me carry around the burning times as chips on our shoulders. They ask this as if the burning times are over. Nobody is burning at the stake (at least not very many) but that’s only because its so passe. Genital mutilation and stoning is much more effective these days.

SOD did a series about Male Social Dominance and how it effects women and girls. Attitudes like these do stem from Male Social Dominance, but some argue that Male Social Dominance isn’t as ingrained into human nature as you might think.

If you ever read The Chalice and The Blade, by Raine Eslier or When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone or In Search of the Sacred Feminine you would know what that means. They and others make the case that human beings aren’t, by nature, violent and warlike, and cite archeological evidence of Pre-Helenic Egalitarian societies as proof.

One common misconception is that women back then were “worshiped” in “fertility cults” because of their reproductive powers, but the truth is much more practical and economical. Nobody was monogamous those days and they didn’t have paternity tests, so societies were matrilineal, meaning property and possessions were passed down through daughters instead of sons, because there was never any way to know who the father of the children were. Women were thus in control of their bodies and independence, so men and women lived together in peaceful harmony.

Archeologists have discovered no evidence of the glorification of violence and war from the civilizations that existed on the Islands of Crete and Thera for at least a thousand years. They were neolithic, so they didn’t hunt and didn’t evolve by eating meat, therefore physical strength, which is where men usually have the advantage, wasn’t very important. People from those societies generally had a different view on life than we do today. They had no human or animal sacrifices. They were highly advanced, and they didn’t have written word because it wouldn’t have made sense to them. Paragraphs are linear and they had no concept of time, for them everything went in a circle. Obviously they weren’t perfect, and they were the way they were because men and women chose to coexist instead of dominating each other.

Their way of life eventually died out because non-neolithic indo-europeans invaded from the north and Hebrews invaded from the south. Those tribes were violent and patriarchal because they came from areas that were to cold or warm to grow food, so they survived by hunting and conquest. That supposedly happened around five thousand years ago, and women have been subject to violence ever since, because to violent societies past and present women are akin to livestock or booty.

(It’s also worth noting that the Aryans were one of the Indo European tribes that invaded those egalitarian societies, and Hitler cited them as superior human beings.)

If you really think about it, all of the world’s problems go back to women’s equality. That’s how it all started. I highly doubt that any of the men in Congress or men in the White House are going to be bringing more attention to gender based violence any time soon.

So, as usual, its up to us to do something about it.

Oprah introduces America to civilized (socialist) Denmark

I stole this video from Lenore Skenazy at Freerangekids.  HER focus was on the fact that two month old twins were allowed to nap in the sunshine. Outside.  Unattended.  And no one called the cops on the parents for child endangerment or neglect.  It turns out the entire country is *full* of parents who leave their adorable blonde babies on the street in their prams for some crazy nut job to snatch away.  And I guess that there are so many of them hanging around that there’s not much temptation anymore.  Most kids do not get stolen.

But I digress.

The real story is that these incredibly beautiful, simplicity loving, high tax paying, Ikea addicts are the happiest people in the world.  They say they are Democrats but Oprah says they’re socialists.  Au Contraire, says the swimsuit model (presumably with a PhD in architecture).  They are merely civilized.  It is civilized to take care of the poor and the old.  It is civilized to spend time with your family and friends.  It is civilized to have fewer things so that you can have more freedom.  What a concept!

Too bad Oprah didn’t do this last year instead of helping to force that Republican lite, corporate loving, uber shmoozer on us for president. I guess it’s possible for even Oprah to get rolled every now and then.

Is she trying to atone or is she trying to get us accustomed to wanting a lot less, now that her White House friend has bungled the recovery?  Who knows?  I wouldn’t mind living a Danish life and I suspect there are a lot of Americans who when faced with another $4000/month mortgage payment on the McMansion while they wait on pins and needles to see if they still have a job, would find a small flat and a resilient social safety net in Copenhagen just charming.  I just hope it isn’t too late for America to get the message.

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The Culture of Cannibalism in US Politics: The Triumph of The Cyclop’s Values Over Democratic Citizenship

{The first essay in this series introduced a model I created to explain the cycle of corruption that plagues US politics. This essay looks into the roots of this corruption. It takes a long time to get to the payoff. Further, the conclusion is somewhat ex nihilo if you have not read the first essay. This said, for those who dare, I hope you find it worth the read.}
polyphemus2-3717

Polyphemos the cyclops would have eaten Odysseus, if his survival was dependent on the moral virtues of Silenus’s satyrs. Fortunately for Odysseus, and Silenus and his lot, Odysseus could depend on his fellow citizens. If Polyphemos had the majority of America’s elected representatives depending on him for their survival in his cave, the way that they are presently beholden to lobbyists’ money for their electoral survival, he could have had a ready supply of citizens for his daily meals.

Cyclopean virtues regularly triumph over the virtues of democratic citizenship in the political landscape of the United States. Given that the Declaration of Independence embodies the spirit and principles that ground the virtues of democratic citizenship, why is it that cyclopes, who eat humans, win the day in America? Answering this question requires that we journey back to Attic Greece and her proto-democratic foundations. Continue reading

America isn’t easy: balancing competing moral claims in advanced citizenship societies

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America isn’t easy

Building and sustaining a diverse community is not easy.

What should we celebrate?

Celebrate: to perform (a sacrament or ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites; to honor by solemn ceremonies and refraining from ordinary business; to hold up or play for public notice.

What should we tolerate?

Tolerate: to endure or resist the action of without grave or lasting injury; to suffer to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction.

What should we not tolerate?

Freedom of Speech: speech as a celebratory, tolerable, or non-tolerable moral action

The right to free speech celebrates the toleration of alternative views and the expression of those views.

“Monsieur l’abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write” – Voltaire (potential misattribution)

Continue reading

Common Sense and the sensus communis: anatomy of an American pressure cooker

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Gay-Lussac

The pressure of a fixed mass and fixed volume of a gas is directly proportional to the gas’s temperature.

This relationship is known as the Gay-Lussac’s Law and a pressure cooker is an example of the law in practice. Cooking under pressure creates the possibility of cooking with high temperature liquids because the boiling point of a liquid increases as its pressure increases. High pressure and high heat can result in delectable dishes.

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Cooking under pressure can be also dangerous because as liquids change phase into gases their volume expands greatly. For example, at atmospheric pressure the volume of steam is about 1700 times greater than the volume of water. To prevent pressure cookers from becoming bombs, relief devices (pop safety valves) are employed that are capable of relieving all of the steam the vessel is capable of producing.

America the Beautiful Pressure Cooker

The political pressure cooker is beginning to heat up. The power brokers and institutions that drive the nation have arrived unannounced on the doorsteps of America like a gaggle of unwanted, high maintenance relatives that demand hospitality for an unforeseeable time and that won’t take no for answer. Furthermore, they’ve announced that more relatives are on the way. Whatever plans America’s householders had, they’ve just gone out the window, with their household budgie and the relatives’ cat in hot pursuit.

People are justifiably angry with this incursion. Their budgie might not have been much, but it was “their budgie”, nurtured from birth into what it had become. Justifiably angry householders are trying to work out why the relatives arrived on their doorsteps and why they brought their fucking cat. Continue reading

Mather does not Cotton to the Pseudo-Puritanism of O’Keefe and Giles

jesus_mary_magdalene
O’Keefe and Giles, in their portrayal of pimp and prostitute, reek of puerile classism. Were it not for the overwhelmingly noxious fumes emanating from the handful of ACORN employees who were apparently willing to enable a child prostitution ring exploiting illegal immigrants, the stink of the ill-informed moral superiority of O’Keefe and Giles would drive evolutionarily advanced members of our species to avoid contact.

Let’s cut to the chase. The child prostitution enablement shown in the videos is beyond the pale. It is wholly unacceptable. Giles and O’Keefe deserve credit for exposing this potential for promoting abuse with ACORN’s structure.

For ACORN to continue doing the good they do for the community, they must clean their house. This said, many houses and streets in the U.S. are in need of a good cleaning.

Credit granted where it is due, I am discomforted by the prurient form of Puritanism implicit in the method O’Keefe and Giles chose to expose ACORN’s illness. Their sting starts with a young female sex worker trying to buy a home, before it lures the ACORN workers into the ugliness of underage sexual exploitation. My issue with O’Keefe and Giles is that they appear to believe that people engaged in the sex trade should not be able to have normal life dreams.

Life in the Sex Trade

Life circumstances lead some people to prostitution. In our culture, it is rarely a profession of choice. This is something our political class should be well aware of, given the large number of personally undertaken, hobby social science, in-depth probes they have engaged in over the years.

There are volumes of research on the various factors and dynamics that create the participants in the world’s oldest profession. In our culture, an experience of sexual abuse and economic vulnerability are common themes in the dynamic of becoming a prostitute.

Should being a sex worker be a barrier to living as other citizens live?

If a sex worker wants to buy a home, and she meets all of the relevant requirements for obtaining a mortgage, other than that she cannot state her profession on the mortgage application because her form of employ is illegal, what is she to do, other than lie? If that sex worker wants to do the proper thing as a citizen and pay her taxes as a self-employed person, what is she to do, other than lie?

The simple answer is that citizens who want to pay taxes and buy homes should not choose to live the lifestyle of a prostitute. This is the type of answer one expects from those who are ignorant of the dynamics that create prostitution, especially in the underage realm. For example, leaving is often not merely a personal decision and few pimps are as non-threatening as the one portrayed by James O’Keefe. Accordingly, it fits that such an answer would come from those who choose to disregard how the practice of their political philosophy enhances the conditions that create the sex trade.

In this regard, Ms. Giles words to Sean Hannity on how she conceived the project:

It’s amazing what girls think about when they are jogging. And that was just something that popped into my head. I had never seen an ACORN office, I really didn’t even know that they existed and I jogged into the wrong part of town, saw some homeless people and street ladies and I put two and two together when I turned around to get back into a safe neighborhood. And it’s like — what if these people went into ACORN — a prostitute and what would come from that? No bills, no nothing — would they get a house? Could they start a business? So we put it to the test.

It is telling that Giles was interested in whether or not ACORN would help a street lady buy a home and, apparently, not so interested in what caused the women to become street ladies. Then again, perhaps that’s simply a feature of rarely running into the “wrong part of town?” Regardless, Giles began her project with two targets, ACORN and street ladies who wanted to buy a home.

For O’Keefe and Giles, having to live with the danger, and adopt the stigma, attached to selling sexual services does not seem to be enough punishment. They appear to think there is something improper about a prostitute wanting to own a home, which, if she worked there, would also be a brothel. They seem unable to see that owning a home might serve as a base upon which to leave the sex trade. Thankfully, many ACORN employees are not afflicted by the anti-New Testament immorality that informs that type of thinking.

ACORN: The Bad and the Good

ACORN has problems at a variety of levels. It is reasonable to call for a proper audit of the organization, given their government funding. A good time for the audit might be immediately after a full accounting of every dollar of TARP funding is released to the public.

Notwithstanding ACORN’s many problems, it provides valuable community services. ACORN employees work to bring a better life to many citizens and many of these citizens reside in the underclass. Working with people in the underclass requires empathy for their circumstance and a pragmatic attitude that involves working with limited resources to bring about optimal results, which will necessarily be modest at best. To me, it is entirely appropriate for an ACORN accountant to bend a category to find a way for a sex worker to pay her taxes so she can buy a home. (Perhaps the idea of a citizen wanting to pay taxes is outside the worldview of the young Republican film makers?)

O’Keefe and Giles have done a community service by exposing rot in the structure of ACORN. Unfortunately, their methodology lacks the discipline of the precautionary principle. As a tool for the healing of the body politic, therefore, the methodology of O’Keefe and Giles is flawed, because they are willing to worsen the lives of sex workers to achieve their aim of disarming ACORN. Accordingly, the methodology of O’Keefe and Giles is unethical because it causes a wholly unnecessary amputation, where a good anti-biotic would have done the job. For this reason, I reject the pseudo-Puritanism implicit in their methodology for its lack of empathy and wisdom.

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