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Topics - Fenring

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General Comments / Capitalism and global responsiblity
« on: September 29, 2021, 10:20:55 PM »
Here's a CNN article about warnings of a potential global supply chain breakdown:

A few choice excerpts:

Seafarers, truck drivers and airline workers have endured quarantines, travel restrictions and complex Covid-19 vaccination and testing requirements to keep stretched supply chains moving during the pandemic.

But many are now reaching their breaking point, posing yet another threat to the badly tangled network of ports, container vessels and trucking companies that moves goods around the world.


"All transport sectors are also seeing a shortage of workers, and expect more to leave as a result of the poor treatment millions have faced during the pandemic, putting the supply chain under greater threat," it added.

When Karynn Marchal and her crew were told that they wouldn't be allowed to go on shore upon docking in Hokkaido, Japan it was a big hit to morale.
"None of us knew how long it would go on for," the 28-year old chief officer of a car-carrying ship told CNN Business.
That was more than 18 months ago. Marchal — and hundreds of thousands of seafarers like her — have not been permitted shore leave since.


Coronavirus testing is also a challenge. In February, Germany unilaterally introduced mandatory PCR testing with no exemption for truck drivers, leading neighboring countries including Italy to impose similar restrictions to avoid having thousands of drivers stranded in their own territory.
These measures affected thousands of truck drivers, particularly on the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria, forcing them to queue for days in sub-zero temperatures with no food or medical facilities. The EU Digital Covid Certificate has since eased some of the pressure, but bottlenecks remain.

So there are many issues in play here: international safety standards, quarantining, no safe place to go, covid testing and vaccinations, grueling work schedules to keep the goods flowing, and many others. Sheer worker morale breakdown seems to be a big one, now hitting the UK hard with a lack of transport drivers threatening to cut off their supply lines (there have been some predictions of food shortages in stores), and in North America some sectors are having labor shortages as well due to burnout and lack of interest.

What all of this boils down to is that there is neither the incentive nor perhaps the coordination to keep all the plates spinning while also maintaining normal business practice. One thing that capitalism advocates have always maintained is that the free market is the most efficient force out there, and that even in crisis it corrects itself shortly (if it's permitted to). And yet we've seen cases in history of major runs on the banks where the business-as-usual model fails spectacularly when things become significantly unusual, and we know from these cases, as well as from the recent skyrocketing of "too big to fail" (since the entire economy would collapse like a house of cards if certain business failures were allowed to occur), that it's not just a question of a market correction. There is no way back from 'total collapse' in the usual economic meaning of numbers going up and down, employment levels readjusting, and so forth.

In light of the crisis in the UK I understand that a new wave of hiring has happened, with increased worker incentives; but we will see if it's enough incentive or done quickly enough. And when discussing the entire global supply chain, of course covid is a compounding factor. There is always some compounding factor when there's a massive run on the economy. What strikes me as worth asking is whether capitalism (i.e. individual companies operating out of a sense of their own self-interest alone, and globally this resulting in prosperity for all) could be seen as being put to question if scenarios like this can occur where every company is individually doing what they think best (keep overhead down, salaries minimized, profits maximized, cut corners if needed) and the net global result may be a collapse of the global economy. Not to be a doomsayer, but let's just say this was a real possibility: would it not seem sensible to question whether this model of doing business really makes sense? After all, we know now that it's not just 'your company' at stake as a result of your decisions, but everyone else's too. And this in a way bleeds into the general covid discussion about personal choice versus collective responsibility. Should you be 'allowed' to choose to push your workers to the edge, if what that means is - assuming everyone else behaves the same way - you keep your profits up but throw the world under the bus? And I think a similar argument is often made about global pollution, so perhaps there is an analogy there too.

The alternative offered is always something outrageous, like "look at what happened to the USSR". So I'm not saying anything like that. But I don't think "do what thou wilt" and "totalitarian lockdown" are the only two options under the sun for organizing labor and resources.

General Comments / Last chance!!! ENDER SERIES THREAD
« on: August 16, 2021, 12:04:51 PM »
Ho everyone,

I was hoping to get further into the series before making this thread, but our timing has dictated the moment has come. Although I've been a member of this board for some time (maybe 8 years?) I had to date never actually read any OSC books. I just liked the discussion forum, I guess. Actually I had read Ender's Game a long time ago...and didn't like it. For some reason the film adaptation got me interested to try the book again, and to my surprise I loved the book this time. I've gone on to finish the Lusitania trilogy, the Shadow trilogy (along with Ender's Shadow), and I'm just about the begin the War of Gifts (which I assume will be reminiscent of the Star Wars Christmas Special) followed by Ender in Exile. My wife reads faster and just finished the First Formic War books as well, which are next for me.

I wanted to hear your thoughts about this series, and especially in regard to certain trends I see come up in them. One thing I'll say right off the bat is I feel like Card's priorities change as the series goes on, so that there are certain...inconsistencies that creep up. But more on that in a moment.

Ender's Game
Loved the book! Pacing is tight, plot is easy to follow but engaging, and the character of Ender a bit of a cypher precisely in the way he is to everyone else - even to himself. He seems aware of what he is capable of, but not that aware of what it means in terms of his moral character. As he's very young, he has a big problem with his particular set of traits without seeing the redeeming side of it (which we see more in the Lusitania trilogy). The twist ending, even if you know it's coming, works very well. The only sad part of the book is that some of Ender's early relationships, such as with Alai and Shen, fall away not to far into the book, and are revisited only near the end with brief interactions that imply all the caring is still there. But given just how much sympatico Ender had with perhaps Alai in particular (at first it seemed they almost might be peers, both thinking quickly and creatively) it seemed a bit of a shame that Alai ended up being just another jeesh member. There is one brief mention to Mazer that of all of them Alai might be a suitable replacement for Ender, a point which I'll bring back soon. The thesis of the book - that loving your enemy allows you to destroy them - is probably dubious on a technical war level, but on a moral level the point is well taken: you can hurt best those you love, because you know them deeply.

Lusitania trilogy
I actually loved this trilogy, and although it's very different in tone from Ender's Game (shockingly so), it goes much deeper on the human level than EG did. One thing to note is that this trilogy appears to be more or less consistent with the epilogue of EG, maybe with the odd soft retcon here and there. Despite OSC's apparent intention for the EG epilogue to be scrapped from canon, I like it and refuse to give it up. Also worthy of note is the appearance of Peter here, and although strictly speaking it's not the 'real' Peter the book does give him full due credit as being a scary person to have come back into the world. This is very much a family story, but does broach metaphysical issues, especially pertaining to Jane and generally to the theory (is this Card's real belief?) that souls are distinct entities that come to inhabit living beings (organic or otherwise), and that the strongest of these souls is needed to inhabit the strongest beings. That there's a disparity in 'spirit' among people is something established by St Paul in one of his letters (forget which one), so there's a Christian precedent for that idea. But whereas EG and this trilogy do work very well as general Christian stories (just like C.S. Lewis' do), this metaphysics about souls is definitely inconsistent with the teachings of most Christian groups. Maybe someone who knows about Mormonism can tell me whether Card's ideas here are extrapolations of the Mormon teachings? I know the Catholic teachings best, and these ideas are definitely not compatible with that.

Ender's Shadow
I'll treat this book as a standalone, as I want to discuss what I think it changes. Card does an interesting thing - giving us a competing POV - but as it really is competing it appeared to me to actually invalidate a lot of what we're told in EG. Maybe OSC was trying to illuminate some of the stuff in EG, but I couldn't find any way to understand these things as concordant. A lot of the scenes in battle school seem to portray Bean as being obviously the best student there, which in itself I guess isn't such a problem, but then for him to constantly know better than Ender about things struck me as being fan-fictiony. The fact that he was secretly following all the battles to make up for Ender's mistakes, was also incompatible with EG in my view. EG did suggest Bean was given a chance at command before Ender got there, but it was a failure, and I find it hard to believe that if he was such a strategic genius it really would have been a failure. I know they say Bean isn't as good a leader, but if he was issuing kickass orders I think the jeesh would have complied and had good results, whether they liked him or not. The main thing Ender did was allowing independent management by his commanders, and Bean could have done that too. And let's get serious: if Ender was really buckling under the pressure, and he tells Mazer that maybe Alai could replace him, this book makes him look like a dunce for apparently being the only one oblivious to Bean's mastery of command strategy. There are also multiple times in the book Card seems to make moves to take Ender down a peg, in order to make Bean look better. Granted, this is Bean's POV, but it's insufficiently a 'POV book' for me to accept that. It feels like some hard retcons happening regarding the situation in battle school and on Eros. I felt this was the weakest book in the series, both in writing style and also in his neglecting the given circumstances of EG in order to try to buff up Bean as this mental god.

Shadow trilogy
I rather enjoyed this trilogy, actually, even though I feel like OSC failed to quite create a believable grand build toward the Hegemon taking over the world. Because frankly, that's what I felt was needed. My biggest joy in this trilogy was to get to see a lot more of Ender's jeesh, especially in the great scene where they're all in a meeting with Graff. My biggest beef with it is the sheer amount of scrubbing of facts from EG in order to create a new storyline. I just can't see Peter from EG as being the Peter from this book. He was turned practically into a goofy comic relief character, and I can't accept that the psychopathic manipulator from EG could ever be kind or benevolent. True, his plans with Valentine did require putting on masks, and I could easily accept that a self-controlled psychopath could pretend - for his whole life if need be - to be something he's not. His experiments with tormenting Ender, which in EG were shown to be calculated and a sort of theatre designed to learn how to control people, are now referred to as being him having been temperamental and immature. I don't buy that. In EG he knew exactly what he was doing at all times, including the dissecting of squirrels. None of it was sadism, nor was it him being out of control or moody. The terror in the Lusitania trilogy of him returning is completely lost here. The Shadow books do mention from time to time that he's supposedly manipulative and self-involved, but we never see that in the text or in his thoughts. I think the Peter character was a big miss here, and so was his plan for world domination. The manner in which it happened was lackluster. And Mazer's explanation - in a hilarious scene presumably meant to address inconsistencies with EG - even makes it worse, when it says it's "impossible to be too ruthless for battle school" (a contradiction from the first book for sure), and that simply they were reserving Peter for taking over the world. B.S.! The human race was supposedly at death's door, with Ender their last and only chance, since the fleets were arriving in position. Alai couldn't have really done the job, and Bean was a fluke last-minute entry. You're telling me they'd have kept Peter back on Earth just because they thought he'd make a good Hegemon? Of what planet, once the Buggers came back and ended them? To keep Peter from battle school on some pretext is preposterous, when EG is clear that he's every bit as strategically brilliant as Ender (another retcon in this book).

Likewise, the Bean character increasingly gains prominence, following from the moves made in Ender's Shadow, and increasingly there seem to be retcons regarding how people saw him in the past, regarding just how dominating he is in all aspects of war, contrasted with Ender's own direct statement in EG that Bean is good at coming up with innovative maneuvers with a small force but can't adequately wield a larger force. That was a neat character detail of Bean, and exactly how he was used in Dragon army. But apparently now he's just better-Ender in every way, even morally, since Bean is such a good guy with no flaws. So that's an irritating through-line too. But I do like that Petra is given a super-prominent role, as I liked her in EG a lot. A pity that Alai is relegated in most of his scenes to putting up a silly act, and that Shen gets virtually no time in the book at all.

There are other retcons, like the scrubbing the EG epilogue where Graff and Mazer quit the fleet and go with Ender to serve under him out of the huge respect they have for him. Since this trilogy seems at least partially dedicated to taking the wind out of Ender's sails, it figures that even his supporters would switch to Bean. So in my head canon they still go with him after this trilogy.

I'm looking forward to the next set of books, but one thing I'm a bit sad about is that the books have ceased to have so much of a Christian theme as the basis for the stories. Not that I need my sci-fi to be Christian at all, but since Card took on that task, and succeeded, I was gratified to see him (for four books) able to tell stories with a strong moral backbone and yet without making them overtly preachy. This last four books appear to have sort of ditched that mission statement and are much more plot-oriented stories, to connect the dots between EG and the Lusitania series. From that standpoint they appear much more light and lacking substance, even though they're certainly fun reads.

I'd enjoy hearing some of your thoughts about the series, the retcons I mentioned, or anything else you valued, liked, or didn't like about the Ender books.

General Comments / Pro-life hypocrisy
« on: March 30, 2021, 12:51:42 PM »
A point was brought up in the Roe vs Wade thread about hypocrisy on the right, and this is a perennial observation by liberals about the one-sidedness of the pro-life position. Arguments of this type appear to range from being pro-life in certain social contexts (abortion) but arguably anti-life in others (military), to the fact of conservatives opposing social safety nets and even at times vilifying young mothers and even the poor in general for being failures.

So I would like to propose a discussion about what we all think are things that would need to be put in place in a society to make the pro-life position consistent and not hypocritical. So let's propose an axiomatic premise for the thread:

From the moment of conception the unborn are human beings with the full dignity of humanity, requiring the same protections and duty of care that other humans have.

Putting aside whether you think this is a reasonable proposition, just imagine it's true and go from there. Which steps in society would need to be taken to deal with this? If, for instance, abortion was banned, what social, political, or even moral changes would need to be undertaken to create what we might call a conscientious and caring society that does not run roughshod on the downtrodden and burden people who need help? In other words, if we take the above premise seriously, what would need to go along with it so that the pro-life position at minimum makes sense on a human level and doesn't come across as either disingenuous or contradictory?

I am talking about steel-manning the pro-life position to the limit. What is the best-case scenario we can come up with for a society where abortion is understood to be the killing of people? Note that this does not have to include a banning of abortion, but that any instantiation of abortion would have to come with the understanding that all involved recognize that a person is being killed.


General Comments / Concentration camps
« on: November 11, 2019, 11:09:52 AM »
I'm starting a new thread apart from the Hong Kong one, as I'd like to ask everyone here specifically about the alleged concentration camp stories I've been reading. No, not the 'concentration camps' on the American border, but the concentration camps supposedly operating in China regarding possibly millions of dissidents. I've read accounts, supposedly by Chinese people, alleging starvation situations, organ harvesting, torture, and of course re-education programs. It's also alleged that there may be a racial or religious bias involved, where 'different' sort of people are disprorportionately 'detained.'

Despite how many stories I've read on the subject I'm sure we might still pose questions such as:
-Is it really happening?
-If we don't trust our news media, could they be making this up or exaggering it?
-If it's happening, are we misunderstanding some aspect of it?
-Just how bad is it, anyway?

Maybe these are some of the same questions asked in the early 1940's. Ever since WWII it's been claimed that "never again" and that genocides will be stopped. Of course, that's only sometimes true, and often only true if the nations involved are of strategic importance. But let's say there really are Holocaust-level concentration camps in operation in China: should the West recant its supposed convictions for the past 70 years and take back that such things can't be allowed to happen? Or is there even any coordinated activity that could do anything about it?

I expect that direct war with a nuclear power is off the table going forward, so if anything I imagine that 'warfare' would have to come in the form of economic warfare, such as an embargo or something like that. Is this feasible, or even a good idea? What is going to be the West's position on this type of scenario, especially (and forgive my bluntness) when it's Chinese-looking people involved rather than white Europeans?

General Comments / Why not just bring back banishment?
« on: September 06, 2018, 11:42:43 AM »
Saw this article today, about a scene that got pulled from the new Predator movie at the last minute. Apparently it was discovered that an actor playing a bit part had been previously convicted as a "sex offender" and when this came to light they removed his scene from the film.

But last month, Munn learned that Striegel is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 2010 after facing allegations that he attempted to lure a 14-year-old female into a sexual relationship via the internet. When Munn shared the information with Fox on Aug. 15, studio executives quickly decided to excise him from the movie.


“I personally chose to help a friend,” Black said in a written statement to The Times. “I can understand others might disapprove, as his conviction was on a sensitive charge and not to be taken lightly.”

But he said he has long believed that Striegel was “caught up in a bad situation versus something lecherous.”

Munn said she found it “both surprising and unsettling that Shane Black, our director, did not share this information to the cast, crew, or Fox Studios prior to, during, or after production.”

I was a huge cheerleader for getting the rapists and pedophiles out of Hollywood, and smoking out those who hid behind their power and enforced silence like Weinstein. However naturally things always go too far and instead of just becoming vigilant against certain scenarios and actions we are seeing repeatedly in Hollywood that any past sin will now destroy a person's career. If that 'sin' happened to be molesting and even raping people then that is probably an appropriate response. But (as for example in the case of Gunn, from Guardians of the Galaxy) that is by no means the only sin that is being punished. And the general tone in general, between Roseanne, Gunn, and other cases, is that if a person is 'tainted' they are gone. The taint in this case is that a man tried to get a date online with a 14 year old. No doubt that's not a good thing to try to do, but he was convicted and did his time, and I haven't heard that he's a repeat offender or that this was just the tip of the iceberg or anything like that. He did a bad thing, once. But apparently that's enough to make it unacceptable for you to work in film ever again.

Maybe we should bring back good old banishment, with a one strike you're out system. That would clear up all of the concern about who's pure and who's evil; if you ever do a bad thing you're gone and no one ever has to see you again. Is that what people are asking for now?

General Comments / Next-level campaigning
« on: June 02, 2018, 10:00:30 PM »
Someone today told me about this guy Larson who's apparently running for Congress in Virginia, and seems to be an open supporter of pedophilia, rape, incest, spousal abuse, and possibly slavery. It sounded like a joke but the headlines say otherwise:

Nathan Larson, a 37-year-old accountant from Charlottesville, Virginia, is running for Congress as an independent candidate in his native state. He is also a pedophile, as he admitted to HuffPost on Thursday, who has bragged in website posts about raping his late ex-wife.


When asked whether he’s a pedophile or just writes about pedophilia, he said, “It’s a mix of both. When people go over the top there’s a grain of truth to what they say.”

Asked whether there was a “grain of truth” in his essay about father-daughter incest and another about raping his ex-wife repeatedly, he said yes, offering that plenty of women have rape fantasies.

Not that he'll necessarily get any support, but damn, that's next-level campaigning. Forget about trying to cover your bases or try to sweep certain things under the rug, this guy is going for broke. Maybe it's some kind of political statement. No doubt many are going to suggest that this is the inevitable result of having Trump as President, and I certainly wonder about that. I heard someone posit a theory that this could be some kind of FBI honeypot but...nah, it's too crazy. I guess this is the way to make Roseanne look like a model PC citizen.

General Comments / Possibility of peace with NK
« on: March 12, 2018, 11:52:14 AM »

In recent news, North Korea seems to finally be open to discussion of a possible peace treaty with the U.S. After many have been worried that Kim Jong-un was a "crazy person" intent on nuking the world, this news may come as a surprise for a few reasons. For those who thought that the nuclear program was itself merely a bargaining tool to give the U.S. an incentive to end the Korean War and recognize NK as a sovereign nation, this will come as no surprise at all. NK officials seem to claim that NK is now ready for peace, or for war, whichever the U.S. prefers, and that they will react negatively to provocation at this point. For my own part I believe that most of what's been going on for the last few years has been bluster for the purpose of building political capital for negotiation, but I can't quite be sure of that either.

What are your general thoughts about this? Would giving in to NK for a peace treaty compromise Asian security, since part of the deal might be U.S. withdrawal of troops from South Korea? Would China be very happy at this result, and is that a good thing? Or is there some chance for real peace here, and all NK ever really wanted was not to be invaded by the U.S.?

I've heard it argued that if NK disarms its nuclear program that would just be an invitation to invasion and be the next Libya, and that they'd do well to hang on to their supposed arsenal.

When I heard the news I actually felt hopeful, and I really do want to think there's potential for a peaceful diplomatic solution here. What do you suppose people would say about President Trump if he was able to successfully broker peace with NK? Would it even be possible that people would be able to bring themselves to praise him for it?

General Comments / The Clinton campaign and the DNC
« on: November 02, 2017, 04:33:51 PM »
I just came across this article, which strikes me as being something that will be mostly ignored. I'm not even certain as to what exactly it all means, but it seems to confirm what a lot of people had been saying about the DNC 'rigging' the election for Hillary. It appears that it went far deeper than mere collusion. This article was just published by Donna Brazile, who seems to be blowing the whistle on some of what was going on with DNC finances from 2015-2016. She was interim chair of the party so I assume that means she speaks with authority.

Individuals who had maxed out their $2,700 contribution limit to the campaign could write an additional check for $353,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund—that figure represented $10,000 to each of the 32 states’ parties who were part of the Victory Fund agreement—$320,000—and $33,400 to the DNC. The money would be deposited in the states first, and transferred to the DNC shortly after that. Money in the battleground states usually stayed in that state, but all the other states funneled that money directly to the DNC, which quickly transferred the money to Brooklyn.

“Wait,” I said. “That victory fund was supposed to be for whoever was the nominee, and the state party races. You’re telling me that Hillary has been controlling it since before she got the nomination?”

Gary said the campaign had to do it or the party would collapse.

And one more quote:

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.


When the party chooses the nominee, the custom is that the candidate’s team starts to exercise more control over the party. If the party has an incumbent candidate, as was the case with Clinton in 1996 or Obama in 2012, this kind of arrangement is seamless because the party already is under the control of the president. When you have an open contest without an incumbent and competitive primaries, the party comes under the candidate’s control only after the nominee is certain. When I was manager of Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, we started inserting our people into the DNC in June. This victory fund agreement, however, had been signed in August 2015, just four months after Hillary announced her candidacy and nearly a year before she officially had the nomination.

Assuming all of Brazile's information is correct, it would appear that suggesting collusion between Hillary's campaign and the DNC would be something of an understatement. It might be more accurate to say that her campaign bought the DNC and henceforth was the DNC for all intents and purposes.

General Comments / Trump "the dictator"
« on: April 27, 2017, 04:01:31 PM »

Trump Floats Idea of “Breaking Up” the Court Ruling Against Him Like an Old Fashioned Dictator

One of Donald Trump’s favorite things to do, now that he is president, is to make up, and then try to impose, unconstitutional executive orders to change something he doesn’t like and doesn't have the legislative chops to actually fix.

I don't really know why I decided to read this clickbait-titled article, but I did anyhow. After the headline calls him a dictator the article proceeds to outline how Trump is going to try to 'break up' the 9th circuit court due to it having defied him. What struck me as odd is how the farther I read the more it didn't seem as outrageous as the headline suggested. Some of Trump's tweets about it were included as evidence of how bad he is, but actually they struck me as being potentially legitimate complains. Or at least they would be if they are accurate, which I lack the knowledge to assess.

So I'm asking - does anyone here know if 'judge shopping' is a real problem in the U.S. court system as Trump suggests, or is he merely whining about losing? (or both)

General Comments / Mormonism tl;dr?
« on: February 02, 2017, 12:12:36 PM »
This probably sounds like a funny and unspecific question, but since there are some people here knowledgeable about Mormonism, can someone please tell me basically what it's about and what distinguishes it from other kinds of Christianity? I was inspired to ask because of the brief tangent in the other thread about the trinity in various Christian denominations.

General Comments / No more cold war
« on: November 09, 2016, 02:44:10 PM »

Nov 9 Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Russia was ready to fully restore relations with the United States following the election of businessman Donald Trump as the new U.S. president.

Receiving credentials from new foreign ambassadors to Russia, Putin said he had heard Trump's campaign statements about improving ties with Moscow. He said Russia was ready do its part to achieve this but recognised it would not be easy.

None of us knows what Trump is really going to do once in office. Many people alleged he was in bed with Putin in some fashion, and even that Putin was somehow allied with him in trying to undermine the DNC. Whatever the truth is, I do know one thing: I do not want to see the U.S. re-initialize the cold war with Russia, and I do not want Putin to be constantly cast in the media as the villain to be stopped, as he has been for the last few years. Whether or not Putin even deserves that title is besides the point. Whatever other differences there were between Trump and Hillary's campaigns, the one thing I was satisfied with in Trump's positions was that he claimed he would want to improve relations with Russia and de-escalate in the Mid-East. I am quite sure this would not have happened with Hillary in power.

Whether Trump follows through with this remains to be seen, but even saying things like this can help relations with Russia, regardless of what follows. Sabre-rattling creates tensions, and offers of reconciliation can lead to real changes. I have viewed the possible escalations against Russia as a major issue in this election, dwarfing the importance of some other hot topic campaign issues. I wasn't joking when I have on occasion referred to the "WWIII party", and if Trump isn't part of this group then I will be very pleased, at least on that particular front. I sincerely hope Trump does follow through, and takes steps to accept Putin's offer of peace. Putin has been saying similar things for years, challenging Washington to meet him halfway and build bridges. I'm sure some of it was political rhetoric, but even so accepting even a rhetoric offer can lead to something.

General Comments / What is going on in Syria?
« on: August 24, 2016, 03:06:52 PM »
I've just read that the U.S. and Turkey in coalition have officially set up a no-fly zone within Syria's borders. This isn't being reported on by MSM as far as I can tell, but I'm sure their stories will come out after they've been 'briefed' by the White House. We'll have to wait and see confirmation of this, but I'm very very concerned. One analyst here believes that establishing a no-fly zone in a foreign nation in which one isn't welcome is equivalent to a declaration of war, and I'm not sure he's wrong about that. It is literally an invasion.

I'm equally concerned that this is being done with Turkey, which has been a bad actor lately and whose actual dedication to fighting ISIS is around nil as far as I can tell. They, too, were no doubt hoping ISIS would actually win and conquer Syria. With the current threat being to shoot down Syrian OR Russian places flying over the no-fly zone I'm sorry to say it looks like Obama has joined up with the WWIII party after all :(

I hope I'm wrong and this isn't what it sounds like. On it's face I can imagine how this happened. The U.S. sent in special forces to fight against Assad, they were being met with resistance by both Assad and Putin, and the U.S. could then pretend that their forces had been minding their own business all along and were unjustly targeted in conjunction with attacks against terrorists over there, which then leads to escalation over who's targeting whom. This is why "boots on the ground" was such a big deal in the first place...

General Comments / Critique of Snopes on Hillary
« on: August 17, 2016, 12:39:25 PM »

I found this article interesting, as it purports to show bias towards Hillary in a Snopes verdict about the accuracy of claims made about her regarding the infamous rape case she defended earlier in her career. The article has two sections, the first of which is about Snopes rigging its answer to favor Hillary despite its claims being incorrect, and the second cites a couple of other instances of Snopes either doctoring its findings or else incorrectly reporting on what was actually claimed (in other words, knocking down a strawman). I didn't find the second section as interesting, but I did check the original Snopes article on the Hillary case against what this article says about it, and I can at least say that the Snopes article does have the content being criticized by

Conclusion: Snopes was dishonestly spinning for Hillary, even though what she had done in this case was simply competent lawyering, and entirely honorable.

As I explained here, there was nothing wrong, unethical or hypocritical about Clinton’s work in this case. Her laughter in the interview is a little unsettling, but Hillary’s laughter is often unsettling. She did her job as a defense lawyer, ethically, and well. The accusation that what she did was unethical is ignorant, but Snopes’ deceitful and misleading denial of what she did is just partisan spin.

General Comments / Trump's views on Russia
« on: July 27, 2016, 01:20:02 PM »
A lot of hay has been made in American media about Trump's potential relationship with Putin. I just came across an interesting article on the subject, which made some points that try to clarify what that 'relationship' actually is:

Trump and Putin have in reality exchanged nothing more than a few pro forma compliments. Trump’s “man crush” is nothing more than an acknowledgment of something that even Putin’s critics don’t dispute: The Russian is a strong leader. “I’ve always felt fine about Putin. He’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader,” he told a TV interviewer. In addition, Trump has said many times that he believed—or hoped—that he would get on well with Putin. During the second presidential debate in September 2015, Trump declared that he “would get along with Putin.” But then, he added, “I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.” He returned to this theme in another presidential debate: “Wouldn’t it be nice if actually we could get along with Russia?”

It is extraordinary that a statement promising improved relations should cause so much fury. In his National Interest-hosted foreign policy speech on April 27, 2016, Trump again reiterated that the United States and Russia “are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests. Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible.”

The quoted text here refers to the notorious "man-crush" Trump and Putin supposedly have for each other, according to the liberal press. More from the article on that:

Not terribly sophisticated but media outlets that make their living through clickbait were even less sophisticated. Salon, for example, has run innumerable stories suggesting a homoerotic relationship between the Russian leader and the American businessman. Donald Trump’s revealing man-crush on Vladimir Putin screamed a typical headline. The man-crush is mutual apparently. On another occasion, we were told that Putin has a “man-crush on Donald Trump.” On yet another occasion, Salon spoke of a “bromance”: “Donald Trump is a big fan of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Big fan. Huge fan.” Just in case readers still didn’t get the message, two days after the appearance of that story, Salon ran yet another  story on this theme, headlined Donald Trump’s got Putin fever. This was soon followed by yet another story telling us that “Russian president Vladimir Putin has continued to sing Donald Trump’s praises.” Trump “can’t help but gush with praise at those who use violence to oppress their people,” Salon claimed more recently, “At the top of the list, of course, is Vladimir Putin, who Trump repeatedly swoons over like he’s a 12-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert.” Putin is aware that “Trump goes to sleep snuggling a photo of the Russian dictator every night, and are seeking ways to support Trump’s run, knowing that nothing would destabilise the United States and strengthen Russia’s position like a Trump win.”

My takeaway from all this is a realization that the insinuation that Trump and Putin have a man-crush, or a bromance, really smacks of appealing to homophobia in the readers. Can you imagine if Trump was praising Merkel and the press spoke of Merkel and him having a crush on each other, or having a romance? I really cannot imagine such a thing, because feminism has been alive and strong long enough that such a statement would immediate enrage a vast swath of Americans. The sexualization of a female leader would not be taken lightly as a way of disparaging Trump. Now granted, "bromance" isn't an exact counterpart for "romance", but it still has a homoerotic bent to it, and besides, I've seen countless articles pass through my FB feed that do directly state that Trump has a crush on Putin.

It's no surprise that the left-wing press will find ways to vilify a conservative candidate, and ditto for right-wing press haranguing liberal candidates, but does this way of attacking Trump not betray the fact that the liberal press doesn't appear to actually embrace liberal values? Isn't it a betrayal of their readership to cast a male-male relationship in a negative light by referring to it sarcastically as a bromance or a mutual crush?

General Comments / The double splinter
« on: April 29, 2016, 12:32:04 PM »
Normally the argument against running a third candidate in a general election is that it will splinter the vote for one of the main candidates and hand the election to the other one. This phenomenon has caused past elections to be derailed in exactly this way, and is why a third candidate is something for both parties to fear.

Let's just suppose that in a strange turn of events both Trump and Sanders decide to run as independents, despite earlier claims that they would not. In terms of honoring their statements I think it's fair to say that the parties themselves have scuttled any accord that could be said to have existed with those candidates since they have been thrown to the sharks at every opportunity. Normally doing so would serve little purpose other than to help the other party, but if they both do it - what happens then? We'd have a four-way general election where only two of the candidates are from the parties, and where all four have significant support. How would Hillary fare, for example, absent her superdelegates and the fake momentum the media assigned to her all along because of them? How would Cruz fare once Trump was free to denounce him, no longer running as a Republican? And let's not even get started on how Trump would rip into Hillary in that scenario.

I bet the outcome of such a four-way race would be quite hard to predict, and the proceedings would be educational at the very least. I think it would be good for Democracy as well. Sadly a three-way general is just not feasible, which is a mechanical reality that in my opinion impinges on the good functioning of the Republic. Maybe it's lucky when four plausible candidates come along at the same time so that this can be overcome.

General Comments / CIA vs Bush Admin (cont'd)
« on: February 29, 2016, 01:37:11 AM »

Instead of the CIA here's a video where you'll hear from a former head of the NSA. In an interview with Bill Maher, you can hear him beginning at timestamp 6:00 discussing Trump's claims about bringing back waterboarding and doing other things such as threatening the families of terrorists. His claim is that in response to orders such as these the military would refuse to act, since such orders are illegal and against international law. Not only does he say they would refuse, but that they would be obliged to refuse such types of orders.

What do you make of a statement like this in lieu of the fact that (a) waterboarding and other forms of torture were used during the time of the Bush admin, and that (b) Cheney defended such practices verbatim and said he stood behind them and that they were necessary?

Now, such orders were largely given to intelligence agents and interrogators, rather than to military personnel for missions, and so his comments about what the military would do might be taken in a different light than what intelligence agents would do. I, for one, can easily foresee an argument that much dirtier stuff goes down in intelligence circles than in military ones. But then again we also know for a fact that torture was employed many times against prisons in Iraq 2.0 by military men, and so the argument that the military would reject such orders might also be suspect.

But more to the point, even the claim that the military should reject such orders ought to be enough, as a statement of law, to say that illegal actions took place during operations spearheaded by the Bush admin, and where these actions were defended publicly by the VP at the very least. Do we still have room to argue that there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by top people in that admin (but not necessarily by the President himself)? So far we have the top CIA briefer who insists the intel the admin put out is not what they were told by the CIA, and now we have a former head of the NSA all but stating outright that waterboarding practices are blatantly illegal. Perhaps there is wiggle room to argue that they weren't illegal then but they are now; if so, when was the law changed to specifically outlaw that practice, where is was permissible before?

General Comments / Trump l'oeil
« on: January 25, 2016, 11:08:38 AM »

I thought some of you might enjoy this oil on canvas painting. One Reddit user who saw it made this comment:

I'd call it Trump l'oiel, except instead of fooling the eye, I find myself eyeing a fool.

General Comments / Hillary: Too risky a candidate (cont'd)
« on: January 20, 2016, 10:05:36 AM »
Apparently this investigation is far from over:

In case her campaign suddenly keels over due to a criminal charge, at least Bernie has finally picked up enough steam that I'm pretty confident he can carry on as the Democrat candidate. My original fear of Hillary getting knocked out and handing away the Presidency to Bush is, thankfully, no longer a real concern. Although some might prefer to shift that concern to handing to Presidency to Trump or Cruz (still not as bad as Bush imo).

General Comments / Dem filibuster for Audit the Fed
« on: January 13, 2016, 10:25:27 AM »

Just in case anyone thought partisan voting to block any initiatives from the other side was limited to Republicans, here you go. I was looking forward to this vote passing and am quite disappointed to see it was blocked was a filibuster. Pretty much all yeas were Republicans and all nays were Democrats, with three people not voting (including Cruz). Quite a coincidence, wouldn't you say, that none of the Democrat senators felt they agreed with the legislation? It's almost as if someone whipped them or something. Worth noting, though, that Sanders, who is running as a Democrat, voted with the Republicans here to support the bill. Aside from the fact that this shows him to be true to the causes he espouses, it also shows he's willing to work with the other side when he agrees with them. He and Senator Baldwin are the only non-Republicans to vote for the bill.

For anyone interested in who voted for which side, here's a list:

General Comments / The theory that Dems want to ban guns
« on: January 11, 2016, 01:14:02 AM »
This has been a long-standing theory for people who oppose gun control, and in the wake of the San Bernardino mass shooting and Obama's executive action to do something about gun control, the conspiracy theory that Obama's long-game is to eventually disarm America is flying high among some. Here's a segment of an interview between Obama and Anderson Cooper about this so-called conspiracy theory:

I'm making this post to see whether anyone here detects some of the things I think I detect in Obama's answers, but that I'm not entirely sure of. I'll list the items in question:

1) Toward the beginning, when Obama says that American suspicion of government goes all the way back to its founding, where he says "America was...born suspicious of...some distant authority." Am I crazy, or does his inflection on 'some distant authority' somehow make the idea of suspicion of that 'distant authority' sound silly and far-fetched, almost like being suspicious of England was a conspiracy theory too? Especially his use of the modifier "some"; not just 'a distant authority', but 'some distant authority', almost as if it didn't matter which one or that the cause for doubt was bred in the suspicious nature of the Americans rather than in hard reality. Is Obama sort of ridiculing the founding as the birthplace of American conspiracy theory? Comparing the founding to the mentality of conspiracy theory certainly can't shed it in a good light, since I know from hearing him speak about it many times that Obama has zero respect for even the idea of conspiracy theories.

2) When Anderson asks Obama whether believing the government wants to disarm America is really a conspiracy theory, or just a legitimate doubt of good intent, Obama doubles down by ridiculing the theory as a conspiracy theory, playing into a sort of meme Obama has already established over time of even the term "conspiracy theory" being a cause for automatic ridicule. He seems to be equivocating between the literal definition of the term, meaning people who covertly to try achieve some end, with the euphemistic way many people use it, which means a nutso theory about secret cabals and nefarious motives like as in the X-Files. So while the question was geared towards asking whether doubting the motives of the federal government should really be called a conspiracy theory in the usual sense, Obama insists it is one which seems to me to be saying simultaneously that not only isn't it true but that anyone who believes it is silly. Does anyone else see what he did there? Note that whether or not Obama actually has the agenda of disarming America, one would think that concern about the motive would be entirely justified and reasonable. But it seems like Obama doesn't even respect that concern.

3) Finally, when addressing the issue of the long-game motive of taking away everyone's guns, Obama says he has one year left in his Presidency so what can he really do? But isn't this comment a serious dodge, since if Hillary wins she'll literally continue exactly where he left off? I have no doubt her policy on this would mirror his identically. Whether or not I agree with his initiative, isn't it dishonest to claim that his policies aren't informed by future planning when Hillary has claimed time and again that her Presidency would simply follow the principles of Obama's in most respects? She might not win, obviously, but we can be pretty sure Obama has to bank on her winning when he sets plans in motion.

Overall...I don't know. It doesn't seem like Obama is taking this issue very seriously. In fact his agenda seems to be to insinuate that it shouldn't be taken seriously, which is a smokescreen of sorts. I honestly can't say whether I think there's any credence to the idea that the government wants to slowly disarm America, but since so many Americans pass around social media messages that are anti-gun and ridiculing of guns in America, I'm not sure it's appropriate to act as if there's no push for this at all from the left. It may not be what Obama personally wants (I don't know), but it's what many people want, and calling fear of this a stupid conspiracy theory doesn't sound that respectful. But maybe I'm reading too much into small details?

General Comments / Must GOP mean "conservative"?
« on: January 08, 2016, 12:19:39 PM »
An article I just came across involved one of Jeb's recurring weak strategies to combat Trump's popularity, which is to that Trump isn't a 'real conservative.' Here's a Time article on the latest from Jeb's campaign trail:

For months, Bush has cast Trump’s bombast as disqualifying, his bluster dangerous and his foreign policy a folly. Now, Bush is going another route, arguing that Trump is insufficiently conservative and, maybe, a closet Democrat.

“If people think Donald Trump is a conservative, prove it to me. I mean, really,” Bush said during a town hall in the iconic town hall in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

“A conservative party should nominate a conservative candidate, not someone who has been all over the map,” Bush said.

Here's my question: why is Jeb treating as gospel the fact that a GOP candidate must be "conservative" based on some arbitrary definition of the word? As I understand it the GOP traditionally believes in certain principles such as small government, corporate spending to boost GDP, strong military, the 2nd Amendment, family/Christian values (this one is debatable), low taxes, and hard work rather than welfare. We can quibble about whether some Republicans have been hypocritical on some of these subjects over the years, but the party at least claims to care about these issues. Historically these GOP issues pretty well go back to the Civil War era, and so in that sense one could claim that retaining these values makes them "conservative." And yet doesn't 'conservative' mean conserving the status quo and trying to forestall making progressive changes? Isn't it a requirement of this scenario that the status quo actually reflects those values in order for being a conservative to mean you're trying to conserve them?

It seems to me that if culture and government have changed enough that the core conservative values are no longer the norm, or have even strayed quite far away from that point, then if someone wants to reclaim those lost values one isn't a conservative but is actually a progressive. The key error I think a lot of self-proclaimed progressives make is to think the progress can only be in one direction and that the 'direction of progress' leads inevitably towards some sort of particular utopian ideal as they see it. They don't tend to think that progress can occur in all sorts of directions and that not everyone might agree on what the ideal actually should be. Based on this error language in America tends to reflect the notion that if you're a progressive that means you subscribe to a very particular agenda (which is sometimes derisively called a leftist agenda), and omits the reality that any attempt to shift away from the status quo should properly be seen as progressive. Think of some future society, for instance, with no family structure, no marriage, where no one works and machines do everything, where everyone looks the same and acts the same, and so forth. The culture in Brave New World, for instance. If someone in that culture came along and said "I think people would be better if they worked a little, and if they embraced differences rather than trying to eliminate them, and if we had tight-knit families rather than community rearing" - such a person would not be a conservative in any rational use of the word, but rather would be a radical progressive. Someone who viewed his opinions dimly might called him a "regressive" instead if they viewed the current state of affairs as being some supreme achievement, but the word "regressive" isn't much more than a way of dismissing an idea because it's something that someone in the past tried or believed in, and some so-called progressives seem to innately believe that everything from the past is inferior by definition, including written wisdom.

So tell me - why is it correct for Jeb to say that the GOP should have a real 'conservative candidate' and that Trump isn't it? If one looks at what the Tea Party believes, I can't think of a term for them other than radical progressives; they certainly aren't interested in maintaining the status quo, or necessarily even reverting the U.S. back to an earlier state of organization that they view as having been much better. In fact since technology has changed drastically recently it wouldn't even be possible to revert the U.S. back to a significantly earlier state in any intelligible sense. So what's a conservative politician, then, other than someone who doesn't want things to change much from how they are now? Just as a matter of nomenclature I'm referring here to conservative politics and not to conservative social values a citizen might espouse. The former implies a sort of correlation between conservative = GOP, and the latter is more a question of a person living with the traditions their family has passed down. But based on how I'm thinking the term "conservative" should be used, it seems to me that Jeb and Hillary are both conservatives, as are several of the GOP candidates, while Bernie and Rand Paul (and maybe Carson?) would be progressive candidates in this sense.

General Comments / DNC Software Breach
« on: December 18, 2015, 11:24:10 AM »

This CNN article outlines how the DNC software used by Democrat candidates experienced a software glitch where a campaign could assess data from another campaign when they're not supposed to be able to. The Sanders campaign exposed this glitch and for their trouble they're being denied access to this important software altogether for the time being. The senior data manager of the Sanders campaign claims that he was trying to figure out whether the Sanders campaign information was being compromised in the same way the Clinton data was exposed, and that he was testing to see the nature of the glitch. He denies intentionally using the glitch to observe Clinton data. While he may or may not be telling the truth, it should also be noted that if this glitch did expose data from all candidates then other campaigns may have been doing the same thing but never came forward to say so. Regardless, the Sanders campaign is saying that they didn't 'hack' the software or anything stupid like that, but rather that the software is faulty and that the blame rests with NGP VAN, the private contractor used by the DNC to host the software.

An interesting look into NGP VAN reveals that one of the two founders of NGP VAN is Nathaniel Pearlman:

It turns out Pearlman was the chief technology officer for Hillary's 2008 campaign, and now his company is responsible for the Sanders campaign being sanctioned leading up to the Iowa caucuses. It may be a total fluke, but it's certainly interesting, especially since the DNC itself obviously wouldn't want Sanders to win and chose to respond in this way rather than to cut off access by all candidates until the glitch is fixed. I've never before heard of someone exposing a programming bug and being censured for being the one to discover it, especially when there's no direct evidence of foul play.

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