Description :: For-profit, non-profit, or for-loss -- what's a government expected to do?
Our county has a lovely building they've been working on recently. It was built with funds from a resident, with the expectation that the county would finish it up for whatever use they had for it, and do something good with it. It's a fairly neat building, good for parties and meetings and so forth -- quite useful to the community.
Here's my problem, and it's not just about the building: they're intending the building to be a for-profit venture, with which the county can "make a few bucks on the side" -- if there were enough profit, you could imagine them lowering taxes or providing other services, because money's flowing in. More commonly, you'll find yourself paying fees for various government services -- registering a car, getting something assessed or inspected, and other such things. You'll pay the government to provide you with copies of a document (they get pretty hefty, and reams of paper aren't free) or to search a database for something at your request.
Fee-for-service is common. Imagine a world where we didn't force people to pay for the services they are provided with: some jerk would come in every few days abusing the system, forcing everyone else to wait, and he would do so with impunity. "Run that search for me again, just in case." "Can I have another copy of that 4000-page document? The last one got a stain on at least one page, I threw the whole thing out." Forcing people to pay a fee keeps the cost of abusing the system high, discouraging anyone but rich people with nothing better to do from doing so. The other nice thing about it is that you don't pay for what you don't need. Sure, it makes it more expensive for the people who do eventually need service, but that's no concern of yours.
We don't have governments because they're required by God or Nature or anything else. We have governments to simplify an otherwise nasty problem of cardinality. It's just easier to have a government, in most cases. In the computer industry, we hear a lot about "peer to peer" systems. You may not realize this, but the more "distributed" a system is, the less efficient it is (at least when we're talking about loosely distributed, adaptive networks like those used for file-sharing.) In the early days of piracy, we had servers: bulletin-board systems (BBS) were some of the first, followed by internet websites with FTP servers overflowing with pirated software, and later Napster, which held a central repository of available files (an indexing service, like a library's.) If you only have to look for something in one place, the problem of finding something is simple. If you have to look in multiple places, and even have to find out (each time) where to look, it gets expensive.
Governments serve as the central repository of lots of information, decision-making, and services. When you're running water pipes in a city because we've decided everyone should have water available at their house, it's simply easier to have a single agency handling the whole thing. Sure, you can (as a lot of places do) fake their being several different providers of the service, but they often do little more than have their own billing and technical support staff, while sharing (and leasing) the same central resources from city, county, state, or federal governments. It would be costly and dangerous to have anyone and everyone providing the service of running water pipes to your house -- who knows what might happen to the shared resource (damage to the line, leaks, poison, etc.)
What's my problem with the shared-building thing, then? It's that we have socialism disguised as capitalism. I grew up in europe; I'm quite accustomed to the idea of a government owning and running businesses for profit (at least in theory -- it's often at a loss) -- in the US, we have Amtrak as an example of a "corporation" run by the government. My problem is with the "run government like a business" idea, which is that businesses bring in money, and having the government engage in profitable trade would reduce the tax burden on the rest of us, therefore the government should supply itself with income through profitable trade on the side (that is, other than exactly the services it's already paid to provide.)
When a government decides to own a business, it is generally competing with other businesses. What profits it brings in are profits not being brought in by other companies or individuals, who would be paying taxes. A government's fundamental mission, however, is not profit: it is service. An ideal government would make no profit, take no loss, and cost exactly as much as is necessary to provide the services it is expected to provide (the list of which is another matter.) A government is just a public entity expected to receive funds and use them wisely for the public good, not its own. It is not expected to invent its own goals, nor to ignore the needs or wishes of the community. Businesses frequently re-invent themselves when they're no longer profitable, they branch out with new services of their own volition, they attempt to maximize profits by reducing costs while not reducing prices. Their motives are their own, not the community's.
On the positive side, we can consider the following. If a government is required to provide services which are already provided by one or more companies, such companies might be hired to provide those services. The companies being contracted would naturally want a profit, that is, a cost above and beyond the cost of materials and labor directly involved in rendering the services. A government-owned entity would not have such a requirement, and could provide the same services for cheaper. The public benefits from this in the form of lower taxes. Also, a government, at least when "by the people, for the people", may alter its practices to meet public demand, based on voted-for requirements. Capitalist ventures are not required to do so, and might not even have an incentive to do so (some public demands may not be financially advantageous to a company, or the risk involved in changing anything may seem too great; there is no guarantee that someone else will pick up on the gap and fill it in with a new company, only a vague hope.) A government is therefore better suited to making decisions to actively meet public demand, whereas businesses passively meet the demand by trial-and-error, and a lot of luck. You can petition your government and expect some useful reaction; you can petition a private business and expect it to continue to do as it pleases, whether or not that happens to be what you wanted.
There are different levels on which a government operates, and they should perhaps be considered separately. There are services which must be, within a given realm (state or federal boundaries,) rendered by exactly one entity. In those cases, the governing entity for the area sets up a system to provide that service. Unless it's a common "type" of service, there will likely only be one entity like it. It may, on the other hand, be a type of service which private companies could offer, as a slight modification (or specialization) of their existing business. One would need to be selected as the "official" provider of such services. Then there are services which are cheaper when provided by a central authority, such as water, gas, electricity, or other "public works." There are also services which we consider absolutely essential, even though they could be provided in the private sector, and which must be guaranteed to be available. In some countries, this includes health care: although private hospitals may exist, the government is required by its citizens to provide ample health services coverage, regardless of whether or not the private sector wishes to do so as well. Thus, the government may own quite a few hospitals which are run at low or no cost for medical necessities, while the private sector may "fill in the gap" for non-essential care, or for patients who simply don't like the services provided by the government.
[I now realize why this remained 'temporary' for so long -- I never decided where I was going with it. It might be helpful to note that 'libertarians' would prefer a world in which the government practically didn't exist and everything was privately owned, down to the last tree. Other parties vary on how much they believe should be privatized; you don't often hear of privatizing the army, nor of nationalizing all food production. But it's a fairly smooth spectrum, not a radical change in ideology.]
I agree. When government gets into the private sector it gets weird. But I don't believe that the government would do things more efficiently than a business simply because it wouldn't need profit. The profit in terms of business just means a pool of money sitting around with no one to use it. This pool of money can be put towards R&D yes? Or other investments yes? It can be put towards months in which the company is taking losses?
Government entities would need to do the same thing. But I've worked for government before. Its very departmental, little to no competition. Jobs are created to get tasks done and when these jobs are designed, you can see that there's supposed to be some wiggle room as to how talented or hardworking the person hired has to be to be order to get the job done. I saw people simply chatting for the longest time. Lots of people have lots of spare time!!! Organization has overhead costs!! Naturally, that happens with businesses too, but businesses compete with one another. This is good for the same reason that government getting into the private sector is bad: the government has vast resources and doesn't like it when the things it creates collapses for financial reasons. Much easier to quietly raise taxes or allocate more money to a failing thing then to have accountability for who the heck thought it was a good idea yes?
What you said regarding distributed systems got right down to it. And when you add a new department to government, it seems to me that you necessarily have overhead. The government now has another thing to have oversight of. The government does not have oversight of businesses to the same degree; they let businesses make their own decision. I guess its like a living creature. There's an ideal size for any given creature depending on how it gets food and such. Elephants require strange structures just to stay alive (their ears vent heat?) I don't know how to explain this except by example.
For a long time in computer making, I always wanted to go with a custom builder. They provided greater adaptability (easier to upgrade at a time when the hardware advances were actually important to how a computer "felt" when you used it) when they sold you a computer for about the same price. But nowadays, they can't compete with $500 computers from Dell. Dell has a size advantage. That size advantage undoubtedly comes with extra overhead costs in terms of communication and accountability.
But the government is much, much bigger than Dell......and I bet we have a pretty small government compared to a purely socialist or communist government.
There's a significant difference in the area of "intent" or "free will" between war and disease, usually (unless the disease is a weapon of war, or you want to argue that wars just "happen" without any human thought.)
Yes, lots of things can save lives in dramatic ways. Not going to war might help save lives, or it might not. Spending all our money on better drugs (through more research) might save lives, or it might starve us. Killing everyone, in the long run, spares all sorts of people from having to die (by simply not being born.) Even deciding to get yourself neutered will avoid death, by avoiding life. In the end, everyone dies. (Well, except for Elijah, Enoch, Moses, and Jesus -- though some/all of these are debatable.)
[Ed. note: this is the first entry of type 'message', but new public threading system for our users. Old 'messages' have been moved to 'private messages', and those should continue to be used for our work- or site-related banter. The choice of 'article' or 'message' is at the discretion of our users.]
Description :: A bizarre thought I had to get down on paper
It's not really paper I guess but it'll do.
Seems to me that liberals spend their time talking about large scale problems in our country caused by the rich and powerful and conservatives, talking about small scale problems in people that cause large scale problems in our country.
Ah yes, "the issues." Healthcare. Education. The homeless. Racial issues. The economy (like most politicians know a thing about economics). So called "economic injustice." When they have solutions, they almost always involve taking money from the rich and throwing it at the problem oftentimes with too little effect (healthcare is a mess, education is a mess, these programs have huge budgets).
Conservatives like myself have our own problems. On issues like Healthcare, our solution is self reliance and discipline. Get a good education, work hard and you'll have the money. Education? We need better teachers. We need accountability. We need students to try harder and we need parents to push them harder; to take a hand in their kids education. The homeless? The homeless wouldn't be homeless if they, that's right, got an education and worked hard, had self discipline....etc. Its the same old mantra. We know it works because it worked for us. Yet, somewhere in our brains we know it won't ever happen, but we throw it out there....perhaps to console ourselves that since its not our fault it isn't our problem to fix.
Are both of these "solutions" merely an attempt to confront what these groups view as the Problem in our country? If I had a nickel everytime I heard a conservative talking about the downfall of our morality, of our discipline, and the other personal strength issues..I'd have a large stack of nickels. And if I had a nickel everytime I heard a liberal whining about "The Rich" getting richer and the poor getting poorer (as though even though these people desire to be rich, the rich were evil) I'd be pretty rich myself.
Anyway, both sides need to confront reality. The reality is that many people are weak. Their lack of self discipline or talent or both leads to all sorts of problems. Bad parents hurt their kids upbringing. Dumb people have little potential and undisciplined people (like myself) have huge difficulty meeting their potential. And the folks that have discipline and talent just don't seem to understand why the rest of us haven't yet achieved perfection that was practically granted them from birth.
Liberals: there simply aren't enough resources to go around. As soon as you take stuff away from people they tend to decide that the game isn't worth it anymore. And why not? If you guys achieved the equality you wanted, then hard work and talent merely mean that everyone else gets more. That'll just make everyone equally poor and it'll result in a poorer, less well defended nation (which will, in the long run, result in the nation crumbling to a world power that has mastered their own economy). Which do you think is scarier? A thief taking things from your house, or a government which extracts vast amounts of wealth from a portion of the population by threatening them with jail time? Or perhaps only The Rich deserve that kind of treatment...
Conservatives: people don't make very good building blocks. We can argue theory all day long; that if people didn't suck so bad things would be okay. That argument doesn't work much better for us than it does for Communists. I don't know what the solution is but we shouldn't lean on broken crutches. I personally believe the solution lies in a strong global economy and increasing world peace (i.e. stopping wars...by force not by sending them cards and flowers or with formal rebukes from on high like the UN). If we're ever going to get that we'd better stop ignoring small wars and tyrants in small countries as if the blood isn't on our hands because we haven't taken off our white gloves. I think these lousy arguments are made simply because our opponents aren't bright enough to strike them down and because we're happy with what we have: we don't want the liberals to break the economy and we're not brave enough or self-honest enough to talk truth about the economy. And why? Its our best strength.
Like I said, I haven't found the solution. If one exists, I'm pretty sure it'll involve technology we don't have. But it sure doesn't revolve around tossing out broken mantras as if they're going to protect you by power of repetition.
Compare what you have to what they had in the past. Many of those who live in "poverty" can listen to music whenever they want. I know because my wife and I officially live in poverty. Half of them have two cars. Myself, I have A/C in my apartment and a machine that washes my dishes for me. We didn't get here by equally dividing the candles and horses and grain and lumber...etc. We got here because people with brains and discipline invented these things (oftentimes with the financial backing of the rich and powerful) and then made them accessible.
Description :: Conservatives and Liberals in terms of self-balancing systems, ignorance, and risk
I'd want to generalize a bit, and say that the difference is between "direct" and "indirect" manipulation. Conservatives tend to rely on self-balancing systems to solve problems: there are lots of variables, tweaking the system is complicated and not always intuitive, and there's a certain sense that maybe you shouldn't play with the variables because you'll just screw something up. Instead, they want to let problems sort themselves out, and hope for the best. Liberals (don't these labels get tiring after a while?) prefer direct action: if you see a problem, make it go away right there and then by any means available -- if you weren't intending to make sure it was solved, it wouldn't be a problem in the first place.
Conservatives will therefore tend to leave a knot to untie itself; that is, there are some problems that simply won't be solved no matter how long you give them to do so. They are correctly (in my opinion) afraid that they'll pick the wrong solution, solve a problem by creating another, or give a man a pair of crutches when they meant to make him walk again. They set out to make the man walk, and if given crutches, he might never again try to find a way to walk. Liberals refuse to let things work themselves out; their constant tweaking makes it hard to tell what is or isn't working in the long run, they put out individual fires without preventing new ones, but if they can't help a man walk again, at least he'll be mobile on his crutches. After all, they set out to make sure the man could get places, they can't leave it up to luck.
In both cases, the problem is ignorance: not knowing how best to solve a problem, some will prefer to wait and see if a better solution presents itself (self-balancing-magic included) while others will pick a solution now and go with it, to the greater good or harm of those involved. To a liberal, even an ignorant action is better than inaction; to a conservative, an ignorant action is worse than inaction -- and except for the most arrogant among us, it's obvious we're all ignorant.
As I've said elsewhere, self-balancing systems are all you've got when you don't have the answers. But there are no guarantees; just because you hope that a capitalist economy will bring us all wealth in the long run doesn't guarantee that it will. Conservatives are right though about the mess liberals create with their good intentions. We should always been looking for better solutions than those we have, and cool-headed enough to risk more to gain more. But then, I suppose that's what this is about, no? Risk: would you prefer to lose by your own hand, or by sheer luck?
01/27/05 :: Selfish :: taking a stab at "team ethics"
Description :: taking a stab at "team ethics"
I did a thought experiment just now and I think it was fairly important. I'm publishing it here both so it can be read and so I can continue to work on it as a sort of ethical bridge for dialogs.
Imagine for a moment that you live in a small community. This community has no laws. It has no law enforcement officers. It has people who hunt. It has people who make clothes and shelter. People work according to their abilities and trade for other things they need. But there is no Law. People do as they please and as they think is right and fair.
Imagine these scenarios then:
Imagine a very strong man: we'll name him Bruce because Bruce is a funny name that sounds like a very strong name to me. Anyway, Bruce is a strong guy, strong enough to bully others and strong enough to kill them. Bruce has bullied several people into working for him. He feeds them and shelters them but he works them very hard and profits from their labor exclusively. One of these laborers is named Tim. Tim works hard but if he screws up or if Bruce is in a bad mood, Bruce beats Tim. These men have never tried to rise up because Bruce wears a sword at his hip and each has been threatened with it. There is no chance that these men, even working together, could escape or overthrow their master.
Imagine further another strong man, we'll name him Cyrus because Cyrus is a cool name for a hero. Cyrus also bears a sword but unlike Bruce, Cyrus knows how to use it very well. Cyrus also knows that Bruce isn't so good with the sword.
Imagine that you are Tim. You're being beaten brutally (again) by Bruce because Bruce is angry. You see Cyrus walking by to do whatever it is that Cyrus does and you see that Cyrus has noticed your plight. How do you feel? What is it you want Cyrus to do? If Cyrus didn't do it, how would you feel about Cyrus?
Imagine then that you are Cyrus a successful hunter and warrior. If you're anything like me, you aren't too pleased at the selfishness of Bruce, hurting other humans for his own gain. You probably want to help these poor men. But you're human too. If you fight with Bruce, there's always a chance that you could die. Really die. Seriously. You'd be dead. No more you. Forever. Think about it. There's also a chance that you could kill Bruce but that he would wound you in a way that would affect you for the rest of your life. What you'd really like (I imagine) is to force Bruce to free the men. You have more power then Bruce. You could do it. And then even Bruce could live. What would you do? Really do. Don't feel obligated to take on Bruce just because you want to be a hero in my story. What would you do? Why should you risk your life to free these men who won't risk their own lives? If these men wanted freedom enough, couldn't they kill Bruce in his sleep and flee? Besides, is it really your decision to make who lives and who dies? You wouldn't want to play God would you? Maybe these men ... maybe they aren't ready for freedom yet?
Lastly, imagine that you're Bruce. You're in a bad mood and you're beating the heck out of Tim. You look up to find Cyrus regarding you, watching how you beat your men. Who knows how Bruce is justifying this, all we need to know is that he's justifying it. Maybe he thinks these men wouldn't stand a chance by themselves and that he's protecting them. Or that some other strong man would make these men slaves if it wasn't him so it might as well be Bruce that profits. Make something up, you're smart. Anyway, there's Cyrus staring at you with that sword at his hip. But he wouldn't understand. You're a little afraid that Cyrus is going to kill you and I think that angers you. How dare Cyrus step in and use force where he isn't invited. When have you ever done that to someone else? Maybe as long as you don't buy what Bruce is selling, what these poor men are making you can keep your hands clean of the whole thing.
By now, reader, you are probably either amused and cheering for me or are irritated at my obvious attempt to justify a war you disagree with. Bear with me.
Imagine lastly that you are a neutral observer; maybe God. Maybe you value each of these men equally. One man is hording the power of 7 men and one other man can free those 7 men. What do you want done?
To me, these aren't difficult questions or thought provoking really. If I was Tim, I would want Cyrus to save me. If I was Cyrus, I would want to save them and I'd risk my life to do it. And if I was Bruce, I would know immediately that I had been undone. Personally, I'd give up, but based on what a nasty, arrogant person Bruce seems to be, I think Bruce might fight. It's very clear in this simple thought experiment what needs to be done. And if your Cyrus, that means you bear the cost of doing it. If you're Bruce, that means you bear the penalty for what you've done. And if you're Tim, you're a free man unless Bruce kills you before Cyrus can free you...
Seriously. If it's so clear here, why isn't it clear in Iraq? Hussein was wicked. The people were indeed oppressed and I don't think they could save themselves...and I'm almost sure they thought they couldn't. We had the power to free the Iraqis and continue to have that power (what they do as free people though...that could be troublesome no? What if these 7 men band together and begin robbing people? Then you've got a problem don't you Cyrus?).
The answer is clear.
So here's the thing that clouds it all up. Imagine if Cyrus was walking down the road, bow in hand. Cyrus is going hunting because hunting is cool and Cyrus is good at it. Cyrus sees Bruce beating Tim but Cyrus doesn't feel like he can just go killing people. So, just like every other day, Cyrus regards Bruce coldly and passes by. But on his way back, Tim approaches Cyrus and says "Bruce has a bow too. He hates you how you look at him and talks constantly of shooting you with it." He shows Cyrus one of Bruce's bows; somewhat crude but workable. "He's not as good a shot as you but..."
But what if he gets lucky? What if he has hires someone else to shoot you? Even a wound could mess up Cyrus' gig and if he kills Cyrus, who will feed and defend his wife and children? Besides, these men don't need to live like this. Cyrus has every reason to destroy Bruce now, or at least to force him to free his men and destroy his bow.
But imagine: Cyrus' wife is worried. If Cyrus just ignores Bruce, maybe Bruce will stop hating Cyrus! What if the people think Cyrus murdered Bruce and decide to kill him in the streets? Cyrus' wife loves Cyrus and doesn't want him to die so she advises him not to confront Bruce. When she sees that Cyrus' mind is made up, she advises him to tell the other villagers what he intends and why he is doing what he is doing. This is good advice. If Cyrus has to kill Bruce, its better that it doesn't come as a surprise.
I think it is likely that some of the villagers will agree with this plan and some will disagree. Isn't that the way of things? Some of the men agree to help Cyrus confront Bruce. But this is the biggest thing that has happened in ages, so everyone watches what happens next.
When Cyrus arrives, no one is in sight. That's odd. But then Cyrus sees Bruce peek around a corner of his house bow in hand. An ambush! There might be men on the roof with bows too. Cyrus didn't exactly come in secret, he has a whole crowd of people behind him and they would have been visible from far off. Bruce shouts "Leave Cyrus or you will die! You're only coming here to kill me and make off with my riches!" He shouts to his men "Cyrus is here to kill us!"
To make a long story somewhat less long, Cyrus shoots Bruce and Bruce dies. Bruce's men don't have bows or if they did they didn't have arrows. As a matter of fact, Bruce didn't have any arrows either. Strange....that.... Imagine what Cyrus would protest "The guy must have been crazy!" "He threatened to kill me!" "The...Tim. Yeah Tim, showed me his bow..what was I supposed to think?!?!"
This is very disconcerting to the entire town. Why would Bruce pretend to have power he didn't? Did Cyrus make up the story for some evil reason? Perhaps to take Cyrus ill gotten gains? Fortunately, there is no consensus about what happened. Cyrus loses the trust of half of the town and some of the trust of his wife. The men are free and most of them love Cyrus. And Cyrus won't have to fear being shot by Bruce.
Did Cyrus do well? And didn't the United States do well also? Iraq had tons of chemical suits but no chemicals. They had developed Ricin and were working on other chemicals. They have attempted to kill our president and give financial support to Palestinian suicide bombers. We know they used to have anthrax and we believe he gassed the Kurds and maybe the Kuwaitis too. There is debate as to whether or not Iraq had a delivery system like terrorists or a ICBM (a bow, an assassin, lots of slaves firing arrows) but there appears to be no WMD (arrows). The war was quick and clean as wars go. We've lost just over 1,000 men and women; very small losses as war and reconstruction goes. As war goes, this was a very good war. If you don't believe me, go study war. Even George Washington lost sometimes; lost badly. His brilliance was that he won against the odds. I think this is a fair analogy; almost analogous. ;)
The men are free and Cyrus' cost is minimal even if his wife will blame him and wonder if he lied. Bruce won't be missed. But suddenly, no one wants to help with the cleanup. Everybody wants a share of Bruce's stuff. Who should get Bruce's stuff? And these men...will they be able to find careers? Who will ensure they don't kill people or simply enslave each other? And when it goes wrong, who will they blame?
Was Cyrus a hero? A man who does what is right even if he might suffer?
What do you think is right? And do you have the courage to do it? Do you even have the courage to stand back and let others do it without publicly calling the morality of what they are doing into question?
And if you were Cyrus, what would you do with those people who had not only stood by and watched as you did all the work, not only heckled and prodded and stirred up others against you to make them doubt your actions, but had been secretly and purposefully buying the things that were being made by those poor men so that you could sell them in their stores for profit? Would you have the strength to smile at them and try to normalize things? I'm not sure I would. I'm not sure I'd care to.
Maybe you are one of those people who doesn't really do anything. Doesn't really even support anything. You've always been more of the thinking type. Just think and find problems with every single possibility, every single argument and don't put your weight behind any decision, any solution. Ooh. And talk about how bad the problem is, how you wish it didn't have to be that way. Is that you? If so, I'm sure this article has a flaw so tell me about it and forget you ever read it.
Let's add this:
- Most of the villagers, who had been watching Bruce with mistrust, told Cyrus that Bruce had no arrows. They had no reason to lie; they didn't like Bruce either.
- Cyrus initially told his family that he was going to attack Bruce because he feared for his own life. After defeating Bruce, Cyrus went looking through his tent to find the arrows as proof of intent; when he found none, he muttered quite a bit about how Bruce must have been an idiot, or hidden his arrows really well, or something. Then he just stopped talking about his original reason and instead said "Look, I have freed these men! Bruce needed to be killed anyway."
Now, do you wonder why the villagers think less of Cyrus? Do you understand that Cyrus didn't do "the right thing" except by accident? He had the chance to do the right thing for a long time, but it took personal danger before he would do anything. True, nobody else did anything either. Everyone's just as guilty about that. But to claim to be a hero for "taking a risk" only when he thought himself in danger? That's not heroic. That is, in fact, purely selfish.
Do we have a duty to intervene when "inalienable rights" are being violated? Sure. Why not. But does that have anything to do with the question of how we react to being wrong? Does it have anything to do with trying to cover up our reasoning to make ourselves look good? And when those who are oppressed, rather than asking for help directly, try to convince us to act out of fear, how should we feel about them? Or perhaps they only did so because we ignored their honest pleas?
Maybe we should also add the following:
- The villagers do in fact have law, and are each responsible for enforcing it. Each man for himself. That law states that you don't attack another man unless you are provoked; Cyrus was not attacked, he was in no immediate danger. Granted, by the time he was, it might have been too late, but he also acted too soon, according to the law. No man had ever been determined to have the right to strike first under the assumption of intent. It had simply never come up before. The other villagers were willing to get together to discuss the situation, maybe even confront Bruce. Had Bruce done anything, they might even have joined with Cyrus (or even not) and done something about it. But we won't know, will we -- Cyrus acted and "took care of the (his) problem."
- Cyrus is cynical and refuses to consult with the "old men" of the village, thinking them weak and stupid. When they ask for help, he ignores them as long as he can, then acts the hero when things get out of hand. When he feels threatened, he is offended that they don't obey him. In fact, he's asked that he be immune from the judgement of the court that the villagers are creating. He constantly complains that they can't agree on anything, but is himself a part of the problem, always storming out of meetings when they don't go his way. He is the village hero, above the law, beyond reproach, too proud to admit his own faults, and certainly above ever cooperating with anybody for anything. Cyrus is a classic cartoon hero. Now if only that were a good thing...
Cyrus isn't a bad man. He means well. He even stays up late at night asking himself if he's done the right thing. But he's still young, still proud, and it saddens him to think he might have done wrong. He certainly doesn't want anyone to know about his second-thoughts, and if he can manage it, he'll simply bury the whole affair and try to forget about it. Maybe, in time, the villagers will forget too, and he can learn from his mistakes and become a nobler man. An honest, good, but not faultless man.
Have we taken the story far enough? Is the equine thoroughly dead now?
Okay. So you've got this guy, NK, who just got himself a gun. Scared, reclusive, and rather paranoid, he goes out and shouts to a gang of big guys down the street "I have a gun now! I don't have to be afraid of you anymore!" Rather than calm him down, assure him he's in no danger, offer to collectively hand over their guns as a sign of peace, the gang just tells him that guns are bad, that he's dangerous, and that they might have to do something about him if he doesn't get rid of it. Now then. Do you think this guy's going to think "gee, they seem nice after all, I should let them be the only ones with guns"?
I don't see us getting rid of our weapons. We still mistrust the rest of the world enough to keep a large stockpile of nukes. We're the only country to have used them "for" anything, twice, half a century ago. In fact, I'd say we're terrified of ever using "the bomb" again. We'll keep developing new types of nukes, but if the time comes, will we use them? I highly doubt it. And the fact that other countries might be thinking the same means that nukes aren't even a good deterrent anymore. But for "little" countries like Iran or North Korea, it's still a symbol of being one of the "big guys" of the world, of earning respect, adulthood, whatever. Besides, consider our own laws: you have a right to own a gun. Why? Not because you're really in much of any danger where a gun would be helpful to you (more than likely you'll just hurt yourself, have it taken away, kill someone you only meant to harm, only harm someone you meant to kill, and get your ass sued, or otherwise mis-use the darn thing.) It's just your right. You get to have weapons, your neighbors get to have weapons, and by the time it's all said and done, we're all too afraid of each other to do anything, or too insane to care (and therefore still dangerous.) How can a country that values self-defense so highly, and makes a point of giving its citizens the right to bear arms (supposedly of equal power to that of the "enemy"), tell another nation that nukes are a bad idea?
We're trying to negotiate. Well, the Europeans are; we're just sitting here telling them they're not forceful enough, as if that really makes the situation any better. Our previous arrangement with NK involved shipping oil to them as a substitute to their having their own nuclear reactors. We bribed them. The current negotiations also involve trade incentives. Wow. Let's bribe them again and see if that helps. Maybe we're too naive to realize this, but ... nukes make for better bargaining chips than they do weapons. Sure, you can take out a city with one, if you really want to. But you'll get yourself pounded so hard it won't matter. On the other hand, having a few around is good enough to be courted by the governments of the world offering your higher and higher prices for your disarmament. If the deal ever stops being good, you can just build another set of bombs, and start all over again. So long as you don't use them for anything, governments are just giving you "stuff" in exchange for a little peace of mind; the fact that they're worried is entirely their own problem. Pretty cool deal, if you ask me. And if it's cheaper to get nukes than to get the equivalent "incentives" you'll get out of negotiations, then it simply makes economic sense to build nukes and black-mail people. Do we really think Iran and North Korea aren't smart enough to realize this?
I propose we give Iran and North Korea the same deal we gave the CCCP: have all the nukes you want; stockpile them, have them for breakfast, build high towers out of them, whatever; we don't care, you won't get anything from us; but if you ever so much as twitch, and/or launch one anywhere, prepare to have your ass served to you on a radioactive platter." Mutually-assured destruction has worked before, and it still can. It's a sensible policy: if your neighbor does you no harm, you have no reason to harm your neighbor. As long as your neighbor feels safe, and feels that his safety is in his own realm of control (that is, you're sane, and his decisions actually decide whether or not he's safe from you), then he's unlikely to do anything foolish. If your neighbor thinks you're a wild-eyed cowboy with an itchy trigger finger, chances are he'll shoot first despite your lack of intervention. (Note: we apparently thought Saddam had an itchy finger, look what that got him!) North Korea has reason to fear us: we're fairly sane, they're fairly not, and things could go sour. But if we don't show some sign of restraint, there's no chance that a paranoid government will ever calm down. Mistrust will just spiral out of control, and someone will get nuked (or not, and we'll have to explain how our macho facade isn't the "real us".)
So the message is: "we promise not to attack you so long as you don't attack us; your fate is entirely in your own hands; if you do, however, screw up, prepare to be royally rewarded."
The problem is that we can't make that promise. We're itching to liberate people from tyranny. And at least for the sake of this argument, I have no problem with such intentions on our part. Freedom's neat, even though we're not terribly clear on what it is, how to enforce it, or whether or not liberating someone really makes them free. So really, we can't swear we won't invade their country. They have reason to fear us, reason to arm themselves, reason to warn us that they're armed.
Our fate (or rather, that of our allies in the area) is in our own hands, maybe. I'm not convinced the leadership of North Korea is entirely sane. The itchy finger could twitch. Maybe it won't. And there's no really good way for us to back down without also appearing to give into "terrorism" and "tyranny" ... but so long as we don't, we're the presumed future initiator of violence, even if it's for a "good cause."
We've got a potentially crazy guy holed up in an apartment building, holding a gun, yelling at everyone to leave him the hell alone. What do our street cops usually do in this case? It's hard to convince someone who feels threatened that they should just put down their guns when you're not doing so yourself. Did I hear someone say "sniper"?
Note that this applies equally well to Iran. Or anyone (past/present/future) else who thinks (I have no idea how they got this idea, of course) that we might be coming "after them" (particularly to "liberate" their people.)
No no no man. I've got a cooler analogy. So that makes me right.
Imagine a group of kids in a classroom. Don't ask me where the teacher is man, I don't believe in Teacher. If you want, there's a substitute teacher who spends all his time reading romance novels instead of keeping order. If kids misbehave he says "Hey. You kids mess around too much."
Anyway, one of the kids, Billy, is US and this kid can really fart. That's right, his farts stink and he can fart on command (it involves eating the right beans the day before or something like that), and one time he farted on a kid during an argument and that kid was so embarrassed he shut up right away. Some of the other kids have learned to fart on command too, but mostly, those are friends of Billy. Eventually though the kids realize that if everyone has a fart war it really really stinks up the place for everyone. Plus the girls think it is stupid. So they decide not to fart at each other anymore. If anybody farts at anybody else, everybody farts on him. They won't try to stop people from eating beans; that would require bean inspections and that's lame.
Imagine then what happens if the kids who don't like Billy decide to mess with Billy about it. One of them makes a farting sound when Billy isn't looking but when Billy wheels around, it becomes apparent the kid is just making fart noises with his armpit. Some of the kids are getting sick of the fart vigilance and Billy looks really silly prophecying about fart doom all the time. At a different point, of two kids that are fighting, one of them develops fart technology. People begin to wonder whether the age of farting will come again to the classroom. Kids are talking about what would happen in the ensuing "fart winter." Okay, no they don't, but one of the kids is constantly going "if you guys don't give me candy, I'm totally gonna eat some beans tonight." Another of the kids is like "No, I do not fart. I eat beans all the time but my digestive system breaks them down in such a way as it does not make me fart. My intentions are peaceful and fartless."
Well, I'll tell you how this thing is going to break down. Kids from the Axis of Evil are going to be faking like they're farting and Billy'll get mad and talk to them and sniff the air and try to figure out if people are really farting. And eventually, in all the noise some kids going to fart and its going to stink. And every one of those little Rogue Kids is going to say "It wasn't me." What does Billy do then? Fart on every one of them? Beat them all up?
And then little Billy and the rest of the gang are either going to have to get used to the smell of farts, because the alternatives are now "fart wars" and "the international terror fart game."
There's a terrible flaw in your strategy. You are complaining about us pushing people around. For me, that is an accepted cost. It's annoying and to the people being pushed around, it doesn't seem very fair.
Your solution, to prevent pushing people around is to allow nations which aren't very safe, some of whom support terror directly in an age of terrorism, to develop weapons capable of killing thousands of people. The way we'll keep them from doing it is to nuke them back.
Your accepted cost is that there's a chance that thousands upon thousands of people will die. You mitigate this risk with a threat of force.
Threat of force comes with all sorts of issues though. First off, terror can be anonymous. A nuke goes off in NY. Who do you nuke Unordained? Will you comb the radiation soaked remains of this part of NY for clues as to which country sold it to whom who set it off? Even if you find out, can't they say "it was some jerk who stole our weapons and sold them. We've caught him and killed him." Even if we had a really nice nuclear missile defense system, it wouldn't stop a nuke that wasn't a missile that was parked in somewhere awful.
Secondly, a threat of force can be overcome if the threat is "overworked" as they say in chess (a queen protecting three things may only be able to actually protect one if you call their bluff and accept one threat). Fortunately, we have no small number of nukes. As long as we can launch a very large number of them in the time it takes one of them to hit, we can nuke as many people as try to ally against us.
Then again, with enough threats against us, we'll be so dead that it won't matter whether we kill them back.
It seems to me that it also needs to be considered that there are people out there who aren't as afraid to die as we are. People that don't mind getting aboard a plane and driving it into a building. If such people got their hands on a nuke, do you think the threat of force would matter to them? They'll call your bluff.
This strategy is a nice backup strategy. For now, I don't mind pushing people around. People will whine and cry about what right we have, as the only country on earth to have used the weapon to prevent others from doing so. But it really doesn't matter. We have the power to do so. And the cost of not doing so could be pretty high.
These days, being aggressive against another country doesn't require an open declaration of war. It can come in the form of trade embargoes or heavy tariffs, terrorists, and other things which cannot be strongly linked back to the country which set them in motion.
The last thing this world needs is a fart war. The only thing to do is keep people who don't already have bean technology from acquiring it. And if they do acquire it, make them really sorry they did with constant inspection and such.
Description :: Entertainment to bait...I mean, convert... the masses.
I went to my childhood church this morning, not for the service, but rather for a tour of the new facilities that the church is close to completing. My parents still go to this church, and as I hadn't seen them for quite some time, I decided to eat lunch with them this afternoon. When my mom informed me that they would be attending this tour (preceded by a pot-luck lunch) I decided, "What the heck, I'll go too. What could it hurt?" My head, that's what.
The new facilities certainly were nice. We began the tour in what used to be called "the Atrium" when I attended this church. It had plants and skylights, so I suppose that name fit fairly well. Now the area has been renamed "Kid Zone," or something similar and equally catchy. Gone are the plain, light blue walls, plants, and skylights. Now the walls are covered in distinctly Disney-esque art work. The plants and skylight have been replaced by a mock tree house, which will eventually feature various platforms spiraling around it and the rest of the "Kid Zone." Down the hall, where I attended preschool through kindergarten sunday school, the walls have been painted a bright green color, and are adorned with large, 3'X 3' pictures of children of all races in poses which would indicate they are having a simply incredible amount of fun.
From the "Kid Zone" the tour continued up a stair well, painted in equally bright colors with even larger pictures of older kids having a (presumably) larger amount of fun. Once we topped the stairs, I was almost dismayed. The hallway and classrooms here looked almost exactly like they did when I attended first though fifth grade sunday school several years ago. Luckily the tour guide (the pastor of the church) assured us that this area would be decorated similarly to the "Kid Zone" below. *Whew* The theme up here would be "elementz" (all lower case, with a "z"). This is fortunate, because you and I both know how much modern first through fifth graders dig in-your-face misspellings.
Then we were guided through a set of double doors to the new sixth through twelfth grade facilities, named "The Factory." As that name would imply, the area looked much like a mock factory with exposed ducts and all that overhead. Hanging from this cleverly unfinished looking ceiling were several TVs. They displayed what I can only assume was the video portion of this morning's sunday school lesson...something relating Napoleon Dynamite to the Bible. The walls here are painted black, and they too have large pictures adorning them. Fittingly for the age group that meets in this area, these pictures are of racially diverse, distinctly urban looking teens, in poses that would indicate they are having the teenage equivalent of fun (angst). Up front was a moderately sized stage with amps and mics, and in back was a nice looking soundboard and computer to control everything. A little further into this area, there is a small table with a brand new Mac on top of it and an open room with several more TVs hooked to various video game consoles. Opposite the Mac table is a cafe type area with small, round tables, chairs, and what looked to be a counter from which food is likely served.
Through a couple more double doors we were guided to a wide-open reception area over looking a brand new gym. Underneath us is another area which will also be used for reception-like gatherings. From there people can access the new gym.
And what might all of this cost? In case the title of this article hasn't clued you in already, I'll tell you: $3,000,000.
Practically, I have at least one problem with all of this. At the moment, bright, ugly-ass green walls, large pictures, and the "street" look are all very in vogue. What happens when they fall out of vogue? Another $3,000,000 project?
Aside from that practical issue, I have other issues with all of this.
Why was all of this done? The primary reason given by the church leadership would be that this will attract unbelievers. They seem to be of the mentality that if you provide an incredibly fun, hip, and/or cool atmosphere, who wouldn't want to attend your church? I'm of the mentality that plenty of people wouldn't. While it certainly would be fun to go and listen to a live band, play some video games, and sip a latte from the cafe, the fact remains that this is a church, and people know it. They know that all of this comes at a cost of being preached at by someone, at least once. We're not going to fool anyone; they know that all of this amounts to bait. Even as a believer, I don't like feeling as though I'm being baited, and I have this suspicion that non-believers don't either. So the message that all of this sends to the unchurched isn't, "We love you, we care," it's "We're trying to trick you into something. Would you like to play our video games?"
Even if people don't get the impression that we're trying to bait them (which we are), they'll think we're lame for trying so damn hard to be edgy and cool. People who come to a church honestly seeking something aren't seeking to be a part of something edgy and cool. If they were, there are a number of places and groups that do it far better than we can. And if movies like "Saved!" are to be believed, quite a few unchurched people are pretty damn tired of us trying to be that way!
So all of this, I would argue, will be largely ineffective in actually helping anybody with anything...and we spent $3,000,000 on it. Meanwhile, my father and mother, members of this church, are teaching English to Spanish-speaking immigrants so that they can get better jobs with which to support their families. The church-owned building in which they do this is a ratty, dilapidated property with bathrooms that don't work and cause the entire place to reek of sewage. True, because the youth group of this church will move into part of the new facilities, their old meeting area will be used to host the Hispanic ministry. However, I imagine that a comparatively paltry $100,000 would have gone a long way to improve their old facilities and another $500,000 would have kept the youth group from feeling left out. But then again, while meeting Spanish-speaking people's needs is admirable, I suppose it lacks that in-your-face edge we so desperately crave.
Not surprisingly, the tour was ended with a prayer that God would help the people present to be faithful and obedient in giving to this endeavor so that God's work will be accomplished.
I realize I've done a lot of complaining and very little offering of alternatives or solutions. I don't have the answer. Certainly, I can see the need for a growing church to build new and larger facilities. And while I don't think that striving for edgy coolness will get us anywhere, I doubt that giving up and fully embracing boring, conservative "churchyness" will either. About the only thing I can think to suggest is that we just be honest with people and give up on trying to bait them into a church service. Then, when people come to our church honestly seeking whatever we have to offer, we should use our millions of dollars to help them, meet their needs, and then tell them why we're doing so. I doubt that would give us the rapid growth we seem to be seeking, but surely it would give us a more long-lasting growth that actually means something, presently and eternally.
I remember driving past a church a little ways south of Ft. Worth (Texas), a couple years ago. I mistook the place to a McDonalds at first, seeing as they had the whole glass cube thing out front (rather than the standard steeple, angled roof, and wide entrance.) It really looked exactly like a McDonalds kid's area.
I've heard Torrentor mention once or twice that he's (been?) attracted to shiny things, by which he meant particularly the mass and ceremony of the Catholic church. Admittedly, everything sounds cooler in Latin. You won't bait him with a brightly-colored toy area. In fact, I can't say I've ever seen that work on anybody. They can get the same benefits at the local mall.
I've been to church two or three times since I decided I was actually agnostic. I went with my parents while I was visiting, to avoid embarassment. (It's bad when the missionary's kid refuses to go to church, no?) I also went once while living in Tulsa (Oklahoma) because we got a flyer informing us there would be a multi-night discussion on Darwinian evolution, the Bible, fossils, and all sorts of scientific stuff. (And boy was that a hoot. Ask me for my notes if you care.) The only thing that could get me back in church would be someone making such a good case for that religion that I couldn't help myself *and* proving that church (as most people understand it) is somehow directly tied to the religion itself. Then again, I'm probably more barricaded-in than a lot of people.
Consider, though, the case of mildly-christian parents with "two point one" kids. They've not been to church recently, or they meander from church to church. Finally, they find one with all sorts of facilities to make them feel cozy, make them comfortable with leaving the kids in day care (sunday school) and generally high-spirited about worship. Expensive facilities will buy you their presence, and their tithe. Just think of what you'll be able to do with the money collected from this investment! For three million dollars, you build a larger facility that can attract a few hundred more people, a good number of which will feel obligated to religiously give 10% of their income (note: the government only probably takes 20% to 30% of their income, so this is relatively a lot) to the church. Investment here can lead to even greater revenue later. Of course, nothing prevents the church from further spluring on its own members with that money, but at least there's some reason to the madness, right?
There are alternative strategies for church. Church is just an assembly of like-minded believers who feed off of each other. You are stronger as a group than you are individually. You can learn from each other. You can teach each other. You can maintain beliefs and nip heresy in the bud. You can hire a (sometimes) highly-educated preacher for less than it would cost you to have individual lessons. (I'm going to leave alone the idea that you want someone else to teach you the required beliefs of your already-chosen religion.) Churches serve as a meeting place where you can find other people who agree with you; such people are easier-to-have friends, as you're less likely to have an argument over matters of religious belief. You can feel safe letting your kids go out with their kids, because everyone's nice. You're safe. You're with other, safe people. In fact, the only people you need to worry about are people who don't go to your church: those dangerous Catholics, or worse, the unbelievers. They're the only possible source of evil in this world today. (Wait, has my tone darkened in this paragraph? I'm sorry.)
Consider house-church, though. Small groups of people meeting informally at home or in public places. You don't have the cost of a building, you still meet with people, you can still ask a pastor to come over and preach, maybe several groups can pool money to make sure he has the time to do so. It's easier to integrate with casual missionary work: invite someone over to your house for dinner, maybe later invite them over for an evening (informal) bible study (maybe formatted more as a fully open discussion, to make them feel included.) You can ramp up slowly as appropriate. With church, you have a whole can of worms that comes with saying "hey, you want to come to church with me next week?" There's a lot of money that could be saved with such a process, but you might not avoid heresy as well, it's not something tourists will just drop in on, and it doesn't scale well to large groups of people.
You could express your disapproval of such churches by not patronizing them. Don't tithe there. Go to a small church that obviously needs some money to keep the basics working (assuming you care about their basics) and contribute there. Maybe when churches see that "investing" actually hurts them (as their members go elsewhere to show their disgust) they'll stop. I don't see that happening though. Too many people feel too comfortable in big, cushy churches. It's like SUVs -- the bigger and plusher, the better. They don't go to church to be attacked for their beliefs, they don't go to be martyrs, they don't go to feel awkward, they don't go to be obvious. They go to be part of a mob, where they can feel safe, where they can feel part of the whole (of the body of Christ, if they're in the right mind-set), where they can be dedicated to, in their own anonymous way, praising God. People don't sing too well when it's cold in the building. They don't sing well when they don't have a good music director. They don't listen very closely when the pastor doesn't have a good microphone, or when the seats are uncomfortable. (I'm not sure they listen other times either, but that's another matter.) They don't like being the first person to arrive or the last person to leave.
And if nothing else: what kind of God would allow his people to have a crappy church? Obviously the size of your church proves the size of your God. (Have you read those books on how God wants you to be rich, and if you'll just reach out and invest in those stock markets he wants you to invest in, he'll make you rich? Yeah. That's the mood I'm in.)
Note: welcome to our newest contributing member. Everyone else who has a username and isn't contributing should be ashamed of their respective self.
Description :: Or how people like to mix God-given rules, marriage, sexuality, condoms, pregnancy, and AIDS
Reading bits of a book Torrentor was pulling out of an old box got me going again on the topic of marriage and sexuality. It's called "The Love Killer", a "value added" book that is both story and sermon (the sermon bits have dedicated sub-chapters throughout the story, to make sure you get the already obvious points.) The title for this article comes from the book, where you're told you've been brainwashed by the safe-sex message and need to be re-educated.
This book, speeches given at the World AIDS conference, the speech given to highschoolers (audio available from this site), and many other sources have all done the same thing: they've tried to push an unnecessary agenda along with a useful message, and managed to mess both up. The agenda is to promote monogamous marriage with no extra-marital sexual contact, for religious reasons. The other message involves the risks of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), and the innefficacy of condoms, birth control pills, the rhythm method, and anything else you might have thought to use to mitigate those risks -- and particularly how naughty doctors, evil governments, and greedy pharmaceutical companies don't tell you about these risks.
The basic fallacy in all cases is a false dilemma between sex-before-marriage which (they will tell you) will almost assuredly result in pregnancy, disease, and unhappiness, and monogamous marriage and belief in a loving God which will prevent disease, benefit your career, and ... don't worry about the kids, at least they'll be born into a happy couple. (I kid you not.)
I always despise messages presented this way, because you create a dependency that will bite you in the arse later on. If you tie the message of safe (no) sexuality to God, then those who do not believe in your God may refuse your message, and those who accept it for now may reject it later if they reject your religion. If the goal is to help people by educating them, then it seems logical to present each bit individually and hope each of them does some amount of good.
So if it's a false dilemma, what are the actual facts? Well, they're still not good. I don't disagree with the authors in most cases involving statistics. Most birth-control methods (short of surgery or abstinence) fail to be 100% effective. The book (named above) gives what seem to me to be the "worst case" statistics, based on what I've found elsewhere. The effectiveness of birth control methods varies greatly by age, correct use, quality of products, consistency, and margins of errors, and of course the method chosen. I'm not sure it matters, but I've yet to see attached to these statistics any mention of "multiple methods at once" or "average number of sexual encounters per [time period] per person". I don't know about you, but I intuit there should be some statistical difference between people who have sex every day and those who might have sex once a month. But I'm just guessing.
Similarly, the effectiveness of condoms (male or female versions) or dental dams (or any other physical barrier) in preventing the spread of STD's also varies. Most sources make a point of reminding you that condoms do not always prevent the spread of AIDS, which seems consistent with the statistics at hand.
The book mentioned above went so far as to assert that the only ways to avoid AIDS were abstinence and a mutually faithful monogamous marriage with no extra-marital sexual contact. And that's just wrong. Maybe you don't remember, but people have in fact gotten AIDS from blood transfusions at hospitals and re-using needles (mostly in the case of illegal drugs.) Perhaps the authors think that abstinence and faithful marriages mean you'll never need a blood transfusion, but that kind of false message shouldn't be allowed to go unchecked. You can get AIDS other ways. And you may not necessarily get AIDS even if you're not perfectly faithful or abstinent. Go figure.
So here's the real set of facts, and the ones that matter in this case.
- Birth control methods may not necessarily prevent pregnancy. Plan accordingly. If you're going to have sex, recognize this as a risk you're taking, and understand that the methods you're using are only there to slightly reduce (but not eliminate) the chance that you'll have a kid on your hands. Ladies, understand that it's easier for the guy to ignore the child than it is for you.
- Condoms and other barriers will not necessarily prevent the spread of diseases between partners. As above, plan accordingly. If you don't want to get a disease via sexual intercourse, make sure you don't have sexual intercourse with anyone carrying the disease. Get tested, ask others to get tested, and even then accept that the tests aren't perfect. If you assume that the disease can only spread via sexual contact, apply basic graph theory: cut those with diseases off from those without, don't have sex with anyone who's had sex with anyone (etc.) who might have had it at the time.
- Even if you never have sex, you may still get one of these diseases. You could get it from your parents, blood transfusions, or some other vector. Some sexually transmitted diseases are not exclusively sexually transmitted, and there are plenty of diseases out there that are not at all sexually transmitted that will still kill you. You may now take the time to reflect on how dangerous our world is at the microbial level.
- Even if you're married, you may still have unwanted pregnancies.
- Even if you're not married, the same things apply to you as to married couples when it comes to the risks of sexuality and pregnancy. (With the added stigma of "out of wedlock" births, and the scorn that people feel they should direct at you for them. But that's not quite sticks and stones and diseases.)
- Even if you have sex with a million different people, you may avoid pregnancy and disease. Part of it is luck, part of it is planning. Knowing it's not all planning, you can still make use of what you know to help reduce the risk, lower the cost. Birth control methods do that. Physical barriers do that. Abstinence does that. Smart relationships do that.
Abstinence until marriage (and the same for your spouse) is just a short-cut, an easy way of applying some of the obvious principles above. It is neither guaranteed to be effective, nor the only semi-effective method out there. Understand it is only that: a short-cut.
And if you want to push for marriage because it makes people happier, results in better kids, "is just the way our society has been" (tradition), "because God says so", or any other reason ... please, feel free to do so. But do so independently, and don't rely on confusion to tie these issues together.
I also wouldn't mind it if authors would refrain from saying that STDs appeared out of nowhere recently, or even better, that sexual promiscuity is something new. I have a feeling there's some correlation without causation here: we probably only recently discovered STDs that had existed for a while, as they spread through existing channels of promiscuity. The issues are linked, but ... dang. (Plus, they're left saying either that some evolution of new strains of diseases does happen, which they likely won't like because it might support some forms of evolutionary theory, or they could say God's creating them ... and then you get to hear babbling about God punishing people for their promiscuity by creating new diseases that take advantage of this vector. But that's all just a bonus.)
[Sorry about the 'rythm' typo -- we got a lot of hits from people ignoring google's spellchecker. They deserve more reliable information.]
You might mention the growing world population (better petri dish) and the improvements in mass people-transportation technology as a factor in increased STD rates, assuming they really are increased, which is still a matter of debate.
Description :: More tips on how to convince idiots and kill dialog
Unordained asked me to post the idiot tactics I was aware of which make debate unfair. I'll write them as I remember them. I'll also classify them to make them easier for you to study and use / avoid as you see fit. I'll warn you, this is long. Nobody ever said that winning a debate was easy. Therefore it must not be.
Political Tactics for Dummies
Perhaps this section will show us a little about why dummies get into office. Dummies use these tactics well and convince other dummies (there are a lot of them) to vote for them. Dialog is destroyed, reason ignored. Here are the tricks of the political trade!
Memorize the list of logical fallacies and use them. Slippery slope, poisoning the well, and especially Post Hoc. These are the ultimate weapons!
*New*Abstract and Equivocate This one is so classic, I can't believe I missed it the first time! It will make a powerful addition to your arsenal. Sometimes what your opponent is doing is just but you want it to look like its unjust. What oh what shall you do? The answer's simple. Find something that it is similar to that is negative and then just blurt it out. Hitler. Nazis. Racism. The Ku Klux Klan. Something with tons of emotional baggage. A good example is the War in Iraq. It is much like Viet Nam in many ways. Nevermind the fact that Viet Nam cost us roughly 50 times more human lives. The point is to win!
*New*Stab and run. Most arguments are about more than one subject at a time; each issue has sub issues. If your opponent has just made several well reasoned points that you don't want to address, you should stab and run (perhaps with an Abstract and Equivocate defense). "Well, Tom's comments only highlight the racist tendencies of the blah blah blah but let me get to the crux of the matter" or "Well, the Kerry camp is well known for the kind of spin you just heard but let me talk about the real issue here." The trick is to slander and then appear to rise above the fray by changing the subject.
Insane Accusations. Make accusations you can't back because you won't have to. Refer to documents no one has access to. Refer to "High Level Officials" who do not have to defend their beliefs..it only takes one!! Demonize demonize demonize. Remember. The worst thing your enemy can do tactically is to deny the charges. Nothing makes you look more guilty than denying your guilt.
Make your enemy unPC. If you can, tie your enemy to racial, gender or sexual discrimination. No one likes discrimination, we want politicians who are indiscriminate as possible. Once again, your enemy cannot deny the accusation without looking guilty! What is he (or she!!!) going to do, sue you for slander?
Get an Expert. Come on. Experts are practically free because you can give them 30 seconds to talk about their book. Liberals: use psychologists, gays, minorities, and statisticians. Conservatives: use economists, minorities and statisticians. Religious icons will be the death of you so bail on them unless they celebrate Samhein or something.
Make your Opponent out to be an Idiot. Ask your opponent lots of questions that have nothing to do with anything. If he answers one stupidly under the pressure, the press will eat him alive. Remember. The press is full of sharks so make sure your opponents blood is in the water and for goodness sake, don't actually engage your opponent's arguments. If you bleed, you'll be eaten. Remember the potato thing? Potatoe thing? Elections are like spelling bees except you choose the word and you can make fun of your opponents.
Deflection!!! If you don't like the question you are asked, rephrase the question mentally and turn it into an attack on your opponent. If you are asked "Why didn't you support the soldiers by okaying the funds they need to fight" don't answer the question. Your audience is too stupid to understand your reasoning. Say something like "I'm not the one not supporting the troops. President Bush is the one not supporting the troops by keeping them in that hell hole called Iraq." See how that works? Remember, your audience is not watching because they care about the issues (i mean, some are, but you won't convince them!). They are watching for entertainment. So don't bore them. Make sure it is a slugfest and make sure you criticize your opponent when he lowers himself (or herself!) to your level! Now, I didn't think of this one myself; I don't want to take credit for it. I'm no genius, I just watch the best and learn from them!
Use Trusted Icons. Hollywood loves cameras and there's an old saying that says something like "There's no such thing as bad publicity." With this idea under your belt, you can find the right entertainer, have him or her say the right things in the right place at the right time, and people all over the place will think (as close as thought is to such people) "Well, if So-And-So believes that, it must be correct." Now, remember, your enemy will use this tactic as well, but you can punish them for it! The key is to accuse your enemy of "owning the media." It doesn't matter if it is true, there's enough dumb people in the world that you don't need reason, you need motivation and Trusted Icons and Dramatic Debate motivate people!
Invert! If your opponent thinks he has done something right, simply assert that not only will it not work, it will work the opposite as was intended. This has worked for medical care, the economy, and forest preservation. You don't need evidence, just cloud the issue.
Lastly, remember to criticize anything your opponent does. Again, you don't need evidence, just cloud the issue. Heck, you don't even have to have a better way of doing things!!!
Simply UnAmerican Dude this one rocks. If someone does something you don't like, tell them it's unamerican, that it will hurt The Troops...whatever!
Simply Un-UN! This one rocks too. See, even some allied nations frequently don't really like each other. I mean, did you watch the UN meetings? "Mister speaker, I come from a very old nation." That was great. See, we look for opportunities to hurt each other all the time...in a positive way of course, or at least in a way that can't be seen...like trade. But stupid people don't know that there's bad feelings everywhere. So act shocked when other nations don't like what your opponent is doing. You and I both know that the UN is not God. But the voters don't!
Be a unider not a divider. This is a strategy that may not be compatible with the crap above, but this mantra can work. Attempting the positive campaign strategy may make your enemies look like meanies or it may make you look weak. This strategy could be enough to win an election in and of itself but there are disadvantages. If you do anything to piss off your enemies (you will) they'll disagree with you (like they always do) and criticize you for being a hypocrite. It may be possible to repeat the mantra after this and it may not. It seems like this strategy may be better if your enemies have a lot of dirt on you. Many people have speculated (like...10 is many right?) that winning an election isn't so much about being capable as it is as sucking less than your opponents. That's why the positive thing works out I think. Note that if the unificating doesn't work you can blame this on the opposition!
Give the Majority Entitlements. The pocketbook is what wins elections. You think people care about a war which might be unjust? Nah. By and large, they want money. Use buzz phrases like "fiscally responsible," "economic justice," "supply side economics," or alternatively "voodoo economics." People will think you are smart. Did you notice how certain folks said that the tax cuts didn't benefit the poor? That didn't work. Then they said that they didn't benefit the middle class. That worked even though the economy rebounded. Did anyone notice? No. Aim for the middle class and higher or the middle class and lower. It'll be the bomb.
Never be against anything. Re-label your group in the most positive light possible: no one is for someone who is against something. Instead of "Democrats" which does not have an opposite, call your party "The Party for Smart People" so that your enemies are "The Party for Not Smart People" or even better, "Progressive" so that your enemies are instinctively thought of as "Regressive." I'm still waiting on one from the Conservatives / Right Wing. I guess there's no way to make being conservative hip or positive.
Make your opponent appear to be judgemental but don't be a martyr.
Use These In Combination!!! Lets do a hypothetical. If you are not smart, and someone attempts to question what you mean by "fiscally reponsible" just tell them that the American people deserve to have economic justice and that the are not properly represented. Maybe throw in a little jab at what your opponent is doing....and tell the audience that not only will it not work but that it will do the opposite that it intends. Lump in a bunch of catch phrases such as "special interest groups" and you've got yourself a winner.
The Balance of Idiocy and The Solution: Character Assassins
How to choose.... how to choose? Positive or negative? Well the good news is that your campaign can use both but only if you are careful and only if you have connections. And you do! What you need are character assassins. When you want to murder someone but you suck at murder you hire a hitman right? (Don't answer that question, the person that is using hitmen is your opponent remember? Gotta be sharp!) Anyway, character assassins are the "in" way to balance your campaign. They cost little of nothing and the stuff they say isn't coming from your mouth. Typically these people have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Use Comedians. Dude. Comedians are funny! It isn't funny to contradict people. Go on shows where no one will question you and pray that no one notices that no one questions you. If you go on the Factor you'll get torn a new one unless you know what you are talking about. If you can get a comedian to tout the party line he can deliver your crap right into people's homes and he'll get paid for it!
Use The Press Okay, yes, the press can be a real pool of hungry sharks. But ..whats better than a pool of hungry sharks? A pool of trained hungry sharks! This works exactly like the comedian thing. Remember to use this in combination with insistance that your opponents own the media.
That's all I can think of for now. Do all of this and you have a future in politics. Do it not, and your enemy will defeat you. Rush to the bottom anyone?
Every Day Debate
Most of you will not be in politics: you're too ethical. Some of the above apply, some don't. What you need is craptastic debate techniques that you can have ready...you know...for every day use. Here's my list of my favorite, tried-and-true tactics. Make sure you read Unordained's article; it contains the underlying strategy that you will be backing with these tactics. The essential idea is this: the only way to fairly convince someone is by using reason. Thus if you destroy your opponents ability to speak reasonably with you, you destroy your opponents ability to pursuade. With any luck, no one will be convinced! Now..these still work for politics and they are a good place to start. Have fun!
Use Sarcasm! Sarcasm is good because the only thing you are really talking about is what you don't believe. That's easy! If your enemy does this to you say "Oh sure! Use sarcasm..that makes you really smart...." Stupid people won't get the irony and smart people will be won over by your sense of humor.
Use Undefined words or Redefine words. This is very effective! If you redefine a word that is important to your opponent to be more inclusive than it was previously, he will look like a jerk head poopy face. And that's good. Nobody likes a JHPF.
The Parthian Tactic. This one is great and it sounds so cool. It is a defensive tactic. When your opponent is attempting to use reason, preempt him. Mess with his definitions. Draw him out with the tactics below. Use sarcasm with this. Your opponent will spend so much time delving into details, pursuing your little imaginary horse archers that he'll either run out of time or forget what he was saying. Then change the subject and go on the attack, hitting him in his exposed flank!!!!!
The Straw Man Army. This one is really hard. You have to understand lots of belief systems that you don't really believe. Then, haul them out against your opponent. He'll spend way too much time and energy hacking down a field of scarecrows and not enough time chopping up your beliefs. That way he'll get tired and you won't be. The harder to define the belief system is the better. Your mind will be sharp and you can go on the attack at a convenient time. Your opponent will not be ready for the vigor of your attack!!!
Interrupt. Use this to get your opponent emotionally involved. I use it all the time........on accident. Seriously.
Fillibuster. This has saved many the dedicated group. If you talk for a long time in a row you gain multiple advantages. 1) Your opponent will not be able to defend against all the crap you just spewed. 2) Your opponent will become bored. 3) If your opponent interrupts, call him on it. Geez, you don't have to tolerate that kind of stuff.
Ye Olde Switcharoo. Most people aren't smart enough to lay traps. So don't define your position...just hint at it. When your opponent attacks, he'll spend a lot of time attacking what you don't really believe. Then give him another hint. He'll feel stupid for going off on a tirade and then you can counterattack and criticize his beliefs. This is great with either the Straw Man Army or the Parthian Tactic.
Be the Reasonable party. Be careful with this one. The trick is obviously not to be reasonable, in fact the more unreasonable you are, the more emotionally charged your opponent will become. Then calmly ask him or her to lower her voice, stop interrupting...whatever. Gotta stay calm and say unfair things. This works well with a positive campaign. Thankfully, you can usually switch to this even after you've been angry and loud. The first one to become quiet wins! Editor's note: I'm told this worked well in a recent presidential debate! Learn from the pros!
Deflect on the Abstract! This one is complicated. Lets say your opponent asserts "I think the death penalty is essential." You can deflect on the abstract by saying "So, you're saying that the American government should just.....kill people to maintain order?" If they say "I think abortion is a right" you say "You think mothers have the right to kill people?" In some ways, yes that is what they said but the trick is to take what they are saying about a small group and apply it to a larger group! Many people won't understand what you just did allowing you to take the initiative. Even if the do get it, they'll have to explain to you logically why what you just did was unfair. If you do this enough times, your opponent will become emotionally charged, decreasing his reasoning and giving you the advantage.
Go Relativist/Absolutist on his/her buttocks. Okay, this really has little or nothing to do with relativism. Make things grey that are black and white for a nice open minded defense. Act like things are black and white that are grey for a nice overly simplistic defense. These are very frustrating and useful with the Parthian Tactic.
*Rephrase and Riposte! Your opponent has just phrased something pretty well and you feel trapped. What do you do? Lie. Rephrase what your opponent has said in a light that is worse than the worst reasonable light...but do so without giving him a chance to reply. Immediately destroy your new straw man with a flourish. People will applaud. They like bravado.
Poison the Well. I mentioned this above but it is so important that I must explain it. If you cannot attack what your opponent is doing, make up a really bad reason to do it and then attack his motivations. Most people are too stupid to realize what you've done and your opponent can only deny.
My main cause for alarm here is the statement that sounded like "don't talk about definitions of words"... personally... that's personally, not going into classical rules of debate or anything of the sort... personally, I've noticed that I often differ in my understanding of particular concepts and yes, even words. I think this is a function of a fundamental communication problem between people. I think by default everyone assumes that everyone understands particular words and concepts the same way they do... and more often than not I have personally found that this is not the case. People can and do take even simple words in a vast variety of ways. For example, if I use the word "flour", what do you picture? Many, maybe even the majority, might picture a bag of bleached all-purpose flour that you see the most of at your local grocery store, probably in a white-coated brown-paper bag. I know one person at least though who would think something a little different, possibly something as simple as "the unbleached all-purpose flour in my cabinet" or "bread flour from King Arthur Flour". The differences are small and some might assume that if they use the word "flour" the other person will immediately know what they mean. Would they be wrong? In the abstract sense, perhaps not, perhaps those things are close enough that in most cases it wouldn't matter. You might at some point try using bread flour or pastry flour in a recipe that calls for all-purpose flour. It really produces quite a different result. Does that warrant some talk of definitions? I think so, but then I could be wrong. It seems to me though that in order for any debate to come to a satisfactory end, both sides have to come to an agreement. It also seems to me that coming to an agreement might depend first upon an agreement of definitions.
I do have a tendency to abstract things to try to find the general rule rather than simply looking at a particular occurance and trying to determine its "meaning" or whatever. I find it difficult to gain knowledge of the meaning of peoples' words and actions without finding out how the more abstract concept works. I do have a tendency to understand people more intuitively than I do based on any sort of hard facts. This is just me talking about myself though.
As to the straw man tactic, yes, I use the straw man tactic frequently... in fact I wouldn't be surprised if I were the one Ensis was thinking of when he wrote that part of his article. I do wonder if he thinks that it has been my intention to distract him so that I could attack him when he was tired. That has never been my intention and I'm truly sorry if I've made him feel like that's what I was doing. In part it is a self education about Ensis's beliefs and personality. In part it's also a self defense mechanism, guarding what I truly believe because I know that what I believe doesn't have a lot of logical backing (as I know his and many others´ that I know don't) and I fear that, if attacked by logic the attacker will decide to say "Ha! Your belief is not supported by logic, therefore it is irrelevant". I really don't feel like putting up with that.
I've read a few webcomics over the years. One of the most annoying things about them is that they're funny -- but there's no easy way to copy-paste funny quotes to other people (or websites).
It seems like such a simple thing to me for webcomic artists to provide one or two text versions of their comics. Why several? It would be a public service to provide a text version including "all" the action from the comic (settings, tone of voice, descriptions of action) for the blind, who can enjoy a joke just as well as the next man. But a stripped-down version would be nice too for simple copy-pasting -- I'm not even sure you need any indication of who's talking for it to be funny.
Text really is the ultimate fall-back position, isn't it. I'm a DBA by day, and I just can't get enough of note fields, description fields, narrative fields ... heck, when your favorite VARCHAR gets too short, there's always BLOB! To users, everything is text, until told otherwise. If it were up to them, they'd track the entire accounting system as a set of notes -- "I spent $5 on groceries for the party today at Wal-Mart." There's no reason they shouldn't fall back on text though -- it's been a successful means of communication for a really long time, and given a large enough text field, you can describe just about anything. Okay, so it's a pain to translate accurately, and you can't really do anything interesting with it (the SUM operator seems unable to cope with text, for reasons I have yet to fathom), but from one brain to another, it works well.
Heck, I'll even throw in a fourth reason, free! Searching. On Google. To my surprise, Google doesn't include OCR (optical character recognition, commonly known as 'reading') features. It can't read an image like you can. Without a text version of the comics, we can't just search on Google for part of a joke, to find the rest. We can't just search for a character's name and find out where he appears in the timeline of the comic. We can't ... we can't do anything! I feel so oppressed!
I asked Insignis to pass this feature request on to John Allison of ScaryGoRound, who seems open to new ideas, but I'm not one to leave my grandiose dreams up to fate -- and Insignis. Maybe someday all webcomics (and visual artists in general) will provide searching-, translation-, blind-, and copy-pasting-friendly versions of their work. But probably not.
08/09/06 :: The Decameron :: Putting the Devil in Hell. Is that what they call it these days?
Description :: Putting the Devil in Hell. Is that what they call it these days?
This was in the literature book we used in our Western Civilization book, though it wasn't required reading. It's really quite an entertaining read, though few seem to have heard of it. Note that there is more to The Decameron, though from quick skimming, it didn't look as interesting as this bit.
This isn't really an "article" but if I put it under "messages" nobody would ever see the excerpt from the book.
Alibech turns hermit, and a monk, Rustico, teaches her to put the Devil in Hell. Afterwards she is brought home, and married to Neerbale.
Dioneus listened attentively to the Queen’s discourse, and when she had done and he knew that only he remained to complete the day’s entertainment, without trifling away the time or awaiting a command from the Queen, thus he began.
Gracious ladies, it may [...]
Alibech turns hermit, and a monk, Rustico, teaches her to put the Devil in Hell. Afterwards she is brought home, and married to Neerbale.
Dioneus listened attentively to the Queen’s discourse, and when she had done and he knew that only he remained to complete the day’s entertainment, without trifling away the time or awaiting a command from the Queen, thus he began.
Gracious ladies, it may be you have not heard how the Devil is put in Hell. Therefore, and since it will not be far off the subject of this day’s discourse, I will tell it you. Perhaps, hearing it, you may the better understand that albeit Love more affects gay palaces and luxurious bowers than the cabins of the poor, yet he by no means disdains to manifest his power even in the depths of the forest, on stark mountains and in the caves of the desert; and thus we must acknowledge that all things wheresoever they be are subject to him.
Coming, then, to my story, I must tell you that in Capsa, a city of Barbary, there dwelt aforetime a very rich man, who had among several children a little daughter, fair and of a docile temper, whose name was Alibech.
This girl, a heathen in a place where many were Christian, used often to hear her neighbours extol the Christian faith and devotion to the service of God; wherefore she asked one of them how God could best be served and with the least hindrance. She was told that they best served Him who removed themselves farthest from the things of the world, as in particular the hermits who had withdrawn from the city to the wilds of Thebais.
The simple maiden, aged perhaps some fourteen years, moved rather by a childish whim than any real vocation, set out on the morrow alone and telling nobody to walk into the desert. So firmly was she resolved that after several days of hardship she reached the wilderness of Thebais. From afar she descried a little hut, and coming up to it, found there a holy man. Amazed to see such a one there, he asked what she came to seek. Her answer was that, aspiring towards God, she came thither to serve Him, and in the hope of finding a teacher to that end.
The pious hermit, seeing her so young and fair, was afraid lest the Devil might ensnare him; so he praised her intent, and giving her roots, wild apples and dates to eat and a draught of water, said: “Daughter, not far from here there dwells a holy man such as thou seekest: a fitter man than I. Go thou to him.” And he put her on the way.
The second hermit advised her as the first; and faring farther she came to the cell of a young hermit, a very pious and righteous man, whose name was Rustico. To him she repeated her mission. Willing to put his resolution to so great a test, he forebore to send her away, and took her into his cell. At nightfall he made her a bed of palm-leaves, and bade her lie down to rest.
Temptations did not long delay an assault on his constancy; and finding it much beyond his strength to withstand them, he soon gave up the battle, and confessed himself worsted. So putting away all saintly thoughts, prayers and mortifications, he let his mind dwell on the freshness and beauty of his companion. From this he passed to thinking of the best means of bringing her to his desires without giving her cause to suspect him of lewdness. Therefore, satisfying himself by a few questions that she had never had carnal knowledge of a man, and was indeed as innocent as she seemed, he thought of a plan to enjoy her under colour of serving God. He began expounding to her the Devil’s enmity to the Almighty, and went on to impress upon her that the most acceptable service she could render to God would be to put the Devil in Hell, whereto the Lord had condemned him.
The little maid asked him how this might be done. “Thou shalt soon learn,” replied Rustico, “only do as thou seest me do.” Thereupon he took off what few clothes he wore, and stood stark naked; and as soon as the girl had done likewise he fell on his knees as though to pray, and made her kneel face to face with him.
This done, Rustico’s desire was more than ever inflamed at the sight of her beauty, and the resurrection of the flesh came to pass. Seeing this, and not knowing what it meant, Alibech asked: “Rustico, what is it thou hast that thrusts itself out in front, and that I have not?” “My daughter,” quoth Rustico, “it is that same Devil of whom I have been telling thee. Dost thou mark him? Behold, he gives me such sore trouble that I can hardly bear it.”
“The Lord be praised!” said she; “for now I see that I am more blessed than thou in that I have not this Devil.”
Rustico retorted: “Thou sayest truly; but thou hast another thing that I have not, and hast it in place of this.”
“What is that?” says Alibech.
To this Rustico replied: “Thou hast Hell; and will tell thee my belief that God gave it thee for the health of my soul. For, if thou wilt take pity on me for the troubling of this Devil, and suffer me to put him in Hell, thou wilt comfort me extremely, and at the same time please and serve God in the highest measure; to which end, as thou sayest, thou art come hither.”
All unsuspecting, the girl answered. him: “My father, since I have this Hell, let the thing be done when thou desirest it.”
Then Rustico said: “Bless thee, my dear daughter; let us go at once and put him in his place, that I may be at peace.”
So saying, he laid her on one of their rough beds, and set about showing her how to shut the accursed one in his prison. The girl, who until then had no experience of putting devils in Hell, felt some pain at this first trial of it; which made her say to Rustico: “Father, this Devil must indeed be wicked, and in very sooth an enemy of God, for he hurts Hell itself, let alone other things, when he is put back in it.”
“My daughter,” said Rustico, “it will not always be so.” And to make sure of it, before either of them moved from the bed they put him in six times, after which the Devil hung his head and was glad to let them be.
But in the succeeding days he rose up many times; and the girl, always disposing herself to subdue him, began to take pleasure in the exercise, and to say such things as: “I see now the truth of what the good folk in Capsa told me, that serving God is a delight; for I never remember doing anything that gave me as much joy and pleasure as this putting the Devil in Hell. So I think the people who spend their time otherwise than in serving God must be very foolish.”
Often she would come to Rustico and say: “Father, I came hither to serve God, not to stand idle. Let us go put the Devil in Hell.” And once, when it had been done, she asked: “Rustico, why does he want to get out of Hell? If only he would stay there as willingly as Hell takes him in and holds him, he would never want to come out at all.” By thus constantly egging him on and exhorting him to God’s service the girl so preyed upon Rustico that he shivered with cold when another man would have sweated. He had perforce to tell her that it was not just to punish the Devil by putting him in Hell save when he had lifted his head in pride; and that by God’s mercy they had so chastened him that he only implored Heaven to be left in peace. Thus for a time he silenced her.
But she, finding that Rustico did not call on her to put the Devil in Hell, said one day: “Even though your Devil is punished and no longer troubles you, my Hell gives me no peace. You will do a charity if with your Devil you will quiet the raging of my Hell, as with my Hell I tamed the pride of your Devil To these demands Rustico on a diet of herbs and water could ill respond; and he told her that to appease Hell would need too many devils, none the less he would do all that in him lay. At times he could satisfy her, but so seldom that it was like feeding an elephant with peas. Therefore the girl thought she was not serving God as well as she would like, and she grumbled most of the time.
Whilst things stood thus amiss between Rustico’s Devil and Alibech’s Hell, for overmuch eagerness of the one part and too little performance of the other, a fire broke out in Capsa and burned the father of Alibech with his children and every one of his kin, so that Alibech became the sole heiress to his goods. Whereupon a certain Neerbale, a young man who had wasted his patrimony in high living, sought for Alibech in the belief that she was alive, and succeeded in finding her before the Court had declared her father’s goods forfeit as being without an owner. Much to the relief of Rustico and against the girl’s will, Neerbale brought her back to Capsa and married her, so becoming entitled in her right to a large fortune.
One day, when as yet Neerbale had not lain with her, some of her women asked how she had served God in the desert. She replied that she had served Him by putting the Devil in Hell, and that Neerbale had committed a grievous sin in taking her from such pious work. Then they asked: “How is the Devil put in Hell?” To which the girl answered with words and gestures showing how it had been done. The women laughed so heartily that they have not done laughing yet, and said to her: “Grieve not, my child; that is done as well here. Neerbale will serve God right well with thee in this way.”
As one repeated the words to another throughout the town, it became a familiar saying that the most acceptable of all services to God is to put the Devil in Hell. The saying has crossed the sea and become current among us, as it still is.
Wherefore, young ladies, I beseech you if you would deserve Heaven’s grace, lend yourselves to the putting of the Devil in Hell; for it is a thing beloved of God, pleasing to the participants, and one from which much good comes and ensues.
A thousand times and more were the chaste ladies moved to laughter by Dioneus’s novel, so much were his phrases to their liking. And the Queen perceiving that as his tale was ended, her office had expired, took the crown of laurel from her head and graciously placed it on the head of Philostratus, saying: “Now we shall see whether the wolf will rule the sheep better than the sheep ruled the wolves.” At this Philostratus laughed, and retorted: “If I had my way, the wolves would have taught the sheep to put the Devil in Hell, no less well than Rustico taught Alibech. Since we did not, call us not wolves, for ye were no sheep. Howbeit, I will reign as best I may, seeing ye have laid the trust on me.”
Neiphila cried out: “Mark this, Philostratus; in trying to teach us you might have had such a lesson as Masetto di Lamporechio had of the nuns, and recovered your speech just as your bare bones had learned to whistle without a master.” Finding himself thus evenly matched, Philostratus ceased his pleasantries; and beginning to consider on the charge committed to his care, called the Master of the houshold, to know in what estate all matters were, because where any defect appeared, every thing might be the sooner remedied, for the better satisfaction of the company, during the time of his authority. Then returning backe to the assembly, thus he began. Lovely Ladies, I would have you to know, that since the time of ability in me, to distinguish betweene good and evill, I have alwayes bene subject (perhaps by the meanes of some beauty heere among us) to the proud and imperious dominion of love, with expression of all duty, humility, and most intimate desire to please yet all hath prooved to no purpose, but still I have bin rejected for some other, whereby my condition hath falne from ill to worse, and so still it is likely, even to the houre: of my death. In which respect, it best pleaseth me, that our conferences to morrow, shall extend to no other argument, bit only such cases as are most conformable to my calamity, namely of such, whose love hath had unhappy ending, because I await no other issue of mine; nor willingly would I be called by any other name, but only, the miserable and unfortunate Lover.
Having thus spoken, he arose againe; granting leave to the rest, to recreate themselves till supper time. The Garden was very faire and spacious, affoording, large limits for their severall walkes; the Sun being already so low descended, that it could not be offensive to any one, the Connies, Kids, and young Hindes skipping every where about them, to their no meane, pleasure and contentment, Dioneus and Fiammetta, sate singing together, of Messire Guiglielmo, and the Lady of Vertur. Philomena and Pamphilus playing at the Chesse, all sporting themselves as best they pleased. But the houre of Supper being come, and the Tables covered about the faire fountaine, they sate downe and supt in most loving manner. Then Philostratus, not to swerve from the course which had beene observed by the Queenes before him, so soone as the Tables were taken away, gave commaund that Madam Lauretta should beginne the dance, and likewise to sing a Song. My gracious Lord (quoth she) I can skill of no other Songs, but onely a peece of mine owne, which I have already learned by heart, and may well beseeme this assembly: if you please to allow of that, I am ready to performe it with all obedience. Lady, replyed the King, you your selfe being so faire and lovely, so needs must be whatsoever commeth from you, therefore let us heare such as you have. Madam Lauretta, giving enstruction to the Chorus prepared, and began in this manner.
Description :: This started the discussion; see "Thread" section below for responses
Following is a locally archived copy of the verbatim text from the link below. Views expressed are not necessarily the views of anyone except the author, who is not any of us.
And we're back.
Some controversial questions this week. Don't forget to swing by and say hello next weekend at Otakon!
What's the deal with all this "lolicon" stuff? it creeps me out hardcore and some of these guys who talk about lolicon stuff are just way over the top, they don't seem to care that anyone normal would look at them and think they're pedophiles. so why is this stuff so popular right now with anime fans? will it ever go away?
Well, this is a doozy, isn't it?
In my sincere, honest opinion, there's really not a big difference between a so-called "lolicon"guys and straight-up pedophiles. In defense of the lolicon guys, yeah, there's no ACTUAL children being exploited but I find it hard to believe they're sincerely only attracted to drawings and would never lust after a real 8-year old. It's such a short step from getting off to a drawing of a child being raped versus a photo of a child being raped. Either way it completely sickens and disgusts me, but these guys prefer to split hairs.
What's worse in my opinion - and why I think anime fans should be a little worried about the recent upswing in lolicon fans - is the massive, extremely scary image problem that lolicon could potentially bring about. More and more I see in message forums people talking about how much they just love lolicon shows and lolicon pornography, and how they're out and proud about being "pedos" (a term they openly use themselves) and go on and on about how there isn't anything wrong with lusting after children. For instance, here's a description of the latest lolicon anime from the fansub group that's translating it:
This is about a bunch of fifth graders and their, well, not so fifth-grade-like lives. I mean, the sexual tensions are unbearable. Ryota is such a lucky stud. I wonder why my fifth grade wasn't like that. There's a character whose hair color was completely not what I had expected, but oh well. Anyway, there are five episodes in all, and if the producers follow the manga like they did quite nicely, it'll be a good show. Just don't watch this in public, though, or else you'll be looked at strangely. Even worse, the cops would probably give you a citation. I'm serious. This is borderline child smut. But oh, it is fabulous.
Now, to people like you and me, this description makes my skin crawl and I want to go take a shower. And I think that's a pretty rational and reasonable response to have. But the guys who are in to this are more than happy to shout it from the rooftops, and that's where I think the big problem is.
Let me put it this way: we just now are getting over the public perception that all anime is violent pornography. Remember that? When you'd tell someone you liked anime and they'd scoff or look at you funny because they thought all anime was a cross between Ninja Scroll and Urotsukidoji?
How would you like it if big media got a hold of this trend and decided to do a story on how anime fandom is a haven for pedophiles? Because I assure you it's probably only a matter of time before someone in the media catches a glimpse of some of these message board posts and decides to run a sensational story about pedophile anime fans. And then we all get tarred with that brush, and the next time you tell someone you're an anime fan, you get a much worse response than just a strange look. I make my living working with anime and the last thing I want is to tell someone what I do for a living and get a gasp followed by "Oh god, are you one of those pedophiles?". Just the thought of that happening scares the living crap out of me.
Personally, while I'd like to see lolicon stuff disappear completely - not banned, but simply not published, endorsed or purchased - that isn't likely to happen so for the time being I'd much rather it stay as far underground as possible. This recent trend of some fans - and I believe they are simply a very loud, very scary but very small minority - being so open about it on very public and visible forums sincerely worries me. It just isn't good for the art form, especially in America.
This is obviously a big topic and there's a lot more to say on it but I'd imagine I'm going to get a lot of mail about this one so I'll leave the rest for future discussion.
Following is a locally archived copy of the verbatim text from the link below. Views expressed are not necessarily the views of anyone except the author, who is not any of us.
I think I managed to kick up more dust last week than I have in quite a long time. If you're wondering why I respond to controversial questions like that, it's because I think an open exchange and discussion and debate - even of things many of us just would rather ignore - is the healthiest possible way to solve problems or at least make our opinions known.
To that end, in this column I'm going to be printing many of the responses to last week's debate on lolicon. Some are straight from our forums, others are from my email box, with my thoughts or comments sprinkled lightly throughout, not unlike some kind of flame-baiting sundae.
Also, it's Otakon week and I don't even have time to think straight so we're just sticking to one issue this time and I'm letting some of you have a voice.
Why? To give people an understanding of why there's even a debate on this issue in the first place. Also, I want to get this all argued out before it becomes another yaoi/fansub topic that never goes away.
Also, it's Otakon week.
Let's get on with it.
I just read your 7/28 column and saw that you were concerned (and rightfully so) about the growing number of people who sing their praises of lolicon material to high heaven and threaten to ruin the efforts of many anime fans to remove the stigma that many non-fans feel towards the medium. I am writing to you because I am one of those people who enjoys lolicon material, and I want to try and put a different slant on the impression that people like me are making on the anime community.
First of all, I don't think it's fair for people to consider it a "small jump" from enjoying animated depictions of underage boys and girls in sexual situations to enjoying pictures of real children in those same situations. For example: there are many people who enjoy looking at pornographic depictions of rape, both real and animated. Though we may have this fetish, I cannot imagine that any one of us could ever experience the same emotions if we were to be shown a picture of a woman actually being raped. When the situation is imagined or contrived, we can enjoy it without guilt, but if the situation is real, we, like everyone else, would feel horrified and angry that such an image could exist in the first place. As an aside, and this is just my own opinion, but I believe that "age of consent" laws are a well-intentioned, but misguided attempt to protect our youth. The age at which a person is capable of making his or her own decisions regarding sex varies between people, and these laws are an attempt at "better safe than sorry" legislation. These laws take away the rights of those who are underage and mature beyond their age to choose their sexual behavior. Before you say that children can't decide these things for themselves because they don't understand the consequences, consider the number of adults who do the same thing.
Second, consider that the people who post these inflammatory statements in online forums, such as the one you quoted, can usually be sorted into two categories: newbies and rebels. I don't mean the term "newbies" to refer to people who have no clue what they're talking about, but rather to refer to people who are just coming to grips with the fact that they enjoy lolicon material. Just like with any subculture that is either oppressed or perceives itself as such, we can be fiercely proud of our obsession, and can become extremely defensive in the face of the overwhelming hostility towards it. The other group is the rebels, by which I mean "people who will say anything if it gives them an excuse to be angry or earns them attention." These people are everywhere; I'm sure there have been some people who've told their parents that they like anime just to get them angry (just to clarify: I in no way mean to imply that I believe that anime fans are only fans because it may upset their parents).
Lastly, I'd like to briefly address your quite legitimate fear that sooner or later the media could catch wind of this issue and rebury the entire medium in rumors of child exploitation and sexual vagrancy. This could be a truly serious blow to the entire anime community. It is unfortunate that the media could popularize the idea that all anime is illegal pornography, especially when, for every piece of animated pornography or lolicon-pandering material, there are at least two live-action counterparts. In fact, the quantity of lolicon material available simply pales in comparison to the truly massive selection of its real-life counterpart.
Whatever you think, remember that the US government acknowledges the difference between live and animated underage sex, and only outlaws one of them. Keep the discussion alive, but allow people their right to indulge their fantasies so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.
So what you're saying is that we shouldn't be down on lolicon because it isn't real and it's not the same as photographs of the same things happening to real kids, and then in the same breath you argue against age of consent laws because "we should let the kids decide" how young they think they should be when they first want to be taken advantage of.
You see how easy it is to read between the lines there? At once you defend lolicon porn and then you invoke real children, stating that it should be up to them when they think it's cool for middle-aged predators to get their sticky hands on them. I thought these were two unrelated issues, in your mind?
A big part of the problem with a lot of these pro-lolicon arguments is that almost invariably they will, at some point, after vehemently saying that they don't look at real child pornography, attempt to defend it or - and this is especially common - attack age of consent laws.
You're not helping your case that "lolicon isn't the same as real child porn and doesn't invoke the same feelings" with that.
Huge props for blasting lolicon in your latest article. I'm totally glad someone decided to go public with a pretty hard line anti-lolicon stance. You pretty much summed up what I think about it. The fact that there are people actually defending loli on the ANN forums is just even more sickening...why defend animated child porn, whether it goes out of its way to be erotic or not? The world may never know.
That's sorta my question. Why bother defending it? Why even bother being so public about it? We get it, they think 8-year olds are totally hot, gotcha. Is it so hard to just keep it to themselves? Why does the whole world have to know about it?
I guess the concept of "shame" or "a remote understanding of the way people will view them once they find out they're sexually attracted to children" is a foreign one in these waters.
Indeed you were correct in saying you would likely get a lot of email in reponse to the lolicon question. I can defintely see and understand your though process on the subject matter, but you may be missing a few things on the whole. For starters, I think many, we shall call them 'outsiders', already see anime as child pornography. Quite frankly I was used to the whole violent porn thing when I mentioned I was an anime fan. But years ago, when I got stationed in England and I started to talk about how I was an anime fan, I was met with the child porn accusation. I really hadn't ever heard that insult being flung around until then. From that day on until I left, anytime I got in an anime DVD, put up a wallpaper or any other myriad of anime related activity, I was met with "I'm guessing she's what 8? Does she get naked." I tend to believe that we already have that stigma attached from a lot of people, as for making it the mainstream thought about anime fans, that is just a matter of time more than likely. Besides, what easier group is there to say bad things about than an anime fan?
Second, lolicon fans in general are starting to 'shout it from the rooftops' that they are such because no longer is it some deep dark secret. I imagine that the thought of being attracted to a young child whether real or not would create some anxiety and likely some guilt in an individual. This is the sort of thing you keep to yourself because for one you are ashamed of it personally and two, others would think ill of you. But since the internet is now part of almost everybody's daily life and even moreso in the usually technologically savvy anime fan, people have been able to find others who share this same deep secret. There is now a lolicon niche that shares this common interest through things like message boards where they can openly discuss their love of lolicon and share pictures and movies. What likely came about due to this is that a certain few of these fans have come to the conclusion that since so many (in their eyes at least) other fans are loli lovers that most others are too. So they become much more open about their loli love affair. Just my thought at least.
Will all of this eventually mark all anime fans as potential pedophiles? I'd say that coorelation is going to be made sooner than later by the news. At the same time the news has those stories all the time once they are able to find something to jump onto. Remember Columbine? Didn't they all say that Marilyn Manson was the cause of these kids anger and agression for killing? All our community needs is someone who is geniuniely a pedophile to get caught and have a computer full of lolicon and we are all wearing the scarlet letter 'L'.
Besides you have to admit, it's kinda funny when you mention a show like Cardcaptor Sakura and you hear two different camps saying "Sakura is so cute" and "Man Sakura is hot." Pure comedy gold.
Actually, I don't really find that funny. The guys saying she's hot are creepy.
I don't think the whole "anime fans are pedophiles" thing has gotten as out of hand as you say; I've never once been accused of it; it's a shame that the notion is getting around, though. That's really the scary part in my eyes.
Many pedophiles have been caught with loads of both real child porn and lolicon porn; it just didn't really break into the mainstream news. Generally the story is about a child being raped and murdered, and the culprit is mentioned as having a stash of "real and animated child porn", but they don't focus on it so much.
From the forums:
Personally, I agree 100% with Zac and others who have come down on lolicon. There is too much of a risk inherently presented by lolicon material - to a hobby that while mainstream is still looked upon by some apprehension - to say that it should be an acceptible subset of anime fandom. Almost no other subset - including normal hentai, yaoi/yuri or the "ManFaye" craze - has this kind of odium attached to it. Lolicon has almost a tangible misama of visceral, primal wrongness about it, and one that could easily bexploited by those ill disposed to anime to begin with if they hear of it.
I beg everyone here to recall the kidnapping, rape and murder of Danielle van Dam in 2002. We very nearly dodged a bullet as anime fans, inflicted by this lolicon garbage. David Westerfield was found to have had lolicon on his computer. I hope I need not tell you his connection to the case. I also hope I need not tell you what could have happened if the media had pressed further with the connection or discriptions of the lolicon content. It would have been a disaster for anime fandom and the anime industry in the United States. It almost was. [sarcasm]What a poster boy for anime fandom he would have made![/sarcasm]
I do not advocate seriously the ban of lolicon material (although I would shed no tears if it were banned), mostly because we have had a poor track record, sadly, of stopping live action child porn. And certianly the argument of "we can't stop the Japanese producers from producing it" is irrefutable. That is really a matter for the Japanese government, and one they are going to have to look into and get under control. (One would have thought that the Tsutomu Miyazaki murders would have lit a fire under their collective oshiri on that score.) But I do think that anime fandom has to ostracize those who think that lolicon is acceptible, mostly because there is too much of a risk to all fandom to embrace this even by proxy.
This brings me to the most distressing and absurd of the pro-loli arguments: The idea that since critics "haven't walked a mile in one's moccasins" that they have no right to even be critics. That is nonsense at best and misdirection and deflection at worst. All that means is that this subgroup wants to put on the well-worn cloak of victimhood and present themselves as being unfairly put upon even in the face of legitimate criticism. Such an answer gives no legitimate, let alone satisfying, response to the criticism. Simply put, it serves only as a "leave us alone" and a means to kill debate of a point of view unwelcome to the recipient. If any criminal in any court in the US used the argument of "well, you never robbed a bank, who are you to judge?" he'd be laughed all the way to his penitentary cell.
I ask people like [forums user] Steroid, since they seem to be libertarian on this issue - where WOULD they draw the line, and when? If not here, then where? Is it that everyone's niche interest is to be protected, even when there is the chance that it could harm a larger structure? Or do we actually have standards and say that some few things must be put beyond the pale for the greater good of society?
[Forums user] Steroid, you say that the mind is "all rights and no responsibilities." This I cannot accept. A person must exercise at least as much responsibility of their conscious mind (and remember, one's conscience is part of the mind) as they do their body. An ill of the mind is tenfold that of the body, as it represents not merely act but potential. As the Orator said: "Reason directs - appetites obey." Now, none of us is perfect, and certainly, there have been times where for all of us have had an unsavory appetite wriggle from out of the control of reason. But to throw up your hands and say "no, the mind exists on another plane above and beyond thoughts of and duties to others" is the ultimate narcissism. Even the inner realm of the mind must keep in mind the mutual obligations and dutes we owe each other as a society, even while pursuing personal interests. Ethics do not stop applying at the threshhold of the cranium.
President Dwight Eisenhower once said that "A people that values its priviliges above its principles soon loses both." We are at risk of losing the principle - love of the anime artform - because some want their little privilige - watching prepubescent children used as sexual objects.
Okay, well, have we had enough of this topic yet? Obviously people are very divided on the issue, and it will continue to be divisive, but rather than drag this out for months, I figured we'd get it all out of the way this week.
Description :: This whole debate puts the LOL in loli.
I don't usually write articles in response to things elsewhere on the internet, but I felt a need to defend lolicon lovers, who have been getting increasingly stomped on of late. Links to what I'm replying to in the first paragraph. You should probably go read that page first, as well as the original post that sparked the debate. I'll be right here when you get back.
Here, in the first submission/response, the submitter does, in fact, say in the same breath that it's not real and doesn't invoke the same feelings and argues against age of consent laws. I understand why AnswerMan feels that argument is disingenuous. And yet I disagree with him.
It's a common thing. The same thing happens, for example with the "downloading is stealing" debate. In the same breath I would say that downloading is not stealing because it doesn't result in a physical loss, but only a perceived loss in terms of intellectual property, and that I disagree with, not necessarily the spirit, but the way copyright and DRM are being used to shepherd people around within a given vendor's hardware-and-software-and-content rolled into a single product. I disagree with the means of distribution, so I obtain the content in a DRM-free format. In one manner it's a form of rebellion, and in another, a means of getting my cake and eating it too.
Of course, maybe you see this as one more stepping stone in the erosion of traditional American family values (which everyone knows are the same for all Americans, *cough*) and degradation of our great society (if not American, substitute country of residence). Maybe you think to yourself "what next, Romanesque pederasty being socially acceptable?" The great civilizations of the past have been notably more lax about this sort of thing (glabraria being Latin for "lover of smooth-skinned boys" and Glabrarius being a common name in Rome--a bit of linguistic proof, nevermind all the historical evidence; in fact, this aspect of their society was noted casually in my high school Latin textbook). We don't want that in our culture--fine--but I see no evidence of that happening. Because such "evidence" usually takes the form of the following non sequitur (from the same page as above, last submission):
Lolicon lovers aren't hurting anyone. You may not like the same things they like (as is the case with most niche markets)--you may even despise it and/or them--but there is demand, and supply will follow. It is their right to put their money where their mouth is, in our capitalistic society. Unless, at some point, their behavior is deemed of social harm and made illegal, they can exercise that right. To the people who "wouldn't cry" if lolicon were banned, I'm quoting this especially at you:
"First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me."
and as a corollary:
"Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted." --Aldous Huxley
And a few more relevant quotes:
"Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burned women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears."
--Louis D. Brandeis, US Supreme Court Justice
"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it."
"A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity."
It seems to me both camps are trying to maintain the status quo and to keep something alive they care about. Maybe they could work together, in the spirit of this sentiment:
"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, letter to M. le Riche, February 6, 1770
 As an aside: I would also argue, at this point, that it is in fact largely society's fault that child-love is as widespread as it is. Is it really a wonder that people are to be found who objectify minors, when media and entertainment (including, but not just, pornography) are constantly pushing younger models as more attractive models? A major sector of porn focuses on "barely 18"--i.e., as young as they can legally get away with. "Young" and "sexy" are almost interchangeable in our society. If younger == better, would it not logically follow that people are going to start exploring even underage content? And lolicon is a safe haven for such exploration, where one can do so without guilt, because its depictions aren't real and are unaccompanied by the physical and mental trauma associated with real child porn. I'm not saying this is good or bad--just that we brought it on ourselves. "A single person is everyone's fault and everyone is a single person's fault."
 "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are only injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
 Also as an aside: I would point out here that people are stupid. Nothing you do is ever going to make you immune to stupidity. People have a tendency to immediately and angrily "point the finger" externally. They don't want to admit that the shortcoming is theirs, and they want to paint with the broad brush of generalities and stereotypes. If they want to blame something on anime, or cartoons, or Japan, or things that move, they're going to.
"People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid."
 I see your Dwight Eisenhower:
"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."
and I raise you one Benjamin Franklin:
"Those who are willing to sacrifice their basic liberties to assure their security deserve neither."
On one side you have those who are expressing (potentially genuine) concern over the well-being of children. Both sides notably have the security of their hobby and passion they feel to be at stake (right or wrong). But only one side (the general-anime side) is talking casually about banning the other side's entertainment.
Like everyone else who doesn't have a blog, I'm tired of the word. But for the sake of setting things straight, here's why we're not a blog.
- Blogs are almost always just one person. We have at least two main contributors, and way more users than that. We're a community.
- Blogs almost always use standard blogging software. We wrote our own.
- Blogs almost always allow guest comments. We don't care what you have to say. (Actually, we do, and you've always been able to email us, and none of you ever have. You obviously have nothing to say to us.)
- Blogs are almost always about factlets -- quotes, snippets, links to ongoing stories. They're getting a reputation for 'citizen journalism' which I personally think is entirely undeserved, but they're getting it. We're not interested in facts. (That sounded bad, eh?) We're interested in reasoning. So long as your reasoning is good, facts don't matter much. Besides, facts get in the way -- they tend to change, particularly in this age of relative truth. Reasoning doesn't. Plus, it lets us bullshit without having any facts, which saves us a lot of trouble.
- Blogs are almost always about 'me' and 'my life' -- not so much about 'what I ate for breakfast' but a lot of 'what I did at work today', 'what I saw at the store today', 'that thing I want to buy', 'that place I went' ... it's entirely reactionary, but seemingly only to small events.
- Blogs are organized on a timeline, reacting to the changing world. We try to organize our content topically, looking for distant similarities between ideas. (At least fairly recently, my code was so kind as to tell us that 'love', 'hate', and 'sex' were strongly linked -- how insightful!)
See? This is not the blog you're looking for. You don't need to see its identification. It's free to go. Move along.
The code for this website was written by its current users, from scratch. We continue to maintain it. It's not like we're not able to add a comment system. But what system should we add?
A completely open system is just asking for referrer-spam (which we already see in the logs) to grow into comment-spam. Sure, we could add captcha technology, that takes care of the automated spam. But what about quantity? The same message, over and over, is easy enough to eliminate. But you've got respondents who are more than happy to keep a flamewar alive, with completely new (yet unoriginal) comments. Do we implement a word limit per message? A comment limit per user? Is that fair, when we can, in the space we give ourselves, type as much as we like, yet require you to respond cogently in a limited space? (I get 2 hours to make my point, you get 5 seconds to make yours!) Sure, we could use some brevity ourselves, but that's hardly the point. What about quality? You've got the self-promoters out there who will use a comment merely as an excuse to pimp their own blog, their own seminar, their own product, and who care very little for the actual topic at hand. Do we filter all inbound messages? How will you know your message is truly in the queue, if it only shows up once we approve it? And the solution doesn't scale, anyway. We hardly have time to create content anymore, how would we have time to filter everything you say, possibly not even to us, but to each other? So do we let you moderate it yourselves? Many (most) people are incapable of self-restraint when given power over others; they won't just moderate down comments that are filled with vitriol, spam, or self-promotion; they'll moderate down comments that they simply disagree with, or don't understand. And for the moderation to be useful, it must have an effect, which means later readers won't see (by design) those comments, in order to moderate them back up. You can't exactly start with the comments pre-moderated-down, and expect someone to find the gems and moderate them up. Do we allow user-ratings rather than content-ratings? I hardly see how that would help, but some sites try it, the equivalent of shaming the person for making stupid comments, rather than just condemning those particularly offensive comments. There's some merit to the idea, but I don't see it actually working. There's no real shame online, no real reputation. Even if users aren't anonymous, even if we require real-ID verification, do you know these people? Do they care what you think of them? Then don't expect down-ratings to make a difference. Should we censor content? That's giving us our own powers back (we always would have the ability to censor anyway, but should we declare and use the power?) That's just asking for us to fall prey to the same moody behavior we'd accuse you of. I don't want to lie to you, tell you we invite debate and dissension, while putting in place a system that allows me to reject your comments out of hand. It's unfair to you when you post comments, and it's unfair to other readers who assume the page is a fair representation of the feedback received. And yet, if we don't censor, we've got all of your hate, anger, illogic, self-promotion, porn, and so forth on our page. Our page! Ah, the crux of the matter.
In the end, I don't think the problem is the technology of the comment system. We could build something. But should we? We have an inherent conflict of interest. We push content, and now we'd also host, moderate, and censor responses to it. You could accuse us of all sorts of vile manipulation. The reason you see nothing but positive feedback is that we hide all negative feedback. The reason you see nothing but vitriolic, illogical feedback is that we hide the intelligent feedback to make those who disagree with us look bad. Besides, we have to think about our (lackluster) google indexing! Why would we want to host on our page something we don't want to be responsible for? (Yes, you can hide content from the indexing engine, but that's not exactly being honest either, is it.)
What do I want? I want to publish content, and nothing more. It's not that I don't want you to talk to us (or each other) about it. It's not that I don't want a healthy debate. I just don't want to host it. Host it elsewhere. Make it not be my problem, my responsibility, my play-thing. And yet, if it's elsewhere, how will my readers know about it? Should I know about every forum discussion out there concerning each of my articles? Should I link to them? There's the conflict of interest again. It has to be automatic, out of my control. I've seen a very few in-browser systems to attach comments to a page, and they're not very well designed. They don't include any of the controls most forums have, many look like graffiti all over the subject page. They still require some central storage, which means that someone, somewhere, is responsible for [not] censoring your content, getting it backed up, making sure it stays online. You should own your content. So then it comes to this: get a blog! Go self-publish, and put your comments on your own page, and link to mine! Ah, the great trackback, spam of the blogosphere. Most of the time, it just annoys people. You're not going to visit all 30 sites listed on a page's trackback list, to see if anyone (or their own, personal readers) made any useful comments at that remote site. In fact, as far as you're concerned, it's just self-promotion. (And you're right -- the blogs talk about each other to generate hits, not because they're really trying to have a debate. You can't have a useful debate with that kind of ping-pong blogging. If they're serious, then they're also incompetent.) And trackbacks are content to be censored, anyway; I could just as easily remove an automatically-added trackback link as a comment.
Just so you know, google has a "link:" feature to help you find pages that link to a given page. If you want to comment on our articles, do so elsewhere, then link to the page you're talking about. Maybe, in some distant future, it'll mean something and your browser will prompt you "there are 8 ongoing discussions about this page, would you like to see them?" In the mean time ... sorry. So very sorry.
Torrentor: So, let me get this straight...Charlie Sheen can make a "porn family", Kelsey Grammer can end a 15 year marriage over the phone, Larry King can be on divorce #9, Britney Spears had a 55 hour marriage, Jesse James and Tiger Woods, while married, were having sex with EVERYONE. Yet, the idea of same-sex marriage is going to destroy the institution of marriage? Really? Re-post if you are proud to support equal rights.
Some Guy: Two wrongs don't make a right . . .
Torrentor: I support peoples' right to make the choice... even if it isn't the same one I'd make
Some Guy: What if a man wants the choice to marry his daughter? What if some lady wants the choice to marry her dog? What if someone wants the choice to murder someone they really hate?
My point? We all have a line that we can't agree should be allowed to cross. Where do you draw your line?
Poopysquirts: I really don't care if gay people want to get married. I don't know what the big deal is.
Torrentor: what if they do? Our system is structured so that if he wants that right he has recourse - he can pursue that legalization. So can she. The whole point is that lines are being drawn in the sand arbitrarily based on morality that not everyone shares. Even in the Bible, there's not much to be seen about trying to force people not to sin. There's a price for sin clearly stipulated but nothing about forcing people not to. Forcing someone to choose the Biblical way, forcing someone to do what you think is right takes away the value of the choice.
Phaedra: You draw the line at the same place you draw the line for all other contracts. Do we let a lady sign a contract with her dog? No. Marriage is simply a legal contract between two people and the government shouldn't be dictating what two people are allowed to make that contract if they agree to mutually agree to enter into it. Obviously a minor cannot sign a contract anyway. These arguments about letting someone murder someone else make no sense. At issue here is the fact that laws are preventing people from entering into a mutually agreed upon contract because of an arbitrary classification about that person. What if laws preventing a black person from marrying a white person? Or what if a man couldn't contract with another man to lay his carpet simply because he was male? These are the situations this compares to, not letting people murder someone.
Torrentor: kapow... direct hit! Phaedra 1, everyone else... some other number
Poopysquirts: would it make people happy if they weren't allowed to marry in a church wtf!
Phaedra: Forcing churches to marry same sex couples is a totally different issue. No, churches should not be required to perform a marriage ceremony for same sex couples if they so choose. They can already refuse to perform a marriage ceremony for any number of reasons, including just because the pastor doesn't think it's a good match. But couples can either find a church that will marry them or have their ceremony performed by the state. The same would be true of same sex couples. Of if you are lucky enough to live in a state that allows it (or want to drive to one), you can perform your own marriage ceremony with no witnesses.
Ensis: Bad behavior does not justify bad behavior. Or, for those of you who don't like the idea of an objective standard of bad behavior, here's the post-modern spin: if you don't like our politics, kill us. It won't matter a whit to the universe what you do to our particles.
We do not think marriage is merely a legally binding relationship. Saying this kind of thing over and over in a Facebook echo chamber doesn't make it true. And if we don't start at a point of common ground, there will never be dialog, only repetition. Bah. The above conversation reads like propaganda, propaganda I've heard about 1,000 times.
The truth is that, at a minimum, you're dealing with really ancient, really sacred traditions. These things are important to Christians. When you spit on marriage you spit on us. So when you're done publicly maligning and violating this holy thing, why don't you walk up to a Muslim and an Orthodox Jew and shove pork in their faces? After that, you can walk up to a devout Hindu person and shove a tasty, rare steak in their face. I mean, why stop with Christians?
Bottom line: Christians aren't taking lessons in "tolerance" from people who publicly malign them for being "intolerant."
Lets talk terms instead of firing broadsides at one another. We should have been able to work out a compromise a long time ago.
Phaedra: How is allowing gay marriage shoving it in your face any more so than allowing non-kosher food to be sold shoving pork in the face of a Jew? Fortunately we don't outlaw all food that is considered forbidden to some religion somewhere.
No one is saying that churches should be forced to perform services for gay weddings. In fact, they can consider the marriage invalid for religious purposes if they choose. I understand that you consider marriage to be a holy thing, but for legal purposes it is simply a contract. I am not clear on how wanting equal treatment for people is considered intolerant. I have no problem with any religious group refusing to perform marriages between any two people.
The problem is that with the current system of marriage, there is no common ground, so to speak. Either all people are treated equally under the law or they aren't. It is you that needs to be able to separate your "institution" of marriage from the purely legal definition. Would it help if religious leaders were no longer allowed to perform marriages and all semblance of it being a religious institution were removed? If we call it "civil unions" instead of marriage, would that make a difference. I don't mean between gays only, but between all people.
I don't appreciate the fact that discussing this topic at all is publicly maligning your religious views. Basically what you are saying is that we can't even have a discussion because I don't already agree with you and therefore I have violated your holy institution. Also, using the word "propaganda" to describe the opposing viewpoint is a nice way to try to make the argument seem invalid before it is even heard. Are you saying that because a point has been made before that it is propaganda? I could say the same about your points.
Blah, blah, blah.... the conversation above reads like religious propaganda, propaganda I have heard about 1,000 times. Do I get a +5 modifier to my side now?
Ensis: How is allowing gay marriage like that? Real freakin simple. Lets try to take another run at it.
For us, Marriage = holy. That's all. Gay marriage is profane in the eyes of a Christian. It doesn't matter whether it's in my church, it's wrong. So I can't support it. Simple. Put another way, we don't prohibit murder because we particularly dislike the effect it has on the particles of the victim. We dislike it because murder is wrong. We codify that moral imperative to protect the innocent against the wicked.
So understand me rightly: what is being proposed here is wrong and I can't support it in good conscience.
Now lets back up and talk about Law. All law should have a moral backing. Any law with no moral backing needlessly impinges on the freedom of a society and for no moral good. That, it could be argued, is evil.
Now, it is presumed by those that us that are fair minded that supporters of gay marriage are not out of their minds. They have a different moral system that they are working from. It is therefore presumed that their desire to make gay marriage iegal contains an implicit assertion it is only Right that it be so.
We Christians disagree. You and I should be able to have a pleasant discussion about that as friends.
Instead, we have self righteous, judgemental assertion above which implies that believing that marriage is holy is stupid in light of the abuses against it. And that springs from a moral system that decries any such hypocrisy. Why should I listen to that?
Lets start over and come to the table without starting with judgement, judgement that comes from a moral perspective that is not shared by those who are being judged.
Some Lady: A lot of hollywood marriages are made without God involved at all and that is why there is so much trouble with many of those marriages, even though they were heterosexual. Same sex marriages are not what God designed or sanctioned; rather was against activity of that nature. Ensis is right! Same sex couples cannot produce children, obviously. If man was meant to marry man, then humanity would be no human life left at all. No judgement, just reality.
Poopysquirts: So even if you are not a christian or go to church as long its a man and woman its ok?
Some Girl: man.... you just can't post this with out everyone getting their panties twisted. i say just let em marry and use the money to stimulate economy...
Some Girl: true the bible states another man shall not lay with another man as he does with a woman, but it also states we should not eat pork or shellfish, women are forbidden to wear red and boys to have bowl cuts. But where are such laws enforcing those? For being religious, by picking and choosing what we want to enforce aren't we effectively undermining God?
Phaedra: At issue here is not whether or not Christians believe (with good reason, I might add) that gay marriage is wrong. The question is whether or not something that one group believes to be wrong but another group does not should be illegal.
For example, in Islam, it is forbidden to marry a Christian or Jew. Does that mean we should have a law against marrying Christians or Jews? Should we have that law for only Muslims?
Mormans believe that the body is sacred and certain parts of the body should not be shown (such as women's shoulders). Should we have a law against tank tops?
A Buddist considers all life to be sacred and believes that no animals should be killed by humans. Should we outlaw the killing and selling of meat because this group believes life is sacred?
Muslims consider the sale and consumption of alcohol to be wrong. Should we outlaw this based on their belief?
Most Christians consider sex outside of marriage to be wrong. It violates the sacred marriage covenant (correct me if I'm wrong). The same is true of divorce. Should we outlaw these practices?
The point is that I believe that while some practices are forbidden by a particular religion, we should not take away the rights of other people based on the belief of one group. I am sure there are things that are legal now that many Christians find to be morally repugnant. But that does not mean that we take away the rights of others to practice them.
You speak of compromise, but clearly there is no point on which you can compromise. You feel that a certain group should have this right taken away from them. Either they have it or they don't. This is one issue where there is no middle ground to compromise on. Either this group is not treated equally and is lacking certain rights or they are not. For you it is the same. Either your sacred institution is being violated or it isn't. This is why I never have this discussion, either in public or private. So that was "my bad", so to speak, for trying to correct a logical fallacy in the beginning.
I might add that you were the one that jumped into this discussion and started placing judgements like "you are accusing me of being intolerant" with no basis. From the outset it was clear that you feel that any discussion of this issue is a slap in the face to Christians.
Many people don't really understand our religion at all. It's not about obeying rules and getting enough brownie points to make it to heaven. So going to church has nothing to do with marriage. Basically, God has a huge list of rules that we're breaking all the time. All of us. So having homosexual relations isn't sending us to hell any more or less than jaywalking is. God's rules are strict. Nobody is good enough. The good news isn't that God allows you to be super-good, to try really hard and obey really hard and live a good life. It has nothing to do with anything you can do alone. It's that atonement has been made. That's the whole thing Christians are trying to explain (and some of us make it very difficult because some of us are huge jerks).
Your theology needs work. Women are not forbidden to wear red. There are some food laws in the OT, but they're nixed in the NT. I'd be glad to talk to you about how ceremonial law is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. I would also love to talk to you about religion. Jesus spent much of his ministry arguing with exceedingly religious people, exceedingly hypocritical people, telling them they were headed to hell. Ultimately, they murdered him. So you might understand how his disciples would be well warned against following that kind of pattern. Indeed, it is not up to me to enforce God's law. But I don't have to be a willing party to my country's descent.
The issue is indeed whether or not something should be illegal if some people disagree.
The abstract and true answer is yes. It should still be illegal.
Morally, the answer is yes. Should we stand by while sociopaths (who totally don't live by society's rules man, they're like rebels and stuff) go around murdering people because sociopaths don't agree with our morality? No. We freaking kill them. Or, if we're feeling super nice, we throw them in jail to rot until they die.
Legally, the answer is yes. We elect officials to represent us. Those guys make laws to fulfill the will of the majority. The underlying assumption is that we're never going to be able to make laws that everyone agrees with (and history has born that out).
Now, you've called out a billion examples to try to deny what is, to me, obvious (and I've outlined above why I think so). But I do want to talk about whether a law against fornication is advisable. Afterall, it's against the moral code that we adhere to. I think it is not advisable. Here's why:
1) It is not the current law of the land. Outlawing gay marriage arguably is.
2) It's insanely hard to enforce. Like, dystopia hard. Outlawing gay marriage arguably is not.
I'll shortcut the conversation. I've studied diligently for decades to prepare myself for conversations like this and in that time I have found no self contradiction in my beliefs. It's going to be difficult for you to find one in a drive-by conversation on facebook.
Lastly, regarding compromise: I think there is room for compromise. In the gay marriage debate, there are many things desired by many people and most of them we can budge on.
1) Equality of status in the mind of society. Making it legal will not cause this. This shouldn't be on the table.
2) Equal access to the kinds of things married people get (health insurance from employers, tax stuff, etc). Frankly, I think this is a matter for a lawsuit against people that are giving benefits to specific classes of people. That's clearly unfair.
3) Government has it's nose in marriage. This used to make sense: marriage was the primary way in which families were created. We like families because our nation needs new citizens. It makes sense for our society to ensure that men are living up to their end of the deal in a marraige. Today, it is not so clear cut, especially since our government has made legally dissolving a marriage so easy.
Abstraction from marriage is desirable. Should the government care who has decided to form a family? No. Frankly, sex has nothing to do with it. Our society needs to take a hard look at what it is we want to ensure and then make that happen without stepping on the toes of numerous religious people. That's the starting point.
Let me finish by admitting something. Far too many Christians have seen a culture war brewing for a long time. They've been drawing lines in the sand and preparing rhetoric and muttering darkly to themselves about where our country is headed. That's not in line with our theology. It isn't our job to save this country. Vote your conscience? Fine. Save America through heated rhetoric? Probably not going to happen.
Phaedra: I'm sorry this conversation is kind of hard for me to continue since I left for vacation today, but I would be interested to hear your point of view on the few other examples I gave beyond the one you addressed. Is your rational for outlawing something whether or not it is easy to enforce? Or is it simply an issue of a certain percentage of people believing it is wrong? What is that number exactly? I know you think I am somehow trying to "trip you up", but that is not my goal. I do truly wonder what you think of other similar situations beyond the one you addressed where your reasoning is basically that it is "too hard".
I take offense to your assumption that I have not given this issue any thought or study simply because we've started a random conversation on Facebook. No, you did not say that but that is what you imply.
Phaedra: You probably disagree, but to me it seems that the prevalence of fornication, sex outside of marriage, cheating on one's partner, etc... would be a far greater threat to society. I'm not tying to use this as some sort of argument for allowing gay marriage, I'm just pointing out that it seems more destructive to families and society as a whole. And it seems to violate the institution of marriage in much the same way.
Phaedra: On an unrelated note, 5 != 1,000,000,000
Poopysquirts: Some Girl, my panties arent twisting,
Ensis I grew up in a christian household.
I am in a neutral standpoint. I really don't care if gays can get married or not I just have questions sometimes about peoples arguments on this subject.
Phaedra: I'm not clear on how your 3rd suggestion is any different than my question a few posts back about removing the institution of marriage from government entirely? This is something I would be completely in favor of as long as any two consenting adults were allowed to participate. And yes, I do extend that to situations that are currently illegal since it seems the only logical thing to do. In fact, it would be much preferable to our current system which is a weird, church/state hybrid... thing. Honestly it seems to change it mostly in name only so I'm not sure why you would agree to that.
insignis: Ensis, I'm curious how you'd propose to abstract from marriage and keep both parties happy. What are some examples of the compromises you see plenty of, that we can budge on?
Unordained: RE: Some Guy; Killing is a bad example of a line in the sand, because it can be consentual, in which case it's not rightfully murder. Assisted suicide, whether for a cancer patient for whom death is better than further treatment, or for a wounded soldier for whom suicide is better than being captured alive by the Taliban, should be respected as much as the potential 'victim' would want to be, trying to save what's left of their dignity. Of course there are limits, moreso when the potential 'victim' won't be around to testify; but just as the underage and the insane aren't allow to sign contracts to buy, sell, or marry, they wouldn't be allowed to for death or gay-marriage, either. The essence of who is allowed to partake in a transaction isn't the nature of the transaction, it's the parties' respective abilities to consent.
Unordained: RE: Ensis (1); We have a pluralistic secular government, with a wall of separation between church and state. The only break in that wall is the vote. What we're talking about here is marriage from the viewpoint of the government, which cannot, as a result of that separation, be about what is holy or sacred or spiritual or more-than-contract. That's like asking a physicist to include magic in his formulas. It's just not the right place for it. Sadly for our discussion, when we made marriage a government issue, we didn't invent a new noun for it. We didn't tell people there were "religious marriages" and "government marriages" with a clear split. We should have, because when it comes to implementation, they're wholly separate. Now it's too late. When we talk about allowing gay marriage, we're only talking about allowing gay civil unions, where civil unions are taken to be the same as government marriages. But renaming them is a problem: a while back, our Congress tried to hunt down all the language affected, and they weren't even sure then nearly 1000 benefits they counted (by searching the text for "spouse", "husband", "wife", "marriage", "married") were all that were out there. If we rename them all to "civil union", just so you can continue to use the word "marriage" in the religious sense, we have a lot of paperwork to fix. On the other hand, if you just stop conflating the two issues, we can save a few pennies.
Unordained: RE: Ensis (2); If you're going to argue that bad behavior doesn't justify bad behavior, or that two wrongs don't make a right, please don't also complain about supposedly-intolerant people pointing out your own intolerance.
Unordained: RE: Ensis (3); Law is based on the will of the people, whether moral or not. But rather than follow that up by saying that a law not based on the will of the people impinges on the freedom of society, I will instead assert that any law not based on protecting citizens or the commons (think: EPA) from the malice, greed, ignorance, or recklessness of others, needlessly impinges on the freedom of society. And yes, I fully intend that to allow for properly labeled drugs, prostitution, gay marriage, gambling, etc. And no, I don't agree with protecting citizens "from themselves" as you might argue is the case with gay-marriage; gay couples are no less consenting or aware than straight ones, and need as much protection as you and I do, and no more, from predators such as gold-diggers or suitors with ulterior motives.
Because in the end, we can only form a cooperative society if we each grant each other the maximum freedoms that don't result in real, tangible harm. The harm caused to you by being offended by someone else's behavior isn't even in the same ballpark as the harm caused to gay partners who won't ever have visitation rights in prison, the automated ability to make medical decisions for each other, tax breaks that make sense in the context of a household, property ownership laws that only apply to married couples, survivorship benefits from social security or the military -- or while on the subject of the military, the possibility of their partners living on-base with them, like anyone else's partner would -- and any of the other 1000 or so benefits Congress is pretty sure only apply if truly married, and cannot be gained by any contract, no matter how you word it.
Unordained: RE: Ensis (4); Sure, let's compromise. Governments get civil unions, you get marriages, marriages are whatever holy thing you think they are, and governments keep treating civil unions as contracts for lack of any other possibility, and we open them up to anyone who can consent. It took us a while to open that up to mixed-race couples (which, by the way, has a lot to do with the government being involved in marriage licenses) and it may take a while yet for gay couples. You're uncomfortable. So are old white men in the south who are probably still mad about blacks being able to vote (if they're not still angry about women being able to vote, that is.) If conservatism is defined as moving forward very carefully, I understand. If it's merely an excuse to delay so old folks can get over it, then no, I'm sorry, we can't wait. There was a reason Jefferson believed laws should expire quickly (29 years?) -- the previous generation can't keep holding us back.
Unordained: RE: Some Lady; Heterosexual marriages already have a nearly 50% failure (divorce) rate, and that's been the case without the help of gays. We can hardly consider that a shining example of Christians keeping marriage vows "holy". The no-fault divorce has allowed heterosexuals to come and go as they please for decades, I think it's only fair that they allow gays to do the same. I won't claim that gays will have any better luck at picking and keeping their partners, but there is something to be said for cherishing hard-fought rights as opposed to those handed to you by tradition and culture. Maybe there will be a short honeymoon of longer-lasting gay marriages. (The 50% statistic is debatable not because the number is high, but because you're always comparing different years to each other, and nobody's quite sure what the most appropriate mathematical model is. But it's high, very high.)
Unordained: RE: Some Lady; The Catholic church has, in the past, held that only those seeking to procreate should marry; the old or infertile were in fact encouraged to cohabitate without being married. The Church hasn't, to my knowledge, held to that recently. But marriage isn't just about procreating. What of the heterosexual couple that wants to marry, then adopt? Should they not be allowed to do so? What, then, of the gay couple who wants to do the same? (If you object to gays adopting, please reconsider: if single mothers and single fathers can be good parents, and considering how many heterosexual parents are terrible, is it really so much worse to have two fathers, rather than only one, or none at all? The pro-life crowd should be happy to welcome eager adoptive parents, gay or otherwise, as long as they're reasonable, good people.) And there are a great deal of benefits of marriage that have nothing to do with children, and everything to do with life-partners and the rights and responsibilities they want to give to -- and exact from -- each other.
Unordained: RE: Ensis (5); Your "law of the land argument" boils down to "it should be the law, because it already is", which is absolute rubbish. Furthermore, your call for compromise, while it sounds nice, is really just the most appropriate tactic when your side already has what it wants. You can argue endlessly, thus preserving the status quo, if you can get your opponents to agree that pleasing you is a valid goal, and believe that you're negotiating with them in good faith. You get extra points if you avoid offering any alternatives of your own, forever asking your opponents to come up with some that are good enough to discuss. I believe the Republicans found the right counter-move: instead you attempt to smash everything indiscriminately (repeal obamacare!) then setup committees to decide how to rebuild it from scratch. In this case, that would mean repealing all laws concerning marriage, even for heterosexuals, and then forcing everyone to have the discussion again, from scratch. How does that sound to you?
Unordained: RE: Ensis (6); If your job is not to save the country, then please, stop trying. You are not your brother's keeper. You're just his neighbor.
Unordained: RE: Ensis (7); If you want something like localized Sharia law, I'm all for it. The Turks had a "Millet" system that allowed people of different faiths to operate under a unified system of law for anything that really mattered, but under their own faith-based laws for family matters. The UK allows something similar, where there's marriage in the eyes of the government, and beyond that, the partners sign up to have their vows monitored and arbitrated by an Imam. This would allow Christians to hand power over to their churches to keep them on the straight and narrow, chastising and punishing them as they think appropriate. Maybe you could even have private court systems that still think women should be fully subservient to their husbands, must keep their hair long, etc. under some penalty (within the limits of the law of the land, but as long as the parties legally consented, I don't see why that wouldn't include the likes of corporal punishment. Hey, some people are into that, and that's their own business as far as I'm concerned.)
Unordained: RE: Ensis (8); It's easy to have a self-consistent view. For example: "I'm always right." And in debate, you can always refuse to bow to the opposition, regardless of the evidence or the argument. It's no feat worthy of praise to go into a debate steadfast against changing your beliefs.
Unordained: I'm not actually thrilled about posting in this thread:
1) It breaks the flow of an existing conversation, private counterpoints to public points aren't particularly fair.
2) Torrentor's status messages seem to be private (friends only?) so employers wouldn't see this stuff anyway.
3) The law forbids potential employers from discriminating on political and religious grounds. Even if they could find the thread, in an ideal world, it wouldn't matter. If it could have mattered, wouldn't you prefer not to work there anyway? If you ever let something slip at work, those same people would be apt to fire, demote, or off-lay you.
4a) I'm tired of the "let's agree to disagree" approach on emotional topics. People can't be arsed to have frank discussions about this stuff, they feel it should be private or not discussed at all, but once they're in the voting booth, they have no problem going ahead and voting their half-baked concepts. I realize people want to go into an argument knowing there will be an absolutely-recognized winner, and on emotional issues, I think they understand that won't happen -- so they'd rather avoid the humiliation of not winning in a fight where winning isn't really possible anyway.
4b) I feel that FB discourages negative feedback (only a "like" button; the ease with which you can quietly boot people off if they piss you off) that should be part of a healthy public shaming -- the normalization process by which society (your peers!) tells you that you're really wacko, and why. Instead people coalesce into groupthink cliques, and what little disagreement could have existed is shoved under the carpet for the sake of unity. So the one time we're having a useful discussion, to essentially say "ignore us, we'll take this private" is encouraging that same behavior: when you start getting into a real disagreement, either stop it or hide it, and not only will nobody know the extent of your disagreement, they also won't know your final positions and reasoning and how they relate to your actions (so they can then shame you for being a hypocrite, a bigot, a closet hater, or what-have-you.) Of course you keep your actions (voting) private anyway, so ... maybe that's a moot point.
Ensis:I think this format is better. We can spin off individual threads for subpoints instead of getting lost in an exploding topic.
Also, I'm the only one here that has to be nervous since my point of view isn't politically correct. I love in a very politically correct area. If you think that the fact that denying me a job would be illegal means it will never happen, you've got another thing coming. :)
Phaedra: Ummmm, we live in Oklahoma. If you think our viewpoint is the norm here, you are sorely mistaken.
While they can't do anything to me because of my political or religious views, I guarantee you that all of my co-workers and boss have radically different opinions that I do and they are friends of mine on Facebook. But I prefer to have the discussion in the open too so that other people can be involved. Frankly I already know everyone's opinion here and there's not much point in having the same conversation again.
Your point is well taken of course. My point is simply that having a discussion like this in private is smart. People are bad. People that think they are good can be the worst. :(
Ensis: More than one person has raised the question: Why bother talking?
A fair question. Maybe we can cut to the chase because I have one thing I don't understand about the point of view you all seem so to share. I know I'll never be able to convince you but I do want to understand you better.
The point of view that these views spring from seems to be rooted in a post-modern / post-post-modern view of the world which involves an evolutionary explanation of our origin and a morally relativistic approach to moral questions.
My point is simple. It might reflect a lack of understanding, so I'll give you an opportunity to clarify if you wish.
But before I do, maybe I should discover for a fact that I am arguing with morally relativistic evolutionists. Maybe yall decided to be something else since last we knew each other well. :)
Unordained: Evolutionist? Yeah, pretty much. Post-modern? Yeah, I guess. Moral relativist? Hmm, not exactly. But I think this makes the problem clearer. I think we need a new word: next to morality, add politeness (in the sense of polity, of getting along in a civil society.)
I have no objection to you being a moral absolutist. I can't, won't, don't desire to take that away from you. I think we're each a moral absolutist within the boundaries of our minds. What I'm asking you to do is look at the civil society around you, and find a way to comingle with those people. We're not asking you to partake, we're only asking you not to be an obstructionist for no (civil) reason.
Without meaning to demean your fervent beliefs about homosexuality, let's assume we're talking about rock'n'roll vs. classical music. Let's say you fervently believe classical music to be holy, perfect, and the only good music. It's the 40's all over again. Along comes rock'n'roll. You believe it's morally wrong. You won't play it in your house. You believe classical music makes people smarter, and rock will make people dumber. You believe that every time someone plays rock, classical music cries a little inside. You're afraid that if rock becomes acceptable, classical will disappear altogether. Nevermind that for generations, classical has been evolving and one generation's classical isn't the next generation's -- at least it was all classical. But no longer. This is different, and a line in the sand must be drawn. So you try to prevent people from playing rock at all, prevent them from listening to it. Eventually that fails, the courts tell you that regardless of your reasoning for classical being better, you can't use the force of law to eliminate rock. But you find a work-around: what if rock were allowed, but it were taxed differently from classical? It'd be like cigarettes, gasoline, or alcohol -- don't prevent, just impose a tax! Now you don't have to be all strong-armed about it; you don't have to go around beating up rockers; you can tell them that you're fine with them, you're tolerant, but what they're doing is wrong and therefore unworthy of equal treatment under the law. You're being perfectly gentle about it, but you're still using the force of law against them, in the form of taxes (which, maybe not obviously, do have big men with big sticks as enforcers.)
What I'm suggesting is this: if you're going to room with someone in college, and you believe classical is the one and only true music, and he thinks rock is the way to go, find a way to coexist that isn't overly painful to one or the other party. As long as he's not forcing rock down your ear canal, you can live with it. You don't have to tax him. You don't have to demean him. You also don't have to like rock or go around marketing it to others. All you have to do is learn that you can put on your earphones and listen to your classical, and as long as he keeps his noise down or even puts on his earphones, you're okay. Maybe his rock makes him dumber. Maybe it'll lead to the downfall of society. But probably not. Your job is to convince him -- without the aid of force, or taxes, or unequal treatment -- that your way really is intrinsically best. If you can't do that, using your muscle to make life difficult for him may make you feel moral, but it doesn't make you polite. It doesn't try to find a way for the greatest number of consenting participants to have the greatest amount of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
The public, polite choice doesn't have to be the same as the private, moral choice. I'm not asking you to be gay. I'm asking you to realize that it does you no harm -- neither breaks your leg nor picks your pocket -- and nobody else is being coerced either. There are practical benefits to being polite: you usually get something in return. I know that common-sense these days is not to trust your neighbor, to expect that if you give an inch, he'll take a mile, but think of what it's like when everyone's polite: you give up something you didn't really have a right to in the first place (who said that your membership in a pluralistic society gave you the right to penalize others?), and they'll probably do the same. You could actually see benefits to religion -- some of those "oppressions" you feel could go away, when society as a whole no longer feels the need to fear you, to hem you in, to prevent more harm. You can still try to convince gays not to be gay. Fine. Just don't use the law to do it for you. Get out there and do it yourself.
"Political correctness" is a framing term, a marketing ploy, abused by conservatives to portray themselves as just "speaking the truth bravely, honestly, without pretense, emotion, obedience to the hive-mind, or ulterior motive", etc. Those same politically-incorrect actions, portrayed differently, could come across as crass, overbearing, out of line, racist, bigot, etc. I bring this up because I'm using the term "polite" in a specific sense, and this other term could cast it in an undesirable light. Which was exactly the point of the framing, to channel, redirect, and ultimately whitewash. It's very effective. "They dun'good."
In case my "tax rock'n'roll" analogy doesn't make immediate sense: if you take two people (or two pairs of people) doing the same thing, but give one of them tax breaks, incentives, refunds, extra benefits, etc. -- then you're effectively stealing from one of them to fund the other. It may not be a "gay marriage tax" (in that the marriage would have to exist first, to then tax it extra), it's a "non-gay-marriage un-tax". But you're taking people who are going to be gay regardless, who are going to find a partner regardless, who are going to want to settle down and cohabitate no matter what (love trumps taxes) ... but you don't give them the same benefits, but still tax them at the same rate, then logically part of the taxes they pay go to the heterosexuals in the form of tax breaks. It's like Robin Hood, only you're stealing from the gays to give to the straights. I wanted to be very clear on the math, sorry if I'm overdoing it.
Some comments are obviously missing here. Facebook seems to have eaten them.
Unordained: bigot, n: someone who is blindly and obstinately attached to some creed or opinion and intolerant toward others
You wouldn't qualify if you were only obstinately attached to your creed; but when you become intolerant toward others ... yeah, I don't know of a better word. That's exactly the distinction I'm trying to make.
Ensis: How obscenely arbitrary. Gay people: ok. Bigots: not ok. People who hate bigots: ok. Pedophiles: not ok. Cheesburgers: debatable.
Note too that I am not blindly attached to a creed and I am not intolerant toward others. Tolerance does not mean "give them whatever they want." Tolerance does not mean allowing people to redefine a centuries-old institution because they feel like it.
This is why we don't want to swim in your moral sea, it is altogether too fashionable for us. We don't want to have to change our morality every year to match what others are wearing.
Unordained: tolerant: tending to permit, allow, understand, or accept something; tending to withstand or survive
Yeah, I'd saw you're intolerant. Your default is not to permit. Your default is to stick to the status-quo. You permit only when forced. That's what a tyrant does -- see the stories of petty tyrants all over the middle-east in the last few weeks.
*What* institution? What does that even mean? Because you have some idea of what "marriage is", that means it's now an "institution" that you have to defend? Because it's been a certain way means that it can be no different? Let's never change! Let's stay the same forever! Change is bad! Change kills! That argument ... isn't even wrong.
Ensis: Aint that the pot calling the kettle black. What a joke. You arbitrariliy decide what's right and wrong and you arbitrarily decide who's good and bad. You arbitrarily decide what to tolerate and to shun. And anybody who shuns what you tolerate, you shun.
What a joke.
Unordained: Shunning you would require less effort than this, but you asked to understand.
I've offered reasons, without resorting to magic, to explain the reasoning behind the position. There are real-world consequences to having a society that limits freedoms unnecessarily, in terms of cohesion and efficiency. If this were a free-market question, we'd be discussing competition, the equivalent of gays (and other minority groups, depending on the situation) seceding from the union every time you limit them. It's harder to switch (and split) countries than it is to switch cell phone carriers (though maybe not by much), so instead of a well-lubricated self-correcting system, we already have friction and stress. I'm saying you're adding to that. I'm not normally one to call economic and social sciences "real science", but this stuff is testable. It's real. It's tangible. It's not arbitrary. And it's not funny.
You've failed to show any real-world consequences. I think Uncle Midriff's questions are fair, and still give you an opening to advance your position. I also started a separate comment thread for compromises, which you agreed to offer.
Ensis: Semantics (shunning vs merely labeling me a bigot) aside, it's is still rooted in arbitrary value judgements. I'm genuinely hoping that your moral system is more than that. Is it?
Is there any real difference between a moral system that is rooted in a biblical fantasy and a moral system that is rooted in trendy ideas?
Unordained: See my other response about trendiness, but again, morality is beside the point, this is about government. It wouldn't matter if any given moral system were absolute, unchanging, and measurably well-defined. You still have to deal with a pluralistic government overseeing the interactions of people who disagree at least on the finer details of morality.
Because you won't stop bringing morality into this, I'll lay out why I find it irrelevant. User the word as referring to what an individual considers acceptable behavior on his own part, regardless of the world around him. It's what he could do and still live with himself, without guilt and shame. I don't have a word for the inverse, what he could accept being done unto him, so I'll go with needs. And then there are the freedoms he wants, thing he would do to himself or others, given the choice, to enhance his own life. I think we're approaching a concept of government concerned mainly with allowing people as many freedoms as it can without violating other's needs. There will always be someone out there who feels hurt every tine a note of jazz music is played anywhere, even out of earshot -- and it's hard on us to tell him he's just being oversensitive, that his demands are unrealistic, and hurtful to others, because it's entirely likely, as with you, that he's not joking. But I, for one, would rather start by talking him down from his crazy tree. This isn't about morals, you see? It's about negotiating needs and wants. The anti-jazz guy's morals aren't a part of the government equation. They come in to play when he's granted freedoms that he doesn't feel right taking advantage of.
Ensis: Remember what you said here. I plan to use it against you in whatever other thread it is germane.
Unordained: Smack? I thought we couldn't go any lower. I wouldn't blame the lurkers for unsubscribing at this point. Or any other.
I haven't until now even brought up that you yourself stated, in the previous public thread: "That's not in line with our theology. It's not our job to save this country." How you reconcile that with the next statement: "Vote your conscience? Fine." is anybody's guess, because it sure looks to me like you were admitting that your religion does not require you to push your morals on everyone else, yet ... you do anyway, in the name of your religion? And you want to argue vociferously in favor of doing so? Please illuminate.
Uncle Midriff: I have some questions for Ensis. Unordained has asked one of these already, but I will re-ask it here since it fits:
1. How does someone else's gay marriage harm you?
2. How does someone else's gay marriage harm society?
3. How does the government not allowing gay marriage benefit you?
4. How does the government not allowing gay marriage benefit society?
5. How does the government allowing gay marriage harm the church?
6. How does the government not allowing gay marriage benefit the church?
I am asking these questions sincerely as I am honestly curious about your answers to them.
Unordained: And because we haven't said this enough times: we're not going to redefine marriage to include marriages to children, animals, dead people, plants, minerals, incapacitated persons (vegetables) ... because behind all this is a basic principle -- informed consent -- which we, for physiological reasons, for legal-due-process reasons, don't extend to children, animals, dead people, plants, minerals, or the comatose. For the same reason we finally recognized that women could make their own decisions in marriage, and then recognized that there was no compelling reason to prevent mix-raced marriages, I think we'll recognized that gays are consenting adults too, capable of making these decisions. They're not children. They're not idiots. We have no right to be paternalistic toward them. If we run into aliens, it's possible we'll need to re-evaluate: if they're as mentally and emotionally superior (or inferior) to us as the relationship between adults and children, maybe we should prevent that. Any other situations you're worried about?
But let me guess: you don't trust that. Obviously I would say nice things like "no, we won't allow pedophiles to marry children", but I have no power to prevent it, just as I'm powerless to get you to release your death grip. If we do this, society as a whole clearly has no objective morality (suddenly,) and without that, it's apt to do *anything*. It's a slippery slope, regardless of my good intentions. And once again, this is the last straw, the line in the sand. To protect children, we have to oppress gays. Obviously.
Ensis: It's all fluid Unordained. Informed consent? Marriage is easier to understand than informed consent. Marriage was 1 man and 1 woman well before anyone had spoken the words. People of age 13 or 14 have been married for centuries before anyone had a problem with it. The tides have turned. They will again. What is wrong (by your standards) will be right, what is right will be wrong, and pretending like Informed Consent is some objective standard for moral acceptability is just silly. It seems that everything is relative in your system, but to what?
NoGunsLibertarian: Hey! I am invited into this private discussion, now! It makes me feel elite! I gotta tell ya, Ensis, I feel like the institution of marriage is too important to let the government define it. Governments of all kinds have been doing and advocating immoral things throughout history.
To put any group of bureaucrats in charge of defining what God has already defined is unnecessary and dangerous.
For this reason, I advocate that any two adults be allowed to form a legal partnership, so that they will have joint property, be able to visit each other in hospitals or prisons and so on. The ability to enter into this contract for a partnership would be limited to consenting adults, as are all contracts.
This would get the government out of the consecration business (where they have no business, anyway) and get them back into the civil contract business, where their place is more appropriate.
Unordained: Fluid? You remind me of that anti-evolutionist "scientist" telling the congregation of the little baptist church that science changes it's mind all the time, but the bible never does, and therefore the bible is perfectly true and science is useless.
I'd like to think that over time we've learned a few lessons about good governance, that it's more than just trends and fashions. Democracy, less child labor, free press... We may be drunkenly zigzagging down the road, but I think we're getting somewhere. We'll have our setbacks, sure, but our societies are experimentally figuring out what works. The US is now the longest living republic, yes? Maybe that can be attributed to our separation of church and state, or the lofty goals of our bill of rights? Time will tell, one nation isn't a statistically significant sample. But do you see what I'm saying? Do you see what I mean by tangible yet?
Uncle Midriff: #1. So the harm it causes you is that it offends you (your sensibilities, what you consider to be holy, etc.)?
Just to be clear, I'm asking these (and any other questions below and elsewhere) in complete sincerity. I'm trying to gain an understanding of your position on this matter, and these questions are my tool for doing that. I realize that in this type of discussion, it would be easy and maybe even reasonable to assume that I'm asking these questions with some sort of snarky or incredulous tone, but I want to assure you that I am not.
#2. I'm not interested in the accuracy of your predictions of the harm caused by gay marriage to society. What I am interested in is getting as clear a picture as possible of your position on the matter. I was/am also not interested in leveraging any threats against what I might perceive to be your potential arguments or in placing any traps.
Thank you for your answer. However, I feel the need to point out that, in my brief time in this discussion, I have not articulated my position on this issue. One could try to assume the nature of my position based on the fact that Unordained was the one to add me to this group, but, as evidenced by his own participation in this group, he has no problem hanging around and discussing things with people with whom he disagrees. :-)
#3. I did not intend to imply that the only reason you would hold the position that you do regarding this matter is because of and only because of some sort of benefit to you personally. I apologize for the miscommunication. Thank you for your answer.
#4, #5, and #6. Thank you for your answers.
I will spend some time thinking these over and will make another post addressing them and my own views on the matter soon (probably tomorrow night).
Ensis: Uncle Midriff, As to #1, yes. I view it as extremely intolerant to force the issue. People like Unordained are choosing who to trample, who to favor. Christians aren't likely to blow you up and the cultural tides are ebbing for us. We simply aren't the cool kids anymore. So our wishes aren't considered. The things we are sensitive about just aren't on western minds. For instance, we don't like our beliefs referred to as "magic." Would you say such a thing about Hinduism in India? I don't think so.
As to #2, I'm good at sensing traps. If you weren't laying one, that's fine. But it's good for me to be clear and reasonable and be aware of any logical fallacies I'm treading close to. Please don't think I think less of you. I'm a trap layer myself. :)
#3. No harm done. I'm not offended. But I do want to point out that the line of questioning seems to be attempting to build a case that we Christians have no real reason for opposing gay marriage.
In reality, what many of us see is this: if we are right, many people like Unordained are doomed. And if we are wrong, it doesn't matter a whit. The universe would be no better and no worse a place in any objective sense if we all just murdered each other. Afterall, we kill animals and that's fine. They kill us, and that's fine. They kill each other and that's fine. Why shouldn't it be fine for us to kill one another? There is no possible answer that satisfies that takes it's root in culture or nature. Culture is shifting sands and nature? We master nature. We make nature work for us. From a sheerly scientific mindset, justice, culture, right and wrong do not exist. They are simply ideas. At best, they are ideas that describe reality in rather arbitrary terms. So they are, at best, no better than your average sothern baptist fundie looking down their nose at someone who is doing wrong according to our book.
To quote Death from the Hogfather: "Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some, some rightness in the universe, by which it may be judged."
I'm tempted to agree. If we can compromise without compromising the definition of marriage, why not?
Unordained, when will you realize that if there is no standard there is no progress? There can be only movement. Who is to say whether we are moving in the right direction? Who can define the virtues by which we should be judged?
Unordained: Great point -- so we just skip compromise, vote each other to the death, and see what remains? Awesome.
Christians are hardly under attack, with ninety-some-odd percent of the population. You're already using the force of law against the innocent, and claim that to ask you to stop is to trample all over you? Actually, I can see that. Occasionally a sniper has to shoot the terrorist with the gun. Ain't pretty. From the newly-victimized person's point of view, I can see how that would be harm.
Ensis: "Christians," that is, those that call themselves that without actually living up to the name (that is, following Christ) may be numerous. But those who do are indeed under attack. Why, just the other day, some bloke decided my religion was bigotry. Can you imagine the intolerance? ;)
Uncle Midriff: I don't think people disagreeing with you is what Unordained meant by "attack."
Ensis: Come on. Bigot? Idiot? Magic? Say that to a Muslim in Iran. Say it in a language he speaks. Find out what happens. People take offense when you insult their intelligence.
And this is an every day thing for a "creationist" like me. People have no idea what we really believe and think. It's far easier to get sound bites from people who are less well studied.
Unordained: Did I say those easily offended Iranians were tolerant?
There's a difference between a farmer with his shotgun trying to throw you off his property, and one coming into your home in the middle of the night for some target practice. I see this issue here as merely getting you to stop trampling on others -- after that, I'm through with you. I have no I interest in coming into your church and redefining anything. I don't care to change your morals. I've made that clear. I want you to take your hands out of someone else's pocket, not put mine into yours. Is that really so complicated?
We get plenty of great soundbites from the highly educated creationist, thank you very much.
Unordained: Compromises already offered:
1) Remove all marital rights from law. Any law that mentions "husband, wife, spouse, ... " shall be null and void. Any rights and privileges and duties and responsibilities that could be acquired, transfered, or acquiesced to under the former rules, must also be available through private contracts, which will have no name, but for which we'll probably want a standard sheet of paper, because everyone will want one.
2) Rename marriage (in the government context) to "civil union", allow any adult at or above the age of consent and not otherwise impaired to join.
3) Don't be an idiot, and do option (2), but under the name "marriage", and admit that just because it's called the same thing doesn't imply any other overlap. Religious marriage is religious. Government marriage is not.
Facebook ate more messages, it seems...
Phaedra: That's why I think it would be ideal to not allow churches to officially marry anyone, so that they are not forced to do so. This is how it is done in some countries. I don't mean not allowing a religious ceremony, but I really think those two things should be separate.
Phaedra: It seems you misunderstood what I was saying. I was not saying I didn't believe this to be a moral issue, but that I don't believe it is the role of government to prevent it.
Unordained: That's the danger when you don't compromise, don't find a common logical basis for laws -- if you're ever in the minority, you're screwed. You're afraid of the same thing happening to you that's happened to all other minorities over the centuries. I'm actually trying to protect you too, though you don't see it, by giving you your own sphere of personal space not to be intruded upon. But you can't have that if you won't grant it to others. There can't be a constitutional amendment "everyone must mind their own business" if Christians or anyone else is going to need an exemption from the get-go.