Compositor B's Rants

Because some unknown guy working in a 17-century printshop should still have a platform to spout off.

Chess, an Iguana and Jared Loughner

Posted by Compositor B on January 11, 2011

Ever tried discussing chess strategies with an iguana? Me neither, but I imagine it’d be frustrating.  I see myself saying something about the defensive merits of castling. I then imagine the iguana licking its eyeballs, eating a few flies, and crapping all over its cage floor. When I try getting the iguana to stop crapping and eye-licking, and to focus on the issue at hand, I then imagine him emitting a loud and angry BRAWK! to silence me.*

Like I said, frustrating.

So why does the current debate over the AZ shootings put me in this frame of mind? Is it one side’s seeming inability or unwillingness to engage the facts and evidence? Do they just want to score political points, and so engage in an obnoxious and toxic display of faux outrage? Can they even help themselves, or is crapping all over the floor and screeching their basic response to any horrible situation, a ready-made “answer” regardless of the “question?”

Before pondering that, let’s get some basic Joe Friday stuff out of the way. Here, as I understand it, is the fact pattern in the case:

  • At a community event in Tucson, a man shoots many people, killing six. Among the injured, a US Congresswoman, and among the dead, a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge.
  • Nothing is known of the shooter or his motives; for a while, his name is unknown. Nonetheless, within hours, a significant portion of the left side of the blogosphere and elements within the mainstream media (e.g., NYT op-ed columnist Paul Krugman) lay the blame variously upon (a) Sarah Palin and a political map (b) the Tea Party movement, in general, (c) conservatives and/or Republicans, in general.  Even the Pima County Sherriff engages in such speculation, defending it as simply “his opinion” when pressed in an interview to describe any evidence or proof he may possess.
  • Significant figures on the right side of the blogosphere and a number of conservative pundits react angrily and incredulously to the accusations. The “argument” such as it is, seems to split into two overlapping issues:
  • Issue 1: Both sides dredge up lots and lots of examples of “excessive” political rhetoric on the other side – rhetoric largely (but not exclusively) containing guns or military imagery / expressions.
  • Issue 2: The left continues to insist that right-side “excess” is to blame, whereas conservatives insist that there is zero evidence of the shooter (now identified as Jared Loughner) being influenced by any discernable ideology as we understand left-right political divisions. Conservative anger is likely higher at this stage, owing to the feeling that they or people identified with them are being smeared solely for political gain.
  • Pieces of evidence regarding Loughner begin to emerge. While no consistent pattern can be identified, at this stage it appears: (1) He was very mentally disturbed, (2) He was a 9-11 “truther,” (3) He seemed to have a bizarre fixation on Congresswoman Giffords, perhaps as far back as 2007, (4) He was a self-proclaimed atheist, with a skull shrine in his back yard, (5) He also seemed obsessed with currency and language as means of social control, and ranted about mind control and “conscience dreaming,” and put together really clumsy syllogisms.

So there you have it. Charges have been filed, undoubtedly more evidence will filter through.

So for the love of Zod – why, in the absence of any evidence, did the Left begin promulgating a hateful smear, a blood libel if you will, that responsibility for Loughner lay with their political opponents? Is there a single scrap of evidence that Loughner was influenced by Palin, maps with crosshairs, Tea Party slogans, right-wing talk show hosts, conservative politicians, etc? Is there any evidence he was influenced by much of anything beyond the sick little voices in his head?

Don’t strain yourself, I’ve got these: Because they thought they could get away with it. No. And, uh, no again.

“Doesn’t matter,” huff the self-serving self-righteous ones, furiously licking their eyes and evacuating their bowels:  “all this political hate you right-wingers spew is too much. It’s gonna send someone over the edge.”

Hmm. Complete non-sequitur. But OK then, related questions:

Is there any evidence (there’s that word again!) that historically speaking, our political rhetoric is in fact “worse than ever?” Even if so, isn’t it easy enough to show with a minimum of effort that both political sides have a lot of what is now being characterized as “excessive political rhetoric?” Has the right produced any Obama assassination porn, or hung politicians in effigy, or come close to closing the “giant puppet with drippy blood fangs” gap? Given Loughner’s views, isn’t it as likely he’d have been influenced by far-leftist messages, assuming there was any evidence of that either?

I’ll handle these as well: No. Yes. Nope. Yup.  

“BRAWK!!!” quoth the iguana.

In actuality, of course, the situation is worse than debating chess strategies with an iguana. The iguana has no malice in it, it simply is what it is, and cannot be otherwise.

But you, my blood-libeling leftists drooling to score political points regardless of the collateral damage to the truth, decency or the political civility you occasionally claim to crave, you DO have a choice. You can choose to spread lies and unsubstantiated filth in an effort to cash in on an act of terror committed by a lunatic before the bodies are cold.  Alternately, you can choose to exercise the forbearance and decency you consistently urge others to display. Either way, you’re not an iguana, and so enjoy no protection from the dismissive scorn and contempt you will have earned from making the wrong choice.

The choice is yours, but hurry up and decide. Someone’s got to clean up this cage.

*To be fair, I have no idea if this is how angry iguanas sound, but why suspend your disbelief on that small point?

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A Lib-Con Primer?

Posted by Compositor B on August 4, 2010

If asked about my overall political/social “philosophy,” I’d answer “Libertarian-Conservative,” in which the Lib definitely comes before the Con. But is there a way to paint my “Lib-Con” philosophy with some broad brushstrokes? It seems I hold a number of contradictory, yet complementary beliefs.

  1. I’m an eternal optimist, yet firmly believe that our civilization is but a thin and hard-won veneer, under which our innate savagery lurks, constantly seeking to burst through and ruin centuries of achievement in one fell swoop.
  2. Humans are almost infinitely innovative, flexible, capable. Per the late economist Julian Simon, the human brain is the “ultimate resource.” That said, human nature is NOT infinitely malleable. There are some things hard-wired in a broad sense, although possessed to varying degrees by individuals. We possess near infinite adaptability, paired with a solid, nearly un-changing core.  
  3. I believe maximizing individual freedom is the greatest good, and believe that the spontaneous order arising from millions of people making their own choices always yields a better outcome than any centrally-planned vision of self-anointed elites. OTOH, governments are needed to maintain order and the framework for such freedom to flourish. The darkness that lies in the hearts of men needs such a framework to resist its influence. And this governmental framework must likewise be limited, insofar as governments composed of humans will be likewise vulnerable to this dark love of power.
  4. The traditions and norms handed down through the centuries reflect hard-earned wisdom, and should never be tossed lightly aside. However, times change, societies evolve, and norms and traditions must occasionally yield to this new reality. When to embrace, and when to change or even reject this distilled wisdom of the past is an eternal challenge.
  5. In a similar vein, one of our greatest struggles is sorting out the optimal posture towards change and uncertainty. The unlikely collusion of far-left and far-right on some issues can be properly understood as a collusion between those who are resistant to large-scale change and whose tolerance of uncertainty and civilization’s general acceleration is low (Virginia Postrel dubs them “stasists,” and her book “The Future and its Enemies” is worth a close read). The call to return to a supposed golden age of traditional values, or to a progressive vision of societal central planning both reflect this desire to tamp down and control acceleration, change and uncertainty in society.
  6. The collectivist and individualist impulses pull in opposite directions, yet obviously individual and societal needs must be balanced, the impulses must be made to align. The mistake, IMO, is to imagine that “society” can somehow be defined separately from the individual in the sense that a zero-sum tradeoff mindset prevails when considering policies and law. Individual and societal benefits resulting from law and policy are only truly “benefits” when they are synergistic, so that the sum total of “good” outweighs the parts. Laws and policies that merely transfer a benefit or create one at the expense of another are giving in to the pull of one of the above impulses.
  7. I believe human beings are hardwired for dogma, it’s in the genetic code. There’s a need to believe in something larger than oneself, for a faith of some sort. Religion is but one variety of faith, and IMO, Western Judeo-Christianity is the most benevolent such dogma or faith. It’s bloody history aside, its influence on the development of western civilization has been overwhelmingly positive, and in its modern incarnation, provides the best we have yet found. In the absence of such a faith, humanity turns to much bloodier and grim faiths – the cults of personality of tyrants, or the collectivist totalitarian nightmares of communism, Nazism and socialism. Worship of the state turns out to be far, far worse than any sin committed by religion as a general rule. And this is the viewpoint of an outsider; I don’t consider myself to be religious. This is there the “Lib” and Con” pieces track in opposite directions, yet arrive at the same conclusion. Conservatives, to stereotype, are very supportive of religion and are often religious themselves, seeing belief in a higher power as vital to guiding moral behavior and a communitarian spirit, and seeing in the lack of religion an inevitable spiral towards narcissism, nihilism, and societal destruction. The libertarian analysis is that the positive role religion plays in channeling the human need for dogma in the most beneficial manner, plus its role as buffer between the individual and the power-hungry state, make it a strong societal good. YMMV on this one, I understand.                      

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Atlatl?

Posted by Compositor B on June 5, 2010

Molly was reading an article about a college “atlatl” team (at Franklin Pierce University) and asked me if I’d ever heard of it – that atlatl, that is. “A spear-throwing device?” I asked, reaching deep into the dorktastic, pre-teen D&D memory banks. Wonderful, I had reflexive memory that this was a device used to hurl spears. My half-orc Paladin-Assassin probably got killed by an atlaltl-using Beholder, or some such. Glad to know that yet another completely useless fact has burrowed into the old noggin, and will probably eject something I might have wanted to retain, like some future grandkid’s birthday.

“Yeah, how the hell did you know that?!” she asked, failing to give me adoring looks of admiration. Heh, lady, if you’ve just now figured out you married a nerd, then it’s a bit too late…

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Actual Email Exchange with a Student

Posted by Compositor B on March 22, 2010

 

Dear Professor,

 I am the typical college student who puts everything off till the last minute.  That means that today is the day to work on the ___ assignment.  I was wondering where the raw data is for this, because I just found the word doc you attached in your email with the problem to solve but no data so i’m not sure how to proceed.  Thanks.

Dear Student,

And I’m the typical professor who completely ignores students 24 hours before a crucial assignment is due! This email has been automatically generated! See ya, sucker!

Lest you think I was being cruel, the data were on the 2nd page of the assignment he had in his possession. I even typed “AUTO-REPLY” in the subject line, just for additional fun. However, my good nature took over and I sent an email explaining where he could find the data a few minutes later. I just couldn’t help myself.

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Gee, I Guess I Feel Vindicated…

Posted by Compositor B on November 28, 2009

UPDATE (11-12-11): ahem

Those who know me know I’ve long derided “anthropogenic global warming” (AGW) as a complete crock, a 21st-century fertility cult serving simultaneously as a religion substitute for those who hold traditonal religion in contempt, and as a convenient cover for the usual unholy alliance of politicians, bureaucrats and cultural thought-leaders to grab more power and control over the rest of us. And this scam is aided and abetted by scientists and certain big companies looking to ride the gravy train to wealth and/or fame.  

But honestly, I never really thought about a concerted effort to scam the rest of us as such.  The natural confluence of human greed and a science herd-mentality seemed sufficient to explain the rise of an idea that’s simply laughable on its face if you apply the dullest edge of Occam’s Razor to it. 

But lo and behold, turns out the “science” is indeed so flimsy that a concerted effort to keep the whole house of cards intact has indeed been under way. The growing “climategate,” (or “warmergate” or “climaquiddick,” whatever) is an early holiday delight to us AGW  “deniers.” The link above to Tim Blair’s wrap-up is a mere appetizer, by the way, feel free to read and further research.

Me? I’m just gonna bask in the glow of knowing that sometimes, your gut tells you what’s right and what’s pernicious nonsense, and it’s nice to have some empirical validation of that inner voice that speaks so urgently from a more primitive, but perhaps more perceptive, part of our brain.  

Cross-posted at Is This The Change?

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One of Those Guys…

Posted by Compositor B on October 1, 2009

 You know one of those guys who constantly sends out “humor” emails he thinks are hilarious, things that barely rise to the level of “very slightly amusing” and mostly rate as “three minutes of my life I’ll never get back?”

And furthermore, he sends them at least a month after they’ve been floating around the Net, so you’ve seen them three times already?

You know one of those guys? Well…I think I know about twelve.

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Running Novice

Posted by Compositor B on October 1, 2009

A conversation with a running store owner and another customer, proving that I am still a mere wanna-be in the world of distance running:

Customer: “Yeah, that glide really helps stop my foot from chafing raw.”
Owner: “I get real bad chafing on my nipples, so that’s where I lube up real good.”
Me: “HA HA HA! Funny!”
{Two looks of scornful “who is this idiot?”}
Me: “Oops, thought that was a joke…” {awkward silence}

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Thundarr-Blogging, Pt. 2

Posted by Compositor B on June 10, 2009

More excitement from everyone’s favorite Conan wanna-be from the year 3994, Thundarr the Barbarian! This installment’s episode: “Harvest of Doom.” Comments, again in no particular order:

Why, exactly, is it necessary to stop the speeding train? For “lords of light’s” sake, can’t you just let the thing hurtle by?

Note that Thundarr thinks the train is an animal, and Ariel has to tell his dumb ass it’s a train. Once again, we watch in envy as the hottie chooses to date the dumb jock. Even the futuristic sci-fi/fantasy world of 3994 turns out to be just like high school, circa any year, pretty much.

In one of many coincidences, this train just happens to be carrying a crop of dangerous flowers and a bunch of scaly villains up to no good. I guess Thundarr’s instincts to blindly run down and search a train that moments before he thought was an actual animal were on target.

The “DEATH-flowers” are not well-named, seeing as they only render one unconscious and/or allow others to control your mind. The future’s version of “EXTREME marketing,” perhaps.

The Carocks are just about the most buffoonish bunch of bad guys since the storm-troopers of Star wars. They also tend to flee when their weapons get knocked out of their hands, in spite of being heavily muscled with razor-sharp claws and teeth.

“Carocks” = mutant, humanoid crocodiles. Yeah, I know. “Carock-o-diles.” Moving on…

Thundarr continues to demonstrate the social skills and sensitivity he displayed in the last episode by yelling at terrified old ladies. This time, when a young girl saves him from a brutal swamp monster, he immediately and contemptuously calls her “swamp urchin.” That’s like telling a stranger who just gave you the Heimlich maneuver in a restaurant “thanks, ya filthy hobo!”

He also furrows his brow and snorts “females!” to express his general male bewilderment and annoyance at Ariel and the Swamp Urchin agreeing on paying her for her help. Thundarr, you sexist pig you….

For all his being a mighty barbarian warrior in a dangerous and deadly world, sneaking up on Thundarr is easier than winning a spelling bee with a two-year-old. Every other time he turns around, right behind him within arm’s reach are (1) furry, poisonous snakes, or (2) more Carocks waiting to chop off his head. Dude, pay a little more attention to your surroundings, a little less to Ariel’s caboose. Although that is a mighty fine caboose. Ariel is a prime example of smokin’ hot 80s cartoon cheesecake.

Aha – Thundarr must fight his best friend, Ookla, who is under sinister mind-control. Now where have I seen this before? Oh yeah: http://www.lirpa.de/pic/lirpa_06.jpg

“Ariel, Ookla, riiide!” Ah, that still gives me goose bumps. No, not really.

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Thundarr the Barbarian “Liveblog”

Posted by Compositor B on June 4, 2009

Well, as “live” as one can blog a cartoon rerun that envisioned 1994 as the “near future.”  This episode: “Prophecy of Peril” wherein Thundarr et al. must fight the evil wizard Vashtar by getting three women together who, according to a prophecy, will finish him off. No time stamps, I just did this as it played.

* Advice for evil wizards: when you capture the woman whom the prophesy predicts will cause your downfall, KILL HER, don’t put her in the dungeon, you idiot!

* If you make the mistake above, then for God’s sake don’t be stupid enough to tell her friends where you’ve hidden her away, allowing them to spring her.

* Seriously, this “evil wizard” is about as menacing and competent as Gargamel.

 *So…the supermodel captured from 1994 and brought to the future is now completely fine with the fact that she’s magically grown wings?

*When you yell “Be Silent Woman! We need your cart to overthrow the evil wizard!” and she’s terrified by your giant, wookie-like companion, don’t just assume she gives up the cart because she hates the local wizard.

* As a general rule, yelling at frail old ladies is not cool. That’s somebody’s grandma, dude.

*Thundarr “Prophecy of Peril” episode wrapup: Evil wizards should not squander their shot at world domination by (1) failing to kill the only ones who can kill them when they have the chance, (2) revealing where they have imprisoned the aforementioned, so their friends can spring them, and (3) failing to invest in basic combat training for their evil minions.

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If I wrote Facebook Quizzes, Part 1

Posted by Compositor B on May 7, 2009

You just took the “Who were You in a Past Life?” quiz, and the result is: “A Sixth-Century Gaulish peasant named Glerf.”

“You live in a filthy hut with dirt floors, heated by dung fires. You have no redeeming characteristics whatsoever, and died at 32 years of age, old and toothless.”

You just took the “What 1980s Sci-fi Cartoon Character are You” quiz and the result is “Ookla the Mok

“You are a hairy, smelly humanoid who only communicates in animal grunts. Your language makes Wookie sound like the Queen’s English. Your best friends are a hot babe and a Conan wanna-be from the future.”

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