Category Archives: Uncategorized

A list for homeschoolers, by Foxfier

Foxfier, here.

I homeschool our three kids—in as much as you can school, rather than just
be a mom to a one and three year old– but the five year old is doing fairly
well. From logging into the computer (with a password for her account) to
reading random short signs when we’re walking around and struggling with
reading a traditional clock, she’s learning. A lot of why we’re
trying to homeschool is safety related (we believe it’s a bad idea to teach
children that laws against assault don’t apply to protecting them, they only
apply to prosecuting if there’s a defense attempted) but a sizable chunk is
simply that it’s fun to feed her information as fast as she can chew
it down. Any mercy we’re taking on the poor teachers saddled with a child
that has that much pig headedness on both sides of the family is incidental.

So here’s a bunch of the resources I’d recommend, along with some that were
suggested at; I hope others will add their favored resources,
since not everyone is doing elementary and pre-K education. All the
internet ones have good things that are free, although some sell additional
material. Mine are pretty heavy on print-outs. I’m thinking of making it a
“page” on my blog for easy sharing/updating, so please suggest new
additions. Title them something like EDUCATION RESOURCE and a short
description, perhaps?

Especially I’d like those who have a religious view to give the exact flavor
of their current observance, and what they consider a high quality source
for it. (I am an observant Roman Catholic, and would point to,
for example.) Likewise, if your job is one where there’s a lot of
misinformation, what the job is and a good resource; all those things where
you read something in the newspaper and growl about how incredibly
wrong what “everyone knows” is; please don’t argue with folks about a
source unless you share the belief/job it’s explaining, please, please!

My mom did the best she could to teach us outside of school, just like our
Hostess did for her sons, but my mom was greatly hobbled by the problem of
finding a source of information that was accurate and intelligible to those
who didn’t already know what was true. School really didn’t help,
between skipping subjects or leaving out very important bits. I have a
basic biology education that would make my science teacher sit down and cry
because it couldn’t be duplicated (in part because it was tied in with
emergency medical work on animals… you simply aren’t going to get 35 kids
in to help with a pig giving birth, or pulling calves, or even butchering a
bull that was hit by a car in the middle of the night) but there are a lot
of chunks of history where I simply don’t know a source I could trust.


– used their free part to start the kids on computers, ended up
subscribing to the entire site. (not expensive, once a year, multiple
computers) Good to just put the kids in front of with a mouse and
occasionally help with website navigation.”>Kid’s
Learning Station
letter printouts – Tracers, printing, matching, word
association, fill in the letter worksheets, some letter based games,
coloring sheets. Biggest complaint is that each sheet is one at a time, so
it takes a lot of clicking to make an A-Z book.

Kid Zone Tracer
– Choose what they trace in block, script or cursive, has several
automatic options at a click, and can copy a line through the rest of the
page. Great for teaching “this is my name” type things.
Handwriting Worksheets
– has reading and printing practice, with block
printing, Zaner-Bloser® Traditional Style script, D’Nealian® Style script,
cursive. Tons of cute pages.

All Kids Network
– letters, shapes, matching, spelling, reading, fill in the
blank, sorted by topic instead of what it teaches you. (ie, “summer” not pre
writing through word-search) Has pre-writing exercises that my three year
old can manage. Mostly.

Success With: Kindergarten
workbook from Scholastic. I bought a bunch
of these from Costco several years ago and finally started on it– my
daughter mostly loves it, and if you add a basic 25c notebook they can copy
the letters more. Reading the directions can be reading practice, as well.

Bargain Bin dry erase boards from the Back To School supply bin, markers,
and permanent markers (I suggest something colorful for easier tracing).
Make your own “tracer board.” It’s fairly easy with a ruler, and rubbing
alcohol does nicely to erase the permanent marker if you’re quick.

Mead flash cards, or any other set that looks good to you; I spend a lot of
time at the bargain bin, and with a little ingenuity a lot of the basic
cards can be used for two kids at once. (Example: ‘younger, what is this
color? Correct. Elder, how do you spell red? Elder, what is this number?
Correct. Younger, count to sixteen, please.”) Use some sort of treat,
anything from sunflower seeds or goldfish crackers to jelly beans or mini
chocolate chips as a proportionate reward.

Have them tell you what random letters are, or what sound a letter makes, or
what letter makes a sound. “What is the first sound?” and
following questions are also helpful.


Numbers, Math

Starfall again, although
their free
samples are very
Heavy on songs. A bit quick to “help” kids find the right answer, although
it seems to have actually helped my eldest figure out the right answer.

Kid Zone “math” sheets–
everything from associating the numbers with their written symbol to basic
word problems. Go to the bottom for more suggested sources. Again, lots of

numbers/math sheets.

Coloring Books
- actually, lots of worksheets. Numbers, letters, math…
maybe I should make a section for “worksheets.”

Donald in Mathmagic Land- less for direct learning than for getting the idea
that math is useful, and as a mental health break for parents. (I suggest
Saturday morning.)

House Rock
- you can get a collection of all of the videos for about
thirteen bucks.

Uno deck. For little kids, play in “teams” with mom and dad; when they’ve
got the idea, they can play against you on their own. (Thus far, a kids
only game isn’t happening.)

Flash cards. Both actual numbers or math related ones, and the treats from
them. It is amazing how high a two year old can count when there
are jelly beans on the line.

Randomly ask them how many of something there are; we’re working on
memorizing multiplication tables verbally, too, any time I think they might
be bored. Sorting things by size is also useful.

Khan- Need to be able to read, so
they haven’t tried it, but I tried some bits and liked it well enough.


Eclectic Primer
. Check Amazon, we got the 1909 “revised” set up to
sixth grade for something like ten dollars.

Classic Dr. Seuss, both you reading and them reading.

Some good poetry, like Kipling.

Disney or folk songs- the rhyming and rhythm seems to help get the idea of
the parts of words, although I’m not phrasing that very well. I believe
it’s called “sound awareness” or something like that.

Drop the Tranny‘s
Dolche sight words. Found it as a Chrome extension, but the site works fine
on its own, too. Some of the words can be sounded out, some have to be
memorized, but they’re words that a kid needs to learn– click on the card,
it says the word.



Zoo membership. Our local flashy one is about twenty bucks a month, depends
totally on what you’re near; learning depends very heavily on the parent,
since every one I’ve been is so soaked in kool-aid it’s scary.

Obsessively stopping to look at the leaves on the flowers, trees, grass and
anything else that will hold still.

Find out if your local library has any online resources; it is
incredibly helpful to be able to “order” your books and pick them up
quickly when the kids want to go look at their books.

Randomly asking them to classify animals. Try not to laugh too hard when
informed a duck is a mammal.

Out Michigan
- basically just a collection of links; some are very

– collection of links.

Periodic Table Song

Eureka Physics videos -
educational videos, fairly basic. Not sure how well it sticks, yet.

Online Labs – have not actually
used it, but another collection of lots of free, online labs for various
science topics. Looks kind of advanced. (actual link is to chemistry)

of General Chemistry
– free online book.


Logic, Rhetoric, Speech

Stoa USA Speech and Debate

National Christian Forensics and
Communication Association

to Logic, Fallacies
– explains what fallacies are, a bit of history,
informal fallacies and false fallacies (reasoning that seems fallacious but
is, on consideration, not)

Memoria Press -
Saving western civilization one student at a time. Link to the
“articles” page; haven’t actually tried any of their stuff, but a
lot of different classically minded friends have suggested it.

Latin”>Talkin’ like the Ancient

Work Interactive Notebook for Greek & Latin Roots



Project Gutenberg

The Internet Archive‘s
Digital Book collection”>Kipling’s poetry
via the Kipling Society


Founding Documents

Making of America primary
source digital documents collection (UofM)

Making of America
primary source digital documents collection (Cornell)



Did People Do in a Medieval City

Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire


General or Other

Web Exhibits – “an interactive
museum of science, humanities and culture.” Has some very pretty stuff. 10 sheets a month for

Homeschool Mom
massive collection of resources and articles,
sorted by subject. (the tags at the top of the lesson plan page are how you
find, say, general math)

Big FAT Homeschooling List
– same thing that I’m doing here, but at
another site.

The Rules of

Rodger’s Riders Rules

Typing Club -
learn to type, very basic

Learn States
and Capitals
– drag and drop names to places. Sticks surprisingly well,
although I don’t know if my daughter identifying Rhode Island as “the orange
one” will help in real life. – mostly helpful for learning
to use the computer, but has some relative size/amount games that seem to be
getting the idea across, several reading games, and my kids know an amazing
number of dinosaurs by species.

The Judgement of the Safe

So… that torture report.

One of the advantages of being interested in history is that it gives you perspective. Sometimes – often – the perspective it gives you is “Thank heavens I was born in the mid twentieth century and not the mid sixteenth.”

One of the reasons for this is their treatment of prisoners. Normal Judicial Procedure in Shakespeare’s England was to sweep up all suspects and witnesses, dump them in jail and at the magistrate’s leisure interrogate them to determine if they were in fact guilty of anything.

So, suppose you’re on the street, and the guy next to you gets stabbed. You’re going to jail. While in jail, you’ll have to pay for your own food and you’d best have some bribes available for creature comforts.

But Sarah, you’ll say, we’re not in the sixteenth century. We’re more civilized now. Yes, and thank heavens, though in many ways we’re also softer, and I want you to remember that, as we go on.

Torture was extensively used in the sixteenth century. We’re not talking “won’t let you sleep” or “you must stand up” or even “no water.” No, we’re talking really honest to Bob torture, where they tore you apart bit by bit until you were permanently damaged. It was the only way they knew to get people to talk. Hold on to this, too, there is a reason.

I know in Marlowe’s time – so just before Shakespeare got big – there was a playwright who was arrested on suspicion of nothing much, and when he came out he couldn’t write again, because he couldn’t hold a quill. (And he couldn’t walk, and other stuff.) It’s been very long since I worked in that time period, so I don’t remember his name.

One of the reasons most of us, sane human beings, think that Anne Boleyn was innocent was that the confessions were not only tortured out of her supposed lovers, they were REALLY tortured. We’re talking the stuff of nightmares. Think of the worst possible way to torture someone. Yep, that’s it.

Torture of that kind is used almost nowhere in the world these days. Correction, it’s used nowhere in the western world. You and I and even the anonymous people reading this blog to go scream on twitter what a horrible person I am, know this still goes on, at this level or close enough in the Arab world and in some of the more benighted parts of so called “developing countries.”

When I posted Cedar’s article on police corruption, an Indian FB friend posted that at least police don’t routinely flog the soles of your feet, just because they can, etc.

Yes. So, this goes on in a great part of the world, up to and including the unimaginable Elizabethan tortures if you’re talking Iran or Syria or any of those charming places.

Even next door, I have heard you REALLY don’t want to be arrested in Mexico.

But Sarah, say you, what does this have to do with us? We’re the United States. We believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe in individual rights. Our criminals aren’t tortured, why should our enemies be?


First, let me say I disapprove of torture – by which I mean REAL physical torture. Do I need to say this? Oh, yes, I do, there are idiots and SJWs (but I repeat myself) reading this.

I disapprove of pulled fingernails. I disapprove of cut this and that. I disapprove, even, of cane flogging the soles of someone’s feet. Other things I disapprove of – not a complete list – include but are not by any means limited to: beating someone with rubber hoses, burning someone with cigarettes, etc, etc, etc.

What about other levels of torture, i.e. “enhanced interrogation techniques” – sleep deprivation, loud music, etc – how do I feel about them.

Oh, I don’t like them. Depending on the severity of them they can extract false confessions, and I don’t think they should be used on citizens, protected by the constitution of the United States.

Besides, to be fair, the resistance of someone raised in modern America is not that of a man in the sixteenth century. Sure, if you read student doc, a blog on the er… interesting things that show up in emergency rooms in urban America, you probably suspect as I do that such resistance to pain and discomfort is much higher of someone raised in the underclass. Thus the observation that someone who has a low ratio or teeth to tattoos can show up shot through the heart and survive something that a normal suburbanite would never have endured two seconds. But I guarantee they’re still pampered princesses compared to people in the third world who, themselves, might be more sensitive than ANYONE including the upper class in Elizabethan England (who lived in conditions we can’t even fully imagine.)

And that, you see, is the rub. The rub is that first that life, liberty, pursuit of happiness thing? Those are rights given to us by the constitution. By us, I mean Americans by birth or adoption. We are not in fact mandated to give that protection to anyone else. And in many cases it might be ill advised.

Oh, boy, I can hardly write for the screams of the SJWs at that last one.

Chill. Listen. I know reading comprehension is not your forte, and also that you know a lot of things that just ain’t so, however do try to comprehend that this is not a civil war, in any sense. The people on the other side aren’t Americans. They don’t think like Americans, they don’t believe like Americans and they haven’t grown up like Americans.

They’re not also the little brown peoples of your pampered (and racist) imaginations where, because people can tan (to about my level, but never mind) they are inoffensive, clueless, a bit stupid, and will only do bad things in reaction to American evil. Do try to understand these people, though very different from you and htough, perhaps, raised in conditions of privation and material want, are fully realized human beings with their own agenda.

Their beliefs are not the same as yours, but they are – to them – just as important and as real as your beliefs are to you.

Oh, sure, some of their beliefs match yours. They’ve been told by their teachers, just as you were, that America is the source of all evil, and that if they wipe America from the map everyone will be happy or at least that they get to rule. (In this last one they’re at least more realistic than you are, not that they would, get to rule, I mean.)

They and you are wrong. In their case they were told this by their corrupt leaders who are afraid that America will prove so attractive it undermines their tyranny. In your case, you were told this by your corrupt leaders, who want to cater to your vanity and lead you to destroy the constitution and rules that keep them from becoming full tyrants.

But that is a side spur to this. What matters, right here, right now, is that these people are fully actuated human beings, possessed of self determination. And they hate us.

No, please, don’t say “not me”. Be you ever so “progressive” and ready to throw your co-citizens under the bus, they still hate you. In fact, they might hate you more. Their values aren’t ours but tribal honor and loyalty is something the Arab world understands at a gut level.

What this means is that they will try to harm us. 9/11 served as a wake up call for some of us. I suspect it did for you too, and that’s why you’re already siding with the enemy because you think they’ll win. That’s because you view every American through the lens of your circle. Trust me, some of us are neither cowards nor wilting flowers.

And that’s the rub. The other part of the rub. Neither are our enemies.

The people who want to hurt us grew up in conditions that make our normal treatment of prisoners a summer vacation.

Worse, they come from a part of the world where internal restraint of possible violence is not a thing. If you don’t torture them, they don’t assume it’s because you are holding back due to your impeccable morals. No, they assume that you’re not torturing them because you can’t – either because you fear their retaliation or because you’re soft. That means that they will be more sure than ever of their side’s win, and they’re not going to talk. Because, hell, if they talk, their side will do unspeakable things to them. Things that would make Elizabethans blench.

But Sarah, you say (well, those of you who aren’t SJW’s. Those are already shrieking and I don’t understand banshee), that doesn’t make it right for us to torture them or even to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” on them.

Right according to whom? Right how? By whose moral law?

Yeah, sure, it’s against most of the religions dominant in the west (though not where these people come from.) It is also morally repulsive – to us, by Western codes – to hurt someone who can’t defend himself.

Is it realistic, though? Meaning, is it something that can work outside of a movie?

I don’t know. And neither do you. It is not your job to do this, and you can’t know. They’re dealing with a completely different culture, with people raised in much higher hardship levels than even poor people in Detroit, okay? More, they’re dealing with people raised in a culture where might makes right, and who turn that around and assume if there’s no might, there’s no right. Worse, they’re dealing with males in a culture that is a true and extreme patriarchy, a culture where most of these guys think of themselves as invulnerable and untouchable by virtue of being male and by virtue of their religion. If you don’t pierce that cultural bubble, they’re not going to talk.

But surely, Sarah, you say, we’re civilized and there’s stuff we can do to get the truth without torturing people.

Um…. M’kay then. I like science fiction too!

The truth is that the whole psychological science thing never came along as sf writers thirty or fifty or even seventy years ago predicted. The human animal is too unpredictable for an exact science.

Which leaves with the old, icky methods.

Now, perhaps – perhaps – you can work on them with mercy and lovingkindness. Perhaps it works just like in the movies. I don’t know. I’ve never done this work. I knew someone who used to interrogate would-be communist terrorists (a different beast, from a different culture) who said if you have to slap a prisoner you are incompetent. For most prisoners you could get them to crack with the “good cop” routine. But he said in a pinch, and if you had an urgent need, you had to resort to sleep deprivation or making them break potty-training. (Apparently Heinlein was right about this having a devastating effect.) Which are I presume “enhanced interrogation techniques.” (Though not to the water boarding level.)

Here’s the thing: this is not my job, and it is not yours, and it certainly, thank heavens, is not the job of the Sandra Flukes of this world.

So – I don’t know under what time-pressure people were working, and I don’t know what they had to do. And I’m not going to judge them.

It is important to have supervision. People with power over others will get out of control. But it’s also important to know the person coordinating the compilation of this report was Harry Reid and what he’s trying to do. (Mostly make us look away from Gruber’s deposition and from the slo mo disaster this administration has brought to America.) And it’s important to remember two things: you’re not the men doing this and you don’t know their circumstances.

It’s also important to remember that most of the people being interrogated are NOT the peaceful camel herders that the movies portray. These people have histories that, to quote from Grosse Pointe Blanke, read like a demon’s resume. And that’s important, both for what they could do and what you have to get through to make them crack.

Put it this way: Imagine we had a president who really cared when innocent village girls are kidnapped by the Boko Haram. I mean, cared about it more than to have his wife tweet a pouty-face picture saying “Bring back our back our girls.” And kindly, don’t tell me that it’s a foreign country and none of our business. Note that “our girls.” Let’s say we’d captured one of the rat finks who kidnapped these kids. We have to find the rest before they are raped/killed/sold into perpetual sexual slavery to strangers.

What would you do to get that one guy to talk quickly? Think carefully and don’t flatter yourself. You’d do whatever you had to do.

To do anything else would be to go into a street fight and try to fight by Marquess de Queensbury rules. Those work fine in the boxing ring, if everyone is following them. In an alley fight, they’ll get you massacred.

So – do I think we owe it to our higher selves to be better than the parts of the world where prisoners are routinely tortured? Sure. If for no other reason, because it hurts those of our men having to torture. They’re not built or educated for this.

But I also think there’s times and circumstances, and I have neither the training nor the experience nor the knowledge of the circumstances to say “and you must never do this.”

The chokepear and the iron maiden should be out of bounds, but waterboarding? I don’t know. It depends.

To release a report of this kind, with this kind of sensationalism, devoid of context is to invite the ignorant public (and I’m part of this) to pass judgment on things they can’t even imagine.

We can demand that our agents work with as much decency as possible, but we can’t, from where we sit, decide where that line is. We simply don’t have the equipment to do it.

Yes, I believe in individual life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for as many people as possible. But make no mistake, I’m an American first and last. And if you need to violate the rights of those who aren’t Geneva signatories, who don’t recognize any rights and who would blow up men and women and children in a normal morning, in the middle of NYC, to preserve the life and liberty of Americans, it’s not even a contest. Do it.

It goes along with the right of self defense. We have the right to find out what they’re plotting so that we can use to stop attacks on us.

What about innocent camel herders? What about them? Most of these assets we interrogate aren’t so easy to capture that we’re sweeping up crowds, en masse, from the Arab street. Whatever movies tell you, trust me, if we were doing that, you’d have heard about it. In detail. These are people who have committed acts of terrorism in the past – proven, often watched and self-confessed – and will commit them again in the future.

Unless we can figure out what they’re up to.

So, do I like torture? No. I’m as capable of getting on my moral high horse as anyone else. A nd I think the Elizabethan system made for lousy policing, and if we start going that way, even internationally, that’s a BAD thing.

But I also think we’re nowhere near it and our agents, thank heavens, don’t have an unfettered hand in decisions. They are watched and overseen.

The rest of us, here on the street? Sure, they ultimately work for us, and to be fair, we should keep an eye on them. But unless you take the time to read all the reports and have a clearance that allows to you to get what the rest of us don’t, be aware what you’re reading is only half the truth.

And you can’t judge men doing difficult and morally perilous work on the front lines. You just can’t. You can say “I’d prefer we didn’t do this” – so can I. But screaming about the eebils of America? Oh, please. Try being picked up for a traffic violation anywhere in the third world.

Grow up. Understand you don’t know everything and that your moral rules and scolding are not and will never be the last word.

You can hold onto them only because rough men are willing to do rough things on your behalf.

You are not now, and if you’re very lucky you’ll never be, in the sort of morally perilous position where you have to choose between your moral beliefs and someone else’s life.  You’re not in a position where you have to choose whether to be rough to a prisoner or risk territories being taken in which women and children will be raped, treated like chattel, and suffer unimaginable torture.  (For illustration look at the areas taken by Isis.)

Your job is to understand this and to stop demanding that people choose between the black and white that exist only in your imagination and in the movies produced by people for whom a hangnail is unimaginable torture and going without their favorite bottled water an emergency.

Your job is also to wonder why this report was released now, on practices that started being discontinued in Bush’s second term, and to wonder what exactly the people in power now are doing that they’d rather hide behind whipped up outrage at actions since stopped than to examine the actions of the powerful right now.

Stop emoting and start thinking.  Yes, your friends will think badly of you, and the SJWs will shriek some more.  (We should harness that.  Could power entire cities, I tell you.)

But you might prevent you and yours having to suffer far worse than is detailed in those reports.

Maybe.  If you are very lucky.

Good Morning America, I Love You- A blast from the past post February 2009

I’m still mired deep in writing, though the treacle has got somewhat less sticky and I can see the end from where I am.

However, for several days now, I’ve had this song stuck in my head:

Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin’ trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Good morning America how are you?
Don’t you know me I’m your native son,
I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

I know the song echoes of bitterness and all that, and it’s supposed to be on how all these people are disposable and… whatever.  Ignore that.

The thing is, I’ve always loved that opening because I’ve always loved early morning America seen from car or bus.  The little houses by the side of the highway, the fast food restaurantss opening up, traffic slugishly trickling out onto the highway.

I fell in love with America twenty eight years ago, when I was an exchange student.  The first week was… interesting, but not American as such.  They gathered a large batch (there were three batches) of  incoming AFS students, from all over the world, into WC Fields in NY for an orientation about basic things like manners, how to ask for things and such.

And it was very interesting.  Did you know that released to the wild, adventurous young people cling first to people of their country, then people of the same linguistic grouping, then to people with whom they perceive a cultural relationship.  Take Portuguese, for example — first they clung to other Portuguese and then in order were willing to group with Brazilians, Spaniards, all South Americans.

Except for the outliers, of course.  Those of us who were there to discover the different mingled freely.  There were very few of us, but we had great fun.  And it was interesting, at a thinking level, realizing how many of the things we used to judge people on first meeting were built into our culture and not universal.  Take my group-leader-orientation manager, Chris  (wonder how life has treated him?) from NYC.  He was I think in his second year of college and what I then considered cute but I was sure there was no point playing up to him.  Why?  Well, he wore a thick, visible silver chain.  So, of course, he was gay.  (Hits head on desk, forcefully.)

With all that, there were hints that week of what America was — the things it was that were not part of any other country I had experienced.  Take the volunteers.  One of my favorites was my house father, Keith (and these years later, I can’t remember his name.) who was a long-distance trucker (and who for reasons known only to him woke us up with loud renditions of George Washington Bridge, in the morning.  Much more pleasant than an alarm clock.)  He was taking his vacation time to come shepherd a group of lost duckling foreigners through their adaptation to America.  It was a thankless task, with no pay and no prestige.  I can imagine very few countries in which someone would volunteer that cheerfully to give up their free time.  As did all the other volunteers, probably a hundred of them, from all walks of life.

Still, that week was about the world and about all the different people.  It didn’t — to me — relate to America.  And then they put us on the bus to send us to our host families.  I think I fell in love with America when breakfast was handed to me.  Why, you’ll ask?  Well, this was the late seventies and fast food breakfasts weren’t ubiquitous.  What they handed us were boxes from some hospitality service.  But the box contained a sealed orange juice cup, a sealed cup of fruit salad, a stick of French toast with the syrup for dipping and — I think — a cup of coffee filled hot by the volunteer at the door to the bus.

Before you think I fell in love with food…  None of what I was handed was my favorite.  But it was so ready, so self-contained and so perfect for the situation, that I was charmed.  And then when I thought that at that time in the morning there were these little packets ready for any travelers who might be setting out, I was captivated.

In that Greyhound Bus, crossing PA — I did my exchange student year at Stow, Ohio and graduated from Stow High School — I saw the little houses, the cars trickling onto the highway, and I was finally bowled over by the energy, the determination, the… joy of America, where each person got up and went to work that early…

You could say you — all of you — had me at hello.

During the year, rough spots and all, my love for America grew and though I was eventually lucky enough to fall in love with an American and end up here, I suspect I would have ended up here anyway, even if I had to trail a foreign-born family behind me.

It is not a grandiose love.  When it comes to the constitution — as I believe I’ve said before — I’m a fundamentalist, and I love the idea of America — “no kings, no queens, no lords, no ladies, we won’t be fooled again.”   However, like all true love that leads to a long term relationship and stays around as you both change, it is a more humble and work-a-day emotion and what I love about America is a more everyday sense and feel…  Those things that don’t change beneath the trappings of governments, fads, and the latest cultural turmoil.

Three –?– years ago I was disgusted with something or other at the Federal level, and generally depressed.  And then I went to pick up Robert at middle school (Okay, more than three years.  Eh.)  The middle school is close enough to walk to, and it was spring.  I passed families playing on the front lawn, people working on their cars, students sprawled on lawns with their books, and many, many, many people involved in some home-improvement project.  And I fell in love with America all over again.

I don’t remember the book — eh.  I’m mid writing — but PJ O’Rourke, in one of his books has something about a restaurant in Russia at the end of the Soviet era and about how most of the issues with the place could be solved by an American, a bottle of lysol and a rag.  I remember it, because I often find myself thinking the same when I travel abroad.

The plane landing on the Hudson brought this home to me.  All those passengers helped each other out, in   scene much different from what Hollywood — who often doesn’t GET the miracle that is America — would have portrayed.  All of those boat owners, individually rushed to the rescue.

America is what Americans are, and Americans are people who get up early and go to work, and who are interested and creative enough to antecipate situations like a bunch of kids being packed in a bus early morning, in need of breakfast…

Good morning, America, I love you.  And I always will.

Concrete Lies

The Brazilian author Lucia Benedetti wrote a book about WWII called Three Soldiers. I discovered this book when I was eight, I think, and conceived a great fondness for it, which is weird, considering most of the characters in the book are rough men, and the book revolves around both the necessity and the horror of war, and how it changes men.

(Later on, in the states, I found she had written other books, and those were available here. They were a disappointment being infected with both man-hating feminism and America-hatred, but Three Soldiers, at least in my head is untainted by those. I don’t know if this is true, because I haven’t read it for thirty years, having left it behind in dad’s library and since it doesn’t seem to exist in English translation.)

Three Soldiers is where my fondness for war stories originates, and there are many scenes I remember very clearly, such as when the three (Brazilian) soldiers insist they’re not going to visit the tower in Pizza. At the end of the day, much the worse for the drink, they’re climbing the tower with (I think) an equally inebriated American, all the while shouting “no tower.” And there is a scene in which they dig a shelter in the ground which becomes a “nightclub” of sorts. There are also, of course, scenes of battle.

I no longer remember where in the book, but there is a conversation, when the guys are on leave, and none of them can understand why their officer won’t sleep around. They all have cozy arrangements with Italian girls and they ask him why he doesn’t. He says he’s married. And they say, “Oh, but so are half the men.” And then he tells a story.

He says there was this man who decided to build a house, but instead of cement he decided to use excrement. And all the people around, instead of telling him it was folly and stupid and smelly, applauded and lauded his intelligence until the whole thing collapsed in a smelly heap, and then they moved away from him, looking disgusted. He says “that’s what it’s like building a marriage with adultery.”

The parable seems accurate for adultery, but that’s not what this is about.

When reading the news today, from the Lena Dunham craziness, to the unraveling of the VA campus rape accusations, to Hilary telling us that we should have “empathy” for our foes, to the insanity that is the international situation, to the further insanity that is the national situation, I keep thinking of that house built with excrement.

Look, “liberalism” started with good intentions. I’m not talking here of classical liberalism but of that more active, more ah… “positive” liberalism that has at various times called itself “progressivism.”

Okay, the intentions weren’t very good, but they dressed up as good. In Sweden they instituted socialism because they were afraid the proletarian revolution was inevitable, and here too, I guess. Prizes and accolades should be given to that great fabulist Marx who convinced half the world that the masses were about to revolt.

Anyway, the idea at its root was for the upper class to keep control by controlling the doling out of socialism, so they didn’t end up like the Tzar of the Russias.

But it was dressed up in good intentions: care for the poor, universal education, keeping people from starving, enlightening the masses, etc. etc.

Only the dressing doesn’t matter when what’s underneath is just a wish to keep control and also when it’s all funded on a crazy lie: the idea that classes have cohesiveness and will rise and fall on their own and that these great social changes happen spontaneously like yeast.

There were other lies too, behind it: the idea that the economy is a fixed pie and wealth can’t be created, only endlessly redistributed. And the idea that there was some beautiful, innocent, pre market time when people owned everything in common. That was Rosseau, not Marx, but it was there, at the root of the ideas that went to forming this hodge-podge we’ll call progressivism.

It didn’t work as planned.

I mean, either doled out from above or by violent revolution, socialism or its darker red shade, communism, which have different details but both of which are based on reverence for the collective and disrespect for individual property and striving, this regime formed on supposed good ideas and aiming for supposed utopia proved a disaster.

And so, like all the cults, when the end of the world/messiah/spaceship from the Magellanic Cloud fails to materialize, it elaborated reasons for its failure and conditions it needed to meet for utopia. This is how the idea that revolution would come from third world countries came about, and recently the idea that revolution is from the downtrodden, among which the funniest “downtrodden” class is university educated, white, pampered women.

The problem is this – the progressive movement, when it started, was in fact using “good ideas” or “good sounding ideas” to cover up the fear of communist revolution and to help the elites hold on to power.

But the ideas were no obviously risible. Marxism offered itself up as a scientific view of history and therefore predictive of the future, and since that was the great age of science in other realms, who was to say that it wasn’t true? It might need to be tweaked – Darwinism has been – but it could be essentially true and right. Besides, it stripped from history the random appearance of great men who dreamed great ideas and the chaotic events that happened just because things happened to fit a certain way and made it sound like given certain rules things would happen.

That idea has been dead a long time. These ideas died in the mass graves of communist dictatorships. The idea of a top-down creation of a great society died even in Nazi Germany. What’s more the idea of the great proletariat revolution died with a technology that emphasizes mass production less and less.

Many people aren’t aware Marxism is dead and gone, an ideology walking around in its naked bones, all of them rotted.   That is because before death was obvious, this zombie ideology had conquered campus and the press and even our entertainment and had slid, unnoticed, into people’s thoughts.

And what’s worse, what is truly horrible, is that when the rot became obvious and the lies plain, from the lie of the beautiful pre-historic communes to the rot of the soviet union, our press didn’t report it, nor our entertainment dramatize it. Instead they made excuses. It wasn’t communism, it was China, Russia, it was Cambodia, it was Cuba, and in the end, it was fallible humanity, which was not worthy of the great progressive project.

To keep believing, to keep holding on to their future utopia, and more importantly, to keep feeling superior to the rest of us, the progressives invented post-modernism.

This is sort of the equivalent of the kid whose *ss has been handed to him in a playground fight coming up with rules that prove he can’t lose and you can’t win.

Oh, I’m sure you’ve been in this situation, all of us have. The kid says his father is eight feet tall, and when his father shows up he’s five eight. And then the kid says, “Well, in my mind he’s eight feet tall, and you can’t say otherwise, so there.”

In the same way the post-modernist project insists there is no objective reality. Reality is what you say it is.

This is when they started building their house with excrement.

Instead of looking around and saying “Okay, this sounded like a great idea, but it doesn’t work in the real world” they held onto it, tighter and insisted the flaw was with the real world.

They could believe this because all the channels that informed/educated/entertained the public had been taken over by their co-religionists and were repeating their beliefs at them.

I watched mass media turn the minor recession of the first Bush years into a major crisis and what’s more blame it on Reagan’s policies which had brought us out of the severe Carter contraction and malaise. I watched them call again and again for higher taxes and more government, because that was the only solution. And people bought it, because what else were they going to do? Go outside respected media sources? But that was insanity.

In the same way, I’ve watched in fascinated horror as they try to pull the same trick – now to pave the way for Hilary – with everything from shows about women executives to the “war on women” and the campus rape crisis.

I’ve watched them inflate a so-so jobs report, which is propped up (as I predicted when Obamacare passed) by low-paying temporary jobs into “major good news” just as I’ve watched the summer of recovery one and two and three and four and five, and whatever many fall flat.

I’ve watched them puzzle over why it’s not working.

It’s not working because they need full control of all channels of information.

In other words, the only way the man who builds his house with excrement can pass for sane and shrewd is if he has full control and can make everyone around him clap and admire, or at least seem to. The minute there is even a guy going “Ew. You’re trying to build stuff with sh*t” the people who were thinking it smelled mighty foul are going to say “Ew” and next thing you know people are disgusted, or pointing and laughing.

Which is what fabulist Lena Dunham who became the “voice of her generation” on nothing much but proclamation is finding out. That’s what the woman who wrote about the UVA case, is finding out, as it’s causing people to dig into her older reports and realize they’re not even good Lifetime Movies. It’s what Vagina Vigilante Rose Eveleth found out when she made a scientist cry for wearing a cool sf-babe retro shirt, and people told her she was full of sh*t. It’s what the SJWs are finding out across the board. Their antics either puzzle people, or make them laugh or – at worst – disgust them. It’s what the president is finding out, as he goes into profanity-laden rants at the press which has fallen on their swords for him. It’s what Michael Man is finding out as people discover that, yep, climate disasters can be not-man-made.

And these poor cultists don’t understand why. It’s not just that they have for years built fortresses around their lies, with hype, and with giving each other accolades and prizes, and with no one else being able to puncture their echo chamber, no. That’s part of it. But the worst part is post modernism. You see, it’s their truth, so how can it be wrong. We should believe accusations of rape automatically for instance, because you see, they fit the Marxist narrative, and so being true in reality doesn’t matter. If reality doesn’t agree, it’s reality that’s wrong.

Pity them, my friends. They’ve built their house with excrement and lies. It’s now collapsing on them and they have no idea why. Pity them, but laugh and point, else they’ll convince themselves that you’re somehow making their perfectly sound home fall down.

In the smelly mess that ensues, it might be too late for them, but perhaps a new generation will learn the difference between sh*t and cement.

In the mean time we’re all going to see more sh*t and if we’re very unlucky more blood than we wanted to.

But in the end, we win, they lose.  Has to be, because sh*t is a lousy building material.

Be not afraid.



The Two Sides Of The Police Coin – Amanda Green

The Two Sides Of The Police Coin – Amanda Green

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed an increase in comments in social media – not to mention the mainstream media itself – condemning the police. They look at events like what happened in Ferguson or New York City and say those incidents prove that the police are no longer looking to serve and protect. Some take the position that the police are out to screw over any minority, especially if that person is a young black male. Others claim that cops are all egotistical, power-hungry pigs who get off on screwing anyone who isn’t in the old boy network. It doesn’t matter to either side what the circumstances surrounding an incident might be. If an officer drew his gun and fired, he was exercising unreasonable force and should be charged.

The suggestions about what to do whenever an officer discharges his weapon in the course of performing his duty have ranged from immediately terminating him and instituting an investigation into what happened to an automatic felony charge without benefit of a grand jury review. What those advocating these sort of responses seem to overlook is that their so-called solutions are as much in violation of the officer’s civil rights as they claim the officer’s actions might have been.

As much as I don’t agree with either position, I can pretty much wave those approaches off. Those clamoring for instant charges against cops are having nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to current events, a reaction fueled by the media that is having a blast doing its best to tear down not only law enforcement but the way the public views those who have chosen to go into it as a profession.

What I can’t wave off are the calls by some to completely do away with all forms of law enforcement. These folks believe that we would be much better off without police of any kind. According to them, we would police ourselves and our homes and neighborhoods would be much safer than they are now. After all, when you call 911 for help, you are running the risk of having a bad cop respond and shoot your, someone in your family or your family pet.

Let’s get something straight right now. I’m the first person to admit there are bad cops out there. But there are also bad doctors and bad teachers and bad any other profession (skilled or not). Bad cops are worse than crooks. Those men and women who have sworn to serve and protect and who then violate their oaths deserve to have the full weight of the law thrown at them. They have not only violated their oaths but they have violated the trust that has been put in them by the public they are supposed to serve.

However, this trend of condemning all cops because of the actions of a few is more than a little troublesome. The generalizations it makes are dangerous ones, not only for law enforcement personnel but for the public as well.

Yes, there are bad cops. But there are a hell of a lot more good ones than bad. The reason we hear about the “abuses” by cops so often these days is because of the media. For those of you not old enough to remember, there was a time when you’d turn on the 10 pm news and see sensational stories about the addicts and pushers offing one another or the innocent kid caught in the cross-fire. Now we hear about the cops and, in all too many cases, the story is framed in such a way as to paint the cop as guilty before the facts have been determined.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there are more than 900,000 “sworn law enforcement officers” in the United States. If, as the detractors of law enforcement claim, all these men and women were corrupt, the first thing that would happen is the media would be silenced. Those corrupt cops would strong arm any reporter who dared try to expose their criminal activities and demand justice.

Let’s face it, with 900,000 people doing any job, someone is going to take advantage of their position. But that doesn’t mean everyone else will as well.

As for the suggestion that we move from professional law enforcement personnel to policing ourselves, well, think about it. Without a professional law enforcement arm to protect our communities and enforce our laws, it will be up to each individual to do so. They will have to be vigilant and watch what happens in their neighborhood. They will have to learn how to use firearms – or other forms of weapons – in such a way that they don’t automatically present a danger to themselves and others just by picking up the weapon. They have to be willing to step up and possibly put themselves in danger to protect their own loved ones or someone they might only know to nod hello to.

But most of all, for it to work the way the law enforcement detractors seem to think it would, these men and women in each neighborhood would have to never be tempted by the same things that tempt our professional cops. Anyone want to bet how likely that is to happen?

Sure, there are places where the community can and will police itself. Most of those are small towns or neighborhoods where everyone knows who lives in their area and they keep an eye out for one another. That doesn’t work, on the whole, in larger cities. Too many people never take the time to get to know who lives next door to them, much less down the street or one street over.

Our society has changed in the last fifty years. When I was growing up, we knew everyone up and down our street. Parents knew each kid in the neighborhood and they wouldn’t hesitate to correct a child if they saw the kid doing something she shouldn’t. There was a trust and sense of community that isn’t there in most places any more.

But that sense of community wasn’t limited to the adults either. As kids, we might not have always liked one another but, by ghu, no one had better bully or try to pick a fight with one of our neighbors. If they did, we would descend en masse to make sure they never tried again.

There was also a freedom we had as kids that our own kids don’t get to enjoy. Once we were old enough – and I’m talking grade school age – we’d get on our bikes, tell our folks where we were going and we’d be gone all day. Sometimes we stayed in the immediate neighborhood and other times we might ride to one of the neighboring towns to go to a park or play with friends there. If that were to happen today, some “concerned citizen” would be calling CPS on our folks and reporting them for child endangerment. Heck, they are calling the cops on parents who let their kids play in the park directly across from the house – with the parent watching.

But this is the world the cop haters think can police itself and we’d be a much more peaceful and happy society as a result.

Sorry, but I see only disaster. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t take too kindly to someone trying to take away my son simply because I let him play outside, especially if he was being supervised at the time. How many injuries and deaths from just this sort of thing would happen without there being an unbiased (hopefully) third party to intervene and decide what the facts might be?

Then there is the claim that crime stats have decreased in some cities after police forces have been downsized. Well, do quote Homer Simpson, “Doh!” Of course the stats are down. Crime stats are manipulated by not only the police but by the city/county and by the feds. The police do it to keep the city council and local citizens happy — and to get new recruits. The city/county does it to try to keep federal monies and the feds do it to justify their own programs.

This is something we have seen in Dallas of late. By changing how they defined certain felonies, the major crime stats fell dramatically from one year to the next. It had nothing to do with the number of cops on the street or the number of brutality complaints, etc. It didn’t even have anything to do with the number of actual crimes committed. It had everything to do with how those 911 calls were classified and how the data was compiled.

Like it or not, cops are human and they make mistakes. When those mistakes are the result of negligence of worse, and when they result in someone being hurt or property being damaged, those cops should face the justice system. That does not mean trying them in the press nor does it mean they get special treatment. It also doesn’t mean they are denied certain rights like having their case presented to a grand jury unless they waive it.

I’m not going to apologize for not jumping onto the bandwagon to condemn those good men and women who put their lives on the line every day when they put on their uniform and go out to protect their communities. I’ll even admit that this is something I am passionate about. I have worked with cops, good and bad. I have absolutely no loyalty or sympathy for a bad cop. They need to be sent to the pen just like anyone else who has committed a felony — or, if a misdemeanor, they need to face justice there as well. But we cannot shackle the hands of good cops to such a degree that they can no longer do their duty to serve and protect. Don’t like the way the cops in your jurisdiction act, then apply to join the civilian review board or run for office so you can have oversight over them.

All that said, yes, there need to be limits on what a cop can do and there needs to be a valid and unbiased review process in place. They are supposed to serve and protect, not rule and conquer.


The Inevitable Emmanuel Goldstein

Update:  I keep forgetting to do this!  The Big Ship and the Wise Old Owl is free for another three days or so.

Yesterday, I thought it was safe to echo a chart on FB showing the relative economic freedom of states in the US. Note, that it was a picture/meme and I didn’t dwell very deeply on their premises. Some of the placements seemed funny – Colorado as high as 17? Really? – but most in general accorded to the “feel” of states I’ve lived in or where I have friends. So I echoed, having seen it while I was logging in to pm a friend.

Why didn’t you guys warn me that we’re in full saturnalia, and fools are running around with underwear on head pretending to be kings? Sheesh, you’d think you would.

The first entrant was a man yelling that the freedom of these states was just freedom of corporations to screw the little man, and we needed more regulations, more, more, more. We’ll ignore for a moment that like soylent green corporations are people, and that people work for and in corporations, and that in fact corporate profits feed retirement funds.

Instead, let’s think of what more regulations do. You see, more regulations means more unintended consequences, and more need for lawyers and corporate accountants and stuff. And that means that more regulations makes it hard for small businesses, be they single proprietorships or corporations (for instance, yours truly is two corporations. It was needed to get my full evil card) to compete with large corporations and ultimately creates a crony capitalist system.

When some of this was pointed to Notary supergenius (don’t look at me. He’s the one who called himself Notary as a first name.) he linked his own blog in which he explains Ayn Rand was a soviet agent bringing libertarian fascism/communism to the US. You only think I am joking.

When we laughed, pointed fingers and made duck noises, he called us mean, said we were attacking his profession (instead of his idiocy in using it as a badge!) and flounced off, deleting his posts as he went, in case someone suspected he was a fool. (Of course this gave the great and magnificent Larry Correia, who intervened this morning, to reconstruct his posts from the replies and add in moon ferrets which, I must say, made Notary Supergenius sound SO MUCH more coherent.)

At this point we were mobbed (trust me, the man is a mob) by this lefty who thinks posting colorful charts is a discussion, and who doesn’t get anything about the statistics he quotes. Then (heaven help me!) he wanted my opinion of TR’s trust busting. I told him I didn’t think very highly of TR’s politics, but I haven’t researched it in any detail, so I wasn’t going to pronounce.

At this point a gentleman who has written for Baen came in. I will not name him because – eye roll – should I ever lose my mind I’d hope people extend me the like courtesy. ( My grandmother used to say “May G-d grant me my mind up to the hour of my death” — she lost it the last two days, but it was still a pretty good run.  And I pray likewise.) But he is the proximate reason for this post. Which is why we’ll leave him for last.

At this point a gentleman with a German name came in and told me that free markets are unstable and self-destruct, which is why they need government to regulate them, but this doesn’t make it socialist, etc… At which point I pointed out the free market just is. It doesn’t self-destroy, it changes to accommodate stupid regulations, but it exists everywhere.

I meant, of course, the free market that exists say under the name of “black market” in socialist paradises.

However, this second Supergenius! Self-trapped immediately by telling me that ahah, he’d got me. There has never been a real free market without regulation anywhere, and that’s how we know it needs regulation or it would self-destruct.

You know, my desk is golden oak. You’d think it wouldn’t dent that way. Do these people hear themselves. “This thing that never existed is unstable.” Um… ‘mkay. That isn’t even good Science Fiction.

Anyway, Larry Correia showed up this morning with the armor of righteousness and the sarcasm of nuclear power and all the snow flake seals have run and hid, which is good, because it means I can now write. (It’s already twelve o’clock, not a whore is dressed, the pots aren’t emptied, and the streets are full of Spanish Sailors – found in an old phrase book – or IOW “I must finish this d*mn book and I will not spend my time dissecting internet trolls.”)

BUT to return to number three screamer on the thread. This one came in hot and heavy, yelling that the “free” states weren’t free. They were owned by the Koch brothers. And besides, the Koch brothers are buying this nation’s politics and scream, scream, scream.

When I see “Koch brothers” in a political argument, what I see the person posting doing is this:

I looked up – not hard – a chart which told me the Kochs are actually the number 23 and 24 donors in the nation when it comes to political causes. Most of the others are above them are of course liberal. Which I suppose is why the liberals fixate on the libertarian Kochs. (Who are, as we all know soviet spies for libertarian fascism, just like Ayn Rand. We also know that Freedom is slavery, poverty is wealth, and Eurasia is a cherry pancake.)

But then I wondered why the liberals always need a bad guy in their narrative of the world.

Look, I don’t like Obama very much. (Eh!) And when it comes to liberal journalists who try to suppress the truth and paint it with lies, I could quote puppet masters “I’d turn my gun away from a puppet master to shoot one of the renegades” (metaphorically, of course.)

But the thing is I know where they come from (the concerted attack on western civilization) and what they stand for (a series of idiocy rooted in Rosseau and Marx) and I acknowledge that they are a social trend of sorts, one that has be reckoned with.

The only thing I hate about them is their total inability to process argument, and their insistence on screaming memes and talking points to protect themselves from argument.

But then I sort of expect this from a cult, which is what they are. You can’t be argued out of a position you weren’t argued but instead brainwashed and “felt” (“feeled”) into.

So why do they need to personalize the “enemy” as one person, and one person selected more or less at random. For instance, why did they paint George W. Bush – a Christian socialist at heart) – as a wild-eyed laissez faire guy? And why do they make the Kochs – Libertarians – as “fascists.”

And then I realized it doesn’t matter. They need someone to hate precisely because their ideas don’t work in the real world at all. So a wrecker must be identified, who is keeping the utopia from coming true – otherwise their ideas would be false and that’s impossible, of course – and the characteristics attributed to him which are most convenient to the left discourse.

This happens more or less automatically. One of them identifies someone (George Bush because he kept Al Gore from stealing the election. How dare he?) and starts screaming and the other ones fall behind because they desperately need someone to blame for the abject failure of their policies. Hence, we get these unreasoning, mob-screaming fests about the hated name apropos of anything, whenever they feel their beliefs are threatened.

These two minutes of hate would be funny, if it weren’t for the fact that real people are on the other side of them and COULD get hurt.

In fact, in every communist attempted utopia in the world, they have been hurt, by the massive scores. Entire classes of people – Kulaks, Ukrainians, Middle Men – were designated “wreckers and spoilers” and the graves filled with their corpses.

And that, THAT is the worst feature of the communist/socialist/progressive beliefs. Because they THINK they’re scientific (they wouldn’t know real science if it bit them on the buttocks) and that their victory is pre-ordained, they can’t examine their mistakes, backtrack or admit error.

Instead, they must forge ever “Forward” as their societies collapse, their economies falter, and Emmanuel Goldstein must be killed again and again.

And that is why we must stand up and say “no more.”

I couldn’t care less about the Koch brothers. Never met them, though a friend of mine once worked for them. I’m sure they couldn’t care less about the pointing and shrieking either.

BUT I don’t care to have people arbitrarily declared objects of hate.

Leave Eurasia alone. Calm down and go look for your paradise in the ever-after where men are different. Found the Convent of our Lady of Perpetual Redistribution and show us how communism can totally work on your own time and dime.

Just leave us the f*ck alone, and stop screaming for the blood of innocents. We don’t care how crazy YOU are. We just don’t want to be forced to dance in your macabre saturnalia.



The Charity of Strangers – A Blast From The Past post from June 2007

*Note from 2014 — yes, I was doing my best to be non political.  Eh.*

I should be working on my overdue novel or writing my overdue short story. I’m not. The reason I’m not is because I’ve been turning an ethical problem in my mind.

And this is going to lead me to break one of my longstanding rules, which is not discussing religion or politics in public.

Not that what I’m about to discuss is religion – exactly – or politics – exactly. But it touches on both.

The fact is, I’m aware that some of you are going to be very angry at me. I’m aware some of you will be angry enough never to read me again. I’m also aware that I’ll be violating one of Heinlein’s rules – to wit – “Only a fool or a sadist tells the unvarnished truth in social situations.”

Perhaps I’m going menopausal. Or perhaps I simply don’t care anymore. Or perhaps sometimes – SOMETIMES – the truth needs to be told.

I know I will get a very strong reaction to this because I’ve discussed this topic before, years ago, in a women’s writing group. The group consensus was that I was “mean” or perhaps “evil” and there was nothing I could do to change it.

And yet – and yet – I see evil in what is going on. And I think it should be stopped.

So I’ll begin at the beginning. Let’s talk about charity.

I grew up, like any normal kid in a fairly “nice” family learning to share and to give to those who had less than I. This was so emphasized that until I was twenty eight I thought I had killed my cousin Dulce by refusing to share my bread and butter with her. (She died in the last small pox (not confirmed, mind, but likely, given the distribution of the blisters AND the mortality among the unvaccinated) epidemic to sweep through the village. As I had it too, I’m sure some reference was made to the fact we were playing together a week or so before. That my mind attributed this to my refusing to share just goes to show how I was brought up.)

Beyond that, I always had a sense of empathy. Like most of your nerdy writers, as a child I was excluded from enough games and clubs to give me a sympathy for the underdog. So far so good.

And then when I was eleven, I joined a youth group. This was the seventies. We were for social action and justice. Which was our parents’ charity and poor relief dressed up and nice and with a new hairdo.

We spent six months – SIX months holding fund raisers and collecting money. One of the girls in the group had come up with this idea that we should help this family that lived next to her. Six kids in a shotgun apartment, no decent clothes, no toys and most of the time no food on the table.

We worked our behinds off. We were that kind of earnest young people. And I was so proud, so incredibly proud, when we collected the equivalent of about six months’ salary and delivered it to these people. I could imagine what a difference it would make in their lives. I could JUST see it.

I felt very virtuous. This lasted until I told my mom what we’d done. Mom was horrified. Turns out the parents were both alcoholics. Not only wouldn’t the kids get any of the money, but the parents would use it to get stinking drunk, which in turn would result in more aggression towards the kids… you get the point.

Turned out mom was right – bummer – and I’ve never felt that virtuous since.

This is apropos what?

Well, bear with me.

Thirteen years ago when we moved to town – an apartment near downtown – I loved this city. One of the things I loved was how SAFE it was. There were exactly four “homeless” people identifiable as living downtown. I’m sure there were more served by the various shelters, which demanded sobriety or a modicum thereof before you used their services. But downtown, we saw four. And, really, downtown was a safe, friendly place, with a lot of small businesses in place. I could, without driving, buy most things I needed, from groceries to office supplies. The kids could sit out on the front porch, when they were toddlers. It was just nice.

And then it changed.

Because I don’t follow such things it took me time to figure out why – all of a sudden – every corner had people pushing shopping carts. Aggressive people; people mumbling to themselves. It took me time to figure out why the little park in the middle of town was now infested by people sleeping on the grass, threatening (and mugging) passerbies. Why the little businesses were fleeing downtown. Why my friend who worked downtown had issues with people coming into the bookstore and urinating on the carpet.

The city hasn’t grown that much. It might have doubled in size, but I don’t think so.

And the local economy was not worse. On the contrary. We’ve been ranked as one of the more affluent towns in the US. So… how come this problem suddenly?

And then the city forbid panhandling – this is not related, except where it got me to understand the situation a little better – and all of a sudden the newspapers were full of interviews with the people affected…

Do you know, with a few exceptions – families fallen on hard times and the like, though they’re not the kind that haunts parks – the “homeless” population could be divided in two: Young kids – teens to twenties – who’d run away from home. And people who had been living a rootless, boundary-less life since the sixties or seventies.

The funny thing, you know, is that I’d always thought kids who ran away from home did so because they were being abused or there was another huge problem. And some of them did mention that. However, the vast majority of the young indigent said a paraphrase of “I left home because my parents had all these rules. And now, man, if I can’t panhandle, I’ll have to go back.”

The adults, otoh had various expressions of confusion as to why we were doing this to them and how – with no provocation – we were taking away their means of livelihood.

Since that time I’ve been a little skeptical about the type of charity that just gives “services” to the homeless.

My skepticism increased when I realized a) the reason downtown was now full of homeless was a “no questions asked” soup kitchen run by a religious charity right smack downtown. b) Homeless were taking the bus from the largest city nearby. (This is not a conjecture. I overheard them talking and on one signal occasion was approached by one demanding to know where the soup kitchen was because he’d just taken the bus to our town. They’d told him there was this great place…)

Okay – hear me out – I’m neither mean nor stupid, nor have I arrived at this opinion without a lot of thought.

Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t feed the hungry. Yeah, we should if we can. I assure you that for a long part of my teen years I needed – and received – both food and clothing from the charity of strangers. One of the reasons the Red Cross will always get a check from me is the clothes I wouldn’t otherwise have had after that growth spurt at fourteen.

That’s not the point. The point is that the first rule of charity should always be: First Do No Harm.

I still live downtown. I walk by the park a lot. And you know what? I’m sorry for these people. Really and truly sorry. Most of them not only lack the skills to integrate in society – they lack an understanding of WHY they should.

They get food. They get clothes. They get a place to sleep. WHY should they change anything about how they live? Why shouldn’t they do drugs and have promiscuous sex? Those of them who are mentally unstable not only have no reason to seek treatment or to take their medications – they don’t KNOW they SHOULD.

Oh, I’m sure people who volunteer at the soup kitchen – and other places – tell them they should. But… the thing is, they are human right? Humans work mostly on inertia. If you don’t make it difficult to just drift on, why should they try?

Now and then you hear of people who clean up, who move on and up. But these are the exceptions. Like people who lose 100 lbs, they are the exception and display immense willpower.

Our society is so affluent we can afford to give these people a life that’s downright luxurious compared to the peasants of most societies in history. Food everyday. Enough clothes to cover themselves. Clean places to sleep at night.

And we demand nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I realize part of this is a reaction to Victorian times, when it was assumed that people were poor because they’d done something wrong. I know many people are poor through no fault of their own – or at least no fault of their own that they can easily remedy. Lack of skills, lack of will power, just a lack of ambition, are enough to keep someone born outside the right conditions “down.”

But most of the time, none of those are enough to make the person outright “homeless.” That requires worse. A stroke of bad luck might do it, if bad enough. A mental condition. Or… a drug addiction. Alcohol abuse.

The stroke of bad luck usually leads to people living in their cars or crashing with friends. It leads to people who are TECHNICALLY homeless, but not the visibly so. Not the ones who haunt the park and mug passerbye. These people – the homeless with cause or, to use an old-fashioned term, the deserving poor – are undoubtedly there through no fault of their own. And there are already several organizations that assist them. If they need anything, they need an explanation of how to get there from here – how to apply for help; whom to ask.

And then there are the others – the VAST majority of others – which are the ones who patronize this “no questions” soup kitchen. The ones who don’t know why they should change. The ones we are ENABLING in their dysfunction.

Yes, yes, I can hear the shouts now. I’m mean. I don’t care about poor people. I am made uncomfortable by the presence of the needy.

Except… That these “needy” are shutting down businesses and driving other people into poverty. Except that I do donate money/time/service to various causes helping those less fortunate than I. Except that I think what these “needy” need is help of a different sort. Help seeing the way out. Support on their way up. NOT “no guilt” help that keeps them trapped.

HOW can it possibly be that allowing them to self destruct helps them? Or society? Or the communities blighted by their presence?

Look – we’re back to that family and how GOOD I felt “helping” them. Except that I didn’t.

There was a way to help them – oh, sure there was – or at least a way that would have done no harm. We could have bought groceries for them for six months. This might still have led to more drinking as the parents might have sold the groceries – but it would have been more difficult.

Or – and far preferable – we could have given OF OURSELVES. We could have befriended those kids. Eventually taken them home to our comfortable houses for meals/playtime/interaction. This would have helped far more.

BUT that wasn’t easy. And besides, it wasn’t what it was all about. It was about social action. And justice. It was about collecting money and handing over a check. It was about the charity of strangers. And it was about a bunch of pre-teens feeling good and virtuous.

I think this soup kitchen – which is now undergoing a massive fundraising to expand – is about exactly those things. I’m sorry, but I believe it is about people who volunteer there and people who donate to it feeling good about themselves. D*mn good.

And who am I to grudge people a bit of self-satisfaction?

Well… perhaps I’m an evil bitch, because I feel that self-satisfaction arrived at at the expense of other people’s lives is bad. Perhaps I’m an evil bitch because I care not only about the small businesses being driven from downtown and the families that can no longer work in the park but these people who are being “helped” to remain lost in a moral no-man’s land. With no way out.

I’m not against charity. I’m against charity to faceless strangers. I think most of the time it ends up doing evil.

There are ways to help – but those demand that you actually get close and personal. That you find out what’s holding these people down. That you CARE. For more than feeling virtuous. And that, let’s face it, it’s more than most people have the time or patience for.

Recently, reading St. Dale by Sharyn McCrumb (excellent book, btw) I came across a joke she quotes. A man is struggling in the water. “Help, help, I can’t swim.” Another man is standing by and says, “I can’t swim either. Will $20 help?”

This is what this “no strings” soup kitchen reminds me of. This is what catering to people’s physical needs and not their mental/spiritual ones reminds me of.

The charity of strangers. Well intentioned, perhaps. But mostly about the giver.

And in the end, I think in more than fifty percent of the cases it violates the dictate to “First, do no harm.”

*And more from 2014 this post came with a note later that same day, so I’m copying and pasting it here also, particularly since recently we’ve had people claim that the fact that Africa hasn’t developed “despite” all the aid we give it is a sign of inferiority or… something. This was the article I was thinking of but couldn’t find at the time.*

The Charity of International Strangers

I’m not going to make this into a political blog, [note from 2014 Sarah — Fate mocks our best intentions.] but I found this article ties so much into my previous post it’s hard to avoid.

I have to confess THIS had never occurred to me under “first do no harm.”,1518,363663,00.html

Scattered Friday Post

Okay, mostly I’ve been head down and working on Through Fire, so my head is empty and it echoes.  No, I’m not done, but I’m close, which is why I’m skimping on this post, natch.

I’ve already killed one of the main characters, but don’t worry, it’s not fatal.

So, instead of doing a real post, I’m sort of putting down some things that have flitted through my mind the last few days.  (Writing about revolution, you know?)

You know, we tend to get all depressive about the future, which is stupid because if the future belongs to anyone it’s nor Marx, and yes, I realize there’s a good chance it belongs to barbarians who kill the Marxists (who are also barbarians, but pretending not to be.)  But it could also belong to us.  And frankly, us vs. the barbarians?  We’ll win.  They’re not that smart.  If they were we’d be in real trouble.

So I thought I’d list off the top of my head reasons why I think we’re winning:

- The mass media is losing more and more power.  The fact that Lena Dunham is considered a mover and shaker, despite the fact they admit her audience is tiny gives the game away.  It’s like with the pushed books in SF/F, all hype and blather, but there’s no there, there.

- All they got anymore is re-threads of re-threads, of re-threads.  The liberal establishment is not only the establishment, but it’s dying of a fatal lack of creativity.  They remind me of French painters who learned to draw by copying ideal statues and all their work was mannered and followed so many rules you needed to be one of them to appreciate it.

- Make no mistake, culture is where the politics of the next generation is formed, and their culture is dying.  Now most millenials won’t admit to reading non-approved stuff (ask Foxfier why if you don’t get that they know they’re up against the establishment and prefer not to call fire on themselves) but everyone of them does: blogs, indie, a lot of their own fanfic.  And while a lot of what they read and write is blinkered (remember yourself at their ages, guys?) it’s not approved or a uniform voice anymore.  And there’s a refreshing tendency to just want STORY not “story that makes SJW points.”

- A friend before the 2004 election when I was still in the political closet and very nervous said “Chill.  They scream the loudest when they’re losing.  It’s a way you can tell how they’re drowning.  They go on the attack and talk about how your position has no hope.  It’s all projection and despair.”  Well… they decided to mess with GAMERS.  Gamers.  (Shakes head.  Even I am not that foolhardy.)

- Their protests are becoming more obviously sponsored by the dying old guard — ANSWER, Working Families, and other places that have been communist fronts for ages.  Their attempts at generating mass uprisings of the proletariat keep failing.  (Snort giggle.  Marxism is a fantasy ideology, morons.  He had the predictive power of reading fish entrails.  If that.  At least with a fish you could tell what the fish had eaten.  Marx described the past as well as he predicted the future.  You were taken in by the ravings of a psychotic who wouldn’t know reality if it bit him in the butt.)

- The more desperate they get, the more they scream.  The more they scream, the more it becomes obvious they’re raving lunatics.

In the end, we win, they lose.  Keep at it. We are the revolutionaries.  We are the avant garde.  We’re the ones who have the courage to form our own beliefs independent of the establishment pap we’ve been fed.

The only hope for civilization’s renewal or — indeed — continuance is with us. Shoulder to the wheel and push.

Watching the Watchmen – Cedar Sanderson

Watching the Watchmen – Cedar Sanderson

Before solutions to police corruption can be posited, it must first be defined, categorized, and fully understood. I’m only going to touch on this in the broadest of terms, as this could literally fill a book. I’m sure the commenters will have much to add, as well. Let me begin by pointing out that I know no bad cops. I’ve known a few that were very good indeed, and I would trust a cop, were I in trouble and in need of help. But as a woman, I would also be very very cautious being pulled over late at night on a dark road. That’s where we are, as a population. On the other hand, comparing our nation to, say, one a bit further south, our cops are paragons. So take this for what it is.

Corruption can exist at both an individual level, and at the organizational level. At the individual level, the corruption may range from the seemingly innocuous of accepting free coffee from local businesses, to the level of murder, drug dealing, and utter betrayal of the power entrusted to them. At the organizational level, the corruption may be tacitly legal, or knowingly illegal. With almost 19,000 separate police departments in the US, there is a lot of latitude for good cops, bad cops, and cops stuck in bad places.

Police corruption is so disturbing because they are the organization that has been put in place to keep the laws, and when they operate outside those laws, whether explicitly or implicitly, then the Rule of Law is threatened, and tears form in the fabric of society. “Police corruption, which may take the form of soliciting, taking, or offering bribes; selling favors; accepting gifts; abusing authority; and aiding and abetting criminal behavior, is anathema to the repository of public trust in institutions that are entrusted with protecting citizens from crime and bringing criminals to justice. In a nation that regards democracy and justice as cardinal values, the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of corrupt police officers are crucial for preservation and advancement of social order, as well as efficacy of the criminal justice system itself.” (Onyeozili)

Despite public perception of what is called the thin blue line, the unwillingness of the police to report their own for misconduct, a study done by Rothwell and Baldwin shows that the police are overwhelmingly more likely to have policies in place defining misconduct, punishments for those actions, and internal affairs units than any other civilian or government agencies. Because of this, corruption at the individual level is less than popularly believed, but the converse is that corruption in other agencies, like the IRS specifically, is profoundly disturbing and far more likely to go on without any internal whistle-blowing. However, because of the gravity of the abuse of power, police corruption is likely to lead to more public outcry when it is discovered.

To deter corruption at an individual level, the police department must have those clear policies in place to define what is not acceptable for the officers. While some offenses are obviously unacceptable, as in, they are illegal, there are others that fall into gray areas, like accepting gifts. Further, the police department needs to have punishments that will actually deter wrongdoers, which administrative repercussions might not. Criminal convictions of cops who have erred in the line of duty are few and far between. It’s more likely that sweeping-under-the-rug will occur, with unpaid leave, transfer, or dismissal. Policies at a departmental level vary, are not always enforced, and for publicity reasons, are usually downplayed as much as possible. Or, as was discovered in the Rampart investigation, policies might work against themselves, allowing corrupt officers to evade murder charges through manipulation of something called a Lybarger admonition. “Obviously, then, anything an officer says during the investigation of a shooting can result in nothing more than his dismissal. Although administrative action is a serious deterrent, it is not as serious as the prospect of criminal prosecution for murder. Of course, it may appear that Lybarger admonitions would induce officers to “spill the beans” immediately so as to inoculate themselves against criminal actions. According to the RIRP, however, the actual result is usually an ineffective interview of the officer by an attorney from the police union, consisting of leading questions such as “You feared for your life, right?”

The Rampart scandal also illuminated another serious drawback in policing, through the discovery that by hiring individuals based on qualifications other than their suitability for police work, ignoring their psychological profiles, and with backgrounds glossed over in order to meet quotas. “In any case, the bottom line for the LAPD is that Rampart was caused by the misbehavior of a few individuals who should never have been hired. The implication of this frame is that the problem lies outside the LAPD organization and within the character of certain types of individuals. The policy solution is thus simply to prevent such individuals from entering the organization. This is a classically individual-level analysis.” (Kaplan, Paul J. “Looking Through The Gaps: A Critical Approach To The LAPD’s Rampart Scandal.”) It becomes clear that pre-screening before commission as a police officer is not something that can be omitted, and is an important part of corruption controls.

As a direct result of the Rampart scandal, where police were proven to have been hired for affirmative action appeal rather than their integrity, a study was done and a solution was suggested. If an innovative solution means one that is controversial, this certainly fills the bill: “A scholarly study published in April 2000 in the professional journal Economic Inquiry found that aggressive “affirmative action” hiring raised crime rates in many parts of the U.S. In careful statistical analysis of 1987-1993 U.S. Department of Justice data from hundreds of cities, economist John Lott (then of the Yale School of Law, now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute) found that quotas requiring more black and minority police officers clearly increase crime rates. When affirmative action rules take over, he reports, the standards on physical strength tests, mental aptitude tests, and other forms of screening are lowered. The result is a reduced quality of officers–both minority and non-minority recruits end up being less impressive.” (Rothwell, Gary R., and J. Norman Baldwin. “Whistle-Blowing And The Code Of Silence In Police Agencies: Policy And Structural Predictors.”)

Perhaps more troubling than individual corruption, even when it involves a gang, as in the Rampart scandal, is corruption at the organizational level. Especially as we see with the implementation of affirmative action raising serious concerns about the quality of officers, the corruption can be above the law, making it much more difficult to cope with until legislation can be raised to counter the effects. Police departments seizing monies, goods, and property without ever bringing criminal charges, for instance. “Over the last two decades, forfeitures have evolved into a booming business for police agencies across the country, from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to small-town sheriff’s offices. Although there is no single tally of all this activity — the information is buried in the budgets, court records and annual reports of thousands of individual agencies — the available data makes clear that billions of dollars in cash, cars, real estate and other assets are being confiscated nationwide every year via civil forfeitures.

One measure is the growth of a program in which federal law enforcement officials seize property on behalf of local authorities in exchange for a share of the proceeds. In 2000, officials racked up $500 million in forfeitures. By 2012, that amount rose to $4.2 billion, an eightfold increase.

Bing is among a significant number of property owners not charged with any crime who lost their home or have battled for years against forfeiture actions. Other similar cases reviewed by ProPublica include an elderly widow, two sisters who shared a house, a waitress and hospital worker caring for two children, and a mother of three whose family wound up homeless. All stemmed from drug charges brought against a family member.” (Thompson, Isaiah. “Law To Clean Up ‘Nuisances’ Costs Innocent People Their Homes.”) Increasingly, we see concerns raised over the number of civilians who seem to be targeted in order to seize monies, goods, or property. While it may be a ready source of income to some departments, it erodes public trust in the police and structures that were supposed to be in place for the protection of those very things.

Accountability and transparency are said to be the foundations of a healthy police force and many systems have been implemented in recent years to show their willingness to be held accountable. Body cameras and dash cameras on individual officers, real time crime data, and the rapid adoption of COMPSTAT-like programs are all part of this progress. The author of the paper expresses reservations, however, pointing out that just having numbers is not enough without knowing “numbers are always the end product of a series of decisions, many of which are subjective and somewhat arbitrary.” (GILSINAN, JAMES F. “The Numbers Dilemma: The Chimera Of Modern Police Accountability Systems.”) For instance, he points out that until a generation ago, domestic violence was not counted as a crime, while homosexuality was.

In both cases of individual and organizational corruption, the root cause is that the offender has made a decision to satisfy a need without proper deliberation, to weight the long-term costs of the action taken. “Neither as individuals nor as members of organization do we optimize our decision-making, picking the best of all possible alternatives. Instead, we satisfice, picking the alternative that best seems to fit, without expending a great deal of energy to review – in a systematic way – all other possible choices (Gilsinan).” Given this, then, a way of forcing individuals and organizations out of the rut of easy thinking and into a deeper contemplation of the consequences of their action must be considered.

As a parent, I well know that to teach my children proper behavior’s, I had to create a consistent system of rewards and punishments. They could not be applied capriciously, and they must reliably hold true, or if an exception was made, to have a good reason for doing something different. Although slightly more complex when applied at this level, the general principles remain the same. To keep an individual from moonlighting, stealing, or extorting, make it painfully harsh when those actions are taken, and be sure to pay the police at a level where such money-making efforts are not tempting. At the organizational level, legislation needs to be reformed to prevent departments from preying on the innocent for income, and independent commissions should decide the merits of such cases, who cannot benefit from them. In the end, the police must be held accountable for their actions, and there have to be systems in place to enforce that accountability. Otherwise, we have only to look south, just over the border, to see the fear and uncertainty which could all too easily overtake our own daily lives.

Sheep Who Think They’re Wolves

Lately this ridiculous blog post has made the rounds, written by some guy who was mugged, but was sure he deserved it because of his privilege.

The blog post was not a surprise to me.

Years ago, an online friend about ten years younger and from a considerably more comfortable background than mine, was ambushed at the grocery store by someone who forced her – at gun point – to go to two or three ATMs in town and withdraw the maximum allowed and give it to him.

If it had been me…

First of all, it wouldn’t have been me, because I come from a more dangerous time and place. Someone tries to kidnap you from a store, and take you, in a car to another place, you fight right there and right then, with everything you have, even if it’s just screaming your heart out. Because there’s a very good chance someone taking you away from the populated place to a deserted one ah… doesn’t have your continued survival at heart. It has been pointed out to me (several times) that I’m a paranoid woman, or at least not a naturally trusting one. We’ll say that on at least a half dozen occasions this has saved my life.

So, if it were me, I would not have gone. I’d have kicked, screamed and applied elbow to stomach. Even if someone had picked me up from the parking lot of the grocery store, I’d figure at least there were cars around. (Hint, never park in a deserted area at night/when the parking lot is not well attended.)

More likely, anyone trying that trick would end up with a knife in an inconvenient place, because I usually carry more than one knife, and if you get close enough to press a pistol against my back where no one can see it, the least I can do is ensure you sing soprano the rest of your life. (And that’s if I can’t reach your gut.)

But let’s suppose that for whatever reason (I was on crutches and had laryngitis) this happened to me. How would I feel afterwards?

Mad. Hopping mad. Furious. I’d make it my personal mission to find the bastage and end his joy in life.

How did my friend feel? Guilty.

She sent out a long rambling message to the intent that really, how bad does someone’s life need to be that they’re willing to rob strangers at gun point?


Where do people learn this? This unearned guilt in anything good they have, and this bizarre belief that anyone doing anything bad had a horrible life/childhood/background.

They learn it from us. That is, they learn it from writers. Books, TV…

You’ve heard the thing about making sure your villain isn’t just a villain, right? You have to give him/her/it a reason for what they do?

Unfortunately over the years this has morphed into the more sinned against than sinning villain, into the repressed/tortured villain. Into the person who lashes out because, like a tortured dog, they can’t help it.

Humans are not dogs.

Yes, there are people who do horrible things because horrible things were done to them. What percentage of evil doers fall in that category? We don’t know. We don’t know, because if questioned, every evildoer will say that’s why they do evil. Every evil doer will angle for sympathy. “I kicked the puppy because the kitten bit me.” “I stole Bobby’s pencil, because Mike stole mine.” “I robbed the bank because I was beaten as a child.”

The problem with this is that all of us, every one here, I’d bet, knows someone who had a horrible childhood, was beaten, was kept in the cold and rain, or whatever, and has never committed a single crime. All of us know people who had a tough as heck childhood and who are strivers, good friends, honest as the day is long, loyal spouses, gentle with kittens and puppies.

To say that to be yelled at one Sunday when you’re three will cause you to commit murder is to wrong everyone who had a horrible childhood.

It’s possible that it’s true for some people. One of the things we’ve found out is that some people are more resilient than others. Some people break easy. Some people break bad. People are not widgets.

But the other thing we know – we have to know – is that not everyone who is evil is more sinned against than sinned. Not everyone who hurts others has been hurt.

Look, we’re all flawed. Laziness is part of human nature. So is greed. It’s perfectly possible for someone who is lazy and greedy to decide he’d rather rob than work. I’ve heard of it/seen it happen. And so have you. Even back in kindergarten I knew people like this, and so did you.

They rob because they can, and because no one ever stopped them/they don’t think anyone will ever stop them.

This is a reason too. It’s not a sympathetic reason, but it’s a reason. (It’s a little more sympathetic if you realize the people who never set boundaries helped in these person’s lives, while they could still have learned and become normal, nice people, did them a grave injustice.) Having people take a sadistic pleasure in their power over others, or think that others owe them a living is a motivation.

Your villains don’t need to be saints.

The problem is that the narrative of the saintly villain leaves the good people – or people who are convinced everyone else is good – strangely unprotected. Not people like me, mind you. We’re not good. Or not that good. We’re good despite our bad, if that makes sense. But people who are good because they’re good, those people will read the books and imagine that every menace out there is a villain-with-a-heart-of-gold looking for an opportunity to redeem himself. They’ll think that every wolf has the heart of a lamb. And that if they commit heinous crimes it’s society’s fault, or the fault of the person being wronged.

The problem with this is that wolves are wolves. Being a particularly compliant lamb gives nothing, except convincing the wolf his mode of life is right, and he should go on eating tasty mouton. And the next victim might not escape with just property damage.