Give Me That Old Time Religion

You know, as though I didn’t have enough to worry about, particularly when it comes to A Few Good Men, a book I worried about before it was even written, after it was written, and now that it’s published, the world has now gone bananas.  I mean, more so than usual.

I expected some people would object to the character’s sexual orientation.  It never occurred to me that ANYONE would take issue with the Usaian religion.  At least it never occurred to me someone would take issue with it seriously.  I thought people might roll their eyes, or grin, or say “OMG, don’t go L. Ron Hubbard on us, Sarah.”

Then came this review of a game by a colleague of mine, over at PJM:  Walter Hudson, on the anti-gospel of Bioshock Infinite.

First, let me point out that I have no interest in the games and that the best I can say about the designers is that the worldbuilders are the product of American self-hating schools and were probably raised on the gospel of Howard Zinn.  However, Hudson’s pov is, to put it mildly, weird also.

I particularly like the point where he more or less concedes that to make a religion out of adherence to the US constitution would be evil and anti-Christian because, well, all humans are evil and stuff.

Having wakened this morning to find out that the tough grrrls purity brigade Ladies Victorian Morals And Purity Society that SFWA has become is now hunting for Mike Resnick for the dual crimes of a) calling women “ladies” and b) pointing out that skin on covers sells to women as well as men, I feel like I’m inside a tiltawhirl.

When did the two sides exchange places, again?  When did the left, once upon a time the purveyor of free love, freer skin and the more pervy the better stories become the purity squad, and when did the right decide that there would be something wrong with believing in the constitution?

In other words – have you all gone frigging mad?

I’ll deal with the Resnick issue later – aka the “SFWA makes itself even MORE irrelevant, now approaching black-hole irrelevancy levels” fuss.  That will probably lead to several columns and allow me to set several pious and self satisfied ladies grrls on fire.

Right now I’ll explain the why and wherefore of the Usaian religion and also why – while of course Bioshock is doing it WRONG – to consider it a terrible idea that someone should believe in the constitution with religious fervor is inane from someone purporting to be a conservative.

First let’s define religion.  Religion is a set of beliefs that can’t be fully justified by rational observation.  A lot of our nominally Christian – or atheist – population in fact holds fast to several religious beliefs.  For instance, the belief that calling a woman a “lady” is a mark of disrespect.  Or the belief that only males like to see the opposite (or same) sex naked. But I digress.  Then there is the belief that every single human being is harming planet Earth by existing (as if you know, we were somehow intrinsically different from every other species on the planet); the belief we’re “overpopulated” at a time when people enjoy more living space per individual and better food than at any time in history; the belief all cultures are equally valid, particularly those that cause death and horror; the belief …. Should I go on?  I could go on for years.  All of these have the force of religion in influencing everyday life, often in contra-rational ways.

But Sarah, you’ll say, most of these beliefs don’t promise heaven, and they’re not supernatural.  Were you under the impression all religions needed to be?  At its most primitive, religion is a set of appeasing, fetishistic (not in that sense, grrrls purity league!) behaviors that are supposed to keep the wrath of the gods away from you.  And actually, in most cases these modern versions do believe in a paradise of sorts “if everyone were enlightened like me, then we would live in this sort of paradise.”

Given humanity and the limits of the human mind – unlike Walter Hudson, I don’t believe we’re inherently bad.  I believe we’re inherently limited and unable to fully grasp the results of our actions and about evenly divided between good and bad impulses (as a species.  As an individual, your mileage may vary.) – we’re all going to take in any number of beliefs as a sort of unexamined religion and adhere to them with cultic fervor.

My idea, of course (though it started as a joke in Darkship Thieves) is that the Usaian religion was created rationally and on purpose by people who knew history and who believed that the best way to ensure the return of the constitutional republic was to encode those beliefs they had anyway as a set of dogma and ritual.  This would both bind their community and give them the ability to transmit the religion forward through the generations.

The idea was something like “we all got to believe in something.  I believe I’ll create a community which will lead to a society in which eventually individual liberty can flourish.”

But Sarah, you say you’re a believer.  Isn’t that heresy?

Why?

Did I at any time say that no Usaian could have another religion (or none at all?)  I don’t believe so.  In fact, I explicitly stated the opposite in the book.  There are people who are Usaians who don’t believe in G-d, but who believe that the principles set forth in the constitution are the best form of organization any society has ever had (as judged by results.)  Some others (some are explicitly Christian subgroups) believe G-d especially blessed the US and will make sure the idea doesn’t vanish forever from the Earth.  Yes, that is a form of heresy.  But many of us believe G-d helps those who help themselves, and also that he wants the best for us, and this nation conceived in liberty is the best for us.

But when things get tough, people default to community and religion, and having the beliefs explicitly stated and surrounded by rituals gave them a chance of withstanding the centuries.

But… but… but… you had stuff about the founders as prophets, and the return of the George.  Yeah, well.  I grew up in an OLD culture, where a lot of pre-existing religious beliefs got accreted onto Catholicism.  I kind of have a feeling that sort of thing, through five hundred years, would sort of develop.  Though I’ll point out that’s a “folk religion” version, not the religion that unites them all.  There’s also hints that at least some of the people (the Remys – or at least the Remys as viewed by Lucius, which is NOT the same thing)  believe in reincarnation either earthly or into a world of liberty elsewhere.

Am I promoting the idea that the founders were prophets?  Well, I’m allowed to believe anyone and everyone can be divinely inspired, and I think there was a miraculous convergence of events and men at that time.  (If you want to know how miraculous read about it.)  On the other hand, no, I’m not lighting candles before statues of Ben Franklin who likely would have pissed himself laughing at the idea, anyway.

What I am doing is starting from an idea, and then having people behave as people.

This is where the Bioshock designers fail.  Starting from the constitution it’s D*mn hard to get a fascist state, unless you toss the constitution out the window and replace it or make it irrelevant (something we’re on our way to doing.)  Starting from communism, it’s inevitable that you WILL end up in a totalitarian society.

But to say they are wrong because humans are inherently evil is yet another form of heresy.  If man were inherently evil then the path to redemption would be making itself not-man.  This leads to some of the more interesting heresies of the middle ages, newfangled cults like the Heaven’s Gate Cult, and of course Environmentalism.

As a religious person, I believe that humans are inherently FLAWED.  I believe that G-d can help heal our flaws while keeping us human.  That’s my religious belief.  You’re not required to buy into it, and I’m not going to argue it.

As a human being who has studied history, I believe the American system of government has the best results – flawed though it is – of any other system ever tried.  And I will do my d*mndest to make sure it neither vanishes from the world, nor, should it vanish, remain forgotten.

I am a Usaian.

UPDATE:  In case you’re confused about the disappearing post: it’s over at Mad Genius Club, where I’ll be conducting a Cover and Blurb Clinic.  That is if any of you want to play.

440 responses to “Give Me That Old Time Religion

  1. My view of being “mostly good” is like a glass of water laced with a deadly poison being “mostly pure” water.

    • Um… we’re also not “mostly evil” though. Our good often generates evil — which any writer knows — but the opposite just makes us think “we must never allow ourselves to be human.” It brings in the whole “perfect is the enemy of the good” thing.

      • ref: ST:OS Episode #5, “The Enemy Within” (written by Richard “I Am Legend” Matheson) in which the transporter malfunctions and produces split Kirks.

        Every human being is an amalgam of desires, urges and motivations which impel us toward various purposes. The goal of a healthy culture is to direct those drives toward ends beneficial (or, at minimum, not destructive) effect for the culture as a whole. Examples available on request.

        The Catholic Doctrine of Virtue and Vice is a useful examination of how this is done.

        • I still remember back in 11th grade English, we were studying Jonathan Edwards, and the teacher wanted us to write about whether humans were totally depraved or inherently good. Embarrassingly, we’d never actually learned the specifics of this in CCD, but I knew perfectly well that this was a false choice and that fallen man wasn’t totally depraved. It was one of the weirder moments of high school, because the teacher was a very knowledgeable lady of whom I was fond, but she’d apparently never heard that there _was_ any other position in Christianity. Alas, I didn’t have any good theological source material at hand for this.

          Anyway, it turned out later that “exactly how far did Adam and Eve fall” is one of those important questions. Catholicism tends to feel that Adam and Eve started a lot higher (ie, natural humans with preternatural graces of intelligence, control over mind and body, and so on) and that mostly only the superduper graces were lost, and a stain of original sin added. So we’re less than we were, and we have a tendency to want to do evil; but even that is usually caused by unbalanced, selfish longings for things that are good. All in all, we’re still “in God’s image and likeness,” even before Baptism — and although that’s not good enough for salvation, it’s good enough to enable unbaptized people to do good things, try to live good lives, etc.

          The “humans absolutely stink” idea is from the folks that figure the fall was absolutely gave over, and humans lost everything; often this was coupled with a view that humans in Eden were pretty much just like humans today, without any superduper preternatural graces except a grace of not having sinned yet. So in this case, your humans never had much to lose, so they lost everything good and don’t have anything left except badness. (To oversimplify things.)

          However, anybody messing with natural law stuff has to believe that humans have the ability to understand logic and to keep beneficial agreements, at least out of self-interest. So although you can believe that humans will often want to do evil, you have to believe that they are able to do good too. And the founders did talk a lot about a mostly moral populace being necessary to keep a republic going, so there’s that.

          • Evil is the deliberate sacrifice of a greater good. Which is how Thomas Aquinas refuted Manicheeism. Evil can not be an equal and opposite force, because both good and evil acts are done to obtain some good, not some evil.

    • You do realize of course that common every day tap water is in fact laced with any number of deadly poisons, just at PPM too small to do your body any harm. This at least is the case in most civilized western countries, other parts of the world not so much. (May have spoken too soon, just ask anyone whether the tap water is safe to drink in Moscow or Mexico City)
      In a remarkably similar vein a successful culture keeps the evil PPM down to a level where it is detectable, but causes minimal harm.
      While I’m grateful for clean water I do find it a pity we don’t seem to be nearly as successful with the evil in man.

    • You mean like tonic water?

      That reminds me, I need to get gin.

      • Seagram’s twisted lemon– or is it lime?– is awesome. My dad made one for me the other day…. *bliss*

        • I prefer Tanquray Rangpur. It makes for simple G&Ts. Simply pour gin into the glass until the world looks like a better place, then top off with tonic.

        • The senior Red household goes with Pimms. And don’t forget the cucumber. Why yes, my Dad served in the Navy. How can you tell? 🙂

    • “All medicines are poisons.” (Quoting Vathara’s Embers— not sure where she got it.)

      I assume that you MEAN by “deadly poison” that it’s a deadly amount of poison, though.

  2. masgramondou

    The separation of church and state in the constitution/bill of rights does seem to be a slight problem for making them holy documents…

    More seriously, while the Abrahamic religions have problems with people worhshipping other gods, most other religions aren’t quite so dogmatic. In Japan most people consider themselves to be both Buddhist and Shinto and the priests of both are generally fine with this. So far as I can tell this is also true with Hindus in India and most of the old pagan religions that Christianity/Islam overwhelmed. So I can see no reason why someone should not be a USian and some other believeer too.

    I have one problem with the USian religion, it seems to me that veneration of the constitution doesn’t give too much guidance on day-to-day living unless it is considered to incorporate the basic golden rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) implicitly somewhere. Most of its dogmas and strictures are about the hierarchy of power which is really only relevant to a very small number of its putative worshippers. Now I guess its true that significant chunks of the bible aren’t much better (Solng of Soloman anyone?) but at least the Bible has nice stories…

    • well, and that’s the door through which the stories and the other stuff come in. As for the separation — of course the religion wasn’t a guide for GOVERNING, only to keep the beliefs in representative government alive. 😉

    • No separation of Church and State in the Constitution. Only limits the Government from interferring in the church, not other way around. Separation of Church and State is a quote from (was it) Jefferson in a letter or speech to some group.

      • Jefferson’s January 1, 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists:

        … Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties. …

        • Thank you for footnoting my memory for me 😉

          • But at any rate those are details of the governance once they win — which is why I leave them discussing the gold standard, as I pan out… 😉

            • Think of it as architecture: The Constitution provides a framework within which people are free to decorate as they like. The Constitution does not dictate the number or arrangement of interior non-load-bearing walls, nor the arrangement of furniture, knick-knacks or articles, nor does it dictate the colour-schemes allowable in those rooms.

          • You are welcome. 😉

      • masgramondou

        OK you got me – sloppy terminology. However

        “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
        still seems somewhat odd in a religious work

        • Not really… All religious texts have contradictions 😉

          • Adopting your own religious system in relationship to the supernatural (or not) and acting upon it is one of the essential freedoms of Usaian. It was a recognition that you cannot mandate how a person thinks or believes. A person’s subsequent religious obligations were likewise protected, out side of such rare restrictions as not leaving rotting sacrificed animal corpses on the public beach. If the practices are not protected, the what good would the freedom of belief serve?

          • Please – not contradiction but “dynamic tension”, the same process by which flying buttresses and Roman bridges effect their purposes, and through which Doc Savage maintained his marvelous physique.

            YMMV, of course.

          • I’d consider it more “balancing interests.”

            Think like don’t kill people, along with protect the innocent– you’ve got to balance those two interests.

        • Several historians of religion talk about the American Civil or Civic Religion, most notable Mark Noll in “America’s God.” (Which I highly, highly recommend for a very readable study of religion in the Colonial and Early Republic period and how it intertwined with, or fought off, the state.) Early Americans, even those who distanced themselves from traditional Christianity, agreed that the US had a special purpose, and adopted symbols such as the eagle, George Washington, the personification of the nation as Columbia, and others, as well as setting aside special days of commemoration (July 4, and others). Originally these were to be solemn events of remembering and study, but yeah, we know what Americans tend to do to those, for better or worse. 🙂 (See also Robert H. Abzug, “Cosmos Crumbling” for the effects the Second Great Awakening and religious revival had on secular society from 1800-1850.)

          An established religion is one that is supported by the State through tax monies and civil statutes, such as the VA and MA laws regarding Quakers. Remember, at the time of the Revolution, the idea that Church and State could be divided was incredibly radical. Only the United Provinces of the Netherlands had anything close, and even there you had limits to toleration. And some US states kept their state churches until the 1820s.

          • As I recall, from one visit to Williamsburg, Baptists could find themselves in jail in Virginia, where the colony’s official religion was that of the Church of England. Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, I believe, were the only two colonies that guaranteed religious freedom and did not have a religious test for serving in the government.

            • When plagued by Quaker missionaries, Massachusetts passed the death penalty for them. It lasted until word came back from England stopping it — which, oddly enough, stopped the influx of missionaries.

            • Virginia gave Quakers a year to get out, then they were under the death penalty.

          • Make that 1970s. The Governor of Maryland was head of the Episcopal Church there until one day the General Assembly woke up and realized the voters had elected a Jew (Marvin Mandel) as Governor.

        • Several Protestant religions had tenets that – to boil a lot – held that a church hierarchy was wrong. Plus “establishment” meant at the time specifically the creation of an “official” church, ie., the merging of church and government.

    • It’s the other believer where the problem would start. Some religions are syncretic and pull everything in. Others define themselves, which definitely requires exclusion.

  3. >Usaian< from way back, you simply named my religion

  4. Huzzah!

    Our Founding Fathers were very well aware of how flawed we are, and designed a system that acknowledged that. They also acknowledged a Creator wanting to heal those flaws and have us all aspire to be the best we are, as the humans he created us to be (not non-humans, as you so aptly put it).

    So I guess, my political religion is Usaian also.

    • To quote Bernard Bailyn, from “To Begin the World Anew” (p. 123):

      “The ‘Federalist’ authors shared the common belief that most people everywhere, in their deepest nature, are selfish and corruptible and that the desire for domination is so overwhelming that no one should be trusted with unqualified authority, but they were confident that under the Constitution’s checks and balances power would not be unconfined, and for such a self-limiting system there would be virtue enough in the American people for success.”

      • Washington received the title of the American Cincinnatus (as in Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus) because he not once, but twice, voluntarily stepped down from a position of supreme power. This was recognized as an uncommon trait. It is reported that George III of England, on hearing that Washington chose to step down from the Presidency commented, “. . . if Washington went back to his farm after his public career he would be the greatest character of the age.”

  5. Off topic, but your tweet a few minutes ago:

    Cover And Blurb Clinic wp.me/p1aM4T-15B

    has a broken link

  6. Sometime in the middle of last September The Spouse sent me a line of posts from Instapundit under the title I Am Spartacus. Someone there had written:

    … I believe the US is the best country in the world — not perfect — but by far the best system humanity has constructed. Those dead white men who wrote the constitution knew very well what they were doing and we’re not fit to shine their boots. What other totally crazy beliefs do I hold? … I believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that our system of individual rights has made possible magnificent technology. …

    Amen. 😉

    • Hmmm, what would be the Usaian version of “Amen”, the phrase that would mean “I agree with what’s been said” but with religious overtones?

      The closest I’m coming up with so far is “The ayes have it”, but that doesn’t feel like it has the right overtones. Anyone have a better idea?

  7. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Ironically, the Constitution was written by people who believed humans were flawed (I’d say also humans tend toward evil not evil in themselves). They created a system that they thought would prevent flawed men from gaining absolute power over their fellow men.

    Of course, I’ve long believed that the Left has created an universal religion in all but name. Oh, it’s universal because the Left believes *all* must follow it.

  8. Birthday girl

    “If man were inherently evil then the path to redemption would be making itself not-man. ”

    Nailed it. We are not piles of dung, but we sure can create a pile of it … and we can figure out how to clean it up … and so on.

    But do authors ordinarily get this kind of critique of fiction? I like to read sci-fi in particular because of the ideas that get thrown around and experimented with … I never thought any author was trying to write scripture … ??

    • LOL. I’m not. but reading the critique of the game I thought “Wait a minit!”
      Also, yeah, you do, if you’re not writing leftist cant. See, SFWAs race to irrelevance.

  9. Sarah – On Twitter about an hour ago you put out a link to a “Cover and Blurb Clinic,” but the link is bad. Whatever post it was supposed to link to isn’t actually live yet.

  10. “But Sarah, you’ll say, most of these beliefs don’t promise heaven, and they’re not supernatural.”

    Neither does Buddhism, in most of its forms, and nobody doubts that _it_ is a religion.

    There are three categories of knowledge:

    1. Propositions that can be conclusively proved. We call these “math”.
    2. Propositions that cannot be conclusively proved, but could possibly be conclusively refuted. We call these “science”.
    3. Propositions which cannot, by their very nature, ever be either proved or refuted conclusively, at least not by humans existing as humans exist (with our woefully imperfect knowledge of objective reality). We call these “religion”.

    I put political propositions into the “science” domain. Indeed, the central proposition or set thereof in any political ideology tends to be rather more readily testable than a lot of theories propounded in certain other sciences, these days.

    Marxism, for example, has a central proposition (“human nature, under the influence of government, can be effecaciously remade into a more altruistic form”) which over the course of the past century has been tested quite exhaustively, and consistently refuted every single time.

    Capitalism (“most men are capable of great good, but naturally inclined to be selfish, so the optimal way to achieve good results is to organize affairs so as to align their individual and otherwise personal interests with the needs of the whole”) has, of course, never been tested at all in its pure form, but it’s been approximated many times, and has never yet been refuted. Which (as is the way, in the domain of science) doesn’t mean that it’s definitely right — a theory explaining the same facts in a more complete and accurate way might eventually emerge, after all — but probably ought to give it the benefit of the doubt, until some other theory manages to emerge which can at least explain the same historical facts at least as well.

    Of course, in a world whose history has been held in the darkness for half a millennium by oppressive government, the opportunity to examine political notions in a scientific manner would likely disappear. In its absence, political propositions might well grow religious accretions.

    The danger, of course, is in allowing those religious accretions to develop into fatalistic complacency. If the revered founders were not merely brave, intelligent, perceptive, and mostly-good specimens of ordinary humanity, but rather special creatures of supernatural gift…well, for a lot of those that believe in them, that’d make a mighty convenient excuse for why, despite all the covert worship, they haven’t followed in the footsteps of their heroes.

    • AH, but the rub to your logical argument is when a “TRUE BELIEVER” is presented with proof that their pet belief is false they immediately slip into denial mode and at that point science is transformed into religion.
      A true marxist will maintain with unshakable certainty that each and every historical failure is simply due to human failure. If only they had tried a bit harder, spend more life and treasure, killed or imprisoned more of the nay sayers, then a true marxist paradise would be ours.
      Similar case in point with the rabid AGW crowd. Earth’s average temp has not increased in over 15 years, yet they still insist with religious fervor that every localized weather related incident must be laid at the feet of “climate change.” Not only that, but it must be man’s responsibility, not simply a cycle the earth repeats on a semi regular and very predictable basis.
      As for math, you have heard of the state legislature who passed (or at least tried to) a bill changing the value of Pi to 3.0. Would have made things ever so much easier don’t you know. And I’m sure any number of the state politicians saw no problem with the proposition. Same folks who firmly believe that when the feds run out of money all they really have to do is print more, the “I can’t be overdrawn, I still have checks!” crowd.

      • As for math, you have heard of the state legislature who passed (or at least tried to) a bill changing the value of Pi to 3.0. Would have made things ever so much easier don’t you know.

        If you’re referring to the story about Alabama’s state legislature passing a bill redefining pi to be 3.0, you should be aware that that story was written on April 1 (April 1, 1998, to be precise). Which should be a clue. 🙂

        If you’re referring to the Indiana Pi Bill of 1897, that one was real, but a lot more complicated, and you should really read the Wikipedia article to get the whole story. Basically, a math amateur managed to get the Indiana legislature to consider passing a bill promoting his (incorrect) method of squaring the circle, by promising that if they passed it, he would allow Indiana schools to teach his (copyrighted) method for free. (Others would have to pay him royalties, was the idea.) The bill never explicitly redefined pi, though if the mathematical assertions in the bill were taken to their logical conclusions, the value of pi would have had to be 3.2. The bill passed the Indiana House, but died in the senate, as by that point a real mathematician had explained the bill’s convoluted language, and why it was wrong, to the Indiana senators.

        So in short: no, no American state legislature has ever actually tried to redefine pi. The only time anything like that came close to happening was when a bunch of legislators voted for a bill they didn’t really understand. Which is a cautionary tale in and of itself, but with a different moral to the story (and one which I wish more people understood).

        • “Don’t make me add ’rounding pi to 3′ to your list of crimes.”
          [Petey, _Schlock Mercenary_]

      • “A true marxist will maintain with unshakable certainty that each and every historical failure is simply due to human failure.”

        And a true capitalist would enthusiastically agree, and propose that when the Marxist manages to identify a means of establishing a government _not_ composed of humans, he feel free to give the rest of us a call. 🙂

        You’re totally right about AGW, though, at least as it’s practiced by its most vocal proponents. A “theory” that can be used to explain any possible set of observations is by definition not science.

        • I wouldn’t go that far. My objections to Marxism don’t stem from what sort of beings the government is composed of. My objections stem from the fact that capitalism is simply a respect for the right of people to freely associate and conduct business with each other. Every large deviation involves systematically violating the will of almost every agent involved, whether said agents are “flawed” humans, “perfect” beings (whatever that is supposed to mean), or even weirder things. (I’ve made up agents with bizarre motives in my models before).

          If they can freely associate and coordinate via voluntary consent to accomplish their goals, what you have is essentially a market situation. If they can’t, then most people are stuck with a situation they wouldn’t chose freely.

          Even in a hypothetical universe where Marxism somehow produced “better outcomes” – well, it’s a contradiction. How is an outcome that I wouldn’t chose being forced on me, whether by a central committee of high-and-holy technocrats or the thug down the street, “better?”

          I never like these arguments that assume that if you just had the right tyrant selected to violate my will, it would represent an improvement in my circumstances. And that by implication my own motives are as evil as the ones of those who seek to rule me! The ‘flawed evil human’ argument is flawed.

          • no. I didn’t mean “flawed evil human” — all humans are flawed, demonstrably. The all humans are evil thing was the reviewers. It’s … odd.
            Well, the “right” tyrant can improve your life over the “wrong” tyrant, but overall being free improves it more for most people. (Some exceptions apply. void where invalid or prohibited.)

            • Well, the “right” tyrant can improve your life over the “wrong” tyrant,

              This is the argument I disagree with. The right tyrant can make my life better only by screwing up the life of someone else. If he never acts to prevent someone from pursuing his goals, then he isn’t coercing anyone and not acting as a tyrant.

              If the tyrant is busy pointing his guns at me, then he certainly isn’t improving my life!

              • Oh, nevermind. I misread. A “good tyrant” is an improved situation over an “worse tyrant”, not an improvement over freedom. Sorry. Reading comprehension fail.

                • The “right tyrant” argument, when transposed to a clearer situation, such as rape, is exposed for the codswallop it is.

                  Yes, a “good” rapist is preferable to a “bad” rapist (for various values of rapist, obviously — at the most basic level a good rapist leaves you living, or prevents your being raped by an army) but it is far far better to not be raped.

                  In a related note, I gather the Mullahs of Iran are responding to world-wide complaints about their practice of punishing adulterers by stoning them to death and are even now discussing alternative methods of execution.

                  • Apparently one problem (I sh*t you not) is that some areas lack rocks of the proper legal size. So in those cases, shooting or hanging might be permitted at the judge’s discretion, after consulting with the local religious authorities.

                    • To borrow from Cato the Elder:
                      Islam delenda est!
                      At least for some values of “Islam.”

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      That grammar, cartago delenda est, is passive periphrastic. That means that the delenda est must agree with the with the object in gender and number. I think the nominative is also needed. Anyway, if we assume that grammar for islam here, it does not, to my recollection, match well with regular Latin nouns.

                      I might suggest instead Salafi Necandi Sunt, more or less lit. “Them Salafi need killin'”.

                      Salafi somewhat fits as neuter and plural. It is also a narrower category, one I am fully confident ought to be entirely exterminated.

                    • FlyingMike

                      Alces et Sciurius mori debet.

                  • BobtheRegisterredFool

                    I don’t necessarily have a problem with what some of the executions are for, on paper. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the means of execution. My issue is that I have no confidence whatsoever in the integrity of their judicial system. I have the impression that it is rife with favoritism. That said, Iran is an enemy of the United States for other reasons, so it is possible that my judgement may be suspect.

            • Depends on your definition of “tyrant”. Suppose a man took over a throne by force, ignores all protest, but nevertheless passes and enforces no more laws than are needed. Suppose the chief reason that he is objected to and called a tyrant is that he forces everyone in the kingdom to keep their contracts and refrain from crimes against their neighboring groups.

              If by definition a tyrant must do oppressive things, yes, freedom’s better, but there are governments conceivably called tyrannical that would produce more actual freedom than many democracies.

              • Andrew Drummond

                In antiquity, originally tyrant merely meant that one had ascended to power by extra-consititutional means. It took on the other meanings after enough tyrants violated enough other parts of their states’ constitutions. So, your good tyrant is possible, but unlikely in practice. Sort of like the exception that proves the rule.

                • To be sure, a monarchist could also point out that a good democracy is possible, but unlike in practice. “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

          • I think I was reading one of Ayn Rand’s arguments where she was beating her head on the desk over the conservative response to communist’s claims of utopia: That we need democracy because humans are lowly flawed beings incapable of good. If they were better beings, then they would be WORTHY of slavery and dictatorship!

            • If we were good, dictatorship would work as well as any other form of govenrment. A good dictator would neither make nor enforce any law that was not just — and since we would all be just, his laws would be needed only for bookkeeping stuff like which side of the road to drive on. He could probably hack it. Being wise, he would know if not, and appoint people to help him — who would also be wise and just, so he wouldn’t have to worry about corruption.

              Calling that “slavery” presupposes that he is in fact evil.

              • A problem arises when you presume 1) a truly benevolent ruler; 2) a people who are good and 3) administrators who are wise and just. (This makes me think of the American best and the brightest…) Your hypothesis assumes a situation where everyone in power is capable and self-restrained, and the population is self-disciplined and homogenous in principles. Outside of mythic stories of golden ages past or yet to come I have not heard tell of either. People do not all agree on what is good, wise, just and proper. Therefore, under even the best of human systems, with the best of intentions, there will be some part of the public held to systems of behaviors against their will.

                • That was the situation posited: namely, if we were better people, a dictatorship would be workable. I just ran with it.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Ah, see, you’re misunderstanding their meaning of improvement. In their terminology, it is only society that can be improved by the “right tyrant”, and people like you, and I, and many others here, are to be considered obstructions, and either re-educated, or removed.

      • FlyingMike

        A true marxist will maintain with unshakable certainty that each and every historical failure is simply due to human failure. If only they had tried a bit harder, spend more life and treasure, killed or imprisoned more of the nay sayers, then a true marxist paradise would be ours.

        Now there’s an interesting story premise: The Aliens arrive, and being slightly gullible, are talked by the local eliterati into taking over and running things as per true marxism – hey, they are immune from all human failings by definition, not being human, so skip right to step three, Utopia! When this does not work out, hilarity ensues. And gunfire.

    • I would argue that Buddhism does indeed promise heaven, but that it is not “Heaven” as most of us would recognise it. As to whether it contains supernatural beliefs, well … that is a topic beyond the scope of any reasonable discussion in this forum, but what is Karma is not a supernatural agency?

    • You leave no room for philosophy or art or engineering in your categories of knowledge. Or for things that are knowledge but which cannot be expressed as propositions.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        🙂

        Philosophy is not an area of knowledge. Art isn’t portable enough to be knowledge. Engineering combines math, science and religion, not that I’d admit the later, as it might be syncretism.

        Grins, Ducks, and Runs Away.

        • Jeff Gauch

          “Dear G-d, please let this work.”

          The engineer’s prayer.

        • Like heck art isn’t knowledge. It’s just not… scientific/hard knowledge.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            If I can parse knowledge so narrowly that I can exclude philosophy, surely I could do the same for art.

            The only other relevant line of BS I have on me at the moment is that true art comprises industry, engineering, the sciences and math. All others, sculpture, painting, dance, theater, poetry and so forth, are mere ephemera, not really counting as art in any way shape or form.

            I am serious about engineering having a religious component. I was exposed to Taoism as part of a history course, and thought ‘these parts are anti-engineering’.

            • Perhaps philosophy, art, engineering, etc. are meta-knowledge — knowledge of how to deploy and use knowledge.

            • The founders of Western science — of which engineering is a consequence — were religiously motivated, pursuing understanding of the universe on the premise that G-d is not a maniac; His works are consistent and logical.

              Pantheism, which allows physical laws to vary according to local deities, is antithetical to knowledge organized as science and engineering. If chemical reactions are the result of propitiation of various sprites chemistry develops very differently.

      • Andrew Drummond

        One of my instructors in library school would have said that something isn’t knowledge until it is written down and disseminated. Arguably, art doesn’t quite meet that criterion, though criticism of the art could. ie, Knowledge requires words.

    • Just a note: Buddhism, while not always teaching that there is a state of heaven, does, in all forms with which I am familiar, teach that there is a higher state of being.

    • Communism is evil. Even if it did work it would still be evil. Again from the mid-September Instapundit I am Spartacus post previously referenced (which was made by someone who chose to be an American):

      …What more should go in my self denunciation? I hate Marxism with a burning purple passion; Communism should not be acceptable. Declaring yourself a communist should be as acceptable as declaring yourself a puppy eater (oh, wait!) It should shock and disgust well-balanced people. …

      • You choose to quote such weirdos… (runs.)

        • Well some people would not run from being lumped with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Possibily George III of England.

      • It’s truly an odd world, where I come off sounding like I’m defending communism. 🙂

        Yes. Communism is evil. Duh.

        It is merely my contention that it is evil _for the same reason_ it is ineffective…because it first ignores human nature, and then (when ignoring it doesn’t work well enough) forcibly attempts to suppress it. That is evil. Even if/when it get stopped short of the gulag or the killing fields, it’s still evil. Also, even _with_ the gulag and the killing fields, it’s _still_ ineffective.

        A noteworthy detail of this argument is that it avoids the embarrassing need to explain why communism isn’t evil when ants and bees do it, as would be necessary in the case of a claim that it’s ontologically evil, independent of the nature of humanity. 🙂

  11. By your definition, my belief in God is not a religious belief. It’s based on reason and evidence and choosing the hypothesis that best fits the facts. I could be wrong–my logic could be faulty, or I could be mislead as to the evidence. That doesn’t mean that my belief cannot be justified by rational observation any more than my belief in electrons.

    I think that’s an important point to make, because it falsely cedes the rational high ground to the atheists. Atheists flat out will not concede that atheism is a religion (although it is, and one that requires a particularly robust faith).

    Metaphysical questions are ones that can, and I believe should, be decided on the basis of rationality.

    • Birthday girl

      There are days when Pascal’s Wager is all that keeps me in my faith. An Atheist might call that “fear of hell” or whatnot, rather than rational wagering. Is that what you’re talking about?

      • No, I mean the scientific evidence that the universe and its contents must have been designed and created by a transcendent power. The universe has a definite beginning, something outside of the universe must have begun it.

        Living things are of a level of complexity that requires deliberate assembly. To take one of literally hundreds of specific examples, the compound fibrogen, which is responsible for blood clotting, cannot be explained by any evolutionary mechanism.

        The evolutionists usual rejoinder that enough time will explain the impossible doesn’t apply to blood clotting mechanisms because the exact balance of fibrogen and its antagonist must have arisen in a single generation–animals can’t survive giving birth with blood that doesn’t clot.

        The same goes for the oxygen fixing properties of hemoglobin, the ability of stomach linings to resist digestive fluids, complex structures such as eyes, ears, noses, mouths, that contain numerous parts that could not function without each other.

        The fact is that evolution as it is currently taught is quite easy to disprove with a basic understanding of biology. It is accepted solely on the basis of miracle, atheism demands that it must have occurred, and so it is accepted as an article of faith.

        • Birthday girl

          Thank you … fibrogen, etc. … interesting … going to explore this with atheist scientist son … 🙂

        • Kate Paulk

          Actually, Misha, you’re echoing a very common piece of flawed reasoning – at the bottom of your reasoning is the assumption that the organ/balance/ability in question appeared in toto with no intermediate forms.

          Your example of blood clotting has plenty of evidence to how it evolved. This recorded lecture has a pretty decent explanation. It’s an hour long webinar, though, so you’ll be there for a while. I’m working my way through it right now. The big takeaway is that the older the species, the simpler the blood clotting system (and circulatory system in general). The human clotting system is a superset of older mammal systems, which in turn are supersets of older reptilian systems all the way back to the first known clotting system. Circulatory systems show the same degree of increasing complexity.

          It’s the same as the hoary old argument about the eye. It didn’t just spring into being fully formed the way those who dismiss evolution assume. The likely progression was from light-sensitive cells (a very small and quite common mutation seen in all animals and numerous plants) through progressively more complex improvements to the modern eye. And examples of all of this can be found all over the world.

          I agree with you that evolution as taught today is largely a load of tripe. Evolution as the theory currently stands is not. If it was, there would be no such thing as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and myxomatosis would still kill almost all rabbits in Australia.

          • Evolutionary theory rests on the idea that the intermediate forms have an advantage over non-evolved forms. It is difficult to imagine what sort of advantage an animal with any one part of an eyeball without the others would have.

            There is no way that a cluster of light sensitive cells could gradually become an eyeball, with a lens, muscles to focus the lens, muscles to hold the eyeball in the socket, muscles to move the eyeball, tear ducts to lubricate the eye, an optic nerve, and optical center of the brain to interpret the signals from the optic nerve, eye lids, muscles to move the eyelids, glands and ducts to produce the fluid inside the eyeball.

            In order for any of these structures to convey any evolutionary advantage, they would all have to appear simultaneously.

            • Keep in mind that Evolutionary Theory

              a) does not contradict the concept of a Creator so much as posit a process by which He worked. Do computer chips evolve? Do they enjoy intelligent design (the quality of the intelligence designing certain chips should be put aside as a topic best lubricated with ethyl alcohol.)

              b) depends on Sequentialist Heresy, the insistence that Time cannot operate simultaneously and thus denying a Creator able to develop and insert a “string” — those of us with children will recognize that when viewing your child you are seeing an accumulation of events, the child as it was, has become and is likely to be.

              • Why do people bring up the fact that evolution doesn’t contradict theism? Flat Earth theory doesn’t contradict theism, either. My point is that evolution theory contradicts the physical evidence.

                • Kate Paulk

                  Your point is 100% wrong. Evolution theory does not contradict the physical evidence. It supports the evidence.

                  Your refusal to accept this is either a religious position (you refuse to accept the evidence) or evidence that your education lacked sufficient science instruction from competent people (you don’t know enough about science, much less biology, to comprehend the evidence).

                  No skin off my nose, but you don’t get to spout incorrect data without getting challenged.

            • masgramondou

              So there are actually two only partially related things here.

              Firstly do things evolve? (and by thing I’m not soley refering to living critters). answer – unless you live in an Egyption river submarine – is clearly YES. And for bonus credit, living things do also evolve as has been proven by any number of cases (such as bunnies in Australia or eyeless fish in caves).

              However that is not necessarily the same as question 2: “has every part of every current lifeform evolved from something simpler?” Now, unlike Q1, this is hard to prove. Conceivably eyes (or blood clots or …) have not in fact evolved but were created by some other mechanism. Yet given that Q1 is YES and the burden of proof seems to be on the other foot here. Just because you can’t think of how an eye evlved doesn’t mean it couldn’t have done so. To disprove eolution for a particular feature you need to show that there is no possible way that a particular feature could have arisen by chance. This is analagous to the Godel Incompleteness Theorem and needs some similar level of proof. I.e. not that “you” can’t think of a way X evolved but a stronger “there exists some feature that can never have evolved because ….” proof by example is not sufficient here.

              • Yet given that Q1 is YES and the burden of proof seems to be on the other foot here. Just because you can’t think of how an eye evlved doesn’t mean it couldn’t have done so.

                These are highly complex systems, to the point where almost nobody can fully understand the system in every detail (I might understand the optics of the eye in great depth if I’m an optician, but do I fully understand the biochemistry or how the optic fluid is formed)? My friend the chemist might have a better grasp of the chemical structure of the optic fluid and how it’s formed from its component chemicals, but he might not understand the things that can go wrong with an eye and how to correct for them). Given that fact, I would suggest that this isn’t a case where the burden of proof rests 100% on one side or the other, but rather where both sides might bear some burden of proof — because reaching 100% certainty, given the complexity of the systems involved and the fact that there will always be gaps in the knowledge of the individuals arguing about it, is impossible. In other words, if Michael Behe is making a decent case that the eye is too complex to evolve, the evolutionist answering him now has the burden of presenting at least a decent case that it could. And if the evolutionist has presented at least a decent case that it could, then it becomes Behe’s turn (or the turn of anyone arguing the same irreducible-complexity position) to make a decent case that no, that model fails on points X, Y or Z. At which point the relative burden of proof is back on the other side again, and so it goes.

                Essentially, I disagree that a math-theorem level of proof is needed here, given the complexity of the argument. Holding forth for a Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem level of proof — a 100% certainty level, in other words — will do nothing but prevent the discussion from moving forward any further. This is an area where we should be comfortable with 75-90% certainty levels if there’s any back-and-forth discussion to be had.

              • Jeff Gauch

                Actually, your second question is trivial to prove. Pretty much every organism on the planet, from amoeba to man, from lambs playing in the sunshine to chemosynthetic bacteria on the ocean’s floor, use the same genetic code. There is no physical reason for CCC to code for proline. The only reason we see it in nearly all species (the only exceptions are mitochondrial DNA – lending credence to the theory that mitochondria were once autonomous organisms – and some species of yeast) is that all species have a common ancestor. Since the fossil record clearly indicates a trend from lower to greater complexity, it is rather straightforward that we are descended from less complex ancestors.

                • Since the fossil record clearly indicates a trend from lower to greater complexity …

                  This is the part that bugs me about classical evolution, actually. (By which I mean the theory that this happened with no guiding intelligence, as opposed to ideas like theistic evolution). In every other realm we know of, complexity cannot arise without a guiding intelligence. Even in the cases that look most like it, such as evolutionary programming (setting up your computer programs to “mutate” by randomly changing bits of code, and selecting for the programs that are “better” for whatever criteria you’re aiming for), you need to design your selection criteria carefully to get the desired results. I’ll readily grant that Darwin figured out a plausible way for such complexity to arise spontaneously, but to my mind, that feels like saying “This perpetual motion machine looks plausible.” It looks plausible, but at some fundamental level, it violates the second law of thermodynamics (entropy will naturally increase rather than decrease), which has been shown to hold in pretty much every other area. The only thing that we know of that can decrease entropy is the action of some intelligence: whether a real one like humans, or a theoretical one like Maxwell’s Demon.

                  It seems to me that it requires more of a leap of faith to say “complexity arose from simplicity, with no guiding intelligence, via this mechanism” than to say “complexity arose from simplicity because some intelligent being or beings used this mechanism to do it”. In other words, I find that the intelligent design theory takes less of a leap of faith than the alternative.

                  Of course, as Kate Paulk pointed out further down in the thread, “Science is about the how. Why is outside the scope of the experiment.” And indeed, the argument I’m making here is less of a scientific argument than a philosophical one (though the borders of the two disciplines do tend to blur together in this particular area). So I don’t know how much value there is in posting this — I certainly don’t expect to change anyone’s views with it — but when you mentioned, in passing, the very thing (simplicity becoming complexity) I had been thinking about an hour ago as my biggest objection to the idea of evolution without intelligence, I figured I might as well talk about it briefly.

                  • Ah, but you make the common error of misapplying the second law of thermodynamic. The statement that entropy cannot decrease (no change in entropy is allowed for reversible processes) only applies to CLOSED systems, those which have neither energy nor matter entering or leaving the system. That obviously isn’t true of earth, since we’re radiatively coupled with a giant ball of fusion. From a thermodynamics point of view stars are nothing more than massive entropy factories. Life intercepts some of that entropy and uses it to increase local complexity before sending it out into the universe as waste heat.

                    In fact, if you understand entropy from a statistical mechanics perspective, as a measure of the number of states available to the system, it becomes obvious that simple life would develop greater complexity.

                    • Jeff Gauch

                      And now I have to go flog myself with a wet noodle. Non-decreasing entropy only applies to isolated systems, where neither energy or matter cross the boundary. Closed systems allow energy, but not matter, to cross the boundary. The Earth is an open system, but to the first approximation it’s merely closed. Either way you cannot apply the second law of thermodynamics to just the Earth.

                    • In fact, if you understand entropy from a statistical mechanics perspective, as a measure of the number of states available to the system …

                      This part of your argument I don’t understand at all, never having studied statistical mechanics. Would you mind expanding a little on this one?

                    • It’s been over a decade since I studied stat. mech., but I’ll try.

                      The basic idea is that entropy is a measure of how many states are available to a system. For example, an ordered deck of cards has four ways to be ordered, while a completely randomized deck has 8×10^67 different possibilities. Thus a random deck has more entropy than an ordered one. The second law of thermodynamics is simply a recognition that the more opportunities something has to happen the more it will happen.

                      So to apply this to life (and this is pretty much my own thinking), look at the early Earth. The oceans are teeming with eukaryotic life, little more than bits of DNA in support pouches with copying machinery. You cannot get much simpler that that, so any change is going to result in an increase in complexity, or at least the same level of complexity. Add a few billion years of random changes and you will necessarily see more complexity. Of course, once you get that complexity random changes will work in both directions, but we do see evidence of complex species evolving into less complex ones.

                      And of course, there’s the non-random selection element that preserves those changes that enhance reproduction.

              • Do things evolve?

                Not if you accept sequentiality as an illusion. Once you absorb the concept of simultaneity you recognize that evolution is moot.

                • What is the purpose of time? To keep everything from happening now.

                  What is the purpose of space? To keep everything from happening here.

            • Jeff Gauch

              “In order for any of these structures to convey any evolutionary advantage, they would all have to appear simultaneously.”

              This statement is completely and indubitably false.

              Let us look at the eye. A patch of light sensitive cells most certainly conveys a survival advantage. An organism with more resolution is going to reproduce more often than one with less. These cells are generally more sensitive, so an organism that can provide them with a more consistent environment will enjoy an advantage over those that do not (add in a few billion years of mutation and selection and you’ve got your tear ducts). Of course, if we’re providing a specialized environment then it would be advantageous to protect that environment from the outside world, behold! The eyeball! And since the covering is by necessity clear, any mutations that result in localized thickening would allow the creature better focus, conveying breeding advantages. Once we have a lens, the ability to change its shape and selectively focus would be of great help, especially in predatory creatures. And likewise, the ability to swivel the eyeball and determine depth would help our carnivorous predecessors eat enough to survive and produce the next generation of ancestors.

              Any trait can be broken down in a similar manner. Sometimes we don’t know all of the intermediate steps, but incomplete knowledge is no reason to assume it is wrong. And occasionally a structure will develop for one purpose, only to have a mutation cause the selection space to change. For example, it turns out that the surface area/mass ratio of an effective gliding wing for insects is only slightly larger than the SA/M ratio for the maximally efficient heat exchanger. Thus, once a species develops the maximally efficient heat exchanger a mutation for slight dwarfism would put them on a course for developing flight.

              • What part is completely false? The fact that eyes contain multiple complex structures? The fact that these structures do not exist in patches of light sensitive cells?

                In the case of the formation of the eyeball, it’s not that we don’t know all of the intermediary steps, it’s that we don’t know any of them. Skin cells don’t just try really hard and grow up to be smooth muscle tissue.

                The eye is an irreducibly complex structure that is the cooperation between numerous cell types. Incremental evolution requires that each mutation be separate and that each mutation, seen in isolation, conveys an advantage to the organism.

                Incremental changes will not give you an eye that becomes gradually better. What incremental changes will give you is a number of structures that do nothing to help the organism by themselves, that suddenly all come together to allow a creature to see.

                • Jeff Gauch

                  The whole concept of irreducible complexity. It’s really nothing more than saying you don’t understand something. That’s your limitation, not the universe’s.

                • Kate Paulk

                  What twaddle. Magical thinking mixed with abysmal ignorance and the ability to spout the right code words. If one kind of cell is incapable of becoming a different kind of cell there would be no multi-celled organisms.

                  Not only are almost all the intermediate steps between light-sensitive skin and functional eyes known, there are examples of them throughout nature.

                  The process in question is NOT one of “suddenly all come together to allow a creature to see”, it’s one where thousands of generations of creatures each are a bit better at detecting the things they need to detect to eat and survive than their parents were.

            • Kate Paulk

              Misha, the way eyeballs evolved wasn’t in bits as you suggest. What happened was more along the line of some of the light sensitive cells becoming more sensitive to light/dark while others became more sensitive to movement (as demonstrated by rapidly changing light/dark). Big advantage to the critters that had it.

              The light-sensitive layer got thicker and the “light” ones clustered to the front where the “movement” ones clustered to the back. Some of the light ones were closer to transparent than the others. Advantage to the critters with the more transparent cells.

              Critters used skin muscles around the cells to help them detect possible food or predators. Some had more sensitive ones. Advantage to those with it.

              And so on… There was never a case of any one component developing separately. All of them evolved incrementally together, and the creatures that had all of them working together at the state they were in had more descendants than the ones that didn’t.

              What fossils exist of fish eyes, show structures very similar to modern fish eyes. No eyelids there. But amphibians with a thin membrane over their eyes did better than amphibians without it, so that got passed on.

              Humans don’t do gradual processes very well. Evolution is a gradual process, one that is continuing today. Most mutations are neutral or bad news. A few are improvements. The mutation in humans that doesn’t switch off the ability to digest milk is one of the improvements.

              • Birthday girl

                “Humans don’t do gradual processes very well.”

                I want what I want and I want it right NOW ! 🙂

              • snelson134

                “Humans don’t do gradual processes very well. ”

                Ask anyone who’s tried to stick to a diet…..

          • OK, this is quite a bunny trail if ever there was one… ;-). Having read a description of a rabbit stampede in one of Arthur Upfield’s Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte mysteries, I suspect that many in Australia wish that myxomatosis had killed almost all the rabbits.

            • It did. The first time (Death rate about 95%). Now all the rabbits in Australia are immune.

              • And meanwhile, when I was little, the rabbits in the village all died of myxomatosis one year. It was a bad year. (Rabbits are an important food animal. Or were.)

                • Hey, I’ll eat Thumper any time…..

                  • Meat is Murder.
                    Tasty, tasty murder.

                  • Knowingly tried it for the first time a few days ago– mom use to feed it to us regularly when we were little, but she was scared we’d freak and just told us it was chicken. (We were fine with the cured bunny skins, but… well, I don’t second guess mom much.)

                    The fat tastes funny, but other than that, yum!

    • Jeff Gauch

      I’m an atheist, and I concede it’s a religion. Though I’ve had to argue the point with other atheists on many occasions. I think part of that is because quite a few atheists aren’t really atheists. They’ve just picked up atheism as a weapon with which to attack Christianity, and so they cannot concede that their weapon is no different than the target they wish to attack.

      The problem with rationality is that, depending on your axioms, you can prove pretty much anything. It’s why Greek and Roman philosophy never made the advancements that even Renaissance science made. Their constructs were perfectly rational, but had no necessary relation to the real world, and they lacked the mechanism to discard those constructs that existed only in the mind.

      • second paragraph — cough — communism. The system is beautiful, it just has nothing to do with reality.

        • Jeff Gauch

          Well, to be fair, pure market capitalism relies on some pretty unrealistic assumptions. Like all actors having perfect knowledge and that capital can be converted with zero cost. But it’s quite a bit easier to give people knowledge than it is to make them altruistic. Just like it’s easier to jump over a puddle than it is to jump to the moon.

          Then there’s socialism, which assumes that the bureaucrats have both perfect knowledge and perfect altruism. Layering stupidity doesn’t mitigate it, it compounds it.

          • The whole point of the price mechanism in Capitalism is so that people can act without perfect knowledge (Perfect knowledge being a recognized impossibility), per Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society”:

            Fundamentally, in a system in which the knowledge of the relevant facts is dispersed among many people, prices can act to coördinate the separate actions of different people in the same way as subjective values help the individual to coördinate the parts of his plan.

            • Jeff Gauch

              The price acts to convey knowledge about the costs of producing the good and the relative demand for it, but it doesn’t tell the consumer about their opportunity costs. That’s where things start to break down.

              • Rob Crawford

                The consumer is responsible for assessing the opportunity costs, as they are the only ones aware of the opportunities they’d be willing to take.

                • Jeff Gauch

                  Yes, but they’ll do it in an imperfect fashion. Heck, I’m pretty much convinced that modern conservatism is a mental disorder characterized by the ability to understand the concept of opportunity cost, and if you ask the random person on the street about discount rates they’ll think they have something to do with Black Friday sales.

                  • If you use that terminology, yes you are right. However, most people can tell you if, in a specific situation, it is better to buy (or get paid) something now, or get something better if they wait a while.

                    • But how much better for how long of a wait? And I doubt if you ask a bunch of people who play the lottery if they would prefer a lump sum or annual payments many would ask you for the interest rate.

                      And it’s that ability to perform the quantitative analysis that is necessary to truly rational economic decisions.

                    • We buy a lottery ticket (now and then) for the right to dream for a few days. It’s logical!

                    • It’s perfectly rational as an entertainment expense. Less so as a retirement plan.

                      But if you won and were given the choice between a lump sum today and an annual check over the next 20 years, you would be hard-pressed to determine the answer that got you the most money. That’s because a key factor in the calculation, the interest rate you’re going to get, is unknowable over that time frame. Nobody knows what the Fed is going to decide to do 15 years from now. And even if we assume a market-based currency with no Fed to set rates, interest rates will still be determined by the ratio between savings and investment, which will depend on economic factors unknowable decades ahead of time.

                    • Not really. We’d take the lump sum because we’re we. We’d want the control NOW. 😉 Also, we’d want gold, canned food and ammo.

                    • But that’s my point. We aren’t the utility-optimizers that pure market capitalism assumes we are, any more than we’re the angles communism assumes we are.

                      An effective economic system is going to require aspects from a couple of different economic theories. Remember, the choice of economic system is just as subject to Hayek’s knowledge problem as any other political decision. My general rule is that if you can explain your plan in a tweet it is wrong. Or at least incomplete enough to be useless.

                    • but it is right for us. To have someone say “but you’d get more this way” won’t work if it doesn’t work for us. I have a friend who has issues planning his dinner. Giving him a lump sum would be crazy. He knows that. An outside “planner” might not know that.
                      Capitalism works if you believe each person knows what’s best for them. Is it universal? Oh, hell no. No system is perfect. (Communism pretends to be and uses it as a wedge against other systems. “But we’re PLANNED”) In every system there will be unfair losers. Sometimes you have to go with “the best we can do.”

                    • Which gets into another problem of pure free-markets. How do you measure utility? It’s all well and good to say that you buy a product because you value it more than the market price. But by how much? Are you the marginal consumer, or the guy capturing the maximum consumer surplus?

                      As for planned being superior, Gallipoli was planned. How did that work out?

                    • Who cares about utility? Utility is an obsession of socialists. Capitalism determines utility by SOMEONE thinking it’s useful to them and paying to prove it. Seriously — leave it to the individuals. Some will succeed some will fail.

                    • Jeff Gauch

                      If you want to be able to predict behavior, say to determine if you should spend your time and capital bringing a product to market, you need to be able to figure out how useful people are going to find things. It’s all well and good to say let trial and error figure it out, but that is horribly inefficient and will lead to people wanting to “rationalize” the system for their benefit.

                    • To your point, Gallipoli was indeed planned. And the evidence is that it was planned using bad maps and erroneous information about the enemy. Careful planning does not make up for dependence upon this kind of faulty input.

                      RE: lottery winnings. Track records of big winners indicate that most fail to hold on to their winnings in the long run. That would put some favor on taking the money, even if it comes at reduced value, over time. On the other hand, if you are already in the habit of saving and planning why not take full control, with the knowledge that you might loose a substantial portion of it. If you manage to hold on to more than you put up for tickets you should consider yourself ahead.

                      Never buy tickets, but have always thought that I would go through the Ts. After Taxes, Tithing certain charity, Taking care of business (paying off all debt, education, repairing, replacing or upgrading major holdings like teeth, house and cars), I would invest most of the remaining conservatively in Trust(s) with an eye to long term income. If the lump sum was large enough I would probably set aside a bit up front for Travel. Heck I might even be able to convince The Spouse to start going to Liberty Con. There are some people I’d like to meet. 😉

                    • Jeff Gauch

                      That was my point, saying you have a plan is different than saying you have a good plan.

                      The studies on lottery winners is why I say that lack of money is a symptom, not a cause, of poverty. And that’s why you cannot eliminate poverty by giving people money.

                      I don’t buy tickets either. The odds of finding a winning ticket aren’t that much worse than the odds of buying one, and the ROI is infinitely higher. But discussing what you’d do with the money helped many an underway watch go by.

                    • *laughs*

                      Man, I wish you were on Ricochet… you just basically agreed with the Pope, who was crucified a few weeks back on the basis of bad reporting on what he said. (then the hardliners showed up and insisted that he was really talking about the US, and the worst possible interpretation– even if it was against Church teachings– was what he meant)

                      The tweet-worthy summary of the Pope’s comment (not plan): economics is to serve man.

                    • Jeff Gauch

                      Of course economics is to serve man. Economies don’t exist in the void. We create them so that we can get what we want and need.

                      The problem is that there are far too many economists out there who forget that and think that economics is about supporting your team’s position or verifying your pet theory. And then their garbage gets into the hands of people who wouldn’t know price elasticity if it were tied around their nether regions. And these people vote.

                      That’s why I’m teaching the raccoons about fire.

                    • Well, it depends, that’s the whole point.
                      There are a number of factors that go into that sort of calculation, including need, ability to get on top of the urge for instant gratification, and a currency that holds its value.
                      Opportunity cost is as much a personal consideration as what sort of new shoes you are going to buy – in fact it is the very same decision. Can you save for a nicer pair or do you buy the cheapos that wear out in 2 months. Do you shop around for a better deal? If you wait will inflation push the cost up and you wind up buying less for more?
                      My experience is that most people don’t live in quantatative analysis, they live in rules of thumb. I agree that there needs to be better education on economics, but grounded in real life buying and selling. More like Home-Ec, and less like Elementary Particle Physics.

                    • Note: given that the information folks have to go off of is not going to be very accurate, trying to be too precise is building castles on sand.

                    • Gallipoli, Jeff? Heck, people who studied Gallipoli gave us Makin Atoll and Tarawa …

                    • Who cares about utility? Utility is an obsession of socialists. Capitalism determines utility by SOMEONE thinking it’s useful to them and paying to prove it. Seriously — leave it to the individuals. Some will succeed some will fail.

                      Indeed. In economics, properly understood, this is *all the utility function is*. It is a rating of one agents preferences over options. Given N different possibilities, an agent will prefer A over B, B over C, etc.

                      The major mistake that the Utilitarians make (and the communists) is that they treat the utility function as something with an actual absolute value. They treat two agent’s utility functions as comparable. They treat some sum over utilities as a reasonable construct on which to take centralized action. This is why they constantly run into “utility monster” absurdities, and other errors which fall out of their reasoning. In many cases, the utilitarians treat the utility function as more real than the agent it is describing!

          • masgramondou

            gripe. Capitalism and markets are separate features. You can have markets where there is no capitalism and vice versa. The system seems to work best where you have both (free) markets AND capitalism but one is not dependent on the other

      • Thank-you — most atheists disdain to acknowledge that they are presuming a fact which is not in evidence: the non-existence of G-d. Agnosticism is not religious, but Atheism certainly is. That does not make Atheism more irrational (or more rational) than any other religion; it all depends on how you develop from that fundamental axiom, just as your Geometry depends on what you decide parallel lines do at infinity.

        • Jeff Gauch

          Yes, exactly. I would say that it isn’t most atheists who refuse to acknowledge their beliefs are in fact that, but most of the ones you’ve heard of. We tend to keep quiet about our beleifs. It’s the proselytizing jackwagons that give the rest of us a bad name.

            • Jeff Gauch

              Yeah, that’s why I tend to not hold the more irritating god-botherers against believers. I know how much it sucks to have people think attention whores like Dawkins and Mikey what-his-name represent your beliefs.

              • Most religious practice is generally beneficial (leave as outliars [sic] those who abuse their religion’s precepts — they would be a-holes whichever god they followed or denied.) Dawkins and his ilk remove those benign aspects while substituting that which humanity already has in abundance: arrogance, self-interest, greed, etc.

                While not everybody needs an imaginary sky-friend to make them behave, those that do, definitely do.

                • Jeff Gauch

                  Any chance we can get that last sentence engraved on the walls of the secret Usaian temple?

        • Kate Paulk

          Indeed. The question of a deity’s existence or otherwise remains unproven. Right now the evidence points to “does not exist” as far as I can see. I reserve the right to change my beliefs about said deity’s existence or otherwise should the evidence become sufficiently convincing.

          • As a believer of G-d, or a Higher Force, (not religious here) I understand that there is really no scientific proof that He (or whatever gender or non-gender) exists. However, I cannot deny that there has been a hand in my life for a very long time (first time was when I was bit by a black widow spider at three) and I cannot deny personal experience. I do know that it is not a standard of proof that can past the tests.

            Unfortunately for me, I have been to several churches and have been turned off by the religious beliefs of each of the congregations. (My husband is the same way.) So we do our thing, appreciate the world around us–

            The saying (I think attributed to Ben Franklin) “God helps those, who helps themselves,” has been the motto of my life. I don’t think that it is my business to be knocking on His doors. If I really need help, He is there. As for atheists and agnostics, we live in a world of religious freedom that is unprecedented. I think that everyone in this country should have the opportunity to believe what they want–

            Plus I truly think that evolution (not as it is taught in the schools), but the actual theory is a tool of creation. It is a bone of contention when we go to churches and we are told that we must believe in Creationism. 😉

            • Kate Paulk

              Science is about how. Why is outside the scope of the experiment.

              • I like that 😉

              • Wayne Blackburn

                Actually had a (former) friend argue with me on this. Told me that if science can’t explain why, then it’s useless.

                • Heck, science can’t explain the why of gravity. We understand the how very well, but we’re still pretty much mystified as to the why. All the theories put forth as to the “why” (gravitons, rubber-sheet analogy, and so on) seem to have flaws in them. But our understanding of gravity is good enough to figure the orbital mechanics of getting to the Moon and back, so we muddle on nonetheless. 🙂

                  • All the theories put forth as to the “why” (gravitons, rubber-sheet analogy, and so on) seem to have flaws in them.

                    Except that you are still discussing the how of gravity here: how it is propagated, or by what particle interaction it exists. Why it exists won’t be answered even when we have the engineering to make it to order.

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      Weren’t they tossing around an entropic explanation for gravity a while back?

                  • Explaining gravity is simple: the material world sucks. The more material, the suckier.

                • SIGH! This comes right near making my head explode, it is just so wrong in so many ways. First is the apparent utilitarian view of the world it implies.

                  At one level, yes, science can explain why, functionally, the sky appears to be blue in the daylight (barring clouds or certain particles and chemicals in high abundance the air). It will not be able to explain why the sky is blue.

                  Those who have lived with a three year old will know that there is no end to the why questions. And most of us who have an acquaintance with science know that our understanding of the why and how of the universe is limited — in part by our very own limitations.

              • “Why” depends on what cause you are looking for. You can certain investigate efficient causes and material causes and formal causes in science.

                • Wayne Blackburn

                  This is still part of “How”. “Why”, is necessarily either the realm of philosophy or theology, because it involves a question of either intellect or emotion*.

                  * the above does NOT mean that I believe philosophy is intellect and theology is emotion. It means that each of them deal with the mind behind it all.

                  • Huh? If I say “Why did the glass break when it was thrown against the wall?” the answer “Because glass is brittle” is well within the arena of science.

                    • The “why” question in this case would be “Why was the glass thrown against the wall?” which science couldn’t answer.

                      The brittlity of the glass would be part of the “how” question.

                      On Mon, Jun 3, 2013 at 10:01 AM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > ** > Mary commented: “Huh? If I say “Why did the glass break when it was > thrown against the wall?” the answer “Because glass is brittle” is well > within the arena of science.” >

      • Thoughtful and friendly insights, thank you. I suspect that if more Athiests shared your point of view, discussions or religion would be more insightful all around.

  12. Similar thoughts from a decade ago from the inimitable (unfortunately) SDB.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say a belief in the Constitution is a defining characteristic of and American. That’s why there are so many Americans with foreign passports. As far too many non-Americans with US passports, including diplomatic ones.

  13. 1. In other words – have you we all gone frigging mad?

    Yes. Next question, please.

    2. As for whether humans are good, evil, flawed, defective, incomplete, or whatever, there’s the old idea of the happy fault (felix culpa).

    3. Some probabilistic AI techniques, even after they’ve achieved a satisfactory solution to their task, continue randomly mutating themselves. This allows for the possibility that the mutation will lead to an even better solution.

    4. Properly designed, such an algorithm will not allow a mutation to develop cyberWMD and destroy all previous work.

    5. (Speaking of which, I spent months trying to remember what book the Toolmaker Koan appeared in. Finally googled it. 😳

    IMHO that book belongs in the Baen Free Library.)

  14. BobtheRegisterredFool

    My parsing of Christianity is that I ought not engage in syncretism. So I don’t worship thermodynamics, I just respect it. 🙂

    One of the areas where I might take issue with your fictional religion is that it could be understood as seeking beyond Caesar’s due as far as the constitution is concerned.

    I have the attitude that the commonly used definitions for environment and nature necessarily have assumptions of a religious nature in them.

  15. I particularly like the point where he more or less concedes that to make a religion out of adherence to the US constitution would be evil and anti-Christian because, well, all humans are evil and stuff.

    o.0
    Well, taking totally seriously, it would be evil and anti-Christian because it’s idolatry. Not taken as hardline as that– picturing the same thing in that Star Trek episode, or just “this is a story” type pass instead of hard theology… uh… that’s silly.

    Having wakened this morning to find out that the tough grrrls purity brigade Ladies Victorian Morals And Purity Society that SFWA has become is now hunting for Mike Resnick for the dual crimes of a) calling women “ladies” and b) pointing out that skin on covers sells to women as well as men, I feel like I’m inside a tiltawhirl.

    I was going to mention this to you wherever it was that you were worrying because DST sold more off the bat than AFGM, but the tone seemed wrong.

    • Oh, I sort of knew that. But I have no control over covers.

      • And, in true motherly fashion, you MUST act as if everything is your fault– or how else will you 1) improve the situation, 2) blame yourself?

        • Well, publishers tend to behave as though everything is my fault… 😛 It’s normal. “everything is the author’s fault, unless it works out, in which case it’s someone else’s credit.”

          • Tactically, assuming that if something goes wrong it’s something you did is a good idea– in moderation. (Say, this side of the 9/11 thing you ran into!)

          • Well, sure — if the publishers didn’t take that approach just think of the chaos that would follow.

      • No control over covers????

        *cough* … shouldn’t that be a matter just between Dan and you (and, I guess, the cats)? Really, my dear: TMI.

    • “Well, taking totally seriously, it would be evil and anti-Christian because it’s idolatry”

      Yes, and I could see you (not you personally, but the generic reviewer you) getting that impression if you wrote the review based on the blurb. But if the reviewer actually read the book it would become fairly obvious that Usaian is more of secret society than a religion. It may be religiously adhered to, but that doesn’t make it a religion. It makes me think of the Freemasons, (and yes I have heard people claim being a Mason is a religion also, IMHO they are off their rocker) being a Mason doesn’t interfere with being a Christian, or a Hindu or a …, you get the picture.

      • *musing* Some folks are really, really good at what they hear not being what you said, especially if they were in a hurry and touchy on a subject in the first place.

      • being a Mason doesn’t interfere with being a Christian, or a Hindu or a …, you get the picture.

        As that supposed bigot Rudyard Kipling knew well:

        Outside — “Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!”
        Inside — “Brother”, an’ it doesn’t do no ‘arm.
        We met upon the Level an’ we parted on the Square,
        An’ I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!

        We’d Bola Nath, Accountant,
        An’ Saul the Aden Jew,
        An’ Din Mohammed, draughtsman
        Of the Survey Office too;
        There was Babu Chuckerbutty,
        An’ Amir Singh the Sikh,
        An’ Castro from the fittin’-sheds,
        The Roman Catholick!

  16. For instance, the belief that calling a woman a “lady” is a mark of disrespect. Or the belief that only males like to see the opposite (or same) sex naked.

    Two possible reactions:
    1) these are extrapolations in opposite directions– some folks DO say “lady” in a disrespectful way– heaven knows I’ve heard my mom do it– and guys ARE more likely to enjoy visual engagement.
    2) they don’t think only males like skin, they just only think it’s *bad* when males do it.

    • For a while it was a running battle at the Jawa Report between the forces in favor of more female pulchritude and those of us wanting more pictures of manly men. The traditional pin-up fans won . . . for now.

  17. (as if you know, we were somehow intrinsically different from every other species on the planet);

    I happen to believe this, actually.

    It’s just funny to see it from folks that think the intristic difference is that we’re BAD, rather than that we’re moral beings. (the only fleshy ones I can think of off the top of my head, too– not sure what angels that are in disguise count as, though)

    • Yes, what I mean is they think we’re uniquely bad. Pfui.

      • Pretty sure a dog wouldn’t twit you around like that, though. 🙂

        • perhaps not, but maybe you should meet my cats.

          • I considered writing “cats”… then realized that it wouldn’t support my argument very well.

            • Quite the contrary in fact, as I’ve got one that waits for the ideal time to rub against you and dump fur on good clothes.

              • …I was going to make a joke response, but I got a halfway serious thought instead:

                Cats are cute and funny because they’re too small to do serious harm, even if they’re kind of trying to; people that are too petty to do serious harm aren’t cute, because there’s too much of a chance that they’d manage to do serious harm.

                • Just.as a small dog that nips at you isn’t a problem but a large dog that bites you is a problem.

                  • Yep, metaphorically.*

                    There’s a difference of kind that I can’t explain very well… it’s like the difference between mock-fights and real fights between cats or dogs, but moreso.

                    *Hey, I know there’s got to be SEVERAL folks here who’ve had serious damage done by small– like, toy breed– dogs.

                    • The dachshund has, IIRC, the strongest bite (measured in PSI) of any breed, and terriers can savage your achilles tendon something fierce.

                    • *considers the rats terriers were bred to hunt and kill*

                      Believing it.

                    • Rat terriers were bred to keep the grain supplies and the seed corn safe from rats. And yes, they killed the rats with a strong shake of the head.

                    • of course, in craigslist, they’re listed as rat terrors, mostly. They are also often advertised as all other cats and dogs as “comes with his own bowels”(bowls)

                    • Oh yes– I have met a few… but they have been kind to us. 😉 We used to call my brother’s Jack Russell terrier, the terrierist. He really disliked birds, rabbits, mice, and other dogs– or people he didn’t know. But he was the kindest dog… my first year with the disease he would sleep on my legs and guard my sleep (while I was half-asleep and half-dead).

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      My dad tells a story of watching three terriers (don’t know what breeds) grab a groundhog and pull and shake it until it came apart.

                    • Not surprised. They have strong teeth and necks. Plus that is their best offense and defense.

                    • Dachshunds were bred to go toe-to-toe with badgers in the badger’s den:

                      The Dachshund is popularly known as a dog of German origin although they can be traced throughout Western Europe back to the 15th century. Some speculate that the sculptured dog on Egyptian tombs are ancestors of this breed. The word Dachshund stands for “dachs” meaning badger and “hund” meaning dog. The Dachshund’s long, low shape is well-suited physically and temperamentally to pursue prey above and under ground, especially the tunnel residing badger. Not only did their shape make it easy for them to burrow into a badger hole, the dogs were also bred for their tenacity and strength, essential if one is planning to engage in a fight with so notoriously stubborn an animal as a badger.
                      http://www.thedachshundnetwork.com/ccdr/dox101.htm

                      Found en route to learning that there are no specifics readily Google-able about dogs’ biting force. Evidence indicates that dachshunds are not in the top five, although measurement of dog’s biting force is subject to much inconsistency.

                      Wienerdogs.org (page5) claims:

                      60 pounds of pressure is about all the average human can extert[sic] while biting. Dachshunds can bite down with the tremendous force of more than 350 pounds! Ouch.

                    • Oh yea– not maligning Dachsunds RES… I know a few. 😉

                    • I hope to get a Dachshund when we can afford a dog — right now we can barely afford vet care for idiot cats with expensive health issues!

                    • I understand Dachsies are prone to back troubles, so exercise care in selecting a source.

                      I am unreasonably partial to beagles, myself, having had one who escorted me on my morning paper route, protecting me (as best I could judge) from chipmunks. He also took possession of our postal carrier, escorting him on his rounds and defying other neighborhood dogs to accost him.

                    • we had a British type cocker spaniel — I think here they call it a Brittany Spaniel? — but unless we move to a place with safe fenced backyard we’ll have to do with smaller dog. At any rate, knowing our luck, we’ll just find a mutt shivering on the doorstep. He’ll be boxer and Malamute, and we’ll end up loving him and…

                    • That’s almost exactly how we wound up with this passel of villainous kittens. Mom on her own, cold snap, we took her in… And the vet said the ultrasound was clear.

                      > >

                    • When I lived in center city Philadelphia there was a man across the street who had an aviary built up the back of his house. He had a collection of rare birds. One day a thief broke in to steal one of those birds. He was found cowering, having been cornered by two Yorkies who had gone for his achilles tendons…

                      Small dogs, especially those initially breed for going after critters like rats and badgers in their layers can be very tough. They can do great harm, but does this make them capable of evil? Are they capable of considered thought and can they form intent?

                    • Is this a rhetorical question? And is it evil to hurt and scare a burglar? I know the dogs are capable of thought, but their good and evil revolve around what is good for the pack. So no, if we thought on their level, we would consider it very strange.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Agree Cyn. “Bad” Dogs are the fault of the Humans (Pack Leaders). Now in the case mentioned by CACS, that was simply defending the pack’s territory. Now if those Yorkies had attacked a person who had every right to be there, then they’d be “Bad” Dogs.

                    • I got severely gummed once by an old cranky Pekinese. No teeth left, but still a huge deep bruise. Made me paranoid about small dogs for years.

                      OTOH, breeders generally don’t let giant dogs live if they have bad tempers — because being dead or missing body parts is inconvenient. This is why Danes and wolfhounds are such sweethearts — thousands of years of unnatural selection.

                    • A lot of small-dog-owners also refuse to control their animals, assuming that the way they bite the owner is the way they bite everyone else….

                    • There are no bad dogs only bad owners.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Oh, for sh*t’s sake. Really? Holy moly, people are stupid.

                    • You haven’t seen the “oh, hahaha, isn’t it cute?” thing when little rat-dogs attack?

                      Lucky you.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Well, I don’t live in a city, so dogs are respected predators around here. My own dog sounds like she’s going to tear my arm off when we’re playing, yet never hurts me, but I know damn well that if she were pissed at someone, they would have serious injuries, and nearly all the people I know, even the ones who own toy breeds, are aware of that possibility.

                    • Jack Russell terriers were originally bred by a preacher (named Jack Russell) for fox hunting. The breed standard calls for their tail to be docked one half inch longer than the width of an average mans hand, this is so that when a fox is denned the Jack Russell is sent in after it, it grabs the fox and hangs on, you reach in, grab the terrier by the conveniently handle sized tail, and pull it out while it is holding onto the fox. For a dog to be successfully used for drawing critters bigger than itself it needs; strong jaws, indomitable persistence, and a near total lack of fear.

                    • So… cute, fluffy, socially acceptable version of Logan /Wolverine?

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Not fluffy. They are short-haired. But cute and (for the owner) very cuddly. Devoted, too, and will follow you anywhere.

                    • I’ll second RES’s warning on researching the background of dachshunds before acquiring, due to back problems. If you are set on a dachshund I highly recommend getting one from a working strain (they are used both as hole dogs, although seldom for badgers anymore. groundhogs and woodchucks being the most common quarry, and are often used as flushing dogs by falconers, to flush quarry into the open where the falcon can get it) as the likelihood of medical problems in a strain bred for utility is much less.
                      I wouldn’t recommend a Beagle unless you have either a) a large area for it roam b)a WELL fenced yard or c) a kennel and plan on taking it regularly to an area where it can chase rabbits or other game and burn of excess energy. While very nice, friendly dogs, they have more natural hunting instinct than any other breed I have ever seen, and I have never seen one, even if raised simply as a house pet, that won’t leave home and “head a huntin’ ” when given the oppurtonity.

                    • Any data on Corgis? Dear Husband deeply, deeply desires that our next pet be that.

                    • Oh geez Corgis– they were guardians and herders of chickens. 😉 I have had experiences with a couple of untrained corgis and they were ready to bite even if you were walking with their families. They are also very strong– so make sure that if you get a corgi, train it well.

                    • Since you ask:
                      http://animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/other/videos/breed-all-about-it-cardigan-welsh-corgi.htm

                      I don’t know whether Animal Planet still runs this series, but for some time it was must-see TV in our home every Saturday morning. A Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Ein is a significant character in the anime series Cowboy Beebop, and Queen Elizabeth is probably the most famous of all corgi breeders — search for those if you want more info.

                    • We’ve just about worn out the internet connection with that and the cat version, but I figure first hand requests for information is a good idea.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Yep, when Lily (our Beagle) gets “sniffing” she doesn’t “hear” her people calling her. While Lilly isn’t trained as much as she should be, even well trained Beagles won’t come when called if they’re on a scent trail.

                    • Bloodhounds are the same 😉 –about “scent trails” plus their noses are so “on” that they can’t seem to come back…

                    • Sorry to say, I know absolutely nothing about Corgis, I would probably recognize one walking down the street, but that is all.

                    • Re: Craigslist and spelling (and Sarah’s comment about cat and dog ads advertising that the animal “comes with his own bowels”(bowls)) —

                      When I bought a used smartphone (HTC Aria, Android 2.2, if anyone’s interested) on Craigslist a couple years ago, one of the points that made me decide “This guy is probably trustworthy and not trying to get rid of a stolen phone” was that the ad was correctly spelled and punctuated, and had correct grammar. And the guy’s texts, when I was texting him for more details, were also correctly spelled and punctuated and all that. My conclusion that this was not some addict trying to sell a stolen phone for drug money was reached based on that data point alone, and it turned out to be correct. I’m still using that phone, and it’s still giving me good service.

  18. Sorry about getting into an argument that was off your topic in your blog. I’ll withdraw from that thread now.

  19. *SNIPPEDFORCLARITY* … the best way to ensure the return of the constitutional republic was to encode those beliefs they had anyway as a set of dogma and ritual. This would both bind their community and give them the ability to transmit the religion forward through the generations.

    When my folks were kids (alright, maybe when my GRANDPARENTS were kids) they called that “basic civic education.” You don’t frontload the details, you give kids the basic philosophy– those that are able and interested get more in depth later.

  20. As a religious person, I believe that humans are inherently FLAWED. I believe that G-d can help heal our flaws while keeping us human.

    Quoth Disney:
    Stitch: This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.

    • Is Lilo and Stitch worth watching once everyone in the household is an adult, or does it require the presence of a youngster to be properly enjoyed?

  21. I expect that Usaism would follow the model of Judaism, as a faith that has been, at best tolerated, more commonly persecuted, for some twenty centuries. That means outward conformity to the dominant culture with religious rituals an element of life in the home. It may even follow the model of the conversos and get many elements of the creed wrong due to transmission errors. In the time frame presented by the Darkship series it is likely that those errors would be minor, so far.

  22. Taking up the Resnick thing for just a moment, since when did we expect the nannies to get all… I don’t know… consistent? I mean, logically consistent. The one thing we can count on the busybodies and grievance mongers to do is to get all up in arms when someone doesn’t toe a particular line, particularly re: language, and more particularly re: language about women. Now, not being a member of SFWA and not having access to the bulletin, I can’t speak to the sheer, unadulterated horror of Mr. Resnick’s commentary, though I am sure that it is both sheer and unadulterated. And possibly horrific as well.

    It’s the same mindset that says “no means no” marches and “slut walks” are both perfectly acceptable (which I would grant, walk for whatever you want to walk for) and send no mixed messages (which is an indication that the people holding those two contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time have zero understanding of human nature, and particularly zero understanding of human males. Well, human hetero males. But there it is.)

    All this outrage and drama is just a cudgel with which to beat people into submission. But hey! I do hear that they’re forming a SFWA Bulletin Task Force! So, like a strongly worded letter from the UN, we can be darn sure that now something will be done, dagnabit.

    (pardon me while I laugh maniacally, then break into a fit of coughing. Stoopid cold.)

    In a way, it’s this failure to understand human nature that is at the heart of a LOT of the things that come up here. It’s the same darn issue over and over again. The collectivist Utopians believe that humans are either perfectible here in the flesh or come perfect from nature or wherever (or that they’re inherently evil and we need to be eradicated, but no one is willing to lead by example on that particular path), and that any error must be one of the environment in which we find ourselves. Particularly if that environment consists largely of or has been unduly influenced by western Judeo-Christian culture. It’s what gets you all these people obsessed with going “back to nature”, with AGW, and with painting themselves blue and running around the forest because James Cameron made a really pretty (and morally idiotic) movie. (MAN, I hated Avatar. I mean, yes, visually gorgeous, but the plot was wet tissue paper, and the only thing the bad guys were missing was a truly astounding handlebar mustache that could be twirled while they plotted the destruction of giant trees. Oh, the humans killed their mother! COUGH. GAG. RETCH) END OF RANT RE: JAMES CAMERON BEING A VISUALLY-TALENTED DERIVATIVE HACK.

    And it’s the same impulse that brings people down on… apparently, Mike Resnick. Because… dang. Unadulterated horror.

    People, man… people.

    • Dear sir, may I join your James Cameron Hate Club? Because it’s time I didn’t have to rant alone to myself. 😉

      • Certainly. There are no membership fees, and we produce no bulletins. Largely because we can’t afford a Bulletin Task Force. (Which, incidentally reminds me of the Vice-Presidential Action Rangers).

        • So… do the VP Action Rangers fight to provide the country with “a really good five-cent cigar”?

        • Cameron gets some absolution for having made Terminator (I & II), thus proving some principle or other. His later work is clear evidence of demonic possession or some such.

          • I can give him those. And Aliens. But everything he made after those? I guess… Titanic on? Which admittedly isn’t a lot of output…

            • They Live was a documentary, don’t you know….

            • Aeh, Titanic was a cover story for operations. The fact it made money was a bit scary.

                • Oh, you know, the whole “James Cameron with a submarine that goes really deep”. I think they actually let him talk about some of the classified stuff — they were looking for that sub that went down in the Atlantic back in the 60’s or something? Anyway, they did get footage of Titanic down on the sea bottom; it’s just that they also got footage of other stuff on the sea bottom. Similar to what the government did with the bathyscaphe Trieste.

                  So yeah, technically the movie Titanic and the documentary about the real ship wasn’t a cover story like the “movie” Argo. But it was used for convenient purposes by our government.

                  • FlyingMike

                    Err, you are thinking of a different thing than you are thinking of…

                    The discovery of the Titanic in 1985 by team headed by Dr. Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was actually a cover for the actual mission, which was the successful search and remote exploration for the way-damn-deep wrecks of US nuclear submarines USS Thresher and USS Scorpion. ONce he found and photographed both those he had time left on his ship charter that the Navy paid for, and he was able to go look for (and find) Titanic. See http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/06/080602-titanic-secret.html for more.

                    Robert Ballard is the real deal. James Cameron is an ego masquerading as a talent.

      • Rob Crawford

        I’m preety sure the JCHC started last year, when Disney announced “Avatar Land”.

        Meanwhile, Universal is expanding their Harry Potter themed land and building one around the Simpsons…

      • Wayne Blackburn

        I can’t get anyone to join my own rant against the way the riders moved when they flew (pout), but I’ll join the “Down with Cameron” brigade anyway.

        • As I have stated before, I am a member of the local ‘I will not watch (Cameron’s) Titanic Club.’ What I had already come across before this, and with the comments from people here, I am even more disinclined to see his Avatar. From what I see here (and later in this line) not only is the underlying philosophy is bad, the story elements are more than a challenge to a willing suspension of disbelief and the effects do not meet close inspection. I am sure I can find better things to do with my time, like watching paint dry on my finger nails…

    • I tried to watch Avatar once over at a friend’s house, when they were watching the Blu-ray version on their large screen TV. I didn’t make it past the first fifteen(?) minutes. (The question mark is because I don’t know how many minutes I missed at the start, though I know it wasn’t all that many). The part that turned me off completely was when the main character, a Marine who presumably had been through boot camp and learned the importance of following orders (even when you don’t understand the reasons for them, because the officers know something you don’t about the big picture), was first linked to his new avatar body. Rather than listen to the completely sensible orders he was being given to take it slow, you’re going to take a while to get used to this, use gentle movements… he instead flails around the room, knocking instrument trays aside, and coming dangerously close to breaking the window visible in the room. The window that connects to the outside. The outside where it’s already been established that the air pressure is too low for humans to survive without the aid of breath masks.

      At that point, my brain said “Now if John Ringo had been writing the story, this would be the point at which the young idiot who doesn’t listen to orders ends up breaking the window, thus depressurizing the base and killing everyone inside — including himself, since his human body is inside that very base.” And I couldn’t watch any further; in my mind, the movie was already over, and was a cautionary tale about how the First Pandora Expedition was killed due to the idiotic actions of an untrained, undisciplined Marine who wasn’t worthy of the Corps.

      • I refuse to spend my time or money watching “Fern Gully meets Halo” so I have to ask, did they ever address the issue of why the evil capitalists never nuked the site from orbit, just to be sure?

        • Because that’s not how Red Cloud’s War played out:

          http://www.bidalaka.com/picofarad/pf20/redcloud.html

          and that’s what the film’s makers were going for.

        • I called it “Dances with Smurfs”, myself. Or “Dances with Blue Pocahontas” (that is, the Disney atrocity of that name). I mean, it’s the exact same “evil white man rapes the Earth and good natives resist him” plot that’s been done at least three times before that I can think of off-hand, and those are just the famous ones. (Or infamous, in the case of Ferngully, which is a movie I wouldn’t have known about except for the Nostalgia Critic, Nostalgia Chick, and the “Big Lipped Alligator Moment” trope.)

        • Got it for Christmas a few years ago. Never watch tv or go to movies much, so I didn’t know what it was about. Watched it and nearl thre it through a closed window…

          • My husband and I are the same way– and we’d heard that there was a movie adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender coming out… couldn’t figure out what the heck the posters at the movie theater were doing!

            Incidentally, Cameron is a jerk and a bully for threatening to sue if A:TLAB used the word “Avatar” in their title.

            • I used to have a t-shirt that said “Avatar” on it, years ago, because I was writing a character who was an Avatar of a god. I’m glad I didn’t have it by the time the movie came out. BTW the guys say that Avatar “there’s only one movie by that name” and yep, it’s The Last Air Bender. 😛

              • Um, I don’t know if you’ve seen the M. Night Shmalayan flick in question… but it had pretty much nothing to do with the real A:tLA.

                Avatar? There are no movies by that name. 🙂

                • LOL. I haven’t seen either Avatar. I watch very few movies. It’s just me.

                  • Read fanfic instead. They’ll manage to not step on top of major plot points for no good reason.

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      I’m compulsively reloading, because it is the three week usual update time for Vathara’s Embers. Note that there is variation in whether airbender fans care for Embers.

                    • There’s at least one freaking insane Vathara fan that feels personally assaulted every time Aang isn’t kung fu action Jesus…. he hangs out at the TV tropes discussion page.

                    • Should point out that I’m re-reading it for the umpteenth time…but managed to lose track of it being the week for updates.

                      Believe she was a few days late the last few times. This time of year she usually gets bodyslammed by reality… as you know, if you’ve been following a few years, but I may as well give exposition for those following along at home. *takes a quarter turn to the left and waves through the fourth wall*

                • The Daughter says that the problems with the M. Night Shmalayan adaptation were only multiplied when the production company decided to convert it into 3-D late in the filming and critical material which had already been filmed was lost because of this decision. She is of the opinion that people at the Nickelodeon who handled the movie had no understanding of the material that the company owned.

        • Especially when attacking *with a space ship* ARGH.

          • This is what happens when you take The Moon is a Harsh Mistress off the Commandant’s required reading list.

      • And he was supposedly Force Recon, and served in the ‘bad bush’ in Venezuela, but didn’t know even elementary survival skills or tracking.

        • *blink*

          Never got far enough to learn that idiotic detail. Man, Cameron just has no idea how the military works, does he? Occupational hazard of being a leftist. (One of many.)

    • Quibble: it isn’t that they don’t understand human nature, it is that they do not accept human nature.

      Those of us who accept human nature realize that you do not stand under human nature.

    • Re: the sheer horror of Resnick’s commentary. I think it had more to do with the horror of the sheer (and filmy, and diaphanous) on the covers. 🙂

      Somewhere in all this fuss-n-feathers is a great satire story about the invention of the transparent spacesuit.

      • I guess that Frazetta is right out with his male or female figures standing on piles of the vanquished.

  23. I really liked the Usaian religion as a fictional device, particularly for its resonances with the Jewish religion after the destruction of the Temple, with Usaians as a wandering pariah people. I can just see them all raising their glasses to “Next year in Washington!”

    • I loved the concept as well.

      In fact, I wonder to what extent some of the old secret societies in Rennaisance Europe functioned as a sort of “Usaian” type underground, among the Republique des Lettres? Not all of them were exactly friends of liberty – I’m sure the proto leftists existed among them as well (seeing as how they would screw up France’s history several times in the coming centuries), but I’ve heard of references to conspiracies holding the promotion of human liberty and freedom of thought as a goal.

      • If you read _Born in Blood_, which is a review of the origins of Masonry, John J. Robinson posits that Masonry was started by the survivors of the purge of the Templars. To support this point you have to accept that the movement went underground due to the Papal ban (and order to seize and execute all survivors as heretics), lost the monastic elements, but kept enough of the basic ideology and fraternalism to survive as distributed “cells” (lodges) and pass on the organization for generations.
        Robinson puts out some veery interesting links between the Templars, the Masons and Wat Tylers rebellion in England

        • I think Masonry started with bored stonemasons. When it got taken over by white collar professionals, that’s when the trouble started.

        • snelson134

          Which is essentially what Katherine Kurtz based her Adept series on.

        • Masonry was invented because masons traveled a lot and would not stick around long enough for you to see how well they worked — if the church fell down next year, good luck finding him.

          So they used secrets to certify to each other than a new mason had been properly trained.

    • Just before I got whomped with that book, I’d been reading on the history of Judaism and the resemblances are there, yes.

  24. Resnick is already consigned to hell for writing three books explaining (metaphorically) how African nations are not the angelic cradle of human civilization, but hellholes, and why they end up that way. Plus, Big Game Hunting.

  25. You probably knew this when writing “A Few Good Men”, but there is a fairly large real life religion that does hold that the US Constitution is divinely inspired: Mormonism. I’m not a Mormon, but if I had to look around for documents I would consider divinely inspired, I must admit the Constitution would be high on my list.

    • Yeah. I wasn’t going to bring it up, but yes, Mormons do believe that the Constitution was divinely inspired. Not necessarily perfect, definitely not scripture, but inspired.

      From Doctrine and Covenants 101:76-80:

      76 And again I say unto you, those who have been scattered by their enemies, it is my will that they should continue to importune for redress, and redemption, by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you—
      77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles….

      80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.

      • Agreed, along with a bunch of other events related to the founding of the United States. A good overview is Benson’s talk on the divine constitution.

        The LDS religion is by far the most “USian” around. it also has similar backgrounds and themes as the Jews do, seeing itself as the true Christian extension of Judaism.

        • Hmm, not sure how I managed to mess that link up. It’s supposed to be https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1987/10/our-divine-constitution?lang=eng

          • This is unfair because you can’t fix him, I think, but … HOW does Harry Reid reconcile himself with what he does? And btw, in AFGM a Joseph Smith group of Usaians is mentioned. (Yes, I could have come up with a better name but I wasn’t sure less Mormon-aware people would get it.)

            • Reid does it the same way as Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Cuomo (who has just proposed a bill essentially allowing abortion at any stage of development) reconcile their actions to their Catholic Faith.

              I recently read that Reid made his bones in the Nevada Gaming Commission, fighting to get the mob out of Las Vegas — but he’s clearly been in DC too long.

              When watching Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, consider the the real story arc depicted is that of the senator played by Claude Raines.

              • If you believe Reid was on the side of angels during that time in LV, then I have some ocean front property to sell you in Nevada. BTW he also says that he walked to college (or was it high school) from Searchlight to LV. I have been to Searchlight– it would take more than a week to walk through some real nasty desert to get to LV. Even then there were very few cars going to that spot in the desert. I think he has re-written his history once too often.

            • Theories abound. And as I’ve said, the two words most likely to make my loving, sweet wife Hulk out are the words “Harry Reid.” Also, any organization over a certain size will have its share of, well, people you disagree with on a fundamental basis. And the LDS church makes a big deal about being politically neutral while still speaking out on matters of principle.

              Lawyerly disclaimers aside, here’s what I think. I think Harry Reid believes that where government can do good, it should do good, and he has a duty to help it do good. Period.

              And I think that’s as far as his analysis goes. I don’t think he pays attention to Constitutional limits. I mean, why should he? Who’s paying attention to that old document any more? He’s trying to help people, dagnabit! I don’t think he pays attention to actual results as opposed to intended results. After all, it’s the heart that has to be in the right place, right? So, for various values of the word “good”, he’s doing it. Because he thinks he should. And because he is in a position to do it.

              So, I think he means well, he just starts from a vastly different initial premise than, say, most anyone here at ACH would. And there are times we’d like to have a long, serious talk with him about his initial premises, the difference between intent and result, etc., but there you are.

              And I realize that this is giving him a HUGE benefit of the doubt, which could very well be foolish optimism on my part.

              So, while doctrinally, LDS ranks pretty high on the metaphorical USian scale, in practice among the rank and file, it can be a very different story. Case in point, I live in Austin TX. And we have a very wide range of opinions on political matters, even among members of a pretty darn conservative church.

            • Argh… the nice answer is that Harry Reid believes a lot of tripe about using the government to help people and happens to have a weakness for thinking that what’s good for helping Harry Reid is good for Nevada….alright, there isn’t really a nice answer without calling him a power-hungry idiot.

              I hate to call someone I don’t actually know personally a con artist (I have known a few personally), but it’s well known that Mormons (especially in Utah) are statistically more vulnerable to them because they tend to believe the best about people and give them the benefit of the doubt.

              There’s a certain temptation for “The Philosophies of Men Mingled with Scripture” and perhaps Harry Reid is a good poster child for that. There is a certain Marxist/socialist element that convince themselves that they’ll use power for good… then spend their time gaining that power and happening to mostly use it for themselves.

              So I guess Harry is the exception that proves the rule.

              • I am thinking there is a story about somebody who cuts a deal with the devil The Devil in an attempt to do good deeds and help people. Every deed goes slightly awry (at best the beneficiary isn’t grateful, at worst …) and each deal costs the patsy philanthropist a bit more of his soul.

                In the end he is left bitter and disappointed, and his intended beneficiaries are generally worse off for having been given things to them rather than building the skills and character involved in earning them.

                “So, I sell you 5% of my soul and you’ll give that out-of-work father the money for Tiny Tim’s operation?”

                “Yep. You’ll still have 95% of your soul left; you’ll hardly notice any difference.”

                [SNIP]

                “But, he took the $5,000 from that wallet you dropped for him and spent it on lottery tickets!”

                “I can only provide the means, I can’t make them do right. Not even the other guy can make them do right”
                [SNIP]

                Okay, I’ll do it for another 5% of your soul, but I need you to do something for me, too — I don’t normally buy souls piecemeal, you know. But I respect your feelings and will cut you a break. I need you to pass a law banning large sugar-laden drinks. Really, it is for people’s own good.

                If there isn’t a story about it, somebody* ought write it.

                *Somebody =/= me. That b-tch muse got walked into the woods ages ago and she’s not getting back. I can’t afford another 25% of my soul (what? You thought my puns were honestly come by?)

            • Are there in Earth’s Revolution any Jewish USAians?

          • Hmmm… We’re up pretty high on a completely subjective “USian” scale, but I’m perfectly willing to allow that another religion might be more “USian” than the LDS. None come immediately to mind, but there might be some. > >

  26. Wait, so “lady” is the new N-word?

    The whole problem is in this idea that there are “ladies” and “not-ladies.” Vast amounts of preaching and storytelling has been done to help people come around to the idea that being a “not-lady” is a-okay and should have no consequences. The balance of power has shifted now such that, instead of simply asking for tolerance towards “not-ladies,” any woman that aspires to lady-ness will be shunned in polite society if she is at all indiscreet about it.

    So even the word is offensive now…. And virtue is kept secret at all costs.

    • And I will set fire to these idiots. Because that’s my job.

    • Outside of those who have some sort of defense– obliviousness, righteousness, strong support structure…. (Hey, I got two out of three! I may someday I’ll manage that whole “aura of grace” thing, although I’ve been told that I *do* manage the “unflappable” part. Yay, children.)

    • Hmmm, so tell me again why the place I get my Victorian reproduction clothing from is doing such a busy business that they are expanding, even with their six-week backlog of orders? And why they’ve started selling clothes for girls? It ain’t all going to steampunk fans and reenactors.

      • More and more folks are being pushed over the edge of “… alright, it is now gone too far to go along for politeness.”
        That’s the “righteousness” angle.

      • I am wanting to start a pool on when the first female Grammy or Oscar candidate shows up at an awards ceremony wearing either a 40’s reproduction frock or Edwardian Walking Skirt ensemble.
        The way the dresses are going now the only other way an attendee would have to cause a stir would be to wear two bandaids and a post office customs declaration sticker.

        • Well, currently steampunk fashion for women is basically Victorian naughty postcard wear, except with more rivets and less design savvy.

          I say this not to insult steampunk, but rather because the usual execution of the trend makes me sad. Men dress up looking good, women usually just look half-nekkid. (Which is a shame, because there’s a lot of Victorian clothes that are designed to look good on bosomy hippy ladies, and a lot of Edwardian/Gibson Girl that’s designed to look good on scrawny tall girls. Most of female fandom is in those categories.)

          • It bugs me that women’s primary avenue for participating in Geekdom is to show us their boobs. But then… I don’t recall all that much female participation at that sort of thing before Cosplay and LARPing became part of the slate o’ events.

            • That’s a landmine, Jeffro. There are some very heated arguments going on at the moment about cosplay, booth bunnies, women’s body image, how guys react to women playing outside their “type” (for example, a heavier gal dressing as Wonder Woman got slammed and insulted at a Con), how women are depicted in comics and on book covers, and why Steampunk should not be the default for women who are not 6′ tall and wear a size four. There’s even some who want “geek” dropped because it was once a pejorative.

              I’ve never seen some of the things that are supposed to have gone on at some Cons, but then I don’t do LARP and Cosplay, so I only catch the occasional after-action-report. I suspect the worst offenders are teen-age guys (behavior, not chronological) who’ve spent too much time in the on-line culture, and girls who are a little too eager to play bag-the-nerd, but that’s just my guess. And the Cosplay purists, some of whom really need to step back from their hobbies (and in some cases professions). *shrug*

              • snelson134

                “for example, a heavier gal dressing as Wonder Woman got slammed and insulted at a Con),”

                At which point, every gentleman within hearig distance should have taken a cane to the bounder.

                I may be convinced that there are people who shouldn’t be allowed Spandex by law (and I’m one of them), but treating any woman that way should be beyond the pale.

              • Oh, and I can vouch that there are MAJOR drama-Llamas that shouldn’t be allowed in public without a responsible adult to ride herd on their behavior– in both sexes. (and someone should smack their inevitable support/leech person)

                The best thing about the various guild meltdowns I saw/was targeted in in WoW was that I got to start recognizing that stuff without the “I know I have no social skills, I am obviously wrong” effect of real life. (Well, once I realized that when they’re making physically impossible accusations, I’m PROBABLY not at fault– nothing like being accused of stalking and harassing someone when you are in the middle of the Indian Ocean.)

              • My boobs is the one part of me that is aging well. While they last I shall flaunt them. SOON ENOUGH I’ll be walking around the house, accidentally stepping on them…

              • Wayne Blackburn

                I once happened to notice an argument between younger son and someone about the other guy’s statement (paraphrased here) that people shouldn’t Cosplay outside their body styles.

                I was pretty proud of my son for standing up for people the way he did, despite all the arguments we get in about things he does.

                I’ve also seen some complaints from female Cosplayers about (primarily guys) bashing them for being “pretend geeks”, apparently because “everybody knows” that either there is no such thing as a geek girl, or because they don’t know enough about the characters they are portraying, or perhaps both (there was some disagreement about this, because apparently the arguments tend to reach staggering levels of illogicality).

            • Not to put too fine of a point on it, but between fashion choices of the lady geeks I know, and the, um, extremes of physeque among the male geeks, it would be easy to not notice unless you were directly talking to a lady geek.

              If you don’t dress to play up your shape, even a hippy-and-busty woman with a pony tail can blend in– if she’s, ahem, small enough to wear a sports bra and doesn’t wear (much) makeup with the loose t-shirt and jeans.

              As best I can figure, guys just tend to scan as “husky guy”. Heaven knows it stops “working” if you dress like a girl.

              • Last time I was doing the Lady geek thing, the company made me wear men’s casual pants and a polo shirt. The Navy made me wear a uniform– and when I was a civilian geek, I wore men’s button shirts (short sleeves) with pants. 😉

                • ….You’re not me from a different timeline, right?

                  • Let me see– joined the Navy in 1988. Worked in NSGA. Left in 1994 and worked in Red Switch for Lockheed Martin. Worked for xerox where they made us wear men’s pants and polo shirts. Then went to Germany and worked for a small company that repaired equipment for the military branches all over Germany– Left them to get my degree in English lit… and then became ill. So maybe?

                  • No, I was NOT on a ship, boat, or submarine when I was in the US Navy.

          • What about ladies with bellies?

            • *pet peeve* Can we draw and quarter the blankers who decided that any woman without a flippin’ sixpack has a “beer gut” type belly?

              • While their is nothing wrong with a woman having a sixpack, most of them do not look that good, due to the rest of their body lacking certain feminine characteristics. Women usually (there are exceptions) naturally have a higher body-fat count than men, while breasts do account for some of this, a large percentage of body-fat in healthy (in good physical condition, not obese) people, both men and women is in a layer between the muscle and the skin. Thus most women in good shape have a slightly rounded belly, not a defined sixpack. A beergut should be substantial enough to have a defined roll when wearing properly fitting pants, not be defined as having any flesh that touches a straight edge layed from the breastbone to the pelvic bone.

                • Thus, plastic surgery.

                  On the topic of “obese”– man, do I feel dumb not figuring out until last year that when I was nearing my BMI “ideal weight,” my female cycle shut down all the way.

                  And I still had the female “pooch” rather than any kind of six-pack. (Note: both before and after, I was able to do a male “good” physical readiness test in the Navy, and regularly got chewed out for doing too many pushups; that’s the major thing that’s changed in male vs female tests.)

                  • Exactly- the BMI for Navy women is WRONG. It is for thin model-like women who can’t work a lick.

                    • And Army BMI for men is designed for runners that tend to fall out when you put an 80 lb ruck on them.

                    • Yep– muscles weigh and cause the BMI to go up in smoke.

                    • and this is why, ever since I was little, my weight was WAY higher than you’d think. I run to muscles. I CAN get flabby, but it takes six months in bed. (I found out when I was pregnant with Robert.)

                    • I do too– Not the six-pack abs 😉 but now that I have started walking again, my legs and even arms are starting to show a little muscle. Now if I can get completely off prednisone– 😉 BTW I got flabby on ten years of prednisone and inactivity. Prednisone makes the mucles tear…

                    • And remember, according to BMI, Arnold Schwarznegger was ‘obese’ when he was Mr. Universe.

                    • Yep… 😉 It’s when they try to make each of us exactly alike. BMI just doesn’t work.

                    • aaaand… these are the things to remember when you hear someone talking about ‘childhood obesity’

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      This, this, this.

                      And then there’s also the fact that they keep trying to blame the food, instead of the fact that kids don’t get hardly any exercise any more.

                    • One thing I’ve noticed. The obsession with thin-as-rack children is having weird results.
                      My kids never fit. Or rather, the youngest fit naturally — he was below-weight till eight when he suddenly became pudgy — but the oldest was built like a brick sh*thouse and alternated between looking “beefy” and downright obese, as kids do in their cycles. Now he tends more to the beefy side, but enforced rest for recuperation puts on weight very quickly. Anyway, they looked downright massive (the younger one after eight) and “obese” compared to their classmates who were stick thin and lived on salads. Now, when we have occasion to pick them up at college… they’re on the thin side of their classmates. They haven’t changed, and I’d still say oldest needs to lose 40 lbs — difficult when he has to mind post-operative sutures so… will have to wait — BUT their classmates are all ALMOST uniformly overweight. Massively so compared to my generation. And flabby with it.
                      I wonder if extreme enforced dieting in childhood threw all these kids metabolisms off.

                    • Well children need more fat and more protein than adults. To turn them into vegetarians at a young age is a BIG mistake (protein is needed to grow more dendrites on the neurons (for intelligence and other systems). Plus many vitamins cannot be digested w/o fat. The fat-free diet imho was a key factor in ballooning obesity.

                    • Being fair to the military, they’re just using the international standards– the ones that were “adjusted” to make it easier to calculate, changing the allowable weight of a 5’10 man by over 20 pounds.

                      The real issue is using a screening mechanism as a diagnosing one…. “Gee, you’re outside of the BMI for your height; clinically obese, actually. Let me actually LOOK….oh, nope, you’re not.”

                      There’s another version where you use your wrist measurement as well for calculating that’s a little more accurate for bodyfat.

                    • lol– but I have really small wrists 😉 freakishly small.

                    • Prior statement: re: sure we’re not the same person. ;^p

                    • Foxfier lol– maybe we are of the same family line with slightly different life experiences?

                    • From what I see, most of the obese children are not in fact packing on the muscle.

                    • I see obese women, and less obese children here. The children spend most of their time outside playing. I think that recess time (we used to have two fifteen minute sessions and lunch hour) is needed… I was horrified when I was told that in many schools, recess is not considered important for the children. I was even more horrified at the drugs being pushed (ritalin and other drugs) on the boys by the teachers, and trying to turn children into attentive lumps.

                    • We had a glorious one-hour recess, and our classes were nine to two pm…

                    • I remember how much fun it was too run and scream… get that energy out of us. 😉

                    • Recess provides management problems in today’s schools, allowing kids time and opportunities to develop (essentially) unsupervised.

                      Modern schools are about teaching children, right enough, but the lessons being taught are NOT what they would have you think. The course subject matter is simply filler around which the meta-message is packed, teaching kids how to be “good” employees in cube farms, on assembly lines and fast food dispensaries.

                    • Schools aren’t set up to deal with really anti-social activity– defending fellow students from deadly threats, let alone defending yourself from simple assault, will get the DEFENDER kicked out.

                    • No, but most children at the schools are stick-thin due to pediatricians obsession with unrealistic weight for certain body types (non anglo-saxon, for instance.) Our pediatrician once told us to stop supplementing Robert’s food with cereal… and I had to point out Robert was breast fed exclusively (till a year and a half.) This made him look confused and tell me it was impossible for a child to be obese on breast milk. (The answer was… Robert wasn’t obese. He didn’t have a weight problem till almost four because that was when we moved mountain-side and he couldn’t run around in the yard anymore (it was almost vertical. Yes, bad move.) What he was was large and EXTREMELY well… hard like a bolster. I don’t know if babies can have muscles, but it sure as heck wasn’t fat. (He was also tall — above 100th percentile BOTH height and weight.)

                    • There are obese children– but there are a lot of “only on paper” obese kids, too; the ones with an obvious problem get pushed out there as the norm, while folks who are just a bit husky and not what the BMI is made to measure get treated the same.

                  • Wayne Blackburn

                    The only woman I have ever seen who looked right and had what could be called a “six-pack” was some woman who was obsessive about hula-hoops. DAMN, did she have a body (by which I mean she wasn’t a stick figure, but was well-shaped and yet very firm-looking)..

                • Full-scale bodybuilders, who carefully remove that layer of fat, look ugly. But the women look uglier than the men, because it’s even less natural on them.

              • Wayne Blackburn

                Works for me. I’ll volunteer to smack them with my gut a few times and say, “Now THIS is a beer belly, ya daft idiot!”

            • Yes??? I have one. (Sigh.)

              • Thanks I don’t feel so alone now. Victorian ladies’ fashion is good for hippy, busty women and tall thin women look good as gibson girls. What’s good for apple shaped women? I am at this time obese, (I could afford to lose 50-75 lbs), so it’s not just a squishy middle, I have a large belly. Should I go back to Medieval clothes? Being fat in the Middle ages was a sign of wealth.

                • actually some Victorian stuff will look great on you — so will medieval stuff. Technically I’m sixty pounds overweight. In reality it’s more like 30. I’ve always weighed a lot more than I look — I’m er… dense…

                  • Dorothy Grant

                    You and me both. I do a lot of manual labor for my job, but I also love my chocolate (and my husband, who loves me very much, keeps restocking my emergency chocolate cache instead of exhorting me to stick to the low-carb diet. I can’t blame him!) So I am soft-looking and well rounded, (especially well-hipped), but the BMI thinks I’m almost morbidly obese by weight.

          • Can you point me in some directions for these Victorian outfits? I have no taste, but I can tell I look like Mrs. Osgood waiting for Willow to get home when I put on most modern dresses.

          • …the usual execution of the trend makes me sad.

            That is probably because too few people these days understand the importance of a proper foundation.

            • Why don’t women wear slips under their dresses or the equivalent under their blouses?

              • Heck if I know. I always wear a slip or petticoat, and if I can see my hand through the fabric, a chemise goes under the blouse. But then I’m a firm believer in the power of imagination and suggestion.

                • I keep losing my undergarments. I mean in storage. Because normal uniform of jeans and t-shirt doesn’t need them. I must own five sets but can never find one when I need it.

              • It’s very hard to find a slip, and chimies are now outer-wear. (scary, ain’t it? For once, guys went and wore underwear outside first– although chimies are nicer than wife-beaters.)

                • You might try Vermont Country Store if you are looking for a basic slip in nylon or cotton. The stuff from Recollections tends to be long (35″ or 40″).

          • NekoCon’s theme two years ago was Steampunk. I did not see women dressed in Victorian S&M gear. What I did see were some pretty spectacularly well thought out and polished costumes. One group looked just as I imagined they would if they were stepping off a ship in the Cairo of our esteemed hostess’s Magical British Empire.

        • I love the internet….

          first, because I can find out that the “walking skirt” is that outfit that looks like the Ur-dress, and second I can find a pattern for it….
          http://www.folkwear.com/209.html

          ******************

          Didn’t someone already do the bandaids-and-a-beltbuckle look? I want to say Cameron Diaz, she had green gauze connecting them?

          • I’ve had good luck with mid-weight twill for walking skirts. It will hold the shape and be moderately wind resistant, but not feel as if you’re wearing 50 pounds hanging from your waist. I’ve got one walking skirt in that cut in a lighter-weight calico and it’s nice, but it doesn’t hang right. YMMV.

            • What kind of blouse do you wear with it?

              • Depends on how Victorian I’m trying to look. If it’s all the way, then something with a high collar, leg-o-mutton or bishop sleeves, and a modest amount of trim, with a tailored but not snug vest (waistcoat) in winter. I have one skirt with a matching twill jacket. No lace cuffs, thank you. Otherwise, 3/4 or long sleeve blouse, small collar or an Oxford-type shirt, with or without a vest.

                http://www.recollections.biz is where I get my ready-made stuff. They are also a great place for combination ideas, especially if you scroll down and look at the customer photos. Most of the ladies shown are not petite young things. The clothes have gotten a little pricier in the past few years, but the quality is fantastic and their stuff wears like iron. They are also really good about working with you if you want, say, a skirt and jacket set, but with a small top and medium skirt. You can get specific measurements for sleeve length and width or collar size just by asking.

            • Now I just need to re-learn basic sewing so I can do real sewing….

            • Dress weights anyone? The marvels of knowing a bit about older techniques in clothing construction. For example, a length of lightweight ball-chain can be secured in the hem of a skirt to help keep it down in the breeze.

              Folkwear has a line of both reproduction and ethnic clothes. (Sadly, the magnificent Amazon Dry Good went out of business.) You can find other sources in the advertisement sections of Threads magazine for some reproduction patterns, such as Eva. Simplicity has some for the Civil War that are museum certified. Ask at reenactments to find out what the people there have found that work.

      • Dorothy Grant

        Have you seen the state of children’s clothing? It’s hard to find something off the rack that doesn’t look like you’re trying to sell their flesh on the street. The small companies that can manage beauty and grace are getting quite a few sales from parents who are thinking “I can either clothe my ten-year-old daughter in easily-available things that will get her picked up by the police should she walk in public alone, or I can spend more and let her have fun playing dress-up, while she will actually not be sunburnt in uncomfortable places should she see daylight.”

        Not a hard choice, not at all.

        • I do have a book on making Edwardian clothes for children. If the boys don’t give me grandchildren, I shall start dressing random kids off the street 😀

        • Wayne Blackburn

          That is why I love this commercial:

          Although, if I were the father, I would have been laughing my a** off instead of looking guilty.

  27. I was under the impression the usaians were described as a religion because the last thing the good men wanted was the suggestion of another form of governance because people might, you know, prefer it. It’s the inevitable result of letting your enemies define you.