That Guy or Why Communism Won’t Work

 

For those who don’t know, we have a “closed” group of my fans on Facebook, called Sarah’s Diner.

It’s a place with definite rules, because my fans come both from fiction and non fiction, and widely separate streams of thought.  So, no politics are allowed, and no religion and no…

In addition to that, there is a detailed,  list of rules, like you can’t have a link to FB with a sales link.  Most people find this pointless, and some people throw fits because my moderators take their ‘Harmless” amazon link to mugs, or toys or something down.

Yesterday a friend of mine told me that I have control freaks as moderators.  Do I? Would it be easier/better if I let everyone do whatever and only had moderators to stop fights/kick out spam.

I started out that way…

The rule about selling links to Amazon, for instance, started because of ONE main offender, who not only found a way to link his book EVERY TIME in all sorts of unlikely circumstances (so we put in a rule about self promotion) but then found ways to have his friends/relatives/gullible acquaintances post links to his books apropos nothing (rule against linking books) and then started figuring out how to get them to post links to other things (that had his books in the recommends.)

We could have kicked him out, we could.  Only you know, he hadn’t actually broken the laws.  Also, there were three or four people doing the same thing, more subtly, and falling in behind every rule loophole he found.

So my moderators gradually became control freaks.  Sure, I could have gone the other way and given them leave to just let anyone post whatever.  But the problem is that writers are stupid.  No, like, massively stupid when it comes to promotion.

Some of us — me — are embarrassed to do it at all.  And then some people do promo in the most bizarre and unlikely situations.  And I mean that.  Like answering someone saying their spouse has cancer with “I’m sorry, that sucks.  Now, in my book A Bright Promise, the main character has cancer and it turns out okay.  You might want to read it.”

And groups with a lot of writers, which mine seems to be, partly because I support indie, can become nothing but a link fest.  I don’t want that and don’t want to look at that when I visit.

Do the mods hate to have to police at that level?  Sure.  Because, you know, they don’t get paid.  Do I hate to make them police at that level?  Sure, because I’m actually very laid back.

So what does this have to do with communism?  Socialists/communists/the left in general, suffer from the illusion that you can give people stuff for free, and people will take what they need.

Ah!

No, seriously, ah!

Even without rule lawyering, people are STUPID, and some of the dumbest people are the smartest.

For instance I run the book plug here on Saturday and, with Charlie Martin, the PJM Book Plug Friday.  We’re glad to do it.  We don’t get paid.  Well, we get paid for BPF, but only for the article, the links are our own idea and extra.

The rules are simple: send me an amazon link to bookpimping at outlook dot com if you want to be linked on my blog on Saturdays.  Send us a link to Bookplugfriday at gmail dot com if you want to make an appearance on the Book Plug Friday post over at PJ.  IF your blurb is really long, send us a 40 word blurb to PJ, where we’re crunched for space. DON’T send the same book more than once a month.

That’s it.  I’m offering to do something for free to promo people’s books.  People like promo, as I mentioned above. So they make it easy for me, right?

Right…  Like, last week, I got: a message begging us to promo a book… with no link, no name of book. A book, in its entirety, including cover (and an apology for not sending a higher res cover!) but no link.  A long, incoherent ramble about our “rejecting” a book for promo.  I searched the mailbox. We never got the promo request.

Minor stuff includes doing everything right… except sending us the link, or sending us the link to a different book.

Other minor stuff which finally caused me to snap on FB today, includes pinging me on FB (seriously 7 a day) with links, or sending them to my email.

It probably sounds control freakish when I say, when you do that, unless you’re a friend or someone I REALLY LIKE you’re not going to get a plug.

It’s not. It’s just what will happen, not what I WANT to happen. Why?  Because I’m doing three full time jobs (PJMedia, Baen and Indie) before I even start on things like household, making sure we don’t choke on dirt, and spending SOME time with my family and you know, making sure my husband remembers who I am.  And that’s before the fact that my health has me at half power most of the time. If it’s not essential I’ll space it.  Heck, indie keeps getting spaced, and that has to end.

Which btw, shows you the problem from the other side.  When each is working “according to his abilities” with no compensation, even if you’re really conscientious and really want to do this, stuff will slip.  You’re only human. Add to that that the people receiving things for free, even pre-rule-lawyering are going to do stupid crap.  So much stupid crap, it will make your head hurt and make your job twice as hard.

This is before the rule lawyering.  The group on FB has something like a thousand people, but ALL it takes is one rule-lawyer to make you generate a million more rules, and make your moderators (and you) way busier and pissier.  Which is why every state that tries to give you everything ends up regulating everything.

So, basically yeah, we’ve never had “true communism” (or socialism, or heaven, or whatever you want to call it this week.)  That’s because humans are humans, and there’s always that one guy.

Which is fine.  The same things that make utopia impossible are probably the things that make us a creative and striving species.  And anyway, if you got everything handed to you, you wouldn’t get anything done.

We must forgive other’s foibles as we hope ours will be forgiven.  None of us is without sin, and it’s much easier to see how annoying other people are than how annoying WE are (and I guarantee we are, at least at times.)

I happen to like people, even with all their issues.  Which means I’m okay with no utopia this side of heaven.

And people who want that utopia tend to hate humans with all their might.  Because only angels would make their utopia work.

 

 

 

162 responses to “That Guy or Why Communism Won’t Work

  1. Christopher M. Chupik

    Wow, that’s pretty shameless, unlike the new anthology my story appears in . . .

  2. Some people don’t realize you are a human with ordinary limits, I guess. That’s okay. There always has to be that one though, who doesn’t care. . I never really had a problem with your mods at the Diner – when they jumped on something, it usually needed jumping on.

  3. The rule about selling links to Amazon, for instance, started because of ONE main offender,…

    A friend has run the vendor’s hall at a middle sized con for quite a number of years.  Over these years a number of rules have been put on the books because of some vendor who simply push it far too far — without crossing an existing line that would get themselves banned.  My friend tries to address it in a friendly manner, as she would prefer not to have so many rules, but what can you do?

    The Spouse observes that when some people misbehave, even the things you have always been allowed to do you can’t anymore.

    • They say that for every stupid law on the books (or rules in groups) there’s someone that did something to cause that.

      Which gives one furiously to think why, apparently, Arizona, Georgia, and Brooklyn, NY all ban keeping donkeys in bathtubs (or letting them sleep there). And apparently there’s a law in Connecticut that declares a pickle cannot be actually called a pickle unless it bounces.

      • I cannot recall which town on the Mississippi River made it illegal to tie an alligator to a fire hydrant.

        Yes some laws do make one wonder what the story is behind them.

        • Until very recently, there was a sign in the park near Redquarters reminding park users that it is illegal to pasture or herd livestock through city parks. Why? Because… people used to keep dairy cattle in the city parks, then get angry when kids tried to play in said park. Back in the late 1800s, early 1900s. So there’a a law. Still on the books. (I encountered it while digging around the city archives for something else.)

          • Because such things have amused me throughout my life I did a google on ‘strange laws’, and click through to an article called Top Craziest Laws Still on the Books.

            Now I was aware of the following:

            When visiting Charlotte, North Carolina, don’t plan on packing light. According to city law, you must be swathed in at least 16 yards of fabric before stepping out into public.   

            But I did not know that:

            If you ever find yourself driving at night through rural parts of Pennsylvania, state law requires that you stop every mile to send up a rocket signal. It’s true. And if you see a skittish team of horses coming toward you, be sure to take your car apart, piece by piece, and hide it under the nearest bushes — unless, of course, you want to be in violation of state law.

            Somehow I cannot imagine the average modern driver is capable of disassembling and reassembling his car on any occasion.  I also have a feeling that you are more likely to be busted for sending up rockets, if it has been dry doubly so, as it would be considered creating a fire hazard.   

            (BTW: according to the Dumb Laws site in Pennsylvania after you set off your rocket you must wait 10 minutes before continuing so the road so that the road may be cleared of livestock.  Also, according to that site, you can simply pull off the road and cover your car with a blanket or canvas when approached by a team of horses.)

            I could amuse myself for a great deal of time pursuing this … but life calls. 

            • I’ve always wondered what the events were that led to there being a law in Utah making it illegal to go whaling on the Great Salt Lake (where there are no whales).

            • There is a legal princple (I think one of the posters at Popehat explained it) whereby paws do not have to be explicitly repealed if newer laws clearly supersede them. The Law being the Law, or course, it isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds (and it certainly doesn’t sound SIMPLE simple), but an awful lot of ‘silly laws’ that people like to list have been allowed to die on the vine and are not, in fact, enforceable anymore.

              Which does take some of the bubbles out of it.

              • Or, of course, the old law may simply never apply to anyone anymore, so there’s no incentive for anybody to want to repeal it. For instance, I doubt that anyone in the last century has tried to walk an elephant on Market St. in San Francisco, with or without a leash.

                To me this is one of many good reasons to put sunset laws in constitutions.

                • I’d definitely like to see sunsets on laws that are not enforced, not enforceable, not equally enforceable, and which have not been enforced in a couple of decades (barring a strong reason to still exist, such as laws against treason.)

            • You might want to double-check the citations on the laws– a lot of the time when I’ve tracked them down myself, there’s been…significant exaggeration, when it hasn’t been made up of whole cloth.

              For example, they’ll say that someone can be married by putting on a ring and telling people they are married, when the actual law is that a common law marriage is contracted by publicly representing yourself as married, and that a common law marriage is legally equal to a formal contracted marriage.

              • …there’s been…significant exaggeration…

                There’s actually a Twitter feed (can’t remember name, maybe someone else knows it?) that does that. It takes a law and presents one of the most extreme possible cases as if it were the text of the law.

          • ….do you think it would apply to goats?

            Because I can think of SEVERAL folks back home who would absolutely do that if there was a park with a fence in the area.

            • I suspect it would if anyone tried it. Poultry is permitted in the city, but not in fancy chicken houses in the park. Goats? Nope.

        • Damn, I would like to have the story behind that one … although I will venture that the phrase, “Hold my beer/drink and watch this!” came into it somewhere.

    • “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

      While bedridden today Housemate was regaling me with stories of how drivers have been trying to force bus and truck drivers here to ‘be more accommodating’ or something, by zipping in front of the truck or bus, then quickly braking. Housemate related two particular stories, one of how this happened on a bus he was riding yesterday, prompting the driver to burst out “STUPID ASSHOLE! DON’T YOU KNOW I AM BIGGER?!” because he had to slam hard on the brakes to keep from hitting the smaller car that decided to ‘show the man’ – and throw a bunch of elderly passengers against their seats or get knocked around. Housemate said the driver turned and was frantically apologizing, and Housemate couldn’t help quipping “I’m sorry too – that you didn’t hit them. Fuckers.” That got people laughing, and telling the driver they knew it wasn’t his fault.

      The second story he related involves a childhood friend of his who drives those big truck trains/semis cross country. She had some fuckwits decide to cut in front of her during a turn on a 120km/h road, and well, physics. She hit the brakes, so she didn’t kill the idiots, but they tried to get her for ‘reckless driving.’

      Unfortunately for them, Aussie road rules favor trucks and buses, especially the big trucks as they’re the backbone of our economy, and pretty much the smaller cars are responsible for the accident if they do try to cut in front of the trucks and buses, because physics.

      I can only guess at how those laws came to pass – a whole lotta ‘those guys.’

      • When I was in Hawaii a dude on a motorcycle tried that… The truck driver hadn’t even seen him because he rode the yellow line right next to the thing then cut it off. The truck driver pulled over because he thought he had a flat. Rather miraculously they transported the idiot motorcyclist to the ICU not the morgue.

        • Buses & Big trucks are bad enough. Try driving an RV! RV drivers, as a rule, DON’T get specialized big rig driving lessons. Plus a good portion of them are well over 60 (not all we weren’t).

          Had an idiot, car, who went slow on the curb, sped up on the straight stretches, finally got to the straight stretch with passing lane where straight stretch & down hill (we drove the road regularly), so hubby prepped to pass. Of coarse they didn’t pull over, but passing allowed in right lane, & hubby sped up. Truck was just about pass them (not trailer, yet) when suddenly the other driver – went faster! Our response, out loud, at the same time was “the idiot is going to cut us off”. Hubby immediately started slowing down.

          One does NOT slam the breaks hard towing a trailer.

          Well you can, but the odds of trailer whipping putting the trailer & truck & the idiot next to us over the cliff, & causing more wreaks behind us were high; even with the truck/trailer having a heavy duty leveling hitch & limited sway system (term is “no sway”, uhhh not completely).

          It was close, idiot as lucky we weren’t in the car’s back seat, but we were on idiot’s trail for bit. Hopefully scared the JA into righteous driving, or a heart attach latter, either way …

          FYI, FWIW, we pulled over at the next small town. We actually witnesses behind us, pull over & ask to help to inspect the trailer connections & breaks!! Common comments were “what an idiot!” Not all of them were RV’s. Unfortunately no police, but you can’t push your luck that far, I guess.

      • What do Australia’s “causing a hazard” driving laws look like?

        Because that sounds like it’s time for emphasis patrols– we’ve had a couple cycling through where they ding folks for cutting off trucks and tailgating.

      • “I can only guess at how those laws came to pass – a whole lotta ‘those guys.’”

        Well, that, and those backbone truckers saying something along the lines of “You know, it’d be a real shame if our rates doubled….. or we just decided we had better things to do than get sued while delivering the goods you depend on.”

      • A rule when flying is that the less maneuverable craft has right-of-way. So a balloon has ultimate right-of-way (it’s got very little ability to maneuver at all), gliders fall toward the end (because they can’t regain energy once lost through maneuvering – but they still have to get out of the way of balloons), bug-smashers have to stay out of the way of airliners, but fighter jets* have to stay out of the way of bug-smashers.
        I’ve long advocated a similar rule be encoded in driver handbooks, at a minimum. (Not sure it would work as a law; but as a principle it would work.)

        (* I’m not sure where A-10s fit in there. They’re pretty maneuverable, but when the balloon is overtaking you from behind……)

      • It is effectively impossible for big rigs (trucks) to avoid hitting you if you “brake check” them. This is not bravado, it’s physics. Please don’t try it or encourage it. Every so often the result of doing this is posted on the Reddit group r/roadcam. It can easily get people killed.

        • The truckie I was told about pretty much said she would not have felt guilty if the crash had killed the idiots trying to ‘teach the selfish truckie a lesson’ – that was their excuse in court, I shit you not. “Trying to teach big riggers not to take up so much room on turns and that they should be able to turn as tightly as a car.” The best part was, they idiots were trying to contest the fine handed down to them by the Northern Territory authorities, by arguing in a South Australian court, and the judge pretty much went “No, you were fucking idiots,” and took away their license, their car, for ‘willfully endangering everyone on the road’ by trying to create a horrible accident and banned them from driving for at least 5 years, and their ability to get a license has conditions. In fact, they were told they were lucky they weren’t dead, and frankly that stunt should have killed them – and they were told that the truckie they were harassing wasn’t going to even be punished or blamed if they had. Because physics.

          • “Trying to teach big riggers not to take up so much room on turns and that they should be able to turn as tightly as a car.”

            *head in hands* Sadly, I have no problem believing this as a motivation.

            I had a realization a while ago, when I finally identified exactly HOW most of the modern bad truck, SUV and pickup drivers were driving poorly– they are driving like the folks who can’t drive and are in roller-skate cars.
            Just more obvious in the bigger vehicles.

            These idiots are a menace because they cannot drive, not because of what they’re in; someone that insanely blind to the most basic of physics involved in driving– that turn radius CANNOT PHYSICALLY BE the same when your vehicle is 30ft long vs 10ft long– simply cannot drive.

        • Words fail, that drivers would go around playing stupid games with 18-wheelers.
          I cannot remember when I was told about the safe distance when it came to cutting in front of a truck, but it was along the lines of wait until you can see both of the trucks’ headlights in your rear-view mirror before you cut into the lane ahead of them.

          • Yeah, that sounds familiar — and then don’t immediately slow down!

            • I was impressed by a chart once, of the stopping space needed by a vehicle going at so many miles per hour; and the information included that the heavier the vehicle, the more space needed. Yeah, plain old physics, with which there is no argument.
              Those idiots in Australia, cutting and then braking in front of 18-wheelers should have been banned for life from the roads, for the encouragement of others with the same mindset.

              • Not that I’d actually wish serious harm to anyone for being born an idiot, but if somebody does manage to kill himself by doing that, I hope the trucker gets it on video and posts the video far and wide, pour encourager les autres.

                (The videos they show you in truck driving school beat hell out of the ones in my high school driver’s training course, which could have used them.)

              • As we’re seeing with illegals and license / insurance requirements, those kinds of bans only deter the law abiding.

            • We’ve left multiple, on multiple different trips (make that every single time we take that road), between Bend & Burns, extended mirrors. Between the road, wind buffering, they just vibrate off (different connection types, even have tried reinforcing connections). You can tell when they are coming off. No stopping. Just wave bye-bye. 1) Truck & Trailer take a bit & room to stop & pull over, which there wasn’t any of the latter, & 2) Big rigs (as in multiple) bearing down … Next trip that way we will have a tow camera on the back of the trailer, bolted in & powered by the clearance light. No more need for the add on side mirrors.

          • That’s my rule of thumb for passing in general– especially if I’m in a one-ton.

          • And that doesn’t even count the fact that lots of the game players select the “no turn signal” option on their cars…..

    • SCA event I attended had an interesting “Rule 13” It was the last on on the page and apparently they’d only had 6 rules the year before: “Don’t do anything that would make us make more rules.”

      • The International Obfuscated C Code Contest took the opposite approach: one winner (not awarded each year, only when it applied) is the “Worst Abuse of the Rules”, with particular emphasis on submission that cause a rule change.

        Example: One programming exercise is the “quine”, a program whose output to the terminal is a copy of its own source code. One bright fellow noticed that many compilers would happily take a completely empty source code file and produce a program that did exactly nothing. In other words, its (empty) output was a perfect copy of its (empty) source code.

        Submissions are now required to not be empty files.

  4. Aimee Morgan

    So, if I send the name of my new book, and the Amazon link, written in chocolate ganache on a gluten-free, low carb dessert, that works, right? Because I didn’t ping you on facebook?

    • But after you cut it, how do you paste a cake link?

    • LOL. want to see you doing that via email. I’m not even mad. I’m kind of curious.

      • It’d work by USPS, though it might get a bit melty in this weather. My grandmother used to mail chocolate cakes to us.

        Packed in popcorn.

        Fortunately she put on enough frosting that there was still some on the cake after we ate all the chocolate-covered popcorn.

        • I suppose you could use a lot of dry ice. Chocolate-covered popcorn sounds kind of fun, though really messy. 🙂

          • And that reminds me of how important names can be for stories. 😀

            What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?

            • Well, I’m sure they get sticky and messy in the heat.

              (Yes, I’ve read the story)

              • Heh. That is pretty much the only short story I remember by name. Otherwise it’s always this “okay, there was this guy, and he did stuff, and there was an unicorn, maybe” when I try to search for something. But not that one. I have never forgotten that name.

                • There was “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”…

                  • That wasn’t really a story, though, but an analysis.

                  • That story started to bug me after a while, because there’s a pretty simple solution to the problem. Superman is tech-savvy — see his Fortress of Solitude — and he has an entire Kryptonian city in a bottle to call on if anything’s too difficult for him. All he needs to do is build an interstellar ship and fly himself and Lois to a system with a red sun. No superpowers there – no problem.

                    • Well, not and remain himself. That was essentially the plot of Superman II, if you recall. He gave up his powers and then reclaimed them in some fashion after he realized that it would be selfish to do so.

                      See also Astra in “Wearing the Cape: Young Sentinels”.

        • The Christmas that my father was stationed in Korea, my mother and grandmother lavishly decorated a small artificial Christmas tree, packed the whole thing in popcorn (which they were up all night popping!) and mailed it to Dad, at a remote forward artillery observation post in northern South Korea. The guys in his company appreciated the tree … but they LOVED the popcorn!

          • For some reason that reminds me of the old Soviet joke about the factory that kept losing wheelbarrows…

  5. Which means I’m okay with no utopia this side of heaven.

    Yup. I have concluded that utopia is an individualistic dream, we don’t all have the same vision.  Unfortunately my dream of utopia keeps getting interrupted by those who wish to use the power of the state to create their dream of utopia.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Yep.

      Elsewhere, I posted my belief that Utopias can’t exist unless “everybody thought the same” and “everybody actually behaved the same”.

      Oh, this includes libertarian “utopias” (yes I know some libertarians don’t consider their “perfect” societies as “utopias”). 😉

      • To those who think it will work perfectly I always ask them “Imagine your perfect libertarian society. Now imagine what happens when a George Soros wants to make changes.”
        ‘Tain’t a pleasant thought.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          I suspect they “imagine” that every existing member of the utopia will automatically rise up and shoot the George Soros (and his minions). 😦

          • I fail to see the downside to that proposition.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              If every existing member of the utopia would automatically rise up and shoot the George Soros (and his minions) there wouldn’t be a “down side”. 😈

              In a “real world” libertarian society, IMO it would be likely that many would ignore the “threat” as none-of-their-business, some might think joining with the intruder would be good for their power base, and some might see the people willing to fight the intruder as the “real threat”. 😦

              • Yes, he tends to work at a remove or a dozen. Has the sack of excrement ever been to Tblisi? He sure screwed them over though. And he often uses creeping vine methods that work into the chinks until he can go kudzu on you.

            • it would be good right now, but he is still around causing havoc.

          • You say that like it would be a bad thing.

        • William O. B'Livion

          People either tell him to f off, or he gets shot.

          • Except that there will be a good sized group who thinks what he wants is exactly what would be needed to make things right again/iron out the last few bugs and make things perfect. So they will support him. Shoot him and they will go off as they now have a martyr. Hey, they have the right to think for themselves, as they will constantly remind you while also telling you how you are being hoodwinked and blindly following whatever their personal dislike happens to be at that hour. :/

        • Chris Nelson

          “Imagine your perfect libertarian society.”

          Somalia?

        • Didn’t our hostess address that in one of her Darkship books?

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Nod.

            Yet, the would-be-government had existed for decades before anybody started to oppose it and when it came to a fight the would-be-government put up a good fight.

            It could have won.

          • Also Mad Mike in “Freehold”

        • That is exactly how middle-ages Iceland collapsed.

          The solution, which may or may not be possible to do, is to have on hand plenty of “armadillos” (as in Vinge’s The Ungoverned.)

    • You do know that the etymology of “utopia” translates to “no place,” right?
      based on Greek ou ‘not’ + topos ‘place’; the word was first used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More.

    • Every Utopia I ever read about sounded like stifling hell to me.

  6. You know, this communism idea sounds a lot like it would end up like what happens in the places I volunteer: There are a very small number of people who will help out, and a smaller still number who will do things like serve on the board and make decisions, while there’s a large number who will show up and partake of the benefits, and a vast majority of people out there in the wider world who don’t participate and don’t care.

    But every once in a while someone has a “brilliant idea”. When they try to get others on board to implement their idea, they usually fail, mostly because the idea really isn’t brilliant, but often because it would be a bunch of new extra work for the unpaid volunteers and would not really produce anything of value, at least in the eyes of all but the originator.

    Well, communism would be like that except that the board of the volunteer organization would have guns and be able to force people to volunteer on pain of death, to provide monetary support on pain of death, to conform to the latest brilliant idea of the board members or else be sent to the Gulag in Siberia, and to invade Hungary.

    Which means this communism idea would be great only for the volunteer board members, and suck for everyone else, especially Hungary.

    • That result sounds like a lot of HOAs.

    • I’ve explained the problem of societal design as a “freeloader” problem. And then to point out that freeloading isn’t always about money, I use the example of group projects.

      Everybody gets it.

  7. As the old saying goes, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

  8. I ran a BBS from 1987 to 2003, and an internet mailing list from 1996 to 2012.

    The only rule on the mailing list was “no ad hominem attacks.” Alas, once you get a bunch of big-frogs-in-their-ponds experts together, some percentage of them always feel anything less than groveling sycophancy for their opinions is an ad hominem attack. I had to unsubscribe a number of people who, despite high intelligence and expertise in their fields, could not hold a conversation above the level of “Yo mama!” and “You suck!” Much butthurt usually ensued, occasionally with one setting up his own list so he could be king of the hill.

    In actuality, running a BBS or mailing list – and I’m certain a web forum or blog is no different – is more akin to mucking out the stables every morning than hosting a kaffeeklatsch of like-minded friends…

  9. Rules lawyering…lemme tell ya a story, true story as it happens.

    One upon a time, in ancient Mesopotamia, there were, some places, something like GI Bill for veterans. The short version was that, the state having an interest in being to get more soldiers, and the better soldiers being tough farmers kids, not soft city boys, a discharged veteran would be given a plot of land sufficient to raise a family on.

    There was one caveat, though; the land could not be sold. It was there for veterans to raise families but especially sons on, to keep the armies manned.

    The problem was, however, that the veterans didn’t, in many cases, _want_ to be farmers. Hell, they probably enlisted to get the hell away from farming.

    What to do; what to do?

    Enter the lawyers…

    See in archeological excavations, we found all these clay tablets, adoption paperwork, basically. But it was odd. We’d keep finding the same names being adopted, over and over and over. The clay tablets generally recorded the adoption, making said person the son and heir of the discharged veteran. They also memorialized a gift of money from the adoptee to the discharged veterans, given in gratitude for the adoption, said gift corresponding – precisely corresponding, near as we can tell – to the value of the land the government had given the discharged vet,,,

    Do I need to spell this out further?

    Which leads to an observation that is one of my very few additions – if, indeed, it is original to me, a doubtful matter in itself – to human wisdom. This is that good and evil cannot be measured merely by scope, or depth, or intensity, but that all these measures are meaningless without reference to the duration of good and evil. A short and crude version: the best orgasm is history, engaged in an adulterous affair, is a really bad deal if it is followed by an eternity in Hell.

    The rules only work for a very short time. Thus, having little duration, they cannot be of much real good.

    • Note, though, that always thinking of the long term can produce irrational results, too.

      If you have a finite discount rate, then the value of any infinitely prolonged series of rewards adds up to a finite number. For example, if you discount by 50% (an extreme example chosen purely to make illustrating the principle easier), you get 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + … => 2. If you could get 2.1 right now, that would be a better deal. Or as the old poetic formulation has it, “the world well lost.”

      Given a zero discount rate, the benefit you might gain from something in a year, or a century, or a billion years weighs equally with the present benefit; so it’s never rational to consume anything until the last possible moment. But this doesn’t work for living organisms, which exist in time and can die before the last possible moment.

      But the story about ancient Mesopotamian contracts is great, and I’m glad to have heard about it!

      • Ah, but there are two way to look at the long term, offensive and defensive. If you’re trying, actively and offensively, to actually improve things, thinking long term and accepting the lack of permanence is necessary, of course. However if you’re trying to defensively stop this or that naturally / humanly occurring thing, then if you fail to look at the long term you will probably find yourself having wasted a lot of time attempting the enforce the impossible.

        There’s also a place for imperfection, of course. IOW: Yes, it’s true that laws against murder have not put an end to murder. However, I can assure you that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people walking around today that wouldn’t be if I didn’t feel bound by the law.

        • What I was thinking of is that there can be cases where the rationally superior choice is to do something that results in eternal damnation. The discounted present value of that infinite series of future agonies is finite, after all.

          • Pretty sure that this is the wrong calc. Is there, for example, some amount of money that would get you or any other rational human being to volunteer to be burnt at the stake? One doubts. One doubts that economic present value has any bearing whatsoever when we’re not discussing value, but agony cranked up to 11+..

            • But value is not limited to “monetary value.”

              I just reread Heinlein’s Job, in which the PoV character, having learned that his wife, whom he loves, is not in heaven after the last judgment, nor still on earth, and therefore (he thinks) must be in hell, demands to leave heaven to seek her out in hell. That seems to indicate that he values her highly. (“Greater love hath no man than this. . . .”)

              And perhaps he’s being shortsighted. But that shortsightedness is precisely the sort of thing that would raise his estimation of the present disvalue of being parted from her relative to his estimation of the future disvalue of being in hell.

          • Eternal, you use that word but I don’t think it means what you think it means. There’s an old joke,
            A person arrives at Hell. Demon comes to meet him and says “You can choose one of three fates here, would you like me to show you?”. Person Says “Sure why not?”. They go to the first room. It has a pool full of raw sewage with vicious scorpions walking on the surface. The damned are up to their necks in the sewage and they stick their face out to breathe the scorpions bite. Person says “Can I see the next one?” Next room same as the first but mosquitos not scorpions. Person says “Thats better, but what’s the third?”. In third room still a pool of sewage but just about chest deep. All the damned are standing around drinking coffee. The person says ‘OK I choose this room”. Demon says, “You’re Certain?”. Person says “You bet!”. Demon says OK and person is in pool with cup of coffee. Five minutes later Demon comes back, “OK coffee breaks over for this millennium, back on your knees…”

            No real point but eternity is a LONG time, the reverse of Pascal’s wager is a really bad bet 🙂

            • No, I’m sorry, Pascal’s wager is an intellectual fraud.

              As Pascal frames it, you are betting the finite duration of your mortal life, which can be more enjoyable if you are irreligious and less if you are religious (we have to assume, or else there is no “wager” involved), against the infinite duration of post mortem bliss or agony. And IF PASCAL IS RIGHT then that is what you are wagering.

              But what if Pascal is wrong; that is, what if there is nothing post mortem at all? Then you are wagering the entirety of your existence, all the existence you will ever have, against—nothing. The value of your mortal life doesn’t look so small when you consider yourself inescapably mortal. In that case, you are being asked to reduce your enjoyment of your whole lifetime, and then it will end and you’ll be left with nothing; in fact, “you” won’t even be there.

              So his wager only makes sense if you already accept his beliefs.

              • Incorrect. The idea that Pascal’s beliefs might be wrong is inherently factored into his wager. The entire point of the wager is that if Pascal is wrong, he’s reduced the pleasure of his lifetime by some amount, so that does cost something. If he’s right, he’s gained eternal pleasure instead of suffering. So the value of what he gains if he’s right outweighs the value of what he loses if he’s wrong.” The point is that a lifetime is finite, while eternity is infinite. Direct quote from Wikipedia’s translation of Pascal’s original text: “There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite.”

                So to claim that Pascal’s wager pre-assumes that he’s right is to misunderstand the entire character of the wager. He quite understands what he’d be losing if he’s wrong; it’s right there in the text of the wager.

                • There’s another problem with Pascal’s Wager: there are many possible theologies, not just one particular form of Christianity. Pick the wrong one and you may be back in Hell, or at least excluded from Heaven.

                  Indeed, it is possible that true theology is not known by anyone on earth but only by one particular sect on a planet millions of light-years away…and their God is not going to be favorably impressed by Pascal’s Christian devotions.

                  • That one’s a much better critique of Pascal’s wager, yes. Though Pascal was quite aware that there were different theologies: he wrote several treatises arguing that this group or that group had the right idea about various points of Christian theology. His wager isn’t so much about which theology to pick as it is about picking something instead of nothing.

                    • I have seen people making a Pascal’s Wager-like argument on “climate change”…the consequences would be so awful that even if the probability of bad global warming is only .0001%, we should still invest trillions to prevent that remote possibility.

                      The same critique applies—there is a huge, probably infinite, number of awful things that could happen–bad asteroid strikes, for example.

                      I cynically believe that the reason for focusing specifically on “climate change” rather than, say, asteroid strikes is that it offers much better potential for the micromanagement of everyone’s lives.

                    • DUH. It’s always the same. ALWAYS. global cooling, you need socialism. Global warming, you need socialism. Economic boom, you need socialism. Economic bust, you need socialism. ETC ETC ETC.
                      (Also they can gaze upon my middle fingers.)

                    • Besides that critique (which I don’t entirely agree with, but I don’t have time in a short comment to go into why), the application of Pascal’s Wager to global-warming hysteria is a category error*. While the postulated consequences of global warming would certainly be awful if they were true, they are not infinite. Pascal’s Wager is an application of probability that says, “When weighing something infinite against something finite, the infinite wins every time.” That’s not even getting into the other problems with that application, such as the fact that investing trillions into a boondoggle carries its own awful consequences in terms of human potential wasted and even human lives lost (see Venezuela for the latest illustration of what happens when the government controls the economy: no matter how noble its principles, somehow you always end up with the president’s daughter being the richest woman in the country while other people starve).

                      * “Category error”: a term of art in philosophy that translates to “man, you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about!” or in slightly more formal terms, “That’s not right; it’s not even wrong.”

              • Or turn it around. Consider Pascal’s wager from the perspective of someone like you, who inherently believes that there is no afterlife. If he’s wrong and you’re right, but then yes, he has given up a certain amount of pleasure for the entirety of his existence. That’s a large amount, yes… but still finite. But if you’re wrong and he’s right… then what? Then the gain or loss is infinite.

              • There’s also a misconception that a virtuous life is boring and void of “fun” and “enjoyment”.
                Non-virtuous pleasures tend to be fun at first, then diminishing returns set in, leaving the practitioner jaded and needing something bigger. Drug users & drunks stop getting high, and need a fix just to not feel terrible. The sexual players find that they can’t really find lasting love.

                But the more virtuous pleasures, while never reaching the same peaks, they never really get old either.

              • It’s a fraud, but not at all for the reasons you think. Pascal’s Wager is a fraud because, as those peerless theologians from the University of Wooloomooloo put it, “God would never be fooled by such a cheap trick.”

    • Ah, yes. There are no rules that can’t be played, and every rule that can be played, will be played.

      The trick is to set the carrots and sticks in a way that minimizes the amount of corruption that happens when the rules are being played. And figuring that point out will get you more opinions than interested parties.

  10. This tendency is why many online groups run with the meta-rule “Thou shalt not test the limits of the other rules,” or else something about moderators having unlimited discretion.

    • And even though games like Dungeons & Dragons have this explicitly spelled out in the rules (The DM has ultimate discretion, or some similar wording), there are still people who will try to rules-lawyer things.

  11. Or as a freshman once told a senior, “So YOU’re the reason we can’t do that!” And indeed, in this case, the senior was the reason for the rule. He was still rather proud of that when he graduated. The rule had been instituted when he was in the 7th grade. *shakes head* He’ll either become a lawyer or “that guy” on the wanted list some night.

  12. Because, you know, they don’t get paid.
    Wait, What?
    You realize that you have just totally destroyed my grand plan for a very comfortable life as a highly paid control freak.

  13. “It probably sounds control freakish when I say, when you do that, unless you’re a friend or someone I REALLY LIKE you’re not going to get a plug.”

    On due consideration, I have to say “No, not really.” The site has rules. Follow the rules or take a hike.

    My site is the same. Mine only has one rule though. “Do Not Annoy The Phantom.” Most people seem to manage with that simple instruction, but there is the odd one who has managed to be sent to the Outer Darkness.

  14. Just requested an add to Sarah’s Diner. Email “slightly” different, because I don’t use the email account associated with this blog with Facebook (it’s got is own old one I don’t use for anything else; anymore). But if pay attention to the first 7 letters, moderators will know it’s me.

    Look forward to following it.

  15. Your diner, your rules. No one is forcing anyone to come in and no one is forcing anyone to stay. If people don’t like the (IMAO sensible and easy to follow) rules, they can leave.

    Funny how communist countries don’t have the “you can leave” thing.

  16. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Everyone on FashBoche is a German soldier and card carrying member of the Italian Fascist Party.

  17. There’s an old rule of thumb: “Never make a rule based on a personality problem. The personality will still be a problem, and now you have to enforce the extra rules.”

    In general, it works. The overwork mods point to the “don’t be a butthead” rule, and the offending party goes “Oh, okay.” and everything is copacetic. But When That Guy starts doing something, then we have the choice of kicking That Guy out for ex post facto, which tends to upset everybody “Wait, mods will kick out anyone and make up a reason?” or making a rule…

    And fifteen rules later, we’re all wondering why we didn’t kick That Guy out in the first place. Yep, crybullies aren’t the only abusers of people’s niceness, laid-back-ness, and courtesy. Fortunately, That Guy tends to, sooner or later, violate an already-standing rule, and when roundly smacked, well, first he goes crying to a mod that didn’t smack him about “Daddy, Mommy’s so mean and unfair! She hit me for no reason!”

    …and if it works, then we have another round, worse than the first. After the second smacking, when all the mods are Oh, THAT Guy. NO.”… they tend to flounce. And call themselves the martyr, feeling they won victim points.

    And all of you who ever moderated anything just thought I was talking about your group, and That One Guy That Time, Eh? Because humans don’t change.

    I learned my lesson when I got roped into moderating a community on LiveJournal, lo those many years ago. Made some great friends, had some great times, wanted to strangle several people, and at least one point, cops were called… *sigh*

    At least with the Diner, I don’t know exactly where people live and have to suffer dirty looks over the produce at Fred Myer’s because I nuked posts smearing somebody’s no-longer-love. *migraine salute*

    • It took a little mental shoving, but then I realized that the personality problem thing is, when I’ve seen it fixed, fixed via having those horrible conflict resolution rules.

      Sadly, I’ve seen those violated by the folks who were supposed to be enforcing them more often than I’ve see them followed, but then again the “keep it on the quiet” non-confrontational option you WOULDN’T see it being followed, just when it’s violated.

      For all that folks seem to be upset about it, ‘block’ on various social media is a wonderful tool that robs power from trolls and lets you do the equivalent of walking away when someone you know is Trouble walks up.
      This really, really upsets the people who adore walking up to people who hate them.

    • Sounds like a new rule is needed: the third time we have to implement a rule to prohibit your conduct, you’re expelled.

  18. And anyway, if you got everything handed to you, you wouldn’t get anything done.
    And social/commun/fasc-ism requires you all getting the things done. Otherwise, nobody gets handed anything.

  19. And, yes, been there, done that.
    I was promoted to moderator on a board once (a specific SF RPG forum).
    I stayed off the political board* on the forum because I didn’t want to have my illusions busted about how smart some of these folks were.

    And we ran with mostly one rule: “It’s The Boss’ forum and if he says you go, you go.” Otherwise it was “no politics, no religion*, and no personal attacks.” We could actually put posts into moderation and chat about them, if someone thought there was a problem. But it generated a LOT of email traffic.

    And yes, we had That Guy. When one finally was banned, another popped up. (You think rules-lawyering is bad among the general forum folks? Try RPG-players and referees! Yikes.)

    (* The political board was the only place where you could talk politics and religion. And it was considered a free-for-all, except for personal attacks. And folks still had to moderate that.)

  20. I prefer Utopia Planitia. But in light of how much water is locked up in the soil there, I’m not sure it’s a good site to build on. Water mining, sure. But no permanent fixed construction.

  21. But communism works perfectly. You just have to remember that the advertising and the goal are different. They say it’ll all be equal. But its just a way to gain enough followers to enshrine the leaders in power and get them riches. Don’t worry. We’ll get to experience it soon.

  22. It probably sounds control freakish when I say, when you do that, unless you’re a friend or someone I REALLY LIKE you’re not going to get a plug.

    *confused*

    Not sure how “if you are rude to me, I’m not going to do you a favor” is control freaking!

  23. Oh wow– I get embarrassed that I am promoting and don’t do it well. I am intrigued that someone could even think up promoting that way. My brain just doesn’t work that way.

    • Maybe somebody who read some bad advice and believed it, and when told not to doubled down because too embarrassed to admit to themselves they were doing it wrong. “Big name writer told to do it like this, so I am doing it right.” Or something.

      I’m pretty lousy when it comes to promoting too, having no real idea how to do it well. So mostly I just avoid the whole subject. The advice can be conflicting, and I presume also that different styles work for different writers/books, but what should be used for what… Yep. Maybe I’ll just go and buy some ice cream instead and read something not having to do anything with promoting your own work. Just kick that thing I wrote into the deep end of the pool, maybe it will learn how to swim by itself. 😀

  24. New (ish) social justice law in many states is the new Grandparent’s right law. On the face of it sounds great, even good. Grandparents of non-custodial parent or deceased parent get visitation rights even if custodial/surviving parent disagrees. Obvious problems arise when non-custodial parent lost custody because of child abuse, then the fear of the custodial parent is the non-custodial parent grandparents will allow non-custodial parent access in violation of retraining order.

    Know of a case current in process where there was a divorce, step-dad explicitly STOPPED adoption process (legally even with the divorce it was far enough along that he had to be the one to stop it, per gossip), & step-grandparents are seeking visitation rights; every other weekend & holidays. Kid is 6; Step-Grandparents never saw the kid as a baby or toddler. Biological mother & step dad were married 2 years; bio-dad is not in the picture.

    FYI. Part of their claim is they were baby sitters of the kid (so were maternal grandparents, Aunts, great-grandmother, & even a couple of times great-Aunt) & by the way, mother working is “abuse”. Step dad watched the kid during the one summer (when he didn’t drop kid off with his parents) because he worked at school district.

    1) What they are asking for is excessive.
    2) They are not the kids grandparents, period.

    Just because you form a relationship to a kid, you don’t get rights to said kid, if said kid is not part of your biological or adoptive family, period. Guess we’ll see what the courts say.