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He's gonna get in trouble, just you wait and see

Feb. 17th, 2017 | 01:52 pm
location: out of his mind
mood: cautiously optimistic
music: The Coasters, "Charlie Brown"

Yesterday (Thursday, February 16, 2017) President Donald Trump gave a news conference. Here's my review:

Fee fee fie double fofo fum,
I smell smoke in The Donald's cranium.

There are several versions of my source material that are available on YouTube. Here is one that I like.

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Some Trump supporters want judges arrested

Feb. 12th, 2017 | 03:24 pm
location: far from Folsom Prison
mood: worriedworried
music: "The Black Freighter"

A cartoon appeared two days ago (Friday, February 10) on the New York Times website; it showed President Donald Trump standing outside the prison camp at Guantanamo and asking, "You have room for bad judges?"

I read this as implying that Trump is thinking of jailing the judges who ruled against his executive order on immigration. But "implying" it only as satire: I am confident that neither the cartoonist, nor the editors of the Times, wish to be understood to be claiming, as fact, that Trump is even thinking about doing such a thing.

At least, unless they know something I don't, they shouldn't be claiming this, since I am unaware of any evidence that he is.

But since the subject (of jailing judges) has come up, I do wish to make an arguably related factual claim: that some of Trump's core supporters have urged him to do precisely this. For this, finding evidence is easy: just look at the comments section attached to a suitable story on Breitbart News.

For example, on Friday -- the same day as the cartoon mentioned above -- Breitbart published a story with the title, "Trump: New Steps Next Week to ‘Keep Country Safe’." I found all of the following, verbatim, in the comments users had posted in response to that story.

------------------

It seems the judges have been given extra federal protection after
their 'verdict'...they get more security for giving us less.

------------------

[Another commenter following up on the one immediately above:]

These "Fake Judges" might just get some "Fake Protection" if you know
what I mean... I don't think anyone is going to take a bullet for any
of them.

------------------

They actually need to be securely behind bars, in a nice comfy jail cell.

------------------

Once any attack happens, Trump can round up the judiciary and put them into protective custody in Guantanamo per the Patriot Act. Winning!

------------------

I'd feel safer if we deported some radical Leftist Marxist judges.

------------------

President Trump is consulting with military Generals and Attorney's in preparation for what I believe will be criminal charges against activist judges who have usurped the powers of the President and our right to be protected by the President.

------------------

[end of quotes]

I've seen similar stuff in the comments sections of other recent Breitbart stories. For now, I won't comment further, I'll just let the quotations speak for themselves.

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Secret wars

Feb. 1st, 2017 | 01:11 pm
location: underground
mood: worriedworried
music: Country Joe and the Fish

So, Steve Bannon is going to be a full member of the National Security Council. Does that worry me? A bit.

What worries me more is that the Director of National Intelligence, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are not going to be full members any more.

Actually, what worries me most is not any of these things separately, but all of them put together.

Why? Is it so important to me that these guys (the intelligence director, and the Joint Chiefs) get to be heard in these meetings?

That is important, but what really freaks me out is that they may not get to hear what is said in these meetings.

It sounds to me like someone is expecting, say, that the US will soon be in a "major shooting war" in the Middle East. So far, not news: Bannon has said he expects this.

But envision this: the military gets word that it is time to start such a war. Start dropping those bombs.

No, the White House clarifies, we don't mean start planning for it. We mean do it. Right. Now.

So there's no time to even think about how to minimize civilian casualties, but who cares? They're just a bunch of ragheads.

But that's not the main reason for this blitzkrieg approach. Our uniformed military, and intelligence agencies, must not know about the war in advance, because if they do, they'll leak it. Members of Congress will know. Maybe even -- gasp -- members of the public.

So then you'll have editorials, demonstrations, legislative hearings, perhaps lawsuits. Wouldn't it be better to skip all that, or at least postpone it until the bombs are already falling? We don't need no stinking public debate!

Do you think this is farfetched? Are you sure?

Stop for a minute and think about how the immigration order was rolled out. Are you still sure?

I'm not.

Tags: ,

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Listen, Mr. Bilbo

Jan. 31st, 2017 | 06:26 pm
location: back where I came from
mood: deja vu

Listen, Mr. Bilbo, listen to me
I'll give you a lesson in history
Listen and I'll show you that the foreigners you hate
Are the very same people made America great.

If you want to sing it at a demonstration, you'll need the tune.
Here you go.

Theodore G. Bilbo was a United States Senator from Mississippi, in office from 1935 to 1947. You could update the lyrics with "Bannon" or "Sessions." Not "Trump," unfortunately: poor little guy hasn't got the syllables for it.

Some people will tell you they have nothing against foreigners, it's just those "radical Islamic terrorists." Uh huh ....

"I'm descended from immigrants myself. But these Irish and their Papist plots ...."

Italians were "anarchists."

Jews, of course, were "Christ killers." Or if that wasn't enough, you pulled out your nice little book about their plan for world domination.

See, there's always a lie around when you need one. Or if there isn't a suitable one ready to hand, you just make one up.

And so it goes ....

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The Most Important Difference between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler

Jan. 28th, 2017 | 08:59 pm
location: holed up in the mountains
mood: angryangry
music: 1812 Overture

Today, we learned of some of the immediate fallout from Donald Trump's
executive order on immigration, such as: people who already had legal
permanent resident status in the US, but who happened to be out of the
country when the executive order was signed, not being allowed back
in.

This, along with other outrages recently committed by the president of
the Trumped-Up State of America, may lead some to wonder: is there any
real difference between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler?

I'm here to tell you that you may rest easy on that point. There are
such differences, many of them significant.

In fact, there are a great many important differences between the two men: so
many that there is no way that I could list them all. So I will
confine myself to choosing one: whichever one I believe to be most
important.

Ah, but by what criterion shall I judge "most important"? This is an
inherently subjective matter: what is important to me, and perhaps to
some of my readers, may be less important to others.

Thus, my criterion shall be: which difference, of the many between the
two "leaders", will be most useful to bear in mind, when attempting to
predict how much damage President Trump will succeed in doing to the
people of his and other countries?

By this criterion, in my opinion, the most important difference
between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler is that Hitler was smarter.

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Joke of the Day

Apr. 24th, 2014 | 04:55 pm
mood: chipperchipper

I knew this guy who was addicted to brake fluid. But he refused to
believe that he had a problem. "No way", he said. "I'm not hooked.
I can stop any time I want to."

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Clojure eyes, and I'll kiss you

Mar. 18th, 2013 | 10:32 pm
location: the mountains
mood: cheerfulcheerful

Sorry about the title, folks. I couldn't help it.

Clojure is a programming language. I don't think I've mentioned it before in my Journal. It's in the LISP family of languages; in particular, in some ways it's pretty similar to Scheme, and I've mentioned that a number of times.

I'm discovering that I like Clojure a lot. I resisted this conclusion
for a goodly while, because I didn't find Clojure as conceptually
elegant as Scheme. I still don't, but darn it, I've gotten to where I
can't deny that, for a wide range of types of projects, Clojure is
just more practical: you can get a working program faster with Clojure
than with Scheme.

You might well ask: "than with" which Scheme? Ah, yes.
Scheme, in practice, isn't one language, it's a sizeable family of
languages all by itself. They pretty much share a common core, but
differ widely as to features available beyond that. So it doesn't
really make sense to talk about how easy it is, or isn't, to get
something done in Scheme, without specifying which Scheme
implementation you're talking about.

Fair enough. Actually, I was comparing Clojure to SISC. That's a Scheme implementation for the JVM (Java Virtual Machine). It follows the Scheme standard (the one called "R5RS") for the core of the language, but many of its add-on features are JVM-specific.

And at this point in my history, SISC is the Scheme I've used the
most, by a wide margin.

It's a fair comparison ... or at least a relevant one ...
because in the case of Clojure, the whole language was designed for
the JVM.

I'm not going to try to prove to you that Clojure is a better language
than Scheme. Heck, I don't even think that it's "better." I
just think that it's more practical for getting certain kinds of
things done.

What kinds of things? Well, my current project ... which is
considerably the biggest project I've ever undertaken in Clojure ...
is (would you believe) income tax software.

More on that later ....


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Chicken Crossing T-Shirt

Mar. 9th, 2013 | 07:52 pm
location: Funny Times gift shop
mood: amusedamused

Now this seems like a real philosopher's T-Shirt. I ordered one.

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"Do as thou wilt" ... up to a point ... considered as an approach to building character

Feb. 24th, 2013 | 04:25 pm
location: Marshall, NC
mood: contemplativecontemplative

My last post, "Do as thou wilt", ended with a couple of questions.  Sorry to leave you hanging so long.

To paraphrase the first question: is there more than one thought pattern that might serve to remind a person to consider the effects of her actions on others?  A way other than being trained to think
that to fail to do so is wrong?

I think there is.  Let's continue with the example that I was using.  And let's make it more specific. 

Suppose, then, that you've been on a hike with a friend, you're both hungry, and you stop somewhere for something to eat: something in the range of a big snack, or a small meal.  You order a small pizza, to share.  It's small enough that it's divided into only four slices.

And suppose that the two of you are on a tight budget: ordering more food would not be a decision to be taken lightly.

You each eat a slice, and then your friend excuses herself to use the restroom.  While she's absent, you eat another slice.  And you find yourself tempted to eat the fourth, and last, slice.

You have every reason to believe that your friend is still hungry, also.  But (he said rhetorically) so what?  How, or why, does this keep you from following your impulse, and taking the last slice before she gets back?

It could be because you feel that it would be wrong, or unfair.  It could also be because of a fear of consequences: she'll complain when she comes back, and/or it could damage your friendship, etc. 

But here's another possibility.  Perhaps you know that this friend, for one reason or another, is accustomed to giving you a lot of slack, and is unlikely to complain about being left still hungry over the next couple of hours.  But she will feel it: she'll be less comfortable, less satisfied, just as you would have been if you'd had only one slice of pizza, when you had room for two (or three).

Might you not, then, forgo taking the last slice, simply because you care about this person, and don't want to subject her to that?

Sometimes we don't have to be pushed, or bullied, or shamed, into caring about another person, and acting accordingly.  Sometimes we just do: it comes naturally.

That answers the first question that I asked at the end of the previous post: no, conscience, or a sense of fairness, is not the only mental process that can lead to unselfish behavior.  The second question was whether (given that there are alternative mechanisms) one of them might, in some sense, be preferable to the promptings of conscience.

My experience suggests that the answer to this is yes.  It feels better to give something up freely, out of caring, than to do so out of a sense that you "ought to."

I further suggest if you develop the habit of behaving unselfishly for this sort of reason, then (other things being equal) you will behave more unselfishly than if you only ever did so at as a result of the promptings of conscience.

If you are an adult participating in the raising of a child, you will have various opportunities to point out consequences of the child's actions, and thus to encourage unselfish behavior.  Each such opportunity is also a choice: you can raise the issue as an authority figure, saying that the child "ought to" behave less selfishly; or you can "just" call attention to how the child would feel if another behaved selfishly toward him.  (It may be rare to see this as a conscious choice, at the time; but the choice is there, for all that.)

Thus the suggestion with which the previous post began: that we place less emphasis on the concepts of right and wrong.  It's simply more effective, in the long run, I believe: I think that appeals to right and wrong always carry at least of a whiff of external authority: of external compulsion, even.  Therefore, to the extent that we are able to encourage a child's inner (and, I will claim, innate) tendency to care about others, we will help to build a character that acts unselfishly out of freedom, not out of any sense of compulsion ... and that, as a result of that, acts unselfishly in a more consistent way.

You may have noticed that the last sentence introduced a qualifier: to the extent that we are able to encourage an inner tendency ....  It doesn't always work; whether it works or not probably depends on age, among many other things.  Sometimes, the exertion of authority is the only thing that works in a situation.

In the light of this, my suggestion should be understood in relative terms: that what happens in our society depends on the appeal to authority, and indeed to right and wrong, more of the time than it needs to.

A rhetorical infelicity (mild, I hope) in what I have written: I ended up talking specifically about child-rearing, and thus, my conclusion may seem not to match the original suggestion at the beginning of the previous post.  I made that transition because I think that the issues in question are somewhat more straightforward when child-rearing is in focus, since it's relatively clear that the adults who raise children have an influence on the development of the characters of those children.

I will claim, though, that similar things are true about the influences that adults have on each other ... more or less equivalently, about the influences that society has on all (well, most) of its members, regardless of age.  I won't offer any concrete evidence for this claim (at least, not in this blog post); call it a suggestion, as indeed I called the whole thing from the beginning.

To sum up: if you act on the assumption that it's in people's natures to be nice ... to the extent that it's realistic to do so ... you end up with nicer people.

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Do as thou wilt

Jan. 25th, 2013 | 09:12 pm
location: a cheap hotel in Los Angeles
mood: didactic

I have a suggestion.  It's hardly original, but I hope to present it in a different light.  It also isn't for everyone.

The suggestion is: concern yourself less about what is good or bad, right or wrong.  Think about it less; talk about it less.  Maybe even experiment with a point of view in which these concepts don't exist.

If this suggestion seems obvious and natural, that may be an indication that it isn't for you.  Most of the people for whom it is intended are folks who will feel some doubt about it.  The doubt would take a form something like this: "Why are you promoting selfishness?  Surely what today's world needs is more concern for others, not less."

It is not my intention to promote selfishness.  I, too, would prefer a world in which people showed more concern for others ... in particular, for the effects on others of their own actions.

But is there only one way of showing such concern, namely, by thinking in terms of right and wrong?  We tend to believe so, but I suggest that this belief is based on a presupposition, and that the presupposition deserves to be questioned.

So what is this presupposition?  That our own desires and preferences are thoroughly selfish.  That we do not want to consider the effects of our actions on others.  And thus, that we will not consider them (or, at least, not be swayed by them) unless we force ourselves to do so.

And how can one "force" oneself to show concern for others?  According to this presupposition, the way to accomplish that is to think something like this: "Of course I'd like to eat all the cookies, not leaving any for the others ... but it would be wrong."

But is that the only way of thinking that might lead you to leave some of the cookies for the other folks?  Or are there other ways?  And if there are, might there be reasons to prefer some of the other ways?

To be continued ....

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