I don't mean to offend. It's probably going to happen anyway.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Without Comment

If democratic peoples substituted the absolute power of a majority in place of all the diverse powers that hindered or retarded beyond measure the ascent of individual reason, the evil would have done nothing but change its character. -Alexis de Tocqueville

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Aristocratic Schmutz

So, I've been in a political theory class this semester. Absolutely fascinating, I recommend it.

In one of my readings in Democracy in America by Tocqueville, I came across this line in a discussion of democracy

"The great privilege of the Americans is to be able to have repairable mistakes."

I found myself agreeing in principle, but realizing that we aren't really repairing mistakes anymore. We're doing it again only harder, or doing the exact opposite, ignoring the bit where the best course of action is sometimes, perhaps even often, doing nothing instead. Just a thought, particularly in regards to the election we just had. We had a remarkable turnover, but that really doesn't repair any of the mistakes that have gone by. The important stuff for that is still to come.

The other thing that occurs to me reading this (Vol 1 Pt 2 chap 6 for those following along at home) is that Tocqueville's criticisms of Aristocracy and Democracy BOTH come together to make modern law really, really bad. On the one hand, we have a handful of career politicians who are functionally aristocracy. They are very good at directing law to suit themselves and their agendas, which, incidentally, are generally not so good. Yet, since we are still in a democratic system, there is lots of law built to appeal to the many disparate interests of congress. This all but inevitably leads to bad law.

In short. Aristocracy leads to effective law to a bad end. Democracy generally leads to crappy law to a good end. Aristocracy manipulating democracy leads to bad law to a bad end.

I may post more little thoughts like this as they come up. Or not. We'll see.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Pledge of Allegiance

I got into a discussion over Facebook that has stayed civil (for now) over the Pledge of Allegiance. Since, to steal a line from Tam, I hate using good material at an away game, I'll share my thoughts here.

 I personally feel that the 'under God' clause at this point ought to be removed, even if for no other reason than the fractious nature of the debate. For those who object to that clause, I have no problem with them forgoing that phrase. While this country is founded on a great many religious principles, adherence is expected to the principles, not to the religion.

The real problem here is that the American people doesn't exist anymore. We have a great many people who live in the USA, but truly don't hold any allegiance to it. Do I think they should be afforded the privileges of citizenship? Absolutely not. There's a reason that the Pledge is part of the naturalization procedure.

 Let's actually break it down a little. It's a remarkable oath.

 "I pledge allegiance" This is important. A pledge is an act of putting your honor on the line. Allegiance is not obedience. Allegiance is an alignment of will. You stake your honor on aligning yourself with what's to come.

"To the flag of the United States of America" Also important. This does not say "to the government of the USA". Governments are made of people, and are therefore fallible. The flag is a symbol, as expanded in the next part.

"And to the republic for which it stands" Not just a governmental system, but THIS republic, and the philosophies and ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. There's a lot wrapped up in that little statement.

"One nation" Here's where it falls apart today. According to Wikipedia, "A nation is a large group of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, or history." We don't have that today. The immigrant nature of the American people means that ethnicity, descent and history can't be sources of our nation. Instead it is the American culture and the english language (YES I will take flak for this but it's the language of the land de facto if not de jure) that can give unity. Both have been rejected.

Allegiance to the one nation means a sense of unity with the other people of America. It means casting aside other identities and calling yourself an American, and knowing what that means.

"Under God" I would not expect someone who didn't believe in God to stake their honor on God. This phrase was added much later than everything else and really should be stricken. It is divisive, which is interesting considering...

"Indivisible" This again is One Nation. I won't reiterate.

"With Liberty and Justice for All" Foundational principles to the United States. Note, not liberty and justice for Citizens, or "the right folk", All. Again, an unpopular thing today, whether or not people want to admit it.

This oath is not about obedience to a group of people. It is about allegiance to principles. I think the misunderstanding of what this oath IS has contributed a lot to its lack of popularity. It's almost subversive in its nature, since no obedience is owed the government, merely the principles. Indeed, it is an obligation on your honor to act to keep the government in line with these principles.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


I have been accused of having an anti-authority streak many a time. While I most certainly see where that is coming from, I don't think it's quite the right word for my attitudes. I am a big fan of authority, provided it is duly constituted and properly executed. I am no great fan of authority that seeks to control me against my will.

That is what Islam has become today. I know people who call themselves Muslim, many of whom are lovely people and many of whom are just as frustrated at a lot of the stuff I'm going to be talking about as I am, often moreso. This is not directed at them.

This is however directed at every person who calls him or her self a Muslim and does not speak out against Isis, Al Qaeda, and all their ilk.

I am an active member of a proselyting faith. I think things would be better for people and the world as a whole if those people were to join. As such, I work towards educating people about my faith, and giving people the opportunity to decide if they care for it. The difference is simple. I don't chop anyone's head off if they decide that I'm full of baloney.

Similarly, I'm not suggesting bombing Islamic civilian centers. I'm not interested in invading and getting them all to renounce Islam. The only situation in which I am interested in using coercive force as regards them is to protect America and our friends, particularly Israel in this specific instance.*

We just passed the 13 year mark on the September 11 attacks. It, and many other smaller incidents ever since, marked Islamist attempts to control us. They cannot control us all by force, so they choose to allow us to control ourselves with fear. They seek to make themselves the bogeymen behind every door and at every border.

In that sense, for many people they won. Benghazi was blamed not on problems of Islamist aggression, but on a youtube video no one saw. Even if the organized militia shelling rockets and rifle fire on the embassy was in fact a pure response to this video, we did terribly wrong in ever blaming the author of the video.

This simply places the burden on us to not offend them, rather than on them not to commit acts of war. Is that not precisely what they want? It is a tacit acknowledgment that we are evil and deserve what they would do to us. I don't know about you, but I find that a highly offensive notion.

This is a concept that is very popular today. Every heinous act is explained away as "he was abused as a child" or "she had a hard time making friends" or other bad experiences in the past. While these can certainly help explain the motivations, in no sense does it excuse the acts.

I want to make one last comment before closing for the time being. Note I have not called these people at any time 'extremists'. This is, quite simply, because the world's muslim population seems by and large to accept it, even if not actively condone. For those who would say Islam is a peaceful religion, prove it. Speak out against this. Make the case that this is not the true face of Islam. For those who say nothing, know that you tacitly agree to allow Isis and their ilk to be the face of Islam. 

These people only have what power you give them.

*Not because Israel is different than any of our other allies, but rather because I don't think South Korea for instance is at quite so much risk from Islamist states.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Old NFO put up a post recently about the rate of suicides among my generation. I know this is a little out of style for this blog, but being part of my generation, I think I may be able to contribute some to the discussion. Please read his post first, here.

I think the points he brought up are all valid, but I think there's more to it. All are facets of the same problem, in a way. I don't know that it's so much that my generation hasn't been allowed to fail that is the primary issue than it is that we have nothing worth risking failure for. I've known some people who've attempted suicide and far more who have contemplated, though thankfully none succeeded, and they've all commented something to the effect of "What's the point of living" usually with some particular personal problem or crisis as catalyst.

There's a distinct cultural ennui among a great many of my peers. We live in a time when a great many things are in really rough shape and we are constantly reminded of many of the worst bits. Wars, tragedies, and depravities that in a former age were distant are now blared across the front pages of Google and Facebook. We're all aware of terrible things, and many feel powerless to combat them.

I see it as a sort of burnout. There’s always some new crisis, some new tragedy, and the expectation is that you should feel something. Indeed, most do, for a while. When the issues keep coming and nothing is changing, it gets harder and harder to feel anything. This leads to a mental picture of the world as being pointless, since terrible things happen so often and nothing changes, so how can there be rhyme or reason? In short, the world doesn’t seem worth much.

On a separate note, it seems strange how the interconnected nature of the internet has managed to isolate people so much. While true, people can keep up with other people’s lives, they can only see what others choose to share. Similarly, others know only what they post in their statuses and such. Everyone has these masks of social acceptability and propriety that are rather harder to maintain the same way with people you actually see and spend time with. Everyone has this face, but so often it isn’t representative of their own identity.

Emile Durkheim started the field of sociology with the study of suicides, and he found that this anomie or namelessness seemed to be the defining character to the huge suicide rates in the growing urban centers. People find that they really know no one, and no one knows them, and what does it matter anymore? In the post Vietnam era NFO mentioned, our men came home to find themselves named something far outside their own reality and identity. They went through hard times, far harder than most, and they came back to a society that hated them for it. Drafted into service in a hard war they didn’t choose and reviled for their participation, they were left alone when they most needed the help.

Suicide is a hard thing to look at through history, since it was so often hushed up as shameful. All the same, my sense of the thing has been that in generations past, those who committed suicide were generally not surprising to those around them. Today, I hear so often “I had no idea” “they seemed so happy” or “no one saw this coming.” People have cloistered themselves up in their own heads, putting on the face that they see as necessary for the circumstance, and many are sure that everyone else is doing the same.

Relatedly, people my age are craving the genuine, in a world progressively more seen as fake and hollow. I think one of the strongest examples of this is in Buzzfeed and its ilk. People are longing for the “two minutes that will totally change your worldview” and “cutest puppy ever reunited with owner” because they think that they actually might feel better about the world if they remember that there’s still happy stuff. Puppies are wonderful in fact, and there are great things to learn of and experience.

That being said, I personally think that this has a tendency to backfire a bit. People seek these out hoping to find some meaning, and when they don’t find it, it reinforces this notion of meaningless. Happiness is fleeting and cheap, and the drudge of existence is neither.

Looking back on my own educational experiences, we were always taught the sanitized, easy history. We were never taught that the world could be rough, and as such many have no coping mechanisms at all. They turn to their peers, and find that they too have no mechanisms. Combined with the difficulties of life (no more substantial, indeed less so, than those of past generations) that blindside people, the sense of hopelessness is essentially complete.

If I might bring in one societal evil that is contributing, it’s the notion that everyone should go to college. People go through 4-6 years of difficulty, accumulating massive debt and struggling with the educational basics more often than not, all while being told “this is the best time in your life” until they exit the academic bubble with nothing but a piece of paper saying “BA in Cinematography” or some such and no real world context, experience, or marketable skills. Instead of getting the head start in life that is expected, they’ve set themselves back a lot for no apparent gain.

There are lots of other factors, particularly the hateful rhetoric so common between various labels and subcultures, but they all seem to be subsets of this primary sense. Some people just can’t quite take what the world has become and what the world asks them to be. Without meaning, intimacy, and with a strong sense of awareness towards many ills in the world, it is hardly surprising that so many despair.

I’m sure most of what I’ve talked about is unconscious for most people. It’s just the growing fester in the back of the mind that says “This isn’t worth it.”

For me, I have found the meaning I need in life. I have found ways to be genuine with people. I’ve managed to find the answers I needed. I’m sure others can do the same.

Obviously, I’m not a psychologist or sociologist. I’m just a college senior going into marine biology. I can just say what I’ve seen, what I have experienced and what I think explains it. I may be wrong on every meaningful level, and if so, I hope you will forgive me that.

And for anyone who may find this who are considering taking your own life, I can only say this. I don’t know what answers you might find that can help you through this. I don’t know that I understand your situation or your position. I’m sure I don’t know the whole story. I do know however that there are answers out there. There are people far better qualified than I to help you look for them. Please, find someone you can talk to. Things can be better.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The R51 Shall Arise Again

Last week, I spoke over the phone with Jessica Kallam of Remington PR. We talked about the past and future of the R51, and Remington today released a statement confirming what we talked about.

July 25, 2014
Remington R51 Pistol Product Update

Earlier this year, we launched the innovative R51 subcompact pistol to critical acclaim. During testing, numerous experts found the pistol to function flawlessly. In fact, they found it to have lower felt recoil, lower muzzle rise and better accuracy and concealability than other products in its class.

However, after initial commercial sales, our loyal customers notified us that some R51 pistols had performance issues. We immediately ceased production to re-test the product. While we determined the pistols were safe, certain units did not meet Remington’s performance criteria. The performance problems resulted from complications during our transition from prototype to mass production. These problems have been identified and solutions are being implemented, with an expected production restart in October.

Anyone who purchased an R51 may return it and receive a new R51 pistol, along with two additional magazines and a custom Pelican case, by calling Remington at (800) 243-9700.
The new R51 will be of the same exceptional quality as our test pistols, which performed flawlessly.
We appreciate your patience and support.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am excited for October. I played with several R51s at the NRA show in Indianapolis and spent some time talking to one of their representatives on the floor. Quite simply I am glad to see that this design has not been memory-holed. It's fun, it's different, and by several early accounts, it's quite pleasant to shoot. I'm still looking to get paws on one to review in October.

My understanding of Remington's attitude towards their products is high expectations. As stated in the release, the pistols were safe, but not up to snuff. Similarly, the massive recall of 700s earlier this year was not in response to any single incident where there was an accident, merely that there was a discovery of the potential for an accident.

I still think Remington is a good company. I still think the R51 is a solid concept. I look forward to seeing how this all shakes out.