Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Philosophical Divide

This started as a response to a thread on a political forum, but it quickly expanded beyond the scope of that thread, and the character limit of the forum, so I decided to make it into a blog posting.

There is definitely a political and philosophical divide in this country, but that divide, or rather multiple divides run much deeper than the surface appearance of "Left" vs "Right", "Liberal" vs "Conservative", or "Socialism" vs "Capitalism." Most of these things that gain so much attention and receive so much focus are merely window dressing, arbitrary and meaningless labels that are used to paint a person, group or idea as "enemy" and another person, group or idea as "ally" arbitrarily, and they hold little or no real meaning or value of their own (especially the archaic and horrendously inaccurate "Left vs Right" axial concept).

From what I have seen, all political divides that aren't entirely manufactured to allow politicians to gain power and influence or to allow cheaters and abusers of the system to block and delay and hamstring steps to correct their abuses, revolve around three primary axes of philosophy. There are many more, but they are mostly minor or are sub-axes of these main clusters. The first tends to fall mostly along the artificial line defined by the popular left-vs-right axis, in no small part because it is the philosophy most used (abused) to drive that artificial axis. The other two tend to overlap with that divide as well, though in varying degrees, with the last being the most scattered. These three philosophical divides are Collectivism vs Individualism, Look-Forward Optimism vs Look-Back Nostalgia, and Rationalism and Reality-Based Thinking vs Fantasy-Based Thinking and Embracing Cognitive Dissonance.

Collectivism vs Individualism

This main philosophical divide is the one that is most easily recognizable, and the most prominent because it has been most heavily used to drive the "left vs right", "liberal vs conservative" and "socialist vs capitalist" feuds. It is also the philosophical axis that has been most heavily abused.

Under Individualism in its purest, most extreme form, only the single individual matters. Nothing else is important or of any value beyond what use it can be to the individual. The purist form of an Individualist is an Unprincipled Narcisist with Anti-Social tendencies. The sociopath who does not view anything beyond himself as important, or even real. To the radical Individualist, the universe and the self are indistinguishable, because to the radical individualist the universe’s value is determined entirely by his existence and state of existence, or that he IS the universe and the only thing that is real. Carried to its logical conclusion, it results in total anarchy with constant conflict between individuals in a continual every-man-for-himself war, OR it leads to the totalitarian rule of a singular entity with the forced oppression and obedience of the masses, with a frequently changing paranoid leadership constantly watching for a knife in the back (see every system of feudal aristocracy that has ever existed across the last 14,000 years).

Less radical Individualists view the individual person as having value in and of itself. Being a singular person makes one valuable and important, and a single life has great significance and even sacrament. The identity of the self, as distinct from others, is of prime importance, with groups the self resides within having only secondary precedence. It is from this philosophy that individual rights stem, because if the individual has no value or importance or sacrament, then the individual has no claim to any rights by its very nature. It is also from this philosophy that much of our competitive drive and energy and our individual diversity comes from, the desire of the individual to distinguish itself above or apart from the others, to be recognized and noticed individually, instead of as just a part of a group.

Under Collectivism in its purest, most extreme form, only the collective group as a whole matters. No individual has any value in and of itself, beyond what it can contribute to the collective whole, and whole swaths of individuals can be sacrificed without hesitation for the good of the collective. The Borg Collective in Star Trek (as they were portrayed before the introduction of the Borg Queen in the eighth movie, Star Trek: First Contact) is a classic example of pure Collectivism. There is no individual in such a society, the individual has no identity, just a designation as a part of the whole that is irrelevant in and of itself, beyond what service it can provide to the whole, much like the individual cells in your body (in fact, the human body and all multi-cellular life is a biological implementation of pure collectivism, with the individual cells having effectively zero value on their own, even when factoring in what they each individually contribute to the whole body). Carried to its logical conclusion, it leads to the total erasure of the individual in a totalitarian state of mob rule, with huge swaths of people exterminated at the collective whim of the group, or huge swaths of people heartlessly sacrificed for the good of the whole.

Less extreme Collectivists view the group as having more collective value than the individual; Collectivists don't necessarily reject the idea of the individual having value in and of itself, they just put more weight of value on a collection of several individuals or the entire group as a whole than on a single individual. The concepts of sharing of resources and mutual cooperation for mutual benefit stem from this philosophy, and the idea that an individual greed at the expense of others is wrong also comes from the Collectivist philosophy.

Now, Extreme Collectivism and Extreme Individualism are mutually exclusive, they cannot coexist. But moderate/sane/not-ridiculous Collectivist and Individualist philosophies can coexist quite easily. Even though it seems counter-intuitive a Collectivist would say, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one," and an Individualist would say, "The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many," these statements are not mutually exclusive, and CAN both be true, even simultaneously. The life of the one outweighs the comfort of many, while the comfort of many outweighs the luxury of the one. The policies of sane Collectivists and sane individualists often don't even conflict, because often times what is good for the group as a whole also simultaneously benefits the individual, and for less individual effort. Taxes to pay for public education, for example, benefit the whole because it provides funding to increase the education level of the whole (thus increasing the collective level of intelligence, knowledge and wisdom), which also benefits the individual who can take advantage of the public education, and who will experience a better life by having a better education and being surrounded by people with a better education, making them more skilled, better able to make good, safe and successful decisions, come up with and implement new ideas, etc. In many ways, sane Collectivism and sane Individualism complement each other, and in the few areas where they conflict, sane Collectivists and sane Individualists can compromise, either accepting to follow the policy of one or the other if it works best, or creating a hybrid policy.

We see so little of this today, however, because this philosophical axis has been so abused by modern politics that play on painting opponents with the extreme version of whichever 'side' they are against, to make them out to be an evil/mad/insane Enemy to be Resisted At All Costs. So we have sane Individualists looking at sane Collectivists and seeing insane Collectivists because the only kind of Collectivism they have been trained to see is Extreme Collectivism, and you have sane Collectivists looking at sane Individualists and seeing insane Individualists because the only kind of Individualism they have been trained to see is Extreme Individualism. This in turn then drives both sides further towards their Extremes in response to the perceived Extremism on 'the other side.'

This is one of the biggest drivers of the fierce political conflict we see today, and why Capitalists hate Socialists and Socialists hate Capitalists, even though both systems can mutually coexist and greatly benefit each other. The Sane-Individualism Capitalists can only see the Sane-Collectivism Socialists as Insane-Collectivist Communists, and the Sane-Collectivism Socialists can only see the Sane-Individualism Capitalists as Insane-Individualism Feudal Aristocrats. "Capitalism" and "Socialism" become curse-words for each, representing the absurd extremes of both philosophies, when their true definitions and practicioners are really the sane versions.

But it is important to note that, while this philosophical axis aligns fairly closely with the popularized "left vs right" axis when dealing with economic policy issues, it is far less in alignment on social policy issues. The popularized Rightist policy of total gun rights and zero gun control aligns with the Individualist philosophy and is counter-balanced by the popularized Leftist policy of total gun control and total gun bans aligning with the Collectivist philosophy. HOWEVER, the popularized Rightist policy of total abortion control and total banning of abortion is a COLLECTIVIST philosophy, while the counter-balancing popularized Leftist policy of total abortion rights and zero abortion control is an INDIVIDUALIST philosophy.

There are several reasons for why the popularized left-vs-right axis aligns along the Collectivism-vs-Individualism axis so well on economic issues but less so on social issues. One of the biggest is the Cold War. The Cold War was defined by the conflicting economic policies of Insane Collectivism and Sane and Insane Individualism (the Insane-Collectivist philosophy of Communism directly threatens both Sane-Individualism Capitalists and Insane-Individualism Feudal Aristocrats) and Sane Collectivism and Insane Individualism (the Sane Collectivist philosophy of Socialism directly threatens Insane-Individualism Feudal Aristocrats), and its impact on our culture and society was massive. So many of our memes and concepts and thought processes were built upon that foundation that even today, twenty years after the end of the Cold War, we still naturally frame our thought processes along those lines.

The other biggest reason is that economic policies and issues are so broadly encompassing that they impact everything, while social policies and issues are largely very specific and tend to be segregated from each other, both in their effect on each other and the origins of the issues and perspectives on those issues.

Before I can get into the WHYS of the push behind this division, I must address the other two major divides.

Look-Forward Optimism vs Look-Back Nostalgia

The next major divide is between Look-Forward Optimism and Look-Back Nostalgia. These are more mindsets than philosophies, the way one perceives the world, but they also include who one responds to those perceptions, and the general behaviors associated with the two perception regimes.

A Look-Forward Optimist looks forward to see a golden age in a bright and glorious future. These are the dreamers, the visionaries, the adventurers and the doers who go out to find that better tomorrow and make it real. Some of them are naive, they have a fancy image in their head with no idea of the kind of work and effort it would take to accomplish it, or they can't properly see the potential negative consequences of the new ideas they are fixated on, but most of them have at least some functional sense of risk-appraisal and are at least partly aware of the work needed to make their dreams reality. They are an energetic and chaotic lot, often reckless and ever curious. That can get them into a lot of trouble, and some of the worst acts of evil in our history have been committed by twisted members of this group, but almost all of the greatest achievements and advancements of our civilization have been accomplished by or driven by the sane members of this group.

A Look-Back Nostalgic looks back to see a lost golden age in a glorious past. Often romanticizing or glorifying eras that weren't really as great as they seemed, they are wary of the future and change, and wish to undo changes and revert to their past era of idolized glory. Look-Back Nostalgics can serve as a needed damper to the rambunctious Look-Forward Optimists, keeping them from running off pell-mell with new ideas and toys without properly considering and protecting against the potential dangers, but they have also been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in history (both directly, and indirectly by delaying or debilitating much-needed changes and advancements).

While this philosophical axis currently tends to align with the popularized left-vs-right axis with the Look-Forward Optimists tending to fall into the general category of the so-called 'left' and the Look-Back Nostalgics tending to fall into the general category of the so-called 'right', this alignment is hardly perfect, and varies between different times and cultures.

The conflict between these two mindsets comes when the Look-Forwards push too hard or fast for change, and/or when the Look-Backs dig their heels in and rail against needed change too hard. There is always some conflict, which isn't a bad thing, but too much conflict causes problems. The current conflict is a mix of both, but originates with the Look-Backs, who are pining away for lost golden ages of yore after three centuries of remarkably rapid, and rapidly accelerating advancement. The Look-Backs' role in a healthy society is to make sure we haven't made things worse than they are, but that role breaks down when they fail to truthfully appraise the realities of the past and recognize the accomplishments made, and when they fail or refuse to recognize the challenges and problems faced that require us to change.

The cause of this break-down has to do with the last major divide.

Rationalism and Reality-Based Thinking vs Fantasy-Based Thinking and Embracing Cognitive Dissonance

This last philosophical divide is only one of the three listed here that truly is mutually exclusive and that has a definite 'wrong' side. It is also the one that has the least correlation to the popularized left-vs-right divide, though there IS still a definite correlation.

Like the Look-Forward-vs-Look-Back axis, this axis is more of a mindset, how people perceive the world, their mode and method of thinking and making decisions.

Reality-based thinking is basing one's knowledge, thought-processes and decision-making on what is real. Reality is defined as what happens and what exists regardless of what you believe will happen or will exist. If you walk off a cliff believing you will fly, and you fall, the cliff is real, gravity is real, and whatever force you believe will make you fly is not. Rationalism is the method of thinking that allows one to determine what is really real, to determine the truth, and how to process those truths to make correct and effective decisions, and how to compensate for the natural flaws in human nature and how the human mind works and processes information.

Fantasy-based thinking and embracing cognitive dissonance is basing one's knowledge, thought-processes and decision-making on what is believed to be real, what one feels to be real, and what one wants to be real, regardless of what is really real, and the embracing of our cognitive dissonances, the flaws in human nature and the human mind that allow us to hold conflicting beliefs simultaneously, or to believe in something that isn't real despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary, or to make decisions that are obviously wrong to outside observers despite knowledge and experience that should let us know better.

This divide between rationalist, reality-based thinkers and fantasy-based thinkers who embrace their cognitive dissonances is spread across all political spectrums, philosophies and ideologies because we all suffer from the same flaws of human nature and the same flaws in the hardware and underlying software of how our brains work. Not everyone even knows to watch for and correct these flaws in how we think, let alone how to effectively go about doing that, or tries to, and even the best rationalists are not perfect.

This divide does still tend to fall along the popularized left-vs-right axis, however. It's not a perfect correlation by far, but there currently IS a definite correlation between rational, reality-based thinkers and political views and positions that fall into the general category of the so-called 'left', and cognitively dissonant fantasy-based thinkers and political views and positions that fall into the general category of the so-called 'right.'

This correlation is most clearly seen in the political positions and views of our nation's scientists. Scientists are, by the nature of their careers and education, rational, reality-based thinkers. The Scientific Method is an intrinsic part of the Methods of Rationality, and is designed to determine truth based on verifiable, testable, repeatable facts of reality. Scientists are trained to use the Scientific Method and to think scientifically, and the scientific community is set up so that they provide reciprocal accountability to each other. The peer-review process, a critical step in the Scientific Method, is a process where fellow scientists and experts deliberately rip a work apart, looking for any and all flaws in the data, testing methods, conclusions, math, any errors.

The political affiliation of scientists is striking. Only 6% of U.S. scientists are Republican, while 55% claim to be Democrats, 32% Independent, and 7% uncommitted. When the best-educated, most intelligent, most knowledgeable, most rational, most reality-based thinkers in the country correlate to a general political ideology, and near-unanimously correlate AWAY FROM another general political ideology, that says something VERY striking, and very much worth noting.

This does not mean that all so-called Leftists are rational, reality-based thinkers; there are plenty of irrational people on the so-called 'left.' A previous roommate of mine is prime example; a self-avowed feminazi, she absolutely refused to even allow the consideration that her position on abortion might be wrong in even the slightest way, or that any of the arguments of 'the other side' might have any kind of validity at all, and got very irate at even the suggestion of the idea that there might be even a smidgen of validity to any anti-abortion argument. Like most ideologues, she was addicted to self-righteousness, and clung to her positions and views with the blind, unthinking, militant faith of a religious fanatic (for the record and full disclosure, I myself do not have a set position on abortion, and see validity in points raised by both sides of the issue).

There are usually plenty of irrational ideologues addicted to self-righteousness in any world view or belief system, and it would not be correct to say that the so-called 'left' has fewer irrational people than the so-called 'right', but there is a very strong correlation between rational, reality-based thinking and moderate or 'left'-leaning political views. It would be more accurate to say that the so-called left has more rational thinkers than the so-called right, in the U.S. today (this varies by country/culture and time period, but the focus of this post is the current state of U.S. politics).

There are a few reasons for this, and a lot of it has to do with the Cold War. Because of the Cold War, and the fact that the U.S. fell in on the side of Sane-Individualist Capitalism against Insane-Collectivist Communism, Insane-Collectivist ideologues were largely purged from our political sphere, leaving only a handful of crazies, that everyone recognizes as crazy, promoting Insane-Collectivist ideologies, while any ideology or group that opposes Communism has received greater respect and acceptance for that alone.

Another major reason why far-left extremists are so rare and non-influential in U.S. politics is because of what is known as the Miracle of '47, and the two different paths our left-leaning and right-leaning political parties took. Back in the mid-40s, the Democratic party was seeing increasing radicalization from their far-left base, the actual communists and Soviet sympathizers. In the face of this radicalization, and the new threat from the Soviet Union, Democratic party leaders met in conference in '47, and a decision was reached to cut ties with their far-left branches. It was thought that it would severely weaken and perhaps even destroy the Democratic party, cutting ties with their hard-core base, but the concerns over the increasing radicalization, and also the concerns about the increasing number of Soviet sympathizers, led the Democratic leaders to decide that the party, and the nation would be better off with a weakened Democratic party over an increasingly radicalized Democratic party full of Soviet sympathizers. By 1949, this process of cutting ties with the true Communists and Soviet sympathizers had largely been completed and the Democratic party had shifted towards a more moderate, centrist position. Contrary to expectations, this actually strengthened the Democratic party, gaining them more of the critical moderate voters, at the expense of the increasingly marginalized radical left-wing voters.

When faced with a similar rise of radicalization in their own party in the late 70s and especially the 80s and early 90s, the Republican party took the opposite approach, and began catering to their far-right base, and have been doing so more and more over the last 30+ years. This has led to an increase in the strength and influence of radical and militant voices on the so-called right, in no small part because the more moderate, rational voices have been driven out, labeled "Republican In Name Only" or "Not conservative enough" (hence why it is more accurate to say that the so-called left, which has embraced science and scientists for decades, has more rational, reality-based thinkers than the so-called right, which has been attacking science and scientists for decades, than it is to say that the so-called left has fewer irrational thinkers than the so-called right).

Now, this whole political divide is not something that has developed on its own, there have been definite forces driving it, and there are definite forces driving it very hard today. There is no global conspiracy theory of the Illuminati or any such silly supposed all-knowing, all-connected, all-powerful secret society, but there is probably a loose 'conspiracy of mutual interest' going on. Not an inter-connected, highly-organzed, precisely-controlled global conspiracy with a Grand Plan and Evil Agenda, but the loosely-affiliated or independently parallel action of powerful players who have shared mutual interests. Oil, coal and gas tycoons, for example, all have a combined interest worth trillions of dollars vested in the denial of their products causing any serious or lasting harm, middle-eastern oil princes have vested interests in maintaining western dependence on oil, while also having vested interests in seeing the spread of and success of western (and eastern) culture (which both run counter to their own) collapse. Investment bankers and stock-market tycoons who have been benefiting greatly from loopholes and gaps in regulations that let them game the system have a vested interest in blocking any attempts to close those gaps. Politicians who have taken advantage of the power and safe-vote guarantees of political polarization have a vested interest in maintaining that polarization and destroying any attempt to bridge the divide and cooperate. Religious and ideological fanatics have a vested interest in pushing that divide because they see 'the other side' as The Evil Enemy and view any compromise with The Evil Enemy as collaboration with The Evil Enemy. And the Insane-Individualist Feudal Aristocrats (who have been the main force that has dominated and oppressed societies across 14,000 years of human civilization) have a vested interest in undoing the progress of the last 300 years that has bootstrapped the unwashed peasant masses up from abject poverty to the vibrant and (most importantly) empowered working- and middle-class, to maintain their positions as society's ruling elites, and reclaim their oligarchic positions that have been undermined or removed completely by the Renaissance and especially the Enlightenment and Progressive movements in the last 300 years.

Insane-Collectivism is NOT the main driving force behind the gaping divide and bitter feud in American politics and Western politics in general. Insane-Collectivism is a new force that has only recently come into existence in the last 200 years, and that never truly came into full fruition. Insane-Individualism has too much power and influence, built up over 14,000 years of human civilization, America's taking up of the Individualist side of the Cold War all but exterminated Insane-Collectivism from our political sphere, and most implementations of Insane-Collectivism have ultimately been coopted by Insane-Individualists. The Soviet Union is a prime example the latter. They never truly fully implemented Insane-Collectivism in the Soviet Union. Their Communist system was thoroughly corrupt, and was mostly a cover for Insane-Individualists to claim power. The Feudal Aristocrat Czars were overthrown by revolutionaries who lacked the levels of education, and personal ethical and moral fortitude of our own revolutionaries. After over-throwing the Czars and declaring Communism, they succumbed to temptations of the concentrated power that is inherent to government (especially Communistic government, which combines the concentrated power of government with the concentrated power of total economic monopoly), without having a strong system of checks and balances in place to curb and regulate government power and prevent and minimize abuses of government power.

(It really can't be stressed enough how fortunate we were to have the revolutionary leaders we did; they weren't perfect and didn't have the solutions to every problem, but they did a remarkable job of setting up a system to balance against corruption and abuse of power, and resisted incredible temptations themselves. George Washington is a prime example. Not only did he personally insist on resigning his military commission before being sworn in as President, he also personally refused an offer to use his military command to seize power and establish himself as king not once, but three separate times!)

There has also never been a full implementation of ultimate Collectivism. We have never had a Borg Collective in the history of our civilization. It's just not something that has been possible to do. It might become possible in the future with new technology that is just coming over the horizon, and the ultimate implementation of Insane Collectivism is a future threat we will have to diligently guard against, but it is not a real threat we have ever faced in the past, and it is not a threat we face today.

The great threat to freedom, equality, justice, independence and open markets across 14,000 years of human civilization has been Insane-Individualism and the oligarchies of Feudal Aristocrats. They have been ingrained in our civilization for 14,000 years, they have a power base built up over 14,000 years, and they are a threat to, and threatened by freedom, equality, justice, independence and free, open markets just as much as, and perhaps even more than Insane-Collectivism.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On Modern Politics

Mom's not going to like reading this one; she'll probably agree with the sentiment, but start hunting for the soap bar...

Politics in these modern times has a major problem. The problem is that there are two radical extremist 'sides' of a false-dichotomy Left vs Right axis, and both extremist 'sides' polarize completely to one side or the other, absolutely hate and demonize the other, and then label anyone who doesn't polarize alongside them as a polar-opposite extremist.

It is so mind-numbingly IDIOTIC and STUPID, and just about EVERY GOD DAMNED PERSON IS DOING IT!!!!

There IS NO SUCH THING AS LEFT VS RIGHT. It's BS. It's archaic, anachronistic, inaccurate BS from the seating arrangements of the French parliament THREE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, and IT NEVER MADE SENSE EVEN THEN.

The so-called "Far Left" (a true rarity in today's America, out-and-out far left ideologically pure socialist have been a tiny minority since the end of the '40s) label anyone who doesn't agree with their puritanical "Leftist" policies and beliefs as a right-wing nutjob. The so-called "Far Right" (a common sight in today's America, as militant far-right ideologically pure libertarianism has been on the rise) label anyone who doesn't agree with THEIR puritanical "Rightist" policies and beliefs as a left-wing nutjob.

AND YOU'RE ALL FUCKING INSANE. You argue and rant and squabble and fight and bicker and attack and hate and ultimately, when allowed to take it to the final conclusion, KILL EACH OTHER, over a complete and utter BULLSHIT political line in the sand.

NOTHING gets done, NOTHING is accomplished, all that is generated is more HATE AND ANGER. Our country is in shambles and you are driving its people apart, turning us on ourselves, threatening to destroy EVERYTHING we have accomplished, while foreign enemies who would love nothing better than to see us destroy ourselves sit back and laugh as we annihilate ourselves!

Would you all just GROW THE FUCK UP!!! You are all twice my age or more, and you are all acting like FUCKING TODDLERS! Anyone who doesn't agree with you is an enemy, they must be destroyed, they are evil, they are traitors, they hate America, they hate freedom, they hate equality, they hate my god, they are out to destroy us, they're idiots, incompetent, can't think, stupid, uneducated, evil, unamerican terrorist communist fascist nazis out to oppress us all!!!

FUCKING HELL! Listen to yourselves! Is this the United States of America, or the United States of Paranoid Schizophrenia!?! Listening to all of you, far left, far right, Socialist, Capitalist, I CAN'T FUCKING TELL!!!

The sad part is that it's all BULLSHIT, and YOU SHOULD ALL FUCKING KNOW BETTER. You are FUCKING ADULTS, damnit! FUCKING ACT LIKE IT. Someone who disagrees with you IS NOT FUCKING SATAN. They just have a different opinion. They disagree. They don't hate you, they aren't out to oppress you, destroy your freedoms, force you to think like them. They just disagree. They have a different opinion. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo. They are DIFFERENT FROM YOU. They are not a fucking clone! It is only natural that they are not going to completely agree with you on exactly everything. And, wow, they might even very much disagree with you! They don't even have to be stupid, just have different opinions and values! Does this mean they are wrong? Maybe. Maybe you are wrong. Maybe you BOTH are wrong, or maybe you both are right. THAT DOESN'T MAKE THEM THE ENEMY. It just means you disagree. And, hey, last I checked, it's a free country. We're free to disagree with each other. That's kinda the point! If we all thought exactly the same, well, guess what? We're probably in Oceania. Even if we weren't, it would get rather boring very quickly, and there wouldn't be anyone around to tell us when we ARE wrong before we fuck up and blow something up.

It's good that we disagree, it brings different ideas to the table and lets us examine things from different angles. Is somebody wrong? Maybe, maybe not. Usually, there's more than one way to skin a cat. There's usually more than one way to get things to work fairly well, and there sure as hell is no such thing as a One True Way. No, sometimes somebody IS wrong, either running their model on faulty or inaccurate knowledge, or they have a faulty or inaccurate model itself (their 'Map' of reality doesn't reflect the 'Territory' of what is actually real). Odds are, EVERYONE is wrong, to one degree or another. Nobody is perfect, nobody is gonna get it exactly right, at least not the firs time. There's an off chance that it can happen, but the odds are remote. Usually, everybody's partly right and partly wrong, about this or that, to one degree or another. Again, that's why having different ideas about how to do things is a GOOD THING, because it helps us work out what IS real and what is error, and find optimal ways of doing things, and continue to optimize as times change.

Sitting down and discussing our disagreements while still respecting each other, respecting each other's right to differ in opinion, without hating, without paranoia or shouting someone down just because we disagree or we don't like what they say, that is how adults discuss things. They don't scream and hate and blindly attack and yank each others' hair out. That's what toddlers do, and they get smacked in the ass for it.

Oh, there's one other thing that goes with being adults. Compromise. You gotta do it. Everyone has to compromise. You know how you have this list of things you want and how you want everything to be? Ain't gonna happen. Nobody gets everything they want. That's life. You have to compromise. Throwing a tantrum because you didn't get everything that you wanted is what a toddler does, and they get smacked in the ass for it. Adults make concessions, accept that they're not going to get everything they want, that they have to share the toys, and make compromises to get the best of what they can, while WORKING TOGETHER with everyone else to achieve common goals, and, hey, even make the place a little better for their kids.

If you don't like that? Tough shit. That's how life works. Nobody gets everything they want. Nobody should, because I can guarantee that you're wrong about something. I'M wrong about something, and odds are several somethings. NOBODY is perfect, NOBODY gets everything right, also part of life.

Now, are you all going to sit down, SHUT THE FUCK UP, and try to discuss your opinions and positions like the mature, sane adults you supposedly are? OR are you going to go back to your two-year-old temper tantrums because you stuck gum in each others' hair?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Absent Love

What glory does the universe hold that could ever be greater than love?
That miraculous bonding of hearts, of minds, two lives interwoven together?
Sparse are the glories of the universe that can match the wonders of love.
That sweet embrace of souls. Two hearts, singing in tandem.

A friendship sewn and cultivated until it blossomed with glorious music.
A song that maintains its beauty in not just the moments of ecstasy, but through the mundane.
A companionship that finds beauty in the everyday, things both great and small.
Weaving through each other, through times both great and terrible,
Exciting and mundane, serious and silly.
Binding closer together, through shared experience and company, until two become one.

That melding of hearts, the merging not of flesh, but of souls, of the very being.
Two spirits blending together in glorious passion,
becoming not separate beings, but two distinct halves of a single whole.
Everything that they were apart, and yet much more. So much more.
Sharing thoughts and feelings, pleasures and pains, new experience and ancient memories.
Two hearts beating as one, a single life split now between two distinct halves.
Joined in a bond of passion, understanding, intimacy, companionship, friendship beyond words.

A bond that transcends space and time, connected across any distance,
and whose absence is keenly felt even before it is has been discovered.

Oh, my love, my sweet, beautiful, glorious love.
Without you, I am a shadow, a hollow shell,
An empty, shattered fragment of what I am when joined with you.
Even without yet knowing you, I can sense you.
I can hear the ghost of your whisper in my ear, the vague glimmer of your scent, your sweet and subtle taste,
Just beyond my senses you lie.
I can feel you, I know you. And without you I am incomplete.
A hollow, empty, bitter shell of who I am.

Oh, my love, my glorious love, I miss you so.
We have not yet met, but I know you.
Not in words, not in name, but in spirit.
I know your soul. It is the matching half of mine.

I know not where you are, or when, but I know you are.
Wherever or whenever you may be, I shall find you.
For without you, I am incomplete. My life is hollow, and without meaning.
Oh, my love, my glorious love, without you I am nothing.

But I will find you, my love, my princess, my queen, my morning star.
What 'er it takes, I will find you. I will stand by you, again I think, but for the first time.
And our hearts mended, our souls will be one.
Our song will reverberate through the stars,
Echo through universes.
Our love will shine like a beacon, with beauty unsurpassed.
Even now, the barest shadow of it that I can sense brings me to tears,
For its glory and wondrous beauty, and its absence.

So watch for me, my love, for I am searching,
And how 'er long it takes, I shall find you.
And we shall be together, whole and complete in each other.
My love, my sweet, my glorious love, my princess, my queen, my morning star.

I love you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Galaxy vs Sovereign

Ah, one of the age-old debates in Trek geekdom. Almost as old and bitter a debate as Kirk vs Picard. The debate over the combat prowess of the vaunted Galaxy class starship vs the new Sovereign class starship.

Many social lives have been lost and feelings decimated in this great and bitter feud, that has lasted almost as long as the Federation-Cardassian Wars, and is twice as bitter.

The conflict rages, even though there is only one real answer, the facts and evidence support only one outcome, because many do not bother to fully analyze the facts and evidence, or even look at them, and many of those who do do not do so in proper scientific fashion, or even in honest, good faith.

Full disclosure: I love the Sovereign class. It is one of my favorite designs, tied with the Steamrunner and New Orleans for the number one slot. I greatly appreciate the Galaxy, but it is not in my top three, and sometimes isn't even in my top five favorite ships (my favorites tend to fluctuate a bit). I would choose to command a Sovereign class over a Galaxy class on personal preference alone, and in most situations. The one situation I would not choose a Sovereign, however, is in a battle between the two.

When I first started my technical analyses of Star Trek, I held the Sovereign to be superior in all respects. As I examined the data, however, it became more and more clear that the Sovereign could not possibly compete with the Galaxy class in a raw tactical footing.

This is a long and complex topic, and understanding precisely how and why the Galaxy class out-matches the Sovereign requires an understanding of several pieces of Trek technology, as well as different pieces of lore, and scientific and military realities.

These include understanding how phaser arrays work, a thorough examination of the observed performance of those arrays, the operation and observed performance of photon torpedoes, how shields work, a basic understanding of how a warp core works, the roles that certain base ship configurations fill in a fleet, and the history of the design and construction of each ship and the events surrounding their construction.

This presentation will be much more than one post, it will be a series of posts, each covering a separate topic (sometimes multiple topics for the smaller ones, or just a sub-topic for the larger ones). This is just a declaration of intent, and a brief overview of how the ships match up.

In combat, the Galaxy class is superior in all respects save production cost and warp speed. Even in sublight maneuverability, the Galaxy has demonstrated superior performance.

Size: Though slightly longer than the Galaxy, the Sovereign is a much smaller vessel. In total volume, the Galaxy measures ~5.2 million cubic meters, where as the Sovereign is only 2-2.4 million cubic meters in volume. You could fit ~2.5 Sovereigns inside of a single Galaxy class.

Maximum Observed Phaser Shot: Galaxy is superior by a factor of 3:1

Sustained Phaser Output: Galaxy is superior by a factor of 1.67:1

Shield Endurance: Hard to define and currently uncertain, but will be examined

Torpedo Firepower: Even without quantum torpedoes, the Galaxy's at-launch torpedo capacity is significantly greater than even the Nemesis-refit Sovereign class. At launch, the Galaxy can fire a maximum spread of 52 torpedoes from both launchers. At launch, the Sovereign can fire a salvo equivalent to only 24 photon torpedoes, and even after the Nemesis refit, the Sovereign's salvo is only equivalent to 40 photon torpedoes. The Galaxy could easily have been refit with greater torpedo capacity, especially during the Dominion War, and could also be equipped with Quantum torpedoes

Hull Endurance: The Galaxy's hull thickness is ~16 inches, compared to the Sovereign's 10-12", and the Galaxy has demonstrated tremendous hull endurance, with comparable armor types to the Sovereign

Warp Speed: The Sovereign has not demonstrated superior warp speed per se, but the indications are that it was built for warp speed

Impulse Acceleration: Undetermined; cases of impulse acceleration are hard to measure and compare; the Galaxy is a larger ship, but also has larger and more powerful impulse engines

Maneuverability: The Galaxy has demonstrated a notably superior turn rate to the Sovereign

Construction/Maintenance: At 2.5 times the size of a Sovereign, the Galaxy will logically be much more resource-intensive to build and maintain

Advancement: The Sovereign has a very slight edge here, but only very slight. It is 8-9 years newer, but the Galaxy was bleeding-edge technology at launch and was routinely upgraded in her first decade+ of service, including multiple extensive upgrades.

More specific detailed comparisons to come in later posts.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Federation/Cardassian War - A Rough Timeline

Late 23rd Century / Turn of the 24th Century:
The artistic, highly-cultured and deeply-spiritual Cardassian civilization faces a dire economic crisis, having depleted the resources of their home system.
Federation begins/expands colonization of systems near Cardassian space

~2305: Cardassian economy collapses or finishes collapsing completely. People starving in the streets. Cardassian military declares martial law and takes over all government offices in response to the crisis.

2305 - 2310: Cardassian military completely restructures Cardassian society. Precious historical and cultural artifacts are sold off en mass. Cardassian Union, under military direction, begins a campaign of aggressive expansion, desperately seeking resources to revitalize their economy. Military conquests quickly become an acceptable option.

2310 - 2319: Cardassians rapidly expand their territory through force of arms and aggressive colonization. Cardassian settlers begin colonizing worlds along the frontier bordering the Federation.

2310 - 2340s: Starfleet begins producing large numbers of Type-A Exclesior class starships and Miranda class starships. The Excelsior, formerly a Battleship, becomes the mainstay Heavy Cruiser of the fleet. Versatile Miranda class ships do the same in the Light Cruiser and Destroyer roles. Starfleet opts to build and update large numbers of these two ships instead of designing newer replacements.

2311: Tomed Incident occurs between Federation and Romulan Star Empire. Thousands of lives on both sides are lost in the resulting military actions. Treaty of Algeron signed to stave off all-out war. Federation makes several concessions to the Romulan Empire, including the banning of their use or development of cloaking devices, Romulans retreat into another period of prolonged seclusion.

2319: Cardassia stations military forces on Bajor, Occupation of Bajor begins

2323: New Ambassador class Battleship is launched, replacing the Type-B Excelsior as Starfleet's premier capital ship.

2324: Cardassia annexes Bajor, Bajoran government surrenders with little resistance

2320s - 2340s: Cardassian and Federation colonists continue to settle on neighboring worlds, tensions rise between the Federation and Cardassia over desputes about the exact location of the border, and which worlds belong to whom.

Cardassian leaders are trying to grab as much as they can through whatever tricks they can pull, and assume Federation is doing the same.

Federation does not seek conflict with the Cardassians, tries to avoid conflict as much as possible due to their delicate geo-political position (Federation is effectively surrounded by hostile and/or aggressive major and minor powers with military-oriented cultures or military dictatorships)

2344: USS Enterprise-C destroyed responding to a distress call from a Klingon outpost that had come under attack by four Romulan warbirds. The ferocity of the Enterprise-C crew in their valiant, solitary defense against hopelessly overwhelming enemies deeply moves and inspires the Klingon people, turning around the declining relationship between the Federation and the Klingon Empire virtually overnight. The rapidly-escalating threat of war with the Klingon Empire disappears.

2347: Tensions have risen to critical levels. Cardassians attack Federation colony on Setlik III, claiming a pre-emptive strike. Open war is declared.

2347 - 2355: Dealing with a war with the Tholians on a separate front, as well as increasing hostilities and eventually open war with the Tzenkethi and also the Talarians, the Federation fights largely a defensive war.

The aging Excelsior and Miranda class starships also limit the Federation's ability to respond in force. Though technologically and industrially inferior to the Federation, the Cardassians' newer and bigger Galor class Battlecruisers are able to stand toe-to-toe against the Federation's aging Excelsior class cruisers that form the cores of Federation battlegroups.

2349: Niagara class Battleship is launched. Faster and more durable than the Ambassador, only slightly more heavily armed than recently-refit Ambassadors. Niagaras bolster the Federation's mobile defensive and fast raiding raiding abilities, but does not provide anything new in the way of firepower.

2350: Federation treats the war as little more than a border conflict, Federation citizens still colonizing worlds in the disputed territory such as Doran V.

Cardassians begin mining the disputed Boreti Sector with gravitic mines.

2354: USS Stargazer carries truce offer to Cardassians. Cardassians attack and cripple the Stargazer after Captain Jean-Luc Picard had lowered shields as a gesture of good will, though the Stargazer manages to escape.

2355: Springfield and Cheyenne class Light Cruisers are launched. Comparable in size to an Excelsior, they sport the new massive phaser arrays allowed by recent developments in phaser technology, and bring tremendous firepower for their size onto the field.

2357: New Orleans and Challenger class Heavy Cruisers are launched, bringing even more firepower into the Federation's arsenal on much more resilient platforms. Construction of the newer cruisers ramps up and they begin replacing Excelsiors on the front line, vastly bolstering Federation military strength.

2355 - 2360: Having diverted much of their expansion efforts into the war with the Federation, and suffering major setbacks with the deployment of newer Federation cruisers and other advanced military equipment, the war begins to take a major toll on the Cardassian economy, which was already brittle to begin with.

Federation war with the Tholians comes to an end, though hostilities and tensions remain high.

2360: Responding to the deficiencies of the aging Ambassador and the already-outdated designs of the Niagara, Starfleet begins a two-ship design program and rapidly develops and launches the Nebula class, an absolutely massive Battleship featuring much of the technology and advancements developed shortly after the launch of the Niagara, which are now off-the-shelf tech.

Already weakened by the great success of Starfleet's new cruisers and their faltering economy, Cardassian military is quickly out-matched by the new Nebula class Battleships, even with the limited number that could be deployed initially.

Cardassian economy goes into crisis again. Cardassian military operations against the Federation drop to little more than skirmishes and the occasional raid.

Despite their new advantage, Federation does not press the attack against the Cardassians, who interpret this to mean that the Federation is actually weaker than they appear.

2363: The Galaxy class Battleship, sister to the Nebula in Starfleet's two-ship capital ship design program, is launched. Featuring state-of-the-art, bleeding-edge technology, the Galaxy surpasses the Nebula in performance in all areas despite being the same size.

Federation still does not advance into Cardassian territory. Though wars with the Tholians, Tzenkethi and Talarians are over, and the new alliance with the Klingon Empire is going strong, the Federation's geo-political situation is still strenuous, and a military offensive into Cardassian is very unpopular.

2367: An armistice is signed between the Federation and Cardassians, bringing the already-dwindling war to a halt. Though not technically a formal end to the war, both sides view the war as being over.

2367 - 2370: Despite their technological and military superiority, the weakened state of the Cardassian military, and the dire state of crisis of the Cardassian economy, the Federation does not press the Cardassian Union in the peace talks, and makes several concessions to the Cardassians even though the Cardassians initiated the hostilities, and repeatedly violated the terms of the armistice on several occasions, including an attempt to take Minos Korva in 2369. Federation diplomats are painfully aware of their geo-political situation, and how distasteful renewed conflict with the Cardassians, let alone the prospect of an offensive war against Cardassia, is to the Federation Council.

The Federation does win some concessions from the Cardassians, however, such as the Cardassian withdrawal from Bajor in 2369, after 50 years of occupation.

2370: Formal peace treaty is signed, De-Militarized Zone is established over the disputed area, forbidding weapons and significant starships from either side to enter. Several Federation colony worlds are ceded to the Cardassians.

Cardassians begin arming their colonists in the DMZ almost immediately after the treaty is signed.

Federation citizens in the DMZ, outraged by what they feel is inadequate defense by the Federation during the war, and inadequate Federation responses in the face of Cardassian attrocities and violations of the armistice and peace treaty, take up arms in response to being forced from homes they built with their own sweat and blood, and then defended for 20+ years, at the end of a war they effectively won. Supported by Bajoran resistance fighters and sympathetic members of Starfleet on all levels, they brand themselves the Maquis and begin active armed resistance operations against the Cardassians.

2370 - 2373: Tensions between the Federation and Cardassia fluctuate, and cooperative attempts are made, but conflicts with the Maquis resistance in the DMZ as well as continued Cardassian violations of the peace treaty keep tensions and resentment high on both sides. The discovery of the Bajoran Wormhole and access to the Gamma Quadrant spark new tensions, as do events surrounding the arrival of the Dominion.

2373: Hostilities renewed as the Cardassian Union throws in with the Dominion and war breaks out once again.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

While The House Burned Down...

The other week, in Obion County, Tennessee, a man's house caught on fire and the local fire department refused to respond because the man had not paid the $75 yearly fee for the optional fire department coverage. The department was located in the city of South Fulton, and offered the service to the surrounding neighborhoods for a $75 yearly fee. When the man's house caught on fire, he offered to pay the fire department whatever it took to save his home, but they still refused to respond, claiming it was "too late." The fire department eventually did show up, because the blaze spread to a field owned by a  neighbor who had paid the fee, but the fire chief still refused to do anything about the burning house.

The neighborhood community is, as expected, outraged, but the local authorities (all of whom are Republican) have taken a "tough luck" stance, saying he should have made sure to pay the fee and that it is his fault for not paying.

True, the fire department did not technically have any legal obligation to try and put out the man's house, or save his pets that were killed in the blaze (or, really, even him if he had been caught inside). Is that the kind of society we want to live in, however? Where for-hire emergency services use legal technicalities to weasel out of all but the bare-minimum legal obligation, and (literally) leave you to burn if you haven't paid up?

The proper response would have been to respond to the call, put the man's house out, and then send him a bill, for the cost of putting the fire out or just the $75 yearly due, either would have been fine. But refusing to even respond, and then responding to the neighbor's call when the fire spread to the neighbor's field, and then STILL refusing to put out the burning house while it burned down in front of them?

I'll grant the firemen themselves some slack for being told not to, but "just following orders" only goes so far. The fire chief who gave those orders, and then the city's mayor and elected officials who responded with such callous support for this heartless policy, do not deserve any leniency.

This is also a case-and-point for how current Republican police will work in practice. Only the rich or well-off will be able to afford all emergency services, and the poor, and lower and middle classes? Well, it's their fault for not being able to afford medical care, or fire protection, or police protection, or for driving up the cost of those services, so if they can't pay, tough shit for them.

It is also what the Republicans have been doing for the last 10-30 years. Republicans have refused to help while America's house has burned around us, and now they're trying to have the Democrats thrown out for trying to put out the blaze with garden hoses.

If you want to vote out incumbents, make sure they're Republican, because at least the Democrats are trying to DO something to actually fix the mess, even if it is like trying to put out a house fire with a garden hose, and many of the Dems are knew, having replaced incumbents the last two elections. The GOPpers have gotten us into this mess, and their prescribed solution is the same damn shit they've been doing for the last 30 years that caused the problem in the first place.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dragon Stories

For some reason, I have always found stories that portray dragons as having beast-level intelligence, even relatively high-level intelligence, to be rather annoying. I can find the story, etc. to be quite entertaining in its own right, despite that, but the annoyance is always there...

It is also always disappointing to come across a new story or series that I am not yet familiar with that includes dragons, only to find that they are little more than subservient beasts.

What is so hard about righting stories where dragons are actually intelligent creatures, and actively-participating protagonists in the story? It wouldn't even bother me if they weren't the main character, just so long as they were portrayed as people, just as much as any other non-dragon characters.

Finding stories that do that, let alone ones that are good and well-told, is a challenge.