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.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On Calling for Help and Giving the Keys Back

One of my neighbors died the other night. I don't know any details, who it was, the cause, any of that. I just know that one of my neighbors, I believe a woman, died. I heard her daughter calling for help late last night; she was at the far end of the building across the street, and I only heard her because I was sitting next to an open window. After debating a few moments, I put some sandals on and went over to see what was going on. I was half-way there, didn't see anything and didn't hear anyone calling anymore, so I figured it was just an argument or something that would be better off without my interference, and headed back. I was crossing the street when the cop car pulled in, and a few minutes after returning to my apartment, an ambulance arrived. The police left shortly thereafter, so I assume there was no foul-play, but judging by the hysterics of the young woman calling for help, then crying after the police arrived, her mother had died.

I doubt there was anything that I could have done to help, but I'm bothered by the fact that I got half-way over and decided to head back. I admit, I was nervous, I wasn't sure what I would find or if it would be something that I should even be poking my snout into. I wasn't even sure if there was a problem at all.

I live in an apartment in a development, in a small-town suburb outside of York, PA. It's a pretty quite place, but there are still a fair number of people around, and the building across the street is one of the larger apartment buildings. As anyone who has ever lived in a large town or city or a similar development community or apartment complex knows, part of that means that you hear a lot of sounds from a lot of people that you block out. A screaming child is more likely a group of kids chasing each other around the yard, or a child throwing a tantrum to get what he or she wants, or because his or her parent didn't give them what they wanted. Screaming and shouting adults are more often two people having an argument over some silly or immature issue that is only significant in the context of their relationship or the moment of argument, that is nobody else's business and that sticking your snout into will only be a bad thing.

Which brings into question how effective a cry for help really is. I got only half-way over before calling it quits, after hesitating for several minutes, and I saw no one else heading over to investigate. Even if a desperate cry for help is heard, how many people chalk it up to nothing, or some personal dispute that is none of their business?

Now, I don't think this is a sign of the degradation of society; this is an issue that has plagued civilization since the formation of the very first cities. People in large groups have to filter out 99% or more of the noise from their fellows just to be able to function in their day, and calls for help are going to get caught in that.

Technology may actually hold a key or two to helping with that. Before long we'll be wearing headset/ear pieces that give us little high-def screens over our eyes, and miniature HD speakers in our ears, with high-clarity microphones and video recorders, doing all the functions and more of the greatest smartphones and PDAs of today. We may even have full-blown neural implants in the next few decades. Such devices, in either form, could help us filter the noises around us and be programmed to recognize and highlight calls for help. Such devices may even be able to facilitate calls for help, allowing for voice amplification, or an emergency radio beacon or broadcast, with pre-programmed emergency codes for fire, mugging, rape, car crash, heart attack, etc. Even a more traditional smartphone or PDA, a bit more advanced than what we have now, could be programmed with an app to do all of that.

I was originally going to address Authoritarianism in today's politics, but another issue has pushed itself to the forefront. On Authoritarianism, if you have not read The Authoritarians by Dr. Robert Altemeyer, you should. It is available free online in PDF form. Dr. Altemeyer is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Manitoba, and a highly-respected expert on authoritarianism, which he has been studying for over forty years.

The issue that pushed itself forward is the popular Republican argument that the Democrats have had their chance, or that they've blown their chance, and now it's the Republicans' turn again.

Excuse me? Excuse me?!?!

Every time I hear this line, in any form, I want to smack the person saying it in the head. With a large, heavy, spikey blunt object.

Let's lay this out, shall we? We have a $13.258 trillion hole to dig ourselves out of right now, all thanks to the Republicans. The Republicans controlled Congress for twelve years. They controlled the White House for eight years. They controlled the Supreme Court for I don't know how many years (and still have a 5-4 majority). They controlled Congress and the Supreme Court for at least a decade, and all three branches of government for six solid years until the Democrats unseated Republicans across the board in 2006. The policies that they were pushing during that time, and that they have been pushing even harder of late, have been the same policies that they have been pushing for the last 30 years, since Reagan took office if not before. Over thirty years of general policy pushing, and 12 years of focused policy implementation, and 6 years of total government domination, the Republicans dug us into a $13.258 trillion hole. $13.258 trillion dollars.

When Ronald Reagan took office, national debt was around $900 billion, ~33% of the GDP. Prior to Reagan, the debt had been steadily declining from it's record WWII high of 120% of the GDP (save for Ford, who left with the debt at a slightly higher GDP% when he left office, all presidents prior to Reagan, back to Truman, left office with the national debt lower than when they entered). After Reagan took office, the national debt skyrocketed. Under both of Reagan's terms and Bush the Elder's term, the national debt climbed at a steady and alarming rate. When Clinton took office, he managed to curb that climb and thanks to his policies (and the tax increases the democrats managed to push through in '93, at the cost of the '94 election), the national debt leveled off and started to decline.

Bush took office with a national debt of just under $5.63 trillion, 58% of the GDP. Under the following 6 years of total Republican reign, we saw a trillion-dollar tax cut pushed through (with the same consolidation legislative 'trick' the Republicans are so decrying today after the Dems used it to push the healthcare bill through), two foreign wars that have cost us a total of over $1.2 trillion (and climbing), and deregulation and enforcement policies of the banks and Wallstreet and the oil industry, and money-down-the-toilet, zero-bid 'emergency' contracts with companies of friends and family, or that they used to be members of before taking office that cost us over a trillion dollars in wasted pork, a devastating economic collapse, and the catastrophic failure of a deep-sea oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Not to mention the everyday operating costs of the government, the massive military budget (we outspend the entire rest of the planet, literally), healthcare and medicare (which have been steadily increasing in cost), education (also steadily increasing in cost), wellfare (massively increased in cost thanks to the recession), etc. etc. etc.

In short, the Republicans took a $5.63 trillion national debt with a budgetary surplus of $236 billion on top of a steady 8-year run of budget surplesses and a booming economy, and in six years of unrestricted free reign turned it an increase in national debt of $7.628 trillion dollars, a budgetary deficit of $1.413 trillion dollars, and a wrecked economy.

The Democrats have been in Congress for 4 years, and have had Congress and the White House for two. In that time, they have enacted plans to stave off a complete economic collapse (the much-hated TARP bill aka "wallstreet bail-out", and the loans to major companies like Chrysler and GM, keeping the stock market and banking industry from completely crashing and keeping major companies like Chrysler and GM that directly provide tens of thousands of jobs each in business and providing jobs), and put forward a stimulus package (much gutted by Republicans) to try and restart the economy.

In that short time, we've stopped digging. The TARP bill and loans to Chrysler and GM kept the economy afloat; they might not have been the best solutions to the problems they targeted, but they got the job done and we are going to recover 90% or better of the money loaned out (most of the $700 billion TARP pay-out has already been recovered, and the government could possibly even make a positive return). The stimulus package, 2/3s of which was targeted lower-class and middle-class tax cuts and not actual stimulus funding, has greatly exceeded all expectations of the final package's performance, but was still only enough to keep us treading water.

In terms of the economic crisis, in just 4 years (and really, primarily only 2 since the Dems didn't have that much control in Congress in '06-'08) the Democrats have managed to level off the death spiral the Republicans worked hard for 6+ years to send us into. More is needed. Another stimulus package, increased taxes on the high-class, the richest 1% that can most afford it and has been the least hit by the recession to help pay for the spending programs that are needed to get us back on track and to combat the mounting national debt, and increased regulation and supervision of a free market economy that has very clearly demonstrated that it cannot be allowed to have its way without competent supervision.

But the Republicans would have us believe that the Dems blew it. That because the Dems haven't cleaned up the GOP mess that was 6-30 years in the making overnight, they aren't fit to rule and that the Repbulicans need to be put back behind the wheel so they can take us back down the very same road that got us here in the first place.

It's like a teenager taking the keys to daddy's T-Bird, going out and getting wasted, blowing daddy's paycheck, and totaling the T-Bird, and then two weeks later demanding the keys to the Corvette because daddy hasn't replaced the T-Bird yet.

The sheer gall and ignorance and stupidity is insulting, and I am rapidly approaching the limits of my ability to resist the urge to smack anyone who suggests the Republicans should be given the keys to the Corvette because the Democrats haven't replaced the T-Bird yet upside the head with a very big stick.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taxes Taxes Taxes

So Republican congresscritters are 'taking a stand' against the Obama administration (once again) and demanding that the Bush administration tax cuts, set to expire at the end of the year, be kept in place for all. Obama has put forward a compromise between a total expiration of the tax cuts and a renewal of the tax cuts, proposing that we renew the cuts on the 98% of the population who earn less than $200,000/year (for individuals, $250,000/year for families), while letting the tax cuts on those who make more than that (<2% of the total population, who also control a majority of the nation's wealth) expire. This compromise translates to ~$700 billion added to federal revenue streams over the next ten years (federal income tax revenue will have brought in $700 billion more with the wealthy tax cuts expiring than without them).

Republicans are claiming that, in this economy we can't afford tax increases for anyone, and especially not the rich, whom Republicans are claiming are the drivers of the economy. There are rumblings of another government shutdown attempt by the GOP, mirroring their attempt under Clinton, and it is building up to be a very hot-button election issue.

First, Economics 101: The total amount of money that exists within an economy is not as important as the amount of money that is actually flowing through the economy.

We could all have a billion dollars, but if we don't spend any of it, the economy isn't going anywhere. If we all made $36,000/year and spent 95% of it each year, the economy would be booming (assuming everything else involved in an economy wasn't buggered up too badly).

The people who control the majority of wealth in the country (and see this page for an excellent, and disturbing account of the wealth distribution in the U.S.) don't spend most of it; the richest people sit on their wealth, so much of their wealth does nothing for the economy. The products the richest people spend their money on, mostly items or high-end luxury versions of regular day-to-day items everyone else uses, also do little to stir the economy. A single $500,000 Ferrari is going to do far less for the economy than the 20-50 regular cars, trucks and vans that could be purchased by lower- and middle-class individuals and families with the same amount of money. The same goes for a $50 million estate, compared to $100,000 - $200,000 family-sized houses (including multi-acre properties). More workers are employed, who then buy more products of their own, which employs more workers, who then have more buying power, etc. etc. In theory, this could continue almost to infinity, provided there were no 'money traps' in the economy, places where the money was grabbed up and pulled out of economic circulation and sat on in stagnant pools.

The GOP claim that it is the rich who drive the economy is utter BS. It's part of their Supply-Side Economics shpeal, an economic hypothesis that has utterly failed in every prediction it has ever made. SSE basically claims that the rich drive the economy, by investing in companies, and basically providing the funds to pay workers to make products, increasing supply and reducing prices so that more people can buy things, thereby creating demand. Increases in the wealth and income of the rich will result in increases to the economy because the rich and corporations will invest more, hire more workers, etc. and the wealth will filter down to the bottom in a 'trickle-down' effect.

It's a nice hypothesis that works well on paper, but has very little relation to reality. Supply does not drive demand, demand drives supply. You can have 100 million widgets selling for 5 cents a pop, but if nobody wants a widget, then you have $5,000,000 in product that is going to just sit there, even if people have more than enough money to buy widgets. Furthermore, the rich, when given more wealth, rarely invest that increase in wealth back in the economy. Most of the wealthiest 1% take that money and sit on the majority of it, adding it to their hoard of assets and keeping it all to themselves. It does not get re-invested in companies or used to start up new businesses or expand research and development. It gets added to CEO salaries, or handed out as CEO bonuses. It goes into a bank account, or more stocks and bonds in oil companies or manufacturing industries in China or Taiwan. Or into an expansion of a multi-million-dollar estate, a new hundred-thousand-dollar super luxury car. Supply-Side Economics does not work. It is utter BS. It just produces an increase in wealth for the wealthy, and lower wealth and income for the middle class and the poor, while simultaneously reducing government revenue streams and putting more of the burden of government revenue on the middle- and lower-classes, who can less afford it.

In truth, it is the middle- and lower-classes that drive the economy. They represent the largest force of demand in the economy by several orders of magnitude. The products they buy also distribute money through the economy more broadly and at a faster pace than the high luxury items the rich buy. The lower- and middle-classes also do not stockpile significant amounts of wealth, even taken as a whole, relative to the total value of the economy.

Stockpiling wealth is a money trap. It pulls money out of economic circulation, weakening the economy because the total amount of money in the economy is the same, but the percentage moving through it is reduced. Now, this is not a universally bad thing. Savings by the lower- and middle-classes are money-traps, but this is not a bad thing because the total value of the savings relative to the economy as a whole is trivial, and it also provides a safety net for the lower- and middle-classes during bumps in the economic road. This can trigger or magnify the effects of an economic downturn if increased significantly during times of uncertainty, but these are usually side-effects of other issues or factors. In general, the wealth-stockpiling of lower- and middle-class savings is not a negative thing because it is not a significant long-term money trap.

It is when we get to the rich, the top 1% of wealth-owners and income-earners, that wealth-stockpiling turns into serious money-trapping. Vast quantities of wealth are pulled from the economy and trapped by a small handful of people. Now, even this is not always a bad thing, and being rich isn't bad in-and-of-itself. In fact, a class of rich people, who have significant stockpiles of wealth, can be of great benefit to the economy by providing buying power and investment capital for companies and projects that would not get off the ground otherwise. When the rich use their wealth to reinvest in the economy, their wealth-stockpiling is not a money-trap, but rather an economic force-concentrator, gathering wealth together to be able to provide economic heavy-lifting services.

It is when that stockpiled wealth is not reinvested in the economy and the civilization that provided the ability and opportunity to stockpile the wealth in the first place, but is instead sat on, or worse, directed to increase the wealth stockpiled for the sake of increasing the wealth stockpiled, so that more economic power can be applied to further increasing the wealth stockpiled, etc., and/or that economic power is used to push agendas and policies and practicies that benefit the owners of the wealth and their associates, at the expense of the non-wealthy, that they become economy-damaging money-traps.

How do we combat that? One method is high taxes on high levels of income, both from salaries (straight income tax) and from investments ('capital gains tax' and others), This keeps money that is not reinvested in the economy by the wealthy from being trapped, providing increased government revenue and allowing the government to shift the tax burden to those who make vastly more money than most of the population and can much better afford the tax burden (i.e. taxing the rich so you don't have to tax the poor). This also means that the government has more money to put back into the economy itself through its various programs (defense spending; the various agencies and administrations; infrastructure spending on roads, bridges, railroads, etc.; space programs; R&D grants; public education; national parks; the list goes on), most of which also help to strengthen and enrich our civilization.

Other methods include regulations and monitoring of the economy and economic transactions, to keep people with wealth from abusing it by cheating and gaming the system to unfairly increase their wealth even more. Anti-trust laws to deal with monopolies and ultra-large companies and corporations which are so large that they gain massive and unfair competitive edges just by virtue of their raw economic power alone. Transparency of economics and asset ownership is also key.

So, are the Republican congresscritters right? Can we not afford to increase the taxes of the rich? Do the rich drive the economy? Will the economy collapse if we raise taxes for the top 2% of earners?

In a word: No. The GOP congresscritters are wrong. The rich do not drive the economy, the economy will not collapse if we increase their taxes, and we not only can afford to increase taxes on the top 2% of earners, we can ill afford to NOT increase their taxes. That increase represents $700 billion in revenue over the next ten years that our government is in great need of. The Bush administration racked up record deficits with its handling of the Afghanistan War, the Iraq War, the 2003 tax cuts, the deregulation of the financial sector that magnified the housing bubble and crash. All of these things have to be paid for, and the rich, most of whom made great gains under the Bush administration and Republican-led congress and who also suffered the least during the 2008 crash, will have to chip in and pay their share as well. Especially since it was the policies enacted that benefited them the most that got us into this mess in the first place.

Furthermore, tax rates on the top earners have historically been much, much higher during times of economic booms. From 1940-1963, the tax rate for the top income tax bracket never dropped below 80%. For half that 23-year period, including 1950-1963, the top income tax rate was 91% or higher. Capital gains tax rates were also much higher during that period. And the economy was booming. We were paying down the war debt (far higher than our current debt relative to the GDP, btw) quite rapidly.

Today the government is in deficit spending after wars totaling to date some $1.3 trillion+, the greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression, and a trillion-dollar tax cut. Top income tax brackets are less than 40%, barely more than half of what they were when Reagan slashed taxes for the rich his second year in office, and less than half of what they were during one of the strongest periods of economic growth (real economic growth, not false paper-trading) in this country's history. The Republican answer to these problems is to cut spending, cut spending, cut spending, and then cut revenue (taxes) even more (especially for the rich, because obviously people with a lot of money can't afford taxes) so that we have to cut more spending, cut more spending, cut more spending. Unless it's defense spending. Or they're in power. Then they'll go on about cutting spending while throwing money away, and cutting revenue, and then try to blame the resulting flood of red ink on everyone else.

My solution? State flat-out that to get through these hard times, we ALL have to tighten our belts, chip in and contribute to the recovery. ALL of us, especially those of us who can most afford it and who benefited the most from the previous train wreck of an administration. I would recognize that to get out of this slump we need to cut wasteful spending, but also increase revenue (if you're in debt, you cut back on your expenses, and also put in overtime to increase revenue), and most importantly, put people back to work so that the lower- and middle-class can start buying again and get the economy rolling again.

To that end, I would announce tax-break incentives for companies hiring new employees, tax-break incentives for companies investing in expansions and R&D, and similar tax-break incentives. I would also assign a team to go through the entire budget and weed out wasteful spending that is inefficient or provides little or no return. I would also put forward a massive infrastructure spending plan, $1-$2 trillion, putting money into repairing, expanding and modernizing roads, bridges, dams, electrical lines, water lines, sewage lines, water supply and purification systems, sewage treatment systems, railroads, a plan for a network of continental highspeed rail lines running from the East Coast to the West Coast, Maine to Florida, California to Alaska. I would also include projects to lay high-capacity fiber-optic cable to every community in the nation, build local recycling facilities across the country, expand our nuclear, soar, wind, tidal and geo-thermal power generation facilities with the intent to have 50% or more of the nation's total power generation coming from non-fossil fuel generators by 2020. I would also fund government co-pay programs for individuals and families looking to add private windmill or solar panel power generators to their homes, or geothermal heating/cooling systems and other energy-saving or energy-producing systems that not only cut carbon emissions, and reduce utility bills, but also increase robustness of homes and of our power and utility grids.

To help combat unemployment, I would put together government-funded work teams, call it the Civil Conservation Corps., available to people who have been unemployed past so many weeks. It would pay at an increased minimum wage, above what most would get on unemployment alone, assigning workers to make-work projects cleaning parks and streams and roads and city streets. They would build school bus and public transit bus shelters, sturdy buildings that students or public bus riders could take shelter in while waiting for their ride. I would also fund expanded bus routes for cities and add public bus systems to suburban and rural communities as part of this program. The goal would be to eventually expand the Civil Conservation Corps. to be a nation-wide community service provider funded by federal and state governments, operating in local communities with the long-term purpose of providing local community services and jobs that smaller communities could not fund themselves, and to provide employment opportunities to those who cannot find work, regardless of skill level, with long-term opportunities for skilled workers, or workers willing to go through job skills training to learn new skills. The CCC would also be designed to have the short-term capability of providing large-scale job opportunities to the long-term unemployed during local or national economic downturns that see large-scale job cuts.

To pay for this spending package, I would increase the top income tax bracket to 45% permanently, with a 10-year temporary hike to 90% with a clause for an independent, non-partisan agency to closely monitor the economic impact of the increased taxation and the government spending projects, so that at the 10-year mark the impact could be properly reviewed for a decision on whether or not to maintain the tax rate, reduce it to the permanent 45% rate at once or over time, or reduce it to a higher permanent rate. I would also eliminate the $105,000 taxable income cap on the social security tax, greatly increasing revenue for SSI, which would be expanded with that increased revenue to provide additional pay-outs and income security for our elderly and retired. An additional Social Security tax would also be applied to capital gains income, and a small per-transaction tax on stock trading, to help cover for job-stimulating tax cuts and to discourage the kind of rapid, moment-by-moment transactions that contributed to the 2008 bubble and crash. I would also implement a very aggressive progressive conditional income tax on corporate executive officers who have a total income in salary and bonuses that exceeds the company's average employee salary by more than a factor of 10, to discourage the climate of outlandish salaries and bonuses and inter-corporate back-scratching networks that also contributed to the 2008 bubble and crash.

But, then I'm a Keynsian and moderate socialist on economic policy, and that kind of massive government spending ($1-$3 trillion over 10 years), and especially that kind of massive tax hike on the richest 1% of the country (~$5.66 trillion revenue increase over 10 years) would not fly at all in today's political environment.

I suspect that the policies themselves would be quite popular individually, or even all together, but the political environment of Washington would never allow them to get through. Too many big interests would get hit with the bill, even though they caused or contributed to the mess and have been doing their best to dodge paying for any of it so far.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Why the World is Worth Saving

One of the things that peeves me the most, even more than the people who are convinced that the world is doomed to inevitably suffer apocalyptic calamity no matter what anyone does, are the people who think that this would be a good thing, the people who think that the world is a despicable cesspool that is not even worth the consideration of saving.

Now, a strong concern for the future of the world is very reasonable, healthy in fact. It means that you know that even the best plans or intentions can go horribly wrong, that things can blow up in your face when you least expect it, and that in the blink of an eye, you can find yourself cruising merrily along in a handbasket, on a direct course for hell. Being convinced that the world is not worth saving, however, is absolutely ridiculous.

First, the whole notion that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and there's nothing anyone can do is flat out BS. As a whole, the world is a far, far better place than it was at any other point in history. Sure, there's still a lot of problems left in the world, and the up-trend hasn't been a constant straight line, month-to-month, year-to-year, and decade-to-decade things make it jiggle around, but the overall trend has been a sharp parabolic curve upwards in the last 3-500 years. We've got problems, some of them old some of them new, but the world has always had problems and challenges. It's not an easy place, this universe we live in. We've overcome so many, and made great strides in so many more, that to suggest that we could never possibly overcome the problems of today or tomorrow is ludicrous.

People who are convinced that the world isn't worth saving need to be smacked upside the head. With something very big and heavy. There is so much that humanity has done, so much that this glorious civilization has accomplished, all while bootstrapping itself up from less than the Stone Age, and so much that humanity might yet do that anyone who thinks that all of that should be wiped away is either utterly blind and deluded, or a sadistic sociopath.

Humanity has achieved so much. Humanity has created so much beautiful art and music and literature, of all types and all grades. From Mozart to this week's Top 40s Countdown. From the Mona Lisa to a preschooler's crayon scribbles. From Homer to Homer Simpson. These alone are of incalculable value, nevermind the sculpting of the world and the very stars themselves that humanity will produce and be capable of in the future. Great monuments on Mars. A sculpture the size of a small planetoid. The Mona Lisa recreated in perfect detail, in the molecules on the head of a pin.

Humanity is so depraved, people say, bent on war and destruction and sadism. Conflict is a part of nature, it was bred into humanity as a survival mechanism, and humans are hardly the only species to enjoy the pain of others. Nature is full of sadists and sociopaths. Yet they do not dominate, and they do not dominate humanity. Conflict and war has dominated much of human history, but that is merely an extension of natural instincts into a civilized world, and humanity has already taken tremendous strides in overcoming that. Genocide is universally regarded as a crime by all but the worst people in the worst corners of the world, when even only a few hundred years ago it could have been floated as an option without anyone blinking. Rape and child molestation and abuse are considered crimes the world over, with only the most backwards of places not recognizing them as wrong, and even then only under select circumstances. Basic human rights, and civil rights for all men and women have made vast strides in the last 300 years. They still have a long way to go, of course, but so much has already been achieved.

Humanity still has a long way to go, for sure; human civilization is still far from adulthood, but humanity has already made it through childhood, well into adolescence, and all on their own, bootstrapping themselves up without any parent or patron to help them or guide to direct their path. To say that humanity is not worth saving, not worthy of continued existence and growth, is like saying that a newborn child abandoned in the wilderness that not only raised itself all on its own, but produced the likes of Mozart's Requiem Mass in D Minor at age 9, is not worthy of continued existence.

Our great civilization of this world has accomplished so much, through so much hardship and strife, from literally nothing. It is absolutely incredible. If humanity accomplished nothing more, if our civilization were to end tomorrow, it would have been more than worth it all, and it would be the greatest tragedy of our entire civilization. For frak sake, we have put people on the moon! We have put self-guided robots on Mars! We have created music and poetry and art that moves the very soul. We regularly build today great, sky-scraping towers and other marvels of engineering that rival the Pyramids. Hell, humanity built the Pyramids. In its infancy. The vast wonders of the universe lay at humanity's fingertips, lay at our entire civilization's fingertips, and we have created and spawned so much, and we haven't even begin to scratch the surface of humanity's potential in the great, wide universe.

To say that none of it all is worth continuing, makes humanity worthy of existence, of survival, is insanity.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Laptop Ordered!

Ordered my new laptop that is my birthday present to me. Would have actually ordered it on my birthday, but the roommate is still behind on rent... But it's ordered now,and it's a sweet laptop for a sweet deal, and it should be here in a couple days. -squee-

Oh, and Newegg threw in a free backpack/case with a combo (they actually gave me a $20 discount to combo with a $19.99 backpack, so they actually paid me to take it...), which is cool 'cause free stuff is always awesome, and I can use it if my current bag isn't big enough, or as a spare. Newegg is awesome like that.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gloomy Beginnings

Feeling rather gloomy and depressed today, so I ramble on the great danger of the world. Cue severe nighttime thunderstorm for classic storybook effect, and we're off on a grand adventure.
How can we overcome the authoritarian mindset that plagues our world, dominated civilization for 99% of human history, and threatens again to collapse all that we have built up since the dawn of the Enlightenment?

Not the drive of people to obtain authoritative power; those are relatively few, and fewer still who are both capable of and have the opportunity to seize that kind of power and influence, and they are ultimately powerless in and of themselves.

No, it is the willingness of the masses to submit themselves to their chosen authority unquestioningly, based on heritage, in-circles, and a refusal or inability to watch for their own self-delusions and comforting self-deceptions, and counter them. THAT is the plague of our time, and what has granted tyrants and dictators, petty and great, power throughout history. In-group tribalism, a rejection of facts and evidence and rational evaluation in favor of preferred rhetoric, mystic voodoo and arcane magic, 'just so' stories, and meaningless vagaries that sound impressive but say nothing at all.

It comes with an overly-glorified nostalgic view of the past, a longing to return to the 'grand old days' of yore, and a rejection of change, which is both inevitable and necessary. The idea that the future can only be better if we return to the glory of a fallen past, or if some grand higher power gives it to us in reward. The idea that WE can never make things better, never do truly great and marvelous things without always messing them up. It comes with a focus on the infallible fallibility of man.

It rejects reason and the processes of science, the methods that have given us such learning and brought us to the grand and glorious heights we have today, far beyond the reach of all of human history before today combined. It rejects what can be proven, consistently, irrefutably, right before its eyes, in favor of comforting denial, and karmic mysticism.

It is heavily rooted in tribalistic tendencies that have been bred into humans for countless millennia, a collective group-think, and self-reinforcing in-circles. It focuses on shamanistic gurus and feudalistic rulers, often glorifying feudal lords and magicians. Fear and paranoia are key tools in spreading and maintaining it. It creates an 'enemy', part of the 'out group' that threatens the target's 'in group', the small- and large-scale social structures that people are a part of and/or identify with, an implacable enemy that is utterly evil, and must be fought without compromise.

This is called Authoritarianism. In religion, it manifests as Fundamentalism (and it is not always radical or extremist). It is regressive, barbaric, feudalistic, and the mortal enemy of enlightenment and of enlightened civilization, OUR civilization.

I fear for our future, not because of how we could fail, but of all the grand and glorious things we can achieve, will achieve, and how all of it could yet be robbed from us.