26 October 2013

Paragraphs to Ponder

From Moldbug:

The logic of the witch hunter is simple.  It has hardly changed since Matthew Hopkins' day.  The first requirement is to invert the reality of power.  Power at its most basic level is the power to harm or destroy other human beings.  The obvious reality is that witch hunters gang up and destroy witches. Whereas witches are never, ever seen to gang up and destroy witch hunters.  By this test alone, we can see that the conspiracy is imaginary (Brown Scare) rather than real (Red Scare).
Think about it.  Obviously, if the witches had any power whatsoever, they wouldn't waste their time gallivanting around on broomsticks, fellating Satan and cursing cows with sour milk.  They're getting burned right and left, for Christ's sake!  Priorities!  No, they'd turn the tables and lay some serious voodoo on the witch-hunters.  In a country where anyone who speaks out against the witches is soon found dangling by his heels from an oak at midnight with his head shrunk to the size of a baseball, we won't see a lot of witch-hunting and we know there's a serious witch problem.  In a country where witch-hunting is a stable and lucrative career, and also an amateur pastime enjoyed by millions of hobbyists on the weekend, we know there are no real witches worth a damn.

Tautologically, no witch hunt can be successful, for if the witches were real, they would not be caught.  It’s always helpful to keep this in mind, especially since it is usually true that bullies never target the people with power, they target the people (they believe to be) completely without power.  As such, you can always tell who the powerless are:  They’re the ones being burned.

Book Review

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

To be brief, this book was awful.  Perhaps it was simply the translation I was reading, but this book was mind-numbingly boring, and rather tedious to read, especially since every character had roughly six dozen names, and there was absolutely no consistency in their usage.  The only enjoyable character was Stepan/Stiva/Oblonksy/Etc.; the rest were just miserable.  Anna is a cunt; Alexei is a stupid asshole; Levin is a pussy; Kitty is an idiot; Dolly is insufferable; etc.  I stopped reading about halfway through the second book because I got tired of waiting for a plot twist wherein all the characters die and you discover that the remaining two-thirds of the book are left blank as a good joke on the reader.  Alas, this plot twist did not happen soon enough, and so I put down the book.

Anna is particularly insufferable as a character because her actions simply do not make sense.  While it is obvious that she is not madly in love with her husband, it simply does not make sense, given how she is described, that she would fall for someone like Vronsky.  While her having an affair is understandable; her having an affair with Vronsky is not.  It also doesn’t make sense for her to coldly turn down Vronsky’s offer of marriage.  While it would be reasonable for her to decline an offer eventually, it doesn’t make sense that she never gives the offer serious thought.  Perhaps she’s really more of an ice queen than Tolstoy describes?  But if that’s the case, how could she possibly reconcile Dolly and Stepan?  Her character makes no sense whatsoever.

Levin is also insufferable, but only because I don’t give a single fuck about idealizing eighteenth century farm life, from the perspective of a moderately wealthy landowner.  Tolstoy’s bias towards to the simple country life, as manifest in Levin’s character, is simply annoying.  The farm is no better or worse than the city, and only an asshole romanticizes such dirty, boring work.  Also, Levin’s a total pussy when it comes to women (especially Kitty) which I can’t respect.  At least Stepan has some balls.  But then, it always felt like Levin was Tolstoy’s ideal sort of man, and given that Tolstoy was a pacifist, it make sense that Tolstoy would idealize the herbly sort of loser beta that is Levin.  Wikipedia confirms that Levin does marry Kitty, which, when you think about it, makes this story into a fairy tale.

All in all, this is a very boring book that features, with one notable exception, insultingly unbelievable characters.  There is a lot of extraneous detail that bogs down the work, and surprisingly little insight into the human condition.  But then, Tolstoy was writing a fairy tale.  This book was an incredible letdown, given that it had been highly recommended by a friend.  Thus, I only recommend this book if you’re in the mood to hold a steaming pile of shit in your hands, but don’t want to go the bother of grabbing actual poop.

The Curse of the Middle Class

It’s a terrible idea for a woman to marry a man for whom she believes she is settling. Conversely, it’s usually a good idea for a man to marry a woman who is below his station in life. The relative classlessness of America (on both counts) makes opaque what would be fairly transparent in a more firmly stratified culture.

Perhaps this is true, but I think Cane is describing more of a middle class phenomenon.  In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy paints the picture of sociological change in Russia, in which marriages transition from being arranged by parents (the old tradition) to being arranged by the participants(?).  This was also a time in which the upper society was starting to become flatter, if memory serves me correctly. Anyhow, the point I’m getting at is that a less-stratified society makes it more difficult to make “smart” marriages (which was the lament of Kitty’s parents, IIRC).

To add weight to my claim, does anyone think that elite Americans have a difficult time figuring out who to marry?  Wealth and status at the higher end of society is pretty clear-cut, thanks to Forbes.  Everyone basically knows who’s wealthy and how much they have, and beauty isn’t that difficult to figure out either. Since money and influence equals status among the elite, it’s fairly simple to figure out who ranks where.

In contrast, it’s harder to discern this in the middle class, where people are basically equal and interchangeable in terms of status.  If women are trying to marry up and not settle, they are basically left to nit-pick over very minute differences, which will likely be irrelevant in less than a decade.  Perhaps, then, this is why women seem so picky.  If most middle class men are basically interchangeable, how can one distinguish among them?  Well, the men must distinguish themselves.

Of course, it’s easier to discern status in the lower class, where having the only functional car on the block, or the largest television in the neighborhood, automatically makes you king of the corner.  This sounds ludicrous, and also explains why poor blacks and trailer trash throw status symbols like being tacky is their full-time vocation.  Being the big fish in a small pond is tacky, but it does have its rewards.

Thus, the problem Cane describes isn’t an American problem per se but an American middle-class problem.  And the solution, as always, is more cowbell Game.*

* Funny how the solution to the problem of equality and its twin sister feminism is increased hierarchism. You can’t know your place until you admit that it first exists.

Bait Cars

Okay, so there may be a legal distinction, but I’m not so sure it’s a distinction with a real difference, morally speaking. Because if a given bait car were not parked at a specific location, or a bait wallet left on a specific park bench, there wouldn’t be a potential crime to be committed, and arguably, parking a car in a vulnerable location, and leaving it unlocked, or leaving a wallet on a park bench, is enticing someone towards committing a particular evil that they wouldn’t have otherwise committed, had not the police dangled the carrot in front of them, even if not actually goading them into taking it. It’s like punishing an evil thought or impulse, by providing an easy target for that particular impulse. When it nabs a first-time offender, how can anyone reasonably conclude otherwise? Is such enticement fundamentally that different from entrapment?

Here’s a clue:  if it doesn’t belong to you, don’t take it.  It really is that damn simple.  The devil doesn’t make you do anything, and the mere presence of temptation is no reason to succumb. Obviously, this an aspirational ideal, but trying to say that cops shouldn’t use bait cars to snare people into incriminating themselves because that presents temptation is simply fucking stupid.

First off, the temptations stems from internal desire, not external opportunity.  I never feel like I’m all that likely to get snagged by a bait car.  Why? Because I never ever feel like I should go steal a car.  Yes, the bait car may be an easy target for criminals, but even if there were no bait cars, or said bait cars were difficult targets, it does not follow that criminals would be less tempted to steal cars.  The temptation to steal is there, though the motivation to steal may decline as the difficulty to satisfy one’s urge becomes costlier or more difficult.  But motivation to act and temptation are not the same thing, and Will mistakes one for the other and conflates the two.

In the second place, there is the more practical matter of dealing with criminals in the real world.  As much as it might hurt to face this unpleasant fact, there are simply criminal elements in this world that simply will not go away.  As such, there is and must be a constant fight against these elements.  The battle is not fair, or clearly winnable (in a sense), but it must occur.  While I am no fan of active crime prevention, bait cars do at least minimize the costs of crime borne by individual citizens, as the government—sorry, the taxpayers—foots the costs of providing bait cars.  Since bait cars are 100% effective (i.e. anyone trapped in a bait car is pretty much going to jail) at capturing criminals, they are superior to non-bait car that wind up stolen since not all non-bait cars are recovered, and not all recoveries are successfully prosecuted.

Now, it may be argued that this is not a fair fight.  True enough.  But why the fuck would anyone fight fair with criminals?  The entire premise of the criminal justice is that one is assumed innocent until proven guilty, and the whole purpose of this foundation is to protect the innocent not the guilty.  I, personally, would love to see all career criminals* slaughtered for their crimes.  The earth has no use for their evil.  The innocent I wish to protect, but the evil I wish to see residing in hell as soon as travel arrangements can be made.

As such, the whole argument for or against bait cars really turns on this question:  How many people who get trapped by bait cars are either first-time offenders, wholly innocent, or generally deserving of second chances?  By this I mean how many people entrapped by bait cars are not unrepentant evildoers?  I suspect that the answer is close to zero, but I cannot prove it. Assuming I am right, though, it would appear that bait cars serve as a valuable law enforcement tool as they make it easy to capture and prosecute a large number of unrepentant evildoers whose actions pose significant property costs to a largely innocent populace.

So, to answer the question: Bait cars may not be positively moral, but I don’t see how anyone can make a credible argument that they are immoral, unless one first shows that bait cars generally entrap people who are not unrepentant evildoers.

* Defined as those who habitually violate others’ property rights.  This doesn’t include one-time offenders, or those who violate regulations that have nothing to do with property rights (e.g. drug laws or traffic laws).

Our Fake Plastic President

Not exactly news, but:

Among influential U.S. political tweeters, President Barack Obama is the undisputed king of the fake followers. A MailOnline analysis ranks his sizable Twitter following as the most deceptive total among the 21 most influential accounts run by American politicians: More than 19.5 million of his 36.9 million Twitter followers are accounts that don't correspond to real people.
The four phoniest accounts in the sample, which included Democratic and Republican Party leaders in Washington, D.C., were those belonging to President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and the White House communications shop.
Of the president's 36.9 million Twitter followers, an astonishing 53 per cent – or 19.5 million – are fake accounts, according to a search engine at the Internet research vendor StatusPeople.com. Just 20 per cent of Obama's Twitter buddies are real people who are active users.

It shouldn’t really be surprising that Obama and his wife and VP are total phonies.  This is politics after all, and political victory in modern America is about establishing maintaining the image of success.  As was noted in the primaries last year, Democracy is actually bullshit, as elections do not actually reflect the will of the people, what with voter fraud and all that. (For the record, the GOP was the worst offender in trying to force party members to vote for Mitt Romney.)

Voting is important as a symbolic act; it makes the voter feel that he is part of a team.  Yes, his vote is meaningless—not only probabilistically, but also because of fraud—but what matters is that he feels that he has made a choice, and with that choice he becomes committed to being part of the team he has tacitly endorsed.  Thus, while half The Great and Noble Clown’s followers are fake, they serve their purpose of convincing people that they are on the winning side.  The best part is, it doesn’t doesn’t even matter that they are fake.

Politics is tribal, and it is important to be part of the winning tribe.  As the current democracy inevitably yields to oligarchy, voting simply becomes a symbolic act, no different to reciting the pledge of allegiance, or singing the national anthem.  The outcomes of elections are already decided; your vote only matters because it is important that you show you are part of the winning team.  Even if the team is largely imaginary.