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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Thursday, January 07, 2016

NOT YOURS TO TAKE

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

One of the toughest parts about freedom is that it necessarily means that you have to put up with things you do not like, or do without things you might prefer.  For example, in Texas, they have very loose zoning laws, so that you can have a neighborhood of homes right next to an amusement park.  Loud, bright lights, lots of traffic, but people are free to do that if they choose.
Take a look at this picture.  Its a graphical representation of how much land in each state is owned by the federal government in the United States:

As you can see, everything in the rocky mountain states and westward suddenly becomes vastly controlled by the federal government (other than Hawaii).  Nevada, in particular, is almost entirely "federal land," at nearly 85%.
This hearkens back to a time when all land was considered the king's land, and people could by dispensation be given land of their own, but it would revert to the king if there were no heirs or they did something the king really didn't like.
Most of that land taken from each state is either military bases and testing facilities, federally designated "wilderness areas," national parks and monuments, or freeway lands.  Each president takes more of that land away, and always in the West, using the 1906 Antiquities Act which allows the president to designate land as a national monument or park without even consulting congress or notifying the American public of his intentions.  That's how President Obama was able to just call Mount McKinley "Denali Mountain" with an announcement.
THE FACEBOOK RESPONSE
Now, when I posted this image on Facebook, several people responded positively: I like parks!  What's wrong with that?
Which was just jaw dropping to me.  I was simply astounded that nobody seemed to understand that the federal government owning more than 50% of 12 of the biggest states in the union was a bad thing.  They thought it was just wonderful!
The problem here is that they are thinking in terms of "ooh pretty" rather than ownership, liberty, and the constitution.  People have become so accustomed to having things taken from them and then "given back" by the government that they have no basic gag reflex when it comes to liberty.
I like parks, too.  I like wilderness areas, and in my youth used to hike deep into the Oregon mountains to camp and explore.  Beauty and the amazing scenery of the United States is worth preserving and sharing with future generations.  But you know what matters more?  Having the liberty to enjoy that beauty and travel to those areas.
All the parks in the world are useless without liberty.  Unless you have freedom, it does not matter how much is preserved and set aside for posterity, because you'll never go there to see and enjoy it.  The only people who'll have a chance will be the most powerful and wealthy, the most connected to political office.
Let me try to put this in perspective.  Let's say you have a nice house and it has a really great bunch of rooms in it that are well decorated.  It is, supposedly, your house, and not only is there an iron clad law that protects your ownership, but people fought and died to protect it.  Now lets say the government decides your house is beautiful and others ought to be able to enjoy it, too.  So they seize 75% of the rooms in your house, declare them a national monument, and now you can only go in there if you pay a fee, can only engage in certain activities, cannot change anything, and must allow others into it.
That's what's happening with these states.  There is no support in the US Constitution for the idea of the president simply and arbitrarily taking pieces of states away from the public and setting them aside with rules for their use.  And there is no way to appeal the process.
ANTIQUATED UNCONSTITUTIONALITY
Wyoming and Alaska, annoyed at the way the federal government kept taking pieces away from them, managed to get legislation passed modifying the Antiquities Act.  For example, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act requires congress to approve grabs of areas of greater than 5,000 acres.
Right now, Oregon is facing an attempt to seize more than two million acres by the federal government.  Only one thing stands in the way: a ranch owned by a private citizen in between two federal areas.  So the Bureau of Land Management is using every trick possible to remove the ranch, including convicting the rancher of terrorism for burning out some intrusive plants.
See, congress decided that it was fine for the president to just pick areas to take away from private owners based on Article IV, Section 3 of the US Constitution which allows the federal government to create new states from territories controlled by the federal government.  Part of that section includes these lines:
power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States. 
Congress decided that means "you can do whatever you want to any land in the US without even bothering to ask the people living there."  Now, that is pretty debatable, since the founding fathers clearly did not mean for the federal government to be able to do whatever they chose within state boundaries, but that's a separate issue.
Notice that this section is in Article IV which deals with the US Congress.  It specifically and exclusively is about congress, not the presidency or the supreme court.  Under no circumstances is one branch of the US federal government allowed to exercise powers granted it under another branch.
The president cannot legally and constitutionally, no matter what laws are passed by congress, simply decide how land is going to be used.  That power is reserved for the congress by the constitution.
Now, by this point in the nation's history, the constitution is basically waste paper.  The only time it comes up is when someone wants to score political points, and its otherwise totally ignored.  Recent Supreme Court decisions have utterly demolished the last pathetic shreds of constitutional authority, so this is all academic.
But it wasn't in 1906.  And nobody did anything about it, because they were focused on preserving those amazing features like the Grand Canyon and others astounding areas of beauty and nature in the west.  Railroad builders saw what they were passing through and were determined to protect that awesome wonder, so they made sure it would happen.
OOH PRETTY
The problem for folks is that they don't understand that this is not about oooh pretty, parks, its about freedom and states having the right to decide what happens within their borders.  The love of beauty is something that should drive protection of these areas, not federally seized, illegal power.  Private owners have for millennia protected and preserved areas of natural beauty and shared them with the public.
Now, some will say "If we didn't have this law, then places like Big Sur and Mount Jefferson would be covered with condominiums, or would eventually!  Only the rich and connected could enjoy the grand canyon, just like you say will happen if government gets too powerful, how is that better?
And that's possibly true - not necessarily, after all, the US is very vast and huge areas are still quite protected and unblemished by business and corporate interests despite being not controlled by the federal government.  And the US Constitution does not prohibit state governments from declaring areas parks and wilderness areas.
But, again, there's another, more powerful force to protect these areas than government decisions.  Freedom requires a moral character, a public with virtue and honor.  Instead of leaving that up to officials to punish us for straying from and pass requirements for us to follow, freedom forces us to grow up and be virtuous from inside.  That's tough, and its scary, and it requires us to be better people rather than simply servile and obedient people.   People who do the right thing do not require government pressure to control them.
DEALING WITH FREEDOM
Freedom means having to put up with stuff you don't like, such as a McDonald's on the rim of the Grand Canyon.  It also means having to not have stuff you'd prefer, like access to climb El Capitan on Yosemite.  And every single thing that the federal government gains in power means less freedom for you and I.  Every single loss of liberty that everyone suffers is always done in the name of a "good cause."  
Its always for our good that they argue we must give up our liberty.  Its never "because we hate you and you need to be slaves" but "we need to do this for x good reason."  And each little piece of liberty you lose means more power for the government and a generation raised to never have known or understood that freedom in the past.
The government only moves in one direction unless forced back by great effort and even violence.  The founding fathers understood this all too well from personal experience.  They used terms like "fire" and "devouring" to describe the government because they knew each new bit of power the government gained meant it was hungry for 3 more.  The government never, ever surrenders power voluntarily, it always seeks more control, more power, and more of your freedom given up.
Every small liberty surrendered to the government means it is hungry for more, spreading like oil on water, until it covers everything.
And every person raised in that setting comes to not only expect the government to be that big and intrusive, but is bothered less and less by greater expansions.  And even worse, they come to rely on and depend on that government power to a greater degree.  So after a few generations, the feds owning 53% of Oregon is normal and completely reasonable.
And nobody even knows or remembers what was lost.  Remember: after life, property is our greatest right.  The ability to own and control something is precious and not to be surrendered without exceptionally great cause.
And perty parks is not enough.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

BEST OF 2015

"What a stupid time to be alive"

I posted a lot less in 2015 than previous years, but still had a few major popular articles.
The most popular WATN bit was "A Mad World Run By Fools" in which I tried to lay out what its like to be a conservative in the world today, for those who think we're just over reacting or hysterical.  That article hit home for a lot of people and to date is the one that got the most hits, the most shares, and the most links of anything I've ever written on this blog.  Thousands of people came by a day for almost a week to read the article.  It got shared a lot on Facebook too, judging by where many people came from to read it.
Another popular piece was "Just Because," wherein I tried to show how the left is honestly trying to replace the old structures and ethical foundations that they destroyed, but have nothing to work with.  In an ideology that changes daily, even hourly, and is infinitely "progressive" you cannot truly build a foundation or structure at all.
"Don't Stand So Close To Me" was very popular but I feel I can only take a small part of the credit for that.  The rest has to be given to Dave Chapelle's brilliant examination of the whore's costume and what it means.  Modesty does matter.
The very first piece I wrote for 2015 was "The Black Ban" that examined the way black culture and racism is used and understood in America, not by blacks but by whites.  You can insult someone by saying they are "very white" and compliment someone by saying how black they are, but we're still told white people are oppressive rulers and blacks are oppressed helpless, crushed, and marginalized.
Next year looks to be even more troubling and upsetting than this one, but remember.  It is too easy to be dragged down by politics and fears and grit your teeth in frustration wanting to know what you can do to fix things.  Sometimes all you can do is live your life properly, raise your children wisely, and pray to God, because He's in charge, not us, not politicians, and not the popular culture.
I'll keep posting what comes to me and I think should be heard, and I hope you all keep visiting and reading.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

RENTING YOUR FUTURE

"Remember DivX? The idea that you would in essence rent a disposable DVD that would only play X times, and only one one player?"

The cloud.  I'm not real fond of the term, I think it goes back to a frustrated IT guy trying to get some middle management person to understand how internet storage worked.  "See, it goes to this, this... cloud, where it... floats until you need it, get it?"
Basically it just means something stored remotely on the internet where you can access it later.  That word is key: "access."
See, when you get all your music from Spottify and your movies from Netflix and your books from Amazon, your games from online, and your pictures are all stored on "the cloud" instead of locally or in physical format... you don't actually own any of it.  You rent it all.
Access means you can get to and use something.  Ownership means you control it and someone cannot keep you from getting to and using something.
This is a common misconception, particularly with younger people.  Its not that they do not comprehend the differerence between Access and Ownership.  Its that they don't care and even are slightly uncomfortable or contemptuous toward ownership.
See, kids know at some level they don't actually own the songs they built their playlist around on that music service online.  They just don't care, and further, they think that if you do own or buy CDs, DVDs, or whatever, you're weird, old, or stupid.
I think this is driven partly by the fact that so much of what they regularly enjoy and consume is designed to be temporary and forgotten.  Music, television, movies, images, games, pretty much everything they use is specifically designed to be enjoyed for a while, then thrown aside and never remembered. 
Quick, what was last year's number one hit?  The biggest song of 2014?  Who cares?  Its nearly 2016, that's so last year!  (the song was "Happy" by Pharell).  What was the hit song of 2013?  It doesn't matter, because that song was never meant to last.  They're all just meant to show up, be listened to a while, then thrown away like a disposable diaper.
Shows like Two Broke Girls will never get into replay cycles, they won't be big DVD rentals or ownership.  They're meant to be seen once or twice and forgotten.  Netflix isn't going to have a big viewership of that kind of television, no matter how well it rates now.  Its not re-watchable.
The big advantage for this with young people is that they can access a gigantic music collection for relatively small amounts of money - mostly paid for by their parents.  Its not like they bought that smartphone or pay for the plan, anyway.  And if the site only has a small, carefully selected array of songs from any given artist, how would they even know since all they listen to is that site anyway?
For me, one of the joys - and something I would try to play when I was a DJ at a small college station - was the other, unknown, lesser-played songs on big albums.  Sure, you know that #1 hit from Flash In The Pan, but what about this song, that's even better?  But if you don't actually buy the disc, and if the artist  just puts out studio-crafted repetitive junk, you'll never know what the rest of the songs are, and there aren't any gems to hear anyway.
This attitude of disposable entertainment suits the big companies just fine.  They'd rather you rent songs for pennies forever than buy songs for dollars once.  They'd rather control what you get rather than let you choose and explore.  They'd rather funnel your attention toward what they prefer rather than have you find your own way.
At present, the internet is huge and wild and free, you can go where you want and access what you want.  But internet service providers aren't happy with that.  If all you do is check your e-mail once a day, they love you because that is virtually zero bandwith and costs them almost nothing.  But if you watch Netflix while playing World of Warcraft and download torrents, you're using their product massively more than they are earning off you.
That's why all of them "throttle" heavy use, and heavy load times.  After school, your internet gets slower.  When you start downloading huge files or watching lots of video, your internet gets slower.  That's called "throttling" where they reduce your bandwith.  You're using too much, its stressing their existing framework to deliver content,
The tech exists, but is difficult and expensive right now, to simply cut off your access to sites on the internet.  That tech could easily and I expect very soon will be used to charge for various parts of the internet.  You want to get to Youtube?  Its just 99 cents a day!  Facebook is only a penny an hour!
Every internet provider is owned by a gigantic entertainment giant like Comcast, Time/Warner, etc.  They control entertainment and your internet access.  They want more of your money and more control over what you see and do, to "guide" you toward their products, away from competitors, and into paths that make you a better consumer.
Figure they couldn't get away with that? I remember well scoffing at the idea that anyone would pay monthly rental fees to play online games.  You could play Diablo for free, why would anyone put down ten bucks a month to play Ultima Online (particularly as awful as it was on release)?
Yet here we are, and people expect to pay 15 bucks or more a month - or pay fees to get full access to the game, buy content, and get goodies.  What will you do if all the internet providers start charging extra to go to your favorite sites?  Rebel and stop going to social media?  Refuse to shop on Amazon because of the surcharge?
Paying to access what you ought to own personally carries other costs as well.  I recently found a few minor errors in my latest novel Life Unworthy.  Do I change them in the ebook and POD versions, or leave them as is?  The purist in me says leave it, because that edition is what people have bought.  The editor and perfectionist says "fix it and get it right."  I did just that with Snowberry's Veil, uploading an entirely new version with significant editing and additional parts.
If I correct these errors, then the book you bought won't be the book you now own in your reader.  It will be changed next time you connect to fix the errors.  The book will be more perfect, but it won't be what you bought and read.
What if someone decides a book has a bad word or phrase, or concept in it?  What if some political group or another doesn't care for the content of a book?  What if an author changes their mind on a topic and wants to fix that?  You don't own ebooks.  They are subject to change by the author or even the company that published them or sells them.
What you don't own, another may change or take away.  And your online content isn't forever.  For example, the website Blip had reviews and information on thousands of shows, movies, and more.  They went out of business, and all that... disappeared.
I like to own physical, actual copies of everything.  I am deeply frustrated by Skyrim's decision to go through Steam so that I cannot play the game without online access.  I don't like downloading expansions for World of Warcraft, I like owning a box.  I don't want to "buy" films and songs online, I want to have something I can hold in my hand.
And not having that means you don't actually own it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

GET YOUR OWN OLD HABITS

The Old Habits giveaway has ended; congratulations to Debee Pfaff and Hayley Shaver!  I'll try to get the books in the mail by the end of the month.
This went so well that I'm going to be doing it with my other two books as well. 
 
Old Habits is a fantasy novel, and two winners receive a signed print copy of the book: 
A fortune in lost gems. 
A man on the run from his brothers. 
A dread secret in Castle Dornica. 
Stoce grew up alone on the tough streets of Farport to become an exceptional street thief, but nothing in his life has prepared him for this. Hired for a simple theft, Stoce is now on the run from The Brotherhood. Stalked by deadly assassins in a strange land, Stoce must face an archmage, soldiers, and a host of guards to find the gems he lost. 
But what treacherous plot is unfolding in the castle as he searches, and how does the annoyingly noble paladin Judic fit into this conspiracy? Facing impossible odds and outmatched by dark magic and deadly traps, Stoce uses his stealth and skills to search, to survive, and perhaps to find an even greater treasure.