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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

BEST OF WATN 2014: The Rest

Not pretty.  Give it up, Hollywood.
The rest of 2014 was a fairly slow, quiet year for Word Around the Net.  Several pieces were linked and somewhat popular through the year, but overall I kept up a slower production rate as I worked on publishing several gaming products and wrote another novel.  I find my priorities are shifting, less angry reaction and pontification and more focus on getting work done.
Nobody ever seems to change their minds or even really learn anything from being taught or told, but the work is always there to do and perhaps if I keep working hard maybe I can become somewhat more successful in my writing.
Some of the other popular bits in WATN were these pieces:
The Fascist Mindset and Modern Relativism - demonstrating how similar relativist thought (on the left and right) echoes and has the same origins as fascist ideology.  Its from the same pool, and uses the same arguments for life and behavior.
Not Beautiful - a fluff piece heartlessly bashing women in hollywood for being significantly less physically attractive than they are presented to us as.  I'm sorry Quentin Tarantino, but everyone who watched Kill Bill was wondering what blonde the characters were referring to as so beautiful because it clearly was not Uma Thurman
Radon Gas - this Common Knowledge bit still gets quite a bit of attention, because I rips apart one of the weirdest myths of our times.  Radon Gas exists but its not a threat to home owners and people are being ripped off by con men pretending to find and clear out this stuff.
The Fragile Princess - about a ridiculous, insulting, and bizarre ad regarding teaching girls science.  The contrast between the "I am woman hear me roar" and "treat us like brittle glass princesses" that comes from modern feminism is very strange.  Almost as strange as the "women are just like men" said by people that insist men are pigs, scum, and horrible.
Bashing Palin - Everyone on the right always knew this, everyone on the left lied and denied it, but its finally being admitted, that the left was terrified of Palin and attacked her to destroy her.
Yeah, I'm Pat Novak, For Hire - An old radio show written by one of the finest hard boiled wordsmiths in the world that few have even heard of.  Starring Jack Webb, this is one of the best OTR (Old Time Radio) bits you can find and listen to.  I shared just a few of the glorious lines, and people loved it.
and finally, Good Cop/Bad Cop - Comparing various police actions and famous stories in the news and how what we've been told is so often different from what was done.  Most cops are good guys working hard to protect us, and often the bad cops are ones not even condemned by the press.
So that was WATN last year, the highlights in terms of sharing and popularity.  I hope you have a good year this coming 2015, better than 2014 and filled with family, love, hope, and trust.

BEST OF 2014: The Road from Serfdom

"In a slum an exploiter is better than a Santa Claus… An exploiter forces you to react, whereas a Santa Claus demobilizes you."
-Dominique LaPierre, White Guilt
Often I'll have an idea of what I want to write about but hold off until I find a good example or another article or two that rounds out the concept and helps express it more clearly.  Two such pieces came together for me last year and resulted in a blog entry that people liked quite a bit.  The Road From Serfdom was its title; an excerpt:
This road is not unusual.  Many people who were once left leaning grew out of it over time.  Some find a shocking event pushes them away such as the terrorist attacks on 9/11 - the proverbial "mugging" that turns a leftist into a conservative.  For some, such as Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs, the conversion didn't last.  For others, it is life changing.
There's an article at American Thinker by a former hard leftist about why she left the movement.  Here's how she puts it:
How far left was I? So far left my beloved uncle was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party in a Communist country. When I returned to his Slovak village to buy him a mass card, the priest refused to sell me one. So far left that a self-identified terrorist proposed marriage to me. So far left I was a two-time Peace Corps volunteer and I have a degree from UC Berkeley. So far left that my Teamster mother used to tell anyone who would listen that she voted for Gus Hall, Communist Party chairman, for president. I wore a button saying "Eat the Rich." To me it wasn't a metaphor.

I voted Republican in the last presidential election.
For Danusha V. Goska, the change was not due to learning the things she'd been told were lies and distortions, but instead a growing realization of what she was aligned to in her political stance.  She lists 10 reasons why she left the left, ten things she came to realize as she was in the university and teaching.

...
Goska saw a contrast between the left and the right.  Her friends on the right seemed more interested in love, they did things that helped those in need, they reached out and donated and volunteered, not protesting and to organizations to destroy that which they hated, but organizations to help those in need.  She writes:
Recently, I was trying to explain this aspect of why I stopped being a leftist to a left-wing friend, Julie. She replied, "No, I'm not an unpleasant person. I try to be nice to everybody."

"Julie," I said, "You are an active member of the Occupy Movement. You could spend your days teaching children to read, or visiting the elderly in nursing homes, or organizing cleanup crews in a garbage-strewn slum. You don't. You spend your time protestingand trying to destroy something -- capitalism."

"Yes, but I'm very nice about it," she insisted. "I always protest with a smile."
The smile covers a yen to destroy.  The nice slogans are disguise for hate.  The bitterness and rancor runs very deeply, and is innate to the movement at this time.  There's so much fear beneath the rhetoric, so much vicious sadism in their unguarded comments its hard to bear.  MSNBC has to routinely have one of their talking heads apologize for something shocking and outrageous they said, but reading comments on leftist blogs and facebook posts you can tell that MSNBC guy thought he was showing admirable restraint.
The contrast is one that is growing in profile.  As I (and Goska) note, there are those on the right who are filled with rage and fear, too.  I reject the cutesy names for President Obama, the hysteria behind the "he's a crypto-Muslim trying to destroy America out of malice" rhetoric.  Because not only is it ridiculous and false, but its harmful to what we represent and want to do
Still the piece left some thinking I was being focused on politics and bashing the left, when I had another cause entirely in mind, which I wrote about in a follow up article:
My primary argument was not that if we're nice enough hordes of people will abandon leftist ideology and we'll all win in a big rainbow-arched parade of joy and utopia.  I think we're headed to a very dark and difficult time in the very near future.  I think the left has won in America and the republic as we knew it is in its last stages.
My point was rather to note that Goska's reaction to the left and right tells us something not just about how we should behave, but how we can behave.  Because the bitterness, anger, hate, and strident outrage she saw in her leftist friends and colleagues drove her away, toward the love and genuine good will of those she knew on the right.
See, the point isn't that this will be some massive flood of converts because of behavior, but that it tells us what we ought to avoid. 

FAUX HATE 2014

The main Faux Hate theme of the end of 2014 was rape hysteria on colleges, with several notable and high profile false accusations of rape in the news.  Cases as far back as 2013 were revealed to have been faked, but the "College Rape Epidemic" story was pushed hard by the Obama administration and various news organizations.
  • February 2014, a family has a "tie die party" and the mother of one of the children writes a letter, saying her child will not attend due to dislike of their "lifestyle."  Social media and blogs went wild.  Turns out it was.. you guessed it: fake, created by a radio show which later claims it was only to "start a conversation."
  • October 2014, a man cries racist at an Asian man wearing a "cholo" costume for Halloween and is disregarded by her target.   Later, he claims to have gotten death threats on social media, but later admits that they were faked.  He claims that he only did it to "raise awareness."
  • November, 2014: The most infamous was the Rolling Stone's idiotic "Jackie" story which was contradictory and falling apart even as it was reported on.  But it was too good a story to pass up, and eventually it was revealed that the writer Sabrina Rubin Eardly had a story written and just was looking for a victim to highlight.
  • December 2014, a set of several black cardboard cutouts and manikins hung in effigy on the UC Berkeley campus.  Police investigated and found... you guessed it, on the nation's most radically leftist campus, it was a group of "queer activists and POC" that did it, trying to draw attention to acts of evil in the past.
  • December, 2014; A Muslim student at University of Michigan finds his home vandalized by three women pelting his door with eggs and leaving hateful messages behind.  Right wing hate by anti-immigrant bigots is blamed.  The perpetrators end up being angry leftists who didn't like his newspaper columns.
This is part of the Faux Hate Crime series.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

BEST OF 2014: Weed Makes You Dumb

"Why ... I'm just lookin' for a little slap n' pickle"
I posted a couple times about marijuana last year, as it was the year of the legalized weed.  Colorado and Washington's laws were in effect and Oregon voted to add themselves to the list of states that defy federal law regarding marijuana.  The long-term effects of this are difficult to be certain about, but its very likely going to be a bad thing overall -- and a bad thing that can never be reversed.

This piece got a lot of attention weeks after I posted it originally, and its about a study that showed brain damage and loss of mental acuity resulting from smoking pot in one's teens.  I've long known that it makes you stupid, having seen it over and over again in life, but a scientific and medical study was useful to help make the point.  An excerpt:
Which brings me to a study that was recently released by the National Institute of Drug Abuse in the USA.  Reported in the New England Journal of Medicine for the National Institute of Health, the report claims that use of marijuana in teenage years causes a permanent loss of IQ.  It is estimated that 6.5% of high school seniors use marijuana nearly every day (and that number is probably higher, as it is illegal and self reporting will be diminished by that fact).  After a long-term study covering 38 years, the researchers concluded:
The scientists focused on marijuana’s harmful effects on teens, an age group in which the brain rapidly develops, which is one factor that could help explain increased risks from marijuana use in this population. Research suggests that marijuana impairs critical thinking and memory functions during use and that these deficits persist for days after using. In addition, a long-term study showed that regular marijuana use in the early teen years lowers IQ into adulthood, even if users stopped smoking marijuana as adults.
The research, part of the "Dunedin Study" (no relation to Aragorn) examined over 1000 people starting in 1972 and watched their lives, testing them regularly to see how their brains and bodies were, examining psychology and behavior, and so on.  And they discovered that if you smoke weed as a teenager, you are dumber as a result.

Monday, December 29, 2014

BEST OF 2014: Sacco and Vanzetti Common Knowledge

"My wife is absolutely certain that if I tell what I believe, I will be called a traitor to the movement and may not live to finish the book."
-Upton Sinclair
I've enjoyed doing the Common Knowledge series, and it seems like there's really no end to the number of stories that have been misleading or misunderstood in the past.  I still have quite a few lined up in my links to get to when the mood strikes me, stuff like the Rosenbergs, Internment camps, and more.  One of the biggest linked and read stories I did this year was one on a "trial of the century" from the early 20th, about two radicals who got a lousy trial but were guilty as sin.  But back then, you couldn't squeeze out of it by being a popular radical like Bill Ayers.  Their names were  Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti and they were darlings of the hard left.  An excerpt:
Upton Sinclair wrote a book about how the men were innocent and railroaded, but later letters were found indicating that he feared for his life and decided "It is much better copy as a naive defense of Sacco and Vanzetti because this is what all my foreign readers expect, and they are 90% of my public."  Sinclair's biographer Pasco later said in an interview with NPR:
I think he cut some corners on this. He thought that a larger truth was that there was repression in America and that that was his subject and that innocent people sometimes were found guilty. I think that he showed a similar kind of ethical lapse later on when he was very hesitant in the late 1930s and early 1940s to condemn Stalin.

Even if the men were guilty, he felt that the larger context of the world in which they were living rendered their guilt perhaps less important than it might have been otherwise.
As the son of one of the group of Boston revolutionaries told Pasco, “They all lied. They did it for the cause.”  The cause was more important than the crimes or the lives taken, more important than the robbery of working class people's payroll.  More important than the truth.
One of the attorneys for Sacco and Vanzetti, Fred Moore, was a strong defender of the pair, but when he became convinced that they were actually guilty of the crimes, they fired him.  Moore later told Sinclair that the men were guilty and further how he'd created fraudulent alibis for the men.
One of the primary men behind the public outcry defending Sacco and Vanzetti was Willi Münzenberg, who worked for Josef Stalin.  He raised half a million dollars for their defense and publicity, of which the Committee only saw about $6000.  As Chuck DeVore points out in Human Events:
Known by historically minded conservatives as “anti-anti-communism,” this crusading mindset of the left in America made the Cold War all the more dangerous by disarming a large segment of the American population to the notion that the Soviet Union and communism was a deadly enemy to be resisted. Instead, the theory of “moral equivalency” took hold, largely due to the efforts of people such as Upton Sinclair, whose influential writings portrayed the United States as a bad nation with no standing to criticize the U.S.S.R., a Socialist workers’ paradise.
In 1926, a bomb destroyed the house of the man who called the police on Sacco.  While in prison, Sacco called for the public death of the judge, who he blamed for everything now instead of his lawyers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

SWEET LITTLE WHO?

A Christmas repost from a few years back.  Why are you celebrating Christmas at all if you don't even mention its origin and purpose?
Sweet little Jesus Boy
They made you be born in a manger
Sweet little Holy Child
Didn't know who You was
-Sweet Little Jesus Boy*

Manger Scene This season is more known by pictures of a fat elf in a red and white suit than it is for manger scenes, angels, and baby Jesus. This transformation is in a way not surprising, as America is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity and any public displays of Christian faith. At the same time, the commercialism of the nation has become even more pronounced so the image of a gift-distributing myth better fits the culture than a self-sacrificing savior of love and peace.

Yet I have a suggestion for parents. Instead of teaching your children about Santa Claus, instead of telling the story of a magic fat bearded elf who shows up once a year with a reindeer-pulled sleigh, try a different story. Tell your children about Jesus. I know, its radical, but hear me out.

Those of you who are Christians consider possibly telling your children the story of Jesus Christ, of his miraculous birth, his saving mission, his loving parents, the adoring shepherds, the tales of his youth. Tell them about the greatest drama on earth, so they know what Christmas is about. Teach them of the incarnation of God in humanity to live and save and teach and die for salvation and love.
Didn't know you come to save us, Lord?
To take our sins away
Our eyes was blind, we couldn't see
We didn't know who You was.
Those of you who are Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and other religions who either consider themselves Christian or heavily borrow from Christian origins, think of the same thing. Even if you have problems with some of the basic Christian doctrines of God and man in one flesh, teach them the story in the Bible, because it is part of what you believe, and Santa isn't.
Long time ago, you was born
Born in a manger low
Sweet little Jesus Boy.
If you are Muslim, then teach them the scriptures as well, teach them of when Jesus came and the stories around his arrival. Read to them from the Bible, because Muhammad taught that it was scripture as well.
The world treat You mean, Lord
treat me mean, too
But that's how things is down here
We didn't know t'was You.
If you are Jewish or Hindu or some other religion, teach your children about Jesus because he was a historical person who walked the earth, teach them the tales about Jesus because the season doesn't make sense without understanding what is said. Teach them the stories about Jesus even if you don't believe them because of the history of western culture and the impact on the world makes it a useful, important thing to know.
You done showed us how
We is trying
Master, You done showed us how
Even when you's dying.
If you are atheist or agnostic, if you think the Bible is a myth and Jesus was just a guy - if he lived at all - teach your children anyway. Teach them about the Jesus myth if that's what you think it is, because if you're going to tell your children a fantasy, why not tell them about the fantasy of Jesus Christ so they understand all those carols and why people celebrate his birth this time of year? It is, as I noted above, an incredibly historical event, a deeply significant thread of the history of the world that has had such transformational power over cultures and years that it cannot be ignored without damaging history and literature.
Just seem like we can't do right
Look how we treated You.
But please, sir, forgive us Lord
We didn't know 'twas You.
Teach them about Jesus instead of a fat elf, because Jesus really lived and is so foundational to our past and our culture, while Santa Claus is a myth largely created by department stores trying to drum up more sales. Santa Claus is a story extremely loosely based on the life of a Christian man in the distant past who would be absolutely horrified at how his legacy is being presented. The Santa we know now is almost completely a commercialized creation, a massive trans-company advertising gimmick that has become so embraced and embedded in culture that it is pushing aside Jesus Christ.

Yes, I know Jesus probably wasn't born around this time of year but now is when we celebrate his birth. Yes, I know some of you think Santa is so cute and fun for the kids, but so is the amazing story of Jesus. Yes I know you think Santa is an irreplacable part of giving gifts and the "spirit of Christmas" but he's a pale, weak shadow of the ultimate gift which encourages giving and the true Spirit that shone on that day long ago. Children love Jesus, believe me.

Just a humble suggestion to consider. Forget Santa. Forget the socks on the mantle. Forget reindeer, red-nosed or otherwise. Teach Christ.
Sweet little Jesus Boy
Born long time ago
Sweet little Holy Child
And we didn't know who You was.
*Sweet Little Jesus Boy is an old negro spiritual from the south that slaves sung about Jesus and his birth. The themes of forgiveness, cruelty of man, longing for freedom, and the love of Jesus are powerful today, even long past the ending of slavery.

Friday, December 19, 2014

THE LIGHT CONTENT SEASON

I apologize for the light content for a few weeks, but this is a tough time of year, very busy and exhausting. And since I've been pouring most of my energy into rebuilding my old dusty Kestrel Arts website, I don't have much to spare for a blog.  So the content has been light and the posts few.

If you'd like a preview of the blog in progress you can head over and if you want leave some comments and suggestions or criticisms.  Its in progress and has no active links (other than the main pages) but the structure is there.  I think its a big upgrade from the old site, even if it advertises Wix for me.

My hope is with a better, professional-looking site, I can refer people there and be found easier online, and maybe that will help me with sales.  2015 looks cautiously promising for Kestrel Arts and my writing, with new products, a better blog, and a new book coming out, God willing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

GOOD COP/BAD COP

"A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader."
-Samuel Adams

Let's play a game!  Its called Good Cop/Bad Cop.  You see if you can identify the good and bad cops from these pictures!  Well no, not really, but take a look at a few images with me.
First, a more recent one, which should be familiar.  This is used as an image of a brutal mean cop abusing power:
Aside from his holding the gun sideways, this guy is doing everything right.  He's protecting his partner from a mob, his finger is off the trigger.  He was undercover in a "rally" and got identified, so the guy on the ground started attacking him.  He and his partner took down the guy and the crowd got ugly, so this guy is ordering them back.  The gun is sideways probably not out of habit but because gangsta rap-riddled street people probably identify that with danger more than handling the pistol correctly.  Good Cop.
Lets look at another cop:
Here we have a police officer kicking a restrained person in the head.  Maybe she's mouthing off but she's sitting and has already been cuffed.  That's a bad cop.  There's nothing she could have done to justify a boot to the head, as satisfying as it might have been, depending on how she's talking.  Bad cop.
This one?  A cop shutting down a national park walkway during the "government shutdown" last year.  He's a Forest Service officer, putting up a barrier.  Here's another:
 And another:
Each of these law enforcement officials are following orders to close off open areas not due to a lack of funds - they're being paid and working - and not because the areas are unsafe without police.  They're being told to do it because it was meant to generate negative publicity and help the press portray the government shut down as awful, painful and an act of depraved evil by Ted Cruz.
It worked with some people - to this day I know leftists that call him 'crazy' and so on.  But it wasn't being done for any valid law enforcement purpose.  Blocking off the completely open WW2 memorial to vets in wheelchairs was an act of a jerk, not reasonable law enforcement.  And the cops that carried this out?  Bad cops.
Here's an older pic.  Its a police officer who ordered a large group of people to leave, and they refused.  They resisted being picked up.  He was outnumbered and surrounded by others.  So he pulled out the pepper spray as per training and police procedure to subdue them and take them in.  It looked bad on camera to have the fascist pig hosing down beloved peaceful Occupy members who didn't resist, but the fact was, they were breaking the law, resisting arrest, and refusing to cooperate.  So they got the spray.  Good Cop.
And one last one.  This 400 pound giant refused to be arrested.  He simply defied the cops and said he wasn't going in.  How much he was influenced by the news full of riots and protests against cops is unclear but he was resisting arrest, even if not violently.  When you're that big you don't have to be tough.  
 In the ensuing struggle, he died of a heart attack - not due to a choke hold, but as you can see, the hold is called a "seatbelt hold" and is permitted by the NYPD; its supposedly less dangerous to employ.  This guy was in awful shape, so how long he had without the struggle is unclear.  If he'd lived, nobody would even know about the arrest.  So good cop?

There's more to this story: these cops were only doing this (and there were quite a few of them, including a black woman supervising officer) because of a crackdown related to a recent ordinance passed by the New York City government.  This guy was guilty of the horrific crime of selling single cigarettes on the street.  
And when you sell them that way - usually obtained from highjacked/stolen cigs or from Indian reservation stores - the NYC government doesn't get their several dollar-a-pack tax.  This arrest only took place because the city wanted its blood, and they got it in this man's life.
WHAT WE WANT TO IGNORE
See, there's something going on behind the scenes here that isn't being discussed in the news or many places.  Its an important something, too.  Its one of those things that is the root cause but is uncomfortable or unwelcome to think about.  We all know it, but since it gets in the way of a political position or ideal, then we pretend to ignore it or think otherwise.
Its like during the bailouts of huge banks and corporations in 2008.  TARP, we were told by pundit after news anchor, after talking head, after politician, that we couldn't simply let CITI and BankAmerica dangle, that they had to be protected.  When the banks die and you're left without your retirement, well tough.  But these megacorporations have to survive, they are "too big to fail."
Why?  Well the argument went like this: they're so rich and hire so many people, and are such a significant portion of the US economy that if JP Morgan Chase folds, that would collapse the economy.  This, we were told, by many people who at the same time would insist that "trickle down" is a lie, that the Laffer Curve is trash, and that rich people can be taxed massively without harming jobs or the economy.
They understand the problem with their arguments, they know better, but they argue against it anyway because they hold to a certain economic ideal that appeal to them emotionally and all their friends agree, so it must be true.
THE BOOT
In the same way, everyone knows something basic about government: if it gets too powerful, too big, and too all-encompassing, it becomes tyrannical and destructive.  Everyone knows this, even the biggest big-government socialist.  They draw the line different places but we all know it.
And we also all know, deep down, that every incremental step of power, regulation, and law that the government encroaches upon our liberties and lives, the more power law enforcement must necessarily have to impose that power upon us.
Government only exists as an exercise of power.  It is force, it is out of the barrel of the gun, ultimately.  Government can be a tremendous force for good and productivity, progress and benefit.  But it only does so if it has the power to do so, if it has the money and the means to engage its power toward these ends.  And every single dollar and bullet of that power the government has means less power to the individual person, the community, the local people.
Law enforcement is carrying out the will of an ever-increasing monster with billions of tentacles reaching out further and further.  If they go too far, often if not most of the time, its because they're being pressured and directed to by their bosses.  
For every "free speech zone" there's a cop arresting people for expressing their freedom of speech in the "wrong place."  For every city ordinance against smoking, there's a cop writing someone up for smoking in the wrong place.  For every regulation against trans fats, there's a law enforcement official reporting on a restaurant serving the wrong food.
Each new law that passes, each regulation, each rule, each executive order, each new court ruling represents a restriction of your liberty, its true.  But it also represents another bullet in the magazine of the police officer who is just out there to enforce the law.  And sometimes that means they're directed to go out and enforce bad laws in bad ways.  Like "shutting down" an open public space, or choking out a guy for selling cigarettes.
When you read about some little kid being shut down for not having a license to sell lemonade, that law enforcement individual is being a jerk, but he's being a jerk because he's being forced or at least told to by someone higher in authority.
And that power we've incrementally given more and more and more and more of to the government, centralizing it increasingly away from us, our input, and our ability to act to restrain it by accountability, votes, and pressure, inevitably and absolutely results in more abuse by law enforcement officials.
There's a reason cops were given military surplus starting with the Clinton administration.  There's a reason they're getting more and more tools to limit our freedom and make their lives easier to "catch the bad guys."  Its because there are more, and more, and more bad guys every day added to the rolls simply by doing what they've always done.  Every new law means one more thing we can't do that the cops have to stop us from doing.
So bad cops?  Yeah.  There are bad cops out there.  But too often, they're bad because they're directed to be by who we put in power with our votes, hoping for more goodies and more things to be "fixed" by the right law, the right guy in power, and the right regulation.  For our own good.  And people don't really seem to want to think about that.

Friday, December 12, 2014

THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS

"The end justifies the means only when the means used are such as actually bring about the desired and desirable end."
-John Dewey

There's been a lot in the news lately that makes me scratch my head at how bold people are getting about their ethical system.  Here are just a handful:
  • A journalist writes an article about a girl who said she was raped, and when called on its falsehood, the author and editors claim what really matters really important thing is how the University responded to the charge, not the truth or faleshood of the story.
  • Eco activists put a huge sign in a sacred area, violating it and possibly damaging it forever.
  • A pundit claims that the approach he recommends is lying and deception but its fine because people are stupid and it will accomplish his goals.
  • Multiple child molesters and rapists force their victims to get abortions yet even after having been told by children that they are being abused, the abortionists do nothing, report nothing, and return the children in the care of their predators.
There are three kinds of ethical approaches, I believe: opportunism, pragmatism, and idealism:
Ethical Opportunism is a system by which you decide right and wrong by how well it serves you at the moment.  Did you succeed, did that help you?  Then it must have been right.   One's goals may be long term, or short, lofty or mean, but what decides right and wrong is how well each decision pleases and benefits you.

Ethical Pragmatism decides right and wrong by how well an action taken succeeds in achieving one's goals.  For the Ethical Pragmatist, right and wrong are decided by the end result: did it work? Then it must have been the right thing to do. The steps taken along the path toward the fulfillment of the goal are sanctified by the end results.

Ethical Idealism decides right and wrong by an objective, absolute system of ethics.  Each decision is based on how closely it adheres to this concept of right and wrong regardless of its success or personal benefit.
Each of these changes how one reacts to or chooses a course of action.  Was what I did wrong or right?  Is what I am planning good or ill?  If you believe that the ends justify the means, that will make your actions considerably different than someone who believes they must adhere to a standard of right and wrong for each decision.
Now, people will often slip into one of these when caught up doing wrong or when accused of ill doing, to justify and defend themselves, even when they may not philosophically hold to that position.  "Everyone else was doing it" is a fine Ethical Opportunist's answer - I gained peer approval and felt part of a group - and "well it got the job done" is something the Ethical Pragmatist would appreciate, but neither is necessarily what you really believe.  We don't like being wrong, and we feel weak and endangered when justly accused of doing wrong, so we try to find a way to argue that it wasn't really all that bad.
And certainly none of us are perfectly consistent.  We'll never be one perfectly exact way in our thinking and deeds, because we're affected by far too many outside influences and inside changes and tendencies to be the same each time.
But all of us choose one of these to follow, most of the time, even if we've not thought it through very clearly.  And what we're seeing more and more in popular culture is example after example of people for whom Ethical Pragmatism is a way of life.
Sure, we may have lied, but our lie was for a good cause - a "deeper truth" as CBS claimed when confronted with the blatant falsehood of their anti-Bush memo report.
Sure, we could have destroyed something precious and ancient, but it was to get the word out, and you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, you know?
Sure, technically rioting and burning is bad, but sometimes the only way to bring change is to shock people and get their attention!
And this isn't in any way surprising.  When Nicolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince he was poking fun - carefully - at the soulless cruelty and unethical activities of the rulers he knew.  It was a satirical book meant to get people to think twice, and maybe even rulers to think twice, about their governments.  So he wrote a book as if it was a primer in being a horrible heartless tyrant that cared nothing but for power and control, and it was very good.
He didn't mean "the ends justify the means" as a way of life, he meant it as a criticism and a condemnation. But in that, he demonstrated the end result of someone for whom right and wrong are a matter of results and personal preference rather than objective, absolute standards.  The only way someone could be so heartless, evil, and oppressive as the rulers he satirized was if they had abandoned all good and evil entirely.
And this is what we have today: people for whom the idea of right and wrong is almost alien, beyond "what hurts me directly and immediately." They have a vague concept of Republicans being evil and a list of sins like Nazis, not liking bacon, and racism but its entirely gut instinct and emotion, not rational and examined.
What else could people end up with, after jettisoning the basic ethical foundations of a society?  They can't appeal to for others or check their own behavior by appealing to what we all agree to and know.  There's nothing we all agree to and know any more.  So all that's left is what achieves goals; what brings power.
So we ought not be surprised to see people violating their very own stated standards of right and wrong or behavior.  To them it makes sense, if it achieves their goals.  Because if it works, it must have been right... right?

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

THE BESTIARY RISES

I've been hard at work for a while now getting one final product on the shelf for this year.  The last one I finally put out was the Jolrhos Bestiary (volume one).  Its a big book like my Fantasy Codex this last summer.
At just under 400 pages, the Bestiary is mostly monsters - 277 pages worth of more than 300 varieties - and the illustrations and checking the math took quite a while to finish.  Its a beauty:
I'm proud of how this book turned out, and with the Codex forms two volumes of a planned series outlining my game world and setting so people can just pick it up and play straight out of the book.  Fantasy Hero is a wonderful system but it takes a lot of work to set up and detail everything - it doesn't have a pre-built world like D&D does - so I'm doing all that work for others.
The Jolrhos Bestiary has tons of other materials in it, not just monsters.  There's a section on running 'pets' in a game like the ones featured in MMOGs.  I have details on running and owning mounts, and sections on training both mounts and pets, including specific unique skills and talents they can learn.
One part I particularly like was inspired by the game Aces & Eights.  A nearly unplayable Western RPG, it had a great section on horses and giving them quirks that set them apart.  So I put that together for mounts and pets in a fantasy game; your griffon mount may be brave, but it likes flying so much its hard to keep on the ground, for example.
And also included is "body loot," a concept familiar to computer gamers: what is on the creature or can be harvested off of it.  Eggs, leather, scales, alchemical compounds, and much more.  How hard are they to recover?  How long does it take?  How heavy is a dragon's hide?  How much is it worth?  All of that is covered.
Packed with art, information, indexes, and hundreds of monsters, the Jolrhos Bestiary isn't like the usual Monster Manual type.  This book doesnt have yet another set of goblins and dragons.  Its full of unique, strange, and fascinating unusual creatures for the Jolrhos world setting.
My theory was that if I have this book out, I can reference any number of monsters in a module I write for Fantasy RPGs without needing to write them up.  People can just buy the book and have all the info they need.
The Bestiary is available several places and in different formats:
In hardbound print ($30.00): at Lulu
In softcover print ($20.00): at Createspace
In pdf e-book download ($12.99): At Hero Games!
ON the horizon for 2015 are at least 4 more books, including 1-2 large sourcebooks, such as a Treasury full of loot and a Field Guide that you'll have to see to believe, nothing else has been put out like it for gaming, that I'm aware of.
And, of course, more adventures like The Lost Castle and Elenthar's Tower.  Right now this stuff is selling better than my novels.

Friday, December 05, 2014

PLEADING DOWN JUSTICE

"In asking Eric Holder to investigate Eric Holder, Obama illustrated the difficulty of adequately addressing prosecutorial misconduct as well as anyone possibly could"

I tried to watch a documentary on Netflix called Whitey recently.  It was supposedly the story of Whitey Bulger, who ran crime in Boston for about 30 years, but mostly it was the Defense team's case and lots of conspiracy theories about the FBI, so I gave up about halfway through.
But the story of Whitey Bulger is a disturbing and interesting one.  A rising thug in the Boston mob, he used informing on rivals and competitors in the criminal world to systematically destroy anything between him and absolute control.
He maintained his position by giving the FBI credible victories over organized crime that didn't hurt his earnings or mob, but took out trouble makers and rivals.  And from testimony and documentation at the trial it appears that the FBI protected him because he was a useful informant.
Further, he was given immunity repeatedly by the FBI in exchange for information leading to arrests, particularly of people in Bulger's way on the path to power.  And this brings up a problem that I think nearly everyone complains about in the modern justice system: the plea bargain.
Conrad Black writes in the National Review:
Eight to 10 percent of federal and state cases are dismissed because of a technical error or because a defendant chooses to cooperate, but of the rest, 97 percent of federal cases and about 95 percent of state cases are resolved by plea bargains, and, in practice, these are almost invariably dictated by the prosecutor.
The plea bargain is where someone is given a reduced or dropped charge for crimes by giving information on a target the prosecutor is much more interested in.  If you've seen any crime or police show on TV you've seen this happening. 
"Flip on Big Al and we'll give you a deal!"
"I want immunity or I'm sayin nothin!"
"OK pal, you got it, now give us the goods!"
This isn't new, its been done for centuries, but its gotten more and more common to give someone immunity or reduced sentencing in exchange for busting someone more important.  After all, the prosecutors argue, who's more dangerous to society, the small time crook or his big boss?  The dealer or the supplier?  The prostitute or the mobster in charge of prostitution on the whole West Side?
The arguments are moving, but there does come a point when you wonder if its worth letting all the lesser criminals go and clearing the way for them to become greater by jailing their bosses?  And did not Giuliani prove in NYC that clearing out little crimes made the bigger crimes go away, too?
What happens if you keep letting criminals go when they get caught because they have word about bigger fish?  It seems like the little fish get bigger, and have less and less regard for the law.  Where's the threat of arrest if all it does is waste a few days of their time with free room and board?
Black goes on:
The percentage of federal prosecutions tried by juries declined from 19 percent in 1980 to 3 percent today, as prosecutors have huge advantages over defense counsel and throw a great raft of counts against a defendant who declines to roll over. The prosecutor wins most of the cases that are tried and, as he can decide on the number and level of gravity of counts charged, defendants can face as much as ten times as heavy a sentence if they plead guilty as they would if they try the case and, as usually happens, lose.
Prosecutors love this because it makes them look effective.  If they never have to go to trial, its cheaper.  Get some small fry to plead to a few months of time and you get a conviction, so your stats look great.  Crime goes down, see the numbers of all these convictions?  The major is tough on crime!
The more convictions they get like this, the more effective they look, and the more hopeless fighting them in court seems.  I win 95% of the time, and all you get is some worthless PD. Plea down and you get a reduced sentence.  Don't plea down and I'll charge you with everything in the book, no matter how flimsy.  You'll never see the light of day until you're retirement age.  Do the smart thing.
Instead of being a "fair and reasonable bargain" between the accused and the prosecutor as the Supreme Court ruled, the system is so stacked its pretty much hopeless to try to fight it. 
Which brings up another major problem: if you're innocent but face the choice between a few months of time and some community service, or being charged with 18 counts and court fights for months, probably losing that anyway... which do you choose?  This isn't justice, its a machine that grinds everyone down for the prosecutors to look good.  How many have been crushed in this system how many innocents?  Nobody can really say, because these plea negotiations happen in private without oversight or examination.  But all the pressure and all the cards are on the prosecution's side, and they have no reason to not pressure and intimidate a suspect except presumably some sense of justice.  Once that person pleas guilty, the investigation stops.
This win at all costs approach is what gave us ABSCAM in the 80s; where guilty and corruptcongressmen such as Jack Murtha were let go because they were willing to give evidence against other congressmen.  Its what gave us Whitey Bulger, who continued a spree of murder, theft, drugs, prostitution, and worse without being stopped because he was too useful to the FBI (and probably giving away "gifts" to the right people).
And that same approach is what is causing cases to be overturned as federal prosecutors, driving to win and certain of intimidating their opponents, are being busted for breaking the rules and even laws.  The most common abuse is for prosecutors to not bother sharing all evidence and information with defense attorneys as the law requires.  They usually don't want to because it would hurt their case and I suppose they figure the defense won't be good enough to notice or have the courage to complain.  But again and again cases keep being thrown out for this lately.
I understand to some degree.  Prosecutors want to win, and more than that, winning means beating a bad guy.  They're on the side of the law, trying to catch and punish criminals.  Some killer or rapist or monster needs to be taken off the streets, needs to be punished.  So they cut corners.
But the corners are what makes the system just, and every time you shave away like that, everyone loses some liberty and justice is damaged.
Police are under the same pressure and will to win.  For decades, cases like Miranda and more forced cops to be able to do less and less, handcuffing them and helping the criminals.  The pendulum swung so badly that voters began pushing back with minimum sentencing laws and voting for people tougher on crime.
But the cops are still pushing and the pendulum is swinging back the other direction again.  With the overmilitarization of police, citizens are facing a law enforcement system that is ready to fight against an army, not keep the peace.  Tanks and bombs are part of the cops arsenal these days, and each time the police gains power like that, the balance shifts toward government.
Complicating matters is the desire to make the job easier for police, which is where cameras start sprouting all over.  Its easier for police if they film everyone all the time, but where does liberty and privacy go in this case?  Its easier for the police if they keep all fingerprints and DNA of everyone they check forever.  But again, privacy?
If a cop checks your finger prints "for elimination" in a case, to make sure they know whose prints are whose in a crime scene, they keep those.  Forever.  And share them with the entire nation, and even world on request.  If you are arrested mistakenly, they keep those prints.  Same with DNA.  Elimination samples are checked and put in a database.  Forever.
Yes, that makes the job easier for cops.  Yes it helps catch bad guys. But is it really a reasonable search and seizure?  Is it truly right that they keep intimate details of non criminals on record for all cops to pull from?
At a certain point, what makes a cop's job easier goes from reasonable power to enforce the law and becomes a tool of tyranny that intimidates citizens, eroding liberty.  When the law has become so broad in its application and the enforcement so powerful it is inevitable that the citizens begin to suffer and rebel.
The more capricious, excessive, or abusive the law becomes, the more resistance and rebellion will become visible.  And the more that takes place, the more violent, abusive, and power hungry law enforcement becomes.
Think about it.  If the taxes on cigarettes had not been so high in NYC, and the new law cracking down on illegal sales - followed up by a "crackdown" on the streets - then would we have this new case of a man dying while being arrested by cops?  If we demand police enforce more and more broad and extreme laws, the results are inevitably worse and more violent.
And in the end, we all lose in a society that lacks wisdom and has laws so overbroad you can't cross town without violating a book full.  Then its just a matter of when and who gets targeted by the government, not if.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE: Ferguson

Pants Up, Don't Loot

The ongoing riots, protests, and rallies around the fatal shooting of a youth in Ferguson, Missouri has dominated the news for weeks now.  The facts are easy enough to gather: a young man on drugs violently robbed a convenience store, assaulting the owner, then walked down the middle of the street until police pulled him off to the side.  Attacking the police officers, he was shot and killed.
There were the usual "the cops killed him!" comments from nearby people whether they actually saw what happened or not, and unscrupulous lawyers descended from flying overhead on vulture's wings to take advantage of the mother's grief at losing her child.  Like every mother since motherhood began, she cried that her baby was an innocent snowflake, an angel, a saint!
The difference here is that the press blatantly, openly trumpeted the mother's argument without question or critical analysis, and passed on every rumor that made the cop look bad until things exploded.  The alleged expert that the family hired was never vetted by the press, who uncritically believed every word he told them, only admitting weeks later that he was not qualified and was essentially a con man.
The usual suspects showed up: Jackson, Sharpton, etc looking to make money and take advantage of the situation for publicity and personal power.  And as soon as the inquest gave a not guilty declaration for the police officer, carefully planned protests popped up all around the United States.  Rioting, burning, looting, and even killing took place, with even the original shop owner who the young man robbed being trashed and looted again.
The slogan "hands up, don't shoot" taken from a fictitious account by an "eyewitness" the press blithely reprinted became the talking point, with even congressmen and football players raising their hands mimicking the myth.  And the New York Times and other newspapers printed the address of the cop in their national publications in violation of their written policies.
At least, that's what the conservative media will tell us.  The left has another story of a racist cop who gunned down an innocent youth who was surrendering in yet another example of evil white oppression of minorities, proving that racism abounds in America and how the black man can't get a break.  They say the inquest was full of lies, that the data is all nonsense, that the facts presented by the city and the police department are all doctored.
Behind this all is an unfortunate fact: sometimes people are killed improperly by police.  Some cops are racist.  Sometimes blacks are targeted unfairly and treated poorly because of bad police work.  For example, as I type this, news broke that a NYPD cop who used a choke hold on a huge black man who resisted arrest for selling illegal cigarettes killed him.  But the grand jury declined to indict the cop despite the fact that the choke hold is banned in the New York Police Department (and every department in America that I'm aware of).
So while its easy to dismiss the protests and rallies as ignorant race baiting nonsense, there's a deeper problem here that people are upset about.
It is absolute fact that more blacks are killed by blacks every year than by whites.  Further its true that more whites are killed by blacks than by whites.  Its true that cops have a very good reason to focus more on blacks for street crime, because most street crime is committed by black people.  Whites tend to commit more white collar level crime - although that's a generalization, there are black fraudsters and white gang banging thugs.
But that doesn't negate the real concern blacks have that cops are targeting them.  And it does not take more than one bad encounter to convince most people of an overall trend.  Which brings us to the Christian response.
We live in a culture where increasingly people are concluding that they shouldn't pay a price for anything bad that they do, and further that anyone who catches them doing wrong or pointing that out is the real bad guy.  No matter how much of a cosmic jerk someone is, if someone calls them on it, the response is usually to complain that the accuser is being horrible and fascistic.
As Christians, we have to start by realizing this tendency in our culture and fighting it in ourselves.  We must recognize that we too may be led to act this way, instead of responding in humility and repentance.  Christianity uniquely recognizes that all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.  Christianity recognized uniquely that even saved people are sinners and need God's grace every day.  So we must be first among those around us to fight this trend and show the way of humility, grace, and repentance, not hostility, arrogance, and stubbornness.
Second, we also must be willing to realize that frustrated, frightened, and angry blacks facing double digit unemployment, growing inflation on basic goods, and overall malaise have good reason to be upset.  Yes, they are largely misguided in their target and being manipulated by cold, heartless, and scheming hucksters, but their concerns are not without merit.
We should pray for and work toward a more just system of policing, a better and more scrupulous police force that strives to avoid the easy and familiar for the just and proper response.  And we need to work toward a culture where the thug life, street crime, and drugs are not so attractive and seemingly reasonable a path to walk.  With the grace of God and His sanctifying influence on our culture, perhaps a revival and return to Christ can sweep our culture to reverse these trends.
Certainly the grieving parents and family of this slain teen deserve our sympathy and prayers.   Whether they were good parents or they are acting like knuckleheads or not is not our concern.  That is between them and God.  Our duty is to love and support and pray.  Those living close and in touch with the family should try to guide them toward the truth and an attitude of humility and love, but for those of us outside that circle, mockery and contempt are sinful and wrong.
May God grant us a time soon when the cruel and sinful manipulation of grieving parents by con men and political agents comes to an end, and may we see ever increasing justice and cultural change through the grace of God.
Until that final day comes when Christ returns and all is made right with permanent, perfect justice, let us pray and work for God's glory in the world through love and a desire for justice, truth, and humble service.
*This is part of the Christian Response series.