Sunday, April 19, 2015

Blizzard, Hearthstone and Programming Errors

I've been in a fight with Blizzard for about two weeks concerning whether I have a bug in Hearthstone or not. Here's the video I posted on Youtube;




My first video posted anywhere on the internet.  It sucks, I know. Taken on a HTC Evo shift that is 5 years old, and I don't have the steadiest hands on the planet. You know which orifice you can access if you have a problem with it.

I'm in the Hearthstone tournament as an amateur (consistently loosing but it is fun) I'm disabled and live on a fixed income. I don't have cash to buy cards with, I do this for fun.  The only way I can earn new cards is by completing daily quests in the game and using the gold rewards to buy new decks. Except I can't complete quests. Haven't been able to for over a week now.  This bug has cost me several decks of cards at the time of this writing, possibly skewing the outcome of my tournament games. I mean, I do loose pretty consistently, but if the cards are in decks randomly, who is to know what cards I might have gotten or been able to make?

Playing on a system running Windows 7 (still) Playing in casual mode. Checked today (4/20) quests advanced in ranked play, still not advancing in casual. Seriously Blizzard, this isn't a hard programming glitch to fix. Should have been done within hours, certainly shouldn't have taken longer than a day. Been more than a week now.

I maintain that they owe me these card decks, and their response is that I'm just a stupid player who doesn't know what part of the game he's playing, since not all parts of the game give quest progress.  For the record, I figured that out about two days after I installed the game and I've been playing for several months.  Started playing sometime in beta before there even were solo games to play and earn cards. So I know my way around the game, just to be clear.

If anyone is wondering, I don't play ranked play over level 20; and I hit level 20 about 5 days into this months season, so it's been awhile since I switched over to casual.  If this is another one of those undocumented changes, and Blizzard wants us all to now play ranked all the time, the quests should probably say that. Not that I will play ranked all the time, I'll simply stop playing.  Not really interested in the more cutthroat play that you get in ranked play.

In my back and forth with the CS department at Blizzard, I've also discovered that their website has a basic flaw in it's programming. The "I still have a problem" button on ticket responses disappears when clicked.  I have to start new tickets in order to respond to the previous unsatisfactory answer to a ticket they deem answered. I've tried this on multiple systems, in multiple browsers. Always disappears. Like the Hearthstone bug, it must be my login if it isn't common across all players and installs of the game. It's my breath isn't it? Not sure how they smell it all the way over at Blizzard headquarters, but I'm at a loss to explain this any other way.

This is on top of my suspicion that there is at least one active hack that is pretty common in this game, which I also mention in the video.  My tournament opponent last week was a prime example of this modification to the game. His initial deal was perfect for all three of his wins. Not only was that perfect, but he just happened to draw the perfect counter for every card that I played. Through three games. For a total of about 25 turns. The chances of this happening randomly approach the astronomical.

As the video shows, I can dispatch my opponents pretty handily when the luck of the draw runs my way. Or when my opponent obligingly concedes when the game goes against him.

So, to summarize, I don't really think the problem is PEBKAC in this instance, even though it generally is. I'm not convinced that Blizzard programmers can find their asses with both hands, in the programming sense. I mean, if you can't keep your website buttons from disappearing, what can you do programming-wise?

I can say one thing for certain.  My script is canceled for World of Warcraft as of two days ago. I'm done paying for games that I find inadequate in programming.

Posted to the Hearthstone forums here.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Meniere's Awareness

It seems silly to me that people still don't know what Meniere's is. I guess that is because it has become so central to my life these days.  For the last couple of weeks I've toyed with writing several articles on various subjects, including some work on short fiction that I'd like to finish someday.

But for the entirety of these last few weeks my hearing has been burdened by painful tinnitus. So loud that I can't even soothe the sound away with rainymood or any other white noise treatment. I have a hard time forcing coherent thoughts through a barrier of noise that impenetrable, much less the capacity for multiple readings necessary to weed out all the random keystrokes that slip in when you aren't paying attention.

I wandered over to a fellow sufferer's blog earlier today (thanks to my reddit habit) and noticed he had put a new entry up on it. For those of you who don't know what Meniere's is, I'll post a short quote;
Symptomatically, most people experience “attacks” of violent rotational vertigo (feeling like the room is spinning), a feeling of fullness and pressure in the affected ear, loud ringing known as tinnitus, and progressive hearing loss. Many sufferers also report nausea, cognitive impairment (brain fog), fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
Meniere’s disease affects .2% of the population, roughly the same rate of incidence as Multiple Sclerosis. Yet virtually no one has ever heard of Meniere’s disease.

Here's the bit that caught my attention. A study I'd never run across conducted in 2000. The sample size is on the small side, but it still represents a statistically valid group.  The attention grabbing quote was this one;
“Meniere’s disease patients are among the most severely impaired non-hospitalized patients studied thus far … Patients describe impairment in travel, ambulation, work and other major social roles as well as trouble learning, remembering and thinking clearly.”
While this is clearly hyperbole from an unknown author (I can't seem to track down the original article quoted) the dense jargon in the study backs up the statement. Quality of life is reduced below the levels of deathly ill cancer patients.  Very few of my vertigo attacks (frequently referred to as drop attacks)  didn't include my begging everyone in earshot to please kill me.  The sensations are intolerable, and yet you have to tolerate them. You cannot escape them. Had someone offered me an easy way to end it all while in a vertiginous state, I would have readily taken them up on it.

That is what Meniere's is like on the bad days.  On the good days I just kick myself for being unable to accomplish the simplest tasks because I'm lucky to remember my name from one minute to the next, like the last two weeks have been.  There are days I forget. Mercifully, there are whole months that go by and I'm not forced to remember why I'm not working in architecture anymore. Looking forward to having a few of those days sometime in the hopefully not too distant future.

Back to the point.  The point of writing this. Meniere's awareness. At the bottom of the Mind Over Meniere's post (I hate that blog name. Sorry. I'm sure mine is annoying to many as well) is a link to yet another Change.org petition. One amongst thousands. This one seems silly, but maybe it will have a genuine effect if Bono can be convinced to help raise Meniere's awareness.  Who knows? Couldn't hurt to have someone say the word Meniere's in front of a crowded audience.  Surely someone will notice.

The song they're asking him to announce in front of is Vertigo. It goes to show you how far out of music that I am; I don't think I've even heard the song before. There was a day when I knew every artist on the charts. Knew who they were and what they sang.  The last thing I remember U2 doing was Joshua Tree.  Are they still a thing?

Anyway. Sign the petition if you are so inclined. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. All I know is that I want this damn ear to stop ringing so I can organize a few thoughts.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Homophobia In Denial

I think I was being too subtle;
"Queerest Thing Happened? What does that mean?"
Let me see if I can explain this to the slow of mind.

People used queer to describe homosexuals because the idea of homosexuality scared them.  This fear is born of latent homosexuality, fear that you are homosexual.  Ergo calling something gay because it upsets you means you experience latent homosexual feelings.

To put this bluntly; if you are a man, you like to look at other men's butts. No point in denying it, we've caught you looking, so just admit it and we'll get on to the next point. 

You've been taught that there's something wrong with finding other men...
(or women, if you are one. Not as much of a problem with women, so I understand.  Being a man I don't want to speak out of turn, so I'll offer this up as an explanation of my sexism on the subject)
 ...attractive.  Consequently you think that there should be some kind of punishment involved for people who find members of their own sex attractive enough to actually engage in sex acts with them.

This isn't about christian teachings. I know it's not about christian teachings because, as Jim Wright points out here, the law that mentions homosexuality is 39th in the book of Leviticus;
No Messy Hair is more important than don’t have gay sex – seriously, go look at your bible. It’s right there. The fact that you own a fucking comb is more important to God than not having gay sex.
It's 39th, and almost none of the other rules are things that christians feel the urge to make laws about.  No wine for Catholics and no dogs as pets.  I just can't see that list as being anything worth losing any sleep over.

Having a verse in your holy book to point to that explains your reaction does not lend credence to your latent homosexual fears. It just makes you look silly when the other laws in the book are things that you'd either get awards for today (sex with three generations of the same family, here's your trophy) or laughed out of culinary school for proposing in the first place.  Much less follow them yourself, privately. Go ask any number of prominent church leaders who lead closeted private lives about it if you don't believe me.

It is a fact that a small percentage of the population are afraid of the biological imperatives that they feel. In some cases that's a good thing.  You really shouldn't go around murdering people who call out your latent homosexuality just because you feel an overwhelming desire to do so.  Some of those feelings are harmless, however, and mean nothing. Indulge them or not, it really makes no difference.

It was accepted tradition in Western society that there was something wrong with homosexuality.  It wasn't just laws in the bible, because the tradition predates the christian church. When civic law became a thing, that law was adopted because of the tradition. And why not? Look at the way they live, there's clearly something wrong with them.

Never mind that ostracizing individuals causes the very problems that are attributed to the behaviors in the first place.  Research has shown, time and again, that creating an outgroup leads to the kinds of behavior patterns seen in the homosexual community. So it's not them, it is the rest of us. It is us and our need to see ourselves as better than them.

My daughter, very rightly, pointed out that not everyone who uses the word gay to mean bad is a homophobe. I get that as well. Not everyone who thinks that there is something wrong with homosexuality is actually afraid of finding other men's butts attractive.  The vast majority of us really don't notice. We just accept that the things we've been taught are true, even though they aren't. Contrary to popular belief, there's nothing wrong with being a homosexual, if that's what you want to be, if that's what you are. There is no clinical evidence that shows harm in just being a homosexual. There is no social reason why homosexuals would be any different than the rest of us, if they were simply accepted as part of the ingroup.  The majority would be ok with that, if we simply knew the truth.

Homophobes are a tiny little subset of the larger whole.

You know the kind of group I'm talking about, a minority that wants the rest of us to behave the way they feel comfortable. So the next time you misuse the word gay to mean bad, ask yourself if you actually like that guy's butt or not. Because that is the signal you are sending. The next time you stand up and denounce homosexuals ask yourself if that guy over there (you know who he is) doesn't actually turn you on and that scares you.

Because if the answer is no, then you aren't a member of that group, and you really shouldn't be doing their work for them.  Let them haul their own baggage. Put the shoe on the other foot. Perhaps it's time that we call out the homophobic for the sick individuals that they are, and prescribe for them some of the treatments that they have demanded we subject others too. Ostracise them, see how well they fair without the rest of us.

With the shoe on the other foot, maybe we can finally put this contentious issue to rest.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ted Cruz Thinks He's Running for President. Papers, Please?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the guy isn't a US citizen. At least; if the US government can pretend that I wasn't a US citizen for several years; and if the birthers still can't be convinced that Obama is a US citizen; then I'd really like to know what portion of the population will accept that Ted Cruz, born in Canada to a US mother and a Cuban father, is a US citizen?

Courtesy Thousand Words Graphics
Fine, fine. He's naturalized. I get that. I'm willing to share the territorial boundaries of the United States with him, no problem.  I'm wishing he'd stop pretending he's a Texan, but the religious right here like him, so I'm stuck with him as a Senator from my home state even though he's the worst mannered canuck I've ever run across.

There is a problem though, as this Politifact article points out;
Sarah H. Duggin, a professor of law at Catholic University, has written about and studied the issue extensively. She told us in 2008 that the question of natural born citizenship is "one of the most deceptively simple, complex issues."
We reached her again this week to ask about Cruz’s eligibility. "It would be reasonable to interpret the Constitution’s natural born citizenship provision to include children born abroad to U.S. citizens, including Senator Cruz, for a number of reasons," she said.
But is it 100 percent sure?
"Unfortunately, we cannot say for sure without either a definitive Supreme Court ruling, or an amendment to clarify the Constitution."
Courtesy  Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian
What I'd like is for the SCOTUS to rule on this subject before we accept that this man is eligible to run for President.  It's a reasonable request, and I suggest that someone get started on this now, because I'd really hate to have to still be pointing this fact out come 2016.

The fun part will be listening to Obama birthers explain why their man Ted is different than Obama. Where is Ted Cruz's birth certificate? His naturalization papers? How, exactly did he become a US citizen so easily, when (as I've pointed out before) it took me years to get the government to admit I was a citizen, even when I had two parents who were both from the US?

No, I'm not kidding.  I want an explanation before I accept that the man can even run for President. I'm willing to grant he is a US citizen because of his mother's citizenship. US law, if not clear, is pretty definitive on that point. That in no way means that the Constitution allows that either of us, born in similar situations, can serve as President. That is up to the SCOTUS to decide.

Once that question is answered, then we can get to the even bigger question; Does Ted Cruz have the mental capability to serve as President of the United States and not manage to start World War 3 within a few minutes of taking the oath? I actually think that question is marginally more important.



There is an interesting Google fail related to this issue.  If you query Google on the nationality of Ted Cruz, the search returns a result of "American".

Now, I'm sorry Google, but American is not a nationality.  A Brazilian native is also an American.  American is a hemispherical status, not a national status.  Ted Cruz's nationality is actually in question here.  He was born a Canadian. From his father he might have had the right to claim citizenship in Cuba.  He definitely would be granted citizenship in the US from his mother's citizenship, if he applied.

But that nationality would be United States or US, not American.  This is easily demonstrable by a search of countries.  There is no country called America.

I get it that we refer to ourselves colloquially as Americans.  This is a lot like Germans thinking of themselves as Deutsche, Germany as Deutschland. However, everyone who lives in the Americas is American, they just don't happen to be citizens of the United States.  Nationality is United States or US, like German nationality is DE.

I'd appreciate it if you'd fix that, Google.



The March 24th edition of the Austin American Statesman puts the shoe on the other foot;
There are those who can imagine Ted Cruz being elected president – or at least being the 2016 Republican nominee – and those who cannot and will not allow themselves to contemplate that possibility. I am among the former, in part because every prediction of Cruz’s imminent political self-immolation so far has proved wrong, and because of how unhinged Cruz deniers tend to get in their denials.
Look, I get it.  He won once, he can win again (not against Hillary) What I'd like to establish is baseline credentials for  being able to do the job.  First on that list is eligibility. I don't think he even passes that test; which doesn't even begin to address the far more important fact that he's not a real person, or as the Statesman article goes on to note;
Cruz is testing the proposition whether, amid the rise of the tea party movement, there may be longing in the conservative movement for a return to its roughest theocratic and insurrectionary edges, albeit as brought to you to by a Princeton/Harvard anti-intellectual intellectual.
The guy has two degrees.  He's not stupid.  The jury is still out on his sanity, so I can't say if he's crazy. But the concept of an anti-intellectual intellectual is fake.  It is a pose, a hypocrisy, a false piety. There isn't any way he can keep up the image of borderline wacko for the next two years.

You also might want to take a look at tedcruz.com if you think this guy is serious about winning the election. That's some quality planning showing, right there.  If you can't even get the pre-candidacy resources in place before announcing, your ability to run the far more complex machine we call the US government will be (should be) the highest concern of any voter.

It won't be, but...



Come on I hear you saying, he can't be that bad, can he?

If you think that, then in my opinion you haven't been playing enough attention.  Ted Cruz is the guy who convinced the House of Representatives to shut down the government two years ago. If he had gotten his way, the government would still be shut down, which means it probably would have collapsed and been replaced by some other system of government (that's what happens when you create a power vacuum. Other systems emerge to take the previous one's place) probably one not based on such arbitrary notions as representational democracy.

Some of you would probably be fine with that. You people scare me.

Here's some more food for thought. After his announcement (at the religious college where the students were compelled to attend) several people spoke out concerning his unsuitability to be President, including California Governor Jerry Brown who said he was "absolutely unfit to be running for office."

In response, Ted Cruz commented to the Tribune (16:50 in the video)
“You know it used to be it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier,” 
(H/T to Skeptic's Guide to the Universe and Think Progress.org)
I'm a bit of a science geek.  Have been one all my life. The stunning lack of scientific understanding evident in that statement should give anyone pause to wonder what this guy is doing in government at all, much less running for President.

Why you ask? Let me explain it to you.

First off, it was Eratosthenes of Cyrene who calculated the circumference of the earth, a couple of hundred years before the birth of Christ, or Before the Common Era (BCE) as it is noted these days.  So, while the myth goes that people thought the world was flat, most people have not thought so for a very, very long time.  It is the modern era that has seen the creation of the Flat Earth Society, a tribute to the stupidity we humans can descend to when divorced from the natural world by layers of technology, and reliance on ancient texts for our knowledge.

Secondly, Galileo Galilei promoted the idea of a heliocentric system, as theorized by Nicolaus Copernicus more than a hundred years earlier, and was jailed by the then Ted Cruz's of the world  (the Roman Catholic Church) for daring to contradict scriptural doctrine.  The church finally apologized for this indignity in 1992 when Pope John Paul II admitted the church acted in error.

It only took 300 years.  Not an inspiring observation. Ted Cruz is displaying some Sarah Palin level savvy on the subject of reality.  Also not very inspiring. Or to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen;

"Senator, you're no Galileo Galilei"

Courtesy Forbes, NASA and the NOAA
This Forbes article goes into just how wrong Cruz is, when it comes to global warming. Yes, the same Forbes that is solidly pro-business;
“The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000. This trend continues a long-term warming of the planet, according to an analysis of surface temperature measurements by scientists at NASA ’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies.” 
Source NASA, NOAA Find 2014 Warmest Year in Modern Record 

To summarize this long-winded (multi-edited) rant.

Ted Cruz is a US citizen (from his mother. pay attention) he just needs to get a nod from the SCOTUS clarifying his eligibility status. Then he's free to trip on his own light-footed contact with reality while believing he is running for President. Not just on this one subject, but nearly all of them not related to conservative dogma. Just waiting for the sound of a campaign implosion, like so many of the also-rans last time round (Yes, I'm looking at you Mr. Trump) Then we can get to the real political races.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Big Bowl of Crow

Ted Cruz is now touring the country denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. Ah, that takes me way, way back. I remember a young idealistic Libertarian who noted on his blog back in 2008;
The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out.
 Yes, that was me. That's not the only time I talked about the program being a Ponzi Scheme, or other government programs being such. It was a common refrain, repeated by many other libertarians and non-libertarians at the time. Clearly it's still a refrain repeated by the ideological inheritors of the small government talking points that hold power today.  That was the last time I referenced Social Security this way, and at that point my opinions were already shifting. I just wasn't ready to admit it.

I can admit it now. Pass me that bowl of crow, I'm ready.

Courtesy Occupy Democrats
No True Scotsman fallacies aside (libertarian or not) it is worth noting that the label of Ponzi Scheme applied to Social Security by the people in charge of seeing the program remains solvent, is a declaration of their intent, not an assessment of the viability of the program. That is the most crucial point to be made on the subject.

If the programs are allowed to fail because of funding shortfalls then the government made the program into a scheme that would fail. There are many variables which could be tweaked, in a program as complex as Social Security is, and any number of simple alterations in the tax code would make the program solvent from a funding standpoint, if only our political leaders had the courage to make those changes.

If the program fails, it is because we allow it to fail by refusing to support it. By voting for representation that sabotages the program causing it to fail. It is a failure of government as an institution, not a failure of the specific program. Government is charged with the authority maintain programs like this one, and if it can't keep these programs running then the institution of government is itself bankrupt and not worthy of of the allegiance of the people.

When your Representative or Senator tells you that the intent to see the elderly and the infirm are cared for is a fraud perpetrated on the public, that should give you pause to think.  Are the elderly and infirm worthy of our empathy? Categorically, I'd say yes. Republican budget writers seem to disagree with this sentiment.  The question is, does the population of the United States agree with the controlling faction of the Congress? If not, we have a lot of work to do in the near future.  If they do agree, then there are a lot more anarchists out there than the polling reveals.

That brings me to the next mouthful of crow. One I've needed to take for awhile now.

Socialism is not a dirty word.  There, I've said it. Contrary to virtually every sentiment I've expressed in the past, the idea that society should care for it's people; that programs should serve the group as a whole, not just those capable of paying, is a laudable goal.

State Socialism, which is just dictatorship with a pretty label, has been unmasked. That bogeyman should be retired to the halls of a museum, along with the strident defenses of capitalism that sprang up in it's wake. Capitalism is as oppressive to the poor as any of the feudal systems of history, as any decent study of history can reveal if you approach it with open eyes.

The notion that ability to pay was not a baseline for survival wasn't something that occurred to me just when I was no longer capable of paying (correlation to the contrary) I was never one of those libertarians in the first place.  I truly was an idealist, I thought that people would voluntarily contribute enough in charity to pay for the necessary systems that would keep the poor, the elderly and the infirm from starving and dying in our midst. I mean, it works that way in the Netherlands, why not here?

It might still be possible at some time in the future.  One day, Americans might care about their fellows on such a level that they voluntarily support them at a level enough that no child goes hungry, that no elderly person dies for lack of care.  That the infirm are not left on the street to die. That day is not today.

In today's America, it is all but illegal to be poor. The disabled are routinely ridiculed and derided as lazy. The elderly who, for the first time in US history are not the poorest of the poor, are now viewed as profiting from the work of others rather than benefiting from the contributions they made to society in the past.

The immigrants who do most of the hard work constructing, farming, cleaning, (the same position they have always occupied historically) are dismissed as illegals, paid as little as possible, and deported the moment they are no longer useful.


The leadership of this country, with the exception of the President, has gone to great pains to set average Americans against each other, squabbling over the scraps of the budget left over from funding more military hardware than we will ever have need of.  This is not the America I want to leave for my children.

It is time for a change. It is time to admit that we are not individual islands, that we do need other people in order to survive, to thrive.  That social caring is not an ill but a blessing. That it is possible for government to work; that not only is it possible, but it is our duty to make sure that government does work. What does it mean to be a citizen in good standing, if it doesn't mean that? Government for the people, by the people.  If the government fails, it is because we have failed as a people.

If Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it is because we no longer value the contributions of the most vulnerable among us.  If socialism is a dirty word, then we are nothing more than cannibal tribes eating our own to survive.  Life should mean more than that.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

An Open Letter to the 47 Senators Who Should Have Known Better

I am forwarding this on behalf of a friend of mine, Jim Wright. I agree with his sentiments so solidly that I feel little need to embroider them with thoughts of my own. Please feel free to peruse his article that accompanies the letter, to be found at http://www.stonekettle.com/2015/03/the-second-coming-of-richard-millhouse.html (Please forgive the misspelling. Milhouse has already forgiven him)

To the United States Senate, Attention: Tom Cotton, David Perdue, Joni Ernst, James Inhofe, John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Roger Wicker, John Hoeven, Richard Shelby, Thom Tillis, Richard Burr, Steve Daines, Jeff Sessions, John Boozman, Cory Gardner, Shelley Moore Capito, Ron Johnson, Mark Kirk, James Lankford, Chuck Grassley, Roy Blunt, John Thune, Mike Enzi, Pat Toomey, Bill Cassidy, John Barrasso, Ted Cruz, Jim Risch, Mike Crapo, Deb Fischer, Ben Sasse, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, Pat Roberts, John McCain, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Lindsey Graham, and Mike Rounds 
Senators,
Now might be a good time to rethink the road you’re on.
Your partisan fanaticism  and your self-admitted ill-considered actions make the Iranian government seem sane, sympathetic, reasoned and moderate in comparison.
You have measurably damaged the reputation of the United States and risked open war, the lives of millions, and the world economy, solely to further your own selfish goals. You have placed partisanship and loyalty to party above your own country and the lives of your fellows.
At this point, whatever the final outcome of your actions, history will very likely remember you in the same light as your fellow Republican, Richard Nixon – and potentially far worse.
Were I you, I’d give that some very, very serious thought.
Your oath, the oath you swore with your right hand upraised before your God, was to the United States of America.
The Pledge of Allegiance you swear is to the American flag, not the Israeli one.
Your legal, moral, and sacred obligation is to the citizens of the United States of America first, ALL OF THEM NOT JUST THE ONES WHO VOTED FOR YOU, and second to all of our allies and partners –  not just Israel.  Your duty extends far, far beyond the small and selfish interests of your religion and/or your political party and it is long past time for you to remember that.
I won’t presume to say you should be ashamed of your recent actions, since many of you obviously lack the capacity, but I will say it is NOT necessary to destroy the village in order to save it – and your fellow Senator John McCain should know the moral bankruptcy of that particular strategy better than anyone.  What will save our nation and our world, the only thing that will ultimately save civilization itself, is that we work together, all of us  - and that’s something else Captain John McCain USN(ret) and the veterans among your number should know as well. Perhaps they could explain it to the rest of you.
Respect is earned, Senators.
For people and likewise for nations, respect is earned – or lost – by every action, by every word.
Now might be a good time to consider yours.

Signed,
James Wright
Chief Warrant Officer, United States Navy (ret)
Citizen of the United States of America
It bears noting that if Ronald Reagan authorized the negotiations with Iranian terrorists holding US hostages in 1980, he was only following in the footsteps of his hero Richard Nixon, as noted in the Stonekettle Station article. I find it hard to believe that his administration only thought of negotiating with the Iranians 4 years later during Iran-Contra and not at the earlier time when it would have meant defeating Carter in the election.  Simply doesn't add up.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Emergent Principles of Human Nature; Not Natural Rights

Part 2 of a series of posts on defining Emergent Principles of Human Nature; an outgrowth of a challenge issued to me ages ago by a fellow libertarian that I "explain inalienable rights without including god" like most challenges of this type, the work is larger than the speaker or hearer understands at the time.
The title of this piece was chosen consciously and deliberately. There are many philosophers who have written over the years of natural rights and inalienable rights. Inalienable rights as Emergent Principles of Human Nature was addressed in the first piece, and will be addressed in a series of pieces that follow this one.

This piece (hopes to) explain the difference between natural rights and human rights.

I hemmed and hawed about writing this section at all.  I almost went back and re-edited the first section just to take the reference to this one out. Having written that section I was immediately faced with this problem;  Emergent Principles of Human Nature are by definition natural.  How can they not be the same thing?

The problem with natural rights as a concept is this; if rights are natural, a part of an individual, then that individual should be able to determine what those rights are. Unfortunately, human nature conspires to prevent this, making the common notion of natural rights almost unfathomable from the outset.  The limitations we face are a part of us and are consequently almost invisible to the individual. They are obvious when pointed out, but even then most people will deny that they are limited by them, never mind that there is no escaping these limitations while remaining human.

The first of these constraints is confirmation bias. If an individual believes something, that individual is going to work to confirm those beliefs, no matter what mountains of evidence to the contrary have to be climbed.  If you believe you have a right to a firearm, you're going to find every reason you can lay your hands on to justify having that weapon.  No amount of basic logic to the contrary; say, the simple observation of how will you get it if no one can make it? will dissuade you from that belief.

If you are one of those people you are crafting counters right now, if you were even able to finish reading that sentence. However, the parameters of the argument are contained in that simple sentence. There really isn't an argument beyond I'll make it myself, which leads to the next constraint.

This is the fact that limitations in areas of understanding renders an individual blind to their own limitations. Also known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, I wondered for years why someone I knew was incompetent in a particular area couldn't understand why they really shouldn't be doing whatever it was they were incompetent at.

I myself vaguely discern an echoing gulf of misunderstanding around me when I attempt to communicate with the average mundane (normal person) I simply cannot communicate in any form other than the written word, apparently.  The connections aren't there in the brain, I can't read faces, I have no idea what anyone is feeling at any given moment.  I have to blunder along hoping that person I'm talking too is willing to be as dead honest with me as I am forced to be with them.

The one makes essential the licensing practices we've come to establish over the last hundred years; and the other convinces us that we don't need anyone to tell us what we can or can't do.  Even though, to an external observer, it's obvious that you (me, everybody) really do need supervision.

It is these limitations that render impotent the common sense notion of natural rights.  It is these limitations that render the individual incapable of determining for themselves what their own aptitudes are. That necessitate the requirement for testing and licensing, so that others can know without having to become experts in all fields themselves (a technical impossibility) what proficiencies someone else is trained in.

These two related constraints are hardly an exhaustive list of the limitations we flawed humans face. The briefest investigation into the subject of priming should give you pause; especially when you understand that simply mentioning firearms earlier in the article, just their reading of that word, means that a significant portion of readers have formed opinions about my goals with this manuscript. Goals that I frankly haven't even worked out for myself.

Then we could discuss motivated numeracy and how that leads individuals to question science itself when it produces results they don't like.  I expect that this list of an individuals potential failings will move steadily towards infinite length, the more we understand the limitations of the human animal.

Our knowledge of ourselves is flawed by our very nature; making self-doubt not just a necessity, but a virtue.  Every time that our certainties are challenged we should be willing to step back and question our most cherished beliefs. Capable of not only defending them, but of logically justifying them to the harshest critic.  It is this ability, this willingness to admit the possibility of fault, that embraces our humanity.

This was the need that motivated me to finally admit that the subject of natural rights had to be addressed. The need to point out that our nature allows for a definition of human rights, while at the same time in no way authorizes individual demands.  Yes,  Emergent Principles of Human Nature are natural.  But that does not mean that individuals are born with a right to a firearm. With the right to demand actions, services and material goods of unrelated others.

We are born with an ability to make our own way, to build upon the works of those who came before us and improve on that foundation; but we are beholden to those who contributed to establishing that foundation. We are indebted to those whose blood, sweat and tears are mixed into the knowledge that is preserved for us to utilize.  Every single individual who ever existed before you had to exist in order for you to be here, now, in this place and time with the knowledge you have at your disposal.  If you can grasp it, that is a daunting perspective to behold. The thousands of generations of creatures who had to exist just so that you could be here, now.

Every person longs to be part of something greater than themselves; it is through this longing that so many paths are forged. A wise man once said "No man is an island" and this is demonstrably true.  Those who perceive themselves as islands simply fail to grasp the necessity of all the people who came before him who supported him, educated him and elevated him until his head broke the surface to appear as an island.

All of those people who preceded that individual human being, who contributed to the vast database of knowledge made available to him, had to exist in order for that individual to exist. If this was not so then all of us could claim perfect understanding of the universe at birth, which is demonstrably untrue.

This is the nature of the flaw in individualist philosophies. Objectivism, Libertarianism, Anarchism. All of them carry the same flaw. Rothbard, Rand and all their ideas are flawed from the precept stage of development. They assume that there is just one natural law governing man, and that that law makes itself apparent to all men.   This is also demonstrably not the case. The vast majority of the world's population simply don't understand the notion of taxes as theft, or that socializing the healthcare system (or the school system, or whatever) interferes with the contract rights of every man, and consequently determines the paths of those caught within the system.

And yet Rothbard, Rand and those who follow their reasoning simply gloss these facts over, and continue asserting that what they see as the ultimate truth is the only apparent truth.

When I think of natural law, I see several possibilities for defining codes within the parameters of nature. The parasites' code. The predators' ethic. These are, of course, not correct codes, as people raised with a mid-western work ethic would conceive of them. And yet, like the misguided people who took the phrase right-to-life and perverted it into a belief system that takes away a woman's right to her own life; so too the phrase natural rights or natural law lends itself to many different interpretations.

Interpretations that become equally as valid as Rothbard's real intent when he crafted the ideas behind Anarcho-capitalism, or Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, because there is no central authority to determine what is or isn't right in the natural sense beyond might makes right. Because all of us are incapable of objective certainty at any particular point in time, try as we might to maintain a sense of objectivity.  It simply can't be done and remain human at the same time.

Our nature defines the principles that we live under, but by that same nature no one individual can say with certainty exactly what rights he should be permitted to exercise.