There are a number of historical articles on this blog that deal with this issue (two entirely different ones that are labeled the abortion issue) there are personal reasons why this issue figures highly for me, but none of them that I am at liberty to discuss.  Consequently I am forced to deal with this generally subjective discussion on a purely objective level.

This won't be the last entry on the subject either, although I'll try to be more creative when it comes to titling them in the future.

I keep getting hung up on the fact that this is still an issue because it has never (and I do mean never) been something I suffered moral quandaries about.  The reason it has never been an issue for me is the subject of my soon to be completed chapter on EPHN which goes into the murky world of what human life is and why most opinion on the subject is completely wrong, but since that chapter will not be about abortion but the distinction between life and human life, that leaves me with a ton of text that I've written over the years on the subject of abortion itself that really needs to be published or republished under it's own heading.

I've lost several Facebook friends over the years because of this subject, largely because I cannot let falsehoods stand unchallenged.  But this argument goes back to the dawn of my internet experience (much like the subjects of gender and homosexuality) and spans complete shifts in most of my other opinions on other subjects.  This one, though.  This one I know what reality is on the subject.  Reality is harsh, it is brutish, and it isn't fair.

The natural world doesn't worry about those things. In evolutionary terms, procreation is fundamental to an organism's success. It really doesn't matter how many of the species is killed just as long as a mating pair survives long enough to mate and produce offspring. That is the reason that sex exists, and that is the reason that sex feels good. Any other interpretation of the reasons for the process are a matter of individual delusion or group ritual (which is phenomenally about the same as mass delusion) there are social reasons to engage in sex outside of procreation (pair bonding as one example) but those reasons do not negate the actual purpose of the act.

After a similar fashion, the natural world has no problem with abortion.  Three quarters (or thereabouts) of all fertilized eggs do not produce live offspring.  Half of all pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion. The vast majority of potential human lives never see the light of day with human eyes, because nature is a harsh judge of viability.

Until very recently in the civilized parts of the world, infant mortality was astronomically high. It was commonplace for women to have 8 to 10 children and yet only 3 or 4 make it to adulthood. In some parts of the world these deathrates still occur.

It is the mark of several decades of arguing this subject that I can rattle off these facts without having to consult reference material to back it up. The links to this information have long slipped my mind, and searching for the current location of it is time-consuming and largely pointless.  If you doubt the facts, please take the time to verify them.  Fair warning though.  If your source has anything to do with the anti-abortion industry, I will reject it.  They have been shown to be lying time and time again.

So abortion and child death are the normal state in nature.  Predators single out the sickly young animals as their first targets for consumption. They are easier to take down, and the herd animals will leave them behind.  Predators that live birth large litters of young will frequently eat the smaller, sicklier young themselves. Nature is brutish in this way.

Into this world we too are born.  But as the lucky few of the lucky even smaller few, we exist in a world of science. We have science-based medicine to thank for the dramatic reduction in child deaths, mothers dying in childbirth, epidemics that halve the populations of entire nations of people. We have government to thank for civilizing the vast majority of the world's population, enforcing laws that are (Hopefully. As the future continues to regress into the past I remain hopeful) grounded in common sense and science.

At the very least, the courts which try laws and the violators of law have rules based on solid science and evidence. Which is where we get to the issue part of the abortion issue.

Among the generally reasonable people who just want to get through their day so that they can have time at the end of the day to relax, there is a very large section of the population who don't understand how much of our society is actually based on science; don't realize that the very technology used to write this blog, the technology you used to get here to read it, means that science is based on objective reality.  That the existence of this technology means that the real world is as I've described it, for the most part.  These people are magical thinkers. I haven't written that blog entry (one day I will) but for the purpose of this article suffice it to say that these people are not satisfied with reality as it exists. They'd like very much to believe that reality is something which can be bypassed or altered.

These people see that they want their children. They see that they love their children, and they cannot conceive of a world where children are not wanted at best, and are a liability at worst. They are outraged at the notion that people might engage in sexual activity without intending to have children. They are inflamed with righteous indignation that women are avoiding the punishment of having to raise the children that they've created because science and medicine have created an escape for them from harnessing the powers that nature already uses to get rid of the majority of offspring in the first place.

Largely the magical thinker is a member of a religion; and in the US that religion is overwhelmingly one of the hundreds of variants known colloquially as christianity. Christians are convinced that their god is opposed to abortion even though the natural world (which he also made if he exists) utilizes abortion on a much greater scale than we humans could ever achieve. Attempting to show these christians that their holy book makes no mention of abortion is largely a futile effort. Most of them accept Catholic dogma on the subject, even though the majority of US christians are protestants whose ancestors spent precious blood escaping from Catholic rule.

Most of them are also unswayed by arguments that Judaism (the precursor to christianity) rules the beginning of life as the taking of the first breath; that the soul enters the body with that breath of air. Why this argument doesn't sway is anybodies guess, because science tends to agree with the idea that breathing air allows for consciousness to occur. Consciousness which is the hallmark of human life;
...Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components, nerve cells. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex that provides consciousness with its highly elaborate content, begins to be in place between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. Roughly two months later synchrony of the electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythm across both cortical hemispheres signals the onset of global neuronal integration. Thus, many of the circuit elements necessary for consciousness are in place by the third trimester. By this time, preterm infants can survive outside the womb under proper medical care. And as it is so much easier to observe and interact with a preterm baby than with a fetus of the same gestational age in the womb, the fetus is often considered to be like a preterm baby, like an unborn newborn. But this notion disregards the unique uterine environment: suspended in a warm and dark cave, connected to the placenta that pumps blood, nutrients and hormones into its growing body and brain, the fetus is asleep. 
Invasive experiments in rat and lamb pups and observational studies using ultrasound and electrical recordings in humans show that the third-trimester fetus is almost always in one of two sleep states. Called active and quiet sleep, these states can be distinguished using electroencephalography. Their different EEG signatures go hand in hand with distinct behaviors: breathing, swallowing, licking, and moving the eyes but no large-scale body movements in active sleep; no breathing, no eye movements and tonic muscle activity in quiet sleep. These stages correspond to rapid-eye-movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep common to all mammals. In late gestation the fetus is in one of these two sleep states 95 percent of the time, separated by brief transitions. 
What is fascinating is the discovery that the fetus is actively sedated by the low oxygen pressure (equivalent to that at the top of Mount Everest), the warm and cushioned uterine environment and a range of neuroinhibitory and sleep-inducing substances produced by the placenta and the fetus itself: adenosine; two steroidal anesthetics, allopregnanolone and pregnanolone; one potent hormone, prostaglandin D2; and others. The role of the placenta in maintaining sedation is revealed when the umbilical cord is closed off while keeping the fetus adequately supplied with oxygen. The lamb embryo now moves and breathes continuously. From all this evidence, neonatologists conclude that the fetus is asleep while its brain matures.
These same magical thinkers rail against the decision of Roe Vs. Wade completely oblivious to the benefit that they gain from having a right to privacy established in the Constitution (amendment 9) granting them the privilege of private conversation with their doctors and attorneys. They are equally oblivious to the biology behind why the third trimester of a pregnancy is the only part of a pregnancy which the government should rightly have any say over; and then only on the presumption that more inhabitants of the state are good for the state.

The argument has devolved in recent years.  Now it isn't enough simply to think abortion murder (which it demonstrably isn't. But I'll get to that) Now the opposition to abortion has lost a bit of it's holier-than-thou mask and completely endorsed the Catholic dogma against birth control, morning after pills, and women's healthcare in general.  Conservatives and the Religious Right (that I used to term derisively the Reich, but they can have the word right and the right side of the aisle for all I care) have become well-nigh hysterical on the subject of abortion and women's health choices, largely because of the dual nature of a record decline in the number of Americans who attend church and the fact that most resistance to abortion is religiously motivated;
In spite of the small shift toward opposition to legal abortion, the basic contours of the debate are still intact, with most major groups lining up on the same side of the issue as they have in the past. For example, most people who regularly attend religious services continue to come down in opposition to abortion, while the large majority of those who rarely or never attend religious services still support legal abortion.
The survey also reveals continued polarization over abortion. Even as the public expresses support for finding a middle ground, most Americans are quite certain that their own position on abortion is the right one, with only a quarter (26%) saying they ever wonder about their views on the issue. This is a slight decline since 2006, when 30% expressed doubts about their own view on abortion. Furthermore, many people on both sides of the issue say that the opposite point of view on abortion is not a "respectable" opinion for someone to hold. Nearly half of abortion opponents (47%), including 62% of those who say abortion should be illegal in all cases, say that a pro-choice view is not a respectable opinion for someone to hold. On the other side, 42% of abortion supporters (including 54% of those who want abortion to be legal in all cases) say the pro-life point of view is not respectable.
 Attend church services weekly; 73 percent favor making all abortion illegal. There's your pro-life movement, and that movement is shrinking at a regular rate; is already smaller than it has been at any time in US history, and is only going to get smaller as time goes on.

This is why they desperately seek to tie resistance to abortion being legal to humanitarian feelings, but that is a lie perpetrated by the desperate;
The current secular consensus, however, is that all stages of human life do not merit equal protection. As mentioned above, it’s an uncontroversially easy choice to allow a woman to live, not her fetus, when that choice is forced by a dangerous pregnancy. 
 Which also addresses why abortion is not murder; because not all stages of life are protectable or even demonstrably human in any way beyond basic genetic makeup.  Human life is governed by several necessary components; volitional will, conscious mind, corporeal existence, breath and heartbeat. That abortion stops a beating heart is only an observation that the autonomic functions of the brain stem have been established.  The brain itself is not functioning in any meaningful way until well into the third trimester; and even then the brain (if it even exists) is in a sleep state until after birth.

In the first trimester (when the vast majority of abortions and chemical interventions take place) there isn't even a beating heart yet.  This doesn't stop the punishment obsessed from inflicting the requirement for ultrasound examinations and various other forms of near-torture on the woman who is contemplating an abortion;
Halfway through my pregnancy, I learned that my baby was ill. Profoundly so. My doctor gave us the news kindly, but still, my husband and I weren’t prepared. Just a few minutes earlier, we’d been smiling giddily at fellow expectant parents as we waited for the doctor to see us. In a sonography room smelling faintly of lemongrass, I’d just had gel rubbed on my stomach, just seen blots on the screen become tiny hands. For a brief, exultant moment, we’d seen our son—a brother for our 2-year-old girl.
Yet now my doctor was looking grim and, with chair pulled close, was speaking of alarming things. “I’m worried about your baby’s head shape,” she said. “I want you to see a specialist—now.”
My husband looked angry, and maybe I did too, but it was astonishment more than anger. Ours was a profound disbelief that something so bad might happen to people who think themselves charmed. We already had one healthy child and had expected good fortune to give us two.
Instead, before I’d even known I was pregnant, a molecular flaw had determined that our son’s brain, spine and legs wouldn’t develop correctly. If he were to make it to term—something our doctor couldn’t guarantee—he’d need a lifetime of medical care. From the moment he was born, my doctor told us, our son would suffer greatly.
That is how you can get to the second trimester and not act to terminate a pregnancy. It isn't laziness or inconvenience or even wanton disregard.  It is that these things take time to determine. This poor woman's story isn't even rare or particularly hard to sympathize with.  Nor was it over;
“I’m so sorry that I have to do this,” the doctor told us, “but if I don’t, I can lose my license.” Before he could even start to describe our baby, I began to sob until I could barely breathe. Somewhere, a nurse cranked up the volume on a radio, allowing the inane pronouncements of a DJ to dull the doctor’s voice. Still, despite the noise, I heard him. His unwelcome words echoed off sterile walls while I, trapped on a bed, my feet in stirrups, twisted away from his voice.
“Here I see a well-developed diaphragm and here I see four healthy chambers of the heart...”
I closed my eyes and waited for it to end, as one waits for the car to stop rolling at the end of a terrible accident.
When the description was finally over, the doctor held up a script and said he was legally obliged to read me information provided by the state. It was about the health dangers of having an abortion, the risks of infection or hemorrhage, the potential for infertility and my increased chance of getting breast cancer. I was reminded that medical benefits may be available for my maternity care and that the baby’s father was liable to provide support, whether he’d agreed to pay for the abortion or not.
Most second and third trimester abortions fall into this category.  In fact, only 5% of third trimester abortions occur because of delay, even delay with a valid reason.  95% of third term abortions occur because of a defect in the fetus that would be life-threatening, and that couldn't be diagnosed until this late stage of pregnancy.  So the overwhelming majority of women seeking abortion in the third trimester are needlessly subjected to shaming measures in the misbegotten hope that they will carry to term and deliver a child which will die shortly after birth.  The best outcome for these pregnancies if they were not aborted is that the child produced will grow up into an adult who will always be a burden on society.

This makes third trimester abortion resistance nothing more than a smoke-screen, and a harmful one at that. The laws which the well-meaning have gotten passed have only served to torment women who want to have healthy children,; but have been unlucky enough to have a pregnancy that tests positive for birth defects. Most of them desperately wanted to have their children but have finally accepted the inevitable. They are then subject to torment by protesters outside the clinics they don't even want to go to, and then tormented by law by healthcare practitioners who are chained to requirements over which they have not control.

When I said reality is harsh, it is brutish, and it isn't fair I wasn't joking.  And I wasn't even talking about abortion then.

I was talking about the ease with which it is to find oneself pregnant. The notion that all children are wanted, or that all women see their pregnancies as a blessing (or even a potential life) is soft-headed bullshit, just to be blunt.  Ask any poor child starving anywhere in the world (even in the US) if they felt their existence was valued, that life was worth living, and you are likely to be shocked by the answer.

...And that is today, when abortion is legal and generally available.  If you travel to Southern Asia or Africa or South America to regions where women are still treated as property, you will run into the kinds of offspring that used to be common everywhere around the world.  Children that women were forced to have because no alternatives were available to them.  Unwanted children who turn into criminal-minded adults that are a plague on society as a whole.

This is a statistical fact laid out by the authors of Freakonomics. the wiki page describes it this way;
The effect of legalized abortion on crime (sometimes referred to as the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis) is the theory that legal abortion reduces crime. Proponents of the theory generally argue that since unwanted children are more likely to become criminals and that an inverse correlation is observed between the availability of abortion and subsequent crime. Not only that, but children born under these conditions are usually less fortunate as enough preparation was not put in place for their birth and upbringing. In particular, it is argued that the legalization of abortion in the United States, largely due to the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, has reduced crime in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Opponents generally reject these statistics, and argue that abortion has negative effects on society or decrease in crime is brought about in other ways.
If you don't believe this, read the book.  I have read the book, and several books after that.  I have researched the counters and the later revelations on the influence of lead in gasoline on violence in society.  Nothing seen so far disproves the hypothesis that abortion had a noticeable effect in lowering crime rates in the US; and it bears thinking that perhaps freeing women from chattel states throughout the parts of the world where they are still deemed property, and providing them with access to modern healthcare including abortion and contraception might lead to more stable societies in those areas.

Because reality isn't fair.  It makes sex irresistible to the people among us (the young) who are least able to provide for the offspring sex produces. The cost of raising a child is astronomical (projected as over $245,000 in 2015) where is the average 16 to 18 year old going to find that kind of money? Are we, as a society going to foot that bill?  Anyone?  Ready to ante up the cost of raising all the unwanted children all over the world as a means of stemming the plague of abortion? where will we house the extra millions who need to be housed, feed them, clothe them, etc., when the world population already tops 7 billion and the maximum projected supportable population (with current technology) is 10 billion?

No, I really want to know! You want to stop abortion, but you don't want to pay for the consequences of removing that option from the table. Tell me how we stop people from having children they can't raise without allowing them to decide if they can afford children or not.  Because any plan that doesn't include those calculations is just magical thinking, and this is the real world.

I have two children of my own.  So when I say that anti-abortionists fail to grasp objectivity on this subject (barring rock-solid counter evidence) my subjective, anecdotal experience with my own children bears this out.  

My children were persons from the time I knew they existed, and I would have been devastated if anything had kept them from becoming the people that they are today.  No amount of knowledge concerning the limited nature of their selves while in the womb and even several years after their birth could modify the way I thought of them, treated them.  They were always going to become adults, people, responsible humans if only I managed not to screw things up.

I got lucky.  Or maybe it was just plodding, methodical planning.  In any case, they've grown up well and I've never had to make the kinds of choices that other potential parents have had to make.  We could have waited and things could have been easier, but you play the hand you are dealt.  That is a mantra I've lived with all my life.

As for the rock-solid evidence that counters my understanding of reality, I know what form it would take.  Prove the existence of the soul.  I don't mean have faith that we have one, I mean scientifically prove its existence.  That is the evidence that would counter court decisions and scientific evidence accumulated to date.  Ensoulment is what believers hang their hats on when they talk about personhood being a part of the fertilized egg.  Most of them have enough caution not to bring that up as proof these days.

Believers have been trying to prove the existence of the soul since science was discovered.  All of them have come up empty, and there were a lot more scientists who believed when science was young than there are now that we have progressed as far as we have today.  

But that is also another blog entry.

6.2 The Patch That Ate World of Warcraft

Meaningless Punishment in Battlegrounds While Leveling

World of Warcraft suggestion/bugfix of the week;

If you level in a battleground and that level moves you to a higher bracket, you are now removed from the battleground and marked as a coward for leaving. That is either a bug, or a serious oversight on Blizzard's part. The fun of leveling in battlegrounds is that moment when, for the rest of that one instance, you rock. Now it is a punishment to level that way. This needs to be fixed. This game is already punishing and boring enough.

Specifically this toon (My 17th, I think) confirmed what I had suspected with other toons that have hit 100 in battlegrounds. Several of which I have taken to battlegrounds throughout this xpac just for the pure fun of hitting 100 while in a PvP setting.

Not all the changes are bad in the current expansion. I like the fact that toons are scaled to max level for the bracket, it makes the heirloom twink problem that I'm sure was a frustration for players who didn't invest in heirlooms less of a problem and more of a reward for playing the game with multiple toons. Now all players are the same level (instead of a potential 9 level difference in one battleground) the only variation is gearscore.

I'm really enjoying Ashran lately.  The latest patch seems to have fixed some serious problems with this world PvP area. I was actually able to get into a raid sized group after hitting 100 with my second paladin (linked above) and farm enough broken bones to keep my garrison building churning for a week or more.

So there are good changes; and then there are meaningless changes that just make the game less fun. This suggestion/bugfix request is the latter. Please Blizzard, I'm begging here. Remember, we play games for fun?

(posted on the forums here)

However, I have to say that 6.2 remains "The Patch That Ate World of Warcraft"

Aside from flight, I hate the content of this patch.

It has ships, but they are ships that I can't ride on. This is the sailing equivalent of a cock-tease if you are a sailing geek like I am.  Not only that, but these ships require oil even though they are sailing ships. And the oil? I have to quest for that instead of accruing it at a set rate like garrison resources, the other currency (one of several introduced this patch) specifically tied to the garrison.  Can't drill for the oil as in the Real Time Strategy game this version of WoW is attempting to emulate. Well, you can, it just requires you to grind out reputations in the new content area, Tanaan Jungle.

This should have been your first clue, Blizzard. If you have to force players to work in an area, you really haven't made the game fun enough to warrant play in the first place.

I should be able to sail my ships directly. Should be able to go with garrison quests to assist. Should be able to accrue oil without having to kill unrelated NPC's that give access to oil that my ships shouldn't need. This expansion, aside from Ashran, is a waste of time.

Here's hoping that Legion will prove to be worth playing.

September 11, not 9-11

This is adapted and expanded from a previous article.  I intend to keep updating and reposting a version of this article annually until the US collectively demonstrates learning something from history, or I pass from existence. Given prior evidence, I'm betting on the latter.

My dad was born on September 11, 1938.  On his sixty-third birthday terrorists destroyed two American icons and shattered forever the illusion that we were beyond the reach of the people intent on doing us harm. There are many lessons to be learned from gaining that insight, but it doesn't appear that the US has learned anything in the intervening years.  We re-live the events of 9-11 over and over again on each anniversary; wallowing in our collective angst, while repeating the same mistakes that lead to that day, that sprung from that day.

Military adventurism continues almost unabated since that cautionary moment in our history. Undaunted by the mess that we created in Iraq, we are now doing our best to intervene in the area again.  Stationing troops in the form of advisors, lending military aid to the Iraqi government that has made it pretty clear they don't want our help anymore.

The Republican candidates for President can't promise they'll declare war on enough countries fast enough to suit their Halliburton backers. At the very least a war with Iran will be in the promises that a Republican candidate for President will bring to the campaign trail, as if we haven't had enough war for several lifetimes in the last two decades.

Americans remain convinced that everything that happens around the world is somehow linked to us, that we have to weigh in on events, or that somehow the events were caused by us, as if the world only exists because we send our military out there to make sure it does.

My father did his time in the military.  I was born overseas because of the Cold War, and my parents answering the call to serve.  Dad didn't like military life very much, and left the service after 4 years to return home to Kansas and his family there.  As a teenager I foolishly contemplated joining the military myself, and mentioned it to him to see what he thought. "You like taking orders?" he said.  I didn't, I replied. "Well, then you don't want to join the military." That was his thinking on the subject, in a nutshell. He never elaborated more on the subject, but that view has stuck with me ever since.

Every year after 2001, he complained that the terrorists had stolen his birthday.  Every year until he died, the day that he had looked forward to through childhood had become something terrifying and repugnant.  It annoyed him that his day had been the day they picked. I can understand that.  It is captured in the sentiment of Jim Wright's piece on Stonekettle Station (a re-post) when Jim mentions the generation that has grown up since the towers fell, never knowing the America that we all remember.  They only know the America we created in our fear after 9-11;
This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.
So in that sentiment I'd just like to reclaim today, and every September 11th after this one for my father.  Happy birthday dad, wherever you are.  I promise to spend more time thinking of you than of the other events that make this day stand out for average Americans.  Because really, why remember if we aren't going to learn anything from it?

Huckabee, Cruz Embrace a Democratic Official

The last political piece I wrote for this blog was titled Pharisee vs. Christian and it was about the Kim Davis farce that continues to play out in Kentucky.

I've apparently pissed off some people on this subject.  Not the religious people that the wife said would firebomb us for the title; no those people really can't seem to care one way or the other (as I've noted over most of my life, the vast majority of people who identify as christian are reasonable, sane, and capable of rational discussion even on the subject of religion. There are exceptions as there are in any group) no, the group that I appear to have pissed off is Democrats.

Why? Well, Kim Davis is a Democrat.

The most frequent response I get from this observation is that conservatives can be Democrats, stated in a voice that seems to drip with disdain for requiring them to state the obvious.  This isn't news to me, nor is it the point that I'm trying to make when I bring this fact up, although I could have worded my initial comment more clearly.

Specifically the fracas emerged on a Facebook post on Jim Wright's wall. Jim rightly notes that the comparison that Huckabee is making (go to the link and read about it, I don't care enough to even try to summarize it) really doesn't hold water for various reasons; mostly because Huckabee is a grandstanding buffoon competing with Donald Trump for air time. Huckabee and Ted Cruz (another buffoon) are now embracing Kim Davis as their poster child for the persecution of christians. But I'd still like to point out to these two Republican Presidential hopefuls that they are defending a Democrat as being the best example of conservative christian in office.

A Democrat. A Democrat who refuses to do her job.

Now, I've been active in political circles for a long time.  There was a time when fraternizing with the opposition was commonplace, but that was before Newt Gingrich and the birth of FOX news. These days having anything nice to say about a Democrat spells disaster for conservatives who are trying to out-conservative all the other conservatives.  To this day the most telling criticism that can be leveled by conservatives at fellow conservative Governor Chris Christie is that he hugged President Obama. His hand in costing the state of New Jersey uncounted man-hours with the George Washington Bridge fiasco barely registers outside his own state.  Now these two buffoons are hugging a Democrat on national television.

This Democrat might be conservative, I don't know.  She hasn't changed her party affiliation, something that former Democrat and former Governor Rick Perry can tell you is easy to do. So her claim to be conservative doesn't equate to her huggability as a Republican by other Republicans. She is demonstrably not acting in a christian manner, so I doubt very much that she really qualifies as a christian.  She is acting in a way that the homo-obsessed religious-right lead GOP embraces, I get that part of the equation. Homophobia equals conservative in that light, if conservatives want to go there that is their business. If the GOP wants to endorse homophobia as a plank in their party platform, more power to them.

But what will this little farce look like in a year, a month before the 2016 elections?  That really is the question.  What will the optics be in the rear-view mirror?  I imagine that neither of these two will be on the dais debating whoever the Democrats end up nominating, but just how will the GOP attract votes from any group outside of the aging white demographic of the religious right when they've gone out of their way to embrace lawlessness, racism and homophobia all in the space of the campaign for selecting their nominee?

Flight Makes Everything Easier?

There is an active poll over on the WoW forums called The Friendly SkiesWhile I question the adjective friendly applied to almost anything MMO, I found the choices available on the poll amusing, even if the associated text is patronizing in tone;
Patch 6.2.2 is scheduled for release this week, allowing those of you who have unlocked Draenor Pathfinder to take to the skies on your most trusted of winged beasts, floating steeds, and flying machines. With this comes the added opportunity for you to handle your affairs with greater convenience and timeliness. 
Our friends over at Wowhead have put together a guide of Draenor Content Made Easier by Flying. We suggest you give it a look to glean the myriad activities made more accessible by flight, and let us know what you’ll be swooping down from sky to do first. 
Travel by flying mount on Draenor will be most handy for:  
  1. Accessing Archaeology dig sites  
  2. Collecting more battle pets 
  3. Exploration and sightseeing  
  4. Leveling alts to 100  
  5. Gathering herbs, mining, or fishing  
  6. Seeking out rare spawns \ 
  7. Adventuring further in Tanaan Jungle
  8. Locating the remaining treasures  
  9. Barrel rolls, duh  
  10. …Everything
As I've said in chat a million times (at least) easy is a four letter word.  I have an idea of what an easy fight would be, but I've never seen it in any game;
The boss draws his weapon, then trips and falls on it. That would be an easy fight.
Nothing that requires a group effort to achieve is easy.  The troll who taunts with "come on, this is easy"  deludes himself. Just because he finds his role lacks challenge doesn't mean that getting 5 to 25 players together to do anything lacks challenge.  If you doubt this, see if you can get just 4 people together to play a game of cards at home; without bribing them with free beer, of course.

If you didn't have a guild in earlier versions of WoW (Original & Burning Crusade specifically) you stood around outside the instance you needed to run and hoped that 4 other people would show up and want to run with you.  You could (and did) spend hours standing around hoping for a group.  Nine times out of 10 you would give up in frustration. The tenth time you would manage to get a group together only to discover that the tank couldn't tank, the healer couldn't heal, and DPS was a joke. About every third group you managed to get into an instance with would actually finish the dungeon.

Forget about ever raiding.  Raiding was for guilds; I mean, you could try your hand at assembling a raiding group yourself.  I tried it several times, never successfully, because of the next problem on the list. 

Then came Looking For Raid/Group and suddenly the impasse of just getting a group together was bypassed; allowing for an automated assembly process as part of the game design. However, finding a group of people who knows what they are doing still remains a challenge.  Being able to select the role you want to queue for has no bearing on your knowledge of what the role requires, what your classes gear spec should be, what the best spell rotation is, what to interrupt and when, etc; a near bottomless pit of knowledge that is required just to complete a raid with a moderate level of success. 

So Looking For Raid/Group didn't make the game easier, it made playing the game possible for the average player, which just adds to the frustration of the elitist jerks who think the games should be designed for them.

In much the same fashion as LFR making group efforts possible in game, so too flight makes certain kinds of gameplay possible, not just easier.  Dismissing the constraints of time and frustration with the word easy is patronizing. Some people have real lives to live, they don't have all day to spend grinding their way through repetitive content just to get to the thing they want to do today.

I am enjoying flight being added back into WoW.  Not enjoying it so much I have forgotten the threat on the horizon, though. When it comes to Legion, I am still in the #NoFlyNoBuy camp. I really do hope that Blizzard game developers are taking us seriously.

Pharisee vs. Christian

Christian is another one of those things that isn't a thing (because there is no one set of beliefs that all christians, or even a majority of christians, will agree upon and practice in their daily lives) but comparative labeling is sometimes illuminating.

I've been about half paying attention to the little farce that is the case of the Kentucky county clerk that refuses to do her job.  It really doesn't interest me that much as a legal question.  She's clearly going to lose; lose her job, lose her freedom, etc.

There is a perspective on this story that I do find interesting though; she's already lost her faith, although not many of her fellow faithful will even notice.  How's that, you ask?  Because she's a doctrinaire, and doctrinaires are the kinds of people who killed the man she calls savior.

It really is too bad that most people do not read.  If they read they might understand the subtleties of the stories that swirl around them. In this case it doesn't even take reading to really grasp the argument.  Just ingest a sufficient quantity of your preferred mind-altering substance and then watch Jesus Christ Superstar (a link to make the process easier for you) one of my favorite soundtracks, if not one of my favorite films.  In fact, you probably should listen before watching.  Create images in your own head for what the songs mean before polluting them with images that others have come up with.

When I was working for First Paragon in San Angelo (feels like a lifetime ago) my first real drafting job that I landed in that oasis in the desert of West Texas, Constantin Barbu was running the design studio there.  An immigrant from Europe, he had the most amazing collection of classical music I've ever seen before or since, and a sound system built into the studio that an audiophile would commit mass murder to possess.

Constantin was a decent mentor.  In the short time I worked there he not only convinced me that classical music was beautiful and inspiring, but he managed to teach me the value of the narrative in construction documents; something I carried forward through the rest of my years drafting and designing architecture.

He had an original vinyl copy of Jesus Christ Superstar.  I forget how the subject came up, but I'm sure we got to talking about religion (no subject being taboo to me) and to prove some religious point or other he demanded that we listen to the soundtrack. Like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and then The Wall which were so different from the pop music that I had been listening to up to that time, that soundtrack opened vistas of thought that I'd never experienced before.

I had never thought to look at the story of Jesus from outside, from an artistic perspective. The stories that I had grown up with suddenly had a completely different meaning for me than they had when told in a religious setting. Suddenly the characters became characters in a play, people with feelings and dreams.  The caricatures that are communicated religiously are pale comparisons to the real people who lived those moments in history, if those moments were ever real at all.

Put yourself into that time, the beginning of an age.  All life is change. Jesus was an instrument of change if he was anything at all. The doctrinaires of his time, the pharisees of the bible, rejected his calls for change. they knew the law and his preaching violated that law. It was their hands, and the hands of their followers that delivered Jesus to Pilate for judgement.

We are in the midst of another time of change, and the doctrinaires who know the law would declare to us what the law says and what the punishment should be. What is good and proper and what is not, deciding for their fellow men what course they should take, transgressing on every man (and women)'s freedom of conscience.

Marc Murphy; Courier-Journal
That county clerk took an oath to execute her office. She is bound to that oath, and to what the office of a county clerk requires.  If she cannot do her job, then she should leave the job. Let someone else who can cope with the change handle it.  If her religion is really that important to her, then what she needs to do is go find what the teachings she claims to honor really mean.  Because from where I'm sitting it is obvious that she doesn't have a clue.

Texas Trying to Secede. Again.

Hanging around the fringes of Texas politics as I have off and on over the last 20 years, you hear a lot of strange ideas. Texas is conspiracy fantasy central in many ways, and Austin being the capitol of Texas means that the conspiratorial currents all lead to the vortex located at 15th and Congress.

Since the clean sweep that the GOP experienced in 2014, the wackos have come out of the woodwork and aren't embarrassed to let their freak flag fly. Over the last year we've had the whole Jade Helm 15 teapot tempest, the newly elected governor calling out the Texas Guard to defend Texas against the largest military on the face of the planet; the US military, with troops already stationed in Texas (not to mention Texas citizens in the service of the US Army) included in the training exercises.  We've seen the governor's replacement in the office of Attorney General arrested and booked while embroiled in a scheme to deny marriage certificates to gay couples who wanted to get married in the wake of the SCOTUS decision.

Texans are also suffering due to continued resistance to the ACA by our sitting legislature and governor.  It may be the law of the land according to the federal government, but the overwhelming majority of Texans spit at it as Obamacare; while at the same time whole segments of the Texas population who can't afford to buy health insurance are left without any healthcare options because they make too much money to get Medicaid under the old rules, but are still supposed to have health insurance or face penalties.

Since all of this is Obama's fault, it should be no wonder that a perennial favorite of the Texas conspiratorial fantasists is making the rounds again. Yes dear readers, we are faced with the dreaded initiative to secede from the Union. Again.

As I said previously, those of us who've been paying attention are not surprised to learn that the beast has raised it's ugly head again. The history of the Texas secession movement is both long and checkered. I'm not going to go through all of it (the wiki page does a decent enough job of it) but it bears mentioning that many shady people for many long years have declared not only that Texas should secede, but that it probably isn't legally a state of the Union. 

Help, help we're being repressed!

Texas not being a state would be news to the rest of the United States since Texas manages to pretty much have its way with all sorts of things that affect other parts of the country. Make no mistake, the rest of the US knows that Texas is a state, much as many of them might rather it wasn't.

The problem is, most Texans can't be bothered to read;  and those that do read really can't make heads or tails out of the Texas Constitution.  Or maybe it isn't a problem with reading.  Maybe it's a problem with who writes the books, especially the text books. In any case, these factors have lead to a number of interesting fantasies considering the nature of Texas' relationship to the rest of the nation, as well as its status as a state.

Most Texans have heard the 5 states story, I'm sure.  The theory that Texas could be split up into 5 different states? The first time I heard it, the provision was in the Texas Constitution; which would be quite a feat I quickly discovered.  Upon the briefest of searches I learned that Texas has had seven constitutions since she left Mexico. So it isn't in the Texas Constitution, not that we can tell among the nearly 500 amendments that have been passed (second only to Alabama. Saved again, Texas) The provision was actually imposed by the US Congress (those imperialists!) in their legislation which annexed Texas into the Union.

"Wpdms republic of texas" by Ch1902 - Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
This is the tidbit that most people have probably never realized.  Texas has already been split into 5 states. There are pieces of Texas in Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Wyoming; and while this may not have been the intention of the drafters of the legislation, Texas was paid for the severance of these lands, and they are no longer part of the state.

So, yes. Texas could be subdivided; and those crazy plans to have Texas dominate the Senate by breaking itself into 5 or 6 more states that would somehow still vote in lockstep are all too late.  It has already been done.

Another one of these fantasies is that Texas has permission to secede from the union.  This feature would be a truly curious development considering that all the slave states re-acquired by the union after the civil war were required to renounce any intention to leave the union again as a condition for re-admittance as states, as well as adopt the 13th and 14th Amendments. Most scholars agree that there is no basis to assume that a State could secede from the Union; it would be hard to see how this would be possible outside of the failure of the United States as a political entity and a military power.  These facts didn't stop Governor Rick Perry from voicing his opinion that Texas could secede at a rally full of supporters chanting for secession.  This wouldn't be the first time that Rick Perry was in error, especially when it comes to the subject of law.  I wouldn't put too much stock in his remembering facts about secession, or evolution, or whatever that third thing was...

...in hindsight Rick Perry's governorship feels like a walk at the wildflower center compared to the level of crazy currently ensconced in the capitol building. Between Governor Abbott's blatant hypocrisy as a disabled person who was uniquely situated to keep other disabled person's from taking his road to wellville, his trumped-up war on Planned Parenthood, his initiative to remove local control from Texas cities, and the legislature's rejection of a minimum wage hike, it's hard to imagine how life could get more grim than it currently is for the average Texan.  Which goes a long way towards explaining the desperation present in movements to secede as a political entity from the United States. Again.

A side word here for my fellow Texans;  Ya'll might want to go back and read my piece on Greece in Perspective (hint, it really isn't about Greece) and ponder at the level of desperation that you feel today and just who really is to blame for that.  Is it at all possible that that blame currently resides in a white house a good bit closer to you than Washington D.C.?

I'll end with the words of Governor Sam Houston as he was forced out of  office by confederate zealots;
Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas....I protest....against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void.
Texans have once again been lied to and betrayed; not by Washington, but by the leadership of the conservative religious power base that dominates all of Texas politics.  They are lied to nightly by the talking heads at FOX news, in the hopes that we will blame each other rather than the leadership in this state that has brought us to this impasse. From the moment that conservatives declared that science was a matter of opinion, that critical thinking was something to be avoided,  their entire ideology became a house of cards which could be blown down by the slightest breeze.

Imagine Sam Houston's outrage at the knowledge that in a park that bears his name, in the city that bears his name, stands a monument to the folly that he gave up leadership of Texas rather than embark upon.  What would he think of the even more foolish notion that Texas could or should leave the union again?
I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. - Sam Houston