Separating the right from the wrong

by Roland Lindsey
"Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

Fateful words from the Dixie Chicks in 2003.  Some criticized them for insulting the President of the United States while in a foreign country, and their core audience punished them with boycotts and criticism.  Some believed they were unpatriotic, and Natalie Maines doubled down in a Daily Telegraph interview by questioning the value of patriotism at all.  This did not help record sales, and led to further criticism by the conservative press.

Much has been made of President Obama's speeches around the world, with many conservatives claiming that President Obama is apologizing for America, and as a result, weakening our position in the world.  I am chiefly concerned with National Review.

Victor Hansen wrote:
By separating himself from the past, Obama sends the implicit message to allies (like Israel, India, Columbia, the Maliki government, eastern Europe, Sarkozy, Merkel, etc) that there must have been something wrong with them to have allied themselves with the U.S. during the Bush years — and to enemies and belligerents that their anti-Americanism is perhaps understandable given a shared antipathy for the Bush regime;

The Editors wrote a piece entitled "Obama's Confession", where they criticize President Obama for criticizing the actions of previous administrations:
Uncle Sam arrived at the U.N. in penitential mode. He promised to mend his ways, to treat the other governments with proper deference, and to continue to pay everyone’s bills. He can get ovations every time with similar speeches. But he will also continue another trend that began yesterday: losing their respect.

And yet, when Sarah Palin gives a speech in Hong Kong to a group of investors, the conservative press is strangely uncritical of Governor Palin's criticism of the President and the government of the United States.  It is not too far a stretch to say that Governor Palin was critical of America, given that both the government and the President of the United States were both elected by a majority of the electorate in this country.  I suppose it would at least be helpful if she was factual in her criticisms, but her some of her statements and prescriptions regarding the economy are the stuff of fantasy.

Do the editors of National Review believe that Sarah Palin's remarks are intended to increase the respect for America?  Do they truly believe that Governor Palin's words strengthen our country?  Apparently, Rich Lowry believes the speech is a "step in the right direction."  Perhaps for Governor Palin, but is it really the right direction for politicians to travel the world and criticize the President and the government?  Is it good for America?

And finally, is it good for Conservatives to promote the criticism of our government and elected officials by conservatives while overseas?  Were Sarah Palin to deliver such a speech in Florida, it would hardly be news.  But to travel to a territory of the People's Republic of China in order to deliver a speech excoriating the present administration and congress is not patriotic.  It is self-aggrandizement, which is another criticism National Review hands out liberally, so long as the subject is a Democrat.

If conservatives believe that attracting independents to the Republican Party is good for all of us, they will simply ignore those who prefer to put themselves over duty to country.  When we elevate these people, we just appear foolish.

So You Say You Want a Revolution?

by Luna Flesher

A significant percentage of conservatives seem ready for a revolution. They are mad as hell, and aren't going to take it anymore. They carry guns to town hall meetings. They wave Gadsden flags.  They wistfully evoke memories of historical 1776. They quote Jefferson about the evils of tyranny and the need for blood.

I listened to a man named Dominick call into Michael Medved this week.  Medved had on polling expert Frank Luntz, who found 76% of Americans describe themselves as "mad as hell".  Though most of those are not necessarily conservatives or the Tea Party set, 3% of Americans are like Dominick -- outraged enough to revolt.

The recent 9-12 Tea Party march on DC had a disproportionate number of those people.  This enlightening video interview gives us some idea of what they're so angry about:

Certain members of the media seem perfectly willing to stoke the fire. Yes, I'll name names. Fox News. Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh. Michael Savage. They not only perpetuate the myths that make people feel their liberty and lives are in serious danger, but often come just short of actual calls to violence. They do so in a way that gives them plausible deniablity, so that they can feign innocence. But should disaster strike (as it already has to a limited extent), they are in every way as responsible as someone who shouts "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

I used to be one of that 3%, long before it was popular with anyone to be so.

I felt oppressed. I own such books as, "101 Things To Do 'til the Revolution".  Though I never got around to reading them, I planned all sorts of activist activities to spread the word. I thought of provocative slogans, like "Dan Rather is a Commie", and "You Are A Welfare Slave".  I plotted methods for organizing fellow revolters into anonymous cells similar in organization to ELF, but with additional rules against harming property or people.

And should it have come to firing actual weapons at the Government, I was ready to do that, too.

So I understand the anger, but at the same time feel ashamed to admit I was once one of them. Because now, I realize what a terrible, horrible thing a violent revolution would be.

Like Dominick, I had not fully thought through my vision. I assumed we would dodge some bullets, raise up the fallen as martyrs, defeat the military, and then simply kick the bastards out.  Everyone would see the error of their ways, and the country would return to the Constitutional libertarian liassez faire utopia the Founding Fathers intended.

But that isn't what the Founders intended.  Yes, Jefferson may have written about the benefits of periodic revolution. But he also co-wrote a much more important document: The Constitution.

Conservatives: Take the science and run with it

by Roland Lindsey

The science on medical marijuana use is in:

The results?  A few quotes from the article:
In its 4,000+ years of documented use, there is no report of death from overdose with cannabis. In contrast, as little as 2 grams of dried opium poppy sap can be a lethal dose in humans as a result of severe respiratory depression. This fact about opium is borne out today in the unintentional deaths from prescribed opioids that continue to escalate.

It is clear that, as an analgesic, cannabis is extremely safe with minimal toxicity. Unlike opioids, cannabinoid medicines do not promote appetite loss, wasting, and constipation, but instead can be used therapeutically to treat these symptoms.

Nonetheless, the purpose of this article is not to discuss the pros and cons of medicinal versus recreational marijuana use. That is a totally separate and altogether different issue. Yet, at the very least, it should be noted that there is no evidence that recreational cannabis use is any higher in states that allow for its medicinal use.

The article drew data from over 33 controlled clinical trials taken over 38 years.  It is irrefutable and makes plain that Marijuana has no business being a Schedule I drug.

Republicans should take the point on this from a policy perspective.  Become known as the party who fought to end an illogical and harmful policy and as the party that aligns itself with the truth.  Speak on it every chance you get.  Arm yourselves with the information and decry those who argue from any basis of fear, rhetoric, or anecdotes.  If you find yourself running low on material, review "The War on Drugs is Lost" at National Review.

Take this issue and make hay with the people you represent, and the ones you hope to represent.  Or simply let the Democrats have it by default.  Drug policy reform is inevitable; for now, your legacy is yours to define.

Why Conservatives should support Government Healthcare

by Roland Lindsey

David Frum posted an excellent post on the Bush Economic Legacy over at  I hope that the Republican leadership reads it.

When you look at the traditional levers of tax policy, interest and inflation rates, there is just not much room to make things any easier on business to create jobs and raise income levels, let alone pay for health care. There are many things we can do to encourage business and wage growth, however. Like fix this odious, job-killing system we have in America called Health Care.

Reforming health insurance alone will not solve the problem of cost. Even if all insurers became non-profits but otherwise performed at the same rate, it would only reduce the cost of health care by 1% of the $2.4 trillion it costs us now.  Want to see the data?  Check an NPR analysis of the data here.  From the article:
To negate this notion, AHIP features a dollar bill with one tiny slice out of it (shown below) on their Web site, illustrating that their members only make 1 cent of every dollar spent on health care.

That may be the case, says Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt, but "whether it's fair or not depends on what it is you want to describe," he says.

"All that statement says is, if you eliminated all our [insurance company] profits, national health spending in America would be 1 percent lower. It has meaning only in that context," Reinhardt says.

Tort reform is not going to bring our costs significantly down. How do I know this? Look at the size of the medical malpractice insurance industry. Not only is the medical malpractice insurance industry doing very well from a profitability point of view, the cost of medical malpractice is at a 30 year low. In fact, in 2008, the total cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums was $10.7 billion. That is less than one half of one percent of the $2.4 trillion we spend on health care. Total payouts from malpractice insurance in 2008? $4.7 billion.  There is a study here on tort reform by the CBO from 2004.  They did not believe then that it would affect the economics of health care.  There is another study undertaken by Americans for Insurance Reform.  Same deal, it's just not a significant factor, and honestly should just be taken off of Republican talking points.

Come on, Republicans. We can do much better than this. And the independents, those people who really decide elections… They know whether or not they did better in the last decade or if they did worse. They don’t care what Glenn Beck says, and they don’t care what Keith Olbermann says. They care about their own situation and their own prosperity. And while Republicans do not solve problems for them, they will vote Democrat. It’s the simple truth.

We hear the comparisons to Canada and the UK and Switzerland, and we laugh it off because we say, “Well sure, they may control costs better than we do, but I’d hate to get sick over there!” And then we lay out a lot of reasons why our system is better.

Except the costs of our system are crushing individuals, business, and our economy. And we Republicans are blind to the reality that our “solutions” to the problem are tiny drops in an enormous bucket. Would you prefer the economic growth of the ’80s or the '90s to the economic growth of the '00s? We all would agree that would be preferable. Would you be willing to go back to an '80s standard of Health Care to achieve that?

If the only substantive choice to contain health care costs is to move over to a Single Payer system like Canada (costs 10.6% of GDP), or a Nationalized system like the UK (costs 7.5% of GDP), then we must support the substantive choice. We can cry about losing our liberty and freedom all we want, but do not forget that economic freedom equals real freedom. That personal liberty is not possible without economic liberty. And the trajectory we are on is one that leads to economic slavery.

If I have to choose between continuing economic disaster in this country while the Republicans remain in permanent minority status and waiting 3 months for a doctor visit, I'll take the waiting list.

Mind Control 101: The Basics

Remember this? Youre still doing it wrong.
Remember this guy? He's still doing it wrong.

by Luna Flesher

We have explored what thought reform is not in Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing.  But what is it? What force can shut down people's minds and get them to do things they otherwise would never consent to?

Cult Conversion Walkthrough (Storytime!)

No one is immune from mind control.  And contrariwise, mind control doesn't always work. It takes the right combination of factors; specifically trust, common ideals, and receptivity.

Cults are a good place to study mind control because the changes they effect on people's lives are extremely obvious.

Pretend for a moment you are having a difficult time in your life: a recent tragedy or major transition.  Maybe you've just gone through divorce, lost a loved one, you've moved to a new town, or have recently been fired.  You're feeling alone, scared, depressed, ashamed, or desperate.

One day you encounter someone who is nice to you.  Either it's a friend or associate, or even a complete stranger.  Maybe it is someone handing out pamphlets, or speaking to a crowd.  Who ever it is, he has kind eyes, and you feel a little better when you're around him.  He also seems to share your values.  Maybe he wants to help the poor, or he talks about the power of love, or God, or protecting animals.  Imagine your greatest value, and he also shares that value with a level of passion you admire.

He invites you to a meeting or a party.  Once there, you find a room full of people who say nice things to you, lifting your spirits.  They are involved in a cause you wholeheartedly endorse.  They take care of the sick or collect food for the poor, or educate kids about capitalism, or share the message of God to the world.

Being around these people makes you feel good.  You feel as if you belong.  You quickly forget your personal problems and begin spending more time with this group, working towards making the world a better place.

They have won your trust.

Now you are fairly receptive to what the leader may tell you.  He will use this time to win more of your trust and make you more receptive.  If you've had niggling doubts about your new friends or their beliefs, they are easily explained away.

Slowly, you are introduced to new ideas you may not have accepted at first.  Over time, more is required of you.  More money, more time, more sacrifices.  Your behavior is slowly restricted.  Maybe you are required to dress a special way, eat or not eat certain foods, show up at a certain number of meetings, be so busy you don't get proper sleep or nutrition.

Now the grip tightens.  The leader teaches you doctrines to instill phobias about the outside world.  You learn that your group has many enemies to fear.  Those enemies are not to be listened to because you will be unable to resist when they try to lead you away from the love of the group.  You are given thought-terminating cliche's, phrases or words that help you easily dismiss criticism.  You are elite, one of the chosen to help save the world from political error, or one of the blessed of God.  Your very language is altered, as your words become "loaded". This prevents you from properly thinking about certain concepts, and from properly communicating with people outside the group.  You have become dependent upon the group for your emotional well-being, and you are possibly even physically or financially dependent.  You are isolated, if not physically, then mentally, because there are many sources of information you are taught to distrust.

When you think about the group and its teachings, you are filled with a sense of euphoria.  Thinking about outsiders or criticisms makes you feel anger or confusion.  The thought of leaving the group or "switching sides" makes you feel guilty, ashamed, or afraid.  If something is not going as promised, you blame yourself, not the group.  There are no gray areas left in your world view -- things are either good or evil, left or right, pure or tainted, full of life or death.

You now automatically reject any criticism, no matter how valid it is.  You reject any fact that goes contrary to your beliefs, because your beliefs have become more important than reality.  Certain words are now triggers that cause you to reject specific ideas before you even have a chance to hear them out.

You feel yourself to be perfectly rational, far more enlightened or intelligent than those with opposing views.  Yet instead, your brain has been crippled from the mind viruses you voluntarily made part of you.

What Just Happened?

Here is the process:

GOP: How to win our hearts and minds

by Roland Lindsey

I read The Death of Conservatism a few days ago, right after reading through "Right Reason" by William F. Buckley, Jr. for the first time.  Something occurred to me that I initially observed as a teenager growing up in George H.W. Bush's America.

Conservatives, it seemed to me, had an optimistic view of individual behavior.  Liberals on the other hand seemed to have a distressingly pessimistic opinion of human behavior.  I saw Conservatives desirous of creating an environment where people would choose to do the right thing, while Liberals had given up on the idea long ago and would nullify such behavior with the actions of a state.  Now I know that Conservative essayists go on and on about how much they believe in the fallibility of man, but it didn't seem that way to me.  On issue after issue, my observation seemed to hold true.

An example of this dichotomy is present when we consider the welfare state.  Conservatives argue that the government safety net discourages the church and communities from taking care of their own needy members, and that if government were out of the way, individuals and citizen organizations would take care of the needy on a local level.  Liberals seem to be unwilling to trust in the good nature of individuals and citizen organizations, and engage the state in an act of faceless paternalism in order to avoid the unpleasantness of the starving and destitute.  It's not exactly a Hallmark moment, but at least people are being fed.

A more recent example is that the Liberal establishment believes that corporations and individuals will not do the right thing in regards to health care, and therefore have to create another faceless parent to take care of us all.  Conservatives argue instead for more market deregulation, less government involvement, more capitalism and competition, holding the belief that the individuals and the corporations will do the right thing.

When Conservatives seek to prevent a personal behavior, it is argued that behavior is immoral.  Immorality (as defined largely by Judeo-Christian values) is anathema to policy that depends on each person doing the right thing.  If Conservative policy, by and large, expects individuals to act virtuously, than a virtuous people is required for said policy to be successful.  Enter the Culture War.

You can hardly listen to a Republican elected official without hearing about "the erosion of values" or "the moral decay" of our country.  They wring their hands about the immorality of abortion while simultaneously doing nothing to stop it.  They complained about Marilyn Manson, and "Gansta Rap" and Murphy Brown.  To what end?  They gnashed their teeth when Janet Jackson pulled a stunt at the Superbowl that really didn't matter to most Americans.

It has become clear to me that Republicans believe "traditional family values" and proper tax legislation are inextricably linked.  If the moral decay is not staunched, then perhaps these individuals who we believe should be virtuous will cheat on their taxes.  Or perhaps instead of investing their tax rebate into the stock market, they will instead blow it on the Sex and the City Boxed set, cocaine, and hookers.  It sounds far-fetched, but I believe it is consistent with the ideology.

Conservatives have been woefully unsuccessful in engaging individuals on their ideas for health care reform, but they can certainly get a lot of press once they cry loudly about 16 year-olds being educated on safe sex.  And since in their view, governance depends on the virtue of the governed, it is rational to go for the morality play.  In order for their policy to work properly, people must behave "morally".  What they haven't realized yet is what is killing them:  Most college-educated people do not share their philosophy.

I'm 37 and work in the software industry.  The typical profile of my peers is "Social Liberal, Fiscal Conservative."  You all know them, and you know what they mean by that.  They believe that sometimes people are virtuous, and sometimes people are not.  They believe that sometimes you must bring equality through government mandate, yet there is a price to be paid.  We hear from Republicans about how immoral we all are, and we turn them off.  Who wants to hear about what a cesspool it is that we all live in?  We hear from Democrats about injustice, and we at least give them a listen.  Above all, we believe in reality, not whether or not a spiritual leader would agree with how we are spending our Saturday evenings.

For Republicans to make headway with our demographic, they must table the desire to manage our virtue, and move forward with the desire to govern the country.  When we hear a Republican, we shouldn't be hearing about how traditional marriage is under assault, rather we should be hearing about how school vouchers give us a better education for our children.  When we listen to a Republican, we shouldn't be hearing about how Marijuana is a terrible vice, rather how a strong defense will ensure peace.

I'm not asking Republicans to forsake their values; I'm asking Republicans to push for ideas and reforms that make sense to us divorced from a moral framework.  Whether or not we will ever have, or indeed ever had the virtue to live according to perfect Conservative principles, I don't know.  What I do know is that morality is a lot less important to us today than it seems to be to the Republican party.  And while this disconnect exists, the Republicans will stay out in the wilderness.

Health Care: Democratic Assault on Originality, Republican Assault on Reality

by Roland Lindsey

Despite much media adulation over the President's speech on Health Care, we didn't hear anything last night we haven't heard before.  There are all the same reforms we have heard over and over again, with a token nod toward tort reform, much like a cherry on top.  He still stands by a public option, a position I find weakened by his own admission that only 5% of Americans would sign up for such an option.  If so few will use it, why is it so critical?

He gave an impassioned defense of liberalism, while first acknowledging the base conservative leanings of Americans.  Pledging allegiance to neither side, he struck a centrist tone while asking Americans to consider proper government involvement in their lives.  This is a reasonable question, and anyone who would argue that Utopia can be found in either extreme needs to study history.

But in the end, we are left where we were in the last days of July.  More of the same.

The Republican response was a caricature of what we have come to expect of the Republicans throughout this entire debate.  First up was Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouting "You lie!" to the President during his speech.  This was a shameful display of bad manners regardless of whether or not he is correct.  In this case, he is indisputably wrong.  Illegal immigrants are specifically barred from receiving any federal health care in the legislation.  But being correct is not high on the Republican agenda these days, much to our nation's injury.

Throughout this process, both sides have come down on the wrong side of reality more than a few times, but Republicans have become notable for complete fabrications.  From "Death Panels" to calling the public option a "government takeover of the health care industry", the Republicans have played fast and loose with the truth time and again.

Despite the fact that Conservatives concern themselves with reality, the Republicans preferred the fiction once again.  Representative Charles Boustany (R-FL) let loose with many of the memes that have marginalized Conservatives throughout this debate.  And this is a shame, because we need a strong Conservative presence in this country.  Appeals to unreality is not an attractive trait to intelligent voters.

Rep Boustany began by saying that most Americans wanted the President to tell Congress he wanted them to start over.  A CNN poll taken at the beginning of the month indicated that 25% wanted them to start over, with 53% wanting the legislation to be passed with minor or major changes.  25% is not most Americans.  An AP poll taken this week claimed 4 out of 10 Americans wanted Congress to start over, and the same percentage wanted them to pass the legislation.

REALITY: Most Americans did not want the President to tell Congress to start over.

Rep. Boustany claimed that "Replacing your family's health care with government-run health care is not the answer."  He may be right about that.  But there two components of this statement fly in the face of reality.

The President quoted the CBO in saying that only 5% of Americans would use the public option, and that it would only go to those who currently do not have health care.  The President wasn't just making that up; the CBO analyzed the legislation and determined that only 10-11 million Americans would use the option.

REALITY: You cannot replace something you don't already have.  No one is replacing anything with the public option.

And labeling the public option "Government-run health care" is even more ridiculous.  It simply isn't government-run health care.  It is a government-run insurance company.  It isn't even taking over the insurance industry, rather entering it as a severely restricted competitor.  And even then, it's only competing for individuals that don't even buy insurance anyway.

REALITY: Nothing in the President's plan amounts to government-run health care, unless you count modifications to Medicare.  And according to what I've seen these last few months, there is no support among Republicans for ending Medicare.

Next, Rep. Boustany's assault on reality exploded full force, leaving no truth standing.

"I read the bill Democrats passed through committee in July. It creates 53 new government bureaucracies, adds hundreds of billions to our national debt, and raises taxes on job-creators by $600 billion. And, it cuts Medicare by $500 billion, while doing virtually nothing to make the program better for our seniors."

Well, perhaps one truth is left standing, I don't deny that he read HR 3200.  I do deny his comprehension of aforementioned legislation.

REALITY: HR 3200 does not create 53 new government bureaucracies.  Go read the bill yourself.  It simply doesn't.

REALITY: The President has called for a budget-neutral bill, enforced by mandatory budget cuts if it does add to the deficit.  It doesn't add hundreds of billions to our national debt.  And if it does, cuts would be required by law.

REALITY: It doesn't raise taxes on "job-creators" by $600 billion, unless you consider everyone who makes over $350,000 a year a "job-creator".

REALITY: $500 billion in projected increases are cut, meaning that nothing is really being cut, it's just not being increased. What is being increased is an additional $240 billion in payments to doctors.  The CBO says that net savings will be around $241 billion.

After listing the precious few bona fide ideas the Republicans have for Health Care Reform, he ends on this note, saying, "These are common-sense reforms we can achieve right away – without destroying jobs, exploding the deficit, rationing care, or taking away the freedom American families cherish."  Doomsday, full steam ahead!

REALITY: This legislation may destroy a job or two, or create a job or two, but it won't explode the deficit, ration care, or take away the freedom American families cherish.  It just won't.

Are Conservatives concerned with reality?  Are Republicans conservative?  If Conservatives are, then Republicans aren't.

PAX 2009 Live Blog

Penny Arcade eXpo is an annual gaming convention in Seattle, WA. It hosts approximately 30,000 people. Any type of game is covered here, video games, tabletop, pen and paper RPGs, board, card, hand held, console, and PC games.

Our PAX Posse includes Luna, Roland, Joci, John, Danielle, and teens Betsy, Tori, Stephan, Meadow, and Judah. Whew!

Roland and I will be liveblogging the event in this post, meaning, check back periodically, as this post will be updated every few hours.

(For anyone waiting for the next Mind Control 101 entry, I'll write it soon. PAX comes first! XD)


10:11am Luna: At PAX. Glad we pre-reged early. All badges are of course sold out. I wonder where they will have PAX next year, since the Washington State Convention Center is the largest venue in Seattle (to my knowledge).

Now standing in line for swag bag and lanyard. This line is far, far the longest line I've seen at a con. Guessing twice as long as the Adam Savage line at Defcon.

[caption id="attachment_380" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="See how this line wraps over and under itself"]See how this line wraps over and under itself[/caption]

10:27am Roland: This line is more awesomely long than any con line I've ever been in, and everyone is already registered!

11:02am Luna: OMG the exhibit hall has spilled out into what last year was the LAN room. Swag bag came with full copy of LOTR: Mines of Moria. We were all playing LOTR plain last year. We could start again, and rope the kids into it. Make them our own personal gold farming slaves.

Bag also holds a mouse pad, t-shirt, buttons, stickers. Program guide looks like a retro NES game manual. Awesome job, PAX swag committee!

11:40 Luna: spotted a Reverse-Scalper at the entrance. The poor guy is offering $100 for a three day pass. Planning to sew the kids' badges to their clothing so they don't lose and/or get pwned out of them.

1:46pm Luna: Sitting at the AION panel. I hadn't really heard of this MMORPG until now. Looks maybe cool. Most of the audience is in closed beta and they apparently love it.

1:54pm Luna: iPhone users, be sure to check out the PAX iPhone app to check schedules, events, and other information. (Assuming AT&T lets us have any bandwidth.)

Do not Access this from the Apple Store. It awesomely installs from the web. So browse to this link in Safari:

Oh, and Gmail is down again. Weird.

5:37pm Luna: John says he's disappointed with the racial ratios in the Pax crowds. Mostly white and Asian.

I was greatly disappointed with the booth babe at Atari's booth. Nothing against her, just against Atari for putting a paid model who seems to have zero interest in games, standing scantily clad with the sole purpose of attracting male gamers. Just like EA at Comicon, you guys have no understanding of the changing gamer demographic - not only are there more women gamers, bur more if the guys want smart gamer girlfriends, not just pretty naked bodies.

Speaking of girls, there seemed to be fewer women this year. That could have something to do with the time of day. My jury is still out till tomorrow.

I didn't have time to finish the walk of the expo hall. But here are the games I'm excited about:

Lego Rock Band
Beetles Rick Band
Elemental: War of Magic
Tales of Monkey Island

I had a great time at the Stardock / Impulse booth. We are constant fans of that company. Their Gamer's Bill of Rights was a long time coming. I love a company who believes at it's roots their customers should be treated with respect, not suspected as thieves.

Stardock staff recommended a game I plan to check out: Kitten Sanctuary

6:28pm Luna: Watching in fascination as the nVidia numbers game unfolds. Saw this happen two years ago. The game works this way: nvidia booth hands you a button. Your button has a number and presumably, someone else has another button with the same number. Find your match. Then you can spin a wheel or something, and the grand prize everyday is some snazzy top of the line expensive graphics gear.

At this stage, we're watching the beginnings if self-organization. Some people are content to labor away, walking around and manually looking at buttons. But already, people have scrawled their numbers in 5" on lined paper and ink pen. Hashtag #nvidia and your number on Twitter so others can search you.

It should be interesting to see if the final stages of this look anything like two years ago.

7:52pm Luna: Watched the Bioshock 2 preview.  Wow.  Leave it to Bioshock to force me into upgrading my video card again.  Now I'm more motivated to win one. ;)

It doesn't just look like another version of Bioshock with new graphic overlays over the same old gameplay.  For one thing, it seems a little more like a zombie game.  Since you're playing a Big Daddy, not much can hurt you, so you generally get ganged up upon.  You're trying to protect a Little Sister, so I sincerely hope the game doesn't end up being the world's longest escort quest (I hate escort quests!)

Storyline is still immersive.  Big Sisters are fucking scary.  Graphics?  Well, let's say it's impressive when the ocean floods into the room, water beads up on camera, and then you're walking around with floating chairs and murky ocean goo floating around you.

Yeah, I see a new GPU in my future.

[caption id="attachment_383" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="Gameboy Music"]Gameboy Music[/caption]

Earlier, we walked past the Gameboy Music people outside.  They are much, much better this year.  Not only is the novelty of the instrument cool, they're actually starting to sound good.  I stayed to listen just because I actually liked the sound.

In the Console Freeplay room on floor 5, you can play with a Microsoft Surface. I'm always excited about these paradigm-blowing new technologies.

Surface of course is a table a few feet across.  4-6 people can sit comfortably around it.  It has a touch-sensitive screen.  Actually, I learned it's technically a camera, and touch sensitivity is approximated. You drag elements around on the screen.  So if there are dots or icons flying around, you can touch to add new dots, drag them places, etc.

There is also a chip system, where coded chips can be placed on the screen.  They have various functions -- like gravity, springs, solid objects, and so on.  So if you have dots flowing across the screen, and place down a gravity chip, it can attract or repulse the dots.  My intuitive impulse was to twist the chip, and I quickly learned twisting one way created a stronger and stronger repulse reaction.  Counterclockwise twists created stronger and stronger incoming gravity.

Another application showed you a little better how the camera was working.  I could lay my arm across it, and it "saw" my arm down to the last eyelet on my fancy sleeves, in a sort of black-and-white "negative".

There is also an identity card.  You lay it on the surface, and it recognizes you.  This can be used in a variety of applications.  For instance, in gaming, it tracks your score, movements, etc. When you leave for a break, you take your ID with you, so no one can cheat. :)

Another app uses your ID to show Twitter and Facebook details of the people sitting at the table.  Twitter messages can be moved around, sorted, etc.

Surface seems to bring social back to computing.  This should be a strange interface when used with Natal. That will bring not only facial recognition for the purpose of identification of multiple users of the same surface at the same time, but also emotion and body movement recognition.

This plus some of the augmented reality apps, like are being developed for iPhones now, make me very excited to see what the near-future holds in terms of computer interfaces and how they will change the way we think.

Surfaces are currently being marketed for commercial use only, as each one costs about $12,500.  However, the Microsoft rep said Windows 7 was build with touch interfaces in mind, so we'll soon start seeing these types of interfaces in the form of laptops, tablets, and monitors.

9:00pm Luna: Merchants of Deva are doing an alcohol-infused fund raiser for Child's Play, tomorrow evening 5pm-9pm at The Baltic Room on 1207 Pine. for more info.

My Libertarian Credentials

A lot of people lately have doubted that I'm for small government. I've had to fend off long litanies and lists of examples of why government is bad.  Yet no one seems to believe me when I say, "Yes, I know government is bad."  Honestly, I know that. That's old, old news to me.

But I sometimes have some additional points to make, like, "It's a fallacy to say all of anything is bad," or "Sometimes government is good," or "Sometimes big business needs a kick in the rear."  And those points keep getting lost because some of you feel the need to convert me even though I'm already converted.

So I feel the need to list my credentials, to "show my papers" to the border guard of your judgment.  I hope you will view these bona fides with approval, and nod me on so that I can get back to writing on topics I prefer.

A lot of you may not know what libertarianism is, so here it is in a nutshell.  I'm for small government.  On both sides of the aisle.  If you're conservative, I agree with you on half of the issues -- that generally government should stay out of our finances.  If you're liberal, I generally agree with you on half of the issues, that government should stay out of our personal lives.  I prefer individualism to collectivism, innovation to control, freedom to tyranny.  If you need further details, go google it.

Just how small-government am I?  A portion of my mind is constantly dedicated to figuring out ways to privatize everything without causing mass chaos, much the same way a sci-fi authors ponder how to get between stars in a human lifetime without defying the laws of physics.  If I could think of a safe way to privatize even the military, I'd be for it!

Here are my creds:

  • I voted for Ruth Bennett in 2000, the candidate who got 7% of the votes, making the LP temporarily a major party in Washington State.

  • In 2001, I bought a handgun simply to exercise my Second Amendment right to do so.

  • In 2002 I was an election volunteer ("Observer") representing the LP in Benton County, Washington.  I observed the delivery of ballot boxes, as well as the testing of counting equipment.

  • I helped with the Bruce Guthrie Senate campaign in 2006.

  • I started the Wikipedia article on Neo-Objectivism (It persisted several years, but since, sadly, has been unfairly merged into the Objectivist Movement article. Those bastards!)

  • I subscribed to Reason magazine for several years, and have one of the coveted personalized issues that has my name and satellite image of my house printed on the cover.

  • My copies of Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and Anthem are very underlined, dog-eared, and annotated in pencil.

  • Have a look at the books I have tagged as "Changed My Life" on  These books had a profound effect on my outlook.

  • I convinced an anthropology-majoring, socialist-leaning, pot-smoking lesbian that mandatory recycling is wrong.

  • I regularly donate to the EFF, ACLU, and other civil liberties organizations.

  • My major heroes include Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Ayn Rand, Wendy McElroy, Penn & Teller, Ron Paul, David Brin.

  • Karl Marx is a scumbag.

So why do my posts sound Liberal/Socialist/Right-Wing/[insert evil side you oppose here]?  Because there are already millions of information resources for Libertarian/Objectivist/Civil Liberties/Small Government Conservative philosophies.  There are organizations like CATO, ACLU, EFF, and the Reason Foundation.  There are blogs like the Agitator and Below the Beltway. Anyone can go out and read Adam Smith and Ludwig Von Mises books until their eyes swell.

And of course for every one libertarian evangelist, there are 100 right wing or left wing authors repeating the same things.  (Since again, libertarians are half-breeds.)

I don't merely want to parrot all of the above.  Why should I when I can link to them, or reference them, or just rest assured those voices are out there saying what needs to be said?  If I repeated the same old lines, this blog would be boring, and you wouldn't be here reading it.

In fact, it is because I am a true individualist that I choose to not be a parrot.  Instead, I choose to be an innovator.  I want to think of original ideas and new twists on old ideas.  I want to look at issues in a fresh way.

As a blogger I get to write about what I am most interested in.  I find most interesting those areas where I disagree with the rank and file.

This is not so I can be a contrarian, to disagree for disagreement's sake.  I simply hold reason above ideology. So while my core values match those of core libertarianism, I am always asking questions. "Where does my ideology break down?  Are there exceptions to my 'rules'?  How do my core principles really apply to this topic?" I am not comfortable with jumping to a conclusion based solely on my old assumptions.  Nor am I comfortable arguing for something I know very little about, even if doing so would follow some party line.

I find exceptions to the rule extremely fascinating and worthy of discussion.  Just because I disagree with you on one point, or a dozen, doesn't automatically put me on The Same Side As The Enemy.  That is a thought terminating clichè which could be disabling your ability to thoughtfully consider what could otherwise be very good ideas.

So before you go getting all excited, please rest assured: I believe government sucks.  There are major problems with the EPA, FDA, IRS, Federal Reserve, SEC, NSA, CIA, DEA, and most every other member of the Government Acronym Soup.  I love liberty and support our troops and red meat is tasty and the internet should be free.  People should be responsible and personally accountable for all their actions.  Hard work and innovation should be rewarded.  Capitalism and democracy are the greatest human forces yet discovered to increase happiness and quality of life of every person on earth.

Honest.  I get that.  I really do.

So now that I've regurgitated the party line, I hope to get back to the business of being an individual.  Like writing about something you haven't heard before.

Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="183" caption="Mind catrol - ur doing it rong akshully"]Mind Control - ur doing it rong[/caption]

by Luna Flesher

I've studied a lot about mind control over the years.  My interest piqued shortly after I left a rigorous and restrictive religion.  I wanted to better understand how I had willingly allowed myself to be controlled, all the while believing and protesting loudly that I was free.

These methods are deceptive and unethical, tricking the mind rather than persuading through honesty and reason. Knowing this, I now have a very unique perspective on American politics.  I can see these techniques used all the time, by politicians, media, and regular people.

This is not owing to a vast conspiracy. It doesn't take an evil mastermind to notice certain approaches work better to persuade. These methods have always worked and will always continue to work, and so they perpetuate through society.  Some who study memetics might even say they self-replicate.

This post begins a series called "Mind Control 101", which precedes its non-evil step-twin, "Logical Fallacies 101".

Please do not use this as a How To!  I address this topic not with the intent that you try to take over the world. In instead wish to make you better able to defend yourself when your mind comes under assault.

Let's begin with the myths.  The entire subject of brainwashing is "loaded".  Loading a word is itself, fittingly, a mind control technique that limits thought by giving you preconceived and highly incorrect notions. I'll start "deprogramming" you by showing where your existing understanding of the topic is probably far from reality.

When I say these words, "Thought Control" or "Brainwashing", you no doubt envision a wild-haired hypnotist swinging a silver watch, while a stern doctor injects your arm with a strange serum.  In the background, hooded figures chant, and soon your eyes begin to glaze over.  All the while you are helpless to resist because you are strapped to a chair.

This is all complete fantasy.  The great secret is that while being brainwashed you feel in complete control of yourself.  A much more accurate term is "coercive persuasion", because you are persuaded to want the same thing the manipulator wants, to believe as he wants you to believe.

Those who have been thusly persuaded never know they have been brainwashed.  Conversely if you think you've been brainwashed, you probably haven't been.

So let's dispel some myths, shall we?

Thought reform does not require physical restraint.

Scientists used to think this, back in the 1950s, when American POWs returned from Korea singing the praises of their captors.  But coercive persuasion in our free society requires a little more skill.  No force is required.  All it takes is listening to someone who is talking.  It also requires that you trust them, at least a little bit.  If they do their job right, you will go willingly.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="173" caption="This picture is totally photoshopped"][/caption]

It does not involve hypnotic disks.

Hypnosis is a broad word that means any varying state of consciousness other than the one you're probably experiencing now.  Various levels of hypnosis, trance, and meditation are sometimes used by cult groups, but this is never, ever a requirement.

No drugs, truth serums, elixirs, or magical incantations are used in brainwashing.

Other than a few 60's cults that were using drugs anyway, I've never come across any thought reform involving chemicals.  Nor does it have anything to do with Satan.  No demonic possession, summoning of evil spirits, or worshiping pagan gods is required.

Brainwashed people are not glassy-eyed, drooling zombies.

Most actually appear quite normal.  In fact, I would venture to say everyone ends up brainwashed to one degree or another, at some point in their lives. Our brains seem wired to accept manipulation and deception. It seems logical that humankind would have better survived those very dangerous first 100,000 years of pre-history by following a leader without question. Thought control merely capitalizes on those build-in survival skills we are all born with.

There is absolutely no way to know that you've been brainwashed.

That's exactly the point. If you knew you were being controlled, you wouldn't like it very much, and you wouldn't stand for it.  The manipulated fully believe they are making their own choices, that they are completely free to act in any way they choose.

A good deal of brainwashing involves setting up trigger thoughts, little tricks and traps that help you deflect any incoming facts, beliefs, thoughts, or feelings that would make you suddenly stop believing the lies you've been duped into.  Part of this series is going to be identifying those traps, so you can avoid them in the first place.

(I could say "...and so you can escape if you're already brainwashed."  But you see, if I were to accuse you of being controlled, you would immediately become defensive and protest, thinking, "There is no possible way!" That is exactly what I'm talking about.)

There is no "one size fits all" method of mind control.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can control some of the people all of the time, or all the people some of the time, but you can't control all the people all the time.  Manipulators throw out a line with some bait to see what bites.  Sometimes it's you, but usually you will laugh at their crazy ideas.  Everyone is ripe for being manipulated at some point in their lives.  Someone has something to say that will appeal specifically to you. You will always be able to see how other people are being brainwashed, but you won't necessarily notice when it's happening to you, because you will like it.

There are a lot of mind control tricks, but not all are required.

There isn't a checklist that says, "Must meet all 50 requirements to be considered mind control".  To control, you only need to do what works.

Brainwashing is not total.

It is possible to be partly brainwashed.  You can be brainwashed about certain topics but not others.  You can be brainwashed to the point of doing or believing almost everything the leader wants, but not quite. Victims of mind control can eventually be freed.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="187" caption="A completely staged, totally unrealistic depiction of a typical brainwasher. (Note the evil eyebrows.)"]This image is actually pretty accurate.  NOT![/caption]

Brainwashers are not creepy, bizarre, crazy, mean-spirited men who ooze evil and darkness from every pore.

Images of cackling, sneering, British-accept-wielding villains were created for the drama of movie fiction, not to reflect reality.

If you're going to be good at manipulation, you've got to be likable. To persuade, you must be charismatic. To convince, you must be, well... convincing. I listened to old recordings of Jim Jones recorded just before the infamous Jonestown kool-aid mass-suicides and he sounded sincere, kind, loving, and wise.

Furthermore, controlling groups or ideologies work best when believers are taught to use brainwashing techniques themselves.  That's right. In almost every case, the controlled end up controlling.

No one is immune from mind control.

Not even me, not even after all I've learned about it. I can build up defenses, but even then I will be susceptible to it at some point.


Now you know what mind control is not, which gives you an advantage over most people.  In the next post I will, in the most basic of terms, describe what it is. Later on, I will delve into the details each technique so you can learn to recognize these methods in the wild.

Even If CO2 Doesn't Kill Mankind, Climate Change Will

by Luna Flesher

I am a global warming agnostic.  I stick my toe in the water every year or so check the temperature on both sides of the debate.  I tend to waffle around somewhere just barely on either side of the fence.  There's a lot of convincing data on both sides, and I really think science hasn't come far enough to know either way.  It's as if two astrologers have gazed into the same crystal ball and come up with completely different futures.

First you have a majority of scientists who firmly believe global anthropogenic (man-made) climate change (warming) is occurring due to carbon dioxide emissions.  In fact, some now say it is inevitable, and there is nothing we can do to stop it.  I can't believe this is due to a sinister, anti-capitalist conspiracy here because far too many smart scientists have made this conclusion.  They might be mistaken, but they are not all "in on it".

There is an overwhelming amount of data to indicate global temperatures are on the rise.  You have atmospheric and oceanic measurements of temperatures.  You have massive local weather fluctuations.  You have the melting ice caps.  You have plants that bloom at all the wrong times.

To confuse matters, scientists are actually noting a more recent cooling trend in very recent years.  Scientists retain existing warming theories, blaming various  conditions such as regular oceanic current cycles.

Some fringe scientists claim warming now will actually trigger an ice age.

Whether it's cooling or warming, something certainly seems to be going on with the climate, even if it seems no one can be entirely sure what.

Then you have the debate on what is causing climate change.  Obviously the prevailing theory it that it's caused by increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, due of course to fossil fuel consumption.

There is certainly a historical correlation between CO2 conditions and average global temperatures.  However, I have one small doubt: the classical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for "After this, therefore because of this". Just because Event B happens after Event A, does not mean Event A was the cause.  This is also known in statistics as correlation does not imply causation. It's an easy one to fall for, even for scientists.

Here is an example of why we might have a CO2 to temperature correlation where Co2 is not the cause.

We all know that decaying vegetable matter releases CO2. The more plants, the more CO2 can decay once that plant dies.  Increased global temperature increases the percentage of landmass viable for plant growth, and increases vegetation densities all over.  The Keeling Curve shows how plant decay produces sharp ups and downs of CO2 each year as things die off the fall and grow in the spring.  We have no way of knowing how increased vegetation over entire landmasses would increase CO2 levels for us to find in the ice eons later.

To further my point on cause vs. effect, we have been recently told the current trend of warming will thaw now-frozen plant matter, which will increase CO2 even further.  How do we know the spikes in CO2 in our distant past weren't caused by some arbitrary warming factor thawing once-frozen tundra, suddenly releasing ages-old carbon as is now happening?

Global warming could just as possibly cause CO2.

CO2 greenhouse theory itself becomes shaky in light of saturation theory. Greenhouse theory states gases absorb sunlight as energy as it bounces off the earth's surface and back into space.  However, CO2 can only absorb certain bandwidths of light.  Other greenhouses gases also absorb light, each with its own bands.  Water vapor absorbs the most energy from the highest number of frequencies, and is responsible for 90% of atmospheric heat absorption. There is some crossover, for example water absorbs some of the same frequencies of light as carbon, methane, and so on.  Once a gas has absorbed 100% of the bandwidths of light that it can, it can no longer retain any further energy.  All the other frequencies of light pass through.

Saturation theory concludes that carbon will increase temperatures only so much, until its entire range of light has been absorbed, and then it will stop.

To add one more little push as I lean over the fence, there is a new study showing how global warming models are not following their predicted paths. The paper is out of MIT, and is written by a highly respected atmospheric scientist.

The Little Ice Age showed us the earth can suddenly change climates for geologically short periods of time.  History records, and geological records corroborate, that the earth plunged into a period of cold starting as early as 1350 and ending possibly in the 1850's, with many decades-long ups and downs interspersed.  1816 was known as the Year Without Summer.  Europe and the Americas suffered off-and-on periods of mass starvation.

This was not caused by man. It was caused by the whims of nature, and proves to me just how much at the mercy of the environment we are.

My conclusion, for now, is that the climate is probably changing, and this could very likely have a devastating effect on sea levels, food supply, weather, and ecological habitats.

I doubt it is caused by man, but I remain agnostic on this point as well.

Either way, I absolutely think we should place less effort into building computer models of CO2 effects, which is like counting angels on the head of a pin, and more towards preparing ourselves for the coming disasters.

Maybe there is some crazy idea that could cool the earth no matter what its cause, like David Keith's proposal to use sulfate particulates in the stratosphere.

The Little Ice Age caused starvation because it took so many years to discover which crops grew well in colder conditions.  We need to get scientists like Normal Borlaug to recommend plants and agricultural methods for various scenarios, and then we need to stock up on the right seeds.

How can we apply ingenuity to save our coastal cities should sea levels rise? How can we protect our water supply if all the glaciers melt? Where will be buy swimsuits in January if stores won't stock them until May?

In seriousness, perhaps we're spending a lot of time and money on trying to answer the wrong question -- not "Is climate change happening", nor even, "How can we prevent it?", but "Now that it's happening, how can we keep humanity safe and living with a high quality of life?"

Socialism is not Anti-American


The American Free Market Healthcare System Is Socialist

by Luna Flesher

Opponents of healthcare reform fear socialism.  And rightly so.  They list a host of problems that other socialist systems have seen.  While some examples are unrealistically exaggerated, their underlying point is well-taken.  Socialism, no matter how well intended, suffers from a number of unintended consequences.

The intention of collectivism is to provide equality, but the frequent result is that everyone is equally deprived.  No one is allowed to have more than anyone else.  Motivations become skewed, producers produce less, consumers consume more. Bureaucracy increases with the intent to stop fraud and abuse, which leads to increased inefficiency.  The least common denominator is prized because it is something everyone can agree on.

The Soviet Union is one of the best examples of this cycle, when it inevitably collapsed under its own weight.

A hat tip to my socialist friends out there. Yes, I know the USSR didn't practice "true" socialism. But I still make my claim -- any collectivist system of more than 100 people will generally suffer from similar symptoms.  When properly balanced, those issues can be stabilized and mitigated somewhat, but they are real problems that need to be recognized for what they are.

Socialized medicine is criticized for the following reasons:

  • Overall costs are rapidly driven up by lack of market forces.

  • Providers, manufactures, and other achievers are not compensated enough.

  • Choice becomes limited.

  • Care is rationed.

  • There are long waits for care.

  • There is a high level of bureaucracy leading to inefficiency, frustration, and corruption.

Most socialist healthcare systems in the world today show at least some of these problems, to one degree or another.

Previously, I posted about how our healthcare system is in crisis.  Our free market system is supposed to be immune to these problems.  Yet I'm noticing a strange correlation.  We are already experiencing all of the issues listed above.  How can this be?

Correlation is not causation, but I had already reached this conclusion a number of years ago for different reasons.  I briefly made this claim elsewhere in this blog, when I argued for government intervention, but did not have room to make my case.

My conclusion?  Health insurance is socialist.

Ritalin 4, Marijuana 0

by Roland Lindsey

A new study from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is a good indicator of just how poorly conceived drug policy in America is. MSNBC has the AP article here. From the article:
In the study, researchers from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center evaluated 1998-2005 data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. During that time, nationwide calls related to teen abuse of ADHD drugs, specifically stimulants, increased from 330 to 581 yearly, and there were four deaths. Overall, 42 percent of teens involved had moderate to severe side-effects and most ended up getting emergency-room treatment.

My daughter has fairly intensive ADHD. Adopting a regimen involving Concerta in the morning and Ritalin in the afternoon meant the difference between passing and failing 9th grade. I resisted medicating her for years, and when it was clear that she was making less and less progress in school and in social relationships, I relented. I believe it was the right decision. Her grades went up, she made some friends she could keep, and so long as she took her medication, she stayed on a stable course.

Another reason I decided to put her on medication was based on a study done some years ago that linked ADHD with increased probability of drug abuse and other risky behaviors. It isn't surprising that kids who are predisposed toward risky behavior and drug abuse will abuse drugs that are handed to them a month's worth at a time. What is surprising is that despite all of the evidence that ADHD medication can and does kill children, and despite all the evidence that ADHD medication can and does lead children to abuse these drugs, Ritalin is legal and Marijuana is not. While Marijuana has yet to claim an overdose victim, there were 4 deaths from ADHD drug abuse in the study.

Imagine a freer America where Marijuana is controlled to the same degree that ADHD medicine is controlled. In addition to the personal liberty we would enjoy, and the drastically reduced cost of incarcerating those who deal in the substance, we would perhaps see a similar study showing Marijuana abuse, only this time it would not include the deaths of children. A Conservative who believes it is permissible to make ADHD medication available to children despite the chance of abuse and death, yet believes it is impermissible to make Marijuana available to adults is no Conservative at all. Conservatives, after all, deal in reality.

Democratic Congressman Barney Frank has recently introduced yet another bill attempting to adjust drug policy to obvious reality. Conservative Republicans should be the ones introducing this bill, if they want any credibility with those of us who would see drug policy determined by the facts, and not ideology. Ritalin is not going away, and neither is Marijuana. One kills, and the other does not. This is the reality.

Health Care in America - Choice?

by Roland Lindsey

"Choice" is a word we hear from talking heads and politicians nearly every time they talk about Health care in America.  President Obama recently declared on talk radio, "Choice, competition, reducing cost, those are the things I want to see accomplished in this health care bill."  Nancy Pelosi said, "I agree with the president when he said a public option was the best way to keep the insurance companies honest, that it would be the best way to increase competition so that we can lower costs, improve quality of care, retain choice and expand coverage."

On the other side of the debate, the Republicans have opposed Democrat plans for health care reform, often claiming it would take choice away from the American people.  Representative Paul Ryan claimed the federal bureaucracy would replace "choice and competition."  Representative Bob Latta claimed "I believe people should have the choice to keep their own insurance, or Health Savings Accounts, if they are satisfied with their coverage and not be subjected to government intrusion into their personal choices."

Republicans have introduced a plan called "The Patient's Choice Act of 2009" that would create state insurance exchanges.  The purpose of these exchanges is to make it easy to compare and select plans.  Apparently they have never heard of  The plan would also... give people money to buy health insurance.  And if you are uninsurable through these plans?  They will do what Washington State did and create a "high risk" pool that would be more expensive, but would still provide coverage.
So much concern over preserving "choice" or granting more "choice."  After consulting my own experience, I pause to wonder, "Why do you keep saying that word?  I do not think it means what you think it means."  Like 56.5% of Americans, I have always received health insurance as part of my total compensation from my employer.  Odds are good that you receive your insurance this way, so I ask you:  When was the last time you made a choice in your health insurance?

A Conservative's Plea for Freedom in Marriage

by Roland Lindsey
I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts.  --Ronald Reagan

The Government of the United States controls a great deal more of our lives than the founders would have ever imagined.  And while the Republicans make a show of limiting the power and control of government, they are as guilty as the Democrats they rail against on a daily basis.  One need look no further than this decade to realize this is the truth.

One of the greatest hypocrisies of the Republican party is its focus on the "protection" of "traditional marriage." If I were to describe for you a tyrannical state such as the former Soviet Union, or Red China, would you shake your head in disbelief when I say that the state even controls whom its populace may marry?  If I were to describe for you the arranged marriages of history and even today in less civilized countries, would you not become enraged over the intervention of the state in this manner?

The Founders laid out for us the groundwork for a Federalist nation, where the States were given the power to regulate anything not enumerated in the Constitution.  Yet, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act removes from the states their power to make this crucial decision.  And those "stalwart defenders of Federalism" continue to push their tyranny down the throats of a populace that no longer desires it, if polls are to be believed.

There is certainly a conservative argument to be made for preserving those traditions that have served us well.  Yet, I cannot believe that subservience to tradition should trump our desire for the government to leave us alone to pursue our own happiness.  While we may be prepared to agree that a generation of youth addicted to video games and general sloth is quite detrimental to society, we would quite rightly revolt at the government mandating how we raise our children.  Yet we surrender our freedom to choose who we marry without a second thought, and worse still, we fight to impose this government control on our fellow Americans.

In this sense, we conservatives should be fighting for less government intervention, less government control, more freedom for the individual, more liberty for all.  We should not allow ourselves to be beguiled by the religious or the zealots; we should maintain our first principles.  We should be fighting for liberty.

We should stand up to Madame Pelosi, and tell her to get out of our business.  We should stand up to President Obama, and tell him to allow us to choose how our families shall be arranged.  We should not allow career politicians to determine the courses of our myriad lives.

Free Marriage for all, on the terms of the individual, not prescribed by the State.  This is my plea.  I leave you with this quote from Barry Goldwater.
The Conservative looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order. The Conservative is the first to understand that the practice of freedom requires the establishment of order: it is impossible for one man to be free if another is able to deny him the exercise of his freedom. But the Conservative also recognizes that the polical power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating.  -- Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative

Gun Nuts Give Free Ammunition To The Enemy

by Luna Flesher

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="169" caption="William Kostric bearing arms with this sign sets gun rights back a notch"]William Kostric bearing arms with this sign sets gun rights back a notch[/caption]

I like to think the Founders put the Bill of Rights in the order they did for a reason.  The First Amendment comes first because freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and so on are the most basic of human rights.  Then we need the Second Amendment to help us protect those rights, through use of force if necessary.

I'm just as big a fan of the Bill of Rights as the next gal.  But when the segment of our population most interested in protecting those rights is the segment most Out Of Their Minds at the moment, it seems to set the cause back just a bit.

We've already discussed here on this blog how those people seem to be using their free speech right to generate some of the best modern expressions of the absurd.  In a "nut" shell, they are wasting their platform to protest against fantasies and illusions, instead of bringing up a good points about something they can actually change.  Reality for instance.  Abuse of Amendment 1, already covered.

Let's move on to Amendment 2.

Look, William Kostric.  First of all, congrats for being brave enough to go up against Chris Matthews on Hardball.  I absolutely hate that guy, because he tears down his opponent with verbal bludgeons and psychological trickery before he lets them say their piece. I would never accept an interview him. Kudos for not letting him get to you and for explaining your case as best you could.

And I totally understand your points.  The Bill of Rights doesn't just say the right to keep arms, but keep and bear arms. I get that.  Guns are kind of useless if they're locked up at home.

And I get the concept of doing something simply because you have the right to, and making sure to exercise rights in order not to lose them. That's why I bought a handgun 8 years ago and still have it.

And I understand your point about how the law and culture in New Hampshire fully permits open display of weaponry without anyone batting an eye.  Free State Project, and all that.  I've even considered joining you guys there. Cool, fine.

And I totally get your point that public perception of guns is probably way skewed, and that maybe if more nice people open-carried guns more often, maybe everyone else would mellow out a bit.

But I'm sorry, William. You totally lost the public perception game this time. -1000 points for our side. Michale Moore couldn't have done a better job at getting people to hate guns.  Hell, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold themselves couldn't have made firearms seem more scary.

It's not that you openly wore a gun on your leg on private property in New Hampshire.  It's not that you were within sight of building where the President spoke when you wore it. It's not that you protest the President's views on recent issues.  No, no it's none of those things.

It's the sign, William.  The sign.  The sign would have been just fine all by itself. Free speech and all, and I love Thomas Jefferson so dearly.  But you had the sign, and the gun, and the current President nearby.

The sign read, "It is time to water the tree of liberty".  Not the actual quote, which reads, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."  No, specifically "It is time" to water the tree.

Not some theoretical distant time in the future. Not some reference to blood spilt in the past. No, you said it is time. Right now. To water the tree. With blood. While you are carrying a ranged weapon. In proximity to the President. That your peers have been calling a Socialist, a Nazi, a Terrorist... a tyrant.  You might as well have held up a sign that says, "Guns don't kill people... I DO."

This, sir, was no patriotic act. It was not a defense of your right to bear arms. No, Mr. Kostric, you set us back. Further sullied the image of bearing arms. Further relegated it to the pastime of crazies, extremists, fundamentalists, and people who would put passion for principle far above common sense.

If you were a patriot, you would respect the President, even if you do not agree with him. You would expect him to do his best to fulfill his oath of office, to defend the Constitution, until such time as he actually proves otherwise. You would follow due process, as outlined in the rest of the constitution, to have your voice be heard. And you would do so with reason and common sense, in honor of those rational Founders who wrote that quote you reference, who ensured that right you enjoy.

Thomas Jefferson was right about needing revolutions now and then. And we've had them. We've had many revolutions since 1776. And while they haven't been bloodless, there has been less blood than you might expect, because that Constitution worked perhaps a little better than the Founders had hoped.  For the most part, our revolutions have followed due process.  The killings came during riots, protests, and yes, even assassinations.  But the majority of the blood spilt was unfortunately of the innocent, the patriots if you will -- those brave enough to stand up for important new ideas, or for the rights of those who had been ignored.

Those revolutions were about change, not about keeping things the same.

To the guy who dropped his gun at a political meeting in Arizona, you have given evidence to the American public that those who bear arms are clumsy and know nothing about gun safety, reinforcing everything they've heard about accidental gun deaths. Or was it intentional? Like Mr. Kostric's sign, does it imply a veiled threat? An Appeal to Force? Do what we say or we will kill you?

It makes me wonder here, which of you are the patriots, and which the tyrants?

I am not a pacifist, just a libertarian who remembers one basic principle: Never initiate force or fraud or threat of either.  When force or fraud is committed against me, I am willing to retaliate in kind, but I make awfully damned sure of who did the initiating, and make awfully damned sure I have exhausted every other course of action.

If any of you gun nuts decides you've finally had enough, that it's time to fire the first shot, please stop and consider how much damage you will do to the cause of gun rights. Please do not generate more evidence for the other side. Stop trying to prove that Guns Are Only Good For Killing People.

8/18 UPDATE: This is becoming a fad.  Yesterday, 12 armed men showed up to an Arizona protest, again within proximity of the President. One carried an AR-15 assault rifle. What are you trying to prove again? No one is actually talking about gun control right now. It's not on the agenda. Obama hasn't said word one about guns.

But since you brought it up, you're not making any liberals think, "hm, maybe guns are a good idea after all". You're making them ask, "and why do these states have the right to allow loaded assault rifles anywhere near the President?"

Our Healthcare System In Crisis: The Evidence

by Luna Flesher

It's become clear to me based on the feedback from my previous posts on healthcare that many people in America don't realize there are any problems with our existing system.

There is plenty of information available about these problems.  I always like to steer people towards personal research, but these links should get you started:


And I'm not even talking about universal coverage to pay for those who can't afford it.  I don't have to even go there.  Because like it or not, we already pay for the poor's healthcare through:

What is everyone so angry about?

by Roland Lindsey

I just read a very interesting article on  In it, a conservative attends a town hall and describes his experience there.  As we've seen on youtube and in the mainstream media, he experienced a good deal of anger there.  From the article:
The town halls are exactly what you’re seeing on television. The crowds are overwhelmingly conservative — and I mean Glenn Beck conservative, not David Frum conservative. I’m talking angry, ready-to-roll conservative, not rational, let’s-discuss-philosophy conservative. I can’t think of any more appropriate word than ‘redneck’ to describe most of the crowd. Literally every person who took more than ten seconds to preface his question was shouted down by “Ask your question!” by an array of overfed hicks. They were also prone to shout “You work for us!” and “You just don’t get it!” at Cardin, as if Cardin should be expected to represent the ideals of the 9/12 Project or something.

What is causing all this anger?  Why are people so angry?  I keep hearing, "I want my country back!" yet I am struggling to understand where the country went.  The America we experience today is not all that different than it was a year ago at this time, although 3.7% more of us are now unemployed.  We didn't see this anger during the election, or after the election.

So what is the fuss all about?

I wrote earlier about Rush Limbaugh lying to you.  But he isn't the only one.

Consider what people are being told by mainstream media sources:

  • President Obama is not a natural-born American citizen

  • President Obama and the Democrats want to set up "death panels" to euthanize the old and handicapped

  • We are getting the British health care system

  • We are getting the Canadian health care system

  • The system we are going to get is worse than the British, Canadian, and our current health care system combined

  • Conditions today are very close to those in Nazi Germany

  • Conditions today are very close to those in Fascist Italy

  • President Obama is acting like Hitler

  • President Obama is acting like Mussolini

  • President Obama is a socialist

  • President Obama is a fascist

  • President Obama is a totalitarian

  • President Obama is a communist

  • President Obama is a dictator

  • President Obama is a racist

  • President Obama is the anti-Christ

  • President Obama is going to pay reparations to black people for slavery

  • It's not too late to save our country

  • It may be too late to save our country

  • It's too late to save our country except by revolution

  • The Democrats are trying to stifle dissent

  • The Democrats are calling peaceful, reasonable hardworking middle-class Americans "thugs"

  • The Democrats want to nationalize everything

  • The Democrats like to bailout big business with our tax money

  • The country is going to go bankrupt.  Soon!

  • The Democrats have created the biggest deficit ever because they want the country to go bankrupt.

  • President Obama wants the country to fail so he can reach his goal to rebuild the country into a worker's paradise.

  • The President is working on a deal to combine Canada, Mexico and America into one sovereign alliance similar to the EU.

  • The President is going to take away gun ownership.

Given that all of that is obviously true, I suppose there is a good reason to be mad, after all!  When's the next town hall meeting?

Which is more distressing?  That the media and talk-radio circuit spread such obviously false information?  Or that so many believe it without checking to see if any of it is true?

I get a kick out of reading this sentence:  "President Obama is a socialist and a great example of that is the GM bailout!" The sadness is that many would read it and not sense the irony; rather, rage against their future assignment to Collective Farm #328.

On Being Wrong

by Luna Flesher

It seems like the most important goal in life for some people is to be right. Decades ago, Rush Limbaugh proclaimed himself right, all the time, every time. His listeners, "dittoheads", were vicariously right just for agreeing with him.  This set the trend for Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Newt Gingrich.

These leaders in turn have created the recent fad: to proudly declare one's rightness, even in the face of overwhelming evidence against it. Even if it pisses people off, even if undermines the cause, even if it makes them look like complete idiots.

One can hardly blame them. Humans seem to be pre-wired to receive mental pleasure when we reinforce our existing beliefs. We are uncomfortable when our beliefs are challenged.  This concept is called Cognitive Dissonance/Consonance theory, which I have written about before, several times.  I will certainly write about it again, because it explains so much about human motivations.

In spite of how intensely you believe you are right, this is sometimes at odds with actually being right.  There is no human being on earth who's entire belief system is 100% correct.  Not even Rush.  Even if you are right about a lot of things, you are most certainly wrong about a few other things.

If you think you are somehow one-0f-a-kind or special to have been blessed with the super power of Always Being Right, then I can easily show you the first thing you are wrong about.

The government is not trying to kill Grandma

by Roland Lindsey

Excellent interview here.

The media has gone crazy with this idea that the government wants to euthanize old and handicapped people, and that these things are in legislation before the Congress.  Yesterday, I posted quotes from Rush Limbaugh repeating the same lies.

Today, I saw an interview with Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) about the issue.  From the article:
How did this become a question of euthanasia?

I have no idea. I understand -- and you have to check this out -- I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin's web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You're putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don't know how that got so mixed up.

Read the whole interview and stop listening to the misleading liars who are telling you anything different.