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Direct Democracy

Direct Democracy

I saw this endorsement of direct democracy on Facebook, and had to, in the finest conservative tradition, pounce. Here is the image again:

Direct Democracy

Ok, let’s unpack that. Using the kind of self-serve kiosks that you see in newer McDonalds is funny, admittedly. Using them in the meme got me thinking. We are closer to national direct democracy than we have ever been.

And that is not a good thing. There are advantages to the republican form of government, not the least of which is a shield against mob rule. And make no mistake, that is exactly what direct democracy is – the rule of the mob. And no one wants that in their lives.

Liberal readers, consider that in direct democracy, if county X in state Y decides to outlaw homosexuals or illegal aliens, that’s the new law. Direct democracy for the win!

Conservative readers, consider that in direct democracy, if county X in state Y decides to outlaw fossil fuels, that’s the new law. Direct democracy for the win! And don’t laugh – see the Green New Deal and the inexplicably allowed to continue Juliana v. United States suit that seeks to eliminate the use of fossil fuels.

But that’s just the tip of the direct democracy iceberg

How do you enforce one citizen / one vote rules that direct democracy requires? With modern technology it’s pretty easy, actually. Just offer up a fingerprint or rental scan, then vote. Well, easy except for the infrastructure to actually do it, which isn’t the iceberg I’m referring to.

Anyway, no, the iceberg in this analogy is the question ‘who owns the data’.

Didn’t think of that one, did you? Who owns all that juicy biometric data needed to prevent vote fraud? The government? Google? Apple? Who do you trust to keep it secret, keep it safe?

I don’t trust the government. They left my personal data open to whomever (read: China) wanted it in the OPM hack. Others in the bureaucracy have been leaking anything to the press they think can harm the President for a few years now. No, I can’t actually trust the government to keep vital personal data safe.

Equifax is out – same reason. Google is out. They have too much data on us already, and as a private company must not be trusted to run an election. Which also kicks out Apple, and every other company in the world.

So who do you trust with your data?

And no, it won’t just be the biometrics to secure the vote

In order to function as a direct democracy, each voter needs to be registered to a state, county, township (if used), municipality, ward (if used), etc. That information includes your name and address, of course – it has that now. When you patch in the needed information to vote – a biometric scan of some form – you enter into a scenario where the risk of identity theft becomes greatly heightened. If I have your name, address, and fingerprint, I can unlock your phone or computer, and gain direct access to your deepest personal data. Easily.

But why use biometrics, why not use a smart ID card, like Homeland Security uses? First, of course, is cost. Second, how do you vote without it? We have people hieing unto their fainting couches at the mere thought of requiring easily-obtained ID, which is also needed for almost every other governmental, financial, business, or employment function. How do you think they would respond to requiring a fancy new ID?

Also, if you can loose it, it isn’t secure. Full stop.

So, to recap – direct democracy is technologically possible in a nation of 300+ million people. Direct democracy needs to have a secure and unbeatable way of verifying votes in real time, and that requires infrastructure that does not exist, and a level of network security that the US government has proven incapable of providing. This would also represent an expansion of the government, even if a logical one, and resisting expansion is one of our foundational beliefs.

In other words, direct democracy isn’t an actual option.

Is Criticism of Captain Marvel Legitimate?

Is Criticism of Captain Marvel Legitimate?

I remember it vividly. There was outcry from the media and the fandom over a casting choice. The broad consensus seemed to be that it was pretty much the worst casting decision for the character. Although there was some dissent on who was the right actor for the character. Friends in the fandom and I all agreed, we didn’t think it would work, but we would likely see the movie anyway.

The year was 1988, the actor was Michael Keaton. The movie was Batman.

And we were all wrong, it worked really, really well. As have many other questioned (by one or many) casting choices. Examples range from John Boyega as Finn (because someone may have complained about a black Stormtrooper?), to Daisy Ridley as Rey (or so I am told?), to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (honestly, the only complaint I ever heard about her was that she was too thin…), to the cast of the reboot Ghostbusters. All worked. All were controversial to varying degrees, but all worked out. When you think back, I am sure you will remember more – and not all worked, but many did. Hell, I remember joking about Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan as an action hero. But three Matrix movies and two John Wicks later, we have the odd transposition of John ‘Neo’ Wick as a aged slacker in Bill & Ted 3?

The more things change, right?

I bring this up, because we are again in the throes of another stupid casting controversy. Which now, in the age of the internet and instant validation for any and all opinions, means controversy over the movie itself. Before it is released, of course. That is actually one of the key points – real controversy lasts through release, manufactured controversy ends with release. If there were really any problems based on gender or race, they wouldn’t go away with a good performance. The Kelly Marie Tran / Rose Tico issue began after release. She wasn’t an issue until then. So the issues were real, even if they were with the character and our society is too stupid to distinguish between the two.

With Captain Marvel, I see a movie with a main character that is…off. Brie Larson’s facial expressions seem to be either ‘this is so stupid I can’t believe it…must not laugh’ or ‘I don’t get it at all, my agent did this to me, must look serious’. Again, this is based on nothing but the trailers. Actual footage may have different looks happening, we will see.

Worth noting that Jude Law is wearing the same expression. I have seen more of his movies than Brie Larson’s. I have seen two with her in it – Scott Pilgrim vs The World and Kong: Skull Island. It is six for Jude Law, including Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow, Enemy At The Gates, eXistenZ, Gattaca, and his Sherlock Holmes movies. So I know both of them can, in fact, have a range of facial expressions. They just, in the trailers, don’t really seem to here.

For now, it looks like the only fun being had is from Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. Which is fine, that would be a fun movie.

I do want to see if the so-called controversy over this lasts past opening weekend. If the controversy vanishes, then there is a good chance it was manufactured – either for laughs or to keep the property in the media / social media cycle.

But there is more to be concerned about…

Captain Marvel has, as the main (so I hear at least) villains the shape-shifting Skrulls.

I don’t like that. I have never been a fan of the Skrulls. Green-skinned, pointy-eared aliens that can look like anyone. It is a bit of a too-on-the-nose warning about Canadians, and while it is true that they look just like us, and speak mostly like us, that doesn’t mean they are infiltrating and undermining our society! Canadians, or Soviets, either way, really.

The reason I dislike bringing them in is because it carries so very much baggage with it, and feels like a setup for ‘no, that wasn’t REALLY Character X, just a Skrull!’ as a way to undo the Snap. Like the ill-fated Daredevil movie, there is also far too much background to fit into a single movie, and still have it’s own plot in there too. Which makes me worry that Captain Marvel will fall on the Green Lantern / Daredevil end of the quality spectrum. Not a place anyone wants to be.

Are the Skrulls actually representing something darker?

Further, if the Skrulls are just there to serve as fake heroes, fallen to Thanos, that changes them from Soviet analogues to something far worse. It makes them into whipping boys (aliens?). And there is a really bad connotation there:

A whipping boy was a slave who suffered corporal punishment on behalf of his young master.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whipping_boy

So, are we introducing these aliens just to kill them off? Are we going to try to tell the Kree / Skrull War storyline? Or are we just lazy about it all now, and tossing in a set of instant baddies who don’t take much work?

Taking that further, the Skrull are presented as a classic ‘evil race’. Like the poorly written Drow, everyone is evil! Which is also problematic. We get too much of that kind of crap in reality. We have progressives dividing the world into ‘white’ and ‘not white’ as synonyms for ‘bad’ and ‘good’, and conservatives branding all liberals as pro-infanticide. Neither is right, and both are their own kinds of evil. So adding in the ‘evil Skrulls’ into an already hot mess of social discord seems tone-deaf at best, and the cinematic version of the Limp Bizkit performance at Woodstock 99 at worst.

Biology vs Psychology

Biology vs Psychology

In which we dive headfirst into one of the most contentious issues in the nation today.

Trans representation in sports.

Ok, so not the earth-shaking one you might have expected. But this is an issue that has some connection to a lot of what is, perhaps, wrong about the country or world today. And that connection means that this issue is something of the canary in the coalmine for how we view science, individual rights, individuality, and fairness.

The short form is that in several sports, mostly track so far, biologically male individuals are claiming they identify as female, and competing as such. Honestly, I can’t speak to the gender dysphoria they are experiencing. That is between them and their doctors.

What makes this issue interesting is that the boys are dominating the competition, in every case that has been published. Which makes sense. Biologically, the average male is bigger and stronger than the average female. This isn’t sexist or dismissive, it is science. And when that biology is still intact, the resulting person is, again on average, bigger and stronger. And that comes out in athletic competition, of course. This is why there is a segregation between men and women. Men have specific biological advantages over women in physical contests.

Trans Inclusion > Integration?

What is interesting is that while activists and progressives are all in favor of trans inclusion in sports, they are not agitating to integrate the sexes in sport otherwise. Which is, again, obvious. Obvious, as in opening physical competition to males and females, in the same contest, will mean the functional end of women participating in these contests. No one likes to play when they know they cannot win.

So what is the answer? The easy one is to enforce male/female splits based solely on biology. That returns us to the prior status quo, and is the fairest solution across the board. Yes, the few female-identifying trans athletes will have to compete against…their biological peers. This is in no way unfair, as it allows apples:apples competitions.

For those who seem to claim the mantle of ‘science party’, they want to ignore science at every turn.

I will never understand the concept or experience of a trans person. I don’t believe, however, that they should be excluded from things for that reason alone. Would I, as a woman, be creeped out by an obvious male in the bathroom with me? Yeah, I probably would. Has there been an epidemic of rapes or assaults, no…but they have indeed happened. But to tar every trans person for the crimes of a few is to tar every black person for faking a hate crime. That is not how it is supposed to work. In social life, trans people belong as much as any other person. In fact, as with every minority, I support full integration without reservation into society. And I am on record saying this elsewhere.

One of the thing the left hits with the most is that ignoring science doesn’t make it go away (usually this is about climate). Ignoring biology doesn’t make it go away either. No matter how much someone wants it to.

S.311 – Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

S.311 – Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

The idea that 44 sitting US Senators voted to not protect babies who survive attempted abortions is abhorrent. Much like the Democrats march towards open advocacy of infanticide, this is the kind of thing that turns the stomach.

But it didn’t fucking happen.

I made that big, so read it again. It. Didn’t. Fucking. Happen.

What did happen is that 44 US Senators voted to oppose cloture on the bill. In short, they voted against ending debate and forcing a vote. Yes, there is a real chance they meant that as a way to kill the bill, and that is speculation on my part given the current climate of litmus tests and hyperpartisan politics.

As with any legislation, it is worth taking the time to read the actual document. It can be found at https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/s311/BILLS-116s311pcs.pdf. It is pretty plain language – if an abortion fails and results in a live birth, that baby is to be accorded all the same required efforts and services as any other (intentional) live birth. That is, transport to hospital, neonatal care, etc. It also specifically states that if said baby is killed postpartum, then it is murder (fucking duh).

What is interesting is § 1532 (c) – the bar to prosecution. Since abortion is legal, the mother is shielded from prosecution for any crimes related to the abortion. This is important because in the result of a live birth, the attempted abortion could be construed as attempted murder. This bill prevents that. Strongly. It reads:

“(c) Bar To Prosecution.—The mother of a child born alive described under subsection (a) may not be prosecuted for a violation of this section, an attempt to violate this section, a conspiracy to violate this section, or an offense under section 3 or 4 of this title based on such a violation.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/311/text

It also specifically allows the mother to seek legal relief for the botched procedure (that’s fancy talk for sue them). While it limits statutory damages to three times the cost of the abortion, it allows punitive damages and “objectively verifiable money damage for all injuries, psychological and physical, occasioned by the violation of subsection (a);”.

I get that abortion is one of those tricky things that makes everyone slightly uncomfortable, at various points and levels. It was forced into legality in the worst way possible, and has been a subject of argument since then.

But that was 46 years ago.

It isn’t going anywhere, and I wish my fellow conservatives would understand that. Oppose it on moral grounds, yes. It is morally repulsive when it is used as ex post facto birth control. But we need to be honest, and abortion needs to remain safe, accessable, and legal. At least until no one is ever raped. Which isn’t going to happen in any future that we get to live in.

Back to the vote. 44 Senators, all Democratic (and Bernie) votes to oppose cloture (3 Republicans didn’t vote). As cloture needs a 3/5 majority (or 60 votes), that blocked cloture. As I opined above, this is likely meant to preview votes on the bill itself, but is not, in fact, a vote on the bill. While organizations like Planned Parenthood chose to lie about the bill, stating that it limited abortion, the simple reality is in the bill as introduced.

So, here are the Senators who, it seems, object to protection for babies born after attempted abortions:

Baldwin (D-WI)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Booker (D-NJ)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Coons (D-DE)
Cortez Masto (D-NV)
Duckworth (D-IL)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Harris (D-CA)

Hassan (D-NH)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Hirono (D-HI)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Leahy (D-VT)
Markey (D-MA)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Peters (D-MI)
Reed (D-RI)
Rosen (D-NV)

Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Sinema (D-AZ)
Smith (D-MN)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-NM)
Van Hollen (D-MD)
Warner (D-VA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

 

It will be interesting to see what happens next. The bill may still make a floor vote, and at that time, we will see who votes to not protect newborns.

More On Jussie Smollett

More On Jussie Smollett

Quick note – spell check knows his last name. That says something.

Anyway, breaking this morning is that Mr. Smollett not only paid friends to stage an attack, but also sent the ‘suspicious letter’ the week before. The letter is going to be the main problem, as it is not only potentially violations of various federal Postal laws (and they do not play around), but by adding crushed Tylenol into the envelope, it becomes a potential federal charge of false information and hoaxes and mailing threatening communication. Or has in the past, in similar cases. Those charges alone could result in 5 years in prison.

I would argue that the charges should include a first and second count of, as phrased in 720 ILCS 5/12-7.1, Hate Crime. By making each event a separate offense, there is a stronger message sent to the kinds of scum who perpetrate these fake crimes. Per 720 ILCS 5/12-7.1, the penalty for one offence is a Class 3 felony (2-5 years), and the second is a Class 2 felony (3-7 years).

Look, the point of severe punishment is to deter criminals. If we continue to treat people who fake these crimes as minor criminals, we will continue to get more of them. After all, if it works, they stand to gain substantial benefit from the lie. Look at Mr. Smollett, his role on Empire was reinforced as vital, he was put in front of more positive media than he could have ever expected otherwise, and more people than ever knew who he was. The media (CNN, NBC, etc) jumped to his defense, celebrity media defended him as a near-martyr, Democrat presidential candidates fell all over themselves to compare this event to a lynching, and demand the CPD find the monsters who did this horrid event.

Well, they did. To the surprise of no one who pays attention to not only human nature, but the trend of fake hate crimes, it was Mr. Smollett himself.

The motivation was money. Reports are that the estimated $65,000 per episode ($1,170,000 over an 18 episode season) wasn’t enough. For clarity, I make less than $65,000 per year. Not going to find any sympathy there.

Because faking this kind of thing makes the next actual victim’s story less believable, I want to again call for the laws to be changed, so that a false report of a crime carries no less than the same penalty as the crime reported. Preferably the punishment for the reported crime, plus the maximum punishment for the false report itself. Report a rape that never happened, be sentenced under the rape guidelines. Or worse. There needs to be a change in how we address these things, and punishing them accordingly is a place to start.

It won’t happen, of course. Defenders of Mr. Smollett are already lining up to say that while he lied, he told a bigger truth – that this happens on a daily basis and is ignored. I call bullshit on that – if it were such a frequent crime, someone somewhere would be sounding an alarm, and the ‘news media’ would have picked up on it, if only to blame Trump somehow. But there isn’t such a cry, so we can infer this isn’t common.

Mr. Smollett needs to be the example – his lie was national news, unlike the others who lie about this – and the message needs to be sent – no more.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

When do sins ‘fall off’? This has become a topic of discussion in American politics, with the revelation that the Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, appears in either blackface or KKK robes in his college yearbook; the Lt. Governor, Justin Fairfax, stands accused of the nebulous term ‘sexual assault’ (the one account made fully public sounds a lot like rape, but that’s not the term used anymore, I guess), and Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar continues to support and express antisemitism.

With the exception of Ilhan Omar, who basically continues her antisemitism, can the elected leaders of Virginia be forgiven? Should they?

Let’s do the easy one first, Lt. Gov. Fairfax. He is accused of not only criminal action, but the kind of criminal action we don’t take seriously enough. He continues to deny it, but is being treated as if he is guilty – his firm removed him, and there are calls from his party to step down or face impeachment and removal. Of course, this is being handled far, far differently than the accusations against Justice Kavanaugh, which were far less serious, less provable, and not from his own team.

Almost like the Democratic Party didn’t care at all about the accusations, only the politics of preventing a Trump SCOTUS appointment. But that was obvious at the time.

So, Justin Fairfax should probably resign, and defend the accusations. If they have merit, then he should face consequences for them, if not, the accuser can face their own consequences.

As an aside, those who level false accusations of serious crimes should face the penalty for the crime they faked – their selfish actions only make it harder on the next real victim. And yes, if that penalty is life in prison, then so be it. We would see far fewer fake rapes and hate crimes if you faced actual prison for the accusation.

Anyway, Lt. Governor Fairfax is in a bad spot, and is going to pay a hefty price. But not for his sins – remember, these were reported before he was elected, and they were ignored. So if they are true, his (D) shielded him from the consequences, and the media provided the usual level of cover to keep the story from being spread.

No, in a horribly ironic twist of fate, Justin Fairfax is going to be Ralph Northam’s whipping boy.

So, Governor Northam’s yearbook. Some facts to ponder – that has been ‘out there’ since it happened, and ignored. Of course. See (D) shield above. But when Northam spoke in support of a bill that legalized infanticide, he crossed the line, and the page was leaked to the media. Conservative media. Who spread the hell out of it, and forced the mainstream media to notice.

I won’t say he is racist or segregationist. I don’t know his history. For all I know, this was a theme party, and he was as uncomfortable as the picture makes people today. Who knows. What is known is that he thought it was a good idea to dress in either blackface or a KKK uniform for a party. That is not great judgement.

But it is college, and bad judgement is part and parcel. Should he be run out of public life on a rail because of one event?

Personally, I say no, of course not. That is absurd.

But that isn’t the system we have, is it? In the system we have, which is intended to be used only against certain people of course, that one error should be his end, he should never again be allowed to associate with anyone. His career over, unemployable, and driven from the public square – that is the price demanded by the media and progressives.

Or would be if he was a Republican. Can you imaging the hue and cry if instead of Ralph Northam, it was Mike Pence? Or even Bruce Rauner (former R-ish governor of Illinois)? Of course you can. But that isn’t what Northam is getting, is it?

Or would be if he was a Republican. Can you imaging the hue and cry if instead of Ralph Northam, it was Mike Pence? Or even Bruce Rauner (former R-ish governor of Illinois)? Of course you can. But that isn’t what Northam is getting, is it?

One rule for everyone – this shouldn’t be a far-right paleo-conservative position.

But that doesn’t answer the question, does it? Can there, should there, be forgiveness for past sins.

And yes, the answer is yes. Without the potential for some form of forgiveness or remission of sins, no one is made better – or made whole. Religion knows this, and always has. You have to have a means to repair your transgressions against the God, or why would you not continue to harm the group by sinning? And so it is that you confess, pray, sacrifice, or whatever to regain approval.

In the new religion of Politics, there is no such mechanism, and we are beginning to see the problems that causes.

With his, correct, assumption that there will be no forgiveness for his actions, Northam has taken the only course possible – no retreat, no surrender. And to the people who are offended or hurt by the photo, too bad (I would argue that unless there is personal connection to being harmed by the Klan or similar, your offense shouldn’t matter to anyone else, but that isn’t how this works). It is the right call in this climate. If he resigned, he would face a rough future, and his family might be punished too. In all, sticking it out is his only play.

If we had a forgiveness and redemption mechanism, the answer would be different. Look, he did something offensive and stupid, and had to know it was both offensive and stupid, and he should face some consequences. Should have then too, by the way. There needs to be a way to get past it though – and reading ‘Roots’ isn’t the answer.

I may not know the answer. I think it involves actual work to repair any harm done, and some time out of the spotlight to make the repair work personal, not a show. Then, once there is personal forgiveness (those he wronged forgive him), the society should too – and then he can begin working back to where he was. We shouldn’t brand people to keep their sins always front and center.

Not holding my breath, really.