I had intended to post more last week. But time with family kind of took priority. And getting ready for winter. Wednesday we cleaned up the yard some more, and I hung Christmas lights. Which was a good thing, because the weather has not been terribly conducive to safely crawling around on the roof ever since. Thursday we did the traditional Thanksgiving things (Macy’s parade, National Dog Show, eat, eat some more). Friday we avoided stores like the plague, and I played Warhammer Fantasy with my nephew. I won, but we had a lot of fun seeing just how much damage his single remaining warrior could inflict on my army before he died. He certainly made his passing worth a song.
Saturday I took the boys downtown for the Pokemon card game City Championship. My older son got third, my younger first. I’m proud of them both, especially my younger son who has previously avoided tournaments and suddenly found himself playing nine competitive games over the space of four hours. He only lost one game, and that was in the best-of-three final round. This is a major step for him.
Now we’re back to our regular lives, and the main victims are my wife (who had to get up to walk the dog this morning) and the dog (who got used to me playing with him every morning). It’s nice to know I’ll be missed. 😉
And now it’s almost December. This next month is going to get a little crazy, no doubt. A big salute goes out to my partners in the game store who will be facing the biggest month of the year–and quite probably the biggest month in store history. Good luck, guys!
As for me and my house, we’ll be figuring out how to fit in Christmas shopping around more Pokemon tournaments, school and church performances, cub scouts, dance and tennis practices, church parties, block parties, and inclement weather. It’s the Hap-Happiest Season of All! It’ll be busy, but we’ll be loving every minute of it, undoubtedly.
Yeesh! 2016 is nearly here!
Computers are pretty much ubiquitous these days, but I can remember a time when no one could afford one, and even if they could they wouldn’t have the room for them. I had no idea growing up just how much computers would come to dominate my life. Today I want to express my thanks for computers for a number of reasons:
- I make a living from computers. It’s not something I started out to do, mind you. They were a fun toy, but I never dreamed I’d one day support my family by working with people in search of a solution to put into words what they want their computers to do, and do so in such a way that developers can figure out how to make it happen. It’s my job to know both how the software works and how it interacts with all the other systems our company uses so as to get data to flow between them all.
- My hobby is made much easier by computers. I’m a writer, and I remember writing most of my stories on paper and then having my mother type them up for submission. Bless her patient heart. Eventually I felt sorry for putting her through that and learned to type for myself. But not long after that computers became commonplace and word processing made writing relatively simple. Of course that just means I can churn out crap faster, but I’m slowly getting better.
- I met my wife via computer. We began emailing one another, moved to chatting, and eventually got to meet face to face. I suppose it might have still happened had we had to write physical letters, but we’d probably still be in the courting stage at this point. We were an Internet romance before Internet Romances were cool.
- The world is brought closer by computers. Though I maintain relationships with my family and friends by phone as well, and as much as I rag on social media, it does help make keeping in touch easier. I’m even able to maintain my weekly game night with friends in another state and keep a hand in a business I helped start there via computers.
- Computers put me in the middle of the information jungle. I learn about things every day I’m not sure I could even find out about without computers. For all the junk and trash out there, there is also a lot of cool and interesting stuff to be found. The world is an amazing place, and get to find out just how much so thanks to computers.
There are probably more reasons I could come up with, but you get the idea. Computers are pretty awesome, and I’m grateful for them.
Does anyone really know the whole truth about our current national shouting match over Syrian refugees? Does anyone really care to know the truth? “Oooh, look! Another chance to beat up on those darned _______ on the other side of the aisle!”
Frankly, I don’t claim to know the whole truth, either, but I at least would like to know more of it than I do. And what I’ve been finding makes me wonder if both sides have lost their minds. How can the liberals be so naive? And how can the conservatives be so hard-nosed? Can’t we find some middle ground that will allow us to take in Syrian refugees without unnecessary risk? And what if we’re actually overlooking even worse problems in the midst of all this screaming?
Do Syrian refugees pose a threat to America? Well, before we start screaming at Republicans, it’s only fair to point out that Administration officials see a threat there, too:
America’s top spy said Wednesday that U.S. intelligence officials have a “huge concern” about Islamic State’s ability to infiltrate waves of Syrian war refugees flowing into Europe and potentially the United States as pressure mounts on Western nations to take in a growing number of people fleeing the conflict in the heart of the Middle East.
“As they descend on Europe, one of the obvious issues that we worry about, and in turn as we bring refugees into this country, is exactly what’s their background?” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said. “We don’t obviously put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees.”
“That is a huge concern of ours,” Mr. Clapper said during a rare and unusually informal public appearance at an annual U.S. intelligence community conference that kicked off Wednesday morning in Washington.
While he added that U.S. authorities, who have so far allowed in fewer than 2,000 of Syria’s some 4 million refugees, have a “pretty aggressive” system for screening the backgrounds of those seeking entry into the United States, Mr. Clapper said he’s not so confident about the capabilities of some European nations.
Okay, that confirms that Republicans are not entirely wrong if the Director of National Intelligence is concerned, too. But that last paragraph does lead in a different direction than what we’ve been hearing. I’ll get to that in a minute.
But meanwhile we have a large number of governors supposedly refusing to take in Syrian refugees, and a bill in Congress to block taking any of the 10,000 President Obama has committed to. At least that’s what I’m hearing on Facebook. But is that really the truth? No, not really. There’s a difference between saying “No, we’re not taking any” and “let’s slow down and make sure our screening efforts are sufficient.” As it stands, that bill just passed, with 47 Democrats agreeing. Harry Reid in the Senate promises to kill that bill, but Dianne Feinstein has already introduced a bill in the Senate that goes even farther:
When you compare the House GOP’s bill to what Senate Dems are pushing, it’s the Democratic bill that’s more substantive. Dianne Feinstein wants to add an exception to the current policy of waiving the visa requirement for visitors from France; the exception would require a visa for anyone who’s visited Iraq or Syria in the last five years. That wouldn’t affect refugees, but frankly it’s the visa waiver program that’s probably the bigger terrorist threat to the U.S. With Merkel waving Middle Easterners into the EU by the thousands, it’s almost certainly easier for a terrorist to establish himself quickly in the EU and then fly on to the U.S. then to sign up and wait two years, subject to a lengthy background check, as a phony refugee.
Did you catch that? Both the DNI and Dianne Feinstein are concerned that our European allies aren’t doing enough to screen refugees, which in essence slips potential terrorists past the our country’s first layer of protection against them–the visa process. I’m not sure why she’s limiting her added measures to just France, though.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Republicans (and Democrats) and the people that hate them are largely focused on something entirely beside the point. According to Hot Air, the Republican bill only adds “an FBI background check to the refugee process and require that each refugee be certified by department heads.” Why is that drawing so much ire, when the Democrats are the ones wanting to get tougher? Are we smearing the wrong people here? Why are so few noticing Feinstein’s bill? Or are we all simply salivating at the sound of Pavlov’s bell?
At a time when we should be coming together and seeking common solutions it seems far too many of our leaders would prefer to use this as yet another chance to stab at one another:
It’s unfortunate that the main political fallout in the United States from the tragic attacks in Paris has been an ugly and divisive culture war eruption. The president bears no small share of responsibility for this. The most impassioned part of his post-Paris remarks were his attacks on Americans who were worried about the security implications of the refugee program. Instead of addressing and responding to these concerns, he denounced them as bigoted on their face. And instead of offering even token concessions on security and screening to Republican governors and legislators pushing refugee bills, he immediately promised to veto them, ruling out any changes to the program.
The president is right that there is an ugly side to the anti-refugee politics of the last week. Donald Trump is veering into fascist territory, suggesting that the identities of Muslim Americans should be put in a database. But the president’s moral lectures have amplified, not ameliorated, this problem. By writing off all concerns as illegitimate, and by contemptuously talking down to large swathes of his constituents, the president has turned what should be a period of mourning, unity, and productive discussion about anti-terror strategy into a political brawl over an issue with little long-run significance.
And on social media people are finding yet another chance to bash Republicans in general and Christians specifically. While there’s an element of truth to the accusations, I think these attackers are misguided and over-zealous to place blame. Is America a hateful country? And is that really because the Christian part of the population keeps getting in Obama’s way? This is the first I’ve heard people blame Christians for this, so that must mean we’ve been much better about taking refugees before. But have we?
According to the World Bank, there were 2.5 million Afghan refugees in 2014; according to the office of refugee resettlement, in fiscal year 2014 we took 758 of them. There were 616,000 from South Sudan; we took 52 of them. There were 410,00 from the Central African Republic; we took 25 of them.
How can the president face himself every day betraying our values by taking so few refugees from these strife-torn countries? The problem with the argument that our values compel us to take refugees is that it isn’t subject to any limit.
We admit about 70,000 refugees a year. Is that the American level? Or would 700,000 be more American? And what’s the balance between prudential considerations — cost, assimilation, security — and American-ness? The pieties about immigration are a way to short-circuit discernment and argument.
The 10,000 from Syria is only 0.1% of the whole. Would that make Obama only slightly less selfish than those who oppose bringing in any? Considering he at least shares some blame for the situation in the first place, is that far too few? But perhaps there are reasons to be conservative in how many we take in. While we’d like to think American resources and opportunity are limitless, we simply don’t have the ability to take in open-ended amounts of refugees quickly. If we bring them here and then don’t give them the proper support to get on their feet we end up making things worse for everyone:
Finally, assimilation is an obvious concern. The experience of the Somali refugee community in Minneapolis — established by refugee resettlement and expanded with chain migration — hasn’t been a happy one. Unemployment is high, and the community has provided dozens of recruits to radical Islamist groups.
There are reasons to believe we’re already overextended on resources to support refugees. In spite of the immediate track record on Middle-eastern refugees, we are still a country that accepts a great many of them:
The Migration Policy Institute notes that the U.S. hosts “about 20 percent of the world’s international migrants, even as it represents less than 5 percent of the global population.” According to immigration expert Jessica Vaughan, since 2009 we have accepted 70 percent of all resettled United Nations-designated refugees worldwide.
I’m not going to debate here over whether or not we can ever truly say “we’ve done our part”, but there is perhaps an even more valid question. Is resettling refugees here even the best solution? There may be some reason to question that:
It is easier said than done to settle people from halfway around the world in the United States, and the resources devoted to it can be better spent in the Middle Eastern countries that between them are hosting millions of Syrian refugees. The Center for Immigration Studies, which supports restrictions on immigration, estimates that the cost of settling one Syrian refugee here would support 12 Syrian refugees in the other Middle Eastern states.
One could even ask just where the other Middle Eastern states are in all this, but I suspect I don’t have all the facts there, either. I do know that at least some neighboring countries are doing what they can, but they’re overwhelmed, too. Ten million refugees is a problem of massive scale. It does make me wonder if we should be focusing first on doing more for them now before worrying over whether we’re going to bring them here sometime in the next couple of years. And would the most humanitarian thing to do be stamping out the cause of all of this and wiping out ISIS so that the displaced can return to their homes–something I’m sure they would prefer to uprooting their families to another country where they are ill-equipped to function?
But in the mean time, I do wish Americans would do less talking, finger-pointing, and accusing and more actual helping. Is it fair to call Christians heartless in this? I don’t know. I can’t speak for all Christian churches, but my own has committed $5 million directly to assist Middle-eastern refugees and has sent out official statements from church leaders encouraging members to give more. And I doubt we’re the only Christian organization helping out. Most of the time I don’t care that no one seems to notice or give credit. We don’t do it for recognition. We do it to help. But to then turn around and have thoughtless, uninformed people blasting us on social media for being hard-hearted against refugees I can’t help but get a little annoyed and wonder just what they have actually done besides stand around attacking people who are trying to be part of the solution. They criticize those loud-spoken advocates for religious tests to admit only Christian refugees, but as much as they scream and point fingers I have to suspect they’d only prefer to reverse that so that only Christians are kept out.
For the record, though I don’t speak for all Christians, I’ll speak as one: If there are security concerns in bringing in refugees, let’s fix them and get on with it. Their situation is desperate now. Let’s make sure we have the network and structures to support them and get them on their feet as soon as possible so they not only don’t become a burden but also feel invested in their new country. Let’s take a good hard look at what we can do, and if we can take more than 10,000, let’s do it. Yes, some bad people have done terrible things in the name of Islam, but I’m pretty sure we can find a way to minimize the number of those people who slip in. In the mean time, we have been told to “do good to those who despitefully use you and persecute you”. I suspect that includes Muslim refugees.
And for all of you on social media who like to despitefully use Christians as their punching bags, I’m sorry you feel the way you do. I’m sorry that somewhere along the road some supposed Christian gave you reason to dislike the entire lot of us. I’m sorry that some loud-mouth politicians like to blame their Christianity for the un-Christian things they advocate. And how many times can I say that I have no intention of ever voting for Donald Trump? The guy no more represents my political views than a Picasso painting represents Photo-realism.
Hopefully a little perspective will do us all some good. Hopefully we’ll all take time to do something–something productive, be it donating cash to refugee assistance groups or writing our congressmen to get off their butts and work out a way to make us all feel safe while rendering as much aid as we can, to volunteering to work with migrants placed in our communities to help them feel at home. There’s something we all can do. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if for once it wasn’t to just sit back and criticize each other?
Okay, not all meme-pics, just the soci0-political ones that people like to substitute for dialogue and debate. Give me all the meme-pics with cute puppies and kitties you want (unless you slip socio-political commentary into them, mind you), but enough with the meme-pics drive-bys already!
But that’s not going to happen, so I’ve decided if I can’t beat ’em I’ll join ’em! I’ve created a few of my own in (hopefully) a light-hearted attempt to point out the logical fallacies and subtle (and not-so-subtle) hypocrisy that’s come to dominate all sides our public social media debate. If you like, feel free to use. Hopefully someday we can get over our obsession with point-n-click activism and actually talk to each other.
I recently heard about an upcoming anthology taking entries and decided to give it a try. And since I’m still working (slowly) through a mound of pre-writing for my next novel I figured this might be a fun diversion.
It is! Oh, it is! I haven’t had this much fun writing in months! At first I was afraid that I’d bit off too much of a story for the length limit and was about to toss it and start over, but I decided I may as well write the story the way I’d like to tell it, and then see how much of that I really need. That led to the decision to see just how much exposition I could skip over, and to my delight I think it’s…most of it! I just cut to the chase, giving just enough so that people get the idea, but leaving any real detail for later when or if it becomes necessary.
It’s interesting having to write within the restrictions of the anthology. There’s a particular type of story they’re looking for; specific genre, specific type of main character and/or setting. I thought it might be restrictive, but it’s actually just right–enough to focus the creativity but not restrict the ideas. At least that’s how it seems so far. I’m only about a third of the way in, and I’ve still got a lot of story to squeeze in. But it’s going well, and I’m excited.
I’ve been largely avoiding short stories since my return to writing, a direct reversal of where I was when I wanted to be a writer as a teenager. I’m an adult now, and I guess I associate that with writing novels. I don’t know why; some of the greatest masters are best known for their short stories. But now that I’ve finished three novels in the past four years I guess I don’t feel the need quite so much to prove to myself I can do it, perhaps. And short stories seems like a good place to start shopping myself around. They take less investment, are more easily tailored to the audience, and perhaps even evoke less personal involvement. I guess we’ll see. This is only my second story since I decided to start trying to get published.
Anyway, as I said, I’m having fun. And that counts for a lot right now.
I’ve been seeing a lot of people responding to the attacks in Paris with a similar response: Revenge is not the answer.
I’m sure that idea feels good and makes people feel all morally superior. But is that really the superior stance to take? Will it really stop the killing?
The reality of ISIS is that they will keep on killing until they either run out of infidels to kill or someone stops them. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not volunteering to die so that ISIS runs out of victims. But if revenge is not the answer, then that’s the only option. Or do people seriously imagine a point where ISIS will lose interest and be ready to settle down, plant crops, make babies, and give up the power rush they get by destroying everything around them, if only we can be patient and wait for their bloodlust to be sated? If you believe that, are you willing to offer yourself up toward that quota?
ISIS will not be stopped by patience. It will only be stopped by everyone else making it too painful for them to continue. But…that would mean taking revenge, and that is evidently double-unplus-bad.
There’s one small problem with that stance. It means that whomever resorts to violence first wins. Once someone steps forward and draws first blood, any subsequent and opposite reaction is “revenge”, and therefore verboten. Boom. Aggressor wins with one punch.
Or are they merely implying that there should be a response, but not from people who were wronged? So in order to stop the aggressor, someone else who was not harmed has to be willing to step forward and put them down? I suppose that would work, since revenge is not the answer, and the first aggressor shouldn’t take revenge against the second aggressor not getting revenge on behalf of the first victim.
Or not. Such convolutions of logic make my head hurt just trying to think them.
It’s true that in certain cases revenge is not the answer. If someone cuts me off in traffic I shouldn’t pull out my Glock and start shooting at their car. If a fast food clerk gets my order wrong I’m not justified in seeking the heads of their family for the next five generations. I shouldn’t go blow up the house of the manager who laid me off.
But if a group like ISIS kills people and shows no indications that they’re going to stop killing people, call it revenge if you want, but the moral high ground is actually in doing whatever it takes to stop them from wanting to kill any more people. Other people’s lives to not belong to them. They have no business taking lives, and it is moral to stop them.
But we’ve been doing things to them that made them this way, you say? Huh. So why is revenge bad for us, but not for them? Are you implying they incapable of moral behavior or should be held to a different standard? If our “revenge is evil” stance is so morally superior, we should be holding everyone to that standard, not allowing a lower standard for anyone who can’t or won’t live up to it. And if enforcing that standard requires violence, then would that violence be merely upholding the morally superior standard rather than revenge?
So perhaps people are right, and revenge is not the answer. But in the case of ISIS and others of their ilk, violence in sufficient quantities to disincentivize the violence they display is not revenge, it’s the moral response. It’s messy, and it means others might be killed along the way, but it is a moral imperative to not allow those who refuse to live peacefully to prey upon and win out over those who desire to do so.
“But what about Ghandi?”, people will say. What about him? Ghandi was fortunate enough to be matched against the British who, in spite of what people like to think these days, were among the most moral people in the world at that time–moral enough to find it distasteful to beat up and imprison people who just sat there, doing nothing to resist. Do we for one moment believe that ISIS would respond the same way? No, ISIS has already shown that, when given power over people who are unable to resist, they are quite happy to butcher them en masse–or worse. This is not a people you can stop by appealing to their humanity. This is a people you can only stop by appealing to their self-interest.
“But the fighters of ISIS believe that dying in their cause is an intrinsic good,” you’ll say. True. That makes them especially difficult to stop. They are convinced of the superiority of their cause and the certainty of their reward. If we are incapable of summoning an equal or greater measure of certainty in our own morality and cause we will not prevail, and our only real choices as a people are to either join them in their depravity or to die.
Revenge may not be the answer, but a moral defense of all we hold dear, even to the point of violence, is. If we’re not certain enough in the superiority of our cause to stand against them in theirs we need to rethink our cause rather than hide behind weak platitudes that allow us to avoid the hard decisions while maintaining our moral smugness. Insisting “Hey, I was against revenge,” will probably not deter an ISIS terrorist if he’s got you in his sights. It’ll likely just give him something to laugh about as he hacks off your head.
No, revenge–blind, furious violence that goes beyond deterrence–is probably not the answer. But violence–rational, deliberate and as moral as possible–may very well be. By all means we should try lesser methods, but if we are unprepared with an adequate response if those measures fail we are providing no incentives for peace.
With all the craziness on campuses lately, it’s good to see there is still some sense among college students–and among the campus newspaper staff, no less! (I say that as someone who was an editor on a campus newspaper, mind you.) In this case it’s at Claremont McKenna College, who was recently in the news over a brushup over Halloween costumes. The overspoiled, underthoughtful crowds of outrage apparently intimidated the college president into so disappointing actions. Here the student paper calls him and their fellow students on it:
We are adults, and we need to be mature enough to take ownership of and responsibility for our feelings, rather than demanding that those around us cater to our individual needs. The hypocrisy of advocating for “safe spaces” while creating an incredibly unsafe space for President Chodosh, former Dean Spellman, the student who was “derailing,” and the news media representatives who were verbally abused unfortunately seemed to soar over many of your heads.
Lastly, we are disappointed in students like ourselves, who were scared into silence. We are not racist for having different opinions. We are not immoral because we don’t buy the flawed rhetoric of a spiteful movement. We are not evil because we don’t want this movement to tear across our campuses completely unchecked.
We are no longer afraid to be voices of dissent.
Read the whole thing. And even the comments are encouraging. Granted I didn’t read very far. It may devolve into nastiness before long, but hadn’t when I stopped reading.
I’m probably going to step in something by bringing this up, but sometimes the logic of people just leaves me speechless. Take this example, in which a student is proposing free college tuition, student loan forgiveness and $15/hour minimum wage on campuses:
CAVUTO: Well, you want all that stuff. Someone has to pick up the tab. Who would that be?
MULLEN: Ummm, the one-percent of people in society that are hoarding the wealth and kind of causing the catastrophe students are facing…
CAVUTO: So where do they go? Let’s say if you tax these folks — they’re smart people, these one-percent hoarders — so if they leave here, who’s going to pay for all this stuff that you want?
MULLEN: If they leave?
CAVUTO: The country.
MULLEN: Oh. Ummm, I mean there’s always going to be a one-percent in the U.S.
She’s irrefutably correct, and yet so apparently clueless at the same time. I realize this is perhaps an example of “gotcha journalism”, but on the other hand, it’s a fair question to ask anyone who is proposing sweeping changes for how our country works: how do we pay for it? It’s just as likely she might have come back with an amazingly lucid, well-conceived answer. Heaven knows if there’s someone out there who really does have an anwer to these sort of problems we should give them a chance to speak.
Now as I said, she’s absolutely correct that there will always be a top one-percent in the U.S. You could throw out everyone who earns above the poverty line and there would still be a top one-percent in the U.S. But even with the current makeup of earners we have now, if we were to raise their income 10-20% does anyone know just how much taxes that would generate? Remember, we’re not taxing their net worth, just their income, so we wouldn’t be getting another $8-16 Billion from Bill Gates, but whatever he currently makes in a year (usual ROI in average years is 10-12%), so Gates’ income would be maybe $8-9 Billion, resulting in taxes of maybe $1 Billion.
That sounds like a lot. But we have 18 Million college students (as of 2012) in the U.S., so that divides out to $55 per student. That’s not even going to buy one book. Most of the 1% don’t make anywhere close to what Bill Gates makes. According to Business Insider, in Utah where I live you need to make only $340,000 a year to be in the 1%. So clearly, good ol’ Bill is the exception even among the 1%. In fact, according to the New York Times, there are about 1.35 million families in the 1%, with an average income of $717,000. That’s $968 Billion dollars of income per year, currently taxed at 39.6%, or about $383.4 Billion. Upping their taxes another 10% would mean around $97 Billion to fund our free college.
That comes to $5389 per year. That won’t even pay for my alma mater, Idaho State University, at $6,784 per year (for residents). If you think you’re going to get free tuition to Harvard, guess again. Salt Lake Community College costs $3568 a year for tuition only. To make things worse, the added influx of students is going to severely tax colleges to keep up with the demand. They would need more teachers, more administrators, more support staff and more buildings. If we’re passing this expense along to the government, and not based simply on how many students the university can realistically expect, do you think that cost is going to hold steady or increase? (Hint: college costs are already increasing rapidly, even without passing the bill along to the government– 79% from 2003 to 2013.) And as we’ve seen with healthcare, even when the government takes control of things to keep costs from rising they are unable to keep costs from rising.
Bear in mind, this is only one third of Mullen’s proposal. Take it from someone who knows how easy it is to stay in college indefinitely, her proposals would make it very easy for “perpetual students” to never leave college and face the real world–the very thing college is intended for. But whether her proposals are right or wrong, it’s certainly not wrong to ask how we would pay for these changes. It hardly bolsters her arguments to not have a well-considered answer, but to fall back on oft-spewed platitudes. We need to expect more of our college students, especially if we’re all going to be picking up their tab.