Pliny The Welder is Brent.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pulse, Brexit, The police, Liberty and Mercy

I've been relatively silent the last few weeks as several happenings around the world have served to so perfectly coalesce and demonstrate everything facing our society that commenting would have been irresponsible without taking time to think it all through. It's easy to get angry, lord knows I do a lot of that, but it's much harder to soberly try and assess what happened, whose fault it is, and how we can move towards a world that, at the very least, FEELS fairer.

This weekend I'm going to talk about 3 seemingly uncconected issues. They were all in one piece but that piece was absurdly long so... First the Pulse nightclub massacre, then “Brexit”, and then the most recent police shootings. Then I'll connect the dots and show how all three are symptoms of the same thing. If we can't even agree on what happened, how the hell can we agree on what's to blame, to say nothing of a solution.

Ah solutions. IF you're reading because you think I'm going to propose solutions you may be dissapointed. One of my cental theses is that there are no solutions. Only responses.

Lets go chronologically. The massacre in Orlando. Almost immeditely I told O'keefe exactly what the response would be from the class that rules us. Both sides would use the tried and true political tactic of staying on message. They'd do this because it works! It's why our media LOVEs to comment about it. They treat staying on message the way baseball announcers talk about keeping your hands in the hitting zone.

“Well Bob the Clinton campaign has done a masterful job of staying on message and not letting anything shift them from that.”

It doesnt matter WHAT the message is. All that matters is that you repeat that message ad nauseum. Forever.

The political Right immedietly and incessantly pointed out that this was a terrorist attack. And that's true. But they refused to admit it was ANYTHING other than a terroirst attack. Pam Bondy, the Florida attorney genral who has wasted Florida tax dollars trying to prove that gay marriage does tangible harm to Floridians was the most noxious example of this. It didn't matter that the victims were gay, it didn't matter they crime was done with a firearm, it didn't matter that the person doing the crime was just the latest example of the phenomena of the carnage being done by socially isolated young men and the rage our culture fills them with. It certainlly didn't bear examining the Homophobia that results from generations of mainstream poitical discourse actually arguing about whether lgbt people deserve full human rights. No, what mattered was terrorism.

Even if we agreed with this. Even if we could be that reductive. What would then follow was an actual examination of this tactic, what's caused it, what has and hasnt worked fighting it historically and what we can do better going forward.

But that's also off the table. Because the truth is the same political and cultural elite has been in power for going on 70 years now. And not only have they not licked this problem. They've made it worse. To admit that this terrorism is a direct response to the Wests foreign policy is not possible. Because THESE very people and their bi-partisan consensus on interventionist foreign policy is what gave you this terrorism. And if you realized that you sure as fuck wouldn't let them be the ones to solve it would you?

This is natural. None of us wants to really examine our own failings. IT sucks. I know because I'll be getting to my own personal failings tommorow.

But first lets take a look over at the elite lefts response. I nailed this one to a T as well.

The Pulse massacre really had absolutely nothng to do with terrorism! Remember now, the cause of terrorism is a result of the decades long bi partisan consensus on foreign policy. The Clintons and Barrack Obama and Jimmy Carter and Brezynski are just as responsible for this as the other side is. They both own it and no one wants to really touch it because the solutions to that begin with a very uncomfortable confession to the American people and a radical reimagining of The West's role in the world.

So no, The Pulse massacre was caused by guns. And the crazy people who want guns. And the fact that people on no fly lists can buy guns. Nevermind that almonst none of the mass shootings would have been stopped by any of the lefts gun reforms. Nevermind that France has gun restrictions that are a political leftists wet dream and they still had Paris. Nevermind that prohibitions on guns will go about as well as a prohibtions on prostitution and drugs and alcohol and gambling.

And certainly don't point out that “IF you aren't safe enough to fly you aren't safe enough to buy a gun,” is an absurd, innane and ineffectual position. First off you don't have a constituional right to air travel. I'm not totally comfortable with it either but the fact is the second right enshrined in the constitution is a right to bear arms.
This is a perfectly reasonable thing to enshrine coming from people who had read historys of feudalism and seen how well peasant revolts and political reform went when one side had cavalry and the other had ploughshares. An armed citzenry is less likely to be rolled over than an unarmed one. That's why the 2nd ammedment exists.

If it makes it easier for you on the left let me do a little word game. Subsitute “speak” for “buy a gun”
If you're too dangerous to fly you're too dangerous to have free speech. See? That's no so good huh?

And must I point out that these very lists have been loathed by civil rights advocates on the left and the right since their creation? Weren't we all sharing facebook posts about children and congressmen and leftist activists being on the no fly lists? Is the left ACTUALLY advocating that a barely constitional list, completely opaque with almost no formal appeals process is a swell way to deny people one of their constitional rights? Because that's horrifying to someone like me who has read the history of the Federal Government and the lists they make. No thank you.

The first step to getting past this ridiculous situation is admitiing the other side is not completely populated by neanderthals. And before you say “we don't want to ban guns just assault rifles,” please go read some of the lefts writing and speeches. I'm all for common sense gun reform if everyone can agree. But I'm not ok with distilling a complex tragedy down to one issue fo rthe sake of passing a reform that may be unconstutional and at best would have meant slightly less death.

And so what happens is another, perfect opportunity to have a broad and complex discussion that amazingly touches on several of the most pressing issues facing us as a people (terrorism, LGBT rights, homophobia, mental health issues, domestic abuse, and alienated young men and the terror they can cause when they become completely isolated) is reduced to a fucking absurd binary discussion meant to serve the electoral needs of a political class that got us in this position in the first place.

And here is where I need to comment about something so fudamental to us but something that's never examined in any depth at all. Fear. Fear is what motivates our actions on a personal level and a political level. That's natural too! Governance is the mechanism by which we adress the things we don't want to happen. But I'm going to pose a question to myself and I'm going to ask that you do the same.

Would I be any less devastated if Okeefe, Maggie, Josefine and Ike were killed by a terrorst at Disney world than I would be if they were eaten by an alligator? Or in an auto accident? Or by a cancer I couldn't afford to treat?

I don't think I can say that's true. You may be thinking? So what? Does that mean we don't do anyting? No. I used to be much more of a nihlist. I used to actually say outloud “Whatya gonna do?” It was almost my catchphrase. And it came from the fact that I honestly believed there was nothing we could do. I had been ground to hoplessness by our culture. But then I started reading history and getting older and thinking a bit more clearly. And I came to a stupendous realization. I literally discovered that I was COMPLETELY wrong. It's probably the first time that's ever happened (I'm a teensy bit arrogant btw).

It turns out that you can solve EVERYTHING. It's simply a matter of what you're willing to do.

The Catholic church was able to brutally repress any thinking it thought hertical for hundreds of years. That's an amazing achievement! Perhaps one of the most impressive in history.

SO I can solve every single problem facing America. Ready? Traffic deaths? The new national speed limit is 10 miles an hour. Anyone caught going above ten miles an hour is put to death immedietaly and publicly.

Homophobia? There is now a $1,000,000 reward for turning in anyone you think may harbor homophobic thoughts. They will be put instantly to death.

Mass shootings? Anyone caught creating, owning, selling or buying a firearm shall be put to death with all their friends and family.

Islamic extremeism? We shall immedieately launch the entire nuclear arsenal at any nation that produces a person who commmits an act of terrorism. This is backdated so much of the middle east goes already.

It wouldn't take long to live in a very very safe world if we had the will to create that world. It would require we relinquish any pretensions of morality or religion and any civil rights or privacy but within a couple of genrations we would live in a world dramatcaly more “safe”.

Why don't we do that? Because the cost is greater than the gain.

We've been fighting the drug war for 80 years. And we've gone as far as our cultural identity will let us with draconian solutions but it's not even close to far enough. Anyone caught with an illegal drug will be put to death with all his family. That problem will then be solved in short order.

There are always solutions. But to half measures don't work. We, as a people are going to have to come to grips that if we want a world of individual liberty we will have a world of less personal safety.

We've got to realize that in a country of over 350,000,000 people 50 deaths, while an UNIMAGINABLE tragedy is simply not a good reason to begin dismantiling civil liberties or constitonal rights. WE need to realize that while terrorism and gun violence is a serious problem far far far few people are killed by terrorists than are killed driving. Far fewer people are murdered by guns than are killed by a lack of access to health care. And nobody is advocating dismantling the constition to tackle those problems.

Finally if I can leave you with two nuggets of wisdom today let it be these.

  1. YOU ARE NOT SAFE. You never were. Nobody ever has been. But you're safe enough. The government is always at it's absolute worst when solving problems during panic moments. If you want to actually be safer? Wear your seatbelt. Stop eating red meat. Advocate for an actual social safety net. Because your odds of being murdered with a gun are miniscule next to your odds of dying in an auto accident, or by medical error, or by health issues caused by your lifestyle.
  2. The people who disagree with you are not monsters. They have reasonable positions. And they have wisdom to share with you. Conservatives have some good ideas too. And for many of them (not politicians of course, those guys suck) their oppostion to the lefts gun reform ideas are because what the left has offered would do all of bupkis to solve the problems they are trying to address.

I'll be back with my Brexit thoughts soon.

Pliny the Welder.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Five Ways Conservatives Are To Blame For The Police Violence Scandal

Exploratory Rantery With Dr. Brent

America vs Police II is actually the legacy of the ascendency of conservative ideological philosophy.

Part I

One of the largest evolving stories of the last several years is the continued shock at police violence and the response to that violence. Unfortunately the response to this has been so predictable that it boggles the mind.

Americans would like police to stop shoting them.
This has somehow produced a counter argument

Police have blamed everyone except themselves with the consensus being that social media is to blame. “Listen we've been doing this forever! It's just that you used to not SEE us do it! So please stop looking at us.”

But...we're heros.  You guys are always telling us that!

Liberals have been blaming the militarization of the county. Which is certainly part of the problem though of course liberals are JUST as much to blame for that as anyone.

Conservatives have laid the blame at the decay of “respect for authority”. Which is also certainly true. Unfortunately the blame for the decay of respect for authority lies with the conservative intelligentsia.

This may seem counter intuitive but bear with me here because to get where we're going I'm going to need to give you a tiny primer that boils down where these two political philosophies came from and are now.

Lets start with liberalism. At it's core liberalism is about one thing. You are part of a larger unit. Each person is responsible for himself of course but beyond that you are responsible for everyone else as well. And they are responsible for you. It argues that pure individualism leads inexorably towards extreme social stratification. And that this stratification leads to misery.

The fashion of the time made neck hiding a priority

In my opinion much of modern liberalism can be traced back to the philosophy of Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism can be described best by the idea postulated by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. To quote Bentham, "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." 

Liberalism argues that left to their own devices people often act selfishly and that selfish actions, while often INDIVIDUALLY rational in the short term are not SOCIETALLY rational. An excellent example of this is environmental protection. It is quite clearly in the interests of large corporate industry to have absolutely no environmental constraints. However corporations are made up of human beings who have to live in the world. So in the long term 1950s style industrial practices lead to more misery for people and are not long term rational.

Liberals argue, quite convincingly in my opinion, that while it is rational to seek as much money as possible in the short term through low taxation and minimal regulation, the societal effects of extreme income gaps (social unrest, illness, crime, decaying infrastructure, extreme market instability) make it irrational in the long term as eventually even the rich will suffer from these situations.

Moreover they make a moral argument that restriction of personal liberty is moral as long as the NET amount of misery in the world is lessened over time. This is also know as enlightened self interest.

Now lets take a quick look at Conservatism. Modern conservatism is born out of the enlightenment. Ironically, while conservatism these days is so tied up with religious fundamentalism it's greatest minds and largest influences were almost all less traditionally religious than their peers and many were completely atheist in their religious beliefs. The enlightenment era out of which was born modern conservatism (neo-liberalism) was about the ascendency of man. Adam Smith postulated that all men left to their own devices will act in rationally via a concept he called “the invisible hand”. The invisible hand guided people to act in their own interest even when from the outside their actions might appear irrational. He extrapolated this out to markets in general because, of course, markets are nothing more than large collections of men. Incidentally ladies you weren't involved in this discussion for at least another dozen decades. And I'd say history has born out that women and men do not in fact behave fundamentally differently in economics and politics.

Smith continued on to argue that allowing all men to act in their own self interest, free of constraint or artificial rules, would lead to the least amount of suffering possible. In modern parlance conservatives call this theory “letting the market decide”.

One third of the Holy Trinity: Uncle Milty
Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman took this idea even further. These two minds are the core of modern conservative political and economic thought. Their ideologies can be boiled down to a sentence. The greatest good possible is increased liberty. Anything that DECREAES liberty causes suffering to the individual. No system that causes widespread individual malcontent can possibly lead to good.

The other two parts of the deity: Ayn and Adam

For Rand her main examples were the obvious and extreme suffering caused by the completely planned societies of twentieth century communism. But it's important to also note that Rand hated religion. She had to. For a person who believed that individual liberty was the ultimate good there was no way to countenance that with religion which has historically been the main way society has restrained individual desires for the common good. (In the future I'm thinking about an essay on how this strange bedfellows ideological alliance occurred. Off the top of my head it seems that if you substitute “God” for “invisible hand” everything still works nicely. Christians want to “give it up to Jesus” and conservatives want to “give it up to the market”. They share the idea that people can only fuck it up in the long run.)

OK for those of you still with me...THANKS! No more dry philosophical back story I promise.

It simply cannot be credibly argued that the last 40 years have been anything other than conservative political thought completely taking over the national direction. IF you'd like to make that argument in the comments feel free but I absolutely promise you will lose. And convincingly, so unless you're coming packing with heavy arguments please don't bother.

Now you'll often hear conservatives lamenting “kids today” and the “Me generation”. But here we get to the crux of my argument. The “Me generation” that conservatives hate so much is a direct outcome of their own ideology. Conservative philosophy is all about individual liberty. When you have a philosophy that argues individual liberty not be restrained by any outside force and that ultimately you are responsible only for yourself what other possible outcome can be expected?

Now lets get to the current police confrontations. Pure individual liberty is a tough sell. There are obvious arguments against it. The benefits are abstract. While the argument against is visceral.

There is a family living in a car. Here is a mother dying of cancer because she can't afford health insurance.

In order to sell this ideology some PR massaging was needed. And that PR massaging took the form of “Anyone can do anything! You are only constrained by the limits of your imagination and talents. That's the promise of America and the basis of the American dream!”

I gotta admit, I love the libertarian message in a
Soviet Realism style piece.  Clever!

This was of course an absurd over simplification. People's potential is constrained by a myriad of factors outside their control. There are figurative mountains of data strongly correlating the wealth of parents directly with the wealth of their offspring.

But the needed narrative to allow their philosophy to take over was that anyone can do anything and no body is innately more privileged than another. There are benefits to this ideology (slavery becomes untenable for instance) and there are draw backs.

One of the draw backs is that it leads to a corrosion of the sense of responsibility to your fellow man. If bankers don't need to be constrained by law because personal liberty is the greatest good then why would I feel constrained to follow laws I don't agree with?
Liberalism would argue that although certain laws don't help you at all (in fact may hinder you) you have a responsibility to obey for the greater good of society. Conservatism argues that the your greater good IS the greater good of society.

And so a slow erosion in the belief of societal good over individual desire occurs. Suddenly policing isn't a needed constraint upon the liberties of man it's a nuisance and a hindrance to my personal liberty.

And conservatism has spent forty years literally mocking the notion of the “nanny state” and praising individual liberty as the new religion. All of their rhetoric revolves around removing constraints from people. Unleashing innovation through allowing people to do what they desire.

So in the end you end up with a generation of people steeped in the notion that no one is inherently more privileged than another, that individual desires should not be constrained by the state, that less regulation always leads to better outcomes and fed the idea that they themselves can do whatever they want to do provided they try hard enough. It was impossible for this to not lead to less respect for authority.

The seduction of this philosophy is easy to understand. I myself loathe artificial authority. It's one of the few ideals of conservatism that genuinely appeals to me. But then, I'm also aware enough to understand that my own desires are not always rational.

Reagan was the absolute master of the seemingly profound banality.
  This has since been copied by every politician alive.

Conservatives, in an effort to push their agenda, have been on a 40 year campaign to point out every single way that large regulatory institutions fail and cause misery. They've been responsible for a tone that tears down artificial respect for authority. The way they've spoken to and about Democratic presidents is a perfect example. Conservatism is simply incompatible with the idea of “respect for authority”. One of the rallying cries for modern conservatism is Ronald Reagan’s famous line, “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.” Substitute police for government and you end up where we are.

And that concludes parto uno.
Next time we'll examine policing methods and falling crime rates over the last 40 years and further explore the handbasket.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The terrifying truth!!! There is no objective reality. And that means...that what we thought everything means, might not mean anything at all.

What's up homies?  I'm going to update my status with what I've been thinking about lately.  I hope some of you take the time to respond with any insights you may have about this.  If you get to the end there will be a picture of kittens doing impossibly cute shit.

Speaking of impossibility:

Let's examine the impossibility of explaining phenomenological consciousness.  We can explain the physical states of the universe with language because language is a tool, based in functional physical reality.
This thing here?  That's a rock. 

That rock, it's brown, it's made of various minerals, it weighs a pound, it's cold.  Easy using words to describe objective third person reality.  Boom.
When we try to explain what something feels like we can only attempt to express it using words.  Words are nothing more than physical tools used to describe the physical world.  The words themselves are created by physical means and interpreted in our brains in terms of the actual physical vibrationsof air molecules.
But behind this we all have experienced consciousness that is not physical.  When I say to you "I am happy"  what does that mean?  Words can help us describe the act of being happy.  They can create sentences that describe physical situations that often lead to happiness.  I can say that "my heart was racing, I was sweating and I felt short of breath."  This explains a physical set of circumstances that might be correlated to Happiness. But it does not describe what it feels like to be in a STATE OF happiness.

This is the basic proof that consciousness, the state of FEELING happy, is not a physical state.  It is something beyond the physical reality.  And we cannot use the physical to describe the non physical.
It seems to go without saying that there are phenomenological states that exist outside of physical reality that words are useless for. Again we are talking about  what if FEELS like to be happy.  Words cannot easily or accurately describe this.

Hence we are all familiar with the term "words couldn't describe it"  Certain feelings constantly arise in us that are unable to be described by words.  Because these feelings (consciousness) do not exist in a physical reality.
Some people "feel" something when viewing abstract art.  I usually feel angry.

This is why we admire writers, artists, photographers and musicians.  These people, through practice and clever manipulation of words, light or sound are able to create the effect of feeling in us.  The best writers are able to create this effect and even leave the impression of having descried the feeling itself.

In reality great art leaves us with the impression of having something revealed to us.  But it's merely a trick.  It's one of the few times we are forced to examine the nature of our feelings.  Great art demonstrates our utter lack of understanding, and only further exposes the complete inability to describe consciousness with physical representations.
The dominant view of our current scientific zeitgeist is that all of consciousness is explainable in physical terms.  The idea is that we've demonstrated how the brain creates physical states.  Once we map the brain down to the atomic level we will be able to explain everything in terms of objective, measurable physical reality. 
There is a fundamental nearly fatal flaw in this reasoning however.  While heart rate, sweating, physical responses can be measured by objective third person observation.  How I FEEL WHEN I AM HAPPY is entirely first person objective.   You need to ask me to explain how I feel.
As a crude example.  I am at a party.  At this party I laugh and joke, I shake hands and mingle freely.  To all outside observers I am clearly happy.  And in fact brain scans will show lighting in the "drinking rum and laughing" centers of my brain.  However I can be truly miserable.  The outward physical actions I am taking and the behavior that can be objectively measured do not for certain align with my internal first person subjective mental state.  They are not measuring the same thing.

The subjective nature of consciousness was perhaps best described by the 20th centuries
 great philosopher "Smokey Robinson and The Miracles" in
 their  seminal philosophical treatise "tears of a clown"

Interestingly much of quantum physics relies on the presence of an observer to create an objective reality.  We cannot know where the quanta will go until we witness it.  Experiments over and over show a single quanta simultaneously going through two slits in a barrier.  But when an observer is present the quanta goes through only one.
The "Double Slit Experiment" as well as the famous thought experiment demonstrated by "Schrodingers Cat" are only two of many examples of the materialist objective reality worldview being shaken by advances in the findings of quantum mechanics.
This is still a dangerous and puzzling mystery to mainstream materialist orthodoxy.  The presence of the observer should have no effect at all.  And the fact that is does is a massive hole in the materialist worldview.
This shit here is completely ridiculous.  Luckily it's so hard to understand that
 people barely register the implications.  If it was any easier
to understand our heads would all explode.

The specialization of our society has made it harder and harder for people to synthesize findings across fields of study.  But the findings of quantum mechanics seem to assume that there is a difference between objective reality when there is an observer present.
This leads to the conclusion that consciousness is a force of nature.  And believing this leads to whole mess of very difficult implications for what is and is not possible.

Also I totally lied about the kittens.  (You really need to watch that video.  Consider it a reward for getting through this.  Wow.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"Psst.. have you heard? You won't get apricot one from Social Security" and other bullshit lies:

Hey ho, Pliny here taking a break from talking about my testicle's   It was a tossup on whether today would be my first entry in a new series I'm doing or a political type post.  Politics won out but keep checking back  for my new series "Pliny reviews!" which will feature helpful reviews on people, objects and media.  Not sure what order they will appear but the first three are on Mao's cultural revolution, the film "Resurrect Dead" about the infamous Toynbee Tiles, and Fiber One Oats and Chocolate Naturally Flavored Chewy Bars.
       But today we're bringing you PART I of a three part series on Social Security.  In the first part we're gonna take a trip down memory lane and talk about why Social Security was created in the first place, examine some of the truly insane rhetoric that was hurled by those who opposed it and investigate how the very foundation of the program laid the groundwork for the discussion that is going on today. 
     In PART II we'll be taking a look at the insidious and hugely effective 40 year campaign by conservatives to convince you that you'll end up eating cat food when you're 70 because social security will be gone. We'll examine why that's bullshit and try to tease out just why rich people think I should be fixing their roof until I'm 72. 
      Finally, in Part III we'll take a look at the many mild and rational methods to save Social Security just as at is, delving into the heresy that is Pliny The Welder's perfectly logical plan to actually make Social Security pay more to those who need it most.
     Don't you dare fucking say I haven't done anything for you.  The straight dope.......


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Welp........I've Got Cancer!

(Remember to get the full pliny the welder experience its important to click on THE LINKS!!)

Hypervascular, multilobular,.......blah, blah, blah....snore.....TUMOR!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yup,  I got a tumor.  I've sat on this for a couple of weeks now deciding how best to organize this information in a nice little post for your reading enjoyment.  Truth is we're not sure just how bad it is and in order to tell this story completely I'm going to have to give you a bit of history, or Brentstory as we like to call it around these parts.  But just to get it out of the way I am in the process of finding out where I sit on the helpful scale I've developed and pasted below.  Observe:

The Bit's 'O' Honey Cancer Scale (Not associated with the Cancer Riddled Candy of The Same Name (TM).
I'm pretty pleased with that so I encourage you to copy and print that out for your own cancer needs.  Print it up, put it on your fridge and then get a refrigerator magnet with your picture in it.  Then slide your picture along the scale as the tests roll in.  Preferably your picture should look something like this:

Awww.  So sad. Sniff sniff.
So anyway back to the story at hand.

This is what is know as a cliffhanger in the biz.  More on this AFTER THE JUMP!!!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mama Don't Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Radicals.

 It has come to my attention that our oldest daughter is quite radical.  This was to be expected I suppose.  Kelly and I bonded over our shared hatred and our love blossomed amidst many alcohol filled nights of venomous contempt for those who had more yet somehow felt besieged by the teeming grasping hordes of the powerless who passed by outside the tinted windows of their SL, floating along like skinny wraiths.
     This hatred ebbed and flowed but as we got older we met some of the people who drove the SL's and while they were, in fact, generally clueless about how their ignorance informed their worldview they did not, in fact, have horns.  I admit that this realization was painful.  It caused me to temper my fantasies that involved a catastrophic crumbling of society (Fun Hint.... clink on this link at the same time as the pipe bomb link!!  Good times.)  in which I would be able to wrest their mansions from them by force.  Drowning the man in his spa tub and starving his wife by locking her inside the stainless steel Sub Zero refrigerator that cost more than we made in half a year.  

Hey, I hate to take you out of the narrative flow here but: