Wizard’s First Rule

Wizard's First Rule

Update: After posting this, I read Sarah Hoyt’s post today and it’s got an interesting take on the same problem. For her, it’s the elites who have gotten out of touch (and they have) and the people are seeing that the Emperor has no clothes and it’s creating a lot of problems for everyone. I encourage you to head over there and read her post.

I’ve been forcibly reminded of Terry Goodkind’s wizard’s rules over the past few weeks since the inauguration. The first of these rules sums up everything: People Are Stupid.

I’m not just talking about Trump voters or Hillary voters here. I’m talking about the ones on both sides who reduce everything to politics. The ones who are so religious with it that they’re shunning non-believers. These two groups are so incredibly similar that I actually have difficulty telling them apart. They differ only in which particular aspects of life they wish to dictate upon. Neither of them can imagine that any reasonable or rational person could hold an opinion that differs from their own. They’re so insulated in their bubbles that they actually fear those who question their religion. And I do mean “religion” here. Politics, for normal people, refers to “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” These folks aren’t political anymore. They’re religious and they will never question their religion anymore than a devout Muslim will question the existence of Allah, a practicing Jew will question the Exodus, or a Catholic will question transubstantiation.

Which brings me back to “People Are Stupid.” Right now, we essentially have two groups of nearly identical theocrats fighting each other for power. When one gets the reins, the other flips right out and the conspiracy theories start flying. These are the people who make me understand that Loki from the Avengers had a damned good point with his speech.

Kneel before me. I said… KNEEL! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

It’s taken me a while to wrap my head around this but it is very true. There are people — perhaps the vast majority of people — who desire subjugation. They want to be ruled with an iron hand. They want someone else to make the decisions, to tell them what is right, to dictate every aspect of their lives to them. They don’t want to sit down and do the hard and messy work of reasoning out a moral code. They don’t want to have to consider all the different angles and aspects of their choices. They don’t want to grow up. These are the kinds of people who flock to support monarchs, dictators of one stripe or another. One group wants to make decisions about who can get married to whom, keep things as they “always” have been, and not have to tackle questions that might possibly lead away from easily answers intuited during the Iron Age. The other group wants to dictate what people can think, what they can say, how they can feel about others, and to punish anyone who dares to be a square peg in their Round Hole Utopia. Both groups cite guys with beards who either wrote books or had books written about them, who claim that their followers are superior to non-believers, and that both groups will get to live a utopian existence. Both groups believe they are the more intelligent and that the other is filled with either Literal Hitlers, fools, or dupes.

Thing is, both groups are idiots. They just cannot see it. It’s not that they don’t want to see it, mind. It is that they, quite literally, cannot. The cognitive dissonance is too much for them so their minds shut down and they go to flinging insults at anyone who points this out to them. It was seeing people whom I had once considered intelligent do that very thing that made me realize that they do this not out of any kind of rational argument or strength of position or surety that the facts will bear out their view; they do this just like any devout believer lashes out when you begin pointing out inconsistencies in their religion. They did not reach this set of beliefs through logic or reason; they reached it through Teh Feelz(TM).

I actually feel sorry for people like that. They’ll never be able to change and they will always hold the rest of us back because they can’t understand that feelings aren’t useful. They also will never be able to actually convince anyone to adopt their views since they can’t articulate what they are, why they hold them, and what is good about them. They can only explain these things using invective and inflammatory language to contrast themselves to Those Other Guys. And God help you if you point out a potential issue with one of their core beliefs. Then you really get to see a screaming fit. This is why I’m beginning to think, in the interests of actually having separation of church and state, we need to chuck both parties out on their ear.

— G.K.

Oy Vey…

Oy Vey...

This is just a quick update to apologize for the lack of posting this week. It’s a combination of new job and a few big projects wrapping all at once. Hopefully the madness, she will slow down a little soon. But, September is looking to be kind of a bad month so I may not be able to blog every single day. I’ll try to commit to at least four out of seven, though.


Politics and Television

Politics and Television

Or “Why G.K. Didn’t Watch The Debate.”

Oh dear Lord, we’re going into another active phase of the perpetual election cycle, aren’t we? Last week we got to see the spectacle that was the GOP debate and, while I didn’t watch it live because I knew that, even with it being on Fox with supposedly “friendly” moderators, the talking-heads weren’t going to be able to resist their chance to ham it up for the cameras and that the entire thing was going to be more about ginning up the ratings for the sponsors than it was going to be about the candidates actually, you know, talking about the issues and debating different approaches following set logical rules and avoiding logical fallacies such as strawman, reductio ad absurdum, tu quoque, ad hominem, appeals to (false) authority, special pleading, No True Scotsman, post hoc, and more while presenting actual evidence and solid reasoning for their beliefs or policy.

Can you tell I’m a bit of a throwback and a cynic? Television has ruined a lot of things and debate, argumentation, and critical thinking are among those things. It’s a great medium for entertainment and it can be used for education, yes, and story-telling. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not one of those who thinks that television is completely evil and has no redeeming qualities. I enjoy it — I have an active Netflix account and I’ve got Criminal Minds playing in the background. But, when it comes to journalism, television is the worst medium that could be used. It doesn’t allow for truly in-depth coverage, cross-referencing, citation of sources, or deep thought. Newspapers are the best medium for daily coverage and bi-weekly or monthly magazines are great for bigger events or more thorough coverage of events or technical issues. Radio can be a passable medium so long as the moderators and the debate format are agreed to in advance and the topics are adhered to. Television, however, will never make a good medium for political debates or journalism.

Why? Because it’s commercial. And, that’s good for entertainment. Hell, it’s great. It means that businesses and consumers are free to reward shows and sponsors and channels that entertain them or tell stories they like or support or whatever without having to directly own the studios or airwaves or whatever. There’s no real need for government intervention, censorship, or anything like that other than “truth in advertising” laws (you can’t advertise that your wooden spoon is actually made out of marble) and possibly some kind of daytime/child-safety advertising laws (you can’t run alcohol ads or other adult ads during certain hours or on channels aimed at children — not that most marketers would sell or buy there anyway because it’d be stupid). However, it’s an undeniable fact that you don’t piss off your sponsors and you don’t piss off your core audience. Just look at GamerGate. Intel pulled their ads from Gawker when Gawker’s articles pissed off a sizable portion of the GamerGate audience and they threatened to boycott Intel. And that kind of pressure is fine for entertainment shows and even educational shows. But it is not fine for journalism. It leads to worries about offending the corporate sponsors or the consumers which leads to spin, blacking-out of stories, and a focus on feel-good stories or the promotion of news items in a way that is guaranteed to keep the money-spigot opened.

Another reason television is a terrible medium for journalism is because it’s a visual format which leads to people judging based on appearances instead of based on the actual argument. Have you ever noticed that all of the news anchors are good-looking? And that none of them are terribly intelligent or creative? If they were trapped in the middle of a desert, they’d be screwed. Hell, if they were knee-deep in a river, they’d die of thirst. They went to fancy universities, yes, but that means nothing. Unless they graduated from CalTech, Standford (with a degree in hard sciences), or MIT, it’s worthless. These people were hired for their ability to look good on camera and read from a teleprompter or from cuecards. They were not hired for their ability to think critically, reason, ask difficult questions, or for their finely-tuned bullshit detectors.

A final reason television is the worst medium for journalism is because of its shallowness. Television is a very shallow, very short-form medium. Since it’s so visual and auditory, it’s easy to get overstimulated which makes it difficult for long-term memory to be engaged (which is why visual tricks and cut-aways can be used to deceive so easily — see below). The set-time format makes it impossible for any topic to be covered in real depth and the inability for there to be hard, permanent reference points for citations or notes makes cross-referencing difficult, if not impossible. Add in the general passivity it requires of the audience and it’s just a terrible medium for something as serious as news journalism and political debates.

There are other reasons television is a terrible medium for serious topics — it’s untrustworthy because it can be deceptively edited without the viewer being aware of it at all and, unless there are other recordings made, there’s no way to prove it (and there are never other recordings because of technical and legal reasons — no sound studio is going to let an interview subject bring in his own film crew and sound crew because not only will that cause phase cancellation issues, energy, and temperature issues but it sets them up for liability and insurance nightmares. The studio and journalists also won’t go for it because then they won’t have the sole copyright, there will be a plethora of distribution issues, and it would force them to be too damned honest).

Television — great for entertainment but a terrible way to receive information and select our leaders. Just FYI.

— G.K.

Dear Tor: I’m an evil unicorn, not a robot!

Dear Tor: I'm an evil unicorn, not a robot!

Dear Tor,

I am an evil unicorn, not a bot. Love and kisses! G.K. Masterson

I mean, I am an INTJ which, I’ve been told, means I have a sometimes robotic personality but I promise you, I’m a real person.

My mother swears I was actually born in the usual way and not hatched, dropped off by wandering aliens, beamed down as part of a reconnaissance mission, or delivered by a very confused parcel servicebeing operating out of the Corona Borealis supercluster who just took a wrong turn at the Sloan Great Wall. And, given that my niece looks exactly like me, I’m inclined to believe that my mother is telling the truth so I’m definitely human.

I know, I’m a bit disappointed, too, Tor, but we have to deal with reality as it is, not as we which it could be.

Now, I’ve been a pretty avid reader since I was about two and a half years old. And, I’m definitely a geek as these photos will attest.

[wppg_photo_gallery id=”1″]

As you can see, I have quite a few Tor books in my library. Over the years, I’ve massed a sizable collection of Tor books that is worth around about $3000. On average, I purchased about $50 worth of Tor books a month on my Kindle. So, while I’m not going to put much of a dent in Tor’s bottom line by myself, I’ll bet the authors whose books I bought will feel it and they might decide to move to a publisher who doesn’t call their customers neonazis and bots. And, ultimately, if Tor doesn’t have books to publish, they have a problem, don’t they?

— G.K.

We Didn’t Start the Flamewar — Part Two

We Didn't Start the Flamewar -- Part Two

So, some of you might be wondering exactly how this whole thing got started. I posted a brief-ish history earlier. I’m not going to rehash all of that now. Instead, I’m going to focus on the three most recent events in this culture war. I’m not going to pretend to be completely unbiased in this but I am going to try to be fairly accurate. There is a lot of he-said-she-said to some of it so feel free to check out other summaries. Just be aware that everyone has their own agenda so take it all with a grain of salt (including this one).

The first of the three events to take place was GamerGate. Know Your Meme has a pretty thorough coverage of it so if you’ve got no clue what it is and want a play-by-play, I’d suggest checking it out. The long and short of it is that the whole thing started over a game developer (Zoe Quinn) who cheated on her boyfriend. Her boyfriend posted an expose of it showing that she’d supposedly slept around to try to get good reviews of her game. It morphed from a movement to improve ethics in gaming journalism to a big thing about feminism and gaming in general. The anti-GamerGater side (populated by Social Justice Warriors or SJWs) tends to think that gaming is sexist and that the tech sector is sexist. They think that the way women are depicted in games is sexist and that games should tell a more “socially just” message. The pro-GamerGater side thinks that games are fine and that if the antis don’t like them, they’re free to make their own games and see which sell better. The antis have, so far, managed to get some of the pro-GG groups like the HoneyBadgerBridage (a group of female gamers and game developers) thrown out of conventions because they “made the [antis] feel threatened.”

That’s the level of maturity we’re dealing with. The antis can’t actually argue anything rationally and can’t be bothered to make their own games with their own message. They want to force current gaming companies to make the games they think should be made and force the rest of us to play them whether we want to or not. And, when we say that’s stupid, we’re told we’re threatening them and harassing them and that we’re being sexist. We also get lumped in with the PUAs like Roosh (who isn’t actually a bad guy — I’ve talked with him and he’s nice in person) and some of the really crazy MRAs who do hate women which would be like us lumping the antis in with groups who want to raise all children as girls and kill or force all males to undergo sex reassignment surgery *eyeroll*

The next big event was ShirtStorm. Back in November, the European Space Agency landed the Philae lander on a comet for the first time in human history. One of the guys on the team was wearing a shirt that a female friend had made for him — the shirt was a bowling shirt that depicted comic-hero women with laser guns and tight outfits. He was interviewed briefly (he wasn’t the spokesman for the team or the team lead — the team lead was a woman, in fact). Rose Eveleth, a journalist for The Atlantic, managed to miss the big news item (the historic comet landing) and, in a stereotypically womanish manner, focus in on what the guy was wearing instead. She made a big deal about the shirt that caused the historic comet landing to be forgotten as everyone on Twitter got the vapors over the women on this guy’s shirt. She later claimed she was “doxxed” (meaning her personal information was posted and she was getting harassed at home) but there was absolutely no evidence this happened (whereas there was plenty of evidence that this happened with anti-GamerGate people). I personally spent the better part of four days checking the usual doxxing sites AND the deepnet/Tornet for any trace of it and there was nada. The only way I could dig up her info was to hit up a contact I have who can get that kind of stuff and all I asked that person was if they could get it. Unsurprisingly, the answer was “yes” but that does not mean Rose Eveleth was doxxed any more than it means that oh, say, the Governor General of Canada’s direct line (bypasses switchboard, bypasses secretary, no voicemail, rings through even if phone is turned off) was “doxxed.”*

ShirtStorm managed to die down with most of us women realizing that some women were never going to get the whole science thing because they just couldn’t be rational. I wrote my long series on ShirtStorm and Women In Science (Feminism Is Dead, Why Don’t Women Go Into Science?, Why Don’t Women Go Into Science? Part II, Women In Science Part III: Can We Force More Women to Become NTs?, Women In Science: Can We Create More Female NTs?) and things seemed to go back to their uneasy truce where the minority of us wondered just when the majority of slavering crazed fems were going to find something to go batcrap crazy over again.

The third event is HugoGate or PuppyGate or whatever you want to call it. That really deserves its own entry — which it is going to get. However, I’m going to give it a quick rundown here anyway so here goes. This year was the third year that Sad Puppies ran a list of people they thought should get nominated for the Hugos. The last two years Larry Correia ran Sad Puppies — this year it was Brad Torgersen. Larry started it because he believed that worthy folks were being ignored or left off the ballot due to the authors’ political beliefs. He said that if any right-wing author got nominated, the Powers That Be with WorldCon (the group that owns and organizes the Hugos) would throw a fit of epic proportions. Thus far, he’s been proven right. The first two years, Sad Puppies wasn’t very successful but this year it was. There’s some argument as to why that is the case and I’m still reading up on it myself. However, the end result has been that Larry and Brad (who are really nice guys and good writers) have been slandered, libeled, threatened, and harassed. A lot of other good authors have been harassed as well just because they were nominated by Sad Puppies and some even felt they had to withdraw from being nominated. The PuppyKickers are threatening to vote No Award in every category where there are Sad Puppy candidates (I think) which would prove Larry’s point completely and would prove that the Hugos are pretty much worthless. The PuppyKickers claim that the Sad Puppies are all a bunch of white, sexist men who nominated nothing but white, sexist men even though SP3 consists of women, Latinos, blacks, Asians, gays (I think?), and people of all political backgrounds and nominated writers of all colors, genders, and backgrounds. Also now, according to the PuppyKickers, those of us who are sympathetic to SP are neonazis.

So you can see why some of us are finally getting a bit fed up with this whole thing.

In the next part I’ll do a more in-depth history of Sad Puppies so stay tuned!

— G.K.

*No, it’s not the Governor General and I’m not going to reveal whether or not it’s a government agency I could get access to or who my friend is or how I know them or what but, suffice it to say that just because this person can get their hands on the information does not mean it’s in the wild. This person once had a pepperoni pizza (paid for by an anonymous BitCoin account) sent to a friend of theirs who was in Israel and that friend, to this day, still has no idea who sent them the pizza. And no, my posting this won’t give the game away because that friend has no clue who I am or that I know this mutual contact.

Women In Science Part III: Can We Force More Women To Become NTs?

Women In Science Part III: Can We Force More Women To Become NTs?

Short answer: no, probably not. Longer answer: are you out of your cotton-pickin’ mind? I have heard some crazy questions in my time but this one…this one takes the cookie, the cake, and gets a special ticket for the short bus. Honestly, I know that it’s impolite to say that a question is stupid but I’m going to have to agree with DI Alec Hardy here and say:

Temperament does change over the course of a life. But, not drastically (absent drastic events) for most people. Most of the time, it’s pretty clear if you’re an I or an E (introvert/extrovert) by the time you start school. By the time you hit middle school, it’s usually clear if you’re an NT, NF, SP, or SJ (though there are arguments that parents can detect temperament in their children by the age of one year). By the time you’re in college, you have the personality type you’ll carry the rest of your life. Sure, you might be able to superficially act like a different type. You’ll be able to work on developing your intuition or your sensing, your thinking or your feeling. But using a cognitive function that is not your default setting will always require a bit of effort on your part. It’s not going to “come naturally” to you no matter how hard you try.

I’m an NT (INTJ). I can take all of the public speaking courses on offer and none of them are going to magically make me draw energy from hanging out with a large crowd of people. I can read all of the touchy-feely frou-frou crap out there and none of it is going to magically make me a feelings-oriented person. I can know how to use my five senses but all of the sensing tutorials on Earth aren’t going to get me to use S instead of N as my primary information-gathering resource. I have always gotten tired hanging out around a lot of people (with a handful of exceptions for relatives). I have always been a person who lives inside her head and is happy there. I have always been interested in seeing the “big picture” of things. I have always been curious, loved to learn things, a voracious reader, and unafraid of questioning anything (even when it got me in trouble. Younger INTJs with non-NT parents are cautioned not to stake a Devil’s Advocate position on the existence of God with your more traditional parents unless you want them to punish you by not letting you read encyclopedias).

I’m pretty sure I must have driven my mother crazy as I grew up. My mother is an ESFJ which is about as opposite INTJ as you can get. Even an ESFP would have been closer because the “P” would have meant she would have been more curious and open than the “J” which means being a bit more structural and wanting things done in a certain (preferably her) way. As an adult, I can deal with my mother better now than I could when I was a kid and, over time, she’s just learned to put up with me. Of course, knowing that she is ESFJ has made it a lot easier for me to figure out how to communicate with her and what things she assigns priority to. However, when I was growing up, my mother wanted to mold me into an ESFJ because, to her, that was the “best” way to be and I wanted to turn her into an INTJ because, to me, that was the “best” way to be. My (I’m guessing here) ISTP father often had to get between us to stop our fights from escalating into the verbal equivalent of nuclear war (at least on my end — my sarcasm was practically inborn).

See, to my mother, my introversion meant that I was “shy” and she kept telling me that “if I would just be more friendly” or “act better” then I would “have a lot of friends” because, to her, having a lot of friends and being well-thought of was important. I, on the other hand, didn’t want “a lot of friends.”* I wanted particular kinds of friends who I could talk to about the weird things I was interested in and who would read books with me. My mother wanted me to be more affable, approachable, warm, and thoughtful when it came to dealing with people whereas I wanted her to be more objective and open-minded and less likely to use “guilt by association” judging my friends (though, to be fair, she was right more often than not when I was a teenager). My mother (and my father) thought that “because I said so” or “because that’s the way it is” were acceptable conversation enders whereas I wanted to know why. I wanted to know what they thought about big events and the big picture (space exploration, could we build colonies on the moon, time travel, would either of them ever sign up to get on an interstellar space ship, what would have happened if the South won the Civil War, should there be a Federation-style global government…) whereas they were both more practical-minded and probably felt that my questions and obsessions were hare-brained and frivolous since none of them could make money, provide security, etc. My mother and I did (and still do, sometimes) a lot of talking past each other because neither one of us had the first clue how the other saw the world or how they thought. Looking back now, there were things my parents could have done to give me the answers I wanted and to stop the fights we had if they had known I was INTJ and what that meant. Also, if I were to be sent back a la Replay, I would have a better idea how to deal with both of them and communicate with them than I did growing up.

Thank God they had my little brother who (again, guessing here) was an ESTP. Otherwise, there might have been a mushroom cloud over our house by the time I’d turned fifteen.

So, I had two non-Rational parents and a non-Rational brother growing up and, despite the pressure, I didn’t magically change temperament. I also grew up in an area (the Deep South — specifically Mississippi) where Rational traits were not desired (not discouraged — just not considered desirable) in a woman (on average). Chances are that I went to school with only a few dozen other Rationals (school population was ~2000) and, despite being constantly around and under peer pressure and social pressure to conform, I stubbornly remained an NT.

Therefore, I doubt that it would be possible to take non-NT girls and somehow change them into Rationals for the purpose of having more women in science. I was unsuccessful in instilling an NT-temperament in my mother. I doubt that my niece (with whom I would have a disproportionate influence due to being an authority figure and “cool”) will be a Rational (she shows a lot of signs of being either an SF or an NF). And, even if there were some way to “force” a temperament change to NT, it probably wouldn’t be ethical or legal since you’d either have to brainwash a child (like Borg assimilation) or you’d have to place someone in severe psychological and emotional distress with development of NT traits being the only way for them to survive.

Now, can we “create” more NT women without violating laws on assault, kidnapping, and torture? Honestly, I’ll have to think about that one for a bit.

— G.K.

*Of course there were points where I wanted to be well-liked and respected. The thing is, I wanted it to be for things I knew or had accomplished, not for things like how I dressed or looked. I wanted to be popular because I wrote a great story or had the coolest science project or something (actually, winning first place in the Science Fair in fifth grade still counts as one of my Top Five Coolest Events from when I was a kid). I wanted to be known for what I had done or learned, not just for status-signaling or something stupid like that.

Why Don’t Women Go Into Science?

Why Don't Women Go Into Science?

This is one of those questions where the answer is going to take a good bit of explanation because it’s a multi-part problem. One problem is that scientists tend to focus on abstract problems and theories — especially in disciplines like physics and astronomy. They are looking for patterns that are damned difficult to detect and that requires a kind of mind and intellect that is rare among men and rarer still among women making scientists a minority among the human populace.

And if there’s one thing that humans love to destroy, it’s a minority population.

We’re social creatures (for the most part). We enforce conformity through social norms, laws, mores and folkways, ostracism, shaming, and praise for good (conformist) behavior. That means that people who do not observe and obey those norms tend to be punished early on and taught not to express those non-conformist behaviors and to suppress their native values in favor of what society values.

Now, society’s values aren’t always good things when it comes to scientific and technological progress. To break mankind out of the Neolithic took visionaries and inventors who had the personal fortitude to ignore the social shaming conventions (gossip, peer pressure, ostracism, etc) and move forward into a direction that the Neolithics had never considered. That’s hard for anyone, male or female. But, it happened. Some crazy fool invented writing. Some other crazy fools figured out how to heat metal and hit it so that it developed into a certain shape. Other fools figured out how to sharpen it. Some fools figured out how to use sand to make a road and suddenly a bunch of fools could talk to other fools faster than ever.

And, of course, these fools let the Neolithics they’d dragged kicking and screaming out of the caves have access to these cool things and what did the Neolithics do? Use them to beat the ever-living crap out of future visionaries. But still, visionaries who could take the beatings were born and continued to pull the rest of humanity forward even while the gifts they left behind were used to discourage more of their kind from expressing their own visions.

See, visions are okay — so long as they fit to cultural norms or what the Neolithic elites want. So, today, that means that walking around the Vatican topless is fine — it fits what the elites want. It means that wearing a dress that resembles something out of Picasso’s nightmares is fine (but men had best stick to suits that make them look like tall penguins or else). It means that peeing in a jar and dropping a cross in it is fine. See, avant-garde is cool. Worship of a time period from a half-century ago is cool.

But putting a probe on a comet is so not cool. Especially if you don’t look like David Tennant or Thomas Hiddleston (who are acceptably good-looking male representations of “okay geeks” that the elites will tolerate so long as they genuflect before their Neolithic masters and don’t do anything too geeky). Especially if, like most visionaries, you don’t pay much attention to the fashion dictates of the day and instead wear things you think are cool or that a friend made for you. If you insist on being below average in looks, nerdy in fashion, and brilliant at science, your historic achievement will be overlooked by the Neolithics in favor of what you were wearing.

Because, you know, that’s so much more important than learning more about our universe.

Now, everyone’s sensitive (on some level) to that kind of social pressure. Women, on balance, are more sensitive to it (or rather, more women possess temperaments that allow such tactics to work — the rest of us who don’t have those self-isolate anyway and usually discount what the Neolithics say about anything). So, when an entire generation of girls sees a scientist getting ripped to shreds over his shirt after he’s just landed a freaking probe on a comet, those girls are going to say “hey, obviously all this stuff that feminists have been saying about how we shouldn’t judge people on looks or their clothes is bull. If I were to make a historic discovery, those same people would be more concerned with what I was wearing and how I looked than they would be with the implications of my discovery so why should I bother?”

So, congratulations, Rose Eveleth, Chris Plante, and Arielle Duhaime-Ross and others of your Neolithic ilk. You’ve just done more to discourage girls who have native scientific temperaments (NT females) from bothering to tackle difficult subjects because you’ve shown that, once again, achievements matter not at all to you flea-bitten primitives — it’s how you look and what you wear.

— G.K.

Gay Marriage, Church and State, and the First Amendment

Gay Marriage, Church and State, and the First Amendment

Gay Marriage and LGBT rights have been a big thing in the news over here in the States for the past few months. I mentioned some of my thoughts in L’affaire Eich a while back and most people who know me have a general idea of what my thoughts are but I do still manage to surprise them by one thing (though, really, it shouldn’t be so surprising — it’s just my adherence to it even when it’s not to my advantage that throws people).


In my mind, there is no sentence more important in all of history than this one:


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Emphasis mine.


That right there, folks, is the most important sentence in all of history. It’s the most amazing sentence ever written. It’s a sentence that, in one fell swoop, severely limits the power of a new-born government and places power directly in the hands of the people. It’s the sentence that makes “consent of the governed” actually work. Yes, yes, the Second Amendment is very important and I’ll always defend it. But without the First Amendment, the Second would be pointless because there’d be nothing to protect.


The First Amendment protects a lot of things: freedom to assemble, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom from being religious, freedom to speak your mind, freedom to argue and debate, freedom to protest, freedom to lobby the government, freedom to advertise, freedom to advocate for the overthrow of the government.


Notice I said “protects” and not “promises” or “grants.” All rights in the Bill of Rights are negative rights (something I’ll touch on in detail in a later post). No one is “given” anything — the assumption is that the people already have these rights and the government is told to keep its grubby paws off them even if they think they’re meddling “for our own good” or “for the children” or whatever the catchphrase du jour is this week.


The First Amendment also explicitly forbids Congress from granting favor or disfavor to any particular sect or religion. There’s no official religion in the United States even though some colonies were founded as charters of a specific church or movement. When it comes to religious beliefs and practices, Congress (and via the Fourteenth Amendment, the States) cannot interfere except in a very narrow range of circumstances such as parents refusing emergency medical services for their child if a third party contacted them, human sacrifice, slavery via contract, and things of that nature (granted, I’m not a lawyer so if I’m wrong, let me know). Congress cannot pass a law that would force a religious institution to support something against its fundamental beliefs — such as forcing the Amish or Quakers to speak out in support of a war, forcing the Catholic church to fund abortions, forcing an Islamic group to speak out in favor of strip bars, or forcing a Jewish synagogue to sell its members on the health benefits of bacon.[1]


The flip-side of this is that no religion or sect can force its members to vote in a certain manner, to refrain from certain beliefs or behaviors by force of law, or to support certain policies or candidates in political matters. A church can beseech. It can plead. It can remark upon. But it cannot force its members to action in the political sphere. Yes, a church can refuse to perform blessings or rites upon members who violate the church’s teachings or beliefs but it can’t call up the local sheriff and have him arrest a member for being a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist, Anarchist, or anything like that. It can’t take a member to court for being in favor of a tax increase, gay marriage, or voting against the Reverend’s daughter on the local school board.[2]


There is a legal separation of church and state that acts to protect both and this is a Good Thing. The church can, just as any other group, try to convince its members to live a certain way or to vote a certain way but it can’t force them to do so or punish them for not doing so by force of law. The state can’t tell the church that it has to perform certain rites or that it has to favor certain political policies. The church can’t baptize Caesar and Caesar can’t rule over the church. That’s a good thing because every single time we’ve mingled the two, it’s gone badly. Just look at the corruption in the Catholic Church during the era when the Pope ruled as a temporal king and claimed political dominion over all sovereigns. Look at the corruption that led to deaths in Salem, Massachusetts when all the minister had to do was point and say “witch.” Look at the way that Catholics, Quakers, Baptists, and Jews were disenfranchised in the UK and forced to pay taxes to support the Anglican church or be jailed for refusal to go against their conscience. Look at how Protestants were disenfranchised in France and Spain. Look at how Christians and Jews are treated in the Middle East (outside of Israel) today. Look at how anyone of faith is treated in China today. Letting the government enforce religious orthodoxy is a terrible idea because not a single human alive is perfect. Letting religious orthodoxy control the government is a terrible idea because religions are run by humans who aren’t perfect. Yes, yes, when Jesus returns, He’ll set up a perfect kingdom. Jesus is a special exception to the whole “terrible human” thing. As soon as you can find someone alive who is as perfect in every way as Jesus is, let me know and that person will have my vote. Until then, I’m going to function under the “power corrupts” adage and try to keep Caesar chained and unbaptized and keep religion from ascending Caesar’s seat.


Why? Because separation of Church and State is one of the only things that makes the whole American Experiment work. Without it, we’re just another England or France. Without it, we’re not America anymore. Which is why I favor stripping all religions and sects of the power to perform legal marriages and going with a system like the current one in France. Currently, in France, if you want to get married (and have it be legal), you go to the Mayor’s office and apply for a marriage license. You have to post banns for a certain amount of time to give anyone who knows a legitimate legal reason why the marriage shouldn’t happen a chance to raise an objection. Then, you go before the Mayor who reads off the laws concerning marriage, you sign on the dotted line, and bam. You’re married. If you’re religious, you can then go to the church/temple/synagogue of your choice and have a matrimonial ceremony in line with your faith. The minister can’t make the marriage legal to the French government and the French government can’t tell the minister who they have to marry or who they are forbidden from marrying in their faith.


“Oh, but then you’re trampling on our rights!” I hear some cry. “You’re forcing us to think gay marriage is okay if you make it legal. Next people will marry their brothers and sisters and dogs and cars…” Yeah, no. Every place has laws regarding consanguinity for public health reasons. People too closely related who petition for legal marriage are refused because of the likelihood of their offspring having recessive birth defects come up and tainting the entire gene pool in a region. However, these laws don’t come with fines or jail times (otherwise there are entire communities in Appalachia who would be in trouble). The government just refuses to grant a license to them. Same thing with animals or inanimate objects — if they can’t express consent in human terms that anyone who speaks the common tongue can understand, they can’t sign the certificate. And, fun fact: it’s actually not illegal to marry your pet in some places yet no one seems to do so in those areas. It’s not that it’s permissible — just not forbidden. So, refusing to ask the government to use the power of law to enforce your religious definition of marriage will not lead to the downfall of the civic order. And, there are several religions where same sex marriage is permitted as a rite and refusal to grant legal status to those couples constitutes an infringement of their First Amendment rights — so long as ministers are allowed to perform legally sanctified marriages. Remove the ministers’ power to do so and let the local government decide and you’ve removed the danger there.


You’ve also removed the government’s ability to come into your church and tell you what to teach if you do that. Right now, a lot of conservatives in the US are all aflutter that the government is allowing lawsuits to compel people to perform services for gay marriages when gay marriage is against their beliefs. There are rumors that the government might even force ministers to bless such unions by the threat of withdrawing their power to perform marriages at all. Many conservatives fear that soon they’ll be legally compelled to support a lifestyle they find to be sinful.[3] The first step to removing the ability for the government to have the first say in your religion is to divest ministers of the power to perform legally binding marriages. Many conservatives (my mother among them) will scoff at this and have a Wall of Text from the Bible about how this tramples her rights or some other such nonsense. It doesn’t. It actually protects her church from the government. Don’t believe me?


Well, it worked in France.


France is, compared to the US at least, a pretty liberal country. Not quite so liberal as the Netherlands but still pretty liberal. Just recently, gay marriage became legal in France and gay couples can now go before the Mayor and be married legally. That’s equality in France. However, the LGBT lobby in France wanted to compel churches (particularly the Catholic church) to bless such unions by performing the Sacrament of Matrimony and by letting gay couples partake of the Eucharist (which means that the couple would be “in communion” with the church instead of violating its teachings on sexual purity by living an unrepentant homosexual life). The case didn’t get very far at all. From what I understand (and again, I welcome correction if this is wrong), the LGBT group got into the courtroom and the judge looked at them like they’d dribbled on their shirts before informing them that the French government had no power to force a religious institution to perform any rite or support any belief beyond “you can’t murder people or take their stuff” and that if the LGBT group wanted the Roman Catholic Church to perform same-sex Matrimonial Rites, they needed to take it up with the Church because the government didn’t have the authority and didn’t want the authority to tell any religion what it had to do or teach. The case was dismissed and though I’ve heard rumblings of it going before the EU High Court, I have a feeling that even as batcrap-crazy as they can be, the EU court will rule against it on the same grounds.


Separation of church and state means just that: the two are separate and neither can compel, by force, the other to do a damned thing it doesn’t want to do. Even if it’s “for equality” or “for the children” or “because it’ll hurt my feelings if this doesn’t happen.” You’re not compelled to go to a specific church, believe specific things, or perform specific religious duties — you can always go find or start a religion or church that is exactly what you want it to be. Hell, L. Ron Hubbard did this and I’ve seen plenty of Protestant churches spring up over some dispute about which SEC team to support in the NFL semi-finals or because someone ate a bad piece of fish and had a revelation (I swear, it does seem to me that Protestants make things up as they go along). But, no one can force a church to do anything that church doesn’t want to do. If your feelings are hurt: go somewhere else.


“But I want to be Catholic/Orthodox/part of the Southern Baptist group/Muslim/Orthodox Jewish/whatever and they say I’m violating their beliefs by being gay.” Guess what? You are. Part of belonging to a religious faith means living by its teachings even when it’s not easy or convenient. I’m Eastern Orthodox. That means that if I want to keep calling myself Orthodox, I have to get up on Sundays (even when I just want to laze about in bed) and go to Liturgy. I have to refrain from having wild orgies. I can’t visit a psychic. I can’t sit around and say that God doesn’t exist. I even sometimes have to fast and spend time praying. I can’t say that the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East is stupid (well, I can, but it’s not really a good policy). I can’t demand to go up to the altar because I’m a woman and that’s a man’s place. I can’t demand to be made a priest (though I could become a monk if I wanted). I can’t have a boyfriend move in and sleep with me — I have to get married to him first.[4] Those are some of the rules of being Orthodox and I knew them when I converted. If I find them that onerous, I’m free to leave and find another faith. I’m not free to demand that an institution that’s been around for 2000+ years change its views just for me. If the place you go to worship says that you’re violating their beliefs, then you can either suck it up and try to live according to their teachings or you can leave and find some other place. If someone refuses to perform a non-vital[5] service for you because of their own religious beliefs, then you can suck it up and find someone else. You can’t force an institution or individual to change their beliefs for you any more than they can force you to change yours for them.


That’s separation of church and state. Don’t like it when it works out against you? Then gather an army and go conquer some territory and form your own damned nation and see how it works out for you.


For now, that’s enough for this entry. There will be future entries in this vein given my fanatical adherence to the First Amendment and all its ramifications but, for now, I think I’ve probably pissed everyone off enough. 🙂


— G.K.

[1]Yes, this also touches on the birth control debate centered around the Hobby Lobby case and Obamacare. I will go into more detail on this in a future entry because this entry is long enough and needs no more meandering.


[2]A religious institution can refuse to perform sacraments for people who violate its teachings but it cannot call upon the law or the courts to enforce its teachings. It can, however, call the police if it catches someone breaking the law (such as someone breaking into a church to steal money or commit vandalism) and it can sue someone who has violated a contract with it (such as suing a contractor who was supposed to fix the roof and did not do so).


[3]And, seeing the backlash against Eich and photographers and caterers who refuse to perform services for gay marriages, conservatives actually do have some reason to fear that their lives will be made impossible if they donate to a cause against gay marriage or if they themselves refuse non-vital services to gay couples. In America, believing that someone is doing something sinful and not wanting to support that shouldn’t ever lead to a witch hunt against that person or group. The KKK should be free to believe blacks are inferior. The Catholic church should be free to believe that abortion is murder. The Baptist church should be free to believe that homosexuality is sinful. This is one area where the LGBT groups have gone too far in trying to force everyone to wholeheartedly support them and is fodder for a future entry.


[4]Having a live-in boyfriend/girlfriend for a “trial before marriage” is against the Church’s teachings. However, suppose I were sick or injured and needed someone to stay with me around the clock to help take care of me. If my boyfriend were the only one who could do that (say I couldn’t afford to hire a nurse and had no family nearby who could help me in such a manner), then he could stay in my home and sleep separately from me and the church, while not being a-okay with it, wouldn’t consider it sinful as long as we resisted the temptation to engage in hanky-panky without a wedding first. Or if my boyfriend was having work done on his house that necessitated he vacate the premises for a few days (like fumigation or major construction), again, he could crash at my place but not in my bed.


[5]Non-vital means just that — not required to live. Having a particular photographer work your wedding isn’t a matter of life and death. Having a particular caterer work your wedding isn’t a matter of life and death. Having a particular privately-owned building or hall host your wedding or reception isn’t a matter of life or death. However, an ER doctor or an EMT/paramedic cannot refuse to perform life-saving services on someone who is gay. A surgeon who finds out mid-surgery that the patient is transsexual can’t refuse to continue treatment. A Catholic doctor who is working as an OBGYN cannot refuse to perform an abortion for an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy where the fetus implants somewhere that is not the uterus. Such pregnancies can almost never result in a live birth and can almost always kill the mother if they are allowed to proceed by rupturing the Fallopian tube and paving the way for internal bleeding) if the woman comes to him in an urgent situation (such as when the pregnancy is about to result in a rupture of the Fallopian tube which can be fatal). A Muslim nurse cannot refuse to change a Jewish patient’s bandages. A Jewish ER doctor cannot refuse to treat a skinhead who’s been in a car wreck. When it’s a matter of life and death (and not just butthurt feelings), doctors and nurses and medical personnel can be forced to save the lives of those who do things they believe are sinful. Likewise, people in official positions like judges, police, firemen, and lawyers can be forced to protect or serve people who do things or believe things they find abhorrent (but are not illegal). That is something that all people who choose to go into those professions are taught and warned about early on. Most doctors will try to find a way to practice medicine that isn’t in conflict with their faith but, if it comes down to saving someone’s life, they can be compelled to perform the service even if they believe it is sinful or if they hate the person and everything that person stands for.

Misadventures in Computing

Misadventures in Computing

…or why I vanished for like two weeks.


First of all, let it be said: I am a horrible blogger. I do have plans to remedy that but I gave up making promises long ago because no sooner do I make one than I break it. So, no promises but a solid hope that I’m going to get better about keeping this place updated. That said, here’s why I completely vanished from the Intarwebz for a while.


1) Moving is hard, yo — A while back, I pretty much decided it was time to move back to Mississippi. There were various reasons for this but the main one had to do with wanting to see my family and spend time with them more than once a year (if I was lucky). So, since around the beginning of May, I’ve been making plans to move. This took up an extraordinary amount of my time and energy. So, the little time and energy I had left over went into my writing instead of my hanging out on Twitter or blogging. Then, near the middle of June, the actual move itself took up all of my time and energy (and money). Now that I’m settled in, though, things should be smoother from here on out.


2) Writing is energy and time consuming — I have discovered that I can either write, watch TV, play games, or hang out on the Intarwebz but not all of them. So, I no longer play games outside of some strictly controlled scheduled game time. I do watch TV but only after I’ve hit a certain writing goal for the day. I don’t hang out on the Intarwebz as much because I spend most of my non-writing time working on the Internet and because the Internet is like one big field full of distractions for me. I can go and intend to hang out on Twitter for an hour and then find myself digging through various arcana on Wikipedia six hours later.


3) Sometimes, I think my computer wants to kill me — This is the main reason I vanished recently. Now, I’m the kind of person who generally knows how to avoid getting viruses and whatnot on my computer. I have up-to-date virus scanners and spyware searchers continually on the lookout for things that I don’t want on my computer. I have set up my cookie folders so that it’s hard for me to be tracked by websites who don’t explicitly ask my permission or who I don’t want tracking me. GeoIP places hate my guts because I do randomly send them information that screws up their carefully gathered intel on me.


However, like every person on this Earth, I have fits of weakness where I’m so certain I know what I’m doing that I do something incredibly stupid. Such as disable my anti-virus because it keeps bugging me whenever my Curse client updates itself and then proceed to hit a Trojan-laden email from a USPS-cloned phishing site that installs a rootkit and a virus to my Master Boot Record. I nuke and rewrite the MBR thinking that would solve the problem but instead got a computer that blue-screened on Winload. So, I did what anyone would do. Bought a recovery image, tossed it on a USB drive (that subsequently died), and tried to recover without a reinstall. Two days with about three hours’ sleep into that, I got a recovery tool that would let me do a full disc back-up, copied everything I could to a 1 TB external drive, nuked my hard drives, struggled over which to load the new OS on (one had over 10k bad journaling warnings which means it’s dead, Jim), found a site that would let me get a digital download purchase for Win7 (because my eyes bleed at the thought of Win 8 on a desktop), reinstalled the OS, redownloaded and reinstalled every application I could, rebuilt my iTunes library, redownloaded all my games, updated all of my major applications, and then nuked my external hard drive and did a full image back-up with files of my new computer so that once I install my brand new hard drive, I can copy everything onto it, nuke the Windows on my old (but still working) hard drive, and install ubuntu for dual-booting to see if a switch to Linux is in the cards.


On top of that (as if having to buy a new USB thumb drive and a new USB 1 TB external drive to replace the ones that are bricked, plus a new copy of Win7 and the recovery software + the paid upgrades to Photoshop Elements), my Lifeproof case proved to no longer be waterproof (this after I tested it thoroughly in my sink) and my new iPhone 5s I purchased in November is now a very expensive piece of garbage. Apple decided that AppleCare didn’t cover it since the water damage wasn’t “accidental” and Lifeproof told me that it must have been user error and that the extra warranty I’d gotten only covered the case, not the phone. So, I had to get a new iPhone 5s at midnight which meant shelling out more money and getting saddled with a two-year contract. However, I grilled the people at AT&T, recorded them, and had it written (I almost demanded it be written in blood but then I decided to be reasonable) down that they would replace the phone immediately for free if ANYTHING happened to it that wasn’t a deliberate attempt on my part to destroy the phone. So, score one for AT&T and nil for Apple and Lifeproof when it comes to honoring their warranties, I suppose.


I managed to get my computer back up and running on July 4th, declaring my independence from sitting here nursing the thing back to health. Of course, that meant I spent most of July 4th going around and resetting my passwords EVERYWHERE but, hey. Them’s the breaks. It also meant that I didn’t get much writing done last week and I’m now playing catch-up there and on a couple of other things. But, at least the worst of it is behind me (knock on wood) and I made valuable friends at the local liquor store since the guys there totally understood what I was talking about when I launched into a spiel about my computer. They even recommended some cocktails that were strong (but not too strong) so I could unwind a bit while not getting so smashed I couldn’t operate the computer.


Now I just pray to the Lords of the Bytes that I suffer no more BSoDs and that I be delivered from Trojans and led not into rootkits for like…forever. Or at least a couple of years. I’m not as young as I used to be and pulling multiple all-nighters takes much longer to recover from than it did when I was in college.


So, there you have it. My explanation for my vanishing. Here’s to hoping that it all works out in the future and that I’m not as absent from the Intarwebz as I have been.


— G.K.

*brushes off the dust*

*brushes off the dust*

Okay. It’s been ages since I updated this place. First things first, I am still alive. The last few months have been hectic because I’ve moved back to Mississippi. I’m working remote for my employer and will be picking up a few local contracts on the side. I’m working to pay off the moving bills and just trying to get settled in to my new digs which, by the way, are awesome. It’s quiet and calm out here where I am and I have plenty of time and energy to write — which is what I’ve been doing. I’m most of the way through The Penitent (should be sending it out for beta reading by the end of summer max). I’ve completed the rough drafts on three short stories (I’m going to do a collection soon). I’ve gotten most of my research and notes done for Realpolitick. I’ve even started working on a series of one-offs for a new quasi-fantasy serial that would work great as a comic (if I could draw more than stick people). I’m also working on rough chapter drafts for Lanar’ya Three and for another novel.


Still, I should be updating more. And, now that I’ve kind of got the worst of it all behind me, I am planning to do just that. There’s been a lot going on in the publishing industry and the fantasy/sci-fi community that I want to comment on. But, for now, you’ll just have to put up with this super-short update and bookmark this place to come back and check later for my “pearls of wisdom.”


— G.K.