Thebastidge: 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008
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    Monday, March 31, 2008

    Long, but worthwhile



    h/t Drumwaster

    I think there really is something to this. He puts it in terms which will be somewhat inflammatory to self-identified *L*iberals and Progressives, but that doesn't make it incorrect. I have to disagree with his jokes about Democrats/Republicans, because those are just another example of tribalism.

    As a person who fits neatly into neither the Conservative or Liberal camp, but self-identifying as conservative and (small "L") libertarian, I see a lot of behaviour that can only be explained by this moral equivalency that he points out. The only way that one could close one's eyes to the obvious fallacy is early indoctrination and identification. This movement plays into out natural human tendency towards tribalism. If you can make people identify with a given group early enough, they will support that group (in the majority of cases, there are always individuals at the margins) over any argument, over any logic, over any truth, because their entire identity is tied up in that group focus, and they are emotionally unready to abandon that identity, because human being are fundamentally social animals. Being outcast from one's tribe is socially and genetically risky.

    People who profess this moral equivalency, nonetheless often display behaviour that contradicts it in many ways (revealed preference, in economic terms). They still manage to choose for themselves, usually based upon some measure of self-interest and personal taste, to some degree of efficiency (perhaps more or less impaired by impassioned beliefs in "social justice"), personal standards of behaviour, even as the more diffuse and distant the decision becomes, the more inline with the philosophy of moral equivalence. So they feel outrage when their paycheck is small, but excessive taxation of "the rich" is ok. They are hurt and angry when robbed, but other people who protect themselves should just "give them what they ask for" rather than protecting their lives and property with restrained, ethically and legally justified violence (right to bear arms.)

    My self-image is not tied into my politics, I don't automatically think that one's political oreintation makes one more moral. I think it simply makes one wrong or right on given issues. In some cases there are definitely grey areas, where it is difficult to know what is right, but the vast majority of issues can be clearly seent to be black or white, right or wrong, IF one has a philosophical framework in place that allows one to evaluate clearly, to discriminate on the basis of fact, results, and (far distant third) preference, rather than equivocation, self-hatred, and need to identify with an in-group.

    I do note explicitly here that Republicans have their prejudices as well, and not all of them are rational. Some of the more fringe religious get on my nerves as well, and just as many people inherit their Republican identity as Democrats, but "Liberals" and "Conservatives", "Republicans" and "Democrats" all tend to look upon themselves as arbiters of morality, rather than simply people trying to find the best policy. Even (big "L") Libertarians refer to themselves as the moral choice: "The party of principle".

    People need to get off their moral high-horse, embrace some open-minded empiricism, and give each other space to breathe.

    Sunday, March 30, 2008

    Mac pwned

    Friday, March 28, 2008

    Hearts and Minds

    Heard in my kitchen last night:

    "Winning hearts and minds? Two to the chest and one to the head. Ha! I win, mother f*cker."


    LOL

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Not quite everything

    Not to take anmything away from the courage this young woman showed but she didn't do quite everything. As Lawdog says:

    In a just and sane world, when Gary Michael Hilton stepped out of the undergrowth with a bayonet and a baton, Meredith Emerson would have produced a .38 and centre-punched his rotten heart out through his spineless back.


    A commenter over there says something I have to disagree with:

    Personally, I would prefer that every female be mandated to carry a blade any time they are outside of their residence, with a considerable fine to be levied upon the parents, or her if a legal age. A handgun to be added to the requirement by a certain age. Details can be argued. I would want a fine to be extremely punishing. Don't want to carry? Don't leave your house! Do I sound a little excessive? I have reason to.


    It's not that I'm against promoting self-defense or personal responsibility, but the means of implementation of both remain and always will remain an exercise for the individual. Not to mention, getting into a knife fight will almost certainly get you cut, possibly badly.

    This is not a continuation of the false meme that "a gun is more likely to be used against you than successfully used to defend yourself."

    First, I believe that you can successfully use a knife to protect yourself. However, any time you have to actually get within arm's ditsance of an attacker you are probably going to take at least a little damage. Knives are still largely dependent upon strength and agility. Guns give you the option of eliminating the threat from a distance great enough to avoid physical contact, as well as being far less dependent upon upper body strength.

    Secondly, if people would rather be hurt than defend themselves, that is their right. They just don't have the right to make the same choice for anyone else. The Amish and the Quakers don't force their pacifist beliefs on anyone through legislation, why should hippies be allowed to?

    Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Education reform

    Some discussion on education issues over here, which is a recurrent theme at the du Toit household. I weigh in towards the end of comments...

    Sunday, March 23, 2008

    Happy Easter

    Some very kind gentlemen not even of the Christian persuasion were nice enough to drop some mortars on celebrate Easter with us around 5:30 this morning. Fortunately, it doesn't seem as if anyone was hurt, but there will be the obligatory hunt for Easter Eggs now.

    Saturday, March 22, 2008

    Shocking!

    No, not the subject matter. Rather that something useful and informative and fair actually appeared at HuffingtonPost.


    H/T to Lex

    Interhash

    Apparently, my compatriots of the Baghdad HHH are having a great time and are representin' our 'hood quite well at Interhash.

    Man, that would've been a fun trip to go on. If I had planned ahead a little better and not taken a full month in december, I might've gone.

    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    Driver's License Woes

    Mad Scientists

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    Transcript of Oral Arguments

    Self interest or altruism?

    Which would you rather see in in society? Pretty intuitive, right? Everybody seems to think people should be more altruistic. Especially other people should be less selfish. I'm already socially aware and concerned, man. Right? Scourge the money lenders, filthy lucre, etc. etc.

    Screw that. I'm just the opposite. I'd rather people would just operate on the principle of enlightened self interest. Long term evaluation of what is good for me and mine is to contribute a reasonable amount to society in general (not necessarily through taxation, or even charity, it may just be productivity), and live within some mutually agreed-upon framework that has at its base some kind of rule of law and basic trust.

    I can reliably predict and adapt to people who act in a reasonable, self-interested manner. Altruists on the other hand, often behave in irrational and unpredictable ways. They're far scarier than profit-oriented business people. Far more likely to want to hurt me "for the common good" or even control me "for my own good". Totalitarians invariably couch their aims in terms of what is "good for everyone".

    Here's a couple prime examples.

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    Mongo not unnerstan 'puters

    Our good buddies who do such a good job of protecting us at the TSA apparently don't keep up with technology. Who woulda thunk it?

    Sorry that the article reads more like an advertisement than what it should be: a scathing indictment of the TSA's bungling. I just happened to see it on yahoo's home page as I was sailing through to other things....

    Mind Candy

    Based on Roberta's recommendation, I sent off for some of Mike Williamson's books today. I can always use some good fiction. And there's definitely a need for some reading material around this place.

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Worthy Causes

    I've updated my right sidebar just a bit with some things I consider worth looking into...

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    More linky love

    Samizdata talking about and linking to a paper on Jury Nullification.

    Yes, Virginia, you do have a choice. And a responsibility.

    Where did I find this?

    Damn. I found this through some other site this morning, but put it off while I was working, now I don't recall where I found it:

    Raging Against Self Defense: A Psychiatrist Examines The Anti-Gun Mentality

    The most important part:

    How can you communicate more effectively with an anti-gun person who is using unhealthy defense mechanisms? There are no quick and easy answers. But there are a few things you should keep in mind.

    Anger and attacks do not work

    Most gun owners, when confronted by an anti-gun person, become angry and hostile. This is understandable, because gun owners increasingly face ridicule, persecution and discrimination. (If you don't believe this, ask yourself if anyone would seriously introduce legislation to ban African- Americans, women, or Jews from post offices, schools, and churches. Even convicted felons aren't banned from such places – but peaceful armed citizens are!) But an angry response is counterproductive.

    It's not helpful to attack the person you're trying to persuade. Anything that makes him feel more fearful or angry will only intensify his defenses. Your goal is to help the person feel safe, and then to provide experiences and information that will help him to make informed decisions.

    Be Gentle

    You should never try to break down a defense mechanism by force. Remember that defense mechanisms protect people from feelings they cannot handle, and if you take that protection away, you can cause serious psychological harm. And because defense mechanisms operate unconsciously, it won't do any good to show an anti-gun person this article or to point out that he's using defense mechanisms. Your goal is gently and gradually to help the person to have a more realistic and rational view of the world. This cannot be done in one hour or one day.

    As you reach out to people in this way, you need to deal with both the illogical thought processes involved and the emotional reactions that anti-gun people have to firearms. When dealing with illogical thought processes, you are attempting to use reason and logic to convince the anti-gun person that his perception of other people and his perception of firearms are seriously inaccurate. The goal is to help him to understand that armed citizens and firearms are not threats, and may even save his life.


    I know I find it difficult sometimes to follow this advice, even though I have known it is the right approach. I shall make more conscientious efforts to do so.

    Also see this...

    Update: It was Da Goddess

    Training the IA

    My old boss had some observations on the challenges of training the Iraqi Army. My comments are available to read over there as well.

    Update:

    I sent the article that No Man's Blog references out to my coworkers:

    Me:

    Especially interesting from our point of view, as people who need to not only work with our Iraqi customers, but also providing opportunities for training even when that may not be the quickest and easiest route.

    There can be no true successes without the possibility of failure. It's also important to remember that not all failure is fatal. If one can learn from mistakes in a controlled environment, then it's not the catastrophe that sudden, unsupported independence would be.


    Co-worker:

    Easy for you to say! When you have to repeatedly tell these guys how to do something day after day, well, I default to the culture excuse and lack of initiative/caring..

    Doesn’t mean I don’t take a deep breath and explain it again...


    Me Again:

    Well, I meant it as a reminder to myself as well. It's very difficult to keep in mind sometimes. That's why I thought the article was pretty good. It points out the difficulties, and acknowledges the frustrations, acknowledging without excusing the Iraqi culture.

    Thursday, March 06, 2008

    Most of the time...

    ... you don't actually hear these stories, but they happen all the time.

    ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ

    Wednesday, March 05, 2008

    Who's the aggressor?

    I'm convinced

    But I wouldn't have been without this example of pure logic.

    Tuesday, March 04, 2008

    Heh. Even cooler

    Heh. Cool.

    Monday, March 03, 2008

    More people should think about this...

    I seem to be linking a lot lately

    Folks, we have a serious perception problem in this country. A bunch of people seem to think we have "leaders" instead of "representatives". Bosses and not employees.

    Folks, we hired them. We pay them. They work for you, not the other way around. If you are sitting around and waiting for leadership from this collection of do-gooders, used car salesmen, and former Student Body Treasurers, you might as well wait for Santa while you're at it.


    Read the whole thing.

    h/t to The Smallest Minority.