Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stalking My Neighbors

It isn't actually my neighbor, but rather the neighbor of the office complex where I work. There is a lot with a house set far back behind trees next to a major road on my way to work. I don't actually know for certain, but it looks like a house that was built here back when Austin was a small town and now it is in the middle of a fairly bustling mixed-use neighborhood set between suburban housing, apartments, office buildings, and a good smattering of retail-grocery-restaurants. I had sort of assumed that at this point whoever owned it was holding on to it for personal reasons, because it has been worth a lot of money for a lot of years.

A For Sale sign went up over the summer and came down in late autumn. Perhaps the personal reasons went away, and perhaps the inhabitant simply woke up one day wanting a giant pile of money.

Then a week or two ago a sign was posted on the property by the road announcing that the new landowner had applied for a zoning permit, with the case number of the zoning permit written on the sign. I was excited because if it was new business space then I could be getting a new lunchtime destination. If it was higher density housing then the existing local restaurants will be more profitable, possibly spurring more growth in that little retail block. So I went online and looked up the case number in the zoning office. It turns out they are re-zoning to "Condo/Townhouse" designation, which could include apartments, but that isn't the point.

Here is a man who purchased a piece of land with the intent of improving his life by providing housing for a large number of people. And here I am, bored at work, peering into the intimate details of his financial life. He doesn't appear to have anything to hide, but why on earth is the city requiring that he put up a huge sign and post all manner of data to the internet?

It is part of the cost the city extracts from this poor man-- public notice with the very real possibility of public shaming for the sin of daring to request an alteration to the Great Plan Of The City Instituted By Our Wise City Fathers. But, of course, it is not the only cost extracted by the city, because in order to provide much needed housing in a rapidly growing city this man must first obtain permission.

When this builder went to the previous owner of the land, he likely said something to the effect that he would give a sum of money for ownership of the land. But neither party truly owned that land. Land ownership is a fiction in modern America. He had Permission from the city to reside there with his family. Now he must get Permission from the city to use the land for something else.

When I was young, I had a friend with a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine which he would occasionally bring to school. When I asked to borrow it, he would say, "sure, but don't spill anything, and give it back before lunch time is over." I received Permission, premised on certain conditions, to read the magazine. When I handed back the magazine, I imposed no such conditions on him. That was because he was the owner of the magazine, and I was merely granted access through the benevolence of a friend.

This landholder is not, in fact, the owner of that land. Every square inch of the City of Austin is owned by the City, and the city is benevolent enough to grant us permission to reside within her warm confines so long as we abide by her arbitrary and ever shifting conditions. This landowner must receive the following permissions from the city for the privilege (not the right) of constructing a set of apartments:
(I blocked out the names to avoid the wrath of the city)

The best part? There is no arbitrary singular tyrant. I, as a citizen of the city, could take the day off tomorrow, walk into the zoning office, and inform them that, in my opinion, the re-zoning would negatively alter the character of the neighborhood. I haven't got the slightest idea if I would win that fight, which should say something right there, after all, I am not the rightful owner of that land, and something as nebulous as the "character of a neighborhood" is not a commodity which can be owned, and yet as a citizen of the city I am entitled to act as if I am at minimal personal cost, but even if I did not, a zoning battle can cost this man thousands of dollars in lawyers and the mere threat could freeze the project where it stands if the margins are thin enough.

I suspect no one will contest this, and I suspect that it will go through as quickly as any zoning change ever does. The landowner in this case is large scale builder and manager of apartment and condo complexes around the state and no doubt has a specialist or two doing nothing but managing the permitting of their acquisitions. But that, in its own way, is a bit depressing, since it means that this petty tyranny will be silently legitimized and the very notion of a Right to Property undermined once again.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Unpacking Rand Paul

I have been leery of Rand Paul for vague emotional reasons ever since he ran for Senate. I always liked his father, even during his crypto-racist paleo phase because it was just sort of charming in a non-threatening way, but I have never been able to muster the same feelings for Rand. Partly because he isn't Texan, and partly because he reeks of the sort of frat boy I never had time for back in college, but I never could quite put my finger on the real problem.

To add to my suspicions, I am supposed to like him. He is explicitly marketed as a libertarian-conservative fusionist candidate who is non-threatening and mainstream. As part of that image, he is more of a cypher than I would like, keeping his discussion as close as possible to things that are in the political mainstream whereas I would prefer the sort of candidate who investigates a radical re-assessment of our Indian Treaties, or guarantees rights for all post-human, alien, or AI sentiences, or gives a concerted, libertarian defense of genuine public goods at the expense of sham public goods like rural electrification. But "mainstream" candidates aren't allowed to talk about those sorts of things, or they end up like Ron Paul.

But Rand has always been cagey about just how deep his libertarianism runs. Certainly he is conversant in it, but it has at times been hard to tease out just where his foundations lie, and I think I have subconsciously expected the worst, since only my political opponents have reason to be ashamed of their beliefs while libertarians are capable of nothing but boisterous pride that comes as a result of believing Things Which Are True. Am I joking? Not nearly as much as I should be.

Anyway, Reason Magazine confirms my suspicions in a transcribed interview between Rand and Chris Wallace. He comes out against marijuana legalization but is working to reduce minimum sentences for non-violent offences, a position perfectly compatible with his personal branding that could well be mere political positioning. But then he breaks out this train wreck of a line:
"I think even marijuana is a bad thing to do. I think it takes away your incentive to work and show up and do the things you should be doing. I don't think it's a good idea. I don't want to promote that, but I also don't want to put people in jail who make a mistake."
In Rand Paul's mind, supposedly the mind of a mainstream C-L, things that are bad ideas should be prohibited and things that keep you from working hard should be prohibited. Because the citizenry has a purpose in life (to work hard) and it is the task of the government to keep you working hard. This is the famed Protestant Work Ethic metastasized into tyranny foisted upon us by the well-meaning and the ignorant.

As an added bonus, in the interview Rand brings up that if the last two presidents had been caught and punished for the drug use they have admitted to, their lives would have been ruined to which Chris Wallace replies, "[Laughing] I actually think it would be the last three presidents, but who's counting?"

Yes, Chris, who is fucking counting? Obviously you as you tally up your privileges as a member of the ruling class. Ho, ho, motherfuckers, we can do all the drugs we want and will come down HARD on any of our children (by which they mean the middle and lower classes subject to our government decrees) who dare to step out of line. Chris Wallace you are one sick fuck. One of many.

Reason for the Season

The most intolerable empty defense of Christianity is the one I have a personal relationship with. When I was younger, so much younger than today, I was in Atlanta with my fundamentalist cousin and her evangelical boyfriend. Because they love me, they did not want me to spend an eternity suffering in hell (but because they both have day jobs, they don't travel the world evangelizing, which suggests that they are just fine with most of the people in the world suffering in hell, as long as they don't know them personally) and they attempted to show me the light of Christ. I pushed back, telling them it was an impossible fairy tale.

Then they told me that if the bible were false, and Christ was not resurrected, then how come his tomb was empty.

My response at the time was to stutter and stumble and confuse myself because I am neither articulate nor quick-witted. The proper response is "If the Lord of the Rings is fiction, how come Frodo only has nine fingers? Surely he would have all ten if he never went to Mordor."

Also, Google? Why don't you have Frodo or Mordor in your spell check? Google loses 10 nerd points.

Dementia


I walked into the restaurant a little bit after the lunch rush, so it was pretty quiet. I notice an old man sitting at a table near the entrance because his ears are comically large and they remind me of my grandfather. His short, thin hair has gone completely white. He is wearing a cream colored polo shirt and has a golf club - a metal putter - leaning against his seat at a jaunty angle. He stares off at nothing, as if he was posing for the cover of Adorable Old Men Magazine. His table was empty, containing neither lunch nor any post-lunch debris.
I brought a book with me and ended up staying longer than I should have. As I hurriedly finish my meal I look up and the man is still sitting there. He does not seem to have moved in nearly an hour, and aside from the employees there is only me and one other person at a far table still in the restaurant. The old man seems perfectly content to continue doing nothing when an employee comes up to him. This is a fast food, order at the counter sort of place, and I am not sure I have ever seen an employee in the dining area.
The employee asks the old man if he intends to order anything.
"What?" he asks, a little too loudly. She raises her voice to repeat her inquiry.
The old man is now visibly confused. "Do I know you?" he asks. "I don't think so" She replies, "I have never seen you in [Restaurant] before."
"Why am I in [Restaurant]?" he asks.
"Would you like something to eat?" She asks.
The old man processes this as best he can and shakes his head. "No thank you, ma'am. I think I would like some lunch." She smiles forgivingly and asks what he would like. He considers for nearly a full minute. I would have given him a nudge but the employee waits with a patient smile.
Finally he says, "My wife is making dinner, and I can't spoil my appetite." He puts one hand down hard on the table and the other on the back of his chair and lifts himself bodily to his feet. His legs shake as he reaches for the head of the putter which he uses as a too-short cane. He shuffles out slowly.
I finish lunch quickly with half a mind to follow him, but when I reach the street he is making his way in the opposite direction from my office. I was late, it was hot, helping is hard and I turn to do the easy thing instead of the right thing.
I can only hope his wife really was at home making dinner.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How Could Anyone Be Bored Ever

How is boredom even a thing when The Internet exists?

The Experience of God

Why do I attack religion? Because it is easy.

Most believers I know are the largely amorphous sort of southern protestant who will make jokes about the other denominations while attending the interfaith bar-b-que to which only the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and that Mega-Church Down the Highway were invited. Most of them have a basic sort of folk theology and many can, if pressed, recite some academic proof of God without mangling it too badly, but that theology is an effect, not a cause, of their belief.

If you asked most southern Protestants why they hold to their particular denomination, they will tell you that their family has always been that denomination, or they will tell you about how they converted to get married. If you ask them why they believe in god, nine times out of ten they will tell you that they have felt his presence.

Way back in my callow youth when I believed that Napster was a completely legitimate service (to the extent that I remember getting into an argument with a much older man in line at a pizza buffet on the subject) I would make CDs for the family and send them out. They would typically be politely listened to once and then forgotten.

One time, some months after Christmas, I got a letter from my aunt. She told me that she had been listening to the CD I made while driving through the mountains (Appalachian mountains, in and around western North Carolina) and just as the music reached a crescendo she came to the sun came over the top of a mountain and she reached a lookout point and saw the verdant valley below bathed in warm sunlight to a masterful chorus of string and voice. She wrote me the letter because she wanted to thank me for letting her feel the presence of god.

Here is an article on how the Asian psychiatric ailment Koro is manifesting in rural areas of Africa.

Last week I was playing Planetside 2, a shooting game about shooting people. I had my music player open and as I respawned near a critical facility Dragonforce began playing. I jump-jetted over the facility wall and wove in and out of buildings, shotgun in virtual hand. Every shot landed, every enemy was caught unaware, I had the perfect run for four minutes killing fourteen enemies and destroying two generators. There was nothing in my mind except the music and the screen. I was hyper-aware, without even consciously looking at the mini-map I internalized perfectly the layout of the buildings around me and reacted to shot-fired indicators before being aware I had seen them. People studying this phenomenon call it "the zone", but I had truly, for a few brief minutes, transcended myself and was experiencing reality on a higher level. Had I been an ancient Greek, I would have walked away convinced that I had felt the hand of Ares upon my soul.

Then I turned a corner just as a friendly tank fired down the alley and caught my own team's shell right in the face.

To belabor the obvious, God did not illuminate that valley, Koro is wholly psychological, and my perfect run was a combination of skill, fortune, and hyperventilated alertness.

Here is the thing. Nearly everyone can discount two of those three scenarios without hesitation because it is just A) science or B) obvious. But the third situation, they insist, is totally for real. Why? Because I experienced it. I personally connected with my god. And if there is one thing everyone knows with absolute certainty it is that out of seven billion human beings alive today and the hundred billion who have ever lived I am special and thus it is no surprise that my god talks to me whereas everyone else is but an ignorant heathen.

No one is ever allowed to claim that religion fosters A) universal brotherhood, B) open-mindedness,  or C) any sort of morality worth following.

Religion is the height of solipsistic arrogance.

The Bathroom Door


I sat in a diner, eating lunch. I have a view of the door to the women's bathroom, though it does not catch my eye until the door handle moves. It shakes twices, pauses, and then spins and faces down. The door, however, stays closed.
A moment later the door bursts and opens about a quarter of an inch. A tiny hand slaps the edge of the door at just under knee height and the right edge of a blue dress appears in the narrow gap. A small child plants her right side, thigh to shoulder, against the edge of the door and tugs with one. It looks like her left side is pressed similarly against the wall as she pushes with all her might.
Slowly, in fits and starts, her herculean effort pries the door open inch by painstaking inch. At three inches I can see the matching pink ribbon on the side of her light brown head through the crack. At about seven inches she moves one hand from the door handle to the inside wall, losing two inches in the process.
Finally, with no more than a nine inch gap, she quickly squeezes through. Her momentum takes her a few steps where she lands bent over, hands on her knees, breathing heavily. The door closes with excruciating sloth, the gap closing no more quickly than it had opened.
She caught her breath in the heartbeat after realizing that her heroism had gone unnoticed and did a half-skip back to her table and family.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Can't Prove a Negative

Let us begin by saying that if you base your life around subservience to a cruel and selfish deity on the basis that you "can't prove he doesn't exist" then you are a moron who deserves all the self-loathing and guilt that religion will bring.

Also, you are just wrong and God help me if I hear that defense one more time I am going to well I won't actually do anything because that would be inappropriate.

Religions (the notable ones, anyway) believe in a god interacting with the world and/or some sort of life after death, both of which are testable predictions.

If you cannot articulate a mechanism by which your god interacts with the world, then you are wrong to assume it exists.

If you cannot articulate how a soul interacts with a brain, a necessary task for a thing charged with storing and/or affecting your memories and personality, then you are wrong to assume it exists.

The first is, with very small and shrinking exceptions, completely ruled out by the modern understanding of physics.

The second is bafflingly implausible, largely inconsistent with known physics, and gets any wiggle room at all because we haven't yet mapped the whole of the human brain.

Four Children in a Restaurant


As I stood in line at a fast food restaurant, a picturesque family of four walks in. Both children and the mother are wearing sky blue cotton shirts, and the father wears a faded blue button-down and khaki slacks. The two elementary school aged children are golden blond, though neither parent is.
The blond girl bursts through the glass door shouting "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!". Her cadence is like a siren, though at an even third rather than the more typical dissonant diminished fifth. She continues, at volume and while running around the open space in front of the counter, from the time I am third in line until the time that I am at the front of the line.
When I sit down, I have a view of the playscape attached to the fast food restaurant. It is enclosed in its own room, though the glass and walls between the playscape and the restaurant proper are substantially thicker than those between the building and the outside world. The children inside are muffled, but audible.
The blond girl is sent into the play pen while her younger brother sits in relative calm with the parents. As the girl walks in she almost trips over a very small boy perhaps 2/3rds of her already diminutive height. This commotion draws two more boys, one wearing a yellow shirt and one wearing an electric lime green shirt, of about the same age. After some manner of discourse, they form an ad hoc circle and jump a few times while screaming.
I was, at one point, that age. I know for a fact that I once played games of that sort in playpens just like this one. And yet, as I sit, watching, eating delicious fries, it strikes me as completely unfathomable how jumping and screaming could be thought up as entertainment, and again how it could be accepted as the consensus option. We have so many markers of our physical development, but so few of our mental changes (development is inappropriate here, as it implies improvement, and I am far from certain that my abandonment of jumping/screaming recreation is an improvement).
The playscape is one that contains a number of raised platforms that the children climb to, the smallest boy having a great deal of trouble with each step. Once they all reach a new platform, the give short jumps, with all the energy they cannot put into height being put into the loud stomp at the end, and scream for three seconds. Then they scramble up to the next platform.
They are soon out of my sight, but by the time they start coming down the slide it is clear the ad-hoc communion has disbanded.
On the other side of the extremely thick though not quite soundproof glass wall are two sets of young parents, separated from each other by an empty booth. Both are of an age that, were I to pop one out right now, I would be their peer when my hypothetical child reached the age of the children playing. The realization distresses me.
The two families are quite similar. All four parents keep an idle eye towards the play pen as the converse softly over dinner. The table nearer to me features a man with extremely boyish features and a shortened version of the Beatles bowl cut. The associated mother has very pale Scottish skin and a t-shirt with an unreadable graffiti-style logo emblazoned across the rather flat chest. The father at the farther table is a man of angles with a hawkish nose and protruding chin and would not look out of place as a cartoon villain, if cartoon villains were wont to give satisfied grins over the wreckage of chicken sandwiches. The mother seated opposite him wore a floral patterned headscarf pulled back just far enough to reveal the light brown roots of her hair and a red blouse elegantly embroidered at the seams.
The boyish father gets up and walks in the play pen, motioning towards one of the boys. The mother with the headscarf looks up and, taking a cue, taps at the glass until the other boy makes eye contact. They both come running to their respective tables, shoes in hand. I can only hear the nearest table as the mother says, "Put your shoes on", but it is clear the other table is having the same discussion, followed by the child's same refusal.
Scottish-looking mother takes a breath and stands, bending at the waist with shoe in hand. "But your toesy-woesies are all sad!" She says as she attempts to put tiny shoe on the tiny foot. A withdrawn foot leads to a withdrawn hand, and they replay the scene with a new comment about toesy-woesies.
At the farther table, red blouse mother is on one knee, shoe in hand. She snaps softly, "put your shoe on" as she presses the opening to the boy's small foot. The boy squirms back against the lean, muscular body of his father, who mutters something inaudible.
Another snap, another toesy-woesy, but after the one shoe is on, the other only takes two and three tries respectively. The families stand one after the other as if nothing at all has occured and leave through separate doors.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Things I do not understand

This is where I talk about how fantastically wealthy I am and how I have absolutely no understanding of how middle class Americans can possibly be A) in debt without an external disaster, B) bored, or C) unhappy under any but the most remarkable of circumstances.
I make just under $3,000 per month, and the government steals about $500 of that before I ever see it. I graduated college early, and was given as an exceedingly generous gift the remainder of the college fund and a reliable vehicle. Through two months of day trading, six months of unemployment, an unbroken streak of luck in the stock market, and now a year and a half in a steady job (that did not pay as well for the first year) I realized yesterday that I have accumulated $75,000, all in the form of bank cash or stocks (well, mostly index ETFs).

I do not know how that compares in terms of raw dollar value with David Henderson's story of saving as a young immigrant. I think I am doing better than he was, inflation adjusted, though I do not say this to compete with him, since he wins any hypothetical competition by virtue of being more intelligent and considerate than I.

There is Dr. Henderson, saving for two big important things (US visa and house) and then, when he no longer needed to save, he spent down his savings to nothing until pushed to save again by marriage.

And yet I have never saved money. I never studied in school, I give up on long term projects, I have pretty much the shortest time horizon imaginable. I got by in school by skating on innate intelligence and getting out right as I hit my competence ceiling. I get by financially by being extraordinarily fortunate in the stock market, by having a steady job, by being born in the right family, by experiencing no negative financial shocks, and, most importantly (IMO), by not spending a whole pile of money. I invest between two and four thousand dollars every two or three months just because it is there, sitting in my bank account, over and above my minimum balance requirement and not doing anyone any good.

Maybe I could buckle down and save money like Dr. Henderson (and, I suspect 95% of well adjusted Americans) for some grand project, but honestly I would probably forget/quit/get bored after a month or two and be back to my old ways.

But when I think of all the things my vast fortune could purchase, my mind leaps instantly to silly luxuries like a boat or airplane, which are more trouble than they are worth in any case. I have a giant library of video games on Steam, and have spent sixty six hours in the past three weeks playing Planetside 2 (which, incidentally, is free to play) and the spare time beyond that has gone to Hulu and my kittens.

I started writing this post at a bit after 9PM, then I went to look up the video I posted above. Then I got distracted clicking on related links and got to this:
Which is apperantly a meme now. Not the doctor, who is the hero of Stein's Gate, which is undoubtedly the best time travel show ever made, but the song thingy. Evidence for Stein's Gate:
And from there somehow ended up on this:
Which I clicked on because I thought it was this (the song, not the weird clip reel):
And now it is 10:30PM. I have another tab open with half of an unfinished episode of Psych that I need to get to before I go to bed.

And this isn't even the best the internet has to offer, just a random sampling as I slowly eat dinner (brisket and ramen soup with onions and celery, spiced with the pork ramen powder, cumin, garlic, bacon salt, and a dash of cinnamon) in front of a screen half the size of my wall.

Now, there exist people who make less money than I, and they face a budget constraint tighter than mine, but no one who makes more money than me has any right to be in bad financial condition barring external shocks.

And yet I am well aware that it is I, not those poor savers, who am the outlier. I, who has never cut back on my spending since becoming employed end up with more total wealth than people who budget with the well-being of a full family on the line.

I do not understand that sort of mild deprivation (for there is no major deprivation in America), but I see it everywhere. I am both the worst paid and happiest of my co-workers.

Either:

  • I alone have found the secret to true happiness in this transitional era or
  • I am missing something hugely important, broken in the head, or otherwise defective.
I find the latter far more likely and it implies that most if not all of my life experiences and thus opinions are formed on a radically broken set of priors and really I should never ever give my opinion about anything again.

This won't stop me from writing here (only laziness will do that), but it serves as a reminder that I should stop voicing my opinions publicly because they are almost certainly wrong.

After all, if the only person I have ever found to publicly support my experience of life is a comedian, then they are not laughing with me, but rather the other thing.

Crossing The Street


I was walking across a busy intersection that has a particularly long delay on the traffic light, so it often attracts panhandlers. The light changed just as I got to the corner, but that was ok, because it was a nice day (this was a few months ago) and I was in no hurry.
There was a homeless man at the same corner, a few feet away, walking up along the cars. He had a trashbag of stuff resting on the lamppost. When he reached the end of the line of cars, he started walking back. His sign said, "Homeless / Any Help Will Help / God Bless You".
As he walked back to the intersection, he looked at me without expression. An upwelling of irrational guilt began to develop just below my throat. I had money, but I didn't particularly feel like giving it to him.
When he reached the intersection, he stopped a few feet away from me, turned back towards the cars and stood holding his sign. He didn't say anything. He didn't ask if I could "spare any change". He didn't wave his sign suggestively at me. He didn't give any sort of looks. He just stood, back to the afternoon sun, sign facing the line of cars waiting for the light to change.
When the light changed I walked across, the little bit of spreading relief spawning additional guilt. And the thought struck me that this man wasn't so much a beggar as he was a sign holder. Perhaps that is more dignified. Perhaps it is not.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An Unhealthy Attitude


I was sitting in Subway (the restaurant) and took no more than glancing notice of a mother with her middle school aged (perhaps a bit older) daughter. They stood in line for a bit, perhaps they talked, but then the mother gets out of line to retrieve bags of chips, apologizing insincerely to the rest of the line before returning to her spot. Not against the rules, just a bit unusual.
Then she turns to her daughter and begins comparing the nutrition labels aloud. Her daughter says something, and mother responds by saying "Well, you can make up for it by not eating something this afternoon".
Suddenly I am slightly worried. Both mother and daughter were of a similar build, a bit stocky and Germanic, but neither of them in any danger of the tumidity which affects so many fellow Americans. I return to my lunch for a while until they proceed further down the line.
"Excuse me, how many calories is that?" Asks mother. Daughter had apparently just requested the addition of some sort of dressing to be put on the sandwich. I am unsure as to whether that was addressed at the poor, abused Subway worker or at her daughter, but the Subway worker hands mother a nutrition pamphlet.
"That," she says, voice full of shock and soft outrage, "is sixty calories. You don't need sixty calories, that is half a cookie." Daughter mumbles something and no dressing is applied. I thank the very heavens that the two of them did not stay to eat, instead piling in a shiny silver SUV and driving off.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Murder and Moral Hierarchy

John Scalzi is a clever man, and his post today is certainly not wrong, though it is the unfortunate sort of correct that makes you wish it didn't need to be said. One thing, also more true than not, caught my eye:

"2. Nothing excuses rape."
I am not, by any stretch, pro-rape, but what struck me is how rarely you hear such absolute denunciations for other crimes and moral lapses. Theft is the most noticeable counterexample as you can, apperantly, be justified in stealing from those wealthier than you, or from governments, or from the stupid depending on the cultural background of the story.

Imagine if you will a group of well armed men meeting together in secret then riding over to the home of another man who is much more poorly armed, much poorer, of a different religion and skin color and then proceed to kill that man, feed his corpse to the fishes, and then publicly brag that they took down a man who was responsible for damaging the American Way. This could be a nightmare from the height of the Klan, or it could be the work of Seal Team Six.

The point is neither to celebrate the Klan or shame the Seals. The point is that, unless my imagination fails me, the prohibition against rape is Stronger that the prohibition against murder. This is, of course, a sharp contrast to most of western history where rape was considered a form of property crime. The only similarly absolute prohibition that I can think of is slavery, which is again both a recent elevation and a violation of bodily autonomy.

While I am not presently at great risk of either manner of victimhood, being as I am astonishingly unattractive, profoundly lazy, and, more importantly, a wealthy, white male, I wonder if this isn't a worrisome direction in which we may lose sight of the Great Enemy in favor of lesser ailments. To put it another way, is it cruel to put a rape victim on suicide watch?

The only unqualified positive note I have for you is that this stands as evidence that Moldbug is right; Modern progressivism does descend directly from the Puritan Enlightenment tradition that animated the founding of this nation
"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

Bus Stop Across The Road

Wrote a few of these on Reddit, but I don't own Reddit. I don't actually own this blog, either, as the Google RSS episode has taught us all, but at least I will be able to export all this before they shut it down.


Looking out the window, there is a moderately trafficked four lane road, and across the road is a grocery store. In front of the grocery store is a parking lot, and at the front of the parking lot, closest to the road, is parked an eighteen wheeler with a Doritos advertisement painted on the side.
There is a few foot drop from the parking lot to the road and at the base of the drop, along the sidewalk, is a bus stop. There are two people at the bus stop.
A woman, facing away from the road, wears skin tight khaki colored pants of indeterminate material and a just slightly looser than skin tight long sleeve salmon colored shirt made of similar material. She is gazing into the middle distance at the drop-off from the parking lot to the road, though her expression indicated that her mind was elsewhere and had Hitler himself shown up to start a genocide in her line of sight, it may well have gone unnoticed.
A man sat in the middle of the bench, his arms spread wide resting along the back of the bench, stretching the full length of the bench. His head was down and his face covered in shadow by the floppy brim of his faded blue hipster hat, also pulled down low. He wore blue jeans and a grey t-shirt mostly covered by a highly reflective yellow jacket. Not a safety jacket like construction workers would wear; it was an even brighter, more reflective hue and was made out of the sort of material you would expect from a light autumn jacket. He looked across the road at nothing.
Neither subject moved.
Then, around the corner came a middle aged man in a black long-sleeved t-shirt and dark jeans. The man in the yellow jacket tilted his head to observe out of the corner of his eye, not willing to commit to a full head turn. The middle aged man did not walk slowly, but it still took him a while to cover the distance to the bus stop from the corner. When he arrived the man in the yellow jacket, almost without being aware of it, pulled his shoulders up, brought his arms in, and shifted over to the left side of the bench, hunched a bit to the left over the small, metal armrest.
There they stood.
An eighteen wheeler with an advertisement for ReddyIce pulled up alongside the Doritos truck. The driver got out and walked into the the grocery store. No one made any attempt to unload or interact with either truck.
The man in the yellow jacket stood, reaching down between his legs as he did so. He produced a backpack from underneath the bench and swung it on to one shoulder. The he moved to face the other two, forming a little inward facing circle, and the three of them pulled out cell phones. They interacted with the cell phones, huddled around nothing. The two men completed their tasks in the same instant and put away their phones, moving up to the roadside to wait. A moment later the woman put her phone away and followed suit.
The three of them stood in a line by the roadside, eyes fixed passively forward, each with a relaxed stillness. There they stood for a minute or two. Then the bus arrived, and they all got on.
Across the road was a sidewalk. On the sidewalk was a metal sign, a metal bench, and a metal trash can. Behind these features are two trucks and a grocery store. There is no one waiting at the bus stop anymore.