Friday, March 26, 2004


Ramesh Ponnuru argues for making spyware and adware illegal. Spyware and adware is software that installs on your computer without your permission (usually while you are installing another piece of software) and begins sending information about you to some database and uses that information to send you popups and spam. This stuff is illegal already. It's essentially nothing other than a Trojan horse program and people have been prosecuted for those already. Why should it matter if it is done openly by a company rather than surreptitiously by an anonymous hacker? Someone is stealing computer cycles and bandwidth from me. That's theft. We don't need new laws, we need new prosecutors who will go after this stuff.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

vanity searches

Occasionally I do a Google search on "Doc Rampage" just to see if anyone is linking to my blog or web site. Usually I only find links I already knew about, but this time I found that Rick's Miscellany linked to my restaurant review of 7-Eleven. He probably got it from The Corner link by the talented and courageous Andrew Stuttaford. By the way, I noticed that Andrew Stuttaford used the word "crikey" on The Corner today. A quick Google search shows it's a pretty rare word so I'm laying odds that he read The Guilding of the Lillis on my web site where "krikey" is a favorite expression of Zantar's. Stuttaford probably knows lots of movie and TV producers and is shopping my screen play around as we speak.

Bush jokes about dead soldiers; Kerry responds.

That's a title of a posting by Tena on Eschaton. Of course Bush didn't joke about dead soldiers, he joked about his own embarrassment in failing to find the weapons of mass destruction he thought were there. Tena calls the joke crass and tasteless, but what is more crass and tasteless than accusing someone of joking about dead soldiers when they did no such thing? In this context it's worth noting the following recent quote by the same author:
The second thing that I think needs to be paid attention to here is Mr. Doyle's statement about exploiting death for political gain. The Democrats need to be sensitive to this issue, and not guilty of the same kind of exploitation the president is guilty of.
Apparently the political ploy of falsely accusing someone of joking about death doesn't count as exploiting those deaths.

interest universalism

This article by Alex Troy skewers a proposal by Yale Law professor Dale Ackerman. Ackerman proposes a special political education program for adults where the adults would be paid by tax money for attending classes. Troy adequately addresses the public-policy issues here. What strikes me is the blatant example of interest universalism, a term I just made up.

Interest universalism is a form of subjectivist thinking where one believe that ones subjective interests and preferences are or ought to be universal. Examples of this are extremely common: doctors who think everyone ought to know first aid, firemen who think everyone ought to know how to use a fire extinguisher, policemen who think everyone ought to know how to defend themselves, lawyers who think everyone ought to know how to talk to police, political activists who think everyone ought to be involved in politics, business people who think everyone ought to follow the stock market, biologists who think everyone ought to know evolutionary theory, physicists who think everyone ought to know basic mechanics, auto mechanics who think everyone ought to know how to change spark plugs, programmers who think everyone ought to know how to write simple programs.

It isn't possible for everyone to know everything folks. That's the genius of civilization: specialization. The great value of cities is that they allow concentrated specialization (and economies of scale). Political hacks and hobbyists get frustrated that more people aren't involved in politics. Implicit in their complaints are two false assumptions: that people have a special responsibility to involve themselves in politics and that the extra people would be on their side. For the second, it is unlikely that if you could increase the percentage of people involved in politics that the overall ratios of opinions would change. For the first, it is just not the case that of all the things people have to deal with, politics is fundamentally the most important. Knowing how to stop arterial bleeding is important too. Working at your church is important. Knowing how to change your own spark plugs is important. Just because something is especially important to you, that doesn't mean it should be especially important to everyone.

Ralph Nader

Back of the Envelope pseudo-live-blogged a Ralph Nader talk last night. I'm always interested in what Ralph Nader has to say because I think he reveals the agenda of a large group of people who otherwise try to hide their agenda. In otherwords, I suspect his real support is a lot higher than his nominal support, but the people who think like him try to hide their real beliefs and agendas because they know if they were honest they would get nowhere. Nader at least is open and honest.

conservative science fiction and fantasy

Science fiction and fantasy is the only genre of fiction I read except in desperate airport-like situations. My taste in movies is a lot broader but I still never used to miss a science fiction or fantasy movie. I do a lot less fiction reading and movie going these days, but I still like to keep my eye out for good recommendations so I was interested when a discussion erupted in The Corner about "conservative fiction". I was to be sadly disappointed with how little was said and the fact that no one mentioned any science fiction or fantasy. So, I'm going to post some of my own thoughts on conservative science fiction and fantasy.

For the most part I have never been concerned about ideology in fiction. As long as the author is reasonably discrete with his propaganda, I'm willing to enjoy a story with an ideology I don't agree with. Similarly, I'm not going to buy a book by a poor author just because I like his political positions. But I do notice political/ethical viewpoints in fiction. I detested the hypocritical, cowardly vision of Star Trek TNG with it's condescending Prime Directive and it's neurasthenic, academic military effetes who always win by being oh-so-smart (or lucky) instead of killing things. On the other hand I loved Stargate with it's frontier-like exploration and it's clear vision of actual, implacable enemies that need to be dealt with. That's what I'm looking for: not an author who has characters spouting Federalist doctrines, but just authors whose world-view strikes me as conservative or libertarian in some way or another. The first two I'm going to discuss are Orson Scott Card and Jack Vance.

Orson Scott Card has become known on the Internet lately for his defense of marriage. Before that, he became famous in the science fiction community for Ender's Game: This is one of the best books I've ever read. On the surface, Ender's Game is a space-war story with a child hero. But beneath, it's a story about the nature of war, violence, and virtue that is surprisingly relevant to the current war on terror. Ender has a special talent for empathizing with his enemies. He uses his talent to befriend and to avoid conflict. But when his efforts fail and his enemies remain implacable and dangerous, he uses his special empathy to expose their vulnerabilities. He attacks with regret but without mercy, with intent to kill or maim, but without hatred. This isn't specifically a conservative message, but it is in sharp contrast to the progressive misconception that you can't attack anyone without hating them, or that if everyone just understood everyone else, there would be no violence.

Speaker for the Dead is a sequel to Ender's Game and another great book. On the surface it is a murder a mystery on an alien planet (with aliens, even). Beneath, it's a story about human frailty, fear, understanding, forgiveness, and redemption. The one bad thing about this book is that it will leave you wanting to read the next book in the series which is far inferior to the first two.

Jack Vance is a classical science fiction writer who never was as famous as he deserved to be. His stories were much better than Heinlein's, Asimov's, or Clark's. He doesn't write specifically conservative stories, but he does take the occasional jab at environmentalists, animal-rights activists, lawyers, and other fun targets. His books are often filled with so many marvelous invented cultures with interesting customs and vices that's it's almost like reading a National Galactographic magazine. On one of his many worlds, the only crime punishable by death is practicing law for money. His dialog is so amazingly droll and fun, I used it as the model for Rolf in one of my own stories.

Some of his best work was in the Five Demon Princes, a series of five books in a science fiction setting, reminiscent the Count of Monte Cristo but with more revenge and less angst. The Cadwall Chronicles books are the most political I can recall. There is a scene in one of them where the police have caught a group of men in the act of brutally torturing and murdering some women. The police are about to string them up and one of the men demands a lawyer. A policeman asks, "What could a lawyer do for you other than get himself hung beside you for accessory after the fact?" Read anything you can find by Jack Vance.

As I get time I'm going to do posting about C.S. Lewis, C. Dale Britain, Christopher Stasheff and others.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

the fascist passion play

Some French guy is calling Mel Gibson's Passion movie "fascist". The guy is one Marin Karmitz who runs a theater network in France and he is refusing to show the movie because he thinks it's fascist. Now, there were a lot of French fascists, so maybe he's an expert on the subject. I'm a bit surprised, though. I haven't seen the movie, but I've read a dozen reviews, and I don't recall a single one mentioning the nationalist propaganda. If there were nationalist propaganda of course, it would have to be Jewish nationalism because the good guys were all Jewish. I also don't recall anyone mentioning the message about how everyone owes their allegiance to the state or how the state needs totalitarian control in order to ensure the welfare of its citizens. Can all of the reviewers have missed this message? And how did Gibson manage to work that message into a movie about how a totalitarian state tortures and murders an innocent man in order to appease a minor special interest group?

Or maybe Karmitz is an idiot. Let's see what he has to say and find out, shall we? He gives three reasons for why the movie is fascist. The first is that it turns "violence and barbarity into a spectacle", you know, like the Romans did in their arenas. Hmm. Rome became Italy, which became the birthplace of fascism. Interesting. Spain is famous for it's bullfights which also turn violence and barbarity into a spectacle, and Spain was a fascist country for years. Is he on to something here? Well, no. Almost every civilization has had a tradition of brutal entertainment, pitting animals and people in bloody death matches of one kind or another. Even today we still have boxing, professional wrestling, and movies like The Matrix. This isn't fascism, it's basic human nature.

Karmitz's second point is that the movie has revisionist history. I'm curious as to whether he knows what "revisionist" means. His elaboration doesn't give me confidence in this respect for he says that it's revisionist because the sound of blows and cries displaces speech. Hmm. Kind of sounds like an idiot. But that description isn't in quotes, so lets assume the reporter was unfairly making Karmitz look stupid here. Maybe he thinks adding dramatic elements to the historical record makes the movie revisionist, in which case every historical movie ever made was revisionist. Are all historical movies fascist? And since all of the reviewers pretty much agree that the movie follows the traditional Catholic Church view of events, it can't be revisionist unless it is repeating the revisionism of the third century. Not that any of this is relevant, since revisionism isn't particularly fascist.

Third, he brings up the anti-Semitism angle. The movie has mixed reviews on this so I can't says he's wrong, but I will say that anti-Semitism isn't uniquely a sin of the fascists either. People of all times, races, and political ideologies have blamed Jews for their problems.

So, Karmitz claims the movie is fascist and as evidence brings up three points that are not related to fascism. Yes, I have to conclude, the man is an idiot.

Hat tip to my right-wing insider, James.