Thursday, January 17, 2008

Serious SF for the 21st century

"Kiosk," by Bruce Sterling.

Yep, that's about it

Tony Woodlief sums up the campaign. Go forth and consume.

You're kidding, right?

These electronic contact lenses sound freaky-cool, but if you're thinking "HUD like RoboCop" instead of "all pr0n, all the time" then you and I are competely different kinds of people.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Yet more "Liberal Fascism" talky-talk

Yesterday I wrote about John Scalzi sniping at Jonah Goldberg. Today, I'm going to follow up on it sort of tangentially. This is as a result of reading this essay about fascism in general from Michael Ledeen.

Part of what I want to talk about is why this irritated me so much that I had to write something about it when I so easily ignore the vast majority of the BDS political rhetoric that Mr. Scalzi occasionally poops out. It irritated me because I have noticed that progressives scream "fascist!" or "fascism!" when what they really mean is "I don't like that!"

Now, it's perfectly okay to not like things. In fact, there's lots of things I myself don't like, such as progressives and other self-selected elitists screaming "fascism!" when they really just mean "I dispprove of this good and/or service!"

So I believe that progressives are trying to demonize their opponents in order to avoid having to actually debate against opposing arguments. And here Mr. Scalzi does exactly that, by wandering off to wave a word, "right" in this case, while loudly sneering at Mr. Goldberg instead of dealing with the proposition. Sneering at the opponent instead of the opposing proposition is our old friend the ad hominem argument, and is just preaching to the choir; it may get your fellow progressives to whistle and high-five each other, but it doesn't convince me to take you or your position seriously.

If you think Mr. Goldberg is full of crap, and he might well be, then point out how he's full of crap by refuting his argument. In this case, that would probably entail showing how the good and/or service in question fits the "fascist" label by referring to the characteristics that "fascist" entails. If it turns out that your definition of "fascist" is "anything proposed by a conservative and/or Republican," then we have all learned that we really don't have to take your objections seriously since you aren't really thinking very much about what it is you're objecting to.

In contrast, Mr. Ledeen constructs a much more valid refutation, by taking the argument seriously and responding to it honestly. Well played, sir.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'll have to read the book

So John Scalzi starts whapping Jonah Goldberg about fascism. As much as I like Scalzi's works, I disagree with him on almost everything political, and this is no exception.

If you want to claim that fascism is a right-wing practice, fine. Let's look at what that actually means and figure out to whom the label fits no matter where we sit in the assembly hall. Let's wander off to Wikipedia for a moment, mkay?

Wikipedia's entry on fascism includes these gems:
Anti-individualistic, the fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only insofar as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal will of man as a historic entity.... The fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value.... Fascism is therefore opposed to that form of democracy which equates a nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of the largest number.... We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the 'right', a Fascist century. If the nineteenth century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the 'collective' century, and therefore the century of the State.[10]

...a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign `contamination."[12]

Wow, so in fascism, individuals are completely subsumed by the state. Which party does this sound more like? Deference to authoritative elites, presumably those that went to the best schools (JFK School of Government, perhaps?) and have proven their eliteness by professing the "correct" set of beliefs, is a hallmark of (a) Goldwater conservatives, or (b) progressives? Believing that your group is the victim, or in fact believing that you are properly described at all by inclusion in a group is a hallmark of (a) free-market capitalists, or (b) progressives? Depending on the authoritative leader to tell the great unwashed what to do based on his superior instincts is a hallmark of (a) anarcho-syndicalists, or (b) progressives?

Once more to Wikipedia:
Fascists opposed what they believe to be laissez-faire or quasi-laissez-faire economic policies dominant in the era prior to the Great Depression.[27] People of many different political stripes blamed laissez-faire capitalism for the Great Depression, and fascists promoted their ideology as a "third way" between capitalism and Marxian socialism.[28] Their policies manifested as a radical extension of government control over the economy without wholesale expropriation of the means of production. Fascist governments nationalized some key industries, managed their currencies and made some massive state investments. They also introduced price controls, wage controls and other types of economic planning measures.[29] Fascist governments instituted state-regulated allocation of resources, especially in the financial and raw materials sectors.

Other than nationalization of certain industries, private property was allowed, but property rights and private initiative were contingent upon service to the state.[30] For example, "an owner of agricultural land may be compelled to raise wheat instead of sheep and employ more labor than he would find profitable."[31][32]

Blaming capitalism for society's ills? Nationalization of industry? Property rights contingent upon service to the state? Private land owners being compelled to use their land in ways suited to the demands of the ruling elites instead of how he chooses to use it himself? Which party does that sound like? Is that more like "It Takes A Village," or more like "The Automatic Millionaire"?

Also ... where else have I heard that "third way" rhetoric? Something other than capitalism or socialism. Clearly capitalism is bad, because we don't like it and it lets way too many people do whatever they feel will make them happy even if it doesn't fit our Kennedy School of Government-approved models. We don't want to go all the way to socialism, because we know Americans won't actually vote for anything that calls itself socialism. What could we possibly be about, then? Which party would that be?

Let's ask Wikipedia about that too:
The Third Way, or Radical center, is a centrist political philosophy of governance that embraces a mix of market and interventionist philosophies. The Third Way rejects both socialism and laissez-faire approaches to economic governance, but chiefly stresses technological development, education, and competitive mechanisms to pursue economic progress and governmental objectives.[1] Third way philosophies have been described as a synthesis of capitalism and socialism by its proponents.[2]

Past invocations of a political 'third way' have included the Fabian Socialism, Keynesian economics, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, and Harold Macmillan's 1950s One Nation Conservatism.[3] A "Third Way" approach has been adopted by some social democrats and social liberals in many Western liberal democracies.[4] The most recent prominent examples being the Clinton Administration in the United States, the Liberal Party government of Canada under Jean Chretien, the Labour Party governments of the United Kingdom under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and the Australian Labor Party under Kevin Rudd.

Cool! So Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Jean Chretien, and Kevin Ruud are fascists! Thanks, John! This has been great and greatly educational.

Yes, I know John wants to talk about how Mussolini wrote that he intended this to be a "right" movement, away from individual liberty. Once more at Wikipedia, this time for the French National Assembly, the usage of "left" and "right" for political position comes from when the aristocrats sat on the right-hand side of the hall. The other side was used by the bourgoisie, the middle class (note: not the working class, the traditional poster child for Democrats and others who would like to claim to speak for the population thusly).

So we have the middle class separated from the aristocracy, that being the original left v. right divide. Aristocracy assumes that there is a better class of person; aristocrats are presumed to know better than the rest of us, and should tell us what to do. We should then go do it gladly, because now we know our mommies and daddies are looking out for us. As you might guess from my oh-so-unbiased characterization, I'm a lifelong aristocrat supporter.

"Do what your betters tell you to do" is the essence of Democratic policy. Progressives and other nanny-staters continue to try to assert that the nation should do their bidding because they care more deeply, and feel more strongly that whatever they say is right. Just some blue-blooded wannabe aristo feels that he knows how all 300 million of us should live our lives doesn't mean I have a duty to play along. He can take his opinion and a large pile of sand and pound both right up his ass.

And by "he", I fully include Mrs. Clinton.

I was totally wrong

Way back when, I snickered at Sony for designing the PS3 around a Blu-Ray player. I pointed at their disappointing sales numbers as evidence that their quest to control the living room was off to an amazing (-ly bad) start. I also figured that HD-DVD would be the eventual winner because the players were more readily accessible and cost less.

I was wrong. Not only has Blu-Ray won, but because of the whole "profile" thing, it now appears that the PS3 is the Blu-Ray player of choice.

I'll have to buy one, I guess, right after I get an HD TiVo (priorities, after all).