When Starting a New Endeavor, Resort to Pen-and-Paper Lists

I've agreed to become interim Product Owner for my team at work. It's not a space I'm used to thinking about.

So I'm starting it by inventorying what we have, who relies on us, whom we rely upon... all with the help of pen-and-paper listmaking. When there's way too much to keep track of, it's helpful to take stock and make it visual.

Listen and Ask "Why"

A practice I would most certainly support is thinking out loud about what it means to be a passionate and well-reasoned American.

The most boring people I know are the people who are easily labelled as "the right" or "the left". You know where conversations with them will end up. (Every. God. Damned. Time.)

Call me an asshole but I don't want to talk to people like that.

Hell... Sometimes I am people like that.

And sometimes, I am a person who listens well and asks "why". And when I hear something that makes sense when looked at from multiple directions, from someone who has high believability on a topic, I will let it weigh upon me and marinate.

I have sometimes discovered that people haven't fully thought out the things they mouth assertively when they have to stop to define the "why" out loud to someone whom they hold in high regard. It can be a gift to the speaker.

Heh... Maybe I should talk to "people like that".

Don't Check Your Connection or Benevolence

I could never support a movement like "Check Your Privilege" because I don't believe in a morality that begins with the unearned... such as any morality which admits original sin.

On the other hand, I could wholeheartedly support a "Check Your Hubris" movement... or a "Check Your Smugness" movement... or a "Check Your Hysteria" movement. Hubris, Smugness, and Hysteria can only be earned (established) through a consistent pattern of behavior.

The times we live in are simultaneously wealthy in things like technological devices and hysteria and yet are impoverished in things like genuine human connection and benevolence. I think the latter two can be reclaimed only with a great deal of disciplined practice.

DIY Door Lock Actuator Change Redux 2018 - 2005 Honda CR-V

A year ago this time, I replaced the Left Rear door lock actuator for my CR-V.

Today I renewed my Youtube Renaissance Man membership. At 175k miles and 13 years of age, I had to replace the Right Rear side door lock actuator as well.

I was quoted a repair price of $311 from a local dealer for this repair. I completed it in less than an hour, owing to previous experience.

I Bought This Part

Genuine Honda 72115-S5A-003 Door Lock Actuator Assembly

It's less than $60.

I Used These Tools

  • #2 Phillips screwdriver for most work
  • A really small flat-head screwdriver for prying
  • #3 Phillips Screwdriver for the large screws that hold the latch assembly in place.

I Watched These Videos

To disassemble the Door: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTVAywRmK1A

* Remove plate and screws from inner door handle
* Remove screws from under grab handle
* Pry up switch panel, remove switch panel
* Finger pry to remove Triangle trim by window, and pop clip underneath
* Mask Tape Window Trim because removing and re-installing the door will scratch the trim.
* Remove inner handle from rod and set aside
* pull entire door panel toward yourself, then lift up and off
* unplug panel speaker from door panel
* If any clips stay with door, move them to the panel

And to disassemble the lock actuator, I had to combine info from two videos. The first one discusses removing a front door lock latch assembly which is actually more complex:


This video is a very badly done left rear lock actuator replacement. He doesn't remove the entire latch assembly and that is my recommendation. https://youtu.be/6dA40yLao1U

With this diagram as reference...


...here is the sequence I recommend:

  • disconnect the rod that goes to the lock stem and knob (#6)
  • unsnap both rods from the door (holder/guide #13)
  • remove the 2 screws for the black tray (#24) which is behind the rods
  • remove the black tray
  • disconnect the rod from the exterior door handle to the latch assembly (connects to top left of #17)
  • Using a #3 Philips screwdriver, remove the 3 large screws (#38 in diagram) holding in the latch assembly.
  • pull the latch assembly out using the rods and find a nice flat place to work
  • remove the screw (#39) that is securing white plastic protector (#18) and remove from assembly
  • remove 2 screws (#35) attaching actuator (#1) to latch assembly (#17)... you may need to pivot the green plastic thing outward to get the actuator to disenage from the latch assembly. There is nearly no force required to remove it.
  • attach your new assembly and start reversing all of these steps.

Ezra Klein's Entire Debate Strategy in Three Words

[TLDR: Pivot and Gaslight]

I listened to Waking Up Podcast #123 — Identity & Honesty | Sam Harris and I can't recommend it unless you want to hear two people talking past one another.

I did not know Ezra Klein very well head of listening to this podcast but I found him to be smug and evasive... and also well-rehearsed.  He barely answered anything directly but was really quick pivot and make his own tangentially related point.  And I was impressed with how little it costs for him to say how he “…just talked to so-and-so just a couple days ago…” any time a name was mentioned. 

Instant credibility!

Overall, I was bothered on a subconscious level by his manner of engagement and it took me a while understand the nature of the crime... to fully grasp that his entire tactic can be analogized to the following:

"I'm not an alcoholic! If anything, you're the alcoholic!"

(me: but I don't even drink!)

Sam says Klein is operating from a notion of identity politics?  Klein says Sam is also operating on identity politics.

And... It's a pretty slick maneuver to be able to smear Murray as a racist and then to tell Sam Harris that he has a blind spot because he's an "Anti-Anti-Racist".  Seriously... WTF is that?  A false dichotomy, I think.




manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

Harris would do well not to invite gaslighters like Klein onto the show and I fully support him choosing not to talk to T. Coates for exactly the same reasons.  You can only hope to talk past a gaslighter because playing by their rules is a no-win situation.  (Heads, racist... Tails anti-anti-racist).

What I'm Up To: First Time Ukulele for 55+ Seniors

I answered a call to do some volunteer work to teach ukulele for a group of seniors, "no experience required". That's good because I've only ever taught my niece and children are like cats... hard to get them to do something they don't already want to do.

So what's it going to be like? I imagine a small group of people... 9 loaner ukuleles from the library... many of these people will never have held an instrument before. It will be my job to have them leave with a sense of possibility: that there is the potential for them to make music and they already have everything they need to make it (just add a uke).

First Time Ukulele

Having never run a class, I'm not certain whether I would need to stretch this across two 1-hour sessions but these are the sorts of things I might wish to cover in a First-Time-Ukulele class

  1. How to hold the ukulele without a strap
  2. Tuning: G-C-E-A
  3. Right Hand: The Thumb Brush Stroke
  4. Your first chord: C7 (dominant 7)
  5. Your second chord: Almost F
  6. Your first 2-chord song

Office Hours

In order to make accomodations for people who are more advanced, I'm thinking that I'd like to follow the class with a short break followed by a general session of "office hours"... 30-60 minutes of individual Q&A at any skill level. Others may be present but I will take questions from only one person at a time.

Future: Recommendations and A Progression of Classes

It is my hope that over time, serious students will purchase their own ukuleles and do their own studies at home. As such, I should prepare:

  • recommendations for a first ukulele purchase (and other helpful equipment such as music stands)
  • recommended websites and videos for beginners and intermediates
  • recommended books

If there is enough of a critical mass of students that bring their own ukuleles, I would like to structure a progression of courses over 4 sessions that would take students deeper into being able to play songs and rudimentary music theory.

FCC Action on Net Neutrality - A Franco Perspective from 2017

The Net Neutrality hype has started up again.  I find that many of my friends are propagating a lot of poorly-informed fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the changes.  They compare it to cable offerings and packages with exclusives.  They claim that throttling will make certain services unusable like HOT-lanes that you can only use based on the type of car that you buy.  

It's easy to latch onto fear and to make great claims about censorship and access.

The Argument From Property Rights

There is a bitter irony involved with discussion of Net Neutrality.  

These entities, Internet Service Providers, have made great investments into something.  They developed it and found new ways to deliver it with greater speed and less cost year over year.  And it has become so important they cannot be trusted to do as they please with it.  By virtue of creating something valuable, ISPs like medical care providers, must submit to heavy government regulations under Title II.  

People who are used to a conservative viewpoint will note that there is a violation of property rights occurring with Net Neutrality.  The networks which comprise the internet are private, run on equipment owned by a non-public entity.  Under a system of laissez-faire capitalism, the government shouldn't properly interfere with the way property is used unless it is used to violate someone else's life or property.

The Rational Counter-Argument: Telecom's History Of Government Entanglement

On the other hand, the powers that be in Internet and Mobile data services has always been subject to government franchises and licensing.  They are not capitalist entities forged in a free market.  The system that exists today didn't arise from natural selection given open competition.  AT&T was forged into a monopoly by a comple of government-policies.

In 1918 the federal government nationalized the entire telecommunications industry, with national security as the stated intent.

One of the hardest things to do well is to grow a competitive environment after the government has worked to systematically destroy competition for a long time.  So it's understandable to want to maintain government control since the entities which exist after deregulation are unnaturally large and wield large amounts of anti-competitive power.  

It's also understandable that people who might be competitors would be wary of entering a field where they might face stifling resistance from government regulators with unclear limits on their powers.  

Competition will ensure good practices, the free-marketeers argue, but we are prevented from strong competition by the history of the situation and innate resource limits so we have to regulate.

Net Neutrality and Title II are Not The Same Thing

I see the arguments on both sides.  And I disagree with using Title II common carrier status for ISPs.  Thus I am in favor of the current action by the FCC to roll back the 2015 changes.

I am a network engineer by trade and a proponent of individual-rights.  So I can see the arguments of property rights AND the complexities of transitioning from government-enforced monopolies toward a free market.  

I believe open competition is the best protection against corporate bad actors.  And, thus, a low regulatory bar to allow for new competition should be pursued by government policy.

I am a proponent of Net Neutrality by voluntary agreement.  This is something that should be decided in the IETF.  Not by government edict.  Yes, the internet is a medium that works best when anyone can access anything.  But I don't trust a government given broad powers under an act of Congress created in 1934 to deregulate a monopoly that they created.

Net Neutrality Without Hysteria

I present to you a survey of articles I read this morning.   Some of them are about preferential treatment of traffic.  Others focus on privacy.  It's a really complex field of issues and I encourage you to take it in without reacting right away.

Some of these are from 2014/2015.  Others are more recent.  And all will present a perspective that the more fearful among us are not sharing.

Ways that Title II has been harmful over the past century: http://dailycaller.com/2014/07/07/the-top-10-failures-of-fcc-title-ii-utility-regulation/

A survey of the issue of privacy and Title II: http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-fcc-privacy-rules-repeal-explained-2017-4/

A whitepaper from 2014 by Brookings coming out against Title II.  Has a good description of the origin of Title II and, somewhat hysterically, warns against a slippery slope for tech companies: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/regulating_internet_access_public_utility_litan.pdf

"Title II was included in the original Telecommunications Act of 1934 to address potential problems created by having one company, the “old” AT&T, being the monopoly provider of “telecommunications services” which at
the time and for much of the rest of the century meant services provided by the “public switched telephone network.” 
Title II authorized the FCC to regulate the price of telephone services provided across state lines, or long-distance calls (while individual states regulated prices of “local” calls within states). Later, after the old AT&T was split up following years of antitrust litigation, and as some competition developed in telephone services, the FCC used Title II, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, to prohibit the pieces of the old AT&T (the regional “Bell Operating Companies” or “RBOCs”) from discriminating against companies wanting access to the network, while overseeing the systems that were developed for payment of traf c origination and termination."

A blog post laden with legal and telecom jargon on ways Net Neutrality can be achieved without Title II (both of which became conflated in 2014/2015): https://haljsinger.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/what-if-we-want-net-neutrality-but-reject-title-ii/

"Following the guidance of Cellco, the court signaled it would tolerate a case-by-case regime that grants room for “individualized bargaining” by the parties to a paid priority arrangement. (Alas, the FCC rejected this approach in its 2015 Open Internet Order.)
Such deals, if done in a discriminatory manner, could be challenged ex post by third parties or by the FCC, but—and this is key—the burden of proof would fall on the challenger. In particular, the paid priority arrangement would be presumed not to violate the non-discrimination standard, and the challenger would have to overcome that presumption.
What the court rejected was the opposite presumption."

An article about how non-profit municipal ISPs are in favor of the Title II rollback: http://www.multichannel.com/news/fcc/muni-broadband-providers-back-fcc-s-title-ii-reversal/412812 

"By returning to light-touch regulation of broadband service, the Commission will give Muni ISPs incentives to invest in enhancing our networks and our deployment of innovative services at affordable prices while still ensuring consumers have unfettered access to the Internet," they wrote.

And finally, an article from AEI which vaguely hints that the 2015 change made practices such as zero-rating (ignoring normally imposed bandwidth constraints for certain partners) illegal: http://www.aei.org/publication/repealing-title-ii-will-benefit-consumers-economy/

The substantive issues in net neutrality have to do with what services broadband internet providers are allowed to offer customers. There are legitimate concerns that these companies might give their own content fast-lane priority over rivals’ content, allow free delivery (also known as zero-rating, the practice of not counting certain types of content
toward data usage limits) only for favored content providers, and block consumers from accessing legitimate websites.
But in many instances, fast lanes, zero-rating, and the like benefit customers. In separate research, both former FCC Chief Economist Michael Katz (with Ben Hermalin) and I (with Janice Hauge) showed that fast lanes benefit small content providers in their attempts to compete with established industry leaders. AEI scholar Roslyn Layton has shown that elderly and low-income consumers benefit from zero-rating services.
By adopting Title II regulations, the previous FCC outlawed all such activities.


Reflections on the Smartphone: A Jealous Lover

I was reflecting with Liz on how we didn’t take very many photos during Thanksgiving. I used to take a lot of photos but I don’t much haul a camera around because of the great camera in my pocket which has too many other distractions associated with it. The Smartphone is a jealous lover!

Notifications and The Last App You Were Using

There is a good chance when you reach for your phone that some notification will pull you away from what you were planning to do. And even if that doesn’t happen, there is a good chance that the last bit of candy you had open will draw you back in.

In short, the design of the phone is disruptive and that leads to all-or-nothing behavior on the part of those using it. People who take photos post to social media. And people who post to social media end up viewing posts on social media. The simplest solution is not to take any pictures at all. And that doesn’t really seem like a great solution.

A Better Smartphone

I have no influence to change the smartphone but a man can dream. And lately most of my dreaming about the smartphone has to do with that moment when you pick up the smartphone and start to use it. I have identified 2 avenues of possible distraction above and so what I would change most about the smartphone is what happens as soon as you pick the phone up.

A Less Distracting Lock Screen Experience

A Less Distracting Lock Screen Experience

Idea #1: Instead of Notifications as the primary view of the lock screen, instead provide a launch screen which offers configurable options. Mine would include: The current date/time, An option to open the previous open app, Direct access to my to-do list, Camera access, and a swipe option to see notifications.

After the Lock Screen: a reminder of what this day was supposed to be about!

After the Lock Screen: a reminder of what this day was supposed to be about!

Idea #2: After Unlocking: “On This Day” View: an accounting of what the person identified they want to do today. What is their primary theme/focus and a list of no more than 3 tasks they would like to mark done today. This is similar in content to Momentum Dash for Chrome but has the added emphasis on being the first thing you see any time you unlock your phone.

Access to the most recently used app is provided by the multitasking swap button (double-clicking home).

Apple is Doing Better-ish

Apple seems to be doing right with the Safari browser. And the addition of “Driving Mode” with iOS 11 is amazing for people who want to curb their mindless usage of their own smartphones. Driving mode is also a jealous mistress. She will not let you use your phone without disabling Driving mode.


For those interested in using this, I make the following recommendations:

  • Enable the manual Driving Mode toggle in Settings -> Control Center -> Customize Controls: “Do Not Disturb
  • Change the default Auto-reply in: Settings -> Do Not Disturb: Auto-Reply so that it’s more general to Focus.
  • Optional: Change who gets the Auto-reply… you can restrict it to Recents or Favorites.

Using driving mode to increase your focus will change the balance of your relationship with your phone.

Dear Apple: Please, Keep Doing Better

I mostly trust Apple to figure out what’s right and act on it. Maybe the changes I have suggested above will not fall on hard hearts and deaf ears should someone at Apple see this post.

The Accidental Heretic

Heresy Defined


  • opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, especially of a church or religious system.
  • the maintaining of such an opinion or doctrine.


  • adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma
  • dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice
  • an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards


Omit the references to "churches or religious systems" and you have a good understanding of what it means to be a heretic today.

The best among us are heretics about the right things.

The best heretics stand contrary to orthodoxy because they have discipline in the way they look at reality and a demanding rigor in what they will accept as a personal conviction.

Arriving into heresy can be profound. Take for instance this quote from Men in Black:

"1500 years ago everybody knew the earth was the center of the universe... 500 years ago everybody knew the world was flat... 15 minutes ago you knew that people were alone on this planet."

To be willing to call beliefs into question is a form of strength. But strength without discipline will create as much harm as benefit like a fire in a dry overgrown forest.

In the realm of beliefs, we clear out the undergrowth... or else. We call this "being a clear thinker". Basically it means you have culled away the ideas that don't conform with reality in a non-contradictory way.

We often don't think too hard about the way our minds work. We don't name things. But this process has a name. The name for the process of integrating perception of a set of facts in reality (rationality) into a non-contradictory understanding (logic) is "Reason", which is much maligned in our time. But reason, the disciplined application of rationality and logic, is the difference between folly and informed heresy.

For some of us, the accidental and proud heretics, there will never be such a thing as a "post-truth" world. We know what we believe and we know why we believe it: because our beliefs have not been overthrown by new facts and we have worked hard to avoid conveniently "not seeing" things.

Kneeling is Unclear Communication

Topic: Kneeling for Protest

Everyone has a right to do it, meaning they do not need to seek approval nor should the government be able to punish anyone for this. But, on the other hand, no one has a right to demand anyone's approval for their exercise of free speech. Yes, athletes have a platform and a right to speech, but they dont have a right to the platform or to be immune to reactions by their employers or public.

(Not gonna waste breath on how wrong The Moron in Chief is about this)

But here's the real problem with kneeling: It's unclear communication. Do you know what kneeling is meant to convey any more than any hashtag? Is it clear what needs doing?

"Awareness" isn't what is needed. Awareness doesn't fix any problems. Even "having the perfect idea" for a solution doesn't fix problems any more than being able to explain a dance move makes you able to do it. In the case of a dance move, you only can do it with practice. In the case of policy changes, you have to come up with proposals to change rules and to establish accountability to those rules.

Systemic change comes down to this:

  1. Identify a pain point (this is now overdone)
  2. Propose a solution at the right level of scope to people who are empowered to execute changes to policy/system (hint: police policies are worked out at the local/municipal/county/state level)
  3. Win adoption for your proposal with people who will execute your proposed changes.
  4. Observe, assess effectiveness of outcome, and adjust.

If you can't do #2-#4... #1 is limited in effectiveness. And if your expression of #1 is unclear, you are making the problem worse rather than better by adding noise and confusion.

In my opinion, most street protests fail to do #1 even well. However, documents such as Campaign Zero, do a better job because they can move on to steps 2-4.

Celebrate the Good (It's All Around and Within)

Being growth/challenge oriented is good for you as a human being. We grow and stay strong in response to stressors, mental and physical. But the hard thing about pursuing ambitions (or acting against discontent) is appreciating where you are even as you attempt to change where you are.

If you can't find a way to appreciate life as it is now, you're not likely to be happy when you arrive at wherever your life is headed.

Upon arrival, there always seems to be the call of a new destination or ambition or challenge which does a great job of distracting you from the good that is all around and within you right now.

Recognize Your Enemy

Your Enemy:

  • Anyone who believes they can initiate force against another independent from the law.
  • Anyone who doesn't believe in innocent until proven guilty and due process.
  • Anyone who would change the law to allow rights for some while denying rights for others.

Now as ever, rights are implicit in the nature of being a human being. They are a recognition of what every person needs in order to thrive. They must be universal (equally applicable to all) or they are something other than "rights".

The most fundamental of rights is the idea that you have the right to live for your own sake (Life), to act without permission so long as you do not violate the same rights of others (Liberty), and that the fruit of your labor belongs to you to decide what will become of it (Property).

The government is not the source of rights. Those are created by nature. Government can, however, recognize rights and act to protect them (or violate them).

Laws are not rights. Laws can be aligned with an idea of rights but whereas rights are global/universal laws are local/contextual implementation details. When laws are out of alignment with rights, generally someone is being persecuted. Remember, not a word of the Declaration of Independence required revision to be consistent with abolishing slavery.

"Innocent until proven guilty" and "Due process" are principles which seek to align law with rights to life, liberty, and property and provide an objective framework of when an initiator of force has done harm sufficient to warrant curtailment of liberty or retaliatory force.

We should be very careful to not give moral cover to the enemies of white nationalists for the mere fact of their opposition to something odious. Yes, white nationalists ought to be opposed, but we should also want to oppose anyone who, by their actions, demonstrate that they do not believe in universal invidividual rights, due process, and objective innocent until proven guilty.

America Needs A Vision, Not A 12-Step Program for Racism

I found this post linked on another friend's Facebook page: Charlottesville UVA White Nationalist Rally Proves America Is Racist. Like many articles from a leftist perspective, it refers to America's fundamental character as racist.

This country was built on systemic racism
It's comforting to insist that racial hatred is not who Americans are...
So yes, racism absolutely is American...
We have a president with a long and clear history of racism: His family company was once investigated for refusing to rent property to black Americans.

The article is a condemnation of America as such on the basis that racists exist in America.  True but not particularly convincing.

It also indicates the election of president Trump as some kind of compelling evidence as if the election wasn't a reduction of the lesser of two very bad choices.  I feel the need to remind everyone that he was running against Clinton, one of the least electable and most polarizing "most-qualified" candidates the Democratic party has ever put forth.  

Sorry, I'm still not convinced that America was racist when we had two very bad choices.

Declaring America racist is a sort of declaration that the racists have already won and that we just have to admit it so that we can start to change like so many delusional alcoholics.  But only white people have to admit it apparently because they're the only delusional alcoholics.  

They need "Racists Anonymous".  The rest of us can just carry on.

Racist by What Measure?

What does it take to qualify?  An act of racism?  A dozen?  A single statue?

I don't have any criteria on which I can draw a line between a country that is racist and one that is not.  I suspect that means this is a meaningless concept designed to foist guilt and shame upon all of the people in the country until we all capitulate and submit to our Politically Correct Overseers.  Sorry, not all of us... just "white people".

Here's what I know.  The Declaration of Independence, America's philosophical document, makes to mention of an ethno-state.  It is not an identitarian document.

It declares that all mankind is equal endowed with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  There is nothing racist about it.  

What Federal, State, and Local governments do should always be held to this standard.  And the LEFT are as guilty as the RIGHT when it comes to giving up the core principles of the United States.

If the leftists want to call America Racist, they also have to accept their part of the blame for letting government run rampant in flagrant disregard to America's original principles.

None of these actions which disregard the principles diminishes the truth of them.  They are mere bits of dirt and disease in a long-lived organism with an immune system.

Mental Hygiene, An Individual Process

The article clearly thinks that delusional alcoholic racists (whites) need to confess their racism.  It's like some kind of weird alcoholics anonymous thing where in order to give up your addiction you have to confess your helplessness to it.  I don't get how that helps personally.

Here's what I see.  

Racism is a symptom sickness of the mind, but it's not the disease.  The core disease is irrationality: ideas that don't comport with reality.   Unless you're a doctor or a scientist making a study of disease, you don't make disease your primary focus.  For most of us, we merely focus on how to keep our health, which is to say, how to incorporate hygiene into our lives.

To make avoiding disease our primary focus is to give it undue attention.  The focus of every human being should be to organize one's own thinking and life so that one can thrive.

As pertains to healthy thinking, the analogy to hygiene is exact.  A good mental practice leads to clean thinking and a lack of practice leads to unclear thinking: mistaken notions, bad logic, and ideas that do not comport with reality (such as racism or any kind of supremacism).

There is no racial input into mental hygiene.  Every person of every race has to figure this out or pay the price, which is to act from bad ideas that don't comport with reality.

There is no way to prevent a person who is unwilling to be responsible for his/her own thinking from holding bad ideas.  The final arbiter is each person him or herself.  And thus, individual responsibility is a fundamental moral requirement of mental hygiene.

Vision vs. Virtue Signaling 

Here's the bottom line.  

Calling America Racist isn't going to change my behavior (or the behavior of anyone who is already rational) because I'm already doing the hard work of clear thinking.  (And, in any case, as I'm not white, the article already excluded me.)

Calling America Racist won't affect the actions of any supremacists (no matter what the color or ethnicity) because they are not moved by reason or facts as far as I can tell.  And they will certainly not be moved by poorly supported arguments of the wrong variety.

So let's be real okay?   The only thing the author of the cited article is achieving by calling America Racist is virtue signaling.  Like masturbating, virtue signaling is designed to feel good without achieving very much.

Dear Author: Grow the fuck up.

Wanna lead America to a better place?  Start with a vision that stands for all time like the principles in the Declaration for Independence.

This is America: All of mankind is equal under the law, endowed with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Governments are instituted among men to protect these rights.

America's Ethos Requires No Revisions

This was a reply I wrote to a Facebook friend in response to his post about My fellow white Americans. | I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog.  Since he has a public Facebook account, you can access the discussion directly if you're interested, but please do be polite. We do not believe in Mob Action here.  This is a place for Individuals of Integrity.

I'm pretty proud of this reply so that's why I'm capturing it on my own blog.  I'm pretty sure he'll say I missed his point.  Maybe I did.  I still like what I wrote.

It's interesting that what you associate with personal responsibility, victim-blame, is completely different than what I associate with personal responsibility. 

To me it means this: I am responsible for my actions and the content of my character. No one else's actions speak for me. And none of my actions speak for anyone else. I am part of no collective.

Easy or not we, as humans, each start out with some condition and we do our best from there. I don't think anyone truly has it easy. Some people are blessed with material well-being and get everything handed to them... the unlucky in that set also lack purpose in their lives. Maybe the absence struggle made them weak. I don't know. What I do know is that I don't take for granted that anyone had it easy and I admire people who do the best with what they have.

In a framework of personal responsibility, what matters is that you decide for yourself what your idea of being a good person is and you do your level best to deliver. It is your own job to be the steward of your character, no matter how shitty your circumstances. That's what personal responsibility is to me. And it doesn't mean you always have to be happy... it just means you give it all you've got.

Now... the person who wrote that article clearly hates America and thinks that it stands for racism and sexism and all that stuff. And yes, sure, these have been a part of the history of the United States but it is not in the **essential ethos** of the United States, which is spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. 

Consider this... at the time of the writing of the Declaration, women didn't have the vote and black people were slaves. Some people consider this to be evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the United States and clear signs of the hypocrisy of the "founding fathers". Sure, you could look at it like that.

But what I see is that the essential ethos of America, spelled out in the Declaration, projected forward beyond their present state in universal terms: all humans equal in the eyes of the law endowed with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

The clarity of that vision was so forward-thinking that not a single word of it has to be changed in order to remain consistent with women being able to vote and the abolishment of slavery and equal treatment of gays by the law. 

So, yes, America's history includes ugly acts. Are they America's essence?

I say no.

As it happens, I also think that the solution for racism and sexism and any other kind of irrationality has to be individual in nature.  So if personal responsibility isn't part of it, I don't think there's a way.

What is Needed is A Wholesale Rejection of Identity Politics

The last few days have been witness to disquieting noise representing two different aspects of the same unseeing groupthink: Identity Politics.

On one hand, you have the people on the left who only talk about America in terms of collectives and their victimhood or privilege. They hate American and openly declare it a country of sexism and racism.

On the other hand, in Charlottesville, the collectivists of the right held a gathering based on white identity, and also demonstrating their hatred of the principles of America by wishing government to favor their own identity in a white supremacist agenda.

What do these groups have in common?

  • They define an in-group and an out-group. And if you're in the out-group facts don't matter. There is no objective framework for innocent-until-proven-guilty. The only thing that matters is that you give anything that is remotely sympathetic to the out group.
  • They don't believe individual liberty. Both sides believe that the government has a right to enact force on some subset of the population justified by some collective.
  • They don't believe in personal responsibility. Not only can your actions result in your guilt, so can actions of other members of the designated out-group. For the most part there is no way out of the out-group, but you may get some leniency if you capitulate entirely and give up your rational convictions.
  • They have a callous disregard for fact as they use smear tactics to direct social harrasment against their detractors.

I'm not an Extremist and I don't like crowds... What can I do?

I don't think attending counter-protests is the answer. At best you make yourself an easy target for violence. At worse, you make the crowd of bigots look even bigger.

Rejecting Identity Politics

No... The first, most important, thing is to reject the identity politics game. We need to recognize that all of the intellectualizing from victimhood is an appeal to create government programs that treat different classes of people in different ways.

The bitter irony is that this both the collectivists of the left AND the right want this. They only differ in details based on their selected in-groups and out-groups.

We can stop talking about privilege. Among the subset of people willing to see, there is nothing more to learn. The most dishonest versions of privilege talk admonish people to apologize for shit they didn't do. Nearly all discussions of privilege are fuel for the white nationalists. First of all, White Nationalists don't care who thinks they need to apologize. Further, the intelligentsia of the left is guilty as hell of a bullshit moral shell game that amounts to whites bearing the revisionist sins of their ancestors which can never be absolved.

When you judge white people automatically racist no matter what they do, don't be surprised that they don't seem to notice or care that you're calling them racist. You've already proven that you have no objective criteria for this other than the color of their skin, which they can't help. They would be right to dismiss you for making senseless noise. (It's for this reason alone that I almost can't fault the white supremacists for beating the drums of collectivism. "Fight fire with fire" is one of the classic blunders.)

Getting Clear

Enough about other people... Back to what we can do. We can get clear. We want "Live and Let Live" based on "Individual Reponsibility" to be the primary moral criteria on which government enacts corrective force. If a person chooses by his/her own individual action to violate "Live and Let Live", only then should the law should have something to do.

Voting in Primaries

With that said, we as citizens need to vote in primaries. They are much more important than the general elections in regards to weeding out the crazy.

We must reject candidates who demonstrate identity/collective/race baiting tactics (whether democrat or republican). We want candidtes who believe in an Objective framework of law and of evidence. We want candidates who believe in a government blind to demographics rather than one that will act to favor any demographic.

Government, properly conceived.

The most important principle of keeping your government from comitting atrocities has been and shall ever be the recognition of the right of each person to their life, liberty, and property. Governments don't create rights, which are implicit in our nature as human beings. Governments, properly conceived, recognize rights and act to protect them.

I recently heard a podcast in which someone described the role of government as coming up with a framework where people who disagree violently can disagree without the violence. We can't fix everyone's bad ideas but we can keep the government focused on diminishing the impact of them when people decide to express themselves with action.

On Damore's Firing and "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber"

For those following the controversy at Google on Engineer Damore bringing into question diversity initiatives at Google:

Related Pieces of Writing - For and Against

My Thoughts:

I think Google has every right to disassociate with someone they don't want to work with anymore. This isn't a matter of rights as I see it because free association should be the primary principle here. No one should owe anyone else a living.

But I question whether Google's action is morally defensible. It smacks of the brand of social cowardice in which half-informed outrage leads to deplatforming of people of reason who are willing to talk about difficult things. Maybe it's the same, maybe it's not.

A question we need to ask ourselves is whether we want to live in a world where you have to pass an ideological litmus test in order to work together. I will grant you that an agreement to ban physical force from social interaction is an idea. And so, there are ideas that are non-negotiable. But that idea happens to be codified in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and enforced by the government.

From the outside, it looks like Damore was attempting discussing on attitudes toward hiring and diversity initiatives, which he argued, was a choice and one with consequences. Whether you ought to try to fix possibly discriminatory outcomes with discriminatory practices seems like a discussion worth having.

I suspect that over time some people some of the better minds on Google's Engineering team may choose other options. Google has demonstrated their attitude toward reasoned dissent when the issue is a sacred cow of sorts. When a company creates a hostile environment toward attempts at nuanced discussion, they can expect mostly narrow thinkers to remain among their ranks if other options are available.

On a long enough timescale, you reap what you sow.

When Splitting The Check: Terrorism and Tyranny

I have started reading an account of the war in Vietnam, "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War". So far, an interesting read.

It strikes me as particularly relevant at this time as we look at agendas and tactics in this country. The author of this book writes about the Prime Minister of South Vietnam, Diem:

The idea of having free elections, or making any accommodations, with Communists (whose method was terrorism, and whose aim was tyranny) was, Diem believed, an absurdity.

So first off, let's admit... the writing in this book would have benefitted from an editor. The sentence has 26 words, 4 commas, and one parenthetical. I would have made this two sentences with half as many commas and no parentheses.

However, in spite of the author's terrible writing, a suspicion against people who use tactics of terror and whose aim is tyranny is completely valid. One does not "make accommodation" with such people any more than one "splits the check down the middle" with a single male "friend" who likes to buy a few bottles of wine for the entire table.

When your ends are at odds, you do not cooperate and you do not compromise. There are two viable options: "Live and let live" or War. Anything in between is a sacrifice of the self-sufficient, the honest, the virtuous in favor of the the parasite, the liar, and the vicious.

Where does the compromise lie between Bob, who believes in his right to live for his own sake, and his neighbor who believes Bob's earnings belong to the community and should be distributed as such?

We, who believe in voluntary social interaction, are obligated to reject compromise on fundamental principles. We do not make accommodations with such people. We don't split the check with them.

Long Range Thinking Combined with Rational Values

Today, I read:

How does Silicon Valley get Ayn Rand’s philosophy wrong?

There’s a misinterpretation of what she meant by selfishness. The classic way they get it wrong is simply believing that Ayn Rand says do whatever you feel like doing, don’t care about other people, just do whatever is good for you. And there’s no delving into what she means by “good for you.” Being selfish is really hard work. It means really thinking about “what are my #values, what are the most important things to me, how do I rank them, and how do I actually pursue them in a #rational, productive way?” Ayn Rand’s philosophy is very challenging.

Indeed... most people associate "selfishness" with short-ranged do what you want. But when you combine the question of "what is good for me" with the longest range possible, you're talking about a completely different outcome than whatever people imagine when they hear the word "selfishness".

Perhaps that makes it the wrong word for situations where nuance is in short supply (e.g. social media)?