Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review: Real Dissent by Thomas E. Woods

As I sat down to write this review, I started thinking about how exactly I came across Tom Woods. I can't recall. It's like he just showed up in my inbox and podcast app out of nowhere. I guess I heard him on another podcast and subscribed to his newsletter. I've been listening to his podcast since day 1.

Real Dissent is subtitled "A Libertarian Sets Fire To The Index Card Of Allowable Opinion". Woods' premise is that the gatekeepers in the media have what must be a 3x5 index card with a list of all the opinions you're allowed to have. If you deviate from that card, you're called all kinds of names. Racist. Sexist. Extremist. Even the "mainstream" libertarians participate in this limitation of allowable opinion. It's either Romney or Obama. There is no other option, unless you're an EXTREMIST! OOOOOOOOOOOOH! You don't want to be an EXTREMIST! do you?

Woods obviously doesn't mean there is a literal 3x5 index card, but there might as well be. I read a few "manoshere" blogs, like Vox Day, Matt Forney, Roosh, Roisy, etc. They're embroiled in something they call "#gamergate" in which they've run afoul of Social Justice Warriors (SWJs), basically internet millennial feminists, beta white knights, and other assorted emotional hypochondriacs (a term I got from Tom Woods) and control freaks.

Rather than a freshly written book, Real Dissent is a collection of articles, essays, interviews, and book forwards Tom Woods has written in the last 15 or so years. Normally I don't like this format. Most other authors do a horrible job of editing and tying it all together, (i.e. Aaron Cleary's "Top Shelf") but Woods excels at this. He groups his chapters by subjects that build upon each other.

The book is broken down into the following sections:

War and Propaganda
Capitalism and Anti-capitalism
Libertarianism Attacked, and My Replies
Ron Paul and Forbidden Truths
End The Fed
History and Liberty
When Libertarians Go Wrong
Books You May Have Missed
Talking Liberty: Selected Tom Woods Show Interviews
Back To Basics

Though Woods is an academic, he writes in an accessible style that's easy to read. The book is designed to show some of the common misconceptions of and attacks on libertarianism, and how to refute them. As an example, if you take a position off the Index Card of Allowable Opinion, such as, Lincoln wasn't as great as he's made out to be, the media will start screaming "You support slavery!"

Woods points out how fallacious this is, as well as how much courage it actually took to oppose slavery in Civil War times. Only a small percentage of the population were outright abolitionists. Most were attacked and humiliated, some were even murdered. It takes absolutely zero courage or effort to oppose slavery now, but that wasn't the case 160 years ago. Woods doubts that anybody who lives and dies by the status quo today would have gone against it at any other point in history. I concur.

The only complaint I had about the book is the selection of interview transcripts didn't seem to match the theme very well. They were interesting; no doubt. I think Tom should have included his interview with Christopher Cantwell, although that happened recently and he may not have had time to transcribe it.

Also, his earlier articles, pre-2007, didn't read as well as his later articles from 2013.

Real Dissent is Tom Woods' first self-published book. He's written and collaborated on several others, but those were conventionally published.

Real Dissent: A Libertarian Sets Fire to the Index Card of Allowable Opinion

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Ivy League Is Really Knocking It Out Of The Park...

I can't think of a comment. Other than, this never happens at the University of Phoenix. I don't think I'll ever look at Harvard in the same light again. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Matt Forney- Why American Men Should Refuse To Vote

Election Day is tomorrow. Matt Forney put up a post at Return of Kings about why American men should refuse to vote. I think he's right. I haven't been able to get excited about voting for a long time.

As Mark Twain said, if voting made a difference, they wouldn't let us do it.

The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can "throw the rascals out" at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.
- Carrol Quigley

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Wasting Time On The Internet Is Now An Ivy League College Class

It's true. Now you too can go thousands of dollars into debt in student loans and PAY to waste time on the Internet, something that is free for most of us.
Next semester at the University of Pennsylvania, students will walk into a classroom, pull out their laptops, their smartphones, their tablets, and sit there, for three hours, doing what they no doubt do pretty often: Waste time on the internet.
Or they could take classes that will benefit them in their careers, and waste time on the Internet for free.
"I'm very tired of reading articles in the New York Times every week that make us feel bad about spending so much time on the internet, about dividing our attention so many times," Kenneth Goldsmith, a world-renowned poet and the course's professor, told me. "I think it's complete bullshit that the internet is making us dumber. I think the internet is making us smarter. There's this new morality built around guilt and shame in the digital age."
So do what I do. Don't read the New York Times, or any other disconnected source of elite opinions.

As an intimate object, the Internet is what you make of it. You can use it to make yourself smarter, or you can mindlessly click on Buzzfeed articles and get dumber. It's all about how you use your mind.

I can't speak to this guy being a "world renowned poet". I've never been able to get into poetry, but I'm sure most modern poetry is as bad as modern art. About all the poetry I can stand is centered around limericks "There once was a lady from Venus..."
So, his students will explore what, exactly, wasting time even means. Is it a waste of time to tap out some forum posts or internet comments? Is it a waste of time to gchat with your friends? Is it a waste of time to click through YouTube videos? Can we consciously or even unconsciously channel the things we do on the internet to make a work of art or the next great American novel or an autobiography? 
His students will be tasked with trying. For much of the class, they'll be wasting time online, sure, but at some point, they're going to have to take the raw material of all that time wasting—browser histories, text messages, screenshots, who knows what else—and turn it into a "compelling and emotional work of literature."
A "compelling and emotional work of literature"? I'm sure being forced to read most of the output of this class would make me cry.

At this point, I'm almost forced to conclude that it's not the Internet that makes you dumber. It's college. That's why it's time for the majority of red pill, conservative, or libertarian men to abandon the modern university. Stop giving them your money. Do something to enrich your own mind and your job prospects. You can CLEP out of most of the lower level "Internet Time Wasting" and English classes and focus on the core curriculum for your field of study (which should be STEM). Or learn a trade through trade school or an apprenticeship.

This class is offered at UPenn (Ped State).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reconsidering Anonymity

Up to this point, I considered anonymity a form of cowardice. Why can't you write under your own name? What are you afraid of?

Return of Kings anonymous writer "runsonmagic" wrote a post that discusses why anonymity is a good thing.

Among the benefits to anonymity is it forces discussion to be about the ideas, not the personality. Many people seem to respond to ideas they find controversial with ad-hominem attacks rather than discuss the ideas. Without knowing who is behind the idea, it's harder to make an ad-hominem. It doesn't completely remove the possibility though. Most will leave something like "probably some loser living in his mom's basement" like that has any bearing on the actual idea.

I've always written under my own name. If anything, it keeps me honest. I don't say anything on this blog or on social media that I wouldn't be comfortable saying in public, or to the face of any personalities I'm writing about.

On the other hand, there is probably a lot I would say if I could write anonymously; without worry of the ideas being linked back to me.

A big problem on the Internet is anonymous trolls. Have you ever heard of the "Greater Internet F-wad theorem"? Normal person, plus anonymity, plus audience, equals total F-wad. People will say things in blog comments that I doubt they would be willing to if you were standing right in front of them.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

NYT Bestseller Status Means Nothing

Mainstream authors make a huge deal out of being "New York Times Bestsellers". I don't know if this metric ever actually meant anything. It means nothing today. For one thing, NYT book reviewers are mainstream elites who are largely divorced from reality. At least, the reality most of us live. They don't reflect our values and preferences. It's been years since I've given any weight to "NYT Bestseller" status of a book or author.

All that aside, the NYT Bestseller list is far too easy to manipulate. I've seen plenty of authors do it. Whenever an author with a sizable social media platform releases a book, they work hard in advance to drum up pre-sales and get the word out so the day the book releases, the numbers are large enough to register. Many promise "bonuses" to pre-buy the book.

I found a video in Mark Dice's archives about how Mark Driscoll, megachurch pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, used $200,000 of his church money to buy copies of his own book to manipulate the NYT Bestseller list:

I had no interest in Mark Driscoll's book. I've read enough Churchian marriage books to break a horse's back if you dropped them on him all at once. Very few are any good at all. Most totally suck. I think "His Needs, Her Needs" was the most useful of all of them. At least it doesn't blame all marriage problems on the husband.

I listened to Mark Driscoll's sermon podcast for a few years, until I stopped. Partly, I'd heard pretty much everything he had to say. Partly also because in my own dissolving marriage, I was tired of him using his pulpit to bash men. All the problems in your marriage are your fault! If you were a better Churchian, your wife would love and respect you. Because women (especially churchian women) have no moral agency or accountability for their own actions. And pastors don't have the balls to hold women accountable. Most of them are run by their wives and the elders' wives. So bite it, Pastor Driscoll.

I'm not surprised by Pastor Driscoll's corruption. But then again, I don't put people on pedestals. I know that all men are as fallible as myself. We all need accountability to keep us from going off the rails.

I'm not sure what he did with the books. He probably used his congregation's money to buy his books to sell the books back to them in the church bookstore, so they could pay twice. Or to give them away to cronies, or burn them to heat his house. In any case, his parishioners lose.

I'm sure he'll give a tear laden repentance and be forgiven, if he hasn't already.

And the NYT Bestseller list is pretty much useless.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Burn Rate (Cost of Living)

This is something I've been thinking about for a while. During the "Great Depression" of the 1930s, if you lived on a farm out in the country (excepting the Dust Bowl), you probably wouldn't have noticed. You would have everything you need to get by right there: crops, animals, milk, firewood, etc. Many family farms didn't even have money, but they got by.

But now in an urban or suburban environment, think about how much money you need just to exist. When you get paid, before you've even gone out to spend anything, you have to account for things like the following:

Benefits (Health, Dental, Vision, Disability, etc)
Taxes (Federal, State, Social Security, Mediwhatever)
Retirement contribution
Car registration
Car payment
Car insurance
Rent or mortgage (mortgage could include PMI)
Renters or homeowners insurance
Cell phone bill
Cable or FIOS bill

And many more depending on your preferences and situation. Like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, subscriptions to magazines and so on.

This is before you've bought a single grocery. Before you've bought beer or gone out to eat.

It's amazing how much it costs simply to be alive in America (and probably other countries).

ROK: The Supreme Importance of Having A Den

Aaron Cleary (aka Capt. Capitalism) has a post up at Return of Kings about the importance of a man having a den or study.

He is absolutely correct.

Aaron also addressed the "man cave", a concept I believe he and I are similar in opinion to. I can't stand the concept of a man cave. I am not a primate. When people ask me if I have a man cave, I want to respond "No, because I'm not an idiot". I addressed the man cave in this post:

Whenever people ask me if I have a "man cave", I try to figure out the most polite way to say "No, because I'm not a flipping retard. Do you have a man cave? Should I talk slower? Should I just point and grunt? It's very nice of your wife to be so gracious and give you a shelf in your own house to put your football on. How kind of her."

A study is sacred, and I miss mine. In my house, I had a room upstairs that functioned as my study. I had a Cape Cod style house with a finished, dormered attic. My walls sloped down, but that was MY space. I kept my computer desk and equipment and all my books up there. I had a recliner I could sit in to read. I had a work light so I could do soldering and take computers apart or fix my children's broken toys. I miss it.

In the basement I was renting in my geo-bachelor days, I had a part set up as a study. I currently share a two bedroom apartment with my new wife and stepson, so all I have is part of a table in what shows up on the floorplan as the "dining room". But I make it work.

Like Aaron says, a study (or den) is a sacred place where a man can go to think, work, and do great things. My ideal study has dark wood (probably cherry oak) furniture, lots of bookshelves, a computer desk and a table where I can spread out books or other projects I'm working on. A nice chair to sit in while I read.

I will have it someday.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

I Should Have Read Ender's Game A Long Time Ago

I've know about Orson Scott Card for a long time, but until three weeks ago, I'd only read one of his books. He wrote the novelization for "The Abyss", which I read back in high school. I liked that movie at the time. I watched it at the Imax theater in San Antonio, where Ed Harris' bald spot was over three stories tall in one shot.

I found The Abyss book at a book store. Up to that point, I hadn't read a good novelization of a movie. I found out why. I tend to read the Author's Notes, Preface, and Introduction in books. I can sometimes learn interesting things from them. Card wrote in the book how when a movie is novelized, the novel is often based on an early version of a script. The script changes as the movie production goes along. Card refused to turn out a crappy book, so he was able to get a late delivery date and worked closely with the production crew to ensure his book matched the movie as close as possible. And he did a great job. You could almost follow the movie exactly with his book open.

I knew the Ender's Game movie came out recently, and I kept seeing the book on lists of "books men should read" on manosphere blogs. I finally bought it and read it. I finished it in three days.

It was a very enjoyable read. Ender strikes me as a messianic figure, as in he was born to do what he did in the book: command the fleet as a preteen boy.

The book had an interesting premise, especially considering it was written in the 70's or 80's originally. A slightly militaristic society only allows families to have one or two children, who are then tested almost from birth for military ability. Ender's older brother and sister failed out of the program, so his parents were permitted to have a "third" in the hopes he would be the one qualified for the fleet.

Ender becomes the one. He is given a test of rejection where his monitor is removed, leaving him to believe he was rejected for military service. He is attacked by a bully, and when he wins the fight, decides he needs to win all the future fights too so he won't have to fight them. He beats the boy mercilessly so he will never be bothered again. The Fleet decides that's what they want.

Ender is taken for military training, where he is pushed hard. He is unknowingly forced into isolation so he believes he will always be on his own. He is left to figure things out for himself, and to build relationships that eventually evolve into followers who trust him implicitly as their leader.

I was talking to a coworker about the book recently. He said it was required reading when he was a young Marine officer. He said he didn't like the ending, because "Ender wasn't a patriot at the end. They had to fool him into commanding the battles."

I thought about that for a while, and that's when I realized that statement is exactly what makes Ender such a great character, and Card a great writer.

This is the way war works: you have to dehumanize the enemy. Look at history; at what has to happen within a population for wars to take place. Especially wars in faraway places. Perhaps it's easier to get Germany to invade France. Here in America, it took a lot of propaganda to drag this country into WWI and WWII. In WWI, there was a ton of propaganda about how the Hun (German) would bayonet babies and was just a cruel, evil monster. Look at cartoons from WWII; like the Popeye cartoon with him fighting the Japanese caricature in a submarine. He kept popping out saying "So solly!"

In order to mobilize a population for war, you have to convince them that the enemy is evil. The enemy isn't human; he has no feelings, no family, no barbecues, no goals in life. No future. The enemy is an inhuman killing machine, so we have to get in there and kill him so he can't kill us.

Ender had such an enemy, but even in his case, it wasn't that simple. Nobody thinks of himself as evil. That's Hollywood bullshit.

In Ender's case, the enemy was an ant-like species. It had queens, and the rest of the bugs just followed orders. When the queen died, the troops just stopped.

Ender, in addition to being a great strategic thinker, was also able to think for himself outside of strategy. He was able to ask questions like "What are they thinking?" "What do they want?"

Ender's enemy had a motivation: their planet was overpopulated and they needed more room. But they couldn't communicate with humans. There was no apparent way for either species to sit down and talk and maybe find a solution besides war. This I find a great premise in science fiction. The Star Trek Universal Translator would not work here.

He did what was required of him. He won that battle, and all future battles, so they would never have to be fought. Of course, this was at the price of genocide. Ender had to be tricked into this though. His superiors couldn't see past "We have to kill him before he kills us!"

I think, rather than being an "Ooh-rah! Kill, kill, kill!" patriot, this is the strength of Ender's character.  If Ender had been that two dimensional, it wouldn't have been as good a book.

Unlike my coworker (whom I shared this with, and he said he'd have to think about it for a while), I thought the ending was very powerful. The enemy had found a way to communicate; through Ender. They enemy told him "We tried to colonize your planet, but once we realized you were an intelligent species, we couldn't kill you off. So we never came back. We understand why you had to do what you did, and we forgive you."

So rather than a two dimensional killing machine, the enemy, like Ender, was intelligent and complex. But they suffered from the same communication problem. So after it was too late, Ender became the bridge. I assume this is part of the messianic nature to his character. Ender is also the means to bring back the bug species; again, a messianic theme. Redemption and recreation.

I can see more clearly why this book would be required reading for the military. (Starship Troopers is on the Navy's Professional Reading List). Although Starship Troopers truly does feature a two dimensional enemy. (I don't quite get the "skinnies". They don't seem to serve much purpose).

So, I should have read this book back in high school. It is a very good read.

You can buy Ender's Game here. It's a great book.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Marketing Terms I Can't Believe People Still Fall For

A brief glance at my junk mail inspired this post.

Final Notice

A green, postcard size piece of card stock. It even has the text on the address side "WARNING $2000 FINE, 5 YEARS IMPRISONMENT..." and all kinds of other bad stuff "FOR OBSTRUCTING DELIVERY OF THIS LETTER". That's too bad. Obstructing delivery of this crap would be doing me a favor.

On the back, it says I've been selected for a credit card hardship program. Right. More like targeted. I have one credit card at 7.9% APR. I've never seen a better rate; not even from the same credit union I've had that card with since 1994. Oh, sure I can get 0% for six months, then it goes up to 20%. I reject this for the same reason I object Comcast's "Get all our stuff for $79 for a year (with a two year contract.)!" I'm not taking a special rate just to get locked into a worse one later.

Back to the junk mail. So let me get this straight: This is my FINAL NOTICE, that I will NEVER AGAIN get an offer to refinance my 7.9% APR Visa card at 30%?

If only. I get 3-5 of these a week. I wish just one of them would be honest that this is the final notice I will ever get about this crap.


Of course. It's in one of those 3 sided perforated envelopes you'd get a check in, but it's not in the shape of a check so I know it's bullshit. But rather than ripping it up and throwing it away, I'll open it so I can rant about it.

This one is for some debt negotiation service. No thanks. Their rates would be far higher than anything I'm currently paying.

I wish they'd just rip these things up on their end and throw them away. Now I have to walk to the trash can, which really isn't worth the effort for this junk mail crap.

You will never see this offer again!

This one tends to come through email. I get it all the time, from the same people. And yet, within less than a week, I'm told I will never again see the same offer I was told I'd never again see last week.

Do people seriously believe and fall for this crap? I guess they must. If there was no money in it, nobody would do it.