Web www.theriverman.blogspot.com

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Need A Hobby Too...


Monday, September 14, 2009

State of the Union, Part 1, September 14, 2009

Psychologically, ideologically, we are a failed state. We are a nation adrift. Yet we maintain our Union, and its government continues to function. Though that function seems to be only by the power of tradition. Were we not such an apathetic people, I believe this would be a time of revolution. Or, at the very least, a time of great change.

Change. Obama promised change. And now, even his most ardent supporters are becoming disillusioned at the lack of it. At his indecisiveness. At his lack of plan, a backbone, for his great behemoth of a vision. But what is the alternative?

The alternative is a rudderless Republican congregation, lacking not only a rudder, but even a captain. A party with no leader to deliver its message, but, no matter, it has no message to deliver.

And yet, we should not be hopeless.

Or should we.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Response To The Discussion In General, To Wick's Comment In Particular

First, her comment:

I can't tell you guys how many times you've brought up issues in this blog that I'm learning in class. It really makes me feel like the kiddie tagging along with the big people, and I probably have no business touching this kind of thing, seeing as how I don't understand government systematics and details, but I'm going to sneak in my not-even-worth 2 cents here (I actually just read an ethics book, unfortunately it was Peter Singer's, the child-rapist-looking asshole, and he talked about this issue more of less).

All in all when it comes down to it, isn't it ethics? Torpid obviously has a strong sense of helping people in need in a way that it actually makes a difference, and encouraging others to do so as well. Of course we'll never have a utopia, you can take a look at basic ecology and know that nature, and the design of life on this planet as we know it, has a system of living and dying, population rising and falling, new species and extinct ones, and competition for resources. Now it wouldn't be fair to use this to excuse not helping anyone ever, but it's just a way to point out we'll always have resource issues, people will always be in need (and doesn't the definition of what condition to be able to live and not live in fluctuate?).

But as Torpid's example said, what's the priority? Personal life pleasures or helping someone? I think all of us have scales of compassion vs guilt, and they usually keep us in check, but who's to say you can't help just by living a less wasteful life (tie in to the efficiency talked about earlier)? I look around and see so much wasted...and I know all the food from this campus that's thrown away could feed a great deal of the homeless in downtown St. Pete. But I haven't made it my mission to make a petition or organize meetings, talk to the dean of the school, or set up a system with a homeless shelter. As RM said earlier, we should help how much, to what extent? Responsibility is a tricky beast, and when it comes down to it, perspective is the whip that controls it.

Maybe I'm missing the whole point here, and that as Americans and the extremely generalized things we believe in, we 'should' make sure that charity has a more flawless way to distribute supplies. I guess I don't know.

I'd like to say I'd help someone who needed it if I saw it, and I can't explain how embarrassed I get by the display of wealth in my family, but I haven't been faced with a lot of situations. In the end I guess I just agree with what you guys said...sorry for the side rant.
Wick | 09.12.09 - 11:46 am |

and now, my response to her, and to the quandary in general that we have been discussing:

well, you know, we try to help :) and as always, there are no needs for apologies.

as usual, my friend, i'm afraid you self yourself short. you've shown here that you have quite a grasp on the issues at hand. believe in yourself. i do.

responsibility...yes, tricky indeed. but who says i have any responsibility to anything or anyone? the law, the threat of punishment? my morals? morals are subjective, and fear of pain is a terrible motivation for philanthropy.

my point being, i suppose, is that there is no 'right' answer here. as you said, definitions of a good or, at least livable, life are in flux. but so are the definitions of most everything else we're discussing here. what is poverty? what is wealth? what must a society provide to its downtrodden to be seen, and to actually BE, a good and noble society?

that last question is, as i see it, the crux of the matter here. and i can't see any system of logic which would allow us to reach one final and true solution that is agreeable to everyone. there is too much emotion involved, too much subjectivity. for all practical purposes, there is no objective reality to this.

so, what do we do? do what you believe is right. volunteer at a soup kitchen. start a letter writing campaign to Congress to increase welfare disbursements or food stamps or Medicaid. in the end, as with most things, moderation will out. the extremes will yell, and as their echoes receed towards the middle, they meet action. and that action, as it always is, will be a compromise.

and, as someone once said, a good compromise pleases no one.

good night, my dearest friends. and sweet dreams.


Your Government At Work

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, far right, speaks while colleagues play solitaire on their computers as the House convenes to vote on a new budget for the fiscal year in the Capitol, in Hartford, Conn., Monday, Aug., 31, 2009.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

More of a General, Rather Than a Specific, Exhortation

Do not hate, but do not forget.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Reply To Aaron From TT, Too Big To Post In Comments

First, Aaron's comment to which TT is responding

Wehell, i do agree with you that individuals should, on some basic level, take matters into their own hands when it comes to helping others, and if govt. helps to facilitate this process, and possibly inspire it, then i am all for it; and i am not opposed to personal volition being a major instigator of aforementioned charity, but i feel we, as an enlightened and ever increasingly liberal society, must take it upon ourselves- ie our govt.- to give a hefty push in the direction of what some know to be right in terms of domestic policy- universal healthcare.

But, really, how are we, in this ever increasingly fast paced world market we operate in, supposed to find time in the day to go help someone with something as specialized as healthcare? It would decrease productivity on many levels when we are in dire need of it. When we install govt. programs to take care of the poor, we are just doing the inevitable- outsourcing charity. We outsource everything these days- everything- and not just businesses, either. Manual laborers, food service employees, accounting, production of computers, etc, etc. Those are examples of how we are becoming more specialized as a society, which means we dont have time to putt around on things like charity.

Not to say charity is bad- not at all. Just take a year or two after college to volunteer nationally or, dare i say it, internationally. All arguments about not wanting the govt. to take more of your money, mainly because it is inevitable, aside, i feel this is a noble cause. It is the mark of a truly enlightened society, i feel, to help every one in the populace it can, and it is the responsibility of that populace to bear the burden.

And that is my 27cents. I know with you being a libertarian and all that we will disagree on this, but its the way i feel. Still got mad respec for your, highly nuanced, and intelligent ideas. The floor is yours, sir. haha.

Response to Aaron regarding the incarnation of outsourcing and specialization in charity:

"When we install govt. programs to take care of the poor, we are just doing the inevitable- outsourcing charity. We outsource everything these days- everything- and not just businesses, either. Manual laborers, food service employees, accounting, production of computers, etc, etc."

- Outsourcing and specialization do not require centralization.

- As I recall, outsourcing has had some rather negative effects in the U.S. when it comes to the lower economic classes.

- On the other hand, if outsourcing is such a great solution, and since said outsourcing is performed from an expensive source to an inexpensive source, maybe we should outsource public education too. We could bus all of our kindergartners down to Ecuador, and bring them back when they're in their mid-twenties (or late teens since they are presumably so much more efficient). I'm sure that would work out well.

- As for specialization, it's great if we're talking about only surgeons performing surgery or only experienced banjo players playing the banjo in public. Even choosing to invest in some individual or organization that you believe is providing a worthy service is, to my mind, an admirable decision. But, outsourcing the very selection of charitable organizations or individuals to some other individual or organization seems a bit, well, apathetic. If you have no control over the use of that money and do not care to have any control over it, but rather, you simply assume it is being used in an acceptable manner (based upon your own definition of acceptability), did you really give in order to help, or did you give to assuage guilt? If that money is in fact used "for a good cause," then I am glad, but you have no guarantee of that, and you do not seem to desire one. Your solution really only simplifies your interface to it. You are merely pushing the complexity (and I would argue the responsibility) onto others.

- Who indeed has the time? And yet, I would venture to guess that you eat most days, which takes time. You may even take vacations. Why not? You've worked for them. You've earned them. But, what is the priority, your Alaskan cruise or the kid that is going to die tonight in Atlanta from malnutrition? Well, if we all have a responsibility to help others, how is it that the act of moving money around, in hopes of somehow at some point positively affecting the life of someone somewhere who may or may not need it, able to magically remove that responsibility? If you are required to help the less privileged among us, doesn't that require or at least imply your responsibility to ensure that you and your money are in fact helping? If so, what metrics do you use to judge choices you have paid others to make on matters you are unlikely aware of concerning people you have never met regarding situations you likely don't even comprehend? Does charity require a college degree to comprehend? Must you be an engineer to discern the inner workings of this aged groaning old mechanism? Is charity a mysterious black box to be poked and prodded in order to analyze the response, waiting for that wonderful day on which we finally unlock its mysteries? Wow, it really shouldn't be that complicated.

- Find someone with a need, and help provide for the need. When approached by someone with a need, help provide for the need.

- If your response to someone that asks for money is "I gave it to the government to give to you. Go talk to them." then I do not think charity is really your concern.

~Torpid Tyrant


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Post From TT

a response to Sanford that got way too long for the comments

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Beck fan. Way back before he killed that puppy live on the radio.

Granted he's quite excitable, but I find it easier to appreciate a man that prefaces unlikely predictions with the admission that he might be wrong over a man that publicly flaunts his own childhood struggles in an attempt to gain credibility while simultaneously proclaiming his sorrow for the next generation and claiming a some righteous desire to eradicate the very hardship that made him what he is.

...imagine a segue into health care here...

Legislation is a poor substitute for cultural change. If you find someone that needs help, help them. If the threat of arrest for tax evasion is the only way to procure funds to help those in need, we have much larger problems, problems that will simply not be fixed by any added statute.
That is not to say that we already live in a utopia. Rather, there is no utopia. There will be no utopia. Striving for a better world is admirable, but gamble with your own property. Accountability will either sharpen your senses at first or dull your pride in the end. I suppose it is a hackneyed reference, but our right to the pursuit of happiness is not a guarantee of success. Nor does the right to life imply any particular quality of that life. It is liberty that gives you permission to embark on the former and thereby define the latter.

The largest hurdle I run into in the area of charitable giving is the fear of being swindled, taken, cheated. And, that fear will by no means be lessened by the helping hand of Father Government. And yet there is comfort in the assumption that the people redistributing my money "must" be doing so lawfully since they are government employees and are thereby directly accountable to the laws that our own representatives (or at least a majority of them) agreed upon (assuming they read all of the bill and researched current relevant law and precedent that might affect the interpretation of the text therein). Perhaps I should then say that we need more legislation to somehow make me safe from thieves and free to give to anyone that asks, secure in the knowledge that if they ask then they must have been approved by the board in charge of such things. How very complicated that simplicity would be.

In general I find efficiency to be a very good thing. Lithium based battery, better solar panels, sterling engines (not necessarily efficient conversion, but better than the relative nothing we have currently when it comes to affordable heat harvesting), algae ponds for CO2 utilization, et al. Great stuff. And yet there seems to be some important loss between an novel and the sparknotes for the novel. It's the same plot, the same characters. They're neatly organized and sectioned and titled. If efficiency is the highest goal, sparknotes should be better. Perhaps a synopsis or abstract does seem better to you, reader. However, based upon the popularity of the Harry Potter series for example (even with grown men, sad to say) I believe it is reasonable to conclude that there is some non-trivial portion of our society that does seek a deeper, albeit less succinct, experience when it comes to human stuff (pardon the scientific jargon).
Human life is complex. Even if you believe there is a simple motivation at the root of life, be it self-preservation, pleasure, fear, or something else entirely, to assume that a simple rule set inherently assures simple behavior is madness. Consider fractals or the various examples presented in I Robot (the book, not the movie).

We are not in and will never attain a Utopian society.

Human lives will be complex and imperfect leading to at least one of the following: discomfort, pain, agony, and death. If troublesome complexity exists in your own life, what makes you think that strangers hired by other strangers are more qualified than you to deal with it. More importantly, what makes you think that it should be their problem?

If you think we should help those who cannot help themselves, then do so yourself, encourage others to do likewise, and debate those that disagree. Don't whine to the government to "do something about it." Coward! If people are starving in your neighborhood and the government truly has the power to change their lives and you desire "something" to be done, then it is currently your fault that they are starving. There is nowhere to hide. How do you have the authority to lay blame and the immunity against it? There is no god-code here. This isn't Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.

I encourage you to find an efficient mechanism to convert hollow stagnant pity into hand-delivered foodstuffs. Perhaps, you're not an engineer and feel frightened by the idea of converting potential energy into kinetic energy yatta yatta yatta. For you there is always the conversion from hollow stagnant pity into mindless train-like repetition of Work, home, bed Work, home, bed... But, be advised that while soothing, this alternative method is not very efficient (and thereby not trendy) losing about 40% to wave after wave of self-loathing.

~Torpid Tyrant


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com Is my Blog HOT or NOT?