Sabre: Remedial Cutting and Moulinets

Students with any kind of athletic background will find performing the basic cuts to be easy.  The problem for them is not that the cuts are difficult, but that they will be perceived as too boring to practice.  These students will believe that they have mastered basic cutting when they have not.

An alternate problem happens when a student has no athleticism upon which to draw.  Some students will not have engaged in “watch a movement mimic a movement” behavior since they learned to mimic their parents’ gaits as small children.  It is very important that these students not be left behind while other students are being held back until they can actually perform the cuts that they think they are performing.

This challenge should not be under-estimated: many individuals go through life not actually knowing where their bodies are in space.  If introduced to the joy of elegant movement, these students will often turn out to enjoy practice immensely, and to practice more diligently than their supposedly more-gifted peers.

Here is an alternate method for teaching the basic cuts and moulinets.

  1. The fencer holds the sabre forward, with the point high and to the right. The student then makes Cut 1. The instructor takes care to make sure that the cut is perfectly linear and does not wobble.
  2. Once the blade reaches the end of the cut, the blade should be pointing down and to the left. The student flips the blade over, and makes Cut 4, bringing it back to the original position. The instructor coaches the student to keep the cut purely linear, retracing the line of Cut 1.

The process is inverted for Cuts 2 and 3.

Though the classic targets of Cut 3 and Cut 4 are to the inner thigh, in this case, the student is made to perform the cuts at a higher angle so that he learns how to recognize the location of his limbs in space, and how to regulate his movements.  Usually the student will need to look at a target, thinking of bringing Cut 1 down into the joint of the neck and shoulder, and out of the ribs under the armpit, and vice versa for Cut 4.

Once the student has a reasonably-firm grasp of how to regulate his arm’s movement in space, keeping his cuts on the proper angle, you can introduce moulinets.  At this point the student is very likely to be frustrated because this cutting method fights the weight of the sabre, rather than using it to advantage. This is especially a problem for students who have never been graceful or physically powerful who are likely to wear out quickly.

We teach remedial moulinets as follows:

  1. Have the student start with the sabre forward, and make Cut 1. The student then proceeds to make Cut 2, repositioning the blade in order to be certain the angle is right.
  2. The instructor has the student make Cut 1 again.
  3. The instructor, standing closely behind the student, then physically assists the student in making a moulinet from Cut 1 to Cut 1, taking care to help the student feel the power generated by the moulinet.
  4. The instructor helps the student moulinet Cut 1 and Cut 2 while another student parries, making sure that the student can feel the cuts change from somewhat-awkward “line movement” to feeling more like hammer blows.

The moulinet is introduced to this student not as a way of transitioning between angles of attack, but as a way of gaining power in order to make an attack. This will allow even the smallest, weakest, and clumsiest of students to throw powerful cuts within a session or two.  The instructor physically assists the student in making these cuts so that the student can get a “body memory” of what the correct motion feels like.

Once the student has reached the stage where the basics of the cut can be performed, he or she can join the other students in practicing cut angles and blade alignment.

Common recurring problems and simple solutions: it is helpful to have raw materials for same handy.

Problem: Solution:
Student cannot distinguish edge from flat Provide student with wide cardboard sword/sabre to improve tactile awareness of edge alignment.
Student cuts a low horizontal and then up rather than making a rising diagonal cut Student has allowed cutting-hand hip to drift forward out of a correct On Guard position, affecting motion of lead shoulder.
Student shortens the cut, tightening the bicep Tie fabric gently around the elbow, providing the student tactile feedback.

Sabre: Counter-cutting

Once your opponent has come to close quarters and both of you are attempting to gain advantage over the other, it is very common for beginning fencers to lapse into a pattern of “take an action, return to guard, take an action, return to guard.”  This “act then reset then act” pattern is unavoidable when one is first learning how to put the various pieces of fencing together, but it’s hugely counterproductive when actually fencing. We want to take an action, and then continue taking action until we win the encounter.

A solution to this is counter-cutting, using attack as offense. We counter-cut specifically because many times our opponent will launch an attack when we are not on guard, and our blade is positioned somewhere else.    The point to counter-cutting isn’t simply not to get hit – we do not counter-cut simply to ward off the opponent’s blade!  Instead, just like our basic parries, our counter-cuts are intended help us achieve a point of advantage.

Counter-cutting achieves one of two things:

  1. Stopping the attack by striking the opponent
  2. Redirecting the opponent’s attack so that the attacker is left vulnerable

Here are various examples of ways which we can counter-cut:

Opponent: Fencer:
Cuts 1 Cuts 1 at opponent’s hand
Cuts 2 Cuts 2 at opponent’s forearm
Cuts 3 Cuts 2 at opponent’s wrist
Cuts 4 Cuts 4 at opponent’s wrist
Cuts 1 Cuts 2 and thrusts
Cuts 2 Cuts 1 and thrusts
Cuts 3 Cuts 4 and thrusts
Cuts 4 Cuts 3 and thrusts

And so on.  This is by no means exhaustive – for a fully-developed list of examples, see the synoptic tables at the end of the manual.

In the first examples, we are not simply standing still while attempting to cut the opponent. We are moving our body so that we redefine the geometry of the engagement (just like we do with basic parries), while cutting in such a way that even if we do not stop the blow outright, we deflect it onto an angle where it will not hurt us.

In the second four examples, we use the curve of the sabre to our advantage by cutting into the side of the opponent’s blade and pushing it past us.  To finish the action by thrusting into the opponent, all we need to do is return to On Guard, and the fighting geometry places the thrust for us.

What our system will never do is to assume that a counter-cut will stop the opponent.  For instance, our method explicitly defends the legs, whereas most systems either ignore the legs, or treat it as an invitation, “refusing the leg” by stepping backwards while striking at the opponent’s head.  This is fine for a sporting bout where the action is stopped on a hit. But what if the blow does not stop the opponent?  What if it misses, or the blow simply lands flat out of sheer bad luck?  What if fighting has dulled our blade, or his hat stops the blow?  Numerous historical cases exist where an opponent was struck several times in the head without being stopped.  In this case, nothing stops the opponent from simply continuing his attack with a thrust into our torso.  By actively protecting the leg, we ensure that this doesn’t happen.

Sabre: Basic Defenses against Attack

Nota Bene: experienced fencers will see many holes in what is presented here. This is unavoidable – the following blog post is for the benefit of neophyte students at Great Plains Sword and BBQ who are still learning what a cut is (that is not a joke) and how to perform a basic block correctly.

Cuts are always numbered from the point of view of the person making the cut, not the point of view of the defender.

For the most basic exercise, we consider attacks like this:

  1. Descending forehand cut (to upper-body target)
  2. Descending backhand cut (to upper-body target)
  3. Rising forehand cut (to lower-body target)
  4. Rising backhand cut (to lower-body target)

The system considers “horizontal” cuts ( those which are neither rising nor falling) to be crude attacks which are easily defended against, and will be treated as a forehand or backhand blow more or less depending on the height at which the blow is thrown.  Thus, a high horizontal forehand cut will be considered semantically equal to a Cut 1.  (Note that this assumes similar “handedness.” A right-hander fencing a left-hander must treat forehand as backhand, and vice versa)

The system not having its origins in English, it does not distinguish between “blocks” and “parries,” though for convenience I will usually refer to a “block” collectively as defenses which stops the blade, whereas the word “parry” will not carry connotations of either “hardness” or “softness.” The word in this context is simply synonymous with “defense.”

Basic Defenses

Attack Defense
Cut 1 Parry 1
Cut 2 Parry 2
Cut 3 Parry 3
Cut 4 Parry 4

There are numerous subtleties to making the blocks which need to be explained:

  1. The body turns, typically no more than a maximum of thirty degrees from the centerline, in order to get the blade lined up with the angle of the attack.
  2. The hand turns the blade to create a 90 degree angle between the incoming blade and the parrying blade, while the arm rises or falls as needed to create contact. (Against a horizontal cut, the defender will not bother to ensure a 90-degree cut, because the attack angle does not require it – in this case the defender will simply ensure that the defense locks the incoming cut to the outside where it cannot be readily converted into either a thrust or a continued cut on a different angle).
  3. The blade is held in the center of the body, and the arm never drifts left or right of the defender’s center line in order to block or parry. For parries 1 and 2 the point is up, for parries 3 and 4 the point is down. In parries 1 and 2 the forward point of the blade forms a ramp which deflects incoming blades.
  4. The shock of the incoming blow is received on the blade and absorbed by the weight of the body, rather than using grip or shoulder strength to keep the parrying blade stable on impact.

Parries such as this are used in order to help the defender dictate a fighting geometry where the location of the opponent’s weapon is known. By doing this, the defender does two very important things:

  1. Removes the “guessing-game”
  2. Establishes superior positioning so that a riposte is always successful

The basic riposte will usually be whatever cut, thrust, or other action is required in order to return to guard, with the fighting geometry altered so that doing so puts the weapon through the opponent. There are edge cases.  What if the blow is thrown at the midsection?  In this case, we parry depending on the origin and angle of the cut.  For the “Basic Model” here, most rising cuts will still be met with parries 3 and 4, and most descending cuts will still be met with parries 1 and 2.

This is the first, base level that a student of the sabre should master.  This is not sophisticated fencing. That said, if the student is able ONLY to reliably parry incoming blows while setting up favorable fight geometry, mastering this basic skill will make the fencer a credible opponent who can hold his or her own against a more experienced opponent — and have a decided advantage over a peer-level opponent who has wasted time building castles of elaborate parries and athleticism on a foundation of sand.

Let Sykes-Picot Die

I hear a lot of rhetoric from the political right looking at the Middle East saying “Iran is the problem.”

That’s horrifyingly shallow thinking.

You can’t simply say “Iran is the problem” and posit that as an argument. It’s facile and unproductive. If “Iran is the problem,” what’s the solution? Erasing Iran from the map? That’s a non-starter and should especially be a non-starter for people who are supposedly looking at the region through a lens of human rights.

(Nota Bene, political left: you guys still support the mustachio-twirling, truly evil thugs known as Hamas, so don’t start strutting too hard. Your shit stinks, too.)

Iraq and Syria survive on paper, but in everyday practical life they are both dead and gone. The Sykes-Picot treaty needs to be allowed to die formally so that the Sunni tribes currently under ISIS’ thumb have some alternative which can support their needs and interests. Currently they have none.

Let’s look at some of the facts on the ground:


  • S1. An Alawite rump state is probably guaranteed no matter what happens, due to Russian and Iranian support and the desire to avoid the unpleasant spectacle which will occur if said rump state is forced into minority status in a larger Syria without having lots of guns (i.e., lots of Sunni extremists murdering lots of moderate Alawites).
  • S2. Given the opportunity, Al Nusra will behave very badly. If ISIS’ Evil Quotient is roughly one Mega-Nazi, then Al Nusra is definitely in the 600-700 kilonazi range. They probably won’t shoot little children in the head for needing to eat during Ramadan, like ISIS does… probably.
  • S3. The Druze don’t want to be run by sunni tribes, but they’ll back the strong horse, because that’s how they survive. They may or may not be a somewhat-competent buffer state for Israel (a Saudi ally) to feel secure.
  • S4. The Syrian moderates who were legitimate pro-democracy protestors are dead and gone as viable actors. We had our chance to give these people meaningful support.  We blew it, nobody credible considers them resurrectable, let alone a player.


  • I1. The Kurds don’t want to be run by anybody but themselves, but they’re going slowly so as not to get Turkey and Iran both upset. With their long border, they potentially make an admirable buffer-state for Iran. Diplomatic exchanges are happening, albeit slowly and painfully.
  • I2. The Sunni tribes are under ISIS’ thumb, aided and abetted by Erdogan’s hilariously brazen support for ISIS. Turkey can’t create a Sunni secession movement because of their fear of the Kurds…currently. They could in theory go along with supporting something which allowed S-P to go away so long as it guaranteed Turkish territorial integrity. Currently, said Sunni tribes have nobody to go to and nobody to support them.
  • I3. The Saudis aren’t our friends any more than the IRGC is (c.f. S2 above), and engage in just as much anti-Shia murder as the Iranians do in reverse. (Arguably the Saudis are actually America’s biggest geopolitical foe, more dangerous than Russia, Iran, and China combined, but that’s an argument for another post).  They will, however, back the formation of a Novo Syria so long as they had some ability to shape affairs, and would likely agree to arm them as well.
  • I4. The Iraqi Shia have well-established and entirely legitimate reasons both to fear Saudi influence and oppose any return of the Sunnis to political power, and it is entirely legitimate for them to perceive themselves in the victim role to consider Iran by far the lesser of the various evils with which they have to deal. Some of the militias are extremist sectarian groups, but they came into existence for very good reason.
  • I5. South-Central Iraq is still fundamentally a tribal society in which power will go to clan and sectarian interests rather than be distributed based on anything recognizable as a classical liberal state in Western terms.  This is also true in Kurdistan, but to a lesser extent.
  • I6. It is very expensive for the IRGC to continue fighting ISIS, and lots of Iranians are fed up with money being spent to support foreign-policy ventures when the economy at home is in pretty dire straits (some but by no means all of which can be attributed to international sanctions).  Iranians are, however, deeply upset about Sunni terrorists constantly blowing up Shia mosques and bombing Shia civilians — and they are right to be. American conservatives who lash out at Iran for supporting terrorism while turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s support for sectarian mass-murder are on the wrong side of history and behaving like world-class hypocrites.

Given this, the only humane solution which makes any sense is to let Sykes-Picot go away, and to create a state which gives the various Sunni tribes in present-day Syria and Iraq some option other than getting run over and slowly tortured to death by ISIS.  Convincing Iran that it is in their best interests to allow this, and convincing the Saudis to stop aiding and abetting the mass-murder of Shia, is thorny and difficult. There are questions that would have to be considered carefully by all the local political actors in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iran.

But peace without some state to create security and local representation is impossible.  It’s the Thirty Years’ War all over again, ending only when all sides are so exhausted that even the Russians no longer have any Dagestani salafists to sling into the fight.

With a new state, security and peace, no matter how difficult, is possible.

Now if only we had some actual diplomats skilled in “the art of the possible.”

How to Moulinet with the Sabre

So we’ve seen in class that in this lineage, we cut on an X pattern, targeting the base of the neck, the flank, and the inner thigh.

Cuts 1 and 2 are falling cuts. Cuts 3 and 4 are rising cuts. Odd numbered cuts are always fore-hand cuts, and even cuts are always backhand cuts. We practice lateral cuts forehand and backhand during warm-ups, but we don’t make extensive use of them in solo drills. The basic practice, then, is to begin to combine them in ways which are efficient and elegant.

Elegant: a movement is “elegant” when it produces the greatest possible motion for the least possible strain. Whether an elegant motion is restrained and delicate, or bone-crushingly powerful, it feels effortless. Strain or “muscling” is always a sign of bad technique or improper practice.

How does one elegantly cut 1,2: 1,2: 1,2 over and over? We make this happen by making Cut 1, and then inserting a “connector” movement. This connector-piece, in combination with the originating and following cut, is traditionally called a moulinet or molinello.  We will break this down into discrete parts, rather than relying on “hope” for you to magically possess enough body awareness that you do it correctly by accident, and then recognize that accidental victory as correct.

Most students get told to do many, many repetitions of their cuts and moulinets, but without being told explicitly what it is they are supposed to be repeating.  And then we, as instructors, have the gall to actually be surprised when students stop practicing because it’s harder than it needs to be and the perceived cost/benefit ratio of training goes pear-shaped for the now hopelessly-frustrated student who has just picked up a repetitive strain injury “efforting” like mad in order to try to learn.

And then we blame the student, rather than ourselves for having provided shit-quality instruction.

The Stupid, It Burns

It’s also tragic, because one of the truly glorious things about the system which we’ve inherited is that unlike other systems of fencing, every single advanced technique we use can be expressed as a variation on our basic cutting practice and moulinets. The only difference between those who develop great skill in this lineage, and those who don’t is a willingness to perform these drills while exploring what the movements are and how they can be turned into applied geometry while fencing. I have not been back to Hungary in ten years, but on my last visit I routinely out-fenced students with far greater athleticism, and I did so precisely because I paid very close attention to the basic drills of the lineage rather than cranking them out mechanically and then “looking for the sexy stuff.”  Csaba was already teaching us the sexy stuff — most of us just hadn’t realized it for lack of mindfulness when practicing.

Most students instinctively know how to cut 3,4: 3,4: 3,4. The turn of the blade required from forehand rising cut to backhand rising cut is immediately intuitive because the elbow drops at the end of the cut, and we like living in gravity where dropping our elbows isn’t actually work.

Students regularly have trouble with the “connector-piece” transitional movement of 1 and 2, however.

  1. To moulinet from cut 1 to cut 2, you do the following:
    Make Cut 1.
  2. Flip the blade over so that instead of having the cutting edge leading the motion, the blade is now reversed, and the point is furthest from the body. When this is done, you should feel the movement in your shoulder, and you should feel the muscles and skin in your arm move as the forearm bones flip over. You should not, however, feel strain in your shoulder, or feel your elbow “jump” upwards. If this happen, your shoulders and arms are too tight, and you need to pay extra attention to your limbering-up exercises.
  3. Your elbow is now in a low position, and depending on your body shape and the precise angle of the cut, it should be somewhere vaguely as high as your navel or lower stomach. Raise the elbow until it is higher than your head. As your elbow came up, your hand went along for the ride, too, and your weapon is now raised from its previously lowered position.
  4. Allow the point to fall behind the plane of your shoulder as your elbow lifts.
  5. Make Cut 2.

The process for transitioning from Cut 2 to Cut 1 is precisely the same. Some notes:

All blade movements come from the torso and shoulders, and the many large muscles surrounding the shoulders.
Remember, beginning practice requires BIG movements. Later on, you will likely not need to raise the elbow anywhere near so high while making the cut transitions — but nothing can replace having gradually molded your body so that you can do so.

  • You are holding your weapon in either your left or your right hand. Therefore, the experience of moving your weapon through the moulinet/molinello is asymmetric — you should expect this, and pay attention to this.
  • The connector-piece of the moulinet is movement.  It takes time. In fact, it takes about as much time as is required to make the cut itself. Pay attention to the timing of that — it will become very important once we actually practice cutting and moving our feet at the same time.  You cannot speed up your cuts by taking short-cuts with the quality of this transitional movement.
  • Minor creaking and cracking in the shoulder is normal, as the joint is taken through ranges of motion that ordinarily don’t get used driving a desk. PAIN in the shoulder is not, and needs to be addressed.
  • “Work through” bruising and muscle fatigue. Never work through joint pain. We are not professional soldiers or warriors who require these skills in combat and for whom a debilitating injury in the long term is an acceptable trade-off for immediate or short-term survival.
  • Practice will convert this from a very clunky, angular set of motions, into something that is fluid, elegant, and even fun to perform. It will also improve the health of your joints while providing very mild aerobic exercise.
  • The transitional movements unlock a thousand dirty tricks, many of which your opponents will never have seen before, and against which they have no real defense so long as the rest of your techniques are performed correctly.
  • If it hurts, walk away. Do something else. Come back to it a half-hour later.
  • Ten really attentive, playful, mindful repetitions done carefully over the course of a week creates greater skill than a thousand repetitions done mechanically while resenting the need to practice, with the brain off in lala-land of “I hate this can we stop soon.”

Once you have the movement fluid, you can start to really play with this and turn it into something you own. Once you actually own it, you’ll get the ability to start doing amazing and wonderful things with a blade.  ANY blade, long, short, straight, or curved.

A render

One of my wife’s renders. She’s getting more skill.


Hungarian Military Sabre Calisthenics

This is very lightly altered from what I was taught by Hidan Csaba. Though the exercises seem rather fuddy-duddy and unfashionable, if one pays careful attention to them mechanically, one sees that they’re actually very intelligently designed for helping to liberate and protect the joints. If a person who is a total physical wreck were to do these twice a week, and then gradually shift to doing them daily, they will do wonders to liberate the body.

  1. Standing in (roughly a) horse stance, twist body to swing the arms behind you. As taught to me, palms are down in mid-air, and go back and forth as though zipping along the top of a table – no twisting the arms or flapping them upwards or downwards.
  2. Raise knee into air as high as comfortably manageable. With sole of foot pointing to ground (“foot flat”), rotate foot in circle clockwise 20x, counter-clockwise 20x. Repeat with other knee.
  3. Holding the arms out to the sides and held straight, circle the shoulders in clockwise, then counter-clockwise circles. This is sometimes done ten times, sometimes twenty.
  4. This is my addition, because unlike students, most older adults are cubicle-farmers and are predictably over-tight in the chest (many times, what people cite as back pain, is back pain — happening because the problem is in the chest).  Variations of it are all over the martial arts world.  Raise the hands up your center-line, and then fan them out like wings as far behind the plane of your body as you can go.  Feel free to round the back during the arm raise, and round open and lift up the chest during the “wing spread.”  Ladies, the chest raise corresponds exactly to “sticking your tits out,” and do not be afraid to do so.  This exercise will loosen the chest in general and eventually help to loosen the ribs around the sternum, which is frequently tight on strong men and on women with large chests, due to the simple amount of weight hanging on the front of the torso.
  5. Keeping your elbow to your side by having your opposite hand hold your bicep, make a circle in front of you with your body.  If you pay close attention to your shoulder, you will feel it moving in the socket, which we want.  Most of us who work on keyboards have our palms turned down during much of the day, tightening the tendons connecting the front of our shoulders and our chests (this is not quite anatomically accurate, but is easily felt by having a partner hold soft hands on the front of your shoulder while doing the exercise).
  6. In the same position, make circles with the wrists.  I tend to do this one sparingly, since it can tire the fore-arm and can be a real problem for those with tennis elbow, but the lion’s share of your focus should not be on strengthening your wrist, but rather on loosening it, so that it will be supple enough to perform false-edge techniques later.
  7. Supplemental to this, would be taking your hands palm up, and extending them as far to the side as your shoulder rotates without shrugging, while the elbows remain pinned to your side, and then extending the hands outward, the elbows moving as if on a track.  Hold the hands as it stretching out from the fingers, which should otherwise be straight but not stiff.  This is a variation on a well-known ballet exercise and has parallels in the internal martial arts. The first part of it is a stretch strongly recommended by my colleague Jim Fesler, who is a highly-skilled body-worker; the latter is my own variation.  it is not part of the traditional exercises as I learned them.
  8. From a rough horse-stance, rock the pelvis forward and back several times, as if hula-hooping, and then in circles in either direction, as if hula-hooping badly.  Teenage males may insert their own commentary.
  9. Either rotate the head in circles, or else shift it side to side.  The shoulders and spine should not move in an exaggerated way, but should be allowed to rearrange itself so that the motion happens inside the entire body rather than being focused on any one vertebra. I tend to do this as a side-to-side exercise.  Hidan Csaba did it both ways, sometimes in the same practice, sometimes apparently as a variation.
  10. Holding the hands together, palms and forearms together and fingertips forward, flap the wrists so that the hands go from side to side.

How The Internet Says “Do Not Touch”

Trigger Warning:  May horrify philosophy freshmen who still think Plato’s Divided Line is the coolest thing ever.

I have noticed,  in my many short years on this mudball, that there is a certain kind of argument which indicates THIS:

Warning!  This person has issues and entering into a discussion/argument with this person will only make you frustrated and them unhappy. Warning: do not engage.

Wow, Happycrow! Is it because they’re a conservative?


A liberal?

Stop that.


Now you’re just trolling.

You wrote this!

Yes, sometimes I even troll myself. It’s what happens when you dedicate yourself to the study of dangerous assumptions.

You’re stuck up.

Yes. I’m opining via a blog, at the world. You’re just now figuring this out?

They’re getting bored.

Oh. Yeah.

So here’s the Yardstick.

If a person takes Event or Factoid A and says “This is illustrative of Societally-Overarching Issue 1-1A,” this is an unhappy person who is seeking validation that He or She is One of The Good People.

You cannot engage with this person. The fundamental reason the argument has been made is not an Intellectual Inquiry into the Legitimacy or the Causes of Phenomenon 1-1A.  The argument has been made because the person in question is seeking an answer to the fundamental question “why am I unhappy?”  People who do this have chosen not to look at the world around them and learn from what happy people do —  instead, they have chosen to pin their unhappiness on abstract phenomena tied to the vices and failures of Other People.  As soon as you pile in against the “specific occurence proves Abstract Phenomenon,” all you’re doing is refusing to validate them. At best, you will wind up with an endless series of No True Scotsmen arguments, as said person desperately tries to justify their worldview in order to support themselves emotionally.

At worst, you just lost your friend or acquaintance by labelling yourself as “that asshole who doesn’t get it and is so mean.”

The Stupid, It Burns

And it’s your fault.  YOU chose to raise an issue without paying attention to the context in which it was happening.  You made a dangerous assumption, and now you’re upset because, well…it burns. And nothing you say will help you with this person now, because this person just decided “you’ve upset me by pulling off the One Band-Aid allowing me to salvage my sense of self-worth, so you are Bad People.”

You know the sort — the holier-than-thou do this regularly.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s Holier-Than-Thou, religious flavor(tm), or Holier-Than-Thou, Atheist Flavor(tm). Holier Than Though, Total Bae Social Justice Warrior Flavor(tm), or Holier Than Thou, The Un-biblical Suck And I Must Therefore Sue The Gays, Yes All of Them Flavor(tm).

The behavior is, at its core, a defense mechanism, no matter what Socio-Political Sauce you pour on it.

You can tell this because the person you’re looking at is pissed off at abstract people.  Like the Klan Bigot who can’t stand black people — unless it’s Bob.  Bob’s okay.  For a black guy.  In fact, he helped with my AC last week. Why can’t All Those Black People be just like Bob?

As soon as you hear “all those” or any flavor of similar abstraction – men, women, christians, muslims, atheists, all those category-words, you know what you’re dealing with.

In fact, you should pretty much beware of plurals in general.

He *did* warn you.

Abstract People don’t do anything. They can’t, because Abstract People don’t exist. Abstract People don’t sin. They don’t grab your butt. They don’t hurt other Abstract People.  Abstract Phenomena don’t exist.  If you were hurt by an Abstract Person or an Abstract Phenomenon, you were hurt by a ghost.  (In the example above, Bob wasn’t hurt by “racism.”  Bob was hurt by Fred, who’s being a bigot).

A person who is angry with Abstract People is a person who is haunted by ghosts.  And a person only devotes the energy to allow a haunting because they’re tormented with their own failures and frustrations.

“I’m not touching you!”

There are only two things you can do for people like this.

  1. Be sympathetic.  Some people suffer because they choose to. Others have honest-to-goodness Shitty Things happening to them.
  2. Do something to help them have a nicer day.

If, for any reason, distance, time, or social context won’t allow you to do one of those things, leave them alone! 

When you see a suffering person, your goal shouldn’t be to argue with them.  You can’t help them. They’re not in a head-space where they are in a position to care about, let alone learn from, an intellectual argument.  Your goal should be to either help them out, or stand aside.

Incoming Eyeball, or The Power of Awesome?

Not even Squirrel Reiki will help.

They, and only they, will decide when they’re ready for emotional antibiotics and weight-lifting.

Rose Garden! The Home Edition.

Here at Chez Happycrow, we HATE mowing grass.  Even with a scythe, which is a valuable source of must-needed exercise for a guy who used to walk everywhere and do martial arts four or five days a week, and now drives a cubicle and a car.

Not counting, of course, much-needed breaks for cat yoga.

Not counting, of course, much-needed breaks for cat yoga.

So we’re doing legacy roses, grape arbors, crape myrtles, and bamboo.

  • Legacy roses are awesome. And, mostly unkillable.
  • Bamboo is awesome. And, mostly unkillable.
  • Grapes are awesome. And once established, mostly unkillable.
  • Crape Myrtles are awesome. And once established, mostly unkillable.

Sense a theme? This is “jungle rules” gardening.  Put in four invasive, aggressive, hard-to-kill plants that you like. Let them duke it out.  Here’s just the roses and some of the young bamboo culms. I’ll follow up later in the summer with the crapes once they’re blooming out.

rose10 rose11 rose1 rose2 rose9 rose7 rose8 rose5 rose4 rose3

Down the road, the legacy roses here will get their old canes trimmed out, and pegged up high on the bamboo, which will act as living scaffolding in order to create arbors you can walk in and under.  Right now, our roses stop traffic on our little street… if it comes off as hoped, in three or four years we’re hoping that they’ll bring traffic to our street.

The Accelerando Begins

Stross’ term “accelerando,” defined in scifi-land, is not quite the same thing as the “Singularity.”  It is movement towards a technological Singularity, but it’s not specifically one.

The future will be better. It will, actually, be MUCH better. Malthusians like Keynes and Ehlich were wrong.  But as with any change or dislocation, there are going to be bumps along the way.  Change is happening, change is real, and the vast majority of humanity is living in a world it no longer actually comprehends.

Let’s look at some examples:

  1. (Re-)Globalization:  Globalized trade is nothing new — it’s just new to Baby Boomers and their parents, who spent most of their formative years without it due to unusual historical circumstances.  BUT, the globalization of intellectual capital is new.  Culture now counts more than raw materials for economic success, and culture can be readily adopted and transplanted.
  2. The Death of Sclerotic Institution:  Transparency now allows society to comment on things it wouldn’t even have known about even in the 1990s when the Internet became quite common.  Institutions are being subjected to far greater critique than before, and in very many cases, being found to be profoundly lacking. In the 1990s, if you ranted about what a bunch of idiots Central Bankers are in their attempts to dictate entire economies, you were a conspiracy-theorist nut (or a very well-informed insider). Today, it means you have access to the Internet and/or cable t.v.
  3. The Death of the Gatekeeper:  empowered people are now able to bypass institutions for much of their goals.  This has been one of the primary themes of this blog and many others.  I can raise vast capital without a bank. I can publish thousands of pages of text, without a publisher.  Rent-seekers and gate-keepers are in a panic about this.
  4. Tyranny of the Algorithm: if your job can be reduced to a rules-based procedure, your job will soon no longer exist. The only jobs which will exist moving forwards into the future are those which require problem solving, or those which create intangible value which cannot be produced by going from A to B to C.  This was always the case for brute labor and automation (the sewing machine is crude but quite legitimate example of automation!), but it’s not fully expressing itself in the intellectual occupations. If you’re a button-sorter or bottle-washer functionary, your livelihood is going away, whether your field is fast-food pharmacy tech, or patent law.
  5. The Death of “Cool” and of Social Conformity:  Yes. “Cool” is a measure of conformity. Always has been, even, and especially, when it came to “conforming to a standard of non-conformity.” Align with the taste-makers, and you were cool. Fall out of it, you’re not.  “Geek Culture,” in this case defined as “I’m really into this thing that I’m into, and I don’t feel the need to be apologetic to you, the taste-maker or social scold, because of that” is now ascendant.
  6. Rapid Human Evolution(!!):  The Pill, Combined with ready access to abortion, is creating an immediately-documentable example of Punctuated Equilibrium in our lifetimes.  Simply acting upon a sex drive no longer guarantees childbirth.  It’s optional, even for the poorest of the poor.  While some decry an Idiocracy-Like future where the well-educated fail to breed and out-of-control nimrods breed like rabbits, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  What IS the case, is that literally millions of people are choosing, voluntarily, to go extinct rather than suffer inconvenience to their modern lives, and in the process, they are not passing either their genes or their values to the next generations. Within the next sixty years there will be, statistically speaking, no children born to anybody who did not want kids.  Society at large is passing from a contemporary adult-friendly/child-hostile paradigm with rapidly-dropping birthrates, to a pro-child social stance which will, in the long term, see them recover.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So when your talking bobblehead on the news tries to explain “issues” to you… remember, they don’t have any more of a clue than you do.  And by having an investment in an older paradigm, there’s a good chance they have less of a clue.

So, about that Bruce Jenner Thing

I’d have never known about this — I don’t have a t.v. — except I happened to be over at a friend’s house playing Cards Against Humanity (waaaaaat, I did back Exploding Kittens, but it isn’t out yet, deal with it), and they had the half-hour infomercial about Jenner on.

I give ABC props for trying.  There was a lot of weird hangups, like the stunned disbelief that Jenner can be transsexual and Republican.  (What, didn’t you know that gender defines everything?)  But they missed the big elephants in the room.  And there’s two of them.

This is a more serious post, so no snarky pictures.  Probably. I’m a jackass; snarking will probably still sneak in around the edges. Also, this is a really complicated topic about which people can and have written not just books, but volumes. So inevitably things are going to be overlooked.


I see it like this: the average person doesn’t think much. And certainly not rigorously. This is not an insult — most of the things we do on a given day, even supposedly “Brain Things,” don’t actually need much thought – accreted skills and habits and pattern recognition are good enough, and that’s more efficient than sitting down from abstract first principles to reason things out. Most of the time when we believe that we’re thinking, we’re actually just reacting anyway, as data (x) is shoved through pattern recognition filter (y), and we somehow come up with an answer to complex questions in less time than it takes to sip coffee, all of which can essentially be boiled down to “Yeah, I like it,” or “No, that’s garbage.”

Did you do that? If I said “Vox Day thinks that homosexuality is a birth defect. Do you agree?”  If you already have an answer and you haven’t even finished the next sentence yet, you’re not thinking. You’re reacting.  Actual thinking takes more time than that.

Because we’re not computers, and working this way is how we avoid getting eaten by panthers or ingesting rotten food.

And yeah, that’s me, too. So when people are in their clueless teen years as full adults who don’t have the experience to have a really rocking pattern-recognition “Oh, I’ve seen bad people like this before,” or “oh, I’ve seen this before, we can’t go here or I’m going to accidentally hurt this person,” they need rules in order to keep themselves from driving themselves into a ditch.

I hurt people in high school. I know people in college who considered me abusive. I didn’t mean to be. In fact, personality-wise, I was pretty much a hyper-yin doormat from hell. If anything, what I needed to be was more forthright, less circumspect, and more properly aggressive in pursuing my goals, so that people knew where I stood and that I was sincere, rather than seeing circumspection and assuming bad intention.  And this stuff happened because me and the people I was with were all clueless and sort of figuring this shit out as we went….. with each other…. recipe for disaster.

(Possibly a good argument for dating out of your age range for a while. Cougars and DOM rejoice.)

And societies at large are not interested in the true fulfillment of its individuals, but rather in whatever situation creates the greatest number of basically well-adjusted children. When societies fail to do this, they go extinct, and are usually taken over by the less “enlightened” who had their evolutionary shit together. Nobody reads Avar poetry any more. Word is, they were kinda rockin people. But… no kids. They’re gone. So we got this evolved set of rules. They don’t always make a lot of sense, they don’t suit all the various flavors of humanity, and sometimes, by creating “forbidden fruit syndrome,” they undermine the basic ideas they were created to ensure.

Now we say “hey, we’ve got the basic rules down, we’re good at this,” and are trying to figure out how to expand it so we can have our cake and eat it, too.

Elephant #1. We do a crappy job at being kid-friendly. Including things like trying to take your kids away for letting them walk home from the playground.  Our society gives a lot of lip-service to kids while actually being profoundly hostile to them.

Okay, but that’s not the specific elephant I want to address in Today’s Wall of Text.

Elephant #2: Those of us who think of ourselves as Good People need to find a way to Have Societal Rules That Work For Everybody

So.  We have sex. Sex is pretty much binary, with a specific and notable exception:

  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Hermaphrodite
  4. (asexual – does not biologically exist, see gender)
  5. Gender Dysphoric (unknown/grey area: has wiring of A, perceives self as B. Filing under sex rather than gender, see below, because it has zero bearing on object of actual sexual desire)

Right now our society is pretty good with 1) and 2), and horrifyingly bad with #3 and #5.

We also have gender.  Gender isn’t sex.  Sex is biological, hardwired, predetermined.  it is gradually becoming apparent to us, because of science, that gender is also biological, and may or may not be hardwired/predetermined.

This is a truly massive discovery which up-ends centuries of tradition, assuming, for lack of better evidence (because that’s how science works), that behavior is fundamentally a choice thing.  And it is. But desire is not.  Sexual desire is biological indeed.

Note to man-haters masquerading as feminists:  that shoe fits on the other foot, too. Sorry. I’m a straight male, and I’m not attracted to heavy-set gals, let alone morbidly obese ones. I’m just not; it’s a visceral turn-off for me. And no amount of trying to shame and humiliate me by calling me “fat-phobic” is going to change that, any more than chanting at somebody in bad Latin is going to make a gay dude straight.  Go find the chubby-chasers.  They looooove those extra pounds, and they’ll be happy to let you know it.

So. We have Gender. Gender is all over the map, because if sexual desire has a biological basis, then this gets complicated fast:

  1. Heterosexual – naturally monogamous/”faithful” (desires ONE member of the opposite sex and could care less about the rest. Requires zero willpower to be monogamous:  will never cheat because the concept actually makes no sense to this person)
  2. Heterosexual – naturally nonmonogamous (desires more than one member of the opposite sex. Maybe one or two people, maybe lots of people. Requires willpower in either mild to “I just can’t get there” quantities to be faithfully monogamous).
  3. Homosexual – monogamous
  4. Homosexual – non-monogamous
  5. Pansexual – (has potential desire for everyone)
  6. Asexual – (not attracted to anyone, feels no sexual desire at all)
  7. Pedophilia (a horrifying and tragic dysfunction most of us can’t even mention without instinctual apoplexy.  Since kids by definition can’t consent and are therefore not partners, but victims – we have no child-friendly way of handling this and must isolate pedophiles from potential victims)

Then start thinking about actual tastes which drive your desire:  preferred build? Big brain vs. Six-Pack Abs? ….and all of a sudden any chance we at Chez Happycrow had of making convenient tree-shaped charts turns into this frenzied bush of lines and confusion and three-dimensional Venn Diagrams and…

Well, shit. That’s why they have whole academic departments devoted to this thing.  So, screw that. If we need an academic department to address it, we’ve gone too fine-grained. Let’s back up a step.

As a society, we automatically extend sympathy to Group #1.  The members of Groups 2 we mostly extend sympathy to, so long as nobody’s getting their hearts broken or spreading diseases. (Hence the polyamory movement).  The people in 3-6 (plus anybody I’ve overlooked) would like a little of that sympathy, too, and don’t think that being in a numerical minority disqualifies them from same.

That strikes me as entirely reasonable.

(Cat7 deserves sympathy, too.  Imagine how that has got to suck.  But since we’re still talking about a predatory impulse, it gets no mercy. We need to understand how desire works and find a way to reroute it before we can help these folks. But like swapping sex and/or species for a costume party, that belongs to science fiction for now.)  Granted, some of the members of Groups 2-6 totally suck.  That’s okay. Lots and lots of “normal” straight people suck, too.  I’m much, much more concerned about whether somebody rocks, or whether somebody sucks, than about what category they belong to.

So let’s make a compromise:

Given that:

  1. This is a new discussion for most of our civilization.
  2. Lots of us get uncomfortable with this stuff, for various reasons, and we need to grow up and deal with that. — Full disclosure, I’m not immune either.  I get the squirms with transsexuals, myself. Not b/c of anything intellectual, and even less for any issue of personal merit, but because I have an unusually strong sense of smell, and they don’t smell right to me.  The transsexual woman doesn’t smell like a woman to me, and that disconnect gives me the squeems (smell is visceral and largely subconscious). Yes, people who know Happycrow in real life, I can smell you. Deal with it.  Point is, my discomfort should be my problem, not theirs.
  3. We’re going to screw up while we’re figuring out what rules actually work for everybody.

Let’s extend our natural human sympathies …. to everybody who’s human.

Because if you can’t do that… you suck.  And in that case,  you’ve got something much more basic to worry about than who sleeps with whom.

Free Market Capitalism is Inherently Progressive

Wait. What the hell are we smoking here at Happycrow’s Eyeball Factory?

That’s some good shit, right?

Well, actually, we’re not high. And we do mean it.

Free Market Capitalism is Inherently Progressive. The Regulatory State is Inherently Regressive.

Remember a week ago we said that Progressives and Libertarians should be allies?  Well, this is why.  At our best, both camps fight a long, slow, tooth-and-nail campaign against the Elites who institute policies seemingly designed to exploit and impoverish all who are not the wealthiest, best-connected, and most powerful.

We don’t really have a free-market economy. We have a heavily-regulated one.

Now, the caveat: so long as we have public property, we must have regulations.

So long as we wish to avoid certain kinds of exploitation, we must have regulations. Two easy examples:

1. The Free Market cannot handle public property well, and thus has a very hard time handling pollution issues. So long as we keep up “public property” which nobody owns and can therefore protect legally on their own, environmental regulations are required.

2. Worker’s Comp issues are very, very real.

But these regulations must be few, far between, and light in scope. Otherwise, the hands which are meant to help, strangle instead. Even the two above examples can and have been “weaponized,” because Elites don’t think of laws as rules. Elites think of laws as tools. And not surprisingly, they wield those tools for their own benefit.

Ever notice that the really big environmental advocates in the political class tend to be married to big-time real-estate developers? That’s not an accident. Limiting growth also makes currently-existing developed property more valuable. A LOT more valuable. Every time you hear some politician spouting off about keeping sprawl at bay… follow the money. Chances are, a little chime is singing “cha-ching!” with every new law.

So let’s take this one as it comes.

The Free Market doesn’t do these things. Because by definition, it cannot compel. So a balance needs to be struck. That said, Progressives should understand that they are already champions of the free market. They just… don’t seem to know it yet.

1.  Free Markets cannot compel use of services or products.  In a free market, you can get a ride on Uber, or a competitor to Uber. You can rent a room with AirBnB, not a statutorily-acceptable, highly-regulated, and therefore more-expensive hotel room.

Airline competition? Yeah, we’ll get back to you on that. Once we’re done losing your luggage and cancelling your mysteriously-overbooked flight.

2. A free market doesn’t allow monopolies. The regulatory state may give a single phone, cable, and internet company a monopoly in an area. Free enterprise gives you choices, and works to undermine monopolies whenever possible. The monopolies fight back by getting politicians to write vast swarms of regulations that are so complex that only big companies and the elites who control them can afford to play the game.

Any wonder why people are ditching cable left and right, with them offering the finest customer service an uncaring monopoly can provide?

3. The free market does not make innovating illegal.  A bewildering amount of regulatory law exists for the sole purpose of using “Safety” as a club with which to make it nearly impossible to come into an industry and try to come up with less expensive ways of doing things.  The Construction industry is one of the worst for this.  Construction industry meetings all start with safety, and all end with hours of thinking about how to force out competitors from entering into the business.

Illegal everywhere entrenched businesses hate competition. And sanity.

4.  The Free Market doesn’t give a crap who you are. Illegal immigrant? Teen with an awesome idea?  It doesn’t care. It cares only about whether the idea is good, and is willing to give that idea a shot at failing or succeeding.

5.  The Free Market expands opportunity, and eliminates barriers to entry.  Gigantic well-connected, politically powerful too-big-to-fail elite banking behemoth won’t lend you the money you need to start up some really cool idea?  Maybe even an idea that’ll never really repay an investor, but which everybody with a soul can look at and say “that’s a really good idea, we should find some way to fund that?”

Well, how about THESE GUYS?

6.  The Free Market is all about cooperation, not just competition.  And it mandates that those who want to provide a solution, service, or product keep close to the people they serve.  If they don’t…. they’re gone.

The free (farmer’s) market. Brought to you week after tasty week.

Libertarians and Progressives will disagree about how much regulation is needed, and where, and when, and why a given piece of regulation should be repealed.  That’s natural. Progressives use the state and are willing to compel behavior; libertarians aren’t.  But make no mistake:  where the free market is concerned, we’re reading from the exact same page.

Both groups are all about discovering the best ways for us to serve one another.

Lessons of History: The “Sick Industries”

Can’t tell you how often, as a history grad student, I heard “Get a law degree, it’s safe.”


Now we have Legalzoom. Now we have automated text search.

This is normal. It’s the way the Market works.

Aside: No, you don’t hate the market.  You’re just constantly exposed to a bullshit definition of it.  The Market isn’t Wall Street and all that crony-capitalist bullshit.

It’s just a word used as a shorthand for the results of choosing whether we want a hamburger, a taco, or a packed bag from home for lunch, multiplied by the literally trillions of said choices per day in the US alone. This is why central planning fails — nobody can keep track of all those decisions in real-time, since by definition, all reports tell you about “past things not current things.” More importantly, no science-fiction report involving the real-time aggregation of all decisions, can tell you why each choice is being made the way it is…because one would then have to report on the context of each and every decision. You need a special product for that, which nobody’s invented yet: it’s called omniscience.

                                                   I got this, Adam. Where you want the file?

So. Back to Law School.

Big Law is in deep shit.  The era in which one could bill $200/hr for Mark1-A1 eyeballs to go through text for the “Discovery” portion of a suit isn’t over yet…but it’s getting closer and closer to the era where one won’t have to pass the Bar Exam in order to do all kinds of things that require a lawyer to do today.  Those who are very good, who are “scholars of the law,” will continue to do well.  Those who are essentially functionaries, on the other hand, are screwed.

Any industry with high profits becomes vulnerable to somebody who wants to take those profits away by giving people access to those same services more cheaply. Yesterday’s safe-and-sure-thing industries become tomorrow’s dogfood, because there’s an incentive: people want the service, but they can’t afford to pay past a certain point to get it.

Very few are really interested in chasing that bony gazelle, but a big old fattened cow gets a lot of attention. And it doesn’t run very fast.

We at Chez Happycrow prefer our eyeballs, but we note that pet dogs eat better than lions, and for less work.   Great job, if you don’t mind being a pet dog.

Yesterday’s unshakeable behemoths are looking less Tyrannosaur, and more Sclerotic Gimpy Diplodocus. They just can’t maneuver quickly enough to keep their meat, and worse yet, Utah Raptors keep feeding off them just by zooming by and shaving off chunks of meat as they go.

A Utah Raptor flexing its stylish urban toe-claws.

Newspapers? Sick industry. I get my news online. Can newspapers transition successfully? Many haven’t, and more won’t.

Healthcare? Sick industry. (Sure, we need healthcare – but the woo employment side of healthcare relies upon the government effectively creating monopolies in healthcare provision. Vast amounts of the cost of healthcare have little or nothing to do with actually getting you better, and no, neither party’s dealings with the ACA were helpful or productive.)

Education?  VERY FUCKING SICK industry. It’s not merely as bad as the fact that many universities are operating according to a guild structure inherited from the 14th century. No, it’s worse than that. Many universities are essentially machines for endowing sinecures which do not even regard students as their customers. Meanwhile, much of what’s on offer actually deprioritizes the classroom. Universities are a great place to learn to think, but unless you’re engaged in a very good and very rigorous professional program, they’re a terrible place to learn how to earn a living.

Programming? Not a sick industry yet. But the era of explosive coding growth with coders being able to simply write their own ticket is over. More and more employers are looking at specialists with exceptional suites of qualifications and achievement.

Fast-Food? Sick industry. Most of your jobs can be performed, and performed better, by robots. Employers would prefer to give them to marginally-employable humans, some of whom will grow up into managerial tasks and all of whom are better for socializing than Hal9000 is…but the writing’s on the wall.

It’s not just the public bemoaning of the Rise of the Robots. Any task which can be turned into an algorithm or flowchart will be turned into an algorithm. I do it at my job every day – it’s why it takes me a third the time to produce similar work as it does some of my coworkers. There’s even a traditional phrase for it.

“A craftsman builds something by hand one time. The second time, he makes a jig.”

Jig: a machine designed to de-skill a given task and take the heavy thinking out of the process.

Craftsmen have been doing this forever.  Those beautiful muskets we used in the War of 1812? Factory-made.

The Powers That Be have bottled up a lot of these industries for a long time. But eventually the bubble will burst and technology will emancipate these sectors.

The results are going to absolutely and totally rock…so long as you’re not deeply invested in being a Diplodocus.

Yessss, my young adjunct professor, I will retire soon, and then there will be jobs for you!

Run, adjunct professor, run!

It will never get any better than it is today.

Foundationism: Healing the Progressive/Libertarian Divide among Activists

“America is at that awkward stage. It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to start shooting people.” — Claire Wolf

“Progressivism stands or falls based on how it approaches populism.” – Conor Williams

We at Happycrow’s Eyeball Factory think Ms. Wolf is wrong (though it took a bit), Mr. Williams is right, and think we have a way to actually improve on that.

The fundamental split in American politics is between Progressives and Libertarians.  Lots of people have tried to come up with a workable synthesis. Here at Happycrow’s Eyeball Factory, we’re no different.

  1. Feeling good about ourselves? Check!
  2. Think we can do something nobody else has figured out yet? Check!
  3. Ill-informed enough to think that nobody’s thought of our solution before? Check!
  4. STUPID enough to post this during a Presidential Election Cycle? CHECK!

Now, notice that I’m using Progressivism in its REAL definition(fn1).  Not its bullshit “anything you happen to call progress, we throw under progressivism and people opposing that are dorks.”  Also, I’m using Libertarianism in its REAL definition(fn2), so if you’re an anarcho-capitalist, I’m deeply sympathetic, but this isn’t for you necessarily(fn3). Also, I like footnotes, and if you comment, I expect you to have read them. Because you’re a grown-up.(fn4)

What do these two movements have in common?

Both groups believe in communities and in voluntary cooperation; at their best, they’re both inherently Populist.

Now, they’re not always at their best. Some libertarians do indeed seem to use their position as a “dog-whistle” to cover up for racism(fn5).  Some progressives do indeed use their position as a “dog-whistle” to cover up their goal of instituting socialism or totalitarian social controls by force(fn6).

These are very rare exceptions.  When you scratch the surface and move past the style of their rhetoric, very often what one finds is that both sides want very similar things.  They go about achieving them in very different ways.  But guess what, guys? Libertarians have been loudly and angrily beating the “abuse of police powers” drum for forty years before Ferguson ever became a thing.  And lots of Progressives think you shouldn’t get your house seized by the Feds just because your kid brought home a joint with him from college! Huzzah, we’re buddies!

Or could be. First we have to clean up the dirty laundry.  Believe in the Good of Man.  Don’t paint your opponents as your enemies.  If you can’t do this, you’re not a Populist, and therefore you’re neither progressive nor libertarian. You’re just another elitist, who’s sad-sack about not being in power.

Persuade political opponents to be allies instead, always focusing on finding common ground.

But we have to acknowledge differences.  So. Back to that dirty laundry.

Progressivism as a political philosophy just happened to come into full flower in the early 20th century, when control of information first became sufficiently advanced to allow technocracy to be a practical idea.  Because of that, many Progressives have a strong tendency to pursue reforms via top-down, technocratic solutions. This “technocratic impulse” is not a new issue for Progressives – it’s been around for a long time, and tends to be its Achilles’ Heel.  Technocratic solutions (and by definition all government solutions) provide external benefits, but they also provide external costs, and not everybody agrees that the benefits outweigh the costs.  Then the technocrat turns out to be running their organization mostly for their own benefit, and the actual populists get screwed.  Any progressives reading this actually think Hillary Clinton gives a rat’s ass about the average working person?

Libertarianism has the opposite problem.  By completely eschewing top-down imposed solutions, Libertarians avoid the trap of “elitist means supposedly employed for populist ends.”  But that’s cold comfort for an ideology that has produced very good results on the margins and at the grassroots level (even if some of the hyperbole tends to rapidly outpace facts), but which cannot seem to muster any actual political power.  Very often, libertarians are suckered into “well, I’ll play along with Mister Conservative for now, because I’m sure he means well.”  And then they get screwed.  Because Mister Conservative does mean well. He means to do well for his business by tilting the playing field against anybody who can’t afford the legal staff required to survive all that regulatory law.  Libertarians tend to vote Republican defensively because the structure of American voting dooms third parties except as spoilers(fn7), and at best they tend to swing a few palace revolts before Socially Conservative Progressives(fn8) in the party crush them.

Libertarians often argue that they’re voting tactically, but Progressives either declare “there’s no difference between you guys,” or simply assume that Libertarianism = Super-Republicanism.  Far from.  Most libertarians would love to see the Republican Party die.  They just don’t see another alternative.

So where are we now?

  • Each group is getting screwed by the people who supposedly claim to represent what they want.
  • Each group is populist in its goals and beliefs.
  • Each group gets screwed by the political class.
  • The groups differ primarily regarding the tools they choose to use.

The status quo for each group is screwed, blued, and tattoo’d.  We need a change, guys.

Let’s Compromise.

Top down solutions are here to stay.  Technocratic governance, barring a huge sea-change, is here to stay.

But the first equality is between those who pass the laws, and those who must obey them.  And, oh, by the way, you’re presumed to be fully aware of all regulatory law, even the weird obscure references you have to be a trained lawyer with access to a hideously expensive legal library just to know a given statute exists.

Progressives and Libertarians alike can agree that that’s neither freedom nor equality.

So we have to tone it down a bit. But we can’t tone it down too far, or else it simply turns into an excuse not to do anything, or an excuse to continue getting screwed by the political class, which has the connections and the money to saturate the world with “Fifty Reasons Why Everybody Should Think We’re Assholes for Defying The Political Elites (you won’t believe Number 18!).”

We need a yardstick. And here at Happycrow’s Eyeball Factory, we’ve got one.  It’s a very simple one. It starts with the Libertarians, in accepting a certain amount of government will be used in an activist fashion.  It lives or dies based on whether Progressives can restrict their Eye-of-Sauron technocratic impulses and realize that not all solutions will actually be “government” solutions — some of them will come about through technical innovation or purely voluntary discussion/persuasion/cooperative action.  That’s okay. Progressives like voluntary community action. So do Libertarians. They call it the Free Market (as opposed to the rigged game we have now): “laissez-faire” doesn’t mean “rape the workers,” it means “let people do things!”

So without further ado, here’s our Litmus Test:

“Do we want to do the thing? Is the thing working?

If not, what dependencies need to be taken care of first, before we try to do the thing?

Once we’re doing this thing, can we tweak the thing to make it better and impose fewer costs?”

As Piaget noted, you have have to learn how to do some things, before you can learn to do other things. You can’t crawl before you can roll over. You can’t run until you can stand. You can run before you can walk, but you tend to go “oops” a lot  in hilarious and dangerous ways, and scare Mommy to death with your injuries.

This explains Communism.

Example One: Prohibition. Let’s look at a slam dunk: The War on Drugs.

We don’t like people dying from drug abuse.  We also think that the War on Drugs sucks, because it’s based on Prohibition. And Prohibition doesn’t work(fn9).  And yet, drugs themselves, in a vacuum, aren’t popular. No, seriously. If you get high by sniffing glue, the world looks at you like the idiot that you are.  Meanwhile, we have an all-new sort of slavery going on strictly because of Prohibition – the prison-industrial complex, a bipartisan elitist institution which both Progressives and Libertarians rightly abhor.

Perhaps a better step-by-step strategy might be:

  1. Repeal prohibition and decriminalize substance abuse in order to get rid of its obscene profit margins.(fn10)
  2. Take enforcement money and route it to rehabilitation.
  3. Stop locking people in metal boxes with violent social predators for years on end because they abused drugs and somebody calls that Wrongfun.  (As opposed to getting blind drunk and puking all over your yard or frat house, which is apparently Rightfun.)

Does this mean that some people will still suffer from the choice to abuse drugs? Yes.  But at least it won’t be a narcotics-to-prison-industrial-complex industry. The external costs of our current processes will be radically lowered.  Let people suffer the consequences of their actions, and help them.

Example Two: Religious-liberty Exemptions.  Speaking of consequences, same thing applies on the gay-marriage front.  I live in Texas. TX is behind the ball, and I hate that, having spoken up in favor of this back when Democrats were still outing each other as an intramural weapon in their primaries.  But there’s also a liberty component involved in this issue:

Consistent on the Christian Pizza Joint Issue? Here’s your gut-check.

Religious liberty issues are real.  Even if you’re an atheist(fn11).  Solution? If people want the right to refuse business, let them have it.  But require them to post it in order to spare potential customers the humiliation and lost time/effort being refused business.  That’s why the Democratic amendment to Oklahoma’s religious liberty bill was so brilliant.  It killed the bill, because claiming the right to refuse service based on a category will lose them a lot of business.

There’s nothing wrong with paying a price to be true to one’s convictions.

Notice: no external costs!

Example Three: Political, Economic, and Social Equality

This is the toughie.  So let’s start with “do we like the thing?”  I would have to say yes, even as a libertarian type. While I certainly do not agree in a strict equality of outcomes(fn12), I’m certainly in favor of “a certain range of equality of outcome.”

  • There is a level of inequality at which point we cease to become a Civil Society(fn13), and instead revert to being a Prime-Divider Society(fn14), made up on those who rule and those who hate them.  We don’t want that.
  • There is also a level of inequality at which point one may be theoretically free to do whatever we want, but can’t do anything much at all, because doing things costs money, and we don’t have money.  Been there, done that, it’s no fun at all to physically drill holes in your belt to keep your stomach from waking you up at night from hunger.  We don’t want that.
  • There is a level of inequality at which point people are judged based on their identity rather than their actions, excusing assholes and crushing the wonderful because they belong to Category X.  However those categories are defined(fn15).  We don’t want that.

We Want The Thing!

The Thing is Not Working.

What would work?

We need a better foundation. First, we need to break this up into bite-sized chunks. Let’s do economic equality.

What would economic equality look like?  

  1. People would not be trapped into an underclass because they were born poor.
  2. People would have economic substance, not just the appearance or trappings of substance.
  3. People would be able to save, and not be forced into fundamentally-risky investments, in order to do so.
  4. People would have the chance to rise and fall based on the combination of their abilities and their choices.
  5. People would not be trapped between two choices that stunt one’s life, but rather should have the ability to have one’s cake and eat it too (or, a kid and a career, without necessarily having to pay a stranger to raise your child for you).

That’s not a perfect list. But if we can achieve these… we’d be so far along that what we have now would look horrible by comparison.  And… well, it already looks bad.

So wait a minute.  You’re saying you cannot have economic equality if you have absolute poverty.  Yes, yes I am.  I’m saying if you want economic equality, forget about the sodding millionaires, and focus on alleviating poverty.  Better yet, get the sodding millionaires on board.  

But externals count. If you deny people economic opportunity, and squish the middle class in the process, you create more poverty, rather than alleviating it.  Well… we can work on alleviating poverty. We can tutor kids. We can feed the hungry. We can help the mentally ill.  Most of that will have to happen on a grass-roots basis, and quite a lot of it won’t involve spending a government dime.  May take some sleeve-rolling, though.

What? You thought you’d take on something as monumental as “getting rid of poverty” by sitting at your keyboard with a latte?

What won’t work?

Doing everything in DC and imposing one-size-fits-all solutions (though some solutions can come from DC – you might be shocked at how much absolute poverty is caused simply because the Federal Reserve forces the country to have “targeted” inflation rather than “secular” deflation.)  Putting the cart before the horse and promising to have that kid sprinting, when everybody in the room knows she’s having trouble standing up.

If somebody promises That Good Thing without first addressing Concrete Ways to Achieve That Thing’s Foundations, then they’re probably an Elitist, not a Populist, and certainly neither Progressive nor Libertarian. And they’re probably playing you for a cheap vote and they giggle behind their Wall of Handlers.

We’re not enemies, or shouldn’t be.  Let’s bridge the divide.

Let’s make things work, and be flexible about how we do it.



(fn1) On its surface, it’s fair to say “progressivism is for political progress.” The problem with that is that it’s facile and doesn’t describe how these people define “progress.”  Progressivism isn’t just some bullshit synonym for “liberal.”  Progressives advocate using the power of the state in order to create a society with greater equality between the haves and the have-nots.  Equality of outcomes achieved through technocratic means. 

(fn2) A libertarian wants to maximize individual rights, and rely upon voluntary cooperation between people, only using the state and its fundamentally coercive measures when no better option is available. Libertarians are deeply concerned about political equality and want to be able to chart their own course, rather than have it dictated to them.

(fn3) I am a full believer in voluntaryism. But we’ve inherited a world that fully believes that failure to coerce is a sign of moral degradation, and whose instincts are entirely to coerce.  Unless we wish to coerce a voluntaryist revolution (heh), it’s unlikely that we get there on earth.  No surprise that so many AnCaps are hot for the High Frontier.

(fn4) One of the great joys of the tech revolution in the 80s was the ability to hop on a modem, argue with adults behind the anonymity of a login name, and win. (Notice: winning here means “convincing the other person that your position makes sense,” not today’s method of “beating people about the head and shoulders until they shut up because Wrongspeech and Wrongfun is Wrong.”  So by grown-up here, I’m not necessarily speaking chronologically. Also, people who know me are still wondering.

(fn5) Contrary to left-wing political rhetoric, this is not usual.  Most libertarians, anarchists, and voluntaryists are on record as despising racism as the most stupid and hateful of all collectivist ideologies. Even Ayn Rand, progressive punching-bag that she is (who I think sucks, for full disclosure), is brutal in her condemnation of racism, racists, and leftover Klan clowns trying to use libertarianism as air cover (yes, this happens).

(fn6) Contrary to right-wing political rhetoric, this is not usual.  Most progressives are actually sort of appalled at the whiny foot-stompy “social justice warrior” crowd’s tendency to try to actually destroy the lives and careers of those who don’t agree that “the personal is political,” (yes, this happens) and very, VERY few progressives want to make it a crime to open a donut shop or engage in other general capitalist behavior.

(fn7) Don’t take my word for it. Go read Peter Drucker.

(fn8) Yes, you read that correctly. “Establishment” Republicans are, to a man and woman, Progressives. They loooove technocracy. So long as it’s being used for “progress” defined as socially-conservative and crony-capitalist ends.

(fn9) Which should tell people who want strict gun-control everything about why their current strategy is losing. Perhaps they ought try another.

(fn10) Profit margins are so large that they form the primary source of funding for post-Cold-War international terrorism.  Right now, that’s the best argument against Prohibition.  The (hopelessly-corrupt) DEA knows this.  The cops know this. That’s why LEAP and other law-enforcement organizations want to change it.

(fn11) Marxism itself is nothing but a Christian heresy.  And a pretty doofy one. There are better ways to be a fellow traveller.

(fn12) I don’t make as much money as my boss. I don’t work as hard as my boss, either. I don’t want to work as hard as my boss.  Therefore, him working harder and earning more is not depriving me of anything.

(fn13) Characterized by social egalitarianism with little divide between social elites and the rest of the population (in which any group of citizens can get together to form a group dedicated to solving one sort of problem or another.  Political activism requires civil society c.f. Civil Rights Movement”)

(fn14)  Characterized by a wide social gulf between elites and the rest of society, in which the elites make the rules and the rabble obeys them (or else). Think nobles-vs-peasants, or plantation-owners vs slaves.  Political activism is impossible in a prime-divider society (unless one counts violent revolution, which usually ends badly, with widespread misery, a high body count, and a new elite taking the place of the old one without instituting meaningful reforms. c.f. “history of Haiti.” )

(fn15) Yes, some (Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, Libertarians, Cops, LGBT People, Cis-People, Jocks, Nerds, Black People, White People, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Men, Women, People Who Listen to Barry Manilow, Flying Purple People Eaters, fill in whatever the hell you want by now you SURELY get the idea) are assholes.  But you don’t broad-brush an entire group of people because some of them are assholes.  If you do this, you have become one of the assholes.


Die GotterdammerHugo

I’ve been going back in forth about whether to blog on this.  But, screw it, I have a mouth, and I’m known to shoot it off — why should this be any different?

My immediate reaction can, rather gleefully, be summed up with Twisted Sister:

My measured reaction is a little different.  Let’s take this in steps.

In the Ecosphere Of Writers, I am plankton.

Here’s my writers’ cred:

  1. I’ve written one self-published novel, which has made about thirty-five bucks total. Mostly because I’m a hack, and partly because I’m just too lazy to constantly pimp myself (and for some strange reason, none of my friends are very good at gratuitously pimping my hack writing, either).(fn1)  By the time I finish the second one and get that out, I expect both together to get me up to “this pays for a nice lunch.”
  2. I have written a half-dozen articles on medieval military history, two of which significantly inform the historiography, and one of which is an actual “bombshell.”  I’m proud of that: if you want to address the questions I’ve addressed, you have to read, or at least be aware, of my work, or you’re out of touch. Nothing puffs up your ego like learning that you’ve become mandatory reading in a graduate program.
  3. I’ve written a slew of stuff for online gaming purposes, from item descriptions, to essays, to plotting, to “lore,” to various NPC in-character writing, not to mention simply running online events as a roleplayer, which means basically doing lots of impromptu dialogues.  (This is relevant. “Gamer” and “Reader” isn’t quite the same field…unless you’re into rpgs, in which case there is heavy overlap and lots of it. You might be surprised at how many gamers spend time reading all the little vignettes that go into item histories and descriptions.).

What does this adds up to?  SQUAT.

Any professional novelist, historian, or game-writer wildly exceeds my achievements in any of the three categories.  If my opinion therefore has any merit (and this is dubious), it lies in the fact that I’ve done all three as an amateur, and professionals have either not stopped it, in some cases they’ve even encouraged more of it (though I’m probably still unpublishable as a novelist).

What we have going on with the Hugos has been described all over the place. It’s the fundamental phenomenon of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the Degradation of Outmoded Institution.


Let me give you an example.

In the late 1990s I was attending a small academic conference in Lublin, Poland.  There was a presentation in french on Mindaugas of Lithuania. It was boring. It was a general historiographic review where the salient points were so trite they made fruitcake look daring and edgy.  The panel didn’t care for it either, which did help keep us awake. Because it’s very hard to be a young graduate student and stay asleep when the moderator asks the speaker “have you read a book on this subject which was published in the twentieth century?” — and he means it.  I managed a few rare moments to slightly bond with a gorgeous fellow graduate student who was far too smart to associate with the likes of me(fn2) ..mostly because we both had to excuse ourselves from the session, as quietly as we could manage.  You do that when you’re giggling uncontrollably in spite of your best efforts.

Scholars are serious, dammit.  And very, very full of their own importance.

Later on, when we were at the “milling about drinking truly awful wine” phase (if you’ve been to one of these, or any mixer on the rubber-chicken circuit, you know what I’m talking about), prior to breaking, we were introduced to the gentleman who had presented.

“Do you know who I am?” He asked.

“No,” I replied, politely but with absolutely zero interest.

He was the Director of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow.  And he wanted a little respect, dammit.  In spite of the fact that his scholarship would have been barely acceptable as undergraduate work, and was, quite literally, “laugh you out of the room bad.”  Now, if you’re in North America, and you don’t know who Mindaugas was, hey, no biggie.  But this was East-Central Europe, and in ECE, Mindaugas is a bit of a big deal.  Big enough that works had definitely been written on him in the 20th century.  Neither was I particularly inclined to give some Sovok mad props for prospering as a communist political appointee, either (though as I gained more experience with that, older-and-more-experienced me(fn3) would have been more sympathetic and at least given the guy a chance).

The Director of the Academy of Sciences was used to being an Important Person, running an Important Institution. And the poor guy just couldn’t grok that he was the same guy, in the same place, but that the game had suddenly and radically changed.  Moscow’s willingness to murder people, individually or wholesale, whenever that became convenient(fn4) no longer bought the man the international respect to which he’d become accustomed.  Not Even in Poland.


 It’s the 21st century.  The old gatekeepers are losing power. In many cases they’re becoming hopeless retreads. Lately, the Culture Wars have gotten involved, because one set of Institutions losing power is that of the Cultural Left, which is explicitly fascist and totalitarian.  When the personal is political, the personal is subject to political review.  This gives rise to the celebration of Political Correctness.  And batshit insanity like feeling deeply oppressed because you think “the male gaze” is actually a form of assault.  Which, of course, for a person who accepts that position, posits anybody defending the right to look at a woman’s butt as some kind of horrific, mustache-twirling villain.(fn5)

These folks want a certain kind of inclusivity.  I’m okay with that kind of inclusivity. I’m not trans-sexual. If I were, and I were tired of having to explain myself over and over to a society whose reactions range from “you’re sick” to “gender dysphoria would suck, I’m so glad I’m not you,” I’d be sick, too. Of mainstream society. Gee, thanks, buddy.  Love you, too, and I’m not knocking out your teeth because I know you’re sincere and you mean well, even if you’re treating me like a category rather than a person.

(listens to the peanut gallery)


I can’t say that because I’m a regular old straight dude?

Sure I can. I have this thing called “empathy.” It’s a super-power, you should try it sometime.

Okay, back on topic. I’m theoretically transsexual. Don’t tell my wife. Where was I? Oh, yeah.  I can totally grok a desire to see somebody, anybody, who’s like me portrayed as something other than a cardboard deviant villain.  And not just in a hackneyed “here’s your Wise Old Indian or Black Man about to die in an action flick” kind of way, too.  (Let’s go wayyyyy out on a limb and say “Vox Day is right, homosexuality is a birth defect.(fn6) ”  Okay, not a popular view, but for purpose of argument,(fn6)  what do you call a guy who treats people shabbily because of a birth defect, and is fixated on said defect, to the exclusion of the rest of the person in the equation?  You call him an asshole, that’s what you call him.)

But I can’t totally subject my life to that understanding, either.  And neither can I convince myself that this is the only viable lens through which to look at society. I’m not a cultural totalitarian, and neither do Cultural Totalitarians own the issue of basic human decency.

That’s why these people signed me for Two Minutes’ Hate on reddit. I’m obviously not with the program.  The fact that I’ve actually stood on the metro station platform between victim and harm’s way, and most of these upper-middle-class members of the intelligentsia have never fought off anything more imposing than a keyboard or an internet troll doesn’t matter.  Stray even a little bit, and you’re evil.  Stray a LOT, and you’re beyond redemption.  That’s how Institutions work.

So, Gamergate and the Hugos.

These people just can’t believe that they’re unrelated.  And from their perspective, they’re right.  It’s the same kind of bad person, doing the same kind of bad thing; holding the Institution accountable to its own words.  (There may or may not have been death threats involved with Gamergate.  Sadly, like the black gal who burnt crosses on her own front lawn a couple years back, these people are prone to create their own threat stories in order to make themselves look threatened and put-upon, so unfortunately it’s hard to know what can be taken at face value.)  Institutions respond to the perceived authority of the person with whom they interact. Institutions are famously prone to treat the Little People like garbage, but to bend over and stick their butts in the air, breaking every rule they have, for Important People.

Worse than that, while the Institutions are perfectly happy to eat their own rules raw for Important People, they can’t quite handle the fact that they’re losing. To Little People.  So they lash out, as Institutions always have.  And they’re finding, to their horror, that neither their argumentation, nor their ad-hominem, nor even their blatant libel, is buying them the reactions they would have obtained twenty years previously.  Even with Important People on Their Side weighing in.

It’s the Twilight of the Gods, and the barbarians are not at the gate: but they’ve knocked it in and are gleefully defacing the Palace Treasures.

I’d be deeply sympathetic, just like I am to the poor sap who knows nothing about economics or global politics and who looks back on the 50s and 60s as a wonderworld that would surely return if we would only put the same policies back in place.  But they are Totalitarian Gods content to destroy the lives of those Little People who dare to speak up. So my sympathy is limited to those who’ve been played by the rhetoric. I have none for The Old Gods.

We don’t have to win at their game:  society has outgrown them and their Institution is no longer of concern to us.  The Lithuanian grad student no longer needs kow-tow to the Apparatchik.

Who needs Gatekeepers to the Palace, when we’re heading to the stars?


(fn1): Here. Go buy my novel. Nyaa nyaa.

(fn2)Giedre Mickunaite, wherever you are, you’re still too way too cool for school.

(fn3) Notice that I didn’t say “wiser.”

(fn4) A certain sort of American reader will say “we’re just as bad.” Actually, it’s worse than that. U.S. foreign policy has often sucked bilge water through a cocktail straw. It’s often been morally indefensible. And as horrible as lots of US actions have been, we’re still not as bad.  Hang out with the folks getting their citizenship and let them tell stories. You’ll get it.

(fn5) That would be yours truly. If I treated my wife the way rape-culture theory asserts that I must (nota bene: not “argues that I should”), she’d divorce me for emotional abandonment. She’s likes a world in which I express an interest in her ass whether or not she happens to be thinking of something completely different at the moment of expression.  If I don’t look at an obviously gorgeous passerby, she get concerned for my well-being.  This makes her the “wrong kind of woman,” whose opinion is not worthy of merit in politically-correct circles.

(fn6) Hey. No. Burst-of-reading-comprehension time.  This is not my position. This is Vox Day’s position. I’m using it to make a point. I step on my own crank plenty, so if you’re going to hyperventilate, do it for something I actually say.

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