A new policy for attending cons by John Ringo

I’m rather small potatoes for this to matter much in my case but yeah, pretty much this.

Mad Genius Club

 A new policy for attending cons by John Ringo

So Larry Correia’s invite as GOH to Origins got rescinded because he’s ‘racist’, ‘homophobe’, ‘has sex with manatees’ etc.

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A Tale of Two Lanterns

Short one today.

Many years ago I was a big comics fan.  Not a collect comics and keep them carefully in mylar bags to preserve them in mint condition, type fan but a grab everything I could get my hands on and read it until it falls apart type fan.

I loved comic books.  I loved heroes.  People who’ve read some of my other posts should understand that about me.  People with amazing powers who use those powers of their own free will, nobody outside forcing them to do it, to help others.  Awesome.  Can’t get enough of it. (And if some get paid for it–I’m looking at you Heroes for Hire–that’s fine too.  Just so long as they’re helping people along the way.)

One of those heroes was Green Lantern.  The Green Lantern of my childhood was Hal Jordan.  And every time he had to charge his Power Ring (every 24 hours), he said his oath:

In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight.  Let those who worship evil’s might beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!

And so I went quite a few years.  I encountered other Lanterns from other space sectors (these Green Lantern’s were kind of like space cops, each with a sector of space to patrol).  I saw that the other Lanterns had their own oaths.  Okay, fair enough.

Times changed.  There was a “backup” Green Lantern on Earth (to take over if anything happened to Hal) named Guy Gardner.  Then something happened to him (don’t remember what) requiring another backup to be chosen.  John Stewart–the one people know from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series.

But then, some years later I encountered the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott.  His ring was quite different.  Where Hal’s was the product of alien super-science, Alan’s was from an ancient magic lantern prophesied to flare three times, once for death, once for life, and once for power.  We get the tale of the first two flares and the third flare is where Alan Scott gets his power.  He makes his ring from a part of the lantern (I know that doesn’t make sense.  It was the 40’s.  Just go with it.) and becomes the Green Lantern.  Instead of being vulnerable to the color yellow (in the sense that it can’t directly affect anything of that color), his ring is vulnerable to “natural things” (likewise) as opposed to manufactured which soon morphs into “doesn’t affect wood.”

His oath, too, was different.

I shall shed my light over dark evil, for dark things cannot stand the light.  The light of the Green Lantern.

That rocked.  For that oath alone I prefer the Alan Scott Green Lantern to the Hal Jordan one.

Hal’s oath is about power.  I don’t disparage power.  It allows one to do great things.  But Alan’s?  Alan’s is not about power.  It’s about being a light, a beacon.  Light that shines forth.  Evil cowers from it.  Good is drawn to it.

Power can be countered with power, but light?  Darkness can only retreat from it.  It can try to extinguish the light but it cannot defeat it.  As the metaphor goes, a single candle defeats the deepest darkness.

Not all of us have power, but all of us can be a light that shines in the world, the light of freedom, of courage, of ideals soaring high.

Be like Alan Scott, let your light shine forth.

Silencing Dissent (Fictional Characters Weigh In).

A couple days ago I wrote about the Origins Game Fair screeching.  This is part of a larger scheme where people, almost entirely from one end of the political spectrum (or one corner if you are into two-dimensional descriptors) of attempting to silence any dissent.

You know, it’s pretty sad when fictional characters make more sense than people who at least pretend to be real human beings.  Consider, for instance, on the case of some pretty extreme examples, what Captain America had to say about actual, self-identified neo-Nazis (and not the “Everyone I don’t like is a Nazi” that’s become so popular these days) and their Jewish extremist opponents in a long-ago issue of Captain America:

“All my life I’ve had a habit of making speeches.  Some people have criticized me for it.  They may be right.  Because I cannot express with words the horror I feel at seeing what you’ve done here today.

Don’t you realize that in your attack, you’ve attacked your own freedom as well?

The Freedom that guarantees all ideas–both noble and ignoble–the expression that is imperative if our society is to survive!

[Ed:  speaking to Jewish protestor] You!  Can’t you see that in stooping to your enemy’s level–you’re being made over in his image–that you’re becoming the very thing you loathe?

[Ed:  Speaking to Neo-nazi] And You!  In your fear and ignorance you deny reality!  Rewrite history!  I wish I could take you back with me to the day we liberated Diebenwald [Ed:  Presume this is the name given to one of the death camps in the Marvel Universe]–let you smell the stomach-churning stench of death–let you see the mountain of corpses left behind by the corrupt madman and murderer you idolize!

You two aren’t interested in the truthare you?

You’re only interested in your own self-consuming hate.

Two of  a kind.

Freedom of speech means that, yes, even people who are saying vile things have a right to speak.  You don’t have to listen to them, but you do not have the right to silence them, to prevent them from assembling (so long as it’s peaceable), from renting halls or air time, or even for speaking at your campus so long as there are people at your campus who want to hear them and they fill all the rules (which should not include limitations on content) any other speaker has to fulfill.

No, speech that you disagree with is not violence.

Let me cite another fictional character, Mike Harmon from the novel Ghost (Oh!  John Ringo, No!) to kind of illustrate the idea:

“You’re not with the police?” the girl said, totally confused.

“Oh, come on,” Mike scoffed. “I know you’re an airhead, but use at least one brain cell. Do the police commonly shoot people through the leg to get information?”

“Well, they beat people up,” Ashley said, with relentlessly liberal logic.

“Did those guys beat you?” Mike asked, gesturing at the dead terrorists.

“Yes,” Ashley said, sobbing gently.

“Would you like me to shoot you through the knee so you can tell the difference?” Mike asked, puzzling over the load list.

If you think speech is violence there are only two possibilities:  you’re a complete moron (and that’s an insult to complete morons) who has never experience violence and lacks even the rudimentary ability to imagine what it’s like, or you are lying.

I know which way I bet.

Speech is not violence.  It might incite violence, and when the incitement is immediate and direct, then that might be a cause to intervene, but just saying things you despise is not.  Examples:

  • “I hate brown haired people and wish they’d all die.” Allowed to say.  You’d be an idiot and I’m allowed to mock you and say that you’re an idiot that should eat a bag of dicks and choke.
  • (Pointing, with an angry mob listening to you) “Seize that (brown haired) guy over there and beat him to death with sticks.” No, that justifies some intervention.

In most cases, the proper thing to do when somebody says things that you consider utterly outrageous, even vile, is given by another fictional character (oh, there was a historical person of that name, but this is a fictional adaptation).  Rameses from The Ten Commandments (and while Charlton Heston may have been the “star”, Yul Brynner owned that movie):

Let him speak that men may know him mad.

Because if they are really that outrageous, then the more they speak, the more they’ll be ridiculous.  And the more people will turn away from them because they are so ridiculous.  You don’t have to silence them.  They are their own worst enemies.

However, when you go out of your way to silence them, once again what’s happening can be summed up by another fictional character, Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones:

When you tear out a man’s tongue, you do not prove him a liar.  You only show the world that you fear what he might say.

So, if you’re so afraid that what they say is so much more persuasive than what you say, you need to take a long hard look not at them but at yourself.  Why do you lack confidence in your ability to defeat their words with words of your own?

Maybe the weakness is in you.

Origins and the Social Justice Bullies

I learned yesterday that my friend Larry Correia was to be a guest of honor at the Origins Gaming Fair.  In addition to being a friend he’s also one of my favorite authors.

Since Origins was being held in Columbus, OH and just close enough that I could consider a day trip, this would have been a good opportunity to catch up with my friend and maybe get some books signed.

Only before I could run the numbers (gas, day pass membership, meals, some pocket money for myself and my daughter for the event, that sort of thing) an announcement comes up on FaceBook that, because some individuals raised a stink, Larry was “disinvited” via the following post on FaceBook:

I want to discuss our invitation to Larry Correia a guest at Origins. By all counts he is a very talented author.

Unfortunately, when he was recommended I was unaware of some personal views that are specifically unaligned with the philosophy of our show and the organization.

I want to thank those of you who brought this error to our attention.  Origins is an inclusive and family friendly event.  We focus on fun and gaming, not discourse and controversy.

I felt it necessary to recend his invitation to participate in the show.  I apologize again to those of you who were looking forward to seeing him at Origins.

John Ward, Executive Director

As somebody who was seriously considering going precisely because Larry was going to be there, apology not accepted.  You see, I know Larry so I know some things you didn’t mention.  I know that you did not speak to Larry about the accusations.  You did not get his side of the story.  You took the unsupported words of some Internet Howler Monkeys, posted the “recend” notice online (where Larry saw it before he saw the email disinviting him).

The best that could be said about the people oh so worried about Larry’s presence is that they were uncritically repeating lies told about him.  Yes, lies.

Larry is not racist, homophobic, or misogynist.  And despite what certain people of low character have claimed, he is not a rape apologist. (Suggesting that it might be a good idea for women to be able to defend themselves against those who would do them harm–and actually teaching them to do so–is no more “rape apologist” than teaching “defensive driving” and the wearing of seatbelts makes one a “traffic accident apologist.”)

A campaign of lies, libel, and outright bullying has been levied against my friend.  And I, for one, am sick of it.

Their inclusiveness is only the shallow “inclusiveness” of skin color and plumbing and how one is inclined to connect up that plumbing.  Any real diversity of thought or opinion must, to these people, be crushed and silenced.

In the words of a fictional character who, nevertheless, has more wisdom in his left pinkie toe than any dozen of these Social Justice Bullies combined. “When you tear out a man’s tongue you do not prove him a liar.  You only show the world that you fear what he might say.”

That’s why they want to silence Larry, they fear that he can make his case better than they can for their ideas cannot hold up to scrutiny or comparison.  It is only by silencing dissent that they can push their views.

Fortunately, his continuing to amass royalties, the readership of his blog, his voice on social media, echoed far and wide show that he’s in no danger of being silenced.

The Social Justice Bullies only show themselves to be petty and fearful.

On the other hand, there was this mailing from the folk putting on Origins:

Hello Exhibitors

GAMA is releasing a few rooms to the public for Origins 2018. If you are looking for some rooms, you can try; Courtyard, Renaissance, and Holiday Inn. Just reach out to the hotel and reserve the space!

Can’t wait to see everyone next month!

I’m sure there’s no connection whatsoever.  Mind you, there is a connection to one exhibitor (also a friend of mine) who basically said “I’m done.  I want my money back,” over this.


Stop. Just…stop. A Blast from the Past

I recently (as of the original writing) saw a blog post over on IO9 about 10 scientific ideas that scientists wish people would top using (incorrectly).  They missed my personal pet peeve–the use of quantum theory, badly understood or not understood at all, to supposedly explain new-agey magic (of the wizard and witch kind rather than the stage type) or psychic phenomena.

In quantum mechanics observation changes the thing observed, but that doesn’t mean you can use that to cast spells that do whatever folk claim to do with magic.  Here’s how it works:

Imagine you’re in a dark room.  There are objects in that room.  You have a big pile of baseballs and want to know where the objects are in the room.  You can throw the baseballs in various directions.  In certain directions the baseballs bounce back.  When they do, you know they hit some object.  You can then use things like the speed and direction in which you threw the ball and how long it took to bounce back to tell you in what direction and how far the object is.  Throw enough balls and you can get some idea of the size and shape of the objects.

Now, all the objects in the room are on casters.  When you hit them with a thrown ball, they move.  If they’re big and heavy they don’t move much.  If they’re small and light they move a lot.  Observing them, by throwing these balls at them, is going to affect them.

Consider the balls themselves.  The size of the balls limits what you can “see” with them.  Anything smaller than the ball itself you might see that it’s there, but you won’t be able to tell it’s size and shape.  And when you hit it with that ball it’s more likely to go sailing across the room and you only know where it was, not where it is now (after it got hit).  If you want to see smaller objects, you need smaller balls.

Now, this is the tricky part.  There’s a rule.  The smaller the “ball” the heavier it has to be.  That’s backwards from what we usually think of things, but to describe quantum effects you need that rule.

So you can see smaller objects by using smaller “balls”, but the result is that you’re going to hit the objects harder with those heavier balls and knock them just that much farther and faster away.

This, right here, is “observation changes the thing observed.”  The balls are whatever we use to look at something, whether sound waves, quanta (discrete packets) of light, electrons in an electron microscope, or anything else.  We “shine” the light or whatever on the object we wish to see (throw balls at it) and look at either what’s reflected or what passes through it to “see” the object.

At a basic level, when it comes to light the size of the “balls” (the wavelength of the light) is given by the following formula:

Eλ = hc

E = energy
λ = the wavelength (size of the “balls”)
h = Planck’s Constant a really, really, really small number. (Okay, it’s
6.62606957 × 10−34 joule∙second, but at this level what you need to know is that it’s really small.)
c = the speed of light.

For “particles” like electrons that have mass, the equation is a bit different:

λp = h

Here p = momentum.

In both cases, to get a small wavelength (small “balls” to look at small stuff) you need to have either a high energy (light) or high momentum (particles with mass).  Heavier balls that you throw harder.  And, when you throw heavier balls harder at the thing you’re observing, you knock it around more.

That’s “observation affects the thing observed.” It’s not magic.  It’s the simple fact that to observe something you essentially throw things at it.  And when they hit it, they knock it away.  The things you’re throwing are just really, really tiny things (see that Planck’s Constant).  And the effect is only important on really, really small things, things like electrons, sometimes atoms themselves.  To affect larger things that way, you need a bunchaton of energy.

This analogy only scratches the surface.  There’s a lot more I could do. (Quantum tunneling:  the balls are “squishy” and can sometimes get through holes that are nominally too small for them.) But that will be enough for now, I think.

So, if you see someone claiming quantum mechanics as we understand it* allows for “magic” or “psychic phenomena”.

*One caveat:  there’s always the possibility of some new discovery requiring us to alter our understanding of physics and with it our understanding of what is and is not possible.  But the possibility of new physics changing our understanding of something from “impossible” to “possible” is not at all the same thing as saying “quantum physics makes it possible”.  A lot of things were possible to quantum mechanics that were not possible to classical mechanics, but not everything is.

Are you a criminal?

You may think you are the most upright, law abiding citizen you can be.  Oh, sure, you exceed the speed limit–who doesn’t?–but that’s not even a crime, that’s an “infraction”.

You may think that, but you’re almost certainly wrong.

The laws of the United States (and of foreign countries, which can be relevant) are so voluminous, expansive, and in some cases self-contradictory that it’s virtually impossible to go through a day without breaking one or more of them.

Consider some examples.  There is a Federal Law that says that a “scheme or artifice” to defraud your employer of your “honest services” is illegal?  Falsely calling in sick could well have put you in violation of that law.  The law was so expansive that the Supreme Court amended it so that the Supreme Court amended it to only apply to bribes or kickbacks that illegally influence lawmakers but it continues to be on the books and continues to be vaguely worded.  It’s only one example of seemingly innocuous things that could get one hauled into criminal court on federal charges.

For instance, you decide to take your dirt bike into the woods.  You stick to the marked trail only foul weather rolls in and you miss a turn and wander off the permitted trail.  Congratulations, you are now in violation of the Wilderness act.  Make it a snowmobile instead of a dirt bike, and snowstorm as the foul weather and you have the case which had race car driver Bobby Unser sentenced to six months in prison.

You quit a company because their computer security is flawed and they want fix it.  You warned them, but they did nothing.  So you tell family and friends not to use the company because their information could be exposed.  Well, congratulations,  You’ve just violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse law just like Brett McDanel who served 16 months in prison for telling customers of his former company just that–their data was at risk because of flaws the former company failed to correct.

This is a big one.  The “Martha Stewart charge”.  A Federal officer asks you something, anything, doesn’t have to even be about anything illegal.  You forget something or misremember something or make any error in that statement and you have just made a false statement to Federal Officials.

You have a low spot on your lawn that basically turns into a puddle for a large portion of the year (high water table where you live).  It’s an annoyance so you rip out the weeds, have gravel, sand, and soil hauled in to raise the spot a couple of feet.  Re-seed it with grass, and you have a nice lawn in your suburban home for your children to play on.  Have you just violated provisions of the Clean Water Act regarding wetlands preservation?  Are you sure?  Chantell and Mike Sackett thought they were.  The EPA thought otherwise.

Run a restaurant and get a shipment of fish.  Did that shipment violate laws in the country of origin (like, say, shipping in plastic rather than in cardboard boxes–an actual example)?  Congratulations.  Thanks to the Lacey Act, just like seafood dealers Robert Blandford, Diane Huang, and David McNab, you are now in violation of the law because of what someone else shipped to you.

Laws, laws, and more laws.  The US code (which can be downloaded from the Federal government) comes to 184 megabytes of text in PDF format.  Call it 30 million words give or take; how fast a reader are you?  In addition, the Federal Register–a collection of regulations written not by Congress, but by unelected career bureaucrats–was up to 81,611 pages in 2015.  Given the rate at which both laws and regulations are updated, it is not physically possible for someone to read them all before they’ve changed.  It’s like the old cliche of the Marching Chinese. (Ripley’s Believe it or Not had this bit where it claimed that if you had the Chinese lining up four abreast and marching past a given point, that line would never stop because of the Chinese born and growing up adding to the line.  The truth, is perhaps different, but it’s a useful concept in this context.)  The attempt to read them, let alone understand them, is never done because of laws and regulations that have changed since you’ve started.

One cannot be certain of being a law abiding individual because one cannot know what the law requires.  And there are so many hidden little traps, things that one would not reasonably expect to be a violation of the law but that actually is, that virtually everyone is going to trip over one sometimes.

And so, coupled with yesterday’s commentary about how one cannot be confident that innocence will protect you from punishment by the law, neither can one be confident that one is actually innocent as far as the law is concerned.

And both of these are extremely damaging to the very concept of Rule of Law.