Where There's A William

there's always aweigh

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Is Marriage Unconstitutional?

This began as a comment at The Conservative Sociologist in response to her reaction to the GMM (Gay Marriage Movement).  She isn’t opposed, but finds the logic and media presentation to be flawed and annoying – she writes an interesting blog, you should check it out.

What I said was:

What I rarely see discussed is the unconstitutional nature of government regulated marriage in the USA.

In English Common Law (the law of the land when what would become the USA was still British colonies) the State is the Church and thus there is no conflict between the governments regulation and sanction of an expressly religious ceremony. The US Constitution explicitly forbids government sanction or recognition of religion. On its face, this would seem to make (federal of a certainty and arguably state as well) government involvement in marriage unconstitutional as a matter of constitutional prohibition.

Making this all so much about anything other than the gender of either participant is the acknowledged transfer of ownership of real property (to include at least one of the participants for the historical purists amongst us) that is part and parcel of the religious ceremony in contention. I don’t know about a crisis necessarily, but it is certain that no government will waste an opportunity to claim taxes and fees so I don’t expect the Supreme Court to take up this issue any time soon.

Of course, anyone seriously advancing this argument can be certain pretty much everyone will have the knives out in response … literally; virtually all of human society bases property rights and law on this explicitly religious arrangement, whatever particular religion may be the facilitator.

To be constitutionally consistent in the USA, marriage would have to be strictly a religious commitment and property rights associated with that arrangement would have to be explicitly made a contractual and entirely separate agreement between the involved parties, whether part of a civil union type contract or otherwise.

I think we can take it as a given that the GMM will be among the most fervently opposed to this question ever arising.

Marriage as it is commonly practiced in the US is an historical relic from a time when the state and church were functionally combined; the US constitution explicitly forbids state and religious union (I know that’s not a direct quote).  The US Supreme Court has a history of straining social camels through the constitutional needles eye, so that isn’t a realistic objection.  If all that be true, to be constitutionally consistent shouldn’t we either amend the document to grant explicit exception to the “no established religion” prohibition regarding the institution of marriage or write a law that makes formal the distinction between the religious commitment of marriage and the issue(s) of property rights and inheritance and all the rest?

Along with everybody else (to include Mrs. [and Mr. for all of that] Supreme Court Justice), I think it a given the gay folks amongst us will be just as much up in arms about such a ruling as pretty much everybody else will be; they are the stars of the marriage movement at the moment, in this circumstance they aren’t any different from their parents and that can’t be what equality is all about can it?

I expect this is all built on very shaky constitutional ground and has long since been resolved, but it applies an interesting filter to the questions surrounding marriage nonetheless, I think.

Further (Retail) Evolution In Action

Last month, I wrote about a rumor public accusation that Amazon.com was getting out of firearms-related product sales.  As part of that, I communicated with Amazon’s customer relations staff and received the following reply:

Hi William,

I’m Amanda Nix of Amazon.com’s Executive Customer Relations team. Jeff Bezos received your email and asked me to respond on his behalf.

We appreciate your feedback and have forwarded it to the correct team internally.

Thanks for choosing Amazon.com.


Amanda Nix
Executive Customer Relations

Now, I am very definitely not calling Ms. Nix anything remotely like a fibber based solely on my own cynicism regarding Jeff Bezos’ reading habits, but …  🙂

Subsequent to that email exchange I have noticed several examples of this type of semi-specific link to Amazon.com’s continuing to offer a product line-up that specifically caters to firearms shooters interests, without any sort of obvious exterior motivation for the notice (a topically related holiday or other public event for example).

Causation?  Correlation? Wish-fulfillment fantasy?

Other than the last (all too possible) suggestion, I can’t say – and Jeff remains conspicuously enigmatic on the question, but as an exercise in strategy this offers an excellent example of the principle of defeating an attack via indirect (and less expensive) means.

By having arguably the most influential individual Amazon.com affiliate periodically make note of an otherwise unremarkable retail product offered by Amazon.com (and there may well be others; I don’t keep track of Jeff and the gang’s sales metrics per se), Amazon.com is able to apply the sales leverage generated by its affiliate program directly to its advertising needs of the moment at no additional cost beyond that intrinsic to the affiliate program structure itself.

Sun Tzu would approve, I think.

Which leads me to conclude that this understated-but-determined support of peoples beliefs deserves recognition.  With that in mind, I propose that this April 15th, we who participate in gun ownership acknowledge Amazon.com’s refusal to bow to political (or other public and private) pressure to abandon our market interests by purchasing something gun-related from Amazon.com on that calendar date. 

I expect most firearms shooters at least are familiar with the concept of April 15th being BAG (Buy A Gun) Day by now; I first learned of it from Kim du Toit’s now-defunct blog some 10-or-so years ago.  The idea being to deliberately correlate exercising our freedom to own a firearm with the (for Americans anyway) mandated federal income tax filing date.  In similar fashion, I think extending this notion to include Amazon.com this year would be an excellent means of recognizing their willingness to continue serving our market interests just as they have historically done.  Steadfast support deserves its own reward, I suggest.

This doesn’t have to be a special purchase, or even especially large financially; just be sure you submit an order on April 15th and include something gun related along with all the rest.

Worth doing?

If It’s Good Enough For Tam …

… I’m going with some “away game” content too.

Rand Simberg has a post up about the Aurora, CO shooter reportedly having converted to Islam while in prison.  He says:

And no, I don’t really know what kind of conclusions to draw from this, about either him or Islam.

Not only did I have the rare opportunity to be the first commenter, the snark almost wrote itself:

“… I don’t really know what kind of conclusions to draw …”

I think we can reasonably conjecture that we now know which prison gang successfully recruited him into its ranks.

 Which prompted this question; if Pope Francis were to re-instate the Ordo Templari specifically to advance the strategy of actively converting from within the worlds prisons, would that have the effect of organizing inmates into a “union” of peace-enforcing warriors for Christ?  Further, how would these men (and presumably women too) be successfully embraced into the non-incarcerated Church upon their release from prison?  Would this have the effect of countering the criminal gang dominance of prisons?  How well might this influence extend into the “street” cohorts of the worlds established crime organizations?  Might this be an effective counter to jihad being advanced through prison populations?

Riddle me that, Padre.

Habemus papum*

So the Porteneo gets the new kicks.  He’s going to need every bit of that famed Jesuitical casuistry – and maybe an assist from the Greek pantheon – to get through all he faces next.  The sainted Francis likely wasn’t put off by the sight of a broom and shovel, so who knows, maybe this latest one is just the man to clean out the Pauline stable.

Not being one of your team as it were I don’t have a dog in this fight, but well done you anyway, Jorge.

Now go show us how it’s done.  🙂

* I suppose this will be the most common blog post title for this date, but I wrote mine before I read Peters so I’m keeping the title as is.  I have to say, while Peter offers much more detail, and an opinion informed as only an active insiders can be, I think our general first impressions and expectations regarding Pope Francis are quite similar given the fact I have never shared in the Catholic faith.

In Which The Question Is Asked, What’s Up With Those Gun Guys?

Via Instapundit I learned of this article in The Atlantic by Dan Baum titled What Liberals Need To Understand About ‘Gun Guys’.

Formatted as a Q&A interview, Mr. Baum asks and answers:

At one point in your trip, you switched from open carry to concealed carry. What was that like?
In some ways I really liked it. It’s physically uncomfortable, it’s heavy and it digs into you, and you have to be very conscious of your clothing to make sure you’re not displaying it, because you really don’t want anyone knowing you’re carrying it. But it kept me vigilant. You really have your shit together when you’re carrying a gun. You never forget you’re wearing it. Maybe cops who’ve been wearing a gun for 30 years forget they’re wearing it, but I certainly never did, and I wore it for about 18 months.
It also made me really calm. When you’re wearing a gun, you do not get upset if someone takes your parking space, or if someone cuts you in line. You have this quite noble sense of being the sheepdog, being the protector. And I liked that.
But then you start wondering — what is my responsibility here? It’s really complicated. Say you’re in a shopping mall and somebody starts shooting. What do you do? If you run away, are you like a doctor who doesn’t respond when someone starts choking in a restaurant? If you’re wearing a gun, do you have an obligation to run towards the sound of the guns?

To answer Mr. Baum’s question, No Sir, you have no obligation to “run towards the sound of the guns” simply because you are carrying a complimentary tool yourself.  You may or may not have a moral/legal/ethical responsibility to live up to the American urge to “do something” in an emergency, but simple ownership of a potentially useful tool doesn’t automatically infer obligation to do so directly.   BTW, your choking comparison isn’t really apropos as a choking person offers little if any direct physical danger to any but those in immediate close contact; a shooter does.  You have the potential ability to effectively and (more) safely respond to a shooter if you are yourself wearing a gun, but that doesn’t automatically translate into obligation/responsibility to do so.

Later in the piece he asks/answers:

Nick Kristoff wrote a column in the New York Times about a gun standoff that was the result of a disagreement over a goose. He argued that instead of preventing conflict, guns actually escalate it. What’s your response to this?
I think we are all too cavalier with our guns. I fault both sides, really. The NRA and its handmaidens want us to believe that the whole problem is criminals, and they will not take responsibility. We need to lock guns up. Training should be better. And I think the anti-gun side needs to show gun guys more respect and needs to summon gun guys to respect themselves more. I think we all need to take this more seriously. We have 300 million privately owned guns in this country. Let’s really talk about how we can be safer.
Joe Nocera at the Times runs a daily tally of gun killings. He’s not running a daily tally of how many people defend themselves with guns. For one thing we don’t know about it most of the time. David Hemenway at Harvard is very pro gun-control and he thinks it happens about 80,000 times a year. If that’s true, that means that guns are saving 10 times as many people as they’re killing.
I call for my fellow liberals to approach gun owners with respect. These are the people who understand guns, these are the people who can help us figure out how to be safer around guns. Instead, you drive them into a defensive crouch by calling gun culture the problem.

I suggest the phrase you’re tip-toeing around Mr. Baum is: as a political issue, gun control is more about “control” and less about “guns”.

A final observation; Mr. Baum asks/answers:

At the end of this trip, did you feel any less conflicted about your place in the gun world?
No. I still don’t really belong in either camp. If you watch the reaction to the book when it comes out, you will see that. I’m no less a Democrat than I was, but I am more attuned to the gun guy complaint — “I am over-managed and I am under-respected as a citizen and a human being.” I think the right has a point there. We need to stop fearing capable, empowered, independent-thinking individuals.

Mr. Baum associates guns and gun ownership with “conservatives” and fair enough, lots of my gun-owning friends are actual conservatives politically.  That said, I believe the attitude Mr. Baum closes his article with is more aligned with the libertarian political attitude than it is with the conservative view point. 

I heartily endorse his final words; We need to stop fearing capable, empowered, independent-thinking individuals.  Indeed Sir, indeed.

Making Work = Job

There is an on-going lament about “Where have all the jobs gone?” or variations on that theme.  The single most common aspect of the question seemingly being that “job” is a tangible item which some diffuse other retains control over and to whom you must apply in order to be paid for work performed.

In the now-past Industrial Revolution there was a quite deliberate truth behind that belief.  Welcome to the 21st century.

One of the most widely occurring and historically repeated models of attaining economic self reliance is that of the story teller.  In the modern world, this most often takes the form of being a writer of some niche application or expertise; technical manuals or instructions, computer code, science fiction (some overlap in those three, I think), poetry, screenplay, music and on and on.  This post is about making that sort of work into an income producing job for far more of us than is ordinarily believed possible, and Jobster is its name-o.

In my experience, the hardest part of telling a story is how to begin.  Which seems completely silly until you start to actually think about how much of a story actually doesn’t appear on the page (or screen, as you prefer).  Known as the “back-story”, these are all the tiny and overwhelming details that combine to give the characters and their actions both context and believability, but don’t achieve direct mention in the actual telling of events except possibly as a bit of background color.  The classic opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night …” would quite possibly be the stereotypical example of this, and the Star Wars sext-ology a recent example of failure in this part of story development.  What follows is how to create all of this (so as to be better able to tell the good bits to others for money) and how to make doing so into an industry that carries a great many more of us into the 21st century than you might think.

Jobster is a job board/career development site that presently offers traditional job availability/application services mixed with modern networking technology that patches together 19th century employment structures with very-late 20th century labor resources (that last would be a cumbersome euphemism for you and me).  In the doing of, Phil Bowermaster and his cohorts at Jobster have in place the infrastructure to re-create an industry that few can find entry into (never mind financial success) and hopefully expand our entertainment and information acquisition experience far beyond our present range of possibility.

All good propositions have a succinct definitional or mission statement; this is as close as I can come to one:

STORY TELLERA job board that provides all of the support functions needed by successful authors

Story Teller is a writers development tool for any genre or production format.  Deliberately modeled after the straightforward Turbo Tax Q&A process of content development by non-experts, Story Teller provides the structural framework for an author to create a consistent “back-story” environment within which to relate information to an audience.  By creating this wealth of back-story detail, the writer builds a contextual infrastructure to support any reference requirements the story might require during telling.  Who are the characters involved, what are the circumstances and technology experienced, when do events take place, Where are characters located during the course of the tale, why do actions occur; once these have been worked out as fully as possible in advance (and there will be need for some back-story on-going editing required) finally the how (the actual story or information being offered for sale) can be told by as many authors as the originator can interest in his creation.

The devil is ever in the details (and despite some of my more questionable predilections, I fall well short of that standard), but some of the major support functions Story Teller would need to provide would include:

1) Tax and contract legal advice links.  These could take the form of links to “boilerplate” legal contract sites up to a paid member service of retained counsel from legal professionals directly.

2) Reference links.  While I like refdesk and wikipedia, this would probably require a more refined search function than is currently available from those two.  As a start though, they’re a good beginning as they are (see also: 7 below).

3) Editorial support.  This would involve the classical editor functions, but also include links to those wishing to work as “reader”, page/cover illustrator or researcher as well.  The possibility of these services being for direct cash or on a limited sales profit-sharing basis needs to be explored and appropriate contracts developed.

4) Co-Author job posting requests.  This works from either end of the deal; author needs help or author wants to help (a good deal of specificity would be required for such notices to be useful I expect).  In addition to expansion of the existing Jobster model, this is an avenue for Jobster to make a business alliance with an established publishing house (for the record, I like and hereby nominate Baen books for a lot of reasons – only some of which are the cracking good authors who publish there and the management team with a proven history of being willing to look beyond established market and industry standards).  Such an alliance would offer new opportunities for the established writers as well as provide vital assistance with the next point of emphasis, to wit:

5) Marketing.  In addition to the now-traditional “Hey look, my book is for sale” tug on Instapundit‘s blogospheric cape, the capability to combine the advertising resources of both Jobster and an established publisher’s promotional expertise should result in sales potential far beyond anything either can currently economically achieve independently.  This would result in a vast increase for potential markets for all authors as well as increased profitability for both members of the business alliance.

6) Back-story Development.  This is the crux of the thing, the point upon which all of the fulcrum above rests.  Broken down to its basics, a story consists of the classic detectives line of questioning; who, what, when, where, why and only then can the tale be told as the how.  Eric S. Raymond is one of the premier open source software developers alive today, has no idea I’m bruiting his name about this way, and should be the first person Jobster contracts with to develop this concept (OK, second :)).  To make Story Teller function as intended will require that the operating code architecture be written such that it can be easily adapted to a variety of story development and presentation requirements.  Having an open source menu of roughly pre-formatted options from which individual story tellers can select offers the least demanding entry-level requirement for new story tellers to achieve; the emphasis being on telling their story and not displaying their code-adapting skills.  Besides, esr has more contacts in the open source coder’s market than most along with a sterling reputation; his involvement in this project will result in it being accomplished much more quickly – not to mention better – than other likely available options could achieve for a good deal more expense.

7) Story Teller must be at minimum a two-tiered structure.  The open-to-all page (see the Baen link in 4 above as example) should provide links to all material available for sale (possible partnership with Amazon or a competitor here) as well as a “New Writer Sponsorship” link.  The NWS link would offer a bare bones version of the Story Teller development software for a new writer to display his concept for established writers to consider.  The secondary level would by for paid members, which is how Story Teller becomes a business entity.  Membership fees should be nominal (US$120/year) but include a modest (10%?) percentage of all sales made of products developed on Story Teller.  Members automatically have access to all networking, research and editorial support contractors and receive access to legal and tax professional assistance at a negotiated per-transaction fee.  Members can arrange a contract to co-develop a story with an NWS writer by sponsoring the new writer into Story Teller membership (paying the membership fee for a year).  There should be a tertiary forum/library in which members can document/debate stipulated metrics for character types (do vampires sparkle or not?) and technology (how does that space drive work?) which should permit members to directly link to stories under development.

8) This software needs to be written in such a fashion that it be readily adaptable to other applications of a generally similar, but discrete, market

This initial proposal is intended to introduce a digital network-based solution for individuals to create an income for themselves in an era of Industrial Revolution-model economic decline.  To defile a metaphor, the buggy whip market is going even further away and taking much of the rest of traditional human-centric “manufacturing” with it.  I propose we build a new, digital manufacturing industry, initially around the creation of entertainment and education, but adaptable to many other applications also.  This is but the first step in that industry developing process, but offers entry into all the rest at a comparatively minimal initial cost that offers considerable long-term ROI potential in its own right.

As I said, Sun Tzu wrote his own job application; this is mine.

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