A lot of people throw around words like “fascist” and “socialist” with apparently no understanding of what those words mean. I guess this is a failure of our education system, that people no longer know or understand 20th century history. But don’t worry, this isn’t a history lesson (though you may learn something if you’re not careful).

Here I will briefly explain the ideals and viewpoints of the left and right, and also the weird combinations of the two that people find confusing.

A lot of right wing people in the US assume that left wing (or “socialist”) means being in favour of a huge government that controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives. While some lefties do want government to help keep people safe, this is not universal.

What are the basic principles of the left wing? They are: democracy (all people taking part in decisions), sharing resources for the good of the majority, and helping/protecting the underprivileged.

Government is regarded as a tool to achieve these things. However, Anarchists say you can/should do this without government, instead using a system where everyone makes decisions and carries them out via a system of mass cooperation (how that would work in a country with hundreds of millions of people, I have no idea).

What are the basic principles of the right wing? “Might makes right” (i.e. the strongest should rule; power and victory are the highest virtues), extreme nationalism, and hatred of outsiders (foreigners, dissenters, designated victim classes like gays or Jews). This last item might also be classed as enforcement of moral standards, but I have used the word “hatred” to identify the strong emotions and lack of empathy involved.

“Conservative” is a synonym for right wing. What is called the “right wing” of the US is an odd combination of Conservative and Libertarian. Libertarians should, in principle, be opposed to the above-listed characteristics of the right wing, but they cooperate for the sake of lower taxes, removal of labour laws and antipollution laws (for the sake of business), and gun rights. At the same time, the libertarian opposition to “big government” has bled into the conservative mindset, where it sits largely unexamined.

Contrary to what you may have been told, right wing is not basically anti-government, certainly not anti- police, prison, army or homeland security, all of which are very large instruments of the state. In conservative movements outside the USA, “big government” is rarely a big issue. When it is, that is usually the result of American cultural influence.

Historical context:

The Fascist governments of the 20th century were essentially right wing. It seems some people are confused, because the Nazis were the “National Socialist German Workers‘ Party”. In fact, the “socialist” part of the name was basically a trick to take votes from the German Communist parties. After they came to power, the Nazi party privatised a number of state industries, suppressed the unions, and gave lucrative military contracts to businesses that supported them (most famously the powerful Krupp group, which made steel and armaments). None of these could be called socialist activities.

The Communist governments of the 20th century were a weird amalgam. Although (nearly) everything was owned by the government, they were essentially right wing dictatorships (see above definition of “right wing”). The left wing talk was just for show. In the West, the supporters of Communist Russia and China were mostly dupes, who believed what they wanted to believe (the existence of a socialist paradise of democracy, freedom and plenty) rather than the reality (dictatorship, belligerent nationalism, poverty and fear).

In fact, none of the Communist countries was really communist (using a classical Marxist definition). Given the way every revolution ended in dictatorship, it is debatable whether Communism (socialism without capitalism) can ever exist in the real world.



Interesting historical article in The New Republic (5 Oct, 2012), explaining how the GOP was captured by crazy hateful ranters, leaving decent small-c conservatives out in the cold:

How the GOP Destroyed its Moderates

Don’t go to Bulgaria

13 November, 2012

Here’s the latest news on the Australian jailed for “murder with hooliganism” in Bulgaria.

I’ve followed this story since it started: basically, Jock Palfreeman was a naive young traveller who found himself targeted by gangs in Bulgaria, and took to carrying a knife in self defense. In a subsequent attack, a Bulgarian ended up dead. Palfreeman was railroaded – abused by the police, who crudely fudged the evidence, which was nonetheless accepted by the court in what I assume was a manner of habitual corruption. The reparation payment increasing at 15-20% per annum is another example of gross unfairness. Sadly, much of Eastern Europe is like this, though Bulgaria may be the worst: racist, corrupt, brutal, dishonest, a 3rd world country with 1st world tech. I wouldn’t go there without a humvee convoy for backup.

I’ve read this complaint in a few places; I’m not sure if it’s the opinion of several different people or just one nut who gets around a lot. Basically, some people get very self-righteous about novels, movies, etc. that disobey the vampire “rules”: vampires should not go out in daylight! Vampires should be allergic to garlic! Vampires should not sparkle!!!!!!!!!!ONE

The first argument against this attitude is that we are not talking about the laws of physics here, but about fictional, magical beings. It doesn’t make a vampire less believable to say they can walk in daylight than it does to say they live on human blood. All that is required is for the story to be internally consistent.

The second problem is the supposition that artists should subordinate their imagination to the rule of an external judge. That’s a sure way to kill creativity, especially if the imposed standards are essentially arbitrary.

The fact is that most conventions of vampire fiction were invented by writers over the last couple of centuries (as opposed to coming from folklore), and many are silly or at least outdated: Fear of crucifixes makes little sense in our irreligious age. And are you going to demand that vampires not be able to cross running water? In that case, that’ll pretty much put an end to the genre, thanks to modern plumbing and drainage. And then there is the lore that vampires have numeromania and if you throw a handful of wheat the vamp must stop to count the grains – a story that consistently enforced that rule would be a comedy, not a horror.

The best thing is to judge a work by its success or failure in dramatic terms, not by its adherence to formulaic rules. So I have no problem with any variation on the vampire myths. Sparkly vamps aren’t personally my thing, but whatever floats your boat is fine by me.


Bound to be controversial 😀

En dash versus em dash

The en dash is wider than the hyphen but not as wide as the em dash. An em width is defined as the point size of the currently used font, since the M character is not always the width of the point size. In running text, various dash conventions are employed: an em dash—like so—or a spaced em dash — like so — or a spaced en dash – like so – can be seen in contemporary publications.

Various style guides and national varieties of languages prescribe different guidance on dashes. Dashes have been cited as being treated differently in the US and the UK, with the former preferring the use of an em-dash with no additional spacing, and the latter preferring a spaced en-dash. As an example of the US style, The Chicago Manual of Style still recommends unspaced em dashes. Style guides outside of the US tend to diverge from this guidance. For example, the Canadian The Elements of Typographic Style recommends the spaced en dash – like so – and argues that the length and visual magnitude of an em dash “belongs to the padded and corseted aesthetic of Victorian typography.” In the United Kingdom, the spaced en dash is the house style for certain major publishers, including the Penguin Group, the Cambridge University Press, and Routledge. But this convention is not universal. The Oxford Guide to Style (2002, section 5.10.10) acknowledges that the spaced en dash is used by “other British publishers”, but states that the Oxford University Press—like “most US publishers”—uses the unspaced em dash.

The en dash—always with spaces in running text—and the spaced em dash both have a certain technical advantage over the un-spaced em dash. …


As Australia tends to British rather than US customs – and there is a monopoly that essentially prohibits retailers from importing US books – I recall seeing the m-dash on the printed page only once in my life. It looked very strange to me. I still don’t like it – rather than separating words, it seems to draw them together like an extended hyphen. It also seems visually less “airy” than the UK format, somehow more oppressive on the eye.

The m-dash is rarely seen on the internet, except on websites of certain highbrow US magazines, used in an effort to duplicate the look of the printed version. The n-dash might appear then to have won – except that it is very often (almost always?) substituted with the hyphen, which is easier to type. Deceptively, WordPress is smart enough to understand my usage and correct it as required.

From this site: http://www.pureintimacy.org/piArticles/A000000433.cfm
Bear in mind as you read this that Bundy was executed in 1989, well before the current explosion of porn upon the internet.

JCD: How did it happen? Take me back. What are the antecedents of the behavior that we’ve seen? You were raised in what you consider to be a healthy home. You were not physically, sexually or emotionally abused.

Ted: No. And that’s part of the tragedy of this whole situation. I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents, as one of 5 brothers and sisters. We, as children, were the focus of my parent’s lives. We regularly attended church. My parents did not drink or smoke or gamble. There was no physical abuse or fighting in the home. I’m not saying it was “Leave it to Beaver”, but it was a fine, solid Christian home. I hope no one will try to take the easy way out of this and accuse my family of contributing to this. I know, and I’m trying to tell you as honestly as I know how, what happened.

As a young boy of 12 or 13, I encountered, outside the home, in the local grocery and drug stores, softcore pornography. Young boys explore the sideways and byways of their neighborhoods, and in our neighborhood, people would dump the garbage. From time to time, we would come across books of a harder nature – more graphic. This also included detective magazines, etc., and I want to emphasize this. The most damaging kind of pornography – and I’m talking from hard, real, personal experience – is that that involves violence and sexual violence. The wedding of those two forces – as I know only too well – brings about behavior that is too terrible to describe.

JCD: Walk me through that. What was going on in your mind at that time?

Ted: Before we go any further, it is important to me that people believe what I’m saying. I’m not blaming pornography. I’m not saying it caused me to go out and do certain things. I take full responsibility for all the things that I’ve done. That’s not the question here. The issue is how this kind of literature contributed and helped mold and shape the kinds of violent behavior.

JCD: It fueled your fantasies.

Ted: In the beginning, it fuels this kind of thought process. Then, at a certain time, it is instrumental in crystallizing it, making it into something that is almost a separate entity inside.

JCD: You had gone about as far as you could go in your own fantasy life, with printed material, photos, videos, etc., and then there was the urge to take that step over to a physical event.

Ted: Once you become addicted to it, and I look at this as a kind of addiction, you look for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material. Like an addiction, you keep craving something which is harder and gives you a greater sense of excitement, until you reach the point where the pornography only goes so far – that jumping off point where you begin to think maybe actually doing it will give you that which is just beyond reading about it and looking at it.

JCD: How long did you stay at that point before you actually assaulted someone?

Ted: A couple of years. I was dealing with very strong inhibitions against criminal and violent behavior. That had been conditioned and bred into me from my neighborhood, environment, church, and schools.

I knew it was wrong to think about it, and certainly, to do it was wrong. I was on the edge, and the last vestiges of restraint were being tested constantly, and assailed through the kind of fantasy life that was fueled, largely, by pornography.

JCD: Do you remember what pushed you over that edge? Do you remember the decision to “go for it”? Do you remember where you decided to throw caution to the wind?

Ted: It’s a very difficult thing to describe – the sensation of reaching that point where I knew I couldn’t control it anymore. The barriers I had learned as a child were not enough to hold me back from seeking out and harming somebody.

JCD: Would it be accurate to call that a sexual frenzy?

Ted: That’s one way to describe it – a compulsion, a building up of this destructive energy. Another fact I haven’t mentioned is the use of alcohol. In conjunction with my exposure to pornography, alcohol reduced my inhibitions and pornography eroded them further.

JCD: After you committed your first murder, what was the emotional effect? What happened in the days after that?

Ted: Even all these years later, it is difficult to talk about. Reliving it through talking about it is difficult to say the least, but I want you to understand what happened. It was like coming out of some horrible trance or dream. I can only liken it to (and I don’t want to overdramatize it) being possessed by something so awful and alien, and the next morning waking up and remembering what happened and realizing that in the eyes of the law, and certainly in the eyes of God, you’re responsible. To wake up in the morning and realize what I had done with a clear mind, with all my essential moral and ethical feelings intact, absolutely horrified me.

JCD: You hadn’t known you were capable of that before?

Ted: There is no way to describe the brutal urge to do that, and once it has been satisfied, or spent, and that energy level recedes, I became myself again. Basically, I was a normal person. I wasn’t some guy hanging out in bars, or a bum. I wasn’t a pervert in the sense that people look at somebody and say, “I know there’s something wrong with him.” I was a normal person. I had good friends. I led a normal life, except for this one, small but very potent and destructive segment that I kept very secret and close to myself. Those of us who have been so influenced by violence in the media, particularly pornographic violence, are not some kind of inherent monsters. We are your sons and husbands. We grew up in regular families. Pornography can reach in and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home 20 or 30 years ago. As diligent as my parents were, and they were diligent in protecting their children, and as good a Christian home as we had, there is no protection against the kinds of influences that are loose in a society that tolerates….

JCD: Outside these walls, there are several hundred reporters that wanted to talk to you, and you asked me to come because you had something you wanted to say. You feel that hardcore pornography, and the door to it, softcore pornography, is doing untold damage to other people and causing other women to be abused and killed the way you did.

Ted: I’m no social scientist, and I don’t pretend to believe what John Q. Citizen thinks about this, but I’ve lived in prison for a long time now, and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence. Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography – deeply consumed by the addiction. The F.B.I.’s own study on serial homicide shows that the most common interest among serial killers is pornography. It’s true.

JCD: What would your life have been like without that influence?

Ted: I know it would have been far better, not just for me, but for a lot of other people – victims and families. There’s no question that it would have been a better life. I’m absolutely certain it would not have involved this kind of violence.

JCD: If I were able to ask the kind of questions that are being asked, one would be, “Are you thinking about all those victims and their families that are so wounded? Years later, their lives aren’t normal. They will never be normal. Is there remorse?”

Ted: I know people will accuse me of being self-serving, but through God’s help, I have been able to come to the point, much too late, where I can feel the hurt and the pain I am responsible for. Yes. Absolutely! During the past few days, myself and a number of investigators have been talking about unsolved cases – murders I was involved in. It’s hard to talk about all these years later, because it revives all the terrible feelings and thoughts that I have steadfastly and diligently dealt with – I think successfully. It has been reopened and I have felt the pain and the horror of that.

I hope that those who I have caused so much grief, even if they don’t believe my expression of sorrow, will believe what I’m saying now; there are those loose in their towns and communities, like me, whose dangerous impulses are being fueled, day in and day out, by violence in the media in its various forms – particularly sexualized violence. What scares me is when I see what’s on cable T.V. Some of the violence in the movies that come into homes today is stuff they wouldn’t show in X-rated adult theatres 30 years ago.

JCD: The slasher movies?

Ted: That is the most graphic violence on screen, especially when children are unattended or unaware that they could be a Ted Bundy; that they could have a predisposition to that kind of behavior.

JCD: One of the final murders you committed was 12-year-old Kimberly Leach. I think the public outcry is greater there because an innocent child was taken from a playground. What did you feel after that? Were they the normal emotions after that?

Ted: I can’t really talk about that right now. It’s too painful. I would like to be able to convey to you what that experience is like, but I won’t be able to talk about that. I can’t begin to understand the pain that the parents of these children and young women that I have harmed feel. And I can’t restore much to them, if anything. I won’t pretend to, and I don’t even expect them to forgive me. I’m not asking for it. That kind of forgiveness is of God; if they have it, they have it, and if they don’t, maybe they’ll find it someday.

JCD: Do you deserve the punishment the state has inflicted upon you?

Ted: That’s a very good question. I don’t want to die; I won’t kid you. I deserve, certainly, the most extreme punishment society has. And I think society deserves to be protected from me and from others like me. That’s for sure. What I hope will come of our discussion is that I think society deserves to be protected from itself. As we have been talking, there are forces at loose in this country, especially this kind of violent pornography, where, on one hand, well-meaning people will condemn the behavior of a Ted Bundy while they’re walking past a magazine rack full of the very kinds of things that send young kids down the road to being Ted Bundys. That’s the irony.

I’m talking about going beyond retribution, which is what people want with me. There is no way in the world that killing me is going to restore those beautiful children to their parents and correct and soothe the pain. But there are lots of other kids playing in streets around the country today who are going to be dead tomorrow, and the next day, because other young people are reading and seeing the kinds of things that are available in the media today.


An article about British conscentious objectors during World War One made me aware of the way these events of mass unthinkingness become a kind of totalitarianism against people who have their own minds.

It also makes me think again about how difficult it would be to avoid the draft. You’d have to move, but who would take you in? And how could you get or keep a job? Those without money would need friends or relatives to hide and feed them, or else they’d be sent off for the slaughter.

Selected passages:

In the spring of 1916, Britain had begun conscription, and some 50 men who were among the first to refuse it were forcibly inducted into the army and transported, some in handcuffs, across the English Channel to France.

“We have been warned today that we are now within the war zone,” he [conscientious objector Stuart Beavis] wrote to her [his mother] stoically, “and the military authorities have absolute power, and disobedience may be followed by very severe penalties, and very possibly the death penalty.”

Periodically they were summoned to hear announcements of soldiers sentenced to death for desertion or disobedience.

After it [the war] began, people jeered him [antiwar activist Keir Hardie] on the street in London and mobs hooted and sang “Rule, Britannia” to try to drown out his speeches. … A newspaper printed a cartoon showing Kaiser Wilhelm II giving “Keir von Hardie” a bag of gold.

“Kill Germans! Kill them!” raged one clergyman in a 1915 sermon, “ . . . not for the sake of killing, but to save the world. . . . Kill the good as well as the bad. . . . Kill the young men as well as the old. . . . I look upon it as a war for purity. I look upon everybody who dies in it as a martyr.” The speaker was Arthur Winnington-Ingram, the Anglican Bishop of London.

Women stood on street corners handing out white feathers, an ancient symbol of cowardice, to young men not in uniform.

[After the introduction of conscription] The authorities started raiding soccer games, movie theaters, and railway stations to round up military-age men who were not in uniform.

Violet Tillard, an NCF [No-Conscription Fellowship] activist, served two months in prison for refusing to reveal its [organisation newpaper press] location.

Ramsay MacDonald, an antiwar Labour MP, had not gone to prison during the war but had been under police surveillance and was repeatedly stoned when he spoke at peace meetings. Angry patriots had even voted to expel him from his golf club.


And some curious touches:

The [No-Conscription Fellowship, or NCF] organization’s chairman, wrote one delegate, “did not wish to incite further attack by the noise of our cheering. He therefore asked that enthusiasm should be expressed silently, and with absolute discipline the crowded audience responded.” When Bertrand Russell addressed the gathering, he was “received with thousands of fluttering handkerchiefs, making the low sound of rising and falling wind, but with no other sound whatsoever.”

…a lawyer on the government side, Sir Archibald Bodkin … protested angrily that “war will become impossible if all men were to have the view that war is wrong.” Delighted, the NCF issued a poster with exactly those words on it, credited to Bodkin. The government then convicted an NCF member for putting up this subversive poster. In response, the NCF’s lawyer demanded the arrest of Bodkin himself, as author of the offending words. The organization’s newspaper called for Bodkin to prosecute himself, and declared that the group would provide relief payments to his wife and children if he sent himself to jail.

…often the only meat on sale in Germany was that of dogs and cats. A foreign visitor described what happened when a horse collapsed and died on a Berlin street one morning: “Women rushed towards the cadaver as if they had been poised for this moment, knives in their hands. Everyone was shouting, fighting for the best pieces. Blood spattered their faces and their clothes. . . . When nothing more was left of the horse beyond a bare skeleton, the people vanished, carefully guarding their pieces of bloody meat tight against their chests.”

When he [Bertrand Russell] arrived to begin serving his sentence, the warder taking down his particulars “asked my religion and I replied ‘agnostic.’ He asked how to spell it, and then remarked with a sigh: ‘Well, there are many religions, but I suppose they all worship the same God.’ ”