22 February, 2006

Why not to be a Yuan Shao

Yuan Shao was, for a time, the most powerful warlord during the Three Kingdoms period in China. ... and he lost it all. Why? Because he was an idiot. He followed faulty advice, couldn't act decisively(and when he did act decisively his actions ended in catastrophe because he would somehow manage to choose the worst plan possible), he let his pride affect his judgment and would promote the famous and the well spoken over the talented and worthy. So he was destroyed, by a much smaller foe that did the opposite of what Yuan Shao did - Cao Cao listened to good advice, had good strategies and went through with them and recognised talent when it wasn't attached to a well-known name. So Cao Cao won some key battles, Yuan Shao died, his lands split among his sons and soon after, everything fell apart. So the lesson of this story? Don't be a Yuan Shao. That's all.

Types of News

With so much news out there and channels and channels of all-day news one begins to notice different elements that make this pillar of democracy that much more fun.

1. Breaking news - something, no matter how insignificant that has occurred within the last 24 hours. Also marked by an incredible lack of any sort of information. To avoid seeming unprofessional and speculating, the news people just repeat that they don't know a thing.
Example: "Breaking News: Bill Clinton's dog just barked at a cat. Repeat dog barked at a cat. We are unsure what type of cat or why the dog was barking. For that matter we don't know who Bill Clinton is, what our names are and why we're wearing nothing but purple boxers."

2. Developing news - news that is no longer breaking, marked by rampant speculation and repetition.
Example: "Reagan is dead - we've been covering this story since it broke more than a year ago and we can report he is still dead. We repeat dead. Repeat Dead. Did we mention dead? Because he is. Dead that is.... Ronald Reagan is still dead. Of course he may have turned into a zombie in the meantime and is wandering the streets of American cities looking for fresh brains. We don't know which city he could be in but he could have his own helicopter and be flying all over the place, of course it's best to panic.... and buy duct tape(if you buy a lot of duct tape for no reason zombies will think you're really dumb and leave your brain alone). Again, just in case you missed it - Reagan... still dead, possibly a zombie, for 24 hour coverage watch this station.

3. Fair and balanced news - a story that has two sides, even if one side's best representative is zombie Ronald Reagan.
example: "...and now we will debate whether breathing air is evil. First, some scientist out of one of those liberal America hating learning places.... Harvard Medical school
Scientist: If you don't breathe air, you die, simple as that
Broadcaster: Shut up Frenchy. And now for the opposing view it's Reverend Mad Bob Bob from the Nucular Church of Nose Picking, Reverend, your opinion?
Bob Bob: Bagoooba..... bah bah blem. Air bad.
Broadcaster: I agree completely. We'll be back with more from Reverend Bob Bob after these messages.
Bob Bob: blem ba ba blip!"

4. Reader poll - When journalists pretend to care about their viewers by letting them vote. While saying that the polls are not meant to be accurate, they somehow manage to be far more accurate than voting machines.
Example: "Remember to vote in our poll: Would you like zombie Ronald Reagan to come to your house and eat your brain?"
(note: the results were 51% opposed and 49% in favour)

5. The news ticker - a magical device that manages to run headlines of stories completely irrelevant to what's being talked about"
Example: (ticker during a story about a large tsunami hitting a populated area) "Surfing fun, study finds."

6. Propaganda(i.e. the rest of the news) - stories that promote our Glorious Corporate and Theocratic Overlords - to make it not seem so....um.... Stalinist? Propaganda is often done through questions.
Example: "And now a closer look at how great our Glorious Leader is. Is he great? Or supergreat? And are we emboldening our enemies by not declaring him supergreat? Are his critics enemies or should they be labeled "enemy combatants" so we can torture them(in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva convention)?

So that's the news for you. Instead of promoting democracy - they debate things not worth debating while giving lip service to listeners and readers to pretend like they care. If they're not bought by the government, they're bought by corporations. So just remember, democracy isn't free. Over 200 years ago, a bunch of guys fought a war and gave their lives for democracy. They toiled over every word of the Constitution, they actually believed that freedom of speech was important and that having a king was incompatible with having a democracy. Democracy will stand as long as people continue to believe in it, understand it and not undermine it for short term, petty goals. The news media, politicians won't change until the public demands it, because with a non-apathetic public they'd never get away with what they're getting away with now.

17 February, 2006

Lord Shang's Fate

Lord Shang, a famed legalist, who served Qin fell victim to his own rules. During the peak of his power, he set up rules governing every aspect of life for both aristocrats and civilians. He punished those at the top of government, including the heir to the throne and his teacher and when the emperor died and the heir took power, Lord Shang was unable to hide from persecution by the harsh laws he put into place. Lord Shang was able to insult the unworthy but his harsh methods were ineffective in putting the worthy in power, therefore when his benefactors died - so did he and his ideas.

The moral of the story is that one should not try to sew what one is unwilling to reap. By his harshness and rigidity, Lord Shang was unable to escape an unjust end. When one puts policies in place without ensuring that the policies are sound and that competent persons will continue those sound policies once the current government is gone, one puts her or his-self in danger of falling prey to either unjust policies or unjust government. What is politically expedient now, may be disaster in the future for state and ruler alike.

03 February, 2006

To End War, Abolish Peace

Lao Tse suggests that society would be improved if there was no knowledge, charity or justice. If there is no ignorance, then all are knowlegeable. If everyone has what they need, there is no reason for charity. If there is no injustice there is no concept of justice because all is just. The world is a balance of opposing elements - yin and yang. Without darkness there is no understanding of light. Without evil, one would have no word for good. Therefore if there is no war, no violence then all would be at peace and the word would no longer exist.

Modern Day Eunuchs

The fall of the Han dynasty in China can be linked to the rise of the power of eunuchs. Their status at court and access to the Emperor and his family gave them influence and power until the court was so corrupt that the dynasty collapsed. There was nothing special about the eunuchs that destroyed the Han, it was the incompetence of the Emperor in being swayed by their influence that caused disaster. Now, there is nothing inherently evil about eunuchs - but their goals are completely unconnected with the good of the country. They seek personal greed and power over what benefits the people in the long run. The ruler, on the other hand, is directly tied to the health of a state. What benefits the state, helps keep the ruler and his heirs in power, therefore the ruler has an incentive to better a state so that he may stay in power. For example, when there is famine, the populace is in a state of unrest, protests break out leading to revolts, internal insecurity gives foreign forces an easier time in unsettling the borders, such a situation gravely threatens the ruler's ability to stay in power. If the populace is prosperous, however, there is less unrest, less violence and the ruler has a stronger chance of staying in power. Therefore, the ruler's fate is tied to the strength of his state and visa versa. When the ruler starts listening to those who have no interest in maintaining the state, no interest in maintaining the power structure, the ruler's power is weakened and will eventually collapse.

Today there are modern day eunuchs(although these keep their balls), but influence the rulers in a similar way. The average lobbyist has a passing interest in governmental stability(because it will affect her or his client(s) profits) but is motivated primarily by personal interests. The fundamentalist loonies actively favour the collapse of the state hoping it will lead to the end of the world and heaven for them(genocide and torture for everyone else). Again these have no interest in the health of the state. When actors such as these are heard above those who have a stake in government, the government begins to decline. It is not necessary for a ruler to be altruistic in order to take actions to benefit the state, the ruler must be pragmatic because what is good for the country is good for the ruler. When those in government take a less pragmatic view, choosing short term profits and increases in power over long term power and stability they undermine the state and they undermine themselves and their institutions of governance. Like the last Emperors of the Han whose incompetence and greed was a spit in the face of the founders of the dynasty, so too the politicians who listen to modern-day eunuchs spit in the face of the founders of their governments.

History tends to repeat itself, the collapse of Han, the collapse of Rome, the collapse of the USSR were all tied to incompetent government and corruption, not outside forces. If democracies such as the United States fail, it will not be because of terrorists, it will be because of the modern-day eunuchs, the corruption that comes along with them and the politicians who place them above all else.