The ‘Obscure Move’ rule

Many of you are familiar with Chesterton’s fence: wherein he will not allow anyone who says ‘I don’t see the purpose for that gate’ to take the fence down. Rather, the man who understands why the fence is there might be permitted to take it down.

I propose a variation on that theme, but with the mechanisms of a political campaign. But I need a new analogy, and so I will use the game of go.


We will call this the ‘obscure move’ rule. For this example, perhaps some knowledge of go ranking will be helpful. There are amateur ranks called ‘kyu’ and there are professional ranks called ‘dan’. At the IGS (a go server) that I play on sometimes the ‘amateur’ levels start at ‘beginner’ and then the first ranked ones are 17k at the bottom and 1k at the top. These are roughly 10 in steps of 10 point differences in skill. I play at about the 9k level currently (though I have been up closer to the 6k before I got rusty). So, say for example, that I am playing a 2k… and as we play the 2k plays a move that makes no sense to me. There are all sorts of moves on the board that seem to me to be more important to play at this point. I know from experience (when playing a 12k for example) that the most common response form most people is to assume that the better player just made a mistake. I, on the other hand, will spend as much time as I can afford on the game timer trying to figure out why that move was so important to the better player. I assume that I don’t understand the move because the player sees things that I cannot.

To take this a little further, lets say you are an average person… (by definition, this is the most likely place to find people, intellectually or in go playing ability…) and lets say that you are watching two people play a game of go and as far as you can tell the game seems tied. Then black makes a move that seems to be unimportant or a mistake to you. This move is obscure to you, it is the eponymous ‘Obscure Move’ and you want to rant about why it makes no sense.If your criticism is: ‘I don’t know why black just did that, but these other moves were much better’ I shall ignore you and all your subsequent analysis. You haven’t even tried to understand the move. If, on the other hand, you go and think for a while and come back with ‘I think black was trying to accomplish so and such but these moves would have yielded a better outcome’ I shall give you my full attention.



That is from Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight election forecast. And I am tired of hearing people say ‘I don’t know why Trump doesn’t have a ground game… I don’t know why he doesn’t buy ads… I don’t know why he doesn’t have tons of paid staffers for his campaign! He will clearly lose without these things! Obviously! Because Romney dumped a ton of money and lost, so obviously more money must be spent to win!’ Perhaps these people are right, perhaps Trump has no idea what he is doing. But before they speak so stridently, these strange people who insist that Republicans must continue to run their campaigns the same way they keep losing their elections really ought to at least try to come up with a reasonable explanation for the ‘Obscure Moves’ they are criticizing.

As for me, if money and ads won elections, the Republican Nominee would be named Bush. And perhaps staffers are actually parasites on the funds raised for their political cause… If anyone would do a cost/benefit analysis one would think that Trump might have done so, and decided that the return on investment for staffers is nil. As for the ads… I suspect that Trump might be the only candidate who really groks the American people’s short attention span. If ads actually yield a return on investment, perhaps all the conventional wisdom of ‘define your opponent early’ is wrong, and most Americans decide based on the last 2-3 weeks… maybe Trump is letting the voters get sick of Hillary ads and is deciding which states actually make sense to play ads in. Maybe this is an electoral version of holding ones fire until you can see the whites of the eyes… Maybe not. Maybe Trump is incompetent, but at least I don’t start with that assumption and then presume that the strategic choices are incompetent. I look for the possible competent/intelligent strategy possibilities first, then make a judgement as to the possible efficacy of the strategy.

So, when you encounter an ‘Obscure Move’ take your time to try and understand why it might be a good or even brilliant move before you conclude that it was a mistake.


Flight 93 election

You need to read this article: (from Rush, of course)

2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.


More to the point, what has conservatism achieved lately? In the last 20 years? The answer—which appears to be “nothing”—might seem to lend credence to the plea that “our ideas haven’t been tried.” Except that the same conservatives who generate those ideas are in charge of selling them to the broader public. If their ideas “haven’t been tried,” who is ultimately at fault? The whole enterprise of Conservatism, Inc., reeks of failure. Its sole recent and ongoing success is its own self-preservation. Conservative intellectuals never tire of praising “entrepreneurs” and “creative destruction.” Dare to fail! they exhort businessmen. Let the market decide! Except, um, not with respect to us. Or is their true market not the political arena, but the fundraising circuit?

A Little P.S.A. on Fascism…

Here follows a public service announcement for all those who might be tempted to vote for Hillary because ‘Trump is basically a fascist’…

The word ‘fascist’ comes from the word for an ancient symbol (and also the word for bundle) ‘fasces’. Here is a rendition of that symbol:


It is a bundle of sticks, bound together. The idea being that the sticks are stronger together………………………………. oh……………………………………………


Literally a fascist slogan! And that, really, shouldn’t surprise anyone… fascists are leftists after all. Somehow, after WWII, leftists got away with pretending that fascists were right wing… but that was always a lie.

Hillary Clinton is campaigning, literally, as a fascist.

PSA is over…


Big Gov’t or Big Pharma…

The FDA regulatory environment essentially creates monopolies… and the patent lifetime laws on new pharmaceuticals gives companies only a tiny amount of time to recoup the losses of developing a new drug and then make enough profit to remain in business… add the two together and you get the expensive epipen and massive cost for the medicines we take. Sure the companies that have the quasi-monopolies love it, but these costs are mostly not due to evil big pharma corporations, it is due to the unintended (Charitable interpretation) effect of government regulations. Blaming the company is falling for the red herring… and also, having more government (such as proposed in the quote here by Hillary) will guarantee that new drugs will not be developed.

On the Athanatos Christian Arts and Apologetics Festival

Medieval Otaku

Over one week has passed since I’ve written a proper blog.  (See “Examining Old School Anime: The Saints Point to Christ“)  I still need to comment on the new season among other things, but this post will be on my trip to Greenwood, Wisconsin in order to attend the Athanatos Christian Arts and Apologetics Festival.  Placing third in their short story contest of 2009, being a semi-finalist of the 2015 Novel Contest, and counting as a great friend of one of the contest judges ensured my invitation to the event.  Part of the idea behind the festival was that attendees would camp on site, but my friend (the blogger of Dusty Thanes) and I declined this opportunity in exchange for a comfy hotel room.  At a high of 81°F, the weather was appreciably cooler than here in Alabama, for which I was grateful.

Martha and Mary

Besides enjoying a…

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Lesser of two evils

Evil is not synonymous with ‘uncomfortable’ and good is not synonymous with ‘comfortable’. Neither is evil definable as ‘that which horrifies you’ nor ‘that which you find shocking’ nor ‘that which makes you feel like vomiting’. To define evil in such fashion is to accept a postmodern view of moral truth. Evil and Good are not defined by how you, as an individual, as a church group, as a culture, feel! It should surprise exactly no-one who believes in original sin that evil is often comfortable to the human mind and that in a wicked world, good can often be something uncivilized, even horrifying. This is what you ought to expect if Good and Evil are defined by God, not by you. If they were defined by you, good would always feel nice and evil would always feel icky.

This situation (Which, unless you, dear reader, are postmodernists, you cannot avoid agreement with, at least in principal. You may disagree with the extent of the effect, but not the effect itself.) vastly complicates the paradigm of both the human idea that one ought to choose the lesser of two evils and the Christian belief that when presented a choice between two evils, choose neither.

Here’s a great example:

In this situation, you might claim that Captain Aubrey chose the lesser evil. He did choose the lesser misfortune, but that is not really the same thing.

We as Christians must never confuse misfortune or unpleasantness with evil. We are faced now with a particularly unpleasant choice, but I do not believe the choice is as presented in this meme.


When Jesus said to render Caesar what is Caesar’s, He knew about Nero… What Americans are doing this fall is choosing who will be our Caesar. Christians voting are not really being made to choose between two evils.  We are choosing between a demonstrably dangerous, demonstrably treasonous, unindicted felon and a possibly dangerous, possibly racist, definite buffoon… It is not a good choice, but we have no other. We do not have the Roman’s privilege of non-participation in deciding who would be Caesar. Americans have a vocation to participate in the selection of their rulers. In my belief, the choice in this election is between voting for evil and voting for ugly unpleasantness: This is entirely different than choosing between two evils. Therefore, if on election day you decide, as a Christian, that you cannot in your own conscience voter choice as president, exercise your vocation as an American and vote down ballot. Meantime, do not impute guilt onto my conscience if I decide to vote for the ugly unpleasant choice over the evil choice.


Here I sit, listening to Bruce Springsteen… yeah… ok, on with the thought.

A while ago I wrote for Independence Day that we do not live in a Christian nation, and neither do we really live in the free country that we dream of: all that is left is the dream. I said that I  was afraid that we have already slipped so far down the slope into despotism that the options to clamber back out as a nation are grim and few. We are passing, what the Tocqueville critical mass… In that same post I shared a poem (a just ok sort of poem) where I wrote this:

O Lord I know not if to pray
For justice swift and soon today,
Or if like Abraham, to plead
For yet more time and grace indeed!

I put a lot of weight to the songs that people listen to, and to what they say. And while listening to ‘The River’ I put words to a long held thought.

With the key verse being:

“I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember
Mary acts like she don’t care”

And suddenly, it was clear that many (or most) Republicans have given up on Republicans… the voters don’t trust any of the people running for office, and there are so very many tired people: people who have slid the most of the way into the final nihilism of Godlessness that they are like the monopoly player against whom the rules now feel stacked, who cannot win no matter what, and they flip the table. At least Trump doesn’t pretend to be truthful… at least he doesn’t pretend to be moral. He is the candidate for the guy in ‘The River’. These people who vote for Trump, who support Trump, deserve… compassion.  They do not need or deserve condescension or hatred or bitterness for their support of the ‘kick the table over’ candidate. Any opportunists jumping on the Trump-train for their own benefit deserve excoriated… but the normal Trump voter has been abandoned by the education system (Almost no one is well educated, even with a Bachelor’s degree) and trapped into unproductive lives, and have largely abandoned Christ. They believe that if they are good, God will give them good things, and therefore: since they are miserable, they prefer to not think about God at all rather than follow the logic to its end.

They need, like most people in this sick and wicked world, compassion, and the preaching of the Law out of compassion, so that their ears are ready for the Gospel.

(And, perhaps the hardest thing to accept is that, despite the stink of nihilism and despair, perhaps they are right about one thing – perhaps America has past the point of no return on the path to despotism, and that a reformer (Cruz) wont be able to do any good, and that the only option left is to kick over the table and draw the steel at ones side. … In which case the proper response is probably to buy ammo… and step into the storm with with the ‘joy of Giants, the joy without a cause’)


((You should really click through and read that last link… Kurt Schlichter appears to be one of the last sane people on the Internet… so click through and read the other stuff he writes too.))


PS… if Kasich doesn’t do well in IN today, and Cruz wins… I predict that Kasich will drop out and endorse Trump within a week….