No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.
- US Supreme Court

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the basis of legitimacy

I have written a number of posts critical of liberal positions (and will probably write more in the future). Why pick on liberals instead of conservatives?

After all, conservatives are worse. (Just ask anyone.)

I attack the liberals instead because we need liberals. And it's gotten urgent. We need them to do their job, which is opposing the Republican party.

I don't want one party rule. I want to see checks and balances keeping things in order. And that can't happen as long as the liberals are defending a broken ideology, relying entirely on the cry "well the Republicans are worse!"

That isn't good enough. That almost got Gore elected, almost got Kerry elected - but almost doesn't count.

The burden is on those who would change things for the better, to come up with what "better" is - what it might look like - how it might work. And it needs to be something that works. Not something that looked like it might work thirty years ago.

Right now the Democratic party's activist class does not seem to 'get' that if the liberal does not like the way people behave, the burden is on the liberal not only to suggest that change would be good, but to provide a workable vision of what we could have instead. The liberal must have faith in democracy: if we like the vision, we'll fight for it. But the vision Democrats have offered has been roundly rejected. It was fresh and new in 1967 but it isn't fresh or new now. The problem is not that we are dumb. The problem is that the liberal is not listening.

And nowhere is that more true than in this election where Democratic identity politics are what has brought the party down low. We have seen race pitted against gender and we have seen that Democrats have serious work to do on both counts.

Whatever support affirmative action might have still enjoyed has disappeared with Obama's cheap "vote for me or else you are racist" tactics. We had already grown pretty tired of that approach anyway. We know that affirmative action does not end poverty, and while most people do want to end discrimination - we want a better way to do it. Not "discrimination is bad therefore you will put up with whatever total crap we throw at you, in the name of ending discrimination". Come up with better.

We have seen that the rejection of feminism is tied up with feminism defining 'choice' as the only issue that really defines which women are 'good' vs. which ones are the enemy. And most of us are going to side against the feminists on this one, because 'choice' comes with social problems and double standards - we like the idea of sexual freedom, but it has to be sexual freedom for all of us (yes, including the boys), not sexual freedom for the one who controls the body and sexual submission for the men who get NO say in their own reproduction, but who cares about them because men = patriarchy = evil. This imbalance has poisoned the gender debate in ways that need to be recognized. The majority of women in the USA have voted with their feet and have made it very clear that we don't want to be at war with the guys. We want to work things out with them and come up with something fair.

And we want our sexual freedom to be healthy and real, not riddled with social dysfunction.

Those who would overthrow the patriarchy must now start considering the reality that the patriarchy is stronger than ever. The reason is probably because when times are harsh and survival is at stake, patriarchy is the strongest and most stable form of social organization - offering benefits to not only men but also women. The idea that women would be better off if we detached ourselves from kinship groups and go it alone may have proved a grand success for women with access to Ivy League educations, but to those of us on the wrong end of the income divide, it's a recipe for isolation and poverty.

Those of us who don't have trust funds cannot afford to sneer at "tribalism". Our tribes are what feed and nurture us - because God knows trusting in liberals won't get you anything to eat. It will just get you an argument about how if only people would behave the way they ought instead of the way they do, if only if only, then there would be funds and then you'd get a free hot meal, but (it's all the Republicans' fault!) even though we promised you shelter when we wanted to manipulate your behavior, there isn't actually any shelter, so go be homeless somewhere else and by the way, it's all the Republicans' fault.

(Not good enough anymore. Offer us something or get used to the fact that we're not voting for you and your crummy candidate, and we're not donating any money, either.)

So I put these things critical of the liberal positions on my blog - and will surely continue to do so - because I want liberals to come up with better. I want to vote for Democrats, but not until they don't suck so bad. Get your house together so that you can do your job and take on the Republicans.

And you might want to start by evaluating Science (the capital-S religion, not the method itself), as per my last few posts. I'm pretty sure that toxic behavior on the part of our scientific elite and their supporters is what really fuels the drive toward Christianity - which most people recognize as imperfect, but better than the alternative.

When people honestly think fundamentalist Christianity is better than the alternative, it's time to improve what you've got on offer, folks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"people who don't know about it think it is cruel"

I have become endlessly fascinated with the contradiction between the Enlightment's promotion of democracy, on the one hand - and a natural elite, on the other.

Those who are part of that natural elite see it as simply the truth - the only "real" truth. Those outside of that elite frequently view it as a religion in its own right - complete with religious music, such as the "inspired by evolution" opera Origin:
Many years ago, someone in the New Yorker– very likely Richard Dawkins – noted that while religion had its masterpieces like Bach's St Matthew Passion, science had no comparable works.
If it weren't a religion, this whole sentiment would be nonsense. Religious music is propaganda. Truth does not require special tools to inspire and convert. Truth is its own reward. But what Richard Dawkins is selling has little to do with truth and everything to do with power. He wants Christianity to be replaced by - why, him! - as the primary source of authority.

But of course scientists place themselves at the top of the hierarchy, high priests of the material world's arcane secrets. Below that are those who know something about science. Below that are people who accept science, but are ignorant. And, at the very bottom - and not entirely qualifying as human - you have people who reject materialism altogether.

And scientists are right to draw the line between us vs. them right there. These people who reject materialism are in fact science's enemy. They don't share the view that scientists naturally should be allowed to determine the fate of the human race.

They don't like the way science has shown it handles responsibilities like that*.

And while I don't reject science, I do sympathize - enough that I refuse to sign on to the "capital S" version of Science, The Religious Doctrine. It's just not a very appealing faith. In fact, unless you get to be the guy at the top, it's a horrible faith. Look at it from the peasant man's point of view. It isn't a pretty sight. The old idea of "first, do no harm" has been replaced by Ockham's razor. Ockham's razor does lots and lots of harm.

And science requires a steady supply of people to experiment on. How would we know about thalidomide if we hadn't tried it on live people?

(What do you mean you want to see "evidence" before we give your child Ritalin? Your child's teacher filled out the checkbox.
It's all settled. Why would you demand more than that? Who are you? You're just a parent. We are Experts.)

Scientists, of course, claim a monopoly on truth. Or is that Truth. The infallibility of their method is the claim that gives them the right to override my wishes and impose their will on me - neatly bystepping all the checks and balances, all the measures designed to prevent and limit abuses of authority.

And science isn't content with the material world. It now wants to be granted monopolies on questions such as "what is consciousness?" and "why are we here?"**

But any argument that presupposes the doctrines of (a) materialism and (b) Ockham's razor are as illogical and as circular as using the Bible to prove the Bible. And without those core assumptions, science goes nowhere. Ultimately the power of science is in its results. Lately, those results have not been satisfactory. The world of plenty, equality, and eternal sunshine has not materialized.

In fact, some of the earlier miracles have fallen apart. Remember how "wonder cures" meant that diseases would be eradicated? How those "wonder pesticides" that made it possible to grow seven gazillion times what you used to grow, per acre? In both cases the bugs are back, and now they're mean. The same scientific community that goes on about the perils global warming acts as if someone else invented all the machines that put that filth out into the air. Well, my answer to global warming is, you scientists and technophiles, stop your whining and get to work - you've got a big problem to solve, and just yelling at us for trusting you the last time you invented something is not an answer! You broke it so FIX IT!

Science also needs to be held responsible for any Utopian visions gone bad, just as we hold the Catholic church responsible for the Inquisition. The fact that science is supposed to make lots of mistakes doesn't excuse making those mistakes on living creatures, capable of feeling pain.

Left wing types love to blame the Church for all sorts of wrongs, but the 20th century, with some of the nastiest horrors ever, is more about the evils of science than of religion. Hitler's government was right wing, but the scientific ideas that made the Holocaust really brutal arose from the Enlightenment, from scientists thinking about genetic superiority and how to improve the human race and the bizarre, bizarre idea of the concentration camp. Those were liberal ideas.

But more importantly, Hitler himself was right wing at least in part because "technology" and "progress" made him what he was (and millions of other men, too). Hitler was formed - and deformed - in a war that included things boys of that era had never even imagined: machine guns, airplanes, submarines, tanks, barbed wire, chemical warfare, gas masks, bombardments that could take out entire populations, battles that introduced the visual imagery of blackened landscapes into the consciousness of one traumatized Somme survivor, who later recreated the scene and named it Mordor.

The essential nature of warfare might not have changed much, but the scope of it took a huge jump. Some of these technological "improvements" had been introduced before (machine guns, for instance), but never all together. Technology raped the human brain, and those who were unfortunate enough to be the victims of this psychological trauma never got over it. Reading World War I poetry makes me sick and makes me want to cry.

Science has Siegfried Sassoon to answer to, when they insist that if it is knowledge, then human beings can and must pursue it - and if it can be built, then humans can and must build it.
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.
Personally I feel the scientific community needs to stop being so smug. I think they need to accept - and more importantly learn from - some of their more spectacular horrors, including lobotomies and experiments on live human subjects without their consent and virtually any proposal suggesting the genetic perfectability of mankind.

What is the difference between this person vs. an Inquisitor?

Nearly a year ago, New York made plans to ban the use of electric shocks as a punishment for bad behavior, a therapy used at a Massachusetts school where New York State had long sent some of its most challenging special education students.

But state officials trying to limit New York’s association with the school, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, southwest of Boston, and its “aversive therapy” practices have found a large obstacle in their paths: parents of students who are given shocks.

“I understand people who don’t know about it think it is cruel,” said Susan Handon of Jamaica, Queens, whose 20-year-old daughter, Crystal, has been at Rotenberg for four years. “But she is not permanently scarred and she has really learned that certain behaviors, like running up and hitting people in the face, are not acceptable.”

The Inquisitor was sure he was right, too. And that made it okay for him to engage in behaviors that ordinarily people find horrifying.

Science has violated the gag test. It crosses the line and asks us to ignore our own internal warning systems.

This is where science loses its claim to moral authority. It proves itself monstrous, untrustworthy, unable to regulate itself. Its moral failings are not just mistakes of the past; they are built into the method, which is why the scientific method is itself not enough for a system of government. The scientific method assumes that you're working with information that stands a very excellent chance of being proven wrong.

These past mistakes (which tomorrow will include all of today's mistakes, and next week will include all of tomorrow's mistakes) are the result of Ockham's razor, which justifies choosing the path of fewest assumptions instead of being forced to consider things like compassion and humanity and whether we are causing unnecessary suffering.

Scientists love to argue that there is no such thing as humanity. They don't seem to care at all if the term "meat machine" has ugly consequences. Perhaps this is the because they identify themselves with the glory (and the security) of the side that administers, rather than identifying with the thing that receives what they choose to administer.

True humanists must reject what science has become.

It is not okay to justify a process (or a person) that is too cheap or lazy to tackle depression in a humane, compassionate way. It is not okay to justify a process (or a person) that is too cheap or lazy to figure out a humane way to deal with special needs kids. Decent people do unto others as you would have them done unto you. Science is the only religion in the world that rejects this doctrine.

I'm sorry, but I don't give a damn if you are sure you are right. You don't have the right to treat people that way.

Especially now that it has become obvious that scientific and psychiatric authority figures are no more naturally benevolent than any other kind of bishop, priest, or pope.

This is what Ockham's razor begets: the belief that you start with the "obvious" solution, rather than the humane one. Taking someone's brain from them and experimenting with it comes before, not after, finding a compassionate solution - and in fact a more compassionate solution will not come about until and unless there is a huge public outcry against the barbaric cruelties perpetrated on innocent victims.

Right now, the outcry against the abuses against psychiatric patients is there - but the drug companies are fighting it, and they're rich.

This is the moral authority of the scientific community. It's not a compelling vision. It is a horrific one.

I don't want any part of a faith that engages in torture-like behaviors against those who refuse to cooperate with authority. I don't care how powerful or orthodox this Church is; until someone reigns in its high priests, it will be a false god to all people capable of empathy and compassion.
* the problem is in their approach.

They are experts. They tell us what we will live with. Democracy goes out the window because they get to decide who does and does not deserve a voice.

Example: scientists want to use our fields for experimenting with genetically modified stuff. They don't get that it isn't the part about genetically modified that is necessarily bad. Genetically modified might or might not be safe. It's the part about experimenting in our fields - isn't the entire premise of science based on learning the hard way, trial and error, and correcting as you go along? Isn't it correct to assume that genetically modified will be disastrous, until proven safe? I mean, isn't that how the scientific method is supposed to work? It takes a lot of plane crashes to build an American Airlines passenger jet.

But they don't care. They are Experts and we should STFU. Well, maybe reassuring us that it's all perfectly safe because real expert scientists said so isn't a good way to retain one's moral authority. Maybe scientists should stop throwing out that they're Experts, high priests in the most powerful church on Earth, and maybe they should let us have a say in how we go about introducing strange new things into our fields - not to mention our food supplies and our own bodies.

What is the actual meaning of life? Why are we here? What makes us be alive? What makes us experience ourselves as conscious? They are no closer to having real facts than anyone else, but they get around that by claiming they are more qualified to have an opinion, or by substituting facts that are sorta-kinda like the ones needed to answer the question ("I don't know why we are conscious but I know how the brain routes information, and that's more than anyone else can say, so therefore it must be close enough") and then they vote on it, Wikipedia-style.

Which is also how they determine the criteria by which children are placed on behavior-modifying drugs.

Monday, September 15, 2008

the liberal sacred

We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany's best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer "moral clarity"—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.

Diagnosis is a pleasure. It is a thrill to solve a mystery from scattered clues, and it is empowering to know what makes others tick. In the psychological community, where almost all of us are politically liberal, our diagnosis of conservatism gives us the additional pleasure of shared righteous anger. We can explain how Republicans exploit frames, phrases, and fears to trick Americans into supporting policies (such as the "war on terror" and the repeal of the "death tax") that damage the national interest for partisan advantage.

But with pleasure comes seduction, and with righteous pleasure comes seduction wearing a halo. Our diagnosis explains away Republican successes while convincing us and our fellow liberals that we hold the moral high ground. Our diagnosis tells us that we have nothing to learn from other ideologies, and it blinds us to what I think is one of the main reasons that so many Americans voted Republican over the last 30 years: they honestly prefer the Republican vision of a moral order to the one offered by Democrats. To see what Democrats have been missing, it helps to take off the halo, step back for a moment, and think about what morality really is.

From "What Makes People Vote Republican?" by Jonathan Haidt

I read this essay and my first response was excitement. For the first time, I had encountered an attempt to understand the other side in a way that does not assume pathology.

Never mind that his question itself starts off assuming that liberal is somehow more normal and conservatism requires explanation. I've known a lot of psychologists, and two things I have learned from the ones I have met: (1) they always use the word "normal" when they really mean "ideal", and (2) they tend to shove their own wishes and preferences and projections into the very center of that which is ideal (and therefore normal).

I said that was my first response. Here's my second: maybe we shouldn't just say "never mind". Maybe, if there's a legitimate grievance there, it's time to take it seriously, even though it hurts "our side" - that is, feeds a conservative talking point (not that I'm at all sure I'm on anyone's "side" anymore....).

Maybe it's time to stop overlooking the innocent little conceits of professionals who presume too much. Maybe we should look at the question of bias in a field that purports to be "scientific" and therefore worthy of unquestioned authority and obedience.

My third response was to notice that, although I more or less agreed with most of his interpretations of what conservative beliefs are and why (and why it matters), I do not agree with the writer's comments interpreting liberal beliefs. I don't see liberals the way he sees himself.

Still, I think it's important that he wrote this. This particular essay seems to me a huge step in the right direction. Too many people on the left like to act as if everything important got decided in 1972 and now there's nothing left to talk about. If you are one of the few holdouts that doesn't "get" the new way things are, you're to be attacked, not reasoned with.

Politically, this approach isn't working anymore, and never was that more obvious than right now. The number of people who refuse to play along just keeps growing, as it becomes increasingly obvious that the humanistic ideology driving the Democratic party is overdue for an update.

It's been awhile since the last major overhaul.

I think those who can't understand why the nation is going conservative need to understand why humanism is under siege.

It isn't because Americans are too dumb to understand scientific concepts. It's because Americans have stopped trying to.

I would argue that science itself is what is fueling the growth of religion in America.

Those who don't like the way conservative religion is taking over should look not at what religions are doing right (or what is wrong with the people, that we seem to be getting dumber somehow). Look instead to what science is doing wrong. I believe that as soon as that is fixed, we can move forward - but right now, religion is the only thing providing checks and balances to a scientific community that is riding roughshod over peoples' wishes, feelings, and rights.

America likes being a democratic nation. It's one of our founding principles. The scientific community, however, does not like democracy. They do not want to submit themselves or their ideas to the people for judgment.
As Haidt notes, the standard liberal line is that people vote Republican because they are "cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death." A typical example of this characterization can be found in a famous 2003 paper published in the prestigious journal Psychological Bulletin by the New York University social psychologist John Jost and his colleagues, entitled "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," in which they argue that conservatives suffer from "uncertainty avoidance," "need for order, structure, closure," and "dogmatism, intolerance of ambiguity," all of which leads to "resistance to change" and "endorsement of inequality."

It is not the data of these scientists that I am challenging so much as it is the characterizations on which the data were collected. We could just as easily characterize Democrats and liberals as suffering from a host of equally malevolent mental states: a lack of moral compass that leads to an inability to make clear ethical choices, an inordinate lack of certainty about social issues, a pathological fear of clarity that leads to indecisiveness, a naïve belief that all people are equally talented, and a blind adherence in the teeth of contradictory evidence that culture and environment determine one's lot in society and therefore it is up to the government to remedy all social injustices.

- Michael Shermer,in a published response to Haidt's essay (above)
There needs to be a correction for hubris. Arrogance needs to be reigned in. A link needs to be re-established between the activity of doing science and the eventual goal as the well-being of mankind*. And science needs to stop acting as if simply standing next to Einstein means you're guaranteed to be right and to know the one true correct answer.

I know people don't want to hear that - it's something that cannot be said; you can't say that without being an evil dirty Republican and therefore the worst sort of enemy - but it's the fact that some things cannot be said** that is the problem. Taboos have overtaken the left wing and the more troubled we are by policies and plans that failed, the more we respond by demanding faith. (The alternative would be what? to admit the conservatives are right?)

We have made a religion of science but we are at a point where we cannot progress until we recognize that science has limits and that science cannot answer every problem.

And more than that: science, while pretending to be objective, in fact grants too much influence and too much latitude to its (male) elders*** and to its (often unprovable) assumptions***. Science is also accepting too much credit for its successes*** (as if it had the monopoly on both truth and wisdom) while failing utterly to take any responsibility for its failures***, even though some of those failures have been destructive, even evil***.

And, related to this, atheism isn't going to be an accepted choice in the USA until liberals start asking, open-minded and serious, what it is that Christianity provides, that atheism doesn't - what is it that people are afraid of losing?****

Because, quite frankly, we've already had the modernists and they've already written their great plays, so most of us have little use for people who want to teach that the universe is random and meaningless, as if that were some proven fact. We got it. We don't care. Offer us better or I'll pick the mythology I like best and go with that one. Which one makes people happier? Not science.

The reality is that people accept or reject the whole package - if religion offers someone a great deal while science doesn't, why would that person care if the story about the Virgin is silly? At least the religion story has a happy ending - their God doesn't want to replace the human race with robots and call that Paradise*.

And screaming "your religion is dumb and your claims aren't true" doesn't work on conservatives when liberals do it any more than it works on liberals when conservatives do it. It's like screaming at smokers to stop being singlehandedly responsible for all the pollution in the world (which, incidentally, is another thing I wish liberals would stop doing....)
* as opposed to the well-being of scientists. We also don't care about the well-being of robots or computers, either. To large numbers of people, robots, computers, and technology in general is interesting only insofar as their existence makes our life better somehow.

I understand that it's a human urge to want to procreate. I understand that to someone with Asperger's, reproducing yourself as a computer is more exciting than making a mere flesh-and-blood child. But the scientific community presumes that because they are excited by an idea, it must therefore be a good idea. It gets out of hand when scientists assume that because it therefore must be a good idea, anyone who opposes or even criticizes it must be a lesser being.

That's dehumanization in action. That is the source of evil that leads to crimes against humanity.

It's also an abuse of authority. Scientists have to obey the same laws as all other humans, and rule number one is the welfare of the race. We are social creatures, and scientists - who expect our support and who wish to co-exist among us - can bloody well be social enough to obey the rule "don't gamble with the welfare of the tribe".

If Joe Scientist really believes his computers, or robots, or genetically created supercreature, is going to supercede the human race, as he says, then he is making a decision on behalf of the entire race that it's okay to introduce something that is going to replace us all. The rest of us actually feel we have a right to participate in that decision. So don't be surprised when we treat Joe Scientist like a mad scientist who ought to be locked away. Or when we listen to his story of how it came to me in a vision that humanity is but a fleeting thing - and we then conclude that science has become a little too faith-based for the rest of us.

The first novel warning of the dangers of scientists getting carried away by their own arrogant urge to act irresponsibly was Frankenstein. It is not typically classed as science fiction because (a) it is critical of science (and scientists are still obviously determined to ignore its concerns) and (b) it was written by a woman. But it warns of intellectual pride - and the supposed sin of intellectual pride has always been misunderstood by those who revel in their intellect. Well, understand this: we don't care if you're smart. We do care if you use your intelligence to justify taking liberties and behaving in a way that is destructive of the larger society.

That has been a recurring theme in human society ever since Plato first complained that philosophy shouldn't be used in ways that destroy society. We advance - but then those who make new discoveries get so caught up in their intellect that they don't care when people start getting hurt. And then comes the backlash. Scientists being so smart, they should be able to recognize societies acting in self-preservation when they see it. But they don't, because they don't want to - because they, too, are participating in the ongoing conflict, as well as observing it.

** like
Jesse Jackson attacking a film for daring to joke about Rosa Parks. Notice the use of the word "sacred".

*** could probably get a year's worth of posts out of proving these claims - not a single person would read the blog, of course, but it would be fun. But don't wait for me to prove anything. Ask, "is this true?" C'mon - challenge orthodoxy. It's fun and your school gets free box tops.

****Here is what I am afraid of losing: do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Science thinks it is the natural successor to every major world religion. People will give up their irrational beliefs and follow the truth of the Enlightenment. But every major religion in the world - except science - recognizes some variation on the golden rule. It is the principle that keeps us all equal, and the basis upon which religions correct authority figures who get out of hand.

Science has no mechanism to correct authority figures who get out of hand. It needs one.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

it's okay to draw cartoons of Mohammed*, but not of Obama-messiah

This in the news:
Attendees at a Family Research Council convention were buying up “Obama Waffles” like hotcakes before organizers decided they contained images that could be deemed racist and suspended sales.
Not long ago a family member of mine died, and clearing through the things I came across a dusty unopened box of "Bill's Skillet Cookies". It was virtually identical to this box, except that there was a more noticably caricatured stereotype - the "down home white" stereotype.

The caricature was far more unflattering than this one. And all over the box, the humor was pretty harsh - the complete image of the ignorant hick.

And it was pretty funny.

When it's aimed at a strong person, you can laugh at a joke like that without wondering if he is emasculated by it. If Bill Clinton has ever once whined about the "white trash" slurs thrown at him, I don't recall hearing it.

And this isn't a race thing. If any of a number of strong black men ran for President - if Condi Rice ran for President - people attempting to jab at their race would simply not get the same mileage that people get mocking Obama, because the real problem isn't that whites have the wrong attitude toward Obama's skin color, but that Obama and those who are obsessing over his skin color have the wrong attitude toward taking criticism and being the subject of satire.

Every clip I see of him lately, every quote I see picked up, he's whining about something or other. Ohh they lie, they are liars, he says. Ohh, they're baddies.

Someone better tell the blacks in this community that if they want real representation (with real respect), they have to pick someone tough.

Those are our community standards and we're not going to change them, and we're not going to apologize for them. You want to be our leader, it is up to you to impress us.

Don't whine and cry over satire; there's no way to get past whatever the racial equivalent of a glass ceiling is without standing up to the best they can throw, and emerging victorious. And instead, the Politically Correct Police just keep reminding us that supposedly black men can't take what Bill Clinton could take - what Condi Rice has had to put up with (and did you ever hear her bitching about the caricatures done of her, many of which are a thousand times harsher than anything Obama has even yet faced?)

What's gonna happen if we get Obama elected and he gets into a conflict with, say, Putin, and Putin calls him a racist name. What's he gonna do, cry? "You can't put missiles there, that's rayyycist...."

When we are ready to have a black man as President, he will be a masculine man (or a strong woman), capable of holding his own in the political arena. He will know how to roll with the punches without wetting himself the way Obama has been. Women had to put up with Hillary Clinton "nutcrackers" and worse. We would expect our Democratic nominee to be at least as capable of taking a punch as the nutcracker-girl. You did want to be leader of the most powerful nation on Earth, right?

No wonder people always depict Democrats as effete. What a bunch of wimps!

Oh, and that article I quoted?
Stacy McCain is right: This is just a recycled joke from 2004.

I’m sure that if Hillary had won the Democratic nomination, Whitlock and DeMoss would have marketed “Hillary Waffles” — and then would have been accused of promoting sexist stereotypes, no doubt.

Wrong about one thing - the waffles are funny, because some of us have certainly not forgotten "why can't I just eat my waffle?" - and, yes, that's funny. But this isn't:

More troubling, though, is that he’s almost certainly right about this:

Is it possible to caricature a black man without being accused of “racial stereotype”? (Note to editorial cartoonists: If Obama is elected, you’ll have to endure four years of this crap.)

* update of sorts: Let me make clear, this title is meant to be a reference to the controversy over cartoonists depicting Allah and/or Mohammed.

The United States is supposedly better because, although there are things that you perhaps should not publish, we have freedom of speech, and allow people to speak their mind.

There are Politically Correct (P.C.) people, however, who want to change that. They do not like me.

In any case, I have tampered just a little with what I originally wrote, trying to make very, very clear that I am not trying to attack Muslims in any way, nor am I trying to link Obama to the Muslim faith (I personally would like Obama better if he'd stand up and say "so just what is wrong with being Muslim anyway?")

The intended target of my attack is the double standard - and those who employ it, regardless of race or religion.

the cure for backlash

Imagine your child wants to steal from someone. Do you teach that it's okay? Of course that's not okay.

Does the fact that your child want to do so for a good cause make a difference?

Well, yes. That makes all the difference. At least, that's how traditional liberal Democratic thinking goes.

Consider the response if you point out that it's illegal to come to this country without permission, steal someone's identity, and take a job "under the table". The liberal will explain to you the hardships that immigrants face, and that takes care of any and all complaints about illegal behavior. There's no recognition that there are two separate arguments at play here; the different arguments are freely mixed together*.

The left wing has spent the last thirty years justifying bad behavior by pointing out that the perpetrators are poor and/or are victimized by society. "Crack is a code word", they cry, as if "crack" - or "crime" or "blight" - were somehow an essential part of being a minority.

At the heart of almost every controversy lies the claim that something normally considered unacceptable must be overlooked or ignored, because a really good cause is involved, and therefore the people behaving badly must not be held responsible for their objectionable behavior. (Really, we're supposed to not even notice it.)
  • They justify double standards by suggesting that "victimized" groups deserve special exemptions - not exemptions related to specific situations (poor minorities) but based solely and totally on group status (so that Eugene Robinson is oppressed while a poor white person living in a trailer is guilty of being his oppressor). Designated "aggressor groups" deserve punishment (without trial, jury, or statute of limitations. And there's no way to pay off the debt; identity politics debts have no end date and never get paid down.)

  • They justify uncivil behavior by pointing out that the enemy is "fascist" ("racist", whatever) and anything that overthrows evil can't be too extreme.

  • They judge and disapprove of how other people are treating their kids, or their workers, or Mother Earth, and then decide that anything done to people like that can't be bad. Especially if it liberates the children, the workers, or the trees.

  • They argue that anything they do must be acceptable, because the other guys are worse.
The important thing - what offers the legitimacy - is, it has to be a real good cause.

You have to be sincere about the good cause. The only way to refute obvious injustice is to provide a countering example of injustice so awful that it has the power to make people believe that two wrongs really should make a right.

But if you can prove the cause is good, then yes - it's okay to justify bad things for good reasons.

I'm not so sure about that - I'd argue the point just to see where it led - but in any case, there is one little thing not being considered, and that's the phrase:
if there's no other option
If there is another option, that changes everything. Or at least it ought to.

When I judge an argument - or Democratic party leadership - I tend to judge it against what I myself would feel I ought to do. And either I'm a helluva lot more resourceful than most Democrats, or they're just not trying hard enough.

Most liberal Democratic arguments fall apart right here at this "exploring all options" part, because they don't explore options. They just pick the first/obvious answer and act as if that is the only possible thing that anyone could do. Or, rather, a couple of decades ago, someone picked the first/obvious answer, and now everyone genuinely believes that is the only possible thing that anyone could do.

This is what made President Clinton so special. He actually made a commitment to execution ("the discipline of getting things done", as one executive puts it). Clinton wasn't just about being right in some ideological sense. He cared about whether it worked (and that included correcting for unintended, unwanted side effects). That's why he tackled welfare reform - earning the hatred of liberals who didn't want to believe that anything needed reforming. (Reform, like 'crack" and "blight", is racist.)

The Kennedy-Kerry-Obama wing of the Democratic party doesn't focus on execution. Every time I hear someone yelling about focusing on the issues - as if the issues could save Obama - I think, what issues? Which issues? Issues was Hillary Clinton's thing, and we didn't want it. Obama isn't about making anything particular happen. "Change" is just a registered trademark (TM). He doesn't even link directly to any issues, outside of his own "Christ and me were community organizers" self.

I do believe that most Democrats do genuinely want to fix things and make a difference in the world. But they don't think ahead. Republicans obviously think the way a chess player does - that is, "if I do x, what will my opponent do? How will I respond when he does?" Democrats just seem to think they've "well, that'll solve the problem" - and move on to the next armchair quarterback problem they don't intend to adequately follow through on.

And so they don't stop to consider likely or predictable problems, objections, obstacles, and so on. There just aren't any, in the Democrat's world. And they don't check back to verify that everything is working the way it should. They don't expect to have to make corrections.

It is interesting to consider the cliche about how liberals teach college while Republicans go into business. Businessmen all know that the first solution is almost always a bad solution. Management studies have proved this (look up "brainstorming" for information about what liberals aren't doing enough of). And of course they know that in the real world, things never work out like they look on paper - of course there will have to be adjustments. Of course we will have to collect and analyze feedback and assume we are at least partially wrong in our assumptions.

(This is what makes all the more funny-sad when liberals prattle on about how a college education is the only kind of education that matters. Most liberals don't get that college is about the abstract, but the real world is about execution - and that's what the working class knows about. Basic math can tell you how many hay bales will fit in the bed of a pickup truck, but only experience will tell you how many you should really load - and how fast it's really safe to drive**.)

One reason the liberals are struggling now is they are experiencing a crisis of legitimacy, because people cooperated with all their grand ideas - and none of them worked. These ideas mostly didn't work because they weren't well thought out. Whether this was laziness or ignorance, the fact is, when data started coming in indicating that things weren't working, liberals did not evaluate and adjust - they instead dug in, got defensive, honed 'talking points'and insults to hurl at critics instead of admitting that the solutions weren't delivering as expected.

And this is unacceptable because it doesn't work, but more importantly, it is unacceptable because ethical breaches are involved. Yet people insist that this first solution is the only option, that's even worse. That's downright negligent. And they have to grow ever more committed to demonizing those who complain - and then, bang! There goes the moral high ground. This is really visible this election cycle.

Democrats need to understand that ethics exists for a reason. Ethical breaches have a cost. Ethical breaches are linked to every major failure of the Bush administration. Ethical breaches cause a loss of credibility, a loss of legitimacy, and a backlash ("for ever action there is an equal and..." yeah). Ethical breaches would have handed Democrats this election if they hadn't blown it.

We would be cruising to victory if we'd done the work instead of just trying to mimick the more-successful Republican (dirty) tactics - yet again with the first solution instead of really understanding and fixing the situation.

The first solution is usually just some variation on, "let's just fix it - now. Let's just use a blunt instrument and force the solution we want. Bludgeoning is fun."

But this approach is like crash dieting. When you try to hurry and rush, you lose a bit of weight - but you gain back more than you lost. You're trying to force an agenda there, but you're not working with the natural systems - you're not appreciating homeostasis and the feedback systems that rule your body. If you try to force something too unnatural, not only will the system correct - it may overcorrect.

And now the Democratic party is overcorrecting. Seriously:
  • Ask environmentalists if their short-term gains were worth the backlash.

    What would have been better? Positive actions, not negative hating-shaming-blaming. Finding a way to solve the problems that actually addressed the problems (including the problem of massive scope and scale - you do not dam Niagra Falls with a Loofah and no wonder anyone who tries feels depressed!)

    Instead they waged a propaganda campaigns to persuade people to "just stop being a high pollution filthy pig"

  • Ask feminists if their short-term gains were worth the backlash.

    What would have been better? Positive actions, not negative hating-shaming-blaming. Envisioning how a post-patriarchal world might look, and then making that vision a reality.

    Instead they just declared war on "the patriarchy". (As opposed to - ??)

    And what's the word for someone who collaborates with the patriarchy? Men are "pigs" and women are - "pigs with lipstick" ?? (Do we still not see why that particular phrase has been picked up?)

What do positive actions look like? They are actions that link clearly to the envisioned outcome. The first step is having an outcome. (What would America look like if the evil Patriarchy didn't oppress people anymore? I haven't a clue - does anyone?)

The Democratic party doesn't measure results very well. Sometimes it doesn't even seem to occur to them to do so, or to even think about what the end result is realistically going to be.

Take the immigration debate. If the liberals had their way, we'd all "just stop being racist" - what kind of a solution is that? If I were the one who cared enough about the immigration debate to get out there and fight for it - that is, if that were my issue - I wouldn't start by taking on the people who are in a rage because strangers keep using their front yard as a port-a-potty. I wouldn't even start with the crackpot idea of giving people who are here illegally a driver's license - thereby making them legal yet not, apparently with the goal of formalizing the policy that the law can be safely ignored, except when it can't.

I'd fight to change the immigration law so these people can come in legally.

What the hell is wrong with everyone? Would you want someone defecating on your porch? No, you wouldn't. Don't lie.

Ethics and rules and the concept of social behavior (the very bedrock of groups living together) - contrary to local superstition, these things are not really handed down one day from a divine entity (who yelled because he can't stand all the bowing and scraping). The rules we live by - the real rules - these are the products of evolution. They serve a purpose.

We must start learning how to measure results not by how much change we see, but by how much change we see minus the backlash.
* The question might conveniently jump back and forth between
"should we do something to help these people - and, if so, what?"
"how should we respond to these illegal and/or destructive behaviors? What is the appropriate balance between this group of people, who claim entitlement on humanitarian grounds, vs. that group of people, who claim entitlement on the basis of (existing law/precedent/property rights/etc)?"
The entire immigration debate would be cleared up if we just made introductory logic compulsory in grade school, and then the entire populace would be able to recognize when an argument jumps the shark.

If you aren't worried about the haystacks falling onto your front hood and obscuring your windshield, you don't have enough on there. You can fit a few more. Drive slow.

Update: I meant hay bales. I've fixed the main body of the text, where I also wrote "haystacks". You can only put one haystack on a truck. No, I don't know what's wrong with me. I think it has to do with a particular haystack I once saw driving around Kentucky. I assume there was a vehicle under there somewhere, but we'll never know.

** Seriously: I once read a writer who argued that we should all take five minute showers - no hot water allowed. How does this solve the problem? It doesn't. In exchange for a lot of sacrifice, you get a dent in the problem that is barely noticeable.

But it sure makes people not want to be an environmentalist.

Really, though, it's the shaming that killed the momentum.I've said this before, but I want to repeat it: using tactics such as coming into elementary school classrooms with characters such as the Lorax to "speak for the trees" - with the obvious intent of making children see their own parents as being "like the Once-ler" - is really just as despicable a tactic as using a cartoon character to "speak for the unborn babies" would be. It doesn't belong in a publicly funded classroom and it isn't "censorship" to want it out of the classroom.

You don't win hearts and minds by trying to teach children that their own parents are "bad" and need to be "fixed". (And teaching a child to steal a parent's cigarettes does not help the anti-smoking crusade. It is seriously antisocial behavior, and obnoxious as hell.)

Personalizing and shaming working class men as causing or being in favor of environmental degradation is a mistake that is still hurting the movement. Just what were these men supposed to do to clear themselves of the guilt here? The demonization of the lumberjack was never about "finding solutions" - it was about scapegoating.

it's official: Obama's loss is Hillary's fault.

It has begun - just as predicted, and more or less on schedule. Obama is gonna lose and it's all Hillary's fault.

But while she may not have beaten Obama in the primaries, she may well have sown the seeds for his defeat in 52 days time.

It's not just that Clinton continued to battle for the nomination beyond the point at which her winning became impossible and the major political damage to the Illinois senator became inevitable.

The crucial point is that if it wasn't for Clinton, Sarah Palin - who now could well become America's first female president whether or not McCain wins the White House - would have remained in relative obscurity in Alaska.

The crucial point is that if it wasn't for...Clinton?

Oh, wait, I forgot - she shouldn't have dared to run. For one thing, Obama doesn't look good when there's actual competition out there. She revealed his weaknesses And, of course, since he couldn't beat her fair & square (since she wouldn't quit), that made him have to resort to dirty election tricks, ranging from vote suppression to stealing delegates. It's true, of course, that "Clinton continued to battle for the nomination beyond the point at which her winning became impossible", but by that time Obama's winning had become impossible too - the rules (for those who cared, ha ha) said the matter was to go to the superdelegates. And that was bad for Obama, because the way he tampered with the superdelegate process, crooked Chicago politics at its best, is really, more than anything, the reason I quit the Democratic party, and now actively campaign against Obama.

But mostly it's this: by running for President, she exposed the sexism and hypocrisy of the party claiming to be for equal rights. So I guess, if you're really determined, you could say that her daring to make a serious bid for the White House is why Obama lost.

But it isn't true that Hillary "caused" Obama to be all of the marvelous things that he isn't. He could have run a better campaign. He could have been a better candidate. Obama will lose because he is unethical and immoral and (18 year old males aside) "not likable enough". It doesn't help that his party was revealed as corrupt, rigging the vote. But ultimately the loss is on him - not Hillary, not his crooked party, not the voters who should have known better. He and his party betrayed the base in numerous ways - from FISA to taking universal health care off the table to stealing Hillary's votes to try to shore up the make-believe "let's pretend Obama won a clear victory" charade, followed by that lovely round of "vote for Obama you dumb broads or I'll take away the few rights you do still have!" bitch-slapping.

Did Hillary cause that too?

But I will say this: Dems, if you don't want to be winners, and do what it takes to earn our votes, there are other parties that do - and you might get one more election to shape up or become the newest in the long list of "America's abandoned and mostly forgotten political parties".

Trying to blame Hillary for Obama being such a weak, whiney loser is not going to endear you to anyone, Democratic Party. Give it up already.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

the difference between Palin and "supermom" is a man

This from Boston Globe:

The Emergence of Sarah Palin is actually the Return of Supermom. Mother of five, moose killer, and marathoner, she was back at work three days after her son's birth, juggling a Blackberry and a breast pump while making Helen Reddy look like a slacker. Call her a role model or a parody, but the fresh face of 2008 looks like the exhausted face of the 1980s.

There actually is a difference, and it's a pretty significant one. Unlike Supermom, Palin has a husband*.

Palin herself gives him credit:

There is no way I could have done this job without his tremendous contributions to the home life. He's able to keep it organized, like a well-oiled machine.

It has been so many years since feminism was actually on the offensive that perhaps they've forgotten that the idea of shared household responsibilities was once a feminist goal.

I actually don't believe Todd Palin will be the real caregiver. I believe the Vice President of the United States of America could probably afford a nanny.

But still, it's the image that counts, and, personally, I think the role model that Todd Palin will make - as a strong, macho man who is not afraid to let his wife stand in front of him - has the potential to be just as powerful as an image as that of a woman VP.

I can't believe it's the so-called feminists peddling this idea that it's indecent for a woman with children to be career-oriented.

Why are feminists so hateful toward mothers?

No - wait - I think I may know the answer to that: I am guessing it is because feminism isn't really so much about concern for women as it is about opposing the patriarchy. (Am I right?)
* it's the feminists who have traditionally been the ones - the only ones - arguing that women "can do it all", with or without men.

Friday, September 12, 2008

patriotism is not a sickness

Apparently some people interpreted the crowd at the Republican convention chanting "USA! USA!" as some sort of attack.

Attack on what? On the "God Damned America!" crowd?

Well - it probably is, actually. But never mind that.

The real question is, what is so bad about being patriotic?

Oh, you can talk about the evils of America - but the real difference is only between those who choose to address problems from within the system, vs. those who choose to address problems from somewhere outside, comfortably safe from actually taking responsibility.

You just stand out there and throw rocks, if you like.

But then don't come whining to me when people don't want your candidate for our President.

We want someone who will work within the system - one who isn't afraid to be associated with us.

We don't want no guy who will curse us as the problem - how can such a one be our leader? You don't throw people off the team, then wondering why they don't show up for the big game.

And speaking of football coaches: interpreting the chant "USA! USA!" as a mean-spirited attack against Democrats is a classic example of Democrats taking themselves way too personally.

It's like being at the pep rally and assuming that the crowd chanting the school name is somehow all about you.

It isn't. It's all about getting cohesive, getting ready to join together in common cause - getting ready to fight.

Hopefully the leader really is trustworthy. Hopefully the objective has already been agreed upon and understood. Now is not the time to decide what one believes in. Now is not the time to educate.

In this case, Republicans have been given ample room to define themselves as the defenders and keepers of the American spirit. Obama, after all, has defined himself as one of America's critics, standing outside - throwing rocks.

That chanting means it's time to pull together - time to stop arguing; time to act.

Is the other side scared? If so, then good - that's not the primary objective, but it's a nice side bonus.

They yell USA! because they are saying, now we will fight for our country. And this year Obama made it easy for them to define their side as equaling patriotism - because liberals sneer at patriotism, which strikes me as odd.

There's nothing wrong with patriotism.
It doesn't mean you think America is perfect and without flaw. It means you love this nation and you have faith in its abilities to overcome obstacles.

I understand that behavioral scientists have made arguments claiming that nationalism causes wars. It's becoming increasingly obvious that the "us vs. them" mentality (which causes the dehumanization that is so essential to war) is not linked to nationalism, just as it is not linked to religion. (And in fact liberals have proved just as good at doing the "righteous us vs. evil them"*, haven't they?)

If you don't love this country, why should anyone trust you to lead it?
* I'm not through with Heather Mallick's Mighty Wind. Oh no. Anyone this whacknut deserves mention in multiple blog posts.

the bumperstickers and the t-shirts

Observed out, about, and/or for sale:

Another small town, religion-clinging, gun-toting American voting for McCain/Palin

The puck stops here! (hockey puck logo)

Read My Lipstick!

Kiss my lipstick, Obama!

I'm voting for Sarah! (and the guy she's running with)

One candidate uses change to promote his career.
Sarah Palin uses her career to promote change!

My VP candidate is hotter than Your VP candidate!

We can do it! (Rosie the Riveter with Palin's face)

This little piggy likes Palin! (with "lipstick on a pig" logo)

Airfare to St. Paul: $350
Cab ride to Republican convention: $40
Hat, button, & flag: $25
Look on Obama's face after Sarah Palin's speech:

Sarah '08

I'm voting for Todd!

But the ones that I think will do the most to help McCain/Palin? The ones that Democrats fondly imagine to be be pro-Democrat:

"Jesus was a Community Organizer.
Pontius Pilate was a governor."

Palin: pig with lipstick

The Palins: 49% trailer, 51% trash

Family Values? Child out of wedlock!

Abstinence works! Just ask Sarah Palin's 17 year old daughter!

Sarah Palin _ _ C _ _ D my brother-in-law!

and (sure to be a real crowd pleaser)

Get back in the kitchen, Sarah Palin!

giving from a distance

Awhile back I was in a church - a liberal church - and something kind of funny happened: I said something that apparently sounded like I was hinting (or even outright asking) for assistance. The reaction embarrassed me. The people I was talking to got scared. Their eyes got big; they found excuses; they fled. I found myself wanting to rush to reassure everyone that I didn't mean anything of the sort. (Much later, I found I resented that they took it that way.)

I find myself thinking about this a lot. Liberals like to give to the less fortunate, but they have a sort of distinctive way of doing it. It's almost as if they don't want to give anything to anyone they actually have to look at, or at least not anyone they have to interact with.

Or is that at least not anyone they have to interact with as an equal? That would change a dynamic. It would create ties, and obligations, and all of that. It would mess things up somehow.

They want to put their money in the little box and never look at where it goes.

They don't want feedback. They don't want to know how things turned out.

Oh, a report would be nice - preferably a single sentence, congratulating them on how much they accomplished.

Perhaps this is because liberals have faith in specialists and professionals. Somewhere, on the other end of the line, someone presumably does the distribution end of things for a living. And professionals don't like to be meddled with, queried, interfered with, or second-guessed.

Conservatives put stock in "faith based"approaches, which liberals oppose primarily because of the question of entitlements - conservatives want people to feel grateful and obligated, while liberals argue that people are entitled to what they receive. But there is another difference between faith-based vs. the bureaucratic approach: the conservative approach allows for a great deal of interaction between giver and recipient. There is an emphasis on individual judgment, and the givers retain (and rely on) the ability to collect feedback directly and immediately. The liberal approach to feedback is distant, aloof, and usually someone elses' problem.

And that, I think, has a lot to do with why liberals are getting their butts whupped right now. They got cut off from feedback. Maybe the system they set up never paid adequate attention to feedback in the first place.

To give to the poor, conservative-style, involves a lot of one-on-one. A lot of talking. The conservative can gather tons of information beforehand on who needs help, and exactly what sort of help would be most appropriate. Also - and significantly - those who shouldn't really be getting help can be weeded out. (That's part of the power of having it not be an 'entitlement'.)

Then there is the immediate gratification of delivery. This is a mixed bag; the conservative is feeding ego needs (sometimes way too much so) but also collecting useful information. Is this person being really helped, or not?

Finally, the conservative embraces what the liberal shuns: the act of giving and receiving creates links and ties. This is not necessarily a bad thing - especially if it's reciprocal, rather than hierarchical.

The liberal, for all his talk of equality, prefers hierarchical giving; they don't want the people they give to actually showing up at their church, and in my more cynical moments I suspect it's because they can't really feel comfortable around someone....well, below them.

I know I'm being unfair to some people. This year has my poor overworked brain struggling to try to understand how the more egalitarian party can also be the less egalitarian party....