Archive for April, 2006

I Like This Thing, I Hate That Thing

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

I Like This Thing, I Hate That Thing

I was reading in a liberal blog all about how people who voted for George W. Bush are a bunch of silly dolts, and of course that people who voted against him and castigate him are much, much smarter. Which liberal blog I was reading, is an interesting story in and of itself, and I will get to that. But for now I want to discuss the premise.

I suppose it is a mechanism in the human mind that determines we see just a tiny bit more of what we want to see, and just a smidgen less of what we do not. On this point, I can’t resist running down a side trail: “everybody knows,” I’m told, that all attributes in the human species, and any other, have culminated as a result of “evolution.” Natural selection. Survival of the fittest. Strengths arriving over time where they did not previously exist, as an evolving species competes for limited resources with other species less-evolved, and thus doomed. What does it have to do with survival in a harsh ecosystem, to recognize falsehoods you find palatible, and to deny truths that you do not? It’s a delicious insult to the prevailing wisdom, but I digress.

Whatever the reason is, the blogger and I both must fall victim to the weakness under discussion, for his “observation” runs starkly against my own:

Those of you who have been around for a while may have noticed something about the conservative blowhards on the net. I’m not just talking about the ones here, but in general. A great example is guns-and-gear forums, which swarm with the kind of person I’m talking about.

The observation?

These people aren’t much for the written word. They can’t spell. They mangle grammar and syntax to varying degrees, sometimes to the point where they’re almost unintelligible. And the worse the problem is, the more vociferous they are about supporting George Bush.

See, I’m sitting here, much more of a veteran than a more practical man would be, of arguing with snotty college students half my age on Internet forums. I have been doing it, pretty much non-stop, since before I began my unbroken biannual vote-at-seven-in-the-morning streak fourteen years ago; since long before I was determined to see the Democratic party go away, permanently; indeed, since you could only do said arguing by going on a “bulletin board” which sent “characters” to your “modem” about what was written in the “room.”

And I’ve noticed the opposite. Take a blistering Internet screed against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — they aren’t that hard to find — and load it into Microsoft Word, you’re going to tie the grammar/spell checker into a raging, apoplectic fit. Perhaps those who type the screeds, are already doing that, as I’ve noticed “apoplectic fit” is a good description of their disposition to begin with.

But it’s a particularly pronounced problem when they argue with me one-on-one, because I feel this sense of obligation to accurately determine what exactly it is they are trying to tell me. And the initial sentence, in particular, is often missing so many articles and pronouns and plurals, I have to read it three times to find out just why it is, exactly, that I’m such an infuriating simpleton.

What’s written above has to do with grammar/punctuation/spelling. What’s written below has to do with logic.

Whether the Bush-haters throw material up on their own blogs to preach to the choir, or don their armor and do battle on the field in some forum somewhere, overall I’ve noticed substantial swagger and confidence in the belief that after they’re done typing and the dust has settled, the point has been made. Indeed it has been, to those who were predisposed to absorb the point in the first place, but this belief shows an appearance of going much deeper. With a triumph that would draw envy from Daniel Webster himself, fresh out of his famous duel with the devil, or earn a raised eyebrow of approval from Spock, just after he and Kirk have short-circuited their latest ancient alien computer with his devastating logic — Internet left-wingers really do seem to believe, to the depths of their souls, they’ve supported an argument. Oh boy howdy, have they ever. All sane men, behold their argument in trembling fear, for your sanity must surely be questioned if your opinion doesn’t emerge from their onslaught chiseled down to precisely match the liberal’s, like a statue from a block.

And what are these liberal arguments, anyway, which are so incredibly compelling they leave no room for any sane man to disagree, or to even question?

I think it is fair to say, that upon weeding out statistical anomalies like the “observation” above, and an abundance of smarmy ad hominems and bits of humor and sarcasm, I have not seen anything written by the Bush-haters except proclamations of what has earned their approval vs. what has not. I mean, clear back to the first day in early 2000, when we nationally recognized a George W. Bush we could do some arguing about. “Bush did x,” goes the argument — and the all who wait for someone to say “x is wrong, because…” are left waiting indefinitely. That bunny trail will not be tread upon by man. Why should the wrongness of x be explained? It’s wrong — we all know it’s true, it simply is.

Two years ago, a presidential election was shoved into overdrive, and a nation breathlessly awaited the challenging party’s official position on the War on Terror. This country has had its share of war presidents, and it has a dismal history of keeping the powers of those war presidents in check. It would have served our interests well, to diligently explore how our current administration was managing our various conflicts and to address the ways in which our freedoms were being eroded in ways said freedoms didn’t have to be.

Well, we didn’t get that. What we heard, was that “Bush” was “torturing detainees” and that our “civil liberties” were being “lost.” Those who researched what torture meant ended up a little surprised, for they found out that torture had nothing to do with torture. Those who looked into what a what a detainee was, found they really were terrorists and terrorist-wannabes who clung to no possibility of innocence, except wherever “reasonable doubt” was expanded to encompass all existential uncertainties in human affairs. In short, some of those acquainted with the truth, applying an objective common-sense standard of vocabulary selection, might be inclined to call them “terrorists” instead of “detainees,” but the more soothing noun was selected to attend to the chore of persuasion, which should rightfully have been left up to the logic.

It’s wrong to torture detainess, we were told, because we’re better than that. Better than that? Really? Better than “waterboarding” some guy who would kill your family along with hundreds of others? Maybe when we’re stoned out of our gourd on pot and potato chips, watching porn and Star Trek re-runs, too lazy to get up to pee, let alone to do that waterboarding.

That’s what people who “are better than that” do?

Those who water-board, to me, look “better” than those who channel-surf. I don’t wish to impose my system of belief upon others, but to me, it seems a worthy question.

Point is, that the answer was not forthcoming, nor was any debate that might lead to it. Waterboarding, like force-feeding someone on a hunger strike, is “torture”; and torture is “beneath us.” In short, our liberals didn’t like those things. That was the extent of the debate. They didn’t like it. They like other things, and they don’t like those.

A similar frustration lay in store for whatever intrepid soul undertook to explore what civil liberties were being lost. Even today, we do have some anecdotes about people being visited by federal agents over their library transactions, but the anecdotes labor under the problematic burden of being not real. What other examples are there? Well, the point really is that the mindset is hostile to the question being asked, not that the substance of the not-exactly-forthcoming answer is lackluster, but I’ll explore the answer anyway:

You can’t do incredibly stupid and asinine things when you’re on a plane. In this case, arguing with security people over your “Suspected Terrorist” pin, can get you ejected from the flight.

I think most of us would agree, having inspected the issue this far, that the substance is lacking. I can’t do stupid crap on a plane now, but before the September 11 attacks, I couldn’t do that either. What civil liberty has been lost here? My point is not that we never found out; my point is, rather, that to tell us the answer, or to demonstrate some diligence in trying to find an answer, was never deemed a worthy exercise. Like the existence of God, or that God is a man, it was an unprovable system of belief, and was always intended to be that and nothing more.

Go right on down the list, and the pattern holds true. We must have a “global test”; really? Why is that? Inspections and sanctions will work; war won’t. Based on what? You like sanctions and you don’t like war, but other than those what have ya got? Nothing. It’s not a baby, it’s a lump of tissue. And your evidence is? Well, it turns out you like to call it a lump of tissue and you don’t like to call it a baby. That’s all. What else…health care is a right, and all Americans deserve a living wage. Okay, I’ve got an open mind, can we explore what “all Americans” do to deserve a living wage? And the answer is — no, we can’t. They just do.

If you were born when I started arguing with liberals on the “innernets,” within the next few weeks you’d be old enough to go to the store and buy me some beer. And those preceding few paragraphs capture the extent of the “arguing” I’ve seen liberals do. They like this thing; they don’t like that other thing.

Now, about the liberal blog. The fellow who appears to have something to do with running the site, had some very kind words for me and offered to do a “link swap,” in which I mention the name of his blog and his blog mentions the name of mine. We point to each other, in other words. I accommodated his request, as you can see in the sidebar where “Empires Fall” is mentioned. Then, I put up a post commenting on how rare it is nowadays, that people can labor under different opinions on the state of affairs as well as about what should be done — and nevertheless find something positive to point out about the other fellow.

Well, I still believe in stopping to notice people who are worthy of that kind of compliment, and I still think “Empires Fall” is worthy. For the next few days or so, I’ll keep their name in the sidebar.

But at this point, I’ve lost most of my interest in figuring out when, oh when, “House of Eratosthenes” will be mentioned over there. His list of blogs is much longer than mine, but it’s neatly alphabetized and I have to assume I would be somewhere under the letter H. It seems to have slipped their minds. Oh well, it really doesn’t matter, this is the blog that nobody reads…if there is a goal, here, it is to make some objective observations about contemporary events and proven matters of fact, and to draw reasonable inferences from those available facts. Becoming a “phenom” in the blogosphere is not really part of the agenda. It never has been.

But just along the issue of people saying they’ll do things and then doing them, had he done it, it would nevertheless have been appreciated.

Must-Tards VI

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

Must-Tards VI

This blog is named after a library administrator who lived in ancient times, who ran around peeking into holes in the ground, and ended up figuring something out that was much bigger than he was. Drawing upon that as a lesson, we remain open to the possible hidden meaning behind seemingly innocuous observations, which may at first blush appear to have no meaning at all.

One of these observations is, that when people start to talk about womens’ body styles and sizes, and/or the clothes that are made available for those women to put on those bodies, the crap that comes tumbling out of their mouths almost never makes any sense.

Another one of these observations is, there is something deeply ingrained in the culture of that place called “Europe,” something that seems to motivate people to form gassy, flashy, bloated opinions about what someone else should or shouldn’t be doing. Here in America, I can find people who form opinions about anything & everything at the drop of a hat — but there’s this unwritten rule that an effort should be made, just as lip-service if nothing else, to define how the controversy you’re trying to create is any of your business. I mean, at least before you get to the part about commanding other people to do things, with authority you don’t really have.

Now, I don’t know what causes these things to be the way they are, or what kind of case I could build to convince someone these things are so, should that audience gaze upon my arguments with a jaundiced eye. And whoever would undertake to objectively assess whether or not I have any business noticing these things, would be hard-pressed to conclude that I do — just as it’s hard to figure out what business a library administrator has, peeking into wells to find the size of the earth, at a time when there were astronomers and well-diggers employed in doing those very things. I’m not a woman; I don’t buy womens’ clothes. I’m not in Europe, and never have been there.

I just find this kind of disturbing, is all.

Stores urged to drop super-skinny mannequins
By KRISTINA PEDERSEN, Daily Mail 08:24am 28th April 2006

Shop window mannequins should have the figures of “real women”, campaigners said yesterday.

They fear the unrealistic proportions of models in shops could be contributing to the rise of eating disorders.

Over the past 50 years, the average dress size has increased from 12 to 16. The average woman’s weight has gone up from eight to 11 stone.

But most high street fashion stores, including Mango, Topshop and Zara, use mannequins that fit a size six to 10. At 5ft 10in, most are also five inches taller than the average woman.

A spokesman for the Eating Disorder Association said: “The reason the stores have these proportions is because the mannequins are normally standing above shoppers, so as they look upwards the dummies look shorter and squatter than they really are.

“But of course this doesn’t change the fact that they still look slim.”

Officials in Andalusia, Spain, have already banned the use of mannequins smaller than the average Spanish woman.

The Spanish government is hoping to implement this across the country. “We would welcome any ruling that puts less pressure on women to get thinner,” said the Eating Disorder Association spokesman.

“They are already inundated with unrealistic images as it is.

“It is down to advertising and what companies think will help sell their clothes.”

A spokesman for Spanish-owned Zara, said: “We use the standard mannequins from our supplier.

“We would be happy to use larger sizes if they became available.”

Gotta love good ol’ Europe. Everything everybody does is everybody else’s business. Should, should, gotta, must, should, gotta, gotta, must, ought, should.

Now, if this were to be published in an American paper, I would expect to see something that would clarify for me what the Eating Disorder Association is, and how it’s any of their beef. That they don’t like the mannequins the way they are, is crystal-clear to me. I would just like to know 1) is it any “skin off their nose” if the mannequins are left unchanged, and if so, how; and 2) since the Eating Disorder Association wants the mannequins changed, what kinds of powers can that august body bring to bear to make it happen?

I need both of these pieces of information, to decide for myself if this is really “news” to begin with. If EDA doesn’t have an actual interest in the decision, and they don’t have any authority to bring their desires about, then the story boils down to this: Someone somewhere has a negative opinion about the way someone else is doing something. Well, shoot. Look around. Everyone’s got an opinion about everything that’s being done by anybody…and very few of those opinions are flattering.

If the EDA, and those who write about them, seek to stimulate a national debate in Great Britain about what is “normal” it seems to me very strange they would want, to use a cliched expression, “to go there.” When you’re fat, and you see a model and/or mannequin that is not fat, it’s not normal to re-define yourself as normal and the model as strange. A desire to expurgate that other ideal from public view, lest someone else see the model and get the idea that the model is “normal,” is likewise not-normal.

If we’re talking about a model and/or mannequin that is so skinny as to appear unhealthy, it’s quite nonsensical to suppose that something chubbier and healthier, only starts to look healthy when the skinny model is whisked away. If the stockier body type looks okay when it stands alone, but may suddenly take on an appearance of being a bit too rotund when compared to something else, I’m really at a loss to see how anyone is helped when the comparisons are changed. What does that do, exactly? It’s kind of like the bunny rabbit closing its eyes when the fox comes looking for him, reasoning that if he can’t see the fox, well then no way can the fox see him!

Oh, I do recognize eating disorders. I understand people, especially women, can get into unhealthy body images and from there, descend into an unhealthy diet. The thing I can’t quite get past, though — and if EDA is thinking about this, it seems they’re not thinking too hard — being fat is unhealthy too. The medical evidence of damage from a thicker body style, is no less solid than the evidence suggesting a proliferation of eating disorders arising from thinner styles, and desires for same. Fat, once it reaches excessive levels, is bad — bad for your heart, bad for your blood, bad for your brain. Fat, once it reaches excessive levels, changes peoples’ appearances. What a wonderful device that is, that so many health risks can be anticipated based on physical appearance.

What an incredible responsibility it is, to figure out who is “inundated with unrealistic images,” ponder worryingly about what might happen to those inundatees with less-stable thinking processes, and prevent such disasters from coming to pass. Is this really the line-of-work EDA wants to do? Is it ready to take responsibility for making sure these unrealistic-body-messages are intercepted everywhere? How about answering to a higher authority, when the interception of those messages doesn’t happen, or comes too late?

No, I don’t see that kind of sunlight in this well. I think the EDA, simply put, approves of chubby women and disapproves of skinny women, because they represent chubby women who don’t like to be reminded they’re chubby. Whether the fashion stores feel compelled to listen to them, or why they do if they do, is a mystery I’ll have to try to unravel some other day.

What Is Bias, Anyway?

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

What Is Bias, Anyway?

“It’s not the votes that count, it’s who counts the votes,” a quote famously attributed to Soviet Union dictator Josef Stalin, has been offered up over and over again by Democrats eager to exploit whatever perceived or actual flaws existed in the voting process in Florida/2000 and Ohio/2004. To this, I have a rejoinder. It is oh-so-witty, but I nevertheless oh-so-much wish I didn’t have it.

It isn’t what news channels are biased, it is who gets to say they are biased.

Or more to the point, who gets to say what bias is.

I’m told that Fox News is “biased.” My red-flag of suspicion doesn’t get raised very high, until I’m told the same thing three or four times, and then given some concrete evidence that the people saying that thing, can’t prove it. In the case of Fox News’ bias, those who call it biased, have done this — and then, they’ve gone on to say the same thing again, dozens of times more.

Now, suspicion is not refutation; Fox News may very well be biased. But I’m not in the habit of being alerted to biased news sources, by drones who are obviously being sent out to repeat talking points by other drones.

Well, the current presidential administration disagrees with me there, as this Press Corps transcript shows.

Q Well, they [White House television sets] always seem to be tuned to Fox, and there’s been requests, and these are paid for by taxpayer dollars. And my understanding is that you guys have to watch Fox on Air Force One. Is that true?

MR. McCLELLAN: First time I’ve ever heard of it. First time you’ve brought it to my attention, meaning the first time the press corps has brought it to my attention. In fact, I’ve watched other channels on here.

Q There’s one —

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on, Jim, come on. I’ve watched other channels on here, so I don’t know where you’re hearing that. But it’s the first time anyone in the press has raised that question with me.

Q You’ve watched other channels other than Fox?

MR. McCLELLAN: On here, yes, sure.

Q I’ve never seen — they’re always turned to Fox, which a lot of people consider a Republican-leaning network.

Q Scott, is it one — on the airplane, is it one for all? I mean, if it’s tuned for Fox here, is it Fox everywhere?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that certain areas may be interconnected, but I’ll have to double-check which.

Q Is yours off, wherever you are?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the conference room, or the senior staff office, the staff office, they’re different TVs, and you can switch to different channels. I’m not sure if some of these in the back are connected to some of the others that are watching right here, right now. It doesn’t look like it to me. I’ve never known anyone that’s raised a complaint about a request from back here to watch a different channel.

Q I’m officially raising it and officially complaining about it.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I’m going to go see if we can change the channel for you. Have you called up?

Q I was the Fox victim, and I was told — the quote was, “No,” when I asked for CNN.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know who you talked to, so — it didn’t come to my attention. You don’t know who you talked to either?

Q Well, the magic people at the other end off the phone.

MR. McCLELLAN: The magic people at the other end of the phone. Well, I’ll see if this cabin is —

Q I was told, “We don’t watch CNN here, you can only watch Fox.”

MR. McCLELLAN: As I said, it’s hard to respond to something when I don’t know who it is you talked to.

Q I used the phone back here.

MR. McCLELLAN: I find this all quite amusing, to tell you the truth. I mean, there are a lot of people on this plane that do watch that channel.

Q I’ve never been told, no. They’re such nice guys up there.

MR. McCLELLAN: First time you brought it to my attention. I’ll go see what we can do on it.

* * * * *

MR. McCLELLAN: We just called up. They’re going to be changing it, at your all’s request, to the channel that you requested, which is CNN — from the press corps.

Q Thanks, Scott.

High time this happened, since Fox is biased after all and everybody knows it, you say? Not so fast. Consider the following cognitions about the bias of Fox News…

1. Fox News is biased in the sense that it allows political commentary into news segments, which is not supposed to be done.
2. Fox News is biased in the sense that it is run by people, who have certain opinions about things, as all people do.
3. Fox News does a professional job of presenting news, but in the editorial segments, the comments are slanted to the right both in quantity and in intensity.
4. Fox News does a respectable job of presenting both sides, but it has a subtle bias in the way it does this, since after all Sean Hannity is more engaging (and sexier looking to those who sway that way) than Alan Colmes.
5. Fox News is designed, and managed, to be a “counterweight” to a media perceived by many to be slanted to the left.
6. Fox News uses unorthodox and politically-loaded nomenclature, such as using “homicide bombers” to describe suicide bombers.
7. #6 is true, but that’s okay, because when you think about it “homicide bombers” is more accurate.
8. #7 is true, but that’s not okay, because their slogan is “We Report, You Decide” and the effort to re-think our vocabulary is not consistent with this mission statement.
9. #7 is true, but that is okay after all, because other news sources do subtle things like calling illegal aliens “undocumented immigrants,” which is not nearly as accurate as “illegal alien,” or, when you think about it some more, “tresspasser whose background cannot be investigated.”
10. Fox News is unbiased, but it looks strange to us because we happen to be accustomed to news that is strongly biased in the opposite direction.
11. Fox News is biased in one direction, conventional news is equally biased in the opposite direction.
12. #11 is true, and because of that, you’re better informed if you get information from Fox News as well as from other sources, keeping an open mind.

Now grab a pencil and circle the cognition that comes closest to reality, in your personal opinion. Ready? Now take this impromptu ballot…and…throw it in the trash! #1 wins! #2 through #12 don’t. Got that? #1 wins, hands down.

Read the transcript, above, one more time. #1 wins. The one that has enjoyed oh, so many opportunities to be concretely proven…and has not been. Ever. Not even once.

Did you circle something else? Tough! The White House Press Corps just overruled you, with the blessing of the White House itself. By what authority did they do this? By the authority of…where is it…ah, here it is: “…Fox, which a lot of people consider a Republican-leaning network.” That’s it! A lot of people.

Who are those people, you say? After all, #1 wasn’t the one I circled…how do I find out who those people are?

You can’t!

Isn’t that great!

The issue is “these [televisions] are paid for by taxpayer dollars.” Your rights as a taxpayer have just been upheld! By nameless, faceless people whose opinion may or may not match yours…

…but hey, that’s all right. Anything for democracy.

Because just as it matters who counts the votes, not who casts them, it matters who decides what’s biased, not what bias is.

I wish we could have a debate about the bias of Fox News, and when you think about it, for an allegation that attracts such heat and passion from so many directions, it is a little weird that we don’t have one. When’s the last time you heard that Fox has political leanings? When’s the last time you got a concrete example? I’ll bet the former of those, is something that revisits you a lot more often than the latter. Why is that? Actually, you know what? I wish we could have a debate about what bias really is.

The difference between subjectivity and objectivity, is sometimes not so clear. And lacking a fairly substantial and sophisticated methodology for making the distinction, with the more complex issues the distinction becomes a matter of opinion in & of itself. I think the issue is sufficiently complicated, that problems arise when the bias of a news channel is left up to unelected, unnacountable hacks in the White House Press Corps.

And you know what, mister nameless-faceless guy? I’ll bet “a lot of people” agree with me about that.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form VIII

Friday, April 28th, 2006

Imitation is the Sincerest Form VIII

Yesterday morning, I had some fairly flattering things to say about some guy who once ran for President of the United States by the name of John Kerry. That would be pleasantly surprising to those who are more sympathetic to the Massachusetts senator’s cause, I think, but what would be even more pleasantly surprising was that my positive comments had to do with skills, gifts and aptitudes that we all know the war hero has worked particularly hard to refine over a great deal of time.

Senator Kerry spent much of the long hot summer of 2004 atoning for his ridiculous utterance, “I actually voted for the $87 billion [in emergency funding for the troops in Iraq] before I voted against it,” opting to use silence as the best salve to cleanse the gaping wound. When he met the President in Coral Gables, his staff switched ointments, and they did it cleverly. It was really a thing of beauty, and I remember admiring him for it. When President Bush brought up the quote, and bloggers on both sides knew that he would, the Senator responded:

Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?

Pow! Right in the kissa! “Kerry fans” — actually, Kerry doesn’t have any fans, they’re just people who hate President Bush — to this day insist the Senator won all three debates, and this is the kind of thing they have in mind. Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. Lemonade from a lemon.

Wow, the words flow as if they came from Howard “Yeeaaaarrrrggghhhh!!!!” Dean himself.

Hey, I’m not averse to recognizing talent wherever I see it. Kerry is very, very good at thinking on his feet, pretending not to be a flip-flopper when he is one; in general, he’s a genius at salesmanship. Well, you know…he’s a genius at selling something to people who desperately want to be sold the thing, performing considerably worse in front of a crowd that’s a bit more skeptical. And I did go on to knock him for being…what was it I called him? I said he was “a horrible candidate for representative public office.” Well, you have to take the bad with the good, and since you only have to peruse my site for a little while to see I’m generally hostile to John Kerry’s…well, to every single scintilla in that crazy perspective from which he appears to see the world…when you factor that in, I was being generally pretty positive toward him.

Now since I wrote that, I’m not sure what happened. The ensuing timeline is pretty tight and doesn’t allow for much wiggle-room, so I figure sometime between three and five o’clock on the east coast, one of Kerry’s staffers read my blog. He must have e-mailed a link to Kerry’s Blackberry, whereupon maybe one of the Senator’s assistants taught him how to use it. Within the next five or six hours, max, someone well-connected with the Boston ultra-liberal inner-circle, must have made a comment in a conference forum about what was going through the Senator’s mind.

Because, after all, I have no reason to believe Ellen Goodman reads my blog. I would suspect hardly anybody does. But how else do you explain this gem which appeared this morning in The Boston Herald:

Don’t run, John Kerry
Ellen Goodman
April 28, 2006

The signs that John Kerry is going to run for president in 2008 are rising faster than the pollen count. There was the requisite New York Times op-ed — How many days late? How many dollars short? — on getting out of Iraq. There was the Globe op-ed that preceded the speech supporting war dissenters at Faneuil Hall to an audience of groupies yelling “Run” and “2008.” There was Ted Kennedy’s remark, “If he runs, I’m supporting him.”
I am not an opponent of Senator Kerry. I’m a constituent. I’ve voted for him six different times. On Nov. 2, 2004, I briefly wished that the Constitution let us pick a president by the early exit polls.
Democrats are cute when they get pragmatic, but not necessarily successful. This time, the stalwarts were convinced they’d found a moderate who couldn’t be polarized. But he was. They thought they found a decorated veteran — three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star — who couldn’t be trashed. But he was.

Kerry is not the only one who still imagines a thousand belated rejoinders for the swift boat attackers. He’s not the only one who cannot believe he actually said of Iraq war funding, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” [emphasis mine]
Kerry had many fine moments. I saw some of them on the trail and in the debates. But as many have said, Kerry is a politician who has more policies than ideas. Ask what he believes in and the answer is a 10-point plan. He ran a cautious campaign against a reckless commander in chief. And while caution is not a moral failing, Kerry’s gut seems to have a surgical bypass through his cranium.
John Kerry is a good, honorable, thoughtful man. And a lousy presidential candidate. He couldn’t do “ideas” the first time. He wouldn’t do them the second time. It’s just not in him.
John, please. Don’t even think about it.

I’ve been robbed, but I’m not calling the police. I’m quite flattered.

Look, here is why it’s glaringly important to the Democrats to take Goodman at her advice, assuming Senator Kerry fails to.

While this crack about “ask what he believes in and you get a 10-point plan” has some truth to it — it has a lot of truth to it — it is nevertheless patently unfair to advance the notion, or to assume it, that Kerry has a weakness for thinking on his feet or for speaking in public. Yes, he lost; but that’s not the reason why. Look at his victorious opponent, for heaven’s sake. The challenger lost the race because he garbled one line about voting against the $87 billion? I don’t think so. It wasn’t the garbling — it was the betrayal of the flip-floppery that made this devastating. If he talked like Porky freakin’ Pig, but was nevertheless forthcoming about voting against the $87 billion, who knows he could be President right now if he handled it that way.

John Kerry didn’t shoot himself in the foot when he flubbed a line. He shot himself in the foot when he tried to be all things to all people.

And that is why you need to go grab yourself a folding chair and a cup of coffee before you ask Senator Kerry what he thinks about anything. He doesn’t want anyone to say “I was going to vote for him before he said X, and now I’m not going to.” It is his paramount goal, to avoid that. That’s what makes him a bad leader.

Democrats need to put in place, an agenda we’re simply not willing to have. Kerry’s ability to tell you it’s raining outside, in such a way that you’ll swear to God he just told you the sun is shining, and nevertheless when you go out in a tank top and shorts and no headgear and end up soaking wet, but it’s all your fault and none of his — that is exactly the talent the Democrats need. But he isn’t Bill Clinton because amidst all the confusion and obfuscation, he comes across as exactly what he is. You can listen with just half an ear, being halfway awake, and you can tell there’s a reason he’s giving you 5,000 words when fifty words should get the job done. He’s trying to anticipate what might motivate you to do what he doesn’t want you to do, and avoid saying it.

Bill Clinton was much better. He said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky,” and I gotta believe that unless someone knew a great deal about the case being investigated, and President Clinton’s unique — uh — personality…they would never in a million years think to ask “Wait a minute, maybe we should ask him if she had relations with him?”

Put more succinctly, Kerry is a good confuser and obfuscator, but Clinton was all of these things, plus a good illusionist.

That’s what the Democrats need to sell their poo-poo sandwich right about now.

What do they want to get going, after all? Just do whatever you want with the terrorists, give ’em whatever they want so long as the next day, terrorism is out of the headlines. Get the public riled up and agitated about Social Security cuts that aren’t really coming. Get some debates going about robbing thirty-something apartment rats who are barely making ends meet, to buy free medicine for rich old seniors with Winnebagos and summer homes. Get everyone arguing about socialized medicine. Make people forget about their huge income tax increases, and instead incite them to near-riot status about 75 cent ATM surcharges. Also, get them scared stiff that Donald Wildmon and Jerry Falwell are personally going to knock down bedroom doors, and send to Guantanamo Bay anyone caught having sex in any position other than missionary.

In short, stop asking the unwashed masses what they’re worried about. Tell them what they’re worried about. That’s what leaders are for, in Democrat-land.

And then cram that big ol’ giant toothpaste tube with the mish-mash of liberal baby-killing, soldier-slandering, tax-increasing, mediocrity-promoting, neo-quasi-socialist goodness down everybody’s throat.

Well if you ran that kind of agenda past people in a poll, worded that way — or even tastefully cleaned up, somewhat, with the meaning left intact — we’re just not into that stuff. We really aren’t. We’ll vote for a Democrat over a Republican if a really juicy, all-consuming Republican scandal has been dominating the news. We’ll do that. But we feel incredibly uncomfortable about choosing a leader that way.

That’s just the way it is.

So they need another Clinton, or they can pretty much just forget the whole thing. And it will work that way even if gas goes to fifteen bucks a gallon, the Dow plunges to 2500, and Bush’s approval rating goes to one-stinkin’-percent.

Not Your Grandfather’s Protest

Friday, April 28th, 2006

Not Your Grandfather’s Protest


Such a massive turnout could make for the largest protests since the civil rights era of the 1960s, though not all Latinos — nor their leaders — were comfortable with such militancy, fearing a backlash in Middle America.

Subtle, yet effective. On Monday, the March on Washington is going to be recreated. The protests on May 1 represent a reincarnation of the “civil rights era of the 1960s.” It’s not expressly stated here, but it is implied, strongly, in words as well as in pictures.

It will be so implied again. And again and again and again.

If only the corollary really worked. Why, after all, is a backlash feared in Middle America? America cherishes the right to protest, after all. America is not torn down the middle with a rancorous debate about whether the civil rights movement was an improvement or not. Within any culture, some things are just accepted.

The civil rights movement, now, enjoys this acceptance. Some Latinos, and/or their leaders, are worried that next week’s protest does not. Why? Because we haven’t had a chance to be acclimated to it? Perhaps it’s that and nothing more. If that’s the case, it just makes it all the more important to get the protest going, so we can be acclimated to this, too.

But protesters, you had better get out there before you think on this too long, because you might eventually come around to pondering what it is to which you want “Middle America” to be acclimated. You see, there’s an important difference between this and what happened forty years ago.

Protesters in the civil rights era, protested a system of laws that contradicted itself. Quite simply, all persons within the United States enjoyed equal protection under the law and due process — but, at the same time, they didn’t. The protesters did not contradict themselves; the law they sought to change, contradicted itself.

This Monday, the protesters will be breaking some laws, while enjoying the protections afforded by other laws, and simultaneously telling us what yet other laws should be saying. Do they live within the law, or don’t they? The answer seems to depend on which law is under discussion. Are we all beholden to the law and obliged to live under it, or are we not? The answer seems to depend on which class is being subjected to that law.

You know what the Mafia is? It’s not a bunch of families running around in New York during the Cold War. Most people don’t understand, the Mafia has an ancient history and it has remained true to its principles and purpose throughout that history. Quite simply, it is an undocumented, alternative system of “law” and redress of grievances, for those who don’t belong in the “real” law. For whatever reason. The human race hasn’t launched too many endeavors, especially in what could be called “government,” in which defining doctrines are enshrined for two solid millenia. The Mafia has done this, at least within the scraps of documentation about it that somehow survive. It really is an amazing achievement.

Consistency is key. My whole point about the upcoming protests, is one of consistency. When Don Vito Corleone leaves a horse head in my bed, I expect him to have the decency to high-tail it out of my bedroom before the cops show up. If I cross a picket line and a union thug breaks my kneecaps, I expect his organization to fly him out of town and hide him before I give his description to the police. Threaten me with coercion, intimidation, and fear — or with the law. Not both at the same time. And don’t break one law, in favor of another law that makes your other activities “kinda sorta illegal, but not really.” Live within the law or don’t. Are you Martin Luther King, or Robin Hood?

No answer forthcoming to that, the protesters end up protesting that they don’t want to follow laws, while those whose minds they seek to change, are implicitly expected to.

I expect there will be some long faces in May. There are bound to be expectations in the air that Monday’s message will reverberate like the message of forty years ago. Hopefully, amid the ensuing disappointment, there will be some principled epiphanies about why things are working out differently.

Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself… VII

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself… VII

This morning I was pissing and moaning, in that long-winded, cute way that I have — why say it in five hundred words when you can use fifteen thousand? — certain people among us, who can be described by a certain adjective I’ll not use but that rhymes with “PFFFSSLKXCHTHSIBERAL,” do weird things. Specifically, they tend to substantiate the point they want to make, simply by making a declaration of what they like and what they don’t like. Nothing more than that. And then, sadly, conducting themselves as if they’ve outdone Daniel Webster’s argument to The Devil, or discovered the next known prime number, or designed a working time-travel machine or “Stargate” or something.

Well, how much male-premenstruation can I work up about this, really. It’s just a tad bit irritating, pretending to engage in a meeting of the minds with me and others who disagree with them, and then wasting our time as they do nothing more than collect high-fives and pats-on-the-back from their liberal buddies. Just a minor irritation, nothing more. A tiny little parade of disingenuousness for my enjoyment, only for as long as I choose to watch it and/or partake in it.

They do it for FREE!

And they make NO RULES according to which I’m obligated to live out my existence. (Lord knows, they’d love to, that’s what it’s all about.)

On the other hand, the California State Assembly Democrats would like to make it known, so they can collect high-fives and pats-on-the-back from their liberal buddies, how much they support illegal aliens. By not working like they’re supposed to; going to a protest instead. And collecting the per diem they draw, from doing that work that they’re not going to do. And, by the way, if they did that work, they’d be making the rules by which I’m bound, as a California citizen…the same rules the “innernet” liberals wish they could make.

Not that I get to escape the rules that aren’t made, since they’ll be back the very next day, outlawing pictures of cigarettes in privately-owned garages, or fining businesses for not putting tiny trampolines under trees by their office buildings in case squirrels fall out of them, or …who knows what. They’ll work at it twice as hard the next day, drawing yet another per diem. That’s why they call it per diem after all.

Is this sinking in? People who make rules for a living, not-overwhelmingly-common-sense-rules, and boy howdee us lowly citizens had better follow those rules or else — want to be paid for making those stupid rules, they want to play hooky, and go to a protest to support people who choose not to follow rules. Then, they want to come back, make the stupid rules they missed out on making the day of the protest, for us lowly sheep who are so stupid we choose to follow rules. Then the rule-makers want to get paid both days.

My writing is getting all bloaty as my face gets red and blotchy. I need to learn to keep it under control, like this guy, one of my brothers on Blogger

Legislative Democrats refuse to work on day of walk out, but still want to collect per-diem.

The California State Assembly regularly holds floor session on Mondays and Thursdays to vote on bills. However, Monday May 1st they will not be meeting, as the Democrats have chosen to participate in the work stoppage supporting illegal immigration which is planned for that day. But instead of canceling session all together, they changed to a check-in session so that they could still collect their per-diem.

Today during closing statements, Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy (R- Monrovia) chastised Assembly Democrats. He asked why they would collect per-diem when everyone else who is taking the day off will not be getting paid at all?

He went on to suggest that Republicans come to the capital on Monday, the day of protest and demand that they be allowed to work in the place of Democrat legislators because they are willing to do the work the Dems are unwilling to do. And they will do it at half the pay!


I’m going to make a point of checking back on his site. He’s got a link to audio on that site, by the way.

Our Clean Split

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Our Clean Split

Predictably, Neil Young’s new song about impeaching the President has gotten a lot of tighty-righties and lefty-loosies arguing. Predictably, I have deigned to wade into the fray. Predictably, the lefty-loosies thought very little of my free advice about how to reach perhaps millions of people like me, and bolster their little message that the desire to impeach President Bush is common-sense and bipartisan. Predictably, since so little amicable reception awaited a suggestion that involves so little effort, I’m now casting a jaundiced eye toward that message — show me someone who wants to impeach, and I’ll show you a left-wing, new-age hippy.

Impeachment is packaging, not a product. Scratch that…it’s more like a hot new financing program through which the product can be sold, more conventional vehicles being unavailable to consummate the sale. The product is the same ol’ giant-sized toothpaste tube of baby-killing, soldier-slandering, quasi-socialist, mediocrity-promoting progressive-taxing mish-mash of liberal goodness.

Here is something that could not have been predicted.

Watching how liberals go about arguing over the “innernets,” and taking note of how conservatives present their arguments — noticing over and over again a subtle discrepancy between the two, a discrepancy I’ve been repeatedly told exists only in my mind — I’m given cause to think about something John Kerry said during the debates eighteen months ago. It’s a tying up of a loose-end. I knew, clear back then, that the Senator was saying something with profound implications, upon which I would have to cogitate to find the deeper meaning. I think I just got it. I’ll explain.

To explore this, think about American politics over the long term for just a second. Our population is always split over politics; that is the nature of politics. There is a cyclical nature to how clean of a split we have. There are periods of time in which the split is extremely messy, and on those occasions it is common for a third-party to emerge victorious or else give victory away to a better-established, usually-hostile faction that would otherwise suffer defeat. Three-way presidential elections typically conclude such an era, as they did in 1912 and 1992. You could say the period from 1948 to 1964 was another such time, as during this time both Republicans and Democrats were suffering from infighting among party loyalists and dissidents.

There are other times when the split is clean. This usually follows in the wake of an extraordinarily strong presidential administration. We had this “luxury,” if you want to call it that, in the 1830’s after Andrew Jackson re-defined what a Jacksonian Democrat was. A hundred years later, you were either with FDR’s New Deal, or you weren’t. Presidents Reagan and Clinton similarly polarized the landscape. A President can be strong, and fail, at the same time. Lyndon Johnson was extroardinarily effective at getting his policies passed. He was popular in 1964, and unpopular in 1969. Cleaning up the mish-mash, helping friend & foe to decide whether to support him or oppose him, he was successful all the way through. I do not know of anyone, nor do I know of anyone who knows anyone, who was undecided about LBJ.

By the way, let me take just a step or two down a tiny bunny trail. There’s a secondary pattern here. Feelings of resentment toward a presidential administration by a chunk of the contemporary electorate, no matter how bitter and unforgettable the feeling, and no matter how big the chunk, do very little to cast dispersions on an administration through history’s lens. “Strong” presidents, almost by definition, have ticked people off. Presidents who made “everybody” happy were weak, and history regards them as such. Bush-bashers forever bellyaching about “disunity,” I’m lookin’ right at you. You say history will frame our current President as weak, because his policies have made a lot of people upset. You’re saying history will do what it never has done, and never can do. Abraham Lincoln is a far more likely model: Rancor toward Lincoln was buried with the bones of those who had borne it, while the memory of his strength endures for generation after generation, with no end in sight. There’s your foreshadowing of Bush’s legacy.

Back to the subject at hand. The nature of the split is what is cyclical. The public is agitated into action, each half against the other, or else the public is generally dissatisfied in a way it can’t quite define. If dissatisfaction is the order of the day, the clean split is lost; voter participation tumbles, infighting ensues as offshoot factions emerge, or both.

Where are we right now? Today, the President’s ability to keep his own party unified has sunk beneath the zone of the inadequate; it is indefensible. In matters of illegal immigration and the like, there is no reason — none — for the conservative wing of the Republican party to be betrayed in the way that it has. People understand that being anti-illegal-immigrant isn’t the same as being anti-immigrant, even those who try to foment this confusion for their political gain. And in matters where the administration has been friendlier to the conservative position, such as defending the decision to invade Iraq, no excuse justifies the appallingly poor job they’ve done getting their message out.

Seldom have I been more surprised over any long stretch of time, than I have been since the Spring of 2003, when I saw my very first picket sign that said “WHERE ARE THE WMDS?” about five or six weeks into the invasion. The “We Should Not Have Gone In Because There Were No WMDs” crowd has achieved something incredible here, and the credit can go nowhere except toward the administration’s thoroughly incompetent job of defending itself. There isn’t even a unifying message behind this movement; nobody, in any rational dialog, can long defend the proposition that because the search for WMDs hasn’t gone so hot, this means Saddam was a harmless guy and it would have been a great idea to leave him alone. But I can take that sentence immediately preceding, polish it up a bit, put that position in a poll, and draw an approval rating for it topping out over seventy percent. It’s done all the time.


But the split isn’t altogether unclean, for a lot of that seventy percent is crossover. Take a close look at the next poll you see. A lot of the polls that say “The People Are Now Against Our Being In Iraq” are promoted as opposition to going in in the first place, which is a dead issue — the content of said polls has to do with getting out now that we’re there. This is deception bordering on fraud. It works great, once again, because of the administration’s incompetence at getting their message out.

We have polls asking us if we approve of the direction the country’s going; negative responses are inferred to be negative comments about the administration, and by extension, scorn for the more controversial policies promoted by same.

Again, this is deception bordering on fraud. I’m a great example. I strongly disapprove of the direction in which the country is going. In my opinion, taking out Saddam Hussein was a great idea, and it came far too late. I would support congressional investigations into Bush, Clinton, and Bush’s dad exploring why it took as long as it did. Put former administration officials in front of House and Senate panels, and make ’em sweat, indict some people.

Why was the United Nations allowed to decide so much, for so long, while repeatedly failing to produce results on which so much depended? Ask the question. Take away a pension or two, put someone in leg irons.

For how many do I speak? And how many do I horrify?

The point is, in some ways, a lot of ways, our split is clean. The half of us that sees President Bush as a champion, be that half content, frustrated, or feeling itself actually betrayed on some issues, recognizes the other half as promoting dangerous and deleterious policy, and vice-versa. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if our figurehead steps up to his responsibilities to represent us, or not. We know that good is good, evil is evil, illegal aliens are dangerous, and the word “patriotism” doesn’t have a lot to do with blaming your country for every little thing that goes wrong.

We think for ourselves. That really is the difference.

Oh, how horrid and offensive that is to the loyal Bush-basher who became a liberal so he could claim to think for himself. This is where Kerry’s words come into play.

Senator Kerry spent much of the long hot summer of 2004 atoning for his ridiculous utterance, “I actually voted for the $87 billion [in emergency funding for the troops in Iraq] before I voted against it,” opting to use silence as the best salve to cleanse the gaping wound. When he met the President in Coral Gables, his staff switched ointments, and they did it cleverly. It was really a thing of beauty, and I remember admiring him for it. When President Bush brought up the quote, and bloggers on both sides knew that he would, the Senator responded:

Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?

Pow! Right in the kissa! “Kerry fans” — actually, Kerry doesn’t have any fans, they’re just people who hate President Bush — to this day insist the Senator won all three debates, and this is the kind of thing they have in mind. Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. Lemonade from a lemon.

Except…OH, NOES. The Senator then did a bad thing. A bad, bad thing.

He did the same thing again, eight days later in St. Louis during his closing thirty seconds. I don’t know why. Maybe he was trying to be spontaneous, showing how great he is at thinking on his feet. Bush had stung him again with the same quotation, and why not use the same riposte? It was the proscribed response. That’s exactly the problem with doing it a second time…

…here’s what I’ll say about the $87 billion. I made a mistake in the way I talk about it. He made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is a worse decision?

Here’s the problem with that, and this is how it dovetails with what passes for “arguing” when I argue with liberals.

It is wholly incompatible with individualized, creative, independent thought.

Think about it. You could, indeed, see the decision to invade Iraq as “a worse decision” than to say you voted for the $87 billion before you voted against it. Millions upon millions of people do. But John Kerry went further. He defined a razor-thin stencil of what blessed opinions people are supposed to have. He was compulsive about doing this. He couldn’t stop. He did it from the Dean Scream, to his own concession speech, and every single moment in between the two.

You could say “Sen. Kerry, I do think the decision to invade Iraq was worse than your brain-fart about the $87 billion, but I’m a stickler for things involving public speakers articulating their positions, and although what President Bush did was worse than what you said, both are emphatically unacceptable to me.” You could say that. It’s a matter of personal philosophy and taste. But you’d still be outside of Sen. Kerry’s razor-thin perimeter of what opinions you’re supposed to have.

You could go the other way, of course. You could say “Sen. Kerry, your misstatement about the $87 billion wasn’t nearly as bad as your opponent’s decision to invade Iraq, but I’m a live-and-let-live kinda guy. Presidents will come, Presidents will go, some of them will start wars I don’t like, that’s just the way it is. He was worse, but both are okay by me.” That, too, would be outside of Kerry’s razor-thin definition of what’s acceptable.

No, no, no. The Senator’s question-mark on the end, was purely cosmetic; he wasn’t asking, he was telling. Both statements were not acceptable, and both statements were not unacceptable — one was, one wasn’t, and you were to look to him to find out which was which. That’s not so bad — until you consider, that he had an equally precise tune coming out of his fiddle for you to dance to, on the next issue. And the one after that, and the one after that.

In short, he was a horrible candidate for representative public office — one of many on that side of the aisle — because he never showed the capacity for asking for support. He told lesser mortals what to think. In his world, that’s the way things are done.

No, I’m undecided on whether that is what caused his defeat. The old boy did come awfully close.

But what is described above, is the real split. I saw that this morning, after my comments on that silly impeachment song. The litmus test I was applying to the lyrics, meant nothing. The idea that others like me could be applying the same litmus test, meant nothing. It was not specifically denied, ever — it was simply rejected as anything worthy of discussion. My opponents were afraid of having their fragile little mindsets corrupted by even considering the issue.

Their method of arguing, over and over and over again, was to bring to my attention how my comments failed to find favor with them — long after I demonstrated this wasn’t a big priority to me. Okay, maybe they were simply paying back what they saw come their way. But that’s the very opposite of arguing intelligently, isn’t it?

The point is, simply by noticing things about impeachment movements, the things such movements always include, the things they almost never include, I was “violating” something and my violation was the only matter worthy of discussion. I was coloring outside of the lines. Nevermind that during an actual presidential impeachment proceeding, everybody’s opinion matters somewhat and there is no tiny secret club of elites that gets to decide everything, outside of perhaps the Senate. Nevermind that. My opinion was contraband.

I think that’s the split. I’ve discussed, before (FAQ Question #8), the critical difference between a fact, an inference, a thing-to-do, and other important pieces of the things we call “arguments.” Page through previous entries on this blog, and you’ll find perhaps dozens of references to “established facts” and “reasonable opinions derived from those facts.” The people we call “conservatives,” whether they feel good about President Bush or not, react more-or-less appropriately to these classifications, after having made them on their own. They ask things like, I may like what I’m hearing, but is that a proven thing? What is your source? Or…I don’t disagree with your assessment of what’s happening, but how does it follow that we should do what you’re saying we should do? What will that achieve?

The people we call “liberals” — as I pointed out several paragraphs ago, perhaps it would be more appropriate to call them “Bush haters” — don’t see arguments that way. They see arguments as ethereal. As so much “stuff.” They make no classification of these cognitions, except whether they like something or whether they don’t. That’s the only distinction that has an affect on how they will react.

Proof may be lacking in something they favor, or it may exist for something that earns their scorn. In those situations, I very seldom see a left-winger place much importance on the question of proof, or even the concept of proof — or of evidence that falls short of proof, or even mildly compelling support. It’s all just a red herring to the liberal.

He asks, simply, do I like what I’m hearing, or do I not? NOTHING else matters. And if a liberal dislikes what you’ve told him, and you’re waiting for an explanation of why, you’re likely to be waiting a very long time.

Yet they really, truly, do see themselves as deeper thinkers. They really do. There’s only one reason why they’re deeper thinkers: They disapprove of something that earned the approval of someone else who doesn’t think as deeply. Providing reasons why they’re such brilliant, deep thinkers, this is ALL. THEY. HAVE.

Today, it appears to be difficult to remain a liberal, without that mindset.

It also appears to be very difficult to avoid becoming one, once the mindset has been accepted.

That seems to be the “clean split” of our times. Half of us think every little remark made, with regard to anything serious, is subject to some sort of voice-vote, some enigmatic popularity contest, some previously-defined blessing by an annointed leader. And no other form of validation. The other half of us think for ourselves.

Does Anything Rhyme With “Border”?

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Does Anything Rhyme With “Border”?

A lot of people think our President has left himself open to impeachment. Some of them think he has actually broken the law. I can’t disagree with these people outright, since the term “illegal alien” actually has the word “illegal” in it, and by passing up on so many opportunities to treat illegal aliens like illegal aliens, the administration may indeed be in breach of constitutional obligations, if nothing else. The failure of the Bush Administration to confer upon the United States, the sovereign privilege of enforcing its own border which every other nation on the planet enjoys, may be the one single policy Osama bin Laden actually likes.

So I always sit up and take notice when someone organizes a movement, in whatever form, to get the President impeached. I am told, very often, that “everybody” wants him out of office, that it isn’t just liberal Democrats who want “their” power back.

This is a pretty important question. Few things are more noble than holding our highest elected officials accountable to the law. Few things are less noble, than rocking the boat just because you like liberal Democrats, most people can’t stand them, and you want things done your way, hell with what everybody else wants.

So I’ve devised a litmus test. A very simple one.

Whenever someone makes the case to remove the President from office, because, after all, the guy is a lawbreaker, I do the best I can to find out what the Articles of Impeachment would be. Is the border issue in there somewhere? If so, then these are “real patriots,” simply insisting that high elected officials be bound by the same laws the rest of us must follow. That’s the essence of being an American. If it isn’t, then this is just another left-wing propaganda movement, nothing more. Why else would you sling a bunch of rhetoric around about breaking laws, while ignoring the one law the President is probably really breaking? Or at the very least, ignoring the willful violation of that law by others, when he’s specifically charged with enforcing it? Why would you leave that out?

So that’s my test.

And Neil Young fails it. Look at all that fanfare he’s getting from Fox, which I’m told is supposed to be slanted to the right, about the oh-so-witty lyrics in his new song you’ll be able to download Friday.

Let�s impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

He�s the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war

Let�s impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones

What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government�s protection
Or was someone just not home that day?

Let�s impeach the president
For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected

Thank god he�s racking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There�s lot of people looking at big trouble
But of course the president is clean

Thank God

Yeah, if I’m a Congressman, and I’m named to be a Manager when a case of impeachment is presented to the Senate, that makes perfect sense to me…that very first line, impeach the President for lying. That’s great, that’s just great. It would fall to me to answer the question “exactly what lie was that?” when, for the last three years, nobody in a country of three hundred million people has had the balls to answer that question. I’m supposed to be the first guy, oh yeah, when the illegal alien issue would be a slam-dunk.

I mean, not that you’ll find 67 senators who would vote to convict on it, but at least I’d be able to state the case. Impeach him for lying?

All a Republican senator, loyal to the White House, would have to do is read the definition of lie out loud to me on the floor of the Senate…


1. A false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
2. Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression.

v. lied, ly�ing, (lng) lies
v. intr.

1. To present false information with the intention of deceiving.
2. To convey a false image or impression: Appearances often lie.

v. tr.

To cause to be in a specific condition or affect in a specific way by telling falsehoods.

lie through one’s teeth

To lie outrageously or brazenly.

…and inquire, innocently, which of these numbered definitions we’re supposed to use with regard to my articles? And there I’d be, Honorable Congressman and House Impeachment Manager Freeberg, standing there with my dick in my hand…duuuhhhh…

Not a single word about the border issue?

Not a single word about this cock-and-bull thing he said, about illegal aliens doing “the jobs Americans won’t do”? Not a single word?

Yeah, it can be a challenge getting just the right content in there, and keeping those lyrics snappy. Whatsamatta Mr. Young? Nothing rhymes with “border”?


Wednesday, April 26th, 2006


Tony Snow is the new White House Press Secretary. Good.

You know what that means: We’re going to debate, and re-debate, whether Fox News is biased or not. I like this. Every now and then, you’ll see some evidence that the people in America we call “liberals” don’t know, or don’t care about, the difference between a fact and an opinion. Usually you have to wait a few weeks to see an example of this, but when we start debating whether Fox News is biased or not, the examples come flying at us like service-for-twelve silverware at a junkyard magnet.

Fox News may actually be biased to the right. But there are few things in life sadder than a left-winger, smiling smugly, thinking he’s just proven the case.

Sometime in early 2004, Neal Boortz issued a challenge to his readers and listeners (fifth story down): Prove the conservative bias of Fox News Channel. It’s two years later. I don’t know the status of this challenge. I do know that some six months onward, it was still unanswered, which I find really surprising. I mean, for as many times a year as we hear it — sometimes several times a day — you’d think the bias of Fox News would be an incredibly easy thing to prove. It can’t be all smoke and no fire, can it?

Well, here is something you may be seeing soon. It’s a tattle-tale piece from Charlie Reina, who says he served six years as the producer of News Watch. Gee, maybe someone needs to simply load up this article and send it on to Neal in answer to his challenge, right? Let’s see what Reina has to say:

Not once in the 20+ years I had worked in broadcast journalism prior to Fox – including lengthy stays at The Associated Press, CBS Radio and ABC/Good Morning America – did I feel any pressure to toe a management line. But at Fox, if my boss wasn’t warning me to “be careful” how I handled the writing of a special about Ronald Reagan (“You know how Roger [Fox News Chairman Ailes] feels about him.”), he was telling me how the environmental special I was to produce should lean (“You can give both sides, but make sure the pro-environmentalists don’t get the last word.”)

Sounds pretty bad, right? Hmm, I don’t know. What happens right before a boss tells his subordinate to be careful about something? Maybe…the subordinate shows the boss what the subordinate has a need to be warned about?

Isn’t that an actual term in the land of bosses and subordinates? A “warning”? Something that’s done after the subordinate screws up, that stops short of actually doing anything about the screw-up? Kind of a don’t-let-it-happen-again kind of a thing?

Sure, that could be evidence of Roger Ailes’ political bias. That’s pretty likely. It’s even more likely, it’s evidence of Charlie Reina’s political bias in the opposite direction. “Make sure the pro-environmentalists don’t get the last word” does sound incriminating, but I think most reasonable people would say they’d want to know who Reina gave the last word last time he had a similar assignment.

Being left without that, I want to see if Reina has something further. And he does.

Editorially, the FNC newsroom is under the constant control and vigilance of management. The pressure ranges from subtle to direct. First of all, it’s a news network run by one of the most high-profile political operatives of recent times. Everyone there understands that FNC is, to a large extent, “Roger’s Revenge” – against what he considers a liberal, pro-Democrat media establishment that has shunned him for decades. For the staffers, many of whom are too young to have come up through the ranks of objective journalism, and all of whom are non-union, with no protections regarding what they can be made to do, there is undue motivation to please the big boss.

Now, I find this really stunning. I live in California, where we just got through with watching union muscle shove The Terminator around in that special-referendum election last year. For those who weren’t following, the final tally was Unions 8, Terminator 0. The unions spent their hundreds of millions of dollars, and not one of the special initiatives passed. Not one.

So it strikes me as incredibly bizarre, that a staff of journalists can lose their objectivity by their not answering to a union. How anyone can say that, is beyond me. Don’t unionized forces labor under “undue motivation to please the big [union] boss”? But Reina has more:

in June of last year, when a California judge ruled the Pledge of Allegiance’s “Under God” wording unconstitutional, FNC’s newsroom chief ordered the judge’s mailing address and phone number put on the screen. The anchor, reading from the Teleprompter, found himself explaining that Fox was taking this unusual step so viewers could go directly to the judge and get “as much information as possible” about his decision. To their credit, the big bosses recognized that their underling’s transparent attempt to serve their political interests might well threaten the judge’s physical safety and ordered the offending information removed from the screen as soon as they saw it. A few months later, this same eager-to-please newsroom chief ordered the removal of a graphic quoting UN weapons inspector Hans Blix as saying his team had not yet found WMDs in Iraq. Fortunately, the electronic equipment was quicker on the uptake (and less susceptible to office politics) than the toady and displayed the graphic before his order could be obeyed.

Well, this is turning rapidly into something that cannot be submitted in response to Boortz’ challenge after all. Two incredibly incriminating pieces of evidence of the bias of Fox News; neither one of them managed to make it to air. You have to take the word of someone who worked there, that they happened.

Hey, that is still something. The ridiculous implication about needing a union in order to sustain objectivity creates a few problems, but there’s no reason here to think he’s an out-and-out liar. So fine, I’ll take him at his word. Fox News has a toady who is not only eager to please his bosses, but so incompetent that he’s oh-for-two in getting his incredibly right-wing slant out there. Something keeps going wrong.

I just expect something better. Something…that actually makes it on air. That is not forthcoming here. We do have the tale of The Memo, though.

…the roots of FNC’s day-to-day on-air bias are actual and direct. They come in the form of an executive memo distributed electronically each morning, addressing what stories will be covered and, often, suggesting how they should be covered. To the newsroom personnel responsible for the channel’s daytime programming, The Memo is the bible. If, on any given day, you notice that the Fox anchors seem to be trying to drive a particular point home, you can bet The Memo is behind it.

The Memo was born with the Bush administration, early in 2001, and, intentionally or not, has ensured that the administration’s point of view consistently comes across on FNC. This year, of course, the war in Iraq became a constant subject of The Memo. But along with the obvious – information on who is where and what they’ll be covering – there have been subtle hints as to the tone of the anchors’ copy. For instance, from the March 20th memo: “There is something utterly incomprehensible about Kofi Annan’s remarks in which he allows that his thoughts are ‘with the Iraqi people.’ One could ask where those thoughts were during the 23 years Saddam Hussein was brutalizing those same Iraqis. Food for thought.” Can there be any doubt that the memo was offering not only “food for thought,” but a direction for the FNC writers and anchors to go? Especially after describing the U.N. Secretary General’s remarks as “utterly incomprehensible”?

The sad truth is, such subtlety is often all it takes to send Fox’s newsroom personnel into action – or inaction, as the case may be. One day this past spring, just after the U.S. invaded Iraq, The Memo warned us that anti-war protesters would be “whining” about U.S. bombs killing Iraqi civilians, and suggested they could tell that to the families of American soldiers dying there. Editing copy that morning, I was not surprised when an eager young producer killed a correspondent’s report on the day’s fighting – simply because it included a brief shot of children in an Iraqi hospital.

Once again: It seems pretty bad, but when you think about it there’s nothing really compelling about it. A correspondent’s report got killed by a producer. How do we really know that the reason was, it included a shot of children in a hospital? Isn’t it the job of producers to kill reports, if the reports can’t be crammed into the space allocated for them? Reina could have said out loud, in advance “I’ll bet this segment doesn’t make it because there’s a shot of children in a hospital” and “I told you so” after the segment was cut — this doesn’t offer even the tiniest substantiation to the idea that the hospital shot was what killed the report. Sure it is, in Reina’s mind. But that doesn’t make it so. And that, kids, is one of the differences between a fact and an opinion. If Reina doesn’t understand this difference, small wonder that things look incriminating to him, when they actually aren’t.

A control for the experiment would be useful. What exactly gets a report cut from a CNN broadcast? Or from a news program on MSNBC? What kinds of memos do they have over there?

Well, there is another way to answer Neal Boortz’ challenge: You can take the classic liberal approach and simply scream that it isn’t fair. One of the things Neal said was “those panel discussions at the end of the show don’t count. There are liberals, moderates and conservatives on those panels. That’s not news, that’s opinion. Just find me the instances of bias in the actual reporting of the news.”

It would be highly uncharacteristic of the liberal community to let a private citizen like Neal Boortz go running around, willy-nilly, laying down challenges in whatever manner he likes without supervision or control — or at the very least, whining. So one year ago, the “PO’d Liberal” answered Neal’s challenge, liberal-style.

[Boortz’ challenge] comes with a caveat. Let’s look at his words: “Just find me the instances of bias in the actual reporting of the news.” He talks about this in several entries on his website, and he makes it very clear that in looking for a bias, you are to stay clear of the commentary such as Hannity or O’Reilly. Excuse me? He’s telling us to ignore the fact that Bill O’Reilly carries an enormous amount of weight at the company, and that Hannity is one of that most right-wing people on TV, and that the channel is owned by the extremely conservative Rupert Murdoch, and that the channel is run by Roger Ailes, a man who has been active in the GOP for decades, helping elect Nixon, Reagan, GHW Bush, brought in because of his mastery at attack politics? Noooooo, we can’t look at them. We’re supposed to look strictly at the news portion of the channel.
Boortz is the one who issued the challenge, but told us to stay clear of the TV op-eds. But Boortz is constantly harping about the media being biased to the left. What is his proof? If you listen to him regularly or read his site regularly, you will quickly see a common theme: He likes to point out what the mainstream media failed to report on. Oh give me a break. First, almost every time he does that, if you go to Yahoo you’ll see the headlines right there on the right, straight from the Associated Press or Reuters or any of the big names. Second, as a guy who has a law degree and was once a successful lawyer, I find it amazing that he would try to prove a case by stating what somebody didn’t say.

So yes, the facts are in: Fox News is biased to the right, big time.

Okay then, taking both Boortz and the PO’d Liberal at their words, I guess it would have to come down to this. I can find evidence that Fox News is tilted toward the right, but only if you let me look into the opinions/editorials, otherwise, I can’t. Right? Is that it? I mean, it doesn’t look like they disagree on this. Neal says op-eds don’t count, the PO’d Liberal says they do; and, appearances being any indication, their dispute about whether Fox News is biased or not, stems from this. Mr. PO’d has lots of opportunity to say “I don’t need to go searching in the opinions/editorials, I can find it right in the news!” Does he do this? No.

This is a great example of liberal thinking. I find it amazing that Neal Boortz would try to prove a case by stating what somebody didn’t say. So yes, the facts are in: Fox News is biased to the right, big time. What facts are those, Mr. PO? You poke holes in the logic Boortz uses…maybe you even make a great point about Neal Boortz being biased, or even, as a result of that bias, being blatantly unfair — applying a different criteria for liberal bias than what he allows for conservative bias. From that, we determine that Fox News is indeed biased? How? I’m missing something. What is it?

Maybe my expectations are too high. I’m still back at Square One, expecting what any reasonable person would expect on hearing Boortz’ challenge: I expect someone to step up and say “On such and such a date and such and such a time on such and such a program, Brit Hume read the news and he said xxxxx…and that’s biased.” Granted, that last tidbit would be a matter of opinion. But I’m waiting for the sequence of events to be presented to me — something that actually made it on the air — for me to form that opinion. Give me some meat. Persuade me, when I’m not initially inclined to buy whatever poo-poo sandwich you might happen to be selling any given day. That’s called “convincing people,” something liberals have become atrophied from doing.

Why is it that apparently, nothing can be offered that even roughly fits the template, above? It really doesn’t seem like much to ask.

I can’t ask this directly to the PO’d liberal. The text under his masthead says: “Reader comments are not allowed. If you don’t like that, get your own stinking blog.”

Well, I see it’s very important that people get permission from Mr. “PO’d” before they do things like that. So I’m glad I got it.

Requiem For Coleman

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

Requiem For Coleman

Edward Coleman was a seventeenth-century politician who was hanged, drawn and quartered over the centuries-long quibbling in England between catholics and protestants. He was among the first of probably about fifteen men who were executed because of the perjurious testimony of Titus Oates.

We, in America, are better than England in this way. Well, no, we really aren’t; we’re just supposed to be. But on this test of the American experiment, we have failed. What we call “the law” is based on findings of fact, and on politics. Politics are based on human passion; human passion is anathema to findings of fact.

Why do I say the American experiment has failed to overcome this connection? Because of the ravings of the looney elitist Shirley Lasseter, Deputy Mayor of Duluth, GA. Observing the first anniversary of Runaway Bride Jennifer Wilbanks’ little fiasco, Lasseter had this to say:

“I hate that we�re synonymous with the Runaway Bride, but I think the experience the townspeople went through as well as our staff is certainly something we�ll never forget,” Lasseter said.

“I think it�s behind everybody. The seriousness has left us all and at least we�re not left with anger. People have found humor.”

Yeah Shirley, you can’t have much more of a thigh-slapper than made-up stories of kidnapping and rape.

Persons matching the description of suspects who never existed, I wonder if they have found the humor of which you speak. Whether they were inconvenienced in the ensuing confusion, or not. I wonder if the cops in Georgia and New Mexico are having a good-natured chuckle over the water cooler about this little goose chase they went on a year ago. How about the real rape victims those cops have dealt with in the last year, knowing they should take the crime seriously, but in cases where the evidence is lacking — perhaps unable to attend to it without a teeny, tiny bit of hesitation?

Maybe the victims of real kidnapping and rape, have gotten a couple of yuks out of it.

I’m a victim of False Consensus Effect, or else this mayor is tone-deaf. I think she’s tone-deaf. It is part of the innate goodness of people, that among the times they are unable to separate their passionate emotions from political will, are the times they recognize they have been hoodwinked. In the world of rational, cool-headed logic, from which we like to fool ourselves into thinking our laws are produced, two wrongs don’t make a right. But in the realm of human emotion, they do. We were angry at the black guy who kidnapped Susan Smith’s two young sons, just as we were angry at the couple who abducted Wilbanks. When we learned that none of these culprits really existed, we were angry at the liars Smith and Wilbanks.

It’s a poorly-advised thing to fashion laws and/or sentences from anger. But give the people credit for the source of this anger. What gets people agitated, is the thing that could have happened. One or several innocent persons could have been drawn and quartered, over a lie, in the name of all among the public whose emotions were tugged previous to the lie being uncovered. Seldom is raw anger inspired by such good qualities in people: the realization that danger is imminent or has been imminent, the sense of fair play, the sense of responsibility, and the recognition of a traitor to the cause of justice in the public’s midst.

Wilbanks, the inspiration for all this “humor,” is still paying restitution for the costs associated with her search. Susan Smith will be eligible for parole in 2025.

Whatever happened to Titus Oates? He was sentenced to a recurring, ritual punishment involving the pillory and cat o’nine tails. His sentence was the inspiration for the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment in the English Bill of Rights during the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which is the precursor to our Eighth Amendment.

Some on our Supreme Court think that this amendment is a blank check for them to stamp out the death penalty, one bite-sized chunk at a time as “evolving sensibilities” allow them to take those bites. That’s not what the Eighth Amendment is. It is a requirement that people be punished according to the logical conclusions and preponderances of evidence captured by the law, not according to the exigencies of human passion represented in that law.

Because in the final analysis, Titus Oates suffered the same fate he placed upon the unfortunate head of Edward Coleman and dozens of other innocent men. Catholic blood-lust repaid protestant blood-lust. It will always be that way, so long as the law is fashioned from anger: An eye for an eye, ’til the whole world goes blind. That’s not justice.

It isn’t a laughing matter, either.

I’m glad Wilbanks was spared from everybody’s anger. But I’m also glad she was not spared from the administration of justice. People who do what she did, pose an ongoing, neverending threat that justice will someday be brought to an end. And when that happens, we’ll all be a bunch of Edward Colemans, some of us with a date for being hung, others of us just waiting for our time.

My comments upon Jennifer Wilbanks beginning her community service, August 9, 2005.

The Racist Minimum Wage

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

The Racist Minimum Wage

Today Prof. Walter Williams tackles one of my favorite subjects, the minimum wage. The prevailing public sentiment is ripe for logical assault on hardly any other issue, compared to the vulnerability under which it labors on this one. A minimum wage is a fairly simple concept: Exemptions aside, all “workers” must be paid at least so much “wage,” or else the employer is in violation. This correlates to a prohibition against the employer hiring anybody, until that employer is sufficiently solvent to pay the wage.

This is a logical equivalent, not an opinion. It is not subject to reasonable dispute. You need three new employees and you can allocate $20 an hour for all three of them, a minimum wage of $6.75 plus benefits limits the hire to only two. This cannot be quibbled, anymore than you can quibble over two plus two being four. Minimum wage sends the third hire home, to live with his parents and draw unemployment, regardless of his desires, the desires of his colleagues, or of his employer.

I’m a little frustrated with Williams’ article here because he has earned my admiration as a devastating logical warrior, and his attack on the logically-gangrenous minimum wage appendage here is purely anecdotal, not logical. He uses his anecdotes to support that the minimum wage is racist:

Minimum wages can have a more insidious effect. In research for my book “South Africa’s War Against Capitalism” (1989), I found that during South Africa’s apartheid era, racist unions, who’d never admit blacks, were the major supporters of higher minimum wages for blacks.

Gert Beetge, secretary of South Africa’s avowedly racist Building Worker’s Union, in response to contractors hiring black workers, said, “There is no job reservation left in the building industry, and in the circumstances I support the rate-for-the-job [minimum wages] as the second best way of protecting our white artisans.” Racists recognized the discriminatory effects of mandated minimum wages.

I’m left hungering for more. I was brought up with the notion that racism was wrong, because in considering questions of Do I want to hire this person? Do I want to work with this person? Do I want to live next to this person? — it ascribes an importance to skin color, an attribute purely irrelevant to such determinations.

How is skin color relevant to minimum wage, then? How does Secretary Beetge plan to use it to keep the black man down, without likewise victimizing the white guys?

I flailed around looking for Prof. Williams’ book, and found it on Amazon: You can get it for $45 used, $90 new. Yikes! Like most people who harbor deep suspicions and biases against the minimum wage, I’m a cheapass. I looked further.

It turns out you can browse the whole book on Rrrrr? That doesn’t seem right. A pro-capitalism book you can buy on Amazon for almost a C-note, or you can read it for free on another web site if you look further? Oh well, the Prof. can work that out with Cato. But I digress. The relevant passage is on pp. 81-2, chapter 4.

In addition to all the exemptions, there was a massive evasion and contravention of the job reservation laws. In 1974, the Industrial Tribunal reported that it found “alarming malpractices” on visits to building sites, with blacks “openly engaged” in nearly all classes of skilled construction. During this period, hundreds of building contractors were prosecuted for contravention of the law but even more managed to escape. After a while, however, the minister of labour became more and more reluctant to prosecute job reservation violations, despite union accusations that there had been a “cold-blooded sellout” of white workers.

The failure of job reservation to protect white workers from competition with blacks led Beetge of the Building Workers Union to plead that “There is no job reservation left in the building industry, and in the circumstances I support the rate for the job as the second best way of protecting our White artisans.”

That’s all I can find, just a little back-story. I’m not clear on how you keep the black worker down through a policy of minimum wage.

But I can hazard a guess.

The minimum wage policies just tend to make a market more static. It’s no secret that in the United States today, liberals tend to see people as born to be rich or poor, lumbering from nursery toward the gravesite with “R” or “P” branded onto their foreheads the whole time; the idealogues we call “conservative” tend to see people amassing great fortunes, losing them again, gaining them again — essentially, having good days and bad, prospering and suffering, as living things do. Minimum wage helps to make the liberal viewpoint a self-fulfilling prophecy. A man makes six dollars an hour because that’s what minimum wage laws say he should be making. What will he make next year? The year after? Five years from now? Smart money says, he’ll be making the same six dollars.

Like any other policy that is essentially socialist, the minimum-wage law transforms a living thing into a thing that is not quite so alive. What was dynamic is now static. It isn’t hard to see how this is helpful to a racist union interest struggling away in the middle of a market of racism that is slowly melting away.

Does this prove that minimum wage laws are inherently racist? No. But Williams’ anecdote does prove that some of them have been. It’s a good thing to know about a policy so frequently advanced as a way to help poor people. The minimum wage law is unlikely to have that effect, and it can’t even present a pure history of having that intent.

Horror Movies

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Horror Movies

Two weeks ago, as a countermeasure to Hollywood finally slipping off its rocker for good and going wombat-rabies-bollywonkers crazy, I looked to The Simpsons character Jasper Beardsly, the old man obsessed with dishing out “paddlin’s,” as perhaps our savior. There is something about the Hollywood culture, and it’s not hard to see what it is, that encourages shock value. Well, shock value is a dynamic thing, not a static one. It’s like a shark; it moves, or it’s dead. So each shocking thing that comes along, has to be much more shocking than the shocking thing that came before, or else there’s no use even trying.

That’s a problem when Hollywood starts telling us what political opinions we’re supposed to have. The nature of a reasonable opinion, one that is formed through a rational process involving sound logic used to derive credible inferences from established and empirical facts, is that such opinions are a little dull. They don’t have a lot of snap. Or zest. Or pep, or sizzle. No, you have to add that if you want it…and typically, the only way to add in snap, zest, pep and sizzle, is to mutate the reasonable opinion into something unreasonable.

So the opinions put out by the Hollywood crowd, have to get more and more zesty and zippy — unreasonable — as time goes along, in order to get the attention they crave. And, we have no Jasper Beardsly. Nobody’s getting a “paddlin’.” Everything is acceptable. That’s what we need to stop. Save us, Jasper!

Exhibit D is as follows (Exhibits A, B and C were listed in my post of April 10). Last weekend, Eli Roth, director of “Hostel,” said that we have a lot more horror movies than usual lately because the Bush administration makes people want to scream, and a horror movie gives them an excuse, in a dark theater, to do that screaming.

Roth claimed that people wanted to scream because of the “things going on in the world” and the government�s failure to help after Hurricane Katrina. He explained that horror movies offered a safe environment which allowed people to scream. Roth went on to say the seemingly “never ending war”, fighting people that do not care about our money, our “disorganized army” with “scared kids” for soldiers and the generals calling for Rumsfeld�s resignation were specific reasons for the need of an emotional release offered by horror movies.

Newsbusters, my source for this latest parade of Hollywood nuttiness, goes on to editorialize that “It is ridiculous to attempt to tie President Clinton with the horror movies released during his 8 years in office. It is just as ridiculous to blame the Bush Administration for an increase in the popularity of horror movies.”

Sorry, I can’t quite sign up to that last one. Seems I’m being asked to categorically reject the notion that a pronounced trend of successful movies within a confined period of time, fitting into a specific genre, says nothing about changes in people’s priorities and concerns.

Hope I’m not putting words into someone’s mouth there, but that’s how I’m interepreting “it’s ridiculous.” Ridiculous?

We had lots of cowboy movies in the 1950’s and early 1960’s; during the 1970’s and 1980’s, we didn’t. You wouldn’t call it “ridiculous” to assert that this change said something about what people were, or were not, ready to watch during those times. We had a lot of movies taking place in outer space during the 1980’s. We had a lot of movies made for women during the early 1990’s.

I’ll tell you why I’m going down this bunny trail. It’s long been a favorite pet theory of mine, that during the late 1960’s people lost faith in government for three reasons: 1) Vietnam; 2) Watergate, and 3) this does not get very much mention at all, but — the criminal incarceration system becoming useless.

Permit me just this much scope creep. Soon after we had an Earl Warren Supreme Court, it was established that in order to enforce the rules of constitutionality about gathering evidence, it was okay — in fact, compulsory — to magically transform guilty people into innocent people. The law, it was thought, was duty-bound to pretend incriminating evidence simply did not exist. Rapists, thugs, murderers, perverts, psychos, and creeps were turned out of the prisons in droves. Suddenly, children had no reason to believe they wouldn’t be abducted, and women had no reason to believe they’d remain unmolested.

People got pretty tired of this by 1969. For three dozen years previous, Eisenhower notwithstanding, no Republican had been elected President. Now, the great liberal “let’s give the bad guy one more chance to be good” train came off the tracks forever. Chief Justice Warren, by then plagued by health problems, retired just months after the new Republican President Nixon was sworn in. The Burger Court did very little to reverse the damage Warren did, but as far as making more damage, the party was pretty much over. And as far as the electorate was concerned, they were fed up.

Now look at what we had going on in movie-land. I say “I’ve got a movie you have to see, it’s about a man who’s family is brutalized and/or murdered and so he takes the law into his own hands” and what movie am I talking about? More to the point, when was it made? I give you this description of my movie — just what’s written above, not a single word more, and you know, to the level of certainty you can bet quite a bit of money — it was made between 1971 and 1977. During which, you know what? We didn’t have a lot of movies about crooked presidential administrations micro-managing wars and getting thousands and thousands of good young men maimed & killed. Just a few movies. Not a lot. Although, that had been happening, and people were supposed to be concerned about it.

How about a cop who is constantly yelled at by his Lieutenant because he throws the book away and takes justice into his own hands? Movies like that were made during the same era. Not a lot of movies about Watergate. Although, Watergate did happen, and a lot of people were supposed to be concerned about that, too.

No, during the seventies, movies about “Cause For Distrust In Government #3” did more than spike — they went through the friggin’ roof. This was a huge problem. The elites chose not to say a whole lot about it back then, and they choose to say even less about it now. But the contract between the government, and the governed, had been torn asunder. It was a huge glaring problem, and we can only avoid repeating it by making sure the infraction is never committed again. By making sure that creeps get smoked. Given a toe tag, and tossed in a body bag. By our government. Because that is one of the jobs government is supposed to have. Protect the innocent, from those who refuse to abide by any social contract whatsoever, those whose gears are so stripped that their continuing survival is mutually exclusive from any acceptable margin of public safety.

But I digress.

My point is, some of the logic Roth is using is sound, and not without precedent. There’s a reason why we had lots of vigilante movies in the seventies. People were fed up with the law screwing around and playing pretend with vicious, liquor-store-clerk-shooting, woman-raping, child-chopping-up perverts and creeps.

So with that precedent, I agree with Eli. People can get tired of things, and people can start to want to scream, and because of that they may have a demand for a certain genre. In my opinion, it has happened before.

But I agree with Newsbusters about something, too: The facts do not support Roth’s theory, not substantially anyway. He’s talking out of his ass, just to get some shock-value talking-points out there, and get attention for himself. Newsbusters says “Roth�s explanation had nothing to do with facts. It was simply another overt attempt by a Hollywood liberal to beat up on the President and his administration.”

Hollywood has become a fairly vicious, snarling parody of itself. Week after week, month after month, we are told we should blame the Bush administration for…just name it. The summers are too hot. The winters are too cold. My gas is too expensive. My ass itches. There aren’t enough sexy movies, there are too many scary movies. I stubbed my toe.

At a certain point, you have to say, you know what Hollywood? You’re the boy who cried wolf. I mean, way back when Julia Roberts was personally funding a “recount” down in Florida and your glittering elite upper-crusts wanted to blame Bush for everything from global warming, to mythical stories about vicious snarling attack dogs intimidating black Florida residents from voting for Gore — way back then, you were the boy who cried wolf.

You had crossed that line in December of 2000.

And after that, Hollywood liberal upper-crusters, you did it fifty bazillion more times!

It’s no longer funny to watch. It’s gotten tedious and tiring, and then painful and embarrassing…and then with a little more repetition, it’s gotten tedious and tiring again.

All The Things I Know

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Last summer I started jotting down all the “Things I Know.” I don’t know all of these things as proven facts; indeed, most of them are things I can’t prove. A huge chunk of this list describes patterns of things, patterns which can actually be disrupted quite easily and thus, to an intellectual elitist snob, “disproven.” Like, for example, buttered bread that is dropped on a rug, lands butter-side-down, but one sets onesself up for failure by asserting this is always the case. Of course it isn’t.

The point of the list is, that personally, I’m done deliberating whether these things are so or not, because I’ve made up my mind they are so. I can’t tell you why they are the way they are. I can’t tell you what they mean. I can’t even guarantee that all the people who are smarter than I am, agree with all these things. Many smart people don’t.

But I know these things are so. They are things I know.

1. Very few people who have four-wheel drive have any reason to expect they’ll need it. Ever.
2. For every man who maintains his opinion because of preponderance of evidence, nine more maintain theirs simply because they’re already on record and want to stay consistent.
3. Mercy is the opposite of justice.
4. Most of us want to be capitalists on payday, and Marxists on the day before.
5. It takes a lot of maturity to keep your silence on an important decision, simply because you recognize it belongs to someone else.
6. Initiating or maintaining a verbal conversation across a parking lot is a sign of diminished intelligence.
7. A lot of what passes for bad news in a technological society, wouldn’t be discussed in an agricultural one because it would be a waste of time.
8. It is hard to get people to argue about private matters, but easy if you can somehow turn them into public matters.
9. International disputes, like any other problem, can be postponed indefinitely and this always seems to make them bigger.
10. Men can’t see dirt and women don’t know how to work one of those itty-bitty cheap can openers.
11. I can no more trust the man who tells me a thing is so, but not what I should think about it, than I can trust the man who tells me what I should think, and can’t explain why.
12. The word “should” rolls off our tongues easily when we talk about another man’s purse.
13. When a man says childbirth can’t possibly hurt that much, childless women are quick to anger while mothers laugh with him.
14. The brain is not the only part of you that has a tough time absorbing arguments you don’t like. When you read such things the words seem blurry. When you hear them the syllables run together.
15. It’s hard to be truthful to others that you’re worried about something. Often, it’s hard to be truthful to yourself that you’re not.
16. A man’s determination to punish the guilty tends to wax and wane with his prospects for living amongst them.
17. A man may not kill a fly for a cause he believes is right; but he might do terrible things for a cause he believes is righteous.
18. A pretty woman notices men noticing her long before the men notice themselves noticing her, even if the men honestly don’t know if she noticed them noticing her.
19. Beware the Government-Entertainment Complex, for the power to surround a weak-minded man with the same message in several directions, is the power to tell him what to think.
20. An effort to silence an idea doesn’t make an idea wrong, but it doesn’t make it right either. When people tell you to shut up they may be afraid of the truth you speak, but it’s also likely you’re making an ass out of yourself.
21. Caution is fitting for the poor man who relies on an argument that would crumble if he were wealthy; and it’s good for the wealthy man who convinces himself with an rationale that would dissipate if he were poor. If you take your life in your hands by the things you notice and the way you think, you’re probably doing it right. If not, then maybe you’re not.
22. Leadership is the presentation of answers before your following has fully absorbed the questions. Time is of the essence, for decisions are deeply offensive to the indecisive.
23. A man might be willing to bet a nickel on his opinion, but you can often quickly increase this to ten dollars simply by arguing with him.
24. A dog can pick out a master and follow him; a lemming can detect a consensus and go along with it; a monkey is capable of showing compassion to the weak; but only a human can honor a pledge.
25. A lot of tempting things get repulsive when you get too much of them. These include: conversation; beef jerky; travel; ice cream; opera; and being attractive to the opposite sex.

26. There really aren’t too many things in the arena of human existence louder than a pair of women recognizing each other at a Starbuck’s coffee shop.
27. Information has a tendency to flow one-way, which greatly increases the effort involved in noticing little details, while one is engaged in attention-whoring.
28. People who drive great big cars don’t mind following other great big cars, but they absolutely have to get out from behind a little itty-bitty car even if it involves passing over a double-yellow line.
29. There is substantial, and mutual, potential benefit to be realized from scrutinizing questions — unwelcome as they may be — anytime you’re advised “you are not supposed to” do something.
30. A lot of people who crusade against absolutes, employ absolutes quite frequently, especially while crusading against absolutes.
31. He who does a noble, brave, heroic thing, tends to draw a seething hatred from he who could have done the noble, brave, heroic thing — but chose not to.
32. There are a lot of people walking around among us who like to re-define the baseline obligations carried by others, particularly toward them, simply because they find it painful to say “thank you”.
33. If you see a lot of bugs crawling all over the computer lately, it might be a good idea to go into that room with the refrigerator and the sink and see if there’s something that hasn’t been cleaned for awhile.
34. We are a tribal species, although we’re loathe to admit it, and it comes much more easily to us to bear silly grudges against entire cultures, than legitimate grudges against individual persons.
35. The individual attribute ascribed to the aggregate entity, manifests a weak argument ripe for re-thinking.
36. The words “public good” are very, very rarely applied to self-directed criticism, certainly not as often as they are used in criticism directed toward others.
37. The first time someone asks you a question and then interrupts during the answer — from that point onward, you are best off smiling, nodding, and suddenly remembering you have something you need to go away and do.

38. Where smoke of outrage rises from a fire of moral indignation, all targets presented as legitimate, must also be compulsory.

POSTED APRIL 23, 2006:
39. It’s important to know things. But it’s a lot more important to know how you know things. Knowing what you don’t know, is even more important than that. And knowing what you need to find out, versus what doesn’t matter, is the most important of all.
40. We are a tribal species, although we’re loathe to admit it, and when people extoll the virtues of “diversity” they tend to talk about skin color and nothing else.
41. Those who are out of danger, worry about food. Those with food, worry about discomfort. Those who are comfortable, worry getting things done on time. Those who have time, worry about money. Those who are solvent, worry about their legacies. And the lucky souls who spared the plagues of danger, hunger, discomfort, time, solvency and legacy issues, worry about fashion.
42. Is it a wrinkle in the brain or a strand in our DNA? Religion has tried to say, and will not; science has tried to say, and cannot; in the end, it is up to us to decide it by the things we do.
43. When people ask me a question that begins with “Why did you…” they almost never want any information out of me.
44. A little bit of fear once in awhile is a healthy thing.
45. It’s good to know more than what you say, because when you say something, you prove the need for you to say it.
46. No statement achieves a unifying force without first achieving unidirectional flow. People aren’t inspired by slogans containing the word “but”.
47. A bureaucracy reaches critical mass, at which point it is no longer effective, when its leaders are selected according to their mediocrity.

Update 5-4-06:
48. This world makes no sense. NO sense. There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who carry around big, perplexing, unanswered questions about why, and how, the world works the way it does. And, those who have simply given up on asking such questions.
49. You know, there’s always one good thing about never having any money. Uh…well, I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention there.
50. The decisions we make out of a sense of fair play, an appreciation for fun, a sense of responsibility, a sense of concern, and even an sense of entitlement, we sometimes remember fondly. The decisions we make out of guilt, we never do.
51. When we serve on juries, everyone is terrified over the prospect of convicting an innocent man. Very few people lose much sleep over letting a guilty man go free.
52. When angry people make demands, the ensuing fulfillment never seems to bring a stop to their anger.
53. We are a tribal species, although we’re loathe to admit it, and we have very little to say to our neighbors who enjoy a different set of luxuries or who labor under a different set of burdens.
54. Find me ten men who will argue with me about something, and I’ll show you one man who has something to tell me, and nine jackasses who are just showing off for someone else.

Update 5-15-06:
55. Anyone objecting to the presence of a young lady in a skimpy outfit, or her attire, is someone I don’t want to know. I can think of several reasons for this objection and none of them are the least bit healthy, helpful or benevolent.
56. Courage cannot be banked. It is used, or else it is nothing.
57. Few people have more blind faith, than those who condemn others for having some.
58. To insult a man says nothing about other men, but for some reason, anything said against one woman is perceived to be said against everything female who ever lived.
59. Truly rewarding life-decisions have no need to be marketed toward those who are down on their luck.
60. Sound ideas have this in common: Those who speak of them, lack any passionate ambition to broadcast them to a great audience, or to keep them secret. The idea is what the idea is, discussed or not, believed or not, practiced or not.
61. Disaster is sure to follow when the legacy of a man who has courage, is decided by other men who have none.
62. Throughout history, very little of note has been accomplished by people who made a paramount of concern out of what others thought.
63. Risk is personal, profit from risk even moreso. Men will share their wives long before they share profits realized from risk.
64. You know you have courage when you see the flimsiest spoiler of fortune decides if history will focus on your breathtaking stupidity, or your enormous balls.
65. Against all expectations, one of my most reliable ways for picking out “independent thinkers” in a world where so many desire that distinction, is this: They blaze their own trail only when it makes sense to do so. Others seem to want to build a better mousetrap whenever they’re being watched.
66. Those who give advice usually have more problems than those to whom they give it, and those who wait for it tend to have more problems than those who seek it.
67. Some among us seem to think an election is the only time public opinion is important; others seem to think that’s the only time it isn’t.
68. If you listen to some spoken ideas, you’ll pick up that there’s a pressing need to getting them vocalized as frequently as possible, to as great an audience as can be reached. If you dismiss such things out-of-hand, you almost never regret it.
69. Comments of condemnation and praise, from those who lack the authority to back them up, are stunningly useless; they’re only slightly more useful when they come from people with said authority.

Update 5-25-06:
70. Courage has very little to do with being outspoken.
71. Tell the truth for your own sake, for those who want to doubt you will do so no matter what you say.
72. I don’t understand what’s going on with driving cars. So many people like to “brag” about their ineptitude with computers, but nobody ever confesses to their own poor driving skills.
73. The only time unnamed sources are used to vouch for something that is supposed to have happened, is when whoever is telling me about the sources, is happy with what was supposed to have happened.
74. Wealthy people never seem to see any UFOs. You need some really cheap booze to see a UFO, or else there’s something about poor people that the aliens really like.
75. Our lingering interest in malicious and depraved acts is inspired not by graphic details, or by a recognition of pure evil, or by the lessons we can learn from what happened, but because of how the protagonist reminds us of our own darker selves.
76. Old married people who share an e-mail address, just like they’re used to sharing a real mailbox, can’t be reached by e-mail. Not really.
77. What we call “activism” seeks to provide comfort, not to solve problems. Actually, comfort tends to have more to do with making problems in the first place, than with solving them.
78. If someone is constantly criticizing you and seems to want to cut you down, you should allow for the possibility that they love you and have a large vision for you. If the criticism is dealt before an audience, you can safely exclude that as a possibility because the sonofabitch is out to burn you after all.
79. I know we are gradually losing our ability to survive in the wilds, because nowadays it’s so rare to hear someone praise the talents of someone to whom they’re opposed. It seems that intelligence is measured entirely by ideology, and worrying about the incompetence of allies or the genius of enemies is a thing of the past.
80. Beware of those who have no humility, and of those who have some and are anxious to show it.
81. There are a lot of people walking around who seem to think “politics” is the process of re-defining “justice” to be something pleasing to many and unpleasant to few. That isn’t what “justice” is.
82. You need to be careful when helping desperate people, because there’s a fine line between finding out what it is they need, and borrowing some of the habits they had just before they got desperate.
83. The nature of “multitasking” determines that those who do it, know far less about how well they’re doing it than those who watch.
84. There are perhaps a dozen different reasons why a fellow motorist’s head doesn’t rise far above his steering wheel, and almost every one of them compels the prudent driver to stay away.
85. As the standard of living improves, people slowly lose their need for a Supreme Being, while their need for a spiritual leader remains.
86. History looks back on times when information flowed slowly, and remembers great men who got things done. It looks on more recent times when information flowed more quickly, and remembers great men who talked about things just before someone else got them done.
87. In the past few years I notice the people with the largest television sets are the ones we are supposed to call “poor”.
88. A natural instinct for trying a different approach in the face of repeated failure would be handy thing, and it’s curious that evolution seems to have defeated this trait instead of strengthening it.
89. Since biblical times, what we have come to call “news” has always been a curious hybrid. It blends whatever is written in the messenger’s scroll, with what the Emperor is ready to hear.
90. A committee is a group of four or more people, each of whom are invested in an all-consuming mission to appear more important than the others. Through their dedication, good judgment, and continued persistence in these efforts, they have an excellent chance at making the committee itself utterly useless.
91. “Esteem” is something sought with the greatest urgency by those who struggle with doubts about whether they’ve earned it.
92. Useful people have a fear of becoming useless that is exceeded in intensity only by the fear useless people have of someday being useful.
93. People tend to change the way they think when they’re in groups. Generally, an idea generated in a group is worth a lot less than an idea someone thinks up on their own.
94. There are a lot of people walking around who put lots of energy into telling others that something can’t be done.
95. Even very wise people can make bad decisions when they’re too close to what is being decided.
96. History bears the marks of those who were mean, vicious, even pernicious, but not from those who were inconsiderate.
97. There is always someone who believes what I’ve been told “nobody believes,” and there is always someone who contests what I’ve been told “everybody agrees.” Quite a few of both, actually.
98. It’s easy to brag about how much experience we have, but it always takes humility to discuss how we got it.
99. Companionship complements a new adventure for some; for others, it is a substitute for it.
100. There are a lot of people walking around who seem to think “leadership” is the process of making decisions that a large number of people expect to be made, that could have been made by anyone. The unexpected has a lot to do with what leadership really is.
101. Most men who have been married for a long time rarely discuss themselves or the things they want. This is not necessarily true of married women.
102. There are jobs in which excellent performance generates a wholly different result compared to adequate performance. There are other jobs wherein it doesn’t. There are still other jobs where excellent performance carries no definition save for longer periods between catastrophes. When a job is re-associated from one of these classes to another, the man who holds that job never ends up happy.
103. So many problems people have with what they call “love,” would be avoided if love was recognized as a package, which includes respect.
104. A good and popular idea is promoted on its merits. A bad and popular idea is promoted because it’s popular.
105. Judgment has everything to do with choosing from options as they are, and nothing to do with declaring what those options should be.
106. Making sure no one is offended, virtuous as it is, seems to be antithetical to real achievement.
107. Happiness is the companion of men who know their limits; things that make us happy, were conceived by men who knew no such thing.

Update 6-10-06:
108. People give each other unlimited allowance to live their personal lives however they will, until it comes to the raising of children.
109. There is an inversely-proportional relationship between the ability of people within a culture to think problems through logically, and the frequency with which they use ridicule to persuade.
110. Everyone’s willing to bet an unlimited measure of resources from a company, corporation, committee, council, organization or club, that the “smartest guy in the room” really is the smartest guy in the room. Because of that, the smartest guy’s ideas usually go unopposed. I have noticed it’s extremely rare that anyone, anywhere, would bet one dime of their personal fortune that he’s really that smart. This may explain why some of the best decisions I’ve seen, were made outside of conference rooms.
111. It’s one thing to love freedom when freedom means people should do what you want. To love freedom all the time, even when people use it to ignore you, is quite another thing.
112. Strong leadership is a dialog: That which is led, states the problem, the leader provides the solution. It’s a weak brand of leadership that addresses a problem by directing people to ignore the problem.
113. A crisis precedes logical thinking. Logical thinking precedes a solution to the crisis. Too long a time without a crisis, precedes indulgence and sloppy thinking. Indulgence and sloppy thinking precede the next crisis.
114. I can put up with people who are naturally inclined toward rudeness, for so much longer than I can put up with people who are genuinely afraid of being polite.
115. We are a product of life as we have lived it, but this in itself is a product of life as it is, and life as we have made it.
116. Crime does not pay. I have found that following rules that are followed by nobody else, doesn’t pay either.
117. I feel really bad when I start a project and my progress is unnoticeable after a week or more. When I pass a construction site that has been where it is unchanged, for months, this feeling suddenly vanishes.
118. The more logically-sustainable the point, the less ambitious is the effort to silence those who disagree.
119. A single woman who has a dog, and a boyfriend, actually has two boyfriends. The two-legged boyfriend is the more expendable of the two.
120. It isn’t hard to find someone who is more interested in why a process is bad, than why the results of the process are bad. It isn’t hard to find someone who is more interested in preventing problems, than solving them after they occur. It is exceedingly rare, somehow, that anyone’s concerned about keeping a poor process from being formed.
121. One verifiable fact can sell a whole package of unlikely speculation. One appealing opinion can sell a whole package of outright falsehood.
122. Our love of opportunity is strengthened through addiction; our love of security is strengthened through estrangement.
123. Diplomacy is an exchange that places a premium value on refined strategy and positive results. The diplomat with the least-refined strategy obtains the most positive results.
124. Discuss politics and religion long before personal finances. I have found people conceal those aspects of their personal decisions that might expose them to critique, without even knowing they’re doing it, and if this part of the discussion eludes you then you’re best off ignoring all the rest.

Update 6-17-06:
125. They tell me rules are needed for civilization, but I notice civilization is needed for the rules. Civilization arises from where a wild frontier was tamed. On the taming of a wild frontier by a rulebook, history stands mute.
126. Life is not fair. I have found that with hard work and the vigorous exercise of poor judgment I can make my life a whole lot less fair.
127. The measure of a person’s happiness and success is proportional not to his ability to form opinions, or to his tenacity in sticking to them, or his outspokenness in arguing them or to the number of people who agree with him, but to the sense of personal responsibility he places in having them.
128. Everybody who got something significant done, was an optimist. I know of no exceptions to this. Every optimist who got something significant done, tempered his optimism with a pragmatic appreciation that broken things needed fixing. I know of no exceptions to that, either.
129. Leaders; votes; clergy; academics; pundits; prevailing sentiment; political expediency. Wherever these decide what is & isn’t true, an empire will surely fall.
130. The noble savage gives us life. Then we outlaw his very existence. We call this process “civilization.” I don’t know why.

Update 7-10-06:
131. Women fart.
132. There’s no limit to how happy a man can be when his job is substandard. But a man with a substandard woman is an empty shell.
133. There are lot of people walking around who seem to have a phobia against leaving things unsaid. The years have left me with few regrets about things left unsaid, and many more about questions left unasked.
134. The hug is a gift from God to men who like to mash their chests into the breasts of good-looking women and could use a good excuse to do so. Guys hugging guys, that’s a waste of this gift.
135. A leader can commit no greater betrayal of the public trust, than to allow someone to live, who won’t stop killing people.
136. The mediocre leader promotes the subordinates who do things the way he would do them if he were they. The superior leader promotes the subordinates who produce the results he wants, working the tasks in whatever way they will.
137. I have no reason to believe straight couples fight with each other more often, or split up more often, than gay couples do.
138. It’s very difficult to acquire good judgment without experience. It’s very difficult to acquire experience without bad judgment.
139. Beware the critic who drones on at length about how you should do something, but cannot name a consequence of you not doing it.
140. Some of the worst ideas a man has, have to do with getting admiration from the ladies. The worst ideas among those, are the ones that eventually succeed at this.

Update 8-5-06:
141. Voting on ethical issues is a huge mistake. People are slow to surrender their personal moral cognitions to a group, but quick to expect others to do exactly that.
142. What we call “cartoons”…they have a coyote and a road-runner, or else they’re CRAP. No exceptions.
143. Collectively, our track-record for guessing who will show leadership, and a capacity for learning, seems to be on par with random chance. Worse than that, I think. Perhaps the child prodigy is dilatory in showing the qualities everyone “knows” he has, and is anxious to cultivate the strengths everybody “knows” he’s missing.
144. In what deserves to be called “science,” you save the drama for your mama. People debating science, getting angry and testy about the skepticism from others, are advancing and defending what would more properly be called “religion.”

Update 8-19-06:
145. “Excellence” is a funny word. It has something to do with conformity or lack thereof. Some of us think going with the group is a prerequisite to excellence; some of us think it’s mutually exclusive from that, and finding your own way is the prerequisite. Nobody is neutral on this. On the disagreements that result from this fundamental split, people argue; on the split itself, they keep their silence. It’s like a fart in church. Socially it doesn’t exist. It’s as if we’re afraid to discuss what “excellence” really is. Both sides can present a solid, compelling case, so this strikes me as being really weird.
146. The day a lingering challenge finally abates, atrophy starts setting in. People lose their capacity for dealing with the challenge; slowly on their own, and much more quickly in groups.
147. It is frequently said that cell phones are electronic leashes. I have found there is an entire gender of persons who rarely have their cell phones turned off; they see the leash as something that binds them. The other gender of persons, rarely have their cell phones on. They see the leash as something they wield. I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out which is which.

Update 9-29-06:
148. Reassurance is a funny thing. People crave it. The more they get, the more they want. Eventually, it becomes impossible for anyone to get anything they want or need, without making one or several bogus reassurances to someone about something. I have noticed when the same people are summoned to provide the same reassurances to the same people over and over again, the next thing that happens is never good.
149. Nobody’s willing to admit it, it seems, but so many among us are ready to presume altruistic motives on the part of whoever talks constantly, while jealousy is confined to those who speak occasionally, only when they have something to say. I have found the reverse is closer to the truth.
150. I know of three ways to kill yourself slowly. You can make plans around people changing their fundamental patterns of behavior; you can pretend to like something you really don’t; you can refuse to try new things.
151. Choosing between “truth” that comports with our personal experiences, and “truth” that contradicts that experience but that we’ve heard several times before, we have a persistent and unsettling tendency to reject the truth we could personally verify and accept the truth we’ve heard before. There is no logical explanation for this. It would seem that if we are products of evolution and continuous improvement and survival-of-the-fittest, this must be a piece of unfinished business.

Update 12-4-06:
152. I wish, when I was younger, I worked harder at identifying with older people; people who were at the age I am now. Now that I’m here I don’t have such regrets about identifying with younger people. It’s automatic. I’ve been there. People older than me, it seems, just might know something I don’t. Perhaps there’s a lesson here for people of all ages.
153. Lately I notice sarcasm is used, more and more, to discuss opinions without considering facts. In those situations the opinion that “wins” is almost always wrong.
154. With only occasional exceptions, you’re on safe ground dismissing any statement containing the phrase “the Christian Right” as complete and utter crap.
155. There are some things a woman does better than a man. Everybody understands this; everyone is willing to point it out. There are things a man does better than a woman. Everyone understands that too, but they’d rather keep that one quiet. One of the things men do better, is owning and training dogs. Few people realize that. But the more I see, the more certain I am of it.
156. When I read about people who lived generations ago, I read about issues among them involving “trust.” People today have issues with each other involving “trust.” I don’t think the generations use the words the same way. Our grandparents often talked about character issues with this word; we usually use it to talk about financial motivations. Whether or not a man’s promise is good to us, is something we don’t talk about very often. I don’t know what that says about where we’re going. It can’t possibly be good.
157. If a man and woman are really “together,” the woman can’t be unhappy when the man is happy. The man can’t be happy, if the woman is unhappy. But for the man to be unhappy while the woman is happy, is very possible. There are people who have understood this difference between men and women, and gambled on it, and won, for generations. They’re called “salesmen.”
158. What makes us happy, is a determination each of us must make for ourselves. Our ability to figure out what that is, has ramifications for everyone in our community. It’s much harder than it seems to be, and I notice the people who seem the most certain about what they want, change their minds about it most reliably later on, to the injury of those around them.
159. People who are right and know they are right, get only so angry. Anger beyond that critical event horizon, is the exclusive domain of those who don’t believe in their own positions.
160. Being better than everyone you know; being the same as everyone you know. You can have one, not both. I think we all get that. But too many among us want both. They know they can’t have both, but they’re unwilling to do things differently from the crowd, or to take second-place. They want it all. And they don’t know why they end up unhappy.
161. Justice depends completely on truth; anarchy, not so much.
162. Over the long term, American businesses seem to live out the life of a fruit: Green to juicy to overripe to trash. I notice the ones that have peaked, have it in common that the decisions owned by smaller groups must involve more and more groups as they are recognized as important, and input must eventually be gathered from everyone across the board. Successful businesses that are still growning, do it the opposite way: Only on the trivial, meaningless business is input gathered “across the board.” The most critical issues are decided by a small circle, or by an individual. Someone getting in trouble for leaving so-and-so “out of the loop” is something you hear only rarely.
163. In Journalism, the word “Analysis” is used when someone knows an editorial doesn’t belong where they want to put it but if they put a different name on it, it’ll look okay.
164. Some ideas look serious, only because they’re never taken that way. The most devastating thing you can do to a dumb idea is to take it seriously.
165. A word has a definition not when you can look it up in a dictionary, but when there is widespread agreement about what it means. There is no definition for the word “racist.”


Sunday, April 23rd, 2006


For reasons that may be expounded upon, or not, I haven’t been doing a lot blog-wise for the last few days or so. Anyway, yesterday I got an e-mail asking me for a link-trade: My blog points to yours, your blog points to mine. The author closed off by saying “You’re doing a great job, by the way. Keep up the good work.”

I found that to be an interesting comment after I visited his blog, and came to the realization that his blog and my blog don’t agree about too many things.

Remarkable? Well, such a thing used to not be unusual. Now, it is.

This blog relishes compliments regardless of the source, but it has special gratitude for such positive remarks supplied by those not initially inclined to agree with it. This is only sensible. Think about it; you love tapioca pudding and I love tapioca pudding, and you write an essay about how wonderful tapioca pudding is, how much better it is than chocolate or vanilla. After I read your essay and tell you “that’s a great essay, you really told it like it is!” what does that really tell you? Do you really know you did a great job explaining why tapioca pudding is good? You don’t know that. I already know I like tapioca pudding! Maybe your essay sucked! You don’t know.

It means so much more when someone thinks banana creme pudding is the bomb, or is bollywonkers over butterscotch, or thinks that tapioca is just nasty — but nevertheless opines that your essay about tapioca pudding was a good anyway.

Appreciation for the talents and/or labors of those who are ideologically different, is something we used to see often, and now we don’t. It really doesn’t require much; just something called “maturity.” We live in a time when those who have this maturity, are often coerced from using it. It is much more common to disparage anyone on the other side, or anyone caught sympathizing with the other side. Or anyone remiss in their duties of properly insulting the other side, every minute of every day. That’s why we can’t even have civil discussions anymore, you know…You’re a U.N. pussy, you’re a right-wing nutjob, you’re a liberal weiner, you’re dumb as a doorknob.

Anyway, now my blog has a link list. It’s a little on the short side now, but I have many more entries to add to it. “Empires Fall” is in it.

Kudos to you, Mr. Barnes, you’re doing a great job too. Wish there were more people nowadays like you.


Tuesday, April 18th, 2006


Dear deployed members of America’s armed forces,

I had one of those days yesterday where nothing went right. Nevertheless, I was still able to sit down and stuff my fat face with some cheap chinese food that’s probably better than what you get most days. My fortune cookie said “He who expects no gratitude, will never be disappointed.”

Made me think of you.


Bikini 60

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Bikini 60

This is the sixtieth anniversary of the bikini. You can read all about it here on Wikipedia’s page about bikinis, and the reference page that describes Micheline Bernardini, the first bikini model.

I thought this paragraph was kind of interesting.

After modelling in a bikini [Barnardini] returned to her normal life but was critisized by many feminists for exploiting women, by helping men expose the female body in yet another way.

See? They were against fun even back then.

Hey I got a question…and it should be easy to answer this after six decades to think about it. What does forcing women to wear more clothing, have to do with equal-pay-for-equal-work, and equal rights in general?

How do you go about improving womens’ lives, when you criticize models for modeling, essentially trying to coerce them into doing only the modeling which receives the approval and blessing of you and your overlords? How does it make women free, to control them in this way?

There are millions of “feminists” in this country, both men and women, who consider themselves to fit that plural only because they want women to be protected from violence, to enjoy all the rights that they should, and to be paid a fair wage. But! — would never deign to tell women what to wear or to tell men what they should be looking at. So who are, or were, these people criticizing bikinis? Are those, or were those, really “feminists”? Maybe we need another word. We could call them “anti-gender-difference-people” or “anti-male-fun-people” or something.

You Want More Women…Get In Line

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

You Want More Women…Get In Line

A certain company that provides a highly-valued service on the Internet, is concerned about its workforce. It’s got too much diversity. They want all white people.

Whoops! That’s not what’s happening at all! No, I’d better correct that right away. Google is concerned because they can’t find any female engineers to work in their Sydney, Australia office.

“Don’t be evil.”

Those were the famous words Google included in its 2004 stock exchange listing filing with US regulators – and a search on this term lists Google’s corporate philosophy page.

But that New Age corporate philosophy is under threat by the very people it aims to help, because Google Australia can’t find any female engineers who want to work for it.

Internationally, the search engine behemoth strives to employ workers from many backgrounds, a recognition that its customers also come from every background. In Australia it hired more than 10 engineers from five ethnic backgrounds – but despite its best efforts, not a single woman.

Lars Rasmussen, Google Australia manager of engineering, wants at least 20 engineers in his team but says he needs women to deliver the best output.

“We believe we can put out the best products if our engineering workforce has the same characteristics as our user,” Dr Rasmussen says. His concern is that he will “fall short” – half of Google’s users are female.

Hoo, boy! I’m sure glad I cleared that up! After all, there’s a world of difference between trying like the dickens to get some females on your workforce when you can’t find any, and trying to keep that workforce all-white.

Or is there?

Well, refer back to the first line. “Don’t be evil.” When do hiring practices become evil? To a manager or an auditor, I guess hiring practices become evil when the workforce isn’t represented in the way you want it to be represented…but managers and auditors are not known for living in the real world. What is the real world with regard to hiring practices? I’m sure we all would agree that’s best represented from the perspective of someone who is about to be hired, or not, because of those practices.

And in that position, what is evil? Well, obviously, it’s proving yourself to be a well-qualified candidate, and being passed over for the position because your plumbing is wrong or because your skin is the wrong color.

Of course, I said “all white people” which is an absolute. In the real world, Google wants just a few women, which is not an absolute, actually, it’s a non-absolute. Should be easy! So my corollary is a sham, because I’m comparing diversity with non-diversity, and we all like diversity don’t we? What with it being so natural and all.

Well that’s the trick, isn’t it. If it were natural, it would be a bit easier, wouldn’t it? And therein lies the problem. Google encounters resistance, so now Google will have to do something spectacular, or else abandon the goal. The goal won’t be abandoned. Women will continue, for whatever reason, to not want to work for Google. So these job applications from qualified male engineers will be allowed to pile up and gather dust for awhile longer, or they’ll get pitched altogether. Just as, in my hypothetical, the resumes from qualified black engineers will be allowed to pile up, and/or get pitched altogether.

So when the rubber meets the road, it is exactly the same thing, after all.

Humans are complex, and they have a lot of different attributes that may or may not be factored into the hiring process. There is gender…there are zits. There’s race, there is blood type, there is sexual preference, there is height. There may be hundreds of such attributes.

Very few of which have anything to do with the qualifications for the job.

Hey look, I’m going to be the first to say that when you get a bunch of guys together to do a job, if there isn’t even a single woman around, their productivity goes straight to hell. I’ve said so many times. I understand where the management is coming from in saying they want at least one woman, and I would understand if they elaborated and said two or three women would be even better. I’d even understand if they said they wouldn’t rest until 50% of the engineers were female.

That doesn’t make it right.

What Google is demonstrating for us, here, is how nonsensical, irrelevant data can be abused once it is used. How it can be used to hurt people. Not a very good thing to be showing, when you are a globe-encompassing search engine, launching several enhancement projects per year that inspire agitation and rage from privacy groups.

They have too much data. If there was some magic way they could employ all their engineers without ever knowing the gender of any of them, and lacking the ability to ever find out the gender of any of them, everybody would get a fair shake. Nobody, male or female, would have their applications or promotions declined because of an attribute that would be unmeasurable. Nor would any unsuccessful job applicant be able to complain about such a thing, one way or t’other.

Fahrenheit 455�

Saturday, April 15th, 2006

Fahrenheit 455�

In America, if you have the right style of delivery, and I probably don’t — you can just talk about your opinion for awhile, and in so doing deliver a product that people will go WAY out of their way just to read, listen to or watch. I would like to think that is because Americans have an innate desire to learn more about a given subject matter, when they’re trying to form an opinion they have not yet formed. I’d like to think that. And to a certain extent, I believe that actually is the case.

But it is far more important to us that we get to hear people more loudmouthed, more outspoken, and perhaps a bit more eloquent than ourselves, when we already know we agree with them.

The genius behind this new genre we have thanks to Michael Moore, where film footage is shown that makes people feel good about opinions they already have…it probably depends on this. And for all intents and purposes, Moore didn’t start it, Rush Limbaugh did. Limbaugh does it right, though. He says “Snerdley, play clip #15!” and then gives us a brief run-down of what clip #15 is supposed to be. Then we get to listen to clip #15. Which you could call “radio footage.” Then Rush will come back on, and say “folks, there you have it!” and tell us what he thinks clip #15 proves. Nice and structured…we know what was in clip #15, and we know what inferences we are supposed to draw from clip #15.

What does that kind of structure do? Well, if I agree with Rush, as I do with regard to Democrats in Congress being unworthy of our trust on national defense issues — I have a firmer cataloguing in my mind of what questions I’d like to have answered, in the event someone prevails upon me, in the future, to change my mind. If I disagree with Rush, as I do on the Dubai “ports deal,” I have a crystal-clear understanding in my mind about why it is that we disagree. I know there are things he thinks are important that I think are trivial, or vice-versa, and I know what these things are. Or, I know what statement has been made, and who made the statement, that Rush choose to believe, that I find to be delusive or irrelevant. Or, I know something happened, Rush thinks this proves something else …and I don’t. With pinpoint accuracy, I understand why we disagree, Rush and I.

Michael Moore doesn’t do this. Michael Moore says that President Bush flew bin Laden’s family members out of America right after the September 11 attacks, he shows footage of the President saying “Now watch this drive!” — and because of these, I’m supposed to think President Bush has a sweetheart deal with the Saudis and that the war in Iraq is all about oil. Huh? Come again? From an argument based on “raw footage” that is treated just as so many pounds of stuff — I really can’t determine a damn thing about why I disagree with Michael Moore. All I know is, what kinds of things Moore’s followers will be throwing at me, right before they call me an idiot for not agreeing with them. That’s about it.

Sure, if I agree with Moore, it makes me feel good, just as Rush’s radio program makes me feel good if I agree with Rush. Thing is, with the Michael Moore genre, Fact A very seldom does anything to substantiate Inference B, nor does Moore stick his neck out and imply such a substantiation exists, or if it happens to exist, that it was intended. This is a subtle distinction, but an important one. If you aren’t explaining exactly why you think what you think, you really don’t have very much. Just footage that makes people feel good, when they hold a particular opinion…and, when you strip away what’s tossed in purely for surplus entertainment, nothing else.

I think “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” is just about at that point with this season’s first episode, “Boy Scouts.” They’ve become Mini Fahrenheit 911. Fahrenheit 455�, if you will. Penn Jillette doesn’t like the Boy Scouts and he thinks the whole organization is bullshit. After watching the episode, I must say I’m a little confused about why he thinks the Boy Scouts are a bunch of bullshit. It’s clear to me that he hates camping with a passion, but he spent a lot more time describing how he doesn’t like the way they discriminate against homosexuals. Both of those are problematic with regard to the point he’s trying to make, for the word “bullshit” is supposed to involve some attempt to deceive people. Discrimination is not deception. The deception appears to come into play, with a change of policy that quietly took place in the eighties when the Mormon Church took over the Boy Scouts of America.

I’ve watched the episode twice, and I’m not exactly left with an abundance of reasons to believe this is what has taken place. About eight minutes into it, a man says “what happened to the Boy Scouts is that during the time that I was a boy member, Boy Scouts was essentially kidnapped by the religious right, and in particular, by the Mormon Church.” He is identified as Tim Curran, a former Boy Scout who was expelled for his sexual orientation, and subsequently sued the organization.

I do not know that the Boy Scouts have been “kidnapped” by the Mormon Church. I don’t know that. I do know, from watching the episode, that the Mormon Church is the “largest contributor,” or at least since this appears to be a matter of verifiable fact, I’m willing to take P&T at their word. But therein lies a problem: The central theme of the episode is a bellyaching session about how the Boy Scouts receive discounts and other preferential treatment from the Federal Government, as well as local governments, and that something is wrong with this. You know, pick one or the other. I’m not altogether sure how you go from that to expressing angst that a private religion is supporting an organization, something the government somehow shouldn’t be supporting.

So it falls to me to do some research that, if it were already done in the episode I saw, would have been helpful. I did a Google search on the sinister Boy-Scouts-Mormon connection, and I came up with this article which says — guess what? Take a look.

Most people are aware that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes a negative view of homosexuality. However, same-sex activities is not even mentioned in the three uniquely Mormon religious texts…D. Michael Quinn, in his recent book, Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans – a Mormon Example, suggests that Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), was relatively accepting of gay and lesbian relationships. In Quinn’s book, he asserts that Mormons endorsed physical and emotional intimacy between members of the same sex.
Quinn concludes that the church tolerated homoeroticism until the mid-1950s.

Jeez! Some homophobic public-relations wizard is having a wonderful time spreading his personal agenda of hate, here! This nefarious individual co-opted the Mormon religion in the 1950’s, which had been receptive to homosexuals up until then; then a quarter-century later, his organization used this newly-revised Mormon Church apparatus to “hijack” the formerly-diversity-minded Boy Scouts. I’ve got to meet the people behind this. I’ll bet they have forgotten more about promulgating an unpopular social agenda, than I will ever learn.

Question for Penn & Teller: Isn’t it a bit more likely that we’re all talking about homosexuality more often now, for whatever reason, than we used to? Would that not make it relevant for organizations that regularly take large numbers of same-sex children, out into the woods, miles away from civilization…to come up with positions on the issue they previously did not have? Or, perhaps, to articulate some policies that were previously kept tastefully quiet? Perhaps some combination of those two?

Just a thought. I mean, since you’ve punted, Michael Moore style, on offering anything whatsoever to support this “Mormon Church brainwashed them” theory you’ve got going. Since, in the proof-of-thesis department, what you’ve done can be fairly described as dropping a grenade and then walking away. Aren’t my theories a little bit less extravagant, from an Occam’s Razor point-of-view?

The Boy Scouts are supposed to be all about “intolerance and hate.” I have not seen a hateful thing, not one, associated with the Boy Scouts…nowhere, ever, but more to the point, not within this episode. That’s a little screwy, isn’t it? Twenty-nine minutes Penn & Teller have to show us the Boy Scouts doing something hateful, and they can’t come up with one thing. Not unless the enforcement of membership standards, running afoul of the personal tastes of Penn Fraser Jillette, satisfies someone’s definition of “hate.”

Activist Margaret Downey says “Today the boy scouts discriminate against atheists and the homosexual community; tomorrow they can decide to discriminate against handicapped children, or redheads, or jews.” They could, huh? Golly, that sounds pretty bad. Thus it has been proven, the Boy Scouts are just like Hitler. They’re antisemites…or, they would be, if only they did antisemitic things, which we haven’t caught them doing, but it makes us feel good to think about the Boy Scouts doing those things. And that’s just as good as them doing it, right? Film at eleven.

I think that says as much about the state of affairs as needs to be said. The “Boy Scouts” episode of Bullshit is not about forming reasonable inferences from available facts; it is about whipping people up into an emotional, frothy rage about membership standards in a private organization that the Supreme Court has ruled are within the rights of that organization. Except — get this! — in order to get that frothy rage going, you have to make some noise about the Boy Scouts doing something they aren’t actually doing. So it’s not about the Boy Scouts doing something they don’t have the right to do; it’s about the conflict between this thing they do, and the prevailing public sentiment, but you don’t have an adequate conflict unless you depart from the plane of what is actually being done. Penn & Teller, here, proved that you don’t make people sufficiently mad, until you postulate about what the Boy Scouts might do, engaging in an extravagant flight-of-fancy in doing so.

So what’s the problem? I mean, just sticking with things that are actually done, for a change. Where’s the beef? Really?

Well, not much remains of the case made. Most of us would be unimpressed with the argument that a private organization, is doing something that doesn’t quite rub the producers of a popular cable television show the right way; because if we were, that would put cable television producers in charge of a lot of stuff. Do Showtime producers approve of the way I break open eggs? Or that I order my coffee black? Or that I have a Treo smartphone, but no iPod? Those things are about as public as the Boy Scouts’ membership standards. And honestly, in the real world, the fact that the Boy Scouts receive a little help here & there from the U.S. Government and local governments, does very little to make the issue any more public. This article, which is cited in the episode, tells us it is wrong. How much money are we talking about here? Not much. If it’s the “principle of the thing,” as the saying goes…where is the law that says tax money can’t be used to give discounts to the Boy Scouts? Cite book, chapter and verse, please. And if you do find it, by all means file a lawsuit. Get back to us when the lawsuit wins, since, so far, it hasn’t.

Or, heck with the law-and-order approach…go after my sense of decency and fair play. Boy Scouts shouldn’t receive public funding when they discriminate! Shouldn’t they? I dunno…what if my local school board helps out Mensa, when that association of mentally-gifted individuals wants to rent a hall? Hey, I don’t get to decide what my I.Q. is! Who are they to discriminate against me? Eh…sorry Penn & Teller, this doesn’t pass the smell test.

Or, tell you what. You can wait until the Boy Scouts do something that does piss me off, along with lots of other people. Let me know when the Boy Scouts start kicking those redheads and jews off their membership rolls. At that point, I’m with ya pal. Homosexuals? In an organization full of boys that camp out in the woods, miles away from civilization? Hmmm. Do we have lots of youth organizations that take young straight co-eds out in the woods? Young straight boys and young straight girls sharing one tent, under the stars, in the middle of summer? I can’t think of too many establishments that do that, and I think I might know why.

So since the leaders of the Boy Scouts have the job of convincing concerned parents that everything’s going to go okay during this summer’s campout, and Penn & Teller aren’t helping them with this, the Boy Scouts get to decide how things work. That is their right. The idea that it isn’t, just because a cable TV show says it isn’t, scares me a lot more than anything that was presented in this episode.

What’s left? I guess the only remaining complaint is, that the Boy Scouts aren’t being straight with us in saying they have a long-standing policy against homosexual leaders, when this is a relatively recent development. This does have some consistency with the facts, since I hear a lot more about homosexual membership in the Boy Scouts than I did back when I was a scout. Maybe that’s because the Mormon Church took them over in the eighties, after all.

Or maybe not. I don’t know if this change in climate was the doing of the Boy Scouts at all. Was it? All these lawsuits over classes of people being allowed into places — that’s a relatively recent phenomenon too, and the Boy Scouts didn’t start it. You might say someone else started it, and they finished it.

Near the end of the episode, Penn & Teller have one more salvo to launch at the Boy Scouts, and it goes like this: Scouting…is uncool. Enrollment in the Boy Scouts is down 13%. That proves how uncool it is. People should abandon the Boy Scouts because we hate the Boy Scouts, and we hate the Boy Scouts because people are abandoning them. Or as Jillette says in voiceover, “the American People know bigotry when they see it.” Hmmm…what, I wonder, would happen if we were discussing an organization that met with their approval, and the enrollment in that organization was down thirteen percent? That would be Bullshit!, wouldn’t it?

To sum it up, Penn & Teller have done better work before, and I’m sure they will again. The problem here: Starting with everything the episode purports to prove, and methodically discarding everything not proven, we’re left with an irreconcilable conundrum. The Supreme Court decision recognizing the right of the Boy Scouts to set their own membership standards, is said to assert that if this were not the case, the Boy Scouts would be forced to advance homosexuality as a lifestyle that is okay. The producers of the show want us to see this logic as just so much…of the title of the show. Bullshit. However, the activist group Scouting For All, which appears to have pulled some strings to get this particular episode on the air, advances the notion that because government is entangled with the Boy Scouts at the local, state and federal levels, this entanglement forces the government to believe what the Boy Scouts believe: Homosexuality is not okay, and neither is atheism.

And that particular forced belief is not bullshit.

But it’s exactly the same logic. We are supposed to uncritically accept the latter, and forcefully reject the former. Failing to do either one of those two, results in failure to accept the advanced argument. Why are we supposed to comply with the argumentative pursuit demanded of us, both times, when those two cognitions run in stark contradiction to one another? I don’t know. That’s one of the questions left unanswered, probably the most important one.

It’s all a bit too deep for me. I’m still stuck on that “Right of Association” thing in the First Amendment. To me, that’s what the whole question is all about…whether the cable television producers like it, or not.


Saturday, April 15th, 2006


Saw this posted on FARK. I have no way of contacting the person who posted it, and I’m going on the presumption that it’s in the public domain.

Dear President Bush:

I’m about to plan a little trip with my family and extended family, and I would like to ask you to assist me. I’m going to walk across the border from the U.S. into Mexico, and I need to make a few arrangements.

I know you can help with this.

I plan to skip all the legal stuff like visas, passports, immigration quotas and laws. I’m sure they handle those things the same way you do here.

So, would you mind telling your buddy, President Vicente Fox, that I’m on my way over? Please let him know that I will be expecting the following:

1. Free medical care for my entire family.

2. English-speaking government bureaucrats for all services I might need, whether I use them or not.

3. All government forms need to be printed in English.

4. I want my kids to be taught by English-speaking teachers.

5. Schools need to include classes on American culture and history.

6. I want my kids to see the American flag flying on the top of the flagpole at their school with the Mexican flag flying lower down.

7. Please plan to feed my kids at school for both breakfast and lunch.

8. I will need a local Mexican driver’s license so I can get easy access to government services.

9. I do not plan to have any car insurance, and I won’t make any effort to learn local traffic laws.

10. In case one of the Mexican police officers does not get the memo from Pres. Fox to leave me alone, please be sure that all police officers speak English.

11. I plan to fly the U.S. flag from my house top, put flag decals on my car, and have a gigantic celebration on July 4th. I do not want any complaints or negative comments from the locals.

12. I would also like to have a nice job without paying any taxes, and I don’t expect that anyone should enforce any labor laws or tax laws.

13. Please tell all the people in the country to be extremely nice and never say a critical word about me, or about the strain I might place on the economy.

I know this is an easy request because you already do all these things for all the people who come to the U.S. from Mexico. I am sure that Pres. Fox won’t mind returning the favor if you ask him nicely.

However, if he gives you any trouble, just invite him to go quail hunting with your V.P.

Thank you so much for your kind help.


I. M. Gringo

My great-uncle passed away a few years ago, just a little shy of his ninety-seventh birthday. You’ll never meet a more docile soul, in fact, when I was a kid I used to wonder if he even knew what disagreement was. And with one exception, it’s fair to say I never heard him express an opinion — other than the most pleasant — about anything.

That one exception was this:

When he immigrated with my other grand-uncle and my grandfather to this country from Sweden, the three brothers established a strict taboo against speaking the tongue of the Mother Country even at home! And that’s the right way, the only way, to immigrate.

You could see it in his face, he wasn’t about to back down on this. Everyone else on the planet can jolly well do what they’re going to do, come what may — except on this point. And what a classy gentleman, I never heard him utter an unkind word against any person, or any group of people, not even with regard to that issue. He managed to confine his comments to the way things should be done…the way he was extremely proud to have done them. I don’t know if he was criticizing anybody. He never said anything to imply that he was. This will have to be a matter of interpretation on my part, and on the part of anyone who listened to him.

But I do look at the “No Hablo Anglais” crowd a little differently. Visit a country for a week or two, and not learn the language? Eh…I wouldn’t, but okay, I can understand it. But live there permanently and not bother to learn how to communicate with the locals? Why would you do this?

I don’t wish to vent my spleen at people who refuse to learn a new language, since I’m monolingual myself, nor do I mean to imply that it’s easy. My uncle had good reason to be proud. Can you imagine what a raging pain in the ass that would be — speaking the new language at home? If it was easy, how worthy of mention would it have been? But the old guy had a great point. If you’re planning to make a new country your home, why not. It’s more than sensible; it’s a responsibility.

But more to the point: I’m taking it as a given, that the person writing the letter above wouldn’t get very far. And nobody ever seems to be questioning this, or calling out that since it’s true, perhaps something needs re-examining. People visiting other countries, Americans included, have to abide by sensible rules. People visiting America, don’t. We let people protest against the enforcement of laws that they choose to break.

Some kind of equalization is in order. You know, if President Fox is not willing to treat visitors to his country the way we treat visitors to ours, we can always go the other way, as Heather MacDonald points out…

Fine. If Mexico wants to dictate our immigration policy to us, let�s follow their example to the letter. That example is particularly relevant on this further day of protests demanding amnesty for illegals. Among the demonstrators in at least 60 cities nationwide will undoubtedly be thousands of border lawbreakers. What would Mexico do? The answer is easy: deport them on the spot. In 2002, a dozen American college students, in Mexico legally, participated peacefully in an environmental protest against a planned airport outside of Mexico City. They swiftly found themselves deported as law-breakers for interfering in Mexico�s internal affairs.

If Mexico was willing to strip these students of their duly-obtained travel visas, imagine what it would have done had the students broken into the country surreptitiously�not just summary deportation but undoubtedly howls of complaint to the U.S. government for winking at this double violation of Mexican sovereignty.

You know, my own record of global travel is pretty unimpressive. I do have a passport, but it doesn’t get much use so I stay more-or-less quiet about how Americans are treated when they travel abroad.

But I know what a law is, I know what a “right” is and how it differs from a privilege. I know what protests are. Protesting, so that an entire class of people can be awarded the right to break a law, seems cockeyed to me. Cutting classes to attend such a protest, is particularly gauche to say the least. If a law is enforceable only until the right protest comes along, then why have it?

And on a planet chock full of countries that have walls, why does America have to be the only gazebo?

More Diverse Than You

Saturday, April 15th, 2006

More Diverse Than You

I wish that every now and then, we had some public opinion polls about general principles instead of about specific political events. In fact, I’m of the opinion that if this were to be done, the exercise would yield surprising and positive revelations about how much we have in common with each other.

For example, I bet if you drilled a thousand randomly-selected respondents about the idea of different classes of people living by different rules, three-quarters of them would say this is a bad idea under any circumstances no matter what previous events in history make it look appealing. And an additional 20% would say it might be a good idea in some specific cases, but sure they can definitely see the problem with it, and absolutely it should be a purely temporary thing.

A good-sized chunk, between 40 and 50 percent, would say it’s purely anti-American, and if we’re going to do that what is the point of having an America anyway?

Okay, I’m making that last one up. It would be just me saying that.

But I do think we still have it ingrained in our culture, that when you get ticketed for jaywalking and have to pay fifty bucks, and then I get caught jaywalking but my eyes are blue…or I have an innie belly-button…or I can’t stand Seinfeld because it’s a boring show…or I have German and Irish blood in me but I’m mostly Scandinavian…guess what? I have to pay 50 bucks. Not fifty cents, not a thousand bucks.

And if I have the right to demonstrate peacefully and promote the message that invading Iraq was a great idea that came far too late, and Iran should be next, you have the equal right to demonstrate peacefully with the usual bullshit…war never solved anything, peace at any price, soldiers are butchers and rapists, blah blah blah. Neither one of us should be required to file special permits and pay special usage fees that the other one gets to skip around, based on the content of our messages.

Affirmative action policies meant to “diversify” the color of an accepted group of people, subject to promotions, enrollment, hiring or contracting? Americans are united in opposing that. Those who favor such things, can certainly see the problems in having them — even if some of them would be personally helped, over the short term, by them. In seeing what the problem is, we are united. But that’s a message that never quite gets out.

Well on the same subject, how committed are colleges to “diversity” and “freedom of expression”? College Republicans at Penn State University wanted to enter the debate about the nation’s borders by playing a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game.” People would be invited to “catch” group members wearing orange shirts symbolizing illegal aliens. Well, hold the phone here, back up the truck. Can’t have that! It’s insensitive! The orange-shirt-chasers were invited by the administration of the University, to “re-think their approach as a step toward fostering civility on campus.”

Huh. You know, I can’t think of the last college protest I’ve ever heard of, that wasn’t apt to offend somebody. I wonder if all protesters are invited to re-think their approaches.

That’s essentially what this sophomore said…

“You have to be creative to get students to listen to you,” sophomore Chuck Knight wrote in a letter to the editor published recently in the student newspaper, The Daily Collegian. “For that matter, you have to be creative anytime you are trying to raise concern about something.”

Mr. Knight doesn’t restore my faith in younger generations just because he agrees with me. He restores my faith in younger generations because he’s taking a couple steps back, and looking at the bigger picture. He’s doing what I recommended in the first couple of paragraphs at the beginning of this post. Take the emotions out of it by taking the specific issue out of it, just look at the social concepts. Go ahead and paint with a broad brush, so long as your words stay somewhat true…any time you raise concern about something, you have to be creative.

It fits. We may disagree about whether that justifies the protest, but he’s speaking to the way people work when they think. When you see something that’s everyday-humdrum, for whatever reason, you ignore it. So when you raise awareness, you have to blast the message out in all directions, so it reverberates where it is well-received, as well as where it is not.

The trouble with campus environments like this one, which are “committed to fostering diversity of viewpoints” as they say, is that invariably they end up slanted because — and this is an ugly truth that seldom gets mentioned — everybody’s got a melting point. Get enough heat going, and the campus administrator who just yesterday was bragging about promoting diversity of viewpoints, will be backpedaling and saying “whoah, whoah, hold it, we’re not quite that diverse.”

I’ve never seen it fail. And yet, when that happens, the much-lauded “diversity” of viewpoints turns into something quite a bit worse than non-diversity. It turns into filtered diversity. Diversity…so long as certain classes of people are not offended.

Some people think that’s a good idea. Like this guy, and, since the story exists, no doubt hundreds who agree with him…

Similar events staged by conservative students on other campuses, including the University of North Texas, have stirred emotions. And that was true at Penn State yesterday as protesters like alumnus Michael Benitez called the event unfit for his alma mater:

“If we’re supposed to be a place that promotes diversity and social intelligence, why is this happening?”

See, I’m sure Mr. Benitez would respond to my poll the way the majority would — no special privileges for any class of people. And yet, he commented on this the way he did, not because he disagrees, but because he fails to correlate the specific social event with the higher concept. If we promote diversity and social intelligence, why is this happening?, he says, as people freely express a diverse opinion they’ve developed through their social intelligence.

I guess we’re committed to championing diversity in all forms, but it happens that some people are more diverse than others.

House of What?

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

House of What?

This blog, which nobody actually reads, has been around awhile by now, and…well gee, I guess there’s no subtle way of saying this. People are reading it. They’re following it loyally, even monitoring it for new posts. So the question has naturally arisen from that readership, why does it persist in calling itself “the blog that nobody reads”? Yeah, subtitles can be cool. Superman is the “Man of Steel,” and Hooters is “Delightfully Tacky, Yet Unrefined.” But what’s up with a subtitle that is starkly at odds with the truth?

And what’s going on with that name? House of Erato- What? Who?

Here it is, the long-awaited FAQ that explains all. However, it’s a Bill Clinton flavor of “all” — it depends on the meaning of the word “all.” Unlike our 42nd President, however, I’m not going to deliberately lie to you and then send my cronies out to appear on Sunday morning talk shows, intoning that the lie was okay because it was never your business to begin with. I’m taking the initiative in telling you, so it’s automatically your business, and it’s true.

1. Who Are You?
I’m just a guy. An ordinary guy. I’ll be forty years old this summer. Proud single dad of the eight-year-old boy all parents would wish was theirs, if their heads were screwed on straight. I grew up in Washington State, up in Bellingham (which used to be somewhat “out in the sticks,” now it’s a raging metropolis).

I’m an Information Technology guy. That is what I do. I really haven’t been able to convince anyone to hire me into anything else, anyhow. Lately, the activity on the blog has been climbing a little because I’ve been on sabbatical, and I’m still on a sabbatical. That’s out of my hands at the moment.

I got a high school education while I was living in Bellingham, left for Seattle very soon after that, knocked around there for a few years while Starbuck’s was still in its infancy. At 25, with my “starter” marriage a figment of history and my personal finances in a hopeless mess, I took a job clear across the country in Detroit, where I stayed for a year. I was farmed out from there to help with coding a large document system that had to do with the government of California. So here I am. The California state government contract got delivered. I did this job, I did that job. I dated this woman, I dated that woman. Years have passed. I got a woman pregnant. I got another woman, somehow, to move close to me so we could share a life together. These are serious commitments. So if you brought home a new puppy when I got my first assignment to move to California, you would have had to euthanize it so it could escape the aches and pains of old age by now. It’s a dog’s life — entire life. I’m still here. I’m not leaving.

I’ve been in the Sacramento area for fourteen years now, most of my adult life. I have my complaints. But the place does kind of grow on ya. I don’t think of myself as “stuck,” because I’m of the view that none of us are really doing anything that matters worth a damn next to parenting. And there are much worse places to be. I’m thankful.

That’s really all there is to tell. I’m not educated. I’m not rich or powerful. A lot of the time, with regard to my own destiny, my judgment hasn’t even been that good. I have exerted roughly the same amount of control over that destiny, as a pinball exerts over its direction as it tumbles through a machine. And, to the kind soul who wrote in a couple of days ago asking, no, I’m not a professional writer and have never been that. What I am, is a bit of a klutz. If some folks within our society are going to be hollowed-out and made into mere shells of the thinking men & women they were designed by God to be, I’m a great candidate to let someone else do my thinking for me.

But I refuse to do this, and you should too. By the time you’re done with this FAQ, you’ll understand why.

2. Are You Pushing Republicans?
No, actually I disagree with Republicans about all kinds of things. I am registered to vote as a Republican, but as far as I’m concerned you can register and vote however you want. To the extent that I’m interested in your personal business, which isn’t much at all, it’s far more important to me that what you do makes sense to you than that it meets with my approval.

3. How Do You Disagree With Republicans?
Like I said, I disagree about “all kinds of things.” I could make a very long list, if I choose to include the very troubling issues as well as the trifling ones. Since the object of the exercise here is to simply give you an impression of my leanings, I will limit the selection to three:

  • Promoting Some Cultures Over Others: Some Republicans, although not all, have identified a problem that delinquent cultural norms are being promoted while others are attacked, and their solution is to counterattack. Promote Christianity over Atheism, since some establishments are doing the opposite; promote heterosexuality over homosexuality, since some establishments are doing the opposite; promote SUV’s over “rice-rockets,” since some establishments are doing the opposite; promote meat-eating over vegetarianism, since some establishments are doing the opposite. I agree with them about what the problem is, but I view their response as an exercise in lowering onesself to the enemy’s level. I think nobody’s really going to particularly care that you champion some things and excoriate others, until they’re convinced you understand yourself how (if at all) it’s any of your business. America, to me, is a place where your neighbors leave you alone, so long as you don’t hurt them. If you want to be hounded about drinking Pepsi when someone thinks you should be drinking Coke, where everything anybody does is everybody else’s business, you can move to Europe. This little social activity of running around, intoning to complete strangers what they “must” do, seems popular over there.
  • That Border Thing: It would be awfully tough to make an argument that everything is more-or-less okay here, but that does seem to be the Republican position as well as the Democrat position. It’s not my position. Things are bad. We don’t know who is coming in, we’re rewarding law-breakers, and punishing law-abiders. Worst of all, it would appear we have policies that direct each year’s influx of illegal immigrants toward the “dregs”; I don’t believe we’re skimming the cream off the top, because there’s no way we can be. Simply put, an “illegal immigrant” is, by definition, an immigrant about whom we know nothing and aren’t likely to find out anything. The exercise of becoming an illegal immigrant, therefore, will have a purging effect on a person’s background by making that background, for all practical purposes, non-existent — and why would a habitually law-abiding person be interested in that? So if I’m in Mexico and I’ve got two sons, one of whom I want to send to American to funnel some money back, and I’m deciding which one…both are hard workers, one has a criminal record and one does not…guess what? The son with the good record stays home with me. Of course he does! The one with a skeleton or two in his closet, is the one who goes. It would be foolish to do it any differently.

    I’m not in favor of closing the border altogether, but to be honest, I’d like to have a high-profile, national-issue-type discussion about going that far. It’s worth considering. I’m not comfortable with having that option ruled out so quickly, so absolutely, with so little deliberation. Having commerce across a border is a privilege, which a nation confers upon itself once it has met the responsibility of regulating that border. America, at this point, should look at rescinding that privilege from itself because we haven’t met the responsibility we owe to ourselves. Republicans oppose that policy, which is fine with me, by avoiding that debate altogether — which is not fine with me at all.

  • Spending Money: Call me naive, but it should be possible to shrink the federal budget from one fiscal year to the next, something that hasn’t happened in my time. That’s the way my household works. I have a job that pays $5000 a month and my expenses are $4000 a month, I lose my job and I get another one that pays $3000 a month — guess what? Those expenses are going down. Yeah, there would be pain and yeah, there would be complaining. Get over it. That’s the way a household works. Government, in all the ways that matter, is just a big household. It takes in money, spends money, expenses shrink and grow, and people complain. The result should be the same as what happens in the households, when the debt starts to get out of control. Get with it, Republicans.
  • 4. Are You A Libertarian?
    Absolutely not. I view the states as being absolutely, unquestionably authorized to impose penalties for consumption of controlled substances. They can outlaw things willy-nilly, so long as a majority of voters in that state choose to do so. Outlaw wheatgrass. Outlaw milk. Should they elect to do so, and you don’t like it, go to another state.

    Because if a majority of voters are in favor of such a law, even though the law is “nonsensical,” who is to say that it is nonsensical? If you think you have a rational answer to that question, no matter what it is, you are inflicting an assault upon the constitutional authority of those state residents to govern themselves. Who’s going to overrule the law, the federal government? Sure it’s done, but the letter of the Constitution strictly forbids it (I join the libertarians in this particular viewpoint). Another state? The principles embraced by the United Nations, or the constitution of some foreign country? Congress? It’s all poppycock. It’s up to the voters of that state, and they can outlaw whatever they want unless the law is utterly, irreconciliably incompatible with the U.S. Constitution. And in determining that, the constitutionality of the law enjoys benefit-of-doubt, and the assertion that the constitution has been violated, labors under an absolute burden-of-proof.

    I disagree with the Libertarian position on the War on Terror. The Federal Government is empowered, and obligated, to protect us. The forces deployed overseas, so far as I know belong precisely where they are. I wish they were sent there a lot sooner. Pre-emptive strikes are not incompatible with what I see in the Constitution or any other applicable document. As a practical matter, it’s awfully difficult to offer any plan for the national defense with an impressive potential for success, that simultaneously forsakes the option of pre-emption. You don’t see anybody offering one. For that reason, I see Libertarians as just barely more trustworthy of our nation’s defense strategies and mechanisms, compared to the Democrats. Whoah, that’s harsh. But it’s accurate, in my opinion.

    5. Are You A Conservative?
    I don’t think so. In fact, if I could pronounce just one single, solitary problem with what’s going on in the country and the world today — just one — I would say the problem we need to work on solving, is that people don’t truly think for themselves anymore. I’m not that old, but in my lifetime that wasn’t thought of as a conservative principle, it was a liberal one. So by that definition, it’s more accurate to call me a liberal.

    6. A Liberal? How Can You Call Yourself Liberal?
    I just told you. I want people to think for themselves. I don’t really care if they agree with me or not…although, to be honest, I get a sense of assurance that people are “on the ball” when they agree with me, just as anyone else does.

    But if assurance was a good thing all of the time, we’d all still be curled up in little balls in our mommas’ tummies. Assurance is for kids. I’m actually more interested when people disagree, if they can show they’re doing their own thinking, and perhaps know something I don’t.

    Let’s get philosophical and zen-like for a moment. Think of a vast wheat field on a windy day. Wheat as far as the eye can see, blowing back and forth. That’s beautiful. What makes it beautiful? Independence makes it beautiful. Each stalk does what it wants to do, unbeholden to the next stalk over in any way, shape or form. The stalks tend to be the same height, because they are commonly affected by the last harvest, and the nutrients in the soil, and the irrigation; but at the same time each stalk is as tall as it wants to be. They tend to lean in the same direction at a given moment, because the wind acts on all of them; but at the same time each stalk leans as it will.

    So when you look at several acres of this stuff, you find the stalks do not lean all in the same direction. From that, you can literally see the wind if you look at enough grain. That’s one of the things that makes it beautiful. Like the song: “amber waves of grain.” If the stalks were to lean in all different directions somehow, with Stalk One leaning to the east and Stalk Two, next to it, leaning to the west, as if the entire field had been trampled by bulls or something — that would be an awful mess. If you were to, somehow, “shellac” the stalks all together throughout all those acres, perhaps connect those millions of wheat stalks to one lever so you could make them all lean in the same direction at the same time, that would no longer be beautiful. It would be ugly.

    I think I’m a liberal because I promote what nature promotes, in that wheat field. Each person thinks and does what makes sense to them. They end up doing more-or-less the same thing; they are acted upon by similar forces, and they are alike in the behavior they show when they respond to those forces. Orthodox political parties in our society today, tend to favor the lever-and-magic-shellac approach, because it makes the masses easier to control. The unorthodox parties tend to favor the hodge-podge, let’s-all-stick-out-in-different-directions approach. I disapprove of magic-shellac, and I disapprove of hodge-podge anarchy even more. The advocates of anarchy want to control when people are controlled, and when people are not. Just as the wheat field, when an acre or two have been trampled, and the wheat stalks stick out in different directions, no longer structurally capable of reacting to the wind. Looks terrible.

    According to that, then, there is no good reason for anyone to be anything but a “liberal.” I’m a liberal in the sense that it’s liberal to be an American. As, once upon a time, it was.

    7. Who Was Eratosthenes?
    Eratosthenes of Cyrene was the administrator of the Library in Alexandria who died at the beginning of the second century B.C. He earned the dubious nickname of “Beta” by being second-best in a lot of scientific/philosophical pursuits. Nevertheless, he did manage to achieve several expansions of the pool of mankind’s knowledge; he conceived the Sieve of Eratosthenes, and he came up with a remarkably accurate way of determining the size of the earth. This is very seldom discussed, and it’s even more of a rarity to discuss exactly how he did it. That particular experiment has enormous value and meaning to the blog you’re reading now, and it’s impossible to achieve a good understanding of what this blog endeavors to do, without understanding that experiment.

    In a nutshell, here is what he did. He noticed that during the summer solistice, there was a water well where at high noon, the sun illuminated everything all the way down to the bottom. The nature of water wells, of course, is that they must be perfectly vertical, so this was a precise way of confirming the sun was directly overhead.

    Eratosthenes wrote a lot of stuff that has been lost, and it appears that among the things we have no way of finding out, is the exact method by which he synchronized time in what was done next. But it really doesn’t matter very much. Somehow, probably by employing an assistant, he made an observation simultaneously between two wells, one in Alexandria and one in Syene. (Contrary to popular belief, the “Cyrene” that was the administrator’s home-town, is different from the “Syene” that was the location of one of the wells.) According to scientific nomenclature, then, there was a “control” well in Syene — in which the sunbeam was perfectly vertical — and a “test” well in Alexandria — in which it was not. Eratosthenes, at the right moment, took a reading of the angle of the sun, relative to the shaft of the test well.

    From this angle, and the physical distance between the two wells, he was able to determine the circumference of the earth. With, as the ensuing centuries would attest, an accuracy that was…absolutely breathtaking.

    We can learn a lot of lessons about the stuff Eratosthenes did, but we can learn particularly valuable lessons from this specific experiment.

    When people argue about politics nowadays, I see them frequently ignoring those lessons.

    8. Lessons? Like What?

  • Don’t Be Afraid To Be “Beta.” We don’t learn things by selecting a “champion” and then letting that individual do all the work while we sit around on our asses. Your opinion about something doesn’t become meaningless, just because you admit someone else might know more about it. You can still ask questions. In fact, if you bow out of the exercise altogether, leaving it to champions, it turns out that is exactly when your opinion becomes worthless. Stay involved. If something doesn’t make sense to you, do some exploring. Peek in some water wells. It’s good for ya.
  • Science Belongs To Us All. Science is about nature. Are you affected by nature? It happens that the answer, unconditionally, is yes. Scientists aren’t more affected by gravity than you are. Scientists don’t breathe more air than you do. We all live on a planet that is forty thousand kilometers in circumference. Science is yours. By extension, that means all matters dealing with research of facts that are available to you, is yours. Go after it. And don’t let anyone keep it from you; it’s your business.
  • Logic Belongs To Us All. Logic is the process by which opinions are derived from facts. Because logic belongs to us all, someone else is providing you with a service when they give you facts, and they’re almost certainly injuring you when they provide you with opinions (unless they’re willing to discuss them before imposing them on you). Because logic belongs to us all, we all owe it to ourselves, to understand the difference between a fact and an opinion. More on this later.
  • Don’t Be Afraid To Notice Obvious And/Or Meaningless Things. Eratosthenes noticed something that came to mean a great deal, once it was incorporated into an experiment that relied on many other things. By itself, the fact that sunshine illuminated a well, meant next-to-nothing. We have a lot of cultural pressures in our society today, that would have made Eratosthenes’ exercise pretty difficult. For starters, if some guy peeked in a well and noticed it was lit up at high noon, and said so, he would be held up to ridicule. That’s a problem. We still have experiments to do, as individuals — science belongs to us all, remember? We help ourselves, when we resist that cultural pressure. Noticing things, even “stupid” things, is a good thing.
  • Don’t Be Afraid To Be Preoccupied. We live in a time when, if you have the ability to pay attention to something for a prolonged period of time, and manifest the discipline and decision-making prowess necessary to keep on doing it until you meet a goal you’ve defined for yourself, we call it a learning disability. That’s funny. What’s even funnier, is when we describe your learning disability in that scenario, we make reference to your inability to control your attention span, citing your failure to pay attention to something else. That’s more than funny, that’s silly. What do healthy people do with silly things? They ignore them. There’s pressure to not be preoccupied with anything, unless some authority figure gives you blessing and direction to be preoccupied with it. Silly. You’re best off ignoring it. A man who ignores it can easily find out, and verify, things that are a lot bigger than he is. A man who doesn’t ignore it, can’t.
  • You Have What It Takes To Find Out About Really Big Things. Eratosthenes didn’t have a satellite or a spaceship. He didn’t even have a really long ladder. He simply used observations, inferences, and math, and he figured out what he wanted to figure out. We all have this ability. All we have to do is use it.
  • Understand What It Is That You’re Seeing. Eratosthenes’ experiment makes use of an abundance of logical objects, while many other experiments make use of only a small sampling of these objects. It made use of a known fact: Water wells are vertical. It made use of an observed fact: This water well is illuminated all the way to the bottom, at high noon during the solistice. It made use of a disputed but presumed premise: The earth is round. It made use of measurements: My assistant observed the sun was at such-and-such an angle at high noon, at this other water well, and these two points are so-and-so miles apart. It made use of mathematical reasoning: From the angle, we get a multiplier, and when we multiply the distance by that multiplier, we get the circumference of the earth. Finally, during the confirmation process, Eratosthenes’ exercise makes use of an enigma: Given that these observations were made in order to calculate the size of the earth, it becomes logically difficult to explain how the earth could be flat.
  • This is what could be called object-oriented thinking. You can’t pursue it, without keeping in mind the class of each thing that is being observed, so as to determine how each cognition can be and should be evaluated. To those who observe arguing as something ethereal and not object-oriented — just a lot of “stuff” — this is an impossible exercise. So the lesson is when you recognize something, know exactly what it is you are recognizing.

    When we argue about laws and how to change them, or policies and how to form them, for the most part our cognitions fall into three abstract categories:

  • Facts. Things that are beyond reasonable dispute. When we argue amongst ourselves, facts need not be proven; they can be a meta-facts, things that might possibly be incorrect, but that both sides accept as the truth, disagreeing only about what is to be thought about them.
  • Inferences. Postulations about the state of affairs, usually derived from facts. Inferences need not be unprovable to be inferences; they can be meta-inferences, things that might be proven with resources not presently available, that might also be proven, or made somehow compelling, by an alternative means through some kind of logical pursuit.
  • Things To Do. Actions (or cessation of existing actions) usually based on inferences. The two sides must disagree about this, while agreeing on the facts. That is what justifies the arguing. Without an agreement on facts, and disagreement about the thing-to-do, there is no reason to be arguing.
  • Often, Living In The Past Is A Good Thing. Eratosthenes lived a long time ago, and as a result was exposed to the elements in ways we are not. Technology can have a blinding effect. Just as a child who is used to having a calculator, might be slow to answer “what is 13 times 7?” when deprived of that tool, we would be handicapped from doing what Eratosthenes found a way to do.
  • 9. Why Do You Call Yourself “The Blog That Nobody Reads”?
    Lots of reasons. The half-dozen most important:

    a. Humility: I have a blog. That doesn’t make me more correct about things, or even for that matter smarter, than someone who doesn’t have a blog, or even someone who’s never heard of a “blog.” My blog started out as a way to make notes on things, and record hyperlinks supporting those notes, on the web where I could get to the information from any location. It was never really even designed, as a primary objective, to be read. People are reading my blog now. I notice other people, who are watched by lots and lots of people and know they’re being watched by lots and lots of people, gradually swing around to the supposition that they are smart because of this, and therefore don’t need to research the opinions they have. Hey, look at all the people watching me, I must be right. I don’t want to fall into that trap.

    b. Arrogance: There are millions of blogs out there, only a tiny portion of which are actually read by anybody. It is hubris to call one’s blog “THE blog that nobody reads.” And that hubris has a useful purpose…

    c. Making “Internet Cops” Look Like What They Are: …I have come to learn that the Internet is crawling with self-appointed “cops.” These people will write in with something that can only be called “rude,” since of course their purpose is to coerce, and they’ve chosen a forum that can do nothing more than simply express, so they rely on a harsh demeanor to bridge the gap between expression and coercion. When these people see me writing something with which they disagree, they regard this as a mission. Something MUST BE DONE. I have to be silenced, or I have to be humiliated, or I have to be browbeaten into retracting what I said. This is another thing that is silly. As it happens, I like to make silly things look like the silly things that they are, and chafe at the invitation to make silly things look reasonable; it’s just my way. What can be sillier than an activist agitated into action, determined to sanitize contraband remarks on a blog that…………nobody anywhere is actually reading?

    I really like that tactic. For one thing, the hostile Internet Cops never seem to argue the point that my blog is unread or unreadable — they agree, pretty enthusiastically. So back to the original question, if nobody’s reading the blog, why is it important to fix it? Well, there’s no good answer for that, and that kind of helps to make the point, to a third-person anyway, if not to the assailant.

    d. Marketing: It’s always better to write something interesting than something that isn’t. I can be an attention whore like anyone else. That’s why I use strange, arcane phrases on this blog that you aren’t likely to see anywhere else. I use President Bush’s inadvertent slip-up during the debates, “innernets,” as if it’s a serious word (usually with the scare quotes, though). When I say things are crazy, I often say they are “wombat rabies bollywonkers crazy,” even if the subject at hand has very little to do with wombats or rabies. It’s a calling card. It’s kind of like Jules from Pulp Fiction quoting “Ezekiel 25:17.” Just some crazy stuff you can say that has often-useless, but occasionally-ironic, appeal.

    Well you know, there’s a certain appeal to the readers, when they go fishing in the spot nobody’s discovered yet. Now when I’m sitting where you are sitting right now, randomly flipping through blogs, this is something that has appeal to me. The “fishing” analogy covers it nicely. Who cares about something everybody else is looking at? I’ll find out about that later, anyway. The blog is strongly related, conceptually, with an experiment involving a water well. So the fishing analogy works that way, too.

    e. Un-Marketing: There are people out there who are repelled by the notion that they’ll be looking at something nobody else is looking at, and will actually stop reading a blog because of that. This is a bugaboo that plagues our society today, although there are many more of those. You know what? Good. I don’t want to communicate with those people. I don’t want to labor under the burden of cleaning up my work, so that this personality type will find it more palatable. To my way of thinking, if you’re disenchanted from reading stuff “nobody reads,” you’re probably disenchanted from considering ideas that “weren’t already in your head.” If that’s the case, you’re not my intended audience anyway. Shoo!

    f. To Stick To My Knitting: This has something to do with “humility” (a., above). For the past handful of years, we have had some people who already get a fair amount of attention, saying some things that bear only casual relationships to what a reasonable person would call “The Truth” in order to get more attention. It would be an extravagant and unproductive use of space to start listing these things, I only wish to make the point that, appearances being any indication, some of these people have abandoned any pretense of trying to re-assert established facts or to vouch for inferences they find somehow reasonable. To get the attention has become the mission. This is a seductive temptation that beckons to us all.

    Here’s an example. We have a lot of people, a majority of people I would venture to say, essentially saying “we attacked Saddam Hussein even though he was no threat to us” (America). The disagreement that lingers, seems to be about whether this was a legal decision to make, or whether it was illegal, perhaps even impeachable and/or criminal. But “everyone agrees” Saddam Hussein was no threat to America.

    Well, I’m in the minority. This is an example where I can say one thing to get more traffic on my blog, or I can say a different thing to adhere to the more logical pursuit of reasoned inferences derived from established facts. Nobody, anywhere, is saying “a logical pursuit of reasoned inferences derived from established facts, says that Saddam Hussein was no threat to us.” No one is saying that — unless — they are losing track, accidentally or deliberately, of the meaning of words like “logical,” “inferences,” “facts,” and “threat.”

    Because that asshole was a threat. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

    We handle facts and inferences correctly here — or at least, we try to, and if we fail we ‘fess up about it. We can do it differently, in order to get attention, like Howard Dean did during the campaign a couple years ago — someone asked him what he thought about theories the Government knew about 9-11 ahead-of-time, and instead of disagreeing outright he said it was worth looking into, thereby implying he thought it was, well, worth looking into.

    That’s attention-whoring at the expense of what is reasonable. It is lending your credibility to the support of cock-and-bull theories upon which you wouldn’t bet your dried, crusty nasal debris, let alone your left testicle, for the sake of a few more pairs of eyes-and-ears pointed your way. We don’t do that here and we won’t do that here. And to make sure we don’t, we call ourselves “the blog that nobody reads.”

    10. Bugaboos Plaguing Our Society! Wow! What Bugaboos Are Those?

    a. The Bugaboo Of Popularity: This is what our parents used to call “peer pressure” back when we were in the sixth-to-twelfth grades. Now that we’re grown up and the job falls to us to describe ourselves, we call it “word of mouth marketing” or something to that effect. Someone at work watches a television show, so you start watching that show. Someone else finds out the two of your are watching it, so they start watching it too. That’s good. It’s the essence of open-mindedness to say “well, I’ll give it a try; why not?”

    The problem comes up when the line is crossed between entertainment and what we call “news.” Before you know it, just because John Stewart hosts a fresh, topical, entertaining program — he’s telling millions of people what to think. That’s a problem (see answer to #8).

    b. The Bugaboo Of Plutocracy: The above has to do with people who end up in a position of telling large numbers of people what to think, without regard to anybody’s original intent. There are other people who are designated to tell people what their opinions are supposed to be. We don’t actually describe their jobs that way, because if anyone heard that they’d be horrified. But these people show, by their actions, that they interpret the jobs they hold as having this purpose — or else their employers do.

  • Hollywood: I put Hollywood in this category because they have been putting themselves in this category. Don’t ask me why they do it. They just do it. Me, I don’t think being an actor has an awful lot to do with telling people what to think or how to think, but that’s how a lot of these celebrities have chosen to re-define their jobs. There’s a lot of money at stake, since actors today are paid much more than, say, court jesters were in Europe during the thirteenth century when they were doing exactly the same thing, and for that, called “fools.” So I guess Hollywood actors don’t really need that money when it comes from the pockets of people who have different opinions.
  • Academia: Science has been engaging in a bunch of ugly habits lately. I’ve already adequately covered how this works, I think. It says “we are the scientists and we think this is so, now unless you’re a scientist, go away.” That’s an entirely valid scientific exercise when the subject of discussion is a fact. Not when it’s an opinion. Lately, science has been doing this with opinions. Well, that isn’t really what we call “science.”
  • Elected Representatives: Hard as it may be to believe, it’s emerged that we have an interesting debate going on in this country. Some people think we, the voters, tell our elected representatives what to promote and what to oppose, and if they go a different way, we get rid of them provided we have the votes to do so. Others think it’s up to the representatives to tell the electorate what should be promoted versus what should be opposed. There is no rational explanation to favor the latter model over the former, except that this model makes the job of representation a little easier…and when we are assigned jobs and we start doing them, we’re wired to find ways to make that job easier. So they end up telling us what to think.
  • Anchor-People: Through their own ignorance of the difference between a fact and an opinion, or their refusal to clarify it before setting out on their missions as anchor-people (come to think of it, why should they), the familiar faces on our cable/network news shows have been telling people what to think. This is unavoidable. If facts & opinions are all dumped into the same stewpot, and it’s your job to give people facts — hello? This is a situation that has been developing for awhile. “Objectivity” has become a myth. Completely. The only time the newspeople champion objectivity anymore, is when they’re paying it lip-service, insisting against the evidence that they’re objective.
  • c. The Bugaboo Of The Zeitgeist: Let me state, for the record, that I don’t like that word. I’ve been known to use some big words, and some arcane words, even some words chosen deliberately to get the audience to make a run for the dictionary. Zeitgeist, on the other hand, enjoys insufficient recognition to make communication even possible, or, to be more accurate about it, efficient. You can’t use the Z-word, without making it extremely likely that the subject will soon be changed to the Z-word itself.

    I’m not going to do a Linda Chavez or an Ann Coulter or a George Will, and just throw the word out, implicitly expecting you already know it. If you’re learning about it for the first time, which is likely, I’ll define it for you. I’ll even tell you how to pronounce it: it rhymes with “Bite Sliced.” It is the defining set of prevailing viewpoints for a given locality and/or era.

    I’m offended by the notion that there should even be such a thing as a “zeitgeist.” I like vanilla ice cream better than fancy ice cream, I find Seinfeld to be incredibly boring, and I hate tomatoes…I don’t need some zeitgeist to tell me my tastes should be different.

    Neither should anybody else.

    But today, that’s the way a lot of people “think.” By the Zeitgeist Bugaboo. There’s a reason why, which brings me to…

    d. The Bugaboo Of Comfort: I’ve already addressed how technology has a blinding effect. Let’s explore this further by taking it to the extreme: You’re a caveman, you’re looking for food, if you go one direction you’ll find something lower on the food chain than you — if you go another direction, you’ll encounter something higher. Take one path, you may eat, take the other, you may be eaten.

    Now at that exact moment, you’re going to be a rocket scientist in the practice of observing empirical facts, forming reasoned inferences based on those facts, and deciding upon things-to-do based on those inferences. People in our society, today, have a tough time doing this. Their continuing survival is rarely dependent on their ability to do this, since we no longer live in an eat-or-be-eaten world, so the ability has come to atrophy. Just like the bottoms of our feet are a lot more tender than the bottom of a caveman’s feet, we’re losing our ability to arrive at reasoned inferences based on establish facts.

    But we still think we’re smarter because we’re a later model, our backs are straighter and our foreheads are bigger.

    That’s arrogance. There is danger in that.

    e. The Bugaboo Of Consistency: Thing I Know #2 is that for every man who maintains his opinion because of preponderance of evidence, nine more maintain theirs simply because they’re already on record and want to stay consistent. Thing I Know #23 is that a man might be willing to bet a nickel on his opinion, but you can often quickly increase this to ten dollars simply by arguing with him. Both of these are true; I know they are, because I’m all finished figuring out they’re true. They’re things I know. They demonstrate a problem with the way most of us go about thinking things. We place priority on the objective of not-changing-our-minds, an objective that rightfully doesn’t merit any priority at all.

    11. What’s The Deal With Hooters And The War On Terror?
    I really don’t know…you’ll have to ask the people who react to those two things the way they do.

    The September 11 attacks. That awful day. Somehow, when people think about this and comment about it, the vast majority of the time, the crap that comes out of their mouths makes very little or no sense. Keep your eyes peeled, watch what’s going on, and listen to people. You’ll see that I’m right.

    Evil men attacked us, with malice of forethought. They died, but they were recruited, trained, equipped and subsidized by other evil men who are still alive. People describe the September 11 attacks, and they describe it like a weather phenomenon. They assign more culpability to the Hurricane Katrina disaster than to the September 11 attacks. There was no malice of forethought with Katrina. Just incompetence. The September 11 attacks were just those…attacks.

    As for Hooters waitresses and other beautiful young ladies in skimpy outfits, it’s the same thing. Very little of what anybody has to say about the subject, makes any sense.

    I’m not sure what skimpy waitress costumes have to do with innocent people showing up for work on time, and for that innocent act being forced to choose between an agonizing death by burning jet fuel, and a nosedive off a hundred-story skyscraper. But those two subjects, are to common sense and clean-headed thinking, what napalm is to a snowball. Don’t ask me why. It is something that is simply so. I’m just like Eratosthenes peeking into a well here, and I don’t know what it means yet.

    12. This Can’t Be The End Of Your FAQ! I Have More Questions!
    You have to wait for the next FAQ. If this drives you wombat-rabies-bollywonkers crazy, you can always reach me by e-mail.

    There’s nothing more to be said, except to express sincere thanks to the kind folks who read some of the commentary and then take the time to actually write about it, whether their remarks are supportive, critical, or both. This blog is meant to be a monologue, but a dialogue is always better.

    And to those of you who silently read without saying anything, you deserve congratulations too. The point has already been made that a larger audience does nothing to make an argument any more solid, so you don’t get credit for that. But hey, you have good taste.

    Something Must Be Done

    Monday, April 10th, 2006

    Something Must Be Done

    Years ago there was this television commercial about some kind of product that cleaned scum off the inside of a shower stall. It showed a mildly-dirty shower stall, in time lapse, as a screen caption changed from “dirty” to “filthy” to “getting really bad.” Just before the product was discussed, the stall tiles got really, really gross and the screen caption started blinking on and off, “DO SOMETHING!!!”

    I think when we discuss what’s going on in the world and what to do about it, our ability to have rational discussions is just about at that point. It hasn’t been “cleaned” in a very long time. It’s polluted, rancid and gross. DO SOMETHING!!! With three exclamation marks after it.

    Exhibit A is the commentary by Paul Verhoeven and Nicholas Meyer about why Basic Instinct II did poorly at the Box Office…What the blue f…

    Paul Verhoeven, director of the first “Basic Instinct” (which scored $353 million worldwide) as well as the widely ridiculed “Showgirls” (now regarded as something of a camp classic), attributes the genre’s demise to the current American political climate.

    “Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States,” said the Dutch native. “Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends.”

    Scribe Nicholas Meyer, who was an uncredited writer on 1987’s seminal sex-fueled cautionary tale “Fatal Attraction,” agrees, noting that the genre’s downfall coincides with the ascent of the conservative political movement.

    “We’re in a big puritanical mode,” he said. “Now, it’s like the McCarthy era, except it’s not ‘Are you a communist?’ but ‘Have you ever put sex in a movie?'”

    Can anyone out there help me make sense of this? Let’s see. I, and millions of people like me, vote in some conservative politicians. Well, I think taking out bad guys, providing school choice and respecting the Second Amendment are moderate values and should require no “political movement” whatsoever, but okay. Let’s call them “conservative.” So we got some “conservative politicians” in there. “Christians,” as Verhoeven says. “Puritanicals,” as Meyer says. Then what?

    Well, there it is straight from Nicholas Meyer’s lips. They sit people down and ask them “Have you ever put sex in a movie?”

    In what forum do they ask people this? Whom do they ask? What happens to the people they ask, if the answer is “yes”? What…some trap door opens up under the chair in which they’ve been sitting, and they fall down some dark chute, yelling “AIIIEEEEE!” or something?

    Nicholas Meyer saved the Star Trek franchise from oblivion. The man’s got talent. If he’s a raging idiot, or crazy, he can’t be completely so, unless he’s lost some of his faculties since his heyday, which I doubt. Something’s affecting his judgment.

    Perhaps there’s something in the ether. Something that engages the mouth of Meyer, Veherhoeven, and pretty-boy Ben Affleck before their brains are powered up all the way. You heard about Affleck, didn’t you? Get a load of this

    …on Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, actor Ben Affleck charged that President Bush �probably also leaked� Valerie Plame’s name and so “if he did, you can be hung for that! That’s treason!” In full rant, an apoplectic Affleck asserted: “You could be killed. That’s not a joking around Tom DeLay ‘I’ll do a year, I bribed the state officials with corporate money.’ That’s like they shoot you in the battlefield for doing that.”

    Affleck appeared on Maher’s panel with Senator Joe Biden and Bill Sammon of the Washington Examiner. A couple of minutes later, after Sammon suggested Tom DeLay’s resignation means the loss of a �poster boy for the left� so they can’t use him anymore to raise funds, Affleck besmirched DeLay as a �criminal� while simultaneously demonstrating his political naivete. Though the Texas redistricting orchestrated by DeLay made his district less Republican, Affleck contended: “Tom DeLay personally gerrymandered that district so severely that it looks like a map of Italy….There won’t be a Democrat elected in that seat for a thousand years. You can’t say he’s the poster boy for the left. He happens to be an incredibly powerful Republican who is a criminal and now you blame Democrats for pointing it out!”

    Something is seriously, seriously messed up here. People have been making half-baked, asinine comments about things for several years now. Just generally screwed-up, whacked-out, nonsensical statements about what’s happening, what they think is happening, what it all means, and crazy stupid ideas about what we should be doing.

    None of it makes any sense. Very little of it ever has.

    But it’s getting worse. It’s like…living in an apartment, and you’ve got your radio on, and someone in the next unit over turns on their hair dryer and suddenly you’re eating static. You put up with it for awhile, because hey, you can still hear half the words, right? Then they power up the projection TV and you can’t hear anything at all. That’s where we are. The static is getting worse. The celebrity comments are getting MORE nonsensical, even though, one week previous, I would have thought they were already as harebrained as they could possibly get.

    Something must be done.

    Here’s my solution. You remember this cartoon character, right? It’s that old man from The Simpsons, the one obsessed with “paddlin’s,” Jasper Beardly. Wikipedia expounds on Jasper’s eccentricities and other traits…

    When called in to help replace teachers (then on strike), he confiscated everything in the room made of tin, two children passed out from the fumes of his ointment and he threatened everyone with “a paddlin'”, as well as dismissing the class early after getting his beard caught in the pencil sharpener…”Thats A Paddlin” has become a minor meme, especialy on internet message boards, often mutating into “Thats a bannin”.

    I think Jasper, shown here going through his seemingly endless list of various offenses that can potentially earn “a paddlin’,” is our patron saint here. I’m going to start handing out paddlin’s. Someone’s got to do something. These stupid, boneheaded comments are getting worse and worse, and if nothing’s done, they’re going to leave this plane of reality altogether, taking with them everybody who even thought of giving any respect to these Hollywood airheads. There are more people who take these airheads seriously, than you think. Something must be done. This is as good as anything else.

    Paul Verhoeven: This one is for you. You made a ton of money of this genre, a genre people somehow don’t like anymore. You could have taken some responsibility. You could say something like “I thought we were entertaining audiences with something they’d find titillating over the long haul, but it turns out it was just shock value, and I guess people get tired of that. In short, I thought it had staying power that in hindsight, I see it just didn’t have.” Instead, you chose to blame politicians. Even if you were right, what good does that do? What, you want to change the box office receipts for a movie you didn’t even direct, by changing who’s holding a political office? How does that even make sense? Hey, what takes more effort…changing political leaders most of us want to have where they are, or making decent movies? What is this, some kind of raving from “Everything Is Bush’s Fault Land”? I stubbed my toe, it’s Bush’s fault. I spilled my coffee, it’s Bush’s fault. My movie sucks, it’s Bush’s fault. Okay. Outside of that tiny little world, your ravings are complete nonsense, and you would have been better off staying in bed this morning with your mouth TAPED SHUT.

    Nicholas Meyer: This one is for you. Oh, where to begin, Nick. Puritans are grilling movie people over whether they’ve put sex in movies? You figured this out because Basic Instinct II can’t make any money? Good heavens, man. What does it mean when you get a flat tire, aliens are taking over? If you open a box of Cheerios and the bag gets messed up with that huge tear down the side, does it mean the earth’s magnetic poles have flipped and we’re all gonna die or something? Oh my God, what are smoking. Maybe they should make a new Star Trek movie about you. “STAR TREK XI: THE MADNESS OF MEYER.” Seriously, dude. Get a grip.

    Oh and Pretty Boy Affleck, I haven’t forgotten about you. You think someone should be shot. I just think you should get a well-deserved paddlin’.

    Yin and Yang II

    Sunday, April 9th, 2006

    For reasons that exist but have not been comprehensively stated, this blog is concerned with current events and the prevailing sensibilities and cultural norms in our society that determine how we are supposed to think about those events. We look into that while casting a jaundiced eye toward those prevailing sensibilities and cultural norms, determined as a first priority to flesh out the logical problems with same. And for good reason.

    Those prevailing sensibilities and cultural norms are wombat-rabies-bollywonkers crazy.

    I mean, really. Really. It’s gotten so bad that if you can’t sort through what I’m talking about, you can pick just about any issue to get a great example. Pick one. Pick…oh, I dunno…gun control. Event: Bad guy shoots good guy. How to think about it based on prevailing sensibilities: If the bad guy didn’t have the gun, he wouldn’t have shot the good guy. Course of action: Get rid of the guns. That’s nuts. Nuts. By the time a sane, mature, logically-thinking person has matured to the level of graduating the fourth grade, he or she should be able to understand this just doesn’t work.

    Now, a couple of months ago I was inspired to explore a cultural schism that has been developing over several generations in America and all over the world, that has a lot to do with this. Every day, someone is heatedly arguing over a question that has resulted from this cultural schism…like the gun control example, above…but nobody — nobody — ever talks about the schism itself. Except here, at the blog nobody reads.

    Since the schism is never discussed, the two sides of the schism have no names. It falls to the blog that nobody reads, to name the sides.

    So in my post back in February, which concerned the budget problems of Porter County, Indiana, I called the two halves “Yin and Yang.” My point was that the fiscal issues that befell this poor county, as they were described in the article that found its way to me — never would have happened, had Porter County been overseeing its budget the way responsible people oversee their budgets. And, as county governments, or other large administrations, never, ever seem to do it. Arbitrarily, I attached “Yin” to the way I think things should be done, and “Yang” to the way things actually were done, to the best of my understanding.

    It’s safe to say that in nearly all of the arguments we have nowadays, and boy do we have a lot of heated arguments, the difference of opinion results from one side being a Yin and the other side being a Yang. And it’s safe to say that all of us, over the course of a year or two, have done a mix of Yin things and Yang things, as a result of our being imperfect creatures. But, it’s safe to say that as far as our goals in life are concerned, we are all completely, utterly, overwhelmingly dedicated, down to the very core of our souls…self-programmed to concentrate, with laser-like focus…to do either Yin things, or Yang things.

    We get in arguments, fire people or quit our jobs, serve or receive divorce papers, because we have encountered someone who lives on the other side of a “fence.” That’s the problem. The fence is a figurative thing, something very few people ever think about. We’re trying to get oil and water to mix, and that’s why we do so much arguing. Maybe someday, the fence should become a literal concept, and should actually be built. Yin live with Yin, Yang live with Yang. Then we’d all be happy. That’s my theory, anyway.

    What makes a Yin? What makes a Yang?

    There are many different definitions.

    Now at this point, you’re thinking…What? Wait a minute. That can’t be. You can’t go dividing the world up into two different halves, the entire world, without supplying and then adhering to one single definition of what the two halves are. Well, you know, that’s absolutely right. But we have several definitions anyway. That’s kind of the point.

    When we program ourselves to do something, that programming leads to other programming, whether that is intentional or not. For example, in the early toddler stage a child may make up his mind that “I’m unhappy when people aren’t paying attention to me.” His sister may make up her mind that “when I’m playing with my toys, I want to get something done and I don’t want to stop until it’s done.” This is programming that lasts a lifetime. The boy will become a performer, and the girl will become studious. He will become an extrovert, she will be an introvert. The parents and teachers may become distressed as his “social skills” develop at a faster pace than hers; it’s supposed to be the other way around.

    Later on, she’ll have much better grades.

    He may find a wife more easily than she will find a husband.

    And her earning potential will be higher than his…unless he goes into real estate.

    Point is, these things are all linked. There is a hierarchy to them, involving cause and effect.

    Thus it is with Yin and Yang. But there is always a root cause…one that is responsible for all ensuing effects. So if you’re looking for that as a defining distinction, I would say it is this: Yin think, Yang feel. Of course, everybody thinks and feels. But when & if the Yin perceive two cognitions, one resulting from thought and one resulting from feeling, they place more priority on the cognition that comes from thinking. Put the Yang in the same situation, and they will place more priority on the cognition that comes from feeling.

    And that is exactly what happened, insofar as I can infer, with Porter County’s budget problem. A budgeting process was set up that was designed, whether consciously or unconsciously, to spare peoples’ feelings. This was done by, as is the case with most large bureaucracies, making sure that at the end of the process the money was all gone. (My original post explains how this works.)

    “Yin” wouldn’t do that because they can’t do that. To place thinking over feeling, means to concentrate on getting a job done, regardless of your own feelings. Pride and prejudice are displaced in favor of following some kind of project plan, timeline, and management of milestones. Just like the girl toddler playing with her blocks, who won’t stop until the thing is built, and will chafe at any interruptions that get in the way — parents imposing mandatory nap-time, or her attention-whoring brother.

    And this has impact on our political debates. No, Yin are not Republicans and Yang are not Democrats. If my “wall” were to be built, we’d have donkeys and elephants on both sides, just in somewhat different numbers. But banning guns makes a person feel good. Oh good, we can’t have any more gun crimes because we got rid of all the guns. The sentiment doesn’t survive the process of critical thinking very long at all, but it feels good. The Yin, on the other hand, evaluate the process of banning guns as the young girl might evaluate a move in chess, as soon as she got old enough to start playing the game. What is going to happen next? And so, when she’s old enough to start voting, even if she is pressured by her peers or other sentimental attachments to support gun control, she’s going to find it nearly impossible to do so. By the time she’s in her thirties and the go-along-to-get-along impulse has been relegated to the dustbin of her history, like Puff the Magic Dragon, she will be vigorously opposing gun control, or at least spectacularly failing to support it. She will have been looking for a viable plan in the exercise of gun control, something logically compatible with the stated goal of improved public safety, and if she pays attention to the events around her she will have become frustrated in this quest.

    Her extrovert brother might be engaging in regular political debates with her, because he will likely be in favor of gun control. He’s going by feelings. And why shouldn’t he? He likes the resulting attention. When he wants to ban guns, he seems to care.

    Everybody likes to look good. So we have the above-mentioned “prevailing sensibilities and cultural norms.” What’s so interesting about the times in which we live, is that the prevailing sensibilities and cultural norms are at odds with the way people vote. The Yin are voting in stronger numbers than the Yang right now. But the Yang, craving attention and getting attention as they do, decide our prevailing sensibilities and cultural norms. We’re supposed to oppose the War on Terror, but after our leaders give speeches against it, they support it — or else get voted out. We’re supposed to want abortion to be legal from sea to shining sea, but the way elections are going, the electorate seems to want it decided as a sovereign-state issue. We’re supposed to want that gun control, but we’re torn down the middle on it, with noisy people supporting it and real voters opposing it.

    McGrathNow that we have spent 22 paragraphs getting our definitions straight, let us evaluate the 37 paragraphs written up in the Sacramento News and Review (April 6, 2006) cover story: The conversion of Judge McGrath, subheaded “The conservative right-wing jurist says that he made a mistake and that had he known then what he knows now, he could not have sentenced Michael Morales to death.” Michael Morales, about whom I had written when he “virtually” beat the rap, you might say, was sentenced to die. He had bludgeoned a young girl in the face with a hammer twenty times, then stabbed her in the chest. She’s dead. A quarter century later, we’re figuring out what to do with him…and the result seems to be a complete dismantling of government’s ability to protect the innocent from the creeps who will always be around, who can’t be reformed.

    Wow, before you even get to the “reform” of California’s execution process, that’s already pretty big news, huh? The judge who sentenced Morales to death in the first place, has re-thought everything and joined the other side! Morales must be innocent! How could such a thing happen?

    Well, as is usually the case with the Sacramento News & Review, you have to read the whole article…the headline is designed to present a different picture than the content. I’ve often suspected that News & Review doesn’t actually want anyone to read the content of their articles. It’s a free magazine, which means that to spend the time necessary reading paragraph after paragraph until you get to the very end, is…well, I did it, anyone can do it, but it might be thought of as a bit odd. Heh. If you read this far, I hope that doesn’t come as a shock. Anyway, the headlines are always, on the cover story anyway, what you would call “sensationalist.” But very seldom does the meat of the article actually support what’s being implied by the headline.

    Nor does it here.

    Paragraphs 1 and 2 give a rough profile of Charles McGrath, and how he is involved in Morales’ case (he was the sentencing judge). In paragraph 3 we get to the inspiring nugget of the story: “In an unprecedented reversal, the judge now says it would be unconscionable to execute the man he sent to death row for murdering Winchell.” Paragraph 4 discusses more of the judge’s crisis of faith in our judicial system, paragraphs 5 through 10 discuss some of the background of the case and McGrath’s historical right-wing conservative pro-death-penalty leanings.

    In paragraphs 11 through 19, we get to what the Yin are going to be wanting to know, thus proving that this is a Yang story. It is a story built to agitate, not to give reasons for the agitation. Here it is, at last, why does Charles McGrath think the death penalty should not have been imposed on Michael Morales?

    Although the plea-agreement deal between [Bruce] Samuelson [fellow inmate and career criminal with whom Morales had discussed the case, key witness for the prosection] and the prosecutor was disclosed to the Morales jury, McGrath said that Samuelson�s testimony describing the confession was the only evidence to support the lying-in-wait special circumstance, which made Morales eligible for the death penalty, and the rape conviction. Because the torture special circumstance was invalidated by a federal appeals court, the lying-in-wait finding was the only remaining aspect of the crime that kept Morales on track to the San Quentin death chamber. In addition, Samuelson gave other statements used in the sentencing phase that discredited Morales� own testimony that he felt deep remorse for the crime, a critical factor in the judge�s decision to impose the death penalty. Samuelson claimed that Morales made derogatory statements about the victim–including muttering “You fucking bitch” as he walked away from the body–callously boasted about the attack and solicited him to murder two prosecution trial witnesses.

    So in a Yang article, there you have it. That’s the case against executing a guy who killed a young woman with a claw hammer. You aren’t really supposed to pursue the logic, that’s not the point…the point is, Judge McGrath doesn’t like the way it went down, and he’s the sentencing judge. You’re supposed to just adopt McGrath’s opinion as your own. Nevermind that McGrath’s objections are procedural objections, having little-to-nothing to do with actual guilt.

    Nevermind that, if you’re upset by the death sentence because you’re a stickler for procedure…you’re asking a fairly obvious question that is answered nowhere. Why did the federal appeals court invalidate the special circumstance of torture? Did he not do it? Since the article makes no attempt to address this in any way, it falls short of being a useful chronicling of what happened, for those who like to make up their own minds…what the article is, is instruction. How to think, and what to think.

    In fact, other things are left unstated, but implied. Ideally, you’re supposed to conclude from McGrath’s consternation that Morales was innocent, after all. California tried to execute an innocent man! They still might do it! Oh, the horror of it all!

    Here is how the Yin would write an article probing the outrage of Morales’ sentencing to the death penalty:

    Judge Charles McGrath doesn’t think Michael Morales killed her.

    Got it? That would be a great logical argument for sparing Morales from death. Because, logically, it is a matter of fact that California doesn’t execute people for the crime of yelling “You fucking bitch.” Whether or not this was said, therefore, becomes irrelevant. If there is some procedure in place that says otherwise…that procedure is suspect, and it would be helpful to examine how such a procedure came to exist.

    Only problem is, you can’t say “McGrath thinks Morales is innocent.” It wouldn’t have any relationship with the truth.

    Being alienated from the Yang more than most people are, I’m handicapped from figuring them out. I don’t understand the selectivity of these sentimentalist feelings that shake, rattle and roll people into a frothy activist rage. Why does it have to be some feelings and not others? Michael Morales murdered a beautiful young girl by smashing her head to a bloody pulp; one would expect that to inspire certain feelings, especially in people who are self-programmed to act on feelings.

    Why is it that the beneficiary status of this potentially-activist feeling seems to never, ever be conferred upon the innocent victims in these brutal homicides?

    Born A Pinhead, Or Worked At It?

    Friday, April 7th, 2006

    Born A Pinhead, Or Worked At It?

    There’s a third option: Jimmy Carter is trying to be humorous.

    Quoted in something called “Creative Loafing,” our thirty-ninth and most-resoundingly-failed President says…

    “I was teaching a Sunday school class two weeks ago,” he recalls. “A girl, she was about 16 years old from Panama City [Fla.], asked me about the differences between Democrats and Republicans.

    “I asked her, ‘Are you for peace, or do you want more war?’ Then I asked her, ‘Do you favor government helping the rich, or should it seek to help the poorest members of society? Do you want to preserve the environment, or do you want to destroy it? Do you believe this nation should engage in torture, or should we condemn it? Do you think each child today should start life responsible for $28,000 in [federal government] debt, or do you think we should be fiscally responsible?’

    “I told her that if she answered all of those questions, that she believed in peace, aiding the poor and weak, saving the environment, opposing torture … then I told her, ‘You should be a Democrat.'”

    You know, every now and then I get my hands on a piece of retro-culture from the late-seventies early-eighties timeframe, when Carter was President, and I step into a world I don’t recognize even though my childhood was immersed in that world. I see…sheer and utter lunacy. I see the General Lee jump over grain silos. I see a middle-aged man playing the Incredible Hulk’s alter ego. I see barely-legal blond bombshells running straight past the hunky guys in their mid-twenties, flocking to the forty-something, brooding, penniless Bruce Banner like hummingbirds to a feeder — and instead of bagging them, he just walks off into the sunset one more time, emotional angst in tow. I see Wonder Woman trying to make up her mind whether it’s 1975 or 1945, whether she can fly or not, whether she has super strength or not. The Six Million Dollar Man blocking devastating body blows from a robot or a huge monster or a $7 million man, with, oopsie, the wrong arm. White guys in huge afros, and oh-so-manly tobacco-chawing cowboys boogeying to the Disco craze. Is it even physically possible to dance to that awful music when you’re wearing cowboy boots?

    And then there’s that unwritten rule about leading men. Leading men always have to have skinny butts. When Carter was our Commander In Chief, leading men always had glass-cutting asses. And, of course, there was this rule that when you wore a pair of blue jeans with a size-28 waistband, it’s just a matter of time before you would play amteur psychologist, wisely counseling the beautiful russian gymnast you just rescued that she has to stop blaming herself for…whatever.

    Everyone was rescuing russian gymnasts. Even Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. And everybody had read “I’m OK, You’re OK.”

    And I have to think to myself…boy, we were off our rocker. Why didn’t someone just bomb us and put us out of our misery?

    And then the leader of that era opens his big cakehole and I have to re-think everything all over again. Were the television producers to blame at all? Were the musicians? Were the consumers? How long can sanity survive, with a whackjob like that in charge? Such a narrow mind invested with the authority of so much as…as…well, your Sunday School teacher, let alone your President. It would be like wearing a bag of cement around your neck all day. It would interfere with everything you try to do.

    Hey, I’m not going to sit here and take the high road. I’m not going to type in some nonsense to the effect of, if I was in a position of seniority, authority and trust like Jimmy Carter was, and an impressionable young mind asked me about Republicans and Democrats, I’d say “Oh, I don’t think that’s an appropriate topic for this forum” and zip my lip. I’m not going to say I would do that. Because I wouldn’t. I’d give an answer, and my answer would likely offend Democrats just as much as Carter’s answer offends Republicans. My answer might sound like the Republican television commercial nobody has the balls to actually produce, just like Carter’s answer sounds like the Democrat commercial nobody is crazy enough to carry.

    I freely admit that.

    Here’s the deal, though. My categorization of Democrats, in my answer, would be consistent with my sincere, heartfelt beliefs about most of them. I would be willing to bet large amounts of money that most Democrats resembled, in substance as well as in form, my description of them. Particularly when we start discussing what motivates Democrats, as opposed to how they prioritize things or what they actually want done. When I start to speculate on what it is that Democrats really want, a lot of what I have to say about them is actually pretty positive.

    For example, I would never say “Do you want racial harmony, or do you want black people blaming white people for their failed attempts to get a job, and white people blaming black people for their failures to get promoted at work? If you want harmony, you should be a Republican.” Yes, racial harmony will elude us as long as we’re all compelled to subsidize a government that creates artificial barriers for some and confers special privileges upon others, based on skin color. And yes, Republicans (sometimes) show better promise at ending those kinds of policies. But I’m not going to sit there and imply that Democrats actually want the racial strife that their left-wing lunatic policies invariably create and sustain.

    Does Jimmy Carter, down to his very core, believe that Republicans favor more war, government helping the rich, destroying the environment, engaging in torture, and starting each child’s life $28,000 in the red?

    Well, that gets down to the title of this post. Was Jimmy Carter born a delusional pinhead, or has he been working at it his whole life?

    You know, it wasn’t so long ago there was a lot of popularity involved in decrying how Republicans and Democrats couldn’t find common ground, they just couldn’t see eye-to-eye. It was very fashionable to complain that Republicans couldn’t recognize how Democrats wanted the same things they did, just had different ways of going about doing it — and vice-versa. We were directed by our media elites to be “tired” of the “gridlock” and “obstructionism.” The prevailing sentiment was that we’d all like to have a bloody Tuesday and fire the whole lot of them (although, after 1994, we never actually did it), because we were so exhausted from watching this continuing failure to get together and join forces to get something productive done.

    And for this, we were supposed to be blaming Newt Gingrich.

    Can anyone read the above and give me a sound, logical reason why we should not be blaming Jimmy Carter for our leaders promoting their own party politics at the expense of getting along? Because if you’ve got what it takes to negotiate and find common ground with some pinhead who sincerely believes you want to make more war, destroy the environment, and ruin little kids’ lives, you’re a far better diplomat than I am.

    Update 4/8/06: Great minds think alike. Yesterday, April 7, the day this post went up, Neal Boortz made the same observations I did that Jimmy Carter is looney tunes (link goes to his home page; for some reason Neal doesn’t have a permalink for this post, you’ll just have to go looking). He engaged in the intellectual exercise I deliberately chose to avoid, which, now that he’s displayed the fruits of his labors, looks like a lot of fun. Might even be habit forming.

    Now come on, folks. Does this sound like the type of reasoning you would expect out of someone who was once the President of the United States? These are the ravings of a person incapable of rational thought. Actually, this little story about Carter talking to a 16-year-old makes us shudder at the thought of how much more damage this man could have done while he was in the White House…

    Ok .. now let’s turn Neal Boortz into a Sunday school teacher.

    A young lady, she was about 16, approaches me in Sunday School and asks me about the difference between a Democrat and a Republican. I asked her how much time she had. “Not much.” she said. “Keep it simple.”

    I asked her if she believed in the concept of individualism, and the right of an individual to live with personal and economic freedom. Then I asked her if she would fight to defend those freedoms, or if she thought it would be better to live as a slave rather than fight. I told her that if she would fight for her freedom and the freedom of her family, then she should be a Republican. If she would rather live as a slave, then she should be a Democrat.

    I asked her if she believed that government should treat all citizens alike, or if she believed that government should take take stuff away from those who prosper because they work hard and make good decisions, and give that stuff to people who aren’t willing to work hard and who put no thought into the consequences of the decisions they make. I told her that if she believes in punishing behavior that improves our society and our economy, then she should be a Democrat. But if she believes in rewarding the behavior that builds our economy and enhances freedom and economic liberty, then she should be a Republican. I fact, she should be a Libertarian.

    Then I asked her if she believed that saving a life by force-feeding a person who is trying to kill themselves with a hunger strike is torture, then she ought to be a Democrat. If. she believes that keeping that person alive is the right thing to do, even if it means making them eat, she ought to be a Republican.

    I asked her if she believes that when the sun gets hotter the earth’s atmosphere will get hotter also. If so, she ought to be a Republican. If she believes that the sun getting hotter can’t possibly be responsible for the temperature of the earth rising a degree or two, then she ought to be a Democrat. If she believes that humans should be wiped off the face of the earth in order to save it, she ought to be a Democrat. If she believes that mankind has a place on this earth she ought to laugh at Democrats.

    Then I asked her if she thought that her child should start life owing about $28,000 to cover the debt of her government, then either the Democratic or the Republican party would work pretty well for her. If she thinks that government ought to be limited and should cost a lot less, then it’s time to look into being a Libertarian.

    A Turning Point

    Thursday, April 6th, 2006

    A Turning Point

    So yesterday I was bellyaching about this whacked-out stupid crazy quote from Sen. Ted Kennedy in his upcoming book about how much like Axis Japan our country has become, since we elected to use pre-emptive military force just like they did when they attacked Pearl Harbor.

    You know, I just missed the point about what makes the Senator’s musings so incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. Let us look them over again:

    Preventive war is consistent with neither our values nor our national security…It gives other nations [emphasis mine] an excuse to violate fundamental principles of civilized international behavior, and the downward spiral we initiate could well engulf the whole planet.

    What’s so dangerous about that?

    It has to do with the time in which we live. We are at a critical turning point. Within my lifetime (I’m 39) the idea that a borderline lunatic lacking in any dictatorial, constitutional, plutocratic, or any other political power, could take a crapload of money and raise as much of a ruckus in the national security of one or several nations, as if some other nation was attacking them, has been a truly novel and unthinkable idea. Check that — in the world of unclassified and declassified information, it has been unthinkable. Such a thing has had sufficient irony to drive the plot of a whole fistful of James Bond movies, and Bond-knockoff movies.

    Well, heh…you know what, you just can’t make a movie like that anymore. Nowadays, it is our news. Bad guys with unlimited money, but limited power, who want unlimited power, and don’t care who they’ll hurt in order to get that unlimited power. Bad guys who play by no rules, exerting their will over governments which have craploads of rules. Release these prisoners or we’ll blow up that metropolis. Withdraw from this front or we’ll strike you who-knows-where. Or…screw it, we’re just going to start killing you no matter what and there’s nothing you can do about it.

    This is the point that Sen. Kennedy seems to be missing. He wants to discuss new ways of running national security, principles by which we should abide when we consider an action against other nations. Osama bin Laden is not a nation. He’s a bad guy straight from a James Bond movie. He doesn’t have a sexy nubile daughter that some secret agent will be screwing before the credits roll, and he’s not orbiting above earth in some deadly killer satellite with a laser beam threatening to obliterate London unless someone pays one…hundred…million…dollars! The differences end — right there.

    Other than that, there is no difference between bin Laden and your typical James Bond villain. None. He’s filthy stinking rich, has lots of “minions” at his disposal, he’s got an inner sanctum somewhere that our “good guys” can’t find. He’s plotting. Who knows what he’s plotting, and who’s to say how much our people know about what he’s plotting, and what they don’t know.

    And he has no borders.

    No government.

    He is a signatory to no treaty, anywhere, whatsoever.

    And for that reason, waiting for him to shoot first, means…waiting for him to shoot first. Period. End of story. Not only that, but bin Laden is just the first of many terrorists just like this. It’s a new era. They can all shoot first if they want to. And when they do, they can “shoot” however they want. Anywhere they want. Under any circumstances. And there is no place you can file a grievance to express your moral outrage or righteous indignation about what they did.

    The fact is, you’re not going to see a villain in a movie like Ernst Stavro Blofeld too often from here on in (except for remakes). Because the plot of such a movie would resemble the evening news too much.

    In this new era, Ted Kennedy’s “principles” are dangerously out of place. That is what I’d be saying if every nation on the face of the planet agreed to those principles…which they haven’t.

    The Left Needs More Socialism

    Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

    The Left Needs More Socialism

    Regular readers of this blog, which nobody really reads anyway, have come to notice something about it: It’s dedicated to critically inspecting the inability, or rather the incompetence, of prevailing viewpoints to think logically. Now, don’t ask me why that is, but that dedication has a tedency over time to create two distinctly different kinds of entries: posts that have something to do with girls in skimpy outfits, which is extremely “light” and whimsical (once you are no longer discussing the excoriating reaction to same), and posts that have something to do with the War on Terror, terrorists trying to kill innocent people to make half-cocked political statements, people in New York City and Washington, DC suffering agonizing deaths in pools of burning jet fuel, for the “crime” of showing up to work before nine o’clock. That’s not whimsical, that’s the opposite.

    Girls in bikinis, people burning to death. Well, perhaps it’s time to put up something kind of in-between those two extremes, just to shake things up a little.

    Writing for The Nation, Ronald Aronson says the Left needs a major change in philosophy: It needs some socialism. Hey, go to town, I say. It worked great in 1932, and I’m always in favor of liberals when they’re candid about what they really want.

    The Left Needs More Socialism
    Ronald Aronson

    It’s time to break a taboo and place the word “socialism” across the top of the page in a major American progressive magazine. Time for the left to stop repressing the side of ourselves that the right finds most objectionable. Until we thumb our noses at the Democratic pols who have been calling the shots and reassert the very ideas they say are unthinkable, we will keep stumbling around in the dark corners of American politics, wondering how we lost our souls–and how to find them again.

    I can hear tongues clucking the conventional wisdom that the “S” word is the kiss of death for any American political initiative. Since the collapse of Communism, hasn’t “socialism”–even the democratic kind–reeked of everything obsolete and discredited? Isn’t it sheer absurdity to ask today’s mainstream to pay attention to this nineteenth-century idea? Didn’t Tony Blair reshape “New Labour” into a force capable of winning an unprecedented string of victories in Britain only by first defeating socialism and socialists in his party? And for a generation haven’t we on the American left declared socialist ideology irrelevant time and again in the process of shaping our feminist, antiwar, progay, antiracist, multicultural, ecological and community-oriented identities?

    Go for it. Honesty is the best policy.

    Why would anyone, anywhere, not like a little socialism? I mean, aside from gems like this…

    Still, the newest significant formation…calls itself the World Social Forum. The name reminds those who believe “another world is possible” that it can come about only if it is global, only if it is guided by a loosely organized “forum” rather than a top-down party–and only if its character is social.

    There ya go. Even if you want to make socialism look good, you can’t discuss it without tacitly acknowledging, as Aronson has to, that if this economic model is practiced anywhere then it must be practiced everywhere. If there’s any choice involved in socialism, people will invariably choose to distance themselves from it — provided they are ready, willing, and able to contribute more than they can consume. If they consume more than they contribute, well then that deficit makes the choice on their behalf…so this supposedly “free” will, ends up placing a necklace of consumers, like a dead albatross, around the neck of any society practicing socialism.

    And while this is going on, the contributors get the hell out of there. IF it’s up to them to leave. Why shouldn’t they? You and I are in a commune, I contribute nine rubles for every ten I consume, while you contribute three rubles for every two you consume. Together, we make things work, sure; by why do you want to keep hanging around? You wouldn’t. So to have socialism, we have to stop you from leaving when you want to. Socialism means force. It is inevitable.

    But those are my musings, and I’m not an advocate for socialism. Let those who favor socialism, debate how to implement it…while keeping completely silent, somehow, on how socialism ultimately has to inflict assault on choice in order to stay alive. Let them do this. And by all means, run the issue up the flagpole for 2006.

    Kennedy: Invasion of Iraq like Pearl Harbor

    Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

    Kennedy: Invasion of Iraq like Pearl Harbor

    The Senior Senator from the state of Massachusetts has written a book arguing against the Invasion of Iraq, or for that matter any strike by any nation against any other nation on preemptive grounds.

    Kennedy writes that preemptive war may be justified to prevent “an imminent attack on our country.” But he puts the Iraq war in a different category that he calls “preventive war,” which he condemns.

    “The premeditated nature of preventive attacks and preventive wars makes them anathema to well-established international principles against aggression,” Kennedy writes in “America Back on Track,” which is scheduled to be released April 18.

    Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, Kennedy says, was an example of “preventive war” — attacking a nation to prevent it from developing the ability to threaten the United States. A similar manner of thinking led the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, he writes, since Japan was seeking to block the US military buildup in the Pacific.

    “Preventive war is consistent with neither our values nor our national security,” he writes. “It gives other nations an excuse to violate fundamental principles of civilized international behavior, and the downward spiral we initiate could well engulf the whole planet.”

    Huh. So Ted Kennedy and I are in complete agreement about something. He says the invasion was the wrong thing to do, whether Saddam Hussein had these much-discussed “Weapons of Mass Destruction” or not. I think it was the right thing to do and came far too late, again, regardless of the WMD issue. So I have an extremely prestigious member of the United States Senate as my unlikely champion, helping me to assert that the whole WMD issue is a huge red herring. I’m pleased and proud to welcome the Senator into the fold.

    Now, about this other matter, that by striking against the old regime of Saddam Hussein, we have somehow lowered ourselves to the moral equivalent of Axis-era Japan when the Empire struck Pearl Harbor. Another blogger has done a fantastic job of putting together a timeline that I think addresses this very well. It’s a list of the resolutions passed by the League of Na– I mean, the United Nations — against the United Sta– I mean, against the old government of Iraq, which were consistently ignored by Franklin D. Roose– I mean, Saddam Hussein, thereby necessitating the Axis pow– I mean, the coalition, to remove his regime. Here’s your link.

    There were three very compelling and justifiable reasons for the Bush administration to gather a coalition and remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

    On February 5, 2003, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations in which he citied that the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein was in violation of seventeen UN resolutions calling for the disarmament of that nation as a justification for action against Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

    Outlined below are the seventeen resolutions with commentary on the breaches.

    1441 Passed on November 8, 2002, UNSCR 1441 found that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its disarmament obligations. The resolution gave Iraq a final opportunity to comply with those obligations. The resolution demanded that Iraq submit a currently accurate, full and complete declaration of its weapons of mass destruction and related programs within 30 days. Further demanded that Iraq cooperate immediately, unconditionally, and actively with the UN inspections. The resolution decided that false statements or omissions in Iraq’s declarations and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with and cooperate fully in the implementation of this resolution would constitute further material breach. Finally, the resolution recalled that the Security Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations.

    The important thing to take from this resolution is that it is the seventeenth of its kind regarding Iraq’s flagrant and obvious desire to not comply with the United Nations or with its obligations to disarm after the first Gulf War. It is important to note that Iraq was expected to accurately declare its programs and weapons within 30 days of November 8, 2002. Hans Blix, the UN head of UNMOVIC (the organization of inspectors sent by the UN to verify Iraq’s cooperation in disarmament), noted several issues with their declaration in his briefing to the Security Council. Specifically, he addressed inconsistencies in the biological, chemical and missile portions of the document.

    1284 Passed on December 17, 1999, UNSCR 1284 created the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to replace the previous weapons inspection team known as UNSCOM. The resolution insisted that Iraq allow UNMOVIC “immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access” to Iraqi officials and facilities. The resolution insisted that Iraq fulfill its commitment to return Gulf War prisoners. And called on Iraq to distribute humanitarian goods and medical supplies to its people and address the needs of vulnerable Iraqis without discrimination.

    The same briefing Blix delivered to the Security council in the commentary for 1441 included at least one anecdote regarding problems getting access to facilities during this time period (Blix and his team visited a site on a Friday, the Muslim day of rest, and a number of offices were locked with no key available. The team agreed to seal the rooms until the next day, but stated that the team had the right to inspect facilities whenever they wanted to do so.)

    1205 Passed on November 5, 1998, UNSCR 1205 condemned the decision by Iraq to cease cooperation with UN inspectors as a “flagrant violation” of UNSCR 687 and other resolutions. 1205 insisted that Iraq provide “immediate, complete and unconditional cooperation” with UN and IAEA inspectors.

    The inspection team returned to Baghdad on November 17, 1998 after a couple weeks of diplomacy with the government of Iraq. Immediate is defined as “occurring at once” or “near the present time.” One could make an argument that Iraq’s compliance within twelve days would constitute as “near the present time”, that wasn’t what the Security Council had in mind despite resolution of the problem by the Secretary General in a remarkable feat of diplomacy. (This last sentence is the author’s point of view and not necessarily the point of view of the UN officials.)

    1194 Passed on September 9, 1998, UNSCR 1194 condemned the decision by Iraq to cease cooperation with UN and IAEA inspectors, which constituted “a totally unacceptable contravention” of its obligations under UNSCR 687, 707, 715, 1060, 1115, and 1154. The resolution further demanded that Iraq cooperate fully with the UN and IAEA weapons inspectors and allow immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access.

    This is another instance of Iraq’s “delaying of the game” tactics. Again, Iraq failed to meet their obligations under this resolution when on October 21, 1998, Iraq announced that it was ceasing all cooperation with UNSCOM. President Clinton reported to Congress that: on October 31, he signed into law the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which provided new discretionary authorities to assist the opposition in their struggle against the regime. Furthermore, he reported that in response to a United States proposal, the United Nations Security Council agreed to on October 13 to seek clarification from Iraq of statements made by Iraqi officials on October 7 concerning the existence of additional information on biological weapons still in Iraq’s hands, and about Iraq’s refusal to turn over the Iraqi Air Force document on chemical weapons expended in the Iran-Iraq War. (Author’s Note: the Air Force document was later turned over to UNSCOM and was addressed in the report noted in the Resolution 1205 paragraph.)

    1154 Passed on March 2, 1998, UNSCR 1154 insisted that Iraq cooperate fully with UN and IAEA weapons inspectors and allow immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access, and notes that any violation would have the “severest consequences for Iraq.”

    This did not happen as outlined above. (Author’s Note: I’m not sure what happened to the severest consequences for Iraq, but whatever they were they obviously were insufficient to get the job done of convincing Saddam to comply.)

    1137 Passed on November 12, 1997, UNSCR 1137 condemned the continued violations by Iraq of previous resolutions, including its “implicit threat to the safety of” aircraft operated by UN inspectors and its tampering with UN monitoring equipment. The resolution reaffirmed Iraq’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the UN inspectors and insisted that Iraq must cooperate fully with the UN weapons inspectors and allow immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access.

    In a report to the Security Council in January 1998, Richard Butler indicated that there were problems with inspections in January 1998.

    1134 Passed on October 23, 1997, UNSCR 1134 condemned repeated refusal of Iraqi authorities to allow access to UN inspectors, which constituted a “flagrant violation” of UNSCR 687, 707, 715, and 1060. The resolution further insisted that Iraq cooperate fully with the UN inspectors and allow immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access and that Iraq must give immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to Iraqi officials whom UN inspectors wanted to interview.

    1115 Passed on June 21, 1997, UNSCR 1115 condemned repeated refusal of Iraqi authorities to allow access to UN inspectors, which constituted a “clear and flagrant violation” of UNSCR 687, 707, 715, and 1060. The resolution further insisted that Iraq cooperate fully with the UN inspectors and allow immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access and that Iraq must give immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to Iraqi officials whom UN inspectors wanted to interview.

    The United Nations was so impressed by the Iraqi cooperation that the Security Council essentially re-wrote resolution 1115 when they penned resolution 1134.

    1060 Passed on June 12, 1996, UNSCR 1060 deplored Iraq’s refusal to allow access to UN inspectors and Iraq’s “clear violations” of previous UN resolutions. Further, the resolution indicated that Iraq must cooperate fully with the UN weapons inspectors and allow immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access.

    1051 Passed on March 27, 1996, UNSCR 1051 ordered Iraq to report shipments of dual-use items related to weapons of mass destruction to the UN and IAEA. Again, the resolution called on Iraq to cooperate fully with UN and IAEA inspectors and allow immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access.

    949 Passed on October 15, 1994, UNSCR 949 condemned Iraq’s military deployments toward Kuwait. The resolution ordered Iraq to not utilize military or other forces in a hostile manner to threaten its neighbors or UN operations in Iraq, nor enhance its military capability in southern Iraq and again demanded that Iraq cooperate fully with the UN inspectors.

    715 Passed on October 11, 1991, UNSCR 715 insisted that Iraq must cooperate fully with UN and IAEA inspectors.

    707 Passed on August 17, 1991, UNSCR 707 condemned Iraq’s “serious violation” of UNSCR 687 and further condemned Iraq’s noncompliance with IAEA and its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The resolution insisted that Iraq halt nuclear activities of all kinds until the Security Council deemed Iraq in full compliance. Again, insisted that Iraq allow UN and IAEA inspectors immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access while demanding that Iraq make a full, final and complete disclosure of all aspects of its weapons of mass destruction and missile programs. Furthermore, the resolution demanded that Iraq cease attempts to conceal or move weapons of mass destruction, and related materials and facilities. Lastly the resolution outlined that Iraq must allow UN and IAEA inspectors to conduct flights throughout Iraq and that Iraq must provide transportation, medical, and logistical support for UN and IAEA inspectors.

    688 Passed on April 5, 1991, UNSCR 688 condemned the repression of Iraqi civilian population, “the consequences of which threaten international peace and security.” The resolution demanded that Iraq immediately end repression of its civilian population and that Iraq must allow immediate access to international humanitarian organizations to those in need of assistance.

    687 Passed on April 3, 1991, UNSCR 687 demanded that Iraq “unconditionally accept” the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless “under international supervision” of all “chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities.” Furthermore, Iraq must “unconditionally agree not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapons-usable-material” or any research, development or manufacturing facilities.” Also, Iraq must “unconditionally accept” the destruction, removal or rendering harmless “under international supervision” of all “ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150km and related major parts and repair and production facilities.” In general, Iraq must not “use, develop, construct or acquire” any weapons of mass destruction and again reaffirm its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This resolution created the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to verify the elimination of Iraq’s weapons programs and mandated that the International Atomic Energy Agency verify elimination of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. The resolution demanded that Iraq declare fully its weapons of mass destruction programs. Furthermore, Iraq must not commit or support terrorism, or allow terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq.

    686 Passed on March 2, 1991, UNSCR 686 reminded Iraq of its obligation to restore international peace and security in the region.

    678 Passed on November 29,1990, UNSCR 678 demanded that Iraq comply fully with UNSCR 660 (regarding Iraq’s illegal invasion of Kuwait) “and all subsequent relevant resolutions.” The resolution also authorized UN Member States “to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area.”

    Other than those, Sen. Kennedy, I guess your point stands. Brilliant.


    What the hell are you drinking, Senator?

    Don’t Blame Me

    Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

    Don’t Blame Me

    Every now and then, some news story and/or study and/or news story about a study will come out, and it will outwardly state or subtly imply, this: Girls and young women are starving themselves in order to aspire to an unattainable body image that has been imposed upon them by a male-dominated society. Such pieces spring out at us like popcorn out of an uncovered frying pan, so don’t look to me to provide the links. Do your own search. The links change, after all, and the buzzwords don’t. Body image. Body conscious. Unattainable. Male-dominated. Culture. Society. Starving. Anorexia. Eating disorders. Oppressed.

    The message is clear whether stated or not: It’s the fault of men.

    Girls are too eager to please us. They’re starving themselves.

    The ideal body style is unrealistic. Nobody really looks like that. Even the supermodels who look like that, when you remove the special lighting and special photography and special retouching and digital alteration, they don’t look like that. So the unattainable body image really is unattainable, in every sense, and us men are such filthy rotten bastards for pressuring women to be something they can never be.

    Well you know, feminists started whining about stupid bullcrap right after I was born, and they aren’t going to stop until long after I’m dead. I can deal with feminist whining. It drives me nuts, however, that nobody steps forward to say don’t blame us. Yes, there’s a cultural movement afoot to embarrass women into a size 0, but the horny straight men aren’t driving that movement.

    It’s fashion moguls. Most of whom are male…and homosexual.

    It’s women.

    It’s scientists, who refuse to be named.

    And here’s a sterling example of what I’m talking about.

    Many obese Americans don’t consider themselves obese, a new study finds.

    The study included 104 white and black men and women, ages 45 to 64, who were asked to report their weight in pounds; categorize themselves as either underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese; and estimate how much they would need to weigh in order to be considered obese.

    Based on the participants’ body mass index (BMI), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers found there were 31 normal weight people, 40 overweight people and 33 obese people in the study group.

    About 90 percent of the normal weight people and 85 percent of the overweight and obese people accurately self-reported their own weight and height, the researchers reported Tuesday at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology meeting in San Francisco.

    However, just 15 percent of obese people correctly considered themselves to be obese, compared with the 71 percent of normal-weight individuals and 73 percent of overweight people who classified themselves correctly.

    The obese people were also more likely to overestimate how much they would need to weigh in order to be considered obese.

    The researchers said their findings have important implications, because obese adults who don’t consider themselves obese are unlikely to heed public health messages about the dangers of obesity. Denial and misperception may be two factors that influence why obese people don’t consider themselves to be obese, the study author suggested.

    Now take a look at the luxury this silly study afforded itself. It defined “correctly” as “in the same category as that derived by the BMI.” The BMI is a scale of obesity that…well, I think it would be fair to say it is cherished by egghead scientists, and found to be suspicious and highly dubious by “real” people.

    I’m an even six feet tall. The BMI wants me to weigh between 175 and 180 pounds. By trial and error, real people like me have figured out what the scientists either can’t find out, or won’t talk about: The BMI is for people who don’t work out. And it’s for people who don’t work out, who are between about 5’3″ and 5’9″.

    What do the biceps look like on a six-foot-tall man who weighs 175 pounds? How thick could they possibly be if he has that weight? What do his pecs look like?

    But here’s another, even more important, point. What about the poor, poor, pitiful, oh-so-put-upon women? Who wants women to fit into the BMI? Horny men like me, or egghead scientists?

    Sure, the feminists want to blame men who are actually attracted to women, filthy brutes that we are. But in my everday experiences, I only see the “unattainable” body image favored by the egghead scientists. The unnamed scientists, whose good names would likely be tarnished if they had bothered to be interviewed, and thus named, in the study quoted above. Which, you’ll notice, nobody did.

    What do the lusty red-blooded men want? Well, let’s take a look.

    Above you see contemporary pictures of Kate Moss and Lindsay Lohan, and a 1965 picture of Raquel Welch. Kate and Lindsay are stylish and with-it, whereas Raquel is out of her time period. She’s oh, so 41 years ago. You can actually see guts above and behind her navel. And look at those hips! They’re round! She’s got breasts, she’s got thighs, and even her shoulders have some meat. This is where I’m supposed to say “ooh, icky, what a tub o’goo.”

    Hey, I’m a straight male. People like me get to decide what’s “sexy.” You don’t let straight women and gay men decide what a sexy woman looks like; you leave that up to people like me. I’m the guy who is attracted to women. Never forget that.

    And I’d hit Raquel.

    Every red-blooded, straight male I know, or know about, would poke Raquel.

    So where does the waif look come from? Don’t ask me. Nobody ever took a poll and included me in it, when the waif look got all fashionable. They asked the fashion moguls and mavens, most of whom aren’t attracted to women in the first place.

    And it looks to me, like perhaps they asked some of these clipboard-carrying, propeller-beanie egghead researchers. Gotta fit into the BMI, and all that.

    Horny men using their unfair dominance of a patriarchal society to force unattainable body standards on girls and young women? Sorry…this horny guy doesn’t see it. I’d send the first two packing, maybe not even pay their taxi fare, while rolling around naked under the sheets with Raquel until we ruptured the bedsprings and started a fire. And I think I speak for just about every straight guy on the planet in saying that.

    Too Soon For Who?

    Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

    Too Soon For Who?

    Say what you will about Rush Limbaugh, but he’s absolutely correct in his comments broadcast this morning (link to transcript requires membership for an annual fee).

    The Democratic Party says we’re going to take back the security issue. They have spent four and a half years deriding, criticizing, ridiculing the entire war on terror and the war in Iraq, which are linked…And yet the very event that has made this a reality for us and our lives today, they don’t have the guts to look at, they don’t have the courage to look at it, too soon, too soon.

    Too soon? It’s been too long! People have forgotten what it’s all about…You know, I just think this is just typical of many in the American left. Oh, they can huff and puff, go out and show Fahrenheit 9/11 all day long, they can go watch that. They can go watch garbage and lies that their documentarians and so-called comedians make and it’s never too soon to watch any of that. We can go watch all these movies that try to prove Bush lied and that Bush was in this for oil and that all this is trumped up and fake and phony and unnecessary. Let reality rear its head, “Oh, no, I can’t be confronted with reality, why, that is too soon, too painful.”

    What’s he talking about? He’s talking about the Flight 93 movie. It’s too soon to be thinking about the September Eleven attacks. The footage is oh, far too painful to watch. You dirty rotten movie theaters showing the trailer to Flight 93, to captive audiences, how cold and heartless of you. Pull that trailer. So, pull it the theater did. While we are told repeatedly that family members deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq are wasting their time on a silly mission that is pointless, and not only that, but those service members aren’t bright enough to form qualified opinions about that mission (provided those opinions are positive) because people in the armed forces don’t read enough newspapers.

    Look, I have no quarrel with you if you have made up your own mind that it’s “too soon” for such a movie, free from influence or coercion from your Democratic party overlords, and for the sake of consistency you also think the repeated stories & cartoons about Abu Ghraib prison are also in bad taste. Those people are simply displaying a heightened but sincere emotional sensitivity, and forming an opinion with which I happen to disagree. That’s the American way.

    All the rest of you are an absolute disgrace. You’re what is wrong with America. You. And I’d be saying that if you were helping Republicans and hurting Democrats, instead of trying to do the reverse.

    Who the hell do you think you are, receiving instructions from on-high about what you are personally supposed to find vulgar, and passing it on down the food chain? No, scratch that question, here’s the one I really would like to have answered: Why am I supposed to confer any great weight on your opinion, when you have outsourced to a stranger the task of forming it in the first place?

    Too soon? Yeah, I’ll bet. The Democratic Party spends a huge chunk of change annually convincing people the War on Terror is a complete waste of time, and this kind of reminder about actual events that really happened is the kind of thing that sets ’em back a million bucks.

    The longer I watch this whole saga unfold, the more convinced I am that victory can never be ours if we deny reality, nor can it ever be denied us should we choose to embrace that reality. It’s so ironic: Democrats are supposed to be the “reality” party, although pointedly, they never outwardly claim to be that on a word-for-word basis. They say President Bush is ignoring science by giving his okay to the teaching of Intelligent Design, and that his administration “sexed up the evidence” when it was deliberating an at-the-time-future invasion of Iraq. He’s supposed to be the “Bubble Boy,” and by extension, the Republican Party is supposed to be trapped in that same bubble.

    Here, tell you what: Make the Democratic Party into the “we want to talk about what happened in 9/11/01” party — or, even better, into the “we want to talk about the people who attacked us on 9/11/01” party. Do that. Until then, I probably speak for millions when I request that you save your breath about your opponents being anti-science or somehow disengaged from reality.

    In fact, you know what? That’s my litmus test from now on. Whenever some liberal-wolf in scientist-sheep clothing approaches me and tries to convince me he’s all about reality, and Bush’s policies must be opposed “because he’s anti-science and anti-reality,” that’s the first question out of my mouth. Do you agree, Mister Reality-Based Scientist guy, that on September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and an empty field in Pennsylvania? And if I get back an “it’s too soon to talk about that” or a “homina homina homina” or, so help me God, anything but a “yes,” anything whatsoever…I’m going to give Mr. Reality a good infusion of science right through my foot onto his reality-based ass. If he passes that test, THEN he can tell me something.

    For four years plus, we’ve let these snake-oil salesmen tell us that true things are false and false things are true. Even worse, we’ve let them tell us that matters of historical fact are somehow up for debate, and matters of pure conjecture and speculation are somehow indisputable. We’ve let them get away with far too much, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves.

    We will always be up to our armpits in people like this. We always have been. How we respond to their efforts, is a matter purely within our control.

    Embrace Your Fear

    Monday, April 3rd, 2006

    Embrace Your Fear

    Those of you reading The Blog That Nobody Reads, of the male persuasion, I have a question for you. That is, if you go to work Monday through Friday in an office run/owned by someone else, with persons male & female traipsing through it for whatever reason. Gentlemen, now that it’s Monday, why don’t you go buy a full-color poster of a half-naked, chesty, leggy brunette, with little tiny water droplets all over her gorgeous body, and hang it up at work?

    There are a whole bunch of answers to that question, reasons why that would be stupid. One answer is more honest than the rest: It could be construed as creating a “hostile work environment.” Your fear of the consequences, such as being reprimanded, canned, and/or earning a reputation as an oblivious bonehead, are all rooted in this. And that’s interesting…because let’s face it, if an interested, but emotionally-uninvolved space-alien were to visit Earth for the very first time, and you’d have to explain to him why you have pictures of leggy brunettes on your computer at home but you don’t print them out and hang them at work, your answer would make very, very little sense to him. This is a malformed wrinkle in the skin of our society. It makes sense to us only because we’re accustomed to it. A picture of a beautiful person doesn’t transform a benevolent environment into a hostile one. Sure, exacerbate the level of hostility in an environment that was previously hostile, maybe. But an enviornment isn’t hostile just because there’s a picture of a person on a wall.

    Why do we pretend otherwise?

    Well, now I come to my point. Once upon a time, someone who was not a man, did something that men don’t do, and perhaps the time has come for men to re-think something. What she did, was either show brutal honesty about the fears she felt, or — this is far more likely — manufacture and display an artificial sense of fear where she actually felt little-to-none. And her phony fears agitated some very real fears, felt mostly by men. Fears bosses had, of getting sued. Fears attorneys had, of losing a case. Fears male co-workers had, of getting canned.

    And now we play this game of pretend. We pretend that pictures on walls can “offend” people and make them feel uncomfortable…as if unwritten rules, subject to the interpretation of who-knows-what-kind-of-stranger, about what kind of wall art might bring your career to an inglorious end, don’t make anyone uncomfortable. Some people like this. We pretend that most people like it. Although, in reality, when people have to go to work in a place where saying/displaying the wrong thing might get them fired, and they don’t know what might do that until it’s too late — most people don’t like that. That’s the plain truth of it.

    Put another way, suppose I’m madly in love with my wife and last summer we vacationed in Cancun. On a drizzly, gloomy April day can I put a picture of her on my desk? Maybe not such a good idea. She’s in a swimsuit, after all. Someone might think…and there we go.

    We are less free than we once were. That’s the price of not calling bullshit at the right time. Someone faked fear and discomfort, and someone else let her get away with it, now we all pay the price.

    You can go the other way, too: Fool people into thinking you’re not afraid, when you’re scared shitless. Men do this a lot.

    You have the example of men having the crap scared out of them, over being disciplined over nebulous rules about personal mementos in the workplace, rules nobody really understands. Reasonable fear? Absolutely. But it’s a fear felt by men, who don’t advertise their fears the way women do. So we don’t act on it.

    Then there’s the fear inspired by crazy lunatic shit like this. I was sure it was an April Fool’s joke when I first heard about it, mostly because the story concerns our friends-across-the-pond, the Brits, spending dollars. Brits don’t spend dollars, they spend pounds, so around the early part of April I had reasons to be suspicious. But it’s true.

    The British government is spending $33 million for a 10-year campaign to attract more minorities and women to fishing.

    About 4 million people enjoy a quiet afternoon on the river bank each year, but the government has determined that today’s fishermen are too white, too male and too middle-aged, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

    The Environment Agency will use money raised each year by the sale of fishing licenses to pay for a new leaflet entitled “10 things you should know about angling.”

    “Angling does not discriminate against gender, race, age or athletic ability” and the “Government is interested in angling in the context of social inclusion in deprived urban areas,” the leaflet says.

    There are also pilot programs, such as an effort in Swansea that taught Muslim women and children to fish by experts from the Salmon and Trout Association.

    Okay, it’s normal for government agencies that realize some revenue from licenses, park fees, etc., to spend money on some advertising. Good business, and all that. Except when the private sector does advertising in order to get some revenue, it doesn’t give a flying rat’s ass what the skin color of the resulting patronage is. So is this just good advertising and nothing more? The litmus test would be, if the advertising campaign is a fabulous success and new fishing enthusiasts come flocking to the Environment Agency’s local office to buy their licenses, would this meet the goals of the program even though the new enthusiasts are all white and middle-aged and male? And from reading the story, it would appear the answer is NO.

    No, the British government doesn’t want more fisherpeople. It is spending money to have fewer white guys out there. You might say, whether they realize it or not, they’re spending the money twice. A good businessman knows you get more business when you’re willing to take the business, regardless of what color it is.

    Here’s the backup story from the original Telegraph which I had to find in order to satisfy myself the story was true.

    Now, stop thinking like a fearless, mastodon-hunting, fire-fighting, wood-chopping guy for just a second. Think like something much more powerful: a mildly-psychotic woman with a narcissistic personality complex. Think that way. Isn’t this just a little bit intimidating?

    Doesn’t it create a hostile environment? When your government is taking your licensing dollars and spending them to make less of you in some environment or another, is that not hostile?

    Can anyone present to me, a sound, logical argument why it makes sense for a government to do this, and why it doesn’t make sense for that government to, let us say…

  • spend a hundred million dollars getting white males off the highways;
  • spend two hundred million dollars getting white males out of the airports;
  • spend five hundred million dollars putting more blacks on Seinfeld and Frasier;
  • spend a billion dollars making sure industrial accidents happen to white men way more often than to anybody else;
  • spend ten billion dollars finding out why white male children aren’t kidnapped, sexually abused and murdered more often.
  • Why not? Walter Cronkite and that knuckleheaded Canadian senator are already waxing poetic about how our prison population is predominantly black. Not so much that the population is expanding, or that the crimes were committed, property damaged, people hurt…just that black guys are in there. Would they be cool with the idea of keeping that prison population sky-high, and just making it a little bit whiter? Maybe. If I’m to conclude that from their comments, neither one of them appears to be upset by that one little bit. So what’s wrong with taking their comments that way, and then borrowing a page from the British do-gooders and putting some tax money behind them?

    Government has an interest in modifying the statistical representation of these classes of people, in this environment or that one. That means Government has an interest in all of it, not just some. Researching it, comparing it…controlling it.

    I’m afraid — yes, afraid — that around the world, this will get a lot worse before it gets any better. Men have an unfortunate tendency to lend their fears to action, only “out there” where we do our manly things, and suppress it in social settings in response to social phenomena such as this.