Archive for July, 2007

On Stare Decisis

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Speaking of Rick, I was thinking about this disturbing quote from last week that he’s resurrected to haunt Sen. Charles Schumer. It seems the accident that befell Chief Justice John Roberts has the potential to be more serious than I, for one, was led to believe.

Of course, Schumer’s partisan ramblings are no more tasteless now than they were before the accident. That is not the point. Lord knows, I’ve got my share of salty things I’ve said about political opponents, and I hope no harm comes to those opponents but you never know. And of course I’d feel awful about it, and my words would stand as an albatross around my neck. So Schumer’s embarrassment here, assuming he’s decent enough to have some, is something I see as a “There but for the grace of God” thing.

But with apologies to the senior Senator from the state of New York, I do think there’s something worth inspecting here. The issue is this legal principle that so recently was sensibly enshrouded in elitist cloaking and dead language, called stare decisis.

Were we duped? Were we hoodwinked? Were we too easily impressed with the charm of the nominee Roberts and the erudition of nominee Alito? In case after case, our most recently confirmed justices have appeared to jettison decisions recently authored by their immediate predecessors. Although Roberts and Alito both expressed their profound respect for stare decisis at their confirmation hearings, many of their decisions have flouted precedent.

Now, Latin is a language that was never in common use in the United States. Someone in American history, therefore, made a conscious decision that this principle would be a good one to insulate from the knock’em sock’em robot arena of populist frenzy. I wonder what that someone would think about an elected official trying to agitate the elecorate into a convenient sentiment that the judicial branch is due for a shakeup due to stare decisis issues.

The complete phrase is stare decisis et non quieta movere which translates roughly to “stand by decisions and don’t disturb settled matters” or “stand by decisions and do not move that which is quiet.”

And my observation is this:

Lately, whenever liberals complain about stare decisis, it seems to me they’re never addressing that which is quiet. Quite to the contrary, the issue at hand is something rather tempestuous, officious, vibrant and lively…anything but settled. I can’t think of a single exception to this.

In fact, I’ll go further. Lately, it seems whenever the Supreme Court hands down an opinion that “flouts the principle of stare decisis” by sending a fox running over the grave of previous decisions our liberals would just as soon see undisturbed — if you look at those previous rulings, you’ll find about as much stare decisis as you’ll find under my toenails when they need a good clipping.

In other words, liberals like decided opinions to stay decided, if & only if those decided opinions, themselves, stirred everything up and shook it all upside-down.

It’s a good thing I’m not on the Supreme Court. My decisions, of course, would be quite correct because I make a lot of sense. But the comments I’d be unable to restrain myself from making in the aftermath, would be disastrous. I’d defend myself by saying something accurate and profoundly stupid, like “Hell yeah I promised I’d uphold stare decisis, and that’s why I voted to overturn that decision from the Warren/Burger courts that they’re mad at us for overturning. Because man, that pig-in-a-poke just sucked at stare decisis.”

And that would get me run out of town on a rail. But I believe it would have the potential to start a debate we desperately need to have in this country. There are a lot of decisions from the Supreme Court, still on the books, that suck at stare decisis. Liberals like Schumer have taken on this unfortunate and insulting habit of using that obscure Latin phraseology, which they damn well know their constituents don’t understand overall, to inflict a great assault on stare decisis under the guise of presumably defending it.

Anyway. Best wishes go out to John Roberts. He seems to be, personally, a very decent man and he’s exactly what the Supreme Court needs at this time. Signs look good. Once my wish is granted that he resume his station in full possession of his health and faculties, I’m sure history will record him to be President Bush’s second-greatest achievement.

Russ Vaughn

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Via blogger friend Rick we learn about Russ Vaughn, at Old War Dogs. I’m not sure what to make of this…I’ve been beaten upside the head with this notion that everybody who supports the war is a “chickenhawk” and hasn’t served, and we got all these armies & armies & armies of peacenik vets who understand this is just a bloodthirsty war for oil, and President Bush took down Saddam Hussein out of revenge for an assassination attempt on his Daddy, and they know this because of their military experience. That’s the relentless drumbeat I’ve been hearing, anyway. And here and there, there’s an example or two to back it up.

People who served, properly despise George W. Bush and “his” war. People who haven’t, are cowardly chickenhawks and they’re they only ones who see any value in the invasion of Iraq.

And along comes some direct evidence to the contrary.

It’s yet another moment of What am I gonna believe, the steaming propaganda or my lyin’ eyes

Schlock Troops

The liberals say they support our troops,
Which they’ve a funny way of showing;
Like publishing false atrocity scoops
Bout which they’ve no way of knowing.
They’ll gleefully publish unverified crap
From the dark mind of a wannabe writer,
Hoping they’ve set another antiwar trap
With crimes claimed by a liberal fighter.

The troops that liberals truly admire,
Aren’t the brave who fight uncomplaining,
But deserters who flee, avoiding the fire,
And the misfits can’t handle the training.
But liberals save their true veneration,
Like front page at the New York Times,
For soldiers willing to attack their own nation,
Trumpeting charges of brutal war crimes.

This pattern was set during my own war
By a traitorous, vainglorious politician,
A treasonous, poisonous, political whore,
Feeding future presidential ambition.
Liberals back then sucked up his schlock,
Proving to the world that they’re dupes,
Establishing a pattern now become stock,
For these America-hating Schlock troops.

Russ Vaughn
101st Airborne
Vietnam 65-66

Memo For File XLIV

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

The BBC News has taken note that there is a wedge being effectively driven between the American Republican party and Christian fundamentalists.

America’s so-called “religious right” has been one of the pillars of Republican Party support in recent decades, but signs are emerging that those once secure foundations might be shifting.

Polar BearIn both George W Bush’s presidential victories, he managed to secure a vast majority of the evangelical Christian vote.

In 2004, the “hot button” policies curtailing abortion and same-sex marriage were seen as being crucial to Republican electoral success in, for example, the key swing states of Ohio and Florida.

But in last November’s Congressional races – where Democrats regained control of both the House and the Senate – some Republican defeats came at the hands of a new religiously-inspired movement, which some are calling the “evangelical left”.

Left unstated in this story, is the simple statement that this wedge-driving is accidental. We are left to simply assume this is the case…based on…nothing. Whether this was actually engineered by someone, whether there were some real dollars involved in it, is a fascinating subject but one that is — suspiciously, in my mind — completely untouched here.

Especially when you read passages like this:

“Questions like climate change, poverty and international human rights are coming to the fore, in a community that didn’t used to talk about these things at all,” [John] Green [of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life] said. [emphasis mine]

Just for the record, if I had to bet my own personal fortune on it, I would put my coin on the square that says we have some verifiable surface temperature readings that say the average temperature has increased between 0.8 and 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the last hundred years or so. I think that’s pretty well established. I do think human activity might have something to do with this…it can’t be ruled out. Does this then portend a future in which life on this planet is jeopardized? Or reduced? Or simply altered? Or do we have the wherewithal to prevent an injurious catastrophe now, and is our continuing foolishness about to thrust us past some point of no return where said wherewithal is to be diminished?

I don’t know that.

I don’t know of any hard evidence that would persuade me to think that.

I do know of lots of politically-motivated people and groups who would like me to think that. And here’s the really strange thing: If I show some reluctance to believing this, they consider me a lost cause, and start arguing with the next person in the queue. Perfectly sensible if you’re soliciting donations to a non-profit or to a political action committee. Not reasonable at all, if you’re really trying to save a planet from unbridled and reckless human activity. Not reasonable by a damn sight. If human activity is destroying the planet’s ability to sustain life as we know it, and I’m one of the sinners, you should be camping out on my front porch like a Star Wars fan waiting for a new movie to come out.

ANYTHING you can do…to get me to mend my ways. Follow me around. Shame me. Bribe me. Blackmail me. Eat a big bowl of penises in front of me. Whatever it takes — because if my neighbor buys up carbon vouchers like there’s no tomorrow, but I continue to do my damage, the cause is lost, and with the cause, the planet, and all persons and things upon it you hold dear.

That isn’t the way the global climate change Chicken Littles behave. They behave just like footsoldiers in a massive paramilitary super-political theater. They roam the streets, in vehicles that get half as many miles per gallon of gas compared to what I drive…trying to get people to vote differently. Not to live more cleanly, just to vote for different parties.

The continuing survival of our planet is supposed to depend on these efforts. Would any intelligent person really think so?

And here’s a BBC article that comes out and says — all this talk about anthropogenic global warming, is causing a rift between the Republicans, and the demographic groups they have been able to most consistently count on for support.

It was engineered that way…or not. The article won’t say one syllable one way or t’other.

Well — I think it was engineered that way. The notion that Christian fundamentalists vote for Republicans, and that this has an effect on the way elections come out, is hardly new. I’ve seen people argue that point my entire adult life, and I’m an old man now. What kind of money do we sink into elections…chump change? Hardly. It’s a billion dollar industry, one directly affecting the expenditure of trillions of dollars every year.

Here we have the outcome of those elections affected directly by all this talk about global warming. Nobody’s willing to put their balls on the block and say it’s an accident. Meanwhile — what do we really know about the global warming crisis? We got a bunch of pictures of confused looking polar bars floating around on presumably-diminishing chunks of ice…as if polar bears ever look like anything besides confused. And the temperature went up by a degree over the last century. We don’t know a lot besides that. And heavily-funded political groups stand to gain a great deal if we do a lot of talking about it.

I just think it’s somewhat interesting, that’s all. Oh, and one other little thing…it might explain everything we’ve been told, for a couple of generations now. It’s certainly worth looking at, anyway. Looks like a political stunt, sounds like one, smells like one…it just might be that, and nothing more.

Accepting My Challenge

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Challenged to a DuelI have been challenged to, and accepted, a duel with JohnJ at RightLinx, whom I understand to be one and the same with Johnjrambo2000 at Bullwinkle Blog. At issue is the ninth installment of Yin and Yang, and the points of disagreement, as stated by my opponent, are these:

Freeberg’s basic point is that individualism is better than collectivism. This is, of course, a value judgment. Since not everyone has the same values, individualism cannot be better than collectivism for everyone. Some people will prefer collectivism because it corresponds to their values. What would Freeberg do with these people?

And…

Freeberg also claims that there is no middle ground between Yin and Yang. I have to disagree with that point as well. Yin, as he defines it, are those people who, basically, lack social sense, but who can often make up for it mechanically. Yin will never achieve the natural social sense that Yang has, though. It seems to me, though, that there’s no basis for assuming that people don’t have various levels of use of the Orbito-Frontal Cortex, a part of the brain that is used in socialization. I don’t see any reason to assume that it’s all or nothing. If anything, the assumption should be just the opposite. The vast majority of people should fall between the two extremes.

We’re still in the stages of defining the points of disagreement, but I’ll have to cut in at this point because there’s disagreement in this definition. If there is a value system to be promoted in recognizing the Yin and Yang bifurcation, I would hope it is limited to leaving well enough alone. To hold one of these halves above the other in a universality of situations, such that one is innately superior and one is innately inferior regardless of whatever challenges would come up, would not only be inaccurate but also unkind. Somewhere within the thousands of words I’ve written about this, that message may have been blunted or even lost. But the Yang, while largely a mystery to folks like myself, accomplishes things we need to get done. So what would I “do with these people?” The question answers itself. They are here; they are doing stuff; the stuff they do cannot be done by anybody else.

But if I get to decide what the Yang are going to do, I would scribble down one preference. I would like the Yang to leave others alone.

There’s something about the strongest Yang, and I gather it comes from the lifelong habit of viewing all challenging exercises to be social. They tend to be controlling. They tend to want others to resolve problems the way they resolve them. I touched on this somewhat in the Fourth installment, which was inspired by a story that mothers-of-brides in some Asian cultures force their daughters to cry at the wedding. There’s nothing inherently Asian about this, it’s universal. Yin think; Yang feel. The thinker is touchy about how he is allowed to do his thinking, nevermind what everybody else is doing — but the feeler must control the feelings of everyone in proximity.

This explains my many references to the construction of a giant wall. Imagine a room containing twenty people, a piano and a computer. If the piano and computer are both to be used, friction will inevitably result. A piano must be a social vehicle. A computer — notwithstanding YouTube clips and photo albums — is not. Whoever wants to use the piano is going to want to control the feelings of the other nineteen people in the room…that is what a piano does. A computer processes information. Or — it looks at porn. It is, mostly, a device to be used in solitude.

The point is, the guy using the computer will be likely oblivious to what others in the room are doing. They can do what they want as far as he’s concerned. He’s a Yin, and the first step to what he is doing is to draw a boundary around what he is doing. Working on a drawing, writing up a post on his blog, testing a computer program…all of these things work within a system. Even if the system is complex, it is a system of interrelated parts that function within a perimeter, and anything outside that perimeter will be disconnected.

Some will argue, with a kernel of truth to it, that the concept of disconnection is mythical — all things are connected. There is truth to this only if one regards trivial or irrelevant things to be somehow important. The computer is connected to other things because there is an Internet…and there is power. These things are true, but they’re ultimately meaningless. The program, or the drawing, or the blog, all these things are essentially isolated systems. A stimulus crosses the perimeter surrounding the system, and the system with it’s interrelated parts is supposed to provide a proper response. If the response is correct, a task is complete, and if it isn’t, more work needs to be done. This is how the Yin see the world. Not just the computer…but every little thing they do. And they’ve been looking at it that way since they were little kids.

Contrast this with the piano. There is no meaningful boundary that surrounds the piano. Someone plays it, and “we” are going to listen to it. “We” are going to feel whatever the song being played on the piano, tells us to feel. If one person starts singing along, everyone else will feel compelled to start singing too (unless the song is something like Ailein Duinn).

If these are both happening at the same time, there is going to be friction. Screwing around on the computer, after all, is not what “we” are doing. “We” are gathering around the piano, and you should not be doing what you are doing on the computer. Come over and join us.

Note — if the lone-wolf was watching a football game or wrestling match on television, this would make so much more sense. That would intrude on the piano-playing. But with goofing off on a computer, or doing work on a computer, this doesn’t apply. Yet anyone who’s been in such a situation, understands that the urgency involved in getting the computer-guy off the keyboard, to come join the crowd, is just as pushy as it would be if he had the TV cranked at full volume.

There is no explanation for this, other than the Yin and Yang theory. The Yang want all things in proximity to work in a uniform way. It has to be that way, because a mission to defeat all borders within visible proximity is what being social is all about. It isn’t disrespect or unfriendliness. It’s quite the opposite. When you’re socializing, you want to bring everybody into the fold.

And so John and I have a disagreement about what I said. I do not want to banish people or wish them away to the cornfield. But I do think building a wall would be educational. I’m convinced it’s part of the human nature to repeatedly stir up friction of the “piano and computer” variety, friction that has no real reason to be there, and in response to such friction, do anything but what would make the most sense. We tend to put up with it, we irritate each other, we schedule our daily activities in such a way as to stir up the same useless friction at the same time every day.

I do have the sense that the Yin tend to build things used by the Yang. That is our place. We are “systems builders.” We draw lines around things, we wait for the loud sociable people to leave us the hell alone, and then we get things within those perimeters to work the way they should. The Yang do exactly the same thing — except to them, the perimeter is whatever they happen to understand at a given moment. Within line-of-sight, everything has to work the way they want.

The Yin get stressed out if the perimeter or something within it, starts to slip out of their control. One sign that a person is a Yin, is if he curses his own bad memory. Yang seldom do this. God damn it, there’s something else I was supposed to get right…what was it? The Yang, to my long-standing envy, seem to be spared from this. You see this most definitely when you see them hosting a party. Good heavens, is there anything we can do that is more demanding of detail, achieving pre-defined tasks within a boundary, than hosting a party? It gives me a huge migraine. Nevermind that socializing-with-people thing you have to do.

But the strongest Yang pull it off effortlessly. If their definition is strong, they are extraverts, and that means as the party goes on they recharge their “batteries” while mustering up the energy to carry dirty dishes out to the kitchen and bring out new plates of food, coordinate the entertainment, switch the music around, etc. etc. etc. Yes, they need to do things a little bit out of their turf, but they’re up for it. All evening long, they are in the mode of being fully charged. People like me, see the “chore” of socializing with folks as an ancillary task, one we could barely manage — even if we like the people — without all these minute-to-minute cleanup details we have to do. But the Yang see it as the payoff.

Yet another reason why I wouldn’t banish them anywhere. We need them.

And some Yang don’t even mind the details. They are spared the Yin headache of remembering details, because they simply…don’t.

The Yin are spared headaches too, though, that plague the Yang. This is in the form of other individuals doing things in a way different from the way we would do them, if we were they. Doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m a guy who types away on a computer. Now honestly, John & everybody else…how many people do you know who are the exact opposite of that? We’ve all had the acquaintance of some Yangy-type person who constantly has a problem — something that is easily seen by others as a great source of concern, giving her an upset stomach and sleepless nights — something to do with someone doing things the wrong way? This is their cross to bear. And I doubt it’s an act, I think it is an ongoing source of real tension.

Tolerance, John. That is my solution. Good old-fashioned tolerance, the kind our liberals say they support (although seldom do). Tolerance, respect, empathy. Let the Yin support the Yang in all the things that Yang labor day-to-day to get done…and vice-versa.

Now to your second point, that there is no middle ground. On this issue, you are half right in understanding where I’m coming from. But as I said in the ninth installment that inspired your challenge, we have to dispense with the latent skills that can be nurtured by highly intelligent and functional individuals in their more mature stages of life. If you’re sufficiently talented, obviously you can make up for what you left undeveloped in childhood. “Yin” can figure out how to socialize; “Yang” can figure out how to solve puzzles. And when they do this, they end up being what I believe you’re describing with this “middle ground.”

But we have to dispense with that when we consider how these people are going about these tasks upstairs, between their ears. And this is what we need to do when we talk about Yin and Yang, because that’s what the divide is all about. What kinds of pathways did you dig out in your brain tissue, in the “old-growth” parts. The thinking you learned how to do before you lost all your baby teeth.

That’s important because any other kinds of things you learned to do, much later, after your teenage years — functional as all that stuff may be, it’s still stilted and awkward. If you’re highly adaptable, the best you can do is to cover up the awkwardness. But it’s still like a right-handed person writing with the left hand. You’re attempting a task, perhaps completing it, perhaps netting satisfactory results, maybe even super-satisfactory results. But it’s not something that comes naturally to you.

The BlockLet me introduce a theory to help explain this. Let’s call it the “Big Gray Building” theory; we will take all of your formative years, stretching deep into adulthood in which, as your maturing personality develops skills to meet rising challenges in the business world, you do this crossing-over. This writing-with-the-other-hand.

Imagine this vast expanse of time, from birth to age forty or fifty or so, as a walk halfway around a block. You are born on one corner of the block — you pop out of your mother’s womb there, with no skills whatsoever. There is a “business convention” at the opposite corner, which I’ve represented here with a great big red X. When you get to the big red X, you’re going to have to show functionality in both Yin and Yang endeavors. That goes without saying. This is an important business conference, and we’ll need the participants to have social skills (Yang), as well as problem-solving skills (Yin).

Here’s the challenge: As any informed parent will agree, young children have an amazing talent for learning whatever it is they want to learn. Regardless of intelligence, the pace at which micro-toddlers learn their things, is amazing. If we could keep this pace up into adulthood, we’d all be geniuses. But we don’t.

And so, as this micro-toddler, you can “crawl” along these avenues toward the business convention, at a rocket-like pace.

But — you can’t turn corners.

And there’s this big gray building between you and the red X. It is a monolithic building. There is no alley. All entrances on the building (save for the one at the X) are locked shut tight.

And I think this is our real point of disagreement. I’m contradicting hundreds of years of dogma in the education of children in asserting this…but based on what I’ve seen, it’s true. Children crawl toward the business conference that demands a functional representation of all skill sets. They develop one half of the needed skill sets…or the other. They’ll neglect one of the other. There are two paths toward the X, from which each child can choose only one — neglecting the other.

Appearances notwithstanding, that’s the way things will stay. Until at least the teenage years, one path will lie neglected.

LibraryIf they lack the maturity to build a network involving peers or parents, they’ll have to be forced into it. But if that’s the situation, they won’t naturally take to it. They’ll do it when forced to do it. And meanwhile, if they have any intelligence at all, they will become adept at solving problems. This is simply path of least resistance. Being children, they will have to challenge themselves, and if the socializing presents too much of a challenge they’ll find a challenge that doesn’t involve socializing. They will crawl — more like shoot — due North along the street I’ve called “Rain Man Lane” — developing cognitive ability while neglecting, to some degree, social skills. And they can’t turn corners, so they’ll be stuck up there once they reach the end. They’ll become “nerds,” seeking out more and more challenges that don’t involve interacting with people. Let’s say there is a “library” up there. They will pop over to this virtual library at around age five, and stick around there. They’ll remain there until, roughly, the age they can start driving.

They’ll be “nerds.”

You don’t want to deny there is such a thing as a “nerd,” do you John? The nerd has become a staple in American culture, for good reason.

Social ClubNow, some children will have the maturity to build the above-mentioned parent-peer network. And at a very early age, on the light side of two years old, they’ll shoot off Eastward along “Valley Girl Street,” toward a “social club.” These sociable kids can’t turn a corner any better than their nerdy counterparts, even if they’re very mature and intelligent. This favored pastime of socializing people, just burns too brightly and is too tempting for them. Even with homework and exams and so forth, there is little point to nurturing problem-solving skill. The need just isn’t there.

But — I’m sure you want to ask this — these are the kids who tend to get the best grades. Surely you’re not suggesting they’re all “socializing” by cheating on their tests?

No, there’s a huge bundle of evidence here that the babies shooting off to this “Social Club” can indeed solve problems. They can do their homework, with little error, and they can get sky-high scores on pop quizzes.

But here’s the rub. Their advantage dissipates when there is re-interpretation involved. They excel at multiple-choice questions, but their impressive achievements start to taper off with essay questions. If they can complete an essay question, they aren’t often known to re-word the phraseology they’ve learned, to construct synonyms — to show true comprehension. And most impressive of all: I’ve noticed this in childhood as well as after I’ve come to maturity. They tend to lack the ability to retain.

This is a big hole in our educational system, in public schools as well as private. Testing a student’s ability to truly absorb concepts as well as text, is a highly difficult chore. Again, we’re at path of least resistance — this time with regard to the teacher instead of the student. And path of least resistance is, you test short-term retention. Study on the week that ends on the 10th, and we’ll have our test on the 15th.

So these Yangy kids, for the most part, are allowed to wind through the school system being tested only on their ability to memorize things; to mimic. True understanding of concepts, and problem-solving, is something tested only rarely. Far more often, the exercise at hand is repeating things back. When this is a prelude to socializing, the social-minded kids tackle it with gusto.

Many will disagree with this. Want proof? Go to your high school reunion, approach a dozen of the brightest, most socially-outgoing kids who got the best grades. Ask them a textbook question they could easily have nailed in the days-gone-by. At least ninety percent of the time, you’ll get a deer-in-the-headlights look back.

Memorize a concept, you’ll never forget it. Memorize text, you’ll forget it in a week. By and large, school tends to force kids to memorize text.

Complete BlockSo now our block is complete: You’re born at a corner, there is a library at one corner, a social club at another, and then there’s a business convention going on at the far corner where you won’t arrive, until you’ve become a mature adult. Not a twenty-something, but someone with the maturity to achieve functional command of the spectrum. Since kids lack the ability to round corners, and childhood itself runs light on challenges that make real demands to do such corner-rounding…each set of child is stuck in his respective corner. Adulthood, probably, will bring a fresh wave of challenges. These challenges will, at long last, demand this corner-rounding — accepting no substitute for it. The child who crawled East will have to crawl North, and vice-versa…the business convention is at that inconveniently-located corner after all.

And both kids will work hard at it. But now they’re nurturing talents in adulthood. They aren’t learning as quickly or as definitively as they did before.

So they both arrive at the business conference, which demands all this Yin-and-Yang skill from everyone present.

This is the part John missed: Yin and Yang is about the path they have taken, not where they end up. This determines how their brains are wired, and how, between the earlobes, they tackle each perplexing problem that comes up. At least, the problems that have no pre-fabricated solution. The route they have taken to the business conference, dictates the method they’ll use to solve these problems.

Paths TakenAnd as far as the path they have taken, there is no middle ground. At least, that’s the theory. Remember, the big gray building is monolithic. For a socially-exuberant child to develop real problem solving skills, is improbable because it’s unnatural. Children develop skills wherever need intersects with opportunity. They have to have both, or the development is highly unlikely to take place…and the socially-energetic kids don’t have need. As for the socially-interactive skills developing in the nerds, that’s a matter of opportunity. It’s absent, and so they go for the next best thing. They develop the ability to think out unorthodox challenges through a cognitive process, an ability their more friendly and outgoing counterparts invariably lack.

So I think those are the points of disagreement between John and myself. I don’t want to banish the Yang…and the divide between my kind and theirs, is clean and decisive. That doesn’t mean we can’t work together. In many ways, we have to work together.

But I do think I need to pick on them a little bit. They get in trouble with people like me, from time to time, because of this controlling behavior. Their superior skills in the realm of engaging their peers socially, gives them an unfortunate tendency to behave as if all problems can be solved this way. Not some — all. And this, in turn, saddles them with a weakness in the department of looking at reality as it objectively exists…along with an ego too fragile to acknolwedge that this might be the case.

And this brings me to Macmic, the deep-thinker with the .ca e-mail address who attached two impressively-sized epistles to the end of the Michael Moore post in the week just past. He, I am gathering, is exactly what I’m talking about. Now that I think about it, so is Michael Moore himself. As I wrote about Mr. Moore…

Why does Moore have anything to do with America? Every time he comes out with a movie he keeps returning to his “Bowling For Columbine” theme that there is something wrong with America, something rotten in its core — something that compels us to be afraid of things and shoot each other all the time. He makes his films in Canada. He claims to be from Flint, MI — not too much of a drive to go from there, into Canada, for good. I’m not saying it to be derisive or dismissive — watch his movies sometime. Any one. The dude really likes Canada, and I don’t know of a single good thing he’s had to say about the U.S. by comparison. What’s he doing here?

It’s a question I might as well have posed with regard to a lot of other folks besides Michael Moore.

Now take a good look at what’s going on here. Just take a long, hard look at the world. We have all these countries that are not America. Hundreds of them. They have all embraced socialism, in one way or another. First world, second world, third world. Oh sure, they have different rules, different programs in place that address different things, and they all allow “businesses” to operate in some crippled form. But America trails behind all of them in this path to socialism. America, alone, struggles along awkwardly as a half-breed society, kinda socialist, kinda not, with some semblance of longing for true individualism still trickling through it’s veins.

In all other places, the need comes up for the individual to sacrifice something for the “public good” — and it’s done. We have a social problem and we need a curfew — okay. There is violence at nighttime and we’ll have to ban alcohol after seven o’clock — done. Traffic is congested so we’re going to install round-abouts to force your errand to take longer than it should — we comply. We’re disarming, please present all your guns to the sheriff in the town square tomorrow at noon — alright.

Only in America is there some remnant of healthy, cantankerous protest on behalf of the individual. We waver a lot here & there, but we still have it.

And along come passionate, all-controlling collectivists like Michael Moore to stamp it out. Here. It is not a case of live-and-let-live. Michael Moore could live in Canada, which already manages healthcare exactly the way he wants it done. He could live anywhere. He could let America sink or swim.

But he has to mount a crusade to get one country on the face of the globe, to do things the way he wants them done, when all other countries already do it more-or-less the way he wants. He’s got to stamp out the last remnant of resistance. Why, if that isn’t controlling, I don’t know what is.

Macmic makes the same point about countries that John makes about people: I have neglected the middle-ground. China has socialism and capitalism, both. So does Japan. So do many, many other countries.

Macmic’s logical error, here, is to presume all these societies are at rest. That is untrue in all his examples, and it cannot be true anywhere. It simply can’t hold up, because in human history all efforts to control others are prolonged struggles. My point about the collectivists is that the desire will always be there. Remember what I said about the Yang — we are all gathered around the piano, gathering around the piano is what we are all doing. Individualists can live in harmony with collectivists, but collectivists cannot abide individualism.

And so, when Yin and Yang are placed in proximity, there will be an enthusiastic and energetic effort among Yang to convert the Yin. Yang, obviously, foster an environment friendly to collectivism, so this bleeds over into the interaction between individualists and collectivists; where they exist in proximity, there will always be a mission among the collectivists to eradicate all others.

And that’s why I referred to socialism as the Terminator robot of economic models. It really is. Michael Moore proves it — he’s got the entire world, sans America, and it isn’t enough. His physical obesity and obvious mode of gluttony, turn out to be convenient metaphors for his desire that socialism should cover a few more square miles, until it has gobbled the globe.

No, I don’t think the Yang are inherently unfeeling or evil. I don’t think they want to eradicate humanity. I don’t even think they want to kill Sarah Connor. I don’t think they’re all collectivists or socialists…all they do, to my mind, is create an environment that allows collectivism to spread. If someone must erect a breakwater so this attack on the individual can be stopped, or slowed down, it is up to the Yin to build it. But the collectivists must run everything, every square inch all over the globe, or else they are perpetually hungry for more. “Terminator” fits the collectivists very, very well. That’s why socialism always ends up being unimaginably hostile and dangerous, even though it is never designed to be that way.

Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Our Downslide

Friday, July 27th, 2007

The day I heard about the federal judge striking down Hazleton’s anti-illegal immigration law, a law which we saluted way back here, this wonderful, underrated movie showed up in the mail.

Last SupperI find this to be ironic. This movie should be considered a warning to all bloggers, conservative and liberal — and overzealous activist judges who run around striking down any law they personally dislike, under some rancid and overly-delicate “interpretation” of the “Constitution,” jotting down any ol’ text to justify the decision they’ve already made before they cooked up a single word of the opinion. The movie applies to this pretty well. It, like all great ones, is about two stories: The cosmetic one that skims along the surface, and the deeper one that labors on in parallel far beneath. The visible and shallow story has to do with five grad students living in a cottage, growing vegetables, going to school, wallowing in their liberal-ness and feeling really smug about it. They pontificate a whole lot and they actually ponder very little. Their only point of disagreement, at first, is about whether it should be allowable to turn on the boob-tube when a certain bloated conservative media icon, obviously modeled after Rush Limbaugh, spews his hated right-wing venom on television.

They have no visible means of support and no visible need for any. Of course, in the first act there is no need to think anything out. Things are crystal clear. Liberals good, conservatives bad. But there this sense of frustration that a civil war is taking place, and people like the conservative demagogue are winning and the liberals are losing. They aren’t doing anything to advance their cause. Clearly, something must be done.

Like a Hitchcock masterpiece, the film forces the main characters downward through a bunch of layers of moral decay to the point where they’re killing people, without once making the audience go “oh, come on now.” The main characters make bad decisions, and you identify with the character even though you know the decision is bad. You have to keep watching because you want to see what consequences develop. And this is the deeper sequence of events grinding away far beneath the surface. The protagonists “know” what is right and they “know” what is wrong, they have moral certitude, but they are bored with isolationism. They become righteous warriors and end up perpetuating what nobody can deny is darkly evil. And the magnitude of evil is stepped up gradually, expertly, as the situations that motivate the evil are gradually muted, until our heroes are tempted to do anything while being provoked by nothing.

Not much point to spoiling this movie or doing anything that would approach that. The ending is deliberately left open to multiple interpretations. You should purchase or rent it, see it all the way through to the last frame, and see what you think. Debating it is interesting (link requires registration).

But anyhow. I said this applied to the Hazleton situation, and I should explain. This seems a convenient metaphor with what’s happening with illegal immigration. Not the real debate about illegal immigration, which I see is this: We understand the law becomes a tool of oppression as opposed to liberty when it is enforced selectively, and we have some greedy businesses who want it enforced selectively so they can use illegal labor and pump up their profits by breaking the law. Not that — the other one. Our bigot liberals want us to respect people with “good” skin colors, which means “non-white.” So there is the law, and then there is this big old moldy notebook binder filled with sniveling excuses they can add to on the spot. Oh, our “undocumented migrant workers” work so hard. We need them. They’re just trying to feed their families. You don’t want to pay six dollars for a head of lettuce, do you. Snotty, whining excuses like those. Our liberals have learned they can add to the snivel-book by pulling brand new excuses out of their asses to fit whatever situation arises, whereas the law has to be legislated, negotiated, reviewed, appealed.

They like the snivel-book better than the law. The law just gets in the way. It is unclean. It incorporates the viewpoint of people who aren’t all glorious and wallowing in their own liberalness, like the liberals.

Granted, poisoning some conservative person and burying him in a tomato patch is a terrible thing to do, compared to sneaking across the border of an overly-permissive country to feed your starving family. But the two situations are exactly the same, and I would further argue it isn’t just liberals who are susceptible to such a moral down-slide. But the situations are identical. We have our illegal immigrants who’ve chosen to make a lifestyle out of breaking the law. We have our crooked businesses that employ them, and then we have our political agitators who give them cover and manufacture all these fairy tales about how our illegal immigrants follow the law every single day after breaking it by coming here. All these people have decided the law simply gets in the way of what they’re trying to do. Their mission is so incredibly glorious, that in working toward it they can commit crimes that are serious enough that if someone committed the same crime in opposing them, they’d all scream, cry, wail, bitch and moan…

…in other words, the remarkable thing isn’t that they break the law to achieve their glorious missions. You might say the incredible thing is that the mission is glorious enough to righteously float on a bed of hypocrisy. The law, then, becomes a tool used to entangle and subdue their opponents, while they escape the same tentacles by means of a convenient, self-granted license. Their mission is glorious and noble, after all. And so, corrupt, illegal businesses can keep on employing contraband labor, and the trespassers can continue to slip across the border. And our everyday liberals can insist that “hate crime laws” be rigidly enforced while border laws…aw, well, here’s today’s excuse why they don’t and shouldn’t matter.

The liberals in the movie want to propagate their values by killing off anyone who doesn’t share them. The liberals we have in real life, want to propagate their “respect” for non-white people, by declaring America’s borders null and void. Both fall prey to rather elementary failings in logic. You can only invite so many people to supper and your tomato patch is only big enough to hold so many bodies; there is no correlation, statistical leanings notwithstanding, between being an illegal alien and having a certain skin color; if you’re so “right,” you should be able to use the dinner table to talk the issue out instead of to murder someone with arsenic; if someone’s willing to break a law by hopping a border, they may be willing to break a law by doing other things.

It’s an expensive proposition to get a civilized society humming along under a set of laws that are open to re-inspection, negotiation, appeal, and that apply to all classes. It’s far easier to undo such a society, by declaring some among us to be exempt from the laws because they’re toiling away on a mission that is so noble, laws ought not apply. I think that’s what we’re starting to learn now. If the illegal aliens should be granted a license to skip across our border, then you have to grant them a license to do as they please while they’re here. Can’t grant one without the other. The mission of the illegal immigrant is far too noble, as is the mission of the everyday liberal, who wants to let the illegal immigrant in. And so of course, our system of justice has to be undone one layer at a time, while we slowly slip toward insanity. We become confused, muddled, babbling and incoherent just like the liberal heroes in the movie’s final scenes. Everything that would have made us sensible, along the way, has to be undone. Sense of right and wrong, restraint, ability to reason, language itself. They all have to be unfastened so the noble goal can be achieved, and the tomatoes can be fertilized.

Decision here. Arguing that the regulation of immigration is an “intimate affair,” it concludes that Hazleton is messing around in areas where the municipal authority does not belong. Better to let the feds retain autonomous authority over that intimate affair, even if little is being effectively done, than to let a more energized body step in. Add another page to the snivel-book. Now it’s the duty of every layer of authority, beneath the federal government, to let drug deals go on, to let cars get vandalized, to let women get raped — as long as it’s the right class of people doing the dealing, vandalizing and raping. That’s for the feds to handle, and if they’re not handling it, you just mind your own business. That’s what Judge Munley says. The affair is intimate.

You know, we can certainly survive someone tearing the tag off a mattress here and there. What we can’t survive is a law that means something when it’s applied to one class of people, and nothing at all when applied to another — and a retinue of black-robed stewards adding pages to the snivel-book any time our country’s borders are about to actually mean something. To accommodate that, we have to become enemies of logic and common sense. And we’ll end up fertilizing the tomatoes ourselves.

On Michael Moore

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Michael Moore has just released a movie, and I’m starting to hear the same nonsense about him that I heard about im last time he released a movie. Note that in the sentence previous, “nonsense” is a euphemism for something else less polite. Anyway, while I have not yet seen the new…”product,” I have seen the previous one so I thought I would jot down some of my observations about what doesn’t quite make sense here.

Then & now, I keep hearing this phrase over and over again. It is subject only to slight degrees of word-for-word revision. It begins, “of course, Michael Moore is full of crap, but when you watch the movie, there are a lot of interesting facts (or ‘good points’) in it.”

Last time I heard that, a lot of the interesting facts (or good points) went up in smoke shortly after the movie came out. The notion that Moore is full of crap, continues to endure. And yet, here we are again. Michael Moore’s new movie is now potent ammunition. For winning converts to his side. From out of “moderate” Ameirca, not from out of your local Socialist club or your annual YearlyKOS get-together. From out of the heartland; among people who know about Moore’s predilection, and his intent, to deceive.

Now I’m thinking: You could say the same thing about Dr. Laura Schlessinger, couldn’t you? I mean, this is problematic in some areas: It is mostly a subjective system of individual belief that she is full of crap — some agree with that, some disagree. Whereas Michael Moore being full of crap, is a fact that can be proven to anyone who takes the time to pay attention and to give the viewpoint a decent hearing. Apart from that, you could say the same thing about Dr. Laura. Or Sean Hannity. Or Laura Ingraham. Or Condoleeza Rice. Or President Bush.

I don’t think the Michael Moore fans, or the prospective Michael Moore converts, are going to be doing that. Our national culture seems to have settled into the comfort-zone that with most personalities, logic, truth and integrity take on the form of a fragile sweater: One thread comes apart, it’s just a matter of time before the entire article is undone. It isn’t necessary to prove an intent to deceive. It isn’t even necessary to substantiate the error.

Personal disagreement will do: He thinks there is a God, so he must be an idiot.

SickoAnd along comes Michael Moore. Moore, for reasons I don’t understand and no one seems to be able to tell me, gets a pass. Over and over again, he’s caught red-handed with his lyning-by-omission and his half-truths and his bad-faith dealings with the subjects of his “interviews.”

He is, in his own way, a genius. And this is an even bigger problem from where I sit: If Moore’s competence was limited, then it could be said if he mananages to make something look a certain way, there would have to be a measurable grain of truth behind it. As it is, Moore’s level of skill is such that when he makes a thing look a certain way, this means butkus. He has the talent needed to make anything look like anything. People understand this to be so…and yet when he says something is the way he presents it, people continue to believe him. This is the part I don’t understand about Michael Moore.

We continue to labor under this unwritten rule: Every little speck of information in a Moore film has to be admitted as evidence in our personal courtrooms. What transpired before, doesn’t matter — no “loose-thread-sweater” rule for him. We have to fairly consider every utterance, as if it came from a Holy Metatron and not from a disgraced maker of “documentaries.”

We can survive Moore. I don’t think we can survive the scales that encrust our eyes when he comes out with his “products.” So many of us know a certain thing is so, and behave as if it isn’t.

So — he’d like us all to ponder the notion of a single-payer healthcare system in the United States, is that it?

Here’s another thing I’d like explained. Why does Moore have anything to do with America? Every time he comes out with a movie he keeps returning to his “Bowling For Columbine” theme that there is something wrong with America, something rotten in its core — something that compels us to be afraid of things and shoot each other all the time. He makes his films in Canada. He claims to be from Flint, MI — not too much of a drive to go from there, into Canada, for good. I’m not saying it to be derisive or dismissive — watch his movies sometime. Any one. The dude really likes Canada, and I don’t know of a single good thing he’s had to say about the U.S. by comparison. What’s he doing here?

Yet another thing to ponder, is Moore’s impressive physical stature. He wants us to listen to him. He wants to influence. He wants to have an effect on what we do. When people tell me things about physical health, and medicine, I’m persuaded to listen to them when they show me this is a personal passion of theirs. Jack La Lanne. Denise Austin. And I don’t think I’m unusual that way…people tell me how to maintain my body, I want to know how they’ve been maintaining theirs.

Why’s this grossly-overweight guy making a movie about our health care system? Why is he even using is big multi-chinned face to decorate the cover?

And how come, after apparently doing exactly what Michael Moore wants done on a federal level, Wisconsin doesn’t have any enviable results to show us?

I’m going to want to see this movie as soon as I can. I hope those questions are all addressed to my satisfaction. I’m also going to want to know about food. I’m told healthcare “oughtta be a right” because people need it. People need food too. And working transportation. And I wouldn’t mind being spared the hassle of sniffing my milk to make sure it’s still good, keeping my freezer full, and keeping my car running. If I’m to be the beneficiary of a nanny-state government that will worry about my burst appendix and my hangnails so I don’t have to, then I also want a government that will give me three hots a day and buy me a car.

No, I’m not kidding, I’m completely serious. I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument why one thing should be a “right,” and the other things ought not be.

Jefferson Quotes on the Executive Branch

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Earlier, I had made a passing reference to this gaffe of Senator Clinton’s, in which she as much as promised everybody around the world that the United States would be pulling out of Iraq someday soon. Against reason and common sense, we are now being instructed to believe there is nothing wrong with what Sen. Clinton said, and there is everything wrong with anyone who might have the temerity to point out possible negative consequences to her remarks.

Someone who’s been drinking way too much of the Kool-Aid made the comment that when Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman criticized her in writing for her remarks, it was the latest example of the administration behaving in a way that was “not very Jeffersonian.” I questioned what Thomas Jefferson would have had to say about it, and got back the usual nonsense: I was a dimwit for thinking Jefferson would have said anything besides what I was told he would have said, and furthermore, I was a dimwit for thinking “Jeffersonian” has something to do with what Jefferson would have said.

I guess, all-around, it’s something of a sin to do any thinking for yourself. You’re just supposed to do as you’re told and think what you’re told to think — unless you hate George W. Bush, then you can go ahead and tell others what they’re supposed to be thinking.

Well…maybe I really am just a big dummy when all’s said and done. I just can’t get it through my thick skull that members of Congress should be allowed to say whatever they want, and it’s all good. This is a bit much for me to grasp. And you know what keeps getting in my way? Ironically it’s that rhetoric that’s been flowing non-stop from the Bush-haters themselves; you know, all that “America is despised around the world” stuff. It usually takes on a flavor of: We’re oafish, unaware of people in other countries and the effect our ill-considered actions has on their situations. I mean, if that’s all true there must be some consequences to our duly-elected lawmakers saying some things. Right? These are the people who decide what America is going to be doing next.

So if there’s suspicion about my country around the world, and the suspicion exists for the reasons I’ve been told…there’s gotta be some limit to what our lawmakers say before their mutterings have a deleterious effect on international relations.

You can’t have it both ways.

But what would Thomas Jefferson have said about the Clinton/Edelman flap? I had my doubts that he would side with Sen. Clinton, since doing so would involve a notion that congressmen can say whatever they want about the executive, but the executive and his subordinates can’t say butkus about congressmen. After finding a page of Jefferson quotes about the executive branch, I have even more doubts. There’s a recurring theme of concern over the executive’s ability to operate freely, to marshal a sense of judgment that only an individual can. To make decisions outside of committee.

Of course, it should be pointed out that Jefferson functioned as an executive for eight years. As far as I know, service in the Continental Congress, aside, his resume is a little skimpy in taking on the burdens of, and enjoying the authority of, a congressman. That is, discounting his role as President of the Senate in John Adams’ administration. None of that compares to the tempestuous power struggles that occurred between his administration and the other two branches of government.

But the point stands. Bush haters, in Congress and elsewhere, want the President to be gelded. Many among them have been aroused to this desire by a sense that the Florida election of 2000 was way too close. Jefferson fretted mightily about the executive being gelded. And he was in no position whatsoever, to endorse the idea that the President’s authority should be compromised just because his election fell short of a landslide.

On Smashing WD-40 With a Stick

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Maybe you shouldn’t do that.

Yin and Yang IX

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Blogger friend James Bostwick at Newsblog Central took note of a study done by a bunch of clipboard-carrying, white-coat-propeller-beanie-wearing egghead researchers out in Chicago. I will link now and tease later, because for now I want to talk not so much about the study itself, but the thoughts that came back to me while I was reading about it. Let’s just say for now the subject of the study is human interaction.

The egghead researchers have been nudged by their own research into concluding there are basically two types of people. It gets much more complicated than that, of course, but that is the gist of it. Well, bloggers can also notice there are basically two types of people…and here at the Blog That Nobody Reads, we’ve been doing exactly that. We’ve discussed it at length in a series called — arbitrarily — Yin and Yang. There is little inherent meaning involved in the name “Yin” and there is no more inherent meaning in the name “Yang”…except just this. In classic Taoist philosophy, “Yang” is used to describe energy that is boisterous, jovial, masculine and maybe slightly obnoxious. “Yin” is used to describe diametrically opposed but complimentary energies that are introspective, feminine and dark.

We’ve written eight installments about this. This is the ninth. The eight installments are as follows:

Yin and Yang was posted on February 12 of last year. It is inspired by the budget problems of Porter County, Indiana, which found itself in the red because a computer glitch allowed a home to be assessed at about 3400 times its real value. I made the observation that, since nothing had concretely deteriorated on the income side and nothing had concretely expanded on the disbursement side, you had to have a certain personality type to translate this hiccup into real financial gloom. You had to spend first and ask questions later. That’s what it takes to snowball a simple disappointment, into a disaster. This is not unique to Porter County by any means. But it does show that what county governments tend to do, which is to get all the money spent, can lead to serious problems. And yet they’re going to keep right on doing it this way, because when you reject someone’s expense request, they feel better knowing the money is all gone, than they would if you told them there’s a surplus available but you don’t think their idea merits dipping into it. It’s all about feelings. That’s the point of that installment.

Yin and Yang II was posted on April 9, inspired by a story in the Sacramento News and Review which I found to be highly deceptive. The subject of the story was Michael Morales, who was sentenced to death for beating a girl to death with a claw hammer; more specifically, Charles McGrath, the presiding judge at Morales’ trial. Now, going by the cover, the headline, the sub-headline, and the first couple of paragraphs of the story you are invited to come to the conclusion that Morales is innocent, or at least, that McGrath thinks this may be the case. That’s a virtual lie. McGrath’s objection to Morales’ path, as the killer tumbles through the workings of our legal system, is procedural. I made the observation that there is a certain personality type taken in by this deceptive form of journalism, and that actually, from the perspective of that personality type, the deceipt would probably be immaterial. Again, it’s all about feelings. Also, I hypothesized, in my role as an uneducated layman, about how childhood development might take place in each of us, so that the decision is made regarding which personality we’re going to form.

Yin and Yang III was posted on May 1, and it was inspired by the profile of Marissa Leigh, who is being carefully groomed, no expense spared, to become the next Britney Spears. Now it could very well be that Marissa Leigh is a nice, intelligent girl, and that her mother has the best of intentions. According to the information that has found its way to me, most of which is in the article linked, Marissa Leigh is an intolerable airhead and her mother is a pernicious bitch. It is a mystery to me why, and how, anyone would want to raise their daughter this way. There is a payoff to be realized from the years of what I see as nothing more than child abuse. The payoff makes sense to millions of people, whereas, to millions of other people who think more along the lines of the way I think, the payoff is for all purposes non-existent. I started to delve further into why I believe these two personality types are fundamentally incompatible. When contact is attempted, disharmony is the inevitable result. I have no interest in coming into social contact with people like Marissa Leigh; I know from experience, they have no interest in coming into social contact with people like me.

A week later, on May 8 I posted Yin and Yang IV, inspired by the story of young brides in certain Chinese provinces being forced to cry at their weddings. This highlights something about the “Yang” I’ve been noticing my entire life, albeit consciously only for the last decade or so, maybe less. There is something controlling about them. There has to be. When you want to think a certain thing, which is the paramount goal at any moment of the Yin, other people can think whatever they want to think. But when you want to feel a certain thing, which is what the Yang want to do, your goal is obstructed when someone else feels the opposite. And so you cannot permit this. You want laughing, everyone else must laugh; you want crying, there will be crying dammit. Also in this installment, I repudiated the notion that I was the inventor of the concept of splitting people up, and listed several articles of world literature showing that this is a well-established and ancient fantasy, probably as old as mankind itself.

On June 9, I had watched the “Grapple in the Apple” between Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway, MP, and noted in Yin and Yang V how similar this was to the match-up between Bill O’Reilly and David Letterman five months previous. Both exchanges were “debates” according to the rules of cosmetics, and cosmetics alone. In neither one of these couplings did the combatants address common arbiters, instead, what they did was take turns delivering monologues to chosen population segments. Galloway and Letterman made their pitches to The Yang, who like to feel good, and Hitchens and O’Reilly (with minor exceptions) played to The Yin, who like to think things through logically. The political situation in 21st-century America, in which The Yang barely lose out in one election after another, dictates that logically the two sides should be making arguments quite different from the arguments they are making. I noted that my theory explains this — nothing else does — and examined how the evolutionary forces have driven us to this point, where the two sides are in greater conflict with each other than they have been before.

I wrote up Installment VI on July 8th. It has to do with what we call “leadership,” and what exactly that is. To summarize, there are two kinds of leadership and they could be thought of as wartime leadership and democratic leadership. The former identifies ways to reduce the danger posed by a grave threat, and ultimately to defeat that threat. The latter has to do with synergizing widely-felt sentiments and translating them into actions that affect everybody, hopefully for the better. In the first of those two situations, the handicaps of the Yin mean very little to us, and the danger we face tends to elevate Yin people into positions of power. In the second, we are concerned about not being marginalized, making everything be the way we want them to be. We then tend to choose leaders who show prominent abilities to represent themselves as being like us. These “Yang” leaders, with their weaknesses in separating truth from fiction, come to be valued for their communicative abilities and, again, their handicaps mean very little to us. And so throughout history we see the people who run society, change in their personalities depending on the challenges those societies face at a given time.

By December 3rd, people had begun to write in expressing interest in following The Blog That Nobody Reads in general, and Yin and Yang in particular. I thought it was presumptuous to drag them through those six bloated chapters so I put up the seventh installment which is unofficially referred to as the “Foxworthy Chapter.” It just goes on and on about the things you might do if you are Yin, and the other things you might do if you’re Yang.

On February 24th, our new House Speaker sounded off against Vice President Cheney using a favored mantra of the Yang: “You cannot.” I wrote up the eighth chapter to highlight what her overly-simplistic statement proved, to me, beyond any doubt: Those who awaited the House leadership and the White House to come to some sort of compromise about things, were bound to be disappointed. The two sides cannot be reconciled. They come from different planets.

Before going further, I should note that I’m a blogger and not much more than that. I’m not a psychologist or a neurosurgeon or anthropologist or even a daycare provider. I’m just a 41-year-old guy who’s lived with and worked with people. And I’ve got certain weaknesses in doing that. Ironically, in the realm of dealing with people, weaknesses can be educational. Some folks don’t have weaknesses, and end up not learning anything because they don’t have to learn anything. That’s not me. So you could take what follows as stuff that comes from experience; stuff that, if a time machine were invented, I might be interested in zipping back twenty years and telling myself. That’s all it is.

And because I’ve had those weaknesses, I would think the twenty-year-old me would pay attention. At least, he should.

The thing about Yin and Yang is that it’s just one way of dividing people, out of many. Take a minute or two to think about these. Some of us are men and some of us are women; some are masculine and some are feminine. When you have a plurality of these divisions, and you start testing large numbers of people according to those axes, you run into large and small overlaps. You gather up a hundred men and a hundred women, and there will be a general tendency for men to be more masculine than women, and women to be more feminine. But you should expect to find errors, or more precisely, anomalies. Fifteen to twenty women, perhaps more, will be more masculine than some of the men.

And this goes for everything. Simply put, correlation is not causation. Gather a hundred left-handed people and a hundred right-handed people, and overall there will be a tendency for left-handed people to be more artistic. But it’s almost never an absolute. A hundred people who know how to fold shirts, coupled with a hundred people who do not — you won’t find a hundred men in the don’t-know-how group. Seventy-five, maybe. Probably more than that. But there will be some gals in there. Every trend has a couple of odd birds ducking it.

One additional thing you need to think about with regard to Yin and Yang, is the distinction between knowing how to do something, and having something come naturally to you. Yin and Yang has to do with social skills. Not just what you see when you start to meet large numbers of people, but how those people relate to you, and to each other. Some know how to communicate, some do not. Yin and Yang doesn’t have to do with whether people communicate effectively — it has to do with how. It’s got to do with brain activity.

Because it concerns how people see each other when they do their communicating, it has to do with how they program themselves to do this communicating as they go through life. Yin and Yang, therefore, is unique among these divisional axes. There is no middle-ground here. Divide people into left-handed versus right-handed, and you’ll have ambidextrous people in there. Divide people into masculine and feminine, and you’ll have some folks who are poorly-defined sexually. Divide them into intemperate and patient, and you’ll always have some “five-outta-ten” types.

There can be no middle ground with Yin and Yang. That’s because every year you communicate people in the manner of the Yin, it becomes progressively more difficult for you to ever do it as a Yang — and vice-versa. We become more and more entrenched into whichever half we have chosen for ourselves, just by living life.

To understand how this works, let’s inspect very young children in their formative years, but not the average kids — let’s concentrate on the very best and brightest among those. These kids have above-average intelligence, and behave casually and confidently. As a result of the way they behave, they are fun for adults to watch. The adults therefore watch them, and the kids pick up on this. My job, the kids say to themselves, is to give those grown-ups something to watch.

And this starts a vicious cycle of accelerated learning. The children already have, before the age of two, a kind of sense of responsibility. They understand that they have a direct effect on the outcome of things. That’s a heady sense of self to have at such a tender age. Before the age of three, this becomes second-nature. Grown-ups can be sad, grown-ups can be happy, and the child can decide this.

When you learn something that soon, it’s impossible to forget it. Ever.

Now, this doesn’t happen to everybody. There are other kids who have trouble relating to the adults and their peers. Age two comes and goes, then age three, then age four; these children have yet to take command of their environment, to find a way to impact the mood of those around them. As a result, they aren’t expected to do much of anything. Except, maybe, do some chores. They expect no more of themselves, in communicating with others, than others expect of them. They lack the confidence their more mature siblings and peers have, and wear day-to-day rather easily. They lack this confidence, and therefore they lack the ability to command the attention in a group setting. This continues for a great deal of time. They may be double, triple, quadruple the age their more outgoing peers were, upon easily attaining this commanding, communicative skill. And they have yet to grasp it. They go tumbling into adolescence this way.

But while all this is going on, a funny thing happens. These less-mature kids, who are quieter, more contemplative — less fun to watch — sooner or later, are left alone. And then they have to find something to do.

This pattern never seems to change: The highly-educated and highly-esteemed scientific professionals, fail to keep it in mind. Kids, young and old, smart and dumb…they all have to be occupied. If they tend to bore the grown-ups so that the grown-ups don’t give them anything to do, they will find something to do. They will make “projects” for themselves. And that is exactly what these not-so-mature, not-so-sociable kids do. They write, they draw, they paint.

They accumulate skills. Skills their more outgoing peers don’t develop…because there’s no need to. The more sociable kids have other skills, which the reading-drawing-painting kids are never going to have. Not naturally, anyway.

This is Yin and Yang. Yang kids become chatty, and demonstrate amazing aptitude in being that way, by the age of two or three. The socially immature Yin drift around for a few more years, wondering what to do, and then start developing cognitive problem-solving skills between the ages of five to eight. Yang expect to be watched, Yin expect not to be. Both become self-fulfilling prophecies. On a day-to-day basis. For life.

Now, let’s talk about brainwave activity. I’m no more a neurosurgeon than I am a shrink. But there exists a lobe called the Orbito-Frontal Cortex, and what’s cool about this particular lobe is that it remains a mystery to science. You don’t need to do too much homework about it before you know — painstaking details, useful only in a laboratory setting, aside — everything the scientists know. At least, all the stuff they know for sure. And that’s not much.

OFCThe Orbito-Frontal Cortex, or OFC, is one of the least understood regions of the brain. Part of the reason for this is that, for all the importance it seems to have, it defies conventional brainscan methodologies. It’s located too close to the sinus cavity to be mapped as effectively as other regions. All that air whooshing around in there, and what-not.

And so science has been working hard on figuring out how this piece of meat works. And it’s been able to nail down relatively little.

But science does know a thing or two at this point. And what they’ve been able to learn about the OFC, is — roughly — this: We process reward and punishment through this part of the brain. The way this isolated region takes charge of this chore, it can be said, is readily apparent to everyone who has one. You put your hand on a hot stove, and years later, you see another hot stove. You aren’t cataloguing facts, things you can learn from the facts, cataloguing things you don’t know, engaging in process of elimination, or anything of the kind…you just know you don’t want to touch it. Carrots and sticks. They cause a “short-circuiting” to occur upstairs. You don’t know what you do & don’t know…nor do you care. You haven’t a clue. On what you want to do and don’t want to do, you’re crystal-clear already, so something must have been engaged out-of-sequence. The OFC, it’s fairly well established, is the corridor through which that short-circuiting occurs.

The OFC also has to do with engaging us with each other socially. When we ingratiate ourselves with groups, cliques, subcultures, and the like, we engage the OFC. There are things that are “done” and there are other things that are “not done.” A great example of this is wearing white after Labor Day; rare is the fashion maven that can actually explain what’s wrong with doing this, but they all agree it’s something that simply isn’t done.

Reward and punishment. It goes through the OFC.

Well it turns out, when we aren’t paying attention to others and others are not paying attention to us, and we’re locked in our bedrooms designing our dream houses or fingerpainting or whatever, the OFC doesn’t have a lot of use for us. And so these Yin children who become accustomed to doodling throughout their childhood and teenage years, over time become sluggish engaging OFC-related intellectual exercises. Perhaps their OFCs shrivel up like raisins. Or perhaps the synapses that connect the OFC, become rusty and corroded. Whatever the physical cause, it remains a truism that the brain reprograms itself as it is engaged in everyday tasks. These Yin kids, once they’re placed in a more socially-interactive setting and thus given a cause to re-engage this atrophied OFC, they tend to adapt sluggishly.

Maybe the chubby ones who are used to stuffing their faces with Cheetos and chips while watching Beavis and Butthead, in the middle of asking a prom date to dance, will burp right in her face. More often, the examples will be subtle. Kids who are relatively inexperienced at relating to other kids, will be forced to learn how…and if they’re intelligent and flexible, they will. If they spend enough energy, they may even become almost as socially-outgoing as the more sociable kids, who did exactly the same thing at a far younger age.

But they won’t do it the same way. They communicate with their peers and start socializing, even if they enjoy the company — they still see the other party as kind of a puzzle. They see external entities in ways the Yang kids do not see them. They labor onward, Yin in Yang’s clothing, doing these Yang-things unnaturally but, with sufficient attention and energy, with some proficiency. Upstairs, they’re going through all these extra steps. I know this, I don’t know that…from that, I’m to conclude that…and therefore, I shall do this. Chances of her dancing with me if I burp in her face, 20%…chances if I don’t burp in her face, 45%…therefore, I shall not burp in her face. Like someone playing chess, or Master Mind.

The Yang-kids do exactly the same things. But they do it by engaging the OFC. It’s all one easy, fluid motion.

Yang kids are no different. If they’re very intelligent and mature, and keep that maturity into adulthood, and are greeted with disappointment and use their aptitudes to develop Yin-like skills to overcome those disappointments — they won’t do it the way natural-born Yin kids do it. It’s a case of “when you’ve got a shiny golden hammer, everything looks like a nail.” They may learn how to work with spreadsheets and engineering drawings, but every miniscule task that comes up, they’ll fire up the OFC in ways the Yin kids will not when doing the same thing.

In the years since I’ve become aware of this, I’ve found it’s difficult to categorize people this way when they are intelligent, flexible, talented and bright. You have to figure out where they’re coming from — if a brainscan appliance isn’t available — through their weaknesses. If they’re too smart, they become talented at covering this up. I’ll talk more on this further down.

But none of this means the Yin/Yang orientation is not there. It is brain-lobe routing. It is a distinction between ways of thinking, which become more and more prevalent each day we’re called-upon to solve problems. Everybody has it in one flavor or another.

This reads a lot, I’m sure, like introverts and extraverts. That isn’t really what’s going on, when you look into the details of the definitions. Introverts and extraverts run “on batteries” in certain situations. They may adapt to something outside their turf for a little while, but they consume energy in doing this. Introverts speak in public — their energy is depleted and they will restore it in solitude. They’ll look forward to Friday evening, and once the weekend is here they will grab some beer and go fishing. Alone. Extraverts may hole themselves up in their offices and fiddle around with spreadsheets and databases…when they’re forced to. In so doing they’ll deplete energy. They’ll rejuvenate by doing exactly the things that drain the energy of the introverts. They’ll hold court. With big smiles on their faces…smiles that were missing when they were fiddling around with the Godforsaken spreadsheets they didn’t really want to fiddle with.

Must a Yang be extraverted? No. An extravert loses energy in solitude and rejuvenates it in a large group; a Yang channels intellectual challenges through the OFC, that need not be channeled there. To be an introverted Yang, all you have to do is operate on a reward-and-punishment basis, and look forward to operating in solitude.

Perfectly possible. It would probably be difficult to implement such a combination and to be happy. But it’s definitely possible.

Must a Yin be introverted? Again, no. A Yin solves intellectual problems systematically. He is most comfortable making a catalogue of things he knows and things he doesn’t know, and proceeding from there to figuring out what’s going on. Being introverted means you deplete your energy in groups of people, whether you’re afraid of them or not — and you recoup that energy in solitude.

Now, groups of people tend to be distracting to the process of gathering evidence and arriving at inferences. But if you’re capable of focusing your attention, and juggling many tasks at once, it can be done. So an extraverted Yin would be someone who enjoys people and also enjoys solving problems.

Also this detail makes it tough to arrive at a razor-precise definition of what separates Yin from Yang. There are two tests, one to be implemented in childhood and one to be implemented after the subject has arrived at maturity.

The childhood test is this:

The Yang Child is stuck in an endless loop of approaching his parents, or parent-figures, and saying: “Look at me.” He feels uncomfortable if he isn’t being watched. Kids like this love to be photographed, but if you watch them later on you’ll notice they don’t have much interest in the photograph albums. They want to be watched in the here-and-now. They see the world as a stage, and they want to be actors.

The Yin Child, on the other hand, is stuck in a different endless loop. He gains attention and approval from his parents by saying — not “Look at me” — but “Look what I did.” He doesn’t care to be watched and if he is watched, he cares little about what people will see. He busies himself with manufacturing things, or designing things, and showing his wares after he is done with them.

This hasn’t got much to do with shyness, except to say shyness is a causative factor in becoming Yin. It’s highly difficult for a shy kid to go the other way. This arouses a popularly-held belief that when children behave in introverted ways, they must be shy. That’s bad logic at work; it’s like saying all fish must live in the water, therefore anything that lives in the water is a fish. One’s a superset of another, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the sets are identical.

The test to be applied after maturity is even more complicated. It works this way:

You can see the difference between Yin and Yang, in adults, most clearly when there is a new tool to be used. In our times, the best example of that is when Microsoft releases a new version of an operating system, or of a component in the Office Suite.

Some of us look forward to this. Others dread it.

Now if a new bit of technology comes out, and you’re tasked with educating the uninitiated about how to use it, after awhile you’ll be able to easily make this distinction yourself. You can see it in the way some of your students behave: The Edit menu in the old version, had nine sub-options, and now it has eleven…they have a great enthusiasm in learning about the other two. The other students are going to behave in a manner completely different: They’ll be frustrated. God damn it, I know what I want to do…I used to have a way of doing it and then they released this piece-o-crap program and now I have to do it all over again. In other words, they don’t see the benefit. And if you work with them for awhile, this becomes understandable — they don’t get a benefit out of it.

They exist to socialize, and every now and then there are tasks that have to be done. Tools are simply ways to achieve those tasks. A new tool comes out…so what? If the old tool accomplished the task just as efficiently, the upgrade is a futility.

I’ve been put in this position more than my share of times. And I know this for a fact: Anybody else, who has been put in the same position, understands what I’m saying. Some students are tool-oriented, and others aren’t.

What never seems to change, is this: The tool-oriented people are moderately, or sub-par, sociable. The non-tool-oriented people are social butterflies.

Really, adults can be tested with any challenge that is new. That is the operative concept here. Adults, once met with a challenge that they’ve already dealt with before, have a tendency to go with whatever plan they used the last go ’round whether it was successful or not. Force them to come up with a new one, and you’ll have a great test of Yin vs. Yang.

Probably the most generic of these, is to ask articulate, but unintelligible, questions. “Maybe I’m asking the wrong person, but can you tell me…” and, following that, hit ‘em with something containing at least one completely unfamiliar verb, and two completely unfamiliar nouns. Whatever the adult’s leanings, he will then have to busy himself with figuring out if he can help you, and then finding a way to do it.

The way the Yin see the world, everything worth doing involves a state of objects as they are, and a state of objects as desired — the work to be done lies in the difference between those two states. You are trying to do something; the subject of your test doesn’t yet know what it is. What he’s going to try to do, is find out what your mission is, and from that figure out if he’s able to help you. Perhaps you want to break the law, or perhaps you want to help his competition succeed. Step One is going to be to eliminate those as possibilities. Step Two is going to be to measure the magnitude of work. All tasks, to the Yin, occur within a perimeter. Replacing the exhaust manifold on a Chevy Malibu has to be done one time — that’s measurable. Printing up five thousand fliers has to be done 5,000 times — that’s measurable. This has a bearing on the method to be pursued getting these things done…for example, if you only want ten fliers instead of 5,000, you’ll be wanting to do that on your home printer most likely.

But the Yin, being entirely unfamiliar with what you want to do, will make these questions a priority.

And after the conversation is over, if your work is interesting the Yin will be hitting the Internet to find out more about it. You used acronyms and terms he didn’t know, and he doesn’t want to be blindsided again if someone else has a related question…that stuff’s interesting, after all.

The Yang react in a similar way, but they show different behaviors before the exercise is over. For starters — when you first asked the Yang your question, he, likewise, didn’t understand what you were talking about. The Yang find situations like these to be tinged with a residual hue of threat: If you talk about things they don’t understand, you may represent an entirely different kind of people.

You are going to labor under a time limit to make yourself understandable to the Yang. If you do not meet it, the conversation will be over. They’ll politely refer you to someone who might possibly know more about what you’re trying to do. There won’t be a lot of responsibility taken to make sure this is the case; about half the time, you’ll find it’s a bunny trail. What really happened was, you blindsided the Yang with something that was unfamiliar. He allocated a certain amount of time to venture in here with you, and you exhausted that quota. Think how you’d behave around a stranger who at first seemed to have all his mental faculties about him, and then as he proceeded to spew a lot of gibberish at you, demonstrated himself to be certifiably insane. That’s what happens with the Yang. You might be sane, but discussing something outside of their comfort zone — to them, that’s the same as being insane.

So you’ve got about forty-five seconds. If you explain what you’re trying to find, or what you’re trying to do, in a way that makes sense to him inside that limit, he’ll go down a different path. The first thing he’ll want to know is: What effect is this going to have? If it’s something that will benefit you personally, like replacing the exhaust manifold, he’ll see this as the beginning of a friendship and his questions will start to take on that tone: Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? He’s trying to get on a little more solid footing with you, as a future friend. They’re sociable creatures. You have stories, he has stories, if you exchange stories you’re both four times as story-rich as you were before. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and all that.

With regard to printing up the fliers, he’ll ask a question the Yin forgot entirely to ask: What is going on them? If it’s a political slogan, the Yang’s enthusiasm for helping you will wax or wane depending on his sympathies with the message going on the fliers. If it’s political-neutral — for example, come to our church dinner, the cover charge goes toward feeding the hungry — this will have an immediate effect on his enthusiasm as well. And as you talk with him about it, you’ll see he doesn’t regard this as a mission for your church. He sees it as a way to feed a portion of the world’s hungry people.

Remember the perimeter that the Yin see surrounding all tasks? That’s a defining difference there. The Yang don’t see it. They see the world…as one object. The world’s got so many cars that need new exhaust manifolds, and it’s got so many kids that are so hungry. After the project is completed, there will be slightly fewer cars that need new manifolds, or slightly fewer hungry kids. A project did not get completed — a task is what got completed. The completion of an actual project is something the Yang very rarely knows, because as far as they’re concerned, it is the complete eradication of something. Dirt. Crime. Poverty. The things that are worth our time, involve noble, incremental baby-steps toward those kinds of great, wonderful goals.

From this, we see adulthood is merely an extension of what we have all done in childhood. Shut in to our offices, laboring in solitude over a meaningless spreadsheet…or possibly, a future cure for cancer…the way the Yin do things, makes a great deal of sense. You know some things, you don’t know other things. From this, some things may be, other things must not be. And if it makes someone somewhere feel bad, that matters not one bit.

But in groups, the way the Yang do things, is the more sensible way to go. They take these puzzles, which to a nice Yinny born-and-bred puzzle-solver might actually be quite simple…and they punt. They scrape it all into a bottomless manhole somewhere in the OFC. And from the OFC, it goes into some massive antennae — which the Yin, decidedly, lack — and they synchronize with a group to find the correct answer. In effect, they externalize the exercise. They put it to a vote. Does this make sense? Logically, no. But socially, yes. And it involves some measure of skill in it’s own way.

You can kind of start to see why one of these “sides” is friendly to individualism and the other “side” is friendly to socialism and collectivism.

That’s why there is so much friction any time Yin and Yang are forced to function in close proximity to each other. The things that need to be done, they don’t see them the same way. “Mission Accomplished” means a completely different thing to one side than it does to the other.

Now, these tests are imperfect. It can take some effort to apply them, get results back, and figure out what they mean. Persons of average intelligence, or slightly higher — this distinction jumps out at you and grabs you by the neck. It’s impossible to ignore. When you deal with people slightly more intelligent than that, like significantly over the average, bordering on genius levels, this becomes a much more subtle distinction.

The subtlety is a problem with highly intelligent, highly functional people. Experience has a bearing on this as well. Persons of lower intelligence, ten or fifteen I.Q. points over the average, can hang around and gradually accumulate methods and tactics for dealing with everyday problems. They start to learn when they’re creeping people out by not being talkative enough, or annoying others by being too talkative. And they solve everyday problems with familiar tools. Highly experienced people like this, it can be very difficult to figure out if they’re Yin or Yang. And your incentive for doing so will soften up as well — you’re not running into problems with the way they go about doing things, so why bother to figure it out?

But as to whether these people really are Yin or Yang within their cranial cavities — this changes nothing. They still are devoted to one side. A new challenge comes up — they’ll noodle it out according to what can be learned, verified, repudiated…or they’ll select an option they anticipate will be pleasing to their peer group. All of one & none of the other, or vice-versa.

There’s no middle ground here. None whatsoever.

Earlier this year, I had tracked down a management training exercise I had personally attended ten years previous. I found the management training exercise to be a problematic illustration of human nature at best, and an outright lie at worst.

There was a point to the exercise, and for the purpose of making this point, it was positioned in the Arctic tundra, miles from civilization. Choices had to be made about tools, supplies, things to be done…and to make these choices, the group was declared supreme, and the individual decidedly inferior. The exercise demonstrated that the group amounted to something greater than the sum of it’s parts. By sticking together, asserting themselves at the right time, deferring at the right time, the individuals contributed to a group that made the right decision all the time. Or more often than any one of its members, effectively saving the lives of all who participated.

I had a minor beef with this at thirty years of age. Past forty, I am weary, jaundiced, and…what can I say. I know better. I’ve watched individuals solve problems and I’ve watched groups solve problems.

Groups don’t really solve problems. If there’s a problem to be solved — “Should we put the sleeping bags on dry ground first, or gather firewood?” “Is it realistic to build a flat-six air-cooled engine?” “What is the square root of 841?” — groups don’t solve this. They delegate it to an individual. If the group solves the problem, they do it by swivelling all heads toward the guy who knows best, and then that guy comes up with an answer. As an individual.

The closest a group gets to doing something an individual can’t, is allocating money for things. Sub-groups don’t want to contribute to a cause, without representation…so you represent all of them. A group is born. With the money thus allocated, an individual comes from somewhere and does the real work. Then the group takes credit for it.

But groups do think. That is the problem. This is the most likely evolutionary purpose of the OFC. It provides us, as individuals, with the ability to quickly process punishment and reward…and therefore more cohesively integrate ourselves into a group. With our luminous and vibrant OFCs, we can understand some things are “good” and some things are “bad,” before we’ve wasted time trying to figure out (as individuals) what makes these things good or bad. I before E except after C…salad fork goes outside the dinner fork. Nevermind what actually is going to happen if you bring pork to a Jewish wedding, just don’t do it.

That’s what allows us to make up groups, and to function within them.

But the Schefferville exercise is…well, it’s crap. Groups don’t solve problems better than individuals. They don’t solve problems at all. What they do is generate instant credibility, without putting anyone in the situation of being held accountable. And they make it expedient to create compromises. Therefore, they can allocate money. But they don’t think. Thinking in the group is done with the OFCs, and that isn’t real thinking. It’s simple anticipation of reward and fear of punishment, nothing more.

With that lengthy exploration, we now come to James’ article…which I find fascinating. Here’s how it works.

The test is administered, and probably designed, by one Boaz Keysar. He teaches at the University of Chicago. His biography page says the following:

Professor Keysar’s research is about how people communicate, negotiate and make decisions. Many of his discoveries reveal systematic reasons for miscommunication and misunderstandings. For example, his research shows that people overestimate their ability to communicate accurately, and counter to what people tend to think, we miscommunicate even more with those who are more familiar to us.

So what about this test he designed. Well, let’s take a look.

Rugged American individualism could hinder our ability to understand other peoples’ point of view, a new study suggests.

And in contrast, the researchers found that Chinese are more skilled at understanding other people’s perspectives, possibly because they live in a more “collectivist” society.
:
Keysar and his colleagues arranged two blocks on a table so participants could see both. However, a piece of cardboard obstructed the view of one block so a “director,” sitting across from the participant, could only see one block.

When the director asked 20 American participants (none of Asian descent) to move a block, most were confused as to which block to move and did not take into account the director’s perspective. Even though they could have deduced that, from the director’s seat, only one block was on the table.

Most of the 20 Chinese participants, however, were not confused by the hidden block and knew exactly which block the director was referring to. While following directions was relatively simple for the Chinese, it took Americans twice as long to move a block.

The test is explained in much greater detail in this article from last week in the New Scientist:

In a new psychological experiment, Chinese students outperformed their US counterparts when ask[ed] to infer another person’s perspective. The researchers say the findings help explain how misunderstandings can occur in cross-cultural communication.

The TestIn the experiment, psychologists Boaz Keysar and Shali Wu at the University of Chicago, Illinois, US, recruited 40 students. Half of the volunteers were non-Asians who had grown up in the US, and the other half were native Mandarin speakers who had very recently emigrated from various parts of China.

The volunteers played a game in which they had to follow the instructions of a person sitting across the table from them, an individual known as the ‘director’.

Researchers placed a grid structure between the two people consisting of small compartments, some of which contained objects such as wood blocks, toy bunnies and sunglasses (see image, right). Some of the individual compartments were covered on one side with cardboard so that they were blocked from the view of the director – only the study subjects could see the objects inside.

The volunteers had to follow the instructions of the director and move named objects from one compartment to another. But – as a sneaky trick – the researchers sometimes placed two objects of the same kind in the grid. In this case, the subjects would have to consider the director’s view to know which object she was referring to.

For example, the grid sometimes contained two wooden blocks, one of which sat in a compartment hidden to the director. The director would then ask the subject to “move the wooden block to a higher square in the grid”.

Chinese students would immediately understand which wooden block to move – the one visible to both them and the director. Their US counterparts, however, did not always catch on.

“They would ask ‘Which block?’ or ‘You mean the one on the right?”, explains Keysar. “For me it was really stunning because all of the information is there. You don’t need to ask,” he adds.

Now, for the purposes of figuring out what’s wrong with the test, it isn’t important to figure out if Dr. Keysar is oblivious to what he’s so obviously missed, or if he’s hoping his intended audience remains so oblivious. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that his test is flawed.

You have these two roles to play, the “participant” and the “director.” The “director” issues commands, the “participant” carries them out — but the “participant” understands all of the objects that are involved in what’s being done, whereas the “director” has knowledge only of some of them.

The shots, therefore, are called by the ignorant party.

This means the test is a test of ability of the participant to reject reality. To subordinate that which is known to be real, on a verifiable, individual level — to what has been dictated by an external entity, known to lack all of the information needed to make the correct decision.

Note how this test is titled and how it is described: “Self-centered cultures narrow your viewpoint.” “Study: Americans Don’t Understand Others.” You may understand reality — like the Yin — or you may understand others, like the Yang. Arbitrarily, from the way the headlines are written-up, the understanding of others is given priority. Those who are accustomed to using the OFC to do their “thinking,” want all others to do likewise. To abjure reality in favor of complying with the lessons of arbitrary, ignorant authority…with the lessons of reward and punishment.

But the OFC doesn’t understand math. It doesn’t understand fact, opinion, thing-to-do. It doesn’t understand process-of-elimination or rhetorical questions or cause-and-effect. The OFC only understands one thing: Do this, instead of that. X good, Y bad.

Dr. Keysar and associates’ critical error, was to either misunderstand this or to subordinate it. You can solve problems in such a manner as you, personally, can verify that you’ve correctly solved the problem…or you can follow instructions. Those are two distinctly different exercises. The researchers have found Americans have shifted their priorities away from following instructions, identifying with persons left ignorant by design…and toward arriving at the correct answer to the problem-at-hand.

There is a crucial distinction to be made here. The “participant” was being tested on his ability to denounce reality as he understood it, in favor of the instructions of a “director.” If this was a test about productive humility, the possibility would have been left open that perhaps “director” knew some things the “participant” did not. Perhaps there was a body of knowledge applicable to the test at hand, which could have been understood in total by a careful collaboration between “director” and “participant” so the two parties could pool their respective knowledge bases — a collaboration demanding more time than was immediately available. Or perhaps, although ignorant about some of the details, “director” may have had a prevailing command of more important items, denied to “participant” — things that would have lended greater weight to the integrity of chain-of-command. Or, yet another possibility could have been left open: “Director” knew all, but only pretended to be ignorant of some. Maybe the possibility existed that “participant” only thought he understood everything, but was kept in the dark about “surprises.”

None of these things seem to be applicable to the test as I understand it. From all the descriptions I’ve read — “participant” understood everything; “director” understood only some and misunderstood a great deal beyond that; “participant” was fully conscious of what he knew, how complete his understanding was, and what bits of detail were denied to “director.”

If I’m getting that right, I must suck at this test more than most. I don’t understand why you’d want a good score! It looks like a test in one’s ability to hallucinate. To pretend others are right, when you know they’re wrong.

Why was this test designed the way it was? And why was it publicized the way it was? The Chinese “understand peoples’ point of view” better than Americans. But the way they demonstrate this understanding in the experiment, has nothing whatsoever to do with “understanding.” What they have done is execute a move in a way they were expected to execute it…by a “director” who was kept deliberately ignorant about what was going on, as he issued his edicts.

I DisagreeYou know what? A wood chisel, positioned underneath a rubber mallet, accomplishes that just dandy. With no “understanding” of anything whatsoever.

No, I’m not trying to put down the Chinese. I’m just making a point: Doing what you’re told, no more no less, has nothing — nada, butkus, zilch — to do with “understanding” much of anything at all. That isn’t even science, it’s just common sense.

And I think the researchers can see that. So why proceed with this “test”?

This has been intriguing me for a long time. Tests like these, I think, are built to showcase the good side of collectivist societies, and the bad side of individualist societies. And this is the latest in a series. You don’t want to be holding your breath waiting for a scientific test to come out, that shows off how well individualist societies perform — although if such an endeavor were to be undertaken, there are all kinds of things that could be studied. But we don’t see research like that. We see research about people being better off when they live life for the sake of others. Recall the Schefferville exercise discussed above. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the way this “research” always goes.

Now, why is that? It isn’t “science.” Science doesn’t have a lot to do with this kind of mythology. Science hasn’t got much to do with socialism…not in theory, and not in practice. What’s with all these propeller-beanie eggheads trying to foist this socialism off on us? What’s in it for them?

I vote for human nature. For quite a few years now, I’ve noticed how many among the Yang seem to be highly motivated toward forcing the Yin to see things as they do…to live life the way the Yang live it. I think it’s simply in their nature. Yin can live-and-let-live; Yang seem to have a big problem with this. The Yang see the world as a single object, so to them, borders are meaningless. You don’t want people in the world to suffer, borders are just going to get in the way — they chop up the project at hand, into useless little bits. Keep the borders, and you’ve got to worry about ending suffering in Uganda, then in Chad, then in Somalia, and then in the United Kingdom…what’s the point? Besides, they make it easier to miss something.

So out they go, and since we’re doing away with international borders we have to get rid of other borders as well. The concept is the same. You want your house to appreciate in value, I want my house to appreciate in value…if we draw a boundary between our yards, we introduce a potential that one of us can realize the goal, while the other neighbor fails. It’s a fifty-fifty shot. Why not just do away with that, and then we can work together as a team?

Another thing that I think might motivate tests like this one, is plain old-fashioned jealousy. The goofy Yinny-headed “Americans” don’t do well on the test because they’re worried about giving the answer that reconciles against reality, rather than the answer that reconciles against the arbitrary notions of this ignorant “director.” You know, say what you want about that…but you know it’s correct. You don’t like to see someone else doing it, when you’ve pledged fidelity toward doing things the other way. Deep down, I think we all see the logic in this — make the decision that is correct, according to the world as it really is. Who cares what others say? If reality blesses you, all other blessings will follow. If you aren’t sure it’s the right answer, find out more. If you can’t find out more, then proceed according to what you know and not according to what somebody else knows. I think everyone understands, this just makes sense.

To pump out all this “research” nudging people toward the idea that you should do things the opposite way — it’s just jealousy. Since we all know that’s the right way to go, we don’t want someone else doing it after we’ve decided not to.

It’s like watching a woman get mugged, and making the choice not to get involved. You might feel kind of alright about it, if you’re enough of a creep and you manage to keep yourself detached. You might even look good to someone else who also chooses not to get involved…or who can’t get involved. But a complete stranger decides to jump in and helps her after you’ve taken a pass, you’re going to feel terrible about it, if there’s so much as a shred of decency left in you, and there’s no way you can come out of it looking good.

And so people who opt out of individualism, end up wanting to cleanse the entire planet of every tincture of it. It’ll happen that way every time. Individualists can live with non-individualists; but non-individualists cannot abide individualists. A collectivist society must span an island…then the adjoining continent…and eventually, the entire globe. This is how collectivism must work; it is monopolism. It’s gotta be that way. It was true eons before my parents met, and it will remain true long after my bones are dust.

On Letting Women Wear Pants

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Rick brings our attention to an article that overall, I find to be a bit of a yawner…except for one thing that pops out when you click open the Washington Post article to which he links.

[Sen. Hillary Clinton] was talking on the Senate floor about the burdensome cost of higher education. She was wearing a rose-colored blazer over a black top. The neckline sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape. The cleavage registered after only a quick glance. No scrunch-faced scrutiny was necessary. There wasn’t an unseemly amount of cleavage showing, but there it was. Undeniable.

It was startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity peeking out of the conservative — aesthetically speaking — environment of Congress. After all, it wasn’t until the early ’90s that women were even allowed to wear pants on the Senate floor. [emphasis mine]

Senators Not Wearing PantsAs an ordinary, non-politician, non-felon, non-female American male guy, there are two prospects that really get me interested in a great big hurry: How to get elected officials to do what ordinary men want them to do, and how to get women to do what ordinary men want them to do.

It would seem that, until ten to fifteen years ago, we managed to accomplish both those things in one fell swoop. What the hell happened?

Nowadays, we can’t even get members of Congress, male or female, to live under the laws they so freely impose on the rest of us.

How did this happen? What brought it to an end? Who was in charge of sending female Senators back home to change? “You wear what you like on your own time, Missy, but this is the Senate. And let this be a lesson to you for next time!” Heady questions. What we call “journalists” lack the energy or curiosity to find the answers, and frustratingly, my Mad Google Skilz aren’t nearly mad enough to do their jobs for them this time. The world-wide web seems to have forgotten about the skirts-only rule, or whatever event brought it to an end.

But — just wow. Bringing lawmakers to heel, making them follow certain rules. It can be done.

How far have we strayed? Here it is 2007, and we can’t even get Senator Clinton to stop saying things that undermine our military operations overseas…once upon a time, Senate parking space or not, you’d be put up against a wall and shot for less.

Pentagon Slap A Boost For Clinton

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton seems to be getting some anti-war street cred on the left, with a little help from the Pentagon’s No. 2.

Clinton is ratcheting up a spat with Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman by going to his boss, Robert Gates. Yesterday, AP reported on a letter Edelman sent the senator in response to a letter she had sent him about the Iraq war. News organizations and bloggers (including this one) went to town on Edelman’s insinuation that asking the Pentagon to begin planning for a withdrawal scenario was akin to aiding the enemy.

Read in full, however, the letter is hardly the spanking AP made it out to be. At the same time, the “embolden the enemy” argument is there, so it’s not completely innocuous, either.

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann devoted his end-of-show commentary to the letter yesterday, making references to the Civil and Franco-Prussian wars along the way.

This article, headline notwithstanding, makes absolutely no mention of anything resembling a “boost” for Clinton. No skyrocketing approval ratings, no increased campaign donations. Just Olbermann’s ranting. Olby, therefore, must be the point of the article.

I say go for it, Ms. Clinton. “Hillary for ’08: Olbermann’s Choice!” Oh yes, fire up the printing presses and let the bumper stickers flow. Let’s have a national referendum on the quality of Keith Olbermann’s favored presidential candidates. I’ll get the popcorn.

But meanwhile, the innernets are just bubbling over with righteous complaining about how just yesteryear — nobody, among those complaining, can name which year it is — female senators had to wear skirts. I can think of more than a few female senators I’d just as soon see in potato sacks, or even better not have to see at all. There are a few others who make a “mandatory Sailor Moon outfit” rule sound like a pretty neat idea…although that’s getting to be a more-and-more exclusive club.

Women prohibited from wearing pants. That does sound pretty bad. But if it meant that much, it seems we’d have a better collective memory about it. And I suspect part of the reason it sounds bad, is not because it forces women to do things, but because it’s got something to do with making legislators follow rules…a concept that has, tragically, become foreign and strange to us.

We Just Don’t Care That Much

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

See, here’s the real “Inconvenient Truth” about global climate change. And it’s terribly inconvenient…for a lot of overly-capitalist, greedy, corporate moneyed interests.

The truth is, among the people claiming to believe it’s a problem, almost all of them are liars. They don’t really believe in it. And even if it was a problem, they wouldn’t care.

We just don’t care that much.

Argue with me if you want, but read what’s behind the link first. I’m right. We just don’t care.

Wealthiest Americans Ever

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Via new sidebar resource Small Dead Animals, the wealthiest Americans ever.

Pretty interesting, although the method by which it’s adjusted for inflation across that period of time, would have to be complicated and open to some scrutinizing questions.

By the way, Kate has the coolest blog going on that I’ve found in quite some time, and the time you spend perusing it would be time well-spent. Lots of digging, lots of detail, her questions and critiques are probing, sharp, and informed. Outstanding…I mean, for a Canuck, ya know. Nobody ever reads my own blog, of course, but if you’re one of the nobodies who never come by here, and you’re inclined to come back and not read my stuff on a regular basis, I think I can guarantee you’ll find her interesting. It’s the same story, really. She’s sick of turning on the radio and being told what she’s thinking when she’s still waiting for the first pollster to give her a call to find out.

I learned about this one when I was looking for the original author of this…which deserves it’s own post. I’ll get around to that too.

She Seeks to Sanitize

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Soylent Green, which you will spoil for someone only if you’re a somewhat inconsiderate jerk, was a profound movie that we don’t discuss very much anymore, saturated with a “Where Are They Now?” cast. So I had to flip open the Internet Movie Database page and skim over some of the trivia.

And I came across a year-and-a-half old comment that I think speaks for many. I find it a little frightening. It offers some evidence that, even though our climate is fine, our soil is wonderful, our food is plentiful and nobody’s paying $150 for a jar of strawberry jam, maybe our “civilization” didn’t survive the twentieth century intact after all. Maybe we only think we did.

Just bear in mind — this is not a lonely voice singing in the wilderness. She’s in great company. And wait for the zinger at the end.

I’ll admit that by the time Heston tells the furniture [kept mistress] to “get on the bed” I kinda started tuning out. I was born in 1969, and I had a feminist father who told me “don’t settle for less than you deserve”. This point in the movie made me stop caring what happened in the rest of it…It’s like the protagonist in any other movie saying halfway throught it “I’m an a**hole, so why should you care about what happens to me?”
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I wasn’t outraged; just bored beyond belief by the time this scene arrived and then only moderately interested afterward.
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I guess that this is a good example of how films can “disaffect” those of us who are so far removed from their origins, that we don’t have emotional connection to it…I have a secret penchant for good science fiction movies. But this disappointed me, and I don’t understand how it’s rated so highly here.

I am not here to trash the movie – I just want some feedback. I welcome your comments and enlightenment – I’m always open to learning something new. [emphasis mine]

Just as a reminder. Feminism, the kind she’s talking about and the kind she seeks to project, isn’t about women getting all they deserve; it’s about controlling authority, and how authority is wielded. It’s about ending the career of anyone in a position of power who doesn’t have the “correct” values, according to some progressive-minded individual or group falling outside his jurisdiction, lacking any stake in the outcome should he fail in his mission.

I think we’d all be rightfully horrified at the thought of a Catholic police commissioner losing interest in an armed-robbery or murder case after finding out the victim of the crime was Jewish or Protestant. This brand of feminism seeks to create exactly that sort of a world. There are good values and bad values; people attach themselves to values, and in so doing become good or bad; and events, like movies, become interesting or boring based on what kind of people they involve. In 2007 we find ourselves constantly debating what kind of “human rights” people have when they may have been guilty of perpetrating the ultimate evil. We need a new word, I think, to describe this kind of progressive feminism. It seeks a disturbingly breezy alliance with this “least among us are entitled to the most” doctrine, while asserting a sort of “those who disagree with us are entitled to the least” counter-doctrine.

I infer from this that according to the counter-doctrine, you’re less deserving of a denial of some made-up on-the-spot “right” if you’re an accessory to terrorism, than if you are caught voting for a pro-life candidate. I don’t know that this is the mindset, but I’d love to see some evidence to the contrary.

Now if you haven’t seen the movie, Charlton Heston’s character of Detective Thorn is a decidedly Byronic hero. He has character flaws, and they aren’t the sort of character flaws a Michael Douglas character might have before he cheats on a loving wife. Thorn’s character flaws are defined for the purpose of telling the story about his wretched environment. From what I can see, there is no other point to all these examples of his thuggish, rogue behavior. If it makes his character more-or-less interesting in some way, that’s a secondary effect. But the primary mission of the first half of the film, is to define the world of 2022 America. Not Robert Thorn.

And the feminist loses interest, ultimately questioning why the movie got a better-than-lukewarm rating regardless of the famous spoiler, or the profound moral involved in the storytelling. Because the antihero failed to properly reflect her personal values.

She might as well reject an entire subgenre of movies. Anything in which the central character takes a pass on attracting the constant adoration of the audience; anything outside the Arthurian mythos. She freely admits that once a story strays outside this narrow sliver, she’s got a tough row to hoe in trying to pay attention. She Can’t Be Told Anything. She’ll come up with the expected personal incredulity, if & when someone else comes along and expresses favorable opinions about the movie.

That’s her. That would be fine with me if it was her and nobody else. I find it scary because she’s not alone. She seeks, first, to disapprove of things. To question favorable ratings given to those targets, regardless of by whom, or from attention to what details, which she herself has failed to take in. She seeks to coerce, to sanitize. And she doesn’t even know it.

Quite to the contrary, she’s laboring under the delusion that she’s “always open to learning something new.”

I think we’re living in that world after all. I think, perhaps, the infamous “scoop trucks” were metaphorical. And now we’ve got them roaming the streets, intangibly, all the time — we don’t even need to wait for Soylent Green Day.

Best Sentence XIV

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Tony Blankley, who used to serve as press secretary to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, delivers a huge payoff after a paragraph of teasing. It’s priceless. And his message is one for our times, and couldn’t possibly be more important.

The Senate is emitting an embarrassing level of emotional policy twitching on the topic of Iraq. Sen. Harry Reid can’t take the war anymore. He “knows” it is lost. Sen. Olympia Snowe has just about had it with the Iraqi government. If they don’t meet her benchmarks — that’s it. Sen. Mitch McConnell thinks “that the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it.” Who authored that wall graffiti, he doesn’t say. After talking with grieving family members of one of our fallen warriors, Sen. Pete Domenici “wants a new strategy for Iraq.”

I haven’t seen such uncritical thinking since I hid under my bedsheets to get away from the monsters back when I was 3 years old. [emphasis mine]

Nailed it shut, Mr. Blankley. If I traveled back in time to the era of World War II, I’m really not sure how I would explain this. I think emotionally the families who lost good men, would be able to understand it just fine: Coffins came home, and now people want to end the war. They’d understand the wanting just great. The thinking, the values, the noodling-it-out…they wouldn’t be able to get it, I don’t think. They’d be horrified.

I’d have to explain it this way: “In 2007, people don’t think the military exists to defend the nation. They think it’s there to provide free educational benefits. Coffins coming home…far fewer than you people have seen in your time…represent an unmistakable sign that the military has been misused.”

Oh and I’d have to throw in this gem too: Any adult males like me, who haven’t served, but nevertheless want to express our respect toward those who have and those who do…are called “chickenhawks.” All we have to do to earn this, is note that someone else has done something more important than the things we’ve done. That’s all. It’s a derogatory term designed to get us to shut up, while people who hold nothing but contempt for the armed forces are able to express themselves freely.

This would knock them flat, I’m pretty sure.

But would I be summarizing the situation unfairly?

Galloway Faces Suspension

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Awww…

George Galloway is facing suspension from Parliament for 18 days, after an inquiry by its standards watchdog.

MPs said he “damaged the reputation of the House” in his comments about the inquiry into his Mariam Appeal charity.

The suspension was the result of him “concealing the true source of Iraqi funding” and “calling into question” the integrity of standards watchdogs.

Good.

Asshole.

If the point of the exercise is to restore some sort of order to the reputation of the British Empire and the House of Commons, by the way, I would have recommended against it. The whole thing is a bit of an embarrassment, is it not? As if to say “Hey lookit, that George Galloway guy isn’t answering our questions, and on top of it he’s saying disparaging things about us!” To which my response would have to be…what was your first clue, Sherlock?

It is the Right Honourable MP’s modus operandi. He accuses the accuser. As Yoda might say, “This one, a long time, have I watched.” He doesn’t answer questions. He changes the subject. He does it with great style and flair, and no small amount of skill; it’s always entertaining to see him do it. But to suspend him for refusing to provide information and to “damage the reputation” of something and call into question the integrity of something…why, it’s kind of like suspending a skunk for stinking isn’t it?

But — I’m still glad they did it. He’s got that coming, and more.

Confessions of a Media Liberal

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Buck found yet another one, and it’s a doozy. Hope you’re sitting down. This fellow who used to earn his paycheck by viewing the entire world through the myopic liberal lens at the BBC, is tattling. And he’s dangerous because he’s reformed. How reformed?

Just casually ruminating about the way he sees the world nowadays, he has — quite by accident — managed to echo my Thing I Know #34, Thing I Know #40 and Thing I Know #53.

That our species has evolved a genetic predisposition to form tribal groups is generally accepted as an evolutionary fact. This grouping – of not more than about five or six hundred – supplies us with our identity, status system, territorial instinct, behavioural discipline and moral code. It survived the transition from hunting to agriculture: the hunting tribe became the farming village. It even survived the early days of the industrial revolution, in pit and mill villages: the back-to-back city slums were the tribal encampments of industrial Britain.

But the evolution of cities, of commuter and dormitory suburbs, has deprived millions of people of tribal living. There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, but fewer and fewer of us are now brought up in villages, even urban villages. The enormous popularity of television soap operas is because they provide detribalised viewers with vicarious membership of a fictional, surrogate tribe. Many people find strong substitute tribes at their places of work – they are not the birth-to-death, 24 hours a day tribes we evolved from, but they provide many of the same social needs.

And he’s got a lot to say about what makes a conservative conservative, and a liberal liberal. It gives one cause to think about things, rather deeply.

…the starting point is the realisation that there have always been two principal ways of misunderstanding a society: by looking down on it from above, and by looking up at it from below. In other words, by identifying with institutions or by identifying with individuals.

To look down on society from above, from the point of view of the ruling groups, the institutions, is to see the dangers of the organism splitting apart, the individual components shooting off in different directions, until everything dissolves into anarchy. Those who see society in this way are preoccupied with the need for order, discipline, control, authority and organisation.

To look up at society from below, from the point of view of the lowest group, the governed, is to see the dangers of the organism growing ever more rigid and oppressive until it fossilises into a monolithic tyranny. Those who see society in this way are preoccupied with the need for liberty, equality, self-expression, representation, freedom of speech and action and worship, and the rights of the individual. The reason for the popularity of these misunderstandings is that both views are correct, as far as they go, and both sets of dangers are real but there is no “right” point of view. The most you can ever say is that sometimes society is in danger from too much authority and uniformity and sometimes from too much freedom and variety.

Now this part of it you have to take with a grain of salt, because labels like “conservative” and “liberal” mean different things in the United States than they do over in the UK. But you can tell from my previous post, if from nowhere else, that something has happened to get things rather twisted around. Conservatives defend institutions and liberals defend individuals — there is a kernel of truth in that, still.

But if you are out shopping for some acidic invective to be heaped upon the individual, what better way to get it all done in one shot, than to let the average modern liberal ramble on for a few minutes.

Conservatives don’t seem to be all that enamored of institutions, either. They defend private industry. And they defend it the way I do: I’m getting older, my dreams of starting a business out of a garage and becoming the next Bill Gates, are melting like snowballs on a hot stove…but I still have ‘em, and I want to keep the rights I will need to make the dream worthwhile. And if I push up daisies before that day comes to pass, at least I want to keep those rights I failed to use, so that the next generation can perhaps make use of them.

I think that’s what conservatism is — still. I want my God-given rights so I can do…whatever. Become filthy stinking rich if that’s all I want to do. But I want individuals to be respected. Given their rights and their responsibilities. Responsibilities to not hurt each other and not steal from each other…not responsibilities to pay into some leviathan socialist health care system or welfare system so a bunch of other people can go through life as non-individuals, just sitting on a beat-up couch watching re-runs of Survivor. My adoration of “institutions” ends there…I still nurture dreams of becoming one. As an individual.

So this guy has much to learn, still. But he still talks some good sense, and makes weighty observations…an afternoon spent thinking about them, would be an afternoon well spent.

Fifty years ago, people did things together much more. The older politicians we interviewed in the early Tonight days were happier (and much more effective) in public meetings than in television studios. In those days people went to evening meetings. They formed collective opinions. In many places party allegiance was collective and hereditary rather than a matter of individual choice based on a logical comparison of policies.

It is astonishing how many of the technological inventions of the past century have had the effect of separating us off from the group. The car takes us out of public transport, central heating lets each member of a family do their own thing in their own room, watching their own television, listening to their own music, surfing the net on their own PC or talking to a friend on their own mobile. The fridge, the microwave and the takeaway mean that everyone can have their own meal in their own time. Our knowledge of public events and political arguments come direct from the media rather than from a face-to-face group. We still have some local, territorial group memberships, but their importance is now much diminished and their influence weakened.

The whole article has a certain structure to it, which I’m somewhat betraying by extracting from it in a sloppy, scrambled-eggs kind of style. So don’t go by my teasing, read the whole thing top-to-bottom.

All His Issues

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

You know what I find seriously frightening about this?

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told a group of abortion rights activists Tuesday that he would accomplish universal health care for all Americans by the end of his first term.

It’s this messy panoply of seemingly unrelated issues, this mushbucket o’liberal goodness. Let’s try that paragraph again, shall we?

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told a group of abortion rights activists Tuesday that he would accomplish universal health care for all Americans by the end of his first term. [emphasis mine]

Now, what does lowering the American health care system into a Canadian-style quasi-socialist crater of swamp sludge, have to do with killing babies? When did these two issues become fused together? I can be in favor of my girlfriend killing one unborn baby after another unborn baby after another, and at the same time, place more of my trust in the free market to handle my health care needs, can I not? In fact, one would think it would be easier to form an alliance that way. I’m told people who believe in the free market are “greedy” and “selfish”; if that’s true, wouldn’t my hypothetical make sense? As in, now that I’m safe, now that my own Mom didn’t abort me, I want to horde all this American capitalist goodness for myself. Right?

Or we could go the other way. I want a socialized medicine system so that everybody is covered. I don’t care if we all have to wait in line nine months for a kidney replacement, as long as we get the same treatment rich-or-poor…and I want all those babies to be born. That would make even more sense. Communism has something to do with commune, and I want as many people as possible in that commune so we can keep that communist health care system working.

Why has Obama seen fit to fuse these two issues together in this direction? If I want socialized health care, why do I want the unborn to be slaughtered?

I can think of only one answer: As part of an attack on the individual. Socialized health care is an attack on the individual. Abortion-on-demand is an attack on the individual.

There is more:

Speaking to the Planned Parenthood Public Affairs Action Fund’s annual conference, Obama also touted his understanding of women’s issues and his support of abortion rights and sex education.
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Obama…also took aim at the current Supreme Court.

“It’s time for a different attitude,” Obama said. “We know that five men don’t know better than one woman.” [emphasis mine]

Only on that last point do I see any kind of logical cohesion to the way Obama is soldering these unrelated issues together, since I know Democrats have worked hard to spread the lie that any opposition to unrestricted abortion rights, flows from some unmerited masculine influence on public policy. They deal a great insult to womanhood, by denying that anyone statistically significant, possessing ovaries, could value unborn human life.

The rest of it is a hopelessly jumbled mess, or…provides unusual insight into the sinister workings of our liberals. Or both.

Sex education, for example. Back and forth the yelling has been going, about whether sex education reduces unwanted pregnancies, or increases them. Well. People who are in favor of reckless sex education, skipping over the reading-writing-rithmetic so the teacher can put condoms on a zucchini…are in favor of abortion rights. Huh. Gosh, y’know, if the sex education program was really effective in preventing pregnancies, shouldn’t that go the other way? As in, alright we’re teaching our kids how not to have an unwanted pregnancy, so we don’t need abortion on demand?

How come it seems nobody has that vision? If anybody does, someone in Obama’s advisory panel doesn’t think they’re worth very many votes and aren’t worth going after.

And what’s up with this apparent insult to all thinking men? Five men don’t know better than one woman. Yeah, yeah, I understand the political motivations at work, he’s trying to stop his supporters from deserting for Hillary. Odd that he would word it that way, then — it sounds like he’s saying a woman knows better than five men, and if that’s the case one wonders why he’s gumming up the works instead of dropping out and throwing his support to Sen. Clinton. And what case, in particular, could he have been referring to? Didn’t he say?

It ordinarily simply doesn’t do for a candidate to a high-profile office, to attach himself to so many issues in one speech, each of which are only weakly attached to each other. This makes very little sense…until one reviews the history of Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

Then it makes perfect sense. One woman knows better than many men, free health care for all, more abortions, teachers drill your kids on sex education whether you want it or not. But it sends chills up your spine. It’s called “eugenics,” and a century ago it was a highly-fashionable dream for the future of humankind, dreamed by egghead elites in America and in Europe.

I think Obama has done us a favor here. It’s past high time we had a national discussion on just what is the real agenda behind socialized health care in the United States, and explored just how much abortion rights have to do with it. Maybe, just maybe…horror stories about incompetent quacks amputating the wrong testicle, or greedy HMO’s waiting all year to approve brain surgery, haven’t got anything to do with anything. Maybe the real issue is just having more abortions. Maybe it’s just a scheme to hook up the hungry mouth of the abortion industry, as much a greedy and money-grubbing medical industry as any other, to the public teat. Maybe it’s all about that.

It’s worth thinking about. To anybody who thinks it isn’t, I say this: Obama thinks he will gain more votes than he will lose, saying the weird incomprehensible things he said. Someone, who knows what they’re doing and what they’re talking about, told him so.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form XIX

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

At the beginning of last month, I had read a study by a bunch of white-coat-propeller-beanie egghead scientists, which greatly intrigued me because it found favor with my pre-existing prejudices. That’s right, we treat scientifical studies the same way everybody else does here, except here, we admit it — studies need to be talked about favorably when they comport with what we already believed, and they should be criticized when they don’t.

This one needed to be analyzed at length, because it probed into just half of what we had observed before, and then sat around scratching it’s nuts, wondering “hmm, what could it mean???” without looking into the other half. Doncha just hate that? Silly propeller-beanie white-coat-wearing egghead scientists. There comes a time when having an open mind does little, save for letting the flies in. So…we filled in the stuff the propeller-beanie eggheads missed.

They were wondering this: Ritalin prescriptions, statistically, skyrocket after the parents of the subject have gotten divorced. Prescriptions for children of broken homes, more-or-less double compared to prescriptions for children of intact homes. What can it mean, what can it mean. And I said this: You’re messing around with the matriarch’s domain. Children are going to be prescribed what their mothers think they should be prescribed, because this is the turf of the Mom. She decides all. A zillion years of evolution condition men to do whatever it takes to obtain female approval before they’re born, and then eight years on the playground condition them to do whatever the female yard-duty teacher says — and to never, ever, ever pick on the girl. And then several decades of idiotic movies and television commercials condition men that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about anyway.

And then there’s all those walls. They seem to represent a toe-hold into running the entire mansion. The “crystal ball” to her “evil sorceress.” Be it a house, or an apartment, a woman starts hanging her womanly things on the walls, and bam. Not a single thing goes on between those walls that fails to meet her approval. The place is hers. For some reason, men do not own those walls. Not even a tiny corner of the walls. So households are run by women…and in July of 2007, what we call “science” is just starting to figure this out.

All of which goes toward putting the woman in the driver’s seat when it comes to figuring out how boys are to be raised into men. After a divorce, not only do they have the authority to decide this…but they have the unilateral responsibility. Women are charged with figuring out how a boy is to become a man.

And they can’t handle it. A woman can write her name in the snow by pissing, more efficiently than she can turn a boy into a man. It’s not something she can do. She lacks the equipment.

Enter Ritalin.

The divorced Dad may not have these problems. He may not even approve of the Ritalin. It matters not…onto the prescription, the curtain-climbing critter goes. Mom wants it, she doesn’t see any way around it, so another prescription is written. We should not be surprised by that study. We should be surprised that Ritalin use doesn’t quadruple after divorce, instead of simply doubling.

Now, in order to substantiate that point, I first had to explore the power modern women have in putting their children on medication. Common sense says that women run a lot of things…what people observe in their everyday experiences, provided they’re open to them, supports the notion that women run a lot of things. But for forty years now we’ve been instructed to believe that women have come a long way, but are not there yet.

I can challenge my own theory easily: I want to hear of a family, wherein the Mom wanted the kid on something — treatment, meds, an after-school regimen, whatever — and the Dad didn’t, and the kid ended up not going on it. I dunno about you, but I never heard of such a thing. I don’t think I will, either. Women run this part of things.

And I went much further:

From what I’ve seen, and what I know…even in male-heavy households, every single room, every single wall, every single square inch — what the matriarch wants there, is what is there. What the matriarch doesn’t want there, doesn’t go. PERIOD. There doesn’t seem to be any limit on how far back-in-time this goes. In fact, from the information that has come to my attention…way back, generations ago, when men were supposed to be cheering each other on while we gave our wives black eyes and knocked their teeth out…the record seems to indicate something else. The record seems to indicate, Grandpa got home, put his shoes exactly where Grandma told him to put them, hung his coat where Grandma told him to hang it, and pretty much reconciled with whatever decorative scheme she had going on under that roof, until it was time to leave for work the following morning.

To the best of my knowledge, we’ve really been sold a bill of goods. I’m told men made all the decisions, but I haven’t gotten ahold of any solid information to help substantiate that. Speaking for myself, the best information I have is that men made all the decisions after they were dressed and out the door, and up until they crossed that threshold again at twilight. Just that 33% of the day. No more than that.

Women run the household. They rule the remaining sixteen hours. And here’s something else: How long has this been going on? Well, to the best I can see…not just for a mere chunk of the five millenia us guys are supposed to have been knocking their teeth out…but for all of that eon. Back to biblical times. Further than that, even.

Neither One WorksWomen run the household. We’ve been conditioned to thinking they’re modern-day slaves, in all aspects of life. It just isn’t so, and has not been so.

Now we come to the point of this “Imitation is the Sincerest Form” posting. I don’t know if the clipboard-carrying white-coat propeller-beanie wearing eggheads at Iowa State University (ISU) read my blog. I would think hardly anybody does. But how then do you explain this gem, which popped last week all around the innernets, and has come to be one of those “everyone else is blogging about it, I might as well do it too” things. It seems our egghead academics have become open to the idea that perhaps the Daughters of Eve are not quite as powerless as we were — well, not as powerless as we were instructed to believe.

According to a study by Iowa State University (ISU), women have more power than their husbands when it comes to taking control in discussions and making decisions. Men might “wear the pants” but women are the ones who tell them which pair to put on.

The new study goes against previous research, showing men might be the ones who puff up their chests at work, but at home, women are the ones in charge.

“The study at least suggests that the marriage is a place where women can exert some power,” lead author David Vogel, a psychologist at Iowa State University (ISU), told LiveScience. “Whether or not it’s because of changing societal roles, we don’t know.”

Vogel and his team looked at 72 married couples, each averaging 33 years of age and having been married for about seven years. Two-thirds of the participants were Caucasian, 22 per cent Asian, 5 per cent Hispanic and 4 per cent African American. The remaining 3 per cent were classed as “other.”

Vogel says his study ran counter to what is typically believed about the relationship at home. He says traditional beliefs about men include them making more money in the work place, therefore being the key decision-maker at home. However, that is not the case according to Vogel.

And before all the men out there say “It’s only because she talks more,” researchers have already said this is not the case.

“It wasn’t just that the women were bringing up issues that weren’t being responded to, but that the men were actually going along with what they said,” ISU researcher and professor, Megan Murphy, said in a news release. “They were communicating more powerful messages, and men were responding to those messages by agreeing or giving in.”

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

And I would add further, that to the nobodies who read The Blog That Nobody Reads, this isn’t leading-edge science. Not even close.

I Made a New Word III

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

PHLACE, PHLACING (v.): Pacing while, and possibly as a consequence of, talking on a cell (or cordless) phone.

Evidence arrives to indicate I’m not the only person who’s been noticing it. And getting ticked off by it, when it’s done in large and inconsiderate doses.

I remember once a few weeks ago I was eating lunch that I had ordered, on a lark, “For Here.” Even though I had no companions and no newspaper. Just didn’t feel like carrying it. So while mastachating away, I was gazing out the window and I saw a chubby gentleman monopolize a fifty foot circle. Monopolize it. People really exerting themselves trying to get past him, with great difficulty. Like an enormous clock pendulum: Over here, then over there, then back over here, then back over there.

Something must be done.

It’s number 38 on my list. Now that I think on it, I think this is the fellow who inspired #38.

Time for drastic measures.

Stranger than Fiction

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Via Buck, we come to find out about a humdinger of a tale. In spite of all the shenanigans-alarms, it seems to have some truth to it…or at least some detail. I’m going to have to change my bet to “real”:

A grand feast of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp was winding down, and a group of friends was sitting on the back patio of a Capitol Hill home, sipping red wine. Suddenly, a hooded man slid in through an open gate and put the barrel of a handgun to the head of a 14-year-old guest.

“Give me your money, or I’ll start shooting,” he demanded, according to D.C. police and witness accounts.

The five other guests, including the girls’ parents, froze — and then one spoke.

“We were just finishing dinner,” Cristina “Cha Cha” Rowan, 43, blurted out. “Why don’t you have a glass of wine with us?”

The intruder took a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry and said, “Damn, that’s good wine.”

For the sake of my own record-keeping, the wine in question is here. Good enough to transform an armed robbery into a group-hug.

Thank a Liberal

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

As I’ve said before, I disapprove of the practice that has come to be known as “fisking.” I think it gives the appearance of fostering a positive atmosphere for productive deliberation and debate, while in actuality accomplishing exactly the opposite. And it’s time-consuming to read, with a modest payoff, to say nothing of the time-expense involved in putting it together.

Some things are just built to be fisked, though. Like this…which out on FARK, even the liberals are referencing in less-than-flattering ways.

If you have ever breathed clean air or drank clean water, thank a liberal.
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If you’ve ever driven on an interstate highway, thank a liberal.
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If your workplace is safe and you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights without being lynched, thank a liberal.
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If your children go to school instead of working in coal mines, thank a liberal.

If someone else wants to take a crack at fisking it, I wouldn’t mind poring through that for a chuckle or two. I think the fisking would practically write itself.

I will take on this one myself though, because it made me do a double-take:

If you are glad that the Nazis don’t control half the world (conservatives opposed joining World War 2 until it was forced on them) thank a liberal.

I’m not in a good position to chastise someone else for having an obsessive-compulsive list-making complex, but Good Lord. If ever there was an example of this habit getting someone into some real intellectual trouble. Granting the utterly simplistic notion that liberals were in favor of joining the War in Europe and conservatives were opposed until Pearl Harbor — just skip over the logical step where we argue that, and give it to ‘em — stop and think what this means.

Liberals insist in 1939 we have got to do something to stop that madman. We should have listened to them. We also should have listened to them in late 2002 and early 2003, when they were asserting precisely the opposite. And so throughout the generations madmen will pop up, and our liberals will tell us to go after some and not others. Sometimes they’re isolationists, sometimes they’re not, but through it all they have the answer that will be “correct.”

In 2007, the “wrong” answer has something to do with servicemen dying. Our liberals have pontificated at length about what exactly is wrong with the war in Iraq, and it seems a primary singularity has emerged from all the answers given, something to do with troop deaths. From 1941 to 1945, we had troop deaths, did we not? Alright, so what makes something wrong in the 21st century, fails to make something wrong in the 20th.

The correct answer changes. What makes it correct, likewise, changes. The position of the liberal changes. Only the marriage between liberals, and correctness, endures. Are our liberals magical oracles into what is correct, or is correctness redefined according to expediency?

The reader may form his or her own opinion about the answer to that. I’ve formed mine.

Hitchens’ Challenge

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Michael Gerson takes note of our heavily-publicized unholy triumvirate, which has been selling books like hotcakes lately (link requires registration):

British author G.K. Chesterton argued that every act of blasphemy is a kind of tribute to God, because it is based on belief. “If anyone doubts this,” he wrote, “let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor.”

By the evidence of the New York Times bestseller list, God has recently been bathed in such tributes. An irreverent trinity — Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins — has sold a lot of books accusing theism of fostering hatred, repressing sexuality and mutilating children (Hitchens doesn’t approve of male circumcision). Every miracle is a fraud. Every mystic is a madman. And this atheism is presented as a war of liberation against centuries of spiritual tyranny.

Funny thing about atheists. Having a blog that nobody actually reads, I’m in a position to know certain things because it can be a highly educational experience. What I’ve learned, is this: Atheists are brittle. They make the most irrational and neurotic man-bashing feminist look like a sturdy, flexible oak tree by comparison. TRUST me. I can sit here and type in some nonsense to the effect of “there’s no way childbirth can possibly hurt as much as a kick in the nuts,” and I’ll never hear a peep about it. Say that out loud on a crowded city bus, next to a chubby goth chick with eyebrow piercings and a whale tail…you’ll probably hear a “peep.”

But if I type in “the trouble with those atheists, is they don’t know the difference between right and wrong” — my mailbox is full within a day or two.

See, it isn’t just that atheists must always get the last word, even on some blog nobody ever reads…although that is true. No, the situation is that atheists are “on patrol.” They look for stuff like this. At least that’s been my experience. Let it never be said that you need God to construct a priesthood, for they surely have one, and the priesthood has commanded them to jump on this stuff. To protest, night and day, that atheists have just as much a moral code as anybody else. They do! They do! They do!

They’ve sailed straight past the Shakespearean buoy at which too much has been protested. They’re past that point…and gaining speed.

Case in point, Hitchens waited only hours to — yeah, you got it. Make sure he got in the last word about morality. Well, I can be Johnny-on-the-spot picking things up, too. So quote I shall. And, since he’s requesting me to do so, I’ll also reply.

It’s uncommonly generous of Michael Gerson to refer to me as “intellectually courageous and unfailingly kind”…However, it is his own supposedly kindly religion that prevents him from seeing how insulting is the latent suggestion of his position: the appalling insinuation that I would not know right from wrong if I was not supernaturally guided by a celestial dictatorship, which could read and condemn my thoughts and which could also consign me to eternal worshipful bliss (a somewhat hellish idea) or to an actual hell.
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Here is my challenge. Let Gerson name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever. And here is my second challenge. Can any reader of this column think of a wicked statement made, or an evil action performed, precisely because of religious faith? The second question is easy to answer, is it not? The first — I have been asking it for some time — awaits a convincing reply.

Hitch, I’ll field that one. But I’m pretty far from an authority on history, philosophy, theology or anthropology. I know my answer satisfies your criteria, so there must have been some sleight-of-hand going on here if your challenge has really survived “some time” without being met. The answer is pretty obvious.

A believer can define and promulgate a moral code without imposing his personal system of beliefs on his peers. Atheists are incapable of doing this, and it is impossible to construct a free society without doing this.

Let’s take an example, Hitch. You and I live in a wild frontier, in which there is no society, free or otherwise. There are no laws. We come across a really big man kicking the crap out of an old lady who is rolling around helplessly on the ground. You and I agree on a great deal in the Iraq issue, and so we probably agree it is wrong for the man to kick the old lady. We don’t need laws to tell us this is wrong, it simply is; you know it, and I know it. It is so wrong that, having an opportunity to stop it, should we fail to do so, we’ll be accessories to the crime. The crime that isn’t actually a crime, since the land is lawless.

But my point isn’t that there are merits to kicking little old ladies. My point is — this wrongness, this “ought not be done”-ness, is a matter of opinion. You and I share the opinion, true. But it’s still opinion. In fact, searching for someone who would contest it, we probably need look no further than the guy doing the kicking. We are going to stop him — the question is, by what authority do we do this?

As a believer, I can answer this. I take it as simply an article of faith, that we all were put here by someone or something more important than ourselves. I can’t prove it; I’ve simply made a personal decision that this is the case, and I only have so much to say to someone who wishes to assert the opposite. Contrary to popular belief, that’s a valid tactic of limited debate. It’s right in our Declaration of Independence, in a passage I’m positive has been paraded under your skeptical eyes many times before: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” [emphasis mine] Holding truths to be self-evident. That’s quite alright, you know…as long as there are no empirically-observed facts directly contradicting these truths you hold to be self-evident.

Atheists like yourself do that all the time. It’s the very essence of atheism. “Can’t prove there’s a God, can’t prove there isn’t one, so it’s up to my personal preferences, and my personal preference is that there is none.” You could be right, no proof existing to the contrary…so you simply decide that you are.

So I do that. I say, we were put here…by a Higher Power who watches over us, expecting us to do things that keep the whole experiment from collapsing into a jumbled heap of silliness and futility. You say — we weren’t put here, which must mean we grew here. Nobody watching us. All our zoological features, we acquired through a prolonged process of natural selection and survival of the fittest.

The problem that comes up, is this: The guy kicking the old woman, is more “fit” than the old woman. In joining me as I stop him from kicking her, you are therefore interfering with an atrocity that, from your perspective, is not an atrocity at all. Quite to the contrary: It is the very building block of the world and the creatures in it — as you see it. It is far more innocent than a lioness chasing down a gazelle, and stripping the flesh from his ribs while he’s still alive. At least, that’s my idea. It could be argued that I’m wrong…the lioness is feeding her cubs, the brute kicking the woman is in it — well, just for kicks.

And so it is “wrong”…

…but in the mind of whom? This stuff is all negotiable. Who gets the deciding vote?

Well, there’s just no getting around this point. You have manufactured a moral absolute where one previously did not exist. Your explanation for how we got here, has to be painstakingly erected without any regard for any moral code at all other than “might makes right” — a dictum you are about to violate, by helping me to thwart the will of the mighty.

You may say “there was no law that said this was wrong a minute ago, but Morgan Freeberg and I are about to make one because there are two of us and one of him.” You would be using democracy, then, to declare us correct and derive the moral authority needed to stop the brute from kicking the old woman. Fair enough. But that’s still imposing our ethics on someone else who doesn’t subscribe to them. We’re just using votes instead of force. The goal is the same.

At this point, you’re out of options. You can walk on without interfering; you can impose your beliefs through violence; you can impose them through a ballot box. There is no fourth option.

But I can do something you can’t. I can say — in the classic spirit of 1776 — I hold the truth to be self-evident that we are all endowed by our Creator with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Because if I’m the Creator, logically, it would be awfully silly of me to create living things like these and not so endow them, right? That would be…constructing an ant farm. An ant farm with carnivorous ants.

I’m holding the truth to be self-evident that we were put here, and we weren’t put here to just run around and bump into each other. There is a certain logic to this. Homo Sapiens is a relatively young species, and there have been other things that can run around and bump into each other, long before we got here. Salmon being put here to feed bears, I can see; it’s ridiculous to think little old ladies were put here so ruffians can knock them down and kick them.

So, in harmony with the moral sensibilities of my “sky fairy” as you atheists sometimes like to call Him — His system of values, which He logically must have, and not yours or mine — we stop the ruffian. We save the little old lady. We will probably go pretty far in this. We will probably take the extraordinary step of saying “If we are all meant to be free, this guy must be the exception, since while he has freedom, others do not.” And we deprive him of what we contend the Creator intended for the species as a whole. But unlike you, once that’s done, I can cease and desist from imposing my own personal system of beliefs in other situations…since, unlike you, I never got started in that.

The following day, for example, I meet the guy who invented “Shopper in Training” grocery carts. I let him live. If I were in the habit of carrying out my personal sense of ethics wherever I could, this would not be the case.

I trust this answers your challenge. A believer can stand up for what is ethical, according to a system of beliefs that was not cooked up by him personally. I said you can’t construct a free society without this. The operative word is “free.” You can construct societies all day and night, allowing man & man alone to run around declaring this thing to be ethical, and that thing to be not. But the question you run into, is — which man?

And so, as a consequence of man intruding into a domain that is not his, those societies never end up free. Even if they have something to do with democracy. Because then, as questions arise that are much more complicated than “is it alright to kick old women in the gut,” what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” ends up being defined according to who stands to profit & who stands to suffer, according to tomorrow’s definition of right and wrong.

Freedom ends up in a healthier state if we just assume we were put here, and we’re supposed to be better than a pack of wild dogs. It’s an unprovable axiom. But we end up being better people, and freer people, if we just assume it to be true.

And that’s why the founders of my nation, they day they extracted themselves from yours, made it their first order of business to assume exactly that.

You’re welcome.

Thing I Know #174. Being an atheist; maintaining a distinction between right and wrong; respecting the viewpoints of others. You may have two of those. Max.

On Letting Guilty People Go Free

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Republican campaign managers, if you don’t get some juice out of this next year and things turn out as bad as all the talking-heads are predicting, you should seriously consider a different line of work.

The day after Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan jettisoned his case against a man accused of gunning down five teenagers last summer — which his office blamed on the disappearance of the sole witness — the New Orleans Police Department homicide unit announced they had located the woman in a matter of hours.

The dropped case also provoked a sharp rebuke from Mayor Ray Nagin, who issued a scathing written statement about the case, calling it part of a “disturbing pattern” of Jordan failing to even ask for assistance from other law enforcement agencies.

“This pattern from the District Attorney’s office is unacceptable and must improve immediately or I will ask the Attorney General to conduct a full investigation into this office,” said Nagin in an unusually pointed criticism of another elected official.

I have often heard it said the public must remain vigilant in making sure all levels of government safeguard and respect something called “our civil liberties.” I agree. Governments have a propensity for offering dilatory support to the rights of the individuals they govern, and then to embark on a slippery slope, ending with outright oppression against the citizens in whose name they rule. History shows all forms of government to be sneaky about this; sometimes, amazingly so.

But history shows we should be vigilant in safeguarding something else: Justice. The United States government, and by that I mean the “big” one — not the feds, but all levels of government in this country — has shown itself distastefully receptive to a disturbing school of thought that says: “Fairness” is measured by keeping everyone out of jail, not by putting people in who might belong there. Once you’ve collared a genuinely dangerous bad guy, go ahead and throw the fish back. You’re doing alright, as long as you don’t send innocent people to jail. You can release guilty guy after guilty guy after guilty guy, for any reason at all, and your system is still “fair” and surely your electorate will be honor-bound to regard you that way.

I mean, they have to, right? William Blackstone himself, author of much of the analysis of the British legal system upon which our own Constitution was based, said in a quote commonly misattributed to Thomas Jefferson, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer.”

Well, it seems he did say it. But through the centuries, I maintain this has been interpreted as incorrectly as it has been credited. We have this unfortunate tendency to view this dictum as a release from any culpability in failing to prosecute guilty people. It was never intended to be taken as “hey, releasing guilty people, nothing wrong with that.” I know of no evidence anywhere, that would suggest William Blackstone thought it was cool to dream up brand-new creative ways to let guilty people go, year after year. But for reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained to me, this is exactly what we end up doing. A good reason for letting a guilty man out of custody in the 1980′s, worked fine in the 1990′s but might have been a little bit tired by then…like tube socks or big hair. So with a new decade, we need new fashions and new reasons to let dangerous killers out of jail. With another new decade, we need more reasons still. We don’t demand justice, we demand imagination in inventing new rationales for letting criminals go. Through the decades since World War II, we’ve shown ourselves to be remarkably energetic and creative about it.

Nor have I — funny old bird that I am — ever thought of this as an absolute. Better than one innocent suffer? Suffer from what? Better that ten guilty persons escape? Guilty of what?

Could you take this to mean it’s better to release ten homicidal pedophiles, each of whom have solidly promised to re-offend as many times as they possibly can, than to allow an innocent person to be interrogated? Or to spend a single night in the hoosegow? I do not know if that is what Blackstone meant. I doubt it. But again, that is very close to the interpretation we have come to apply over the years. Justice is to be de-fanged, to the point that very few feel safe anymore, and that the few among us who can be blissfully unconcerned about violent crime, are limited to those who live in better-than-average neighborhoods. So that we can be secure in our “constitutional rights.” Except…people make a grand show about their insecurities in those too.

And here’s another pet peeve of mine: We don’t even call them constitutional rights anymore, because when you call them that you have to go look up the passage that is supposed to guarantee what you think you can convince someone you’ve been denied. That’s work. We don’t like to work when we bitch about things, we just like to bitch. So we call them “civil liberties” instead…it’s easier to use that as a lazy figure of speech. You want to bellyache but you don’t want to do any homework and mount a concrete argument, about how you were previously guaranteed something that has not been forthcoming, or that has been rescinded. So you call it a civil liberty. Poof. Problem solved. No work.

So for all the careful design all these hard-working, educated, cautious men did 220 years ago — most of us would sign on to the statement that they did a bang-up job, but not too many would agree it’s in great shape now. We’ve given up our ability and our responsibility to punish the guilty, so our “rights” would be safeguarded. Where’s the payoff? Those among us who have been most energetic about releasing murderers, are going to be the first to claim the rights are gone forever — and they’re going to blame George W. Bush, usually without even bothering to pretend to find the right that’s gone missing.

Wikipedia reports that in 2003 and 2004, the murder conviction rate in District Attorney Jordan’s jurisdiction was 12%, versus the national average of 80%. I can’t find a source for this. But the general flavor of what I can find, seems to settle the matter unambiguously: This boondoggle with the witness is the latest of many, and Jordan does suck, large.

Watch a movie made between 1970 and 1975. Pick one out at random. It’s probably a cop who refuses to play by the rules, gets yelled at by a Lieutenant with high blood pressure, is constantly involved in shootouts with “perps,” right? Why did we have a glut of such movies 35 years ago…it wasn’t just the next new hot thing after cowboy movies. We were sick to death of violent crime. We didn’t have faith in our justice system anymore. How did Republicans take over the White House, with a mediocre President who had such little “cred” with the younger generation — even before the Watergate scandal? What brought the unstoppable Camelot to an end?

It wasn’t a general malaise caused by Vietnam. It wasn’t bigots in the Deep South revolting after the Civil Rights Act. It was violent crime. If you were a young man with a low lottery number, you lost your freedom, but your transgression was to shoot liquor store clerks and disabled old people for thirty bucks in cash, you could keep it. The only question was what legal loophole was going to be used by your attorney to get you sprung. But it would almost certainly work.

We’re headed there again, I’m afraid. What an endless assortment we have of arcane legal maneuvering, procedural loopholes, District Attorney “oopsies,” and judicial fiats to get the guilty people out of jail and back on the streets. Nobody has bothered to keep up with this menagerie of piercings and flesh wounds and pinholes in our justice system…even though they’re all there.

I’m told we’re fed up with the War on Terror. The electorate is ready to pay more attention to domestic issues, and to vote on them. Well, here’s a big one.

Yikes! V

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

It’s from my old stomping grounds.

Ow…ow…ow…

Jenniffer Spencer, who is biologically male and castrated herself using a disposable razor blade in her prison cell, claims the Idaho Department of Correction and its health care providers are violating her constitutional rights and subjecting her to cruel and unusual punishment by failing to diagnose gender identity disorder and treat her with the female hormone estrogen.

It’s the intellectual plague of our times. Truth is diminishing, because you see, everything is negotiable. Absolutely everything.

Olberspanking

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Via blogger friend Misha at Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, we learn about this spanking delivered to Keith Olbermann, who’s been richly deserving of such treatment for quite some time now.

Olbermann goes on and on accusing President Bush of almost every crime in the books, until the end when he demands that both he and Vice President Cheney resign from office. This is nothing new for Olbermann; he has used his television show as a platform for calling for the President’s resignation for years now. Its probably why his audience has shrunken from pitiful to non-existent.

Nothing much for me to add here, except one thing: Calls for an incumbent President of the United States to resign, or to be impeached, would be tapering off right about now if they were well-thought-out and sincere. He’s two and a half years into his second term. If Congress woke up today and said “that’s it, dammit, we’re going to impeach this guy right now,” I think maybe by sometime around Labor Day 2008 you’ll see the Senate vote to convict him, and maybe he’ll step down to avoid that. As we get later and later into ’07, this becomes progressively more futile.

But the calls for impeachment are reaching a crescendo. Which means they’re patently insincere.

Evil Selfish PeopleWhat hardcore leftists like Olberdouche seek to do here, is to create a lot of noise in hopes of promoting an illusion of widespread loathing against President Bush’s policies. This is something they don’t want to discuss directly, because what they seek to defeat is the President’s recognition that some people are just-plain-bad. In their world, everyone is sympathetic, except for Republicans, conservatives, and other people who might obstruct their political agendas. Yeah, it’s really that bad. You saw off some guy’s head while he’s still alive, I call you evil, there’s something terribly wrong with me. You vote Republican and I call you evil…that’s quite alright.

Mainstream America doesn’t trust this. A lot of people disagree with me that we were right to invade Iraq. But I think some people on the planet are inherently evil, in the classic sense — not because they vote for one party or another, but because they shoot schoolgirls in the back for daring to go outdoors without head coverings when their school has been set on fire. That kind of evil. And I think whether Iraq was a mistake or not, as far as our foreign policy is concerned, we’d better damn well be ready to invade the next regime of genuinely-evil people, because those regimes are out there.

I think it’s the job of the military to stand ready for such things, whether they come to pass or not. Be ready. There’s evil in the world, and the job of our military is not to be an entitlement program for educational and health benefits — it is to carry out state-sponsored violence, and to be ready at all times to do that.

On those points, mainstream America overwhelmingly agrees with me. The “Olbermann Brigade” would like to pretend otherwise, but that’s just the way it is. You look into some of the most obvious truths, and you find situations where the majority happens to be correct; that’s what’s happening here. So the best shot the Olberflunkies and the KOSsacks have for electing liberal democrats next year, is to run against “George Bush’s policies,” without specifying exactly what those policies are. If they were honest, they’d say they’re running against President Bush’s recognition that it’s possible to be just-plain-evil without being a conservative Republican. It’s possible. They’d identify themselves as seeking to defeat that paradigm in our public policies, and they’d lose.

Muscleheads Get Lucky, Wimps Get Wives

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Now here’s an interesting study from UCLA. A fella’s chances at success in having one-night-stands increases when he’s built up some muscle mass, but this will set him back when he’s looking for something more long-lasting.

Women choose musclemen for brief liaisons, but the less burly appear more desirable for long-term relationships because women believe they’re more faithful and romantic. The brawny were seen as more domineering and volatile.

“If a man is interested in long-term relationships, maybe he shouldn’t spend so much time at the gym,” says Martie Haselton, an associate professor at the University of California-Los Angeles and co-author of the research. The study will be published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in August.

My girlfriend doesn’t have too many opinions about these egghead studies, but is emphatic about this one: It’s a crock. I’m not entirely sure what this says about me. Next time I’m bench pressing my 500 pounds, I’ll think it over some more. ++grin++

Naw, seriously. I think what the researchers have found out, is that women seek out more superficial qualities when they want a more superficial relationship. Men are no different, I’m thinking. Great looking breasts and legs mean everything if I’m not in it for the long haul, but if I’m going to be looking at someone from across a breakfast table for twenty years, I’m interested in something completely different.

In order for someone to be clueless about my meaning, they’d have to be entirely unacquainted with the experience known as a “bad date.” It isn’t fun. Trying to find something fun to talk about, with someone who may be smoking hot but lacks your perspective on things and doesn’t share common interests with you. It’s a pretty crappy way to go through an evening, much less a life.

These things — being physically hot and sharing interests — are not mutually-exclusive and they don’t have to be. It’s just got to do with people having different goals, looking for different things.

But that doesn’t explain everything, does it. The scrawny guys are found overall to be superior matches. A correlation has been found…which could be causation…and then again, might not be. You know what they say about correlation and causation. They aren’t the same.

If there is a cause-and-effect taking place, the most tempting explanation would be that men who are obsessed with their bodies tend to neglect other pursuits and become shallow individuals. There could be something to this. In fact, I really wouldn’t mind having a nickel for every one of my dates who made mention of this. But that seems a little unfair, doesn’t it? Bodybuilding is a discipline like any other. It is, or at least it certainly can be, an intellectual pursuit. If it is one, it’s certainly one the ladies would be unlikely to share. And if it’s a taxing one, I would have to think the beefy guy would offer the appearance of suffering a curiosity defect, to his lady-friend, when in actually what’s happening is these are two people who are just failing to connect.

But this passage about the husky guys being “seen as more domineering and volatile” is disquieting. You have to factor in exactly what was sampled:

Haselton and David Frederick, a UCLA graduate student in psychology, conducted six studies from 2002 to 2006 in which they analyzed responses about muscularity and sexual partners from a total of 788 college students — 509 women and 279 heterosexual men.

I see two big problems with this. Problem Number One: What in tarnation does a college student know about “long term” relationships? They aren’t old enough to define that phrase the way I define it, if they want to speak to it from experience. I’m forty-one next week, so to me, “long-term” means you both migrate through stages of your life, shifting your priorities around accordingly as you’re forced to, and you’re both flexible and deep enough to maintain your compatibility with each other. This is a challenge that may have risen up to confront a college student, perhaps, once at the most. I’m sure when you’re actually that age, this seems like lunacy. But it’s true.

Problem Number Two: Am I to understand the researchers asked college students about their sexual histories, and then went ahead and believed them? That doesn’t seem like a good idea at all.

If I had to make a conclusion from this, about which I felt good enough to be some real cash on it, I would say this: Between their classes on “The Stigma of Being a Female Engineer in an Oppressive Patriarchal Western Society,” and “The Oppressive Male-Dominated Undertones in Beer Commercials,” et al, the ladies are asked about the masculinity of their sexual partners. College cultures being remarkably similar to each other overall, they’re living in a miniature city-state in which one gains social status by denigrating masculinity, and loses social status by saying anything that might be flattering about it. So you answer questions about what turns you on, and it’s the usual college fluff girls say that they don’t really mean: Man in touch with his feelings, not afraid to cry, open-minded and rejecting antiquated stereotypes, refuses to eat meat, etc.

But sooner or later you have to pick out someone to help you rock that mattress. And a lady’s carnal desires kick in, which have been subjected to thousands of years of genetic programming. During those thousands of years, there are animals to be killed and eaten — which her ancestors must have successfully accomplished, or she would not be here.

So it’s time to lie. But she can’t tell any ol’ lie; she has to use one of those lies that are so convincing, the liar herself somewhat believes it. Which means it contains a kernel of truth. Odds are, she’s screwed a combination of gym-hounds and veggie-geeks, and if that’s the case it’s a sure thing she’s held out more hope for a long-term relationship with the veggie-geeks. She lives in a society crammed full of cultural norms, and that’s supposed to be the biggest cultural norm right there. Ferret-face good, muscle-man bad.

Refer back to Problem Number One. Holding out hope for long-term relationships, is all she’s old enough to do. It is an impossibility for her to have actually carved through a few.

These are young women, in the prime of their mating lives, who have had a succession of flings. They’re answering questions about their flings, probably knowing full well there is no way to fact-check their answers and nobody’s going to be calling them out on their crap…skewing their answers to help substantiate what they’ve been told and what they’ve been coerced into repeating back, in class as well as in their social circles, twenty-four hours a day.

My jaundiced view is rooted in a solidly supported principle: Women crave ability. If I’m wrong, I propose a different study. Let’s survey happily-married women. Women who thought they knew what they wanted when they got married, and turned out to be right. I’m sure there’s a way to discretely ask about their prior histories, if you want to compare how they sought out their one-night stands.

But one way or another, you’ll find women crave ability. They certainly don’t crave inability. Find it amusing, maybe, but it doesn’t turn them on.

Hearts Over Minds

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

This egghead over here is telling Democrats they need to appeal less to the mind and more to the heart. If they do that, they’ll stop losing elections and start winning them. Enough, already, with that facts and reason and common sense stuff…voters aren’t paying attention to it, and he’s got the brain scans to prove it.

I believe what he’s saying about people in general. Where I think he’s going wrong, is he presumes Democrats have room to maneuver in that direction. Has he been watching the same Democrats I’ve been watching?

Every issue that comes down the pike, domestic or international, the Democrat position has to do with the emotional state in which the loyal liberal is to be placed. American victory in Iraq would have a depressing effect; impeaching George Bush would have a satisfying effect; more burdensome regulation on industry and business would have a bolstering effect, and Hillary Clinton in the White House would have an “I’m really all that and a bag of chips!” effect. The effect of such things on the country’s economic and national-security situations is decidedly second-place.

And this pattern holds up. Lock, stock and barrel. Democrats and liberals are emotional creatures. They care first and foremost about their emotional satisfaction.

You know what issue demonstrates how the conservative mindset contrasts with this? The Death Tax.

A lot of the people we call “conservatives” are filthy rednecks just like me. We don’t earn enough to be impacted by it. We contemplate the Death Tax and once we get all the information, we say “that’s a crock.” Our much smarter blue-blood liberals explain that you have to have money to burn to be affected by the Death Tax, and us poor little red-state rednecks, we toil away far below this threshold. It’s a virtual certainty that poor little hicks like us, will never have to pay this tax…to which we reply, I Don’t Care! It’s unethical and we should do away with it.

It’s a rational, reasoned response. To say the treasury gets a cut every time the same money changes hands, and you can’t call it a double-tax even though the money already has been taxed — for that paradigm to make sense, you have to say the government is some kind of liege and we are it’s vassals, not really “owning” money, just using it to keep track of relatively meaningless material transactions as we toil away like little carpenter ants, giving our hearts and souls for the Queen. We’ve thought it through, and you know what? We don’t think the government is supposed to have that kind of relationship with us. We think the Government is a legal, financial entity, no higher than any other. Just like a corporation, or a person. There are terms by which the Government gets it’s cut, and it already got it’s cut…so away it goes, just like a contractor who has already been paid.

Liberals are emotional creatures already, so they don’t see the logic to that. That we lowly hillbillies would dare oppose a tax to which we are not going to be subjected personally, is ipso facto evidence of our ignorance. If we knew what we were talking about, surely we’d see this is someone else’s tax, and our support would therefore be automatic. Because everybody supports taxes that apply to somebody else, right? With no exceptions?

The Death Tax…like no other issue that has been before us in modern times…is a perfect set-up of the conflict between emotion and reason. Both sides think they’re being “fair.” Both sides are absolutely correct about it. They’re just defining “fair” in different ways…liberals in an emotional way, conservatives in a logical way.

This guy thinks Democrats can win if they get even more emotional.

Gawd, I hope they listen to him. Please, let them listen to him.

On Burping Cows

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Some propeller-beanie egghead Brit has figured out burping cows may be partially responsible for global warming.

Nobody ever reads this blog, but among the nobodies who do, this is old news. We’d talked about it here when Al Gore’s movie first came out. A lot of the same stuff you see in my rants nowadays…I think global warming is a bunch of nonsense, and when I’m out riding my bike, I get run off the road by tree-hugging hippies in SUV’s who think Bush should’ve signed the Kyoto treaty. The irony of it all.

The point was all the things we would be doing if we were really concerned about climate change — that we aren’t doing. The cows were an afterthought, but my little screed was chock full of numbers, properly sourced to a CNN article. From 2000. So you see, this is nothing new.

Cows — and other agricultural components as well, I should add — have more of a polluting effect than cars, machinery, and other techno-industrial hobgoblins. More of a greenhouse-gas effect.

I never would have imagined, back when I wrote that up, that we would have a world-wide rock concert phenomenon to alert people to how guilty they should be feeling about carbon emissions. I wonder how many people attended those concerts while ordering cheeseburgers for the whole family.

This Is Good XLI

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

Someone drove a Hummer to a Live Earth concert.

Hummer

I thought this passage was humorous in an ironic sort of way:

The show at Giant Stadium in New Jersey is finally underway. Performers are playing on a stage built of recycled tires. At this point, the tires outnumber the fans in attendance.

Okay, so there aren’t even that many people going to the New Jersey thing. Which raises the question…although I’m sure it’s been raised before…what exactly is this supposed to do? Because if global warming is indeed caused by human activity, putting on a rock concert wouldn’t exactly mitigate the effect would it? There’s all those cars coming in, some of them Hummers…there’s electricity to be churned up, concessions to be sold, people talking and breathing hard and what-not. Rock concerts are just little hotbeds of human activity.

Who’s more hypocritical. The guy who drove the Hummer, or the folks who put on the show in the first place?

As I’ve said before: I make a futile effort at getting rid of my middle-age pudge, on a 24-speed hybrid bike in Northern California. It’s a “blue” part of the country, although others are bluer. It’s a socially trendy region, although others are trendier. And it’s a valley, so we tend to have hefty local concerns about smog and what-not…although other municipalities may have heftier concerns.

But we’re very “hip” around here. We say all the right things. We have “Spare The Air” days, and we look for ways to conserve and recycle and carpool…or at least we’re supposed to…

…and I’m constantly amazed how many places I can ride, and get some not-too-subtle reminder that I’ve ridden into a location where I’m not expected to be riding. You know. No sidewalks, no shoulders…none…garbage cans being left out all days of the week, to the point where you eventually give up trying to figure out what days they’ll be hauled back in, because they never are. Intersections without crosswalks. Oh-so-trendy coffee shops without bike racks anywhere.

If I bike to work, I have to get there early because a building with 200 people in it, has a stairwell where six bikes can be locked up. No more than that. And you guessed it…no bike rack. Bikes don’t have air conditioning, so this time of year, early doesn’t mean “before 8:30″ — it means early. Six out of 200, and Number Seven has to leave his bike wherever and take his chances, or go back home.

I live in a place where everybody is supposed to be concerned about the environment.

I live in a place where people are expected to drive wherever they go. Big, BIG cars. To go car shopping, and demand more than 20 miles a gallon, is looked upon as insanity. Cars are supposed to be big.

I live in a place that is freakin’ hypocritical. But it’s nothing special. I drive too…I fly…I travel…I go to other states. And I could be talking about something going on in any one of them. Environment, pollution, emissions, blah blah blah…oh, I’m so concerned. But nobody acts like it. Nobody really does anything. If they do something, it’s got a lot more to do with getting attention than having any beneficial effect on the environment.

I think they should keep having these concerts, but they should call them something else. Truth-in-advertising, ya know. Call them “Let’s pretend to care” concerts or something.

Hey…how many bikes are being locked up at these concerts? I’d really like to know.

Update 7-8-07: I think this is the most overly-simplistic test of individual common sense and critical thinking that there could possibly be. It’s as if some divine Kismet devised some test for us, and smacked us down with it. Suppose, just as a hypothetical, just to take all the emotionalism out of it…suppose there was something else going on with all this blue-blood celebrity hypocrisy.

Suppose instead of polluting, it’s something else we all “know” we’re not supposed to do, but that a lot of us do anyway. Something that’s regarded as neither conservative nor liberal.

Let’s say you’re at the city aquarium, and you’re tapping on the glass to get the fish to move. There. That’s perfect.

You’re tapping on the glass, and as if someone yelled “Go!” all of a sudden you’re being confronted face-to-face by Al Gore, and Laurie David, and Madonna, and Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz. And they’re all getting after you, telling you not to tap on the glass. Scientists are unanimous in their convictions that the fish are getting pissed off, and are about to retaliate against humanity. You’re making it worse by tapping on the glass.

And here’s the funny part. All the time they’re talking to you, they’ve taken off their shoes and as they’re lecturing you, they’re pounding their shoes against the glass they’ve told you not to tap.

And when you get a chance to get a word in edge-wise…well, you don’t of course, but assuming you do…you say the first common-sense thing that comes to your mind. “Hey, thumbdicks, why are you banging your shoes against that glass you told me not to tap?” Because, y’know, if there really is a problem with the fish getting all pissed off over the glass-tapping and getting ready to overthrow humanity, and because of that you’re not supposed to tap on the glass, isn’t it evidence that the Gore/Feinstein/David/Diaz loudmouths doubt their own rhetoric, when they’re banging their shoes against the glass?

So Al Gore explains, patiently, and somewhat condescendingly: We have to bang the glass. It attracts attention from the other humans in proximity, and don’t you know our message is so very, very important.

For emphasis, he bangs his waffle-stomper hiking boot against the glass three more times, bang bang bang.

Now I know that is so very, very ridiculous. But answer me this: How is my utterly ridiculous hypothetical different from the global warming…uh…well, let’s call it what it is. The global warming craze.

It’s not different. We’re told there is a crisis looming, and it’s connected to our everyday activities, therefore we are to cease and desist. We’re told this by all these big stars who, in the middle of the syllables in which they tell us this, do a whole lot more of that very thing they’re telling us to stop doing.

Blogger friend Buck comes up with an article in the UK Daily Mail that shows just how bad this situation has gotten. And yes, all across this globe there are millions, and millions, and millions of people being told to stop tapping the glass, by politicians and Hollywood heavyweights who are banging crowbars and hiking boots and seldgehammers against that very same glass. And they’re listening. Ooh, they’re saying, I’d better stop tapping the glass, and you’d better stop too. But the politicians and celebrities can keep on hammering.

How many different ways can you get the attention of the public, when your message is that important, besides hammering on aquarium glass with a crowbar?

How many different ways can you do it, without a rock concert?

Lest you think a rock concert is “clean” in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, Pajamas Media helps put it in perspective.

So you see, it isn’t any more complicated than that ludicrous aquarium analogy after all. The only meaningful difference, is this: We can preserve our lives, and the quality thereof, without tapping on glass and irritating the damn fish. But we do need to consume power in order to do that. And we can’t keep living without throwing off carbon dioxide…in very modest amounts compared to the Diaz/Gore/Feinstein/Kerry/Paltrow crowd, but we do still need to emit. Methane, which we emit indirectly through our demand for agricultural products, has a much higher greenhouse gas effect than carbon dioxide on a pound-for-pound basis. But we produce carbon dioxide more directly, and through our industrial-sector activity. And what do we do to get this snotty lecturing from the politicos and the jet-set? We consume through our industrial sector…and emit carbon dioxide. Relatively neutral compared to methane in greenhouse gas effect.

Eh. People have attacked industry as long as there’s been industry. It’s us everyday folk who are acting all weird, by buying into this and believing it. It is every bit as silly as feeling guilty over tapping on the aquarium glass, as a result of the lectures being delivered by a man smacking the same glass with…a freakin’ manhole cover. It is as simplistic and as direct of a test of our ability to think critically, as could ever be devised, by man or by deity.

Snookered. We’re being snookered. The snookerers aren’t even doing that good of a job of it. But so far, it’s an effective job.

Taryn Wants Hillary

Friday, July 6th, 2007

This girl has an amazing body. Watch her use it to try to push the platform of a candidate with nothing to say. By far the highest-profile candidate running from any party, who’s been out on the national stage for sixteen years now, and in all that time, apart from her own initiatives has never once been for anything. It is mind-boggling how toxic Hillary Clinton is. As I said about her a week ago

Hillary Clinton remains as consistent as I expect [Sen. Barack] Obama will be, but in a different way. “If HIV-AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34 there would be an outraged, outcry in this country.” Clinton is amazing this way…her political tactic has always been the same: Someone’s overly-privileged, someone’s gotten away with shenanigans, and Hillary’s here to take ‘em down a peg. If the issue under discussion is missing this kind of villain, Hillary will inject a villain into it. You could adjust a precision timepiece by watching her do this. In my lifetime, I don’t think I’ve become aware of a more negative candidate, male or female, for anything.

Hillary was speaking about the Supreme Court decision on the Seattle school district. She was making the point that affirmative action is still needed because the country has a racial divide. She chose to zoom in on white women between the ages of 25 and 34. Now, just think about that for a minute — she could have handled this any one of a zillion ways. If she wants to pimp the whole affirmative action racket, and talk about oppressed people who need it, she could have confined her comments to the desperate situations some people are in…and leave it at that. The way our liberals used to do it, and some still do to this day. What is up with this irrational impulse to single out villains all the time?

She can’t help it. It’s her schtick.

Hillary gets away with this, because — and only because — she is a woman. And a Democrat. John Kerry would not be able to do this. Condoleeza Rice would not be able to do this. None of the candidates running in ’08, besides Hillary, can do this. Sooner or later, they actually have to be for something. Or someone. Hillary just carps. Her critics, and her fans, have long ago stopped expecting her to ever do anything different, no matter what the situation. If ever she’s for something…it’s only because she’s against something else.

Taryn wants Hillary because Hillary has ovaries. Taryn wants a woman in the White House. Not a single peep about what she wants Hillary to do…except maybe be bisexual.

Fantastic-looking body aside, Taryn is in the company of millions and millions of people who don’t look as good from the neck down. Flubbery, blubbery, ditzy people. People who’ve completely lost hope in government actually doing anything productive, and aren’t willing to admit it.

Exactly the way most of us felt about government, right before we got Carter. Boy, there’s a sign of good times ahead, huh? Except Hillary has a much better idea of what she wants to do, once she’s elected, than Carter ever did. And that’s not good either.