Archive for March, 2019

On the Emotional Investment

Sunday, March 17th, 2019


The primary social problem in our society is that we are too emotionally engaged with the productions of journalists and political activists. These two groups, more than any other media producers have captured the attention of many Americans and are compensated by those things that spark ‘debate’.

This is not a consequence of social media…
In the news today is the story of a boy who threw an egg at an Australian senator, who was making remarks about a mass murder in New Zealand. So today, emotionally involved Americans are yelling at each other as if we need, every day, to demonstrate that murder is bad. Who has convinced us that there is a spectrum of positions on murder which are worthy of public debate? Journalists and political activists.

I had been meaning to write something about this. “Conservatism” versus “liberalism” explains much of what separates my opinions from the opinions people who are, well, you know…wrong…much, but not all. There is dark matter there, in the void. A lot of this has to do with emotional investment.

Palin Was RightRemaining emotionally detached so you can think like a grown-up, is not always easy. It can present some daunting challenges. But it’s never impossible. I think we all fail in this effort at one point or another, but I’ve seen how when people disagree with me about things, one of the things that separates us is that I at least try. If the disagreement becomes heated, I see it’s almost always because of an underlying disagreement, obscured by the other one more visible, about whether or not there should be a discussion at all. Emotionally invested people often play the game of “I want to win the argument without doing any actual arguing.” So they have these tricks. I’m pulling rank, or the “experts” are on my side, or I don’t wanna talk about it, or, or, or…

If they’re the only one paying the price for being wrong, it’s pretty easy to resolve. Just do what they want, disappear into the void and wish them the best on your way to oblivion. The eventual results will educate one side, or the other.

In politics, things are difficult because they’re not the only ones paying the price for being wrong.

Another fascinating thing I’ve picked up about overly-emotionally-invested people, is they get that way by way of laboring under the mistaken impression they personally know the people involved. I saw this awhile ago with the “Sarah Palin is a stupid idiot” song-and-dance from a decade ago. My own opinion wasn’t so much that was was or was not a stupid idiot, nor did I take the position she was some kind of egghead genius — she did seem to win a lot more often than people remember — but rather, that thing that is the beginning of all learning. I DON’T KNOW. I disagreed with people about Palin’s lack of intellect…and also, subsequently, about Barack Obama’s abundance of it…

Because I kept in mind that I didn’t personally know these people. And Mitt Romney, and Joe Biden, and Donald Trump, and Mike Pence. I don’t know these people. Palin might be stupid, heck she could be retarded. Maybe Barack and Michelle are geniuses. I know approximately how much I’d bet on such things, but it really doesn’t matter. The lack of certainty is what matters. Or to be more precise about it, the lack of doubt is what matters.

Emotionally invested people tend to confuse their politics with their soap opera viewing. They “feel” like they know all these people. The disease spreads when we’re talking about level of intellect, because it’s hard to remember that dumb people can be right about things and smart people can be wrong about things — both of those actually happen, quite often. So he/she is stupid/smart, really doesn’t matter at all.

How it connects back with the above: I think by the time you become part of the problem, you’re no longer discussing principles like “murder is wrong.” People who add more heat to these discussions than light, have crossed a Rubicon where they’re buttressing narratives about attributes of these characters, like they’re writing a screenplay. They’re talking about people and no longer talking about ideas.

Why We Disagree

Monday, March 11th, 2019

You know, it occurs to me. I’ve occasionally had some frustrating exchanges with the more casual observers of the political scene, about for example “raising the minimum wage.” They are just as earnestly baffled by the idea that I could oppose it, as I am by the idea they could support it, and it’s easy to see why. They hear “raising the minimum wage” and they hear raising…wage. A wage is going up. Someone — probably somebody who makes very little money and could use every nickel they can get — will be paid more. Who could possibly be against that? And of course, once they find out I’m on the other side, it follows that I must be the jerk who wants these doe-eyed low-paid innocents to be shafted some more.

Being lightweights, these adherents don’t hear or understand the word “minimum.” Raise a minimum of something is an exclusionary concept. Over and over again I explain it to them, raising the minimum wage outlaws jobs. It defines a class of job currently legal, and then makes everything in that class illegal so it has to go away. They just don’t get it. They’ve become emotionally invested in the proposal before exploring the true ramifications of it.

A lot of this has to do with demographics, particularly sex and race, because those are visible. Like many straight white males who aren’t all on-board with the latest whatever, I get pigeonholed. The pigeonholers see it all as a race/sex/preference/class thing, and we six-foot-tall straight white non-homeless males still in possession of all twenty-one digits, are supposedly looking out for our interests.

It is demonstrably untrue because of the economic-class thing. I joke a lot about being independently wealthy, but I’m really not. I’ve done well but the Missus and I don’t have “Fuck You” money. We are wage slaves.

The truth is: I, and people like me — not all of us straight white males — presume the worst. I presume a progressive tax scheme does not exist to pay for anything, it exists to punish. I think all these schemes exist to punish. I think reparations are not being proposed to lift anyone up, but to punish others. I think environmental initiatives, for the most part, exist just to screw with people. I think “International Women’s Day” is not there to empower women, but to punish men. I think higher minimum wages and entitlement programs are put together to manufacture dependency classes, not to help anyone up or out of anything. These are my default presumptions until I learn more.

It isn’t because I’m a white straight man. It’s because I’m a grown-up and I think like one.

It isn’t because I’m full of hate.

It’s because I’m wise. At least, wise the way Socrates was wise. I know there are things I don’t know, and when I admit it, I have a chance to learn.

You’ll notice, if you take the time to hang around after these plans are implemented and review the results objectively, more often than not it does turn out this way. Every program that says it’s out to fix or help or improve, doesn’t necessarily do that. Most of the time they just hurt or punish someone…and when there’s no correction made before the next lap, you have to conclude that was the original purpose and the punishment-program was a success.

You don’t have to think about things like a starry-eyed child, uncritically buying every word of every sales pitch. You don’t have to go around approving of everything. But if you do, thanks to the magic of social media you’re likely to come in contact, sooner rather than later, with someone who’s thought things out in a more mature, healthfully cynical, multi-point-perspective way. Which does cause conflict, and does look a bit ridiculous to anyone who’s on the outside. And kind of is.

But it isn’t a bad thing, not completely anyway. It’s a process of societal growth. We’re learning the fundamentals, things children should be learning before they become adults. That you can’t just legislate adequacy, or health, or goodness. That life is more complicated than that.

Related: Well, not really. Avett Ray has nothing to do with this at all, other than this 6-year-old blind boy played the same song and did a wonderful job.

Strong Women Can Cope with Men

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

This new Ms. Marvel movie is getting a rep as a social-justice vehicle, and I don’t know if it’s deserved but I do know the star asked for it when she said,

About a year ago, I started paying attention to what my press days looked like and the critics reviewing movies, and noticed 
it appeared to be overwhelmingly white male. So, I spoke to 
Dr Stacy Smith at the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, who put together a study to confirm that. Moving forward, I decided to make sure my press days were more inclusive. After speaking with you, the film critic Valerie Complex and a few other women of colour, it sounded like across the board they weren’t getting the same opportunities as others. When I talked to the facilities that weren’t providing it, they all had different excuses.

Yes…I’ve seen this before. There are some numbers someone collected, and this “proves” that white men are guilty of something. And this gives someone else license to label themselves and their efforts as “inclusive,” while indulging in some very non-inclusive behavior and showing some very non-inclusive attitudes.

“Too many of [blank] in here someone has to do something about it” is, by its very nature, non-inclusive. Do I even have to mention it? It seems only by willfully avoiding it can anyone with a brain fail to see it.

This isn’t the first time Brie Larson has set off alarm bells. Last summer, she made the comment about another movie,

Recognizing that “reviews change lives” and the impact which films are considered for awards season, Larson called for more inclusive representation in the industry. “Am I saying I hate white dudes?” the Oscar-winner asked the room at the Beverly Hilton. “No, I’m not,” she replied.

“I don’t want to hear what a white man has to say about ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ I want to hear what a woman of color, a biracial woman has to say about the film. I want to hear what teenagers think about the film.”

You’re not saying you hate white dudes, but you are applying a litmus test of skin color & gender and, based on the outcome of that, making a determination that the person’s opinion is irrelevant or undesired.

That makes as much sense as deciding not to watch a superhero movie because the central character is a woman. And it isn’t very inclusive.

I’ve seen this attitude before, somewhere. Ah yes, now I remember: Kathleen Kennedy, producer of the Disney Debacle of Star Wars sequels, unwittingly explaining why her success has been less than complete.

I have a responsibility to the company that I work with. I don’t feel that I have a responsibility to cater in some way. I would never just seize on saying, “Well, this is a franchise that’s appealed primarily to men for many, many years, and therefore I owe men something.”

This is turning into a pattern. And the pattern is one of futility. People who say such things want to hold themselves up as strong, independent, “don’t need men,” “don’t owe anything to men”…and they keep babbling away about inclusiveness. But it comes across as weakness and bigotry: “Keep those men away from me, I can’t deal with them.”

And yeah, maybe I’m old fashioned but I recall this was an implicit part of entertainment: You owe something to everyone who buys a ticket. If you don’t like that idea, you need to find a different line of work. That’s show business.

For a couple of generations now, if not more, males who made male-centered action movies kept that in mind, and inserted plenty of kick-butt female supporting characters. Which means the Ms. Marvel movie might be breaking fewer glass ceilings than its most enthused fans might imagine…(warning, video below is produced for people who understand sarcasm)

And these male fans, to whom Ms. Kennedy feels she doesn’t owe anything, by & large didn’t object.

Nowadays, there has to be this twaddle put out there by the stars, the producers, whoever, that we are not to worry, special effort has been taken here to make sure “white males” are not included…and we should think of that as inclusive.

It comes across looking like weak, non-inclusive people were involved in making the entertainment product, which harbors the prospect of relieving us of lots of money and, in return, not providing much entertainment — for white males or anyone else.

I’ll avoid commenting on the movie specifically as I’ve not seen it. I have no plans to do anything about that in the near future. I can tell when I’m not wanted.

Memo For File CCXI

Monday, March 4th, 2019

There is a persuasive mythology out there that democrats are on the fringe-kooky left, Republicans are on the fringe-kooky right, and the way “forward” is somewhere in between those two.

I have noticed fragile narratives start to crack and crumble when made to answer specific questions, and the specific question to ask here is: What exactly are the fringe-kooky right positions? Lower taxes, strong defense, sound immigration policy, law & order. I mean yeah, you can pretend these are “dog whistle” signals for intolerance and bigotry, but that’s not choosing a centrist in-between way forward, that’s uncritically accepting inflammatory leftist talking-points. It all comes down to, Trump doesn’t make a very good Hitler if he’s relocating the embassy to Jerusalem.

I think Republicans need to hit back against this hard. Without this mythology floating around, you can make the ultimate Republican campaign commercial just by showing clips of the donkey-face cutie Bronx bartender speaking. But too many people see that, and think “I don’t like that but I’ll sort of fantasize about Republicans being just as bad, although I can’t think of specific examples, and so I’ll vote for the liberal/democrat/moderate/centrist/no-party guy or stay home.” After watching people talk about these things in the public square all these years, reconciling it with what I read online, and then seeing the results play out on this-or-that election night, I’m convinced that’s the most influential, and harmful, factor in American politics. Which means it’s the most influential/harmful factor in deciding where our whole society is going, unfortunately.

Politics shouldn’t be so influential. But during the course of my lifetime, it is what it is. As long as that part of the machinery is busted, some attempt should be made to fix the other.

The point is, the idea that a vote for a democrat is a vote for Venezuela-style socialism, survives scrutiny. The idea that a vote for a Republican is a vote for nooses and burning crosses, and a re-enactment of The Handmaid’s Tale, does not.

Border Wall Nets Higher Approval Than Green New Deal

Monday, March 4th, 2019

My first reaction to this was, of course, that I like the implications of the headline; upon reading it, I was glad to see the headline was earnest and 51 is, after all, greater than 31. Although still 49 points shy of where it should be.

Fifty-one percent of Americans say that they would rather have a border wall on America’s southern border, compared to 31 percent who say that they want a Green New Deal, according to a poll released by Remington Research Group.

Republicans said that they would prefer a border wall by a 68-point margin, while Independents said that they would prefer a border wall by a two-to-one margin.

Overall, a majority of Americans, or 51 percent, said they oppose a Green New Deal, 51 percent of Democrats support the radical environmental program, while Republicans and Independents overwhelmingly oppose Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) idea outright.

But then I had another thought: This is a rather silly comparison, isn’t it?

It’s kind of apples-and-oranges. The objective of a wall is to elevate the difficulty involved in breaking into our country illegally, whereas the GND’s objectives seem to be a messy hodge-podge of reducing our impact on the environment, and make sure everyone has the same amount of stuff. I read through that goofy draft that wasn’t supposed to have been part of it or whatever, and waded through the other literature about it, and I’m altogether unsure about the linkage between proper stewardship of Mother Earth and her bounteous resources, and income/wealth equality. What is it? Is there, perhaps, some propaganda floating around that if we make sure everyone’s got the same amount of stuff, the environment will improve? I’ve no doubt there is.

But that would be the opposite of what’s true. Socialism is awful for the environment.

The Soviet government’s imperatives for economic growth, combined with communal ownership of virtually all property and resources, caused tremendous environmental damage. According to economist Marshall Goldman, who studied and traveled extensively in the Soviet Union, “The attitude that nature is there to be exploited by man is the very essence of the Soviet production ethic.”

A typical example of the environmental damage caused by the Soviet economic system is the exploitation of the Black Sea. To comply with five-year plans for housing and building construction, gravel, sand, and trees around the beaches were used for decades as construction materials. Because there is no private property, “no value is attached to the gravel along the seashore. Since, in effect, it is free, the contractors haul it away. This practice caused massive beach erosion which reduced the Black Sea coast by 50 percent between 1920 and 1960. Eventually, hotels, hospitals, and of all things, a military sanitarium collapsed into the sea as the shoreline gave way. Frequent landslides–as many as 300 per year–have been reported.

Water pollution is catastrophic. Effluent from a chemical plant killed almost all the fish in the Oka River in 1965, and similar fish kills have occurred in the Volga, Ob, Yenesei, Ural, and Northern Dvina rivers. Most Russian factories discharge their waste without cleaning it at all.
According to the Worldwatch Institute, more than 90 percent of the trees in the pine forests in China’s Sichuan province have died because of air pollution. In Chungking, the biggest city in southwest China, a 4, 500-acre forest has been reduced by half. Acid rain has reportedly caused massive crop losses.

There also have been reports of waterworks and landfill projects severely hampering fish migration. Fish breeding was so seriously neglected that fish has largely vanished from the national diet. Depletion of government-owned forests has turned them into deserts, and millions of acres of grazing and farm land in the northern Chinese plains were made alkaline and unproductive during the “Great Leap Forward.”
There is much evidence to dispute the theory that only private businesses pollute. In the United States, we need look no further than our own government agencies. These public sector institutions, such as the Department of Defense (DOD), are among the worst offenders. DOD now generates more than 400,000 tons of hazardous waste a year — more than is produced by the five largest chemical companies combined. To make matters worse, the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the enforcement power over the public sector that it possesses over the private sector.

So taking better care of the environment does not necessarily fit some grand scheme of taxation and incentives, to reward the under-privileged and punish the successful and make sure income/wealth disparities are reduced. I really don’t know where we ever got that. You know what does, though? Donald Trump’s big, beautiful wall. You can’t have open borders with a welfare state. There’s a rule about that, and if there weren’t such a rule, someone would have to come up with one.

The incompatibility is mathematical in nature. Just as, you can’t rank members of a set without defining what the set is; the same goes for assessing the level of inequality, of anything. In fact, the greater the assessed inequality, the more crucial is the question of set membership. In the most extreme case, perfect inequality — n people in a village, where one guy has lots of dollars and the other n-1 people have zero — the removal of a single person instantly transforms the situation to one of perfect equality.

So borders do matter. Especially if you’re trying to force this sameness these open-borders types tend to want forced. The periphery comes first. It’s got to be that way.

I submit that such thoughts about compatibility, and cause-and-effect, are more important than the poll results. However many people think they want something, the ones who do want it seem to be very, very sure they want it, and are highly enthused about it. But, as usual, the ones most enthused haven’t thought things through all the way.