Archive for the ‘GroupThink Nonsense’ Category

Memo For File CXXXV

Friday, April 8th, 2011

The time has come for someone to jot down into visible words what everybody with a working brain knows already, but nobody with shame will admit out loud. Well, I have more brains than shame, and I am ready, willing and able.

We all have to make decisions, and some of us prosper or suffer according to the wisdom or stupidity of those decisions. The rest of us don’t, so the ones who don’t, start to make stupider and stupider decisions as the quality of their decision-making begins to suffer from atrophy. They have little incentive to make wise decisions, so as the necessity fades away over time, so does the quality. These people who enjoy the luxury of peeling-off with whatever decisions feel good at the time, not having to worry about whether they’re wise or not, are also enjoying more and more of a majority status. And what’s even worse, is that as they flail around for some method by which to make these decisions, they tend to settle on exactly that one: Majority. Go along with what “most” people are already thinking.

Or, echo what the most audible people in earshot, say they are thinking. Make your mark by not making your mark. “Change” the final consensus to what it was already. You can easily tell a man who lives off the sweat of others, and knows he lives off the sweat of others, because he has no history to offer insofar as going against the majority — he’s been on the “winning” side every single time.

Well, that isn’t the ugly truth everybody knows & no one wants to admit. I’ll get into that straight-away:

Salesmanship TriadAmong those who labor under a natural incentive to try to make wise, logical, reasoned decisions, the wisdom/logic/reason usually does not have the final say. We like to think it does, but it’s really a hodge-podge of three things which could be thought of as legs on a three-legged stool:

1. Does the idea make logical sense;
2. Are you any good at selling it to me;
3. Was I already leaning in the direction of doing it anyway.

And the thing that makes us hesitant to admit this, is: There is a summation involving these three legs. One leg may be very weak, and the sale is closed anyway if the other two legs are stronger. Any one of the three legs may be weak and it can still be a slam dunk, if the other two legs, or just one of the other two legs, can compensate.

And I do mean any one. The idea may not make logical sense, in fact it may be downright silly. You’ll buy it anyway, or at least you’ll feel a powerful compulsion to buy it anyway, if the other two legs are stronger. Salesmanship and prejudice.

Our current President is best described by means of this three-legged stool. He brings so much skill and talent to the salesmanship aspect of it that the other two legs don’t need to be there at all. He can sell ideas that are disliked by the prospective buyers, even if the ideas make no sense whatsoever. That’s the problem. That’s why He isn’t right for the immediate future of the country.

This also explains His remarkable appeal, or at least, the appeal He used to have some three years ago. “I can’t explain it, there’s just something about Him!” They said this over and over again. All who were waiting for details to support this, were left sucking air…but that’s perfectly alright, they were told, if you ever met Barack Obama in person you’d understand immediately. Well, now it’s later and the understanding is crystal-clear. Those who value unity over clarity, saw Obama as the perfect unifying force. He would get up and sell…uh, something. And by the time it was over everybody would come to agreement. Then what? That part doesn’t matter, see the important thing is that everyone would agree.

Now, what has Obama sold us in three years.

1. There is something wrong with you if you say anything against…um…whatever it is Congress put together in this health care bill here. Haven’t had a chance to skim through it or anything, but Let Me Be Clear it is wonderful.
2. Jessica Simpson has put on a little weight.
3. The Cambridge police acted stupidly.
4. Time for a beer summit.
5. When there’s an oil leak in the Gulf, we need a drilling moratorium. Yeah, that’s the solution.
6. We need to move to alternative fuels and we shouldn’t drill at all.
7. Brazil, on the other hand, should drill to its heart’s content.
8. We hope to sell China lots and lots of stuff.
9. And the latest humdinger: If the price of gas is a problem for you, you need to get a new car.

That is by no means an exhaustive list. But it is a useful cross-section, a useful sampling, and oh by the way did you notice the one theme permeating through it all? The one common characteristic? Not a single item on there makes a damn lick of sense.

And thus it is with all other persons, in all other capacities, in all other walks of life. You’re going to generally find the greater the talent is invested in selling things, the less sense the ideas are going to make. Thing I Know #271 provides some insight into why it always has worked, and always will work, this way…

Someone please enlighten me on this hero worship for people who are good at selling things. An excellent salesman is useless in selling an adequate product; an adequate salesman will move it just as quick. You only need an excellent salesman to sell a crappy, substandard product, or excessive quantities of a product, that people don’t need.

Am I saying whenever you encounter a wonderful salesman you should turn around and run as fast as your li’l legs can possibly carry you? No, of course not.

But, I’ll be honest with you; I’m reasonably sure I’ve sailed past the midpoint, by now, between cradle and crypt. And the years I can now review in hindsight, have strongly suggested that to me over and over again — not only should I run away from wonderful salesmen has fast as my li’l legs can possibly carry me, but screaming at the top of my lungs in holy terror, arms flailing overy my head, wouldn’t exactly be uncalled-for.

The years ahead of me might very well teach me something contrary. But it hasn’t happened yet. And I’m left without any reason to expect such a thing to happen.

After all, I’m part of the people who still suffer when they make dumbass decisions. Maybe we’re a dwindling minority now…but I’m actually thankful to be on this side of the line. It keeps your mind sharp, somewhat, if you stand to lose things when your mind isn’t sharp. It’s like John Wayne said (apocryphally): “Life’s tough. Life’s tougher if you’re stupid.” It is a regretful situation for us all, that life is working that way for fewer and fewer of us. Too many of our peers are allowed to live relatively pain-free, in fact with a right to file grievances if they’re ever troubled with any pain at all, while being stupid and staying stupid. And as a direct result of this, we have placed value on so-called “leaders” who have no skill at all other than to lengthen the stool-leg that has to do with salesmanship, so the other two legs needn’t be relevant.

In fact, isn’t that what all the yelling is about lately? Which ones among us should be privileged to never feel any portion of the community pain — which arrives as the direct result of stupid, nonsensical decisions that were made — because the salesmanship skills were so stellar, so amazing, so off-the-charts impressive.

Liberalism is a Holdover From Human Evolution

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Wordnik offers a singular definition for a most obscure word, which to the best I can tell, completely fits the meaning I had in mind. I might as well work this the way the children do, weaving it into conversations hither & yon waiting for the smackdown from someone who knows how to use it better than I do. Beats the heck out of making up yet another word.

Prerational (adj.): Antecedent to the maturation of intelligence.

It seems this word can be used to describe “antecedent” within the span of an individual’s lifetime, or within the natural “maturation” of human technological/social progress. It is the second of those that I have in mind.

Liberals like to describe conservatives as evolutionary holdovers; lately, I have been turning this around. But sincerely. I really do think liberals are leftover fragments from human evolution — or at least their ideas are. These people called “liberals” are merely articulating, and making the mistake of placing their beliefs in, ideas that used to make the world go ’round. They are ideas hard-wired into all of us. But they are static ideas, dead ideas, and sensible adults have shrugged them off and left them in the ground, where they belong, to rot.

Let me explain. For me to do that, we need to take a trip backward in time. There are no fragments of bone or pottery to directly substantiate what I’m saying, there is only human nature and the stuff we know about cultures, the periods of time in which they flourished, and how long they lasted. Human nature bears much more of the burden of support for my recollections, here, than the point or section within any timeline, so the classical science of archeology doesn’t help us out here too much. So let us take stock of what we know.

We know that this thing we call a technological society, is a relatively recent turn. At the founding of our nation, just the blink-of-an-eye ago in the grand scheme of things, if you made it your business to go to Philadelphia to argue with your buddies about whether the word is inalienable or unalienable, the right to keep and bear arms, and so forth, you did this after sowing a crop or reaping a harvest. We were an agrarian society just 240 years ago. Somewhere, maybe someone was figuring out how to burn a fuel to move a rotor arm to get the plowing done; but even that first nibble of “real” technology was mad-scientist stuff. Time was precious only because time was needed to work the land. Land was the real wealth.

Town MeetingNow, when you live in an agrarian society and land is the real wealth, your efforts in solitude are vital to your continuing existence but only for the purpose of doing what had been done before. Later on, when technology started to become a dynamic thing and partner itself with farming, you would have to keep “an ear to the ground” and figure out what new amazing bits of information might be available to pare a fifteen hour task down to a two hour task. But while that is only an occasional event, you just toil away. So it would seem natural that whatever is in motion, for the most part, is something “bigger than you.” You work your acres, the wife tends to the house, and far all other concerns there will have to be a town hall meeting of some kind. And why shouldn’t there be one? Land is the real wealth; land defines the nature of the issue; and the land upon which the issue is concerned, is off your spread. It’s a public road, or a public waterway, or something that will or might happen to the entire town. We need to go to a meeting to resolve it.

We also know that compassion is hard-wired into our human character. With or without a technologically advanced society, we are naturally concerned with the economic status of our peers. Or lack thereof. If someone is doing badly, we want to get involved and help them. The more closely we identify with them, the quicker we want to help. We recoil instinctively from whoever else in our ranks, for whatever reason, fails to share in this instinct.

We tend to be more vigilant in seeking out neighbors who might need our help, during the lean times. Liberals find that to be regrettable. They would like this to be a constant floodlight, and not a strobe.

If the person who needs our help, is in that situation through their own doing, we’re slow to factor that in. Even if it has long ago become a cyclical pattern. Conservatives find that regrettable. They think the widow should be given greater priority for our aid, than the town drunk.

But in solitude, attending to our own chores, or together down at the town meeting, we do the best we can and we offer help to whoever needs it. That’s what civilized humans do, without regard to the level of civilization in the community they call home.

It is an inextricable aspect of agricultural living, especially during the ancient times when technology moved more slowly, that innovation must take place almost entirely within these town hall meetings. Well, as anyone who’s ever been in a business meeting knows, group configurations are not amenable to innovative thinking. To engage in innovative thinking with just four or five people assembled, is hard. Really hard. It is several orders of magnitude harder, when the nose count moves up to seven or eight; at that point, you run into the situation where a short, crisp agenda must be put together, and used, and guarded, by a strong chairman. Otherwise, hours will disappear into the void with nothing resolved. By the time you’re up to a dozen people you might as well forget about innovative thinking. If it emerges that something needs to be poked & prodded & researched, or written up into a report, this will be delegated to an individual or a subcommittee. Because, how else could it be done.

The group comes up with ideas. That’s all it does, really. It isn’t fit for narrowing possibilities down, acquiring new information, or anything of the like. This is not where people renew or strengthen their grasp of reality. The only thing upon which they can renew or strengthen their grasp, in that environment, is their own social stature within the assembly. As individuals.

This is the great difficulty involved in chairing a meeting. You’re there to offer your comments on some matter, or to solicit the comments; but those assembled for the meeting, are offering the comments to buttress their own social standing within the community. Generally speaking, altering the outcome of the decision, toward an outcome more beneficial for all concerned, is a side benefit to the individual participant. The primary motive behind his contributions to the discourse, is to elevate or preserve his standing. This is the tragedy of the human condition: Inwardly, we know without anyone pointing it out, that innovation is best accomplished by the individual. But we have it hard-wired into our DNA, over time, by the slow, cruel forces of evolution — to expect all this innovation to take place in a meeting environment. We understand this is ineffective, in the extreme. But the spectacle of it gives us comfort.

Here’s where the trolley starts to come off the rails though. I mentioned the impulse of basic human compassion up above. The meeting environment does not focus this or enhance it; it rather diminishes it. Groupthink, born in an agricultural setting like so many others of the things we do, is accustomed to a farm livelihood. It is accustomed to the idea that manual labor is the only way to prosper, and therefore we should all have roughly the same amount of stuff. It is also accustomed, paradoxically, to the idea that you can only receive this basic, subsistence-level quantity of stuff, if you are “good.” That’s right, groupthink can shut off this basic impulse of human compassion just like a spigot. It is much better at this than any individual.

I’m speaking here of the Freeberg Village Theory, discussed here and here and here and here and here and here. The process by which, in a season a famine, one or several individuals are declared somehow unfit. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

GTFOThe result is ostracism; and, unfortunately, archeology and the other human-history sciences are a help here. We have actual evidence of various cultures sitting down to have meetings of this kind.

And famine being a seasonal thing, it wouldn’t take long to become accustomed to this.

And so, in a relatively instantaneous window of time, the human genome would adapt. We would work for our harvest on our own pieces of land, and then we would move off them, congregating in a public place, to figure out all the stuff that requires figuring-out. All the off-routine stuff. New things. A new tribe has been set up a mile or two away; the hunting is bleak this season; new faces in the community. It works this way today, and it must have worked this way at the very beginning.

To some degree or another, the community adopts socialism. Perhaps we can keep all of our goods and our profits as individuals, but it will be brought to our attention that so-and-so needs some aid and those of us who are in a position to, will get together and provide it. Or perhaps there will be a common store; we will put some allocation into that store, and those who are in need will take some out. Or perhaps that is where all of the community’s wealth must be placed. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

But in some situation or another, there will be a pariah. A cast-off. A runt of the litter. A new set of the ostracized will be defined, and then carved off, again and again, every time the provisions become too lean to feed everybody. The community becomes a pencil, and the lean times occasionally force upon us a sharpening. You can’t sharpen a pencil without tossing away some shavings.

Now consider what liberalism is. Think about what they believe. And think about how they do their arguing about what they believe.

We “all” have these “rights”; the rights are not actually codified into any one single document, or even body of documents. Quite to the contrary, the rights are manufactured in a casual way. It seems the test is, if I can think of the right and it sounds kinda cool, then a right it is. And it is non-negotiable.

“All” means the least among us enjoy these rights. It doesn’t seem to apply to a true concept of universality, by any stretch. No, the liberal extolling the virtues of this “right” has some community of people all picked out who are supposed to enjoy the right. In all of Creation, there are few creatures more bewildered than the liberal who has just been asked “can Rush Limbaugh receive new kidneys, if he really needs them, under ObamaCare?”

Also, you can be denied these rights in total if you are defined out of existence in some way. Unborn babies come to mind as the best example; there need not be others, for this illustrates the point. A veritable cornucopia of rights for you that are etched in stone, granted to “the least among you.” But only if you make it this far: To the magical vaginal finish-line. You have to count. You have to live in the commune to receive your sustenance-level package of foodstuffs. Once you count, you get everything, but if you don’t count you get nothing. You are shut out of the village gates, to starve…so the people residing within can receive their infinitely voluminous platters of magical ever-expanding “rights.”

It is not a mental illness or a sign of intellectual weakness. A lot of liberals are actually pretty bright. The thinking that is shut down in order to make liberal ideas look good, is more of a “won’t” than a “can’t.”

It is the natural consequence of doing too much thinking, particularly thinking about social experimentation, political science, and socio-economic realities, in groups. Accepting too casually and with insufficient skepticism, the idea that when we innovate we should do the innovating in a forum so poorly suited for it.

How many times have you argued with a liberal and noticed — it starts with the liberal demonstrating to you the fitness of the idea the liberal is trying to argue. The argument proceeds from that point, like a line being drawn upon a paper, and then it seems to spiral into a black hole…or clamber upon a merry-go-round where it starts spinning in circles. At that point, you’re demonstrating your idea to the liberal and the liberal is sitting in judgment of it. Ever notice they all seem to go that way? And overall, there is a lot of difficulty involved in persuading the liberal to even engage the idea directly, let alone accept it or some piece of it. No, when the liberal sits in judgment, he sits in judgment of you.

There are some things you can point out to try to get the argument back on track. One of my favorite things to point out is “you know, decent people sometimes have the wrong idea, and creepy jerks sometimes have the right one, so it really doesn’t matter if I have these personal deficiencies you’re pointing out…” Kinda gets out of the is-not-is-too stuff. But overall, that must not be a good way to handle it because they head right back to that. Maybe my character flaws are just too glaring.

I must say, though, it tends to have the appearance of a neurotic twitch. Like an inconsolable toddler clutching a security blanket, they continue to catalog the deficiencies of the opposition on a personal level. Very, very odd behavior indeed…for someone who’s supposed to be arguing that “rights” are to be upheld, at all times, in all situations, for “all” of us even “the least among us.”

Another constant in these things is that the liberal isn’t arguing the opposition is bad; what the liberal is arguing, to be absolutely accurate about it, is that the liberal is a better person than this opposition.

It is prerational thinking, thinking from the communal, agricultural eon of human existence. It is the thinking humans engaged before they were truly capable of, or had much need for, intelligent community discourse about complex issues. What the liberal is doing, is exercising an instinctive impulse left over from our evolutionary journey. He is anticipating a famine in the next winter to arrive, laying down the argument that when the time comes to ostracize people from the village, the ideological opponent should be selected for this elimination before the liberal is selected. He is demonstrating his relative worth as a person.

This gets right to the nut of what modern liberal thinking is. It is the polar opposite of what it pretends to be. It is an argument of “when the time comes there’s not enough milk and wheat to go around, everyone remember I’ve earned mine. He hasn’t. I get his.”

And every time a liberal attacks the character of his opposition, what we are seeing is yet another example of this. No, I can’t prove it. But the more we see of liberal behavior lately, the more it becomes rather silly to try to doubt it.

Memo For File CVII

Monday, February 15th, 2010

I’ve decided the time has come to honor the advice of The Bastidge, and follow it. There is certainly a valid point to be made that the world, and therefore the populace that inhabits it, straddles a chasmatic divide separating two unacknowledged communities, and that each of these communities in perfect isolation would enjoy a harmony that must elude us as we co-exist with each other as a monolith. The divide has something to do with order versus chaos, clarity versus obfuscation, substance versus packaging, individual rights versus community obligations, opportunity versus security, pulling your weight versus fitting-in, logic versus emotion.

We’re seeing it right now with the health care debate. And it substantiates the point all the more when we observe that much of the controversy and dissention swirls around this ramshackle, oxymoronic thing called a “public option.”

I called this “Yin and Yang” out of a desire to get to the bottom of what causes people to pursue, throughout their entire lives, one way of thinking over another. The Yin work within boundaries; the Yang do not. The concept is centuries old, and dates back to periods in different world cultures in which femininity itself was a concept synonymous with the stewardship of quiet, contemplative female chores. In societies like this, it naturally follows that men think of things the way women do in ours, and women must think of things the way men do in ours. Here’s a litmus test: Friend of a friend buys a new car. Or, gets carjacked. It’s a great story to tell for sure, but who is to spend time talking about it?

In an agricultural setting, what happens to one has at least the likelihood of impacting everybody else. And so it makes good sense for people to get together somewhere and swap stories. But these are “Shut Your Girl Mouth Men Are Talking” societies. To whatever extent checking-this-out evolves to become a necessary household chore, it is a manly chore. A railroad’s coming to town, maybe (how does this change things?). Farmer Brown’s crops got wiped out by the cold weather (are ours next?). Who goes down to the saloon to find out about this stuff. It’s not the Mama; there are meals to be cooked, a floor to be swept.

Now, we have the automobile. The printing press. The Internet. Womens’ Lib. And when the time comes to swap tidbits of useful news, who does that? Here is what a lot of people are missing: This is a perfect reversal. We do not have mead halls where the men go to drink beer out of steins and compare prices of bushels of corn. It would be awesome if we did, for sure. But it’s not happening, because the gender roles in our society have flipped around in a perfect one-eighty. Men retreat into their own little worlds, not unlike the kitchens that enveloped their great-grandmothers. Their “kitchens” may be just about anything: A computer with a stubborn virus on it; a classic car that’s being rebuilt; a ham radio or a model train set down in the basement; but there is always a project, it always has a border around it, and that’s what men do.

This awesome Art of Manliness article offers a chronicling of what happened to our mead halls. It began, irony of ironies, with us guys being decent and kind enough to give the ladies the right to vote. Prohibition followed that, and…

For centuries, a man could visit a bar and be in the exclusive presence of other men. Because drinking was seen as a corrupting influence on the “purity and innocence” of women, bars were completely off limits to ladies (exceptions were made for prostitutes, of course). Out of the presence of women and children, men could open up more and revel in their masculinity over a mug of cold ale. However, the bar as a men’s only hangout would quickly see its demise during the dry years of Prohibition.

By banning alcohol, Prohibition forced drinking underground. Speakeasy owners, desperate to make a buck, accepted all drinkers into their establishments, regardless of gender. Moreover, the economic and political empowerment women experienced during the 1920s and 30s made drinking by women more acceptable. By the time Prohibition was repealed, the female presence at the local watering hole had become a common appearance.

World War II only further eroded the male exclusivity of bars and pubs. As more women entered the workforce, it became acceptable to socialize with their male co-workers in taverns and lounges after work.

Today, there aren’t many bars around that cater only to men (gay bars being an obvious exception). Instead, bars have become a place where the sexes come together to mingle and look for a special someone.

Note the article’s title: “The Decline of Male Space.” Men used to own the world. Now, we don’t. We have relinquished the privilege and obligation of socializing, turned it over to the gals, and toddled off to the basement to go play with our train sets. The women do what we used to do — they hold court and they compare their notes with each other, try to see if there’s some hidden meaning of everyday events that might affect the family.

This is precisely what their great-great-grandfathers did. The very same thing.

And so I grow weary of having to explain this. Yes, “Yin” is traditionally female, although I use it to describe a personality attribute that predominantly is to be found in our males. Yang, likewise, is traditionally male, although it describes things our women usually do and that our men, typically, don’t. The concept didn’t flip around, the gender roles did. And so, I have to concede that The Bastidge is accurate in his critique:

Your theory’s alright, if a bit vague and rambling. But Yin and Yang have a specific meaning, and you’re using them more or less backwards.

Yin is a concept roughly aligned with the female, but the concepts covered in your theory- group consciousness, socializing, consensus, softness, weakness, emotion, passivity, are all associated with it.

Yang is roughly male, but also strong, factual, direct, resolute, hard, aggresiive, etc.

In their crudest, most basic form, yin and yang refer to the female and male sexual organs.

My use of these names was arbitrary anyway, and that was on purpose. For the last five years I have seen these as placeholders for something more descriptive that would, and should, come later. After I’d given it another think. Well, with this morass of a health care “debate” that has been taking place, and will surely flare up again later this year, I’ve been forced to give it another think. Besides of which, I’ve met lots and lots of manly-male guys who do their thinking in a much “Yangy-er” way than a lot of the females…so the genders don’t fit well in any case.

And I think the terms are these:

Architects and Medicators.

The word “Architect” is chosen with care. Way back in our history, when written language was a novel idea, architects were “master builders” (which is the etymology of the term). These things they labored to construct, with every little piece of it not put in place properly, could very likely collapse and wipe out an entire family in a heartbeat. And so laws were passed condemning failed architects to a death by stoning (Code of Hammurabi, Law 229). That’s a little gruesome, but it had the effect of galvanizing their chosen profession into a noble discipline.

In their own little community, a “Climategate” e-mail scandal would not, could not, have been tolerated even for an instant. Things were the way they were — period. An angle was ninety degrees, or it wasn’t — period. Up was up and down was down — period. There was no room for bastardizing the peer review process into some mutation of what it was intended to be, to ostracize and excoriate colleagues who spoke measurable truth. The architect, hundreds of years before Christ, lived in an object-oriented world and thought about that world in an object-oriented way.

Okay, now let’s look at what I’ve set up as the polar opposite.

“Medicator,” similarly, is chosen with deliberate thought and intent. “Physician” doesn’t work because physicians are supposed to adhere to the Hypocratic Oath and First Do No Harm. The verb “medicate” is applied to addictions, primary among those being mind-altering substances. It speaks to a process of adjusting one’s emotional response to reality as a first priority, with recognizing that reality as a distinctly second-place priority. Medicators do not heal. Nor do they seek to do harm. The long-term welfare of the body is simply outside of their concern. It isn’t that they don’t care, it’s that there is an emotional well-being that they prize more highly.

To recognize reality as it really is, and to adjust one’s emotional profile in response to the reality so that it is unconditionally cheery, are two mutually-exclusive goals. It may not seem to be the case when reality happens to be pleasant. But when reality is unpleasant you can choose to wrestle with it to whatever extent is required to fix a problem, or you can choose to ignore it in order to keep your emotions on a high and even keel. The sacrifice of long-term satisfaction in order to achieve a short-term high is, of course, a defining hallmark of medicating.

One Revolution AwayNow, these people trying to shove this fustercluck of a health care bill down our throats: It’s no mystery at all where they come down. They are medicators. It is not a primary goal of theirs to actually treat illnesses, heal the sick, bring “healthcare” or “access to healthcare” to “the uninsured.” Nor are they trying — architect-style — to solve any kind of a problem, President Obama’s unceasing speechifying notwithstanding. Think on it: When is the last time you heard anyone in Washington use those phrases above? Been awhile, hasn’t it? No, lately it’s about “getting this done.” Beating the opposition. Winning. Make things the way they/we want them to be. But wait just a second…we’re half way through an election cycle, one that began with their decisive victory. They already beat the opposition. Their victory is forgotten, however, just like a druggie’s high, and they find themselves incomplete, hungry, after-buzzed, struck with a raging case of Delerium Tremens if they don’t score another victory. And after they get that done, of course, they’ll need another and another and another. They live out their lives on a hairpin turn, just like a druggie. Time loses all meaning for them. Bliss is constantly one hit away.

It’s not about health care, of course. It’s about how we think about the world around us. The medicator lives in a gilded cage, waiting passively for someone to come along and fix the latest problem. He does not solve real problems, he does not support anyone who would solve real problems, he does not live in reality. He considers reality itself to be an inimical force. This, ironically, provides a liberating effect. Of course it’s all about the way one does one’s thinking to perceive the world around him, and with someone else assuming the burden of actually fixing the problem, the thinker enjoys the luxury of thinking about things as a non-architect. In a non-object-oriented way. With every little thing on God’s creation, melted together into a sloppy mess. And this overly-medicated “thinker” does not think, in turn, about the resulting mess; instead, he picks up an emotional vibe from it, and shares it with other self-medicated thinkers. That’s the model of reality as perceived by the medicator: A great big ball of warm, gooey wax that’s all melted together, and is now giving off vibes. Hopefully good ones, but if they’re bad ones then someone else needs to fix something — or it’s time for another “hit” of something via one-more-revolution.

Disciplining a child provides a similar contrast. To the architect, everything is cause and effect: The child engaged in undesirable behavior, therefore something needs to be modified about what the child perceives as proper or improper. The solution is to teach the child a new taboo. This can be done through direct communication if the child shares the desire that his behavior should be proper, or through punishment if he does not. First of all the transgression has to be properly categorized — bad attitude, or simple misunderstanding? Then we assess what the child understands about etiquette and go from there. In the Architect’s world, that’s what we do.

In the Medicator’s world, the exercise really is one of medication! Concentrating on something is not a task that was, for one reason or another, failed in this case; it is an ability that has gone missing because the child’s “brain isn’t wired quite right.” Of course the solution is to put the child on a prescription for some goop that will alter his emotional state, and make the process “easier for him.” (It’s nearly always a him.)

Another acid test is when a complex system of any kind starts producing the wrong output, because some unit within it starts to go all wonky — with all the other units in good order. To the Architect and Medicator alike, this is a no-brainer, but they come up with polar-opposite solutions. The Medicator wants to chuck the whole thing and start from scratch, whereas the Architect sees a puzzle to be solved in separating what’s good from what’s busted. Think of Blondie and Dagwood getting in one of their matrimonial melees about whether to call the plumber.

I commented last month that I had finally expunged the malware from my HP Mini notebook. My victory announcement was premature, it turned out. The beastie lived on, downloading other crap onto my platform. It shames me to say it, but if I were to act purely on logic and reasonable cost-benefit analyses, I would have taken the “scorched earth” approach much, much earlier than I did, and lost a lot less time. It became an Ahab/whale thing; I lost sight of fixing the problem, and concentrated instead on figuring out entirely useless trivia about it. Where’d I pick up this thing? What exactly does it contaminate? How come these packages over here can detect it and fool themselves into thinking they’re cleaning it, when they’re not? How come that package over there seems to have “wounded” it (toward the end, it locked up the netbook instead of popping up an ad, which is what it was clearly trying to do)…but can’t quite get all of it?

See, neither Architects or Medicators enjoy a monopoly on always having the right idea. Medicators throw things away in bulk — they are much more inclined to announce “this entire thing is bolluxed!” That is often the right approach, and I have to make a confession…my second one, now…that I’ve often missed out on this advantage when it comes up. Medicators seem to think life has no puzzles in it, none whatsoever. And they probably think this because, in the world they construct around themselves by accepting some responsibilities and simply walking away from some other ones, they’re absolutely right. Choices confront them — choices in which the wrong answer results in some kind of personal suffering — and they become petulant, unpleasant, and then someone else swoops in and solves it for them.

In their world, the question of who gets the “rep” as a problem solver, is completely isolated from the record of who did or didn’t actually solve problems. At no time has this been more evident, than this first year of watching our new President struggle with the demands of His new job. He is a dedicated Medicator. He fixes nothing. The only responsibility He takes is to refine the emotional buzz that comes from this thing or that one…and having failed even at that, He has a ready finger-of-blame to point somewhere else so He can give Himself a good report card. Which He did, actually. That one single act speaks volumes not only to how He thinks about the world and the challenges within it; it is a tip-off to how medicators think as well. You’ll notice this about them if you know some really dedicated ones personally. They enter into conflict with others, because they tend to demand the final word about their own work. It was up to par, the other guy just has a mistaken interpretation of “par.” They followed the instructions they were given, it’s the other guy’s fault for not giving them the right ones.

Running a meeting is yet another good litmus test. Some meeting chairs do it right: Agenda item, question, answer, does anyone have any objections, next agenda item — boom, boom, boom. Others engage in this ludicrous and time-consuming practice of using the forum to adjust the emotional tenor of the participants, as if it’s a high school pep rally. Buying a car: Any salesman will tell you, some people turn their thoughts to the TCO with considerations such as gas mileage, service records, availability of parts. Others worry overly much about how they look when they’re tooling around in the car, what strangers will think of them.

Homeowners’ Association bylaws can be written to accommodate one of these halves of humanity, or the other, or both. This is a rather interesting situation, because the bylaws represent an attempt to “architect” a successful neighborhood, through the “medication” of the emotions of the people who observe it. Here and there, though, we see stories in the news surrounding HOA bylaws that are, to turn a rustic phrase, just plain stupid. They don’t do anything to make people feel good and it seems extravagant and far-fetched to suppose they could have anything to do with preserving the value of the property. Banning the American flag is the one example that springs immediately to mind, since those stories have a way of jumping onto the front page.

The last time we linked one of these, the story in question showcased a persistent trait among the Medicators: proxy offense.

[M]anagement told them the flags could be offensive because they live in a diverse community.

The controlling curmudgeon lays down the curmudgeonly rule, and the curmudgeon is silent on whether he or she personally finds the emblem, the e-mail, the cologne, the pin-up calendar, et al, offensive. It’s much more often proxy: Some third party is offended. Or some third party could be offended. The impossible-to-meet “Could Be Interpreted As” standard of cleanliness. It is conceivably possible, therefore the contraband has to go. The curmudgeon will oversee the removal. But it’s business and not personal, see? Just like something out of The Godfather: “Tell Michael I always liked him, it was business, not personal.” Some nameless faceless anonymous person complained, or could complain.

This dedicated Architect says — Medicators really shouldn’t be running anything. They don’t want to. They don’t want the responsibility. This is why these columns are now coming out, some serious and some satirical, that speculate openly that President Obama is perhaps bored and disenchanted with His own job. I no longer consider it to be commentary outside my sphere of knowledge, to proffer that President Obama had some serious misgivings the first time He made a decision about something that had little-or-nothing to do with winning an election, saw that His decision had a direct bearing upon the outcome, and emotionally recoiled. I have seen this happen too many times, up close. In the months since then, the country has been buried in this “awkward stage” in which He tries to confront each and every single challenge with a vision that, as this-or-that chapter reaches the final page, the emotional buzz of those watching has been fine-tuned and frothed up into a desirable state of bliss. This is, I’m sure, why we’ve seen so many speeches out of Him during His first year, and will doubtless see about that many out of Him during His second.

We live in a society in which our every want and need is met, with resistance or inconvenience that is at best negligible. It may not seem like that to us at the time because we’re spoiled; we tend to mistake a temporary slow-down, or wrong turn, or setback, for a real possibility of failure in acquiring what we’re trying to acquire. Deep down, we all know we’re not really being challenged by much of anything; we will get what we are trying to get, one way or the other, so long as some minimal quantity of our peers are also trying to get the same thing. If all else fails we’ll band together and our populist rage will force someone to give it to us. We’re supposed to be so worried about “the economy” but we have our beer, our coffee, our big teevee screens. The only things that are really in jeopardy are the self-respect and dignity that come from having a job, and the same for our children. All other things are guaranteed, in one way or another. They don’t face any real jeopardy.

This state of hyper-safe hyper-civilization has aggravated the divide between — whate’er you wanna callzem, Yin and Yang, or Architects and Medicators — as I’ve pointed out before. It creates a bigger divide on such fundamental questions as: What is a good speech, anyway? What is a convincing argument? Is it thinky-thinky or feelie-feelie? In other words, do you progress systematically among the first three pillars, basing your opinions/inferences upon available fact and things-to-do upong the opinions/inferences. Or, do you just stir up a whole lot of motivating emotions in your audience, get them all outraged against some straw-man Snidely Whiplash, anti-logical exuberance for your “ideas,” Obama-style?

And the fact is, Architects have a definite idea in mind about the answer to such rudimentary questions.

Another fact is, Medicators have a definite idea about the answer as well. These ideas are not the same. They are opposites.

Another fact is, neither side is willing to budge on such issues. If you have a pulse, and a brain, and you’ve been using your brain to solve problems that confront you here and there…each day you stay alive further enmeshes you in the answer you chose, way back, before you were five years old.

And the least inconvenient fact of all is that if we cannot agree on questions like those, we aren’t going to agree on anything else.

We are engaged in a discourse between people who understand how to make real decisions, and those who do not understand this and do not seek to understand this. They don’t see the need. But since they’ve “won,” for the time being it is their job…even if they continue to find ways to weasel out of it, and blame others when the job goes undone.

So Much Gasbaggery

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Why Obama is Obsessed with Summits. It was on my “tall stack” as of the end of last year, and it never made it into this scroll. Better late than never.

Little more than a month after taking office, he held a “Fiscal Responsibility Summit” where he solicited ideas for battling the deficit; a few weeks after that he hosted a “Health Care Summit” to kick off his drive for health care reform; and later still came the “H1N1 Preparedness Summit” and the “Distracted Driving Summit.” Then there were the assortment of international summits (Summit of the Americas, NATO Summit, G-8 Summit, G-20 Summit, ASEAN Summit), head-of-state summits (Karzai, Zardari, Medvedev, Hatoyama, Hu), and, of course, the Beer Summit with Henry Louis Gates and Sergeant James Crowley. And today Obama’s summitry comes full circle when he holds another jobs summit, where he and 130 other people (including Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, and even Eric Schmidt, in case he has any new ideas he didn’t put forth 14 months ago) will chew over how to get the unemployment rate out of double digits. Add it all up and that’s an astounding amount of gas-baggery in such a relatively short period of time.

Reminds me of this sketch that appeared on a popular local comedy show, waaaay back in the day when I was living in Seattle. Yes, that is Bill Nye the Science Guy, in case you were wondering.

Hat tip to Mere Rhetoric. And, my notes also indicate, this one came by way of the purse-dog-obsessed Gerard.

Anthony’s Snow

Friday, October 30th, 2009

For reasons I’d rather not list, I’ve been forced to think lately about this messy thing that invades our lives whether we invite it or not, called “other people”…where people go wrong, and why. How they make it tough to get along with ‘em. The deleterious effects they have on one another. The mistakes they seem to make, apparently with innocence, but then the mistakes have been made so many times before. I’ve thought about this before, and I’ve written about it a few times.

The taxonomy known as Ten Terraces of Liberalism shies away from the specifics of cause, opting instead to focus its inspecting lens upon levels of severity. It leaves much ground uncovered, for this reason. The ground it does cover has to do with specific methods of initial recruitment. And the Seven Steps to Insanity is another taxonomy of levels, more vertical than horizontal; the former traces how people become more and more liberal, the latter traces how they become just-plain-nuts.

So let’s look into what’s been left flapping in the wind, untied, so we can get it tied down.

First, there are Pie People. Pie People are easy to define. Their area of special interest is economics, and their fundamental error is an unsubstantiated belief in wealth’s fungible nature. A dollar in my pocket is proof-positive you can’t ever have it in yours for however long it remains in mine. Any billionaire you see, therefore, is ipso facto evidence of deprivation, and perhaps extortion, of hundreds of thousands of innocents who should be wealthier than they really are.

The Pie People believe in an economic “pie” that is of a fixed diameter and mass, although the size of the slices out of that pie may vary by size. That’s why when my slice is bigger, the net of all the other slices must be diminished — including yours. Naturally, the only fair thing to do is to make all the slices equal.

Elimination-of-Risk people are closely related to this. Both of these types of people, are associated with obsessive-compulsive behavior. The more they get of something they wanted, the more they want — again. It never stops. Pie People want everyone to have the same amount of stuff, and elimination-of-risk people want life to be safer and safer until there is no risk at all. They have it in common that they fail to see that they just got everything they wanted. They constantly feel like they’re being had. And so when they get what they want, and as a direct result everything turns to crap, they naturally fail to see that too. They want more more more. And they get it.

This weekend I scrambled under a deadline to put together a document that is of a private nature, and I’ll not elaborate too much on what is in there…but there is one section that is worthy of reproducing here.

This is a schism that has been opened wide under the foundation of every single culture, I suspect, that has achieved any semblance of “civilization” since the beginning of history. …Humanity has been struggling, since its inception, to figure out if it’s worth the hassle of trying to drive any & all risk of failure out of the day-to-day challenge of living life.

Behind that question, a second question emerges: Could there be danger involved in trying to eradicate any and all risk? To those who assert that it’s worthwhile to drive risk of failure from our existence, or at the very least that getting rid of all risk is relatively harmless, the recent history that is the bailout boondoggle intrudes as an inconvenient lesson. It has been ill-advised, reckless, certainly very expensive, and toxic. Even people who don’t typically believe in the free market, are now perhaps more worried than they’re willing to admit about the loose soil under our economy that is the ongoing survival of firms that — according to conventional market signals, that were overruled in an exceptional case — shouldn’t continue to exist. Such a situation is, indeed, the primary cause of the bursting of the housing bubble that took place a year ago.
:
Lots of good, sound, logical points are made why we shouldn’t do it. We do it anyway. It turns out to be a huge mistake. Entities that should be successful, fail; entities that should fail, because of artificial “bowling bumpers” put in place, succeed.

When it’s over, anybody who honestly inspects the situation and puts some quality thought into thinking about what it is they’ve seen, has to admit this was a huge mistake and we shouldn’t have done it. And yet — the next time the same situation comes up, we look seriously at doing it yet again, and more often than not we do try to eliminate risk all over again.
:
I should add that, as I write this, there are murmurs from Washington that since the “Stimulus Plan” didn’t lower the unemployment rate and might have even raised it, what we need is a “Stimulus II” or “Son of Stimulus.” I rest my case. We think we are evaluating the results of the things we are doing, with some honesty. We’re wrong.

Now, here’s a heady question: Do the Pie People morph over time into the Elimination-of-Risk people? Or is it the other way around?

So far, it seems to me the faction most opposed to common sense and rational thinking is the E.O.R. people. They have shown themselves capable, as I pointed out above, of looking upon the wreckage of their flawed ideas and in that very moment solemnly pledging to do it all over again…to fix the wreckage. If sanity is something that can be casually expunged, so it can never ever be retrieved again — they are very close.

But in this same document, I continued to describe another modern people-problem…one that might be even worse still. The “parade people”:

I’m writing here about those poor wretched souls who seem to go through life disbelieving in, or doubting, or failing to observe, any connection that might possibly exist between the things they do and the positive or negative consequences that are visited upon them. These people seem to see life as some sort of parade, an endless and meanering tapestry of surprises, hopefully pleasant ones but at other times unpleasant ones; these things just seem to “happen.”

Passive voice is the rule. I didn’t fuck up at my job; I got fired. Mean ol’ boss came in one day and laid the smack down. Poor me. Got my car taken away by that man who works for the cruel, heartless bank. Don’t talk to me about failing to make the payments. What good does that do? What happened was that I got my car taken away. I lost it. Poor me.

It’s often done by proxy, which is to say by one person on behalf of another; this is classic enabling. He has a learning disability. Her weight problem is genetic. His private life is separate from his performance in public office. They’re sending their children into Israel with dynamite belts because they have no other way of defending themselves. There wouldn’t be any crime if the economy was just a little bit better. They didn’t get divorced because they got married too young and grew apart; HE changed, and in so doing drove her into another man’s arms. He made her do it.

These people aren’t known for taking extra steps to stop bad things from happening, in fact they are known for reacting with acrimony and resentment if it’s ever pointed out something could be done to stop bad things from happening. Their view of life becomes limited, and necessarily their view of their own role in life also must become limited. They extend this limited view to others they know, after awhile. If you know them, you feel the weight bearing down on you that you shouldn’t be working too hard. Why do you have to go to work today? Why don’t you call in sick? How come you never call in sick, unless you’re really sick?

That’s why I call them “Parade People”; the assignment seems to be to sit or stand…and watch. That is all that is expected from any of us. Except, that is, for the people who make it happen. These people are elitists, embracing the social contract that we should get along with each other and recognize each other as human beings — but they only feel the obligation of honoring that among their own kind. Should you ever go out to lunch with them, you’ll find they don’t treat the “help” the same way they treat their friends, who are “real people,” who in turn are cooler because they have fewer things to do. Together, they’re all supposed to wait for the next surprise to come along, and display the appropriate and expected emotional reaction to it. That’s it. Then wait for the next surprise. Apart from that, it seems nobody is really supposed to be doing anything. Except for those stupid grunts who somehow have the “job” of putting the parade together.

The slightest suggestion that someone, somewhere…anyone…has what it takes to perhaps impose an effect on what the next thing is that comes down the road…gets these people angry. Think about this for a minute or two. Recall your own experiences with people like this. They don’t mildly, simply, coolly, dispassionately disagree. They get mad. Like they’re involved in some kind of a civil war.

That’s because they are.

And so perhaps they have a tendency to evolve into the cornfield people.

Earlier this week, blogger friend Rick chose to challenge a left-wing Christian blogger who said she was “sick of war.” I joined in, and together we courteously made the point that war does have its purposes. Trouble is, you can’t be courteous to the cornfield people. After she declared she “had enough” I decided to test the boundaries here and try to figure out just how hypersensitive the cornfield people are. Answer: Very…although I was left with the distinct impression that if my opinions on the issues were more to her liking, the eggshells upon which I was walking would suddenly be made of cast iron, and I’d have much greater latitude.

All of the points she had to make — each and every single one — had to do with some wish that she had, that someone or something would cease to exist. Not much thought about what was to become of the wretched things. They should just stop…being. That’s why I call people like her “cornfield people.” The reference is to the six-year-old boy in the Twilight Zone episode who wishes people out to the cornfield. It’s an ingenious little tale (Physics Geek was kind enough to write in and provide a link to the story from which the TZ episode was made).

This behavior remained consistent, and continued until the very end when she announced that she had to unexpectedly put down her dog of eight years, and really, really couldn’t stand this anymore. Comments closed.

Back at Rick’s place, I noted that not only could her entire argument be distilled down to a singular wish that this-thing or that-thing be made to disappear…and she never once had anything else of substance to say…but she maintained through it all a narcissistic “It’s All About Me Me Me” unidirectional sensitivity about what she found offensive. In whatever. Had she put a moment’s thought into the idea that perhaps she can say things that sound offensive to others, she’d have her own answer about why she was being oh so picked on in this rough-and-tumble world we call the blogosphere…in which, for reasons unknown, she thought her hypersensitive ego could be safely ensconced. But she couldn’t even read accurately. She hallucinated some kind of awful things I said about her family that I never once said. This is a good lesson for us all, I think. These people are out there. Some of them are capable of getting jobs. If they disagree with you it’s all your fault. They’re walking claymore mines.

If their thirst for drama ends up doing you harm, they’ll not be sorry. They’re elitists, and they’re cornfield people.

They go around finding things offensive. It’s not a two-way street with these folks, just like Anthony’s reading minds in “It’s A Good Life” was not a two-way street.

I love that story because although it’s primarily concerned with the life the grown-ups are forced to live, “if Anthony would let them,” a subtle side-plot is Anthony’s gradual development of a strange, dysfunctional personality — a personality that isn’t good for anything. He’s building it every day he lives (presumably, in both the book and the TV episode, everyone starves to death)…because he coasts on through his childhood never being told no.

You can tell, as I draw my little arrows in oh-so-light-pencil from one type to the next type, that I think there’s a connection amongst all these, a connection of cause and effect. But I’m really not terribly sure what it is; what pupates into what. I do know, be that as it may, what it is they all have in common. All these folk, for whatever reason, are living out only a piece of the gift we call “life.” Perhaps they’re simply afraid to embrace all of it. They cannot compromise on too many things. They want everything done their way. But if everything really is done their way, the rest of us only live out a piece of life as well. We end up watching snow fall on our crops in midsummer, just like the grown-ups at the end of the TZ episode. In fact, you could make a perfectly acceptable argument that Atlas Shrugged is the same story, with a few more pages and a more meandering plot. The primary sequence of events, and the characters & motivation, are all the same.

All of this may be taken as a lead-up to a wonderful essay Neo-Neocon has put together called “My Friends The Liberals.” You’ve made it this far through my own scribblings; in for a penny, in for a pound. You should stop whatever it is you’ve been waiting to get to, click open her post and read every single word, including the comments. Highlights:

I mentioned that my liberal friends often diss America. This happens so often that it is almost a verbal tic. Often, their fellow countrymen/women are contrasted to those wonderful Europeans, who are (take your pick): cultured, sophisticated, linguistically diverse, international, pacifist, non-imperialist (now, anyway—since history began post-WWII). Americans? The opposite.
:
If someone tries to point out certain things that are unequivocally and more conventionally “good” about America, such as the fact that the US was in the forefront of international relief after the tsunami, it is brushed off as a very small and insignificant matter compared to the manifest wrongs we’ve committed. Their belief in the general evil perpetrated by the US around the world is not built on a single event, nor can it be eradicated by pointing out a single fact, or even a few. It is a huge edifice built on thousands of smaller bits of supposed knowledge, and to mount an assault on it would take several courses and piles of reading matter, and might not be successful even then.

Are you beginning to see the depth of the tragedy here? All this effort is put into being positive. To think happy thoughts. To see the other side of those who might casually be categorized as the least worthy among us. To find reasons why such-and-such a guy is stealing liquor from a drugstore…maybe he’s trying to scrape together a few bucks to get his dying daughter the chemotherapy she needs, et cetera.

That’s supposed to be the redeeming quality. The ability to see the other side, to recognize beneficial attributes that would go otherwise unnoticed.

And yet I think all sane people, occupying any position along the ideological spectrum, would ‘fess up that “[M]y liberal friends often diss America…it is almost a verbal tic” has nothing positive going for it whatsoever. There is some dark alchemy at work that metastasizes this drive to do good, to think those happy thoughts, to “dream of things that never were, and ask ‘why not?’” — into something acrid, caustic, and trenchant.

No, worse than that.

Something that, by its very nature, is antithetical to the living of life. Something parasitic. Salt sown into the soil where our crops are supposed to grow. Something that stops us from living some of life today, and all of life tomorrow.

Anthony’s snow, perhaps.

Update: Seeing lots of parallels between this lamentation, and what Peggy Noonan is noticing. Perhaps we’re seeing exactly the same thing, and making our comments in different ways?

I Made a New Word XXVIII

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Goodperson Fever (n.) is an obsessive-compulsive disorder involving the demonstration of certain positive attributes to strangers, for purposes of self-validation. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle if these positive attributes don’t really exist, or if there is a great need to achieve this validation for purposes of acquiring social status, contrasted with a much lower level of confidence that these attributes really exist.

The fever has one distinguishing symptom, the recognition of which provides a conclusive, undeniable diagnosis that the fever is in its advanced stages: The more that has been achieved as far as getting the word out that the patient is a Good Person, the greater the impulse to do it again.

Eco CupLesser symptoms include: Expressing one’s political beliefs about something when the topic of conversation is different or unrelated, and when nobody inquired; isolating classes of people as targeted beneficiaries of one’s helpful efforts, for purely obsequious purposes, such as “women” and “minorities”; excessive concern about the environment, but purely as a social issue and without any regard to cause and effect — such as drinking coffee out of a “green” eco-cup, but then commuting to work in a Ford Explorer or Toyota Tundra. The litmus test is that the incentive to do these good things that good-persons do, suddenly dissipates when it is perceived that nobody is paying attention.

In government and in other positions of authority, Goodperson Fever is the cause of nearly every bad law in human history. Someone, somewhere, wanted to demonstrate to strangers what a good person he or she was.

There is very little that can be done to treat Goodperson Fever, since ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, and providing the validation that is so desperately craved by the patient, just makes things worse. Experts say there are lots of things we can do to prevent it though. Some significant responsibilities for potential victims in the childhood years, will give them an opportunity to measure their self-worth from within and therefore mitigate the need to go seeking such validation from total or near-total strangers later on. Also, Goodperson Fever epidemics take hold most often in social circles and in geographic regions where there is little work to do, or what little work there is, is done by “everybody” with little or no opportunity for individuals to distinguish themselves. It seems to be a natural consequence of propagating the “Together We Can Do This” meme with a little too much zeal. People start to hunger for ways to establish an identity and ultimately fall into the trap of proving themselves to be the “Most Extraordinary Ordinary Person” around.

Some say our susceptibility to this may be a holdover from thousands of years of evolution, from when man lived in villages that operated as a commune. The theory is that after a bleak harvest season, when food and other resources became scarce, people began to look for ways to prove themselves worthy in case the sustenance on hand was insufficient to accommodate everyone, and some villagers would have to be cast out for the survival of the rest. According to this, those who were less inclined to engage this vicious cycle of proving themselves, were the ones who were ostracized. They died off, and were thus removed from the gene pool. Those who are alive today, therefore, are descended from the sycophants who managed to straddle that illogical line: Everything that is worth doing, is worth doing by everyone, and nobody should go off and do anything by his lonesome — that would imply a specialty, and we can’t have specialties because everyone is worthy and everyone is equal. But oh, by the way, just in case the hunting is bad and the crops are withered, here are the reasons why I’m more worthy than most.

Whatever the cause, it is responsible for a great deal of damage, although, it must be said, no hard scientific correlation has yet been found between Goodperson Fever and global warming.

But — for the good of society — we’re sure as hell going to try to come up with one.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Protest Fail

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

One ringleader babbling away about “command hierarchy” and “consensus”…but it doesn’t seem to me anyone else believes in such things. And that includes the people on his side of the conflict. He’s herdin’ cats.

Just like the “real leaders” with such strangely simplistic notions of consensus-building. In many ways. Like, end results, how well it’s thought-out, how well it’s coordinated…how funny it looks (when there’s nothing really important at stake).

Well — I’m off to get myself a glass of Corporate Water and get ready for bed. Night, all.

It All Begins With an Investment…

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

…and from there things spiral down.

Two Wheels on my Wagoner
[Mark Steyn]

Incidentally, the government “overhaul” of GM is a useful shorthand for where we’re heading:

The first quid pro quo for the government giving you money (or “investing”, as President Obama and David Brooks say) is that it gets to regulate your behavior. Not just who sits on your board or (see Sarkozy last week) where your factory has to be. When the government “pays” for your health care, it reserves the right to deny (as in parts of Britain) heart disease treatment for smokers or hip replacement for the obese. Why be surprised? When the state’s “paying” for your health, your lifestyle directly impacts its “investment.”

The next stage is that, having gotten you used to having your behavior regulated, the state advances to approving not just what you do but what you’re allowed to read, see, hear, think: See the “Canadian Content” regulations up north, and the enforcers of the “human rights” commissions. Or Britain’s recent criminalization of “homophobic jokes.”

You’d be surprised how painlessly and smoothly once-free peoples slip from government “investing” to government control.

Blogger friend Buck found, I think, the perfect cartoon about this, and the best article I’ve yet seen to go along with it…

You're Fired, I'll DrivePresident Obama said Monday, “my team will be working closely with GM to produce a better business plan.”

To that confident assertion he added these stern sentiments:

“They must ask themselves: Have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands? Have they cleaned up their balance sheets, or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can’t make future investments? Above all, have they created a credible model for how not only to survive, but to succeed in this competitive global market?”

Who is in a better position to know the answers to these questions? Rick Wagoner, the GM CEO for nine years and former GM chief financial officer who has been with the automaker since the late 1970s, even running one of its foreign affiliates in Brazil, and who holds a Harvard Business School MBA?

Or President Obama, a former community activist from the south side of Chicago with a great rhetorical gift?

The president answered that question this week by ordering Wagoner’s firing.
:
It should now be clear: Federal bailout funds are a corporate narcotic. Once a company starts taking them, a chemicallike dependence develops. The addict does whatever will bring in more of the drug. Ultimately, like heroin, the short-term euphoria gives way to decreased function for the recipient, even destruction.

Being a wild-eyed right-wing blogger in his underwear, and therefore an extremist, I see two distinctly separate issues here. (God willing, the typical “moderate” voter and taxpayer sees at least one.) There is the issue, first of all, of federalism and traditional restraint. How long do we have before GM employees are somehow forbidden from taking their personal salaries, which after all were made possible with taxpayer funded bailout money, and using them to send their precious curtain-critters to parochial schools? Or signing ‘em up with that “hate group” known as the Boy Scouts? This is the issue Steyn brings to our attention from across the pond in jolly ol’ Great Britain.

And then, secondarily, there is the issue of effectiveness. IBD contrasts the experiences and talents of ex-chief Wagoner, against our Messiah in the White House. I perceive it to be more like Wagoner against Congressman Barney Frank, and it’s a scenario straight out of Atlas Shrugged — tough, ambitious, dedicated and experienced men are isolated from the decisions that matter, and the baton is passed to slick, glib shysters whose rolodexes are packed full of just the right names. Men who’ve built the careers not on building things, but destroying things. Not on coming up with a formula for a better brand of steel, or on saving a company from insolvency, or on marketing, or on finding a revolutionary new way to extract oil from shale rock…but on walking away from disasters without absorbing any of the blame.

How is this new class of decision-maker, whose occasional episodes of honesty can happen only by the purest type of accident, to supply the judgment and talent needed?

If you think that has a good shot at happening, with the private-sector specialists such as Wagoner gracelessly tossed over the side, you’ll probably gain a new sense of perspective after you get done watching this.

White People Caused the Credit Crunch

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Here’s some hatred that can get Lynda Carter a little bit worried…assuming she’s interested.

Brazil’s President, while meeting Gordon Brown, has said the global financial crisis was caused by “white people with blue eyes”.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made the comments after talks with the Prime Minister to try to forge a global consensus on how to save the worldwide economy.

Sky News’ Joey Jones said it was an “uncomfortable” moment for Mr Brown.

“The President does not mind using fairly flamboyant language. He likes to give extensive answers to journalists.

“But some of it was rather awkward for the Prime Minister, who was standing there listening to the President.

“A few eyebrows will have gone up at what he said.”

Downing Street says the remarks were meant for “domestic consumption”.

Yup. Keep using that word “hate” to describe whoever doesn’t drop to their knees and start licking President Obama’s shoes…and nobody else. We wouldn’t want that word to lose its descriptive power and specificity, would we?

This is a serious problem, really — the crisis within a crisis. People who regularly find an audience of millions, are looking for class-targets to blame for the economic disappointments. Presidents, representatives, newscasters, dignitaries…blaming…somebody, like it’s their job to blame things on other things. I guess, in some perverse way, it is. And the rest of us, like Wonder Woman back there, fail to see the hate when it’s right in front of us. To far too many of us, hate is nothing more than a failure to climb on a bandwagon. I like something, you don’t, so that makes you a “hater.” Meanwhile thanks to the meltdown, we have some real hate in the style of Mr. da Silva. There’s very little unique about what he said. He’s cutting edge as far as blaming an actual race of people…but how new is that. We’ve already blamed AIG executives who earned their bonuses, Republicans, “Wall Street,” Ronald Reagan, deregulation, et cetera.

They’re all just trying to throw the hounds off the trail. And public figures will throw anybody under the bus, that they have to. Any red herring will do.

I think that’s as good a definition of “hate” as any other.

Invention Versus Convention

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Dustbury is criticizing the folks who are my age, plus just a handful of years. Since this is a valid point and it’s been proven out, I find it to be a little bit of a scary thing. I can already feel some of the aptitudes and strengths I had, years ago, slipping away and I don’t know if it’s because of age or atrophy.

I concede that there are plenty of people like this out there:

I’m constantly amazed by the fact that our older faculty/staff can clearly and easily be separated into two degrees of capability: mediocre and nonexistent.

The Mediocre folks are capable enough of doing basic word processing tasks and working with one or two specialty statistics programs they’ve been using for at least a decade. The Nonexistent folks are much worse; they routinely need help figuring out (I am not making this up) that they have accidentally pushed the Caps Lock key when typing.

As near as I can tell, the “Nonexistent”-skilled folks have one thing in common: all are over the age of 45, whether faculty or staff. Watching them attempt to work on their own, I can only conclude that for some portion of the population, the ability to form new mental models and learn new tasks (or even new ways of doing old tasks) has been lost after this age.

The real threat, in my experience, is the person with Nonexistent skills who nonetheless estimates himself to be Mediocre or better; we spend an inordinate number of hours undoing the clever little things he’s done.

I am, of course, way over the age of 45, but I’ve spent half my lifetime in the company of these daffy machines, so I have at least a vague idea of what I’m doing most of the time, and when I don’t, I’m not too proud to request assistance.

My hope is, that as I finish up on my fifth decade on the planet, I will have been irritated and agitated into figuring out what the hell’s going on with this-or-that thing on a daily basis, and therefore have some of this “Young Man’s Magic” — the “ability to form new mental models and learn new tasks” — that a normal fifty-year-old would’ve lost. I’ll either have that germinating in my cranium, or a brain tumor, maybe.

That would appear to be my retirement plan. This bit of sabotage that was done to the market to get The Annointed One installed as our next President, has damaged my 401k to such an extent that I’m afraid to open those little envelopes and find out what kind of damage has been done.

But I see, going all the way back to second grade, when people are obsessed with how I’m going about a task rather than whether I’ll get it done or not, they end up pissed at me and I end up pissed at myself. I’m just not good at figuring out what the other fellow would do in my shoes, and doing the same thing. And so I’ve spent my career trying to keep myself in a position where outcome matters. That would seem to be an easy thing — outcome is supposed to matter.

But no. It’s been hideously difficult, and of concern to everyone else rather than just to myself…in the last ten or twenty years…it has been becoming increasingly more difficult. I’ve seen the world settling into this mold where if you do things the same way the other guy would do ‘em, and fail, you’ve succeeded, but if you succeed by doing something unorthodox nobody else is doing, you’ve failed.

I’m thinking these people Dustbury is describing, are the ones who’ve adapted more easily to this marching-band mode of work. Leave it to the other fellow to actually invent something — you just go through the motions. They end up in leadership positions, because we find them comforting. They do what we expect them to do; all coloring within the lines. Sure, they work in places where you’re supposed to be creative and coming up with new ways of doing things…and they don’t do it…but who cares.

I can think of two occasions on which I seriously thought of getting out of software development altogether. The first time was when one of the managing partners made up his mind he was my direct supervisor (it was never clearly defined for me whether or not this was the case). He’d task me to do something that might take two to four hours. It was new, innovative stuff, having to do with adding a feature to a product that nobody had tried to add before. But he got it into his head exactly what I’d be doing fifteen minutes into it, and come charging into the lab to check up on me. In other words — success wasn’t defined as getting it done. It was defined as doing it the way he’d be doing it if he were the guy doing it.

You have to think things through logically to get anything accomplished at all, so this was a big damper. The logical thinker can see, easily, that you can’t do new things that haven’t been done before, when your goal has been defined as doing things the way any other yokel would be doing ‘em.

The other time I was in class, back when object-oriented programming was becoming the next Big Hot Thing. The instructor put some kind of question before the class and demanded we jot down our answers and submit them. After he got them back, he announced there was one answer he got that he was going to skip over, because it was the only one like this. Again — you aren’t building anything new, and you aren’t going to build anything new, if you’re charged with the task of doing things the way everyone else is doing ‘em. Technology is the opposite of convention. So anyplace success is measured through some kind of orthodoxy, the job, really, is to copy things. Whether people want to admit that or not.

Also, non-innovative people really bristle with a special kind of resentment when they see someone else being innovative. It’s not a simple peevishness. There really is no kind of anger in the human condition quite like this. Your wife, catching you sleeping with another woman, is going to leave some bits of anger uncovered, that this kind of rage captures quite nicely.

I should add that that second bit of demoralization really did drive me out of software development for a few years. After all, what would have been the point, suck up a few dollars an hour to copy things? Do things most similarly to the way some other guy would’ve done them? I’m not even “mediocre” at that. So I went other places, where I had the latitude to see what needed doing, figure out for myself how to get ‘em done, and get ‘em done.

I don’t know how many millions of others made the same move. But I do know in the years that followed, true innovation went on an enormous downslide. We haven’t had ‘em. An iPod that does what last year’s model did, but is a little smaller and faster, is helpful — but it isn’t a paradigm shift. A new Windows operating system that does what last year’s edition did, but tattles on you if you try to pirate software, has a few extra moving parts and a spiffy interface you haven’t seen before — but it isn’t a paradigm shift. The mid-eighties to early-nineties were loaded with paradigm shifts. Last real paradigm shift I saw in this business, was “Hey we’d better allocate four digits to hold the year, or else on January 1, 2000, the world might come to an end.” Since then most of it has been upkeep. And therein lies a tragedy that has affected us all, both in the things we use, and in the way we perceive and think about the world around us.

All convention, no invention. Yeah, I blame your “Nonexistent folks in charge of the show” theory. They end up running things because they’re good at copying, and that’s what we want. A new tool isn’t going to get you excited if you can’t form a vision of the work it can do, and you can’t form a vision of the work it can do, if you aren’t somewhat disciplined yourself in understanding how things work. Consumers now don’t understand how things work, so they’re obsessed with pretty things that look like other pretty things.

Figuring out new things, or doing things the same way the other guy’s doing ‘em. Gotta be one or the other; can’t be both.

Thing I Know #177. Two women will harmoniously and happily share your bed long before invention and convention share your allegiance.

Sarah Palin Unqualified

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Millions of dollars have been spent to make us think so, and it’s apparently working.

All told, 59 percent of voters surveyed said Ms. Palin was not prepared for the job, up nine percentage points since the beginning of the month. Nearly a third of voters polled said the vice-presidential selection would be a major factor influencing their vote for president, and those voters broadly favor Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee. [emphasis mine]

Since the beginning of the month.

What events, pray tell, occurred since the beginning of the month to make people convinced of such a thing…people who were left unconvinced as of the thirtieth of September? The Katy Couric interview? Nope, sorry. Occurred before that. The “Bush Doctrine” thing, in which it turned out Palin was correct and it was the reporter who needed an education about it? Nope. That was even earlier.

It’s the time span declared, that creates the glaring logical problem with this. It’s a fair statement to make that throughout October, nothing substantial transpired to convince anyone of Palin’s unfitness or incompetence provided they weren’t so convinced before. Nothing substantial…and only one thing that was insubstantial. The spending of millions of dollars to get the word out.

That old meme about “all Republicans who pose a threat to democrats must be stupid if they were born after Pearl Harbor (and must be evil if they were born before).”

I guess that old warhorse still has a few years of life left in ‘er. That’ll always be the case, you know, as long as people are more malleable in their thinking than they believe themselves to be. And they are. Everyone wants to be placed on the pedestal reserved for independent thinkers…so few really merit that.

Meanwhile, here are a few words jotted down by Elaine Lafferty, who used to run Ms. Magazine. Yeah, that notorious right-wing libertarian rag Ms. Lafferty’s as loyal-democrat as they come, and she actually sat with and talked to that clueless dolt Sarah P. In close quarters. In October, and before.

It’s difficult not to froth when one reads, as I did again and again this week, doubts about Sarah Palin’s “intelligence,” coming especially from women such as PBS’s Bonnie Erbe, who, as near as I recall, has not herself heretofore been burdened with the Susan Sontag of Journalism moniker. As Fred Barnes—God help me, I’m agreeing with Fred Barnes—suggests in the Weekly Standard, these high toned and authoritative dismissals come from people who have never met or spoken with Sarah Palin. Those who know her, love her or hate her, offer no such criticism. They know what I know, and I learned it from spending just a little time traveling on the cramped campaign plane this week: Sarah Palin is very smart.

I’m a Democrat, but I’ve worked as a consultant with the McCain campaign since shortly after Palin’s nomination. Last week, there was the thought that as a former editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine as well as a feminist activist in my pre-journalism days, I might be helpful in contributing to a speech that Palin had long wanted to give on women’s rights.

Now by “smart,” I don’t refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don’t really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a “quick study”; I’d heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her “confidence” is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

That’s probably why the millions of dollars were spent to get the word out that she don’t know nuthin’. Nothing scares a politician, or for that matter anyone in any position of power, like an everyman with a brain in his head who actually uses it. As Ayn Rand said, thinking men can’t really be ruled.

And this is the real concern about the nine-point swing. Palin certainly has had her stumbles and hiccups, one could even call them gaffes…but since they all occurred before this huge jump in her incompetence rating, what we have here is a jump of nine solid points, every single one of ‘em delivered by propaganda, since the evidence did nothing to support this in the timeframe specified. Every single point, and every single fraction of a point — that’s all people parroting what they were told to think, there.

Should this concern us? I’d ordinarily say no, because people have always wanted to put on a big show of thinking for themselves, and they’ve always been dissappointing in this. It’s one of those things that go all the way back to the snake giving Eve that apple…or the first man’s ape-tail shriveling up into nothingness, if that’s your point of view. Humans have always wanted to be regarded by other humans as deep, solitary, independent thinkers. They’ve never wanted to do much to earn that.

Here’s what concerns me. You can’t just spend millions of dollars repeating over and over again that a certain smart person is stupid, and then enjoy a nine percent increase in the number of people who believe it to be true. People have to have some reason to clamber on board the bandwagon. Sarah Palin hasn’t been giving people reason to believe that it’s true. As far as I know, free cigarettes and hooch haven’t been passed out to people willing to sign on to the idea that Palin’s a moron…and so it comes down, by process of elimination, to a technique the democrat power-brokers and party bosses are known for using, and using very well.

The “I’m not too sure about you” technique. The “maybe-you-can-count-on-me” technique.

The weapon wielded here, is your own uncertainty. Tell a man you think he’s scum and nothing he does will ever change your mind, and you can’t get him to do anything.

Tell a man you think he’s wonderful and nothing anybody else does will change your mind, and you get the same result.

But you tell him you used to like him, now you’ve heard some ugly stuff, or accuse him of some skulduggery here or there…put on a good act that you’re thoroughly convinced that he did what he did, even though you just pulled it out of your ass…but are undecided about whether the fellow deserves the consequences that would surely rain down upon his head if word got out…maybe demonstrate the capability to convince others of this imaginary transgression, nevermind whether there are any facts that would back it up.

He’ll move mountains for you.

And he’ll believe everything you tell him.

It always has the potential to work, and it does work nearly always. That’s because we’re all flawed. If you’ve made mistakes in the past and haven’t come to terms with them, a complete stranger can accuse you of something else entirely unrelated, something of which you couldn’t possibly be guilty. If the facts don’t back him up but he still strikes a chord…he’s got at least a shot at owning your very soul. We seem to have it wired into our brains to think “well, I didn’t steal any office supplies like he thinks I did, but I returned a library book a week late a few years ago and he doesn’t know about that, so I guess it all evens out.”

The only exception to that rule, is the true Howard Roarks of the world; recall what Ayn Rand said about thinking men being ruled. People who believe in what they do everyday, who are strong enough to sustain their own definition of what’s worthwhile, and know that they themselves are it. In other words, that stuff we used to call “self-respect.” That isn’t being a perfect being, devoid of sin. That simply means making up your own mind about things. This technique of “friend yesterday enemy today maybe-friend tomorrow” doesn’t work on them.

Apparently, it does work effectively in the here-and-now. Hence my concern. It would seem this isn’t Howard Roark’s finest year. Individual self-respect seems to have gone on a holiday.

I wonder if we’ll ever see it again. It would be nice if we did…but if that doesn’t happen before Tuesday, I don’t suppose it very much matters. Enjoy your two years of socialism, and for being forced to live under it, you can thank the people around you who are utterly lacking in self-respect. Whatever the personal reason they have for missing it, in every country in which socialism has prospered, they are always the ones who brought it on in. The kind of person who yanks her daughter out of school to go see the Replacement-God-Man in action. Yay, the unicorn-fart man will pay my mortgage for me…

H/T for the video to Cassy Fiano.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

NOW Chair Endorses Palin

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Wizbang, via Rick:

Rick goes on to link to a piece by Ms. Grabar in Pajamas Media about the real reasons why so-called “feminists” can’t stand Palin. If her point stands — and I think it does — it is quite an eye-opener. It’s an eye-opener because it indicates a) “tak[ing] care of her family, with a shotgun if necessary” has become a male-female-split issue; and b) the female viewpoint on this issue has somehow become that you’re not supposed to be doin’ that.

That Palin thinks like a man, or logically, is what has made the left livid. As appropriate to their modes, they respond emotionally. The men in their movement, who have become one of the girls in terms of thinking, respond with personal insults, even going so far as to mock the looks of her baby, as Bill Maher recently did.

But if one looks to other arenas, like the humanities departments in universities that have been transformed by feminism, one can see that such personal attacks are entirely consistent with the left’s version of intellectualism. When I entered graduate school in the 1990s I quickly found out that character assassinations had become the staple of literary scholarship.

That’s entirely consistent with why I support Palin. I belong to this strange little world…I call it “Earth”…in which it makes little sense to seriously mock people, because pretty people are wrong fairly often and ugly people are right fairly often. Essentials of the point…characteristics of the guy or gal who made the point. It’s called a non-correlative relationship.

It’s pretty late in the election season. And honestly, I can’t recall, from all-year-long, the last time a left-winger made an intellectually valid point that came to my attention, without simultaneously attacking some desired target over matters unrelated. McCain can’t use e-mail. Palin’s got “porn star glasses.” George Bush is an idiot and Dick Cheney is evil. Ann Coulter’s a skinny bitch, Rush Limbaugh is fat and is hooked on painkillers, the list goes on and on and on. And feminism has been marching at the forefront of this weird, bizarre, “it matters not what they say, it matters what they are” mindset.

Also, Palin is a belated challenge to group-based consensus thinking:

While John T. Molloy may have in 1978 urged women to dress and act for success by imitating their male business colleagues, psychologist Carol Gilligan, in her 1982 bestseller In a Different Voice, promoted women’s ways of thinking, based on emotion and consensus, as superior to the old patriarchal mode of logic and independence.

The result of such modes of thought, in my field of English, has been the attrition of majors, as students flock to more masculine fields, like business administration. Among the humanities, it is English departments that suffer the worst reputations as inconsequential and useless places.

A whole procession of attempts to make Palin look like an intellectual lightweight, someone who figures out what to say only through talking points written by others, has failed much like a long freight train tumbling off the ruins of a defunct bridge one boxcar at a time. On Thursday night, Palin slapped a coffin lid on that whole thing and pounded several nails into it.

Wonder Palin!She thinks for herself; her words are her own. And those who have been most bumptious in asserting the opposite, are the ones who’ve secretly known all about this from Day One. And those are the ones who’ve hated her the most.

And so to me, based on what I’ve seen, Ms. Grabar’s words make perfect sense.

Update: I’m reminded again how much control people lose when they identify someone who thinks logically and independently this way, after they themselves have not, and make a target out of ‘em. Karol points to a Dr. Helen column on Pajamas Media, which in turn links to a Slate advice column. Good…Lord…

My reaction to [Gov. Palin], and the way the Republican Party threw her in our faces, and the pandering and hypocrisy that was behind their decision to do so, was immediate, visceral, and indeed, vicious. I have crossed every line I believed should never be crossed in public discourse — I have criticized not only her policies and her record, but her hair, her personal style, her accent, her abilities as a mother, etc. I’ve also begun to suffer personally and professionally. I bore my friends with my constant tirades against her, and am constantly distracted from my work by my need to continually update myself on the latest criticism, and indeed, ridicule, of her. In my hatred for her, I have begun to hate myself.

I don’t want this woman ruining my life before she even gets a chance to ruin our country. How do I stop? Is there a self-help group for this?

A “Hater”*

*As Sarah Palin calls all those who disagree with her (New York Times, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2008)

Dear “Hater,”

I think what disturbs us about Sarah Palin is that she reminds us of the authoritarian personality. My guess is that she is also an ESFJ, or Extroverted Sensing Feeling Judging type, with a strong preference for sensing. Such a person prefers to acquire her knowledge from concrete objects and places instead of from abstract ideas. This would explain why she thinks being geographically close to Russia is a form of foreign policy expertise.

As an authoritarian type, she strikes us as a person who prefers power to reason. The people running John McCain’s campaign seem to instinctively understand the uses to which such an impression can be put. Perhaps they know better than we do how deeply the American people long to be done with the problem of democracy, to yield to a powerful father-mother pair of authoritarians.

The very thing that appalls us about Sarah Palin — her discomfort in the realm of reason — is her main selling point. This is so mind-boggling that you have to take a minute to let it in. Take a deep breath. Read that sentence again. Face it: Sarah Palin represents what many people want: a retreat from reason; a regression to childhood.

So thinking for yourself means a “regression to childhood.”

That means, to these people, subverting your individual cognitions to the cognitions of a group, is what adulthood is all about.

Why on earth shouldn’t adulthood be all about that? These are people who have everything done for them by other people. Getting food is — walking through a store with a basket, filling it up, presenting a debit card to the cashier, and boom you’re done. Water is delivered. Oil is changed. Coffee is brewed by a barrista in a green apron. Their SUV changes gears for ‘em, the cruise control works the throttle.

Quite amazing. Truly, a nation of veal calves. How in the world did we get here?

If this was the first of the ten plagues, the Pharoah would’ve let ‘em go right off the bat.

What I Know About People That I Wasn’t Told When I Was A Child, Item #24. People who imagine themselves as part of a group, with no individual identity, don’t want anyone else to have an individual identity either.

Individualism and Collectivism

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Thanks to JohnJ for pointing out this excellent series to me in an off-line.

Happy Galileo Day

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

cult (n.)
1. a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
3. the object of such devotion.
4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.

Today’s the 375th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s appearance before the Grand Inquisition, and the FARK kids are going nuts.

Agnosticism seems to me to have something to do with age. In other words, younger atheists tend to be gnostic atheists; they know there’s no God, because they’ve figured it out. There’s no evidence in either direction so the presumption should lean against God, and He should receive no benefit of doubt. They pulled this part out of their asses. They have faith. They achieve a fellowship through this faith, and in that sense achieve cultism of the purest kind.

I was impressed with how fair the linked article is. You look at events today, objectively, with a decent respect to both sides, and then you look at the details as reported by the article — it’s the same thing. You can make the connection either one of two ways: The inquisition represents our global-warming types and Galileo represents our skeptics, or vice-versa. Both sides are making the same mistakes. And that’s true of intelligent design versus evolution and any one of a number of our other hot topics.

There is no doubt the church was in the wrong. A commission formed by Pope John Paul II in the 1980s admitted as much. But was it fully responsible? There were, in fact, two other parties at fault.

One was Galileo himself. His vanity, sarcastic words, contempt for lesser minds and half-truths had earned him fierce enemies among the intellectuals of Europe–especially among the Jesuits. Galileo even fudged at least one experiment.

The second set of culprits were naturalists (the scientists of the day). Advocates of the pagan philsopher Aristotle resisted Galileo’s findings. The pope and cardinals would not have acted if dozens of these “scientists” had not said Galileo was wrong. Some hated Galileo, who had hurt their feelings. Others felt that Aristotle and the Bible should not be overturned without solid evidence. It did not matter that both Kepler and Galileo had shown that the Bible could be interpreted to agree with the new science. Their own eyes showed them that the sun, not the earth moves. Galileo could not provide hard evidence to the contrary. Solid proof for the earth’s movement around the sun was two hundred years away, when tiny shifts in star positions and subtle pendulum motions were finally measured.

Human fallibility, arrogance, and lazy group-think. On both sides.

There’s a lesson there.

There’s at least the hint of a God, too. For who else is there to laugh His ass off at us?

Thing I Know #207. Dismiss all anecdotes and parables containing these three things: A hero who can do nothing wrong, a villain who can do nothing right, and a setting in which all events are hearsay and can never be validated first- or second-hand. You’re being snookered. Count on it.

Obama Underwear Run

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

UCLA students show their support for the Obamessiah — you’ll notice, there seems to be something terribly wrong with keeping that kind of support secret — by streaking in their underwear.

There’s another first in the Barack Obama campaign, and it came from UCLA students. Hundreds of UCLA men and women donned designer underwear with Barack Obama’s picture on the front, and dashed across campus early Thursday.

The briefs were the creation of designer Andrew Christian. A silhouette of Obama was on the front, and “08″ on the back. Christian said the Obama underwear run were a perfect vehicle for him to premiere his campaign-themed garments. He might consider a Hillary Clinton bra, if she makes the ticket as vice-president.

There won’t be any John McCain underwear, since Christian is a Democrat.

My gal came up with a priceless retort to this. Okay, so a President Barack Obama is in favor of unruly kids running down the street without any clothes on — duly noted.

The underwear run is an annual event at UCLA. It’s a way for students to blow off some steam, before final exams.

Why bother? This kind of gets into the previous bunch of ramblings about critical thinking, and the paradox called out there certainly applies here.

College is a place where you or your parents pay some premium tuition so you can learn how to think critically — it costs more now than it used to, and you have a lot more time to learn how to do it than your parents ever did. And yet, what passes for college-level decision making today, is looking around, seeing that your pals are streaking in their underwear, and deciding to vote the way they’re voting because it’s so coooooooool.

Tomorrow’s leaders.

Color me unimpressed. Umptyfratz-and-eleventy thousand dollars should be able to buy some better critical-thinking skills than that.

Scott McClellan Doesn’t Know

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Over in Ed Morissey’s corner at HotAir, he points to Anchoress, who notes something interesting about Scott McClellan’s testimony regarding the +++rolls eyes+++ Plame “scandal”:

Well, I’m sure Congress feels like they accomplished something today with their interrogation of former White House press secretary Scott McClellan. After making a series of inflated allegations in his memoirs, What Happened, he told Congress that he really doesn’t know what happened — at least not in l’affaire Plame. When asked whether President George Bush knew about any effort to leak Valerie Plame’s identity to the press, he said Bush didn’t know about it — and McClellan doesn’t know anything about anybody else’s efforts, either:

U.S. President George W. Bush did not know about a White House effort to leak the identity of a CIA agent but tried to protect staffers who were involved in one of the biggest scandals of his administration, former Bush spokesman Scott McClellan told Congress on Friday.

McClellan said he did not think Bush was involved in a 2003 effort to blow the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, whose husband had accused the administration of twisting intelligence to justify the Iraq war. …

Vice President Dick Cheney’s involvement in the leak might have been greater, McClellan said.

“I do not think the president in any way had knowledge about it,” McClellan told lawmakers. “In terms of the vice president, I do not know. There is a lot of suspicion there.”

McClellan said that Bush ordered him to tell the press that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby didn’t have anything to do with the leaks, through the chief of staff at the White House. However, that might be because Bush believed that they didn’t. If Bush didn’t know about the supposed effort to leak Plame’s identity, then it stands to reason that he believed the assurances of both men that they didn’t have anything to do with it. And since neither of them had talked with Robert Novak, in whose column the leak occurred, that may well have been the case — at least as far as Bush was concerned.

Anchoress opines further at Pajamas Media. This is why I like Anchoress — the subject to be explored, is what immediately popped into my head when reading Mr. McClellan’s “testimony,” indeed pops in there just about any time I’m reacquainted with my disgust over this Plame thing: Critical thinking, and the desperate fit of thrashing around it’s doing lately on its deathbed.

“Yeah, it is that simple. He lied, and we all know it. So STFU. Now.” — Marecek

That was one of 1,643 comments left in response to Fred Hiatt’s June 9 piece in the Washington Post, entitled “Bush Lied? If Only It Were That Simple,” which covered the findings of the Select Committee on Intelligence, headed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV).

Marecek’s was the majority opinion.

In writing his piece for the editorial page of the Washington Post, Hiatt — that page’s editor — made the mistake of actually quoting passages of this report, which claimed that a host of “lies” of which President Bush has been accused since 2003 were “substantiated by intelligence.”

Vituperation and ad hominem attacks were left as commentary at the paper’s website, with calls for Hiatt’s immediate firing, for — apparently — his treason in quoting a report, written by a Democratic majority, that dared to depart from a narrative that has become conventional wisdom.

You know? The more I think about this lying idiot that edits WaPo, the more I realize how venal and corrupt the neo-cons really are. They really have no shame. No shame at all. Their corruption is complete. Frankly, the Emperor in Star Wars had more integrity than these neo-cons. Hiatt truly is a lapdog. — santafe2

I showed the article and comments to several friends of various backgrounds. One who works in media shot back: “if you don’t like the message, ignore it and kill the messenger!”

A friend who homeschools her children — and does it so well that the oldest has won a full academic scholarship to a university — was surprised that commenters would express such contempt not for the committee findings, which contradicted their worldview, but for the reporter who covered it. “It’s illogical,” she said. “Do public schools no longer teach critical thinking skills?”

Curious about that myself, I asked a friend who teaches social studies at a local and very well-regarded high school. “We’re supposed to be teaching critical thinking,” she said. “It’s in all the local and state standards, but in practice … there’s only so much time.” [bold mine]

I wish words could express my extreme lack of sympathy.

If, over the last two hundred years, we had somehow regressed from a technologically-rich culture stuffed chock-full with iced mocha vanilla lattes, iPods, a personal computer in every house running a 32-bit flat-memory-model operating system, flatbed scanners, twelve megapixel digital cameras, coffee cup warmers, Tivo, wireless hubs, tablet PCs, snips snails and puppy-dog’s tails…down to a dystopian wasteland in which everyone can do whatever they’re going to do after putting in their fifteen hours a day plowing fields for the spring potato planting, so that their ten or twelve children don’t starve to death, that is the ones that don’t succumb to smallpox or yellow fever or malaria — had we gone in that direction, then I could see it. Oh dear oh dear, there’s all that planting and harvesting to be done. We’d better just cover reading, writing and penmanship. Critical thinking they can learn to do at home (they’d have to do it anyway, huh?).

As it is, we’ve been trudging headlong in the opposite direction. We have comfort. Our grandparents did not. The widespread loss of critical thinking is something far more poignant than an event transpiring coincidentally with our accumulation of jewel-encrusted cell phones and dogs bred to be carried around in $600 purses. It is a symptom. We don’t think critically because there’s little need to. If you can’t think your way out of a paper bag — you’ll still have a warm dry place to sleep tonight, and a plateful of grub when you get up tomorrow. Necessity gone. Critical thinking, a thing of the past.

How tough do we have it, really? Our most threatening menace is a gallon of gas that costs four dollars and sixty cents. And we really don’t have much call for facing down such a menace; just bitching about it for a second or two, and we’re done with that. So we don’t confront threats. We don’t do it every day, we don’t do it once a month, we don’t even do it as the years roll by. Without the necessity of truly confronting a threat, in command of responses-to-stimuli that can actually change the outcome, the need to think critically becomes a memento from the distant past.

What you’re seeing here is the struggle to remain part of an accepted group. Hey look at me I still think Bush lied. Hey look at me I have all this dripping acrid venom for anyone who suggests otherwise. Look at me, look at me, look at me…I’m saying all the right stuff.

Please let me keep my membership card.

Meanwhile — Scott McClellan doesn’t know much of anything. There are no facts to back up this opinion that Bush, Cheney, et al, lied. There is only the big money of George Soros, spent to convince teeming millions of fellow citizens that they did. This provides reassurance that there will be a large group, ready to accept anyone who hates Bush and is willing to say so. And membership of a group — any group — has taken the place of a bushel of grain. It is the new coin of the realm, the new token of continuing survival. There has to be one, at all times, you know. It’s how we operate.

Without the necessity of getting that fall harvest in, or of killing diseases before they wipe out your whole family, or driving off a pack of wolves with a blunderbuss — or something like those — all that’s left is the challenge of staying socially accepted. And you’ll notice as these challenges continue to disappear, the challenge of staying socially accepted becomes something that has to be “confronted,” such as it is, more and more frequently. The membership is up for renewal every month, then every week, then multiple times a day they have to spew their nonsense to stay inside that glorious perimeter.

This acceleration over time rises up as an especially intriguing commentary on the human mind and how it works. I would almost call it an indictment; logically, no protective countermeasure should have to be brandished or deployed with greater frequency, as the associated threat is in a state of recession…but here we are. What we’re seeing is a short-circuiting that takes place, manifesting our collective conscious’ inability to deal with diminishing problems: With a constant voltage, current is inversely proportional to resistance, so with resistance removed the current skyrockets toward infinity, eventually melting down whatever hardware is used to carry it.

That’s what is happening to us. That is precisely what is happening to us.

How else to explain it? The social studies teacher has time to teach critical thinking, time that teachers of the post-civil-war era didn’t have. And she can’t quite get ‘er done. Not that I would blame her; the kids aren’t ready for it anymore. Their circuitry has melted down.

Collecting their news and information from Comedy Central and internet forums rich with satire and irony, everything has become a joke for our young — the “truthiness” that “feels” right, an acceptable alternative to solid facts or findings. But clever jokes and easy cynicism will not right the wrongs of the world or encourage serious governance over the cartoonish politics of the day.

I should mention I first learned of Anchoress’ fine piece via Rick, who has his own thoughts.

This is a great splitting-boundary between the stuff we call conservatism and the opposite stuff we call liberalism. It defines the boundary because it identifies an area in which we are adapting to a new set of challenges by jettisoning the abilities we needed to confront the older set of challenges. We are evolving, and in so doing, becoming less capable.

Boiled down to its essentials, modern-day liberalism asserts that all evolution is good, even if it incorporates weaknesses that did not exist previously, or expunges capabilities and talents that did. Conservatism is simply a more open-minded and curious opposite, daring to pose the question: Maybe all change is not necessarily good? Liberalism, being inherently closed-minded, has no response for this question but anger, scorn, ridicule and aspersion.

One Question For Our College Kids

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

If I were a perfesser — don’t worry, not gonna happen anytime soon — I would ask my class a single question with the opening of every semester. Maybe again at the close.

It would be a very dangerous question.

I’m looking at Boumediene, and I’m looking at Burge. I’m looking at one of the Things I Know About People Minus What I Was Told When I Was A Child

27. People who make a conscious decision not to offer help or defense to someone who needs it, don’t want anyone else to help or defend that person either.

…and I’m looking at what I had to say about Gerard’s essay a couple of weeks ago:

Twenty-first century American liberalism in a nutshell: That which builds or preserves must, at all costs, be destroyed; that which destroys must, at all costs, be preserved.

I’m looking at things that need defending, that I’m told don’t need defending, and I’m looking at other things I’m told do need defending and there’s something reprehensible and atrocious taking place if those other things aren’t defended.

I’m looking at the defense that is provided to people who are convicted of killing other people. I’m looking at the “defense,” if you can call it that, of those people who have already been killed, and who cry out for justice from beyond the grave. The defense provided to the ones who did the butchering, always seems to be more energized. There’s a steep differential there, and it seems the people in authority — those who were provided this privileged “education” a generation or two ago — are the ones who say we should keep that steep differential in place. Without coming out and saying so. Without even admitting it to themselves.

Funny. I’d have presumed when you’ve been afforded the benefits of an expensive education, the very first thing you would’ve learned is the meaning of the words coming out of your mouth.

I see how politicians pledge to fight terrorists, and I see how they pledge to fight each other. They’ve prevailed over each other many times, they’ll prevail over each other many times later on — yet they have not yet prevailed over the terrorists. But the battle to prevail one more time over each other, always seems to be worthy of the greater expense of energy and effort. Battling the terrorists, taking no prisoners, never saying surrender and never saying die…well, these same politicians seem to be caught in an endless-loop of telling me it can’t be done.

So my dangerous question for our Leaders of Tomorrow, that I’d ask, if I could…and I can’t…would be…

What things, in your mind, are worthy of a costly defense? A defense that can be provided only at the expense of something precious. Safety…treasure…limbs…lives.

Not necessarily yours.

But I want specifics. “The Constitution” is too vague. Even “Freedom of Speech” is too vague. Don’t hide behind “the environment” because that’s too vague, too. “Civil liberties?” Try again. That is a cliche that was built to be vague. I want specific items, I want stated consequences, I want well-thought-out cause & effect. Now, tell me what things are worth a real, not merely lip-service, defense.

What, in our society, is so sacred that it justifies a defense involving overwhelming, disproportionate force?

What justifies an exorbitant defense?

What justifies an unreasonable defense?

What justifies a devastating defense? A deadly defense? A defense involving entirely innocent collateral damage?

What justifies a defense that goes beyond mere lip service?

Because I’m looking around, and I see everything our “hip & with-it” leaders want defended and preserved…each thing that they think is worth the sacrifice of something else…each and every one of those things…is something that destroys. Or, it’s something that defends something else that destroys. Or — something that defends something that defends something that, in turn, destroys. The last link in the chain, it seems, is always a destructive agent — if it isn’t, they’re just not that into defending it.

Halfway through Atlas Shrugged there’s an ugly scene in which James Taggart, who’s verbally abusive to his new wife Cherryl on a constant basis, hops over the fence and beats her for the first time. The last thing she said before he struck her with his hand, was the one thing he dedicated his entire life to keeping concealed from everyone, even from himself. He went about the entire thousand pages of the novel, without ever acknowledging this purpose he had to his life. This primary, central purpose — this purpose that took a back seat to none other, even though he couldn’t admit the purpose was there.

The words she said to him, just before being sent sailing across the room by his hand to her chin, were…

Then the headlight she had felt rushing upon her, hit its goal — and she screamed in the bright explosion of the impact — she screamed in physical terror, backing away from him.

“What’s the matter with you?” he cried, shaking, not daring to see in her eyes the thing she had seen.

She moved her hands in groping gestures, half-waving it away, half-trying to grasp it; when she answered, her words did not quite name it, but they were the only words she could find:

You…you’re a killer…for the sake of killing…

It was too close to the unnamed; shaking with terror, he swung out blindly and struck her in the face. [emphasis mine]

And that’s why he had to give her a beat-down. He couldn’t admit this to himself. In fact, at the end of the book when he finally said it out loud himself, (SPOILER: Highlight To Read) his brain melted down and he became a vegetable.

Maybe we’re there. Maybe our leaders of today and tomorrow are destroyers, who do their destroying by carefully avoiding any admittance that this is what they are. The trend, so far as I can see it, holds up: They defend only that which destroys other things. Any other kind of defense is, in Gerard’s parlance, uncool.

We can be such deliberate destroyers without being James Taggarts. Let’s just admit what we are. Much better for your mental health that way.

Stuff White People Like #101: Being Offended

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Comedy gold, and I’ve come to expect nothing less. Naturally, I’ve highlighted the especially good parts:

To be offended is usually a rather unpleasant experience, one that can expose a person to intolerance, cultural misunderstandings, and even evoke the scars of the past. This is such an unpleasant experience that many people develop a thick skin and try to only be offended in the most egregious and awful situations. In many circumstances, they can allow smaller offenses to slip by as fighting them is a waste of time and energy. But white people, blessed with both time and energy, are not these kind of people. In fact there are few things white people love more than being offended.

Naturally, white people do not get offended by statements directed at white people. In fact, they don’t even have a problem making offensive statements about other white people (ask a white person about “flyover states”). As a rule, white people strongly prefer to get offended on behalf of other people.

What comes next…even better still. Read the whole thing.

Manna Manna

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Because it’s a classic, for reasons that make classics classic. Hard to get out of your head once it’s in there, making a commentary about society that is so subtle and so thickly veiled that it’s hard to see the message. And I just got done bitching and bellyaching for the zillionth time about people thinking in groups. Out of fairness, I should let the other side have their say.

And this is probably the best live-action replica uploaded to YouTube to date…

Someone on the Muppet Show agrees with me here; there’s a certain artful skill to the way the individual is shown deferring to the wishes of the group. Not so much “I’ll Defend The Alamo To My Dying Breath” — quite the opposite…”aw, screw it, it’s not worth it.”

Perhaps they’re making veiled commentary about genders too (although I’m way too smart to ever approach such a thing). How would the comedy delivery work, I wonder, if masculinity & femininity changed places in this skit? Hmmmmm…well…then you’d have two big strong men muscling around a poor defenseless girl, and that wouldn’t be funny at all.

But the “Manna Manna” guy seems to be an almost perfect depiction of men, at least, the subset of our attributes that make us different from women. Rugged, disheveled, sloppy-lookin’, reliable sometimes, other times not, kind of wandering around by ourselves out there, mumbling incoherently…acting weird…upstaging…getting off track and having to be yanked back in to proper protocol.

On Groups III

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

It is said that people make better decisions meeting in large groups than they do on their own; rarely does anyone challenge this, but for some reason, there arises a need to keep saying it over and over again. I’ve not yet heard anyone seek to assert that a larger group of people can make better decisions than a medium-sized group of people, and I don’t think I will. The largest group I can see deciding things, is the group of United States voters deciding presidential and congressional elections; it remains an inter-generational constant that they, themselves, are terribly disenchanted and unhappy with what they, themselves, have been doing. So if there’s something to this theory of group-think superiority over individual-think, then there must be an optimal group size. There has to be a number, more than one but less than 300 million, inclined to make better decisions than groups of any other size. What an enormous benefit to humankind it would be to find that number. And yet, I’m not aware of anyone trying to look into it.

As mulish and resolute as these group-think advocates are when they argue the benefits of group-think, to the point of bellicosity, their defenses are limited to calling attention to the best of the group-think ideas, whereas when the virtues of group-think are called into question, the indictment is a consequence of — not the best ideas — but the worst ones. The defenses, frustratingly, are never organized around the question at hand, which is why & how we should tolerate the bad ideas. The meaningful disadvantage to the group-think authority is that the ether that binds the minds together concocts irrational, deplorable, indefensible and harmful ideas, speckles of scatology no single one of the minds would deign to claim. Ideas that make so little sense, do so much harm, and produce so little, that they are unworthy of an identity.

These items, which dwell at the nadir of the group-think performance curve rather than at the zenith, always inspire the indictment of the group-think model but are never the objects of it’s defense.

The group-think defenders impress me as wanting to be able to point at something and say “Aha! There, see, is an idea that is so ingenious, so beneficial for so many and harming none, so demanding of intellectual resourcefulness for it’s creation, that no individual could ever have conceived it, and behold, a group did so produce it. Thus it has been, thus it shall remain.” That seems to be the sentiment they desire to promote, desperately; and yet they cannot. It would be far more modest to say “at least the group has a mechanism internal to it to ensure no harm is done” — or that “said harm will be constrained, contained, and limited.” They can’t even say that. Perhaps that’s why I see the group-think model defended so often and so belligerently, when so few people are attacking it.

When you strip away all the embellishments of shoddy thinking and insincere portrayals of it, what you’re left with is: Examples of group-think production can be found, somewhere, if you look hard enough, that have more pleasing results than some of the most wasteful and least effective results of individual thinking. To put it another way: Group-think can be made to look superior if you do enough cherry-picking on both sides.

But the deleterious products of group-think, meanwhile, have become the plague against humanity in modern times. The idea no man owns and that no man should own, or would own, or could own. And we can’t get rid of them; we can’t stop them; we can’t even slow their approach or implementation. All of these countermeasures would require criticism of the group-think idea, and since the idea was born of the ether that binds the consciouses together rather than any one of the consciouses themselves, nobody is accountable to them. It cannot be ascertained what sort of enemy is being made by the man who would criticize it. So they can’t be criticized.

On the Easterlin Paradox

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

I’ll let the New York Times guest-column speak for itself:

Arguably the most important finding from the emerging economics of happiness has been the Easterlin Paradox.

What is this paradox? It is the juxtaposition of three observations:

1) Within a society, rich people tend to be much happier than poor people.
2) But, rich societies tend not to be happier than poor societies (or not by much).
3) As countries get richer, they do not get happier.

Easterlin offered an appealing resolution to his paradox, arguing that only relative income matters to happiness. Other explanations suggest a “hedonic treadmill,” in which we must keep consuming more just to stay at the same level of happiness.

One criticism of the Easterlin report is that the data upon which it is based, comes mostly from survey responses and there is a psychological hobgoblin at work here because we don’t tend to think highly of ourselves when we admit we’re unhappy. So it stands to reason the responses are going to be skewed toward “oh yeah, I’m ecstatically happy.”

But another criticism I would have is that we have a societal taboo against acknowledging one of the possible — and I would label highly probable — outcomes: That money makes you happy. Let’s face it: Overly-simplistic as that may be, missing money when you need some really sucks!

But I think anyone pondering the situation for a minute or two would have to admit there has been, at least since the 1950′s or so, a swelling of pressure on people to presume out loud that wealth is only tangentially related, if it’s related at all, to a state of happiness. The pressure is sufficiently significant that it has an effect on people who have no personal experience at all, with being destitute & happy, or with having wealth in abundance and being dismal. And that’s my definition of significant pressure: When people are missing anecdotes within their personal experiences that would be needed to back something up, and will nevertheless sit there and say “oh yeah…uh huh, that’s right on.”

Well, the author of the column, Justin Wolfers, goes on to drop a bombshell:

Given the stakes in this debate, Betsey Stevenson and I thought it worth reassessing the evidence.
:
Last Thursday we presented our research at the latest Brookings Panel on Economic Activity, and we have arrived at a rather surprising conclusion:

There is no Easterlin Paradox.

The facts about income and happiness turn out to be much simpler than first realized:

1) Rich people are happier than poor people.
2) Richer countries are happier than poorer countries.
3) As countries get richer, they tend to get happier.

Moreover, each of these facts seems to suggest a roughly similar relationship between income and happiness.

Now, you can see from the reports and the cool graphics, that there is an abundance of data going in to these conclusions. So a disturbing question arises: Assuming this attack on the Easterlin paradox withstands scrutiny better than the paradox itself, are there some negative social ramifications involved in realizing this? Once it settles in that money does indeed make us happy isn’t there a risk that we’re all going to become a bunch of hair-pulling eye-gouging money grubbing zombies?

Well…to answer that we’d have to get into the debate about the “pie people”: Those who insist, like Michelle Obama, that when some among us have bigger pieces of pie then someone else must have smaller pieces, and in order to get more pie to those deprived persons it will be unavoidably necessary to confiscate pie from someone else. All transactions are zero-sum, in other words.

Seems to me, if you buy into that you have to agree there was at least a social benefit to the Easterlin paradox, even if it wasn’t true. And there must be a commensurately deleterious effect involved in repealing it.

I suppose, like the Easterlin paradox, the Pie Paradigm ought to be given a benefit of doubt, of sorts, so it can remain standing on clay feet across the generations without much supporting evidence. There must be a truth to it, and even if there isn’t, there must be a social benefit to believing it, and even if there isn’t, darn it it just feels so good to say it’s true.

Except, like Columbo, I can’t help noticing just one…little…thing.

So many of these Pie People, like Ms. Obama herself — are stinkin’ rich. What does that say about them, if they really do believe in the pies?

The Misadventures of President Talk-Over-Do

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Jimmy Carter did a lot of talking about unemployment, and did very little. He didn’t achieve much.

He did a lot of talking about inflation and did very little. He didn’t achieve much.

He did a lot of talking about Israel fighting with Palestine. The talking aside, he did very little. The problems that region had when he was in office, they still have today.

He did a lot of talking about the energy crisis. He put a solar panel on the White House, but apart from that did very little. He achieved probably less here than he did anyplace else, and it was particularly embarrassing for his defenders and apologists when Reagan got in and suddenly we didn’t have an energy crisis anymore.

From arguing with lib-ruhls on the innernets, which is my own way of talking-over-doing, I’ve found Jimmy Carter has a lot of fans out there. They’re very energetic and enthusiastic; really have their minds made up about him. Near as I can figure, they were all born after he was out of office. I haven’t found any exceptions to this pattern at all. I don’t know if that rule applies to people who write slobbering editorials like this one (H/T: Rick), but Former President Talk-Over-Do is really popular in something called the “international community,” which I’m gathering means “people you find if you grab your passport, fly around the world, and talk ONLY to people who agree…with certain other people.” Dignitaries. Ambassadors. Upper-crusters. People who are safely insulated from doing actual work, or having any of their family get hit with actual shrapnel.

The real issue here seems to me to be a fairly sharply defined, cut-and-dry distinction between talking about a problem and actually solving it. Carter seems inconsistent in this area. I know what he does when he’s the President of the United States…God help me, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. What an incredible education that was. And the nonsense he’s doing now is quite consistent with what he did back then. Lots of talking. No doing. It’s like a rule.

JimmahBut when he poses for these Habitat-For-Humanity photo-ops, over half the time he’s holding a hammer in his hand, pounding a nail. Pound, pound, pound, pound. To which I have to say, waitaminnit. How come he isn’t talking to the nails?

Read some of these slobbery editorials sometime. Just look at the ones that purport to measure “results,” just going through the motions of so measuring. Just look at it.

Carter’s method, which says that it is necessary to talk with every one, has still not proven to be any less successful than the method that calls for boycotts and air strikes. In terms of results, at the end of the day, Carter beats out any of those who ostracize him.

Er, yeah…Hussein in Iraq…is that a result? Khadafi in Libya…is that a result? Apparently not. So I guess what the author meant to say was “Carter’s method…beats out any of those who ostracize him…provided you consistently ignore the results of those who ostracize him, and we certainly intend to do that here.”

You know, if this is the kind of comparison being made by the Talk-Over-Do camp then I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that President Carter achieved as little as he did. In fact, if their paradigm made any sense, then none of the nations around the world would have had any military resources at all…and never would’ve in all of human history.

And Carter himself never would have swung a hammer. He’d just be sitting at a conference table with a glass of water for himself, and another one for the nails.

But “at the end of the day” the house would remain a dusty dirty pile of lumber, and that would look very silly. And so I find it interesting. When Jimmy Carter actually wants to get some results, he goes all Ronald-Reagan all over those poor little nails.

Memo For File LVIII

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

I barely have the time this morning to deal with all of what’s busted in whiny, insipid, counterproductive, self-serving snotty immature screeds like this one…although I’m sure if I take a passing glance to it later, I’ll spot even more. The subject under discussion is why, oh why, aren’t there more female bloggers and how come the ones that are out there, don’t get more attention?

I asked around and heard a lot of different answers. Some say it’s because the men got a head start. Jen Moseley, the politics editor at Feministing says, “I think there are a lot of female political bloggers out there. But since most of the ‘old guard’ big political blogs (funny that something 4-5 years old can be considered old now), were started by men, so they’re still looked at as the only ones that matter.”

Amy Richards, an author and one of the co-founders of Third Wave, thinks that the amount of attention focused on the boys might be more than just their first-mover status—it’s an artifact of their historical control of the media. Richards claims that “Political punditry has always been dominated by men and thus blogging is likely to follow that pattern.” Richards agrees that women aren’t becoming blogospheric stars as quickly as some of their male colleagues. She says, “I know that women are jumping into this debate with their opinions and perspectives, but because they are doing so in spaces more likely to attract women—they aren’t being legitimized.”

Ezra Klein agreed with Amy about the ghettoization of female voices, noting that while male political bloggers are known as “political” bloggers, women are more often known as “feminist” bloggers. “There’s this rich and broad feminist blogosphere, which is heavily female and very political, but considered a different sort of animal. Is Jill Filipovic a political blogger? Ann Friedman?” he says. Male bloggers are seen as talking about politics with a universal point of view, but when we women bring our perspective to the field, it’s seen as as a minority opinion.

But does it have to be that way? Blogs are supposed to be populist and thus it would seem like women could more easily level the playing field here than in other media. Red State’s Mike Krempasky says, “You’d think the internet would be the great equalizer or the ultimate meritocracy. ‘far from it.”

What a festering, rotting open sore of microbial, infectious, stupid ideas. What a fetid, bubbling stewpot of poppycock.

It’s like an invasion of scavengers hitting your farm all at once. Coyotes, hyenas…buzzards…what have you. Craven. Cowardly. Seeking to survive on the merits of others. There is so much wrong with this, it’s like a big herd of such scavengers descending in unison, each scavenger blissfully unaware the others are there.

A fine buckshot approach to this invasion is to simply withhold my own fire and rely on a non-whiny female blogger like Cassy Fiano, who was responsible for me finding out about this in the first place. And Cassy lays out the hot lead in such a way that most of the scavenger-herd is…addressed…leaving few stragglers.

Whenever I read these kinds of articles, I just want to smack the author in the face. Here’s what they seem to be completely incapable of understanding: if you think you’re a victim, that’s all you’ll ever be.

First of all, is Arianna Huffington really the best example of a female blogger she could come up with? I can think of several right off the top of my head: Michelle Malkin (duh!), Pamela Geller, Em Zanotti, LaShawn Barber, Mary Katharine Ham, Rachel Lucas, Melissa Clouthier… the list goes on and on, and these are just conservative female bloggers.

Right Wing News even did two pieces on female conservative bloggers, and most of them looked at being a female blogger as an asset.

I’ve never had one single person tell me my opinion had less merit because I’m a woman, or that I wasn’t as good as the guy bloggers out there. I’ve seen no evidence of a “boy’s club” in the blogosphere; in fact, every single male blogger I have had any kind of communication with whatsoever has been gracious, helpful, and more than willing to assist me in building my blogging career.

And good grief, the “ghettoization” of female voices?! What the hell planet is this Megan Carpentier writing from? Because there are more male bloggers than female, female voices are being “silenced” and “ghettoized”?!

Uh, sorry, honey. Not quite. Maybe if you live in Saudi Arabia you could have a point. But here, the only thing keeping female bloggers back is… female bloggers.

Why, then, are there more male bloggers than female? The answer is simple, and it’s feminism’s favorite catch phrase: choice. Men, in general, are more interested in politics than women are. Sure, women are interested, but I don’t think that there are as many women who are diehard political junkies like there are men. Go ahead, feminists, rip my skin off for stating That Which Must Never Be Said: that women do not have the same interests as men do. Anyways, if you want proof, look at blogosphere readership. Most people reading politics blogs are men, so it stands to reason that most political bloggers would be men as well. This also means being a female blogger is more of an asset, and not just because it gives all your male readers something to ogle at (although that’s a plus, too). It means you stand out more, your blog stands out more. And that’s a good thing.

Women also tend to be more thin-skinned. The insults female bloggers get are very personal, and very hurtful. They very often have nothing whatsoever to do with what you’re actually writing about, unless of course you’re talking about how ugly you are or perverted sexual tendencies. A lot of women just cannot take that kind of thing. It’s like an arrow to the heart for them. After so much of that, a lot of them quit, because it isn’t worth the stress and heartache for them.

And why does the internet — the political blogosphere, specifically — need to be “the great equalizer”? Why does it matter how many female vs. male bloggers there are out there? There is not one blog I read because of the gender of the author. I read them because of the content in the blogs, what the blogger has to say. I could give two shits whether it’s a man or a women writing behind the computer screen. Putting the emphasis on something as shallow as gender accomplishes what? Instead of focusing on the skin-deep, why doesn’t this lady focus on the ideas different bloggers put forth?

I don’t know where feminists got this idea that all male-dominated careers were unfair to women unless there are an exactly equal number of women participating in these careers, but it’s ridiculous. They need to get over the bean-counting. Living in a state of perpetual outrage or victimhood will get you nowhere.

One blast. All farm scavengers tremble in fear before the fury of Cassy’s 12-gauge.

But some wounded furballs are still limping around. For example, Cassy’s retort to the “ghettoization” remark is limited to chastising Carpentier for her lack of perspective in identifying what might be amiss in the status quo. She did a fine job of dealing with that, but I’m more concerned with what thoughts were percolating away in what passes for Carpentier’s cranium before she jotted down her whiny bromide. If I want to “ghettoize” someone, or a class of someones, in the blogosphere — how do I go about doing this? What are my goals, exactly? Assuming the solution would resemble the problem, it must be up to the reader to fill that in because Carpentier admits ignorance in understanding how to fix it.

Megan Carpentier is kind of like Luke Skywalker wandering into the dark cave; she found in there what she brought in with her. Her point is “these blogs that I’m looking at are mostly male” but she could have looked at some other blogs. Prominence is measured, on the blogosphere, mostly in the eye of the beholder. What Carpentier has done, is confess — without even realizing she’s so confessing — that she comes from a weird, surreal universe in which that is not the case. She’s used to living in a place where some central kiosk tells everyone what to watch.

But it must be a two-way street, in some way, or else there’d be no point in Carpentier whining away. She must be an example of what I’ve noticed about most people who can’t cope without a central authority telling them what to do: Now and then, such complainers want to have a voice in telling the central authority what to tell others to do. So there’s a pecking order to this. Sniveling whiny complainer supplies instructions to the central kiosk; central kiosk radiates the instructions to the unwashed masses within line-of-sight.

I’ve never had any respect for people like this. I’ve always thought of them not only as tedious, thin-skinned banshees, but as shallow thinkers. They do their shrieking selectively. They only complain about the things we decide for ourselves, that have come to their attention at any given time, remaining agnostic and unconcerned about our choices of: Ice cream flavor, color of socks to wear today, stick shift or automatic, plain-cake or chocolate-with-sprinkles, the list goes on and on. One can’t help but nurture a fantasy that has to do with calling their attention to all these things at once, and kicking off some kind of carping-bitching-overload chain reaction. Like Captain Kirk and Mister Spock talking some ancient alien computer into a sparkling, smoky mess of paper mache and dry ice on the stage of Desilu.

We live as free men, deciding for ourselves and living with the consequences. Too many who pretend to walk among us are left unsatisfied by this state of affairs. Let posterity forget they were our countrymen, as the saying goes.

Cassy has been distracted by the great umbrage she’s taken — rightfully so — to the low pain threshold of Screechy Megan. What her criticism has allowed to walk away mostly unscathed is Megan’s mindset. The mindset of insects. Except insects, so far as I know, don’t bitch when the queen tells them to go someplace not to their liking.

I think my afterthought-comment over at Cassy’s place might address what’s left…

I was doing some more thinking about this. It seems we have some “dry rot” in the blogosphere, people who are blogging, and for the sake of their own sanity probably should not be.

How do we change that? How loud do women have to shout?

The ‘sphere promotes equality by failing to embrace it. Let’s say some left-wing pinhead says something on TV and it rubs Michelle Malkin the wrong way. Cassy Fiano is also piqued about the same thing. Malkin writes it up with something original; Fiano also writes it up with something original.

I like what Michelle said and I also like what Cassy said. Neither one linked or referenced the other, and they both said essentially the same thing. Linking both of them is pointless. I have a finite amount of time to blog and my readers have a finite amount of time to read.

So I must choose…

…and I’m going to link Malkin because she gets more traffic. And so, male or female, a blog “hits a groove.” It gets to the point where it is hit more because it does not need the traffic. It’s like a society with the ultimate regressive tax system — we all get together to help out whoever doesn’t need it.

The system works, because it achieves a blend of group-think and individuality. We’re all looking at the same stuff…kinda. But we’re also looking at our own stuff and forming our own ideas.

The exasperated inquiry “how loud do we have to shout” betrays an immature mindset, one that is accustomed to an all-powerful centralized authority. A “mommy” figure. But a weak mommy figure; one that panders to whichever “child” does the most bitching.

Not that I mean to imply Ms. Carpenter [sic] grew up that way. But if I had to bet some money, I’d bet it on the affirmative, and that would go for a random selection among her regular readership as well. The notion that some adequate amount of carping and bellyaching will change the universe to the liking of whoever’s doing it, is hideously offensive to me…to most men…and I would add to all “real” women as well. It’s a decidedly out-of-date 1960′s mindset, one that pays lip service to “choice” but only honors the choices made by certain, deserving people, and insists that everyone else has to follow along whether they like it or not.

How do you make more bloggers female? Might as well make more cars on the road listen to country music on their radios. It’s up to the dude/dudette behind the steering wheel, and it seems Ms. Carpenter [sic] just can’t handle that.

Bad Stuff About Warman

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

A couple days ago I had directed the following comments toward Richard Warman, or more precisely, his Wikipedia page:

His Wikipedia page contains four major categories as of this writing: Legal activism; Canadian human rights tribunal; Political activism; References. Who is he? The wonderful glittering text in the main article informs us…

He is best known for initiating complaints against white supremacists and neo-Nazis for Canadian Human Rights Act violations related to Internet content. In June 2007, Warman received the Saul Hayes Human Rights Award from the Canadian Jewish Congress for “distinguished service to the cause of human rights”. He holds a BA (Hons.) in Drama from Queen’s University, an LLB from the University of Windsor, and an LLM from McGill University.

He’s a Nazi hunter! Wow, what a great guy! And he’s got letters after his name and everything.
:
…wouldn’t you want to know some of the less flattering things about Mr. Warman? Especially if you’re sufficiently interested in him to go look up the Wikipedia entry about him? Well, it turns out at least some of the Wikipedia admins don’t seem to think so. They think you should only know the flowery parts. Or at least, they’ve so far come up with some wonderful excuses for excising anything else from the article.

Now, I don’t know if the Wiki admin in question is a Warman “fan,” per se, or if he’s simply scared that Wikipedia will face undesirable repercussions should it act as a repository for unflattering items about he who is demonstrably a hyper-litigation minded individual. But I do know this: I have never, in all the time I’ve been acquainted with Wikipedia, seen an article on a more controversial personality that made it so far without being pockmarked by so much as a “Criticism” section.

Well, it’s two days later. Guess who has a Criticism section now?

Criticism
Syndicated columnist Mark Steyn states that Warman abuses the intent of the Canadian Human Rights Act by personally appearing as the plaintiff about half of section 13 “hate speech” cases in the history of CHRA, and all of such cases since 2002.

Publisher and columnist Ezra Levant argues that Warman’s actions as plaintiff before the Canadian Human Rights Commissions are tantamount to censorship in the name of human rights. In response, Warman sued Levant for defamation.

Charlie Gillis of MacLean’s magazine asserts: “Richard Warman says he’s fighting hate. Critics say free speech is the real victim.”

It really shouldn’t have gone this far, though. I find it ironic — if there’s any one individual in all of its pages, who stands opposed to the way Wikipedia is supposed to work, that one individual would have to be Richard Warman. I mean look at that second paragraph again — Levant brings up, y’know, these lawsuits on behalf of “human rights” amount to censorship in the name of human rights. What does Warman do? Does he engage in vibrant, spirited debate to the effect of “Nuh-huh!” Or “You wouldn’t be saying that if your human rights were the ones being defended”? Or “Sometimes the greater good must prevail” or some such?

Nope. He just goes and sues him.

And one editor, or a plurality of editors, ends up slipping on his own fecal matter scrubbing the “Richard Warman” article sparkly clean of anything that might hurt Poor Richard’s feelings. And who can blame said editor for at least having the impulse? This guy, apparently, sues for a living. And so the great Wikipedia contradicts its own policy:

Wikipedia is not censored

Wikipedia may contain content that some readers consider objectionable or offensive. Anyone reading Wikipedia can edit an article and the changes are displayed instantaneously without any checking to ensure appropriateness, so Wikipedia cannot guarantee that articles or images are tasteful to all users or adhere to specific social or religious norms or requirements.

While obviously inappropriate content (such as an irrelevant link to a shock site) is usually removed immediately, or content that is judged to violate Wikipedia’s biographies of living persons policy can be removed, some articles may include objectionable text, images, or links if they are relevant to the content (such as the articles about the penis and pornography) and do not violate any of our existing policies (especially neutral point of view), nor the law of the U.S. state of Florida, where Wikipedia’s servers are hosted.

This is the trouble with thought policing. It is inherently non-egalitarian, because, as Mark Steyn has pointed out, Section 13 of the CHRA has ended up being Richard Warman’s personal law. Here’s an online encyclopedia well beyond the “Maple Curtain,” down in Florida, and they’ve been worried sick about offending this one guy up north. Seriously. After “Wikipedia may contain content that some readers consider objectionable or offensive,” you may as well have stuck in the four words “except to Richard Warman.”

But I’m delighted to see that the dam has been broken, and there’s finally three paragraphs of less-than-pleasing stuff about this guy. Couldn’t happen to a nicer fella.

And the version log says it happened just yesterday. Heh heh. All tremble in fear of The Blog That Nobody Reads.

I Made a New Word XV

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

bo∙lus∙te∙mo∙lo∙gy (n.)

A portmanteau of e·pis·te·mol·o·gy:

…a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge. The term was introduced into English by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier (1808-1864).


…and bo∙lus

A soft, roundish mass or lump, esp. of chewed food.

Bolustemology, therefore, describes a system of intelligences and beliefs that cannot be justified or proven by any means intrinsic to the consciousness that maintains such things, because they have been pre-chewed and/or pre-digested by someone else. Bolustemology is soft and squishy intellectual matter, warm, wet, smelling of halitosis, more than likely infected with something. When you offer it to someone, you may be offering to put forth the effort they themselves cannot sustain, so that they can be nourished. But it’s far more likely that you’re engaging in an exercise to make them feel fed, without doing the necessary chewing…because you don’t want them to.

Very few among us will ‘fess up to consuming bolustemology, so infatuated are we with the fantasy of thinking for ourselves about everything. But at the same time very few among us can speak to the issue because most of us have not bothered to become bolus-aware. This is demonstrated easily. Last month, for example, Presidential candidate Barack Hussein Obama was forced by the inflammatory words of his bigoted pastor and spiritual mentor, to speak to the issue of racial disharmony. And so, swaggering to the podium as if it was his idea to do this, he droned on in that Bill-Clinton-like crowd-pleasing way of his for a few minutes, after which we were offered prime tidbits of bolus such as

Obama speech opens up race dialogue
Will it stand alongside the great speeches in US history?

:
Several students of political rhetoric suggest Senator Obama’s moving speech in Philadelphia Tuesday could stand with some of the great speeches in American history.

True, say some, the Democratic presidential candidate was forced into giving a speech that would explain his relationship to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., the outspoken minister of Obama’s church, known for some antiwhite and anti-American sermons.

While argument continues over whether Obama’s explanation was sufficient, his speech did seem to achieve this: It has sparked a conversation about race relations, one of the frankest Americans have had since the civil rights era.

And

The Obama speech was also a topic of discussion on Wednesday at the Washington office of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy and social welfare group. Hispanics can be white, black or of mixed race. “The cynics are going to say this was an effort only to deal with the Reverend Wright issue and move on,” said Janet Murguia, president of La Raza, referring to the political fallout over remarks by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., which prompted Mr. Obama to deliver the speech.

But Ms. Murguia said she hoped that Mr. Obama’s speech would help “create a safe space to talk about this, where people aren’t threatened or pigeonholed” and “can talk more openly and honestly about the tensions, both overt and as an undercurrent, that exist around race and racial politics.”

If there are any facts to back up this conclusion that the Obama speech stands alongside the great speeches of U.S. history…that it opens up a “race dialog”…that it creates a safe space to talk about this, where people aren’t threatened or pigeonholed…or where they can talk more openly and honestly about the tensions that exist around racial politics…such factual foundation is missing from the stories I’ve linked, altogether, and it’s missing from every single other item of discussion about this speech. The facts simply don’t back up any of this. Nor can they, because this is all a bunch of stuff that would be judged by each person hearing the speech. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. And the ivory-tower types writing about it in such sugary tones know nothing about this, nor can they.

No, the factual foundation says the “cynics” are quite correct. Obama’s speech “was an effort only to deal with the Reverend Wright issue and move on.” In fact, you don’t need any cynicism to conclude that. All you need to have is a decent and functional short-term memory.

But our High Priests of journalism, rushing to the press with their editorials built to be printed up in the wrong sections of the respective papers, weren’t interested in factual foundations, logical conclusions, et al. Nope, that’s all out of scope. They were all about bolustemology. About pre-chewing the food for others. About bludgeoning and cudgeling. About giving total strangers instructions about what to believe.

Obama may very well have given his speech in service of purely altruistic and idealistic motives. In doing so, he may very well have accomplished his stated goal of “opening up a national dialog” or some such…created a sounding board of safety for those who otherwise would have felt threatened participating in such an exchange. All those things could, in theory, be true. But all who desire to think independently for themselves, or at least to be thought of by others as capable of doing this, should be offended at the manner in which these cognitions were being handed to them. Valid cognitions have no need for pre-chewing. Each thinking recipient can figure it out for himself or herself. Yet, here, the pre-chewing was rampant.

I have some less subtle examples of the same thing in mind, in case the race-dialog item fails to illustrate the point properly. Michael Ronayne, about whom we learn via Gerard, distills the latest eco-bullying episode for us quite elegantly:

For the background, you can turn to JunkScience, which has a decent write-up including the e-mail exchange between a BBC reporter and a climate-change activist, reproduced in entirety here:

I have been emailed the following correspondence, purportedly between an activist, Jo Abbess, and BBC Environment reporter Roger Harrabin. It would appear that the result of the email exchange between the activist and the reporter was that the BBC changed its story. In particular instead of reporting the story as received from the World Meteorological Organisation, the BBC modified the story as demanded by the activist who was concerned that in its original form it supported ‘the skeptics’ correct observation that there has been no warming since 1998.

From Jo, April 4, 2008

Climate Changers,

Remember to challenge any piece of media that seems like it’s been subject to spin or scepticism.

Here’s my go for today. The BBC actually changed an article I requested a correction for, but I’m not really sure if the result is that much better.

Judge for yourselves…

from Jo Abbess
to Roger Harrabin
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 10:12 AM
subject Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

Dear Roger,

Please can you correct your piece published today entitled “Global
temperatures ‘to decrease’” :-

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7329799.stm

1. “A minority of scientists question whether this means global
warming has peaked”
This is incorrect. Several networks exist that question whether global
warming has peaked, but they contain very few actual scientists, and
the scientists that they do contain are not climate scientists so have
no expertise in this area.

2. “Global temperatures this year will be lower than in 2007″
You should not mislead people into thinking that the sum total of the
Earth system is going to be cooler in 2008 than 2007. For example, the
ocean systems of temperature do not change in yearly timescales, and
are massive heat sinks that have shown gradual and continual warming.
It is only near-surface air temperatures that will be affected by La
Nina, plus a bit of the lower atmosphere.

Thank you for applying your attention to all the facts and figures available,

jo.

=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=

from Roger Harrabin
to Jo Abbess ,
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 10:23 AM
subject RE: Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

Dear Jo

No correction is needed

If the secy-gen of the WMO tells me that global temperatures will
decrease, that’s what we will report

There are scientists who question whether warming will continue as
projected by IPCC

Best wishes
RH

=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=

from Jo Abbess
to Roger Harrabin ,
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 10:37 AM
subject Re: Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

Hi Roger,

I will forward your comments (unless you object) to some people who
may wish to add to your knowledge.

Would you be willing to publish information that expands on your
original position, and which would give a better, clearer picture of
what is going on ?

Personally, I think it is highly irresponsible to play into the hands
of the sceptics/skeptics who continually promote the idea that “global
warming finished in 1998″, when that is so patently not true.

I have to spend a lot of my time countering their various myths and
non-arguments, saying, no, go look at the Hadley Centre data. Global
Warming is not over. There have been what look like troughs and
plateaus/x before. It didn’t stop then. It’s not stopping now.

It is true that people are debating Climate Sensitivity, how much
exactly the Earth will respond to radiative forcing, but nobody is
seriously refuting that increasing Greenhouse Gases cause increased
global temperatures.

I think it’s counterproductive to even hint that the Earth is cooling
down again, when the sum total of the data tells you the opposite.
Glaringly.

As time goes by, the infant science of climatology improves. The Earth
has never experienced the kind of chemical adjustment in the
atmosphere we see now, so it is hard to tell exactly what will happen
based on historical science.

However, the broad sweep is : added GHG means added warming.

Please do not do a disservice to your readership by leaving the door
open to doubt about that.

jo.

=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=

from Roger Harrabin
to Jo Abbess ,
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 10:57 AM
subject RE: Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

The article makes all these points quite clear

We can’t ignore the fact that sceptics have jumped on the lack of
increase since 1998. It is appearing reguarly now in general media

Best to tackle this – and explain it, which is what we have done

Or people feel like debate is being censored which makes them v
suspicious

Roger

=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=

from Jo Abbess
to Roger Harrabin ,
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 11:12 AM
subject Re: Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

Hi Roger,

When you are on the Tube in London, I expect that occasionally you
glance a headline as sometime turns the page, and you thinkg “Really
?” or “Wow !”

You don’t read the whole article, you just get the headline.

A lot of people will read the first few paragraphs of what you say,
and not read the rest, and (a) Dismiss your writing as it seems you
have been manipulated by the sceptics or (b) Jump on it with glee and
e-mail their mates and say “See ! Global Warming has stopped !”

They only got the headline, which is why it is so utterly essentialy
to give the full picture, or as full as you can in the first few
paragraphs.

The near-Earth surface temperatures may be cooler in 2008 that they
were in 2007, but there is no way that Global Warming has stopped, or
has even gone into reverse. The oceans have been warming consistently,
for example, and we’re not seeing temperatures go into reverse, in
general, anywhere.

Your word “debate”. This is not an issue of “debate”. This is an issue
of emerging truth. I don’t think you should worry about whether people
feel they are countering some kind of conspiracy, or suspicious that
the full extent of the truth is being withheld from them.

Every day more information is added to the stack showing the desperate
plight of the planet.

It would be better if you did not quote the sceptics. Their voice is
heard everywhere, on every channel. They are deliberately obstructing
the emergence of the truth.

I would ask : please reserve the main BBC Online channel for emerging truth.

Otherwise, I would have to conclude that you are insufficiently
educated to be able to know when you have been psychologically
manipulated. And that would make you an unreliable reporter.

I am about to send your comments to others for their contribution,
unless you request I do not. They are likely to want to post your
comments on forums/fora, so please indicate if you do not want this to
happen. You may appear in an unfavourable light because it could be
said that you have had your head turned by the sceptics.

Respectfully,

jo.

=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=

from Roger Harrabin
to Jo Abbess ,
date Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 11:28 AM
subject RE: Correction Demanded : “Global temperatures ‘to decrease’”

Have a look in 10 minutes and tell me you are happier

We have changed headline and more

Remember: Challenge any skepticism.

Now look at that graphic up there carefully: Blue is the old stuff, green is the post-capitulation, post-bend-over, post-take-it-up-the-chute-from-Ms.-Abbess stuff. And then read the nagging again…carefully. Jo Abbess doesn’t take issue with the facts presented, for she can’t — they’re facts. Facts iz facts. She objects to the conclusions people may draw from them, and nags this guy until he changes the presentation to her liking, so people will draw a conclusion more in line with what she expects. She’s trying to sell something here. Challenge any skepticism.

There are other examples around, if you simply take the effort to become bolus-aware and look around. There is, for example, the sad tale of Richard Warman. His Wikipedia page contains four major categories as of this writing: Legal activism; Canadian human rights tribunal; Political activism; References. Who is he? The wonderful glittering text in the main article informs us…

He is best known for initiating complaints against white supremacists and neo-Nazis for Canadian Human Rights Act violations related to Internet content. In June 2007, Warman received the Saul Hayes Human Rights Award from the Canadian Jewish Congress for “distinguished service to the cause of human rights”. He holds a BA (Hons.) in Drama from Queen’s University, an LLB from the University of Windsor, and an LLM from McGill University.

He’s a Nazi hunter! Wow, what a great guy! And he’s got letters after his name and everything.

But a quick visit to the “Talk” page reveals some intriguing conflict:

You removed what I believe were valid entries in support of the of criticism of Richard Warman.

You claim that the entries are not “encyclopedic”. Please explain what you mean, provide an example, and a Wikipedia reference in support of your position. Note also that one of the references was to another article in Wikipedia.

I am going to assume for the moment that you are acting in good faith, and will not censor valid criticism. Then there should not be too much difficulty in finding criticism of which you approve, since Richard Warman’s complaints before the CHRC are currently one of the most widely discussed topics on Canadian blogs. I provided just two references, whereas there are hundreds of others.

The entries you removed are:

Critics have charged that Warman abuses the intent of the Canadian Human Rights Act by personally appearing as the plaintiff in the majority of CHRA section 13 “hate speech” cases which have been brought before the Commission, a former employer of Warman. – - Critics further charge that many CHRC “hate speech” complaints such as Warman’s have had a chilling effect on the human right to freedom of expression.

I look forward to your prompt, reasoned response. Thank you.

Another piqued Wiki contributor writes in with an inflammatory sub-headline:

Bias in article maintenance and corrupt admins

This article is being maintained by politically motivated individuals trying to protect the information from being changed at all costs by removing any reference to well-sourced articles that don’t shed good light on this individual. These same individuals and admins have engaged in slander in other articles

What are these unflattering tidbits about Mr. Warman? Well, it seems lately he is in conflict with Ezra Levant, having served papers on the publisher. Levant paints a different picture of the former Human Rights Commission lawyer:

Today I was sued by Richard Warman, Canada’s most prolific – and profitable – user of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. As readers of this site know, Warman isn’t just a happy customer of section 13 and its 100% conviction rate, he’s a former CHRC employee, an investigator of section 13 thought crimes himself. In fact, he was often both a customer and an investigator at the same time.
:
It’s impossible to criticize section 13 without criticizing Warman, because without Warman, section 13 would have been defunct years ago – almost no-one else in this country of 33 million people uses it. I’d call it “Warman’s Law”, but I’ve already given that title to another law enacted because of Warman. Warman’s Law is a law brought in by the B.C. government specifically to protect libraries from Warman’s nuisance defamation suits. (We should find some way to set up a Warman’s law to protect universities from Warman, too.)
:
The more I learn about Warman, the more I write about him. And, like the CHRC, he hates public exposure. Earlier this year, Warman’s lawyer served me with a lengthy Libel Notice, which I posted to my website here, with my commentary on it here.

Again — you may read all of the above and end up still a big, slobbering fan of Richard Warman. You may decide to dismiss all of the reservations people like Levant have against him…which might be fair, since Levant is a defendant and Warman is a petitioner. You should expect that inviting Levant and Warman to dinner on the same night and seating them next to each other, would be a plan deserving of a re-think or two.

But…wouldn’t you want to know some of the less flattering things about Mr. Warman? Especially if you’re sufficiently interested in him to go look up the Wikipedia entry about him? Well, it turns out at least some of the Wikipedia admins don’t seem to think so. They think you should only know the flowery parts. Or at least, they’ve so far come up with some wonderful excuses for excising anything else from the article.

Hell, I’d sure want to know about this:

* Complaints filed to CHRC: 26
* Former employee and investigator at the Canadian Human Rights Commission
* In December 2006, the Law Society shows he works for the Department of National Defence
* Education: degree in Drama from Queens University
* Member: Law Society of Upper Canada and EGALE Canada
* Gave a Keynote speech to the Violent Anti-Racist Action
* Warman is a frequent poster on “Neo-Nazi” Stormfront website
* Warman is a frequent poster on “Neo-Nazi” VNN website.
* Pretends to be a woman named “Lucie”
* Has signed his posts with “88” (according to Warman means: Heil Hitler)
* Has called Senator Anne Cools a “nigger” and a “c*nt” on the internet

And I’d want to know what Mark Steyn had to say yesterday:

He has been the plaintiff on half the Section 13 cases in its entire history and on all the Section 13 cases since 2002. There are 30 million Canadians yet only one of them uses this law, over and over and over again, which tells you how otherwise irrelevant it is to keeping the Queen’s peace. Section 13 is, in effect, Warman’s Law and the CHRC is Warman’s personal inquisition and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is Warman’s very own kangaroo court. Whether or not the motivations were pure and pristine when this racket got started, at some point his pals at the CHRC and the “judges” of the CHRT should have realized that the Warmanization of Section 13 doesn’t pass the smell test: Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done, and when you see what’s done at the CHRC you understand it’s a cosy and self-perpetuating romance between a corrupt bureaucracy and its favoured son.

But the over-zealous Wiki editor(s) says no. They’re taking the Soup Nazi approach with these nuggets of unflattering information about Mr. Warman. Not-a For You!

Lying by omission — that’s a perfectly good example of bolustemology.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Matthew LaClure. He’s just like Richard Warman, it seems…standing for our rights, in his satin tights, and the old red white and blue-hoo-hoo-hoo…

Matthew LaClair, of Kearny, NJ, stood up for religious freedom and the separation of church and state in the face of ridicule and opposition. During his junior year in high school, Matthew had a history teacher who promoted creationism and other personal religious beliefs in the classroom. When Matthew confronted the teacher and asked the school officials to address this, he became the target of harassment and even a death threat from fellow students. Despite this opposition, Matthew worked with the ACLU of New Jersey to make sure that the First Amendment is respected and upheld at his high school. Matthew won the battle at his school and thanks in large part to his advocacy, the Student Education Assembly on Religious Freedom was created at his high school so that all members of the school community will understand their rights and responsibilities.

There follows an essay from the young LaClair about what he did, what happened to him as a result, and how it changed him. I suppose it might be encouraging to some who share his and the ACLU’s values, such as they are…but regardless, you have to notice the phrase “civil liberties” is peppered throughout, with negligible definition about what exactly this two-word cliche is supposed to mean.

I hope that what I did encourages others to stand up for civil liberties. I want to take what I have learned from this situation and apply it to other situations I will experience in my life. I now have a greater chance of making a bigger difference in the world, and I think that the experience will serve to expand my abilities further.

To figure out what “civil liberties” he’s droning on about, you have to consider what exactly it was that he did. And what he did was…start mouthing off at teachers when he was asked to stand for the pledge of allegiance. So the civil liberties in question would be…uh…the civil liberty to sit there while everybody else stands. Well, gosh, it turns out to the extent kids have that civil liberty post-LaClair, they had it before he ever came along. How about the civil liberty of doing that without some strutting martinet getting in their faces about it? Well, no change there either.

In the final analysis, the ACLU is making their apotheosis because Master LaClair mouthed off like a little brat. Any fantasy involving any more nobility than that, is bolustemology and nothing more.

But what’s he done for us lately, you might be asking? Glad you asked. Matthew LaClair, who has no axe to grind here, nosiree, has again impressed certain segments of the halfway-grown-up community by making a big ol’ racket about…exactly the same kind of stuff as last time.

Talk about a civics lesson: A high-school senior has raised questions about political bias in a popular textbook on U.S. government, and legal scholars and top scientists say the teen’s criticism is well-founded.

They say “American Government” by conservatives James Wilson and John Dilulio presents a skewed view of topics from global warming to separation of church and state. The publisher now says it will review the book, as will the College Board, which oversees college-level Advanced Placement courses used in high schools.

Matthew LaClair of Kearny, N.J., recently brought his concerns to the attention of the Center for Inquiry, an Amherst, N.Y., think tank that promotes science and which has issued a scathing report about the textbook.

“I just realized from my own knowledge that some of this stuff in the book is just plain wrong,” said LaClair, who is using the book as part of an AP government class at Kearny High School.

Yyyyyyeah. Uh huh. Just kind of blundered into that one, huh? Kinda like Murder She Wrote…have to wonder what dead body you’re going to find next week.

Just plain wrong. How interesting. Especially when one takes the trouble to actually read the report from the Center for Inquiry.

Unlike Matt LaClair, I’ll encourage you to do so. But just in the interest of saving time, the report boldly confronts six distinct areas of “just plain wrong” ness: global warming; school prayer; same sex marriage; constitutional government and “original sin”; the meaning of the Establishment Clause; and the significance of the Supreme Court’s denial of a writ of certiorari.

Of those six, the fourth and last are the two items that represent, in my mind, what you might call “a real stretch.” The CFI takes issue, there, with small snippets of the textbook in question, and reads meaning into them so that the whistle can be blown. For their criticisms to stand, a certain interpretation has to be applied to these snippets. The fifth objection is probably the most durable because it’s clear to me it is the best-researched. But here, too, the phrase “last minute” has to be given a literal interpretation (in the context of the time frame in which the First Amendment was ratified in the late eighteenth century) — so it can be properly debunked. So with all of the final three of the subjects, the authors of the textbook under review could respond to the CFI solidly and plausibly by simply saying “that isn’t what we meant.”

But it’s with the first item that my interest was really aroused:

The textbook‘s discussion of the science of global warming is devastatingly inaccurate. As explained below, the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence establishes that global climate change caused by global warming is already underway and requires immediate attention. The international scientific community is united in recognizing the extremely high probability that human generated greenhouse gases, with carbon dioxide as the major offender, are the primary cause of global warming and that this global warming will produce harmful climate change.

And much later…

In brief, debate within the scientific community over the existence and cause of global warming has closed. The most respected scientific bodies have stated unequivocally that global warming is occurring and that human generated greenhouse gases, with carbon dioxide as the major offender, are the primary cause of well documented global warming and climate change today. These conclusions are detailed in the landmark 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international scientific body organized to evaluate the scientific evidence for human-induced climate change.

Have you got any red flags raised when you read hackneyed phrases like “overwhelming weight”? If so, maybe you’re on the road to becoming bolus-aware. If not, then maybe you aren’t. Perhaps all six of the objections are legitimate, meritorious, and productive. But it’s easy to see the CFI report seeks — not to inform, but — to bully. To intimidate. To coerce. To get the whole world running the way certain people want it to…and since Matt LaClair is one of ‘em, naturally he thinks they’re wonderful and vice-versa. None of this changes the fact that this is all pre-chewed pablum.

Notice — none of these observations have to do with truth. They have to do with who is recognizing it…and the subservient role others are invited to fill, as they are beckoned to slavishly follow along. The only other important thing to remember about this is that once one person is caught up in the undertow, he’ll piss rusty nickels to get everyone else sucked down with him. People who suck down bolus, don’t want to see anyone else do any chewing.

Oh, but I do have one thing to point out that deals directly with truth: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not a scientific body, it is a political one.

The common perception of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is one of an impartial organisation that thoroughly reviews the state of climate science and produces reports which are clear, accurate, comprehensive, well substantiated and without bias.

One only needs examine some of its procedural documents, its reports and its dealings with reviewers of the report drafts to discover how wrong this impression is.

The IPCC is not and never has been an organisation that examines all aspects of climate change in a neutral and impartial manner. Its internal procedures reinforce that bias; it makes no attempts to clarify its misleading and ambiguous statements. It is very selective about the material included in its reports; its fundamental claims lack evidence. And most importantly, its actions have skewed the entire field of climate science.

As the saying goes, I’m much more concerned about the intellectual climate. Happy reading.

Class dismissed.

Update 4/11/08: You know, it occurs to me that even with all the examples above of strangers figuring things out for us and telling us what to think, not even handing us the glimmer of factual foundation so we could at least go through the motions of coming to the conclusions they want from us on our own…and with all the other examples we continue to be handed on a daily basis — Iraq is a quagmire, Boy Scouts is a hate group, etc. etc. — for some among us, the point still might not yet be pounded home. When you aren’t bolus-aware, you are very easily convinced of some things, but it’s an endless chore to bring your attention to certain other things.

It further occurs to me that it doesn’t need to be this complicated. Not even close.

We have three clear front-runners for the President of the United States in ’08, one Republican and two donks. Can there possibly be any example of our societal gullibility, than what follows. The one Republican is, by far, the most liberal left-wing Republican in the entire Senate. The two donks are, against all odds, the most liberal left-wing donks in the entire Senate.

If what I have used all those paragraphs to describe, above, is not an epidemic covering all the mass between the great oceans, lately reaching “I Am Legend” proportions and intensity…you would be forced to conclude that that is just a cohweenkadeenk. The odds? My calculator says one in 124,950.

Memo For File LVII

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

I’m linking this column, about which I learned via Neal, for three reasons:

Firstly, Robyn Blumner is a “hyperlib.” She shows evidence of motivation for being a liberal, that goes well beyond any desire to impress or ingratiate herself with others. She seems to genuinely believe private-sector endeavors are harmful to her. Interestingly, once again we have the spectacle of someone who labors under this delusion but is mostly unwilling to state exactly why. Her supporting arguments are anecdotal, and her anecdotes are cherry-picked and slanted. Naturally, she comes to the conclusion that the motives of government are pristine by nature, and the motives of business are rancid and rotten by nature. Better than fifty-fifty odds she came to that conclusion because she wanted to. Why did she want to?

Secondly, she has interesting hair. But her facial features are distorted and weird-looking. I strongly suspect that the hair is a compensatory agent for something else far uglier, and I further suspect that this is a metaphor for her liberalism.

Thirdly, I’ve never heard of an online article that accepts comments that, when submitted, must be no longer than two hundred fifty characters. In addition to that, the comments are moderated. And the moderator seems to be exceptionally lazy. I mean, you just knew what I was going to do when I ran into that, I submitted a comment that was exactly 250 characters, not 249 or 251…a little on the smarmy side…and I’m just waiting to see if they run it. They haven’t posted my comment, but they haven’t posted anything since yesterday morning either.

This woman is warped. Her arguments cry out not so much for philosophical dissection, as for therapy. Consider…

What I can’t get out of my head is the way we’ve been suckered again into believing the malarkey sold by Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, Alan Greenspan and a long list of conservative think tanks, that the market is our savior. It is so convenient to make government the bad guy, the one who interferes with everyone’s pot of gold, and make open markets the answer to what ails, as Reagan did so often. But the historical reality is that the free market has a dark side that causes social displacement and instability, and by its nature it is an uncaring thing.

“Savior.” “Uncaring thing.” From where, exactly, comes this breathless quest in search of saviors and caring things?

How do you get this way, exactly? Has this woman never in her life experienced some kind of conflict about life’s goals, ambitions, etc. against some nanny-savior that was so “caring” about her? Never had that “ooh, I just gotta be me” feeling? About anything? Ever? She must not have. Or else…maybe she faced down a disaster that was so dark and dire and threatening, that pleading for a savior was the only thought that went screaming through her blow-dried coifed little red head and all “gotta be me” thoughts are long gone. If so, how bad was it? What is the worst problem she, personally, ever had?

So after the government’s done rescuing Wall Street, the rest of us could use some kind attention too. But we’d need a different government for that — a very different government.

This is what makes her, in my mind, a “hyperlib.” Consider the ramifications involved if this woman is being completely honest…and you’ll see why I have to doubt that so strongly. Government, according to her words, is kinda like Superman. We get into these fixes that are absolutely, positively, without hope…just like Jimmy Olson or Lois Lane falling out of an airplane, or getting lost in a forest fire. No internal resource, no mortal man, can help us; we need our savior.

But with George W. Bush in charge, the savior is an evil, perverted thing. A “Bizarro Superman” type of thing. So we need a “very different government.” We need to get that red Kryptonite out of here so Superman turns good again. Then we can go back to trusting him absolutely, completely, in every way possible. To save our kittens from trees, save our asses from forest fires, catch us when we fall off bridges, etc., etc., etc….and to run our lives for us.

To trust him completely.

Just as soon as he stops being evil.

So I don’t believe this woman or people like her. What they’re talking about is placing complete, unfiltered, undiluted, uncompromised power — and therefore trust — in this leviathan that is government. But only when the right people are in charge. Never a single syllable uttered about limiting the power to be invested in that resource just in case, you know, one day, from one year to the next — sometimes the right people aren’t in charge.

Which is one of the founding principles of this nation. We aren’t supposed to put that much authority in government, because we’re supposed to presume a good portion of the time the right people aren’t going to be running things.

“Hyperlibs” are people who say we can trust government, unconditionally. Just as soon as we get rid of George W. Bush and his crew. Until then, it is the essence of evil, malevolence, and darkness. According to their own words, we should get ready to bare our jugulars toward the fangs of government, right now, before the evil has been driven from it, while those fangs are still sharp, sparkling, and lunging at us.

Such a twisted edict must arise from an underlying philosophy that is either dishonest or incoherent. And I don’t believe it is incoherent. So a puzzle arises: What exactly are they hiding?

Update: The pattern continues. Yet another “hyperlib,” salivating for us all to live according to the socialist/collectivist model, ostensibly in response to our current day-to-day discomforts and problems — but one gets the unmistakable sense that the discomforts/problems have little or nothing to do with the impulse — turns out to be…GUESS WHAT?

I’m an atheist – so what?
By Robyn E. Blumner
Published August 8, 2004

“What is it,” asked German philosopher Friedrich Neitzche, “is man only a blunder of God, or God only a blunder of man?”

I vote for the latter.

Though I was brought up in a religious faith, it was at a very young age – preteen – that I realized I had no belief in God and no amount of indoctrination was going to change that. This sense of nonbelief has been so strong and abiding throughout my life that I find it virtually impossible to understand the psyches of people who believe in anything supernatural.

Just to be clear, it is not just God that I can’t fathom. I also reject the existence of Satan or any form of afterlife beyond the redistribution of the body’s matter. In my book there are no ghosts, golems, angels or spirits. I do not believe in psychic power, astrology or predestination – and forget about karma, kismet or crystals. My view is that the “soul” does not exist outside a functioning brain, nothing was “meant to be,” and things that seem inexplicable are not miracles or paranormal experiences, they are simply not yet explained.

If I was a foster parent to some being from another planet…if I had a genie living in my house…if I had thawed out a being frozen during the age of Atlantis…if it was, in any way, up to me to explain current events to some sentient being, capable of rational thought, but a stranger to recent history and our social customs — I would not be able to explain this.

Why are those who are so resistant to placing any faith in the “supernatural,” so eager to force everyone else to place faith in their socialist models of government?

If I were the thinking sentient being thawed out from the age of Atlantis, I would fully expect the faithful to be the socialists. Those who reject faith, I would expect to be rejecting socialism as well. That’s why you’re supposed to be turning your back on God, isn’t it? For the freedom? For the fatigue you have with “bigger” things “telling you what to do all the time”? And on the contrary, isn’t that supposed to be why a lot of the faithful are indeed faithful? The insecurity? They like to worship “together”? Like socialists? And so, I would expect my theory to make good sense…for it would…but it would be completely bass-ackwards wrong.

It is the godless who are socialists. Perhaps it can be explained because socialism doesn’t leave room for a god. But that doesn’t explain everything.

The consistency is just amazing. Oh sure, there are exceptions I know. But I could make a lot of money betting on the religious beliefs of those who want us to live like insects, surrendering our individual ambitions and desires for liberty, laying them at the altar of collectivism. I could bet they’re all atheists. Every single one of them. I could work my way through an endless Congo line of socialists, placing the wagers on one head after the next, without checking out a single thing about ‘em. For the few times when I’m wrong, I could pay out ten-to-one odds and still end up a very wealthy man.

People who persist in this leftist, bug-like thinking, insisting everyone else do the same…are socialists. It is not a perfect pattern, but it is definitely a strong one.

Why is this such a consistent trend? The only explanation of which I can think, is that rejecting God leaves them hungry for a replacement, and so in socialism they have found the replacement.

The Single Mom Problem

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Fair disclosure: I’m a single dad. I didn’t marry the mom.

It’s been a pretty rocky road and it hasn’t been all good for the boy. But I will say this: Of all the things we have done that have hurt him the most, the biggest thing by far has been all the yelling and arguing. And one thing I can say for an absolute certainty is, if I’d married her, there would have been a lot more of that…and not too much of the other stuff would have changed. We still wouldn’t have “made it” because we still would be two different people who look at life in two different ways.

This is the problem with arguing about marriage in simplistic terms. The institution has become a complicated, wrinkled-up mess. We think of it as some kind of a “promise” when it isn’t anything even resembling that anymore. It’s a change in legal status; a change made to get some bennies. Promising doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s become just a shrink-wrapped bundle of weird benefits and equally weird (toothless) obligations, all of which are re-defined one week to the next according to what lobbyists and activists tell politicians they want done.

Have I made wise, good decisions? No. Should I, therefore, have gotten married? Uh, erm………no. Pretty much everyone I knew at the time, told me to do something, I said I shouldn’t, and in the long run I turned out to be right. But I’m not proud.

Others have done the same thing. And for reasons that escape me, they are proud.

Stephanie FlandersNow, do you know what is going on in jolly old England? The time has come, once again, to put some floral wreaths and candies on the graves of the gentlemen who threw the tea into Boston Harbor…and maybe think about tossing a few more boxes in. Across the pond, they’re having a row and a ruckus about how everyone should live.

On a Newsnight programme in August 2007, [Stephanie] Flanders interrogated Conservative Party leader David Cameron about his proposed policy of tax breaks for married couples while questioning him with other journalists, asking him whether he had ever met anyone who would get married for an extra £20 per week. As an unmarried mother, she also asked Mr. Cameron whether the Conservative Party would like her to be married.

So. We got this nanny-state pro-marriage guy who wants to give a stipend to married couples, and he is rightly upbraided by a single mum.

Lashing out at him in honor of the libertarian spirit of the individual, and the God-given right to live life as you choose?

Erm……no, it doesn’t appear so….

Meet the Credit Crunch Crumpet: The unmarried mum who clashed with Cameron on Newsnight

…Next Tuesday Stephanie officially takes up a new job as economics editor of the entire BBC. It is one of the most senior jobs in broadcasting, and about as authoritative as it gets without actually being Sir David Attenborough.
:
Quite a responsibility, then? “Hmmm. Immense,” she says. “It’s all extremely exciting – this is the best job in economic broadcasting, without a doubt – but it’s daunting, too.

“It’ll mean treading that fine line between being accessible and authoritative. I’ll have to get across very complex economic ideas in a way that is easy to understand and interesting.
:
She gives a half-giggle. That she is the first woman to become one of the BBC’s senior editors – she is taking over from the flamboyant Evan Davis, who is off to present Radio Four’s Today programme – seems slightly shocking in this day and age, but good news all round. Isn’t it?

“No one can remember there being a woman in any of these senior positions before,” she confirms, choosing her words carefully. “I’m sure the BBC would admit that’s not ideal.”

That she is up to the job doesn’t seem to be in doubt. She is widely regarded as one of the most capable economic analysts in the country. Her clever-clogs qualifications are second to none – degrees from Oxford and Harvard – and she spent time speech-writing for the U.S. Treasury under the Clinton administration, before working for the Financial Times.

But aren’t we afraid of overly clever women in this country – unless they bring out diet books on the side? Isn’t the nation going to be intimidated by her?

She smiles again. “I’d prefer them not to be intimidated, but if they think I am talking with authority, then I’ll have got it right,” she says.

Perhaps surprisingly Stephanie hasn’t encountered that much sexism so far, “although there will always be men who simply think women aren’t up to the job”.
:
Yet I’m astonished at how open she is about how her sex will, or won’t, affect how she does the job.

Indeed, she asks for this interview to be conducted at her home, where her 22-month-old son, Stanley, is running around. This makes it inevitable that we will talk about her new kitchen and the perils of finding a good nanny. She is pregnant, too, which makes things even more tricky. Baby number two is due in June.

I don’t know why we are motivated to treat women this way. By asking the rhetorical “aren’t we afraid of overly clever women in this country” — and then later eeking out “Stephanie hasn’t encountered that much sexism so far,” the article seems to me to be ‘fessing up to looking for discrimination where it doesn’t really exist in meaningful volume. She’s a child born into privilege, perhaps more energetic and ambitious than most, I don’t see anyone anywhere fighting her. Why do we have to imagine her battling some unseen force in her every waking moment when efforts to define said resistant force culminate in such a lackluster presentation? She seems to be swimming downstream, not up. Who — on the entire planet — has any hostility to this woman’s career, whatsoever, with any kind of ability to influence it?

If the story is all about her battle with day-to-day obstacles and barricades, then I’m still waiting for the story.

The other thing that’s funny about how we treat women, is we seem to imagine they don’t really have a “choice” to do anything until substantial energy has been depleted championing that choice, cudgeling other women into making the same one. Where, I wonder, did we get this rule? Stephanie is all about choosing to remain unmarried if that’s what you want to do. But Stephanie has to become a celebrity. Stephanie needs a splash page.

But Stephanie, according to the article itself, wasn’t born into humble beginnings. Stephanie has connections. Stephanie has friends and relatives. Stephanie went to schools that not-just-anyone can attend.

And Stephanie has a stud. He’s mentioned in paragraph 23. And in the context, it would appear he is expected to do some things about daddy stuff, childcare, bringing-home-bacon, whatever, to lighten Stephanie’s load a little bit.

Why paragraph 23? Why not in paragraph five? Why isn’t he in the splash picture with the hen and the chick, if the rooster is part of making it all work? What’s this drive to make the story read like a story of “we made it all work without a man.” I mean, it doesn’t come out and say it in those words, but can anyone deny that this is an intended central thrust of Stephanie’s story? She did it, girls, so you can do it too…except Stephanie isn’t really doing that. She depends on her man — and wherever she doesn’t, she depends on a lot of other resources she has in her personal life, that millions of single mothers don’t have in theirs.

Or as Richard Littlejohn wrote,

“If Stephanie Flanders speaks for Britain, then I’m a gnu ” (recalling a famous song by her father [Michael Flanders] and Donald Swann).

Meanwhile — the European tradition continues. Everybody’s nose is in everybody else’s business. Every couple that gets married is a victory for Mr. Cameron and his friends. Every couple that doesn’t is a victory for Stephanie and all her friends.

Mass communication is a wonderful thing, but sometimes I think over the course of its relatively short history it can be shown that we really haven’t used it that well. It has become very popular over the years to use the medium to bludgeon those among us in the most rustic circumstances, to make decisions that aren’t going to pan out very well for them or their children in the long run.

Here’s the question I’d really like to have answered:

Is it by sheer accident that we use mass communication this way? Or does that have some sort of appeal to somebody somewhere? It seems like we’ve been really working at it. Pregnant girls should stay single…kids should think of their daddies as idiots…if your boss doesn’t give you four months vacation out of the year, you should strike. Every single nugget of this modern-day electronic “advice” seems to be advice that is wonderful for someone else, that no one with a brain would accept as their own.

Will Win This Yet

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

An optimistic tone over at the Rottie’s place thanks to Crunchie.

As well as a crystal-clear distillation of what exactly we’re supposed to be doing over in Mesopotamia…and which, it seems, we are indeed doing. So no, we’re not there to steal oil and kill brown people. In fact, if those are indeed the stated purposes then we need some hearings pronto, because we’re doing a pretty lousy job of it.

If you’re a screeching Lunar Chiroptera the only reason we went to war in Iraq was for the oil, or to kill brown people, or yada yada. But anyone who paid attention and had an IQ above explosive diarrhea, knew that Iraq was the first step in the long marathon of actually winning the strategic war against Islamofascism. You see, we had two choices. We could play whack a mole from now until doomsday, killing terrorists wherever we could find them, taking out one cell at a time, at a huge long term cost in lives, or we could go after their “hearts and minds” and eventually kill the ideology that spawns them.

The occasion for this commentary is, of all things, the Gray Lady, linked by Blackfive.

After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.

Abe Greenwald has a prize-winning commentary about this

It is impossible not to infer that the Bush Doctrine and the commitment of the men and women in uniform has facilitated this shift. Far from “creating more terrorists” as the failed cliché goes, the war has helped to nurture an appreciation for liberty among Iraqi youth. A 24-year-old Iraqi college student is quoted as saying she loved Osama bin Laden at the time of 9/11. Now, after seeing the efforts of religious leaders to curtail her daily freedoms, she rejects extremism entirely. While George Bush’s critics can make no useful connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq, this young woman has no problem doing so.

People who oppose the Iraq war, by & large, also oppose conservatism. When they are left to describe in detail the conservatism they want to resist, invariably they give a perfectly functional line-by-line description of the Islamofascism we would go back to tolerating endlessly were these anti-conservatives calling the shots. Something out of the seventh century…bad for freedom…oppressive to women…steamrolling over the will of the people…a theocracy…a moldering patriarchal layer of insulated & isolated martinets imposing draconian punishments, out of touch with the common people.

It’s like something in one half of the world is perfectly alright and ought not be messed with — when you have the same thing, as they see it, closer to home, suddenly it’s time to bear any burden, pay any price, fling any rabid spittle, to overthrow it and bury it. But if something that really does fulfill all their nasty nouns and adjectives, flourishes east of Greenwich…well, that’s all good. Let it be.

Twenty-First Century Split

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

The post previous to this one undertakes a daunting task, which is to find a definition for the slang term “neocon.”

The incentive is personal. My surname is “Freeberg,” which sounds Jewish. I’m not Jewish. But I delight in picking up newspapers and occasionally reading about terrorists getting fried by bombs. Such stories make my day, and I wish I could read about such things more often. In that sense, I’m a warmonger and I’m a sadist. But I’m not Jewish…so…am I a neocon?

The post linked above is quite lengthy. It gets into the grit of my informal research project, explores every nook & cranny of what I’ve been able to find, and the thoughts that trickle through my neocon brain once I find these things out. I’ll summarize it here for the benefit of those whose time is at a premium.

Unlike most things we call “words,” the term “neocon” doesn’t really define much of anything.

Like tapping your toes in a toilet stall a la Larry Craig, by using the term, you’re saying something about yourself. And that is the whole point of using the term. Or most of it.

When you use the word “neocon” what you’re saying about yourself is…

1. You are a socialist. You want a one-world government. You want everyone on the planet to have the same amount of stuff.

2. Because of #1, you are engaged in an eternal war against capitalism.

3. You hate Jews.

4. You would like people who vote for Republicans, to be lined up against a wall and executed.

5. You’re opposed to the death penalty.

6. You are opposed to the U.S.-led coalition invading Iraq in 2003.

7. You think socialism is wonderful, and the only reason it has not yet worked is because the right people weren’t in charge.

8. If any country has what is called a “military,” and that military has any reason for existence at all whatsoever, it is to provide higher-level education at a reduced cost. War is purely a thing of the past…which means, necessarily, the “boss” of any international dispute should be whoever can command the most formidable “consensus” among diplomats.

9. What we call “money” should be the property of whatever national government dishes it out. Individual achievement should have nothing to do with it at all.

10. There is no God.

11. You people doing a lot of thinking for yourselves, represent a great big problem and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

12. It is vastly more important that the next generation be taught how to follow instructions, than that they be taught how to read with optimal comprehension, to write with optimal literacy, to reason with coherence and adaptability, and to perform arithmetic computations with competence, reliability and efficiency.

There’s a butt-load of other things I could tack on to that list if I really tried. What’s on the list isn’t the point. The point is, the list stays consistent…decade after decade…across international borders.

A “socialist” is someone who accepts all those things.

A “neocon” is a derogatory term flung around by a socialist. It really doesn’t have any intrinsic meaning, or very little. To the extent it does have an actual definition, it is used to refer to someone who isn’t a socialist. A “neocon” is someone who is a “hold-out,” as the entire planet continues to be lowered into the roaring bonfire of socialism.

So here’s my proposal: How about we get rid of democrats and Republicans entirely? When I was a little boy, the split was very, very clean: democrats wanted to expand government spending, Republicans wanted to reduce it. All tangential issues were spin-offs from that central definition.

It doesn’t apply anymore. President George W. Bush has the letter “R” after his name and he’s spending money like it’s water.

As a result of that, the Republicans have a deep split. So do the democrats. They trudged off to the polls to vote for democrat politicans so that we’d yank our troops out of Iraq and impeach President Bush…and then the democrat politicians said, thanks, now screw you. So the democrats really don’t stand for much now. You tell me you’re a Republican…or a democrat…and I really don’t know anything, or nothing at all, about you.

Let’s just scrap them both.

We’re socialists and neocons. The symbol of the neocon could be — the pig. A pig with a yarmulke on it’s head. This has a problem or two because yarmulkes are worn by Jews, and Jews don’t eat pork. But I notice that people who criticize “neocons” are, with very few exceptions, socialists. Socialists or radical Islamic muslim terrorists. Or both. They want capitalism to be abolished. Or they want the nation of Israel to be swept into the sea. Or both.

Socialists could be represented by the watermelon. Everyone’s heard this joke by now…the watermelon is green on the outside, red to the core. That’s the twenty-first century socialist for you. He pretends to be all about trees, and snail darters, and spotted owls and what-not…but he really wants to destroy capitalism because he doesn’t like it. The environment is simply an excuse.

My point is — if you spend a day reading lots of blogs, on the “right” and on the “left,” you’ll see that this is our modern split. On October 13, 2007, this is how we are split now. The “right” and the “left” don’t have much to do with anything.

It’s all about watermelons and pigs.

Socialists…and “neocons.” Which are people who aren’t adapting to socialism, as quickly as the socialists would like.

I think, now, today, that’s how our political parties really need to be split. If I’m right, then yes, I’m a “neocon” (even though “Freeberg” isn’t nearly as Jewish as it might sound, to some). I think that’s what’s happening. It’s all about the new-world-order, and how some of us are socialists — too timid to admit that’s what they are, but nevertheless, it’s true — and some of us are simply not ready to adapt to the new-world-order. And so we’re just like those hated Jews.

Update 10/14/07: Okay, I got it. The animal representing the “neocon” should be…the Eagle. An independent, majestic creature. Yes, it is the symbol of the country. That is the point. There are reasons this animal was selected as our country’s symbol. It forages for food in a harsh territory, but does so without complaint because that is it’s destiny. And that environment is a beautiful place. The bird’s eyes are open all the time. It sees far. It takes care of it’s young.

The socialists can be represented by the carpenter ant.

I think this accurately reflects how these two “virtual parties” work. It reflects how their members think. The eagle glides above the domain, it’s keen eyes looking for movement, it’s tiny but powerful bird-brain engaged in a continuous cycle neatly lapping the First Triad…FACT…OPINION…THING TO DO…FACT…OPINION…THING TO DO. The carpenter ant doesn’t do this and cannot do this. Ants can’t draw inferences from facts, outside of their primitive design. They follow trails of spit left by other ants. I’M SUPPOSED TO GO HERE…I’M SUPPOSED TO GO THERE.

I say, let’s split it that way. Just continue Kristol’s idea of taking the epithet that is used to describe you, and making it your own. On both sides. Neocon, socialist.

And then, issue by issue, both sides would go at it. Just like now, but now they’d define themselves the way they want to; the way they really intend to. The democrat/Republican thing dates back to the Civil War, and just a little bit before that. It’s out of date.

Methusaleh Fad

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Via Rick, we find out that Rachel saw a thug.

Even though nobody reads this blog, the nobodies who do, are well-acquainted with my attitude about droopy trousers. In a way, I’m grateful that they’re here because they help to clarify what goes on when people think in groups. The question that would remain unsettled, if not for them, goes something like this: When you make a decision as part of a large group, are you simply less likely to reach a rational conclusion? Or could it be that you are predisposed to arrive at conclusions that are irrational?

Baggy pantsThe baggy pants fad, and fashion in general, help to answer this. If group-think simply had a disorienting effect on us, depriving us of the attraction that we have toward logical ideas when doing our thinking in solitude, the “bad fads” would have about the same lifespan as the good ones. Baggy pants is an objectively bad fashion; its irrationality is measurable, and not a matter of personal opinion. Boys who insist on wearing their baggy pantaloons every day, interrogated by outraged parents, defend the practice because “the girls like it.” That is probably the most durable test we can construct for bad ideas — someone’s offered an opportunity to defend them, and their defense is going to be to punt to someone else.

Plus, you can’t run in the damn things. If there are activities to be associated with fashion items, the activities associated with this one all seem to be illegal. Well, I just think when you break the law, you ought to be wearing something suitable for running.

The lifespan of a healthy dog or cat has been surpassed by the baggy pants fad: about twelve years, give or take a couple years. Quick — name another fashion item that has endured for six. Beehive hairdo? No. Goatee? Not yet. White go go boots? Mutton chop sideburns? The preppy look? Not even close.

If there is to be a Methusaleh fad, a fad lasting longer than any other in modern times, does the the droopy-drawer look even begin to offer qualities that would distinguish it as a reasonable candidate? Well let’s see…it accentuates the male crack. You know, I don’t swing that way, but it seems doubtful to me that even people who are attracted to men, want to see that. It’s impractical. Twenty years ago it was fashionable for girls with huge breasts to be wearing tight sweaters. Good times…well, you can do a lot of things in a tight sweater. You can’t run with baggy pants on. I think you can run better wearing a bag of cement than you can wearing some baggy pants.

As for the message sent with the fashion fad, this has got to be the most disastrous attribute of the “can smuggle a watermelon in my crotch” craze. It is worn by spoiled urban parasitic youth who want to look more masculine than they are. It got started, it would appear, as a calling card among gay men. So let’s say the potential for ambiguity seems to run a little high here.

Good fadIt’s the longest-running fad in modern times. Those teeny bikini bottoms the ladies used to wear on their swimsuits, riding low on the hips…that’s an example of a “good fad” if ever there was one…they looked great. After two or three years some nameless faceless unaccountable invisible fashion emperor in New York, declared enough was enough. “Boy shorts” are now the “in” thing for feminine swimwear. No such moratorium has been declared on these hoodlum-pants that hoodlums wear doing their hoodlum things, right before leading the police on a hoodlum foot chase that they can’t maintain because their hoodlum pants keep falling off their hoodlum butts.

Maybe it’s all a secret plan to foil crime. I dunno. But the evidence is in: When you go along to get along in a large group, you aren’t simply dissuaded from making logical decisions, it seems you’re actually motivated to make illogical ones. There’s one — just one — twelve-year-long fad in modern history, and it has to do with failing to accomplish the sole objective of wearing clothes, presuming there can be only one: getting your damn ass crack concealed and keeping it that way.