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“What Mickelson Should Have Said”

Friday, January 25th, 2013

From Moonbattery.

If you’re not up on this little drama, Rush Limbaugh did a great job on the background.

What Phil Mickelson said, as he apologized for…well, I’m not sure what. He didn’t have to apologize for not paying his taxes. As I understand it, he apologized either for resenting his higher tax rate, for doing something about it, or for talking about it.

“I apologize to those I have upset or insulted and assure you I intend to not let it happen again.”

Full statement:

I certainly don’t have a definitive [tax] plan at this time, but like everyone else I want to make decisions that are best for my future and my family. Finances and taxes are a personal matter and I should not have made my opinions on them public. I apologize to those I have upset or insulted and assure you I intend to not let it happen again.

Milton Wolf is as flabbergasted as I am:

So let’s get this straight. A beloved law-abiding free American who brings joy to millions and seems never to have bothered anyone evidently forgot that he lives in Obamerica. He’s done well for himself but he should remember that he didn’t build that. How dare he “upset” and “insult” people by so selfishly expressing concern that his government stands ready to confiscate, err, tax away, 63% of his income.

Read that again: 63 percent of one American’s income.

Here’s what Phil Mickelson should have said:

America continues to amaze me. I still marvel that people pay me so much money for hitting a little white ball around a golf course. It’s not that I don’t work hard at my craft. I do. I take nothing for granted and work my tail off every day to get better, just like millions of Americans do at their crafts. And it’s not like I didn’t take risks. When so many people told me I should get a ‘real’ job, I held fast to my dream, no matter how unlikely it was, just like so many entrepreneurs in America have done who have made our lives immeasurably better. And yet I still marvel at it all.

But maybe it’s not so hard to understand. I earned $60 million dollars last year and not a single one of those dollars did I steal from anyone. Not a single one of those dollars did I weasel out of a corrupt system because I bribed — I mean, contributed to — some politician to pass a law that favors me. Not a single one of those dollars did I simply tax away from someone because I could.

Every single dollar that came my way was voluntarily given to to me. And people are not idiots. They don’t just give away their hard-earned dollars for nothing. Every dollar they gave me was in return for something that was worth more to them than a dollar, or they wouldn’t have given it up. Like I said, I marvel at the opportunities in America. Who would have thought so many people would find so much joy in watching a guy hit a ball with stick? But they do and so I will do my best to do everything I can to be worthy of them. Isn’t that the American way?

It breaks my heart that America is abandoning the American way of keeping government small so that individuals can become as big as their dreams. And it breaks my heart that my home state, the state I love, is chasing away so many hard-working people and wonderful businesses with their outrageously high taxes. It’s nothing less than a tragedy that the fastest growing population in America is former Californians and the fastest growing industry is former California businesses.

What’s worse, unless we change our ways, unless we stop all of America from adopting the failing California Blue model, I fear we will no longer be talking about former Californians so much as former Americans.

The pattern continues: With our fever yet unbroken, we treat weakness and need as some kind of a commodity to be exchanged for products and services, and strength, capability and service to others as some kind of a blight to be tolerated only churlishly, or not tolerated at all. Strength and weakness, each one treated as the other, as the opposite of what it truly is.

California will get deeper into financial trouble. The solution, again, will be higher taxes, and those proposing the higher taxes will, again, fail to take into account the exodus of the hated rich who simply do not want to be taxed that way.

Science is Never Wrong

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Found a couple of pages out there trying to define as a logical fallacy any argument seeking to point out anything that sounds like this: “Ah, but science has been wrong before.”

They do have a good point to make: You take your car in to a mechanic to find out why it won’t start, the mechanic will come up with some theories. Then, with a look-see and some deductive reasoning, some of these will be ruled out. It would then be silly, as well as sneaky and unfair, to say “What a bad mechanic he is, he was wrong when he said my fuel system wasn’t delivering.”

Both pages point out that such an argument “shows ignorance of how science works.” That’s a valid observation — certainly it’s true in the example of the mechanic — but it strikes me as exceedingly reckless to make a logical fallacy out of this. It strikes a blow with a sledgehammer when a jewelers’ screwdriver would be more appropriate. Which is particularly hazardous here, since the presumption they’re forming about the conversation in which the “fallacy” would be deployed, is far from guaranteed. In fact, I would say it’s almost certain to be wrong.

Their presumption is that the guy pointing out “science has been wrong before,” is the first one in the dialogue to “[misrepresent] how science actually works by forcing it into a binary conception of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.” Now, this has not been my experience at all, especially in the case of global warming. From all I’ve seen in the conversations in which I participate — and also in the much larger collective of conversations, in which I do not — it is the alwarmist who incorrectly sees “science” as sort of a catalog of blessed beliefs, almost like scripture being blessed by a high priest in some religious order. The skeptic or denier who then takes the “yeah but science has been wrong before” angle, therefore, is engaging in a bit of flair to remind his antagonist that the scientific process is being misrepresented.

After all, these conversations are very often more about how sure we should be, than about what is to be concluded. Isn’t that just obvious? Aren’t they almost all about “the science is in” or “the debate is settled” or “all the scientists agree”?

Are they not almost all about how the virtue of skepticism, which is the backbone of science itself in all other pursuits and disciplines, in just this one should be suspended because gosh, they’re just so darn sure about this, and the fate of life on the planet depends on it. Doesn’t that previous sentence sum up just about all the arguing that’s ever being done, especially out here on the Internet.

And once the alwarmist commits this error and shows this ignorance of how science works, I personally don’t know of too many more succinct or diplomatic ways to correct him about it. Maybe it would be more direct, and perhaps in some cases a good idea, to go with the alternative rebuttal of “that isn’t how science works.” But since the discussion is often about whether it’s okay to still be asking questions, it hardly seems fair to make a logical fallacy out of what is likely just an attempt, perhaps a clumsy one, to show some tact. And it’s certainly dishonest to play make-believe that it’s the one side that has shown this ignorance about science, when it’s very likely to be the other.

Also, the authors make a second reckless presumption, also unlikely to be true: That there is no good point to be made here. I see someone compiled a short list of occasions on which one might say “science was wrong” and, once again, one sees one’s understanding is increased when one takes the time to define some specifics. In this case, the author of the list went the extra mile by annotating these events where the thing being “proven wrong” wasn’t exactly science, but “DOGMA.” Everybody knew it to be true. The scientific method had not been used to validate these “wrong” things so it is entirely inaccurate to say the-science-was-wrong. But, again: Tell the alwarmists that, for in a lot of cases this “settled science” is not science at all.

This list doesn’t take such care, using phrases like “for thousands of years, it was believed that.” But it’s still relevant and educational to read through it.

This article makes the point that all knowledge has an expiration date. Not sure I’d take it that far. Still, it’s an interesting read.

“King of the Woad” came up with a great example over here about repressed memories of child abuse. He, too, is careful to disclaim:

So there’s an example of science getting it wrong, the public knowing better, and the experts themselves having to backtrack. But the crisis blew up in the first place because the “self-correction” mechanism you refer to wasn’t allowed to function properly.

Let us ponder that “but”: The experts developed their theory in a vacuum, without the benefit of peer review. And so a question confronts us: Perhaps this example should not count?

It is entirely legitimate to say it should not, in every single way, if — and only if — an implied rule arises, and is given the respect it deserves, the word “science” should be tapered down in terms of the situations to which it is applied. If the alwarmist should be given license to counter that the Cleveland repressed-memory crisis is a pointedly different thing from what he’s trying to discuss when he says “the science is settled,” then he should be confined to using that science-is-settled thing to suppositions in which science has been followed. Is that not just common sense? Also, this has to work at the micro- level, not the macro-. You can’t go leapfrogging from “the science is settled that the lower troposphere has been warming and there is a greenhouse effect,” to “the science is settled that human activity is the primary cause” to “the science is settled that legislative initiatives will curb this warming” to “the science is settled that if those initiatives are not implemented post haste, we’re all gonna die.”

That, I think, is just common sense too. But a lot of people are not following it.

The problem, here, is drama and emotion. Everyone is bored to tears watching the scientist do real science. Everyone likes to watch the scene where the scientist, pondering the meaning of what he just saw, tears himself away from his telescope or microscope or computer workstation and leaps into his jeep to drive all night to the capitol building to tell the wise leaders that IMMEDIATE ACTION is required or we’re all DOOMED!! But it bears repeating, science has nothing to do at all with what we “must” do. Science is all about what is. One steps outside of the domain of science, usually slamming the door behind him, and forgetting the key, the minute one starts pondering the thing-to-do. With the climate change deal, a lot of people tend to forget that.

Another problem, already briefly discussed above, is the use of the word. I called this out years ago, that in classical times “science” was used to describe a process, and in more recent times it is used to describe an orthodoxy of institutionalized beliefs, and a coterie of elites maintaining them. When I review the list with the annotations about dogma-not-science, I notice an interesting pattern in history: This piece of knowledge, which is ultimately falsified, is “science” before the falsification occurs but after that event — is not science anymore. This wasn’t done, that wasn’t done, peer review wasn’t done…it was accepted by these guys over here, but not those guys over there…it was a hypothesis and not a theory.

So there is a subtle but meaningful two-step going on here: The science is never wrong, because once it is proven wrong it stops being science. Almost like the “none dare call it treason” thing. But before it’s proven wrong…we show our ignorance if we fail to accept it uncritically, since “it’s science.” Seems to me, you can insist on one or the other of those things, but not both, for if both these rules are to prevail, what you have is little more than a set of procedure-driven steps for mass-producing mistakes, and then placing unlimited weight on them.

How Liberals See Hillary’s Performance

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Win!

It’s how they argue…well…just about every point they want to make, all the time. They don’t know any other way. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could muster up this kind of spirit, looking after the interests of the United States?

Currently making the rounds in the social networking, this enlightening image:

Some among us believe things are going to keep getting sillier and sillier, until they can no longer proceed further in that direction, and then bounce back like a racquetball hitting the far end of the court. If we’re right about that, this is cause for optimism…

The purpose of the hearing to find out what happened, to prevent it from ever happening again. And the person who “won the hearing,” I suppose, would be the person most accomplished in making sure this did not happen. Thanks to Hillary’s peevishness, we don’t know a lot more now than we did when the hearing began. Most of what we’ve learned, has been about the behavior of our friends, the liberals.

Meanwhile…what shit, exactly, has Hillary gotten done? …Ever??

Win, Rocky! Win!

The “Acting Alone” Fallacy

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

John Althouse Cohen takes on a particularly effervescent bit of silliness in the inaugural speech Monday (hat tip to Instapundit):

President Obama said this in his 2nd inaugural address:

For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together.

I object to this move, which seems to have become popular with Democrats in the past couple years, of equating “doing things together” with government. To suggest that anyone who’d like to see less heavy-handed government regulation thinks one person can do everything alone is a straw-man argument. It indicates a lack of understanding of how the private-sector economy works and how libertarians or conservatives actually think about economics….The idea that you’re “alone” unless you’re being directed by the government strikes me as dehumanizing and almost abusive. So I resist this scare tactic of presenting the government as the alternative to being “alone.”

I would take it much, much further. “Dehumanizing,” based on all I have seen and heard about the thoughts, ideas and proposals connected to this fallacy, is not merely an effect or a byproduct. It is the point.

This gets into a disagreement I’ve had for a number of years with the words of Rush Limbaugh, who repeatedly insists liberals “love big government” and see it as the source of all good things, as a sort of replacement deity. My view has been that they see it as nothing more than a necessary evil, much the way conservatives do. If you doubt me, just keep paying attention until the day a Republican is running the government again. Suddenly, everything the government does will be evil, evil, evil. And not because the Republican would be rolling back the policies of his predecessor; thanks to the ratchet effect, libs don’t even need to begin to worry about that.

No, when the conservative is in charge, we stop arguing about spending almost entirely. Conservatives squabble among themselves about how & why the people in charge don’t do a better job of standing up for conservative principles and beliefs. The liberals go back to attending war protests, to refresh their memories of what that’s all about, and become good little civil libertarians, wringing their hands with worry about the latest batch of rights to be taken away by Darth Vader and his gang aboard the Death Star. Conservatives look forward to some spending cuts that never happen, throughout the whole cycle, while liberals oscillate back and forth between seeing government as all-that-is-good, and a fountainhead of toxic bile.

They don’t want the good stuff to get done. This is the “you didn’t build that” stuff, nothing more or less than that. Their credo is: Fine, let it get built and let it get done, if it has to be, just make sure no one identifiable individual gets the credit. And because that is our true goal, then have the government do it if it has to be done.

This is, I maintain, a phobia. And the phobia is that the liberal doesn’t want to get too personally close to anyone who can be easily credited for doing remarkable things. To understand this part of it, you have to understand the fear. It isn’t too hard. Once a skilled practitioner reaches a certain age, some episode of career slowdown becomes inevitable; and when that happens, it isn’t easy to look at the works of someone younger, riding the lofty eddies of success only distantly remembered by the observer, full of hope, energy and life, and to all outward appearances has not experienced a similar slowdown. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, and it waits for, or has happened to, just about everyone capable of accomplishing anything. It should not surprise anybody that some among us choose to avoid this unpleasant realization.

It really is not the realization that causes the fear. There’s nothing to that, at all, when you think about it: Things that accelerate, after a time, should be expected to decelerate again. It’s not an inevitability, but it is the default development.

No, the unpleasantness is in all the questions raised. Could I have handled something differently? Was I born with certain gifts, coupled up with associated and inseparable liabilities, that make the gifts ultimately meaningless? Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more? This fills them with fear, and dread, and pain. They resolve it by playing a very old game: If I cannot have it, then you can’t either.

So nobody is allowed to achieve anything. Nobody identifiable, that is. Government should do it all.

The name-cloaking power of government is demonstrated easily. Just think of a liberal who favors a bigger government, citing some “vital” function we need it to do for us. What is that liberal’s opinion of the people whose hands get dirty, doing that work? By their logic, we would owe these people everything and then some. Right? And yet — that is not the viewpoint. They do not look at the guy who installs the park bench, or lays the cement for the sidewalk, or even the firefighter, the same way the conservative looks at the people whose hands get dirty doing the work he appreciates. That high level of personal credit is reserved for Barack and Michelle Obama, and other superstars. Awesome, mega-wonderful people…whom the lib is assured, more-or-less, he will never, ever meet. They certainly won’t move in next door, lean over the fence while watering the lawn, and chit-chat with them about what was on the teevee last night.

That is the assurance they seek. There are close acquaintances, not necessarily near-and-dear ones, but proximate ones…peers…like the work colleague or the next door neighbor. And then there are people accomplishing definably extraordinary things. They do not want any of these to be the same people. “Work hard,” that much is fine. They love telling and re-telling the story about “ordinary Americans” and “working families” doing their “hard work” and getting shafted. But the world-changing stuff is to be done only by the superstars they’ll never meet…or, by the hoi polloi, only after such time as they have “come together to get this thing done.” Individual, identifiable, remarkable and proximate credit, that is the deadly combination. Any reminders of the amazing things possible for ordinary humans, if they just get up off their asses. That is not to be allowed under any circumstances, because it invites an acknowledgment that sometime in their past, on some occasion, at some critical juncture, wittingly or otherwise, they selected an option that effectively abjured some opportunity for game-changing significance. Maybe, even, they’ve done it multiple times. That is the fog-shrouded alleyway, in their minds, that they cannot permit themselves to explore, ever.

Just a working theory I’ve had for awhile. But so far, it holds up.

Alpha Dog

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Well, I’m not learning about liberals very quickly, am I. I’ve been struggling to figure them out since long before I started this blog, eight years ago. In some ways it could be said I’m still recovering from when I was hoodwinked, in 1976, into supporting Jimmy Carter. Supporting, not electing, since I was only ten. I can’t think of too many other things about which I’ve been continuously accumulating knowledge for 36 or 37 years, certainly nothing that puzzles me so much, in spite of whatever I’ve managed to learn over that time.

I’m not sure how much I’ve learned. I’m aware that a gap remains, and I’m much more interested in the remaining deficiency than the accumulated progress. What did Omar Khayyam say? The guy who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep; the guy who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child. I’m a child, sleeping. I am to be awakened, and taught.

Now and then, a happy confluence of seemingly random events will do much to awaken and teach. Hillary fought back on the Benghazi thing, and showed liberals everywhere how to testify in front of a Senate committee without allowing said Senate committee to complete any of its work. Liberals love her performance. Conservatives love her performance too. It has been suggested that she comes across as “glib,” and that’s being charitable.

Each side thinks Hillary’s display of churlishness and sneakiness will ultimately play out as a net gain for them. Each side is “right,” in the sense that they are accounting for the roughly fifty percent of the country that sees things the way they do, and ignoring the other. Only one side will win, so someone is due for a rude awakening. But it is clear to me that this is valuable lesson material for my self-education project about how liberals think about things and why they say & do the strange things I see them saying & doing. Hillary did her “takedown,” or her “outburst” depending on how you see it, while the liberals have been in a high dudgeon on the blogs and the social networking — almost certainly dispatched to do so, from some central point of authority — to argue about climate change. This, lately, they’ve been doing very much the same way Hillary avoided Sen. Johnson’s line of questioning.

It gets back to the barn in the painting thing. Whereas conservatives see every illustration or elevation or message or question as another bit of information, from which relevant details may be gleaned and then combined with others to form a growing understanding about some object of interest merely reflected in them — liberals see such messages as atomic units, which may not be so harvested for desirable information. Those messages, in the liberal point-of-view, are stories to be appreciated for what they are, by themselves; they cannot be divided into smaller bits, nor may they be joined with others.

Actually, when you get down to it, all you ever really see an entrenched liberal do with any kind of information is assess it for its beneficial properties and award it a grade that is pass-or-fail. That and nothing else. All the rest of it is merely monologuing about the pass, or about the fail, as the case may be. Liberalism is anti-learning. Oh, they sharpen their skills at discourse as the years tick on by…much as a baby mountain lion learns to pounce. But they don’t actually learn anything from the information. There is no incentive for them to do so, other than to win arguments.

What seals their fate is a doctrine that says, once the participant in an argument has established himself as the Alpha Dog, he therefore “wins” the argument and it really doesn’t matter what is being said. This often leads them to say things of complete nonsense, and even when they’re called on it they still think they “won.” That’s what happened with Hillary’s performance. She established herself as the Alpha Dog, but to anyone who doesn’t see the conversation in those terms — the human grown-ups — the exchange doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and she doesn’t end up looking good.

Don’t take my word for it. Do what Hillary’s fans don’t want you to do, and read the remark, in context, including everything leading up to the much-quoted outburst. Then let us ponder it logically; extend to our Secretary of State, for argument’s sake, the benefit of every single doubt about everything and let’s see where this takes us…

Sen. Ron Johnson, a tea party backed Wisconsin Republican serving his first term, persistently questioned Clinton about what he called Rice’s “purposely misleading” the American people.

“We were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact,” Johnson said, adding that “the American people could have known that within days.”

Shouting and gesturing with her arms in frustration, Clinton shot back: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided they’d go kill some Americans?”

Her fists shaking, she continued: “What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator.”

Okay. So “our job” is to “figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.” Since Senator Johnson’s question was not “derr, uh, could you refresh my memory what is our job again?” — I’m going to take this as a mid-course correction, the intent of her remarks was to get the senator back on track. Senator Johnson’s complaint, from what I read here, is “We were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that…that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact.” So he’s accusing her, and her department, and the White House, of lying. She’s letting the accusation go, fighting back on the issue of relevance. The casual observer will conclude, here, precisely the same thing concluded by someone reading the remarks more studiously: Hillary was questioned about misstatements, and she fought back on relevance. She has a “defense” consisting of “What does it matter that we lied, it doesn’t.” So I’ve not yet arrived at whether her comments make sense or not, but we’ve handily dispatched that whole “quoted out of context” thing, for there cannot be a context issue if the meaning to be inferred by a cursory observer is identical to the meaning inferred by a more diligent and enlightened observer. That takes care of that.

Moving on to the logical take-away here: The job is to figure out what happened and because that is the job, it is irrelevant — “what difference does it make” — to figure out why the attack occurred. Let’s repeat that. We have to figure out what happened…specifically, so it never happens again…and because that is what we are trying to do, it is a bunny-trail, a tangent and a distraction, to ponder the why. But knowing what we know now about the why, we see there are other answers to be brought out of such research, such as a not-at-all inconsequential who. There is other value in considering a “why.” By its very nature, it seeks motive, and from motive can be established a level of determination and resourcefulness of any persons or parties who wish to damage, or acquire, whatever is being protected.

Perceptive readers may have noticed I’m no longer talking about protecting persons or embassies. I’m describing anything & everything involving security…in any form. I’ll stop short of saying “you can’t provide security without knowing the ‘why'”; the truth is not that. But it comes pretty darn close. It is difficult to protect something of value against vandalism, mayhem, theft, improper disclosure of a secret or any other sort of shenanigans — without forming an understanding of the shenanigans. It is the first step to planning just about any security countermeasure you would want to include; the first step, in fact, to figuring what those countermeasures would have to be. Example: We’re going to prevent this from ever happening again by putting a stronger lock on the door, and a better door? Great plan, if the guy trying to break in is a 500 pound Sumo wrestler. Lousy plan if the guy trying to break in has a rocket launcher. You’re going to post twenty armed guards outside, with continuous surveillance and air cover? Okay that might take care of the rocket launcher. But if there’s a coordinated assault involving an army of greater size, then more might be needed. And so we have an escalating arms race, which is a concept central to all effective security planning when the assets protected are imbued with significant value.

These are basic ideas, vital to the protection of anything. To plan protection from threats, you start with a description of the threat.

So giving Hillary Clinton the benefit of any possible doubt, her comment makes no sense at all. None. And yet the libs are squealing with delight…or at least, Chris Matthews is trying to get a rolling-meme going, that this was a huge victory and what a great week it is for progressives. I mentioned I’m some 36 years into trying to figure out liberals and I’m not entirely satisfied with the progress I’ve made. Stuff like this, has a lot to do with why that is. I don’t get how you can watch this clip and think anything happened to progressives other than an enormous embarrassment. Even just following the rhythm of the exchange, at that level it was Johnson 1, Clinton 0: The distinguished “servant” who’s been in the public eye for twenty years now, and a recognized brand name for more than half that, was interrogated by a first-term senator and she just completely lost it. Shaking fists and everything. So she lost on the logic and she lost on the cadence.

She also made herself, and her administration, a target (link from Taranto’s latest column). Now they’re all set up:

The answer to her question is clear. An administration that sought, for political purposes, to give the American people the idea that al-Qaeda had been “decimated” and was effectively out of commission had a clear motive during a presidential campaign to mislead the public about Benghazi. The fact that questions are still unanswered about this crime and that Clinton and President Obama seem more interested in burying this story along with the four Americans that died is an outrage that won’t be forgotten.

While Clinton gave, as she has before, lip service to the idea that she took responsibility for the tragedy, throughout her testimony she demonstrated that she regarded the whole idea of accountability as a detail to be shrugged off or pigeonholed along with internal government reports about the matter. Her attitude, when not listening to paeans to her service and frequent trips abroad, seemed to betray her belief that not only were questions about Benghazi unimportant but that she knew the mainstream press would continue to give her a pass for her failures.

The problem here is not just what she considers an irrelevant question from Johnson or a mere “difference of opinion”–as she characterized Senator John McCain’s scathing attack on her record on the issue–but a belief that four dead Americans in Benghazi was really not such an earth-shaking event. Her consistent talking point seemed to be that the committee shouldn’t bother itself trying to find out what happened and why and who was responsible for the mistakes that led to the deaths, but merely to “move on”—to steal a phrase made popular during her husband’s presidency. That’s why she still won’t say who changed the public talking points about Benghazi that led to Rice’s lies and why they were altered.

That’s been the key to understanding the administration’s desire to treat its lies about Benghazi as somehow unworthy of further investigation. In Hillary’s world, lies don’t matter as long as it’s her side telling them. That’s not a standard that she and other Democrats would apply to any Republican. As McCain pointed out, the American people deserve an honest account of events that gets the facts straight.

But Chris Matthews thinks this was some kind of huge win. I’m going to presume he is not the only one.

I’m entirely unclear on the thinking process here, although, as I said up top, it’s valuable that this happens while the arguing about global warming is going on, because I can see there’s some importance in the progressive mind in establishing dominance in any discussion. Time after time I pick up the impression that this is so important, that the content of the ideas being exchanged becomes a secondary consideration. From all I’ve seen, progressives seek to appeal to third-party observers, whom they envision — to their advantage or to their detriment, nevertheless this is a constant — as other progressives. And I’m picking up that they see the developing discussion as a “painting” with a barn in it, and the role they play in this painting is to compel this third-party observer to carry away the correct emotional response. Since that observer is a fellow proggy, he will see the painting as a product unto itself, not capable of being divided into smaller parts, nor combined with others to form a cumulatively improved understanding of any other thing.

To put it in more succinct terms: The proggy engaging in the argument is showing off for other proggies. His task is to acquire, and/or to retain, the role of “top dog” and once that is done, his ideas are completely persuasive and his opponent’s ideas lack any persuasive power at all. This situation persists even if his ideas make no sense whatsoever and his opponent’s points are so self-evident, they are reduced to exercises in belaboring the obvious. Doesn’t matter. The Alpha Dog speaks truth…not because of any truth that is demonstrable, nor because of any falsehood that is similarly demonstrable…but because the pack is thought to have a community interest invested in preservation of the status quo. It is presented as an exchange of ideas, but in reality, it’s nothing more than an alpha dog fighting to keep his mantle.

So I guess what I’m noticing here is, that lefty liberal moonbats do their “discussion” like Arctic wolves. Even when they go through the motions of “discussing” something they call “science.” My experiences back this up, and I’ll suppose the experiences of many others back it up as well. The proggy-dogs may read some science textbooks out of their “studies” classes and memorize some words & phrases, which appears to be very impressive. But it only shows true understanding if — well, if some evidence arrives to show they understand what they’re repeating. And it’s hard to take these discussions into the direction of any test for that particular question, because time after time, the lefty demonstrates that his or her incentive is drawn not toward any enlightenment for the benefit of one party or the other in the exchange, but on securing this Alpha Dog slot.

After a time, one is tempted to conclude “If they were capable of demonstrating true understanding, I’d have seen it by now.” But of course, that isn’t a true test. The whole discussion becomes rather unenlightening, for everyone, about anything. Nothing more than a show of wonderfulness, by the lib, for other libs, a sort of talent presentation for the “best in show” trophy. A grab for the top-dog slot.

Time after time, I see lefties “proving” that they deserve to be the one Alpha Dog of the pack — and not taking the trouble to prove much of anything else. They start babbling pure nonsense. Like “It’s our job to find out what happened here so it never happens again, and what difference does it make who did this thing we’re trying to prevent from ever happening again, or why they did it.” Arguing about security procedures and climate science…the way Arctic wolves would, if they could talk.

I’ve noticed before that the whole liberal movement seems to be concerned with motivating human beings to display traits of other animals who are not humans. They’ve got an idea about how we should exist in proximity to each other, elect our leaders, take our orders from those leaders; this seems to resemble very strongly the social order that exists in a beehive, or an anthill. They’ve got their ideas about fatherhood, of course; they seem bovine, to me, in that the “bulls” are supposed to have their way with the “cows” and then move on, with cows raising calves by themselves. And now I see, with the whole arguing & communicating thing, the behavior that they model for emulation by others — is canine. This should not come as any major epiphany to me, since in that “barn” post linked above, I specifically compared a liberal understanding a truly different point of view to “a dog trying to measure how far it ran to fetch the stick.” There is to be a hard limit against what ideas can ever be realized, in a world in which ideas are communicated this way. We don’t see dogs building jet engines or overhauling drive trains on jeeps…just as, we don’t see liberals actually accomplishing, well, anything good at all for the most part. What’s Hillary accomplished through all this “hard work” that is so continually reported to me? Dogs, at least, chase crooks. They serve search warrants. Assist the handicapped.

Perhaps liberals emulate the behavior of dogs, in order to improve themselves. Would that we could choose for them, the canine behaviors they should emulate. Alpha Dog secures his status, through his triumph against the previous Alpha Dog, and then he remains that. Until such time as he is challenged by another dog. And that is the only reason there can ever be, for calling any of his statements into doubt. So if you doubt the Alpha Dog you must be challenging him for the slot. That’s when the fangs come out.

Apologies to any bees, ants, bulls, cows or dogs taking offense. It is not intended.

Cross-posted at Rotten Chestnuts.

Why Does Gotham Deserve Batman?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Yeah, this has always bugged me too.

As cool as “I’m the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now” is, it never really made any sense to me. Why does Gotham deserve Batman as a hero? Because it’s fundamentally good? Just because no one wanted to personally blow up the other ferry doesn’t mean those people are good. I mean, they voted to blow the other ferry up! That makes them immoral cowards, not good people.

The people of Gotham elect a governmental infrastructure that is at its core corrupt and ineffective. They are willing to vote away the lives of “innocent” people to save their own. Many tried to kill a completely innocent person (Reese) for selfish reasons. Rachel Dawes says in the first movie that there are good people in Gotham. Really? Who? The only good people left are Gordon and Fox. Everyone else are either corrupt, incompetent, criminal or dead. The fact that being DA is practically a death sentence shows how sick the city is.

“Experts Aren’t Dieties”

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Walter Williams lays it down:

The take-home lesson is that experts are notoriously fallible outside of their fields of endeavor — and especially so when making predictions. There tends to be an inverse relationship between a predictor’s level of confidence and the accuracy of his prediction. Irving Fisher, a distinguished Yale University economics professor in 1929, predicted, “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” Three days later, the stock market crashed. In 1954, Dr. W.C. Heuper of the National Cancer Institute said, “If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.” Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, in 1943 allegedly said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” “(Research on the atomic bomb) is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.” That was Adm. William Leahy’s prediction in 1945.

The bottom line is that the fact that a person has academic degrees, honors and status is no reason for us to abandon our tools of critical thinking.

“President Obama Wants More Government”

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

And His inaugural address is really, really hard to excerpt. As Charles Krauthammer said, even while praising it for its historical significance, it was “not memorable; there’s not a line here that [will or would] ever be repeated.” (Hat tip to Legal Insurrection.) President Obama seems to see speech material like wall-to-wall carpet, with each square foot as generically functional as the one to the left or right of it. Blah, blah, blah.

The critique by Fred Barnes, on the other hand, is easy to excerpt.

The speech should debunk two myths about Mr. Obama and his presidency, both trumpeted by liberal commentators and Democratic activists. One is that the president is really a pragmatist and a centrist. Not so. Only an ideologically committed liberal could have delivered the address that Mr. Obama did.

The other myth is that Mr. Obama is eager to compromise with Republicans but has faced unprecedented obstructionism on their part. The speech told a different tale. It showed the president bent on pursuing an agenda with few if any sweeteners for Republicans.

I’m not so willing to beat up on the President for failing to negotiate with Republicans. At least, anyone truly surprised by that at this point is either putting on a false show, or hasn’t been paying attention. Obama’s job is to win arguments. By all means let the myths die though. Obama’s tried to work with the opposition? Pfeh.

On the other hand: Even considering the fact that He’s a democrat and this is what democrats do…brainstorming about creative new ways to embiggen government spending, given the fiscal crisis that now looms over us perpetually, is almost criminal. I have yet to understand the thinking process of anyone who says otherwise.

Hat tip to Barracuda Brigade.

“Ayn Rand is for Children”

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Lefty political activist and columnist David Sirota is angry at Ayn Rand fans. It’s pretty clear I am to be included in this. Looks almost like I’m being singled out.

Closing body-blow:

To be a Rand groupie is to flaunt your immaturity, your ignorance, your desperation to justify greed or your lack of international travel. It is, in other words, to admit your blindness to how so much of the world already lives, and to ignore what America would look like if “Fountainhead Shrugged” was seen as a public policy manual rather than what it really is: a dangerous farce.

Okay, message received. I’m immature and ignorant, not well traveled internationally, and I need to just shut up and go away. But don’t forget to leave my money behind before I do.

If I’m reading his argument correctly, what he’s saying is: Ayn Rand’s philosophy is popular in America not because it has been seen to work well here, but because Americans tend not to be well-traveled. We do not understand the effect ultimate effect of a Galt’s Gulch. When things work that way, people suffer to such an extent that we can’t even dream of it…because we haven’t flown overseas to look at it.

And the example he offers to prove this, is Communist China.

There are other problems with his reasoning, but before I get into those let’s compile a list of things I’m seeing here, as well as in a lot of other lefty arguments.

The most obvious is the anger. I’ve never understood this. We have the statist argument, which is “Let’s elect a bunch of really smart people and then put all our money (or more money) in a community pot, and have the smart people we elected spend it on taking care of us.” Challenging that is the small-government argument, or we could call it the Libertarian argument, which essentially amounts to “Um…let’s not do that, okay?” The former get angry and upset with the latter. Why is that? I don’t know if it applies to Mr. Sirota, but I’ve noticed a great many of these people are fond of monologuing to excess about “those darn stupid evil politicians, can’t trust ‘em.” In those cases, the proposal offered ends up being one of, we know these sneaky slimy crooks cannot be trusted so let’s turn everything over to them.

I suppose I should not presume this is what he’s trying to say. I don’t know that about him. Just because he generalized recklessly about his opposition, doesn’t mean I have to follow suit.

But I see, also, the elitism. It is, evidently, a constant in lefty thinking that the plan must be imposed universally, there cannot be any opportunity for anyone to get away from it — it is not to be tested in a sandbox anywhere, we’ll do it right out in “real” life. Very much like a patch for some crucial web application being rolled out in production because, hey, we’re pretty sure it’ll be alright. No opt-out possible, it is to be implemented all across the fruited plain, and from sea to shining sea…but…this part is even more important: Only a few among us are to say what it is, or define any of the details.

Seems to me the contentiousness starts with that disparity, and is thus avoidable. But I never see any lefties trying to avoid it. They embrace it. The plan is to impact the many, but it is to be defined by only a few. It seems so contrary to the lefty vision, since nearly all of the time, the bad situation that makes the plan desirable in the first place, has to do with similar disparities vis a vis wealth, income, educational/career opportunities, and the like. It’s as if they’re working hard to replace one disparity with another disparity.

Anyway, the “you haven’t flown” butt-hurt seems to be coming out of that: “We’re going to decide in this room, here, how the thing is going to work, but this is grown up talk. Don’t let the doorknob hit. Leave your wallet.” Sirota’s editor evidently didn’t make note of how peculiar it looks, when “greed” is on equal footing with “lack of international travel,” and both must be “justified.” I’m sure it felt good to him to write that sentence, but it comes off looking eminently thoughtless and hastily put-together. I need to justify my lack of international travel? To whom? What are they going to do to me if I don’t justify it? How long do I have?

I’m seeing — yet again — the tired old argument about cops and firefighters. This point is so painfully obvious that I chafe at the idea of having to write it down, but if any Ayn Rand fans out there are objecting to the continued funding of a fire department or police force, it’s probably not accurate to regard their viewpoint as an average suitably representative of all the others. And it isn’t an honest statement of the conflict, frankly. Round me up some real exchanges, preferably heated ones, about stimulus spending plans or other issues that cause conflict between statists and small-government types. In fact, go bundle up a hundred. Is there any squabbling in there, anywhere, about “Yes we should have a fire department or no we should not”? Probably not. The points of contention are along questions like, can the government grow the economy by spending lots of money.

Which, by itself, is rather curious when you think about it. If it worked, we’d probably say “Well that’s settled, let’s make it work that way from now on.” But when the studied economists favor the statist solution, which they actually do quite often, after you look into it awhile you see they aren’t favoring it because of the evidence, but in spite of it. Businesses are not inclined to put money where the growth is unlikely to happen, because…why would they? And government, once handed the money the businesses would have put someplace to foster this growth, but can’t because the government took it, is not inclined to put the money in these other activities more conducive to growth because…well, how would they? Ever wait in line at the DMV? Ever watch Congress decide something on C-SPAN? You seriously mean to tell me, in those settings, there’s more know-how than in the executive offices of a company that has grown and succeeded in an industry, employing people who have spent their lives in it? Government’s going to ride in and say “do it this way, not the way you’ve been doing it up until now, and since we’ll stop you from making that mistake from now on, stand back and get ready to see some real growth”?

If there was an example to present of it happening that way, how exactly would it have come about?

I’m seeing the charge of hypocrisy against Ayn Rand fans, and other proponents of the small-government model, who have been caught making use of government services. You have to go clicking through links in order to review all the examples the author brings, and from the best I can make out, not a single one among these offer any kind of an active choice. Um, if that’s the case, then how do they count? Isn’t it just silly to say things like “they are more than happy to drive on taxpayer funded roads”? Would not some government agency retaliate against us if we were to destroy a guardrail so we could leave the public road and do our four-wheeling on a hillside? Why yes, I believe they would. And isn’t Social Security supposed to be a fund that was built up by our “contributions” in the first place? Sirota sees a consistency problem in an argument he hasn’t taken the time to properly understand: If one objects to his earnings being plowed into the Social Security fund over the course of his lifetime, but is compelled by law to allow it to happen nevertheless, then getting the money back again at the end of it is just the sensible thing to do, right? Where’s the problem?

I’m seeing passive platitudes, such as “literary giant George Saunders.” That’s just mildly annoying, I guess, since it’s pretty clear that what the author means to say is “George Saunder has espoused opinions similar to mine, so to fortify what I’m trying to say I’m going to give you instructions to think of him as a literary giant.” Is it an honest statement? Probably not, since, whether Sirota likes to ponder this part of it or not, Ayn Rand has just as much claim to being a literary giant as anybody else. But this is also a frequently-recurring chestnut in lefty sloganeering: Such-and-such is a “giant,” possessing godlike abilities and attributes…which are never quite defined anywhere. You’re supposed to just “get it,” the giant is a giant.

As far as the reasoning deficiencies, the most glaring one is the Fox Butterfield fallacy.

“Who’s Fox Butterfield?” is one of this column’s most frequently asked questions. Answer: Butterfield was a reporter for the New York Times–he seems to have retired in 2005–whose crime stories served as the archetype for his eponymous fallacy.

“It has become a comforting story: for five straight years, crime has been falling, led by a drop in murder,” Butterfield wrote in 1997. “So why is the number of inmates in prisons and jails around the nation still going up?” He repeated the trope in 2003: “The nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department. The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002.” And in 2004: “The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.”

In that last story, Butterfield made reference to “the paradox of a falling crime rate but a rising prison population.” The Butterfield Fallacy consists in misidentifying as a paradox what is in fact a simple cause-and-effect relationship: “Of course, the huge increase in the number of inmates has helped lower the crime rate by incapacitating more criminals behind bars.” That quote is from Butterfield’s own 1997 story, but it is a to-be-sure throwaway line, which he seems to have completely forgotten by 2004.

The Butterfield Fallacy is rooted in ideological prejudice. The typical New York Times reporter does not like the idea of sending people to prison, because, among other reasons cited in Butterfield’s reports on the subject, they think it is racially discriminatory (in 2004, “almost 10 percent of all American black men ages 25 to 29 were in prison”), and it diverts tax money away from what they think should be higher priorities (in 1997, “already, California and Florida spend more to incarcerate people than to educate their college-age populations”).

Sirota, being ideologically pre-disposed to believe people are much smarter when they see things his way, misunderstands the cause-and-effect relationship: Americans are more susceptible to Ayn Rand’s ideas than they normally would be, because we are not very well traveled internationally. As far as the reason for Americans not to be well traveled internationally, he doesn’t seem to be very curious, nor should we expect him to be, because the objective of establishing intellectual superiority within the statist dogma has been accomplished. They have passports and you don’t, so shut up. But if he ever does show some curiosity about it, I have an answer to suggest: Americans do not travel much compared to subjects & citizens of other countries, because they haven’t much reason to do so.

Oh, I’m sure that is an oversimplification. But that’s fine, because I mean it in the general sense. We’re talking statistics and averages, right? And since we are, and I mean it in the general sense, isn’t it a generally bad idea to say “Oh my, look at all those well-traveled people from foreign countries, I see a bunch of them are traveling here, let’s do things the way they did them in those other countries they couldn’t wait to leave.” Also, Americans are practical. Traveling is expensive. So yes, we’re going to need reasons for doing it. I’m not inclined to go sailing around the world just to win arguments with David Sirota’s type. Heck, that would be two steps back before the one step forward, wouldn’t it, since those are the same type who will criticize me and call me a bad person for emitting all that carbon into the atmosphere. Pass.

If I disagree with Sirota because of my ignorance, I’m afraid a jaunt to these poor regions in China is unlikely to fix the problem anyway. It isn’t clear to me what exactly it is I’m supposed to be learning. We know Galt’s Gulch is a bad way to go, because old women in the poorest districts of China have to work hard, and at night? Since when has China been emblematic of the way Ayn Rand wanted things to work? The lesson I’m seeing here is, don’t go commie, because once you do it screws things up for a long, long time. Was I supposed to get something else out of it?

You know, I’m not going to disagree with the idea that there is something to be learned from seeing things first-hand. And I don’t doubt for a minute that somewhere in that experience, there are valuable nuggets of information that Saunders and Sirota have, that I’m lacking. Nevertheless, the case has not been stated, unless the case to be stated something like: “Ayn Rand’s ideas appear to be for children, if you pretend Ayn Rand’s ideas are something entirely different from what they were.” Sirota incorrectly identifies Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead to be essentially the same story, teaching the same things, replicated in the latter tome “in order to double Rand’s profit.” Oh, dear. Yes, I’ll accept that Sirota started these right after the front covers, and worked through until he reached the back covers…his progress in between those two is suspect, therefore so is his methodology in reading.

So he has had experiences I have not had, yet he labors under a demonstrable difficulty in absorbing information. What, therefore, do I care of what experiences he has had? With this revelation, some two-thirds of Sirota’s essay become entirely irrelevant. Yet he seems eager to show off how little he comprehended of what he did manage to read.

I recall jotting down last summer a pithy and simple idea, which invited challenge in spite of its simplicity. That’s a good thing, because this is a worthy question for us all to ponder, I think:

Given the choice between a sound knowledge base of verifiable & verified factual information, and the ability to think logically, I would choose the latter.

If I have a good understanding of how to figure out what a fact means, but my head is crammed chock full of silly “factoids” that aren’t really true even though they may be repeated by others verbatim, I should be able to ultimately determine some of these conflict irreconcilably with others. From there, I should be able to figure out which ones are suspect and, eventually, which ones should be questioned, and then reconsidered.

If I have a good solid repository of verified fact, but I don’t know how to figure out what these facts are really telling me, I might as well have nothing.

Fact is merely foundation. You can’t live in a foundation.

All who see some value in dismissing this with haste and without looking back, would do well to read Sirota’s column from top to bottom, and with greater care than that which Sirota is able to bring when he reads Ayn Rand. His flaws are precisely what I had in mind when I wrote down what’s above. He knows stuff…he thinks very highly of himself for knowing these things, apparently for no better reason than he perceives a great many of his countrymen do not know them. But when he ponders what it all means, it ends up being an exploding mess of Butterfield fallacies.

It’s as if the object of the exercise has shifted, without his being consciously aware of it, from improving the lives and economic conditions of some strangers, to feeling smug & superior to other strangers. Somewhere in the implementation, there’s been some scope creep, but it isn’t entirely clear to me that this would bother him much.

Barn in Painting

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Nothing new here at all. But this brain-fart I had, in the middle of garrulously rambling away here, and then here and here, has shown itself to be worthy of some linkage while I’ve been in the midst of describing some other things. Those things have to do with explaining, without offending anybody too much, how it is that liberals and conservatives come up with their different opinions about things when neither one of them is actually misunderstanding anything or intentionally presenting their perceptions in any delusive or insincere way. This is a worthy goal in these contentious times, when heated discourse has become more abundant, and more cool & rational discussions have therefore become desirable and valuable.

So I need a higher-quality link-point for the idea. Or a more concise one. The idea has to do with the way people perceive things.

Imagine that one day a conservative and a liberal, both reasonable, intelligent and honest, take the time to attend an art museum. Within this museum hang many paintings. Among these, is a painting of a barn adjacent to some fields…and then some other paintings of stuff like kids, birds, clouds, water action, sidewalks with people on them doing things…then, another painting of a barn. Once the suspicion is aroused, an observer can quickly gather some evidence that the two paintings are of the same barn, captured from two different directions, by two different artists, and two different times of day, as well as seasons, and using different illustrative styles.

Barn in PaintingThe ideas that are being captured in the metaphor are, that there are differences in perceptive methodology between conservatives and liberals, and these differences become a bit less subtle in certain situations. These situations avail us of a rare opportunity to see things from the other’s point of view, if we can just make something of them. These situations exist any time an object is illustrated through a defined perception. What you will tend to see happening is that, since liberals suffer from an inability to distinguish a bit of helpful information from some kind of a marching order, they end up living in an empty universe of only one kind of idea. This universe is stuffed to bursting point, with lots of commands, be they good commands or bad ones, and not a whole lot else. You might say their universe of words is noun-sparse and verb-heavy. Think of the paintings as they actually exist: There is the barn, a three-dimensional object, someone built that; the painters then made a decision about how to paint the barn, from the Northwest in the case of one, or the Southwest in the case of the other; these and other actions combined together, layers upon layers of decisive actions, to make the paintings. But the liberals don’t see the layers, they only see the products. As experiences, waiting for observers to come by and live them. Standalone, independent, packaged experiences.

They do not see that it is the same barn — generally. If it is pointed out to them, then — generally — they won’t care that much. That’s because conservatives tend to be Architects, who respond to new situations by thinking, as opposed to Medicators who respond by feeling. So! A liberal stands in front of a painting. The painting makes him feel a certain way. The barn combines with the brush strokes, and colors selected, oil, matte, frame, lighting of the painting, room in which it is kept, to form an emotional experience. And this experience is the whole point. In actuality, the experience is a confluence of many layers of decisions made by the painter, the museum curator, the guy who built the barn…but the liberal doesn’t see all these “layers of commands,” he sees only the one. Painting, is single command, is single experience. Kinda ties in to the “you didn’t build that” thing.

The conservative, on the other hand, who was probably dragged to this damn art museum by the liberal, more likely than not found the whole thing to be a crushing bore until such time as he figured out this bit of trivia with the barn. And to whatever extent this arouses any passion in him, it probably has to do with a genuine curiosity about whether the barn is real, and since it probably is, where it’s located, when it was built, by who, and whether it still stands. Or, maybe he doesn’t find that so captivating. But even if not, it’s still an important part of his perceptive process; it is meaningful to him that painting A and painting B share this common conceptual object. It logically follows that the common object, the barn, will be elevated in importance. The barn, appearing in both paintings, has meaning that is not imbued in the sunflowers that appear in the one painting but not in the other. But none of this matters a tinker’s damn to the liberal. The liberal is more in a thought locus of, I like this painting over here, I don’t like that painting over there.

But a lot of life is like this, which is why conservatives and liberals argue about, evidently, just about everything. Images…which are put together by the task of visually capturing an object. The image is not synonymous with the object, it is just a reflection of it. But to the liberal, to whom each painting is a separate item of value, that doesn’t work. Images are objects, to the liberal. Say something profound in English, then say it in Spanish, now you’re twice as smart. That’s complete balderdash to about half of us, while to the other half it makes perfect sense.

This explains a lot. It explains why today’s statesmanly “leaders” tend to be a grown-up versions of sissy liberal hippie kids back in the 1960’s, and many among those who were not alive back in the 1960’s, but would have fallen in line with the anarchy and rebellion and counter-culture protesting and what-not if they were, now tell the rest of us we’re a bunch of racists if we don’t take our orders unquestioningly from this crop of sixty-something lefty politicians. Liberals see every message as some kind of command. They don’t understand “You go ahead and pay taxes to fight climate change if you want to, but I personally don’t want to” — you say that, and what they hear is “I hate the Earth and I wish to destroy it.” And pretty much every time. That’s a painting they don’t like. Oppose them on the debt talks, and you’re a racist. Oppose them on social spending, you hate poor people. Oppose them on Medicare, you must want to push granny off a cliff. Oppose them on education, you must want more stupid kids. Oppose them on paying for birth control, you must hate women. You know the litany.

Conservatives have a slow time catching on to this. The thing that a lot of people don’t get, mostly because liberals put a lot of energy into propagandizing to the contrary, is that the conservatives pretty much have a monopoly on the nuanced thinking here. In the example with paying taxes to fight climate change, they recognize a common object in the two illustrations, which is the desire that our species should co-exist with the Earth peacefully and toward mutual benefit. Whereas liberals — like their representative example in the art museum, who sees a second painting of the same barn and doesn’t realize it’s the same barn — only hear a second message distinguishably different from the first. Since all messages are commands, and the first one was “good,” this one must be “bad.” Yes, that is the thought process. It isn’t one bit more complicated than that.

So when they talk about what hateful racists conservatives are, it isn’t that they’re actually trying to slander. They don’t think it’s lying. But of course, you can’t say logical things like, “since you think that’s true, why don’t you…” As in, “since you think this is such a terrible country, why don’t you leave.” Or, “since you’re so convinced that I’m dead-set on destroying the planet, where do you think I’m planning to live once I succeed.” None of that stuff works. It isn’t that they think there’s a true or a false, what’s going on is they really don’t care! All they’re trying to do, really, is call out a painting that they think is ugly and bad. Every object is a painting. Every message is a command. Some are good and some are bad. Once you understand this, you understand them.

They don’t have a sophisticated, multi-faceted way of looking at the world. What they have is the precise opposite of that. A liberal trying to understand a conservative point-of-view, is like a dog trying to measure how far it ran to fetch the stick. Our mistake is in thinking, when we see a liberal looking at artwork and professing some appreciation of it, that they understand it. They don’t. And that is not to say, I hasten to add, that they’re stupid or anything. Some of them may appreciate that there is deeper meaning in all the pleasing colors within the rectangle, and that they’re supposed to combine together to make a person or a house or a barn or a cloud — if they tried. But if trying is mutually exclusive from being a good liberal, then they don’t want to try. And it is, so they don’t.

Women of USPSA

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Here’s the much-shared segment of Jessie Duff appearing recently on Hannity:

What I wouldn’t give, to see her in a calm, cool, rational discussion with one of these “why do you need thirty rounds” airheads.

You can’t accumulate this kind of skill without practice. You can’t put in that much practice, without an incident, without a good understanding of the safety rules involved. And in order to have that, you have to appreciate that the capacity an automatic weapon has to have in order to be deadly, is…one. Yes, one is the same as thirty. Like C programming: false and true, zero and non-zero. The limit of magazine capacity is just the silliest bit of chicanery, but it would be great watching all the others getting peeled away, one at a time.

Jessie Duff and David Gregory. Let’s have it!

Make Someone Else Pay

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Austin Hill writes at Town Hall. Yes, I’ve run into this my share of times…

“I’m a Pastor,” the show caller said, “and my Bible tells me that the ‘moral’ thing to do is to to love and to pray for our President, not to hate on him.” I noted to the caller that I had not said a word about President Obama. “Yeah, but all this rhetoric about ‘fiscal responsibility’ and ‘cutting spending’ is code talk for ‘I hate it that Obama won.’ Obama did win, and he did not create this crisis, so get over it…”
:
When Americans dismiss concerns over government debt as “you’re just hatin’ on my guy” — as the talk show caller did to me, and as many other Americans do regularly — then we’re in serious trouble.

Midway down, a great point is made.

We understand competition and excellence, success and failure, when it’s on the playing field or American Idol. But success in business is presumed by many to be ill-gotten gain, and people who make lots of money with successful enterprises are frequently dismissed as “greedy,” and deserving of more government confiscation of their money.

Now, this is deserving of a bit more thought, which in turn isn’t going to do an awful lot of good if the thinker hasn’t accumulated some experience engaging some of the attitudes out there, talking with some of the callers who think he’s “hatin’ on my guy,” figuring out what makes them tick.

Some of these people may not be dishonest about their motives. They may actually see code language, and hatin’ on the guy, and seek to dismiss the scrutinizing inspection as they attempt to keep hatred out of their lives. They don’t see this as fiscally irresponsible because they’re not making the connection. They’re just not studying it that long. Others may not be idiots; they may be quite intelligent. But, for whatever reason, they see Obama’s policies as good ideas, want to get them sold, and don’t care how it’s done.

Others might be both intelligent and sincere.

Um…actually, I’m not too sure about that last part. Can you be sincere in your beliefs as well as in your expression of them, smart enough to bait a hook, and go down this line of “don’t be talking fiscal responsibility, because that’s just code for hatin’ on my guy”? Hmmm. Not sure. I’ll have to think on that. But I’ll say at the outset, that I’m having some trouble seeing how. One could suffer, I suppose, from a powerful revulsion against details and the inspection of them. Maybe it could become second-nature if it has been repeatedly expressed, and accommodated by others. “Well that’s enough of [such-and-such], I’m done with it because you’re just trying to [so-and-so].”

Is that intelligent? It certainly isn’t capable. The things you wouldn’t be able to do, in life, with a habit like that. I don’t even know where to begin listing them all.

And I really identified closely, with his sign-off:

In my native homeland of California, the “make somebody else pay” philosophy could not be more obvious. Last November, voters there rejected a modest state sales tax increase that was on the ballot (a tax that would have impacted all consumers), yet overwhelmingly supported an income tax hike on — you guessed it, “rich people.” “Don’t stop my government services,” a majority of California voters seemed to say, “but make somebody else pay for it.”

Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree.

Twenty Non-Partisan Things

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

…or…they should be non-partisan. They should be implicitly understood by everybody who claims to be doing any quality thought, about anything.

In the past several years, they have gradually become “conservative” observations/understandings/axioms, or even worse, “extreme right wing.” We should not be thinking of them in that way. In fact, I would not object to their being recited at the beginning of each session of Congress, right after the opening prayer. We’d probably all be a lot better off. This is stuff you need to know, or admit, before deciding on any matter of significant complexity (the first 9), on any matter in a group environment (the next 4 after those), or any matter of public policy (the last 7).

1. My values are [blank].
2. My vision is in harmony with my values, and it is [blank].
3. My objective is consistent with my vision, and it is that [blank].
4. My objective depends on [blank] being accomplished (or prevented from happening).
5. If I must learn something new to meet my objective, I will have to admit that I don’t know it, in order to learn it.
6. A possibility is not necessarily a likelihood.
7. A likelihood is not necessarily a fact.
8. [blank] and [blank] are meaningfully different; what works for one does not necessarily work for the other.
9. [blank] and [blank] are functionally equivalent; they are not different in any meaningful way.
10. A bad idea is a bad idea, it doesn’t matter what respectable person or authority figure is offering it.
11. A good idea is a good idea, it doesn’t matter how much righteous loathing is felt against the individual offering it.
12. Past performance of an idea is not a guarantee of future results involving the same idea.
13. However, it is a good indicator of success or failure, unless there is significant change in the implementation, or the situation.
14. Equality of opportunity among the several classes, is not the same as guaranteed equality of outcome.
15. Some things shouldn’t be decided by majority rule.
16. But other things should be.
17. We should expect an occupation to be filled by the types of people who meet that occupation’s demand.
18. We should expect people to respond to incentives, both positive and negative.
19. Diminishing the strong and capable does not do anything, by itself, to help the weak and incapable.
20. Some are indigent by their own choice, and some are indigent by circumstance. Recalling #8: These are meaningfully different.

Emperor Barry’s Special License

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

This past week, I wrote loquaciously about a mindset I’ve seen and heard, either with greater frequency in recent years, or with a constant frequency that I notice more acutely during that time. It is difficult to tell which, and this is often the confusion to be tolerated when one’s awareness increases. The mindset could be concisely summarized as “Since I know what I’m doing, everyone else should be doing it my way, and if they do anything differently then they must not know anything about what they’re doing.” With some soul-searching about this I’ve discovered much of my revulsion has to do with Omar Khayyam’s much more artistically-worded warning

He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool. Shun him.
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child. Teach him.
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep. Wake him.
He who knows, and knows that he knows, is a leader. Follow him.

I do not know that these are “fools.” But on a case by case basis, I tend to believe it likely. I’ve learned how to do a few things in my time. Not very many, by some measures, or maybe a whole lot by others — it’s relative. But in the case of each one, as I learned more and more about how to do something, I’ve learned there are many ways to do it. This is true much more often than a casual observer might suspect, at first. It’s true of tying your shoes, for example.

I can imagine learning how to do something. I can imagine such education coming after, and only after, the admission “I don’t know it yet” — I’ve been through this many a time. But I cannot imagine learning it, seeing someone exercise a different technique, and saying in private or in public “that guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, because he’s doing it a different way from the way I learned it.” Can’t relate. Maybe that’s why I don’t like Strunk & White. Although I applaud the concept of going beyond proper spelling & grammar, and learning how to write so that the reader has an easier time going through it; the Little White Book goes beyond even that, to commit the sin of saying “Anyone who does it any way different from mine, should cap their pens and cease on the spot, for they are proliferating a poison upon the reading public.” Oh, maybe that’s not the intent. But that’s how people read it, and that’s a mistake.

We’re actually looking at two problems here. One, there is a very real possibility…and I’d consider going even further than that actually, calling it a likelihood…that this practitioner who’s figured out one way of getting a job done, and is ready to heckle and righteously assault all other ways of getting it done, has achieved his threshold of knowledge without ever taking that first step, without ever admitting “I don’t know.” Two, in a group environment, with this institutional wisdom being gained under the leadership of Khayyam’s fools who’ve never had to admit “I don’t know,” creativity is effectively destroyed, or at least, prohibited. Nobody may color outside the lines. You’re tying down a load? But that isn’t how you tie a taut-line. You’re going to Elvas Street? But that’s not the exit we take. You call that an engine? But it has no pistons. Technology, therefore, must become static. Nobody can ever have a new idea.

Which brings me to Emperor Barry.

He has, once again, come up with some new ideas. And, once again, Republicans are divided on how to respond although they should not be. I found it somewhat exasperating when Dennis Miller, repeating the litany of many others, intoned that he found some of these changes sensible and thought they should have been implemented awhile back. Alright, I can see where he’s coming from, so let’s say for the sake of argument I agree with that. The beef I have is, that is the beginning of the disagreement, and not the end. Alright, let’s say for sake of argument these are things that should be done; now, there is this thing called Separation of Powers… That, to say nothing of: “Shall not be infringed” seems, to me, pretty airtight as legal jargon goes. Not a lot of wiggle-room there, given how much it’s been debated and distorted over the last two centuries.

Now that we’re on the eve of the second inauguration of America’s First Holy Emperor, it is worth contemplating this new culture He has introduced. We haven’t been doing that much. Barry does this-or-that, and before the ink is dry we’re all caught up in debating the pros and the cons, we don’t notice what else has been taking place.

Without taking the time or trouble to customarily cite actual examples, describing only the culture and not the specific reforms put in place, the pattern I’ve seen over the last four years has been —

1. The statists, for the time being, have won that fight about money: Does it belong to you or does it belong to Washington? It belongs to Washington. When you earn it, you’re borrowing it; when you pay your taxes, you’re returning it; when you keep what’s left over, it’s because Washington allows you to.
2. The statists, for the time being, have won that fight about risk: There should not be any. Not that Washington is going to take any actual responsibility for getting rid of it all. More like, every bump in the road, encountered by anybody, is an excuse for them to legislate anew.
3. The statists, for the time being, have won that fight about debt: You operate under a limit. Washington doesn’t.
4. The statists, for the time being, have won that fight about opportunity: You don’t need any. You’re getting your oxygen, your food, your clothing and shelter, just like a prisoner getting his three-hots-and-a-cot. Opportunity is not for you because that would be “greedy.” Opportunity is for politicians.
5. Nobody needs to be inventing or discovering a damn thing, anywhere. NASA’s new role is Muslim outreach. Everyone should just do what is expected of them.
6. …except for Barack and Michelle Obama, and their very close friends. They, and they alone, can come up with creative, surprising, cool new ideas. Oh, some of the other three hundred million brains will have to be properly “educated,” even in some very advanced engineering disciplines and sciences — but that is just for implementation. Even those very bright, very disciplined, very enlightened minds will be expected to move along a certain path, toward certain goals, in certain ways. They “invent” what they are told to invent. Doing the unexpected is Emperor Barry’s special license.
7. If it’s wrong, and Barry does it, it stops being wrong on the spot. Every leftist dictator in world history has enjoyed this privilege. Ours is no exception. And so, Barry can wage war, Barry can bomb civilians overseas, Barry can do Extraordinary Rendition, Barry can waterboard, Barry can run up the nation’s debt. Wrong if the other fellow does it, okay if Barry does it.
8. Most importantly, it is entirely a thing of the past, to consider the possibility that bad people might have good ideas or that good people can have bad ones. It is therefore an impossibility for any two “good” people to ever have a disagreement about what to do. Emperor Barry, who is our compass point, showing us what a good person is and what a good person thinks, cannot ever be opposed except by bad people who have bad motives. It is evidently the next stage of our evolution, to stop deliberating complex issues like grown-ups, and start arguing with a lot of name-calling and nothing else, like second- or third-graders.

Bearing these rules in mind, it is to be expected that our President should infringe upon those rights which were not supposed to have been infringed. He is the state, just like Louis XIV; He is our “Sun King.” And there can be no reason for anyone to oppose Him, other than their desire to oppose the state, and all the people within it. They are enemies of the state.

Barry came up with something innovative and new, such that He changed the trajectory of some moving thing. He steered. Only He is allowed to do so.

Yes, America’s best days are still ahead of her. I’m sure of it. But that happens only after this current era comes to an end. We can’t prosper with this in place, because prosperity requires building new things, with entirely new ideas, and we’re not doing that.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and Rotten Chestnuts.

Blah, Blah, Blah, Tear to my Eye, Blah, Blah, Blah…

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

…saying what’s expected. Because they’re so good at that.

From Barracuda Brigade.

“…As Visionary and Victim”

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia, starts with an excerpt from Peggy Noonan. In which Noonan notes President Obama’s “logical inconsistency of his argument.” Then she takes the discussion down a slightly different, more scrutinizing direction:

Beyond these inconsistencies of thought, we see this grousing, put-upon president prince who will not negotiate with anyone (because no one’s ideas are as correct as his) and who is annoyed that his subjects won’t just do as they’re bid.

Well, the grousings are an Obama standard that no one in the press likes to call him on, but beyond that is this conceit that Obama and only Obama is ever dealing with anyone in good faith; everyone else is devious and letting him down:

Two days later, unveiling his gun-control plan at a White House event, it wasn’t only Republicans in Congress who lie: “There will be pundits and politicians and special-interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty, not because that’s true but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.”

No one has good faith but him. No one is sincere but him. Doesn’t this get boring, even to him?”

This is the narrative for the next four years: the president as visionary and victim. Obama will attempt to utterly solidify that image on his inaugural day when he takes the oath of office, while using not one but two bibles — because if a little symbolism is good, a little more is better.

The point of the bibles is not their content but their character. One belonged to Abraham Lincoln, the great Emancipator. The other belonged to The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, the great Civil Rights leader. Both were visionaries and victims. The message of this startlingly illiberal president, whose second terms appears geared toward the narrowing of our rights, is: “I’m one of these guys; I am their standardbearer and their culmination, the third person of the trinity of American freedom.”

Whoo boy. We’re in for quite a ride on that ego. Obama may well be a visionary of sorts — he is certainly a cunning campaigner who effective lays waste to his opposition while he pursues his intent to “fundamentally changes” America — but a president operating with the full-on assistance of an unquestioning and complicit press, one that has become more of a Ministry of Information than anything else, is hardly a victim, except perhaps of his own personal demons.

Hat tip to blogger friend Rick.

This is rather frightening, at least to me. It prognosticates a future that is entirely believable, or at least cannot be rejected out of hand, after reconstructing a recent past that gels with my recollection a bit too well for my own comfort.

I recall that first televised debate in which Governor Romney “beat” President Obama. Wow, what a thrashing. Obama just stood there looking sullen, taking body blows, and it was so lopsided that someone started to wonder if it wasn’t some sort of strategy at work, as in: Ooh, look at that poor black skinny kid being treated so badly by the rich white guy. And then some among us who had heard this theory had to say…NO…that’s just crazy talk. This was a righteous beat-down and it looked like one. And if that is the plan, what a stupid plan. Well, given the outcome, evidently not. I’ve had to gradually come around to the idea that 1) this was a plan, it was executed well, and it was a good plan, so good that Obama might owe His second term to it; and 2) many among us were entirely blindsided by it because — this is important — the plan was concocted, and exercised, in an entirely different world from the one in which we live.

It is a dimensional rift, like something out of an old Outer Limits episode. The worlds are so far apart, that two inhabitants, one from each, may be standing right next to each other and neither would know.

It’s an Architects and Medicators thing. The Medicators, being in a state of constantly self-medicating, are preoccupied with feeling over thought and are therefore susceptible to feelings of jealousy. They are “Occupy[ing] Wall Street” in some way, each day, from crib to crypt. They like to think of this as rooting for the underdog, but it is a treacherously short pathway of travel from that laudable motive, to rooting for suspicious organizations & people for no reason in the world other than that they are thought to be the underdog. With the result being, yeah, someone completely smacked down the opposition at that first televised debate, to such a degree that they managed to determine the outcome of the race. But we know now that the victor was not Governor Romney. Obama picked up votes. Sympathy votes. Enough to win.

If Scalia is right, this was merely a prelude for what’s to come.

Well, such memes are like the “indestructible” rock under the water. You stand there and watch the water come down on it, it looks like nothing’s changing; but leave it alone for awhile, it’ll be slowly washed away. That is, if the water flows. Thus it is with “blame Bush.” We used to hear Obama blaming the results of His bad management and bad policies on “the last eight years” or “the previous decade,” more-or-less all the time. To those of us who recognize blame as a battle-cry of bad management, when we continue to hear Him do it some more, it seems like there’s been no slow-down at all, because we recognize it for what it is. But the constant heckling and criticizing have had an effect, His strategists have been compelled to use other techniques at their disposal. His antagonists have successfully elevated the cost in deploying the weapon, and they’ve had to ransacks the stockpile in search of another. There is a lesson here, for the skilled and perceptive general who wins a war after losing some battles.

It says something awful about President Obama that this was necessary in the first place. But the Medicators don’t see that, and they are His true constituency. For them, blaming is just as good as accomplishing something. They’re all about the drama.

Please, for the love of God, heckle the bejeezus out of this “I’m a victim” thing. I don’t think I can stand four solid years of it. Aw, crap, I think He’s got me doing it.

Unfortunate Names

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Someone’s having trouble getting with the times…

Google Juice

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Been on a bit of a wild tear lately about thinking errors. liberals seem to regard skill and proclivity to deceive, as some kind of a desirable individual quality; they appear to see all other individual skills and exceptional attributes, as bad things (which was a re-do of my earlier post about cockiness); they prioritize process over outcome as a result of seeing object representations, as the objects themselves; the general public, momentarily blessing the liberal solution, fails to question the intended end result of liberal policy; and, some among us are evidently operating under a detrimental doctrine of “Whoever does not behave exactly as I would, must not know anything.”

This is a bit of a jumbled mess of observations about liberals, and observations about politically uninvolved people who are in danger of becoming liberals. Perhaps there is a book in there if I just take the time to sort it all out. To such a book, however, I notice a sixth chapter would have to be added:

Knowledge as a contaminant. Yes, we’ve got quite a few people walking around among us, who seem to see knowledge as a liability rather than as an asset, and as a result of this they see the accumulation of knowledge as a crime one commits against himself and against society. Of course, I speak of unfriendly knowledge. Being a lib is all about wanting certain things to be done, and other certain things not to be done; therefore they want certain things to be concluded and not concluded, and in anticipation of this, we often see it emerge that they want certain facts presented but not other facts.

The size, shape, appendages, capabilities and behaviors of an unborn child — these would be among the very best examples I could offer. There are many others.

I was given cause to reflect on this when Ed Darrell pointed to a melee going on between Anthony Watts and Greg Laden, in a futile endeavor to show what a dumb, crazy, and generally bad guy Watts is supposed to be. It would be time-consuming and off-topic to go around gathering links to all else that is relevant to that, so I invite the reader to decide for himself how much background info he wants and peruse those three previous links. I recommend the Watts link, not because I see things more his way as contrasted with Greg Laden’s, but because of this eyebrow-raising statement from the latter:

It is against my blog policy to provide links to science denialist sites. It would be unethical for me to do that on a regular basis because it would enhance the google juice of pseudoscience. I’ve got children. I want them to grow up in a better world, not the world that Anthony Watts wants them to grow up in. So, no. Now and then, if necessary, I’ll link, but normally not.

You might be forgiven for interpreting that “if necessary” to mean something like, “if I’m specifically calling it out for criticism, as I’m doing with Anthony Watts.” Be advised that, no, it doesn’t work like that at all. Right. Now click on the Laden link. Yup…the whole point to the post is “Hey everybody, I hate something, come gather around and help me hate it.” No edification for the reader outside of that. “And then he did this, and then he did that, and then he did this other thing,” just like a third-grader squealing on another third-grader to the principal. It took me a minute or so to figure this out, the first time Darrell pointed to Laden, to buttress his own complaints against Watts. I made the mistake of accepting this information as a thinking person would, skimming through Laden’s critique against Watts, and after a time wondering “Okay, so those are his three complaints, now let’s go see if they’re accurate.” Link? Hey, something’s wrong. Where’s the link? There doesn’t seem to be a link.

So the first time, I was forced to go to Google and search for the Watts comments that Laden included in his screen-cap. I thought that was an error of omission on Laden’s part, and an honest one, until I was walked through the same experience a second time. Then I found the above-quoted “policy.”

Keep it SecretSo, Chapter Six of such a book: Liberals hate information, or something.

This is not an isolated case, although the global warming baloney is eminent as a compendium of examples. Liberals very often get into this mindset of: We know what the “right” thing to do is, and that thing will get done just as soon as we all agree and have the right opinions. Therefore, they labor tirelessly toward increasing the number of people who believe in the right things, and decreasing the number of people who believe the wrong things. From there, it is a simple conclusion on their part, that they should do everything possible to make sure the undesirable information never gets out.

You don’t have to read a lefty blog to find out about this. Blogger friend Phil made direct reference to it in his famous “Stop an Echo” post:

So I’m sitting around with family, and one conservative member mentions something he saw on Fox News.

A progressive member starts in with the passive-aggressive giggle of dismissal, and then the condescending “you mean you watch Fox News?”

And the conservative member says “Yup. Fair and balanced.”

More giggles. “Oh, gosh! Do you know how many lies they tell?”

Now normally when this progressive member disparages Fox News (this is certainly not the first time) I keep my mouth shut in the name of family harmony. Which I think, unfortunately, only re-enforces the idea in such people’s minds that their assertion is correct.

But I decided I needed to chime in this time. The giggles are one thing. The condescension I usually gloss over. But the “lies” thing. I wasn’t going to let that drop.

“No. I don’t know. Tell me a lie Fox News has told.”

Giggles. “Well I don’t watch it.”

“So you don’t watch it, but you know they tell lies? How do you know they tell lies?”

“Well I read somewhere…”

“You read somewhere? How do you know that wasn’t a lie?”

“Well I don’t. They all do it, that’s what I’m saying.”

It’s a conversation that could happen just about anywhere. And the lesson is unmistakable: You should not be watching it. Stop it! Stop it right now!

Now we come to the scary part: What exactly is it they are trying to accomplish? I made reference, years ago, to what I referred to as “The Fifty-Second Percent Problem”: Liberals don’t care about reaching the fifty-second percent of the population. Conservatives will very often recall Ronald Reagan as a better president than either one of the George Bushes, for a number of reasons, an important one among which is Reagan’s landslide victories. It is true that liberals will often recall FDR as a better president than Bill Clinton, but not because of electoral results. On average, you’d be hard pressed to find a liberal who even knows that Clinton failed to win a majority of the popular vote. They just don’t care about that. Swaying the sentiments of the population, while they see it as valuable, it nevertheless exists only as a means toward an end. Just get to 51 percent, win the election, get in there and get stuff done.

Perhaps this is a result of the understanding that conservative policy changes, once enacted, can be repealed. Overall, the same is not true of liberal policy changes. We’re stuck with ObamaCare for the duration, along with Medicare, Social Security, Americans with Disabilities Act, and all the rest of it. So I suppose it makes sense that liberals would envision a 51-percent victory as functionally synonymous with a 100-percent victory. Although, it’s still worthy of note, that there’s a 49-point spread there that they’re ignoring entirely. Or, perhaps the differential has to do with concerns, with the liberals concerned about their prospects for electoral victory, whereas the conservatives are more concerned about community health. In fact, here is an experiment that does a better job of getting to the point: Mention to a conservative that in the Obama era, consumer confidence is taking a tumble and only 17.6 percent of consumers expect business conditions to improve, he will invariably want to know what in the hell is wrong with that 17.6 percent, and why has the consumer confidence not altogether bottomed-out. And he may be sluggish about admitting it, but there will be something in his mind speaking softly to him: Could it be they know something he doesn’t know? Contrary to stereotype, he’ll be open to it. The liberal, also contrary to the type, is entirely missing this. If some percentage of the population disagrees with him, all he cares about is whether it’s on the south side of the magic fifty percent. As far as who’s right and who’s wrong, that was settled already quite awhile ago. No need to ponder it at all.

And so, we have Laden’s concerns about “Google juice.” He wants his kids to grow up in a better world, and so he doesn’t want to provide Google juice to bloggers who say things he doesn’t like, even if they’re true. I’m left to conclude that, like many liberals, he’d rather have a monologue than a dialogue. Nobody disagreeable should have anything to say. Maybe our Constitution won’t smile upon that, but nevertheless it is a goal: “Denialists” should not be heard, by anybody. Laden’s kids need to grow up in a good world.

I wonder how many people agree with that vision, and also agree with what I’ve heard liberals say more than my share of times: “There is no point to continuing this discussion, I can see you don’t have [what it takes to learn the right things].” Perhaps I should take this at face value. But then, I’ve also heard it said that this is what liberals say when they’ve been beaten, much like a video game character having a certain defined sound it makes when it dies. Well humility is a good thing, so I try to take it at face value. But the ramifications involved are a bit scary: They are to labor, tirelessly, toward a situation in which “everybody agrees” about what is wrong and what must be done; I do not have what it takes to see what is wrong and what is to be done; so the question naturally arises. What is to become of me, and others who lack the mental fortitude and faculties necessary to come around?

The fifty-second-percent problem, as I see it, is our only hope. The only means by which our mere survival can be reconciled with the liberal dream of building that utopia. Forty-nine percent is equal to zero, in their minds, and so we skeptics and deniers and slope-foreheaded conservatives, perhaps, will be allowed to continue living and breathing and consuming resources, milling about, so long as we stay at 49 percent or below. So long as we cannot have any influence on anything.

And, we should not forget to pay our taxes. Work. Produce. Comply. Do what is expected of us. But if we make any actual decisions, be it about public policy or about our private lives, and those decisions have any kind of an effect, there’s something bad happening and it must be fixed.

They do seem to have some cosmetic respect for the privacy of decisions made at the individual level, about private and individual things, in certain isolated cases. Medical situations? Probably not. They like individual decisions when they have something to do with gay marriage, which is not necessarily a medical thing. They don’t like it when it has to do with buying your own “Cadillac” medical plan, as we see with ObamaCare. It must be sex; they like it when the individual’s wishes prevail against the desires of the community or state, when what is being decided has something to do with sex. I wonder if that’s just a way of granting the waiver exclusively to non-conservatives. Anyone who’s watched more than a couple hours of made-for-cable-teevee movies knows, conservatives never have sex, except for the mundane, obligatory, non-pleasurable purpose of making more conservatives.

Good Faith?But meanwhile, to bring about this happy state of Nirvana, some information should flow and some information should not. In fact my experience has generally shown that when discourse takes an ugly turn, this is almost always the point where it happens: The liberal wishes to play the part of lawyer arguing against the admission of evidence. The argument is not about the conclusion to be reached, it is about whether all the evidence should be factored in to a sensible conclusion, as the conservative prefers, or whether some of it should be stenciled out for whatever reason, as the liberal prefers. I guess that is correct, once it’s figured out that a truly informed individual, aware of all the aspects of a certain policy debate, will side against the desired, more leftward, course of action to be taken. Liberals are adept at thinking in strategic, military terms when advancing the interests of their ideology — even if they don’t think that way when looking after the country’s — and of course, no decent general worth his salt is going to invite resistance. So the information has to be restricted, this part just makes good, logical sense.

What truly mystifies me about this, though, is that some of these “relative at the Thanksgiving table” liberals, laboring tirelessly to put out this propaganda about Fox News telling lies and so forth — they will insist that they’re doing a great job of arguing in good faith. And, to all appearances, believe it right down to the marrow of their bones. This creates a whole plethora of questions. To “prove” the point they seek to make, they want some of the information to be heard and other information not to be. They think of themselves as injured, in some way, if they themselves come to be aware of the contraband information; they themselves want to be educated only about a portion of what is really going on.

Past conversations with Ed Darrell have revealed he has a second “death sound,” another utterance he’s inclined to make when he loses an argument: He makes reference to Dunning-Kruger, the theory, research work, and Nobel Prize award that says when people are incompetent at something, their incompetence at that thing also interferes with their ability to recognize their own incompetence. (It was inspired by a bank robber who’d heard lemon juice smeared on your face can distort the images picked up by security cameras. He took the time to test the theory out before trying it, but his suckage as a bank robber spilled over into his suckage as a tester-of-video-distortion-methods, so he was under the impression he’d “proven” the method is effective, when he hadn’t, and that’s how he got caught.)

Perhaps Dunning Kruger also applies to arguing in good faith. Ever since this wonderful new Internet era of communication has dawned, it’s become evident a lot of people think they’re doing a great job of digesting all information relevant to an issue, and presenting it for others, while deliberately remaining unaware of all but a part of it. And working hard to keep others unaware. This Laden character, apparently, wishes to have it known far and wide that he is among these. As noted above, it doesn’t seem that they’re insincere about this, nor do I see any evidence that they’re trying to deceive anyone about their intentions. They just want to hide things.

Perhaps that is the answer. They aren’t arguing in good faith, because they are bad at doing it, and their ineffectiveness at this also makes them ineffective at recognizing their own ineffectiveness. This leads them to think of one thinker, having mastered only half of the relevant facts, as better “informed” than another thinker who has heard all of the arguments heard by the other, plus some. In simpler terms, they think some of the information must be negative. You’re smarter if you don’t know it. Better informed if you’ve never seen it. A library or other repository of information, is more “full” when it’s missing it.

It’s an interesting attitude. We should study it. If they let us, that is, which is probably a no-go.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and Rotten Chestnuts.

The Elements of Style…

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

…should be renamed to “Just stop using any style that isn’t exactly like ours.”

Some folks may be shocked by this, but not everyone is fond of Strunk & White.

However, before I join in on the assault, let’s get something out of the way. As far as that particular critique goes, I’m actually on Strunk & White’s court in the matter on which it spends great volume and intensity picking them apart, which is the active voice versus passive voice. Even here, though, I am not concerned about “style” so much as I am about the method of thinking that finds a way, through the style, to achieve visibility. The professors do not examine this. But “America is seen as a colonialist force,” apart from possessing very bad style and therefore offending the tender sensibilities of Strunk and White, skips past the logical vitals of the point being made, to wit: Who is seeing America that way? This promotes lazy thinking.

The speaker might as well say “No, I didn’t take a poll, but let’s just skip ahead to the fun part where I get to monologue away about what’s wrong with this country that I don’t like.” Like I said. Lazy. So I side with them there.

But what follows is just dumb (Chapter V. Words and Expressions Commonly Misused). It is not in keeping with the goal of making the material easier to read:

However. In the meaning nevertheless, not to come first in its sentence or clause.

The roads were almost impassable. However, we at last succeeded in reaching camp.

The roads were almost impassable. At last, however, we succeeded in reaching camp.

When however comes first, it means in whatever way or to whatever extent.

However you advise him, he will probably do as he thinks best.

However discouraging the prospect, he never lost heart.

“However, we at last succeeded in reaching camp.” That is flagged as flawed material, upon which the professors’ advice may improve. There isn’t a thing in the world wrong with it, although I might have said “we eventually reached camp.”

There are not too many other specific points made in this guidebook with which I ardently disagree, and I do think there is some opportunity here for writers to improve on their work by perusing it from top to bottom, as a list of pet peeves, bees in the bonnet of someone who’s taken the time to write them all down. But that is all they are. There seems to be something in the human condition, when we see someone’s taken the time to write down preferences that have not been explored in much detail elsewhere, we see such a tome as some kind of a “bible.” This is incorrect. The little-white-book is nothing more than a matter of taste. Some parts of it making for better advice than other parts of it, but…well, there it is. A higglety-pigglety hodge-podge of sensible advice, and some stranger’s stylistic preferences.

Maybe I should put together a list of what bugs me about teevee commercials. As long as nobody else compiles anything similar, people will start to see it as a bible. No offending jingles! Get rid of the doofus dads! Freeberg doesn’t like ‘em!

At a high level, I’m not enamored of the preferences. The overarching goal, making things easier for the reader, seems to be met by way of texturing all the writing within a chapter or section so that it adheres to a common rhythm, much like the rhythm of a lullaby must be kept constant so that the baby is lulled into sleep. This business with “at last, however, we succeeded in reaching camp” is a perfect example of what I seek to describe here. It is measurably harder to read than its alternative, in that it has an extra comma. But to Strunk, White, and people who seek a reading experience similar to what they seek, it is more pleasing because its rhythm is constant with the sentence that came before. Well guess what…there are other kinds of readers out there. I’m not pleased or proud of my writing when it looks like that. That looks, to me, like I was distracted by the point I wanted to get across, and I wasn’t putting my attention on the sentences I was putting together. It looks like I’m abusing the reader. In short, it looks like bad writing.

I do think students should study this. In fact, I think they should study it years and years before they are customarily compelled to do so. Fifth or sixth grade would be about right. I’ll even go so far as to say, where the advice makes sense, and through my negligence I have produced something inconsistent with it, on occasion an improvement might be achieved by bringing my product into compliance. But people tend to forget these rules are soft, and not hard.

And I notice, throughout a great many years, when people recommend to me that I should “pick up a copy” they entirely leave out details. They don’t point to any particular paragraph or sentence in my work that has violated a recommendation in the little white book, nor do they point to any particular chapter or page in the little white book that specs the rule. Frankly, this comes across looking like “I was nagged for a long time by my editor/professor, and it chaps my hide that you appear to have escaped my misery,” classic crabs-in-a-bucket mentality. But apart from that, the lack of detail is rather unhelpful. I’m left to peruse my own manifesto from top to bottom, and then Strunk & White from cover to cover, and go “Ah ha! I better fix that!” And frankly, I have better things to do with my time. Like, revising “butkus” to its proper spelling of bubkes…meeting the rules that are, y’know, genuine actual rules.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

They Have Nothing to Do With Lincoln

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Not Accepting the Premise of Piers Morgan’s Question

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

…and she shouldn’t, because the premise is a false one. Mr. Morgan must presume, for his question to make any sense at all, that the citizens are prohibited from doing anything the Constitution does not specifically enable them to do. He has “no problem” (6:06) “with Americans who defend themselves in their homes with a handgun, or a pistol, or a shotgun. I have a major problem, as you know, with the more military style assault weapons.”

So. Find me where in the Second Amendment it says “except when Piers Morgan has a major problem with it.”

Piers’ position is not distinguishably different from that of the airhead in the blue blouse in this cartoon:

“I’m going to be generous and allow six bullets in a gun, but that is my final offer” (1:19).

Lesson: We can have a government under a written constitution, or under the minute-to-minute feelings of the majority. Pick one of those two.

I think I understand why a lot of people are concluding Piers Morgan lost this one, like he lost the other times. He seems awfully determined to lower a “smack down” of some kind (“have you watched the video? I’ve watched the video…he didn’t die”). This is probably because he’s nursing some bruises from his previous defeats. But he ends up talking-over the other person, worse than Bill O’Reilly’s most obnoxious day, and what he ends up demonstrating is that it’s awfully difficult to tell him anything.

And I see this happens with liberals engaging in Internet conflicts, whether I’m involved in them at the time, or perusing the wreckage afterward. They may very well be the smartest little Internet-arguers who ever did walk the planet, and Piers Morgan might very well be some kind of Cancer-curing rocket-scientist genius…but none of them seem to understand, that doesn’t matter. If we can see with our own eyes that you can’t be told anything, then the logical thing to conclude is that you don’t know very much. It just naturally follows.

It’s like those TIE fighter pilots in the Galactic Empire, at the end of the first Star Wars movie, firing torpedoes into the exhaust port of their own Death Star. Because their own planet-destroying indestructible battle-armored argument is one of: “Trust me, a complete stranger you just met on the Internet, because I’m really super-duper smart and I really know what I’m talking about.” And then they think they’ve managed to buttress that, by demonstrating that they’ve been doing some studying, and proceeding in the exchange without misspelling anything.

But it all falls apart when they show how difficult it is for anyone to give them information that isn’t welcome.

The ObamaPhone Lady Learned

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

What’s this say about the people who haven’t?

From Moonbattery.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Homeowner Restores Order With Shotgun

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

From what I’m seeing here, looks like the weapon was not discharged. The brandishing of the firearm was good enough to put right what went wrong.

From Barracuda Brigade.

One Child’s Life

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Hee hee.


Hat tip to Instapundit.

Liberals Pay an Extra Dollar

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

ThinkProgress is highly indignant over it, and you’ll see so are some of the comment-writer-complainers over at the YouTube channel.

“Highly offensive and inappropriate.” You’ve heard that if a conservative doesn’t like what’s on the radio, he turns the dial, whereas when a liberal doesn’t like it he wants the FCC to revoke the station’s license. Well I think, if a liberal-owned smoothie shop charged conservatives an extra dollar and used the surcharge to fund liberal causes, there wouldn’t even be any conservatives being quoted about it. Even if they were asked for their opinion — which, let’s be real, that would not happen — things would stay quiet, all the protesting would be done by foot.

Much of America’s conservative/liberal split, I’m convinced, has to do with our extended recovery process from the whiplash effect of mass communication. Conservatives tend to have a very narrow use for communication outside the immediate family: It all has to do with some vision, whether the vision is realized at the end of it or not, toward mutual benefit. Liberals are not similarly constrained. They’re constantly “raising awareness” of this or that pet social issue, so that “everybody” can “come together” for the benefit of some defined oppressed-class, or latest political rock star.

EASYSTATE is right, liberals are a massive drain on the economy. As well as, on technology. Had the mass communication revolution been solely under their management, the innovation would have stopped with the radio broadcast because it doesn’t serve their interests to have the exchange of information work in two directions. They’re much more comfortable with the monologue than with the dialogue.

And I’m just loving the homophobia and Utah-phobia in the rest of the comments…

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Seven Crappy Products of the Green Movement

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Pajamas Media:

In the good old days, consumers got what they wanted. Supply and demand governed product design and manufacturing, not causes or ideology. That’s why we have great American icons like the 1969 Chevy Camaro, the charcoal burning Weber grill, and DDT.

But things have changed. The Green Movement’s worship of scarcity has changed the consumer landscape for the worse. Instead of big, powerful, and most importantly, effective products, in 2012 consumers must suffer with pansy products. Sure, they are designed to save energy and make you feel good. But they just don’t work as well as the old, and usually cheaper, versions.

Not sure my experience backs up the comments about #4. But #6 really chaps my hide.

“Left Wing Problem Solving”

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Stephen Goddard at Real Science:

Lefties believe that they can stop bad weather, by accusing climate skeptics of taking money from Exxon.

They also believe that gangs in Chicago will stop killing each other, if Obama tries to disarm everyone in Wyoming.

Well, if they could exercise the discipline required to actually solve a problem, they wouldn’t be lefties, would they?

Endpoint

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Around Christmastime, after the wife & I watched a biopic from 25 years ago about our nation’s 36th president, I described an important split:

Liberals aren’t liberals. Their class is necessarily divided into two hemispheres, both equally important, one enjoying the much larger share of influence and the other enjoying the much larger share of mass. The elites who possess the influence also possess a far superior understanding of the ultimate disastrous effect of liberal policy. In other words, they know that taking guns off the street does not make innocent people safer, and they know that offering special privileges to minority groups in hiring, contracting and college enrollment does not have a healing effect on racial, gender, and sex-preference divisions. They understand these policies do not do what they are supposed to do, and they even understand the entirely legitimate claims that the policies may in fact be achieving the reverse.

They don’t give a fig. They couldn’t care less.

The commoners, on the other hand, not only think that passage of the latest “landmark legislation” is all that is needed to achieve perfection and finally ascend to that plateau of Nirvana, but that if you argue or question the idea then you must be the stupid one. They are therefore constantly arguing for policies sure to produce disaster, deluding themselves into thinking the opposite, and in doing so making fools of themselves — again deluding themselves into thinking the opposite, that the subtle “nuanced” sense of irony makes them look like little smarty-pants or something. So they’re headed 180 degrees opposite from where they think, twice in a row, and all of the time. It isn’t that they really are that dumb; if they were, they wouldn’t be able to get dressed in the morning and go walking around. The problem is that they just don’t pay attention. They want to go in to the voting booth, poke the right chad, and have everything come out alright. They think the process is just like watching teevee, except the screen is a bit bigger and there are a bunch of other people fighting over the remote. Therefore, if it doesn’t go their way, or if it doesn’t go well, it is of no more consequence than last night’s round of channel-surfing failing to yield the proper satisfaction.

And that doesn’t bother them, they’d admit, if they were honest about it. What does a bad Tuesday night of surfing matter on Wednesday morning? Next to nothing, right? You need to have a few hundred of them, perhaps years’ worth, stacked up on top of each other before you even reconsider your cable subscription.

And so there are the apathetic, who know the policies are bad and don’t care, and the ignorant, who might care that the policies are bad if only they could be bothered to pay attention, but they can’t be, so they don’t know any better.

The apathetic elites, I named “strategists” in my Art of War Against Liberals post, dividing the ignorant commoners into ten other classes:

He has skin in the game. He is materially entangled in the liberal vision, being rewarded either out in the open or in secret, by way of cash, discounts, perks, votes or career advancement. He has a “job,” of sorts, to make himself and other liberals more powerful.

He therefore cannot be dissuaded.

The rift between this type, and the other ten, is the most precious asset we have. Do not engage this sort of poser in any direct way.

Accentuate, for the benefit of any bystanders, the differences between his interests and everybody else’s.

The rift between the apathetic elites, and the ignorant commoners, is “the most precious asset we have.” And therein lies the key. This is what was not emphasized to the public, before the democrats successfully retained the White House and the Senate. The democrats have their interests; the poor and middle class have theirs; who cares what’s what, if both sets of interests might be served by a common course of action? So re-electing democrats looks like a good idea. It didn’t work out that way, people saw, once they were issued their first paychecks of the year. But by then it was too late.

What’s the answer?

I got my idea when I caught wind of House Joint Resolution 15, “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President”. Okay, it has zero chance of getting past committee. And it isn’t clear that Congress has the authority to unilaterally repeal an amendment such as the 22nd, which is supposed to be an agreement between the feds, the states and the people. Nevertheless…

This defines the one question that might end the silliness, the question for which the apathetic elite strategists will have one answer, and the low-information commoner independent centrists will have the opposite one. Three words: What’s the endpoint?

The partisan democrat strategists simply don’t have one. They will resist the imposition of any limit. The term limit for the President is to be repealed and replaced with…nothing. Barack Obama is to serve as President forever and ever and ever, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Hallelujah. Is that sacrilegious? Tough, deal with it, we’re talking Obama the Replacement Jesus here. And knock off with this absurd ritual of putting Him up for re-election. He is our Emperor after all.

High CapacityI know this is all silly talk. But the questions should be asked. The elites have one answer for them, the commoners have the opposite answer, and the commoners deserve to know all about that even if the elites do not want them to. Besides, in all seriousness, from what I can tell so far the unstated answer is always to-infinity-and-beyond. Sultan Soetoro gets everything He wants, if the Constitution is in the way then it has to be nudged aside, if the situation all turns to crap then it’s some Republican’s fault. Lather, rinse, repeat. Good for Obama and democrats, bad for everybody else. And if we’re tired of talking about effects & outcomes, we then have to confront a wholly separate issue about this whole thing: It has long ago become tedious and boring. Round and round we go. Barack Obama wins all the arguments, it turns out badly, the talking heads on the teevee blame Republicans, and let’s all line up to do it again.

What’s the daily routine at 1600 Pennsylvania? President Obama should roll out of bed whenever He darn well feels like it, like a spoiled little kid…decide what the favorite color of the day is going to be for the whole country…if He feels like it. And then a round of golf while the rest of of us trudge off to the salt mines. Again, if He feels like it. It should be like a real-life re-enactment of the Good Life episode of the Twilight Zone.

Right?

Republicans should do this with every fight they’ve lost. ObamaCare, Fiscal Cliff, Cash for Clunkers, Stimulus. The House Speaker can’t negotiate with the President, so everyone should stop expecting him to. Give the President what He wants. But — always insist on an answer to the question: Is this the end of it, or is more needed? I heard a few months back there’s a movement afoot to get another stimulus going. So, question, again: How about it? How big is the second one going to be? How about a third one?

That’s probably the best way to kick off some visible discussion about endpoints; make that the default response to everything, that President Obama has asked for action on exactly the right thing, in the right direction, but maybe not enough of it. Raise the federal minimum wage to twelve bucks an hour? Right you are, Mister President, but shouldn’t it be more like twenty? Raise the highest marginal income tax rate to thirty-nine point six? Maybe sixty percent is the better rate, why did you stop where Clinton did? You’re better than he was, aren’t You? Outlaw high capacity magazines? Why not outlaw low capacity magazines as well?

Speaking of guns, I see the President is “facing criticism” on the executive orders thing. That does not mean it is political suicide; Barack is a big boy, He’s handled hot potatoes before. But it is obvious that this situation is tolerable to the nation only because its citizens, apart from those interested in buying guns or ammunition, remain unaffected. Nobody else is experiencing the frustration of waiting for Barry to pace around in a room somewhere, mull it over in His Holy Noggin, and figure out who He wants to wish out to the cornfield. It’s a whole different kettle of fish if everyone has to wait and wonder. People don’t see how risible the whole arrangement is, if it doesn’t affect them personally. When it does, that’s when “separation of powers” starts to look like a swell idea. Hey, someone should write that down on a piece of parchment or something…

You ever argue with one of these libs? These “strategists”? I say not to engage them; I don’t always follow my own advice here. When I don’t, it ends up being a waste of energy and time. I’ll tell you where it all goes: They don’t know anything about anything, except one thing, and that is who among us is leveraging influence, and should not be able to. That’s all they’re willing to define, for all the blustering they do about having the answer to all our problems: Who should be ostracized, who should be defrocked of power or position. Who should be exiled. Who should be stopped. Stop the religious people from obstructing abortion. Stop the gun nuts from buying their guns. Stop the conservatives from doing…whatever it is they do…which is what? Voting? I think the answer is voting. Whoever disagrees with liberals shouldn’t be able to vote. They don’t say so because they don’t have to say so. The question never gets asked. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. So ask the question. If it isn’t asked, the ignorant commoners are left with the impression that the apathetic elites agree with them about everything when this is not the case. This serves the interest of nobody save for the apathetic elites.

To coin a phrase, we need a national dialogue on the endpoint. We need an open discussion on how far the democrat-party loyalists want to take…well…everything. It is the proper and fair thing to do. And it’s relevant, because lately they’ve won a lot more than they’ve lost. Well, there’s a burden that goes along with that. If the locomotive is charging onward, full steam ahead, then it is good for the nation to know where the tracks are laid down — and how far.

Matters of Parallax, and Process Over Outcome

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

In comments under a previous post, rhjunior puts it all together, it’s one of my Mother’s favorite stories about the three blind men and the elephant (although, behind the link, I see it has become six blind men).

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”

They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.

“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.

“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right…

The poster of the comment seems to wonder why I rambled on instead of linking to the story, then adds this pithy summation: “…[T]he liberal thinks that the only one that was wrong — was the elephant.”

There’s a simple reason why I chose not to link to the story. As we relate the situation to real life, we here in reality are lacking the luxury of a wise, sighted guru happening along and filling us in on what an elephant looks like. Everyone mortal is effectively “blind.” Which matters to us, since this is the House of Eratosthenes, who is some guy who lived thousands of years ago and figured out the size of the Earth by following clues. Not, House of some guy who was getting in nerd-fights with other guys before some wise sage or deity made the time to tell him the whole story so the fighting would stop.

In fact, while I was writing it, I was questioning my own judgment call as I moved on from something. The thing with the barn in the painting…

This is why liberals like art, I think. The barn in the painting, the direction from which the artist chose to paint it, the colors, the lighting, the flowers in the field in front of the barn, the time of day — even the frame in which the canvas is mounted — they all coincide together to make a unique experience, and that experience is the reality. You paint the same barn from a different angle, and to them that’s an entirely different thing. To people who actually have to build things that go, there is a linkage between the two, and we use this to figure out what the barn is really like. Therefore there is a reasoning process going on.

They don’t engage in any such reasoning process because they don’t see the linkage; therefore they don’t see the point. The sunflowers in front of the barn are just as important as the barn itself. Contradictions that arise, present them with no pressing reconciliation chore whereas the rest of us have to stop everything to figure out what’s happening with that damn barn, like: Why does the color appear different at midday from at twilight?

There is more inspection due here, because the “liberals” — in this context meaning, people who think reality is invested in the images perceived by the observer rather than in the object itself, which is generally true — are not exclusively ignorant, and neither are their counterparts, who see the images as merely manifestations of a reality that is too complex to be entirely encompassed in any one single image. Each side of this split is paying attention to something that its opposite is ignoring entirely.

I mentioned a pair of paintings of a single barn, taken from two different angles and two different times of day. I also mentioned sunflowers in a field, in the foreground of one of these. (Presumably, the sunflowers would be out of frame in the other painting, or perhaps off to the side, or in the background.) In the context here we think of “conservative” as an observer who envisions the barn in the painting as a three-dimensional object, with the painting simply a partial representation of it.

Four disparities in these world-views arise.

Beauty: The liberals appreciate the “art” as a complete story unto itself, in ways the conservatives do not. Each painting is a package deal and it may or may not involve a positive emotional experience. If it does, all the elements of the story are pertinent. The brushes, the oil, the matte, the frame, the barn, the flowers, the fence posts, the birds, the sky, the clouds. This is why Citizen Kane is the greatest movie ever made…if you ask a liberal. If a conservative is dragged into the conversation, the conversation falls apart as the conservative asks all these unwelcome questions like: Uh, there have been a whole lot of movies made about a character falling from grace, what makes this any different? And then the liberal becomes exasperated and tired of this conversation because it is a communication with someone outside of the emotional experience, so typically will say something like “You just have to watch it! I can’t explain it! Watch Citizen Kane, you’ll ‘get it!'” They aren’t being insincere. There’s a lot of tangential stuff that goes into the experience, like how a stained-glass window pane is photographed, which to the conservative is just so much noise — which brings me to —

TMI: The sunflowers in front of the barn. To the liberal, they’re every bit as important as the barn itself. To the conservative they’re just in the way, especially after the conservative has managed a gander at the second painting, and figured out that the barn is the common object, and that these two paintings are of the same barn. To him, this is a matter of interest and all sorts of fascinating chores emerge from this simple acknowledgement of the obvious, that the barn has three dimensions and is (probably) a real thing that stands, or once stood, somewhere. One can therefore figure out the barn’s size and shape, where the two painters stood relative to one another, how big the barn is, what doors and other openings it has. The liberal is not captivated by this because the liberal doesn’t acknowledge the link between the two paintings. He may favorably appreciate both of them. But if that’s the case, it is important to understand that the liberal mind finds these to be positive, pleasing, unique and independent experiences. And the sunflowers are part of it. To the conservative, trying to figure out the size and shape of the barn, the goddamn things are just in the way.

Plurality of PerspectivesContradictions:Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” So says Professor Hugh Axton in the first third of Atlas Shrugged, winding up Part I which is called “Non-Contradiction.” The fact that a genuine contradiction cannot exist, makes apparent contradictions quite useful. For example, this is how parallax works. If two stars are 45 angular minutes apart in March, and 15 angular minutes apart in September, and one of the stars is much further away so that our distance to it is functionally infinite, this tells us a great deal about our distance to the closer one. In pursuing this trajectory of reasoning we are making use of a duality of perspectives. Confined to only a single perspective, we would be deprived of this evidence and would not be able to arrive at this conclusion until we came across some other way to gather the information. For a much simpler example, we can ponder the visual chores done within the brain of anybody who enjoys the advantage of two working eyes as this person experiences visual depth. It’s all about reconciling apparent contradictions between two images, known to be associated with each other. Liberals, by and large, don’t do this. And that’s why the conflict persists. They don’t seem to appreciate the value of it. Many among their number have two working eyes apiece, I think. How is it they can ponder weighty subjects, like what to do about our indigent, whether there is such a thing as human effect on the climate, and in so doing fall short of the thinking capacity they engage whenever they look down the street? I don’t know the answer to this. You will have to ask them.

Distortion: For all the noise liberals make about the value of nuance, you would think they’d be able to appreciate that different stories can be told about the same reality, there may be different observations made, and yet both stories might be true. And yet, time after time we see conflict arise around them, which they then blame on others, because they perceive that the other story must be a “lie.” Like William F. Buckley used to say, “…liberals do a great deal of talking about hearing other points of view, [but] it sometimes shocks them to learn that there are other points of view.” This very often causes them to confuse “do you agree” with “do you know”: The “true” story is somehow established as being one and the same with somebody’s telling of it, much like, again, that barn in the painting. Somehow it is established that a certain painting is the “Original Van Gogh.” It would therefore follow that anything else purporting to be the same thing, with detectable differences, must be a replica and therefore fake, worthless, even a blight. This makes sense with paintings, doesn’t make quite so much sense with the perception of reality. Because, again, with paintings the value is linked to the painting itself — it is the object of value. Problems arise when they carry this mindset into the real world. A great example is climate change. I have no problem “admitting” that humans might possibly have an effect on it, in the sense that all organisms within an environment affect each other, along with the environment itself, and the environment affects them right back. That much is just how nature works. Even when you jump off the ground into the air, in the purest technical sense you are engaging in an interaction with the Earth as the force from your legs repels the two of you momentarily apart. And yet, have you been in a climate change dispute that failed to degenerate, as they so often do, into something like “What qualifications do you have to question the science that says global warming is caused by humans?” Think of it from their mindset: The “theory” is a painting, it doesn’t reflect anything else, it is its own reality. Any statement about the same thing, deviating from this prototype in any detectable way, is a demonstrable fake. Anything done about a certain thing, must adhere to an orthodox process, or else it is invalid — nevermind the outcome.

The take-away from all this is, our friends the liberals are at the center of a great deal of conflict, and they’re probably to be blamed for it, but we shouldn’t be too hard on them before we make an effort to understand things…from their point of view. In a lot of ways, they’re simply children who have made a mistake about how to perceive the world around them, and then unfortunately went through the ensuing years of maturation with this mistake left uncorrected. They just haven’t gone through the experience that would compel them to make the correction. They think images are reality, and that explains most of it. Probably watched too much television or something.

Why are they so nasty sometimes? People who are hoodwinked by something, and secretly suspect this is the case, tend to want everybody else to be hoodwinked by the same thing. Peers who have not been hoodwinked the same way, offend them, because it shows that they haven’t had to be hoodwinked and somewhere they must have made the decision that this should happen. Inferiors who have not been hoodwinked, offend them the same way, because it reminds them that they have the intellectual fortitude to solve their own problems and they haven’t seen fit to marshal this fortitude. Superiors who have not been so hoodwinked, offend them, because it poses a problem for their dogmatic “truth” that all good things come from communicating and investing belief in a common set of “good” messages, read that as, genuine, truthy images. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush believing in un-liberal things, and rising to the office of President of the United States, offends the dickens out of them. But as soon as Barack Obama is sworn in, the Reagan and Bush things are effectively scrubbed from history; not never happened (until the time comes to blame something on them). Welcome to the age of “We know we’re right because Obama is President.”

And that gets into a fifth perception-discrepancy that arouses conflict, the perception of time. Liberals do not view time the same way normal people do. But that is truly a post for some other day.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News and Rotten Chestnuts.

The Wal Mart Thing

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Sunday at the gun range a lot of guys were complaining about Wal Mart. Yesterday I heard on the radio someone got a Wal Mart manager to order .223 right on the spot, and the manager found out on the phone that the order was being suspended at corporate.

Can’t find any corroboration for this online except at here. Interesting. Wait for more anecdotes to flow in, I guess. But our Vice President says the nineteen executive orders should be in, or at least announced, by the end of the week. It’s clear they’re having some kind of an effect already though.

Reminds me of a murder mystery I’d read once, a long time ago, about a guy stabbing his victim to death with an icicle. It was the perfect crime because the murder weapon melted. That’s what it’s like when large manufacturers and retailers are bullied and intimidated, there’s no “weapon,” no fingerprints. There’s no law against selling or buying the ammo. Nobody to be blamed. Not legally.

People who like having it work this way, like it because it’s someone else being deprived or inconvenienced. Perhaps it’s too much to ask that they evaluate the situation based on more abstract concepts, rather than on specifics. How un-American is this? You can’t have X until Barry goes off in a room all by Himself, mulls it over, and figures out what kind of executive order He wants to write. Entire industries grinding to a halt while a nation breathlessly waits to see what sparks jumped what synapses in the President’s brain. Like the opening scene of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Not the taxi scene, I mean the very first one…where they’re all waiting for the boss to finish looking at the samples. Like that.

When such a situation involved a King of Great Britain, it was worth a revolution and a war to get it changed, right? Huh. I guess sensibilities change across time…