Archive for December, 2013

“Trained to be Insulted”

Sunday, December 29th, 2013


During April 2012, I was driving a work transport van from the Kearl site to Wapasu Man camp in northern Alberta. There were seven to 10 individuals from various companies and diversities riding in the van. We were listening to the radio, talking among individuals and just trying to make the ride as mentally short as possible.

Without thinking, I told a joke that had ethnic implications. Later, I received notice from APEGA that I had offended one or others in the van. The joke was not intended to offend anyone. I have officially apologized to the individual that reported the incident to APEGA.

I wholeheartedly apologize to APEGA and its members. I am truly sorry of my lack of prudence when interacting with the diverse workforce in the oil sands projects.

“Iggy Slanter” sez

Q: Who reports jokes?
A: someone that has been trained to be insulted.

From the great Jack Lemmon movie that absolutely, positively cannot be remade now…

Charles: The Port Authority is livid. The Freighter people are furious. And Mr. Lampson himself is terribly upset.

Stanley Ford: Of course he’s upset, he’s a lawyer. He’s paid to be upset.

The movie is older than I am, it hit the marquee well before I was conceived.

Prescient, no?

Is That the Model?

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Wisdom from my Hello Kitty of Blogging account. It was a comment I made in a thread, underneath a status update — not the status update itself. So by its very nature and the necessity of bringing it into being in the first place, it arguably belongs there…but, as is so often the case, once I post it and look at it, I see it is more at home here.

What I was doing was expounding on something wise that Prof. Thomas Sowell said:

Much of the self-righteous nonsense that abounds on so many subjects cannot stand up to three questions: (1) Compared to what? (2) At what cost? and (3) What are the hard facts?

The Prof. is way too classy to mention the word “liberal.” I am not similarly encumbered.

I have found that if there is one question, or question-fragment, that is universally unanswerable in liberal-land, it would be a bunch of questions sharing a common theme of “Is that the model.” Is that a picture of the way we want to see ’em go. Is that the way we want to have it turn out.

They’ve made a sort of sport out of defending the indefensible. And then on top of defending it, they build it up to such lofty heights…they lunge, exuberantly and irrationally, toward the superlative when there is no reason to do so. They can’t simply argue that Obama is a good President, He has to be the BEST ONE SINCE WASHINGTON and maybe better than Washington too. And they do that with everything. The ACA is not just a keeper. It is WONDERFUL legislation. Everyone who loathes it, or merely hesitates to extend approval to it, is a dumb knuckle-dragger.

So you ask them: Alright then…is that the model? Should we want a lot more legislation to look like this? Be ratified the way this was? Be adjudicated the way this was? Be implemented the way this was? Is that the desirable prototype? The ideal toward which future legislation should aspire?

Deer in the headlights. They have no idea what to do with that.

Joe Biden is the pinnacle of all desirable personal attributes and strengths in a Vice President? If so, what specifically would those desirable attributes be? What is it he is doing, that we should want all succeeding veeps to do?

You almost feel a tinge of proxy-embarrassment for them. When you ask things like “So, John Freakin’ Kerry, is he like the best Secretary of State ever? In what way? What does he offer, exactly, that we want our Secretaries of State to have? Is he better than Thomas Jefferson that way? Charles Evans Hughes?”

Skipping over details, is critically important to the exercise of confusing mediocrity with excellence. Details are unfriendly to this endeavor. But out here, in the real world, we have to care about details. We don’t have the luxury of ignoring them.

And that ventures into something else worthy of consideration. Our country is rapidly becoming balkanized, divided between what might be thought-of as “in the beltway” and “out of the beltway.” Although that is not completely accurate, since we have a lot of beltway types outside the beltway. That does not create a distinction we can actually use, because it doesn’t work in all cases.

Here’s what does work: The classic definitions of “blue collar” and “white collar.” Obviously, that division has not remained static for fifty years, even though it’s been about that long since it’s received any critical inspection. So we need to take stock of where exactly that division is. Blue is supposed to mean, you make your living with your hands. It may or may not involve physical strength. It usually means you don’t need to go to college, although that’s been going through radical change, and it never meant that you didn’t need to know something. Bricklaying, for example, has had masters and journeymen and apprentices for hundreds and hundreds of years, because a wall built by a bricklayer who didn’t know what he was doing, has always been worse than useless.

So. It’s not knowledge-versus-not-knowledge. It never was. It’s not college-versus-not-college…although, more than twenty years ago, it might have been that.

In spite of the shifts, the changing definitions are actually becoming simpler. And not in a good way.

We are still blue collar and white collar. But blue collar is: Mike Rowe might have wanted to interview you on Dirty Jobs. And, it’s: Whether people appreciate what you do or not, they really do need to have it done. That’s a bit problematic. We need to be careful of who we’re asking. Lots of people think their jobs are vital, but that’s not always true, so that is not the correct test to apply. We would have to imagine an alternate universe, created in the moment, with the altered condition that that occupation had gone away, and apply the thought exercise of: What happens, then? In that world, psychiatrists are expendable. So are lawyers. Hey, we were getting along quite alright when we had fewer of them, sorry lawyers but it’s true. But everybody poops, and that means everyone needs those pipes cleaned out.

This creates problems. Airline pilots typically wear white shirts, right? But what’s really white-collar about that job? They don’t make the rules; they follow them. They shepherd the machinery. They inject the human intuition into an operation where the machines can’t be entrusted to do everything, although the machines are already doing most of it — just like a bulldozer driver. Or a truck driver. As such, they sell their time, and not the same way I sell my time when I design and test software and then fill out a time sheet. So they’re blue-collar, and the question is more easily resolved in their case than in the case of a software engineer. Categorizing software engineers is a real problem. We certainly should be white-collar. We’re responsible for outcome, we make decisions that impact others, we even decide how things should work. But we’re not really supposed to; that’s just how it turns out. In reality, we’re not much more white collar than the airplane pilot. Other people make the rules and then we execute them, selling our time as we attend to the task of marrying up theory with reality. We’re on the ground, where the action happens. That makes us blue collar.

Sowell had something to say about this, too. As Wikipedia summarizes it, and it seems a fair summary, to me:

An intellectual’s work begins and ends with ideas, not practical applications. These purveyors of ideas may be at all points of the political and ideological spectrum, although Sowell generally reserves his sharpest criticisms for those on the left. Certain common patterns cut across specific political ideologies, however. Intellectuals, for example, show a marked preference for third parties, working outside the established power structures and applying what is presumed to be superior insight, to control the resources and decision making processes of the masses and their official leaders. This preference sometimes makes outwardly competing ideologies appear more alike than different. For example both National Socialism and Stalinism attempted to micro-manage the lives of their citizens; both implemented sweeping propaganda campaigns to reframe reality, and both resulted in leadership by an elite outside group. This, apparently, despite the fact that both movements were notoriously anti-intellectual.

Mmmmmmmm, hmmmmmm. Now we’re getting to the heart of it. We have theory, and we have practice, if those two were identical in every way and in every case then there would be nothing worth observing there. But they’re different, and at some point they have to meet up. We have people working close to the point of impact, and other people working apart and away from it, the “intellectuals,” whose “work begins and ends with ideas.”

With the consequence that, they do not have to deal with the nagging question of what happens when their ideas collide with reality. See, there is the distinction. That is what causes people to think in entirely different ways. Some of us have to contend with reality. It doesn’t necessarily make you think more brilliantly or keenly, but it absolutely does make you think differently. About little things. Little, tiny things like: My gunfire keeps drifting up, I need to adjust these sites in that direction. Cause and consequence. Stimulus and response. Reality.

“White collar,” to the extent it actually applies in this day & age — and I’m afraid it does — has to do with Sowell’s “intellectuals,” as he uses that word pejoratively. Intellectual giants, but mental midgets. Their work begins with ideas, and it ends there as well, so they never have to deal with implementation. They are several layers removed from the collision between theory and practice. They study a great deal more. And know a whole lot less.

Problem is: They run freakin’ everything. The people on the ground who can see how things are going, what actions cause what effect, can’t use that good information because they don’t have the authority. The rules, that were written up and socialized and validated and codified and adjudicated and ultimately signed, say you’re supposed to do such-and-such…and that’s the end of the conversation. Wait, which industry am I talking about here? I’ve lost track. It is no more possible to answer that question, than it is necessary. The situation I’ve described applies to industry after industry after industry, vocation after vocation after vocation, discipline after discipline after discipline. These mega-cool super-people who are so “wise” that they don’t have to actually deal with cause-and-effect, make the rules. Someone else, who has seen the wreckage that results, has the job of unquestioningly implementing these wise, wise, protocols and procedures. White collar and blue collar. That is how it’s divided up now.

When & if it all turns to crap…++cough++ ++cough++…everyone can defend everything, because everyone followed the rules, and the rules were the correct ones, who are you to question any of it. Meanwhile, the results are crap. And that’s where the question comes in.

So…is this the model? This is how we wanna see ’em go, then?

It’s a good question. If it’s unanswerable, that may be inconvenient to a lot of people; nevertheless, that means something.

Update: Another Sowell classic:

You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.

On one of my performance reviews at the place where it didn’t work out — that is spelled out in detail. Can’t remember the exact wording. “Morgan has a lot of experience at places that are concerned with final outcome, and occasionally irritates our engineers who are more concerned with process” or something similar to that. Software engineering, I guess, is an industry not quite as well-defined as a lot of people like to think it is. It has one foot in each of these two very different worlds.

I don’t. I’m far too simple and far too inflexible. It’s always been abundantly obvious where I do, and don’t, belong.

A Lesson in Evaluating Evidence

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc is the correct name. Not “proptor hoc” or “proctor hoc.” Pee are oh pee tee ee are.

Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”, is a logical fallacy (of the questionable cause variety) that states “Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.”

Deductive reasoning is powerful, since once it has been applied correctly, the conclusion it produces is undeniable. This distinguishes it from the inductive, which merely suggests the pattern found. But it has to have been applied correctly. Its power as a logical statement comes from the word “only,” as in, “this is the only explanation left standing.” For that to work, two things have to happen. First, the explanations that were identified as possible ones, must constitute an exhaustive list — a fair evaluation must have been applied to everything possible. Second, as these possibilities were eliminated, conservatism must have been consistently practiced. Nothing was eliminated until a sound argument had been assembled soundly eliminating that possibility as a possibility. If anything was bounced out due to being found merely improbable, or if the set of possibilities originally assembled was not complete, then it doesn’t work. The reasoning loses all of its persuasive power. Or should.

What brought this up: Mrs. Freeberg is out of town this Christmas. It is the first Christmas in many years in which the real tree in the living room managed to make it to December 24th.

I was just teasing her because — ignoring the dangers to sound, logical thinking posed by the post hoc fallacy — the lesson to be learned is quite clear. She sucks at watering the Christmas tree, and we now know it’s my job, because she’s way too distracted and spends too much time fiddling around with the computer while the tree dies of thirst.

It’s funny because…well, if you could see how I fiddle around with computers while neglecting other things, and how she runs around taking care of these little odds and ends including watering plants, making it look easy…well. Heh heh. I thought it was pretty funny. Uh, honey? What do you mean I get a beating when you get home?

Seriously though, it’s just something to be kept in mind when someone smugly announces: The evidence is in! It very often is not that simple, even when the evidence seems to be, scare quotes included, “overwhelming.” Overwhelming in what way? Our evidence is pretty overwhelming: The tree is doing quite well. I thought about watering the tree on 12/21, thought about it again on 12/24. Received a text message from the wife 12/25, “Did you water the tree yet?,” said to myself…uh oh. Thought about it some more the next day, and the next day, early this morning I finally got around to doing it. Tree’s doing fine! “Evidence” says I’m a maestro at this gig…after all, I never had anything to do with it in those previous years, when the tree was dying. I was way too busy. Fiddling around endlessly on the computer. Now the watering is my job, and the tree is doing fine.

Y follows X, is the situation. Proper deductive reasoning considers four possibilities:
1. X caused Y;
2. Y caused X, nevermind the fact that X was observed first;
3. There is a Z that caused both X and Y;
4. It’s just a big coincidence.

Occam’s Razor says, when there are multiple possibilities, if any one receives favoritism it should be the one that is least extravagant, or that demands the fewest presumptions. In this case, that would be the last of the four.

Because if I’m sure of anything, I’m sure of this: I do not take care of plant life better than Mrs. Freeberg. The jury is not out on that. TRUST me on this.

But…the tree’s doing fine.

Victim Class Rules

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

It’s funny. Whether the victim-class is defined according to race, gender, creed, obesity, language, immigration status, income level or sexual preference, the rules are always the same.

1. We should never hold the members of that class to any kind of a standard, be it a standard of performance or a standard of behavior;
2. We should treat it as a human-rights violation if any member of that class wants something, and ends up not getting it;
3. If any member of that class falls short of what they were supposed to do or screws up, we’re not allowed to notice it or talk about it;
4. They should never, under any circumstances, at all, anywhere, whatsoever — have to prove anything.

To those, I suppose there is a fifth one we might add that says when a member of the victim class ends up in some kind of conflict with someone else, they should prevail. Trouble is, occasionally a member of one victim-class comes into conflict with a member of another victim-class. Then things aren’t quite so clear-cut. Seems we’re in the process of hashing out some sort of pecking-order. One example that immediately springs to mind is when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had to hash it out during the entire summer of 2008, over who was to be poised to be the Greatest!! Presidential Candidate!! EVAR!! And…well, that got kinda ugly didn’t it.

People who insist on unquestioning fidelity to these rules, from everyone they know & see & hear, without specifically listing the rules — they’re the ones who say they’re “for equality.”

What a crack-up.

Update: It’s as if someone said, “Hey, what that Morgan Freeberg said in that blog over there doesn’t make any sense, we’d better do something so that what he said makes more sense.” Equality between the two sexes, or among the many sexes, whatever, is not the objective. If that were the objective then women in the Marines would have to do their pull-ups. We’re going to send girls into combat in order to accomplish something. Would a rationally-thinking country not have a better idea of what that something is?

Equality isn’t it. Winning battles clearly is not it. Until someone provides evidence showing there’s a benefit I haven’t considered, the sensible conclusion is that there’s no benefit. And when do we do costly impractical things that we know provide no benefit? When an outside force compels us to. When we follow rules.

High time someone went through the trouble of writing down these rules.

Feeding the Ether

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Went up into the hills yesterday with a friend of mine, to go hiking and make some far away inanimate objects dance around, by way of burning gunpowder. Great fun. Turns out, there’s a big bright round thing up in the sky and that might have something to do with why there are shadows and stuff. As we were walking along chit-chatting about this and that, we hit on the observation that some of the Internet-arguing people, the left-wingers debating non-debatable things endlessly under cutesy pseudonyms, flinging accusations around, moving goalposts, engaging all sorts of nonsense hyperbole and logical fallacies — they often act like this whole thing is, for them, some sort of a gig. They show all the surface-level passion of a car salesman in a teevee commercial. And I think you know what I mean by that: He acts more animated in delivering his message than a “true believer” would show in delivering his — you can tell he’s getting paid, or hoping to get paid.

Amateurs behave differently. They at least consider good, hard evidence that might upset their views. If someone is really and truly concerned about gun violence killing people, and their proffered solution is gun control, they may not ultimately accept or approve of the clear and obvious rebuttal, “Oh, like Chicago?” But that should at least slow them down a bit. My friend was getting frustrated because he was able to recall when the liberals put up bad citations, he had the citation of some other work that clearly proved the other one was faulty, fraudulent, a study made in bad faith, or some such; and, a little later in the comment thread, the lib would put up the same link all over again, as if he hadn’t dealt with that, like the earlier exchange never happened. Such frustrating behavior might very well be the work of an amateur, but it doesn’t seem likely. It certainly doesn’t reflect the characteristics of someone who’s truly concerned about the problem being discussed. And, it is exactly what you’d expect out of someone being paid.

We already have people who vote for a living. Could it be we have large number of people who argue on the Internet for a living?

I can recall when that was a very silly question to ask. Nowadays, there’s been a shift, I think, and we need to seriously consider it. Lord knows, it’s gotten much tougher to get a “real” job under Barack Obama, and there is a perceptible increase in strange, weird activities representative of the swelling ranks of people who, ya know, gotta pay the bills somehow. Registering the home phone with doesn’t seem to do a bit of good anymore, you just get the same dinnertime phone calls from companies conducting “surveys.” I’ve occasionally been tempted to ask the person on the other end what the terms of their employment are. Truth be told though, that conversation so rarely happens because when I take the time to pick up the handset and say hello, and hear some machine whirring away or clicking or whatever to connect me to some other human who couldn’t manage to actually dial me, I hang up immediately. It’s a great feeling. But it would be better to skip the whole stupid exercise.

I digress, though.

Are these teeming multitudes of “gotta pay the bills somehow” people being recruited by liberal activist organizations to argue on the Internet, hmmmm. I haven’t seen anything that would create an actual problem for the theory. And for the things already seen, it’s a bit tough to come up with some alternative explanations. The Internet-arguing lefty says, here is a study that says X; my buddy says, here is the study that proves your study is a sham; a dozen comments go by, over the next day or two, and the lefty puts up here-is-the-study-that-says-X all over again like the earlier exchange never took place. Frustrating, maddening, and downright weird. If it isn’t paid trolling, it looks like brain damage.

One alternative explanation has the virtue of being simpler. Simple explanations are valuable. They deserve our attention, and maybe they even merit a friendly bias. The simpler explanation is the one we have always been assuming: People who are passionate about something, just don’t listen very well.

By way of explanation, and perhaps making good use of the earlier digression: I recall a certain older male relative who received one of these phone calls from a real estate “firm” of questionable repute, who called him up and got him all excited about a house-flipping opportunity out in the crumbling suburbs of Detroit. There followed a flurry of hasty long-distance family-conference, during which time my brother and I endeavored to shake him from this. Boy, was it ever tough. My brother then took an interesting tack on the whole thing, conceding the point that going into house flipping was the RIGHT thing to do, since the senior relative wanted to do it so badly, but then outlining the steps that should be followed if this is to be done right. The oldster, surprisingly, conceded back that this plan made all sorts of good sense. But then continued to chatter away excitedly about the shysters who called him.

This intrigued me as much as it perplexed me. I spoke to him about it some more and directly inquired: Why is it, exactly, that we’re hoping for good results from following a bad process? Doesn’t it make better sense to hope for good results from a good process?

That stopped him, and made him think. For a moment or two.

Then, he continued to chatter away excitedly about the shysters. Some more.

This is Confirmation Bias.

A series of experiments in the 1960s suggested that people are biased toward confirming their existing beliefs. Later work re-interpreted these results as a tendency to test ideas in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and ignoring alternatives. In certain situations, this tendency can bias people’s conclusions. Explanations for the observed biases include wishful thinking and the limited human capacity to process information. Another explanation is that people show confirmation bias because they are weighing up the costs of being wrong, rather than investigating in a neutral, scientific way.

Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Poor decisions due to these biases have been found in political and organizational contexts.
Experiments have found repeatedly that people tend to test hypotheses in a one-sided way, by searching for evidence consistent with their current hypothesis. Rather than searching through all the relevant evidence, they phrase questions to receive an affirmative answer that supports their hypothesis. They look for the consequences that they would expect if their hypothesis were true, rather than what would happen if it were false. For example, someone using yes/no questions to find a number he or she suspects to be the number 3 might ask, “Is it an odd number?” People prefer this type of question, called a “positive test”, even when a negative test such as “Is it an even number?” would yield the exact same information.

I have noticed something over the years about confirmation bias, that might go a long way toward explaining the Internet behavior. Confirmation bias has a tendency to be LOUD. Ever notice that?

People who fall for this and start to engage the poor decision-making that results from it, seem to be a lot more interested in the confirmation than in the bias. They don’t want to do it all by themselves. They want to socialize their poor decisions. From watching how all this goes down, I’ve often formed the impression that there is real, and perhaps measurable, confirming going on here. The subject is perhaps 60% certain of the proposition before talking about it with others, and 80% to 90% certain of it afterward, even if no actual supporting evidence has been provided. For examples of this, I don’t have to think back too far or recall too much: As I drove home from the excursion, I passed one of those idiotic atheism billboards that said “‘Tis the season to apply reason” or some such. There. That right there is what I’m describing. Proselytizing a lack of belief. What’s it cost to rent a billboard? How does this emerge as a good decision, even if you have all the money in the world? Aren’t your resources still limited? Why do this? Seriously. Stupid.

A genuine and respectable atheist wouldn’t give a fig.

Humans have a way of welcoming confirmation bias, of working hard to make it happen to us. We all have an inclination, I think, to treat our own endorsements of something before audiences of familiars or strangers, as if it’s hard evidence. Blogging provides an enormous temptation toward doing that, by the very nature of the exercise. You have to work hard, with pretty much every paragraph, asking yourself “Waitaminnit, how do I know this is true?” The answer that comes easiest — few will admit it, but this is universally true — is: It must be true, I just wrote it down, and heck the whole Internet can see it! That, obviously, is faulty thinking right there. But you have to work to stay out of it, to not be sucked in.

No one is immune. And of course, it’s always fun and entertaining to point it out in the other side. But no greater harm in doing it, contrasted with not doing it. These things should be corrected. “Sayin’ so don’t make it so,” when someone just talks out their ass about the Tea Party being full of trigger-happy weirdos or something similarly slanderous and uninformed.

We’re all here by accident and there is no God? Sayin’ so don’t make it so.

The point to all this is: These people — assuming they are NOT being paid — are engaging in an ancient social pastime. They seem to inwardly know that their comments are not intended to observe the state of an object, quite so much as to change the state of an object. This is learned behavior from early on. You see it in classrooms of little kids arriving at a consensus about something; If some of the more charismatic ones happen to have their minds made up earlier than the majority, for whatever reason, they are very often heard using their “outside voices” inside. They are building a skill, which some of us are missing I notice. The skill of deciding and measuring things, that can be decided or measured only by way of including the human element.

Some everyday examples of this:

  • Where this emerging consensus is going;
  • Whether the decor in this room makes it delightful/cheerful;
  • Whether a newly discovered political figure has “charisma,” or as it is commonly phrased, “is the real deal”;
  • Whether a baby is beautiful, or ugly;
  • Whether the dance performance was worth a 10.0;
  • How to interpret an ambiguously worded test question, like “one hundred and one over five eighths”;
  • He’s a jerk (pass-fail assessment);
  • …but he’s an even bigger one (relative assessment);
  • He does, or doesn’t, “need” that money he has;
  • Joe Biden won that debate.

You go see a movie with a group of people, and one among you might say: “That actor really nailed the part, didn’t he?” The truth no one wants to acknowledge is that the “didn’t he?” is more important than the preceding statement. This is someone welcoming, on top of practicing, the exercise of confirmation bias. Actively seeking to have the bias confirmed. The question implicitly acknowledges the possibility that the actor didn’t really do that well. It grudgingly allows for this, in the sense that it seeks to eliminate it. There’s no point trying to eliminate something that isn’t actually there.

You can see the conflict, everyday, if you only take the time to look. As fewer and fewer people think Obama is a good president, the bullying-narrative that He is the greatest ever, has become more forceful. More intense. Any day now the site is going to be working wonderfully…it’s said over and over, although there’s no evidence supporting this at all.

Matters to be decided in that bulleted-list up above, share common characteristics and these are worth some serious thought. They are testable, it could be said; it could even be said the tests are reproducible. If a hundred randomly selected people all agree that a room is tastefully and pleasingly decorated or that a baby is beautiful, you can go pick out an additional two or three participants and they’ll probably agree. What distinguishes them from the harder and firmer stuff, like “what is 2 + 2?” is that the human element is required.

Some of these squish-ball questions work very hard at masquerading as something objectively measurable. “Mitt Romney doesn’t need all that money” comes off sounding like an assessment has been made of what the Romney family “needs,” and either the income or the net worth has been mechanically and coldly assessed at something far above this. That is the implied sales job. We all know that is not the case, and that is not what is being expressed.

I have occasionally commented, to the surprise of some people I know, that if Autism was as trendy when I was a kid as it is now, I’d be diagnosed for sure. I don’t follow it up with a “wouldn’t I?” because there’s no confirmation bias taking place there, you’ll have to take my word for that. I’m absolutely sure of it. Of all the things that are different between a middle-age Morgan and a school-age Morgan, one thing that has remained absolutely consistent is my poor performance on written tests, even on tests confined to subjects on which my conceptual understanding is complete and strong. Even achieving total command, best I can do is about 70% at the end of it because I keep running into idiotic stupid questions like this one…and, responding much the same way as this so-called autistic kid:

You see, when the biggest part of answering the question is resolving the conundrum of “What did the test designer really mean to say?” — well, ya know, that’s a problem.

But we have a much bigger problem than that, in our society. We are conflating these squishy questions with firmer questions. We are essentially intermixing questions that cannot be resolved…read that as, cannot be resolved without including the human element, questions that require the engagement of confirmation bias in order to be answered at all…with questions that rely on objectively measurable truth. We are making an everyday habit out of mistaking the former for the latter.

It’s only impacting those of us who never learned how to socialize our poorest decisions, never learned how to acquire and ingrain a sense of certainty about them. A sense of certainty that, it should be noted, never belonged there in the first place. Only we notice it, because only we have any reason to. And we’re not only being outvoted on this matter. We’re being diagnosed with learning disabilities that don’t actually exist, at least, not in the way they’re being portrayed.

The loud majority is fortunate…I guess they are. They get to run around saying risible, silly things like “the science is settled on climate change.” What they are doing is something they’ve been doing for a very long time, since back in those school days where, when the group is asked a question…the heads swivel left, then the heads swivel right. Everyone knows whether or not to put their hands up, after they’ve had a couple moments to check and see what everyone else is doing. They are affecting the state of an object while deluding themselves, and others, into thinking they’re just reading it. That object is ethereal and omnipresent — everywhere, surrounding us all, binding us together. It’s almost mystic. And they’ve managed to achieve some weird symbiotic relationship with it. “The actor really nailed the part, didn’t he?” feeds this ethereal object surrounding us and binding us together. They tell the ether what to think. And the ether rewards them by confirming their certainty, and in so doing, sustaining and nourishing them.

After a lifetime on the outside looking in, I’m still confused about whether I should feel jealous or not.

Their answers are always “right.” Until they’re not…and then, as we see in some examples of group-thinking error, like the “Obama’s gonna fix our health care” thing for example…they become not only estranged from reality, but resentful of it as well. The traumatic collision between theory and reality is airbrushed out of the recent history; it never happened. Anybody who brings it up is demoted to pariah status. Needs to leave. It is “futile to discuss” the matter with such people………….isn’t it?

Cross-posted at Rotten Chestnuts and Right Wing News.


Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Gonna finish this tomorrow.

Becoming More “Learned” by Knowing Less

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Twenty-eighth best quote of 2013. Yay, me.

Seriously though, as I read through the other 29 quotes I had some serious doubts about my merits. There’s some great stuff in there. And it’s good time-capsule material when you think about it; speaks volumes to the subsequent generations about what’s going on right now.

“They Too Must be Tolerant of Christians…”

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Me, on the Hello-Kitty of blogging, in a rant that unexpectedly picked up the “likes” like a wool sweater picking up cockleburs:

My give-a-damn about gay things in general has officially burned out.

If I was the president of a news company, right now I’d be putting out a memorandum that [says] we’re not covering any more gay stories, period. No celebs coming out, no reality-teevee show stars getting in trouble for saying the wrong thing, no movie reviews, no comic book characters having gay weddings, nothing except genuine, hard news. By which I mean, AIDS coming back, overnight. Cover that if it happens, otherwise, it doesn’t qualify as news.

This shit’s gotten seriously out of control. No, I don’t hate gays, I just don’t want to know about it unless it’s something I need to know.

I’m particularly incensed about gay-friendly movies. There are now, in every official way, “gay and lesbian” movie genres; I can’t simply avoid the genres, because the movies are not all in there. Romantic comedies, dramas, even action movies try to be hip and with-it by burning off screen time on gay themes that have nothing to do with the “real” plot. I’m not talking about laughably absurd situations that are really funny, that might happen to depend on homosexuality — like for example, this old show. I’m talking about the gayness itself being the draw, when according to the movie’s billing, the draw was supposed to be something else. The “cool thing to watch” if it’s a “cool” movie, or the funny thing to watch if it’s a funny movie.

When you can’t even make up your mind if you’re laughing-at or laughing-with, you go down that road without me, m’kay? I’m just not that fascinated with homosexuality. I have no reason to be, I’m not gay.

That all having been said: Since this letter is now disappearing off the Internet, and at this point I don’t even have a link I can put up, I thought I should go ahead and get it captured.

Dear A&E,

Thank you for bringing us a show that was family friendly and fun to watch. I greatly appreciated the fact that my Christian family could watch a Christian family on TV as opposed to much of the garbage that is reality TV. Unfortunately, you have done a disservice to Phil Robertson as well as the Christian AND non-Christian fans of Duck Dynasty.

Freedom of speech means that we are all free to speak what we believe. The Supreme Court does restrict some speech. In fact they specifically address such speech that may cause panic or physical injury. The example they give is that someone cannot scream “fire” in a crowded movie theater when there is no fire.

Tolerance and ConformityWhy, because it would cause a panic and people would get hurt. Did Phil Robertson’s speech meet this criteria set forth by the Supreme Court? No, it did not. The only people who panicked were the A&E executives that decided to pull Phil from the show.

Phil Robertson spoke what he knew to be true according to the Bible. Does that ruffle some peoples feathers because it goes against what they want to do? Yes it does.
The members of GLAAD are free to speak out against Christianity and those that believe in the Bible. How is that speech any different than Phil’s?

Under the U.S. Constitution they both have a right to express their thoughts and opinions. So why is Phil being punished for expressing his opinions? Why are you punishing Phil Robertson for being a Christian? This was not an incident of homophobia or hate speech.

Homosexuality is clearly defined as a sin in the Bible just as other sins are listed. Stating it as a sin does not make someone anti-gay. Phil even stated, “we should love God and each other.”

If GLAAD and the LGBT community expect everyone to be tolerant of their views, opinions, and lifestyle choices, they too must be tolerant of Bible believing Christians, their views, opinions, and lifestyle choices. For A&E to succumb to the pressures of “political correctness” speaks volumes about your true concerns.

However, I would remind you that tolerance is a two-way street.

At this point what is needed is a clarification about your programming and your ant-Christian stance. If you are truly an anti-Christian station, which the move to pull Phil from the show based on his Christian beliefs reveals you to be, please be up front about it. You will most likely lose viewers based on this incident.

However, do not for a minute believe that you are losing viewers because of Phil’s comments. You will lose viewers due to your reaction to his comments.

Therefore, without clarification from A&E that you support Christians and Christian beliefs as much as you support GLAAD and the LGBT community, then “As for Me and My House We Will No Longer Support or Watch A&E.”


Steven D. Ruffatto

The gayness becomes something we have to talk about, once again, because it rubs up against other things that are more important to us. I would not call those other things “freedom of speech”; the A&E network is under no obligation to preserve, or provide, Mr. Robertson’s rights according to the First Amendment, which when all’s said & done is merely protection from the government, and from nobody else. Without commenting on what may or may not be in the contract between Phil Robertson and A&E, I would say his First Amendment rights have emerged from this unscathed and unmolested, and I wish people would stop describing it that way.

That, however, has to do with the letter of the free speech protection. The spirit of it, however, has certainly been disturbed. After all, if you choose to defend A&E’s decision, whatever argument you use to provide that defense is going to culminate in a continuing obligation to keep on censoring. So there is an issue here, it just doesn’t involve the actual amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It involves the spirit of America. We are a place where the solution to such problems is more speech, and not less speech. That is what has made us unique, and it has been good for us.

Mark Steyn points out:

Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, in his career-detonating interview with GQ, gave a rather thoughtful vernacular exegesis of the Bible’s line on sin, while carefully insisting that he and other Christians are obligated to love all sinners and leave it to the Almighty to adjudicate the competing charms of drunkards, fornicators, and homosexuals.

Nevertheless, GLAAD – “the gatekeepers of politically correct gayness” as the (gay) novelist Bret Easton Ellis sneered — saw its opportunity and seized it. By taking out TV’s leading cable star, it would teach an important lesson pour encourager les autres — that espousing conventional Christian morality, even off-air, is incompatible with American celebrity.

Some of my comrades, who really should know better, wonder why, instead of insisting Robertson be defenestrated, GLAAD wouldn’t rather “start a conversation.” But, if you don’t need to, why bother? Most Christian opponents of gay marriage oppose gay marriage; they don’t oppose the right of gays to advocate it. Yet thug groups such as GLAAD increasingly oppose the right of Christians even to argue their corner. It’s quicker and more effective to silence them.

As Christian bakers ordered to provide wedding cakes for gay nuptials and many others well understand, America’s much-vaunted “freedom of religion” is dwindling down to something you can exercise behind closed doors in the privacy of your own abode or at a specialist venue for those of such tastes for an hour or so on Sunday morning, but when you enter the public square you have to leave your faith back home hanging in the closet.

Does this re-make or re-mold society in the way GLAAD intended? Ann Coulter says:

…[T]o just cite standard morality that has been around for thousands of years and have this angry gay mafia gang up on you and demand your suspension has just gotten out of control. This is not good for the gays.

Not good for the gays. That is a point that keeps getting lost, here, it seems to me. We’ve seen this with black and we’ve seen it with the women: The rank-and-file members of the supposedly oppressed minority who really are just going about their lives and trying to get along, at some point, are left behind by the advocacy organizations who purport to represent them. The “real” people have an incentive to try to minimize conflict with others, whereas the advocacy groups have an incentive to stir it up, aggravate it, keep it going. America’s unique curse lately is that our culture is no longer controlled or guided by the people who actually have to live in it. Once again, we see that the people who have to live with other people, are ready to do so. We’re ready to look past the differences, to minimize them, to work together on other things. But the advocacy groups won’t allow us to.

They smell blood on the water, and they want some flesh. The “gay sharks” are particularly vicious, because the black-sharks have already had their frenzy, along with the fem-sharks. One example after another can be found of such-and-such a guy…usually a guy…who had a promising career, but said the wrong thing and his head ended up on a pike. But where are the examples to be made by the gay lobby? They need more kills. That is the truth of the matter. That’s what is at the heart of it, and we’re not allowed to discuss it openly. There haven’t yet been enough martyrs for the gay cause, and there need to be some because otherwise it has not yet achieved stature.

Again: It isn’t the gay individuals saying so. It’s the organized advocacy groups. That’s the way it always is; the people just want to move past it and get on with their lives like anyone else, the groups insist on wallowing in victimology and forcing everyone else to do the same.

I don’t think we should continue to pretend any of this has to do with “tolerance.” It doesn’t, and nobody who’s been paying attention thinks it does. It’s about blood. Blood and predators, executors and martyrs, masters and slaves, anointed and damned.

The real irony is, if Phil Robertson had more power, and GLAAD and the A&E executives had less — heck, if Robertson was the dictator over all of us — there’d be more tolerance. In all likelihood, we’d have a happy situation in which there’d be a place for everybody. GLAAD is putting a lot of effort into avoiding exactly that situation. They want to make new pariahs, to shove targeted people into pariah status. They seek to establish, and preserve, a caste system. We’re supposed to pretend they want an egalitarian society, but they want the exact opposite of that.

Fantasy Quotient

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

The I.Q., or Intelligence Quotient — back in my day, as it was explained to me — is your maturity age (M.A.), as assessed by some sort of test, usually a written exam, times a hundred and then divided by your chronological age (C.A.). So a set of answers might contribute toward a measurement of 118 I.Q. when you’re fourteen, and if you submitted the same answers at age ten maybe your I.Q. would turn out to be in the 130’s or 140’s.

The more news I see about this fiasco, the more I learn about how it came about, and the more observations I make about how ObamaCare proponents see the situation, and draw their inferences about what it all means…the more value I see in measuring what we could call the F.Q., the Fantasy Quotient. This would be the weight of everything that contributed toward your final opinion about something, divided into one hundred times the influence of your first-impressions. So travel back in time a few years, Obama and crew say something about health insurance for the first time and you go — cool! Maybe. You get inspired, the inspiration creates a fantasy. The fantasy creates a prejudice. The prejudice, by definition of the word, feeds into the final judgment, even if it has to withstand an onslaught of subsequent and contrary experience. How much or how little the subsequent and contrary experience diminishes that original impression, says something about you, and that something is reflected in the F.Q.

A good software-testing engineer has an F.Q. approaching zero. A healthy F.Q. might be somewhere in the twenties, maybe down in the teens.

If your F.Q. is a hundred, you’re pretty much incapable of ever learning a damn thing, and that’s a widespread problem we have now. Pavlov’s bell rings, people slobber, and their minds are made up at that point. We’ve got a lot of people walking around right now, as free to live and vote as you and me, with 100 F.Q.’s. They live in fantasy. ObamaCare is still just as wonderful for them as when they first heard about it. I really don’t know how this happens, I don’t get it. Maybe it’s their way of dealing with disappointment? Just don’t deal with it?

It isn’t just ObamaCare. These so-called “researchers” probably have very high F.Q.’s.

Nelson Mandela is a saint, or something. Barack Obama is a holy prophet, or Messiah, or something. Raising the minimum wage will actually raise wages. Gun control will stop gun violence. Trees must be saved. But babies are nothing more than “tissue.” We must be suffering because of something called “unfettered capitalism.” Everybody has ADD (hat tip to Maggie’s Farm). We can condition and shame men into not looking at pretty women anymore. And, my personal favorite, everyone who sees a problem in Barack Obama must be motivated by skin color.

These people can’t apply tests. Not really. Sure, they can run tests on things, but they can’t learn anything from the results. Their minds are already made up. You won’t see them revising an opinion about anything, nor do they have any stories to tell about ever having been compelled to change their minds about anything.


Quothe severian:

As near as I can reconstruct the liberal “thought” process, the speech act somehow creates reality, if one is of sufficiently pure heart. Choices and their observable, measurable outcomes don’t matter; if you say it loud enough and long enough, it will become true. is expanding coverage and global warming is happening, because consensus. Repeating it makes it real.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t matter what the impure of heart say — or do — because we all know what they really mean. Calling Obama a Marxist is somehow raaaaacist. Hell, calling Obama “Obama” is raaaaacist according to Chris Matthews. Just as snow in Cairo and expanding Arctic ice is somehow evidence for global warming, not saying racist things is exactly the same as saying racist things. Lather, rinse, repeat, and it will be true soon enough, because words are magic.

Megyn Kelly said Santa Claus is white. That created a firestorm, somehow. As near as I can understand the thoughts and feelings that go into this round-robin heckling, the problem with Ms. Kelly’s comment is that she injected the attribute of quantifiability into something that is not quantifiable, because there is no reality, none whatsoever, associated with the mythical Santa Claus. Two problems arise with that argument, if that is indeed the argument being made. One, it isn’t true, since Santa Claus is based on stories that really were told, and one-to-some people who actually existed. Two, if it’s really all-mythical and everybody’s perception of Santa Claus is as good as anybody else’s…why is Megyn Kelly deserving of all this derision, then? Doesn’t she enjoy the same privileges and protections as the kids whose Christmases are supposedly ruined by the vision of a white Santa?

That is all neglecting the obvious third problem, which in my book is a real doozy. Who are these kids? How have they been raised? Not only is their F.Q. way up high, apparently, but it seems they experience a lot of consternation when they think about a white person giving them presents, and it isn’t the ordinary consternation that comes with a stranger climbing down your chimney and entering your house. There is someone else making skin color a part of this, in a most negative and unhealthy way, in a way that insists the races are supposed to be somehow separated. People of this-skin-color are not supposed to do anything nice for people of that-skin-color. Megyn Kelly is not the person harboring this fantasy; it’s somebody else. And I guess my own F.Q. is being tested, because I thought we as a society were supposed to be past all that.


Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Memo to future generations: Some among you may be getting a bit thrown off by the lefty rhetoric about what it is they’re trying to do, as I was thrown off by lefty historians describing the goals and accomplishments of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Perhaps you’re literal thinkers, trying in vain to figure out the meaning of nonsensical phrases like “shoring up the middle class,” thinking something overly-sensible like: That sounds like changing some metric measured within the class, such that the class would ultimately cease to be “middle,” and yet the speaker seems to be speaking with the vision that all persons in the middle class stay in the middle class. What t’heck?

Liberalism is a bad sales job, and therefore will always have a division in its midst between those who are being duped and those who are doing the duping. Just like an ass will always have a crack. The duped are, for the most part, grown-ups who have buried and forgotten whatever grand dreams they ever had as children about doing or building something great; they’ve now vectored that exuberant energy off into their voting, figuring great-and-grand things are for the political class to do, the role for the rest of us is to sort of mill about being “middle class” and doing middle-classy things. Maybe a quick vacation once a year, maybe visit someone, maybe host a party, the rest of it is all lunch sacks to work, get yelled at by the boss, go home, get yelled at by the wife. And that’s as good as it gets. The bargain they have struck is: I’ve given up on ambition. Ambition might be for my kids. I’ll settle for less pain, that’s my ambition now.

Those are the dupees. The dupers, do I even have to explain them? We have ObamaCare, which is such a debacle that there is widespread and legitimate question now as to whether that was even an accident.

The arguing we are doing is about kiosks, whether to use them for our wants and needs, or whether not to. And those who say we should be a kiosk-driven society, are winning, without even stepping forward to say that is what they want. From all I can tell, the reason they’re winning is because they care. Kiosk-people want everyone else to use kiosks. You need some health insurance, you go to a centralized kiosk, which in this case is a web site that doesn’t work. Notice the dwindling importance that is being placed on the “not work” part of it. The important thing is that it is centralized and everyone, it is to be assumed, is going through the same line.

We wonder why we’re such a contentious society lately. The answer is because kiosk-people are winning, forcing everyone else to go to centralized kiosks for everything they want or need, regardless of whether that’s how they wish to get it. If more people want the commodity than can be serviced by a single kiosk at one time, then a line forms. Then we show how civilized we are by waiting in line…which is a sad way to show it, since first-graders and Kindergarten students can be expected to do that.

It’s also ineffective. If we both wait at the same kiosk and we have a disagreement about some matter of taste, then the way we resolve it is to vote on it. And then fight about it. That’s what has been happening. We’re brought up to think the voting will settle the matter, but it only “settles” things for one voting cycle, while the battle rages onward from one cycle to the next. That, too, is what has been happening.

In the other America, you don’t show how civilized you are by waiting in line at a kiosk, showing elementary-school skills. You show how civilized you are when a lady walks into a room and there are no seats available. Or, when you’re outside and it starts to rain, and the lady doesn’t have an umbrella. Or, when you’re walking along and you see her getting mugged. It doesn’t have that much to do with the gender divide — although, yes, that can figure into it. The difference is in making a difference. Altering an outcome.


Thursday, December 19th, 2013

John Podesta apologizes:

In an old interview, my snark got in front of my judgment. I apologize to Speaker Boehner, whom I have always respected.

Said snark was:

…[Podesta’s hiring] represents the clearest sign to date of the administration’s interest in shifting the paradigm of Obama’s presidency through the forceful, unapologetic and occasionally provocative application of White House power. Podesta, whose official mandate includes enforcement of numerous executive orders on emissions and the environment, suggested as much when he spoke with me earlier this fall about Obama’s team. “They need to focus on executive action given that they are facing a second term against a cult worthy of Jonestown in charge of one of the houses of Congress,” he told me.

“Me” being, the guy who wrote the article, Glenn Thrush; “They” being the White House staff; “Cult” being someone controlling the House of Representatives. I guess that’s Republicans? Seems hard to envision.

The apology is sadder than the original transgression. Podesta must apologize, not because the statement made so little sense that it’s difficult to figure out what he meant, but because it brought back bad memories that made someone feel bad. It’s a sad commentary. Questionable statements demand subsequent apologies, not because of the gaps they leave as they mesh with reality, but because of their overlap with it.

Republicans, or the Tea Party, are…a cult?

But Babawawa thought Obama was going to be a Messiah.

Actress Ellen Barkin says we all belong to Him.

A cult, on the other side? Seriously, Mr. Podesta? Oh wait, that’s right…you’ve already apologized, so it never happened, silly me…

Young People Leaving Obama

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Older male family member passes along a link in the e-mails:

Amherst College and a Time of Change
December 13, 2013
Newt Gingrich

Something new and interesting is beginning to happen among America’s young people.

I experienced the change first hand this week.

What if I told you a conservative speaker could have a packed house at a very liberal college (with 750 in the auditorium and over 200 who couldn’t get in).

What if I told you that a conservative speaker could get a standing ovation both going in and coming out.

What if I further told you that after a 45 minute speech, there were an hour of questions and only three were negative.

That is exactly what happened when Callista and I had a remarkable visit to Amherst College this week.

It isn’t just Newtely saying so.

USA TODAY/Pew poll: Obama struggles with Millennials

Millennials have provided invaluable political support to President Obama over the course of his presidency, voting for him by a roughly 2-to-1 margin in his two successful campaigns against Mitt Romney and John McCain.

But as Obama tries to climb out of a 2-month-long malaise that saw his popularity sink with the fumbled rollout of the federal health care exchange, the president appears to have nearly as much work to do with young people as he does with older Americans.

Forty-five percent of 18- to 29-year-old Americans say they approve of the way Obama is handling his job; 46% disapprove of his job performance, according to a year-end USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll. The president’s approval rating with young Americans — which stood at 67% just ahead of his second inauguration less than a year ago — now mirrors the general population, according to the poll.

From Political Wire.

I’m vindicated! If only I can find my previous comments about this…until I manage to get that done I shall simply reiterate…

Starting with the part I know I can find easily since I’ve repeated it most often: It is in the nature of people to abandon critical thinking, when they feel like they can afford to. Critical thinking is, however, essential to good decision-making, so when it is abandoned the inevitable result is going to be poor decision-making. Poor decision-making leads to bad results. I would offer some recent news tidbits to help fasten this observation to our current reality, but ya know…that exercise seems redundant and therefore pointless right now. Bad results lead to a diminished position and depleted resources, and/or the prospect of such things, and the worry that goes with it all. Worrying leads to a higher valuation of, and eventually a recovery of, the critical thinking skills that were previously abandoned.

And then as those recovered critical thinking skills are further honed by continuous use, along with the benefits of experience, the decisions improve and then the results improve. Which leads to an elevation of the standard of living and an abundance of resources, which leads…this is the last part, which I really don’t like, but it is the reality of the situation — to a lazy, drunken, stultified “November 5 2008” mindset that suggests maybe critical thinking isn’t that important after all. Go back to step one.

Seems we now have our latest estimate of the worst-case time interval at the bottom part of this cycle, where the critical thinking skills remain abandoned. If it is accurate this time, that would be very good news indeed for this has been a worst-case scenario, involving a “cool” tall smooth-talking stadium-filling salesman, making His pitch to a generation of dumb young people, with bad-salesman-success sufficiently dazzling to quite literally make history, not U.S. history but world history. And this estimate would be: Five years, one month, ten days.

You see, there is hope. The frog does leap out of the pot of boiling water, and relatively quickly. Are we maxed out at five years at the opposite end of the cycle, when we’re enjoying the fruits of good decision-making and hard work that come after a recovery of critical thinking…cresting out, getting ready to lose it again? Oh no, not even close. Between World War II and the election of rock star Obama-like teen idol John F. Kennedy, that was fifteen years, right? But that’s not a good example, it was before my time. I’m sure many an oldster can step forward and rattle off some mistakes the country made in that timeframe, and we could have a discussion about whether such mistakes were due to a widespread cultural malaise of abandonment of critical thinking. Towards which I would be unqualified to contribute much of anything…but we have the Reagan era, that easily surpassed five years, preceded by the Carter era which fell short of the five years.

Our hope lies in the resolve people might have, certainly could have, to say to themselves: Yes things are good now, but I have to keep thinking responsibly, the way I thought back when times were lean, for if I cannot manage that then surely the salad days will end, and soon. To feel this sense of healthy invigorating dread when the immediate material circumstances do not necessitate it. To save for the rainy day, to think like a grown-up.

These waifs just grew up! Poor waifs, that’s a terribly sucky way to have to do it. But you know, the bright side is that the message is likely to stick. And for a lifetime. I’m looking forward to the boats being all lifted in the rising tide that is brought by the hardened generation…the anti-baby-boomers. The adorable munchkins who thought they could fix all the world’s problems just by electing the ethnically-mixed guy with the big ears and golden throat whose dulcet tones made planted whores faint. This will be a great generation.

The kids who went from thinking like a fifteen-year-old, to a forty-five-year-old — and were forced to, by the consequences of their own poor decision-making — in the space of five years, one month and ten days. I would have to imagine that isn’t quite as jarring an experience as having to write a will and then face down a Nazi machine gun nest at age seventeen. It is an entirely different vector, but of a common bearing. The direction is the right one. It’s good for them and good for everybody else too. They’re learning the basics; that the whole point to life is not just to be happy, and things that happen have cause-and-consequence relationships to other things that happen. That “hope” is often not enough. That, as the old saying goes, when you fail to plan you have planned for failure.

Thirteen Things They Avoid

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Cheryl Connor writes in Forbes about a list put together by a social worker, one Amy Morin, and the bad habits avoided by “mentally strong” people.

For all the time executives spend concerned about physical strength and health, when it comes down to it, mental strength can mean even more. Particularly for entrepreneurs, numerous articles talk about critical characteristics of mental strength—tenacity, “grit,” optimism, and an unfailing ability as Forbes contributor David Williams says, to “fail up.”

However, we can also define mental strength by identifying the things mentally strong individuals don’t do. Over the weekend, I was impressed by this list compiled by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, that she shared in LifeHack. It impressed me enough I’d also like to share her list here along with my thoughts on how each of these items is particularly applicable to entrepreneurs.

The list is:

1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves
2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power
3. They Don’t Shy Away from Change
4. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control
5. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone
6. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks
7. They Don’t Dwell on the Past
8. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over
9. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success
10. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure
11. They Don’t Fear Alone Time
12. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything
13. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results

That’s pretty good. It can be made better though.

Looking at it from a very high-altitude view, this looks to me like thirteen things that are essentially just one thing. Not that I would quibble with Morin zooming in, breaking things out and exploring details; there’s generally some good value to be added there, and not just for writing the thought up in magazine articles. Nevertheless, these things are all of one common value, and that value has to do with confidence in one’s own self, one’s own capabilities, one’s own sense of judgment.

To me, that’s all Step Two stuff. Step One is to do what you can to make the correct decisions. Do your research, figure out what it all means, decide how to deal with it.

From all this, time becomes more and more important. I speak not of the sense of time as a finite resource to be spent judiciously, although there is that as well, but rather of the roles played by the past, the present and the future. Time becomes important to both of these steps. Morin covers it in her #7: “Don’t dwell on the past.” A delicate balance confronts us here, since #8 says “Don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over.”

What did that bumper sticker say: Don’t change the future because of the past, the past doesn’t merit that much importance and the future doesn’t deserve the abuse. Eh, that’s not it, it’s not even close enough to trigger an effective Google search. But it does capture the sentiment. The past holds lessons. From a practical point of view, that is all it holds. The future, obligations aside, is a blank slate. The past is, not so much a model, but a patchwork of skid marks where theory collided with reality, full of little inspections that can be done. The future gives you latitude for your creative impulses, the past gives you knowledge. Use both.

Be limited by neither.

And bandwagon-thinking, like “this will make a lot of people unhappy” or “I don’t see anyone else doing that,” are limiting thoughts. They are not conducive to mental strength, nor to the results netted by mentally strong people.

Can’t Find Racism in Republicans, So Let’s Invent Some

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013


Indeed, the pollsters even confess that they “expected” to find more racism among Republican voters. “We expected that in this comfortable setting or in their private written notes, some would make a racial reference or racist slur when talking about the African American President,” they confess. “None did.”

But this response by the voters they surveyed is viewed by Democracy Corps pollsters more as a clever evolutionary response to a history of predation. The Republican voter, the pollsters declare, harbors racial consciousness that is only masked by an effective camouflage:

They know that is deeply non-PC and are conscious about how they are perceived. But focusing on that misses how central is race to the worldview of Republican voters. They have an acute sense that they are white in a country that is becoming increasingly “minority,” and their party is getting whooped by a Democratic Party that uses big government programs that benefit mostly minorities, create dependency and a new electoral majority. Barack Obama and Obamacare is a racial flashpoint for many Evangelical and Tea Party voters.

The capable naturalists at Democracy Corps are trained to recognize even the latent, recessive racism lingering deep within the Republican genome. Like the human coccyx, the vestigial prejudice in the GOP voter is betrayed when the subject is scrutinized by those with trained eyes.

Every now and then I’m tempted put two questions to a lefty. But I don’t do it, because I’d be accused of starting an actual fight, and there would be some truth to it because it’s really not likely the conversation would remain friendly after these. The two questions are:

1. When’s the last time new evidence changed your mind about something?
2. Have you ever gone against the crowd on something?

Out on the Internet, some of them possess an abundance of talent at doing what they think is called “arguing” or “debate”; some possess little to none of this. They evaluate this in themselves, and in their colleagues, more or less accurately. But I notice the ones who are very strong, are strong only in monologuing. They “debate” things the way someone would debate on a television show written and produced by Aaron Sorkin, with lots of memorized and questionable facts & figures. They don’t deal well with questions, or for that matter anything that might change the direction of a thought.

As Prof. Thomas Sowell said: “(1) Compared to what? (2) At what cost? and (3) What are the hard facts?” It seems they do their thinking the way a beam of light travels through space (absent any mirrors or other reflective surfaces). It’s all about following-through. If the theory comes up against contradictory reality, it is the reality that must yield.

What Liberals Call “Science”

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Prelutsky nails it:

Liberals are always given to landing on the side of what they insist is science, whether the topic is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution versus Intelligent Design or man’s ability to control the weather. That’s because they believe that scientists are, like themselves, much smarter than other people.

But the fact is that science, to put it as kindly as possible, is an imperfect science. Scientists are, after all, people. They are therefore as prone to being affected by greed, blind ambition and even ignorance, as any of us.
Some would say that at least scientists eventually get around to correcting their mistakes. But until they do, they defend their beliefs by belittling doubters, generally labeling them as flat-earthers. These days, you see many climatologists defending “climate change” as settled science, while the rest of us are supposed to ignore the fact that consensus is not the same thing as proof, especially when those with the courage and integrity to raise doubts are punished by being denied federal grants and tenure.

Matthew 7:20, By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them. What’s the thought process? You use the scientific method on that which purports to call itself “science.” Look at the structure of the argument. If it’s just a bunch of citation-mongering followed by condescending and dismissive chortling at any opposition, well then, the thing to ask is whether or not that is how science works.

How does the method select information to be evaluated? When it filters out information, is it a true filtering process, separating the relevant from the other? Or is it merely deflecting? The difference is the mode of pursuit. If you’re filtering out chaff in order to look for wheat, there must be some wheat, or at the very least a desire to reach it. Is there curiosity. If what you’re seeing works purely by discarding whatever doesn’t fit, by covering its ears and yelling “I can’t hear you la la la,” then whatever it concludes is not the result of accumulation of information; rather, the elimination of it. That is not science.

Prosecutorial Discretion

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Somewhere I put together a list of Articles of Impeachment I might consider drawing up, if I were a Congressman and appointed as a case manager and tasked to put them into a draft for the committee to consider.

If I can find it, I should make sure this is on it…

By six minutes in, you see there’s a pretty sound case here. The legislative authority is being usurped from Congress, and they are duty-bound to get it back again. Prudence dictates they should try other means short of impeachment to get that done, but it looks like those alternatives have been exhausted.

Hat tip to Chicks on the Right.

The Darker Side of Mandela

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Three things you didn’t (want to) know:

Nelson Mandela was the head of UmKhonto we Sizwe, (MK), the terrorist wing of the ANC and South African Communist Party. At his trial, he had pleaded guilty to 156 acts of public violence including mobilising terrorist bombing campaigns, which planted bombs in public places, including the Johannesburg railway station. Many innocent people, including women and children, were killed by Nelson Mandela’s MK terrorists. Here are some highlights

-Church Street West, Pretoria, on the 20 May 1983
-Amanzimtoti Shopping complex KZN, 23 December 1985
-Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court, 17 March 1988
-Durban Pick ‘n Pay shopping complex, 1 September 1986
-Pretoria Sterland movie complex 16 April 1988 – limpet mine killed ANC terrorist M O Maponya instead
-Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, 20 May 1987
-Roodepoort Standard Bank 3 June, 1988

Strong finish to this one.

The apartheid regime was a crime against humanity; as illogical as it was cruel. It is tempting, therefore, to simplify the subject by declaring that all who opposed it were wholly and unswervingly good. It’s important to remember, however, that Mandela has been the first to hold his hands up to his shortcomings and mistakes. In books and speeches, he goes to great length to admit his errors. The real tragedy is that too many in the West can’t bring themselves to see what the great man himself has said all along; that he’s just as flawed as the rest of us, and should not be put on a pedestal.

Given all that and more, it was a disappointment to me to see Stacy Keibler waxing lyrically of her Mandelamania. Her along with many others. She’s usually such a wholesome, gracious and sensible girl, and I often pick up the impression that as statuesque blondes go, she’s no dummy. But this is a mistake. The dangerous thinking here goes something like, “If I hate X and that other fellow hates X, he must be a great guy and I can trust him.” That’s not how it works. The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

Great Dancing with the Stars contender though.

You Shall Not Pass, Dog

Sunday, December 8th, 2013


Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonder Woman. She’s an actress born in 1985 who is 5’8″ or 5’9″, around 110 pounds according to reports, who looks like this as of 2010:

Oooh…um, I really don’t know about this guys, there’s not much graceful-feminine curvy swoop to her hips, and in her upper arms the skin seems to be actually touching bone.

I suppose if they don’t want to re-design that notorious bustier, maybe there won’t be too much controversy over it since there’s not much “popping out” she could be doing. So there’s that. But if she comes off looking like an eleven-year-old girl wearing a Wonder Woman costume, it will do a lot of damage to Man of Steel 2 and also to Wonder Woman’s brand. This movie already has Ben Affleck playing Batman.

It’s my understanding that in the “New 52” comic books coming out now, they’ve turned her boots blue made her Superman’s girlfriend. Not sure about the boot thing either, although I suppose that is the kind of minor costume-tweaking that could come out as a win. The girlfriend thing, on the other hand, is something I can’t see as anything other than a huge mistake. The feminists are bitching about it, predictably enough, but they probably should because it diminishes the character. Now she is to be played on the big screen by a little waif-girl with the all too familiar and urban-looking skeletal supermodel body type…you know the feminists will yell about that too. The family in the station wagon teetering on the brink of a cliff just as Wonder Woman comes to rescue them, isn’t going to feel too good about it either. Not quite the “here I come to save the day” look.

I like seeing militant feminists get a good tweaking just as much as the next guy. But they should be tweaked about the right stuff, shouldn’t they? Mrs. Freeberg taking me out to Hooters for my birthday, stuff like that. So it’ll be interesting to see how WW figures into the story. He’ll be stopping some disaster on one side of the globe, and she’ll fill in for him on the other side, Super Friends style, and after the crisis is averted say something like “Hi, I’m Diana, an emissary from Themyscira and here’s my story…”? Because that would be lame.

We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose…

Update: Oh, bruth-er…and so, it begins

Pearl Harbor Plus Seventy-Two

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

A date which will live in infamy…

What kind of infamy, I wonder. I’ve often complained of the “bubba” syndrome in which something bad happens to one person, and within the friends & family it is broadly and forcefully felt that the disaster is nothing more or less than bad luck. When the spot of bad luck turns into a streak, it gets a little awkward, especially when evidence emerges that mistakes are being made that cause (or allow) these bad things to happen. But of course, the guy pointing this out looks kind of like a dick, and might very well be one…and people would much rather concentrate on the tragedy that fell on poor ol’ bubba. So they turn a blind eye to the plain and obvious fact that bubba is causing his own problems.

And a little bit of casual research will expose the fact that he has always been treated this way right back to the cutting of the umbilical. Poor, poor bubba, bad things just keep happening to him.

Once World War II started, it didn’t keep going like that for the United States. Our country lost more battles but won the war. Couldn’t afford not to. See, that’s the real Pear Harbor lesson; that’s how it works. It’s all about being able to afford bad decision-making. People get the feeling they can’t afford it anymore, and they start making winning decisions.

Maybe enough time has passed now, that we can honor the lives lost in the tragedy, and still achieve some more specific understanding about the infamy. Twelve-seven is an observance, whether people realize it or not, of human folly; of pretending the future is as clear as the past, when we know it isn’t so. Of failing to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

And, of choosing scapegoats in the aftermath. When all’s said & done, of allowing bureaucracies to hurt us as much as possible, both before the big event and afterward.

On a cold Thursday evening in Washington, DC, in 1941, leaders in the nation’s capital met for dinner and discussion of the problems facing them.

One attendee was Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy. Knox told his dinner companions,” I feel that I can speak very frankly, within these four walls…We are very close to war. War may begin in the Pacific at any moment…But I want you to know that no matter what happens, the United States Navy is ready!”

Knox added, “We’ve had our plans worked out for twenty years. Once it starts, our submarines will go in to blockade them, and sooner or later our battle fleet will be able to force an action. It won’t take too long. Say about a six months’ war.”

What was the date? December 4, 1941. Three days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Needless to say, the United States was not ready for the coming war, one which would last for three years and eight months and take the lives of more than 400,000 Americans.

Fast forward to today. When our leaders tell us that a national healthcare program is going to work well and benefit all Americans, we should remember the track record of the government on past projects. If the nation’s defense can be as vulnerable and unprepared as was the case in 1941, what does this say about a government-run healthcare system?

Lesson from December 7, 1941: Bureaucrats tend to think like bureaucrats. Bureaucracy doesn’t bring out the best in human behavior, it brings out the worst. It causes lack of foresight. It causes lashing out, rushed exuberance and eagerness to assign blame, it elevates process over outcome, and it tends to elevate persons of low character over their colleagues with better character. The crisis that follows tends to do the opposite of all these things. But it’s a mistake to place faith in bureaucracy just by default, and then hope it’ll all work out.

Real people get hurt.

Whiskey…Tango…Foxtrot… XXIII

Friday, December 6th, 2013

People are paying other people money, to become activists against other people who are trying to make money for trying to make money.

Useful idiots with some very limited usefulness about them.

Hat tip to Kate at Small Dead Animals.

The Star Wars Fans

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Just a thought I’ve been having, since all this Star Wars VII talk started up…

Star Wars fans are so often thought-of as one big crowd, and the producers of the franchise encourage this. Once we start to recognize the fractures, I’ve seen there’s a tendency to stop at dividing the mob up into two halves, generational in nature, with my generation being the senior set. I still remember the enthusiasm with which I attacked that little old lady’s lawn, in my torn up jeans, that summer Saturday afternoon in 1980 so I could pull in a few more bucks to go down to Mount Baker Theater and find out what happened after the Death Star blew up. Those who follow such things see the old farts like me, and then there are the kids who learned about Star Wars through the “prequel trilogy,” maybe saw that trilogy first. Which I imagine would affect your perspective a lot.

There are actually several layers to this. They can be defined according to a singular, crisp, clear, concise question: “When did George Lucas lose his marbles?”

Tier Zero, occupied by Lucas himself and a few others I think, would be: Never. He knows exactly what he’s doing. These people are insane.

Tier One would be: When Darth Vader took his first steps in the robotic suit and yelled “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” By the definition of their class, they must think everything was going awesomely great and wonderful up until that moment…so, not too many people here.

Tier Two would involve people who don’t like Hayden Christensen. We should allow a Tier Three, I think, for people who don’t like Hayden Christensen as a whiny little bitch in Attack of the Clones. The difference is that the latter group lost their faith when they realized whining like a little bitch had become, according to canon, an enduring trait among men in the Skywalker family. And I guess maybe I’m partially in that crowd.

Tier Four, of course, has to do with Jar Jar Binks. By extension, it is anyone who was disappointed by all the silliness and hijinks in The Phantom Menace, and by extension the entire prequel trilogy, along with anyone who was turned off by the performance of little Anakin. And the Gungans. And the boring plot about trade disputes. And the conference room scene. And the other conference room scene. And did I say Jar Jar? And, and, and. To such a great extent that the disappointments that came before, didn’t count, and the disappointments that came later aren’t really worth mentioning. They hate the prequels. This is probably the largest one.

Tier Five: Greedo shooting first. The prequel-trilogy thing doesn’t really count for these people because they’ve never gotten over this.

Tier Six: Maybe this is where I am. In 1983, the closing shot was a rum-soaked, woman-chasing, dirty, grizzled, mercenary space-pirate, played by the actor who brought Indiana Jones to life, snuggling little teddy bear muppets. My childhood was already pretty much over by this time, but what little was left of it was ruined at that point. Mercenary pirates shouldn’t be snuggling muppets. That ought to be some sort of a rule.

Gold BikiniI suppose there is a Tier Seven for whoever didn’t like the gold bikini.

And then there is Tier Eight: Darth Vader is Luke’s father. That one, I could get over because it opened up some very cool possibilities. But I’ve always had these pangs of regret over it, or loss anyway, since what was being closed off was classic myth: The super-duper dark unredeemable bad guy, who killed the good guy’s father, is now going to kill the good guy with the very same sword that was belonged to — or was used to take down — that father. Good guy manages to duck out of the way with one last-second twist, and in a reversal of fortune nobody could see coming, the bad guy gets it. Take that, bad guy! Daddy is avenged. It’s got a lot to do with surprise, but it isn’t really surprise, we expect it. I expected it in 1980 after cutting that little old lady’s grass. Life’s full of surprises…we adapt…but a part of me has always thought, ya know, maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so messed up if Lucas had stuck to Plan A. Is the “Tale of Redemption” really central to Star Wars’ success? It was already kind of a big deal. Dunno. We’ll just have to wonder about that.

Tier Nine: Lost all, or most, of the fanboy passion when Luke said “But I wanna go to Toshi station to pick up some pooooooower converters!!” Couldn’t take the whining.

Those of us who are in Tiers One through Nine, still like the movies. At least, most of us do. But after the Big Disappointment, wherever it was, we identify with them a lot less and just see them as the creative works of some…well, weird guy who’s into some strange stuff. There was some moment. For me, I suppose it came when Lucas was interviewed about the reaction to Phantom Menace, and said something about how Star Wars is for kids and has always been for kids. He actually made a good point that the change in audience focus was perhaps illusory, a mirage thought up by people roughly my age who had forgotten they were kids when the older movies came out. There is some truth in this. But there is falsehood as well. The big draw for me was the Arthurian myth, interwoven with the ground-breaking special effects. Lucas wants to tell me I cut grass so I could go to his movies and watch Ewoks? Uh, I don’t think so. I’d truthfully have to say, Phantom Menace itself didn’t disappoint me much, it was the stonewalling and the denial and the Obama-like “there’s nothing wrong here, the problem is you” excuse-manufacturing. The failure to own up.

That, and the Greedo thing. Overall, I’m in the crowd that was alienated when Star Wars shifted into this weirdness of “violence never solves anything, and good guys win by not fighting” frame of thought. Yes George, it did shift. It wasn’t due to Phase I budget constraints that Han originally shot Greedo first. And it wasn’t originally called “Revenge of the Jedi” because Lucas hadn’t had enough time to mull it all over. Star Wars went peacenik, and in so doing, left me. Kinda sorta. Not completely. It’s still fun, but a diminished from what it once was.

Point is, I think a lot of people are in that boat, but there are many different stories about how we got there. But what the heck, it’s his story and he can do as he likes. Ya wanna watch it or not?

The Stick and the Ball

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Me, a few days ago:

Throughout all of human civilization sufficiently advanced to allow for arguing-about-politics, there have been three forces at work. Depending on the culture, one or two of these may be in recession, and may appear to have vanished altogether, but the three “primary colors” are in fact always there. Just like — and I’ve used this metaphor before — the three colors in a pixel on your monitor. Some may not register anything, but all three are always available, the red the green and the blue.

In politics, until we have better ways to describe them, let us envision these three primaries as: those who seek to preserve order; those who seek to incite chaos; those who cherish liberty.

The order-people are motivated by many things, anything that relies on order. So this primary is found in many composites, even some composites that are opposed to other composites similarly related to this. Capitalists and collectivists alike champion some kind of order. Anyone who wants to build anything has to rely on order. The big-government types and the “Tea Party” types believe in order.

The chaos-people are motivated by a resentment against the existing order. This is an impulse of pure anarchy, but it is hard to trace because the first step toward enacting a new order, is to raze the old one. Anyone who was ever a revolutionary, was a chaos-person, at least in the moment. So many will act on this for a short time, but few will act on it permanently. Yet the few are there. They are pure-anarchists. They do not recognize themselves. I’ve said it before many times and I’ll say it again here: We’ve got a lot of people walking around laboring under the delusion that they’re working to build something great and grand, but cannot define what exactly that thing is that they’re building, because the reality is they’re not building anything. They are destroyers. No one wants to admit he’s a destroyer, but see, there is another thing going on that makes this more common: It’s fun. It’s easy, too. Takes a year to build the barn, and a day to knock it down.

The liberty-people are motivated by a desire to be left alone. Quite understandable, especially when order-people and chaos-people are having a fight, and others around them who are just minding their own business get swept up in the fight, against their will. A lot of people, I see, are motivated by the opposite: They seem to despise liberty. Their own, as well as any liberty enjoyed by anyone else.

We could think of the discourse about which ideological direction to take, as a sort of circular periphery, with all the frenzied debate being about what point on that periphery is the best to pursue. It is a direction and not a distance, so the periphery is virtual, possessing no clearly defined radius. Like the “celestial sphere” in astronomy, it is at least large enough that all of its points are beyond any earthly point approachable by anyone mortal. In simpler terms: It is less a geometric shape, than merely a set of definable directions.

Around this periphery we have these three primaries, the order, the chaos and the liberty. Where they are, relative to one another, is something that changes from one issue to the next. Libertarians and “Paul-bots” hate having this pointed out, but it’s true, and it’s proven easily. Let’s ponder an issue. Gay marriage. The order-people say no, the chaos-people and the liberty-people say hell yes. So chaos is aligned with what seems to be liberty, both of them are in favor of gay marriage. The liberty-people don’t want to see anyone stopped from doing something they want to do, and the chaos-people want to destroy definitions so they can destroy structure. Their motives may be different, but their interests are in alignment.

We shift issues, now. Gun control. The chaos people say yes, the liberty people say no of course, and the order people also say no. They recognize that burglary & home invasion lose a lot of appeal as chosen vocations, when every homeowner can be reasonably expected to possess and know how to use a gun. There are many other examples to offer. Order, chaos and liberty act like three boxcars on a purely-circular railroad track. They slip and slide around relative to one another. Change the issue, and the boxcars change position.

However, there is one constant here: Order and chaos. They are opposites, by definition. However, they are political ambitions: Order seeks to build something, chaos seeks to destroy. See, liberty is more primitive even than that: It has to do with “If I start doing this thing over here, are you going to walk up like some strutting martinet, say ‘excuse me, sir’ and tell me to stop doing it?” So the wild stallion in this corral is: liberty. It exists on a different, lower, more primitive level than the chaos and the order.

The three points are like the two ends of a baton, or a stick, and then one detached ball, all spinning around in a circle together. The two stick-ends must be opposite from one another at all times because they refer to opposite things. I can’t find the issue that puts chaos and order on the same side; neither can you. But liberty is the wild-card here.

It is very often seduced into siding with chaos. That pain-in-the-ass order thing, after all…it just means a bunch of rules.

But the liberty relies on the order. Without any order, the law remains, but it becomes a law of brute force. Whoever is stronger, makes the rules. Where’s the liberty in that?

With all that in mind: Why are things so complicated in the here-and-now? I blame the Baby Boomer Generation. No seriously, I really do. It’s their fault.

They are at the age right now where people are expected to be running everything. White, straight, male, tall, and sixty-something. Or, man-hating shrew…but still sixty-something, like Hillary Clinton. We still live in a time in which sixty-something means you have power. But the sixty-somethings, now, grew up rebelling against authority — and they’ve never stopped. Even now, when they are the authority, they’re still rebelling.

And as a result, our laws are a complete mess. We have these written laws that are in direct conflict with the “laws that really count” in that these are cultural laws, unwritten laws, that find sympathy in the people who are at the top of the command structure. “Marijuana is illegal” is one such law. The written law says that’s a real law, the people who enforce the laws don’t like that law. And so we have this no-mans-land of infractions, prosecutions, indictments, convictions, and penalties that don’t really count.

“Tobacco, on the other hand, is quite alright” is yet another. It’s legal, but not really. Here in California we’re targeting the last places where you can smoke it, banning it without banning it. That which is really banned, you can smoke, and that which is not banned, you’re not really allowed to.

The stick and the ball are spinning wildly. Like balls in a roulette wheel. Where is order? Where is chaos? Where is liberty? Here & there, they’re aligned this way, and then that other way.

“Don’t come into our country and vote in our elections if you aren’t legally authorized to be here.” That’s another one. The letter of the law says that’s a crime. But our bosses want that law to be broken, the more frequently it happens, the better as far as they’re concerned. And they’re the bosses.

This is dangerous territory. To have a law that means anything at all, you have to have definitions and those definitions have to mean something.

Chaos is winning.

Update: Thought in progress…maybe it’s worth a second post, but such a post would show very little by way of a self-supporting thesis, or any kind of structural independence away from this one.

Issues on which the liberty-ball slides around on the periphery, to align more closely with the “chaos and destruction” end of the stick, against creation/preservation/order:
1. Abortion;
2. Flag burning;
3. Gay marriage;
4. Letting Saddam Hussein get away with more shenanigans;
5. Illegal immigration;
6. Pot;
7. Sex and violence on the teevee, and in music discs marketed to eight-year-olds;

Issues on which liberty is more harmoniously aligned with order, and against chaos.
1. Abortion, from the perspective of the baby;
2. Gay marriage, from the perspective of the church getting sued;
3. Minimum wage;
4. CAFE standards;
5. Religious expression around or near a school;
6. Gun control versus freedom to self-defend;
7. School vouchers;
8. Progressive income tax policy;
9. Punishing the Boy Scouts for not admitting gay scouts;
10. Sexual harassment and hostile work environment litigation;
11. ADA abuse;
12. Strange bizarre union rules;
13. Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution;
14. Environmental issues;
15. All the “little laws.”

Two things I notice about this. One, my list of “liberty sides with order and against chaos” issues is roughly twice as long as the companion; as I spent more time and energy adding to both, I expect that trend to continue. This is part of a sea change that is slowly taking place, which I also expect to continue. Here’s a great example of that: The Scopes Monkey Trial. That was a case in the 1920’s that had to do with a schoolteacher not being allowed to teach the theory of evolution. Some eighty years later, the issue was about teachers not being allowed to teach intelligent design theory, whose critics asserted was simply creationism masquerading under a new label. In both cases, the more secular viewpoint is the chaotic one — it “preaches” that we are, quite literally, products of a chaotic universe in which there are no events save for random ones. When Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan went at it, that side was aligned with liberty. In the more recent trial, that side embraced a restriction, and was thus aligned against liberty.

Second thing: When chaos aligns with liberty, there is some sort of deception taking place. I put “abortion” on both lists because two people are involved, the preservation of the one relies on a restriction against the other. If your very life is extinguished, you don’t have liberty. The same goes for gay marriage: To grant freedom to the one party, we must encroach on the freedoms of another. Those who champion the freedom of the aborting mother or of the gay couple that wants to get married, you’ll notice, address these dichotomies by restricting the information flow. They do not reply to the arguments from the opposition, they work to simply eliminate the opposition from any allowable or influential discussion taking place. They effectively cover their ears and go “can’t hear you la la la.”

What is going on here is a bad sale. There is something rather out-of-place and unnatural about liberty siding with chaos, since in political contexts chaos is, when you get right down to it, an ideology that says we as human beings are not good and we don’t belong wherever we are. That’s really at the heart of it, that we as a species are a pollutant. That goes beyond saying, we pollute and should stop polluting; the theory is that we are the litter in the otherwise-pristine universe. Since we don’t belong wherever we are, how can it possibly be fitting that we should be allowed to do anything? I mean, think about it seriously: You’re a pregnant woman who wants to abort her child. The people who support your “right” to do this are pullin’ for ya…but…your mother was thinking about aborting you, too, and your so-called supporters would have chosen that, if it were up to them. So what they’re really supporting is a “Now that you’re here, darn it all, you might as well have this sacred ‘right’ or whatever…” kind of a right. And what sort of right is that?

There’s something phony about it. There’s something phony about everything on that shorter list.


Monday, December 2nd, 2013

The takeaway: She is confronting an argument about moral reasoning, with what she obviously thinks is an adequate rebuttal, and is one in her world: She gets stuff. To her, the formula is no more complex than that, morality == getting stuff. Around four minutes in we find this does not translate into her vision for her children, which is interesting. And a clue.

Not that it surprises me much. I’ve been noticing for awhile this “Other America” seems to have a problem with time. They live in the moment. That’s either an effect, or a cause, of this moral-flattening in which morality is one-and-the-same with getting free stuff. Perhaps it’s both an effect and a cause? There’s a temptation to invest unlimited hours and calories into mulling this over, and perhaps it is not a bad thing to succumb to it, since we need to be putting more thought into this…

Zero Hedge, hat tip to Bird Dog at Maggie’s Farm.