Friday, January 03, 2014

Things I Learned About Weed from David Brooks

Knows When To Put the Doobie Away
I was never a big fan of NY Times Columnist David Brooks. In fact, the man is a twat. But it’s just now come to my attention that David Brooks happens to be one of the nation’s foremost experts on marijuana and the effects of its usage on the human anatomy. How did he attain this expertise? Because he smoked weed for a bit in high school back in the late 70’s. That’s right. And he gave it up before he even graduated, so you know he’s an expert on the subject.

And we learn all about this in his cynically titled piece Weed: Been There. Done That. In it, he informs us that he's already done the whole weed thing, knows what it's all about, and is so over it. Because weed is just a phase you go through in adolescence, before you grow up and learn life's real pleasures. Like how Catcher in the Rye once meant a lot to you before you got older and now it seems simplistic and boring. These are all just rites of passage..

Weed's the same way, and anyone who disagrees and wants to smoke anyway should be arrested and have their life thrown away; just like we do with people who still read Catcher in the Rye. Why? Because giving up weed is part of the road to adulthood, and it's the government's duty to prevent you from taking any action that might hinder your personal growth. Because sending someone to jail and ruining their life is sooooo helpful to their personal development. Thanks Brooks, for looking out for us all like that.

And even once you’re a grownup with a successful business, you should still be subject with arrest and imprisonment for possessing weed, because….well because David Brooks doesn’t have an answer to this one since he didn’t smoke pot as a grownup. And since it never happened to him, it doesn’t need to be contemplated whatsoever.  He knows that smoking weed made a doofus like him act like a doofus in high school, and so it must be the same for everyone else even decades later.

And yes, out of all the people David Brooks has met over the years, either in his personal life, or as a writer for the New York Times, or on the various TV studios he's been to and others he has met; not a single one of the pot smokers opened up to Brooks that they smoke pot. And that can only be because they too have eschewed the stoner life when they were teens, or because Brooks is such a complete doofus square that not a man, woman, or child of them told him that they smoke dope.

And so he's fine with people having their lives ruined, because he doesn't have personal experience that allows him to understand what it's like. Because if we haven't experienced something, it must not be important.

David Brooks is Everyman

And sure, that sounds like total crap when you think about it, but that’s just because you’re not thinking of things the David Brooks way. Because everything Brooks says makes logical sense, once you accept certain preconditions that Brooks adopts as unerring truths.

The first precondition is that you must accept that the plural of anecdote is data, and that Brooks’ anecdotes are the best; as they’re universally applicable to everyone. That’s how he can extrapolate proper behaviors for hundreds of millions of people, based upon events that happened to him personally over thirty years ago; even if these events were vague non-events that even Brooks can’t properly identify and might never have happened. I mean, if David Brooks got stoned right before giving a class presentation back in 1977 and made a fool of himself, then surely the same fate awaits us all.

And that leads us to the most important precondition to understanding David Brooks: We all have the same value system as David Brooks. Our life goals are the same, are path to happiness is identical, and we all aspire to have the sort of life that David Brooks has. Because Brooks’ entire argument goes down in shit-stained flames if he’s wrong about this one.

And if someone could be genuinely happy as a stoned surfshop employee in Hawaii or live a full and complete life as a stoned musician, then David Brooks' argument is crap. But Brooks knows that that's not possible, because it's not the path he'd have chosen. And again, we all have his value system and share his life goals, and people who choose other lifestyles are behaving immorally.

One Morality

And honestly, that's not even a paraphrase. He actually mocks anyone who doesn't think some lifestyles are more moral than others. As if playing video games stoned on the couch all day is inherently evil.
“Many people these days shy away from talk about the moral status of drug use because that would imply that one sort of life you might choose is better than another sort of life.”
And the implication is clear: It's immoral to choose a lifestyle that David Brooks doesn't approve of. No longer is morality about how you treat others. In Brooks' world, morality is about choosing the lifestyle that best enables us to reach our full potential. And therefore it’s immoral to do anything whatsoever that might delay our path to maturity in any way; including smoking dope.

And sure, some might argue that we can't reach our full potential without weed, but such a thing can't possibly be the case since Brooks' short experience with weed taught him that it makes people stupid and has no useful purpose besides letting you bond with friends while enjoying yourself. And while that might sound like the same thing he said we could only do without weed, that can't be the case or Brooks would have contradicted his main point yet again.

So without further ado, here's the list. Enjoy!


Thirty Things I Learned About Weed From David Brooks

Alcohol and tobacco don’t exist.

Neither does jail. A full column about legalization, without any hint of jail, prison, arrests, police, or any of the other policies Brooks implicitly supports. Why? Because they don’t exist.

The point of smoking pot is to do stupid things.

People who are high can’t put together simple phrases while speaking in public.

If you smoke weed, you will do so right before giving a big presentation and feel like a total loser because you won't know what to say.

If you give a class presentation while high, you will stumble through it and embarrass yourself due entirely to the weed you smoked and not because you were totally fucking unprepared and you suck.

You will give up smoking dope if you see a smart friend of yours start smoking too much.

Something sad happens to people as they sink deeper into pothead life.

If you don't stop smoking pot, you will become a pothead.

People give up pot once they discover higher pleasures.

Smoking pot is repetitive.

Smoking pot doesn’t make you funnier.

Smoking pot doesn’t make you more creative.

Academic studies more or less confirm that weed doesn’t make you funnier or more creative. Because yeah, humor and creativity are things that can be objectively tested in an academic setting.

Smoking weed is not exactly something you are proud of yourself for and it's not something people admire in you, for reasons that even Brooks admits are vague.

The deeper sources of happiness usually involve a state of going somewhere, becoming better at something, learning more about something, overcoming difficulty and experiencing a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. But none of these things can happen if you smoke dope, because weed made David Brooks act like a doofus when he was a teenager.

Smoking pot prevents people from becoming integrated, coherent, and responsible. And that's because it prevents you from using reason, temperance, and self control; which we all know because again, it made Brooks act like a doofus when he was a teenager.

Everyone has the sense that the actions they take change them inside, making them a little more or a little less coherent. (Editors Note: We have no fucking idea what this means.)

The vast majority of people who try drugs, grow out of it and leave it behind. This is why we need to punish as many people as possible for smoking pot, because a small minority of them might continue to use it and thus stunt their personal growth.

Being stoned is not a particularly uplifting form of pleasure.

Smoking pot all the time won’t do much to enhance your deep center.

You’ll have a better shot at becoming a little more integrated and interesting if you smoke weed sporadically. (Seriously, he said this)

It's simple economics that if you drop the price of a product, more people will buy it.

Complex economics involving inelastic demand continue to elude David Brooks entirely.

Colorado and Washington are creating more pot users, because there are apparently people who aren't pot users, but would like to be if the price came down.

Laws mold culture. Like the way the War on Drugs molded drug culture. Oh wait... Or how anti-porn laws molded porn culture. Oh wait...

In healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. And it achieves this subtle tipping towards self-governing citizenship with police raids, drug dogs, and prison time for those who prefer not to grow up. Very subtle.

If you're stoned, you can't appreciate life's highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature. Because potheads are infamous for hating nature and the arts in Brooks' reality.

Legal marijuana enhances individual freedom.

Legal marijuana nurtures a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be. Unless, of course, the sort of person we want to be is someone who can smoke pot without fear of being punished; in which case legal marijuana most definitely helps them be who they want to be. But of course, since we're all David Brook; such a person couldn't exist and doesn't need to be contemplated even hypothetically because all the grownups gave up weed before growing up.

And finally, alcohol and tobacco don't exist.

Giving the Game Away

But all joking aside, if one reads between the lines of Brooks’ column, you’ll find at its heart exactly what you’ll find in almost everything he writes: A liberal position being shoehorned into a conservative framework. And he gives the game away twice. Not only does he say that sporadic use of weed can be helpful, but he outright states:
“I don’t have any problem with somebody who gets high from time to time…”
And boom, that’s it. That’s the end of the discussion. His argument is that people should go to jail for using weed because it makes them lazy, but then outright says there isn't anything wrong with getting high. And that’s game over. In the third sentence of the tenth paragraph, he undermines his position entirely. I mean, as much as he had a position, of course; since none of it made sense.

And that leads us to what his piece was really about: David Brooks is against lazy people who smoke dope all the time, because he doesn't think they're living to their full potential. And well, he's got a point there. Smoking pot really *can* make people stupid and lazy if they do it all the time, and that's not a good thing. Who amongst us doesn't know someone who threw their life away getting stoned all the time?

And yet…is it really the government's business to force us to maximize our potential by denying us things that might distract us from that? And because pot *might* distract someone from their full potential, it makes sense to spend millions of dollars to ruin the lives of as many of these people as possible? What?! Should we go ahead and cap everyone in the knees to make sure they succeed in sports? How does locking someone in jail help anyone reach their potential?

But again...jail doesn't exist in David Brooks' universe. So he doesn't need to explain this idiocy at all. He's just trying to get teens to give up weed and join the real world. That's all. It's about whether or not we should encourage people to spend all their time getting high, or if the government should encourage us to engage in more mentally stimulating activities. I mean, it's not like he's advocating for anyone to go to prison or anything. Oh wait...

David Brooks Supports Legalization.

Because that’s the thing: Brooks didn’t write a piece that supports the criminalization of marijuana. He wrote a piece against people getting high all the time. And even then, he never even hinted as to why they should go to jail for this; since he didn’t discuss jail at all. He's just saying it's a bad idea and shouldn't be encouraged. But he never says they should go to jail for it. Why? Because I don't think he wants them to.

So basically, he’s once again talking gibberish, because he needs to take the conservative position, but it’s obvious that the liberal position is the correct one. So he’s playing a word game, where “legalization” means something ridiculous and he’s supporting the sensible position, where it’s perfectly ok to smoke pot as long as you stay productive, and nobody goes to jail for it. In other words, the exact opposite of the position he’s trying to defend.

Thanks for playing, David Brooks. Perhaps if you smoked a little doob you'd realize what nonsense you had just written.

Dude, ever notice how bong rhymes with wrong? Dude!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Creationist Heretics: Sixth Grade Smackdown Edition

Found this video over on Facebook.  A creationist getting a slight smackdown by a sixth grade atheists.  The sixth grader did well under the circumstances, I suppose.  Though I was less than fully impressed.  Because it was his fault that the creationist went on that long nonsense argument, because the kid missed the better part of the argument.  Here's what he did:


And yeah, I suppose the kid won the thing by default, as the guy didn't really say anything.  But he really missed the main point, which allowed the other guy to do his word salad monologue.  Because it was obvious he had nothing, but was doing whatever he could to not relinquish the floor and allow the kid to speak.

The creationist guy said that his proof that God exists is that he knows things. And since he knows things and you can only learn things from God, therefore there must have been a god that taught him these things. But...we *know* who taught him everything and it wasn't God. Everything that dude knows came from man. He didn't learn anything directly from God. God didn't teach him 2+2. Of course not. He learned that from a teacher, or his parents. A human taught him 2+2 and he knows it. He might even know the specific person that taught it to him.

In fact, this guy didn't even learn about his *god* from God. He learned about his god from man. His dad, most likely. And if his dad had been a Buddhist, this guy would be a Buddhist. And if his dad was Muslim, this guy would have been a Muslim. But...he was born to a Protestant creationist of some sort, and he learned about that from man. So even his own foundational principle is exposed to be false. Everything he's basing his argument on is an obvious lie. Whether or not a god exists, this guy's deepest knowledge source is a sham and he doesn't even know it.

And then, of course is the ultimate refutation of his beliefs: His own beliefs. Because the thing about Yahweh is that he wants you to believe in him. Sure, sometimes he'll show himself in burning bushes and other miracles, but usually it's all on belief. Trusting in him without evidence. Anyone can follow a deity that has proven supernatural powers. That's just stupid not to. But no, Yahweh doesn't want to make it easy. He wants to make this a little test. You have to accept him with no proof. No evidence. Just a feeling. A belief. That's how Yahweh likes it. And well, whatever. If I were the Creator, that's not how I'd go about things. But whatever. This is Yahweh's thing. He's a jealous deity and he wants you to love him unconditionally. It's just his thing.

And if that's the case, then this creationist dude is on a fools errand as he's trying to give proof of a being that doesn't allow itself to be proven. The reason he can't prove his god exists is because his god won't allow it. In fact, were he to actually prove the existence of his god, he'd have violated a basic tenet of his own religion; committing one of the gravest of heresies. And he's too fucking stupid to know it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Greed is Good...Unless a Liberal Does It

I've got a new conservative friend on Facebook.  Decent guy so far, seems intelligent enough...for a conservative.  Hoping this might be the debate foe I've been looking for, as it's tiring to debate liberals and/or atheists over relatively minor points of conflict, but most conservatives are too unglued from reality to be of any use in a debate; so I rarely get to debate the big ideas.  Maybe it'll be different this time.

And we got off to a nice start tonight, when he posted a quote from a Thomas Sowell book, which Sowell recently tweeted:
And conservatives love that line because it turns the tables on those pesky liberals and supposedly hoists them by their own petards.  After all, either no one is greedy or they too are greedy, as defined by Sowell.  And that sort of thing ranks right up there with accusing liberals of being racist, in that it uses a "vicious" liberal attack against the dirty buggers themselves; thus defanging the attackers.  Left out is the possibility that the "attack" is a fair description of anyone on their side.

And yes, this is basically an extension of the "I'm Rubber You're Glue" method of debate found on playgrounds across this fair land.  But when you're dealing with people whose way to "stand up for our country" is to use anti-Obama window displays showing Obama as a witch doctor...I guess the old rubber-glue strategy is a breath of fresh air.  (Because yeah, I remember all those images of Clinton as a witch doctor back when he tried reforming healthcare, so I'm sure there's no racial link here at all [/snark].)

Defining Greed

But more to the point...is Sowell's line correct?  Are liberals perhaps the greedy ones for wanting to take money from people who don't need it to give to people who do need it?  Uhm...no.  Definitely not.  And the problem is with his initial definition of "greed," as if it just refers to people who want to keep their money.

Because if greed is just about keeping money, then sure, he's got a point.  Either one person is keeping it or the other is keeping it, so how can you claim that only one of the two sides is greedy if they're both doing it?  And yet...when people call someone "greedy," is it merely because they want to keep their money?  No.  That's stupid.  And this isn't even a semantics game.  There is simply no definition of "greed" that refers to people merely wanting to keep their money, as that applies to just about everyone.

Here are a few definitions of greed, and please note the similarity:
"An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves..."
"excessive desire, as for wealth or power"
 "excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves"
"a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed"
"excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions."

And what's the connection with all these definitions?   Excessiveness.  It's not merely the desire to keep your money.  Greed is an "excessive desire" to keep more than is needed.  That's what it means.  And sure, it's a debatable point whether people should be required to share their wealth, or how to define "excessive" or "need."  But what's not debatable is the basic meaning of the word.

And in no case is Sowell's definition in any way accurate, but instead, was chosen because it helps setup the clever trap he was springing on liberals.  He didn't take the word "greed" and show how it applies to liberals.  He wanted it to apply to liberals, and formed a definition that would do that; even if it's not correct.  After all, who amongst us doesn't want to keep our money?  By that definition, we're not just "greedy" for wanting to tax the rich, but we're greedy in the first part, for wanting to keep our money.  And that's absurd and denies any meaning to the word at all.

Rewriting Sowell

And so to rewrite Sowell's quote with a proper usage of the word, we'd get:
"I have never understood why it is "greed" to desire an excessive amount of money, but not greed to want to take money from someone with an excessive amount and give it to someone who doesn't have enough money."
And written that way, it shows what a complete joke his quote was.  He wasn't hoisting liberals with their own argument.  He was playing a word game that falls apart if we use the word properly.  And if Sowell doesn't understand the difference between someone with an excessive desire to acquire money and someone wanting to help those who don't have enough...then he's an idiot.  But I don't think Sowell's an idiot.  I just think he was trying to be clever and failed.

But that's so often the case with conservatives.  They mean well.  They really do.  It's just that they're on the wrong side of the debate, but can't figure out why.  So they have to keep changing the rules in order to invent ways that they're right and we're wrong.  And their favorite technique is as I mentioned above: Simply accusing us of doing what we accuse them of doing, and thus negating our arguments...or so they imagine.

And so we end up with an up-is-down universe, in which it's racist for a white person to want to help a black person buy groceries and it's greedy to want to tax the rich a little more to help a poor person pay their rent.  Sure, none of this makes a lick of sense, but by the time you've explained it all, they've already had their laugh and moved on to the next point.  And that's all this is about anyway: Not winning debates, but making their side feel better about itself while simultaneously making the brains on our side explode.

And in that regard, well played, Sowell.  Well played.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance: How to Piss Off Friends and Alienate People

I am not a pedant.  But people often mistake me for one, because I point out mistakes that they make which they consider to be minor errors that miss the point.  But as is usually the case (and by usually, I mean always), these "minor" errors aren't minor at all.  In fact, they undermine the whole point the person was making.  And the reason they think I'm being a jerk is because they just don't know what they're talking about, to the point that they have no idea the size of the mistake they're making.

And the problem is that the vast majority of people start from the position that they're right and anyone who disagrees with them is wrong.  And while they realize how stupid that is and refuse to admit that's what they're doing...that's obviously what they're doing.  And so when you point out a mistake they've made, they still like to imagine that their greater point was correct, because that was their baseline.  They know they're well intentioned.  They know they're smart.  And they're sure they've got a firm grasp of the basics, even if maybe they used a sloppy word here and there that a pedant like myself tries to nail them for.

And well, those are incredibly stupid assumptions to make.  Because there *is* no baseline assumption for being right, now matter how well intentioned you see yourself.  All that matters is what you're actually doing.  And so you might see yourself as a freedom fighter taking the good fight to bullies, but if your actions involve you bullying religious people with a blanket condemnation of them for their beliefs, well...maybe you're not as well intentioned as you imagine, no matter how many caveats you include involving the "decent" ones.

Seriously, if adjusting your target from "Muslims" to "blacks" makes you sound like a Klansman...maybe you need to rethink your position.

Pedantic Dissonance

And what these people are doing is experiencing cognitive dissonance.  They "know" that they're right, but don't see any mistakes in what I wrote, so it must be that I'm being pedantic by pointing out a minor error that doesn't conflict with their true position.  After all, how could they be wrong?  They paid lip service to the idea that they might be wrong, so that should cover all the bases, right?

And this all gets me to my original point: A friend on Facebook posted a meme titled Cognitive Dissonance, which gave a flawed explanation of what it is, and then gave numerous examples of it which didn't even fit the flawed explanation.  It describes Cognitive Dissonance as "the state of holding two or more conflicting beliefs simultaneously."  It then gave examples of Republican beliefs, some of which weren't conflicting at all.

Like people who oppose birth control and abortion.  Those aren't conflicting beliefs.  They're a bad idea, but they're not in conflict; not unless they also want people to have sex but not have babies.  But it's their position that sex should lead to babies, period; and that means they should oppose both birth control and abortion.  No conflict.

And the conflict arises when they try to explain their beliefs, as they'll say some gibberish about needing to punish people for bad behavior.  But first off, they oppose birth control and abortion for married couples too.  Is it sinful for married couples to have sex?  No? Then why do they need to be punished?  And the bigger issue is: Babies are a punishment?  What??

And anyone who's had this discussion knows where this goes: The person gets upset.  And maybe they'll refuse to admit that their policies involve married people, or they'll deny that they called babies a punishment, or maybe they'll just get angry and end the discussion; insisting that you're the one who doesn't get it.  And if you keep up this discussion long enough, you'll get all these reactions and more.  And don't be surprised when you're told you're going to Hell, because you had that one coming to you.

This, my friend, is cognitive dissonance.  It's not just that they hold conflicting beliefs.  It's what their brain does in order to handle the conflicts when they're forced to do so.  Holding the beliefs is easy.  Trying to deal with them is another story.

Defining Dissonance

At this point, I'll just repost what I wrote to him, to which I was ignored and can only assume the guy thought I was being pedantic yet again.  But this isn't a minor correction.  It's important for us to understand this concept, as it points us in the right direction on how to deal with such people.


Cognitive dissonance isn't just that someone holds conflicting beliefs. It's what they do in order to mesh these conflicting beliefs.

Often times, they simply compartmentalize their beliefs and will focus on just one of the beliefs at a time and simply refuse to mesh them together; and no matter how many times you try to explain to them that these ideas are conflicting, they'll still only talk about one at a time. And when they're forced to mesh them together, they get angry and lash out, because their brains can't make sense of the conflicting beliefs. Or they'll believe completely illogical things, inventing rationalizations in order to make sense of the ideas.

That's how they can talk about Chinese and Egyptian history going back 10,000 years, while also believing the earth is only 6,000 years old, because it's compartmentalized. And if you confront them with this in a way that forbids them from having a back door, they'll likely get mad at you. Not because they're necessarily angry people, but because they're experiencing cognitive dissonance and simply can't deal with these conflicting ideas. That's also how they can make sense of the Noah story, by dreaming up a giant boat that really *could* hold all those animals; not because it makes sense, but because their brain is forcing them to do something that can't be done.

And this all explains how Republicans act. Like their refusal to believe that Obama won in 2008 because they were confident he'd lose, so it *must* be that he's not a citizen, ACORN stole the election, and liberals felt guilty for blackness. They invent all these rationalizations, because the truth of what really happened hurts too much. Similarly, they *must* believe that the media has a liberal bias every time it conflicts with Fox News, that poll numbers are biased, and even the unemployment rate is fixed. Not because they have any proof, but because they can't deal with anything that conflicts with their beliefs, and this is how their brain deals with it.  Cognitive dissonance.

And that's why directly confronting these people is a fool's errand. As is insulting them or trying to rub their faces in their mistakes. Do that, and you'll *NEVER* get through to them. Their brains simply won't allow it. And it's not just something they suffer from. We *all* are guilty of this at one time or another. It's just human behavior. And the only solution for ourselves is to do our best to not make assumptions or believe in things that might conflict with reality.

Otherwise, we'll end up getting pissed off or inventing rationalizations to explain why our beliefs are correct, in spite of reality. Happens to everyone.

Don't Believe in Yourself

And that end part really needs to be taken to heart.  We *all* do this.  We've *all* felt that moment when our brains tell us that what we're saying doesn't mesh with reality, and we feel like jackasses for doing what we did.

But instead of blaming ourselves, explaining our errors, and admitting defeat; we either try to slink out of the discussion with as much of our dignity in tact as we can muster, or we lash out at our opponent and find some way that we hadn't made the mistake that our brain knows we made.  That's just how brains work.  Just like an optical illusion involves our brain trying to make sense of an image that is too tricky for our eyes, it also goes a little crazy in making sense of thoughts that really don't make sense.

This isn't just something Republicans suffer from.  This isn't about people who hold two beliefs, both of which we consider to be wrong.  This is what happens when we realize we made a mistake but are too arrogant to admit it.  And the more we try to stay inside our comfort zone and refuse to consider whether the "pedant" correcting us is right or wrong, the more we're suffering from the thing that we usually only see in the other guy.

And this all just goes back to what I was saying at the beginning: Don't assume that you know what you're talking about.  Doubt yourself.  Acknowledge your intellectual failings, not with a lip service excuse of "nobody's perfect" or "I'm not saying I'm 100% sure about this" or any of that nonsense.  You've got to acknowledge that you might be totally full of shit, particularly if you find it difficult to even explain your basic beliefs with any depth at all.

I mean, if the best you can do is to repeat your initial assertions...then you probably are full of shit and need to start over.  Admitting you've got a problem is the first step in solving it.  Just don't act like it's the only step, or you'll still have the problem.

Letting Them Save Face

But my point here isn't to pick on anyone, but to say the opposite: We've all been there.  We've all made mistakes.  And we know how much it hurts and how little contrition we are to show to those who slay us; particularly if they've been jerks about it the whole time.  And the more someone tries to rub our faces in our mistakes, the less likely we are to admit we made any mistakes.

And well...that's what everyone does.  And that's why insults, taunts, and face rubbings are the last thing you should do; at least if you want to get someone to see the light.  If all you're interested in is scoring points and feeling like a big man, go for it.  But if you're actually interested in convincing someone to agree with you, pinning them down and refusing them any back door to escape the debate with dignity is the last thing you should do.

And why?  Cognitive dissonance.  People like to think they're right, and therefore freak out when they suspect they're wrong.  And they either have to stop thinking they're right or refuse to admit they're wrong.  And if you're trying to convince them they're wrong, then you need to give them every opportunity in the world to correct their position.  Sure, it might not make you feel like a big man if you don't get that "check mate" at the end of the debate; but if that's what you're looking for, you've got issues of your own to deal with.

I've gotten a few people in my time to agree with my position, but *never* during the actual debate.  And afterwards when I see them repeating the things I had said, I don't bring it up at all; but smile to myself, knowing I had done a good job.  If that's not good enough for you, then you're in the wrong business.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Anti-Muslim Bigotry is Still Bigotry


Here in America, when rightwing nutjobs form a militia, we blame their ideology and say "What a bunch of rightwing nutjobs." And when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building, we didn't say "Ooh, us white people are so dangerous." We said "Man, those rightwing nutjobs are dangerous." And when Tea Partiers talk about having to commit violence against the country and having a civil war because Obama made them buy good health insurance, we think "Wow those conservative nutjobs are crazy."

And we also have liberals who, while not violent as the aforementioned nutjobs are, also do extreme things that the rest of us don't approve of.  And so you had OWS Movement people breaking laws, trespassing, and doing other illegal activities that are denounced by the majority of people in the movement.  And you'll have liberals who don't even approve of what the OWS Movement as a whole is doing.  And you'll have Democrats who don't even approve of the liberals.

And people on the other side are always quick to condemn the entire movement based upon what the most extreme elements are doing.  Conservatives who will blast Obama because someone was assaulted at an OWS camp, for instance.  And the point is to lump all your enemies into as wide a group as possible, in order to make the entire group look bad.  But we, of course, push back against that and show all the variety of opinion on our side; just as conservatives do whenever one of their nutjobs goes crazy.

And while we lay some blame on the more fevered elements in their movement stirring the pot, like the Limbaughs and Glenn Beck and whatnot, we still separate them from the more moderate elements in their party. Like George Will, and other more reasonable conservatives. And we differentiate the rest of the country into identifiable groups, like moderates, and centrists, and liberals, and progressives.  And there are blue collar voters, rural voters, soccer moms, liberal elites, etc. And we all have our smaller subsets within these groups, and make a point of distinguishing very fine lines between them; acknowledging that there is a wide variety of people in this country.

But...when it comes to violent Muslims, many of us just say "Muslims".  As if there's just *ONE GROUP* of them, and they all believe the same thing. There aren't conservative Muslims or moderates or liberals. And there aren't Sunnis, Shiites, Sufis, and all their variant subsets. There are just "Muslims" and their religion is to blame for anything bad that any Muslim does. And when a few thousand Muslims riot, we find it perfectly ok to just say "Muslims" are rioting and to attribute the violence to Islam, even if it's only 0.006% of them who did anything wrong. That's the definition of bigotry.

And while it naturally bothers me when people on the right do this, I've been debating with too many people on the left regarding this exact point.  People who loudly denounce racist cartoons of all stripes, who think it's their duty as citizens to promote offensive cartoons about Islam; under the idea that they're "just cartoons" and the Muslims shouldn't be so sensitive.  People who would surely denounce racist attacks on "welfare queens" or anyone who suggested that all black people are violent because its endemic to their culture, yet think it's ok to say that same thing about Muslims.  After all, some Muslims claim that their religion commands them to kill the Infidel, so who are we to argue with their religion?

And I'm sorry, there's no excuse for bigotry.  None.  I don't care if there are violent Muslims in this world, that doesn't give anyone the right to denounce Muslims as a whole.  Because yeah, there are violent Muslims, just as there are violent white people and black people and Hispanic people and Asian people; but that's still no justification to smear all the rest of the people in those groups.  And if it bothers you to be called a bigot, maybe you shouldn't be one.

If you want to denounce extremism, please do so.  But don't blame it on Islam.  Blame it on the extremists.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Charles Krauthammer: Collapse of the Intellectual Conservative

I wrote some stuff here about how this was in response to a friend on Facebook referring to Charles Krauthammer as an intellectual, but this post got waaaay longer than I intended, so I cut out the backstory and am going straight into the main part, so you'll just have to imagine the parts you missed.  It was still interesting, but I figured you wouldn't likely finish this if it included the first eight paragraphs.

Charles Krauthammer: Intellectual Hack

But...Charles Krauthammer?  The man's a complete political hack, of the sort you read because you want something intelligent, but lack the depth of knowledge to realize he's completely lying to you.  But I'm sure that's what he gets off to.  He's the sophist who enjoys twisting reality in front of your face, purely for the thrill of deceiving you.  I'm sure he makes good money at it, but I betcha he'd do it for free, too.

(Edited out part with a link to this story; which involved Krauthammer's theory that the Obama campaign knew months before the convention that it'd thunderstorm during Obama's speech and were ok with that, but only decided to move it indoors because he couldn't fill the stadium.)

But I knew that this alone wouldn't be enough.  So I decided to do a search on Krauthammer, and found a piece he just wrote about Obama's middle-east policy.  And I thought it was very informative, with a real nuance for the issues at hand, and it made me think twice about my support for Barack Obama.

Just kidding.  It was a total smear piece from start to finish, and I'm not sure if there was any fact he included that wasn't used to distort the truth.  The whole thing can be summed up as: Obama is a failure in the middle-east because he was weak, naive, and incompetent.  Now...where else can I read that?  That's right, anywhere.

Seriously, that's been part of Romney's stump speech ever since he wrote a book about it.  And any website mentioning the middle-east these days is teeming with conservatives nutjobs saying the exact same thing.

From Political Smear to Intellectual Heft

But Kraut's a pro, so he can't just come out and repeat the same slogan that ObummerFail2012 is posting at RedState.  No, he's got to come up with something better.  Something...intellectual.  So instead, he focuses on a speech Obama made in 2009, in his column titled Collapse of Cairo Doctrine.

And the point of this attack was to highlight how silly Obama was for thinking he could fix the middle-east by admitting that we had made mistakes, saying we'd be leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, and other niceties to show that we're not enemies.  The fool!!  And again, this could come straight from a Romney speech.  It's all about how Obama apologized for America instead of cracking heads, and now the middle-east is blowing up because they don't respect us no more.

Because yeah, things were sooooo peaceful back when Bush was running things, and nobody was attacking our embassies or blowing up the UN Compound in Baghdad, killing seventeen people including the UN Envoy.  Nope, Bush talked strong and Arabs respected him for it.  And then Obama came along to apologize and ruined everything.

The Invention of the Cairo Doctrine

And again, this is all boilerplate rightwing attacks.  Where's the intellectualism?  It's not in his conclusions. It's in his style.  Here's how Kraut opens his attack:

In the week following Sept. 11, something big happened: the collapse of the Cairo Doctrine, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's foreign policy. It was to reset the very course of post-9/11 America, creating, after the (allegedly) brutal depredations of the Bush years, a profound rapprochement with the Islamic world. 
On June 4, 2009, in Cairo, Obama promised "a new beginning" offering Muslims "mutual respect," unsubtly implying previous disrespect. Curious, as over the previous 20 years, America had six times committed its military forces on behalf of oppressed Muslims, three times for reasons of pure humanitarianism (Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo), where no U.S. interests were at stake.

Now, you may be asking: What exactly *is* the Cairo Doctrine.  I mean, lots of people talked about the Bush Doctrine, Palin's ignorance notwithstanding.  It was an ever-evolving rule that justified whatever Bush needed to justify, usually through strength, tough talk, and violence.

But while a search on the "Cairo Doctrine" turns up 130,000 results; they're almost all to this very piece Krauthammer wrote; proclaiming its collapse.  Even trying to exclude Krauthammer and Collapse from the mix, I was still getting heavy results for Krauthammer's attack.  So more likely than not, the Cairo Doctrine is just something just Krauthammer invented.  He picked an important speech Obama gave three years ago, teased a strawman doctrine out of it to attribute to Obama, and then knocked it down.

Obama Doctrine: I'm Not Bush

And this wasn't the basis for Obama's middle-east policies, as Krauthammer claims.  This was a speech Obama gave to introduce himself to the middle-east, as a way of showing that we're not enemies and that what happened in the past will stay in the past. And the reason it may have sounded naive and respectful, is because that's the sort of speech it was meant to be.  Just read it yourself.

No real policy plans or a guiding principle to lead by.  It was just to say that Bush sucked and he wasn't Bush, so let's move on; though he never actually referenced Bush at all.  And if this "doctrine" failed, that'd just mean that they didn't buy it and we'd be back to where we were before he made the speech.  Which means, duh, back to where Bush left us.  And that's why Krauthammer has to rewrite history, to act as if things were all hunky dory before Obama came along, and they weren't attacking our embassies or killing our people.

So the doctrine that supposedly collapsed was one Krauthammer invented himself, yet the nutjobs on the right lapped it up completely, because Kraut sounded so damn smart when he said it.  Yet it was really just an intellectual package for the same "Obama's apologizing to our enemies" claptrap conservatives have been saying for years.

All About the Doctrines

But of course, Krauthammer can't just sit there and defend Bush's policies, as he knows everyone considers Bush to be a failure.  So instead, he rewrites Obama's speech to mean that he was apologizing for all of America's "supposed" wrongdoing, claiming that we can't have a "new beginning" unless we're rejecting everything that came previously.

And he points out how unfair it is for Obama to reject the policies we had before, citing three times we used troops for humanitarian issues.  I mean, hey, how can Obama say we're always the bad guys if we've done good things before.  But except, duh!  Those three missions were all from Clinton, and Republicans denounced them and insisted we shouldn't get involved in humanitarian missions.

In fact, here's a piece from the Krautmeister himself, where he denounced The Consequences Of Clinton's `Little Kosovo War' back in 1999. And ironically, here he is in 1999 denouncing The Clinton Doctrine.  And in both cases, we seem him denouncing the three humanitarian missions that he cites as proof that America ain't so mean after all.

And the funniest part is reading the conclusion of that second piece, where he writes:
The essence of foreign policy is deciding which son of a bitch to support and which to oppose--in 1941, Hitler or Stalin; in 1972, Brezhnev or Mao; in 1979, Somoza or Ortega. One has to choose. A blanket anti-son of a bitch policy, like a blanket anti-ethnic cleansing policy, is soothing, satisfying and empty. It is not a policy at all but righteous self-delusion.
Am I nuts, or would that have made a decent attack on the Bush Doctrine that Krauthammer supported?  I mean, just substitute "anti-ethnic cleansing" with "anti-terror" and you've just described the Bush Doctrine...or at least one of the Bush Doctrines, as again, it kept changing depending upon what Bush was trying to justify at the time.  And while that's the antithesis of what a doctrine is supposed to be, it really does fit Bush pretty well.

Speaking of Doctrines...

Here's what Krauthammer wrote about The Bush Doctrine in 2001, which at the time referred to us refusing to have arms treaties with Russia:
America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will.
Yeah.  I'm sure that turned out well.  And apparently, implacable demonstrations of will don't involve humanitarian missions, or else he wouldn't have denounced The Clinton Doctrine two years earlier.

And here he is ten years later, defending a different Bush Doctrine, where he argues that the pro-democracy movements in the middle-east show that they still don't hate Americans because of what Bush did; which means Bush's policies weren't so bad after all.  I mean, hey, if they're still willing to protest against the people oppressing them instead of us, Bush couldn't have messed up too much, right?  Right?

And what we have here is an argument that Bush invading Iraq in 2003 helped a revolution in 2011.  While Obama's speech in 2009 is to blame for the violence in 2012, but had no role in the good protests that happened in between.  And the proof that Obama didn't need to make that speech is from a war that Krauthammer denounced in 1999.  Right.

Seriously, I'm supposed to imagine this guy's an intellectual?  Maybe if you take each column in isolation and don't think about things too much, I could see how that makes sense.  But seeing as how each of these columns fit exactly with what the Republican Party was saying at the time, which involved supporting the Republican policy while denouncing the Democratic President; yet contain no other intellectual consistency...that's pretty much the definition of a partisan hack; no matter how you dress it up

Krauthammer may have made things sound smarter than the average wingnut, it was still just the same Republican tripe the rest of the party was serving.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What Happens to Republicans Next


Over on Facebook I posted to a friend about how the Republican Party is in it's final death throes, and she asked me what they'll be replaced with; suggesting that maybe a party will form on the left to replace the Republicans.  But that's just wishful thinking, as a split on the right isn't going to lead to a new party on the left.  Here's what I wrote.

I don't know.  Because I just don't see the Republican Party vanishing.  I think we'll always have them, and it just depends upon whether the crazies drive out the Establishment types or if the Establishment types can kick out the crazies.  I mean, the crazies *really* should have moved to the Constitution Party, which fits them better anyway.  But since they haven't already gone, they might just refuse to move on and will sink their talons into the Republican Party forever.

And in that case, the Establishment Republicans will have to form their own party from the middle.  But if they can successfully kick out the crazies, they'll still have their own party from the middle.  And in no case will this lead to the left being able to start anything, because this is all a split among rightwingers and doesn't affect us at all.

As for what happens with the left, the problem is that there are two types of people who are disgruntled on the left: People who are upset that our outcomes aren't as liberal as they'd like and those who truly want radical things, like the end of the banking industry and capitalism as a whole.  Because that's the thing, there really *are* people who hate capitalism on the left and those are some of Obama's firmest critics.  And while they keep their focus on the same stuff that any liberal might complain about, their true objective is something I can't agree with at all.  And I know this because I've debated such people and they insist that I'm a conservative shill because I support capitalism in any form.

And the truly radical will *NEVER* be satisfied, nor will they ever be part of any effective political party, because they're nutballs and the vast majority of Americans will reject this.  And frankly, I think they like it better this way, as they have no real practical solutions and are really just trying to show their ideological purity and will be dissatisfied with any real world solutions because it betrays their ideological leanings entirely.  This is why the OWS movement couldn't come up with practical solutions, because they weren't a proper political movement.  They were individuals who were upset in general, but their specific solutions weren't compatible and since these are people who reject compromise on principle; they've effectively removed themselves from politics entirely.  Politics requires compromise, period.

But what will happen with the others is that the reasonable ones on the leftier side will have even more sway over the Democratic Party and push it further to the left than it currently is, while the other ones will head for whatever group forms in the middle after the Republicans split; which very well could be the Republican Party.  And this would basically put things back to where they were before the Reagan Revolution upset everything and lurched the country to the right.

And all this is good and proper.  From the 30's-70's, we really *were* doing lots of bigtime liberal changes and maybe things went too far too fast.  And the 80's-90's was the backlash to that, giving America a breather from an unrelenting push for new liberal policies; some of which really weren't good ideas.  And had 9/11 not happened, the 00's should have been part of the move back towards sanity, though that obviously didn't happen.  Remember, Compassionate Conservativism was their antidote for hardcore conservatives, so they could push the Republican Party more liberal without angering the conservatives.  That obviously went out the window once they started dreaming of a Republican Dynasty after 9/11, which is why Republicans ended up further to the right than ever.

So long story short, you're still going to have fringe lefties who stay outside any group with real political power, because such people abhor politics and reject the very nature of democracy (though they adamantly deny this).  And the big difference is that the fringe righties will once again join them on the outskirts of either party, thus negating their ability to tip the scales towards the far right.  And we'll be back with two relatively liberal parties debating how liberal we should be.

And so in the grand scheme of things, what we saw was a huge push into liberalism leading into the 20th century and accelerating during the Great Depression and post-WWII period.  Then it stopped for a few decades as we took a break and started weeding out bad policies (as well as many good ones we needed).  And once the crazies on the right finally get marginalized, we'll go back on path towards more liberalism; which is what we've been seeing already.

This isn't obvious on the day-to-day interactions, but this is how history will remember all this.  No one will remember the specific compromises Obama made or minor strategic blunders.  What they'll remember is the end result, just as we ourselves gloss over all the in-fighting all previous generations endured before arriving at the outcomes we all know about.  History only looks like a smooth path in hindsight, but every generation assumes that their fighting is worse than it's ever been.  But that's just because things up close always look bigger than they do at a distance.