Friday, November 11, 2011

Supposed 3.8% Tax on Real Estate Sold after 2013

A recent piece of email disinformation received on 11/2/2011 is titled:

Will You Sell Your House After 2012?:

So easy to be ignorant...
Subject: Will You Sell Your House after 2012?
Will You Sell Your House after 2012?  
The National Association of REALTORS is all over this and working to get it repealed, before it takes effect. But, I am very pleased we aren't the only ones who know about this ploy to steal billions from unsuspecting homeowners. How many REALTORS do you think will vote Democratic in 2012?  
Did you know that if you sell your house after 2012 you will pay a 3.8% sales tax on it? That's $3,800 on a $100,000 home, etc. When did this happen? It's in the health care bill and goes into effect in 2013.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Where has Wealth Discrepancy Come From And Where is it Going?

Where does the inequality come from? Could it be that the saying "The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer" is right? It has happened in virtually every age and every country. Obviously the dynamic has taken many different forms -- the economy of the middle ages was not that of the "gilded Age" which was somewhat different from the (American) economy of the 1920s, which was somewhat different from that of today. The economies of 18th century France, of the Pharaohs, the Chinese Mandarins, the Aztec lords -- all no doubt substantially different. When power of any sort (including that of money) reaches some critical mass, it will snowball unless there is some counteracting force. The economic dynamic of recent decades (at least) is that if you have a large enough pot of money to invest with appropriate diversification, in periods when the market is rising 20-30% a year, it is obvious what can happen. If you are well enough connected, when the market crashes, you can be one of the early ones to pull out. Then, until the market starts to move again, you sit on your money, or invest in the least risky (and least growth-producing) sectors.



These dynamics have not changed without some kind of intervention. We can look to Britain and the U.S. for cases of orderly intervention, as opposed to spasms of violence (which tend to produce something as bad or worse then the prior regimes).



In the late middle ages, illiterate peasants lived in mud huts while barons lived in drafty stone castles, and were almost as likely as anyone to die of the plague or childbirth. I am no master of how we got from there to today's world, but am pretty sure it involved the barons giving up some of their treasures in a way that lead to public roads and canals (in the early days), and widely available free or subsidized education, and postal systems (in the American case, these from the very beginning subsidized the spread of printed matter). In the nations that followed this policy, the rich were rewarded by having an educated healthy populace available for the development of more and more technologically brilliant and powerful enterprises. The rising tide of welfare of the "99%" lifted all boats, including those of the very rich. The nations that didn't follow such policies, where the rich and powerful tried to hang onto everything, suffered a huge decline in relative strength and succumbed to colonization.

Another saving grace, in the case of the U.S. – the U.S. was exceptional alright; it had a huge public domain — the vast preponderance of potential capital, consisting of public lands belonged to the government, and unlike Russia in the 1990s, a newly minted democracy in a similar position, we did not say “This is terrible — all this property in the hands of government — we have to get rid of it, putting huge chunks into private hands or something terrible will happen”; instead we calmly, or the course of 100 years or so, sold it mostly in small plots to individual farmers, and sometimes even give it free to homesteaders, and we also set aside portions as assets to pay for educational institutions. Why? Because our government had the “general welfare” of the people in mind.


But omigod, that sounds like a welfare state! Well yes, the "welfare state" as conceived by people who see value in it, is not about "welfare", which has curiously become another word for the dole. It is about a state which takes positive actions for the welfare of its citizens. Unfortunately, we have become so unimaginative as to think the only way to do that is to dole out money to those out of work. And the U.S., and even more so Europe, have suffered by creating a class of people with nothing to do and no sense of purpose, which is not in the interest of anyone's welfare.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Not-really-right-wing Mom and her adventures in Email-Land (revision)

"R. Kelly Garrett randomly surveyed 600 Americans about their online habits, and whether they'd heard—and believed—a number of widespread rumors. He found that the Web does expose us to more rumors. But the Web also delivers more rebuttals,...
"E-mail’s more insidious. Because you’re more likely to believe that rumor forwarded by cousin Rob. And the more you believe something, Garrett says, the more you want to share it with your social network."
  [Quote from a Scientific American summary of an article in Human Communications Research. ]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Comment on "Arctic 'tipping point' may not be reached"

There is a huge amount of chatter on the web about a BBC sourced article from 8/5/2011:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14408930?print=true

Right leaning web sites seem to be ecstatic, as if it confirmed their denial of global warming.

BUT a couple of quotes from the article:

I don't say that our current worries are not justified, but I think that there are factors which will work to delay the action in relation to some of the models that have been in the media.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The (Republican?) [Anti]Confidence Game

[a fragment of debate]

Hal Morris
08/12/11

The Republican [Anti]Confidence Game

If we take seriously the idea that the mood of the country (confidence or panic) can have a huge effect on the market, the genius of FDR's "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" becomes clear.

On the other hand does anyone dare suggest that 2-1/2 years of a war against the president that showed its hand with the urging of parents to keep their children home from school the day he made a special address to schoolchildren -- that these years of calling the president a Marxist, a thug, a secret muslim, not an American citizen, an elitist intellectual an incompetent fool, a wild ideologue, a  triangulator with no ideology, and predicting doom for the country if he isn't stopped -- does anyone dare suggest that this is all bound to have a profoundly negative effect on the economy?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Corporations Can Serve as Made-to-order Scapegoats the Rich and Irresponsible

Corporations can do one thing that people can't do: disappear (without actual pain or death) taking with them the responsibilities for decisions that the people running the corporations made. They can go bankrupt turning thousands of pensions into smoke without the actual decision makers suffering a loss in credit rating. Or they can threaten to dissolve, making pensions go up in smoke, and then accept a counteroffer from the government to "restructure" carrying forward a limited set of its obligations -- e.g. the pension plans could be halved.

On the "Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism"

An opinion piece that just came out in Forbes recently  "New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism" cites an article published in "the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing" by "Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA's Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA's Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models."

The editorial is written by  "James M. Taylor,  senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute" and the implication is that it summarizes Spencer's 15 page article.

Problems I have in accepting this:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Some of the Best and Worst Reporting on the Oslo Norway Massacres

BloggingHeads.tv had an excellent conversation online between Michael B. Dougherty of The American Conservative and Michelle Goldman (distinctly liberal and feminist) of the Daily Beast and other venues.  It is at http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/37669.
These are just two earnest people grappling together over what to make of such an event and looking a bit shocked and grief-stricken.  One of the shocking things to these two was how coherently he wrote (though with a good bit of lifting of passages from other works).  He seemed nothing like the obviously insane shooter of Congress Rep. Giffords.  Dougherty (who admits he or his periodical are quoted by the apparent mass killer Breivik), says based of the first fragments he got of Breivik's saying or writing, he did not believe he was a "Christian Fundamentalist", and apparently Dougherty was right despite part of Breivik's manifesto indicating that part of his dream was a "Christian monoculture".  The two seemed to agree that, besides Muslims, he seemed obsessed with a sense of "emasculation" by the feminist culture.

Meanwhile, HotAir.com, which was founded "to provide content and analysis you can't get anywhere else on a daily basis" has next to nothing to say about the whole thing.  There only piece on it was titled  "Norway, with a substantial rate of gun ownership, is normally noted for non-violence".  Right, a hundred schoolchildren gunned down at camp provides such a nice segue to a reminder of their theories that the more guns, the less crime.  But the main theme of the article was "Well you can just bet that the liberals will be whining for gun control and more civility".  Better to make a preemptive strike on liberals reacting to what they haven't said yet.  Once you let them speak you then have to argue with real people rather than strawmen, which is always a pain in the ass.

I've been cruising a lot of new media lately, and intend to attempt some regular coverage and commentary.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"They All Do It (Distort the News)" "The New York Times is Notorious"

This is running through my head since I was listening to a conversation on the Radio.  The guest is discussing the Murdoch media, giving an example of a story that was spun in a ridiculous way to attack Gordon Brown (the last UK Prime Minister).

A woman called in sounding agitated saying (see title), and "If you know something about a story and read the NY Times coverage you just won't recognize it."  A question I'd have asked her is 'what is the objective source she's been reading that gives her some basis for saying the NY Times coverages is distorted?'  Granted, the NY Times is "notorious" in the sense that a large percentage (maybe around half, maybe more) incessantly says that the NY Times is notorious for distorting the news.  If so many people say it then that's a sort of notoriety by definition.  But we can be sure that nothing like that number of people actually reads the Times, much less reads the Times, and has access somehow to the raw facts making them qualified to make that judgement.

Obviously she is hearing a version of the news different from what is in the Times.  But on what basis does she have such confidence in her version?

On what basis does anyone have confidence in their version?

How do I know what I think I know?  I think my version of reality is fairly well grounded -- granted, I may be wrong about some pretty significant things, and I must always ask the question "How can I be more sure?  Or perhaps find my errors and discard them?"  To many people, the answer seems as simple as turning to their favorite news source and saying, "See, this is what's really happening so obviously you have it all wrong."

Does anyone have an answer?  I have a few. But I've had enough exposure to the the sources I think that woman listens to to know that counterarguments to everything I might say have been given to her and repeated over and over again.  No matter which side you are on, you might be able to see a valid way to get out of the mess, so I want to engage people with different versions of world political reality from mine.  Mostly what both sides are doing is name-calling.  Except some people are trying to discover what's really going on and report it.  I really believe there are a lot of people like that, but what's my basis for saying they're here rather than there?

Please do comment.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hayek vs Hayek vs Von Mises

Hayek was in my view not nuts enough, or at least The Road to Serfdom isn't (his views might have gotten more "fundamentalist" later). E.g. quoting The Road to Serfdom:
“The preservation of competition [is not] incompatible with an extensive system of social services — so long as the organization of these services is not designed in such a way as to make competition ineffective over wide fields.  ... There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making Sense of "Liberal Fascism" Part 1

Jonah Goldberg is right on one important count.  Liberals (along with most human beings, though he doesn't point that out) tend to use ideological labels without any real clarity about what they mean, simply as pejoratives.  The one thing that seems to never change is the bipolar nature of our politics.  Republicans may shift from being the party of "America First" (meaning, in the late 30s and very early 40s, "Leave Hitler and the problems of Europe alone) to being the most hawkish and interventionist party, ever since some time around 1950.  Democrats may go from being the party of states rights to being the most prone to promote federal projects and universal national social policies.

It is as old as our nation.  John C. Calhoun made a radical switch from national centralist to the most extreme of states righters as abolitionism began to grow in the North.

Goldberg declares in his introduction "Angry left-wingers shout that all those to their right ... are fascists.  Meanwhile besieged conservatives sit dumbfounded by the nastiness of the slander."  He then writes a 487 page specious argument to "prove" that everyone to his left is a fascist.

The book is published in 2007 when the idea of "besieged conservatives" dumbfounded by nastiness seemed and still seems comically inappropriate.  To me, it appears that movement conservatives have mined the history of the left in America for tactics, both to scold the left for using them (even if it was mostly decades ago) and to make energetic use of them for the right.  For example, the victimhood pose - those poor innocent besieged and dumbfounded conservatives.

The Mises Review of the Ludwig von Mises Institute is surely more hostile to government interventionism (which is almost synonymous with "fascism" as Goldberg used the word). But they do seem to have higher standards of intellectual rigour.

Their review, at  http://mises.org/misesreview_detail.aspx?control=326
starts with "Jonah Goldberg has ruined what could have been a valuable book" and concludes "Although Liberal Fascism contains much important information, its many mistakes require that it be used with extreme caution. Jonah Goldberg should acquire a more accurate knowledge of history before he presumes to instruct others." (after several specific examples of what the reviewer calls "howlers").

Goldberg has stretched the word "fascist" so it seems to include any vision of nationwide improvement that might involve the government.  For consistency he should probably include public education as a fascist institution, but since the belief in public education isn't limited to liberals that would be inconvenient.  He does however give broad hints that vegetarianism and movements against cruelty to animals might be fascist -- at least they were favored by certain Nazis.

No wonder he can speak of "smiley face" fascism, and put a cute smiley button on the cover with a Hitler moustache.  He seems not to understand what has made fascism (and Nazism and Stalinism which he coyly stays away from) seem like an abomination to most people.  The fact that some liberals have also been too loose in their use of words like "fascist" should not excuse this.

 I should make it clear that I am not in the business of determining the true definition of fascism, or essence of fascism.  We tend (due, I think, to the structure of our minds) to think that where there is a word, there must be a true meaning of that word.  This does not serve us well in the overwhelmingly complex and open-ended world that we live in.

At least if we want to understand what people are saying, we have to accept, for the moment at least, what they mean by words they use -- even, perhaps, how they use a word in a particular context.  When the Marines are "looking for a few good men", they don't mean five or six.

Ultimately, if there is any point in talking about, or listening to someone talk about Fascism, aside from trying to describe and analyze some historical events, then we must try to understand what they mean by it.  I said "talking about, or listening" but in fact I seen no reason to talk about fascism, because it means too many different things to too many people.  And when I hear someone else talking about Fascism, I at best take it with a grain of salt, as their definition of, or more likely their associations with the word are likely to be fuzzy, so generally the use of the word "Fascist" makes me doubt the clarity of the speaker's thinking, or worse, makes me suspect the speaker just uses labels to paint somebody else's philosophy or actions as evil.

What you will do, by calling someone or something Fascist, if the namecalling sticks, is to associate the person or entity with whatever the listener thinks of as fascism".  In that spirit, I would like to explore the "meanings" of fascism in the people's minds.

What Goldberg does, basically, is to give "Fascism" a much broader meaning that what people think of when they hear the word, then announce that liberals are fascists, without any attempt to change what people think of when they hear the word.

I want to examine the qualities of fascism neglected by Goldberg, but which will affect what people hear when they hear that "Liberals are Fascists".  Maybe few people can articulate these qualities (which is why Goldberg's book is effective) but if they were to analyze all the impressions they have gotten from books and movies, these things would show up
  • Ideological absolutism:
  • National or Racial Exclusivity: and a messianic sense of the nation's mission or fate which excludes, or may include the conquering /exterminating of other states, ethnicities, classes, or other excluded groupings.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Is "Radical Center" an Oxymoron?

In an era of eXtreme sports and politics, the center is often derided as lukewarm, as we even get Jonah Goldberg claiming absurdly that only extremists can build a bridge.  Some fed-up non-extremists are calling for a "radical center" movement.  Why do we want it to all come down to one side or the other.  "You're either with us or against us.  You're part of the problem or part of the solution.  Only yellow lines and dead armadillos in the center of the road".

The feeling of belonging to one or another side of a momentous conflict is so seductive and feels so natural and right.  I think it is a sort of feeling of "coming home" and being "at home".  This must reflect in some way the tens of thousands of years prior to settled human life.  It is so comfortable to feel one belongs to the Donkey Clan with its long history of standing up to (and sometimes dominating) the Elephant Clan -- or vice versa belonging to the Elephant Clan etc.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Unreported Soros Event Aims to Remake Entire Global Economy" says Media Research Center

The Media Research Center (MRC) article titled "Unreported Soros Event Aims to Remake Entire Global Economy" starts off with:

Two years ago, George Soros said he wanted to reorganize the entire global economic system. In two short weeks, he is going to start - and no one seems to have noticed.

On April 8, a group he's funded with $50 million is holding a major economic conference and Soros's goal for such an event is to "establish new international rules" and "reform the currency system." It's all according to a plan laid out in a Nov. 4, 2009, Soros op-ed calling for "a grand bargain that rearranges the entire financial order."

 The MRC provides a pointer to the event website:
http://ineteconomics.org/initiatives/conferences/bretton-woods
 where INET (the Soros organization in charge of it) bills it as simply one in a series of international conferences.

The MRC describes its purpose as "to bring balance to the news media... and neutralize [the impact of "liberal bias"] on the American political scene.

Why then does the MRC deliberately present a yearly conference as the launching of the New World Order?

Soros gave his opinion, in strong terms granted, that the worst worldwide recession in several decades revealed a need for a reorganization of the global financial system.

But it goes way beyond spin to say, as MRC does that he "wanted to reorganize the entire global economic system." and "In two short weeks, he is going to start and no one seems to have noticed."

Why is this event "unreported"?  Because it is a conference of 200 mostly academic economists, with no apparent representation by actual world leaders, which is going to generate a lot of presentations world leaders, if they take the time, may or may not find persuasive.

George Soros has taken some bold actions, but to spread the fear that he can "reorganize the global financial system" goes way way beyond bias.  It is systematic misrepresentation.

In the 1980s, the supposedly "left wing" Soros set up organizations in the ex Warsaw pact countries to assist them in making the transition to personal freedom and free trade.  He named the central organization of all those he set up after Karl Popper's book title "The Open Society and its Enemies".  Soros is deeply indebted to Popper, who in the 1940s joined with Friedrich Hayek and other intellectuals in warning against totalitarian systems -- explicitly naming the Soviet Union in this class, as well as Nazi Germany.


Soros believes the financial system, like our highway system needs a system of rules to avoid spinning out of control.  After the great Ponzi scheme-like bubble that ended in the 2008 crash, why do so many people start yelling "Marxist" whenever they hear this?


If the financial system can be reformed in a useful way the reform would have to be international in scope.  Otherwise those who want to profit from financial bubbles can simply shop for the country with the loosest regulations.  We can go crazy when an international group talks about trying to harmonize the various currencies and have some rules to keep speculation from turning into con-artistry, but the financial system is international and there's no escaping that.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Trouble with "The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend", Historic Examples

Arthur Zimmerman, German Foreign Secretary in the 2nd half of World War I might serve as the "poster boy" for troubles with the principal that "The enemy of my enemy if my friend".  By inviting Mexico, via telegram, to "enter into an alliance with Germany against the United States in exchange for which she would regain 'her lost territory in Texas...'", he helped to finally bring the U.S. into the conflict.  He then played a major role in helping Lenin and a trainload of his followers reach an increasingly unstable Russia, where they did, just as he hoped, push Russia over the brink, practically eliminating the Axis' Eastern front.

Germany lost the war anyway, and Soviet Russia remained its biggest problem throughout most of the rest of the century.

But it took the Cold War to show just how much destruction could be wreaked by this principle.  In summary, by cultivating a motley assortment of backward nations as allies against the USSR, we either spread misery, or at least made the U.S. appear responsible for the misery of much of Latin America, the Near East, and Southeast Asia, and saddled countless poor nations with no experience of democracy with far greater powers of destruction than they could ever have developed for themselves.
[to be continues?]

The Image of Nazism in the Minds of My Generation

My generation (Baby Boomers) was brought up, in the 50s and early 60s, pretty largely on the mythos of World War II movies.
The bad guys in that conflict were presented as a lot of extremely uptight looking guys whose every aspect or act screamed precision  -- their hair, their uniforms, their way of speech, constantly affirming their obedience and reverence for the chain of command with "Yes Sir!"s,"Heil Hitler!"s, and elaborate and precise salutes, and scurrying around obeying orders like machines.
What were we told (by example) to do with this vision?  Blow it up!  Blow up everything in sight!  Mow them down!  And who was doing all this blowing up and mowing down, but a bunch of rather slovenly, loose-natured guys, with their uniforms rumpled or half-discarded and usually needing a shave and washing-up.  Their leaders, all the way to the top of the field command, were generally shown living by a general directive (blow up and mow down), but otherwise, often displaying creativity; not visibly answerable to anyone; often disobeying the letter of command while obeying its spirit, and the general directive.  Often, too, the "enemy" was shown with rigid obedience as their Achilles heel.
These movie Nazis were a caricature of authoritarianism, structure, and obedience.  Ruthlessness was a somewhat less prominent feature, and sometimes we were ruthless ourselves (though with a certain etiquette about our ruthlessness that the Nazis lacked).  Mostly, these mythical visions did not look at what really caused the Germany of the 30s and early 40s to act in such a bizarre and awful way; the structure of the sickness and/or evil that spread through and seized that society.  When we did pay attention to other aspects of the "enemy" society, besides their machineline precision, the aspects stressed were extreme ruthlessness and racism.
What narrative could be better calculated to raise a generation like mine?  One which celebrated rebellion, and had a simplistic revulsion towards authority and obedience; wanted to, symbolically at least, blow up structure and authority; show ourselves the antitheses of Nazis by acting imaginatively and often anarchically.
There were other ways of reacting to the mythos that we were shown, which could be gone into and rationalized.  Obviously some were reacting in different ways than that described, like joining ROTC and/or being obsessed with anti-Communism, or wearing suits and striving for material success -- but there is surely a plausible relation of cause and effect between the narrative and the anarchic side of my generation.
While we were being taught this mythos of rigid Nazism and the virtue of blowing it up, we were also being taught (more overtly)  to revere the flag; to stand up and put our hands over our hearts when the national anthem is played; to wear neat clothes and neat haircuts; to stay in line, elect leaders, and often obey them, once elected.  We formed teams and played by rules.  But all this, when examined closely, could be reasonably interpreted as just a milder, or more subtle version of the mythos of Nazism that we were presented with, and a large portion of my generation saw it in just that way.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"We Will Shoot More Police in Arizona" and Other Email Idiocy

Have you seen this picture, accompanied with a caption somewhat like the following?


It has been circulated via chain emails.  Is the picture real or photoshopped?  There hasn't been a conclusive answer as far as I can tell.  One thing that has been demonstrated is that the the caption ("Picture taken by one of my friends in Phoenix yesterday ...") is untrue because the background is the LA Times complex, so whoever added "Picture taken by one of my friends in Phoenix yesterday ..." was lying.  This is a pattern I've often noticed with anonymous chain emails.  If a picture, or story gets wide circulation, and succeeds in working a lot of people up, then it will get reused, with whatever changes are necessary, the next time there is a news event which it can be fitted to.

It is part of a very big phenomenon I described in My Not-really-right-wing Mom and her adventures in Email-Land.  There is also a web site called "My Right Wing Dad" devoted to simply collecting thousands of such emails.

The picture by itself means little or nothing.  The signholder could be as uniquely crazy as Jared Loughton (see "Crosshairs, Blood Libel, and Rabid Partisans");  for that matter, it could be a liberal-baiter who wrote the sign himself.  The sign-holder looks like he's talking with someone, maybe the photographer ("OK you want me to hold it a little higher?").  The sign itself reads like a parody in my opinion, but consider this: if the sign holder was truly one of the protesters, and spent any amount of time displaying it (as opposed to posing once for the picture), why haven't multiple pictures of this outrageous sign appeared?.  If the sign represents the views of the marchers, are there pictures of any others with similar messages?

Why does is matter? Why are millions of people passing this stuff around?  As to what motivates it, I believe the philosophy goes back at least 30 years to what Terry Dolan, one of the founders of NCPAC, said of their strategy:
"A group like ours could lie through its teeth, and the candidate it helps stays clean.". Washington Post, August 10, 1980 (quoted by Wikipedia).
The power of PACs, and of skunkworks of "dirty tricksters" is truly wondrous.

An indispensable element of these emails, which I've been studying for a couple of years, is the phony folksy lead-in which gives the impression this was just passed along by a "concerned" friend of a friend, not from some junior Machiavelli in a boiler room somewhere.

Various tricks are used to "prove" authenticity, not the least of which is the manufactured outrage -- as in another of the variations cited by http://www.snopes.com/photos/politics/azprotest.asp:

 I know john personally! THIS IS LEGIT!
The photo was taken at a protest 5/1/10 in Phoenix!

                       (as noted, the backdrop is the LA Times bldg which is NOT in Phoenix)

I for one am OUTRAGED by this photo, taken the next day after a Pinal County Sheriffs Deputy was shot by Mexican Drug Runners with an AK-47 just a few miles from my home.  THIS CRAP IS TAKING PLACE "IN MY BACKYARD"! YOU PEOPLE in other states Need to shut the hell up, and actually READ THE PROPOSED LAW for yourselves, and NOT LISTEN TO THE RACEBAITERS like Sharpton and OBAMA!
READ IT FOR YOURSELF THEN DECIDE IF IT IS RIGHT OR WRONG!!!!

I have about had enough.
Why do I say "manufactured" outrage?  In this case, there is the lie of personal knowledge that the photo was taken in Phoenix when in fact the scene is Los Angeles.

If you are not one of the people who swallows this sort of thing whole, let me just say that these things are effective.  They get past peoples skepticism because they seem so amateurish, like somebody just got fed up and in impotent rage, put it all together and sent it out to his or her little informal club of people who exchange interesting emails.  But when most of the emails like this I've seen contain elaborate deceptions (See "My Not-really-right-wing Mom and her adventures in Email-Land") it makes more sense to think the composer was interested in changing public opinion for a certain political result, not in sharing their genuine personal outrage as they claim.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

NRO Article "The OIC and the Caliphate" by Andrew McCarthy

My comments on the article at
http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/260786/oic-and-caliphate-andrew-c-mccarthy

TO NATIONAL REVIEW IN RESPONSE TO ANDREW C. MCCARTHY ARTICLE
Mr. McCarthy has at least one thing in common with certain mullahs.  Sometimes it seems like every other word he says is infidel.  Well not exactly, but his version.  Approximately half the article consists of dubious claims about what either progressives or "Islam" believes.

It doesn't leave much room for saying what he thinks (aside from what he thinks other people think), and indeed he provides no practical recommendation - the closest he comes is, after ridiculing the idea of a "battle for hearts and minds" (which Gen. Petraeus has shown is essential for winning wars, or at least salvaging them from total catastrophe) ... he tells us that Attaturk's secularization of Turkey was accomplished by "one of those quaint military wars...".  Typical innuendo ("That's how a liberal would see it" - apparently); it's easier than giving any clue as to how Attaturk's revolution is a model for anything that is happening today.

The article is full of "Islam this" and "Islam that".  OK, "know your enemy" is an important part of conflict, but Mr. McCarthy's sweeping generalities apply to only some parts of the Muslim world, and the more we address the Muslim world as if they are all the enemy of the west, the more they will be driven to unite and really be at total war with the West.

Suppose Mr. McCarthy is right, then what recourse is there?  Can we take out the whole Muslim world even if we somehow decided that was the right and moral thing to do?  No, we are simply in a quandary with no escape, unless there is to be an apocalypse orchestrated by God.

But he is not right (see article here), and we simply must find and forge ties with the saner elements of the Muslim world, and wage a long fierce but patient struggle to isolate the fanatics who would gladly bring on the apocalypse.

Andrew McCarthy's books include

If we are unaware of the sane and human side of the Islamic world, we will simply remain in an impossible situation with no way of mitigating the worst possibilities of world with 1.5 billion Muslims.  Are we forced to choose between the apocalypse and waiting till the tide engulfs us?  The following books offer insight into the human side of Islam, and demonstrate that there are effective means of winning the support of non-fanatics.

QUOTE: "There could be a powerful international women's rights movement if only philanthropists would donate as much to real women as to paintings and sculptures of women"
    This book has plenty to say the very worst things happening to women in the world. Chapters include "Rule by Rape" and "The Shame of 'Honor'", and it certainly doesn't shy away from misogyny in the Muslim world.
    But it doesn't stop there -- with no hope unless maybe the "hope" of converting (or if not that, then what?) 1.5 billion Muslims -- an idea as impossible as it is inhumane, and based on inability to see that there are many Muslim cultures.
    Indeed the last chapter, which can be read online, is "Four Steps You Can Take in the Next Ten Minutes."




 A True Story that reads like an incredible adventure: In 1993, an unemployed mountain climber, on a mission to climb K2, is separated from his party and becomes lost.  After much wandering and nearly dying from exposure he stumbles into a Pakistani village unreachable by road.  Villagers take him in and nurse him back to health.  Seeing the poverty and illiteracy there, he promises to return in a year and build a school there.  He leaves after consulting with locals on what it will take and the cost of materials.  
   Needless to say, he cannot build a school by himself, but will bring material and some expertise, and expect the villagers will do most of the work. 
   He spends much of the next year soliciting donations from prominent people.  After 1,000 letters he gets one check, for the whole amount that he needs, from an electronics entrepreneur and former mountain climber.      
  In the two years it takes to build one school, a small core of fierce supporters is drawn to Greg Mortenson, the one-time adventurer.  But some of these supporters want schools for their own villages.  Ultimately, this leads him to found the Central Asia Institute, which has now been responsible for educating over 50,000 Pakistani children, as Mortenson became fluent in many languages, and adept at getting around in the back country.
     One condition for the Central Asia Institute's help in building a school is that "A village must agree to increase girls’ enrollment by 10% a year". "Mortenson believes, as do many experts, that providing education for girls directly helps to lower infant mortality and bring down birth rates—which in turn reduces the ignorance and poverty that help fuel religious extremism."









More than a sequel to Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson has carried his work into Afghanistan, including building a girl's high school in the village of Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban since before 9/11.  His organization, which is almost entirely made of of Afghans and Pakistanis, has by now built over 130 schools which are educating 50 thousand students, the majority girls, and has also built community centers for village women.
   Virtually all the work of the CAI is done, and the decisions are made, by a diverse group of Afghan and Pakistani ex-Mujahadeens, ex-cabdrivers, ex smugglers and warriors and you name it. You definitely see a different side of the 1.5 billion people, and countless different cultures, that call themselves Muslim.   Many of these men took on impossible projects so their daughters, and sometimes wives, can be educated.  The propaganda that tells us Islam is 100% a horror show is self-defeating and taken to its logical conclusion, can only appeal to those who eagerly await Armageddon.  After 200 years of 'Reformation', Catholics and Protestants mostly stopped declaring holy war on eachother (tho in Northern Ireland it lasted almost to the present day).  It can and must happen with Islam.



  Bangladeshi-born Muhammad Yunus is another believer in improving society by empowering women.  In 1973 he was an economics teacher in Tennessee with an American wife.  Shortly after Bangladesh became independent, in a time of severe famine, he returned to his newly independent native country.
   After some years there founded the Grameen Bank, the original blueprint for "Microlending" which is now a worldwide phenomenon.  It started with money out of his own pocket to provide tiny loans to poor villagers, especially women, and has grown and diversified enormously in the last 35 years.  The loans must be for specific business purposes (such as buying a supply of bamboo for making stools), and loan recipients are required to belong to support groups, which have helped maintain the extraordinarily high rate of loan repayment.
    Yunus is no fan of government programs for the poor, but believes passionately in his trademark form of "social business" which is something in between the normal non-profit, and corporations which are legally obligated to maximize profits no matter what.
     Some of Grameen's enterprises have included the "Telephone Ladies" who for a time were likely to be the only owner of a phone (cellular) in a village, and who made the phones available for a fee.  Something like the old style payphones that those villages never had -- at a fraction of the cost.
     The "Micro Lending" which Yunus made famous, has been imitated by groups all over the world, and I believe the total scale of this kind of operation had gotten into the billions of dollars.







  History of the Shiite-Sunni split.  Particularly interesting at a time when people believe an email that says the martyr "Imam Ali" flew one of the planes on 9/11 (it turns out Imam Ali was a founding prophet of the Shiites, who died before 800 AD, and so did not live long enough to participate in the 9/11 attacks  - see "My Not-Really Right-Wing Mom and her Adventures in Email-Land"

To Take Control of Your Own Destiny, Take Control of How You See the World

Take Control of How You See the World.  Huh? You may ask, or maybe just "easier said than done".

The most common human reaction, when we begin to feel like we have been systematically lied to by the "mainstream" whatever, is to quickly jump ship to some leaky lifeboat of a new system of explaining everything (or at least everything that matters), which, more likely than not, will be more of a deceitful mind-controlling system than the one we started with.

I call this pseudo-skepticism.  It might also be called "Out of the frying pot, into the fire".  If we drop the assumption that the "new system" will be worse, we can call it an epistemic break.

Cases in point:
  1. France, late 19c: From awe of the king, and belief in the Catholic priests to one system, then another (the French Revolution went through several distinct epistemic breaks, or at least changes in who controlled the center of action, and tried, at least to define truth (their ideology).  The last couple of phases involved were most preoccupied with trying to kill off ideological rivals.  The epistemic break became so extreme and disorienting that time was redefined: the year was declared to be "Year 0", and a new calendar, abandoning the names of months associated with the old "superstitions" was declared.  It did not stop until Napoleon was emperor, which started a new era in which millions would die.
  2. Russia, 1917 and thereafter: From awe of the Tzar, and belief in the Russian Orthodox priests to belief in Marx and Lenin's all-encompassing all-explaining system, and belief in the "Dictatorship of the proletariat", and giving all power to the most ruthless faction so they could nationalize and/or redistribute everything, and ultimately to worship of the new "Red Tzar", Stalin whose power was unimaginably beyond that of the old tzar.
  3. U.S. 1970s: From mainstream Christian to Jim Jones disciple to mass suicide.
In the U.S., we have had plenty of epistemic breaks by one faction or another which separates itself, sometimes physically (or just with mental armour), and goes into their own separate reality.  The results are sometimes amusing (in a sad way) but occassionally horrific.

So far, we have been luck not to see a mass stampede of an epistemic break taking the whole nation on some nightmare ride.

Sometimes I use the internet to go in search of people who might be thinking along some of the same lines that I am.

I struggle to find words for a lot of my thoughts.  Sometimes a phrase emerges, and I go looking on the internet for instances.  One such phrase was the "Echo Chamber Effect" -- I don't think I knew the actual phrase when I tried to put my finger on something that was bothering me -- which lead to a post on this blog, and also an odd relationship with a blogger who always refers to Obama as Il Duce. He had written something about the Echo Chamber Effect before I did.  I think he's wildly misguided on most things (at least the ones he talks about on his blog), but we manage to have conversations from time to time.

A wikipedia article on "Echo chamber effect" begins with:
The term "media echo chamber" can refer to any situation in which information, ideas or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission inside an "enclosed" space. Observers of journalism in the mass media describe an echo chamber effect in media discourse. One purveyor of information will make a claim, which many like-minded people then repeat, overhear, and repeat again (often in an exaggerated or otherwise distorted form) until most people assume that some extreme variation of the story is true.
My friend, the Christian Libertarian (and I suspect Jonah Goldberg disciple) "The Lurking Vulture" starts off his meditation on the subject with:
In what perhaps may be an apocryphal quote, Pauline Kael is supposed to have said regarding the landslide victory of Richard Nixon over George McGovern in 1972, "I can't believe Nixon won. I don't know anybody who voted for him

From my echo chamber posting:
Part of the point of a "Truth Project" is the hope that people on both sides of many issues - those who aren't active and conscious propagandists at least, really would want to know the truth if it turned out that everything they think is wrong ... if they'd even consider the possibility.
But here is what worries me:
There is something a little special about the internet. If you have to find books and magazines in libraries and bookstores (unless you only go to Islamic bookstores / Christian bookstores / "Radical" bookstores ...) you go to a store and you have to at least walk by books and magazines with other points of view. On the internet, you can go to your favorite blog, and never go anywhere except via links from that blog (or from your other favorite blog).
I have been an autodidact on a number of subjects, especially history.  Autodidacts, by coming at a field without being plugged into the culture of the field, sometimes have brilliant insights.  There are, however, many more crackpots.

I spent a few years long ago studying mathematics with people on their way to doctorates, and got a real appreciation for pedagogy from that.  I'd have gotten nowhere without the culture of professors and textbook writers who have thought deeply about how to pass on the subject.

History was more autodidact-friendly, although an awful lot of autodidact historians have a bug up their ass about some particular obsession, which usually makes for really annoying and not very enlightening historians.

Often the idea of the autodidact serves as a romantic idea that lets us fantasize that we don't need other people.

I found an article,

Autodidactic and Alternative Schooling Meta-Learning

The author has put some deep thought into what makes self-learning work or not work.

I think maybe I will do better to work with google hits on:

   google { facilitating self-learning }

(1) Facilitating self-learning or autodidacticism, and (2) the attempt to restructure the world of media(?), and also our cultural biases and practices, so that individuals will have a greater tendency to converge on truths, rather than separating into warring "echo chambers" are, I think, closely related enterprises.

[to be continues]

Friday, February 25, 2011

Back to Truthology: "The Real Truth Project" Needs to Become a Reference Site

I still believe in the critical need for work on "Practical Epistemology", or maybe I should drop the Latinism and call it Truthology.

A blog should be a small part of that project.

About 15 years ago, I started the web site EarlyRepublic.org, or JMISC.NET (one is a synonym for the other) to explore and try to understand and share understanding of the period around the 1830s, with frequent excursions a couple of decades in either direction.  The title page said "Tales of the Early Republic", and I spent a lot of time looking at "miscellaneous" period documents, and, on an email list called "Jacksonian Miscellanies", publishing excerpts from these documents, with some commentary.  There were newspaper stories on spontaneous combustion, some very odd poetry, which was welcomed as filler material for newspapers in those days, a dueling manual (A high percentage of "Southern Gentlemen", including many congressmen had fought at least one duel -- in the majority of cases nobody died though injuries were common).  I got to have a mailing list of several hundred people, including many of the best historians of the era.  After a year or so I began going to conferences of the leading historians of the era, and in time it seemed to me that around half the people I met there were aware of my work, and very encouraging.

I started out not knowing anything about this period.  What it took was a lot of patience, reading historians past and present, but always going back to the original sources when I wanted to make a contribution, finding something that cast a surprising light on things, and putting it into one of my "Jacksonian Miscellanies" posts.  And meanwhile, gradually building a encyclopedic framework for jotting down detailed information as I learned of it.  What was New York like in 1830?  Well for one thing, New York much less than half of Manhattan Island -- not the other way around.  What sort of roads existed between Boston and Portsmouth, Maine.  When were they first connected by railroad?  What were the issues of religious controversy?  I built up a file of particular schools and colleges, small town, even particular churches and who had served as minister there and what their politics were.  I never knew enough to write a work giving important insights into some particular issue, but could hold my own in conversations with historians.

Ultimately, I need to build up TRTP (The Real Truth Project) to be something like that.  And it is mostly too abstract for me to try to deal with the issue of truth in general.  If I spent too much time on that plane, I would probably end up building all encompassing ideologies, like those of Karl Marx and Ayn Rand, that in my opinion cause people to lose sight of the real world, with disastrous consequences.

So there will have to be more specific sub-projects, one of which, is to try to map the landscape of America's (especially, and sometimes the world's) wars of ideas.

The resources will be extremely incomplete for some time to come, but I hope there will some useful things from the beginning.

Where to begin? I am going to take a look at "Watcher" organizations that try to map out the vast landscape of organizations characterized as "Right" and "Left".  Those who lean more or less "left" have organizations that try to compile a picture of funding sources in the network of organizations on the "right".  And vice versa.

E.g., the "Media Matters Action Network" has a section called "Conservative Transparency"  (http://mediamattersaction.org/transparency)which collects information on "conservative" or "right" leaning organizations of all sorts.

I am developing my own understanding of it at this link.

Other groups that watch and analyze other groups include:
  • Source Watch at http://www.sourcewatch.org ("left").
  • Capital Research Center at http://www.capitalresearch.org/ ("right").
OK, that's a wrap - a not insignificant start I hope.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Freedom Through Violence?" a Chapter from Gene Sharp's From Dictatorship to Democracy

The Entire book is available for download from a link on this page:

http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations98ce.html

I won't say much, but would like to draw attention to the last paragraph:
Even when successful, guerrilla struggles often have significant long-term negative structural consequences.... If the guerrillas should finally succeed, the resulting new regime is often more dictatorial than its predecessor due to the centralizing impact of the expanded military forces and the weakening or destruction of the society’s independent groups and institutions during the struggle — bodies that are vital in establishing and maintaining a democratic society.

What is to be done [when faced with dictatorship]? The obvious possibilities
seem useless. Constitutional and legal barriers, judicial decisions,
and public opinion are normally ignored by dictators. Under-
standably, reacting to the brutalities, torture, disappearances, and
killings, people often have concluded that only violence can end a
dictatorship. Angry victims have sometimes organized to fight the
brutal dictators with whatever violent and military capacity they
could muster, despite the odds being against them. These people
have often fought bravely, at great cost in suffering and lives. Their
accomplishments have sometimes been remarkable, but they rarely
have won freedom. Violent rebellions can trigger brutal repression
that frequently leaves the populace more helpless than before.
      Whatever the merits of the violent option, however, one point
is clear. By placing confidence in violent means, one has chosen the very
type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superior-
ity. The dictators are equipped to apply violence overwhelmingly.
However long or briefly these democrats can continue, eventually
the harsh military realities usually become inescapable. The dictators
almost always have superiority in military hardware, ammunition,
transportation, and the size of military forces. Despite bravery, the
democrats are (almost always) no match.
        When conventional military rebellion is recognized as unrealis-
tic, some dissidents then favor guerrilla warfare. However, guerrilla
warfare rarely, if ever, benefits the oppressed population or ushers in
a democracy. Guerrilla warfare is no obvious solution, particularly
given the very strong tendency toward immense casualties among
one’s own people. The technique is no guarantor against failure,
despite supporting theory and strategic analyses, and sometimes
international backing. Guerrilla struggles often last a very long
time. Civilian populations are often displaced by the ruling gov-
ernment, with immense human suffering and social dislocation.
     Even when successful, guerrilla struggles often have signifi-
cant long-term negative structural consequences. Immediately, the
attacked regime becomes more dictatorial as a result of its coun-
termeasures. If the guerrillas should finally succeed, the resulting
new regime is often more dictatorial than its predecessor due to the
centralizing impact of the expanded military forces and the weaken-
ing or destruction of the society’s independent groups and institu-
tions during the struggle — bodies that are vital in establishing and
maintaining a democratic society. Persons hostile to dictatorships
should look for another option.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Has Dr. Gene Sharp, "Clausewitz of Nonviolence" Been the Biggest Inspiration and Guide for Nonviolent Revolutions for 3 Decades?

Has Dr. Gene Sharp, "Clausewitz of Nonviolence" Been the Biggest Inspiration and Guide for Nonviolent Revolutions for 3 Decades?

That's the question I've been asking myself since this morning, when I first heard of him in an NPR interview?  He has written perhaps a dozen or more books, most of which can be downloaded online.  And the movements in Libya and Egyptian may have learned (largely by way of Serbians who struggled against Slobodan Milosevic) their style of peaceful regime change from Sharp.

Dr. Sharp, who gives much credit to Gandhi, created the Albert Einstein Institution which has actively trained and advised people all over the world who are trying to free themselves, and  has written "how to" books like 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. (The Iranian regime accused their own pro-democracy activists of using over 100 of the 198 methods).

It is too much for me to digest right now, so I'll just suggest a couple of links.  One is the a New York Times article which provides a concise but detailed account of the workings of the Egyptian revolution so far: A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History.
You can read a very recent short interview with Sharp on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty., or a longer article on him here.
  Oddly, there are a couple of very interesting reflections on Sharp in Scientific American (or their web site at least) by science journalist John Horgan:


How George W. Bush rejected my "Sharp" idea for countering terrorism

  and

Egypt's revolution vindicates Gene Sharp's theory of nonviolent activism.

The first SciAm article points out that Sharp was once funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) who subsequently, unfortunately, ignored him.

This DARPA episode, and the Bush admin's rejection of Horgan's "outside the box" idea of distributing Sharp's writings to "fundamentalist Muslims and others who might be at risk of becoming terrorists" -- these two cases illustrate, I think, the self-defeating attitude looked at in "(What Was the Cold War?) The Man With Only a Hammer".

To me, it seems very important that Dr. Sharp does not advocate non-violence for its "virtuousness", but rather because it is most effective.  He says
Peaceful protest is best, he says — not for any moral reason, but because violence provokes autocrats to crack down. “If you fight with violence,” Mr. Sharp said, “you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero.”
I might add that the nonviolent approach as pursued in Egypt, with all the discipline and meticulous planning it requires complements the forging of a new structure to replace the oppressive regime, while violent revolutions too often leave things in chaos, which then is replaced by a regime which is either naturally oppressive, or, in the course of turning the chaos into something orderly becomes oppressive.

At the moment, Gene Sharp's books prices have gone into the stratosphere, as they were mostly out of print, and he has suddenly gotten so much attention.

It may be best to see what free downloads are available at The Albert Einstein Institution web page.




Friday, February 18, 2011

The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement by Eric Heubeck


The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement 
(http://www.yuricareport.com/Dominionism/FreeCongressEssay.html)

by Eric Heubeck

This seems to have been basically Paul Weyrich's vision for movement conservativism from around 2000. It was written with the guidance of Weyrich by Eric Heubeck.  It used to be posted on the Free Congress Foundation / Center for Cultural Conservativism website till they decided not to give it so much exposure, so now we must get it from a snapshot archived at http://web.archive.org/ on 7/13/01.

Let me just throw out a few quotes to whet your appetite:

This essay is based on the belief that the truth of an idea is not the primary reason for its acceptance. Far more important is the energy and dedication of the idea's promoters--in other words, the individuals composing a social or political movement

... conservatives have failed to devote the proper amount of energy to developing an alternative cultural world-view opposed to the dominant leftist one... (well, that's no longer true)


Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them.

Focus on The Big Short by Michael Lewis


After reading Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker, I doubt we could find a better guide to just how we got into the current economic mess.  The book was put together from interviews with investors who made a lot of money in the crash.  They saw what was rotten about the system, and some at first tried to issue a warning to stop it, but, that being futile, they saw what holes trillions of dollars worth of wealth were about to pour out of, and were there with buckets catching some of it.  I take no position on whether we should admire them or not, but at least one could say they knew in a concrete way what was going on, and later were willing to talk about it.  To start reading the 1st chapter, click on small rectangle below which will say "Full Screen View" when you point your cursor at it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Hayne-Webster Debate, an Experiment in Hypertext Style

Debate is at http://jmisc.net/hwdebate.htm in case you want to skip the following:

For once, I'd like to step back from arguing with bits and pieces of misinformation (or what appears so to me), and look at the question of truth per se, or what steps we might take to reconstruct the world so we have a better chance of getting at the truth, and so acting better in our individual and collective self interest.  No idea of a "master plan" of  "reconstructing" the world should be tried.  It would be like repeating the mistakes of Lenin and his successors.  Rather, perhaps we could all become familiar with practices that nudge the world just a tiny bit in the right direction.  Practices like not putting up with as much imprecise, vague, and just plain emotion driven language as we have to every day.

10 or 15 years ago, I tried to make a little demonstration of one small approach.

For many years, I maintained and expanded a large web site to collect all sorts of thoughts, analysis, and original source material related to the U.S. in the early 19th century.

One of the most successful things I did was to try to put a "zoom lens" on one formidable historical document, the record of the Hayne-Webster debate. At least I've heard from quite a few professors who assigned it for class reading.

In an introductory essay, I tried to explain my vision of "A New Connection Between Original and Secondary Texts"

 I also claim, and hope to demonstrate, that when authors learn the art of using online media, it will change the way history is experienced by the reader. When reading secondary sources, those who wish will immediately glance at the source material which the author has cited, thus benefit from a specialist's reflections on the material, without spending hours trapped in the author's head. One can go out; walk around in the original text, and breath, and think, freely. One can say "I see what he/she means, but I would read it a little differently." Reading can become an active, creative, thought process.

If you want to know more, just go to the page at http://jmisc.net/hwdebate.htm.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Obama & The Human Stain" (from Canada Free Press)

This Jewel can be found at http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/33270.
It is very badly argued in my opinion, but someone I care about was much taken with it, so I feel a need to say something about it.

The whole title is "Obama & The Human Stain: Or How Political Correctness Gave America a Con-Man President".  I was wondering how much notice this publication got, so did these checks:
 Google { "Canada Free Press" } ==> 245,000 hits (up from 207,000 earlier today)
         Their motto is "Because without America there is no Free World"
 Google { "Obama & The Human Stain" } ==> 883 hits

Well, the article is only 2 days old.  It is posted in full on Lucianne.com (with enthusiastic discussion) and has several links from sodahead.com.  Obviously these are two of many, but are one's I'm familiar with (the person I care about frequently reads Lucianne.com).

The major claims:
  Claim 1: (implied) Obama owes his election to "PC".  This comes in the form of a question: Could Barack have been elected president without the doctrine known as Political Correctness? The author's answer, without giving any reasons is that the "vast majority of Americans" know this.  Oh, before giving that answer, he asked rhetorically "Or is simply to ask the question an unforgivable act of racism?".  This illustrates, in my opinion, how people who read only right wing news sources get their ideas about how "liberals" think.  Rush Limbaugh, for one, spends more time telling listeners what Liberals think, than he does telling what he thinks.
   Claim 2: "Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism", and it was invented (much as the evil southerners played by Lloyd Bridges and Burl Ives invented sharecropping and the KKK in just one little conversation in the mini-series Roots) by the Frankfurt School, a bunch of disappointed Marxists, in the 1920s and 30s.  It turns out that the slogan "Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism" goes back about 20 years, maybe to Pat Buchanan, or perhaps he got it from someone earlier.  The best I can make of this is that "Political Correctness" has come to stand for all sorts of things, and especially Post-modernism, which the Frankfurt was very instrumental in bringing about.  I have never known PC to stand for anything other than an often excessive avoidance of old pejorative labels or doctrines (such as inherent mental or moral differences between races) that have come to be associated with past horrors like the Nazi Holocaust.
    Claim 3: Obama is a "malignant narcissist" which is a very bad thing.


In Philip Roth's The Human Stain, a professor wonders out loud whether 2 students registered for his class, who never showed up, were real or "spooks".  Because they just happen to be black unbenownst to the professor, he is duly crucified.  The writer tends to make a lot of associations that don't add up to anything; e.g., he seems to think The Human Stain is particularly relevant because both Barack Obama and the professor (mischevously and un-PC-ishly named Coleman Silk) are of mixed race (the professor's part-black ancestry is unknown, which is the Great irony(!!) of the book).

The article writer manages to work in, in the space of 2 pages, four bits of seeming erudition meant, I think, to impress, but in my opinion, one after the other fails to serve any real purpose in the essay.  There is
  1. Philip Roth's "tome" as he calls it.  OK the book addresses PC, which the writer claims is the key to Obama's election, and it has a mixed race protagonist.  But the discussion of The Human Stain does nothing to support the claim about Obama and PC.  I'm afraid it may just be emotionally gratifying because Human Stain free-associates with "black" as well as with "bad".  Also a mixed race professor happens to get crucified, hoisted on his own petard, which I expect the author would like to see happen to Obama.
  2. He also introduces Melville's The Confidence Man, only as far I can see as a fancy way to call Obama a Con-man.  He even shows off that he knows something about a real like case that help to inspire the book.  But does he give any example of Obama acting as a con-man?  No; much less relate any such example to Melville's subject.  He just says "like with Obama, the scam could not be pulled off without well-meaning but fatuously (that will send some people to the dictionary!) naive people ready to be conned.  Did he fail to notice that in many if not most cases, the big con is based on the greed of the victim, who thinks he has by some luck been given a secret advantage over other people.  No, in his circle to mention that would be politically incorrect, because greed is good.
  3. We are to be impressed again by her knowledge of the Frankfort School, though no more is said about them than could be found in a one volume encyclopedia.  It's just that they were evil Marxists, and they invented PC.  I'm old enough to have observed PC evolving -- the awkward stumbling over "man vs person", chairwoman  or chairperson, "black", "Persons of color", Afro-Americans, and most recently, "slaves" must be replaced with "Enslaved persons".  It can go too far, and people on occasion get hurt, as they get hurt by other sometimes useful things, like automobiles.  If it is all totally dismissed with contempt, we will again see Sambo and big-nosed ugly caricatures of Jews in our editorial cartoons.  Won't that be great?  The point seems to be I suppose that everybody was cowed from being critical of Obama out of "PC" because he was black.  That's not the way I remember it.  I've never seen the image of a presidential candidate and later president so trashed.  The thing one will get crucified for is saying there is the least element of race in it when Obama is called an "alien"; when it is said that he is obsessed with colonialism and vengefulness towards white, "proven" by writings of his father, for whom he seems to have faint and mixed feelings despite the title of the book, if one actually reads it.
  4. Finally, we have an "expert" on narcissism, Sam Vaknin who sees signs of this "full-blown mental disorder" in Obama.  Perhaps I should go further into this, but not today I'm afraid.

Finally, in a summary, the piece breaks down into pure unsupported raving, and says "he must be impeached from office for the survival of the American Republic".

OK, but can you tell us why, and avoid saying "everybody knows"?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"WEDDING RING BEING REPAIRED, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE WATCH"?

Another email making the rounds, or it was last December (2010) courtesy "MyRightWingDad.com":
In a press conference last week Obama was not
wearing his wedding ring nor was he wearing his watch.
  
When noticed, his staff said his ring was out for repairs.                                                                                                      
 
No reason was given for the missing watch.
 
So it’s just a coincidence that Muslims are forbidden
from wearing jewelry during the month of Ramadan???

 
Can't possibly be that, because although he hasn't gone to a
Christian church service since entering the White House, we
know he's a committed Christian 'cause he said so during the campaign.
Check  http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/ramadan.asp
to see why every word of it is false, starting with the fact that there is no Muslim prohibition on wearing jewelry during Ramadan.

USPS New 44-Cent Stamp Celebrates a Muslim holiday

Claims like this have been around, especially in the forwarded email channel at least twice. One such forwarded email says

President  Obama has directed the United States Postal  Service to REMEMBER and HONOR the EID MUSLIM  holiday season with a new commemorative 44-Cent  First Class Holiday Postage Stamp.
See  http://myrightwingdad.blogspot.com/2011/01/fw-do-not-buy.htmlhttp://myrightwingdad.blogspot.com/2011/01/fw-do-not-buy.html for the full email.

What is the truth?  There are a couple of excuses for saying this has a grain of truth.  One is that anybody can send off a picture to Zazzle.com, say of your new baby, or cat, or some mysterious Arabic writing, and Zazzle.com will produce a real usable stamp.  E.g.




which was the image used in the email that I read.  See http://www.snopes.com/politics/stamps/eidstamp.asp.

The email says it is the second time a stamp honoring an Islamic holiday has been issued, leaving the reader to assume Obama "ordered" the previous one.

Actually, Snopes tells us there was a real stamp issued to honor an Islamic holiday.  It was issued on September 1, 2001 as part of a series of Holiday Themed Stamps, including ones of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa which turned out to be very bad timing.  If any president was responsible it was the then current president GW Bush.  According to Snopes, the Holiday Series is still reissued from time to time, and nobody has seen fit to exclude the Muslim one.  Apparently there were 4 reissues under Bush, and 3 under Obama.

How widespread is this misinformation?  At the time of writing,
Google { "Stamp  Celebrates a Muslim holiday" } ==> 33,000 results
I assume mine will be among them sortly, but see how long it takes you to find one of these links that isn't repeating the story as gospel.

I have been checking out emails like this for a couple of years, since my mother started forwarding them to me.  Nearly all the ones she forwards contains elaborate deceptions just as this one does (there are a lot of jokey emails that don't claim to reveal some new fact, but she sends the ones that do make some shocking claim).

My observations of such emails are summarized in My Not-really-right-wing Mom and her adventures in Email-Land.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On the article "Social Scientist Sees Bias Within" by JOHN TIERNEY

On the article "Social Scientist Sees Bias Within" by JOHN TIERNEY.

I don't find any problem with the article per se, though I suspect some people are reading too much into it. The gist of the article is the vast majority of social scientists are to say the least, liberal.  The social scientist of the title says:
“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”
 IMHO, sometimes an organization does exercise bias towards a group of people, and sometimes there are alternative explanations.

The article points out that
Larry Summers, then president of Harvard, was ostracized in 2005 for wondering publicly whether the preponderance of male professors in some top math and science departments might be due partly to the larger variance in I.Q. scores among men (meaning there are more men at the very high and very low ends). The outrage ultimately led to his resignation.
Possibly a huge overreaction (there could be important facts in the case I don't know), Anyway, I suppose the Obama administration is to be commended for taking him on as director of the National Economic Council?  Summers is about to return to his Harvard professorship (no longer as president) because if he stayed away any longer he would lose his tenure.

Why would social scientists be liberal? What is the point of being a social scientist unless it has some potential application.  What would such applications look like?  Maybe tending in the direction of "social engineering"?  Anyway, the discipline seems to be largely about understanding, and dare I say, the diversity of human culture.  It is not about a "good vs evil" world view, which I think might put off many varieties of conservative.

[to be continued?]

Sunday, February 6, 2011

David Stockman (Reagan's 1st budget director) on Bank Deregulation (Part of Reagan Centennial hoopla)

Worth quoting, from an interview at:
 http://www.salon.com/news/the_real_reagan/index.html?story=/opinion/walsh/politics/2011/02/04/reagan_war_on_poverty

What do you think about the thesis that the deregulatory impulses that received such a huge boost under Reagan contributed to Wall Street's recklessness ... and laid the groundwork for the financial crisis?

"The only thing that was seriously deregulated during the Reagan era was banks, and that was the wrong thing to deregulate. Surface transport deregulation was started by Carter and we finished it, airline deregulation was already done by the time we came in. And those were the right things to do. But in the case of financial institutions, banks are not free enterprise businesses, they are wards of states, they have the right to create money out of thin air. They have to be regulated, and they have to be kept out of the speculative use of deposits that are guaranteed by the taxpayer, by the FDIC. And in the '90s, the Clinton administration joined in on this, with the elimination of Glass-Steagall and all of the other remaining restraints on the banking system. That was a tragic, terrible error; it was a confusion of the free market with a set of institutions that are inherently dangerous. And as a result of bad monetary policy interacting with the deregulation of depository banking you created a witches' brew that ended up predictably in the meltdown of 2008."


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Obama Selling out the Brits' Nuclear Secrets?

That's the conclusion drawn from the latest Wikileaks releases, at least on countless right wing blogs and a few newspapers including the UK Daily Telegraph and New York Daily News.

google {wikileaks  trident start treaty} gets 33,000+ hits though the story only broke today, and I can find almost nothing among these hits but blog posts and a few newspaper stories that take for granted that a terrible betrayal has occurred.

The key allegation is that the U.S. in Start negotions with Russia promised to provide the serial number of every Trident missile the US provides to Britain.

I've had a hard time tracking down any actual source documents but here, perhaps is the source of that key assertion:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Real Truth about Hayek's Book: Road to Serfdom

Never mind the title - I am just poking  at the visceral way we are drawn to  dramatically phrased promises to reveal "The Real Truth", or something like that, especially with hints that this is just for you, the people who aren't easily duped.  I think we are hard-wired that way -- at any rate, I can feel my own blood rising a bit looking at some book title promising to reveal "What they don't want you to know", or "The secret history of X", and in our political debates, whether it's  Hayek's book, Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascists: the Secret History of the American Left..., An Inconvenient Truth, or The Real Anita Hill,  this handy way of getting our attention has been leaned on  heavily.  I'd hate to have to guess how many books has "secret history" in their title.

And so, F. A. Hayek, writing originally in 1944, and very alarmed, for excellent reasons, at the way the world was going, promised to reveal the counterintuitive (to some people) truth that the shining path to the future that supposedly ran through the abolition of private ownership was a "Road to Serfdom", and that all government "planning" puts us on a slippery slope leading to that "Road to Serfdom".  I agree up the the italicized part, but beyond that, have a lot of problems, and I'm afraid so did Hayek.  Does a national road system or education system involve this "planning", which, he indicates we must avoid at all costs?  Apparently not, since he admits (at least in 1944) that these may be necessary and legitimate.  He even says, in this book, at least, that public "safety net" measures - even specifically naming universal health insurance might have a place in a nation that is not on the "road to serfdom".

I would start by saying, in substantial agreement with Hayek:  In my opinion all hard core socialists and Communists failed to see that, whatever bad effects the unequal distribution of wealth may have, their alternative: "ownership by the people" was an imaginary construct more suited to mystical Hegelians, Fascists, and Nazis than to supposedly clear thinking hard headed materialist socialists.

But while "peoples ownership" of all property (or even just the "means of production") is a glib and impossible idea, we can and must talk about how the difficult business of making the "peoples' ownership" of our democratic government -- the Res Publica which is the origin of the word "republican" -- to make this "ownership" as real and substantial as possible.  Can I demonstrate that this "ownership" is really workable?  Not really, not now and maybe never, but I'm pretty positive there is no good alternative to wrestling with what it means to "own" a democracy.  And yes, there is no other way of looking at this than as something we have to face collectively.
To be continued, and continued, and continued...