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Monday, November 29, 2004day link 

 1984 and Perpetual War
picture
This billboard, provided by Clear Channel, one of the biggest U.S. media companies, has recently been gracing freeways in Florida. Reminds you of anything? Other than Stalinism, Saddam Hussein, Nazi Germany, and Kim Il Jong? Well, unfortunately, there's more and more that looks like Orwell's 1984 in present day United States. And not just superficially.

Thanks to Seb for pointing out a couple of older articles about just those parallels: Happy New Year: Its 1984 and Learning to love Big Brother.
As President Bush wages his war against terrorism and moves to create a huge homeland security apparatus, he appears to be borrowing heavily, if not ripping off ideas outright, from George Orwell. The work in question is "1984", the prophetic novel about a government that controls the masses by spreading propaganda, cracking down on subversive thought and altering history to suit its needs. It was intended to be read as a warning about the evils of totalitarianism -- not a how-to manual. ...

No one who was forced to read 1984 in high school could fail to hear a faint bell tinkling. In George Orwell's dreary classic, the totalitarian state of Oceania is perpetually at war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. Although the enemy changes periodically, the war is permanent; its true purpose is to control dissent and sustain dictatorship by nurturing popular fear and hatred.

The permanent war undergirds every aspect of Big Brother's authoritarian program, excusing censorship, propaganda, secret police, and privation. In other words, it's terribly convenient. ...

WAR IS PEACE. A reckless war that will likely bring about a deadly cycle of retaliation is being sold to us as the means to guarantee our safety. Meanwhile, we've been instructed to accept the permanent war as a fact of daily life. As the inevitable slaughter of innocents unfolds overseas, we are to "live our lives and hug our children."

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. "Freedom itself is under attack," Bush said, and he's right. Americans are about to lose many of their most cherished liberties in a frenzy of paranoid legislation. The government proposes to tap our phones, read our email and seize our credit card records without court order. It seeks authority to detain and deport immigrants without cause or trial. It proposes to use foreign agents to spy on American citizens. To save freedom, the warmongers intend to destroy it.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. America's "new war" against terrorism will be fought with unprecedented secrecy, including heavy press restrictions not seen for years, the Pentagon has advised. Meanwhile, the sorry history of American imperialism -- collaboration with terrorists, bloody proxy wars against civilians, forcible replacement of democratic governments with corrupt dictatorships -- is strictly off-limits to mainstream media. Lest it weaken our resolve, we are not to be allowed to understand the reasons underlying the horrifying crimes of September 11. ...

In 1984 the state's control over people's mind was so pervasive that, eventually, everybody came to love Big Brother. Please make it not be so.
[ | 2004-11-29 19:29 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 The Secular American Founders
picture Nice article in Ms. Magazine (eh, no, I don't normally read that), Fighting Words For A Secular America, about the framers of the U.S. Constitution and to which degree their endeavor had religious roots. I.e. is the U.S. a christian country founded by devout christians who founded the laws on the authority of God? The U.S. religious right, like the current regime in power, would like to claim so, and many people would be inclined to believe it. Just happens not to be true.
[T]he 1796 Treaty of Tripoli — initiated by George Washington and signed into law by John Adams — proclaims: “The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion.”

Offices for "Faith-Based Initiatives" with nearly $20 billion in grants have been established (by executive order, circumventing Congress) in 10 federal agencies, as well as inside the White House. This fails "the Lemon Test", violating a 1971 Supreme Court decision (Lemon v. Kurtzman): "first, a statute [or public policy] must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute [or policy] must not foster ‘excessive government entanglement with religion.'"

When Attorney General John Ashcroft repeatedly invokes religion, the Founders must be picketing in their graves. They were a mix of freethinkers, atheists, Christians, agnostics, Freemasons and Deists (professing belief in powers scientifically evinced in the natural universe). They surely were imperfect. Some were slaveholders.

Female citizens were invisible to them — though Abigail Adams warned her husband John, "If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation."

But the Founders were, after all, revolutionaries. Their passion — especially regarding secularism — glows in the documents they forged and in their personal words.

Indeed, the constitutional framers had quite some poignant words to say about the separation of church and state. Which would get them accused of being the worst sort of liberal communist devil worshippers, if they were saying them today, I'm sure.
Thomas Paine: "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church" (The Age of Reason, 1794).

Benjamin Franklin: "Some volumes against Deism fell into my hands ... they produced an effect precisely the reverse to what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the Deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appeared to me much more forcibly than the refutation itself; in a word, I soon became a thorough Deist"

I actually myself had missed the distinction of deism vs theism. Deism is when one believes in a first cause based on reason rather than faith. It is contrasted to theism. Deism is mostly synonymous with "natural religion" in 18th century Enlightenment writings. A modernist movement inspired by the success of the scientific method. The founders were mostly inspired by deism, although some of them were theists and some were atheists.
The false image of Washington as a devout Christian was fabricated by Mason Locke Weems, a clergyman who also invented the cherry-tree fable and in 1800 published his Life of George Washington. Washington, a Deist and a Freemason, never once mentioned the name of Jesus Christ in any of his thousands of letters, and pointedly referred to divinity as "It."

Whenever he (rarely) attended church, Washington always deliberately left before communion, demonstrating disbelief in Christianity's central ceremony.

And then there's Thomas Jefferson:
It's a commonly stated error that U.S. law, based on English common law, is thus grounded in Judeo-Christian tradition.

Yet Jefferson (writing to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814 ) noted that common law "is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England ...about the middle of the fifth century. But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century. ...We may safely affirm (though contradicted by all the judges and writers on earth) that Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."

Jefferson professed disbelief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ, while respecting moral teachings by whomever might have been a historical Jesus. He cut up a Bible, assembling his own version: "The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful," he wrote Adams (January 24, 1814), "evidence that parts have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds."

Anyway, there's lots more. Those were definitely thinking people. It is a shame that their work is being undone. But then again, it can't completely be undone as long as anybody can go back and examine what the United States was based on, and as long as anybody can still read English and think independently once in a while.
[ | 2004-11-29 17:58 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Saturday, November 27, 2004day link 

 The Power of Nightmares
picture I just finished watching the third part of a BBC series called The Power of Nightmares: Baby It's Cold Outside, broadcast in the past three weeks. It was made by Adam Curtis. I'm sure it must have been difficult to get such a controversial thing on the air. The series makes a compelling case for concluding that the world has been seriously misled by fanatics who have painted a nightmare picture that has nothing to do with reality. And that they have done so merely to serve their own political and religious ends.

We track two movements: the U.S. Neo Conservatives and certain militant radical muslim factions. The videos do a good job at laying out their histories and philosophies and key players.

Ironically, their aims are very similar. They are groups that were horrified by the path that free societies seemed to take. What they deemed to be the moral corruption that they observed around them. Which they blamed on a society where anything goes and there were no uniform moral values. The moral decay of a liberal society. They first thought the fault was with the leaders of their societies. But they found that even when their own kind managed to seize power, it didn't change things. So they blamed the people in their regions. It was simply that everybody were too dumb and corrupted to see the truth of how they were supposed to behave. Too much freedom, and too little to guide them. So they came up with the solution. Invent a battle between good and evil. Find an enemy and paint the most nightmarish possible visions of their sinister motives and the extent of their power. Mobilize your people against the enemy, driven by the fear of what they can do to you.

But in the late 90s it wasn't really working for any of those groups. They had essentialy failed and had little public support anywhere. Until 2001 where both groups got an enormously lucky break. Somebody brought down the WTC. One group suddenly has the evil sinister enemy they had been seeking, and the other suddenly has the attention of millions of people, where before they didn't.
The Power of Nightmares began as an investigation of something else, the rise of modern American conservatism. Curtis was interested in Leo Strauss, a political philosopher at the university of Chicago in the 50s who rejected the liberalism of postwar America as amoral and who thought that the country could be rescued by a revived belief in America's unique role to battle evil in the world. Strauss's certainty and his emphasis on the use of grand myths as a higher form of political propaganda created a group of influential disciples such as Paul Wolfowitz, now the US deputy defence secretary. They came to prominence by talking up the Russian threat during the cold war and have applied a similar strategy in the war on terror.

As Curtis traced the rise of the "Straussians", he came to a conclusion that would form the basis for The Power of Nightmares. Straussian conservatism had a previously unsuspected amount in common with Islamism: from origins in the 50s, to a formative belief that liberalism was the enemy, to an actual period of Islamist-Straussian collaboration against the Soviet Union during the war in Afghanistan in the 80s (both movements have proved adept at finding new foes to keep them going). Although the Islamists and the Straussians have fallen out since then, as the attacks on America in 2001 graphically demonstrated, they are in another way, Curtis concludes, collaborating still: in sustaining the "fantasy" of the war on terror.

Which the film also provides quite some support for. There wasn't much of an Al-Qaida before 9/11. Bin-Ladin had to actually rent camouflage-clad gunmen for some of his videos, and tell them to bring their own guns. Because he didn't have much of a group. And there wasn't really much of an Al-Qaida after. A lot of middle-eastern looking folks have been detained for often very silly reasons. Accused of being sleeper cells because they took tourist videos in Disneyland. No fancy bunkers were found in Tora-Bora. Very few people have been charged with anything at all. Not that there aren't fanatical militant groups who'd love to attack the United States. And some of them might succeed. But the fantasy is the existence, extent and organization of one unified evil network.

You can see the series here:Or, get a more high quality bit torrent version from sites like this.
[ | 2004-11-27 23:59 | 18 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Sunday, November 21, 2004day link 

 Election Fraud
The evidence of massive fraud in the U.S. election seems to be mounting from all sides. Now this one: 'Stinking Evidence' of Possible Election Fraud Found in Florida from CommonDreams. The story of some folks who try to get to look at the original signed voting records in various places in Florida.
Bev showed up bright and early the morning of Wednesday the 17th - well before the scheduled meeting - and discovered three of the elections officials in the Elections Warehouse standing over a table covered with what looked like poll tapes. When they saw Bev and her friends, Bev told me in a telephone interview less than an hour later, "They immediately shoved us out and slammed the door."

In a way, that was a blessing, because it led to the stinking evidence.

"On the porch was a garbage bag," Bev said, "and so I looked in it and, and lo and behold, there were public record tapes."

Thrown away. Discarded. Waiting to be hauled off.

"It was technically stinking, in fact," Bev added, "because what they had done was to have thrown some of their polling tapes, which are the official records of the election, into the garbage. These were the ones signed by the poll workers. These are something we had done an official public records request for."

When the elections officials inside realized that the people outside were going through the trash, they called the police and one came out to challenge Bev.

Kathleen Wynne, a www.blackboxvoting.org investigator, was there.

"We caught the whole thing on videotape," she said. "I don't think you'll ever see anything like this - Bev Harris having a tug of war with an election worker over a bag of garbage, and he held onto it and she pulled on it, and it split right open, spilling out those poll tapes. They were throwing away our democracy, and Bev wasn't going to let them do it."

As I was interviewing Bev just moments after the tussle, she had to get off the phone, because, "Two police cars just showed up."

She told me later in the day, in an on-air interview, that when the police arrived, "We all had a vigorous debate on the merits of my public records request."

The outcome of that debate was that they all went from the Elections Warehouse back to the Elections Office, to compare the original, November 2 dated and signed poll tapes with the November 15 printouts the Elections Office had submitted to the Secretary of State. A camera crew from www.votergate.tv met them there, as well.

And then things got even odder.

"We were sitting there comparing the real [signed, original] tapes with the [later printout] ones that were given us," Bev said, "and finding things missing and finding things not matching, when one of the elections employees took a bin full of things that looked like garbage - that looked like polling tapes, actually - and passed by and disappeared out the back of the building."

This provoked investigator Ellen Brodsky to walk outside and check the garbage of the Elections Office itself. Sure enough - more original, signed poll tapes, freshly trashed.

It is going to be really strange if some of this stuff doesn't end up blowing up really big. Bush might end up being sorry that he got elected, or whatever it was that he was. That same team of vote investigators there found that without exception all the cheating was in Bush's favor.
[ | 2004-11-21 18:41 | 20 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Monday, November 15, 2004day link 

 Defining characteristics of fascism
picture Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. He found 14 defining characteristics common to each:
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread
domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Hm, reminds me of something. Can't quite put my finger on it.
[ | 2004-11-15 02:08 | 24 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Saturday, November 6, 2004day link 

 Ignorance, Predators and Evolution
picture Slate article The unteachable ignorance of the red states, as part of a little series, of, as it says "depressed liberals analyzing what ails them". Excerpt:
The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not. ....

Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you—if you don't believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking, and accept a simple but logical system of belief that is dangerous to question. A corollary to this point is that they make sure you understand that Satan resides in the toils and snares of complex thought and so it is best not try it.

Next, they tell you that you are the best of a bad lot (humans, that is) and that as bad as you are, if you stick with them, you are among the chosen. This is flattering and reassuring, and also encourages you to imagine the terrible fates of those you envy and resent. American politicians ALWAYS operate by a similar sort of flattery, and so Americans are never induced to question themselves. That's what happened to Jimmy Carter—he asked Americans to take responsibility for their profligate ways, and promptly lost to Ronald Reagan, who told them once again that they could do anything they wanted. The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do—they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable.

Third, and most important, when life grows difficult or fearsome, they (politicians, preachers, pundits) encourage you to cling to your ignorance with even more fervor. But by this time you don't need much encouragement—you've put all your eggs into the ignorance basket, and really, some kind of miraculous fruition (preferably accompanied by the torment of your enemies, and the ignorant always have plenty of enemies) is your only hope. If you are sufficiently ignorant, you won't even know how dangerous your policies are until they have destroyed you, and then you can always blame others.
The thing I wanted to comment on is the changed perspective of realizing that lots of other people really don't work like you, and you can't particularly change it directly.

I would instinctively always expect that I could appeal to reason in other people. I'd expect that if the facts are brought together, and we talk about things, we'd all reasonably come to relatively similar conclusions about what is going on. We might have different preferences, but we ought to be able to form a common picture of what is there and what the factors are.

And the, at first, depressing truth is that there's a large number of people that don't seem to work like that, that certainly don't believe in stuff like that, and that won't respond to it. I.e. for them it is not about getting the facts together. They can't be convinced with facts. It is not about talking it all over as reasonable people. They don't listen to certain things at all. It is not about reaching a consensus, because they don't believe in consensus.

But, see, it is only depressing if you mistakenly assume something different about others than what is there. You only get disappointed if you expected something to happen that then doesn't happen. If I expect to be able to reason with somebody and I can't, it is disappointing. But if I didn't expect it or assume it, there'd be nothing to be disappointed about.

If I kept lions as pets, I might assume and expect certain things from them. Being able to reason with them wouldn't be one of them. Them being sincerely concerned about my well-being would probably not be one of them either. They're wild beasts, but within a certain framework we might enjoy each other's company. But I'd always be on guard and knowing where the tranquilizer gun is. And I'd keep them well-fed and not turn my back on them. But I wouldn't be disappointed if I couldn't talk reasonably about the philosophies of societal structures with them. They probably have no concept of that, and that's no big deal, as long as I don't depend on it.

Likewise if certain groups of people are living within a certain worldview which from my perspective is very limiting and even ignorant concerning the facts of life. Or cruel and inhumane, for that matter. It is only something to be depressed about if I assumed it to be otherwise and only found out late that it wasn't.

If it were very clear that people living in different cities lived by different rules, and the rules were clearly posted by the entrance, one could live with that. If I knew that in City B one could get shot on sight if one was caught chewing gum, I'd refrain from chewing gum if I went there. Or if I couldn't live with that, I'd stay away from there.

The trouble is that the world isn't marked up like that. Well, it is to some degree by countries, but that is too crude. It is hard to see the geography of people's worldviews. So we tend to default to assuming that everybody else is more or less like us.

Which for stereotypical "liberal" people tends to be to assume that people are fundamentally good and decent and that if we just bring out the facts and talk everything over, we could reach a consensus, and everybody's needs could be taken care of. And for stereotypical "conservative" folks, it is to assume that everybody's out only to get the best for themselves, and it is a dangerous world out there where only the strongest and most disciplined people survive, and it is a waste of time to listen to the people who have the wrong ideas. OK, those are U.S. categories. Looks different in other countries.

The differences in worldviews are so pervasive, and so hard for any of the "sides" to perceive, that it becomes very frustrating to try to agree on anything.

But my point is that it is less frustrating once one realizes that the worldviews really are different and that it isn't easily changed. I.e. instead of trying to reason with people who can't be reasoned with, adopting a more simple stance of working around that, above it, below it, rather than against it. Treat lions as lions rather than as people. But put a fence around them.

On a related note, I'm right now on various mailing lists about success, entrepreneurship, wealth-building and similar things, because, well, I need to figure out some more sustainable ways of making a living, and need some inspiration. One of those newsletters sent me a thing yesterday about "Believe That You Deserve To Be Wealthy". Which generally is a good theme, of course. If you want to be succesful and make a lot of money, you'll have to believe it is a good thing. If you love money, you're more likely to have it. But then they give this advice:
No amount of effort on your part will overcome a faulty philosophy. If, deep down, you believe that wealth is a sin or that money is dirty, or wicked then the first step is for you to correct this error or give up all hopes of wealth for you and your family.

What is a 'wrong' philosophy with regard to making money?

Anything which could be described as altruistic, socialist, collectivist, communist or any one of its thousand manifestations no matter what the label, no matter what the disguise, no matter what the smokescreen.

Without exception, every self-made millionaire I have met was a rugged individualist. Most of them despised government, although many were clever enough not to say so in public. And believe me, there were approximately zero socialists amongst them.

A socialist, whatever he calls himself, is someone who believes that brute force should be used to loot from the productive, in order to provide handouts for the unproductive. No matter how you disguise it, or make it look fancy, that's the plain truth of the socialist doctrine.

I believe that it is impossible for you to attempt to get rich if you have some nagging doubt that money is the root of all evil, that Capitalism is bad or that wealth should be divided up amongst the needy. You have surrendered the philosophical high ground if you sign up for any of these positions.
I don't think I'd be wrong in guessing that this guy voted for George Bush, even though he is probably an intelligent and successful person. And, now, I'm not going to swallow that at all, or that that's any prerequisite for being successful or wealthy. First of all, it seems a bit upside down. Last I looked, it was marxism that promoted that wealth should go to the productive people as opposed to the unproductive people. I.e. to the people who do the work. Capitalism, on the other hand, is about being able to multiply money without any need to do actual work, by organizing others to be productive and to give the results to you. Oh, that's not an easy task in itself, and not for dummies. And it is not necessarily a bad thing to be able to organize others to do work. But it certainly isn't based on rewarding the productive people. Maybe rewarding the most inventive people, who can get the most people working for them. And one of the tools is to coerce governments into taking money from productive people and converting them into handouts to your companies. It is a different kind of socialism, the socialism of the elite, and the anti-thesis of a truly free market. Anyway, I've said enough things about that before.

My point here is that there are plenty of people who deeply believe that it is moral and good and right to serve only yourself, and that it would be immoral and wrong to try to do good for all people. You know, the only moral thing to do is to maximize your own profits, and if you actually think you can care about other people doing well too, you're misguided, soft and ineffective, and probably some kind of commie subversive who wants to steal from good people.

Here's another area where I instinctively would tend towards making the mistake of expecting that other people would work roughly like I do. I'd tend to assume that everybody else of course would prefer that everybody was doing well, and that everybody's basic needs were taken care of. That everybody were successful. It both seems logical and feels right to have concern for the whole, for how our whole society and our environment might be organized for the maximum benefit of all.

But again, some people have absolutely no interest in making things work for everybody. On the contrary, that's a ridiculous and immoral idea, running counter to everything they believe in. Listening to everybody's ideas and trying to reach consensus is crazy wishful thinking and a waste of time. The only logical thing to do is to do the very best you can for yourself, whatever it takes, and to keep the losers away from you, who'd just want to steal what you've done.

I find it rather revolting to even try on for size that kind of mindset. Feels a bit like becoming a racist slave owner. Or a gangster. Anyway, I don't plan to. I will choose to believe that people can be successful together and, for that matter, that they can become a lot more successful together than they can in one-on-one combat against each other.

But the point is, again, you can't argue with strongly held views like that, if your basis for arguing is outside the boundaries of that which they believe in. So, you will often be more effective by recognizing that and not try to cozy up to sharks. Sharks eat you if they're hungry and you seem to be tasty. Not because they're mean, it's just what they do. Arguing doesn't make a difference.

What rather might make a difference is to step up a notch, into a meta level, below which those various worldviews live. The more effective change takes place by changing the game itself.

You might fail utterly in trying to persuade a predatory capitalist to be nice to poor people. Or in persuading a fundamentalist christian to freely discuss the nuances and assumptions in different kinds of beliefs. Or in persuading a shark to not eat people.

Sharks haven't changed evolutionarily for several millions of years, because they're very good at what they do already. Efficient killing machines. One human is no match for a great white. But, on the other hand, organized humans can take them out any time they want to.

Some people have fairly predictable, but effective, ways of behaving, which maybe seem repulsive to you. If you meet them alone on their turf, you might well lose. But if you're organized enough and resourceful enough to change the environment they live in, they might suddenly be the weaker species.

A predatory capitalist who has no moral but profit can only survive well in a certain type of environment. Which exists in abundance at this point. But if a sufficient number of people, instead of trying to pursuade him to change, will rather change the rules of the game, he'll have little chance.

And I do happen to believe that different rules are gradually emerging, which eventually, in our collective evolution, will outcompete the individualisticly predatory behaviors mentioned.

But such a different environment or a different game doesn't exist yet, other than as a vision and as pockets here and there, and in certain areas of the internet. It is not what runs the economy or your government. A global collaborative society organizing for the well-being of all is just a dream at this point. It is a jungle out there, and there are cannibals and wild animals who'll eat you for lunch and not think twice about it. So, organize amongst yourselves and around them, but don't argue with them. And don't have a battle of wits with anybody who doesn't have any. You might lose.
[ | 2004-11-06 01:56 | 29 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Friday, November 5, 2004day link 

 The U.S.A.R.
Great idea from BoingBoing:
MY MODEST PROPOSAL: THE U.S.A.R.
By C. B. Shapiro

I feel bad for the Red States.

Yes, they won the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and most of the state houses. But they still can't have the country they really want because the last few Blue States won't roll over. So I am making a simple proposal:

Secession. Divorce. Splitsville.

Personally, I think we made a huge mistake not letting them go when we had the chance back in 1862. Well, no time like the present to correct an old mistake.

Then, they would finally be free to have the kind of society they've always wanted; church and state can be fused so they build the kind of theocracy they've dreamt of, with Jesus at the helm. Then the new USAR (United States of America Red) can ban books, repeal civil rights, persecute gays and have all the wars they like. They want prayer in schools? More power to them. They can ban abortion and post the Ten Commandments in every federal building in their country. Bring back slavery, if they want. We'll be free to live with our like-minded countrymen who believe in science, modernism, tolerance, religion as a personal choice, and truly want limited government intrusion in our personal lives. Why should each side be driven mad by the other any more, decade after decade?

Call the Culture War a tie and everyone go home.

Of course, we in the U.S.A.B. get the Gross Domestic Product, businesses and universities of California, New York, Massachussetts -- basically the whole Northeast and Northwest (plus Illinois and Michigan if they want to come along). They get Wal-Mart and Duke and most of the Nascar tracks. But they can feel free to import movies, TV shows, financial services, and defense technology. We'll import country music, bibles and Confederate flags.

The two countries will by necessity have open immigration policy: anyone who feels they are living in the wrong country can just move across the border, no questions asked.

Ultimately, why should I have to convince my fellow countrymen that Darwin may have had a point and that the word “liberal” is not equivalent to “godless communist?” And why should they be forced to live in a country with morally corrupt non-believers? I'll stay in the messy, free-thinking U.S.A.B. And to the U.S.A.R. I say…

God bless you all, and see you at the U.N

[ | 2004-11-05 05:27 | 17 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Wednesday, November 3, 2004day link 

 Bush Again
picture Dan Gillmor (via BoingBoing) sums it up well:
"The Republicans have an even stronger congressional majority. They have shown how gladly ruthless they can be in using their power. Bush and his allies have never believed in compromise. They have even less incentive to govern from the middle now, even though the nation remains bitterly divided.

There's no secret about what's coming. We don't have that excuse this time.

Here comes more fiscal recklessness -- as we widen the chasm between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else, cementing a plutocracy into our national fiber, we'll pay our national bills on the Treasury Bill credit card for the next few years. Many economists expect a Brazil-like financial crisis to hit the U.S. before the end of the decade. If we muddle our way though the near term, we'll still have left our kids with the bill.

Here comes an expansion of the American empire abroad, a fueling of fear and loathing elsewhere on the globe. This is also unsustainable in the end. Empire breeds disrespect.

Our civil liberties will shrink drastically. This president and his top allies in Congress fully support just one amendment in the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. Say goodbye to abortion rights in most states. Roe v. Wade will fall after this president pushes three or four Scalia and Thomas legal clones onto the Supreme Court. Say hello, meanwhile, to a much more intrusive blending of church and state.

The environment? We'll be nostalgic for Ronald Reagan's time in office.

This is not sour grapes. This is reality."
I agree. But unfortunately a majority of Americans seem to prefer it that way. It is shocking and puzzling what they make their decisions based on. I had hoped that there were more common sense in circulation.

The only comfort is that it will be Bush who will stew in his own mess, and that it might collapse faster, so that something new can emerge. As opposed to Kerry trying to deliver on the promise to essentially deliver more and better of most of the same things Bush was doing. With some luck this might mean that real change will come around sooner. But not now.
[ | 2004-11-03 17:11 | 25 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Friday, October 29, 2004day link 

 100,000
picture AP, ABC News:
A survey of deaths in Iraqi households estimates that as many as 100,000 more people may have died throughout the country in the 18 months since the U.S.-led invasion than would be expected based on the death rate before the war. ...

Designed and conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, the study is being published Thursday on the Web site of The Lancet medical journal.

The survey indicated violence accounted for most of the extra deaths seen since the invasion, and airstrikes from coalition forces caused most of the violent deaths, the researchers wrote in the British-based journal.

"Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children"

What was the point of that war, again?
[ | 2004-10-29 23:59 | 8 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 The Osama Factor
picture In case you missed it, Osama bin Laden just gave a speech. Addressed to the American people, just before the election. And the wild thing is that he's actually making more sense than either Bush or Kerry. None of them are really going to handle the reasons for terrorism. Kerry is for sure more likely to think about it, but both of them would go about it the wrong way, by concentrating on who they should bomb to pieces, rather than about the factors that make people pissed off at the US of A in the first place. Of course it isn't about people who hate freedom, and if it were, it wouldn't be the US they'd be thinking of attacking.

Remains to be seen how this will influence the U.S. election, but it sure will. Just one little tape.
[ | 2004-10-29 23:15 | 25 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Wednesday, October 27, 2004day link 

 Zombies and Corporate Golems
picture Jon Husband mentions Inspector Lohmann: Of Zombies, Bloggers, and The Will To Power As Disappearance. First part of a bigger article on, well, our capitalist consumer society as analyzed based on ... zombie movies, for one thing. An entertaining tour-de-force. Here, first, from one of the most memorable scenes, the zombies in the shopping mall in Dawn of the Living Dead:
[In the mall the zombies approach Penny's Department Store after our living heroes embark on a "shopping spree".]
—They're still here.
—They're after us. They know we're still in here.
—They're after the place. They don't know why, they just remember...remember that they want to be in here.
—What the hell are they?
—They're us, that's all. There's no more room in hell.
Just like us. Mindless walking dead, showing up in the mall, trying to satisfy some urge they don't quite understand what is, and which never gets satisfied.
If gangster movies are the morality plays capital performs for itself to explore capital's inherent ethical dilemmas, then zombie movies are the phenomenological fairy tales of the denizens who live within capital's ubiquitous empire. ...

Zombie movies are the mature and fully realized symbolic metaphor of corporate capitalism's ability to co-opt anything into its fold. It's also no coincidence that zombies create new zombies by spreading a "virus" into the living; and that zombies can only be killed by destroying their brain. Their condition is, metaphorically, one of perception: they have been indoctrinated by a virus to be the ultimate consumers of, and servants to, corporate capital, and cannot imagine any other way of being. A blow to the head snaps them out of it (by killing them). ...

Corporate persons, or golems, have since utilized rights granted to humans for their own gain and motives, usually in the name of profit and shareholder value. They use the First Amendment to justify their right to lie or deceive in advertising. They use it to pump millions of dollars into our political system. They invoke Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure of assets thwarting government oversight and auditing. The Fourteenth Amendment ensures they are not discriminated against in law and is used when a community does not wish their presence—even when brought to a general vote. The sum gain is a twisted political system which serves the rights and common good of large golems, depressed cheap-labor communities, and environmental decay. Essentially, it is the collapse of the "town commons" and democracy itself.

Thus zombies are the soul-deadened servants of their comparably soul-deadened Golem overlords.

Zombies are what the Golems require us to be. All they ask in exchange for the trinkets of our consumption is our souls, our time, and our lives. And, further, there can be no one who isn't a zombie — complete and universal conformity is required. There can be no escape — there is no "outside."
I, for some reason, love zombie movies. I don't care much for horror movies in general, but the zombie movies, the Dawn of the Living Dead kind of thing, somehow have a special draw. These mindless flesh eaters who're just everywhere, just doing their thing, and a few remaining resourceful humans somehow manage to stay alive anyway. I think his analogies are quite appropriate, actually.
[ | 2004-10-27 18:19 | 7 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Wednesday, October 20, 2004day link 

 No Doubt
picture Article in the N.Y.Times by Ron Suskind: Without a Doubt (registration required). A sober and brilliant analysis of what I would agree is the most disturbing and dangerous aspect of George Bush's presidency. Essentially that the major program points are based on his personal "messages" from God and that there's nothing to talk about, nobody else to listen to, and no room for new facts, or old facts, or differing opinions.
This is one key feature of the faith-based presidency: open dialogue, based on facts, is not seen as something of inherent value. It may, in fact, create doubt, which undercuts faith. It could result in a loss of confidence in the decision-maker and, just as important, by the decision-maker. Nothing could be more vital, whether staying on message with the voters or the terrorists or a California congressman in a meeting about one of the world's most nagging problems. As Bush himself has said any number of times on the campaign trail, "By remaining resolute and firm and strong, this world will be peaceful".
Personally, I'd much prefer *anybody* starting out with *any* kind of outrageous program points, as long as they would adhere to a principle of examining the facts and talking with those who need to be talked with, and then make decisions based on that. Open dialogue. Listen to what people have to say. Be willing to learn about the things you don't know. Well, the article is full of horrifying inside stories documenting that what is there now is a totally different scenario. For probably the first time in U.S. history. It is also puzzling what the hell happened. Apparently Bush used to be quite a different man, a pragmatic down-to-earth kind of guy, quite able to improvise and have a free-flowing dialogue and debate the issues. It used to be one of his strong points. Something changed, suddenly no dissent was tolerated, and he became the Messiah. And a Zombie. Now, listen to this part:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Now, that's disturbing. Also because it is right. They directly aim for creating a particular reality. And, yes, then they can move "ahead" much faster than anybody who has to stop and examine facts and ask people what they want. It works. It is an amazing piece of work. Brilliant piece of mass manipulation. The trouble is just that the reality they're manifesting is a pretty horrible one. And since it wasn't really based on what the world needed, or on any actual situation in our reality, for that matter, it probably won't work at all. But it can all stick together for a surprising amount of time, if you have confidence.
George W. Bush, clearly, is one of history's great confidence men. That is not meant in the huckster's sense, though many critics claim that on the war in Iraq, the economy and a few other matters he has engaged in some manner of bait-and-switch. No, I mean it in the sense that he's a believer in the power of confidence. At a time when constituents are uneasy and enemies are probing for weaknesses, he clearly feels that unflinching confidence has an almost mystical power. It can all but create reality.

Whether you can run the world on faith, it's clear you can run one hell of a campaign on it.
Apparently it speaks to quite a large percentage of the U.S. population. The ones in the middle. Hardworking, simple, churchgoing folks who don't read the New York Time, and who wouldn't dream of reading alternative news sources on the net, and who don't care much about facts. But they care about faith. And the right buttons have been pushed, and they believe Bush has been chosen by God. Scary. Very scary.
[ | 2004-10-20 16:39 | 33 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Monday, October 18, 2004day link 

 Cheney vows to attack U.S. if Kerry elected
picture The Onion:
GREENSBORO, NC—In an announcement that has alarmed voters across the nation, Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that he will personally attack the U.S. if Sen. John Kerry wins the next election.

"If the wrong man is elected in November, the nation will come under a devastating armed attack of an unimaginable magnitude, one planned and executed by none other than myself," Cheney said, speaking at a rally in Greensboro, NC. "When they go to the polls, Americans must weigh this fact and decide if our nation can ignore such a grave threat."

Added Cheney: "It would be a tragedy to suffer another attack on American soil, let alone one perpetrated by an enemy as well-organized and well-equipped as I am. My colleagues and I urge voters to keep their safety in mind when they go to the polls."

Although Cheney would not comment on the details of his proposed attack on a John Kerry-led U.S., national-security experts said he possesses both the capabilities and the motivation to pose a serious threat.

"There is no question that Cheney has the financial assets and intelligence needed to pose a threat to our nation," said Peter Bergen, terrorism researcher and author of Threats And Balances: Former Executive Branch Officials And The Danger To America. "After all, this fanatic can call upon the resources of both the Republican Party and Halliburton to aid him in his assault. America would be foolish not to take his warning seriously."
OK, The Onion is satire, in case you somehow didn't know. But, hey, it isn't too far off. Better watch that guy.
[ | 2004-10-18 20:57 | 9 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Thursday, October 14, 2004day link 

 NetWar and stupidity
William Gibson is blogging again. Why?
Because the United States currently has, as Jack Womack so succintly puts it, a president who makes Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln.

And because, as the Spanish philospher Unamuno said, "At times, to be silent is to lie."
And this is what he says today:
"Just about seven years ago I happened to find myself in San Francisco with a very pleasant man who was then an Office Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. We got along well, and he introduced me to several new ideas (mainly the "netwar" paradigm of warfare, which is genuinely a new paradigm in the Kuhnian sense, and which I'll return to in a later post). I came away feeling highly optimistic about, of all things, the US military. He'd assured me that "NO MORE VIETNAMS" might as well be carved above the West Point gates as Prime Directive, because "asymmetric conflict with amorphous networks of terrorists, who repurpose civilian technologies to terrible ends" was going to be where it was at from now on in -- and that Vietnam was always going to be what you got if you stuck with the old paradigm.

In the days after 9-11 I often took comfort in thinking of this man and the ideas he represented. When asked what I thought the United States would or could do in response to the attacks, I surprised friends by saying that I believed the US military's intelligentsia already understood the true nature of the conflict better than the enemy did.

And I still imagine that I was right in that. But the creative intelligence of my friend from the DoD, and so many others like him, prevailed not at all -- in the face of ideology, cupidity, stupidity, and a certain tragically crass cunning with regard to the mass pyschology of the American people.

One actually has to be something of a specialist, today, to even begin to grasp quite how fantastically, how baroquely and at once brutally fucked the situation of the United States has since been made to be."
Yes, of course there must be smart people, also in the U.S. military, who'd actually have an idea of what to do. A better idea than starting some old-fashioned ground war, against the wrong people, sending several trillion dollars up in smoke, and pretending that everything is going great.
[ | 2004-10-14 23:51 | 12 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Tuesday, October 12, 2004day link 

 Webs of Illusion
picture You could say it is just politics and differing opinions on issues, and different styles. But I'm afraid it is much more. Now, here's part of an Op-Ed piece in New York Times yesterday:
It's understood that incumbents campaigning for re-election will spotlight the good news and downplay the bad. The problem for President Bush, with the election just three weeks away, is that the bad news keeps cascading in and there is very little good news to tout.

So the president and his chief supporters have resorted to the odd tactic of claiming that the bad news is good.

The double talk reached a fever pitch last week after the release of two devastating reports - the comprehensive report by Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector, which destroyed any remaining doubts that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; and the Labor Department's dismal employment report for September, which heightened concerns about the strength of the economic recovery and left Mr. Bush with the dubious distinction of being the first president since Herbert Hoover to stand for re-election with fewer people working than at the beginning of his term.

Mr. Bush turned the findings of the Duelfer report upside down and inside out, telling crowds at campaign rallies that it proved Saddam Hussein had been "a gathering threat." It didn't matter that the report, ordered by the president himself, showed just the opposite. The truth would not have been helpful to the president. So with a brazenness and sleight of hand usually associated with three-card-monte players, he pulled a fast one on his cheering listeners.

Vice President Cheney had an equally peculiar response to the report, which said Iraq had destroyed its illicit weapons stockpiles in the early 1990's. Referring to the president's decision to launch the war, Mr. Cheney said, "To delay, defer, wait wasn't an option."

The September jobs report, released on the same day as Mr. Bush's second debate with Senator John Kerry, was deeply disappointing to the White House. Just 96,000 jobs were created, not even enough to keep up with the monthly expansion of the working-age population.

The somber findings forced the president's spin machine into overdrive. Reality, once again, was shoved aside. The administration's upbeat public response to the Labor Department report was described in The Times as follows: "The White House hailed it as evidence of continued employment expansion, saying that it validated Mr. Bush's strategy of pursuing tax cuts to support a recovery from the 2001 economic downturn."

In the president's parallel universe, things are always fine.
It is not just something to say. It is actually quite remarkable that it is possible as a strategy. Politicians have always been bullshit artists. But until sometime recently it wasn't quite possible to completely disregard the truth and to deal almost entirely in double-speak. We are pretty much talking about a parallel universe. About half of the U.S. population thinking that what they're hearing sounds about right. They'd like to hear that things are going well, and we're making progress, and people are working hard. And the numbers don't matter, and it doesn't matter what the actual situation is. And what is remarkable is that even if the facts are reported, fairly visibly, at the same time, it is entirely possible for the public figures to stand up, without flinching, and say that something entirely different happened.

It is like a bad magician on TV. Half of the audience sees really clearly that he drops the card under the table, and the card he then shows you, he took out of his sleeve. You saw him take it out of his sleeve, and it was really obvious. But the other half of the audience thinks that he does real magic and it is no trick. It must be telekinesis. And he looks so honest and sincere. Doesn't matter if the observant part of the audience insists and explains how they saw him pull it out of his sleeve. Doesn't matter at all.

I am on one hand really impressed at the mastery of deception. The facility with which half of a population of apparently normally functioning human beings can be brought into such a complete trance. And on the other hand I'm horrified about how badly the tricks are done, when seen through the eyes of the other half. No, not just that they disagree with the message. The tricks are done in an unbelievably obvious, sloppy and amateurish manner. But they work. They really work. Big things, like wars and economy. And little things like from the last presidential debate:
Kerry: The president got $84 from a timber company that he owns, and he's counted as a small business. Dick Cheney's counted as a small business. That's how they do things. That's just not right.

Bush: I own a timber company? That's news to me. ..... Wanna buy some wood?
And people laughed. It was really stupid. But he deflected the real question in an instant, while being able to claim he didn't lie. He did lie. He does own a stake in a timber company. See factcheck.org. And, yes, Bush would qualify as a "small business" based on that $84 of income. So that he cleverly can include himself in the number of people who would "get hurt" if they don't get some even bigger tax cuts. Did he really do that little sleight of hand on live TV that consciously and masterfully? No, he was probably just being stupid. But it works. The truth doesn't matter. Makes no difference in that parallel dimension. If everybody has an attention span of a fish, who cares if even the end of your sentence matches the first part.

Now, if that parallel dimension would just split itself off, and Bush could move there with all those people who'll vote for him, and a bunch of nebulous terrorists they can be freaked out about, and they can all stay really happy that they're doing the right thing. Then the rest of us could get on with the world and start cleaning up the place a bit.
[ | 2004-10-12 20:05 | 23 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Tuesday, October 5, 2004day link 

 Sending a Message
picture After watching the U.S. presidential debate the other day, I'm puzzled at what it possibly might be that Bush is doing right. You know, I see a guy who's dazed and confused, seeming to be under the influence of some kind of psychiatric drugs, unable to discuss the issues at hand, but simply able to wake up once in a while and repeat the same two or three points, with some conviction, but without much relevance to the particular questions at hand. And, ok, Kerry isn't particularly charming, but he was prepared for defending his position and the rationale behind it and for presenting some kind of plan. So why is it that a considerable percentage of the U.S. population actually considers Bush a leader who delivers a message they like?

Well, I noticed a particular difference, which also might be a typical difference between what's called conservatives (=republicans) and what is called liberals or progressives (=democrats) in the U.S. You know, Kerry was talking about whether the war in Iraq was justified or not, which based on the evidence, it wasn't. But he thinks that it would be a bigger mess not to "finish" it at this point. No matter how clearly he lays that out, it opens him up to being accused on flip-flopping and not being sure what he thinks. And then there's the key point: What message are we sending? Most of Bush's position added up to "sending a clear message". A message to the world, a message to the U.S. allies, a message to the Iraqi people, a message to the troops in Iraq, a message to the "terrists". It apparently has nothing whatsoever to do with whether that war is backed up with sufficiently good reasons or whether anybody is better off for it or whether sufficient dialogue has taken place. No, the main thing is sending a message. Showing how strong and single-minded we (the U.S.) are.

That is clearly contrasted to the other approach, which is to look at the facts, talk about things, and try to take the best possible action. And if the situation or the information changes, then to talk about that, and see what to do next.

Now, I'd definitely be leaning towards considering the second approach the "proper" way. Not based on any political opinion, but based on the need for examining what is at stake before taking important decisions. Seems self-evident to me. You need to check with reality first, and hear what everybody involved have to say. Dialogue. Cooperation. Seeking the truth. "Democracy" it is called, as well. Going through some kind of process where everybody involved will have some kind of input into making the best possible decision.

So it is with some incredulity that I realize that a whole lot of people don't work like that at all. Rather, they start with the outcome they'd like to see happen, and then they use the means at hand for getting it to happen. Which includes talking about it, repeating it, giving reasons for it, lining up other people who think so, or just going ahead and doing it. And in that camp you score points for not ever wavering from the view you started off with. Staying firm on your conviction is more important than facts, or whether lots of other important stake holders disagree.

You'll recognize it with religious convictions, of course. They don't come out of a dialogue that is intended to unearth the facts and the most desirable outcome. On the contrary, it usually starts with some arbitrary statement interpreted from an old book by a revered prophet, and it is believed necessary to get its intention carried out, without being distracted by facts or feelings or different views.

I'm not aware of any previous U.S. administration before Bush's that worked predominantly in that way. I.e. they work out in some think tank what their position is and what is supposed to happen, and then they go and do it, and facts and differing opinions make very little difference.

But apparently it works because it resonates with something in many people. And I do recognize it always having been there in the "conservative" mindset. Just never before has it been exploited so blatantly and openly.

An example would be the issue of abortion. The conservative view would tend to be that it is wrong, for religious or moral reasons. Thus the task becomes to send a strong message that we don't want that, and laws are merely a tool for sending that message. But even most of the conservative politicians who campaign against abortion rights would privately admit that if their own daughter needed an abortion, they would of course help her with that. Bush Sr was caught admitting that once, for example. The point is that in that mindset, such an apparent conflict doesn't change the position. The position is a certain point which one needs to send a message about. It is only a minor issue whether it really would work for everybody, or whether there's agreement about it, or whether one even oneself would want to adhere to it.

The difference is clear in the typical liberal vs conservative ways of talking about things. Well, I don't know if it is really just a liberal vs conservative thing. I don't really like or agree with the illusion of a political spectrum. But let's stick with those words for the moment.

So, liberal people would tend to want to dig up the facts and talk about them and they tend to want to look for some solution that works for most everybody. Some kind of consensus based on what is on the table. So, obviously one can't preach the outcome in advance, because one doesn't know what it is yet. The answer is "it depends".

For conservative people, that seems terribly wishy-washy and ineffective. The thing to do is to have a strong position, based on moral principles and the protection of your own kind, and then you carry your intention through, no matter what. So, you score points for a noble and moral aim, presented clearly and concisively. And for going through whatever it takes to get there.

So, the way liberals would want to discuss big issues would be to bring forward various kinds of facts and the concerns of various kinds of stake holders. Say the issue is the war in Iraq, or global warming. Instinctively, this kind of person would believe that if we just bring this all out in the open, sane people would realize the truth and act accordingly. And these folks are really surprised if even the most obvious and horrifying facts don't change public opinion.

The conservatives use information very differently. It is not used as input to help people decide what is what. It is used to back up the moral and noble aim that is being carried through, and as part of the message. So, the information that is being provided is to support and strengthen and promote the position we started with. If things aren't going well, the answer is to speak more clearly about the initial position, to create a more clear and focused message, backed up by whatever is available to back it up with.

There's a considerable number of right-wing weblogs which seem remarkably well coordinated and synchronized. Common for a lot of them is that their opponents, the left-wing liberals, loudly are regarded simply as "idiots", "morons", or similar words. You see a surprising number of blogs where that's even stated as the head-line or in the blog's name. You know "anti-idiotarian ..." And they go to some length to create "Laugh at Liberals" websites, and that kind of thing. No, I'm not going to link to them. But my point is the different way of having dialogue. The liberal approach of showing concern for different sides is just very funny and ridiculous for people on the other side. Obviously moronic and naive to think one could actually talk with North Korea, or reason with terrorists, hahah. The right-wing blogs also post loads of information about the bad deeds of the bad guys, but again, information selected to back up a position, not information selected to provide the whole picture.

I don't see very many left-wing weblogs that spend most of their energy on ridiculing right-wing people. Oh, not that anybody would mind, but it doesn't seem to be the same focus. Which is again that difference. From the conservative perspective, it is of crucial importance to take down the opponent. From the liberal perspective it is of crucial importance to bring everything on the table, to be decided. The first approach often wins, because it is much easier and clear.

There are other aspects to the stereotypes of conservative and liberal people, of course. For conservatives, the ideal is a strong father figure who imposes discipline, and discipline and hard work are rewarded. For liberals, the ideal is a nurturing mother figure who listens to everybody's concerns and makes sure there's a warm meal for everybody. For conservatives, the world is a dangerous place and one better protect oneself and one's property against the bad people out there. For liberals, the world is basically a nice place and there needs to be room for all of us in it.

Anyway, I still don't believe in the political categories or spectrum. I think it is a fake scheme to cover up the real choices. Anyway, the political groups often end up doing the opposite of what they're supposed to. Like, in the U.S. it is supposed to be the conservatives that are for small government and private freedom, but yet they create the most humongous central government and spend more money than anybody else, and they put way more curbs on personal freedoms, many only for abstract religous reasons. And the supposedly big government liberals end up balancing the budget and to a much higher degree let people do what they feel is right. Anyway, that's all the U.S. picture. Looks different in other parts of the world.

Anyway, I didn't actually mean to talk just about politics. My point was the difference between worldviews of those who prefer clear, strong messages and those who prefer to have a dialogue about the facts. I'm afraid there's unfortunately still more of the first kind of people.
[ | 2004-10-05 13:53 | 8 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Tuesday, September 28, 2004day link 

 Video Massacres
picture Not that I'll make a habit of it, but it is not the kind of thing the media tend to cover much, so somebody might have missed it. A chilling way of getting a sense of some of the routine activities of the U.S. military forces in Iraq is to watch some of the leaked videos taken from helicopters while they essentially fly around and murder fairly random and sometimes unarmed people who happened to be walking in the wrong place. The latest from Falluja. Video. The audio is the most chilling part. The pilot reports that a large number of people are walking on the street and asks over the radio if he should "take them out". And the instant answer is "yes". Not armed people, mind you, just people. A rocket makes an end to them, whoever they actually were, and he exclaims "aw, dude!".

And an older one from January which actually appeared once on ABC. An Apache takes out three people, which to me look like farm workers walking around between a tractor and a truck. I'm of course not trained in quickly determining what some grey shadows seen through a night vision camera really are doing. I'm not sure the people in the helicopter are either. I do understand some things about body language, though, and it is obvious that the people on the ground didn't seem to think they had anything to hide from before the helicopter started shooting at them. And blowing away wounded people who're trying to crawl to safety certainly isn't according to the Geneva convention, if any of the rest of it is.

It shows the horror war easily becomes, particularly when one side is hovering in the air with high tech weaponry, but only a fuzzy b&w image on the screen, and the other side is unknown. It easily becomes to just kill anything that moves that looks a little suspicious, anything that possibly, potentially, maybe could be somebody who might have hostile intent. Because they maybe live in the general area where somebody else blew up somebody from your side the day before. But a lot of the time they're just farmers mounting their plough or parents taking their kids to school. War is never going to make sense.
[ | 2004-09-28 23:59 | 17 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Voting standards
picture Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford were asked to draw up recommendations for changes in the voting procedures in Florida. They weren't followed, however, and now Carter is speaking up. He's somewhat of an expert, having monitored the elections in many foreign countries. And the procedures in Florida don't really measure up, and probably won't be changed before the election. Same procedure as last time, apparently.
A fumbling attempt has been made recently to disqualify 22,000 African Americans (likely Democrats), but only 61 Hispanics (likely Republicans), as alleged felons.
And the Florida Secretary of State tried to get Ralph Nader included on the state ballot, knowing of course that he might divert Democrat votes, just like the last time. Well, at least it is all being watched rather closely this time around.
[ | 2004-09-28 22:48 | 6 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Porn Ashcroft
picture U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has porn on his mind. At least he's decided to waste a lot of government resources on a war against porn. Millions of dollars, dozens of prosecutors, and he plans on going after some of your favorite cable shows too. He apparently didn't understand the part about free speech in the constitution. Anyway, the side benefit of such a campaign is of course that he himself can sit and look at a lot of dirty pictures. Such a pervert. So this picture is quite appropriate. Ashcroft's face made entirely of porn pictures. It is made by Kevin Reynen who also made Bush's face from dead American soldiers, and Dick Cheney's made of SUVs and oil wells. ... Oops, I got it wrong. Kevin Reynen did Abu Rummy, a picture of Rumsfeld made of Iraqi torture pictures from the news, and Crude Dick, of Cheney made of oil wells and SUVs. The War President picture was by Joe. And the Porn Ashcroft picture there is by Alf Eaton.
[ | 2004-09-28 22:25 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 The Great Enlikenment
Mitch Ratcliffe on "The Great Enlikenment":
At certain times in history, such as during the Great Enlightenment, differences have been sought out and appreciated. Differences of opinion and, especially, departures from the generally accepted wisdom of the age, have been important to the growth of thought, the evolution of society and industry.

Today is the age of the Great Enlikenment, to coin a word. Everything and everyone is lumped into categories in order to make sorting through the vast amount of information we face more manageable. Differences are minimized and undervalued.

The Great Enlikenment is good sometimes, at least it has salutary qualities, in that it makes teaming up with others by identifying a common goal or enemy quite easy. It also makes mass markets viable, because different products and services are lumped together by people of little imagination and, eventually, the differences disappear through competition and consolidation, so that vast amounts of revenue can be funneled through a narrowly defined organization. The Great Enlikenment makes fashion possible, even the "rebels" who redefine fashion, because sooner rather than later, we'll be dressed like the rebels. It makes George W. Bush possible, because when he looks out from a podium, he sees people screened for their agreement with his policies.
Yeah, lumping everything together in dumbed-down simplistic categories can be tempting, and is unfortunately an effective way of controlling the masses. Consolidate it all into an alluring cartoon format, and just ignore anybody who's trying to differentiate things more. We need an antidote.
[ | 2004-09-28 21:22 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >



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