Saturday, October 01, 2005

Ann Coulter and attacking from the left

Everybody likes to think they are moderate. "Oh, sure, I'm conservative, but I'm not an extremist or anything". That's why everyone needs an Ann Coulter and a Rush Limbaugh to attack from the left.

But moderation in virtue is no virtue, and extremism in virtue is no vice. Yes, both Rush and Ann can be caustic. I would prefer that the level of discourse be kept more civil. But the truth is that the left often deserves to be mocked. And Republicans who betray their voters deserve to be bashed. I just loved this column by Ann Coulter.

The main problem with those two is that they don't suffer from that emotional weakness, that craving to be liked, which expresses itself as a need to attack someone from the left. Michelle Malkin and George Bush both do suffer from that disability. And look how much love it gets them. If anything, those two are despised even more than Rush and Ann.

Friday, September 30, 2005

reductio ad absurdum in politics

Why can't we have honest political debate in this country? A big part of the reason is people like John Conyers who will happily take someone out of context and reverse what they intended to say in order to attack and discredit them (link from Queen of All Evil).

Bill Bennet was arguing against utilitarian social policy. In the midst of that argument, he pointed out a grotesque consequence of the policy: "if you wanted to reduce crime, you could - if that were your sole purpose - abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." He was arguing essentially, "if you really believe what you say you do, then you have to agree with this grotesque statement".

John Conyers took that statement out of context and suggested that Bill Bennet was endorsing it, at least to some degree. This is absolutely beyond the pale.

When you are arguing with someone, can't you point out the consequences of their position without endorsing those consequences? How about this:
If the only purpose of punishment is to discourage crime, then you could just convict anyone of the crime and execute them even if they didn't do it. As long as everyone believed that the executed person was guilty, then the execution would serve the purpose of discouraging crime.
According to John Conyers, I just endorsed the idea of executing innocent people.

But what I actually did was reduce a position that I disagreed with to something that presumably everyone would disagree with. This is a variant of reductio ad absurdum. You argue against a position by showing how that position leads to a consequence that no one would accept. It is an ancient and honorable form of argumentation, and only a mental or moral midget would try to abuse someone over it the way John Conyers has done.

But of course Conyers isn't interested in civil debate. He's just out to get a conservative. And if he can do it by taking a quote out of context and creating a big media stink about it, well that's fine with him.

UPDATE: President Bush should be ashamed of himself.

UPDATE II: Well, this is what happens when you spend your day working instead of reading blogs. It seems that Conyers wasn't the whacko who started this witchhunt, he's just a whacko in Congress who took it to Kos. See this great article at Protein Wisdom for a good background.

the vote is in

My office provides free soft drinks and the person who buys them was getting a lot of contradictory requests, so she decided to take a vote for the six most popular. Here are the votes:
Diet Coke 4
Caffeine-Free Coke 2
Regular Coke 2
Diet Pepsi 2
Diet 7-Up 2
Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi 1
I don't think it was a very effective voting strategy because there might have been people who voted for one thing but didn't get it, but if they had known they weren't going to get it they would have voted for something else that they didn't get but that other people voted for and their vote would have put the other thing over the top so they would get it.

Or, actually, since the lowest vote total was 1, that implies that everything that got a vote was in.

As long as I got my Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

mysteries of the deep and the, er, high

Back of the Envelope has two interesting posts up. One about actual undersea photographs of a giant squid and one about cats splattering on airplane windshields at high altitude. Well, sort of.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

the mythology of libertarians

Dean has up one of those mythological political charts that libertarians love so much. Take a look so that you can understand my description. (UPDATE: Xrlq has one up too. I decided to link him too so I could trackback).

These charts always put the Democrats at economic-restrictive/social-permissive and put Republicans at economic-permissive/social-restrictive. But in what universe are the Democrats more socially permissive than Republicans? Ever heard of hate-crimes? Ever heard of anti-smoking campaigns? Ever heard of lawsuits to force private organizations like the Boy Scouts to give up their principles? Ever heard of seatbelt laws?

The Democrats are the party of sexual permissiveness, yes, but social permissiveness? Give me a break. There is more to social freedom than sex. What is Political Correctness but a dedicated campaign to coerce certain social behaviors? And not only social behaviors, but social beliefs. It is the Democrats that want to force people into "sensitivity training" classes and "sexual harassment awareness" classes where they can be indoctrinated into the politically correct mindset. Democrats use court orders and conditions of employment to force people into these things. How many Republicans want to force people to go to church?

For that matter, how many Republicans want to force Christianity on other people's children in public schools? Now, how many Democrats want to force Political Correctness on other people's children in public schools? How many Republicans sue other groups and governments to enforce their own idea of morality? Now, how many Democrats sue other groups and governments to enforce their own idea of morality?

Yes, the Republicans have a large group of people with strong convictions about morality. But almost everyone has strong convictions about morality. The only difference is that Republicans happen to think lots of sexual acts are immoral while Democrats only think a few sexual acts are immoral. In other areas, Political Correctness is far stricter than Christianity.

And anyway, what difference does it make on a political chart whether some group thinks blow jobs are a sin or not? Their beliefs in that area largely effect no on besides themselves. What is important from the political point of view is whether they think their morality should be forced on other people against their will. And for the last thirty years, all of the forcing and most of the attempted forcing has come from the Democrats.

Those two-dimensional political charts tend to confuse sexual freedom with social freedom and tend to confuse private moral convictions with public policy goals. Both confusions tend to make the Democrats seem more socially liberal than the Republicans even though they are not.

The chart on Dean's site has an additional problem: it is historically naive. It uncritically accepts the urban legend that Republicans are "kind of fascist" and that Democrats are "kind of socialist". The Democrats of today have more in common with fascists than Republicans do. The fascists believed that the governments should tell manufacturers what to make and how to make it and what to pay their workers, they believed that public schools should indoctrinate people, and they believed that private citizens couldn't be trusted with guns. Even if you accept the hysterical views about how Republicans want to force everyone to be Christians, there is nothing remotely fascist about that. Theocratic, yes. Fascist, no. I can't think of a single element of the Republican platform that is closer to the fascists than the Democrats are.

Fascism and socialism are both totalitarian forms of government. They both insist on controlling both economics and social systems. Fascists may have let the owners keep formal title to their property, but they completely controlled what could be done with the property. And socialist countries control people's entire lives, not just the economy. They control what you can teach your kids, where (or whether) you can go to church, what is considered art, what is considered science, what books you can read. This, folks, is not "socially permissive".

UPDATE: I wanted to clarify that it wasn't Dean (or Xrlq) who made up the chart, it's from some sort of quiz site.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

is leftism a sleep disorder?

I have two large pieces of poster board taped to my windows to cut down on the morning light. One of them has become warped and pulled away from the window to create a bulge. Last night, just before I went to bed, I noticed it and almost started to repair it, but then decided to do it later.

That night, I woke up, suddenly realizing why the bulge was there. It wasn't just the effects of temperature and moisture, no. It was them. Yes, they had snuck into my room and cleverly made it look like normal warping so they could put some sort of device under it to spy on me.

I was about to get up and check under the poster board for the device when I remembered that I always wake up in the middle of the night with these paranoid fantasies and that in the morning they always seem silly. So, trusting my waking instincts, and motivated by innate laziness, I turned over and went back to sleep. Until I dropped off, I was continuously uncomfortable, as if I were being watched.

This morning, of course, the idea seems preposterous. Of course I'm being spied on. Just kidding. Of course I'm not being spied on. I wake up all the time, late at night, sure that I just saw someone (or something) walk through my room, or that I see the lens of a camera spying on me, or that something in the room is not as I left it, or that a shadow contains some sinister and dangerous secret. Then in the morning, I remember my paranoid delusions and they seem ridiculous.

Then I got to thinking how much this kind of thinking has in common with the paranoid delusions we see coming out of leftists today. Everything Bush does is viewed with suspicion. Forget why he says he did it, why did he really do it? Everything that happens that tends to discredit the leftist cause was somehow arranged by Rove. And there is a constant, unshakable axiom that no one could honestly and ethically disagree with their position. Anyone who differs with them is a lying reprobate.

Here is one example, although they are so easy to find that it seems pointless to provide it. Michelle Malkin links to someone on the Daily Kos who criticizes Cindy Sheehan, and the regular readers automatically assume that the critic must be an agent provocateur for Michelle Malkin because, gasp Malkin links to the comment!

Since this behavior is so similar to my own half-awake state, I wonder if leftists are only half-awake. Maybe they suffer from some sort of sleep disorder: insomnibilius leftus. Maybe Michael Moore just needs a good night's sleep. He could wake up thinking, "Hey! Those Islamists are out to kill us! What was I thinking, blaming my fellow Americans for everything?". Maybe Dan Rather just needs a vacation on a quiet beach somewhere. He could come back and tell people, "Man, if I had been fully awake I never would have published those documents; they were so obviously frauds. And I certainly wouldn't have blamed the people that pointed out that they were frauds. Sorry guys. My bad."

Maybe we should start a campaign, "nap time for the left". Anyone starts to talk about the latest Karl Rove conspiracy and we go, "Nap time! Nap time! Go lay down for an hour, you will feel a lot better when you get up, really."

Monday, September 26, 2005


The Storyblogging Carnival is up at Tales of Tadeusz.

Eric is calling it the first Carnival of the second year in spite of what the kill-joy Donald says.

I'll bet Donald celebrated the Millenium in 2001.