Monday, December 31, 2007

Movie Reviews that Suck

I have written on movie reviews before - talking about the annoying cliche that the book was better than the movie. Now I want to talk about what annoys me about movie reviews, in general. There are two broad categories of movie reviews I despise. Then there is a general thing about reviews that annoys me that I will start with first.

I absolutely HATE it when a reviewer tries to get cute with the title or subject matter in the title of the review, such as saying "Waterworld sinks" or some such crap like that. Which brings me to the first broad category that I hate. Reviews that spend the whole review complaining about some aspect of MAKING the movie or the stars in it that has nothing to do with what is on the screen when you watch it. Like criticising the aforementioned Waterworld for costing over $100 Million dollars or whatever it was at the time, or for Kevin Costner's cut of that, and taking up half the review with that crap, then complaining that the movie just doesn't seem like it was worth that much because it wasn't the best movie ever made. Or some bullshit like that. I mean, unless you had to pay a much higher ticket price for that movie than for any other, the cost to make it is IRRELEVANT. You pay the same amount to see some indie film made for $2 million on credit cards. (And then THAT film gets kudos for being so GOOD on such a small budget). What a load of horse puckey. I don't CARE how much it costs to make a movie. I don't CARE if the actors in it are, in real life, as charming as potted plants (and as smart). When one sees a movie, one doesn't see any of that. And so a reviewer should not talk about any of that. A reviewer should talk about the experience that starts when the lights dim and ends when the credits roll, and that is it. Nothing else.

In my ideal world, critics would not be allowed to even see the credits, nor know anything about the movie, including who was in it, until after they had viewed it and written their review. Thus, the review would be limited to what was on the screen - and the buzz, the false controversies from the production, its costs, the actors - all of that bull scrid crud would be kept out of it. Mentioning any of that is like an English teacher giving you a lower grade on your paper because she didn't like the shoes you wore to class when you turned it in. Review the movie, not the damn process. In my ideal world, any reviewer who mentions anything but what was in the movie on the screen in a review would be fired, then, on the way home from the unemployment office, he would be kidnapped, locked in a coffin, and deported by submarine to a small island nation run by ex-Bush administration neocon lackeys. Ahem.

My second broad category of annoying reviews are those reviews where it is clear the reviewer had an opinion going in and stuck to it, despite what was on the screen, perhaps not even paying attention. Like a review of Hudson Hawk I saw that, after it finished violating my rule number one above (complaining about the $70 million price tag), then went on to complain that they were singing during the robbery at the beginning for no apparent reason - thus proving that the reviewer had a brain the size of a walnut, and that the reviewer had the attention span of a one year old, because it was stated very clearly as they started an entire discussion about songs that the reason they sang them was they used them in lieu of watches to keep track of time - each song was a specific length and so they'd choose one based on the timing they needed.

Another annoying subpart of this kind of bad review is the one where the reviewer has decided, because of the low-brow subject matter (or some other reason) that they simply cannot admit liking a film, leading to such reviews as one I read where a reviewer of a low-brow comedy said that he "laughed all the way through it" but still gave it few stars and a bad review because, well, it was juvenile. Or some such nonsense. When last I checked, a comedy that makes you laugh all the way through it should properly be given four out of four stars because hey, that's what comedies are SUPPOSED to do. What, could it possibly be better than that?

Thus ends my rant. Maybe, with luck, someone reading this will become a movie reviewer some day and will avoid this nonsense. Then my life will have been complete.

Libertarians are Nutty

I've heard it all before. Libertarians are nutty. Ron Paul is a lunatic. He's a white supremacist. And so forth. And there is a bit of truth to that. There are plenty of libertarians who ARE quite nutty. That's part of why I call myself only libertarian leaning rather than a Libertarian. But then again, there are plenty of Republicans who are quite nutty, and Democrats, too. Yet somehow that doesn't automatically delegitimize either party (well, for some it does, but you don't see it used as a general bludgeon like it is used against Libertarians).

I think it is great Ron Paul is running and is doing so well because I agree with a lot of libertarian ideas. I also disagree with some of them. And I think some are a bit nutty. Some say that means one should not support Ron Paul because of a parade of horribles that would happen if he won. But that is rather crazy. Because any sane person could tell you that it doesn't matter if Ron Paul has some crazy ideas - they would never get implemented by Congress, and the media, in the GOP backpocket, would be all over him for it, stopping him at every turn. Because strangely, our system of checks and balances and our free media only really work as a check on power when someone in power tries to do something AGAINST the powers that be, which are generally rich and GOP (and lately fundamentalist). So the powers that be would NEVER let any of Paul's outliers get implemented. Not even close. So why emphasize them when they are not the real issue? Because they are afraid of the things he COULD implement, because those are the things that are extremely popular and part of why he is doing as well as he is.

Oh, and the claim he is a white supremacist? That concerned me, until I realized it was based solely on a single $500 donation given to him by a white supremacist that he refused to give back when confronted about it by some GOP schill, because he didn't want to play the stupid political games with such things. I'm sure probably hundreds, perhaps thousands, who are white supremacists have given to probably every single other GOP candidate running. Perhaps some have given to some Democrats as well, though I think that probably stopped happening right around the time the Southern states turned GOP from Dixiecrat. And yet because of this one single donation out of millions of dollars, suddenly Paul is smeared as a white supremacist. What is sad about this is that I've seen others I generally respect repeat this false claim.

In the end, none of it matters, because in today's GOP, a real small-government conservative has no chance at all of winning the GOP nomination. The GOP and the media have made sure to marginalize him or ignore him at every turn. Still, he may do better than they think. In any case, he won't win. So whether one supports him or not is less about him and more about what it says about the current state of the GOP and the Democrats.

Back to libertarianism. I lean that way. I lean that way because of my uncompromising position on civil rights and on my belief that it is best to keep government as small as possible - because power corrupts. I don't think the market is some panacea. I think there are things that only government can do. I just would rather limit the government to doing ONLY those things, and nothing else. As to what those things are - that is open to debate. Some are obvious. Some are less so. Some fall somewhere in between.

I don't feel like getting into all of that now. I do just want to acknowledge that yes, there are some nutty libertarians and some nutty libertarian ideas and I don't subscribe to either. But then again, I don't belong to any political party and my opinion of the two major parties couldn't be lower.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Ray of Hope is a Ray of Warm Sunshine!

Victory! Dodd's maneuvers in the Senate prevented the horrid telecom bill from getting passed this year. Unfortunately, this may only have delayed it, but I'll take anything at this point! It is heartening to see there is at least one Democrat with some backbone who is willing to show real leadership and actually DO something rather than just mouth platitudes on the way to surrendering to the GOP.

This also means that perhaps there is more time for the lawsuits against the illegal activities of the telecoms to progress, though probably not enough.

The ultimate message is, though, that one can stop the GOP agenda if one actually tries - keep the pressure on! Make sure this bill NEVER comes to pass! Now I feel at least a little bit better today. Though I still feel bad about something personal that happened this weekend - more on that later...

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Tiny Ray of Hope

There is a tiny glimmer of hope that perhaps some small sliver of the horrid law breaking done by our government might be pushed into the light of day through an ACLU civil case. I can only hope that the judge does his job, follows the law, and holds those responsible for destroying those CIA tapes in contempt (and throws their collective asses in prison). All no thanks to any of the Dems in Congress (with the exception of Dodd, whose hold is being ignored).

And they fold yet AGAIN - hell, they enable!

This post by Glenn today (about how Reid is caving in to everything the GOP wants on FISA, including giving total amnesty to the phone companies, blocking yet another avenue of accountability) just makes me want to say "fuck it" to the whole thing and abandon any support for Dems entirely. It disgusts me so much I can't say anything else about it right now except a bunch of words that won't contribute much to the conversation.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Democrats Fold Like a Lawnchair (Again!)

As no surprise to anyone, Democrats once again fold like a lawnchair. Nice to see how well they work as an "opposition" party - for fuck's sake, they can't even mount an effective opposition to the GOP when they control both houses of Congress! This is just pathetic. This is sick. Someone, please, tell me WHY I should be supporting a party that folds and lets the GOP do whatever it wants while, at the same time, giving the GOP political cover because the GOP isn't in charge? Please tell me? Why should this party not be utterly destroyed to make room for a new party, one that will actually oppose the GOP?

I just want to scream.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Women as Sex Objects and The Male Gaze

More specifically, MY male gaze. This is another topic I've also thought about for a while and just did not have time to post about (or energy). Chasing a two-year-old can do that.

I've often seen the complaint voiced by some women about problems with the male gaze, or being seen as a sex object. (I've also seen some men and women complain about NOT being seen as a sex object, usually because of being unattractive in some way).

Here goes my random thoughts on this subject from my own gaze. First, I'm a male, I'm heterosexual, and so I like to look at attractive, sexy women. I have since puberty. And that is pretty normal. And liking to look is not something I would ever apologize for, nor should I or anyone. Looking is normal. And it is also harmless. And it isn't even cheating to just look. I look. My wife looks at men (and comments to me as well, sometimes negative, sometimes positive). That's all just part of the fun of being alive. And there is nothing wrong with it.

Doing something more than looking, even just making an inappropriate comment, that is something else, but I'm just talking about the gaze here, and the thoughts in my head when I do so, nothing more. (I never comment anyway - not only is it rude, but I think I'd be too shy to do so even if I wanted to).

So yes, when I gaze, I may also think about things sexual, though as I age, such things happen less and less. I guess one can't be a horny teenager forever. Now I look and appreciate, but the idea of actually even thinking about sex with someone, well, it tends not to happen because my practical mind would throw up all the reasons it couldn't and I'd never get to the sex part. So I just look and appreciate to myself and that's about it most of the time.

Something I want to get out, though, is that even where I do look at a woman as a sex object, in that I find a given woman attractive in that way, that doesn't affect how I view that woman in any other way. In other words, it is only relevant in my mind as to the question as to whether or not this is someone I'd consent to have sex with (if I were otherwise available to do so). It does not affect my judgment about anything else - for instance, if it was a professional situation, it would have nothing to do with my evaulation of the woman at doing her job. One simply is irrelevant to the other. Or to put it in reverse, just to be clear. If a woman is a kick-ass lawyer who writes the best briefs on the planet, that does not affect or translate into my view of her as sexually desireable (though I should caveat that to say that I find smart women very sexy).

What I'm getting at is the occasional gaze and accompanying appreciation of attractive women I see out in the world really is on a parallel track to how I otherwise think of women. If a woman is not attractive to me, I would not have such thoughts, and would turn down that woman for a date if such a scenario ever was possible, but that has nothing to do with my evaluation of that woman on any other axis of competence or worth. It is only relevant to that rather narrow question of "is she dating material?" which, when one is married, is really an academic question anyway, barring some sort of open marriage (which I definitely do not have).

Otherwise, I evaluate women the same way I evaluate men - based on competence and who they are. I don't quite understand why the question of whether or not I find a woman sexy should even enter into anything beyond that - maybe some men get flustered or something, or maybe they are just assholes, I don't know, but it just doesn't make any sense to me, particularly in a professional setting. Why would you screw about with your livelihood based on factors that have nothing to do with acheiving it? (Like why would you pick for a job someone you find sexy when they can't do the work over someone who will make you gobs of money but is not sexy to you? Particularly if you are married an unavailable anyway? Ok, I guess that goes back to the "asshole" theory above).

Why am I even posting about this? What is the point? To say that someone finding you sexy does not mean you won't be taken seriously and really shouldn't have any effect on anything beyond that narrow question - Does that person find you sexy? Which, usually, is nothing more than trivia, either way, unless both people are single and looking.

And thus ends another disjointed memorialization of my thoughts...

Hate Tolerance, Feminist Critics, and Equality

It was hard coming up with a title to convey everything that I was thinking of as I decided to make this post, so I did my best. What spurred me to actually write this was this post at Feminist Critics, though a lot of what is in this has been bouncing around my head for a while now.

The post referenced above got me going because I think it is ultimately an unfair criticism. Painting all who call themselves feminists as 'hate tolerant' because they don't protest the more extreme elements of radical feminism just isn't fair. To me, it brings to mind what is wrong with some brands of feminism, in that they paint with a broad brush, denigrating men for the same sort of thing, for not protesting things that other men do, for instance, male politicians or leaders, or CEOs, or criminals. And that simply isn't fair either. One is not responsible for the acts of others just because you share a demographic. You can show evidence of the one million of the worst mysoginistic men in existence, and it is irrelevant if you are using their existence and deeds to somehow reflect on me or on men, in general. I am not responsible for what others do. "Class men" is not responsible either. Particularly where the actual perpetrators of violence, and those in power are a very tiny fraction of the population. And so it is with feminism. The most radical feminists are only a fraction of the total number of feminists. Why should one have to prove "creds" by criticising them? True, there is one difference, in that the decision to be associated with the name 'feminist' is voluntary (while being a man really is not), but the basic principle is still the same.

It has been argued that the criticism should not be so stinging because if you are a feminist and you do criticise the bad elements of feminist radicals, then it "isn't about you" - but I think that sort of thing rings rather hollow, just as hollow as when it is said by feminists making thinly veiled generally-applicable misandrist statements and then saying men shouldn't be upset because if it doesn't describe them, it "isn't about them." I call bullshit on that.

So I don't really think it is valid to try and paint with a broad brush and apply the sins of few feminists against all feminists. It IS, of course, appropriate to criticise the hell out of the sins themselves. But don't attribute them to those who don't espouse them. Speaking of criticism, that brings me to my next point.

This post by Aposate also got my attention. While I agree with much of what she says, something in it stood out, where she said that 'I see “Feminist Critics” and I see zero value in it. ' That to me seemed rather dogmatic. What is she saying, that there is no value in criticising feminsim? That is what she has done in this post and in others. Or is it the idea of the site itself, having a site of non-feminists give critical analysis of feminism? I don't agree with everything on that site. I also think some of the comments can be rather obnoxious. That said, it is an order of magnitude better and more polite, more open to real discussion, than many many femisist sites I've seen and read. And even if one doesn't agree with most of what is on that site, I think it has value simply because of the dangers of echo chambers and the extremism that they breed. Avoiding discussion of feminism with people who haven't already drunk the cool-aid is another way to extremism. I try to read sites I don't agree with just to get other points of view. What is sad is that so many of those sites don't even let someone like me (who doesn't just blindly agree with everything the site sponsor says) make a comment, or if I do, I can get visciously attacked, as I illustrated in the echo chamber post (pointing here and here).

One last comment about feminsm (and this may be my last comment on that subject for a while - it feels like beating a dead horse and also there just doesn't seem to be too many people willing to discuss it (at least with me on this site - but then I don't claim to be the great source of discussion...))

I hear it often said that feminism is simply 'the radical notion that women are people.' Or that it is about equality or equal rights for women. And that is laudible and I agree with it. But something that I've noticed in my readings on feminism is that, really, that is not exactly true. That's something for the longest time that I could not quite put my finger on, that bothered me about feminism. The truth is, feminism is NOT about equality or women as people, not primarily. It is about promoting women. A subtle, but important difference. And I've noticed that one gets that true definition when someone, usually a man, attempts to use the first definition. Or rather, the definition put forth changes depending on the context.

If one is trying to show a person as unreasonable for saying something bad about feminism or for not supporting feminism, the first definition I mention above is used, to show just how unreasonable the person is for 'not seeing women as people' or for being against equality.

But then when the conversation is about actual equality, then the definition changes, and it really isn't about equality anymore, it is about promoting women, shedding light on issues important to women, etc. And so mere 'equality' is then said not to really be the point, but something more.

That bothers me. Because that, to me, sounds dishonest, or rather, is too convenient. Let me first just say that there is nothing wrong with a movement to promote women. I think it is needed for all the reasons you can think of. What bothers me is the dishonesty about pretending it is one thing when it is really something else. I don't know if I'm articulating this very well here. But basically, it just irks me to see it claimed that feminism is just about women as people or equality, when that really isn't true, those are secondary to feminsm. (And further, since very few people in this country would dispute that women are people or would advocate denying equality to women - it makes it seem to me that this is just a convenient definition used to bludgeon someone and avoid dealing with valid criticism of feminism).

In fact, I'll have to say, right now, the most troubling aspect of feminism, for me, is this false claim of 'its all about equality.' I'm all about equality. I have always thought women were people. But I don't claim to be a feminist. The fact that my support of equality is not enough to allow me to post in a feminist thread at amps I think is rather definitive proof that feminism is NOT primarily about equality. At least it is for me.

Again, to reiterate, there's nothing wrong with promoting women. Just admit that's what you are primarily about. Promoting women and women's issues. Not equality. It may seem like a silly or too-subtle difference, but it grates on me. One final thought on that - if one disputes my contention that feminists really don't do that definitional switchero - in other words, if someone takes issue with that and wants to argue that feminism really is mainly about women as people and equality, then would such a person, instead of criticising me, then label me a feminist because I share those views and call me part of the feminist movement because I embrace the core principles of feminism? If not, doesn't that suggest that I'm right?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happy Times

I thought I'd post on a more positive note today. I want to say, loudly and clearly, that I'm happy. Not that things couldn't be better. Not that there aren't lots of worries in the future - a new baby is after all, only 13 weeks away now. My job will evaporate in just over a year and I didn't get a new job I interviewed for a few months ago. I don't know what I'll be doing in a year. But despite those uncertainties (and worries about my wife's job as well, though mostly because of how dependent we are on her income, which even now is more than twice my own), I am happy.

This became most apparent to me yesterday when, as usual, I was home with my now two year, three month old daughter, sitting on my bed with the TV on, relaxing after work, waiting for my wife to come home (she usually comes home late). My daughter was in a very giggly mood, as she often is, and I was playing with her, swinging her around, tickling her, and just in general enjoying being with her while she enjoyed being with me. And I felt so very very happy. The feeling I had was that this was one of the happiest times in my life and that I'll probably be thinking back on this for a long time (this period in my life) as one of my happier times. Not that more happiness isn't to come. I'm sure it is. (I sure hope it is!) But that right now, I'm thankful and grateful and just plain happy that things are the way they are right now. Sure, in the future, we will have issues to deal with, but right now, we have a warm house, plenty of food, and plenty of quality time as a family. Those are the things that matter.

And joy of joys, I get to go pick up my daughter from day care in a few minutes and start another fun evening. Sure, it is work - picking her up, feeding her, getting her washed, and all of that. But it is so worth it. And the happiness is at a level higher than I think I've ever felt. I can't ever remember feeling so happy and content as I do in my life right now. So I'm going to savor it and enjoy it while it lasts and, at least for now, at least in good doses, not worry about anything else.

Friday, November 30, 2007

These Protesters Should Die

I'm against the death penalty, for various reasons, most of them having to do with my knowledge of how FUBAR the justice system is. But I've had it. I have what I think is a strong internal drive for fairness. It irks me when I see a situation that isn't fair. Thus, it actually fits into my own sense of fairness to say that these protesters should die. It would be poetic justice. After all, I'd only be using their own standards against them. By their standards, someone who says something they don't like (naming a teddy bear of all things) deserves to die - so since I think their saying that doesn't fit my own standards, they should die. I'd happily mow them all down with a machine gun so they can feel first-hand what their version of "justice" is. I'm sorry, anyone who would advocate the death of another human being for naming a freaking teddy bear is not worthy to breathe the air of this planet any more - and frankly, is dangerous. Ugh. They are sociopaths using the cloak of religion (which is always readily available) in a lame attempt to hide their sociopathy and their blood lust.

So they should die. It would only be fair to use their own standards to judge them, after all.

P.S. No, I would not actually kill them. But I confess I would not be upset to hear someone else did, because it would be poetic justice of a sort. It is just sick that they say this. But speech should not be criminal. On the other hand, if they actually succeed in getting this teacher executed, then I'd hold them all responsible as accessories to murder, which they would be.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Atheist vs Agnostic

Talk about a pointless exercise. I'm talking about the somewhat endless argument in some quarters between the relative merits of going by the label of atheist versus agnostic.

I don't really see that there is much difference between the two labels. Some choose the label agnostic, perhaps, as a label for the miniscule uncertainty that there might be some form of diety. But really, that to me is missing the point, because pretty much even the most hard core atheists are atheists not because of positive belief in the absence of gods (any more than most people positively believe in the absence of the flying spagetti monster or the invisible dragon in your garage) but because of the absence of evidence to support there being any gods. So really, it is the same thing.

Beyond that, they are functionally equivalent. Even if you are "agnostic" on the issue, granting that there might be something out there in the vast universe we haven't discovered yet, the notion of "god" or "gods" have very specific, generally anthropormorphic meanings right here on Earth - beings that are clearly human inventions (gee, humanity is the most important species in the universe and the whole universe was created just for us - what a coincidence...) - so even if one is agnostic on the "generic gods" issue, one can clearly not escape the conclusion that all of the gods fleshed out by various humans in various human religions over the millenia are human inventions, lacking any actual reality. And once you've come to that conclusion, then members of all of those religions will consider you an atheist - and you are one - with regards to their own various deities. Tell a Christian that Jesus is not a god and never existed, that their Yaweh never existed, and to them, you are an atheist, even if you tell them there might be some other being out there that has nothing to do with Christianity. So you're a 'functional atheist' to every religion that you conclude has a human-created myth instead of a deity.

So really, the word fight over this is mostly meaningless. I'd add a bit more, but my sick toddler is calling for me...

Spotting the Musicians

I had a nice little vacation, and so now I'm back, and to "celebrate" I'm posting about a subject that is as trivial as it is annoying to me. I'm talking about photos of musicians. Specifically, about how you can always spot musicians in any photo spread because they are the ones who are NEVER smiling. They always have some psuedo-serious look on their faces. For some reason deep down in my psyche, this has always annoyed me. Most everyone else on the planet when posing for a photo smiles. But no, not musicians. They all have to scowl. If it is a group, then of course, the entire group is scowling. Because apparently musicians are just too cool to smile.

Will this rant make a difference? Hell, no. But then neither do my posts about Bush or anything else - but this does have something in common with those - it makes me feel better to get it off of my chest.

So PLEASE - this is my desperate plea, to all aspiring musicians out there. Break the mold. Show you are not a mindless follower. Show you are the rebel you are stereotyped to be. And freaking SMILE when your picture is taken and have those smiling photos be in your publicity shots, on your albums, on your web pages. For all of the 'rebellion' of musicians, it seems like they are all sour-faced clones.

Ok, now on to something likely more meaningful...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Echo-Chambers - (and drinking the cool-aid)

There's a lot of things floating around in my head about this topic, but I'll see if I can keep it focused. What finally crystalized my thinking enough to attempt a post was this article, in particular, this quote from the article:

I think it's a very firm part of human nature that if you surround yourself with like-minded people, you'll end up thinking more extreme versions of what you thought before.

I think this is particularly evident in the blogsphere where you have blogs that actively moderate out anyone who disagrees with dominant paradigm. It probably does not even take active moderation, but simply having a group of 'enforcers' who rabidly attack anyone who deviates from the central tenets of whatever group there is there. And from what I've seen, it doesn't even take much deviation - just a hint of deviation will oftentimes result in all manner of nasty opinions being thrust upon a poster, ventrilosquist-like, to then be denounced. This has happened to me, as was evident here and here.

One could dismiss these incidents as nothing more than the shortcomings of the people involved, or the misandry evident at IBTP, or other such negative points. And I'm sure that is a factor. But as the article on salon noted, you can get extremes like that just from nothing more than limiting a conversation to people who are all on one side of the spectrum, even when those are fairly "average reasonable" people. As the article notes:

The way our Colorado experiment worked is, we got people from Boulder, a liberal place, together in small groups to talk about climate change, same-sex civil unions and affirmative action. On the same day, we got people in Colorado Springs, a conservative place, to talk about the same three issues. We asked them to record their views anonymously first, then to deliberate on them in small groups, then to record their views anonymously afterward. What we found was that on these issues, the Boulder people, before they started to talk, were pretty liberal, but there was a distribution of views, a degree of diversity. After they talked, they were significantly more liberal and less diverse. So, deliberation among our liberal citizens of Boulder produced more extremism and less diversity. In Colorado Springs, after they talked to one another, they went far to the right. They started out somewhat open-minded on these issues, somewhat diverse, and after discussion the diversity was squelched and the extremism was increased.

I think this is a clue to what is happening in the political domain all over the United States: People through their own voluntary behavior are replicating our Colorado experiment. Or, savvy political entrepreneurs are creating the conditions of our experiment because they want to decrease internal diversity. Karl Rove could be described as a "polarization entrepreneur." The left isn't quite so good at this, but they're learning.

I've seen this happen to myself, like where I wrote what I thought was a pretty darn good legal paper when I was in law school, one that garnered me the award for the best paper in the class, but that, when shown to others, was not seen to be as good as I thought it was. It turns out, the professor probably shared some viewpoints of mine and so that may have made it seem better than it actually was (though I am still proud of the paper and how I did with it). It may also be that the politics of the issue are mostly against me. In any case, I had a false view of the paper from my only having discussed it with someone who probably agreed with the basic premises in a way that many would not.

After seeing this phenomenon in action, I've come to the conclusion that one must take steps to counter this or else you will just get an echo chamber, with the attendant piling on and stagnation of ideas. (And a descent into radical extremism that will probably eventually be a pretty severe break with reality - when I've read the IBTP comments, at times I think I'm listening in on inmates in an insane asylum, or just people in another world, one where this vast conspiracy is afoot that apparently is visible only to a select few (i.e. the posters)).

I think one of the first, best ways to avoid it is to avoid even the hint of moderation of certain viewpoints - like having a 'feminist only space' like they have on Amp (to use the most recent example). Even without such active moderation, you can have the same effect by piling on. This is not to say that moderation of a neutral nature is not a good thing - but you have to be careful about that. Moderating to keep people from just insulting each other is good, but not if you cut more slack to some posters over others based on viewpoint - then you are back to square one. For instance, in Amp's thread, despite a rather nasty ad hominem attack on myself, putting words into my mouth that I never said, the attacker, even after I asked for an apology, was never asked to apologize to me and Amp gave no acknowledgement that the attack even happened. Instead, I was attacked, again, based on viewpoint. Which probably explains why I sometimes get the sense that the views held by the regulars at Amp are pretty extreme, though not as bad as elsewhere. I'm not trying to pick on Amp, btw, just using the site as a convenient example.

Ultimately, I've come to the conclusion that most sites online are not interested in discussing anything, or discovering anything, they are instead mostly looking to reinforce already held beliefs, sometimes using rather nasty, ruthless enforcement mechanisms to do so.

It is part of why I would never have such a moderation scheme in place here. I try to encourage open discussion. I am always up for a good discussion or argument. I don't insult those who post here, even after heated disagreement. I try to discourage others from doing so, mostly by example, and I welcome all voices. Even when I'm arguing a particular point one way, just seeing the other side always gets me thinking. I have changed my mind (sometimes several times) based on things others have said to me, or what I've seen said elsewhere, even if that is not immediately apparent.

Oh, and just to respond to any who would come to defend spaces that do have viewpoint-based moderation - while I'm sure there are all sorts of wondeful-sounding reasons for them, in the end, what they will inevitably lead to is extremism - and those on the 'inside' probably won't even realize that it has happened. I think it has already led to that in many places. For those of you at Amps, think of all of the regular posters, say, to Bill O'Rielly's or Michelle Malkin's or Rush Limbaugh's place. Do you really want to go down that path in the other direction? People at MM's place don't think they are extremists, they think they are just 'normal Americans' and that those who don't share their views are the extremists. They can't see otherwise.

I try to keep an open mind on things. I try to explain why it is I have the views I have. I think that is important, in part because, if it turns out my 'whys' don't make sense, that allows someone else to challenge them. I don't send someone off to a '101' blog when they ask me why I think the things I do - I try to answer as best I can. I would think that if I could not, this is evidence that my views aren't based on anything more than ideology, rather than reason.

Ok, this is another one of my long, rambling posts. Hopefully there is a kernal of something that makes sense in here. Perhaps that kernal is just what I've quoted from the article.

Oh, one more thing that comes to mind. I have worked on cases where the law is somewhere in a grey area. I know what my own biases are when it comes to certain legal issues. One way I counteract them is by going to someone who I know holds contrary views and asking for his legal opinion and reasoning on the issue. I also offer him my take and get his reaction. I find that is much more useful than talking to someone whose take on the issue is close to my own. If I just talked to someone similar to me, I'd go away thinking I had it all 'solved' with the reinforcement of another voice when in reality, I could be way off in left field.

That's part of the problem I see with movenents online, such as feminism. The best feminists are those that engage in active, even heated, discussion and arguments with people that some might derisively call MRAs (though they themselves would not call them that). That's how you keep yourself honest. Convincing someone already in your camp doesn't test an idea. You can only test an idea by putting it into the cauldron of discussion with someone who does not just reflexively share your ideology or viewpoint or assumptions to begin with.

People who think that they are going to solve anything or make major societal change by only talking in small groups with people with the same views (views which will then get more and more extreme as time goes by from the isolation and from the elimination of alternate views) are suffering from a delusion. It might be a pleasant delusion, but it is a delusion nonetheless.

The great orators are those who can get those who do NOT agree with them to come to some agreement, or at least to some compromise. The alternate to that is 'preaching to the choir' - something that is not the way to win converts to an idea.

I don't claim to be right about everything. Hell, I can have trouble even making it through a blog posting without partially changing my mind or at least changing tacks as I write it. Sometimes I shoot from the hip when I make a comment or a post. But in the end, I figure that is ok. I can always write more later to clarify, to answer questions or just as things become clearer in my own mind after I've thought about something for a while.

You can usually tell the difference between someone who wants to have a conversation and someone who just wants to slam you or score points. Someone looking to score points will nit-pick at tiny things that were said and that were probably not all that important. Someone looking to slam will just look to say harsh words about the 'easy' points and will avoid talking or answering the hard ones. Someone interested in a conversation will answer all points, conceding where there needs to be adjustment. I want to have a conversation.

It can be frustrating when there are many who are just interested in slamming or points, usually found in drive-by comments, which are another symptom of someone not interested in really addressing points or having a conversation. I have had plenty of those. I'm still disappointed that Amp (and others) never responded to me in this post, that TG never responded to this one, and that many never responded in this one. Oh well. Maybe someday...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Further Disgust

Well, this just settles it. The Dems are freaking USELESS as an opposition party. They just confirmed another torturing AG, they are about to pass amnesty for the blatently illegal actions of the phone companies that gave ALL of their electronic routing to the NSA. I want to puke.

To Ballgame and others who think I'm nut to even consider voting GOP for this, tell me, how can I get the Dems to actually listen to me? If they think I'll vote for them no matter what as the "lesser of two evils" they then have ZERO incentive to listen to me. They would know they had me and they could do whatever the hell they wanted, ignoring me completely, confident that they'd never lose my vote. If I vote third party, they lose a vote, but they know that they still never need to worry about me voting for the GOP, and it is the same as if I didn't vote at all. But if I vote GOP, now they have something to worry about, particularly if others do what I do, and tell them either listen to us or lose your jobs.

That's the thing that I think people who are partisan fail to appreciate. Haven't you ever talked to anyone who reflexively votes GOP every single election, even as they bitch and gripe about how they hate what the GOP has become? They are the enablers that have allowed the GOP to get as bad as it has - the GOP knows it can always count on their vote, so it ignores them. Thus, the moderate GOP people feel out in the cold. But they keep on pulling that GOP lever.

I tried to explain to a moderate Republican I know that they can't vote for moderate Republicans and feel like they are represented because even if you are in a district that has a moderate Republican (or a State with a Moderate Senator), the GOP will just use that moderate seat to get a majority, then will ignore the moderate on every single issue, as the GOP march in lockstep with what the neocon leadership does. In essence, voting moderate GOP guarantees the extreme GOP. So if you really want the GOP to be more moderate, the answer isn't voting for moderate GOP, it is voting out ALL GOP candidates by voting Dem until the party gets the message and changes. Because they aren't likely to listen to anything less.

So it is with the Dems. If they aren't going to oppose the GOP EVEN WHEN THEY HAVE THE POWER TO DO SO, then they are useless as an opposition party, and I refuse to reward that with my vote. I've given up entirely on the GOP. The only hope for the GOP is to be utterly and completely annhilated as a viable party so it can rebuild from scratch, and that simply won't happen because the GOP is too damn good at exploiting power, doing PR, and getting elected. (And because the Dems don't know how to use power at all, are timid at doing so, are HORRIBLE at PR, and the media favors the GOP). So we'll be locked in a nasty pendulum of going between weak Dem majorities that cave in on everything the GOP wants, back to ruthless GOP majorities that get everything they want, and so on, until we break the cycle.

I sure as hell don't want Hillary to be elected president, because that will enable GOP power for a decade. Though I'd take her over any Republican. Obama is my choice. Too bad he doesn't seem to have a chance in hell of the nomination. But it is probably too early to say that for sure.

I'm just so pissed right now. The Dems had the votes to stop the AG nomination. They had as many as 44 opposed. That is enough for a filibuster. The GOP seems to have no problem filibustering everything in sight. The Dems can't even manage one when they have the freaking majority in the Senate. How pathetic is that?

Maybe if more people told the Dems that, despite seeing the GOP as the worst, most corrupt party in history, they'll still vote for them over the Dems if they don't stop the GOP, the Dems would actually DO something about it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

This Disgusts Me So Much I Want to Give Up


I posted as a comment to this blog posting the following:

If this is the kind of "opposition" the Democratic Party is going to give us, caving in on TORTURE. Caving in on EVERYTHING, then screw them. We're all doomed and I'm not going to enable a party that does this. Any Senator that does not vote to FILIBUSTER this AG nominee loses my vote from now on. And if they vote to filibuster and fail, I still may not vote for them, so Senators - better get on the phone to make sure that the filibuster is successful or your days in office are numbered. At least when the Republicans were in charge, it was clear who was to blame. Spineless Dems give the GOP cover while still allowing pretty much the whole GOP agenda to proceed unimpeded. UGH!!!!

And I feel the same way now. If the Dems won't grow a spine and actually act as an opposition party, why pretend they are one? To tell the truth, I'd rather have the GOP in charge and taking the blame for everything as it falls apart than the spineless Dems in there as the GOP still is in charge because the Dems are afraid to oppose the GOP on anything. At least then it is clear what is going on. Right now, a Dem majority just provides cover to the GOP even as the GOP agenda is enacted full-force, the same as it was when the Dems were in the minority.

Until I see real opposition, I'm going to vote Republican, because I want to be honest about who is really in charge. Real opposition can be shown by a filibuster right now of the AG nominee. If he gets in, despite showing he will be a torture apologist, just like Gonzales, then we might as well just give up right now. Our civil rights are dead, or nation is dead, and it is no use pretending otherwise.

UPDATE: I really don't want to vote GOP, but as I said in the comments, just what the hell else will get the Democrats' attention? Truly, tell me what course of action I could take that would get the spineless losers that run the Dem party to stand up and block the gutting of FISA, block torture, block this AG? Because frankly, I don't see anything else that seems to work except threatening their precious little seats in Congress (that they don't seem to do much with). I'm open to suggestions.

UPDATE II: I think what I'm getting at here is that the Democrats seem to be driven in their spineless activities solely by a fear that somehow they'll lose their seats to the GOP by virtue of doing something that doesn't match the GOP agenda. So I figured if that is what is driving them, then I'd offer stimulus in the OTHER direction - either you oppose the GOP agenda with every fiber of power you have, or THEN you'll lose your seat to the GOP.

The truly sad thing is that the Dems act like they are afraid of losing for doing things that the majority of the public agrees with them on. Like when 70% oppose the war, the Dems act like they still have to be for it or those other 30% will vote them out. It is psychotic crazy. I think it is in part due to the whole Washington press corps buying into that and reinforcing it - they continue to treat opposition to the war as if it was a "fringe" thing, and as if those who oppose it aren't "serious" when the reality is, the "fringe" is made up of war SUPPORTERS. It is maddening.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Question about a Thread

I posted a bit in a thread at Amps. Here it is. I post it here without comment, for now. I'm just curious what anyone else thinks about my participation in this thread. I will say I was not looking to be difficult or cause any trouble - I just read the thread, saw some speculation about why certain evidence might not have been admitted, and it reminded me very strongly of something that happened in another case I had direct knowledge of, so I offered my knowledge, for what it was worth.

And I was not trying to "prove" anything by talking about the case I was familiar with, I was just trying to explain why it was I said what I said, in response to a rather nasty and offensive post by mythago.

As a side note, I find it interesting that being for complete equality for women does not make one sufficiently pro-feminist to post in a pro-feminist thread. It rather belies the claim that all feminism is about is the "radical" notion that women are people. (Something which I suspect very few people, even right-wingers, would dispute. But I try never to underestimate the insanity of the radical right).

UPDATE: Just want to point out that I can't post in that thread anymore, so any questions anyone has will have to be posted here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Horror, The Horror

Apparently The Exorcist has been voted the scariest movie of all time. Of course, such surveys are always to be taken with a grain of salt, but I just don't get this one. Or maybe I do. Maybe it is some sort of religious thing, where the pious really believe there is such a thing as "the devil" so they find the movie so scary because it is so "plausible."

I guess I just don't see it. I see the movie and, while I can appreciate it as a movie, I find it rather sad to see all the people who believe it is "real."

That said, I rather enjoy good horror movies. They really can't scare me anymore, but I still enjoy them as cinematic experiences. And apparently my two-year old likes them too. Now before you start calling social services, it is not like I'm making her watch slasher films. But 'Alien' and its sequels have been on cable at home and I've caught some of each and while my daughter pretty much ignores most programs I like to watch (she just plays) she will stop and watch the Alien movies with intense attention. I think she's going to be a horror fan. (Her mother can't watch horror movies - she gets scared - she said her mother would never let her watch them and would cover her eyes for any scary parts of movies she did watch - now she can't watch them). I think that is rather silly. They are just movies. My daughter is two and she seems to get that more than my wife. Now one movie I would NOT want my daughter to see is the end of Fast Food Nation - she ended up seeing part of that when it was on cable and I had no idea that it ended with showing cows being slaughtered. This was bad because my daughter LOVES cows, for whatever reason. My wife was sitting next to her and heard her say "uh oh, uh oh, cows, poor cows, uh oh" with increasing alarm before my wife noticed what it was and turned it off.

We do try to watch what we watch when our daughter is watching. I don't want her watching stuff age-inappropriate. It will be interesting to deal with the fact that we have like 200 cable channels when our daughter is older and figures out how to watch TV on her own. Right now she just likes watching her DVDs and Disney Channel. (And I try to limit how much TV she watches - my wife tends to like to just turn it on to make her happy - another reason I'm glad my daughter goes to day care where there is no TV).

Oh, and kudos to anyone who identifies what movie has the line that matches the subject for this post. (And even more Kudos if you can identify the book).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Our Taxes are Bass-Ackwards

At least when it comes to income taxes. We are a system supposedly of federalism, with at least a tacit recognition that local government is supreme in the sense that you have more control over local officials (and they are thus more responsive to you) because you live in the same community and also your vote counts far more for local elections than statewide or national ones.

Why is it, then, that when it comes to taxes, those officials with the least ties, the Federal, get most of the taxes?

Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't the 10% to 35% or whatever brackets of income tax be the taxes paid to your local township and the 0.5% or 1% be that paid to the federal government (with the state still in between there with maybe a 4% income tax, if any)? That would be a much better system, IMHO - then you would have much more control over how your tax dollars were spent. Then those stupid federal mandates for local governments would actually make a bit more sense (though I still think they are stupid).

Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could be the one vote out of a few hundred or a few thousand that decides the fate of elected officials that spend your money instead of being one face in millions that is usually totally ignored?

Why should we send most of our money to some far off government and only a tiny amount to our local communities? That is just backwards to me. (Of course, there are property taxes, but that is a different discussion).

I'd like a constitutional amendment limiting federal income tax to, say, at most 25% of state income tax and limiting state income tax to, at most, 10% of city income tax. You don't need a limit on the city income tax because if that gets too high those city officials will be out on their asses come the next election. And you will know where they live (and it may even be next door to you).

Accountability would be so much higher. And we would get de-facto federalism back.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Promise

I haven't posted much recently. Mostly it is a time issue. And an energy issue. I do actually have a few things to say. So now I'm promising (myself mostly) that I will post on these over the next few days.

I want to post about atheism versus agnosticism. I want to post about a new logo for atheism. I want to post about something insane I've noticed about our tax system that I think is upside down (and I don't remember ever seeing mentioned before). I want to post about STDs and fearmongering moralizing. I want to post about misandry. And other things as well. Maybe I'll get through all of the above.

So I promise this, for the like, three people who read this regularly. I'm not quite dead yet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sex Post

There, that got your attention, didn't it? And no, this is not false advertising, because I am linking to an article that links sex differences to stone age sexual behavior.

Interesting food for thought. I wonder if this means that if monogomy ever becomes the norm if men and women will equalize in size (and lifespan) over time. Personally, I think I'd rather live longer. Note that what the article says also accounts for higher levels of male violence (against mostly males, but obviously, females can be victims too).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Atheism Posts...

Here's a few posts about angry atheists (that are a good read). Along with another about atheist janitors.

I would have my own comments if I had any time at all. Maybe later...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Swearing at $#&*^#$&*%^# Work

Here's an interesting article about how swearing at work is a teambuilding activity. I have to say, I think I've seen that in action, particularly on a really nasty IT project I did once where we were all herded like cattle into a room to work, a training room with no dividers. It was set up to have a computer class of about a dozen people. So we had 20 people in there. Such close proximity on such a nasty project led me to hear a lot of swearing from various people as they worked through the latest frustrations on the project. It did really bring us all together. We could feel everyone "share our pain" with each lovely four letter word uttered. Though I don't think I swore out loud much myself, I enjoyed hearing others swear where it was context appropriate. Freakin-A!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Interesting Article

Well, at least I found this article interesting. I found it reading the comments to this article bashing MRAs, which I found through this link at Thinking Girl's site. I have to say first that I agree with Kyassett - it looks like it devolved pretty quickly over there to bashing on BOTH sides rather than actual discussion, but then the article rather invited bashing. It is unsurprising. I often think that a lot of the put downs I see in things online are just about bullying someone to make the bully feel good about herself or himself. That article I'm sure made the author feel really good and superior. I'm sure plenty of others who read it also feel the same.

What caught my eye (and why I linked to it) in the article in question was mention of a book by Cathy Young where

She argues that Wolf’s “power feminism” can become exploitative -- women don’t always deserve more. She argues that the men’s movement according to Farrell is very close to being a male equivalent of victim feminism. She devotes an entire chapter to skewering conservative versions of feminism.

And every word builds toward her conclusion -- that we need a philosophy that’s not “pro-woman” but “pro-fairness,” and a politics that stresses not “solidarity with women” but “fairness for everyone.”

If we need a movement, she says, “it should be an equal rights movement -- not a National Organization for Women, but a National Organization for Gender Equality. . . . Such a movement would not ask, ‘Is it good for women?’ but, ‘Does it bring the sexes closer together?’”

And of course, that caught my eye because that is essentially what I said when I first posted My Views on Feminism (and subsequent posts after that). I still agree with that position, though I also don't think I'm going to be the one to convince anyone of that.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Halfway There - But Still no Boy's Names

Well, we're at the halfway point in the pregnancy, more or less. About twenty weeks to go. And still, no boy's names. (Yes, most definitely a boy, as the latest ultrasound showed).

Perhaps I should get some inspiration from a blog entry from Andrew Sullivan.

Here's some boy's names...

Slab Bulkhead, Fridge Largemeats, Punt Speedchunk, Butch Deadlift, Bold Bigflank, Splint Chesthair, Flint Ironstag, Vault VanderHuge, Thick McRunfast, Blast Hardcheese, Buff Drinklots, Trunk Slamchest.

(Btw, I loved MST3K).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

This also disgusts me

This is all over the blogsphere now. I won't link to everywhere that discusses it. One link is enough. It is incredible just how low the GOP media will go. It is just sad the double standard that they get away with.

We had Congress, including many Democrats, bowing down to the right-wing-controlled noise machine known as the MSM and voting to condemn a single ad in the NYT because it used a harsh word about a political figure, a general.

At the same time, Congress (and the GOP and the media) absolutely REFUSED to condemn much worse similar behavior by Rush Limbaugh. Proving that once again, the Dems don't know how to play political hardball and don't know that the game is rigged against them and that the ONLY way they can "win" at this is not to play.

And this is just worse - this is the right-wing smear machine going after a freaking 12 year old boy. It is just sick. That they would do this sickens me and proves to me that these people on the right are just horrible, rotten human beings right to the core.

Monday, October 8, 2007

This Disgusts me so much I almost lose the power of speech thinking about it

This article just gives a snippet of the whole article, and there is an even larger article about this in this month's Reason magazine that I think is a must-read (and it is too bad I did not see it online) because it is a disgrace.

This is part of the reason I loathe so many prosecutors - because of crap like this - if ANY prosecutors had an OUNCE of ethics in the whole state of Mississippi, this "doctor" would be in prison, and so would every single prosecutor who used him knowing he was full of it (and they all know it). Instead, this guy goes right on helping to convict probably many innocent people (and wrongly convicting even the guilty) and pretty much nothing changes. Sick sick sick. I am about to use a lot of four letter words, so I'll stop now.

Ok, I lied. The courts are all complicit in this - meaning the judges. They could have put a stop to him. They didn't. Not even with this latest ruling, where they should have reopened all of this guy's cases. It is all part of this bullshit thing within law enforcement that society seems to share - just trusting prosecutors and cops and everyone else on the law enforcement side of the equation simply because they have some government authority. You can see it in this where people are so shocked that a policeman could have been a perp. When the reality is, the authority of police officers attracts a lot of authoritarian dipshits to the job, and even the decent ones get forced into being dicks to cover for their "brothers in blue" up to and including testilying. Just sickening.

Yellow Ribbon Patriotism

I'm linking to this article not so much for the substance (which is depressing) but for the youTube link at the end of it that is awesome and pretty much says it all about Yellow Ribbon Patriotism - which is partly defined as those people who see patriotism in those who piss all over the Constitution, so long as those doing the pissing have an 'R' by their name and wear a flag lapel pin.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Infantilizing teens is bad?

I read an article offline about how the whole "teen angst" thing and problem with teen crime and so forth was a Western problem created by the extension of childhood past adolesence. It really struck a cord. I wonder if that really is the problem. The article's point was that it used to be that once you hit your teens, you were apprenticed and off doing adult things (and also starting a family) and so you were in the adult world, doing adult things with adult responsibilities, learning how to be an adult - and most teens did very well and rose to the occassion. And that now, teens are kept corralled in artificial places of stupidity (high school) where their peers are not adults teaching them how to be adults, but instead are other teens, and it is more like lord of the flies (combined with the fact that the teens are treated like children, with many schools having twice as many rules as most prisons or military life) (with such disgusting things as this going on).

So it got me thinking about my own children. I want them to grow up to be responsible adults. I want them to avoid the pitfalls of teendom (well, as much as possible). So perhaps one way to do this is to treat teens like adults at adolesence, in the sense of expecting them to behave as adults, having them work in a real job with adults, and getting them as much as possible out of the teen-world barbarity that is high school. Any thoughts from any experienced in the world of teen-raising?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

David Shuster

First, watching the clip in this link was pure enjoyment for me. I'm so tired of Republicans getting unfettered, unquestioned, bullshit talking points out with no, you know, actual reporting to call them on it.

But I also want to put up my (mostly meaningless) vote for giving David Shuster his own show on MSNBC. I always love how deeply probing his reporting is, cutting through the bullshit to the heart of the matter. My only concern would be that if they gave him his own show, they might stop him from going out and reporting. He should get his own show as a reporter, not just as another talking head. Though even as a talking head, in the clip above, he showed his chops. Go Dave!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I am not a generous or giving person

I've thought about this sometimes. I really don't give to charities. Part of that is because I think a lot of charities are religious organizations and I refuse to give money to religion. And I have given to some organizations that I believe in, like the Planetary Society. But mostly, I give nothing.

I find I actually am annoyed when people come and ask me for money for charities. I guess I don't like it when people try and guilt you into something. So when I do give, it is only after I've looked at something on my own time and decided to give without someone thrusting a hat in my face asking for money.

At the same time, I seem to give rather large tips. But I don't see this as generosity, I see it as paying for a service and I expect to get what I pay for, meaning I expect to get good service. Maybe not right away, but eventually, I figure, if one has a reputation for generous tips, one gets better service. So I tip a minimum of 20% at restaurants, and even for curbside takeaway, I'll tip well over 10% (when some people probably tip nothing at all for pickup). For pizza delivery I'll give at least three dollars just for a single pizza.

When I pay babysitters, I am a stickler for paying for every minute they were at our home, because I treat their time as valuable (obviously rounding to the nearest dollar). My wife will somtimes not do this, which usually results in my complaining to her. Sometimes I need to prod her to give larger tips as well. It took me a while to convince her to give tips at curbside takeaway (we seem to get a lot of that now). I guess I subscribe to the Henry Ford model - give generous pay and workers will have money to buy your goodies (though I sell no goodies myself at this time).

If I ever open up my own law practice, I will continue this philosophy and make sure when people pay me they get their money's worth. But I am not generous. That is just good business. It sometimes amazes me that people don't realize this and act penny-foolish.

Life can be Depressing at Times

Which is probably why I haven't posted much recently. I've mostly spent my time at home, snuggling with my daughter and wife, watching first Stargate SG-1 season 10 on DVD, then South Park Season 10 on DVD, and now we're getting through Stargate:Atlantis Seasion 3 on DVD. And we've been trying not to think too hard about my wife's brother, because that is just depressing. Hopefully we will find out more soon, though.

I just started trying to come up with a boy's name, though I haven't gotten far. I keep saying I'll work on it over the weekend, then never do. I wonder if my procrastination has something to do with not wanting to come up with a name, then find out something bad has happened and we lose the pregnancy again. The thought crossed my mind yesterday as I thought about it and realized that many weeks had gone by without my even trying to come up with a name. And so I started looking yesterday. I want a name that sounds nice, but that isn't all that common. I don't like to recycle names from family. Everyone deserves his or her own name. So it is taking a bit of effort to find something suitable. For whatever reason we've had an easier time finding and agreeing to names for girls (so we are covered there), but none for boys so far.

I'm also occupying my mind starting a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign with a few new faces and a few old ones. I love to create, be it through writing a story or an adventure. It just makes me happy inside.

So far, things with the new baby are progressing well. We are at seventeen weeks now and there's another ultrasound next week. We may even get to see a 3-D ultrasound, which I've never seen before, but which sounds really cool.

So many shows are starting up, some new, some old, that I think I have overloaded my DVR, particularly with the new WWII documentary on PBS this week. I hope I don't run out of space. (And I never seem to have time to watch anything on DVR- I try after work when I'm home alone with my daughter to sit and watch then, but she seldom lets me).

I want to see that Kid Nation that has everyone all up in arms - to me, it sounds like a fascinating social experiment - Lord of the Flies Reality TV! ;) Though I'm sure it is much tamer than that. I wonder if the antics of the children will be any more (or less) mature than seen on other reality TV shows. (I really don't watch any except Survivor). House starts tonight. Bionic Woman starts tomorrow night (that looks good). Ah, so many great ways to waste time! And not think about how depressing life can be at times.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Female Privilege

Here's a rather nasty example of female privilege, though really what it is is an example of why it often sucks the world over (though thankfully not here) to be a man.

My wife is originally from Russia. Her family still lives there, including her mother, grandmother, and brother. She just called me today and told me that she talked to her mother and found out that her 21 year old brother was just conscripted into the Russian military. He has to report in November. Odds are good he'll be sent off to Chenchnya, where many thousands of poorly trained and equiped Russian soldiers have already been killed, some in rather horrible ways. My wife's mother is so upset she can barely talk about it. She is mad at him for even going to the station when he got the notice - I guess some just ignore it and don't show up, though apparently it is a felony not to go. So now they have his paperwork, they took his passport, and he must quit his rather decent job (as they go there) and surrender his body to possible death in the Russian military - where it is not a pleasant place to be even not under war conditions.

I think back now to the life expectancy of a Russian conscript in WWII - it wasn't pretty. Thankfully, things are better now, but dead is still dead. The conscription lasts at least two years. I hope he makes it without dying, being maimed, or being otherwise permanently scarred, though that is probably unlikely. Nobody goes through war as a soldier without getting scars, even if never physically wounded.

Right now, my impulse is, if I hear one more person talk about how men are all so "privileged" over women, to rip off that persons head and throw it into a garbage disposal. Or better yet, conscript them into the Russian military. Grrrr.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My solution to all the "isms" of the world...

Here it goes: Try not to be an asshole. If everyone does that, and mostly succeeds, I think peace and tranquility will naturally follow.

There generally are at least two ways of handling any situation - as a reasonable person, and as an asshole. Just go for option one. That is all for now.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The movie was way better than the book...

For some reason, it always annoys me when, discussing a movie that was based on a book, you almost inevitably hear, no matter what the quality of the movie, "the book was better." It seems incredibly assinine to me to even compare the two mediums in that way. How can you even compare the two? A better what?

A book is a book and a movie is a movie. If the movie sucks, say so. But don't say it sucks because "the book was better." We're not talking about a freaking book, we're talking about a movie. Two different mediums. Two different experiences. Pretend there was no book, or if there was, that you never read it. Then judge the movie on its own merits. Sure, if both you and the other person have read the book, you can have an interesting discussion on what parts were the same and what was different and the relative merits of what was left in or out, but half the time when this comes up it is when I ask someone about a movie based on a book I have NEVER READ so I really don't care what was in the book, I just want to know how good the movie was as a movie.

I mean, come on, there are lots of things you can do in a book that you simply can't do in a movie, the main thing being the length. Many novels, if made into a movie "faithfully" would make movies that were six or ten hours long (or longer). That is simply too long to make a movie out of. Now, if the subject matter really is such that it could not be shortened, maybe you should not make it into a movie, or if you do, you should not expect them to be very similar. (There is also the possibility of a mini-series or multiple movies - look at Band of Brothers or The Lord of the Rings which I'll get to in a moment.)

So recognize that fact and you'll be fine. And as for Lord of the Rings - AWESOME trilogy - probably the best fantasy films ever made. But the books - in places they were DREADFULL - long, boring, repetitive stuff that doesn't really go anywhere. And so that was cut out of the films, and good riddance. But still, I don't really compare the two - because it is silly to compare two things from two different mediums. It is like comparing a poem to a painting. Better to compare a poem to other poems and a painting to other paintings. Don't go look at a painting and say "the poem was better."

I have more to say about movie reviews, but that will have to wait for another time.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Surprise, Surprise

Looks like the Petreaus report is out, and, big shock, they shove the ball down the field and ask us to wait for another Friedman unit. What a load of bullshit.

Sorry, time's up. You don't get another six months, Dubya. You're DONE.

"Patriarchy" - it's the devil's volleyball! (and thanks...)

This post by Trinity (which refers to an older post by anti-princess) got me thinking again about the all-pervasive, all-powerful "patriarchy" that some seem to claim controls everything like some mafiosist conspiracy. I agree with Trinity. I don't think there is any such entity.

Hell, what does "patriarchy" mean anyway? It means, literally, rule by men, in families and in government. Presumably for it to truly be a patriarchy, that rule must be exclusive. It is kind of hard to have "rule by men" when some of the rulers are women. By that definition, already, we don't have a patriarchy. Not all leaders in our society are men. We have women CEOs, women cabinet officers, women governors, a woman Speaker of the House, women in legislatures. We have households that are run by women, and relationships where clearly the woman is the one calling the shots. In short, there seem to be almost no positions of authority that are not or have not been held by women, all up and down our society. We may soon have a woman president, making the person in ultimate charge (or as much as one can be in this country) a woman. "Patriarchy" seems to be rather a non-starter to describe such a society. It just plain does not make sense. It's a lie to use that word in such a society. It is a lie to use it four our society. I may be an atheist, but I know that lying is generally wrong.

If you want to see patriarchy, you need to go over the sea, to societies where men truly are the only rulers - where women are not allowed to work, can't drive, can't hold any public office, and are even ruled over by their children if the child is male. Now THAT is patriarchy.

Probably the best label 'atriarchy' for our society is more of an oligarchy than anything else - an oligarchy of WEALTH. The rich rule. The rich become CEOs. The rich fill our public offices. We are ruled by the men and women of the wealthy class. That is the common denominator. Not gender. Not race. Wealth. And lots of it. Me, I am a man. I'll also never rule over anything. Because I'm not rich. I also don't belong to the right religion or the right social circles. To get elected to national office in this nation you have to be rich and you have to be a Christian (or at least profess belief in the "one true god"). I am not rich. I believe in no gods. Thus, I will never rule. Sharing a penis with some of those who do does not change that fact or give me any special powers or rights. The secret service would block me from access to the president just as readily as they'd block a misandryst minority woman.

Perhaps some feminists will come to understand this better if Hillary Clinton becomes president. Perhaps then they will realize that then the shoe will be on the other foot. Then a woman will be the most powerful single person in the country. Yet there will still be much to criticize about our society. When they realize that sharing a vagina with the president doesn't suddenly give them any special powers or privileges, maybe they'll recognize that the reverse is equally true. But maybe not. I can always hope.

So there is no patriarchy. Not here. There are entrenched interests. There are those with power and wealth and others without it. Many of those with power are men. But many are women as well. Being a woman or a man is beside the point.

Are there still problems out there, gender-related problems for women (and some for men as well)? Sure. But that has nothing to do with anything called 'patriarchy.' Just to illustrate, let me leave one last, disturbing image. If women ruled, if women were in control of everything, such that you could call society a 'matriarchy,' there would still be male rapists. There would still be a lot of the same unpleasantness that exists today. Probably not much would be different, in the end, because you'd still have a tiny wealthy class controlling everything. It is an illusion to think otherwise, or that some "revolution" will change that - revolutions generally just change out one tiny group of elites for another tiny group of elites.

And always remember. Power corrupts. It ultimately doesn't matter who has it (though there are good and bad rulers). It matters how that power can be limited and checked. Because there will always be bad (some badder than others). True poetic justice will be seeing President Hillary Clinton having all the ridiculous powers given (or stolen by) George W. Bush. Or rather, seeing the rabid-right-wing-authoritarians react to her having it. For that reason alone, I'd love to see her win. Though for other reasons, I might want Obama in there.

One last thought - I have written a lot about feminism and had a lot of arguments about it (and racism and such) over the months, here, and in comments elsewhere. I do this not because I'm against women or equality or anything like that. Obviously I am not. I favor total equality for everyone. I have engaged because I care. There are all sorts of right-wing sites out there - I generally don't engage with them because, frankly, I don't give a crap what right-wing-authoritarian's think - they are deluded, and given their status as RWAs, probably nothing anyone can say can change that anyway. In other words, they aren't worth my time. This, and the people I do discuss things with (and probably annoy at times) - they ARE worth my time. What I'm saying is: I argue with you because I care. I care what you think. I care about what you've written. I enjoy the discussions and the arguments. I have learned things from them. If I didn't think such learning was possible, I would not have bothered. So I want to thank everyone I have ever discussed any of this with - now and in the future - thanks for the thought-provoking words you have all given me, and thanks for putting up with me (at times I can get a bit argumentative - you'd think I was a lawyer...) I say this just because I felt like it needed saying.

Now it is time to finish lunch and get back to work so I can get my daughter and give her a hug - what I live for each and every day.


This is absolutely hilarious, and I wish it were required reading in some circles... (h/t Apostate).

I particularly enjoyed the 'non-fascism is a form of facism' non-sequitor.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Idealization of the Past, of the Oppressed, and of everything else

It is so terribly annoying to see the past so idealized. No matter what day it is, or what year, or what century, you can pick up a paper (or a clay tablet) and read how everything is going downhill and how horrible things are today and just wasn't it all find and dandy in the past.

Except it wasn't. Generally speaking, things are MUCH MUCH better today than they ever were. Abject slavery has been all but eliminated from the planet. It used to be pervasive everywhere. The standard of living is much higher than it has ever been. Life expectancies in much of the world are way up. Science has advanced tremendously. In countries the world over, minorities are treated better, women are in power and have equal rights, and things are just dandy compared to how they were even just 100 years ago.

People really ought to study history more. All of it. Because guess what - the past was not an ideal time. And it also shows you that the oppressed are not ideal, either. There seems to be another myth - the "noble savage" - that somehow everything was perfect, for instance, in the Americas, in the years before the evil white men arrived. Yet that wasn't the case at all. The "red" and "brown" men and women who were here before, they did just as much atrocities as the Europeans - they had wars, human sacrifice, they conquered and subjugated enemies. In short, they were prime examples of humanity. Just because a group is oppressed doesn't mean that they are any better than their oppressors. Reverse who is in charge and the oppressed usually just become new oppressors.

So demonizing some and lionizing and idealizing others - that is stupid and it is terribly annoying. Heck, the U.S. used to be held, for good reason, as a shining example to the rest of the world of democracy and civil rights, and even we screwed that up. Eternal vigilance is what is required. And a realization first, that while people individually can be pretty decent (and in actual fact usually are), power corrupts. And that humans are tribal, and always have been, and so tribalism, like corruption of power, needs to be accounted for and compensated for.

"Oh, if only we had a revolution and women were in charge," I see repeated often in certain feminist circles. But never do I see what form that revolution would take nor do I see how they'd really do anything different. I suspect we'd end up with more of the same. And perhaps they do, too, which is why the talk of "revolution" always remains rather vague and noncomittal.

People are people. Most are decent. Most will get along in some form or another. But you always have to keep that in mind. I think it would be great if I were supreme dictator. And maybe some things would be better if I were, but I'm sure I'd eventually be corrupted by the power, as all are, and we'd end up with more of the same. That's just the way of things. The best we can do is set up a system that legally gives equality to all and also gives as little power to government as possible (while still being a viable society).

I'd be depressed, but I'm having too much joy with my daughter for this extended weekend - she turned two, she got a lot of presents (some hand-me-downs from my sister's kids), and so I've been very very busy having pretend meals at her new little table, in a tiny chair that strains my back (but she just INSISTS on me sitting in it). Oh, and she loves her new train sets. My wife is going to spoil her rotten, I think.

Don't like your boss or your work, found your own company.

If you don't like your boss or your work or think you're discriminated against (or think that everyone above you is there just because of "privilege" - stop whining about it and form your own company. What, that's too hard? Don't think you can do it? Well, there's only one way to find out. Do it. And if you fail, try again. If discrimination is so all pervasive, you ought to be able to find thousands of others who want to go with you at this new venture. Because presumably none of them want to keep on being discriminated against, either.

You want to blame me for all of your problems because I'm a white male and so make a convenient scape goat, despite my having nothing to do with your problems - well, fine, I'll take FULL blame. It is ALL MY FAULT. Now what? You going to just sit there and whine about it or are you going to do something about it?

So get out there. Found your company. Look into others who have done so. Do business with them. Support each other. Make discrimination by others irrelevant. Be your own boss. Just be prepared. It isn't easy, but the rewards are great. And eventually, you'll know you've made it when you find that YOU are the one others are complaining about as being discriminatory. "Oh, she didn't promote me because blah blah blah."

If I could have one wish right now, I'd wish for women to be the one's in charge of everything. Let's have a matriarchy. With minorities in charge at the top. See how well they do. I somehow doubt the world will be all that much different. But at least someone else will then have to watch everything they work hard for dismissed as just the product of "privilege." And someone else will get to take all of the blame for the world's problems. Maybe then someone will idealize the day when the white men were in charge.

Either way, I'm going to put in my 40 hours, go home, and spend some nice quiet time with my family and enjoy what really matters in life.

Now excuse me while I go ferally chew up some pillows.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fascist for President

Gotta love the audacity of someone running for president under the Fascist party. I give ten points for honesty. I'm with Brendan. I LOVE the hat.


Eh, sick of this topic by now? Bear with me, this one was inspired by a post of the same name by Octo. The basic gist of it (which you can read for yourself) is an examination of what it means that you've accomplished things in life that others equally situated have not under the context of "privilege." I won't try to paraphrase it further than that. But after reading it, and thinking about it, here's my mental model of what privilege means in the context of one's life.

Think of a runner in a race. Think of the various obstacles that come up in front of the runner as hurdles that the runner has to jump over, slowing the runner down. You can think of those hurdles as "isms" but really they could be anything. Some hurdles could be because of racism, for instance. Another hurdle could be from a missing limb or other disability. Another hurdle could be shyness. Yet another hurdle could be being ugly. Yes, there could even be a hurdle for being an asshole. Maybe more than one. It isn't a one to one ratio of hurdles to problems. Perhaps some obstacles create more than one hurdle at different places. Now you could think of privilege as not having a particular hurdle that someone else might have. The ultimate privileged person would be someone with no hurdles at all. Of course, such a person does not actually exist. We all have obstacles in life.

Ok, have that mental model in place? Now, to fit it to Octo's post. What came to mind after reading it was, no matter how many hurdles you have or don't have, you still have to get up off of your ass and actually run the race or you'll get nowhere, even if you have no hurdles at all. And plenty of people just sit their ass down on the sidelines and don't run at all. Some whine about there being too many hurdles. Others, perhaps, are just lazy and somehow expect the fact that they have fewer hurdles means they don't have to run to get anywhere, and so they go nowhere. I'm sure one could come up with other analogies. What I got from Octo's post is that one should give a lot of credit to those who get up off of their asses and run the race and jump their personal hurdles, whatever they are, and one should NOT denigrate someone who does show the initiative to run just because they might have fewer hurdles than someone else.

With me so far? Ok, now I'm going to expand the model even further. Because there is one big problem with it. Life isn't a race with the same finish line for everyone - because everyone has different goals in life. So instead of a circular track with all of the runners on it, think of many winding paths, some through the woods, some through the desert, some through the city, some winding all across the landscape, each with a different length and a different finish line. Each of those paths is a path a runner could choose to take. Maybe one path ends with being a judge, another ends with being a cyclist in the Tour de France, another ends with taking a modest job but raising a family and spending your time with them. And which path you take depends on where you want to end up. Perhaps you'll take many different paths over your life. And the hurdles on each path also vary, as does the length of the path. Maybe one path you take, there won't be any racism hurdles, for instance, or far fewer. Or there won't be any sexism hurdles. Or some other sort of hurdle that doesn't matter. For instance, not having any legs might be a huge number of hurdles for the bicyclist, but hardly any at all for the lawyer who works from home.

Now, this fits back into the privilege discussion again as one tries to compare and call someone more privileged (or less) - how can you really do that when everyone is on a different path? Some have a shorter path, some lack obstacles others equally situated by race or gender might have. Some paths have fewer isms than others. Everyone is different. To use an example that readily comes to mind, I seem to recall that it used to be that Jews were discriminated against and not allowed to do most jobs in Europe - one of the few jobs they were allowed into was banking. Which was why we ended up with the stereotype of a Jewish banker. Of course there were lots of Jewish bankers - that's one of the few professions they were allowed to do! Obviously, then, if you were a Jew then and wanted to do a different job, one normally forbidden to Jews, you had a long and winding path with a lot of hurdles to jump over. On the other hand, if you were a Jew and it was your dream to be a banker, you actually had fewer hurdles than non-Jews, who did not become bankers because they thought it was a bad profession to be in (thus have the Jews do it). So even though you were in a horribly discriminated against class, one that Europe would eventually try to commit genocide against (well, I suppose they tried this repeatedly), you stll would be privileged when it came to being a banker as compared to non-Jews in the sense that you had a very easy run to that goal.

Where am I going with this? Well, you could call non-Jews privileged over Jews based on that, but when you try to call an individual privileged, then it is shown to be nonsense - because without looking at more than just religion (or race or gender) one really can't make that determination - you need to know what path they are on and all of the other hurdles that individual has before you could actually compare that individual to anyone else. And it may even turn out that an individual Jew is privileged over a non-Jew - for instance, if both wanted to be bankers, the Jew would have an easier time becoming one - the non-Jew a harder time, despite the fact that in general, Jews were the ones discriminated against.

Until you know the path someone chooses to be on and everything else about them that could create a hurdle, then calling that individual privileged is often nothing more than an insult, because really, without that information, how the hell could you know if someone is privileged or not? You can't. So it is just an insult, perhaps to put someone down or make them feel bad about their accomplishments in life as an individual. And that is wrong. Accomplishing anything in life is something to celebrate because no matter how many hurdles there are, if you don't get up off of your ass, you won't go anywhere and you will accomplish nothing. Getting up off your ass is what matters more than any hurdles. We all have hurdles. It is up to each of us to get up and jump them. Whining about them won't get you anywhere. Sitting on your ass won't get you anywhere. Get up and go. The only person responsible for you not moving on your track in life is YOU. And no matter who you are, feel good about getting to your goals. You earned them. No one can take that away from you, no matter how much they whine about the hurdles of others.


I've been terribly irritable lately and I finally figured out why. I've spent the last few weeks worried sick about my wife's pregnancy and my wife. I've spent the last few days worried about my daughter, who has been acting under the weather or irritable herself, not sleeping well at night (and thus I haven't gotten much sleep). And I'm worried about my job, which may not be there in six months (and is guaranteed to end soon after that). And I'm worried about paying for another baby or paying for more daycare, given that, even though we have planned and should be fine, there is always uncertainty. Plus, with my wife pregnant, she can do even less around the house, she often doesn't feel well, so I have her and a toddler to take care of sometimes, and I'm just exhausted and so I worry will this be even worse when baby two is born. I need a vacation or something. At least this weekend is a long one. We will be celebrating my daughter's second birthday. That I know will be a happy time. She's learning so much, she's talking more, she is starting potty training (on her own initiative) at day care. I need to focus on the good things and try to worry less. Sleep would help with that, too. I could sleep all day today. But now I need to get breakfast, get my daughter to daycare and get my ass to work.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I may be worth something someday...

Looks like the most ugly cars from the 1970's have now become collectibles. Isn't that wonderful? It is comforting for me to know that ugly things from the 70's are now worth something. That means I may be worth something someday, too... Heh.

It's called "Employment at Will"

Here's where the little libertarian in me comes running out. I have seen this story mentioned on multiple pages (ok, mostly feminist pages - I know, I know, I'm trying to quit...)

It has been universally (well, where I looked, which is a small sample) condemned as an example of just how horrid things are and how evil this man is for switching to a coffee franchise that has the women coffee stand employees wear skimpy outfits. All of the women (and they all did) who quit are praised as standing up to this "monster."

But truly, I think that just illustrates that the women were not forced into anything, and that all of them felt quite free to leave when the employment deal was not what they wanted. That's called employment at will. That means an employer can fire you any time just because he or she doesn't want you working there any more and that means an employee can also leave at any time for any reason. People might not like the lack of job security that gives you, but that is also what keeps our economy more flexible than, say, Europe, where employers are very reluctant to hire new workers because they can't easily get rid of them if there is an economic downturn, which potentially would place an entire company at risk. So instead, you have lots of young people who can't get jobs because of this.

And the job in this case, serving coffee, is not exactly rocket science. I'm sure there are millions of other coffee jobs one could get if one does not like this one. Many of the women who left plan on doing just that - getting another coffee job. Many of the customers I'm sure will go with them. Maybe some of the women will figure out that to avoid this sort of thing, the best thing they can do is open their own coffee stand franchise, then they can be the ones calling the shots. But until they have spent the time and money to do so, they are not the ones in charge, and so if they don't like what the owner does, they are free to leave, and they did.

Apparently the owner had no problem finding plenty of replacements for them. And those women are also acting freely. When I pointed this out in a comment I was told that until men are forced into skimpy outfits to work, this is not a good outcome. But truly, I couldn't care if it were men wearing speedos serving coffee or naked women wearing coffee. I would not buy from either because I think coffee is nasty and disgusting, and is simply an evil bean. And so I'm free to take my own business to the hot chocolate stand (with lots of whipped cream and vanilla).

I'm sorry, I just can't get upset about this. And it is not because men aren't pushed into speedos. If anything, women would probably pay men NOT to wear speedos - at least most men. I'm sure I'd be one of them. I would not gain any business in a speedo - I have a horrible body, I'm totally out of shape, and always will be. I'm sure the same is true of most women, who do not have model-like figures - most people don't want to see them in skimpy outfits, either. So really this is only about a small subset of women, those who look good in skimpy outfits. Where am I going with this? Nowhere. I just thought I'd point that out.