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.