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DirkGently

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Gender: Male
Hometown: Orlando
Home country: USA
Current location: Holistically detecting
Member since: Wed Jan 27, 2010, 03:59 PM
Number of posts: 10,183

Journal Archives

I find the general "take" on this topic in this thread bizarre.

I agree with CG.

I find people's insistence that a near-adult male having relations with young adult females is "exactly the same" as either child sexual assault or rape (non-statutory) very strange.

It really is not the same thing, and it is a dangerously disingenuous game to pretend that it is.

There is a separate issue here with adult authority figures and the teacher / student relationship. I don't think anyone is missing the inappropriateness there. I have no argument with that behavior being punished or banned.

But we are absolutely watering down what sexual assault really means when we try to equate a line we draw the best we can between "children" and "adults" for purposes of lawful consent, and either sexual assault on a non-consenting person or an adult preying on a child. At least when that line is determined by a matter of a few months of age.

I also disagree that the differences between male and female sexuality are cultural bias as some say. Sexuality is the ACTUAL difference between men and women. We don't process things the same way, and male vs. female physicality has real implications when we are talking about assumptions of coercion or assault.

I agree that the "high-five, kid" attitude is off base. But equally off-base is the argument that there is no distinction between a lack of consent we determine by means of our collective "best guess" as to when a child becomes an adult and child abuse or sexual assault on someone who has not given consent at all, legally "valid" or not. The argument that child rape on Tuesday becomes private sexual conduct Wednesday is some kind of weird attempt at reprogramming reality and is not okay.

It is a disservice to the seriousness of the crimes of rape and child abuse to insist on making no distinction between something that, had it happened a few months down the road, would be regarded as the private behavior of consenting adults, and a horrific crime of a abuse and coercion.

There is a distinction. It may or may not be justifiable to treat a 16 or 17-yr-old as though he had no ability to consent, but to not recognize that is a legal distinction we are imposing, not a certain reality, is frankly specious.

We are trying to pick an age where "consent" does not mean "consent," (and that is okay) but it is inherently artificial and vague.

All the half-sane Republicans are becoming Democrats.

The Republican Party has become the victim of its own propaganda, in my opinion. All they ever really wanted before was a general protection of the status quo and entrenched power structures.

And all the money, of course.

Then they discovered the power of cultural warfare. Newt Gingrich didn't invent it, but he raised hating "liberals" -- as opposed to debating liberal vs. conservative policies -- to a new level.

And it worked. They couldn't win when they were stuck arguing that pollution is good and taxing the wealthy was bad, but boy, does a certain segment of the population hate hippies and protesters and smartypants college professors and journalists.

Once they got that rolling, facts really didn't matter anymore. No one actually thinks pollution isn't heating the atmosphere or that poor people have it too easy, or that educators, journalists and scientists are all motivated by "bias." But it's become a simple-minded cheering exercise, so the more extreme and liberal-infuriating the idea, the better.

But then some conservatives begain to actually believe the crazy-town extremist stuff. H.W. Bush is an old-school oligarch, and he actually laughed at True Believer Reagan's "voodoo" trickle-down economics. What Republican would even think of arguing against "making the rich richer solves all problems" today?

So now they're a bit stuck. Their most popular figures are the Palins and Ryans and Cruzes. Wackadoos with Fluffernutter upstairs who think Ayn Rand was a "philosopher," blastocysts are people, and skyrocketing C02 levels are "good for the plants."

They have become so extreme they can't nominate anyone smart enough to pull off clever corruption anymore.

Republicans will probably dial it back, eventually, but in the meantime, the left is getting diluted with people who still think corporations are people, and that they can help Democrats come around to a more reasonable point of view where the rich still run everything and everyone and we still spend most of our money trying to micromanage Middle Eastern countries through warfare, and pollution is still pretty much okay, but maybe some progress on social issues is permitted, here and there.

Just give Wallstreet your retirement fund and your home and your future, and we'll see what we can do.

We can do better.

People deliberately talking past each other.

As someone -- maybe Chris Hayes yesterday? pointed out, it's always a bit silly and potentially bigoted for members of one cultural subgroup to attempt to characterize any other group of "those people" as a whole.

As Hayes and this piece both point out, we wouldn't put up with sweeping statements about all "Jews" or "Christians" being peaceful or violent or good or bad or what have you. All of "them" are not one thing or the other, period.

At the root, we can draw rational conclusions about what people DO, not who they are. A fair chunk of people in countries in the Middle East are beset by extremists with nasty ideas about a lot of things -- women, justice, religious freedom.

Funny thing is, we are beset here in the U.S. by people of supposedly different religious backgrounds who also have nasty ideas about a lot of the same things. Yes, we are more stable and have a more secular form of government, and the Crusades were a long time ago and blah and blah and blah. It's generally less extreme. But it's not like "they" have all the stupid ideas and "we" don't.

We get nowhere arguing that this or that "holy book" or the people born into one religious tradition or another are problem. No one is going to "win" a Best Religious People of the World trophy or anything.

The desire to pick winners and losers based on religious identity is a low, tribalistic one, that we supposedly all ageed was a super bad idea a while back. We are not going to eliminate or subjugate *a religion* for being "bad."

But we can talk about bad acts and bad ideas, and we can stop excusing any of them on the basis they are written in anyone's holy book. We be better atheists and Jews and Muslims and Christians.

Then maybe someday, we can all have sandwiches with Ben Affleck.

Sometimes you need a leap. Rigid skeptics hate that.


It's one thing to insist on objective testing to explore / prove a new idea.

It's entirely another to savage new ideas as being irrational idiocy until a braver person investigates something dubious for you and actually delivers new knowledge.

New ideas should not be regarded as irrational bullshit to be shouted down and derided by cowardly skeptics who pretend they know everything and then simply change their tune after better minds have proven them wrong.

But the "small gov't" rhetoric is just a successful lie.

It's rhetoric that's been working, true, but it's disingenuous from the start. Republicans and conservatives don't want "small government." They want weak regulation of business and low taxes for the rich.

Then they want pinpoint, iron-fisted control over what women can do with their reproductive systems and a huge prison system to lock up the poor for minor drug offenses or prostitution. A defense industry the size of the next 10 nations combined, and an aggressive military presence to pave the way for U.S. - friendly regimes the world over.

It's just code for a resource battle that's been sold successfully after decades of drum beating and deception, but at its core, it mostly just resonates because people hate to pay taxes.

And this is where conservative Dems want to lead. Rightwing rhetoric that pleases monied interests and resonates well enough with the populace to slip by, because no one successfully challenges it. It's an easy road, paved with big paydays for professional pundits and campaign strategists.

The whole is piece is a chunk of cognitive dissonance, trying to make an implausible leap from "Dems now see themselves as more liberal" to, "But we can't go that way because the 'small government' rhetoric from the right works too well."

It's nonsense. B does not follow A. This is a scared member of the status quo throwing chaff into the air hoping to head off a liberal turn in the party that apparently scares the crap out of him.

GOOD.

Does require, erm, *reading* the literature in question, though.

An opinion rendered on a creation of art or literature, derived from "summaries" and the comments of others, is not "literary criticism" of any kind, right?

To take a step further and actually argue a conclusion as to whether something is valuable or worthless or wonderful or despicable, without having actually examined it, cannot be taken seriously or given credence as "criticism" to the slightest degree, can it?

We shake our heads here at would-be critics and censors who want books destroyed or removed or banned, based on what they "heard" they were about all the time. But it's not just the call for a "ban" that we ridicule. It's the entire notion that you can "hear" what something is about and attempt to put forward a valid observation of the work itself based on anything short of having actually examined it.

It's what people do, not who they are.


Being "in the 1%" is a cultural identifier, like race, religion, or gender. It may make it hard for someone to empathize with people who encounter a different set of problems, but it's irrational to judge someone just on the basis of their wealth.

It's a good theme, though, because it threatens an implied conservative argument to the opposite: that wealth is a sign of competence and hard work and moral uprightness. They don't like any stigmatizing of the wealthy, because what they'd really like to scream from the rooftops is that rich people are the rightful owners and rulers of the world, and everyone else should just be greatful they don't swim off to their solid gold Ayn Rand islands and leave us all bereft of hedge fund managers and real estate speculators.

It's why conservatives ASSUME we're saying wealth itself is a bad thing. That's why they think they can undermine, say, OWS by pointing out that protesters own computers or cellphones. They think the argument is that having or owning anything is bad, when in actuality the argument has always been that wealth does not entitle people to disproportionate power, particular given that power is frequently abused to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Because they're stupid that way.

They have embraced anti-rationalism quite completely.

It's not that liberals or Democrats are never wrong, or never lie. But the idea that it's perfectly okay -- even laudable -- to "believe" things that are not objectively true, has become a centerpiece of American conservative thought. They invert motivation, cause, and evidence reflexively now.

Like imagining that 30,000 scientists, not a few hundred industrialists, have the real motivation to lie about climate change, or concluding that any social safety net is a compelling motivation to be poor.

And then there is the Enemies List. Look at who Republicans claim are unreliable narrators: Teachers. Scientists. Journalism. Universities. They leave only religion and politics as the source of information on which to base an understanding of things, and celebrate a perverse vision of individualism that means everyone can pretend that the world is whatever would be most emotionally convenient for them. That greed is good. That poverty is a choice. That minority status, not majority membership, confers the most unearned benefits.

People catch on to this, a little at a time, but there is a lot of backsliding to catch up on. We're actually arguing (again) whether we should teach religion or science in science class. Whether health care reform is a plot to kill the elderly. Whether women own their reproductive systems. Whether the poor can be tricked or intimidated out of the voting process.

We spend so much time pushing back against utter nonsense that precious little discussion of anything that actually requires good-faith debate can be brought up. HOW we will deal with climate change, for example, rather than IF.

So many lies. So little time.

Religion can teach cognitive dissonance.

It requires some cognitive dissonance to maintain a belief in stories that in any context but religion would be instantly dismissed as mythology or fantasy.

Most of the time, people find a way to "believe" without really absorbing the implications of the existence of magical beings, immortality, miracles, etc. No one would believe someone walking around claiming to be a deity, but many will say they think that happened once or twice, somewhere, long ago.

I was struck to hear a journalist on the radio one day, casually ridiculing "those people who believe in UFOs," in contrast to normal, sane religious people. Because believing we've been visited by powerful beings from space trying to influence our lives is totally nuts, unless you learned it in a church, in which case it doesn't count.

But at some level, if you practice a religion that requires belief in magic, or magical beings, can you ever really disclaim the existence of ... magic?

What really happens, I think is that people "sort of" believe in the magical parts of their religion, and take the historical / ethical / cultural bits that resonate with them for what they're worth. The religious stuff is in kind of a critical-thinking neutral zone, where things aren't examined too closely.

Fundamentalists have none of that, though, and want to require everyone to believe literally in all of the myth and magic first. If you can train yourself to think like that, it's got to be harder to filter out other unrealities.



Fascinating verbal gerrymandering. What's it for?

So, the idea is that we're going to redefine traditional terms for sociological and political reasons.

As it stands,

1. We already have words for "culture-wide group-based oppression" and "institutional racism."

2. We have another term, "racism," which refers generally to racial animus: a race-based motivation for hatred or discrimination, in which anyone, in any group, can engage.

The new premise is that we will now say that "racism" only applies when racial animus is wielded by members of the most-empowered groups -- here, white people.

This is a political construct, and one that has not been thought out.

I think we can all understand the motivation:

1. To emphasize the importance of relative group power within the culture as a whole when discussing bigotry of any kind.

2. To undercut the "tit for tat" cultural muttering where an empowered group claims "it's same for everybody" because individual racism still exists against the empowered group. Somewhere a white person or a man or a Christian suffered discrimination, and someone will use that to imply that the larger social dynamic is therefore diminished.

But is it so hard to articulate these things that we need to disingenuously claim that individual racial animus doest even exist?

And immediately you have this problem:

What will we now call individual racial animus outside of the empowered group attacking a less-empowered group? The Asian-American landlord who hates black people and will not rent to them. Not a "racist" because Asian-Americans are not at the top of the overall racial dynamic in America?

And are we going to employ this new frame of relative culture-wide group power to qualify all bigotry? What if a culture-wide overweening oppression cannot be shown, or dissipates? Will we e-evaluate each group's right to be recognized as capable of bigotry or insulated from it, on the basis of the current culture?

No one's going to buy "only __ people can be ___" on the theory that only successful, culture-wide, institutional bigotry counts at all. It's silly and it infantilizes the genuine argument it tries to advance.

It's just lazy argument. And so transparently untrue that it just discredits people trying to wield it. "I can't be racist, despite my hatred for ___, because I am ___." Really?

No one's going to look at a black person being racist or a woman being sexist or a Unitarian being religiously bigoted and pretend it's something else to advance this facile idea that only culture as a whole matters.

It's not so hard to make a point overall group dynamics that we have to also pretend that individuals don't EVER engage in bigotry except from an empowered group, toward a less-empowered group.

Nobody thinks that.
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