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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: 10,018

Journal Archives

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.

Irrational conspiracy theories, you mean.

Problem with the way the term is used as a catch-all for "bullshit," is that it is also happily wielded by anyone who disagrees with any idea at all, valid or not, just as often driven by a cover-your-butt motivation or a conscious motive to cover up the truth. "Woo" is a similarly abused term on this particular website.

Conspiracy itself, or just plain old wrong doing by Powers that Be, and subsequent lying about it and trying to discredit or ridicule anyone pointing at the possibility of an as-yet-unproven truth, is a real thing best not ignored.

Nothing anyone has fever-dreamed up is any wilder than the real machinations of the Nixon administration, or the CIA, or the Bush / Cheney / Rumsfeld conspiracy to lead the U.S. to war in Iraq. False information, criminal acts, discrediting attacks on critics, ridicule, appeals to authority, etc.

All of those things actually happen, all the time.

It's up to us to think critically and not lump ideas or facts into simplistic buckets consisting only of the empirically obvious popular wisdom vs. the ridiculous or unlikely and therefore impossible.

I just don't understand American car companies' approach to our market.

I am a compact car person. Medium-zippy four-banger hatchbacks, mostly. Economical to operate, fun; still carry the mulch back from the hardware store. And now I like diesels because of the great mileage and good useable performance.

We refuse to do any of that well. Ford, for example, for years made fleets of absolutely cool, powerful, Focuses (Focci?) for the European market, the last of which was an absolute stunner: http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Focus_RS500

But not here. The new Focus, now the same everywhere, is nowhere near as cool. There's a high-power variant, but it's bigger, uglier, louder, and simply less refined. Four doors only. Outrageous color schemes. PlaySkool interior bits. They're making a diesel variant soon, which should get 20% better fuel economy, but have already announced they will never sell it here.

Why?

I get that the American demographic "demands" certain kinds of cars. But I know, for example, that the VW Sportwagen diesels are often the subject of long wait-lists in California. Here, diesels disappear quickly off the lots, account for most of those Sportwagen sales, and hold their value better than other cars.

It's almost like American manufacturers believe the American purchasing public is too crude or too stupid or too ignorant to appreciate small cars, hatchbacks, diesels, or anything else that's understated, smart, or practical for anything other than towing large boats or taking six kids to soccer practice.

Even when dragged into begrudgingly making a hybrid, the adverstising drips with contempt and self-loathing. The Volt -- which now has a large, rabidly enthusiastic following -- was advertised with lingo suggesting it was hard to believe it could be enjoyable, or even a real car. The Caddy ad with the actor playing a rich schmuck was apparently to show that hybrids might be okay if rich schmucks who laugh at Europeans with their "vacations" like them.

Stupid.

It seems like our own manufacturers think we are stupid. But then the import brands come along and stomp them in everything but big trucks and it's supposed to be a mystery?

We can do better.



Oh dear. You understand what an "anecdote" is, right?

No amount of individual "stories" proves a generalization about groups of individuals. True of people. True of dogs.

You're the Australian Shepherd fancier, aren't you? Good to see you.

But as we've discussed, that excellent breed has its own deadly anecdotes, too.

Your logic is a perfect example of the confirmation bias illogic at work here. It's quite the same as racist logic. Interpret actions of members of your own group as the misdoings of an individual. Attribute acts of another group to inherent problems with all of "them."

Right?

A 3 year old Worth County is recovering Sunday from a dog attack. The little girl was playing at her neighbors house when an Australian Shepherd, a typically friendly dog, mauled her face.

"He bit me," says Summer Gray, Dog Attack Victim. 3 year old Summer Gray is recovering from a dog attack. "He has sharp teeth," says Summer Gray.

She was playing at a neighbors house Saturday afternoon in Sylvester when an Australian Shepherd mauled her.

http://www.walb.com/story/16679796/dog-attacks-3-yr-old-girl

BRADENTON, Fla. - Two Australian Shepherd dogs are the Grinches who managed to ruin the Christmas holiday for Justin Curtis and his family.

The dogs left him with stitches and on crutches after attacking him on Christmas Eve as he tried to give the mailman a letter his father forget to send out.

http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/region-sarasota-manatee/bradenton/deputies-man-steps-in-to-help-13-year-old-boy-being-attacked-by-dogs-both-bitten

Anyone can play games with anecdotes. It's the bias with which they are intepreted that matters.

Do you actually imagine you couldn't find the same kinds of stories with all kinds of breeds? The two Aussie Shepherd stories took about 20 seconds to find.


The Facts

According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, “controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous.” The American Temperance Testing Society (ATTS) puts thousands of dogs – purebreds and spayed and neutered mixed-breeds – through their paces each year. The dogs are tested for skittishness, aggression and their ability to differentiate between threatening and non-threatening humans. Among all of the breeds ATTS tested – over 30,000 dogs through May 2011 — 83 percent passed the test. How did pit bulls do? They showed an above average temperament, with 86 percent making the grade. Pit bulls are the second most tolerant breed tested by ATTS, after only golden retreivers.

http://www.salon.com/2013/02/05/in_defense_of_the_pitbull_partner/

A fistful of anecdotes does not add up to the kind of anti-breed paranoia argued for now. Plenty of other dogs have been subjected to the Super Murder Dog myth.

As Karen Delise details in her book, in the 19th century, bloodhounds were believed to be inherently vicious, having a taste for human blood. “Eventually,” she writes, “these bloodhounds fell from view, and we pushed other dogs into the spotlight, including the German Shepherd dog and the Doberman Pinscher.” (Dobermans were widely believed to have abnormally small brains, turning them into mindless killers, but this, like the pit bull’s “locking jaws,” was simply a myth.) Other breeds that have haunted the popular imagination in the past include mastiffs and Newfoundlands. In Canada, Siberian huskies have often played the role of killer-hound


So it remains the case that making "Pitbulls" as the Super Killer Murder Dog is a new thing, born of the same biases and mythology that made bloodhounds and Shepherds and Dobies and so many others the canine bogeymen (bogeydogs?) of the past.

Thanks for implying people who don't fall for this silly anti-dog bigoted mythology nonsense "nutters," by the way. I assume you are including the CDC and the American Veterinary Medicine Association in this thoughtful observation.

Although, I think a better case for defective reasoning or mental imbalance could be shown where someone who owns one kind of dog resolutely discounts anecdotes of that breed's "dangerous" behavior as irrelevant, while trying to make a case that similar anecdotes about another breed prove its inherent inferiority?

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