Thursday, November 29, 2012


"Did we really go to Grand Canyon?" I asked Emily.  "Did we really fly two thousand miles and see all the uncles and all stay together in the same house just a few days ago, and see llamas?" She smiled and nodded, thinking it was some joke or game. And so it must seem to a five-year-old.  Of course we did those things.  Of course I remember.

I'm mostly certain we did, but not quite.  I spend most of my life in a very few places, you see, but I read about and imagine many others.  Very rapidly, the quality of remembered reality and imagined reality is much the same.  A good portion of my knowledge that one is real and one not is how I have labeled it in memory.  Only secondarily do the qualities which distinguish actual events - the unpredictable, rather random additions to the story, the reassurance that others saw the same things - enter in.

I am a nostalgic person, as you know, and review old events in my daydreaming time.  I don't think I have added any whole items to reality that were merely invented (though I'll wager I have added many details), but I do sometimes question the real memories.  Did I really live there? Did I actually have a class with that girl?  Was that really I who reached into the water?  It all seems unlikely now, as if it happened to another person. There is no longer any verification, just electrochemical flittings in my brain.

Or also, I have had the experience of looking at a common word and wondering if it is spelled correctly. Our.  Strange-looking word.  Is that really the word or is there some other spelling that will suddenly look more real to me?

One of the arguments against the Christian faith, even among those who are trying to make solid, logical, arguments, is that it all looks very implausible.  At least, that is how I read the complaint.  The New Atheists try to disguise that, and a hundred others tip their hand without realising, but to me it just leaps off their pages.  The theistic description, whether creationist or not, just seems so odd to people that it simply doesn't square with their experience.  The existence of evil sometimes comes into play here.  To a great many folks, it just seems that in the face of that much unlikeliness, theists of any sort would have to mount quite compelling arguments to overcome it. It looks less than 1% likely to be true.

Well duh.  Every possible explanation looks less than 1% likely to be true.  Existence is a jarring, puzzling thing.  Falling back on "Things Are," isn't any better than "I Am." Hawking seems quite pleased that he has pushed the question of existence back another step - that universes can be preceded by other universes instead of by nothingness. But nothing has changed. Ah, we found that Sunday doesn't have to be the first day of the week.  There's a Saturday before it. Well, yes, and I am not at all discomfited to imagine there might be a Friday, or even - gasp - a Thursday!

I shouldn't sneer, because folks lose their faith over such things, which is tragic.  If you focus on how unlikely it is that I ever hitch-hiked in South Carolina - I'm sorry, I mean that something vaguely like the Christian God exists, you can get quite caught up in that. It can all look impossible in a flash.  In their discouragement, people who go through that often don't notice that their new belief, only vaguely adopted and not much thought through, is just as unlikely, or more.  There's no way out.  It is easier to just avoid thinking very hard, and believing just a little of everything.

When one is feeling buoyant and optimistic, all currently-held beliefs remain intact.  When depressed, all beliefs come up for question, as changing one might give relief.  This is why both conversions and de-conversions are more frequent at such times.  You may accuse that such conversions are thus suspect.  This I gladly grant, if we will drink the whole cup and note that de-conversions are thus suspect as well. Not to mention all the adopting or non-adopting of other beliefs, popular among our set or no.

Christians don't do themselves any favors in this realm when they try to insist they've got some rock-solid proof that others should attend to.  I've found nearly all such claims tip the balance a percentage point or two and are worth considering.  That's all. Similarly, the criticisms of belief which seem so solid and enormous to the nonbelievers or doubters do indeed tip the balance in my mind back a point or two the other way.  Just not any more than that, because dropping one belief always entails picking up another, and I like to have a look at that before I peel it and eat it.

Amongst the entire array of possible explanations of how you came to be sitting here, furrowing your brow, none looks the least bit likely. Yet each of us has a metaphysic we live by, whether we have thought it through and acknowledged it or not. I am of the belief that if we start from a neutral spot, the Christian explanation slowly noses the others out - not necessarily in a flash, though our understanding may cascade rapidly when we attend to the question rather than evading it.

I take it from what I read of both faith and doubt in the world that I am not very typical in this approach.  But it may help someone out there.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We No Longer Need A Hall Of Fame

The steroid and Hall of Fame discussion was happening on sports radio tonight. I'm not sure the various sides put their arguments all that well.  One group would say that when we really, in our hearts, know someone was juiced, like a Barry Bonds, we should not consider them for such a high honor.  Another faction would say that such knowledge is along a continuum, not an either-or, and we have no way of reflecting that in our eligibility requirements. Actually they wouldn't say that, but they should, as it's clearer.

So why have a Hall of Fame at all, then?  Why not close the membership as it stands, not as a protest, but as an expression of a particular era.  One of the main reasons the Hall was founded was to preserve the memory of great ballplayers, so that later fans will have some idea of what came before, and what the historical context is for baseball events now.  (From the very beginning it has gotten many things,wrong, BTW, enshrining players who were merely above-average and neglecting highly-deserving candidates who played in more obscurity.)

That context is no longer needed.  Historical information about baseball is now enormously available, and literally thousands of people make comparisons across eras for general discussion.  In the 1930's and 40's, not only did not know about players in other eras unless they were on their home team (or one from New York), they could not easily even get that information. That has been true until quite recently, actually.

We no longer need a baseball Hall of Fame, except as a repository of records and symbolic gathering place. It can become the Hall of History now. The "honor" of nomination and election doesn't carry the weight it once did.

Church and Mental Illness

Retriever sent along an article from NAMI Faithnet on gently confronting those in church who do not understand mental illness.

We had a series for adult studies at my church twenty years ago, which I co-taught with two others.  Perhaps we should do that again.  I recommend group-teaching that one, because the misconceptions are so common, and often held rather defiantly, as if they are part of the Faith As Received.  Having others beside you helps keep you from getting defensive.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Inspired by Bethany's discussion of a Pew poll about male and female attitudes toward marriage over at Bad Data, Bad!

I have discussed inappropriate polling and deceptive polling before.

Who Can Post

I have tried something to see if I can lose the spam and still let people comment without word verification.  It may prevent anonymous comments.  Could folks test and see if they can comment, especially if you would ordinarily be anonymous here?

Email wymanhome at comcast if you cannot.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Grand Canyon - A Review

It's big.

Why Persuade?

Some discouragement after seeing Barney Frank on a CNN show at the airport this morning, plus some commentary on Jonathan Haidt when I got home. Well, those were just some of the tent pegs of a vast pavilion - no, I lied, it's a small lean-to - of thought. When people are challenged or criticised (ideas or behavior), they default immediately to the thought of what they didn't do wrong, and are irritated that you had the nerve to mention anything else.

That's not other people, that's is I.  It's just that it only irritates me when it's other people.  I'm defensive and default to my better qualities because that's my right.  The rest of you still need work.

I will write about this some.

Train Song

I didn't come back back by train, but this fits.

My sympathies for those who have to travel much to earn their daily bread was much in my mind today.  Sponge-Headed Scienceman has a lot o' that.  With one thing and another, it took about 27 hours to get home from Williams, AZ.  Not much sleep, and I am reminded again of the discomfort of sitting for long periods.

BTW, I had never heard an early live version of this song, and was surprised at the added 7ths in the chord progression.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blog Change

Tigerhawk is starting a new blog The Spirit of Enterprise, and letting the old one go.  He explains here.   It is a topic I know less about, and have less interest in, though Sponge and Dubbahdee, at least, might be fans.

I doubt I will put the new on e on my sidebar, nor delete the old one just yet, letting it drift to the bottom instead, in case it's a false alarm.  It usually takes a long period of inactivity before I delete someone.  Good marketing would decree that I always have crisp, fresh, active blogs there, but I'm not wired that way.

Train Song

Probably the last of this series, as I will actually be taking the train from Houston to Tucson come Monday.


Remembering the war discussions over the last decade reminded me of the few times I have heard or read someone noting the number of American war dead approaching, becoming equal to, and then exceeding the number killed on 9/11 - as if this was a marker for some sort of evenness, or completion, or a turning point.

I always feign that I have never heard of this counting before and asking, rather innocently, what they think is being balanced.  Actually, sometimes just silence can make folks play back in their heads what they just said out loud, and re-evaluate whether it makes any sense.  Most people do pick up that there really isn't anything sensible being measured in that equation, and sign off with something lame.

I don't think they necessarily meant any harm, but it is the kind of vague thinking that drives me nuts.  There's a Bad Thing, and it has a number associated with it, like 3,000 deaths.  Therefore, when something related to the Bad Thing is being discussed, and a number of deaths associated with that starts to get near 3,000, the mind automatically ties those two things together, as if some puzzle has been solved, or some stasis has been reached.  It is likely one of those useful shortcuts the brain has developed in remembering things and understanding them.

No problem there.  But why let the thought come out of your mouth?

On The Possible Utility of Recent Wars - Part IV

You might intuit that the end of my last comment to terri may suggest that I think the nation-building part of our recent wars was in error. Your intuition would be partly correct.  I am far less convinced that was wise.  The Colin Powell advice "If you break it, you own it," sounded like the only kind and decent way to go at the time.  George Bush's thought that if we just bring freedom to people they will gradually do better and the world will be a better place looks less solid now.  Why do we own it if we break it? We eventually found a bunch of B and C-grade stuff for making WMD.  Nothing A-grade, but no big deal.  Break the other stuff, which Hussein was also not supposed to have, and go home.  If we have to repeat again in 10 years, or in two other countries as well, fine.

Not a very realistic plan, however, as Americans wouldn't stand for it.  We feel obligated to build schools, hospitals, and highways to give them a leg up.  Minimising the collateral damage, and paying handsomely for what damage we do just doesn't seem like enough to us.  We want to fix "root causes."  Except the root cause is petty tribalism even within the major groupings, and to fix that they have to stop marrying their cousins.  (See also, Hatfields, McCoys, and extreme clannishness leading to blood feuds.) That could take awhile.

Not to say that it is useless, or never happens, or does no good.  I think it does.  I think bringing democracy and cooperation to places, insisting, however temporarily, that they behave better and educate their daughters, remains a good thing.  Just not as good as promised, and looking like it will take much longer than expected.

I was one of the ones who already had low expectations, remember.  I said all along that we didn't have to turn Iraq into Switzerland, but Brazil 1970 would be fine.  I am now hoping that Brazil 1870 can be sustained in Iraq, and wonder if there is any lasting change in Afghanistan at all. Hell, there's little change in Kosovo, and they're in Europe.

The paleocons said this all along.  They may have painted things too darkly, that there is no hope of any change, but their predictions weren't far off.  Cultures change slowly, and only when there is pressure to do so, not mere good intentions.  Conservatives tried to hush John McCain when he said 25 years, knowing that it would sound bad, but even John may have been too optimistic, eh? At a minimum, nationbuilding costs a lot more than we expected.

Friday, November 16, 2012

On The Possible Utility Of Recent Wars - Part III

I will next argue, as I have a few times before, that our natural human understanding of the narrative of history biases us toward the belief that the world would be pretty much the same if we changed one thing, except for that one thing.  We may not hold that as a theory – we may even say the opposite is more likely and the chaos of events very unpredictable.  But we were not attacked, except some small incidents we got control of, so we tend to think that is pretty much how events would have unfolded.  It is a natural blindness, because we have no story to fasten on that shows us what the attacks would be.  How can you remember what didn’t happen?  What did happen once takes on an enormous impression of inevitability that isn’t real.

I argued with my brother that worse things might have happened in the Middle East.  He was aghast, thought what I was saying was insane denial.  How could it be worse? Two expensive wars, American soldiers dead, countries hating us. 

I don’t laugh at his POV, I think I understand it and feel it pretty strongly myself.  But I also think it is a dangerous illusion that must be fought against, not an indicator of reality.  This is the Middle East, after all, where amazingly bad things can get even worse quickly.  That each possible scenario we can imagine is unlikely in itself does not mean that in aggregate, worse things couldn’t have happened.

Let me pause here to acknowledge that they might have been bad things that we chose to have nothing to do with, or bad things that could be more easily solved by bombing the crap out of a particular capital or port and calling it a day, or any number of other cheaper, possibly better solutions.  This is in no way a positive argument that either war was the best idea – only an argument that the consensus complaint is not persuasive; and that some action which seriously discouraged an escalating trend of violence against us had to be enacted.  War does that pretty well.  Even badly fought, not-really-worth-it wars can do that.

On The Possible Utility Of Recent Wars - Part II

That I might comment at all on international violence and deterrence is in one sense laughable.  There are people who devote their lives to this study, and the list of things they know which I don’t is enormous.  We all know, in our own fields of knowledge, how incredibly stupid a blowhard sounds, making pronouncements that we are tired of pushing back year after year.

Yet that is not the whole story.  Entire fields of knowledge are upended by marginal character, or even complete outsiders, all the time.  Most outsiders are fools, not worth listening to.  But “expert” attitudes self-reinforce and eventually become less useful.  Sometimes they become quite useless and actually stupid.  There are many possible reasons for this, which we have touched on before but will not here.  But why it happens is not so important at the moment as that it happens, and I will cite some evidences that I can at least take a shot at explaining international events.

  1. I have seen it happen in fields that I know something about, right before my eyes.  Freudians and ego psychologists (many of whom misread Freud) were in their last ascendancy when I started in this field.  They now have to scramble to show that even any of their theories and treatments hold, with any diagnoses (some do, with some diagnoses), and they are laughed out of the room in discussing autism, schizophrenia, and other clearly physical conditions.  Along the way I have watched lots of therapies, backed by people with superb credentials, be revealed as useless fads.  In baseball, the stats guys have changed the way everyone evaluates players, including the guys who have contempt for stats guys.  Linguists tried to laugh off Greenberg and the other lumpers and connecters, but the geneticists are now giving solid evidence for three, rather than three hundred, Amerind groups, and no one even grudges him his African categories now.
  2. Those experts don’t agree with each other, not even close, and an outsider can see institutional leanings that an insider is blind to.  Ben’s friend at State knows acres more than I do about internecine rivalries in Indonesia – and he’s still young.  But he’s at State, which disagrees with the CIA, which disagrees with military intelligence, which disagrees with their respective counterparts in the UK or Australia, which disagrees with the think tanks and the academics in a dozen related fields and the group violence researchers.  In my most cynical moments, I believe that all of these are simply enacting their original prejudices in more and more complicated fashion.

So I have not only a citizen’s right to speak, but potentially, an intellectual right as well.

Perceived weakness gets attacked.  Do not take what people say are their reasons as their reasons.  Al Jazeera is still saying the embassies were attacked because of the movie. Groups point to historical events, recent or remote, as the source of their resentments and their reasons for violence.  They are quite convinced that these are their reasons, and they convince the people around them – say, for example, business contacts, State Dept officials, and visiting academics – that these are their real motivations.  I think they are wrong.  Resentments fester for centuries with little open hostility, and very minor resentments can activate violence – when there is vulnerability.
But surely, the Japanese didn’t attack Pearl Harbor because they thought America weak? Yes, they did, if you look at the specialised sense of weakness and the attack.  They thought America entering the war on her own terms and on equal footing was a problem.  But they knew many Americans did not want to go to war, and strongly suspected that military assets in a few locations were vulnerable.  Destroying those before America could get a fully-formed emotional readiness for war might discourage us enough to say.  Don’t bother.  Make the best deal we can, we’ll trade with them as we go, accepting their dominance in the Pacific.  We can still do business. That’s not an idea that we were weak in terms of their ability to invade San Diego, but weak in terms of a single objective of enormous value to them.  The Japanese certainly didn’t have any set of resentments against us, other than in the narcissistic sense of believing that Pacific dominance was their natural right which we interfered with.  Similarly, Al Qaeda did not think America weak in terms of being ripe to invasion of Washington and giving over the keys to the next Caliph, but in terms of not wanting to mess with extremist Islam around the world.  They wished to make it expensive enough to discourage us. They spoke often about waiting us out and winning through greater resolve.

Germany didn’t have especial resentment against Belgians and Norwegians, nor the Huns against Europeans.  It may be axiomatic in postcolonial thinking that it is resentment against the West that drives violence, but the areas in question are plenty violent with each other when we’re not there.  I used to give a fair amount of resigned credence to blaming the British for desert boundaries or Americans for trading with rich South Americans.  I now pretty solidly reject that as excuses – rationalizations.

Resentments aren’t irrelevant, but they aren’t the primary cause we tend to think they are.  The more knowledge we acquire, the more we tend to believe that these resentments are the key, and America eliminating them the key.  We fall into this trap naturally.  It goes with the territory of interacting with people.  What is the evidence that it is reliably true?  Do nations that we give stuff to like us better?  Not reliably.  With individuals, it is often the case that the more you give them, the more they resent you.  Nations…yeah, pretty much.

Next, the idea that the inconclusiveness of a war is an argument against it is not strong.  Very few wars are conclusive.  Even those which seem so at the time have ways of lingering.  In general, a war is not conclusive unless one side is absolutely demoralised and must surrender on any terms.  This is not always so.  Some conflicts just do gradually wither because people get other lives and priorities.  Let’s look at American history: the American Revolution bled on through impressment of sailors through the War of 1812, a late extension of the original war. WWII is now quite commonly seen as a continuation of an unresolved WWI. Vietnam was conclusive in our losing mostly because we didn’t want an inconclusive war, because we thought that impossible.  Compared to what?  The Mexican War?  Indian wars? Korea? WWII looks nice and conclusive because it was conclusive with our enemies, the Axis Powers, but our Russian ally made Eastern Europe an inconclusive mess for 45 more years. 

We may not like it, but inconclusive is what wars usually are.  Yet they often do solve things, like slavery, or genocide.

On The Possible Utility Of Recent Wars - Part I

It is my preference to make a more general positive case, so I will only answer terri’s and Dave’s objections briefly.  I hope to suggest lines of refutation, rather than fully argue the points.  As a consequence, you may feel I have not fully heard what you are saying.  Likely so.  But I’m not answering all I heard.

I am not sure how far we can push the equivalence of America and small nations compared to the police and individuals, but there is at least some similarity, so let’s go with it, recognising that it is incomplete. The drawing of a firearm in a confrontation is not the only force response.  When the police surround a place, that they are armed is implied.  When they turn on the blue lights and use techniques to control the situation that people find intimidating, or when they patrol an area to increase their presence, all imply force and possible violence if necessary.  I don’t see that as irresponsible saber-rattling.  Just so with nations.  There are implied force actions or statements that a president might use that his critics might call saber-rattling that I would call wise warning and diplomacy. David’s viewpoint isn’t insane- it is close to the Colin Powell doctrine and Teddy Roosevelt’s, both of whom knew many things I don’t (more on the weaknesses of experts later) – but I still think it is wrong. Abjuring force until it is clearly necessary and then using it fully is a respectable strategy, but I don’t think it is the best, and it certainly isn’t the only. Other strategies might be implemented badly and make things worse, but abuse is not use, and saber-rattling can prevent violence as well.  Show of strength does not always provoke.

There is a growing idea in Western society that because soft answers sometimes turn away wrath, that they are a relatively dependable method of doing so.  I think confirmation bias is very powerful here.  Where I work there are those who believe various soft techniques almost always work better with clients and thus they avoid confrontation.  This is good, generally.  But there are cases where it does not – like our guy in the news this morning - not only as an unfortunate exception, but as a general rule with certain types of clients.

Terri’s second idea I also partly subscribe to – that in response to violence by jet, we make violence by jet more difficult, and continue to improve our techniques in that. Improved surveillance and spy-stuff?  Love it.  Cheap at any price.  Partial solutions, steadily improved, are great – and they are often far less expensive than war to boot.  But England had violence by subway, Spain violence on the trains, boats attacked, lots of places had cars with explosives. What are essentially law-enforcement techniques are indeed our first choice way to go.  But I’m not sure there is agreement that we have gotten that much bang for the buck with Homeland Security.  Response measures are sometimes not distinguishable from shutting the barn door after the horse is gone.  The highlight point, which I will expand in my positive case, it that there were no attacks of any type until recently, because a primary cause was reduced. Going to war with heavy focus on particular networks of enemies has worked to convince them to choose other targets, or none.  We dissuaded people from acting as enemies.

I am not one to make too much of individual incidents as indictments of a particular president’s actions, BTW.  Violent, evil, insane people are by nature not fully predictable.  That Bad Event 227 happened on a president’s watch may or may not be significant.  People make political mileage out of that, but I am more cautious.  Trends matter, not one-offs.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Saturday I will be turning on the Captcha function while I am away.  The amount of comment spam I am receiving was already large and has now doubled.  I don't want to have to delete 1000 spam comments when I return from our Thanksgiving trip.  Sorry for the inconvenience - you will all just have to work a little harder.


This morning's radio comment was that Rick Reilly is stealing his humor from old "Please Don't Eat The Daisies" episodes.

That should leave a mark, but it won't.  He'll still be sure he's right and everyone else just doesn't get it.

Temporary (I Hope) Incoherency

There are suddenly many questions at once, and I am not seeing my way to clarity.  Once comments multiply on a post I tend to move it up to the main stage and do a new post.  Or perhaps, as the ruler of my domain, I just want to give my own comments visibility.

The original post that got us rolling was about insult, offense, and fairness. Terri had mentioned some public conservatives who are insulting as examples that the triumphalism of liberals, though unseemly, was not worthy of especial disapproval.  I am no longer familiar with much public commentary, I'm afraid.  Still, I think those leopards may not change their spots that easily, so I will venture comment.

When Limbaugh first came out, I found his style shocking but his arguments reasonable.  He would make an outrageous generalisation, often mocking, but back it up with at least something - a string of quotes by prominent feminists who said much the same as he was claiming, though in words that sounded more acceptable, for example.  Or recordings from the previous evening's news and commentary in which multiple supposedly neutral sources used the same unusual phrasing, which could then be traced back to a DNC press release earlier in the day.  I was impressed. Granted, he was reporting selectively, but he had real stuff to report.

I compared him at the time to political cartoonists, who were, and are, far more unfair.  At a minimum, they don't take calls from opposing viewpoints. they don't have to answer any criticism, in fact.  Why, I asked, were liberals so outraged when it was their ox being gored?  I still think that argument has merit.  Limbaugh changed the game, and brought the political cartooning style to talk radio.  Television comedy had long been allowed that level of unfairness, but it wasn't purporting to be news.  One could see intimations of that on SNL, and before that on Smothers Brothers and Laugh-In with pretend news, but on radio that line was unbreached. Limbaugh also did that briefly in a TV format, with the trappings of news broadcasts, yet making fun of his opposition.  It was considered infuriating and unfair.

Now it is standard.  That is what Stewart and Colbert do, though their comic style and politics are different.  Liberal talk radio has not worked well (last I heard, though Rachel Maddow seems to have persisted), but the premise of having a one-sided, take-n-prisoners political humor show is now established.

Let's look at that shock from the other side.  Even many liberals were stunned when Bill Clinton made fun of sectors of the American people while running for president.  They wondered if there would be backlash.  A few earlier figures like Tip O'Neill had done some of it, and there were certainly suspicions that many presidential candidates had contempt for one or another group of Americans, but you just didn't say that. A president is supposed to represent all Americans, and not ever attack his own.  Reagan would say "our liberal friends" with a little bite and it drew howls of rage - and I tended to agree.  It seemed to me to be technically within the rules but using tones of voice to communicate something different. Adlai Stevenson's campaign was insulting about groups of Americans, but I don't believe he ever was directly. Then Clinton blew that out of the water completely, with he and Hillary openly mocking the culture they were running against.

This continues to the present, with Al Gore talking about the double XX chromosome or Taliban wing Republicans, or Obama talking about people bitterly clinging to guns and religion.  Conservatives just can't get over that a president or potential president just isn't supposed to say that.  Worse things are said by others all the time, arousing less anger.  Something about the context makes it shocking. (Historical note:  Roosevelt did it often in his first two terms but stopped thereafter, so far as I can tell.  Perhaps that emotional content was part of the fury that he was a "traitor to his class.")

There's a host of sociology research to do, and experiments that could be run here.  Do conservatives and liberals, or men and women, or Greatest Generation and Millennials, or black people and white people, have very different context expectations of where and how criticism should be said?

I have become increasingly sympathetic to this idea of context and giving offense, as, for example, my discussion about Peyton Place in Some Rambling About The Printed Word about 10 days ago. There really is a difference between talking about sex in one medium versus another, and I think political offense shows the same pattern.  I was objecting after the election to some offensive, angry comments in what I had expected to be a more social, respectful context.  There were a score of offensive bumper stickers in the parking lot I just shrugged at - that's an expected context. Links from conservative sites to outrageous comments at expected liberal sites I didn't even click through.  I expect HuffPo to be like that.  But newsier sites, even in the Op-Eds, are supposed to hold themselves to higher standards.  Insults can be implied, criticism harsh and even somewhat unfair, but the outpouring of venom is supposed to be kept inside certain bounds.

Wow.  I didn't even get to militarism, saber-rattling, and shows of force.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Train Song


Good to have terri's disagreement.  She is polite enough that I don't get irritable and shouting, and her thought is different enough from mine that it causes me to clarify for myself exactly what I mean and what I think.

I have a very good friend who expressed similar sentiments about militarism, the lack of benefit of the recent wars, and the high cost.  I have heard more than one conservative starting to come to that conclusion.  The paleoconservatives and more libertarian types already leaned that way.  There may be some consensus forming about this.

I see the appeal, but I think they are wrong.  No, I think they are possibly right, but probably wrong.  I think saber-rattling can be a good thing.  I think we can point to benefit.  I think we can point to some reasons why the cost was necessary.  As the pendulum swings, I think I should make the arguments I can, anyway. I will start with one point to ponder; a different starting point than we usually work from now, but one that was common then. 

Had we continued as before, the most likely result would be that we were attacked again. Repeatedly.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Coalition Politics

I have had a lot of focus over the course of my blogging career, on an American group that is largely cultural, perhaps even ideological: the Arts & Humanities tribe. Let me give a quick summary of that before I try and shoot this film from a different angle. The Arts & Humanities tribe is largely white, liberal, educated word-people. They might be miseducated, but not uneducated. They are something close to the first of Snow's Two Cultures (now Three, with the social sciences). They heart NPR. They weren't all literature or anthropology majors, are not exclusively white, nor are they always liberals. The writers at Maggie's Farm or National Review, for example are certainly A&H, but not liberal. Yet on the whole, they tend that way. Boundaries are fluid depending on how intense an identification, or how much actual scholarship rather than posing one requires for membership, so estimates are suspect. But let us say they constitute 7-17% of the populace. They are disproportionately represented in running things, especially government. Lawyers (some), librarians, writers, psychologists, academics of many stripes. Very Canadian border, as they are concentrated across the top of the country: New England, Upper Midwest, Pacific Northwest.

 My people. That's who I come from. I'm rather suspicious of them and in rebellion against them in these later decades, but culturally, these are who I am most comfortable talking to.

When we look at all those "Romney Won White Voters" graphs and articles, keep in mind that those numbers were in spite of this sizable group of A&H tribe. Subtract them out, and ponder.

hbd* chick linked to a set of graphs by The Audacious Epigone which shows the electoral vote breakdown if we counted variously by income, sex, or race. For example, if only white men vote, Romney wins 490-41 (7 undecided).

Coupling that with similar data that Steve Sailer extracted from the Reuters-IPSOS poll, where we learn that married Jewish women voted for Obama 66-34, we have an entirely different way of looking at the culture, at least in terms of voting.

 Let us assume, arguendo, that this second method is much better than mine; that a far more simple tribalism of race, religion, gender, etc, is true. Who we will tend to vote for, and what appeals by candidates we will respond to, are largely a result of accidents of birth, with all the worrisome implications that we can be manipulated with increasing accuracy by campaign teams with each passing year.

If that is true, then the demographics are going to go so consistently against the Republicans that they will not ever win more than an occasional narrow majority in House, Senate, or Electoral College. They will never be able to bend their message enough to peel off enough stragglers from all the other groups.

The Democrats are not a unified party, but a coalition. Have been for a few decades now. Black voters are not the natural cultural allies of union members or Jews, but they can agree to defeat Republicans and then each get something of what they like in the next year's legislation.
Therefore, what the Republicans need not a broadened message, but a coalition partner. A group that can sign on despite differences in exchange for cabinet positions, or the introduction of particularly dear legislation. There is something of this already. Social conservatives, economic conservatives, and libertarians overlap, but are not the same thing. They are a proto-coalition.

What coalition partner can they hope to attract with consistency, whether ethnic, ideological, or cultural?