Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What I believe

A quick primer, for those coming here for the first time, on some of my basic political beliefs:

* I believe the Bush Administration was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. This is why, or, at least, it's the most concise listing of reasons why I believe this, all in one spot, I've found yet. If you want to argue with me on this point, go read what's on the other end of that link first, and address those points, please. Otherwise, I just don't have time for your ignorance.

* I believe all governments are, essentially, predatory. I believe the American Founding Fathers understood this, which is why they tried very hard to create a government that would function only just barely well enough to keep the lights on and the water running. I believe that when we complain about how disfunctional our government is, how inefficient it is, how laden with incompetence it is, we are badly missing the point. An incompetent, bungling government is something to be deeply grateful for. Our current government only seems to be staffed with dolts; in fact, I believe, these people know exactly what they are doing. Their so called incompetence has never cost yet cost them a thing; in fact, somehow or other, everything always seems to work out just perfectly for their own particular agendas... and bank accounts. That's not incompetence. Pure unadulterated evil, yes, but they're hardly inept.

* I believe that religion is a social control mechanism. And I believe that it is the most successful social control mechanism in the history of humanity, far more successful than secular government. Having said that, I think submission to superstitious terror is beneath the dignity of what humanity can and should aspire to, and if such is to be the cost of living as a civilized being, I prefer anarchy.

* I hate affirmative action. I know, I know, as a white male I have no right to say this, and it automatically makes me a racist and I should just give up the futile effort at fooling anyone and go put on a sheet with a hood. Well, fuck anyone who thinks that way, and fuck everyone who thinks that you can somehow fix racism by reversing it and then institutionalizing it. If the Federal government is going to be in the business of redressing social inequity... and I have no problem with that as a basic concept of government... then instead of creating laws that force people to take race into consideration with every personnel decision, they should be trying to create and model policies designed towards making such processes as color blind as possible.

One thing I've yearned all my life to see made illegal is the horribly medieval, utterly useless ceremony of the 'personal interview'. There is no necessary or desirable purpose to it. We now have the technology to test any candidate for any position at an impersonal distance, and anything that might suddenly crop up when this man or woman first shows up to actually do the job that actually bears on their ability to do it well would be legitimate cause to hire someone else. The personal interview doesn't give a potential employer the opportunity to evaluate a potential employee for anything that matters, what it does is, it lets your new boss sniff your crotch and test your asskissing abilities. Eliminate the 'personal interview' and you will eliminate 80% of the bias in hiring practices right there.

Let the Feds establish some kind of Fair Employment Testing standards. Some kind of standardized exam for every job that employers can use to evaluate your work skills and aptitude. Sure, they can also look at your experience and what past employers may say about you, but what they don't get to look at is your gender, your age, your race, your relative pulchitrude, how long your hair is, how stylishly you dress, or how well you cast your eyes downward and simper/chuckle at their lame ass jokes.

Let the Feds also set up means whereby interviews can be conducted entirely online. Yeah, this will place an emphasis on certain skills (like literacy, and articulation) but the personal interview simply puts the emphasis on other skills (like grooming, and groveling). I'd rather give new generations of job applicants a reason to learn how to spell, construct smooth sentences, and type quickly, than continue conducting seminars on how to provide slick, completely insincere answers while 'dressing appropriately'... which for men means professional, and for women means 'sexy but elegant'.

Bottom line: Affirmative action is racism; I dislike racism. And if Aaron Hawkins were still alive, he'd be coming for me with a table knife right now.

* I'm not wild about abortion, but I don't believe abortion is the issue. The issue is whether or not individuals will have the freedom to control what does and does not happen within their own bodies. And as to that, I deeply believe no government has the right to deny me or anyone else any medical procedure I want and can pay for, just as I similarly believe that no government has the right to force me or anyone else to undergo any medical procedure I do not want.

* I believe the war in Iraq is wrong. I believe that's so self evident to anyone capable of even a moment's real lucidity that I shouldn't have to point out all the reasons that it is wrong. If the guy down the street is shouting insults at you, you have many legal and moral recourses, but one of them is not and never will be to invade his house, break most of his chattels, steal the ones you like, torture, rape, and kill his family, and then burn the place down. Even if you truly believe he's got weapons and is planning to use those weapons on you at some point in the future, you still are not allowed to pre-emptively take these actions. And while analogy is always suspect, I believe this one is pretty exact. That is pretty much exactly what the United States did to Iraq, and we are still over there, torturing, raping, and killing that guy's family, breaking and stealing his shit, setting fire to the walls and furnishings. The only thing we should be doing over there now is trying to put out the fires we set. Given our level of competence at actually helping anyone, though, I think we should just get the fuck out of there and let the United Nations do what they can. And resign ourselves to paying horrific reparations, with the understanding that for the next hundred years at least, if the Iraqi people want something from us, we damn well owe it to them.

* I believe the U.S. Constitution is a deeply flawed document, and I would love to see it replaced with something better. Pragmatically speaking, however, any attempt to replace it would only end us up with something far worse, so I'm willing to live with it.

* I like Christmas. I think it's very cool. I'm not a Christian, am not even particularly religous (although I have articles of faith, at least one of which we'll get to on this list because it also pisses off my fellow liberals no end, the tiny minded little fuckers), but Christmas is what the Winter Solstice Holiday that every human culture has always celebrated was always called in my childhood, and that's the word I have the strongest, most positive associations with. So I say "Merry Christmas" on my own time, and in my house (and in SuperGirlfriend's house) our holiday celebration is, and will remain, Christmas, despite the fact that we are about as secular humanist as you can get, and we are both educated enough to know that even if Jesus ever was born, it wasn't anywhere near December 25th. We make Christmas cookies, we send Christmas cards, we put up Christmas decorations, we will goddam well have a Christmas tree.

Now, at work, on the phone with participants, I say "Happy Holidays". I do not do this to placate Bill O'Reilly, who is a colossal tool (although he probably doesn't actually have one). I do it because there are a great many jackasses in the world who damned well will take offense at me if I tell them "Merry Christmas", and while in my personal life I have only two words for those people (and those two words are not "Happy Birthday"), on the time I sell to my employer, I well endeavor not to piss off the people who supply the funds that eventually trickle down into my paycheck. (I also try to occasionally make vague, truculent, rudimentary gestures towards keeping my job, because, you know, we have this big apartment now and I have to pay the rent here.)

But on my own time, I say "Merry Christmas", and if that pisses anyone off (and I imagine it will, at some point), well, there are many people who get pissed off over how I choose to wear my hair, too. I think people who get exasperated over such things badly NEED to be exasperated, hopefully into fatal aneurysms. So I wear my hair long and I say "Merry Christmas", and that's enough about that for now.

* I'm not sure about gun control. I'm still up on the rails about it. See, I hate guns, absolutely. Yet... our forefathers seemed to feel that individual ownership of weaponry was an essential component of individual liberty and social freedom... and I am not sure they are wrong.

I intensely dislike the idea of anyone anywhere being able to walk around with the power of life and death over me, or people I love. Yet, at the same time... the idea of giving all the boomsticks over to the authorities makes my hackles crawl. Would it make cops safer? Yeah, but... well, we don't draft cops in this country; they sign up for the job and last I heard, nobody advertised it as being 'safe'. I'd be happy to pay cops more and equip them better; I'm not sure I'm happy with the idea of seeing to it that they are the only people on the streets with guns.

Beyond that, it's extremely impractical. There are millions of guns in circulation. Gun control laws are not a magic genie; most of the people that society feels shouldn't carry guns are criminals already.

I've already come up with a solution for this; I wrote it up on a much older blog. I called it 'gun insurance'. Maybe I'll go back and dig it up again.

I also think our Constitution pretty unequivocally denies the power to pass any laws in regard to gun control whatsoever. I'm hardly a strict constructionist of the Constitution; in fact, I feel it's a deeply flawed document... but it is the Owner's Manual of the United States, so I do feel we should pay some attention to what it actually says.

Whatever the case, in the end and at this point, I'm just not sure about gun control.

* I cannot support 'hate speech' and 'hate crime' legislation.

I deeply loathe many of the more extreme consequences of absolute freedom of expression. I abhor most exclusionary hate speech, and there are kinds of porn that will make even a filthy jaded old Internet pervert like me blanche... but, nonetheless, I think that the essential concept of freedom of expression requires that we tolerate ALL forms of expression. Letting any authority decide which speech is acceptable and which isn't... nuh uh, that's a bad road to start walking on. So when you start pointing out certain types of extremely distasteful speech and levying fines and even jail sentences on people simply for speaking their minds, well... I think you've left the Freedom Trail and are heading towards despotism. At a fairly decent clip.

Similarly, I feel that when you set aside a certain type of crime as a 'hate crime', what you are doing is criminalizing a person's thoughts and feelings, rather than their actions. I cannot support that. I don't mind 'criminalizing politics', whatever the hell that means. But criminalizing speech, and criminalizing thought... that troubles me deeply.

* I believe in intelligent design. I really, honest to Whatever, do. I think the universe around us is simply too complex to have 'jest happened'. I think it's an artifact of some sort. What sort? I have no idea, any more than I have the slightest frickin' clue who or what set the whole thing in motion, or whether there is any greater purpose to existence than just existing.

I do not believe the idea of 'intelligent design' qualifies as science, but on the other hand, it mostly doesn't qualify as science because religious people think they KNOW who designed the universe, and 'scientists' feel just as certain that nobody/nothing did... so no one is trying to do any research into it. I understand my 'faith' in intelligent design is just that... but instead of having one side rather smugly say "Well, it's the absolute truth, and we know all the details because they're in our Bibles", and the other side just as contemptuously declare "No, there is no Higher Intelligence, that's all childish superstition, we KNOW the universe just 'evolved' over a course of billions of years as a progression of various random chemical interactions"... I'd like to see actually unbiased people who know something about how the world really works, really looking into it.

It's been said many times before, but I will say it again, because it's always worth repeating these essential truths: atheism is in every way as much a leap of faith, or an organized religion, as Christianity or Buddhism or anything else. Insisting that something DOESN'T exist takes as much arrogant gall as insisting that it does... more, in that one can prove that something exists, but I can't think of any feasible method for proving something doesn't exist.

No human being I am aware of understands how the universe around us works, or where it came from, or where it's going, or even, for the vast most part, where it is and what it is doing right now. We don't truly comprehend time, or space, or matter, or energy; our most brilliant researchers are waving a couple of lit matches around in an abysmally dark cavern of ignorance.

We have to keep trying to find stuff out. Embracing the ignorance and making a virtue of it, as the ultraconservative Christian right wants us to do, is absolutely deranged, but it's nearly as addle-minded to simply say "well, those guys we don't like believe in something, so we're going to laugh at it and pretend that we know it isn't true, when we actually do not know any such thing, because we haven't bothered to do any real research or experimentation on it".

I, personally, believe in Intelligent Design... in a vague sort of way. I don't insist anyone else believe in it... but I do get annoyed when all my fellow liberals insist that the entire concept that the Universe 'just goddam is', is the only acceptable concept for a truly enlightened and rational being to believe. The truth, at this point, is that no one knows for certain a single frickin' thing about the actual nature of the Universe. And if we can't agree on that and move forward with open minds, we aren't going to ever learn anything.

So, there you go. A quick primer on some of the things the guy behind this particular blog believes, or doesn't believe, in. Make of it what you will.

Don't read this

Honest to God. It will just scare the living shit out of you.

Or, at least, it really should, anyway.

I don't know what to do about it, either. But shit like this makes me wish I didn't have kids.

One Prozac a day

The blogger over at Who Is IOZ? states, with some goddam authority --

"The standard Democratic line is that they have to "frame" their policies on queers in rhetoric that obscures gross gayness from a disquieted Ordinary America, in order to win elections, in order to get power, in order to . . . The last is the great unaswerable, though lately it seems to be "in order to be marginally less objectionable than Republicans."

Much of the always cogent, often hilariously funny work over at Who Is IOZ? is all about the gay, which makes sense, as whoever IOZ is, he's pretty clearly a rump romper. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) However, he's also a libertarian, and apparently, he and all his libertarian friends feel that, as one could easily infer from the passage above... well, let's not infer, I'm sure I can find a more explicit statement somewhere... hmmmm... let's see... oh, yeah, this one will do --

"Speaking only for IOZ: I'm not a utopian. I've compromised my principles voting for Democrats and Republicans alike in every municipal, state, and national election since I was old enough to vote. Mostly, I've compromised in favor of Dems, though I think their economic ideas are boneheaded and their social progressivism a tissue long-since torn and balled up in order to grasp fitfully and fruitlessly at the votes of religious morons who believe that the resurrected and risen human incarnation of their goatherders' god takes an avid interest in the sexual politics of America in the twenty-first century. I've compromised even as they sell my fellow fags up the river time and again in order to appeal to a mythical moderation that seeks Booker T.-style incrementalism. I've compromised even as they fanatically continue a cruel, futile drug war that long before 9/11 or even Oklahoma City laid the groundwork for a militarized surveillance society that disaccords with every principle of privacy I hold dear. I made these compromises with "mere regret," in the words of Denise Levertov, because I considered, on balance, the Democrats to be more favorably disposed to protecting our few remaining rights, and because though they too are a party of foreign interventionism, they remained marginally more skeptical of the gross application of military force, although bomb-happy Bill Clinton was no piker where airstrikes were concerned.

But there's a line, and in the last six years the Democrats crossed it. They sacrificed principles first for political exigency when the GOP ratings rode high and Bush was ephemerally popular, and then, even as the Republicans' ratings tanked and Bush returned to his pre-9/11 incarnation as a stuttering dimwit totally out of his depth as a Chief Executive, they still got-along, went-along. Their own members abandoned them in order to codify torture, secret prisons, and kangaroo courts. They grinned and voted for billions of dollars of war appropriations, lest some towheaded Republican backbencher in the house shout "doesn't support the troops!" They got steamrolled again and again, and their single political triumph was grumbling away the President's goofy Social Security pseudo-plan, which would have been more impressive if they hadn't managed to save a Rooseveltian hand-out while winking away the Bill of Rights."

So, you know, you get the impression that IOZ just doesn't like the Democrats.

Fair enough. I ain't so wild about Eeyore these days, either.

But here's a somewhat re-edited version of my response to him, taken from one of his comment threads:

See, I've read you, and I hear you. I'm not at all wild about our system either, and I'm certainly not enthusiastic about the Democratic Party.

Yet, for all that you manage to so neatly sum up liberal responses to your positions in the snarkiest, most denigrating fashion possible, you don't respond to those criticisms in any meaningful way. You just go into this long blathering memoir about how you didn't leave liberalism, liberalism left you, and anyone who votes for the lesser of two evils is a traitor to the human race, and all that good libertarian 'vote your principles no matter how badly it fucks the entire world up' stuff.

But you won't tell us the most vital thing: what would you have people do instead?

I will employ somewhat ironic understatement here: things are very very bad. Perhaps we cannot do anything about that. Perhaps the entire system is corrupt and the world is divided into a small ruling predatory class and very large population of meat. Maybe everything on Rigorous Intuition is true, and anyone who attains power anywhere on this globe has already long since been initiated into the secret Satanic pedophile cannibal drug running arms dealing conspiracy. In which case, there's nothing to do except get a lot of guns and start shooting at everyone in a position of authority anywhere.

But, assuming one thinks that participating in our democracy (whether you want to put air quotes around that word or not) can still have some significance -- again, what would you have us do?

You're certainly bitching plenty, and you certainly have an aptitude for invective, but, again -- you don't want us to vote Demo, you sure as shit don't want us to vote Republican -- exactly how is it you recommend we vote, so that we get this hellish juggernaut off its tracks? And if you don't want us to vote at all, then what should we do instead?

You bitch a lot. But you seem pretty bankrupt on actually suggesting anything.

To which IOZ comes back, pert as you please:

I recommend you withhold your vote, either by abstaining or voting for a principled independent/third party bid, for as many elections as it takes until your party addresses its deficiencies. That's it. That's the recommendation.

Your party acquiesced on every issue of importance for the last six years. Not once did it manage to slow the slide. On war. On torture. On habeas corpus. On wiretapping. On judicial nominations. On further militarization of the police apparatus. On continued war appropriations. Hell, you can't even turn on the television without watching Harold Ford and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Jim Webb and the rest of the rising stars climb all over each other to make sure that Americans know they don't like fags nearly so much as Republicans say they like fags.

You're giving that venal bunch of cowards and reprobates a reward with your vote. You're affirming thier ineffectual cowardice. You're keeping their nose in the trough.

Yank it out.

And then I said:

Can't do it. I lived in Florida in 2000. I voted for Ralph. I fucked up the entire planet. You want me to keep being irresponsible, to keep living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Can't do it. The very notion that there's no difference between Repugs and Dinos could not have been more forcibly exploded in 2000, and since.

Are the Dems weak? Sure. We're a majority ruled country. The majority of us are dipshits. I cannot tell you how it sickens me that all the political wisdom has told us, over the past fifteen years at least, that all our national elections have been decided by the undecideds. How in the name of God can anyone be undecided for six consecutive seconds of consciousness, when presented with a choice between Bush and any fucking thing else? Our elections have been decided by idiots for decades.

Still, abdication just won't get it done. Give me a viable third party that addresses my issues, I'll jump. Give me a billion dollars, I'll start the damn thing myself. Until then, I will vote against the greater of two evils. It's all I can do to make a difference with my vote.

And then he says:

See my next post, "The Power of the Purse." It addresses these issues.

Voting for Nader didn't fuck up the universe. That's what you call "propoganda." Not very skillful propoganda, but nonetheless.

Dems are a less conspicuous evil, but not necessarily a lesser one. As I note.

Does his next post, "The Power of the Purse", address any of the issues I raise in my oh so cogent comments? No, it does not. It's just more goddam whining about how the Democrats suck nearly as bad as the Republicans, so he and his libertarian friends are going to take their bats and their balls and go home and play with themselves until, you know, the Fag Police come by with the big gray trucks to take them off to their collective rendezvous with Christian right wing destiny. ("Say, mommy, those trucks have no exhaust pipes." "Never mind, dear, it's just homos in there anyway.")

See, you heard this shit all the time back in the run up to the 2000 elections, mostly from the Nader campaign, and I bought into it big time back then, too. I imagine the country heard it a lot when Ross Perot was running for President, and before that, when John Anderson was running, although I have only the vaguest memories of those particular campaigns. "The two big parties are equally corrupt. There's no real difference between their candidates. If you want real change, you have to vote for a third party."

It's not that it isn't true, to an extent. Anyone who manages to clamber on top of either Horton or Eeyore is going to have pretty much entirely mortgaged their souls on the way. They are not going to do much to upset the status quo, and they certainly aren't going to do anything to hurt anyone currently enjoying a position of real power or privilege.

And that sucks, I frankly admit it. But that's the way our system is set up. If you like our culture and our society and our nation -- and I more or less do, there are a great many problems with how we live, but for the most part, me and those I love manage to eke out comfortable lives within this social context -- then, well, this is the deal you live with. You pull the levers that the men behind the curtains allow you to pull, and you hope they're actually hooked up to something, and that is all you can do.

If you really want to change things, you do not vote for a third party candidate, or abstain from the elections entirely. You put down the remote, get up off your ass out of your recliner, go outside, and start organizing a national strike of all working class people. Or you join a militia. Or you at the very least get a job under the table where you get paid cash and you refuse to buy anything you would have to pay any kind of sales tax on so you are not in any way supporting an irrefutably corrupt and oppressive system that you want nothing to do with.

If you are not willing to do those things, for whatever reason -- you got family, they need to eat, you're just too goddam comfortable to bother with it -- then, you pull the levers the system allows you to pull, and you do what you can to make sure those levers function the way you want them to.

Abstaining from the election will not 'punish' Party A. Abstaining from elections does not 'punish' anyone except, maybe, you. If, in point of fact, you are more inclined to vote against Party A than vote for anyone or anything, then abstaining from the election will simply reward them.

I said that I heard IOZ, and I do. As I say, I bought deeply into this mindset when I was only a tiny bit younger. But the idea that there is no real difference between Demos and Repubs, that there was no essential difference between Gore and Bush back in 2000, has, I think, been spectacularly splattered in the years since. As has the concept that one vote really can't make much of a difference. If 40 other people just like me had voted for Gore instead of for Nader back in 2000...

...well, pragmatically, I guess that would just have been 40 more votes that had hanging chads and had to be discounted, or some shit. But, still, you see what I'm saying here. Had Gore been acting President for the past six years, even with a Republican dominated Congress, the world would, of necessity, have to be in a much, much better place right now than it is.

Both parties are corrupt, and their candidates are corrupt, and nobody who ever gets elected to any position of power in this country will ever make the kind of changes we really need. You can't vote for good government. It's like Jack Nicholson says in The Departed -- Nobody gives you nothin; you gotta take it.

But if you don't want to be bothered to go to all that trouble -- and it's a lot of trouble, and there ain't no guarantees, you can easily end up in jail or dead -- well, then, you can vote for better government.

So, yeah, I'll settle for 'marginally less objectionable than Republicans' at this point. Those margins are pretty large; they encompass a few hundred thousand blown up people, several thousand more illegally imprisoned and/or tortured people, and nearly all of our allegedly inalienable rights.