Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Bright Side of Dystopia and Hunkification Progress Report

I’ve stopped worrying about global warming and the other effects of the carbon humans are pumping into the oceans and the atmosphere because: (a) I can’t do anything about it, and (b) by the time really disastrous effects are experienced I will have been downloaded into a computer where I will live in a virtual paradise. Of course, I’ll have to work to pay for the memory I use up, but I figure I can be like the paper clip guy in MS Office. “It looks like you are typing a letter. May I format it for you or should I just go f**k myself?” Or I could work as a spam filter. Just see if any ViAgrA messages get past me. One question I have is whether virtual people having sex is virtual sex or just plain sex, what with our already being virtual and all. Eventually, we downloaded dead will have to make ourselves indispensable to the living who will doubtless forget how to work the complex machinery that keeps them alive in the dystopia of tomorrow or even how to format a letter without our help. That way, we can keep them busy maintaining the machines on which we will be running.

Another incentive to keep up the computers will be that the living will envy the downloaded dead and look forward to their own turn in paradise. Oceanic acidification and global warming will likely result in a collapse of the more complex food chains. There will be no more fish, just slime and eaters of slime and eaters of eaters of slime, which, while probably edible deep fried, will be nothing like the virtual grilled salmon and steamed lobster the dead will be enjoying. The living will want to make constant improvements to the virtual world so as to enhance their own afterlives.

In the meantime, some of the living will doubtless seize the opportunities that arise in any dystopia and achieve enormous wealth. Those of us who develop a taste for slime will succeed, and the whole species will be the better for having experienced severe evolutionary pressures and a likely population bottleneck. Others will be goaded into spacefaring with the result that humans’ fulfillment of their destiny to conquer all matter, energy and space will be accelerated.

I reckon there really is no downside to carbon emissions. Maybe I should just go ahead and get a Hummer or an Escalade or some other FU-mobile.

Meanwhile, my non-virtual body is improving. I missed my weight loss goal this month by 2 pounds (I am 242 versus a target 240), but I could possibly make it up in December if I can resist the holiday goodies. Last week, Mrs Vache Folle and I cleaned out the trousers that had begun to feel too loose, and I broke out the once too tight ones that I now wear. I have had to change belts to a smaller size, and people have started asking me if I have lost weight. That is gratifying, but I am impatient to see the numbers on the scale go down.

I have faithfully gone to the gym 5 times per week and lifted weights for about an hour for three of those visits each week. Running on a treadmill rounds out my routine, and I have made the dog walk longer and more brisk. A change I have made from the past in my cardiovascular workout is that I am not setting fixed speed goals; rather, I am going by heart rate. The TechnoGym treadmill I prefer to use has a convenient heart rate monitor, and I try to maintain a certain range while increasing speed and incline. I find that I am able to go faster and up more of a hill each time with the same heart rate but without really killing myself.

I have increased poundage a little on weights each week according to my increasing capacity to lift more without injury. I could lift much heavier weights if I rested between sets, but I am trying to get some cardiovascular benefit from the resistance training and to use my time efficiently. Some folks do one exercise at a time and rest for a couple or three minutes between sets on the machine. It would be more considerate if they got up and let others work in, but I just do the next machine in my rotation and come back to the one that the machine hog was occupying when they finally move on to something else. As long as there are no more than three machine hogs at once, this is not really a problem for me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Threshold" is Nuts

I have been watching a series on the SciFi channel called “Threshold”. The premise is that an alien species has begun to infect humans with its triple helix DNA while a secret federal program consisting of some geniuses and law enforcement thugs tries to thwart the aliens. The last episode I saw bothered me a great deal. The Threshold personnel were going around assaulting, murdering, kidnapping and detaining people whom they believed might be infected. They didn’t go to the trouble of getting warrants or otherwise subjecting themselves to the rule of law.

In this episode, it seems that the town of Allenville in Virginia has been entirely infected. The residents refer to themselves as having been “improved”, and they do exhibit some pretty amazing capabilities and seem quite happy. In one scene, a middle aged woman is observed stuffing one of the Threshold “Men-in-Black” into a wood chipper. When confronted by the main Threshold characters, she matter of factly replies, “They’re government.” Then they kill her. The infected folks know about Threshold and believe that the feds are out to exterminate them. Given what the government has been up to, the belief is reasonable enough.

What if getting infected with the alien DNA is the best thing that ever happened to a person? Would it not make more sense for the feds to inform everyone of what the government knows so that individuals could take steps to avoid infection or to embrace the idea? Wouldn’t it be better to open discussions with the infected persons and try to find out what is going on through more transparent communications?

The whole set up is so implausible that it is really turning me off. Not the alien invasion part. The secret government agency staffed with a handful of seemingly competent people and given free reign to act to save the planet while the rest of the government blithely goes about its business as if there were no dire emergency at all. That’s what I find unbelievable.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No More Doublespeak

Jomama links to an interesting article about the doublespeak psychopaths use to legitimize ruling over others:

I learned over the past several days that the federal government characterizes no Americans as “hungry”; rather, they have various degrees of “food insecurity”. The justifications and arguments about the war are even more rife with doublespeak. Bush keeps talking about finishing the “job” and “winning” the war in Iraq before he will consider a “strategic redeployment”. I have yet to learn what the “job” is and how we will know we have finished it. And what constitutes winning, and how will we know that we achieved it.

Frankly, I don’t think the regime had any idea what it was doing when it invaded Iraq and toppled Hussein. Certainly, the military knew it could overwhelm the Iraqi defenses with relative ease and effect regime “change” in short order. Rumsfeld had invested a lot in creating a lighter, more mobile army designed for quick campaigns such as the invasion of Iraq. In the process, he had pretty much taken away any capacity it may have had to occupy that country and maintain order in the face of insurgency and civil war. The army was set up to kill some folks and break their stuff and then go home and train to do it again somewhere else, not to serve as policemen and social workers in a place where the language and culture were an utter bafflement.

Olbermann had one of those retired Colonels-turned-pundits on his program the other day to discuss, among other things, NBC’s decision to use the word “civil war” to describe what is happening in Iraq. Bush prefers “new phase in sectarian violence”, but NBC has decided to call it as it sees it. The Colonel was blunt in his assessment that there is no ambiguity about whether there is a “civil war” in Iraq and what would be required for the US to quell it. Several hundred thousand additional troops would be needed to establish more or less a police state to kill or capture every enemy of the “government” recognized by the US. And this would have to go on for a very long time, perhaps decades. Given that such a “government” would probably have no legitimacy, just about every Iraqi not a collaborator would be an enemy of the government to some degree.

If this is what it would take to “win”, with almost incalculable costs in lives, money, and freedom, then winning may not be a suitable goal. What would there be to show for such an effort at the end of the day? Unless the US is prepared to occupy and govern Iraq forever with an iron fist that will make Iraqis nostalgic for the Baathists, there will inevitably be a day of reckoning for the collaborators (or “duly constituted civil authority”, if you prefer) who had been propped up by the occupation. The state that emerges from a post-occupation Iraq is not going to be a friend to the US. The continued occupation and administration of a police state will win the US enemies everywhere and erode whatever credibility, if any, it still has. The enormous costs will be borne by already overtaxed taxpayers who will receive not one whit of a benefit.

The Colonel’s bluntness was refreshing. It’s time to shout the doublespeakers off the stage. NBC has a long way to go yet to make up for its fawning to the regime, but the use of an accurate term, "civil war", is a start.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I Don't Need the Gov't to Tell Me to be Grateful

It was raining so much last Thursday that we bagged going out for sushi and stayed in and had steak instead. We took advantage of the four day weekend to do some fall cleaning and get ready for winter. The deck furniture is all in the shed now. We did NOT cook a turkey, and we did not take special time out to ponder our many blessings. We do this all the time anyway, and we do not need a government designated day to acknowledge and display gratitude for our good health and fortune.

I attended and sang at a church service on Wednesday evening where we were encouraged to be thankful for the almost obscene plenty that God has bestowed upon us and to share, especially through the church, with the less fortunate and with the missionaries and missions that the church supports. The preacher read Lincoln’s thanksgiving proclamation from 1863, which can be read here: It is a moving piece of oratory except for the political propaganda thrown in it, especially in the final sentence:

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

Here the widowmaker and orphanmaker in chief himself commends his victims to God’s care and characterizes his aggression against the seceding states as “unavoidable”. He deftly equates “Union” with such attributes as peace, harmony and tranquility. The conflict to which he alludes was avoidable, and the blessings of harmony, peace and tranquility might have been enjoyed just fine without the necessity of “Union”.

The preacher remarked that FDR had proposed to move Thanksgiving up a week in order to expand the Christmas shopping season, but the public outcry prevented his doing so. Nonetheless, the “Christmas season” has expanded so much commercially that you can see Christmas decorations in stores just after Labor Day. So FDR didn’t need to change the holiday after all. People have expanded Christmas all on their own without any help from government. And if government didn’t decree that the fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving Day, folks would probably still organize harvest and thanksgiving festivals and feasts and would arrange for days off from their jobs to attend to them.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Holiday Minimalism

We’re going back to holiday minimalism this year. Last year, a coreligionist gave us a Christmas tree, the first we have had in about 10 years. It was, as we had forgotten it would be, more of a pain in the arse than anything. We had to trim it, water it every day and put up with needles on the floor. There was also the obligatory dog pees on tree incident followed by tree falls on dog revenge. No tree this year. The hall will not be decked. No holiday themed clothing will be worn. We aren’t even going to buy presents this year for one another, and we’re giving $50 each to the minor nieces and nephews. That means we won’t have to shop. Christmas dinner will be sushi and a movie, and so will Thanksgiving if Tokaharu is open. That means no big mess to clean up and less temptation to overeat. We aren’t traveling anywhere, either, so holiday traffic and crowded holiday airports and train stations will not be salient for us.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I just don’t like to turn a lovely Holy Day into a source of stress. God willing, I will be singing in both Christmas Eve services and in all the advent events at church as well as tonight’s special Thanksgiving service, and the choir will doubtless run extra practices throughout the season culminating in the big Christmas Eve candlelight service. Christmas is for us more about Christ than it ever was when we participated more fully in the secularized or pagan gift exchanging and hall decking rituals. It is almost entirely church centered for us nowadays. And we like it that way.

It’s not that the other stuff is forbidden to us. It’s just that we like to remind ourselves that none of it is obligatory. We’ll do it if we feel like it. And hooray for folks who like to do Christmas big time, like my mother-in-law who has a Christmas version of everything. We’re going to some parties and will enjoy the season immensely. Our only advice to other people is to remember that your holiday activities are almost all voluntary and that you can cut back on them if you find yourself under stress.

MIscellany and Progress Report

Radley Balko links to a mind bender:

The author argues that you could think that you believe in God while not actually believing since you might not really have access to the workings of your mind. Or you could think you are happy while actually being unhappy. I can’t argue with this. I have often wondered about how it is that I can believe in God and Jesus and yet fail to live even remotely as if I really did. How is it that my coreligionists and I can go about living ordinary middle class, bourgeois value driven, banal lives while knowing the Good News of God’s grace? Shouldn’t this have a more radical effect on us if we truly believe? Shouldn’t we embody the Kingdom in our community and set an astonishing example of what the Holy Ghost can do in a community on fire with the love of God? And yet, despite being one of the worst Christians ever, I believe that I believe, and I believe that my coreligionists believe that they believe.

My conspecifics are abuzz with talk about the possibility of conscription. They are generally for it, in principle, although they used to be against it, back in the 1960s when they were of draft age and facing the possibility of serving in Vietnam. All of them managed to avoid being conscripted, and none of them reckons that his offspring should be conscripted. They figure their kids will be able to evade the draft through deferments and feigned ailments, whatever it takes to make sure that someone else’s children get taken. Did I mention that my conspecifics are wankers?

My step-father-in-law, the full time WW2 veteran, has a bizarre take on conscription. He was enslaved by the government back in the Big One and forced to fight in the European Theater against his will for three years plus. Now he celebrates his years as a slave as the defining moment of his life, and he reckons that involuntary servitude is a real character builder, something sorely wanted by today’s youth. I wonder if the newly emancipated slaves in the 1860s regretted that their grandchildren would not enjoy the character building blessings of slavery. I was a volunteer soldier, and I didn't find anything character building about my military experience. Perhaps if I had been in combat and killed some people, that would have made me a better person. I'll never know.

When I go to the gym this evening, I will have been faithful to my diet and exercise plan for a full four weeks. I don’t have much to show for it in terms of the scale, though, as I have been fluctuating between 245 and 248 for a week or so now. I had hoped to be 242 or 243 by this time. Nevertheless, my clothes seem looser, and I feel great. I look forward to the gym, and the workouts are a valued time of meditation and a rare zen-like focus on the moment. I have come to enjoy my new eating habits. I used to skip breakfast or have a calorie laden sausage, egg and cheese sandwich. Now I eat cereal with a banana every morning, a sensible and balanced lunch in the cafeteria, and a chef salad for supper. I am ravenous at meal times, and I am learning to recognize satiety. I used to stop eating only when it became uncomfortable to stuff another mouthful into my gullet.

What’s up with the guys at the gym who never do any lower body work? There are quite a few guys with buff upper bodies and flamingo legs. There may be even more than I know about since a lot of guys wear sweat pants instead of shorts. I do as many lower body exercises as upper body, but I am probably never going to get really ripped anywhere since I only lift for an hour three times a week, unless by ripped you mean injured. I have learned that I should reduce the weight I am lifting if doing the exercise is painful, and this has helped me avoid aggravating injuries so far. I could probably do a good deal more weight on a number of exercises but it would put me at too much risk.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dangerous Exceptionalism

Wm N. Grigg is a genius and an enormously talented writer. His recent series on the American gulag was among the most thought provoking works of authorship I have had the honor to read in many years:

To those who say that “it can’t happen here”, Grigg points out that it already has happened here in US policy concerning Indians and the atrocious treatment of indigenous people by the US government. This is an area in which I have some small expertise, and I wonder that it never occurred to me to draw the analogy between the Indians and the overreaching of the US government today.

The US can never be redeemed from the shamefulness of its Indian policies as long as its people cling to the myth of their exceptionalism. The abrogation of treaties, the imposition of collective punishment, the theft of land and treasure, indiscriminate murder, biological warfare, and mass displacement were grievous crimes against humanity no less shameful than the misdeeds of Hitler or Stalin. We have conveniently swept this aspect of American history under the rug, paying the slightest lip service to the mistreatment of Indians in historic instruction. We do not do enough to hold the offenders in the contempt they merit. We have not sufficiently acknowledged our guilt as a nation to begin to think about forgiveness; yet we seem to have forgiven ourselves and to have forgotten what depths of depravity we are capable of plumbing.

I am profoundly ashamed of the role some of my ancestors played in the harassment of Indians and the national project of ethnic cleansing. These otherwise ordinary men, churchgoing family men all, salt of the earth, participated in crimes against the Cherokee and enjoyed the benefits of their removal. I don’t know if they felt any twinge of conscience when they occupied the lands they were given in the lottery or when they went on campaigns against Cherokee villages. They were ordinary men, and evildoers. The crimes against the Indians were not the handiwork of a few bad men; rather, almost everyone participated or benefited or acquiesced in it.

I reckon that there are plenty of ordinary men and women in America today who would proudly serve as guards in the gulag, who would deem themselves conscientious as they informed on their neighbors, who would approve and support collective punishment and dehumanization of those whom the state labels as its enemies. I have already been scandalized that there are those among my acquaintance, otherwise seemingly decent men, who condone the murder of civilians and the imposition of collective punishment in the current hostilities, who shrug off reports of the premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as mere “collateral damage” of no more moment than the death of so many vermin, who reckon that war need not be carried out proportionately.

We are not exceptional. We are no more immune to tyranny than any nation. No atrocity is beyond us. Denial of our ordinariness as a nation makes us stupid and insufficently on guard against the doing of evil and the creation of opportunities for evildoing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

One Last Push? To Accomplish What?

One of the talking points on Faux News must be “the last big push” in Iraq because my wingnut conspecific was spouting off about John McCain’s having a plan to straighten out Iraq by sending in a huge infusion of troops. To do what exactly? What can more troops do? One thing is kill more Iraqis and break more Iraqi stuff, leaving the place a bigger pile of s**t than we have already made it. The second thing is to provide more targets so the casualty count can go up. Neither of these things may rightly be counted among the indicia of “victory” in my humble opinion. Then again, I’m not a foreign policy and military genius like John McCain.

The US is never going to make the puppet government legitimate at the point of several hundred thousand rifles. All that can conceivably be accomplished, and it is by no means a slam dunk sure thing, with respect to the US installed regime is to compel the Iraqi people to acquiesce in the regime’s rule out of a continuing fear of death. Then, the US would have to stay forever to prop up its favorites, because as soon as the US leaves, these guys are going to be overthrown and replaced with men who did not collaborate with an occupying enemy. There doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason to do this other than to avoid embarrassing the idiots who got the US in this mess in the first place.

The US is never going to make the Shia and Sunni factions join hands and sing Kum Ba Ya through force. The most that can be accomplished is to unify them temporarily in their hatred of the US or, at great expense and risk, keep them away from each other. Again, there is no way out as the factions will be all over each other as soon as they can.

The US cannot compel the future Iraqi government to act in the interests of the US in the region unless the US is prepared to occupy the place and oppress the Iraqi people forever. In all likelihood, an Iraq left to its own devices will consider the US a dangerous enemy for the foreseeable future.

The things that the US regime wants to happen in Iraq simply can’t be made to happen by the use of military force. The neocons thought that they knew the natural consequences of invading Iraq and toppling its government: happy Iraqis hungry to become democrats free of sectarian and ethnic tensions and grateful to the Americans for killing so many of them. They were wrong. Now they yammer about what will happen if the US pulls out. Why should we listen to them now when they have shown that they are not the least bit prescient or acquainted with human nature? As some progressive bloggers put it (I can’t remember which), you can’t uns**t the bed. All you can do is change the sheets, to strain the metaphor. It was a fool’s errand, and staying in Iraq is nothing more than the dog returning to its vomit.

Ask Your Doctor About Getting a Rabies Shot

Our Carpathian Shepherd, Jesse Lou Bagget, has Lyme disease again. He’s a tick magnet even with Front Line preventative, and the unseasonably balmy autumn seems to be accompanied by a bumper crop of ticks. Our dog walker has had two serious bouts of Lyme this year alone with a gangrenous lesion on his leg. I was vaccinated a few years ago. I figured that I was at as much as the dogs since I accompanied them on all their hikes and occasionally got tick bites myself. Wm Jasper Stone, our Salopian Terrier, almost never gets ticks, and he was vaccinated against Lyme when we first got him from the dog gulag. He spends a lot of time in the pond, so he might be drowning them. Mr Baggett is also prone to nesting in piles of leaves or tall grass, something Mr Stone never does.

We live in a forest, and I can’t see myself going about in long pants and long sleeves in the summer, so I am going to be bitten by ticks. Mrs Vache Folle probably ought to get vaccinated, but she instead dresses in tick deterrent clothing when she takes the dogs up the mountain.

My dogs are required by law to be vaccinated for rabies. The state wouldn't require this if it weren't an enormous risk, would it? Since I am so frequently with them and have about as much risk as they do of getting bitten by a rabid critter (being taller, I’m a better target for the bats), why doesn’t my doctor insist on my getting vaccinated for rabies? I’ve never heard of anyone other than nonhumans getting a rabies vaccine. I reckon getting rabies would suck way more than having Lyme, what with the foaming at the mouth and biting people and the death spiral. Why doesn't the state insist that all children get rabies shots? Kids are likely to play with the friendly rabid skunk or coon and become infected. Kids also bite. We are in danger every time we come near an unvaccinated child.

How can you tell if a person has rabies? He may be unusually friendly and approachable. Don’t fall for it lest you let down your guard and be bitten.

Rangel is Way Off Base

Does conscription deter wars? Charles Rangel seems to thinks so, but I don’t know what he is basing this on. Conscription has never prevented any of the wars we had in the past. Governments were content to enslave and send young men to their deaths without pause or compunction throughout history. Conscription will simply enable the government to engage in more and bigger wars without regard to whether folks are willing to volunteer to fight in them.

Perhaps conscription could be structured in a way that would have a deterrent effect on warmongering. Here’s an idea. All children and grandchildren of Congresscritters who authorize a war and offspring of the POTUS and VPOTUS and of high officials will be called up first, without exemption, and placed in front line combat positions. When Congress is on recess, the members themselves will have to take up arms. Next, individuals would be drafted based on their net worth, the wealthiest first with the poorest folks last. The offspring of all executives in defense contracting companies and of pro-war lobbyists would be drafted right away without regard to their net worth. Columnists and media personalities who advocate war will be drafted as soon as a pro-war opinion piece is published or broadcast. Preachers who give pro-war sermons will be on the first bus to an abbreviated basic training.

Of course, the folks who write the conscription law will never structure it so as to place themselves or their controllers at risk. The burden will fall on the humble, and the profits of war will flow to the proud. Since the proud hold the humble in contempt, they will delight in sacrificing them for fun and profit and political advantage. Think again, Mr Rangel

Friday, November 17, 2006

What Informs Variable Human Fecundity?

David Friedman ponders whether the demographic transition will reverse itself due to genetic variation in the desire to reproduce:

I don’t reckon that evolution has endowed humankind with something as complex as a hard wired desire to reproduce. I don’t think there is a family size gene. It seems more plausible that simpler drives and tendencies combine to have the effect of facilitating reproduction. For example, the sex drive combined with the “don’t eat the resulting babies” module might suffice to assure sufficient reproduction. It is conceivable that our hominid precursors and even some humans had no idea about the connection between copulation and procreation so as to be able to make and act upon decisions about completed family size.

Optimal family size depends on social and environmental conditions. “Clutch size”, as one of my physical anthropology professors puts it, varies according to circumstances, and this flexibility has permitted humans to flourish on an unprecedented scale. Foragers, which humans have been for most of their existence, have fewer children than farmers. Inter-birth intervals are significantly longer among foragers than farmers. For example, !Kung Bushmen’s intervals have been observed to exceed 48 months. This is accomplished in large measure through extended lactational infecundity. This works out well for the mothers, since they are not burdened with more than one infant at a time that must be carried and surveilled closely. This also means that even the most fecund foraging mothers will be limited to 4 or 5 births over their reproductive careers. Child mortality, combined with such small families, leads to a rate of reproduction that scarcely exceeds replacement. For a variety of reasons, a higher birth rate would be suboptimal under the conditions of foraging.

One might even argue that the foragers’ family size and extended lactation are “natural” for humans insofar as they may provide clues as to the mechanisms that regulate birth rates. I don’t think it would make sense to argue that foragers don’t like kids as much as farmers do as an explanation for their smaller family size, although it is possible that sedentism permitted any genetic variation in affection for children to express itself for the first time in human evolution. If so, it has been expressing itself for a scant 10,000 years at the most and probably has not had time to work any evolutionary mojo.

Farmers have shorter inter-birth intervals than foragers and tend to wean their children earlier, perhaps thanks to an increased availability of weaning foods. The Mennonites whom I studied had inter-birth intervals of about 18-24 months on average and average completed family size of about 8 children over two centuries. Census records from the farming families in my ancestry and their neighbors show a similar pattern. It appears that these families were making no attempt to control family size and were having as many children as they could. My ancestry is full of big families right up to my parents’ generation, so one might expect that my relatives and I would be endowed with the posited big family module. Yet, my parents and their siblings, having given up farming and entered the world of wage slavery or entrepreneurship, epitomized the demographic transition by having much smaller families. My mother and her siblings had an average of 2 children, as did my father and his siblings. My cousins have even smaller families. I am content to be childfree. If the big family module existed, it seems to have become inactive in my family and just about every family I know.

Some religious folks see it as their duty to have as many children as they can so as to boost their numbers. Is this because they have a genetic predisposition to value children more than other folks? Is there any reason to believe that their descendants will overrun the planet thanks to their enhanced love of children? Not if the past experience of such people is any indication. For example, if Antibaptist fecundity were genetic, there would be billions of Antibaptists by now, so many that it would be necessary for them to colonize space, quite a feat with 18th century technology. The same goes for Hasidic Jews and to a lesser extent Mormons (they have only been around a few generations). Why aren’t they ubiquitous? It seems to me that such folks experience a good bit of ideological attrition. It’s hard to follow the big family rule under social and economic conditions that render small families optimal for most people.

What’s the optimum American family size? The consensus seems to be that 2 children, a boy and a girl, are ideal. You might reluctantly have a third if you get stuck with two sons or two daughters in your first two attempts or if you think you might need an emergency back up child.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Round Up and Progress Report

Wm Norman Grigg addresses the heinous Military Commissions Act in his usual eloquent fashion:

It saddens me that when I complain about the MCA and the Patriot Act and the erosion of our freedoms, some of my conspecifics inevitably point out that I have nothing to worry about if I am not a terrorist! They must assume that the government will use its gnarly new powers in complete good faith and that they will never be abused, because they don’t believe any checks on the executive are wanted. These are the same people who worry about any one person’s having too much control over the petty cash account in the office and who seem to understand the need for checks and balances in business. But unfettered executive power to detain is just fine.

I reckon it is axiomatic that if it is at all possible to abuse a process or power, they will inevitably be abused. And in the case of the MCA, who would ever even know since detainees cannot challenge their detentions? I assume that the GOP’s intention in spewing out the MCA was ultimately to detain dissenters and to use the MCA for its own political purposes.

The ever insightful JL Wilson argues convincingly for monarchy:

I would add another benefit of monarchy pointed out, I think, by HH Hoppe. An elected leader is analogous to a renter or short term investor. He will probably trash the place and take what he can for himself while he is in office. The king is like an owner with a long dynastic view, and he is more inclined to support policies that sustain the long term well being of the realm and his subjects.

Moreover, the king, having been selected arbitrarily in the first instance and then according to the hereditary principle thereafter, will have no pretensions as to his merit. It will be incumbent upon the king to cultivate his character and to seek the counsel of the wise.

BW Richardson likens the subjects of the state to free range poultry:

A somewhat happy taxpayer is a more productive taxpayer. The state could set us to toil in the sugar caves, but it gets more out of us if it lets us think we are free.

I was faithful this last week to my commitments to diet and exercise. That makes three weeks in a row, and I reckon that I have just about installed a new habit. I worked out at the gym on 5 occasions and ate altogether sensibly. I finally broke through a weight plateau and registered a new low of 245 pounds. I feel pretty good and am a lot more energetic and alert. I even sleep better. On the down side, all the vexatious little injuries I have accumulated over the years are producing some pain. I aim to pop analgesics to deal with the rotator cuff, pectoral attachment to the sternum, distal bicep and left knee tendon pain. Fortunately, I have been extra careful of my back and have had no back pain to speak of. I am less likely to stiffen up and have back spasms since I am not such a spud.

I am finding that vegetables are not so bad if you season them right. Yesterday, I went out with the internal auditors to the Indian buffet and chose mostly vegetable dishes. They were great, and I'm going to ask Mrs Vache Folle to make some veggies with curries this weekend. I am also finding that working out seems to act as an appetite suppressant. I can be ravenous when I arrive at the gym and then have no desire to eat at all after exercising vigorously.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Best Wishes to Madame Clinton

Frankly, I don't know all that much about Hilary Clinton, and I haven't really followed her career as one of my senators. I have voted for her twice for the Senate, and I sincerely hope she does well. I have done this mainly because so many wingnut wankers like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh hate her with such intensity that it verges on mental illness. I voted for her in 2000 because I wanted her to be around in the limelight for years annoying the wingnut wankers until their tiny heads exploded. If Hannity and Limbaugh hate her passionately, that's enough of an endorsement for me.

I would not be disappointed if she became president. Heck, whoever becomes president is going to be a jackhole anyway, so I might as well get the pleasure of knowing that the wingnuts will be going bananas. It would be really great if she were a success in the office, a real success, not just compared to the standard lowering GW Bush. If she turned out to be a great stateswoman and immensely popular champion of liberty, that would be a double boon since we'd get the great presidency and the apoplexy of Hannity and Limbaugh and their ilk. Coulter and Malkin would be silenced by their overarching rage.

Finally, the crowning touches would be the erection of a Hilary Clinton monument in the middle of the Mall even while she yet lived, the striking of coinage with her profile, and the naming of myriad buildings and bridges and roads for her.

I probably shouldn't harbor so much contempt for Hannity and the others, but, as Wm Norman Grigg aptly puts it, they are responsible for the "Hannitization of America". I reckon they have all combined to render hundreds of thousands of Americans far stupider than they started out to be. If they can be distracted by the prosperity and success of Hilary Clinton, perhaps some precious IQ points can be recovered while the Hannitizers sputter and foam at their mouths.

Tater Candy

My mother, in addition to her many other talents, is a fabulous baker and confectioner. She has a booming side business making cakes for weddings and other occasions and is contemplating giving up her day job to open a bakery. Go for it, Mom! My favorites growing up were the candies she made: divinity, fudge, chocolate covered peanut butter balls that look like chestnuts, and, my favorite of all, potato candy.

Potato candy is super simple and is fun to make with kids. Boil a potato (an “arshtater” as we called it back in the holler). Mash a couple of tablespoons of the boiled tuber in a mixing bowl, and add confectioners’ sugar until it forms a ball of elastic dough. You will want to coat your hands with some of the sugar to keep the dough from sticking to you while you knead it. Put the ball on some wax paper and flatten it out with a rolling pin into a sheet like a pizza crust. Spread peanut butter on the sheet of dough, and then roll the whole shebang into a tube (peanut butter on the inside, of course).

Finally, slice the roll into half inch thick patties. I prefer to chill the roll in the fridge before slicing, because the pieces will have a more uniform shape and the candy is better cold. As you may surmise, potato candy is super sweet, so it is not for the faint hearted.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Liberty and Tolerance

From time to time, I hear a conspecific waxing about the importance of preserving “traditional values”. I’m frequently not at all sure what is meant by “traditional”, but I am usually willing to concede that tried and true, time tested, and widely distributed “values”, whatever those are, should not be discarded lightly. My conspecifics usually mean mores, goals, priorities and all kinds of normative assumptions when they talk about “values”, but they also occasionally throw in sets of factual assertions about reality as “values”.

These would be conservators of tradition seem to have forgotten that almost every tradition was once an innovation and that it became tried and true only after it was first tried and found to be true in some particular cases. Others copied the innovation with varying degrees of satisfaction, and the innovation became widespread because it worked. If it did not satisfy, the innovation would not have been widely adopted and maintained and would be added to the pile of failed and abandoned experiments or to the pile of eccentricities maintained by eccentrics.

The satisfying innovation eventually replaces a former tradition, and this will almost always be accompanied by much hand wringing about how the old ways really ought to be preserved. “My father was a pastoralist and his father before him and so on into dim antiquity, so what sense is it for me to settle down and grow crops? This sedentism and agriculture seem like risky business to me, and our children will forget the ancient arts of tent making and ungulate driving.” Some folks will cling to the old ways, may they prosper and be content. Others will adopt the new ways albeit unhappily and still others will embrace them.

If a tradition fails to satisfy, it will, barring compulsion, be replaced with other ways that are more satisfactory. This will occur without any central planning as individuals pursue their own happiness and invent and mimic strategies and practices that seem to them to work for them. If a tradition satisfies under current conditions, it will be widely maintained without any help from would be conservators, thank you very much.

Of course, traditions sometimes persist well beyond their usefulness because of their attachment to religion, appeals to the very idea of tradition, and because the social order is often structured to privilege some choices over others by the ruling elites. And while a practice or strategy is very widespread, bucking the trend may be difficult until a certain tipping point is reached and innovation becomes less likely to come with social sanctions.

If I regard a tradition highly, either for its own sake or because it suits my circumstances, then I ought to honor it and, to the extent that love for my fellow man dictates it, broadcast to the world the beauty and delight that the tradition bestows. If my neighbor has less regard for it and judges that his welfare is better promoted by something else, then I ought to hope that his choices bring him happiness.

This is a stance that takes discipline and practice, however, unless you are blessed with a natural disposition for tolerance or have been conditioned by the indwelling Holy Ghost to love your neighbor enough to let him alone. For most folks, I fear, it is not enough to feel that one’s choices are suited to one’s own circumstances; rather, they tend to couch their choices in the language of universal virtue and tend to believe that they would be justified in imposing their choices on others, for their own good, of course. A stay at home mother may not be content to embrace her choices but finds satisfaction in condemning mothers who work outside the home. Parents of public school children may find that their choices are insufficiently satisfactory unless they can also condemn homeschoolers. Suburbanites may be unhappy with their suburban lifestyles unless they can criticize city dwellers, and vice versa.

A culture of liberty wants, I think, the cultivation of an abiding tolerance for diversity of opinion and life choices. We do not have to believe that every value or choice is equally valid or correct. By adopting particular values and making particular choices, we belie such a notion. But we ought, deliberately as a core libertarian value, to take the position that each of us is the best judge of his own wants and that each of us should be given the widest latitude possible consistent with the liberty of others to fulfill them. Think of all we might learn from our neighbors’ trials, successes, and even their failures.

Monday, November 13, 2006

New Veep?

Some of my conspecifics were speculating that Dick Cheney is going to resign to spend more time with his shotgun and that he will be picking up his Medal of Freedom in a few months. That way, the GOP can install a new Veep who will have a leg up in the 2008 race. My conspecifics were talking Rudy Guiliani or John McCain, but I reckon that the new Veep will not so much benefit from the office but will have the stink of the Bush debacle all over him or her. It has the benefit of wiping away the stigma of Senate service, but what could be more difficult to overcome than being tagged with the Bush legacy going into '08? If they are counting on Bush turning it around and getting some luster in the next two years, they would be real gamblers.

Bush isn't going to pick anyone who will outshine him or try to dominate him like Cheney. Look where that got him so far. And a candidate who thinks he has a real shot is not going to want to bet on Bush. If Cheney resigns, I reckon the slot could go to some wingnut Senator who just lost his Senate seat, say George Allen or Rick Santorum. The Veepidency couldn't hurt them all that much. This might get Bush some cred with the wingnut base by nominating one of their own, even if they come out looking insane in their confirmation hearings. And the major contenders probably wouldn't feel threatened by these guys.

If I were going to pull off such a ploy, I'd wait until I knew more about the field and which way the wind was blowing.

I Hate Veterans' Day

In church on Sunday, the pastor asked all the veterans to stand, and I stood up without thinking. I didn’t expect this and would have remained seated if I had known it was coming. “Look at me, I used to be an idiot and may still be one!” The ten or so men in the choir and congregation got a brief round of applause. Mercifully, the honoring was short, and the pastor’s prayer was directed at the end of ongoing wars rather than an ode to military service.

I was heartened by this, since I am not really sure where my co-religionists stand on political issues such as the War on Terra and the adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would like to think that they adhere to the teachings of Jesus in this regard, but I avoid political discussions at church and so don’t really know. Presumably, the pastor’s calls for peace indicate that the congregation is generally for peace and an end to war.

I was also happy to see so few veterans in the congregation, less than 5% of those present and some of them likely WW2 and Korean War vets who may not have had a choice. That there are so few dupes in the congregation speaks well of our collective intelligence level and the quality of our families overall. It was probably the parents of the non-veterans who saved them from the mistake of enlisting when they were young and foolish. I know I was a total maroon back when I took the king’s shilling, and I reckon that if my old man had been around he might have talked me out of it. He tried to talk my younger brother out of it fifteen years later, but he was evidently an even bigger maroon than I was since he enlisted despite this good fatherly advice.

How did Armistice Day, a celebration of peace, become Veterans’ Day, a day of glorification of warriors? I bet those WW2 glory hounds were somehow behind it. Their constant parades and honor seeking do much to keep up the myth of the glory of war and the sacrifices of the warrior, and I wish they would quit it already. I much prefer your Korean War vet or your Vietnam War vet, since they aren’t always looking for a grateful nation to keep on thanking them ad nauseam. They don’t pretend that their service was glorious. Look at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: it’s a wall with the names of the 50,000 plus folks who died so senselessly. And Korean War memorials are even hard to find in most places.

It won’t be long before the WW2 vets will be too feeble to parade, and let’s hope the Iraq War vets fail to follow their example.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Progress Report

It's been two weeks since I pledged to get fit. I have been to the gym 9 times in 14 days and will go this evening as well, God willing. I have lifted weights 6 times and run on a treadmill for 20-30 minutes all 9 times. I plan to move up to three sets on weights this evening, having done two sets each time this past week. I had an evaluation by a trainer and got instruction on the Technogym machines they have at the gym. I enjoy working out, and I already feel better.

I am still motivated by the "God hates fatties" sermon of last month, my doctor's reading me the riot act, and by my realization that it just feels better to be fitter. I have added some other motivations for good measure: (a) I need to be in top condition for the revolution or the cadre will stick me in a desk job or in the mess hall; (b) I fly a lot, and I would be a lot more comfortable if I had more seat than ass; (c) we are going to Jamaica again next June, and I don't want to be mistaken for a beached beluga whale again; and (d) I want to resume horseback riding without being accused of animal cruelty.

The weight loss side of things is not going so well. I keep vacillating between 248 and 250 on the bathroom scale. The scale at the gym where I weigh with my workout clothes on has dropped from 260 to 256. My digestive doctor's scale two and a half weeks ago read 263! I suspect a gravitational anomaly. My regular doctor's scale last weekend read 255.

It's a little frustrating since I have been quite good on my diet, although I haven't resorted to anything extreme. Breakfast is Special K or some a bowl of Colon Bowl high fiber cereal. Lunch is usually a salad, and dinner has been a bowl of Mrs Vache Folle's homemade soup or chowder or other sensible supper. I eschew (rather than chew) desserts, pasta, snacks, fried foods and all good things. Still, I smash the scale. Oddly enough, my clothes feel a little looser. I am considering doing Atkins or Scarsdale for a couple ofweeks to get a jump start.

In the fitness evaluation, which mercifully came up "below average" rather than "moribund", the trainer used a strange device to measure my body fat. It fed a low current into my body and did some stuff some scientist could explain to me and informed me that I was about 40% fat. That means I am carrying over 100 pounds of fat. No wonder I get tired. It's as if I were at a normal weight and walking around with Jasper my 90 pound pit bull strapped to my back.

The good news is, that aside from the wages of gluttony, I am in excellent health, or so says my regular doctor.

Reading the Bills

I would love to see the Democrats investigate the crap about everything the regime has been doing the last six years, and I think that they can do that while at the same time trying to work collaboratively with Bush and GOP congresscritters to solve problems and address issues. Let them extend all kinds of symbolic olive branches and communicate openly in a bipartisan way, all the while hitting the GOP with nonstop hearings and aggressive oversight. I especially want the Democrats to look hard at waste, fraud and abuse in government and by contractors. It goes without saying that lying the US into war and then bungling it have got to be scrutinized closely. I would love impeachment hearings, but the fact is that there are not enough votes in the Senate to convict, and GOP Senators are not going to vote to convict even if they find out that Bush and Cheney killed and ate orphans and wiped their rears with the Constitution. THere needs to be a huge public outcry such that GOP Senators see throwing Bush and Cheney under the bus as necessary to protect their own political hides. Of course, at some point point less than a possibility of conviction, the Democrats may see some political advantage to impeachment proceedings.

What I don't want the Democrats to do is to subvert the Congress the way Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay did. Those wankers manipulated and abused the rules of the House in a way that concentrated power in their own hands and cut Democrats and fellow Republicans who did not toe the line out of meaningful deliberations. They completely cut Democrats out of the conference committees set up to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of bills and redrafted legislation which they would deem "emergency" measures. This meant that they were voted on almost immediately with almost no chance to review the final version. In some cases, members had 30 minutes to vote on bills that were thousands of pages long.

If I were a congresscritter, I would have voted nay on any bill I didn't get enough time to review. Of course, then my opponent would point out that I voted against The Ponies for Crippled Children Act or the Throw Money Indiscriminately at the Military Act or the National Day of Gratitude to Mothers, and my constituents would think I was monster and throw me out of office next time around. I don't know if Senators can filibuster a bill after it comes out of conference, but if they can and if I were a Senator, I'd stand up and read the whole bill aloud before I would yield.

I am hopeful that Democrats won't practice Gingrich/DeLay wanksterism and that bills will have time for review. But just in case wankers take over Congress again, we should probably consider structural changes to prevent abuse of House rules.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Cunning Plan

It was traffic hell last night. It was one of those evenings where the darkness, rain, low visibility, wet leaves, idiot New York drivers and massive puddles on the parkway made the commute an absolute stomach churning, teeth gnashing nightmare. By the time I got home after 2.5 hours on the devil's parkway, I couldn't imagine getting back in the car to go to the gym. So I did the next best thing. I made myself a vodka tonic. A tall one. Three actually. After the third, it hit me that I had misinterpreted the election.

Rove is a genius after all. Bush was being held back by the GOP Congress and Cheney and the neocons, so he devised a cunning plan worthy of Baldrick to throw the election to the Democrats. That's why Bush was out campaigning despite his enormous unpopularity and saying such asinine things about the Democrats, Iraq, the universe, everything. He was working to get the neocon/GOP Congress monkey off his back. Maybe now that he has some problem solvers in the Democratic Congress to work with, this will be his chance to shine and salvage his legacy.

It sounded more plausible last night on my mini-bender. Have a few drinks and then reread this post, and you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Day

I didn't vote straight ticket after all. I voted Libertarian for Governor and Attorney General and some other office, all the offices where Libertarians were on the ballot save one. I always vote for Hilary Clinton. I do this solely because the wingnuts hate her so much. I want her to stay around in politics and succeed just so Sean Hannity and his fellow morons will be made even crazier.

My vote means nothing, so I might as well get some entertainment value out of it.

I am getting on board with the idea of having voting by mail. It would save a lot of hassle at the polling places.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What I Did After the Revolution

I’m not proud of what I did after the revolution, but I reckon it had to be done. Once the Devolution Party held it’s convention and announced the dissolution of the federal government and after the “Mutiny of the Colonels” left the pro-federals with limited means to enforce their will, federal officials became an endangered species. POTUS and VPOTUS and a number of their henchmen sought asylum in Riyadh. Ironically, it was a vengeful Mossad that apprehended them and brought them to justice.

I don’t know how I ended up on the tribunal set up to try the neocons. I’m a nobody. I used to be a military lawyer, and I had been outspoken in my criticism of the regime. I reckon I was considered a sure guilty vote and could be counted on to understand that these were show trials after all. We were going to give the neocons a fair trial and then hang them.

We decided it was a no-brainer that we would set up the tribunal along the lines of the tribunals that the neocons had designed for their detainees. How could they object to the fairness of their own mechanism? And those aggressive interrogation techniques the neocons touted? Boy, that one White HOuse advisor turned into our lead witness after just one waterboarding session. VPOTUS never made it to trial, what with that bum ticker of his. POTUS was pathetic as he tried to lay all the blame on the dead Veep. “I was out of the loop,” he claimed. He tried to convince us that he had been surrounded by a cadre of yes men who had hidden all bad news from him and had misled him about what the regime was up to. His defense lawyers tried the insanity defense and alleged that POTUS was so addled by coke and booze that he couldn’t tell right from wrong.

After the trials, we would pretend to deliberate for a couple of days. We mostly played cards and noshed in the secret deliberation room. Then we’d announce that we had found the accused guilty on almost every count. Sometimes we’d find them not guilty on a few counts just to make it look as if we were really weighing evidence and considering the defenses. I liked to read the not guilty verdicts first just to get the defendants’ hopes up. I was a jerk. We all were.

Then we’d have a sentencing hearing to determine if the accused would be executed or imprisoned or some such thing. Everybody got death except the White House advisor who had cooperated with the prosecutors. He got life in a prison in Baghdad. Who knew he’d get a shiv in the liver so soon after checking in?

I usually oppose the death penalty, in large part because I don’t want states to have that kind of power. But we weren’t part of any state. We were just a kangaroo court, a kind of gussied up lynch mob with no legitimate authority, and we were going to disband after the purges. So I went along with the death sentences. These guys were ruthless murderers, after all. I felt that I had to attend all the hangings personally. The first couple of hangings were disturbing, but you get used to them after a while. You even find yourself able to engage in some gallows humor after a couple dozen executions. The hard part was the galling speechifying by the condemned. They were proud to give their lives for their country and yadda yadda yadda. I preferred the begging for mercy.

We never did disband. We kept on trying a widening pool of former federal officials, lobbyists, neocon think tankers, Fox News “journalists”, and what have you. It took years to round them all up. A lot of them tried to pass for decent people and lived among them for years before being recognized and apprehended. Still others fled to Paraguay and Myanmar. We didn’t sentence everybody to death any longer after the higher level folks had been purged.

I left the tribunal after the fifth year, and I don’t follow its activities much any longer. I just can’t get all that worked up over the crimes of some GS-3 file clerk at the Department of Commerce. I know that they have to be rehabilitated or removed from society to keep their parasitism from re-infecting us. Now I’m working on the tribunal for the former State of New York here in the Confederated Republics of Beekman and East Fishkill. Man, those former state legislators are a whiny bunch and hard to catch.

I am Spiteful

The boss is letting us out early today so we can vote. I'm gonna vote a straight Democratic ticket. I'm even going to vote for that corrupt Hevesi for Comptroller. I'm doing this out of pure unadulterated spite. The GOP sucks so much that I want to show my contempt as clearly as possible by not only refusing to vote for GOP candidates but by voting for the Democrats they hate so much. I will never, ever cast a vote for a GOP candidate again as long as I live.

I don't expect the Democrats to do anything that I approve of. I'm pretty sure they will suck, too, but is it even possible for them to screw up as much as the GOP has? They are not as authoritarian as the GOP, that's for sure.

My car pool companion, a lifelong Republican is voting a straight Democratic ticket, too. He was going to vote for some Republicans, but he got a dozen annoying robo-calls in the last couple of days so he aims to punish the GOP for that.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hanging Politicians

Paul Craig Roberts wonders whether Bush will get a death sentence now that Saddam has a date with the hangman:

I thought about making a list of all the political leaders who want hanging, but I reckon it would be easier to make a list of those who don’t merit the noose. Indeed, let’s presume guilt in the case of political leaders and put the burden on them to present mitigating factors. The kind of person who even wants to be a political leader is probably too disturbed to be permitted to live among decent human beings.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Base Plus Fraud Enough to Keep GOP Entrenched and Other Random Stuff

I won’t be surprised if the GOP holds onto both houses of Congress next week. They have their demented base and can steal some key elections by manipulating electronic voting machines and engaging in more old-fashioned forms of election fraud. What’s to stop them?

Did a prominent gay baiting pastor of a Colorado megachurch pay a gay prostitute for sex over the last three years? I sure hope so. There’s nothing more fun than a self -righteous blowhard getting his comeuppance.

Waterboarding isn’t torture? Then why was a Japanese interrogator sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after WW2 for waterboarding Allied POWs?

Some songs that pretty much suck might have a chance of being tolerable if they were done in a different genre. Don McLean’s “I Love You Too Much to Ever Start Liking You” is not bad as a calypso tune, for example. Contemporary “country” ballads whined out by male singers cannot be redeemed by a genre change, however. Nothing can save them from sucking.

Is it possible to enjoy professional football if you don’t have money on the game? If so, what’s the secret?

I have eaten sensibly for over a week now and went to the gym five times in the previous week for weight training and jogging on a treadmill. I’ve lost about three pounds. I actually look forward to the gym and am already feeling more fit. I’m hitting the red wine, too, since it is supposed to counteract the effects of obesity.

When I was a kid, almost all men wore hats outside. How come we don’t wear hats so much anymore, aside from slobs in sideways ball caps and ersatz cowboys in ten gallon hats? Of course, back in the day everybody dressed up more in public. My mother would not have dreamed of going to the supermarket in sweat pants. Actually, I have become more likely to try to be presentable now that we live in the exurbs. I am more likely to run into someone I know out here than in the city.

My father’s birthday is Guy Fawke’s Day. I am thankful that he is still with us.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Another Reason to Vote Against the GOP

The Rude Pundit has the best reason yet to punish the GOP at the polls:

Authoritarians are Zombies

I have been reading John Dean’s “Conservatives Without Conscience”, and I have been persuaded that the “authoritarian personality” and “social dominance’ are useful constructs for making sense of the conservative movement in America. Conservatives can’t be expected to be principled or consistent in word or deed, and their leaders can be expected to act solely in their own interests in pursuit of power, because, frankly, they are nutjobs (my interpretation, not Dean’s).

The authority figures who rouse the rabble with authoritarian personalities are straight opportunists who have no qualms about saying or doing whatever it takes to get and keep power. They will talk about family values while hurting actual families and do so with a straight face. Their followers will support them no matter what they do as long as the leaders keep saying the right buzz words.

Dean relies on the work of Altmeyer who emphasizes three facets of the authoritarian personality: conventionalism, aggression, and submission to authority. Adorno and others include additional facets as follows, together with my own personal take on what they signify:

Conventionalism. The authoritarian clings to tradition and norms with more fervor than most folks. He reckons everyone should live as he does and sees alternative lifestyles and values as a threat. His way is based on his righteousness, not his adaptation to his circumstances, and those who deviate from his way are wicked or foolish. This is one reason that authoritarians tend to be right wingers. They don’t like change, and the right wing offers them tradition and conservation of the status quo.

Submission. The authoritarian blindly follows his leaders and sees criticism of them as offensive and treasonous. He can’t recognize their inconsistencies and prevarications and does not believe criticism of them. He prefers Fox News because the cheerleading for his leaders is soothing.

Aggression. The authoritarian is quick to use threats, intimidation and violence against enemies identified by his leaders. The leaders generate and use real and make believe enemies to rile up the base, and they exaggerate every threat in order to get maximum use of the inherent fearfulness of authoritarians. The enemies may be homosexuals, “Islamofascists”, liberals, secular humanists, or Big Oil. It doesn’t matter. They’re everywhere for the authoritarian.

Anti-intraception. The authoritarian is not as self aware as other folks, and he doesn’t like to look inside and think about things. He certainly isn’t interested in finding out whether he might be wrong about something, because that’s impossible. I have known quite a few of these near zombies, and I reckon that they are sort of autistic. They don’t really have the capacity to empathize, so they don’t value empathy or attempts to make sense of what other people are thinking, feeling or doing. This impairment allows the authoritarian to be hypocritical and to contradict himself freely and to allow his leaders to the same without any pesky inner voice calling him on it. Their selves are insufficiently integrated for them to manifest integrity.

Substitution and stereotyping. The authoritarian is superstitious and is unusually susceptible to cliches and slogans, the stupider the better. He is quick to see others as collectives and to reify the categories of people that he or his leaders have invented. He is foremost a member of collectives and enactor of social roles rather than a sentient individual.

Power and toughness. The authoritarian is always afraid, and he admires the powerful and the tough. He wants a tough leader to protect him from the scary, scary world, and he acts tough to compensate for his feelings of weakness and cowardice.

Destructiveness and Cynicism. The authoritarian reckons that all mankind is evil and/or stupid and out to get him, so he puts no trust in anyone or anything other than his leaders. He will believe any outrageous lie about the enemy, and he is on board with whatever mayhem the leaders deem desirable to wreak.

Projectivity. The authoritarian projects onto others his own shortcomings. Since he has no inner life and can’t conceive of others’ having their own views and motivations, he can’t do otherwise. When he says people are thieves, he is telling you to watch your stuff when he’s around.

Sex. The authoritarian is obsessed with sex, or at least other people’s sex lives. He can’t stand it that anyone else might be having sex and enjoying it. This may be an aspect of conventionalism and religiosity. I don’t get it. Maybe it’s also an aspect of projection. If he is a closeted self-hating homosexual, he is apt to become zealous in persecuting homosexuals.

I don’t know how authoritarians are created, but I suspect that you will become one if you are a near zombie to begin with, especially if you are also fearful and insecure. Dollars to doughnuts, it’s mostly genetic. I bet it can be treated with drugs. If so, I say we put those drugs in the water supply.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Who Owes the Troops an Apology? GW Bush and his Co-conspirators

CNN was on in the locker room at the gym last night (I've gone every day since I joined and am down to 248.6 pounds, thanks for asking), and I couldn't help overhear about John Kerry's joke and the wingnut reaction to it. Kerry said something to the effct that you should study hard and get smart or you could end up stuck in Iraq. "Ha Ha!" thought I. "He means be smart, not stupid like GW Bush who ended up in the Iraq quagmire."

Then I heard that GW Bush and the wingnuts who support him interpreted this as a slam on the military, that Kerry was calling the troops uneducated and stupid. I reckon that this is a case of classic projection. Of course, the wingnuts interpret the statement this way, because that's how they really feel inside. Nobody has more contempt for the military than GW Bush, except maybe Rumsfeld. Bush and Rumsfeld have underequipped and undermanned the forces in operations that have no bearing on the defense of the US or freedom. The almost 3,000 dead are just so many saps that had to be sacrificed to advance the political agenda of the neocon death cult. Bush owes the military, among many others, an apology. It's just like Bush to evade a comment that was directed at him by deflecting it to the military. He would sacrifice every last soldier, sailor and airman to protect his political ass.

In a much more nuanced way than GW Bush is capable of grasping, one might very well make the case that, thanks to GW Bush, the Iraq quagmire has become an apt metaphor for the undesirable situation that one studies to avoid. He has created the circumstance where future recruiting for the military will depend on a pool of unfortunates. In my day, it was the prospect of becoming a "ditchdigger" that was held out as motivation; then it was the prospect of having to go to Vietnam. Who indeed will end up in Iraq in the next ten years of endless, idiotic war? It will be those lacking in other prospects or those whose character is seriously flawed. Those who were already servicemembers when these clusterf***ks in the Middle East were getting underway can't really be blamed or have their intelligence or morality held in suspicion because of their service. They had previously been duped into thinking that their military service would be for the defense of their country. By now, it should be clear to even the minimally educated that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with defense of America or fighting terror, that it was entered into fraudulently and unlawfully, that it has been prosecuted incompetently and unjustly, and that continuing it makes no sense at all. If you join the military now, you should do so with every expectation of serving in the Iraq war; therefore, you must be wanting other prospects, woefully misinformed, lacking the capacity to discern the true situation, or just like to kill people.

It is ironic indeed that GW Bush is calling for anyone other than his own regime to apologize to the troops. Nobody has insulted them more than him.