Saturday, March 01, 2008


Three dozen oysters
Originally uploaded by Kent Wang.

Gulf oysters, I am reliably informed are succulent morsels that barely require a squirt of lemon or a shot of tabasco to serve as the centerpiece of a manful exploration of foodie indulgence.

Unfortunately, they can harbor a microorganism that can make you ill, and if you have liver disease, diabetes or a compromised immune system, kill you dead as hell.

So, before proving you are a man by tossing your locks (and you oyster) in laughing disregard for danger - you might want to check to see if you are indeed likely to remain man enough.

There is nothing so sure to undermine your studly rep as to be hauled off puking to intensive care.

Now, the Lousiana seafood r industry they probably would not be urgently wishing you to know about this, had the industry not taken steps to make the incident of oyster-borne discomfort rather rarer than it once was. A lot rarer, in fact. And it seems clear from everything I have looked at - not just my sponsor here - that serious illness is not a worry at all for people who are not at risk.

Note they don't promise that you won't get a bad oyster and puke your guts out. But then, that's always been that little kicker, something we have mostly all mostly known. That small risk and the challenging nature is why it impresses the girls. Dying of it, though - not so well known. Certainly not so impressive. Hell oysters are the risky seafood for those of us who dared not try fugu.

But that risk can minimized greatly by careful preparation immediately after harvest.

There are three major ways of post processing oysters, two of which involve some degree of heat. Obviously if you truly wish to serve them raw, there's really only one way to maximize your odds of not losing a relative; buy IQF (Fresh-frozen) oysters. (But even then, the possibility that you may become ill exists.)

IQF - Freezing oysters to extend shelf life was first applied in 1989; and presently, there are several facilities using this technique with oysters. The process has also become popularized on a worldwide scale with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States leading the pack. IQF processing of oysters is presently being applied by companies in California, Florida, Louisana and Texas. It has the biggest market share of the post-harvest processed raw oyster market. Many prefer the IQF oysters because of quality, taste, and convenience. The IQF “fresh frozen” technology keeps all of the flavor and appeal of non-processed oysters – the major selling point of the process. IQF oysters are typically sold with the top shell removed.
Or - as almost everyone advises - you could just cook them.

Yes, I know, I know - then they would not be raw oysters! I feel your pain, I do. But lest you feel unmanned - did you know that they are delicious when grilled?

They have a whole free cookbook there for you. But if you are still not quite sure... must I point out the obvious, that anything is better when it comes out of a charcoal smoker? And what, dare I ask, is more macho that fire, charcoal, smoke and meat engaging in the magic, mystical and arcane art that is smoking?

Let the gruntign commence.

And if it's good enough to make pork safe, it's good enough to make a safe, gob-smackingly delicious home-smoked oysters. Why, you'd have to smoke a turkey for it to be worthy of a stuffing made from such smoky nuggets of joy!

What a good idea!

And just incidentally, doing your own smoking is the only real way for most of us to get enough of either delicacy to amount to more than a cruel tease.

"The Rant" by Tom Degan: Oh, Ralph, you've done it again!

"The Rant" by Tom Degan: Oh, Ralph, you've done it again!

A rather good counter argument to the idea that Ralph will once again play the "spoiler."

In 2000 Al Gore won the political lottery. As luck would have it, the Republicans that year nominated a hideous, half-witted little frat boy named George W. Bush. Casting a vote for Ralph Nader didn't seem like too much of a gamble in New York - a state that Gore was expected to (and did) win easily. Who would have thought that so huge a segment of the American electorate would actually be foolish enough to vote for a corrupt, mentally unbalanced little piece of shit from Crawford, Texas? Who would have even dreamed in a million years that the Bush Mob would have been able to steal the state of Florida by illegally removing 57,000 African Americans from the list of eligible voters? Who among us could have possibly imagined that so thoughtful and intelligent a man as Al Gore would run one of the dumbest campaigns in American political history?

It would be easy to blame Mr. Nader for the Democrats' defeat eight years ago - easy but unfair. Ralph Nader didn't lose the election for Al Gore. Al Gore did that all by himself. The former vice-president, to his credit, has admitted as much.

When he ran again in 2004, the Nader campaign was not a factor in the results. John Kerry, like Al Gore before him, ran a jaw-droppingly stupid campaign. He would have lost with or without Ralph in the running. Which brings us to the sixty-four dollar question: Will a Ralph Nader candidacy mean certain defeat for the Democrats in 2008? Maybe yes. Maybe no. That all depends on whom the eventual nominee is.
Excellent site. You may blogroll me. :P

A Worthy Heir to Westbrook Pegler

Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God and tasted the eternal joy of heaven, am not tormented with ten thousand hells in being deprived of everlasting bliss?
Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus
English dramatist & poet (1564 - 1593)

AlterNet: A Liberal Goes Undercover to Brave America's Premiere Right-Wing Gathering:
"FRIDAY MORNING. George W. Bush, when you get right down to it, is a fucker. That's why I don't like him. He's a fucker who does fucked-up things. He's a privileged little shit who doesn't give a damp hell for the opinions of the people he was elected to govern. He buys into the toxic economic theories of unreconstructed capitalism, despite never having had to earn an honest living in his life, and he supports a worldview that cuts out anyone who hasn't had his good fortune -- the worldview of a murderous plutocracy stained with swaths of luck and cruelty where first is first and second is nobody. He's stupid in the truest sense of the word: willfully ignorant and determined to surround himself with people who keep him that way, not only resistant to different ideas but actively hostile towards them. He is neurologically incapable of thinking ahead, and he consigns the consequences of his actions to the status of dreams. And he forced his country into a pointless, unnecessary, unconscionably wasteful war that will poison every aspect of American life for generations.

Worst of all, though, the son of a bitch made me get up at 2 o'clock in the morning to go to his fucking speech at CPAC."

I hardly need to say anything more - but of course I will.

While this above was indeed a classic Peglerization, the moment of true sadness for me was this:

A rail-thin brunette in the row in front of me tests my cover for the first time.

"Hi! Are these seats taken?"

"Help yourself."

"Oh, thanks, sir!" Sir. So much for getting laid. "I'm (name redacted) from the University of Small Midwestern State's Conservative Student Alliance."

"Leonard Pierce, American Milk Solids Council."

"I'm sorry? What is that?"

"It's an industry group for milk solids manufacturers. We lobby Washington lawmakers to lessen regulations on the export of milk solids. The problem is that the government blames us for the incompetence of African mothers."

"That is so unfair."

"Tell me about it."

I have two reactions. First, Irony is Dead, but then we knew that; Carl Rove is still bragging about the ambush.

But second; dear Lord, Leonard; to even think of screwing around with a Midwestern muffin that stupid, and who has likely never heard of a condom in an approving (much less informative) context, one, who due to context and description is no doubt also a sorority member if not a cheerleader?

I'd rather time travel back to the 80's and skank it up at a gay bath house. It would be, I think, marginally less risky - and the conversation would for damn sure be more interesting.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why I miss William F. Buckley

"This classic footage shows William F. Buckley & a young Noam Chomsky discussing the Viet Nam war. In only the way Buckley could, he threatens Chomsky by casually injecting, "Because, as you would, I'd smash you in the God-damned face." Don't you wish some of our current day leaders had as much chutzpah?"

read more | digg story

Frankly, yes - and as you will also note, the inherent self respect to actually allow Noam to make his point before (as I'm sure he did) shooting it as full of holes as he could manage. There's not a single talking head on the right now who has the stones to wait until they see the white of Noam's eyes. Since it cannot be that those of the intellectual rigor and high personal standards reflected by Buckley are no more, we must presume that for some reason that level of conservatism is thought to be too challenging, too intellectual for the godbothering 30 percenters.

Or it could also be that it's very difficult to imagine a conservative of such rigor putting up with the requirement to pander to the tender sensibilities and laughable delusions of both Cultural Conservatives and the Trickle-down theorists.

First - let me say that WFB often infuriated me with positions that I thought indefensible. And yet his arguments, in many cases, either caused me to grudgingly reconsider the absolute, reflexive moral superiority of my position - or if not that, to softly and silently pocket the rhetorical technique.

He described himself as a Libertarian Conservative, but I regret to say that in that regard, our views of what Libertarianism - and the related topic in both our minds of what politics informed by faith should look like - differ. Wildly.

Nonetheless, the thing I loved about WFB was that one could never dismiss his arguments out of hand. Nor could one seriously credit that he might be making his arguments for any reason other than passionate, personal conviction that he also held at ransom to reason and rationale.

Indeed, he reversed his opinions on many issues over the years, and he was never apologetic of having done so. One of the best things about this great man of the Right was that he was never afraid to be wrong - nor unwilling to amend the wrong, with passion equal to the trespass.

On the other hand, I doubt very much that popularity had anything whatsoever to do with the evolution of his principles.

Now, the only thing that could convince Limbaugh or O'Rielly to change their minds on a topic is the same thing that convinced them to first pick their topics - large sums of money. Ideally placed in an offshore bank.

I learned a great deal from WFB over the years. I learned how important rigor in argument is. I learned to respect fact more than assertion. And frankly, being on the side of his guests as often as not, I learned that while a great and intimidating facade is a valuable thing indeed, there has to be something behind the facade to turn posture into poise.

I loved the fact that he was as unapologetically upper-class northeastern white intellectual with the same "and you can choke on it" 'tude of any rapper from south-central LA.

The most important thing I learned from him was this; how a gentleman behaves when confronted with an idea they find distasteful. They argue, with the goal of ensuring that it's far more effective to get the person advocating a distasteful idea to fully explain it and demonstrate that it is, indeed, distasteful than to simply assert with a patrician snort that it's distasteful nature requires that it be dismissed unconsidered.

Oh, and of course one has to admire a man who was quite capable using words such as cretinous correctly in casual discourse. When a teacher referred to me once as "A little William F. Buckley," I took it as a profound complement. Nor would I consider being compared to him at all insulting today.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Proceedings of the ITMFA Summet.

Bleeding Heart Libertarianism

I confess freely that I might be accurately described as a "bleeding heart libertarian."

I honestly believe that it is an objective good to care about my fellow man, his health, her welfare, their socioeconomic outcomes. But unlike a liberal, I will not try to convince either you or myself that is a purely altruistic concern, or that you should put their welfare before your own.

I believe that because I believe it to be rather obvious that my personal welfare and that of my neighbors and fellows are inextricably entangled, and that the only sure way to ensure my rights and to meet my needs is to be rather insistent about theirs not being infringed.

Indeed, I would much rather be loud and obnoxious about trespasses against others than against myself. It means I can meet the enemy on the ground of my own choosing. My tender concern here is better advised by Sun Tsu than by Mother Theresa, frankly.

Liberty is in many ways a paradoxical concept. Frankly, liberty is made possible by choices and most of our choices are made possible by infrastructure and agreements made, held and maintained in common, which, unavoidably, are enforced by regulations by one means or another; in secular societies, short of truly unreasonable expectations of one's fellow man, that regulation and infrastructure is provided by and overseen by government; a body which in my view of libertarian philosophy is the "trusted third party" in any exchange of value.

As a Libertarian, I believe in a free market, by which I mean a market in which all persons are able to participate on an equal footing, trading what they have for what they wish at a fair rate of exchange so that everyone involved feels as if they got the better end of the deal. If that sounds like an idealized and highly simplified description of capitalism, it is. It's also, you may note, an idealized description of Communism, in that it really is "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs." If you ignore the ugly black Marx on the idea, it's pretty much the definition of a fair trade within a properly regulated free market. "I do this, I need that. You have that, and you need this." It works fine, every day in every small town in North America - though of course none would call it Socialist, much less Communist.

(There may be a lesson in this as to what happens when you try to make common sense compulsory, inasmuch as those who see the need pretty obviously have none to begin with and are therefor bound to fail by definition.)

Nonetheless, left to their own devices, and without the advantage of the information provided them by Limbaugh and various free-lance parasites of the left and the right, the idea that co-operation is a lot easier and a lot better and for damn sure cheaper than conflict is pretty obvious.

Communism and Capitalism as philosophies useful for the exploitation of others assume that "needs" are a negotiable, or subject to the definition of others. A cynical, free market, second-amendment absolutist like I realizes that the only way in which MY actual needs are negotiable or definable to YOUR advantage is this - if you get in the way of my needs, how much damage are you prepared to suffer and inflict before one of us meets their needs over the dead body of the other

Civilization is a means of meeting basic needs without violence, and even more importantly, without the overhead of having to prepare to defend against it on a routine basis. Any political philosophy (and depressingly, that seems to be all of them, including the political party disguised as the Southern Baptist Conference) that willfully denies this reality will sooner or later experience some form of hot lead enema, and is therefore by definition worth less to any sensible being considerably less than the powder required to blow them to hell. It's a bitterly obvious truth that the usual response to this clearly obvious calculation is to artificially inflate the price of powder, rather than the real worth of the philosopher.

I don't know about you, but I have a very basic need to avoid hot lead enemas. Therefore, at the most basic level, I try my best to arrange things so that meeting MY needs does not require denying others having their needs met. Aside from being a Libertarian, I'm a lazy bastard, and I don't want to work that hard just to break even. And that, folks, is what zero-sum politics is, a situation in which a consistant break-even would be the only rational strategy - except that, of course, the cost of being in the game in the first place makes break-even strategies impossible. The only way to truly win, then, is to create conditions in which all the other suckers in the game lose.

Unless you are smart enough to realize that it's stupid to play that game. And frankly, you don't have to be all that smart to realize that, or to choose to play a non-zero-sum game.

As someone who does not let dogma and wishful thinking blind him to reality, I observe and argue that an "unregulated free market" is a contradiction in terms. Sooner rather than later, someone will realize that by cheating they will gain an advantage. This means that everyone else must play dirty - or not play at all. So now we DO have regulation - and it sucks. Further, that means that the ultimate question of who prospers is not the person who brings the best product, service or idea to the table, but the person who is able to use force most effectively to reduce the options of others.

Virtual though this force is, it cannot be argued that it is in any effective sense different in outcome than a fist to the face or a gun to the head. This, then, brings the ideal of "lazez-faire Capitalism" into focus as being an inherent violation of the Libertarian ideal of "non-initiation of force," because in Lazez-fair Capitalism, the winner is determined by who uses their force first and most effectively. Whether or not this exception is well understood or admitted by libertarians to my "right," it is nonetheless an obvious thing - and it brings an obvious libertarian response to the fore.

"The fact that you act as if you have the right to use force against me to gain my co-operation entitles me to use such tactics and such means of evasion, retaliation or subversion as I think best, without consideration of the consequences to you or yours."

Civilization developed, to explore a third option; the attractive possibility of banding together, hunting down the cheatin' bastards and prevent them by such means seem expedient from ever doing that again. After all, a rogue war-lord or President is no less dangerous than a rogue cougar. It could easily be argued that he's a lot MORE dangerous - a rogue cougar can kill only one person at a time, and won't kill more than they actually need to eat.

This cannot be said of George Bush.

Or, in all fairness, of Bill Clinton; who's record in terms of the use of military force for political advantage is only better in terms of having a lower body count.

That pretty much sums up the social and political climate we live in at the moment. Charitably, it is a clusterfuck. And I have to say, some of the worst offenders in terms of justifying the underpinnings of this particular clusterfuck are my fellow Libertarians.

The problem, of course, is that most self-described Libertarians are no more libertarian than most people who call themselves conservatives are Conservative. They are, indeed, as genuinely rare as Democrats that actually value the exercise of democracy. That is to say, only to the extent that the the philosophy enables them to play a zero-sum game at the expense of their fellows. No person who truly values liberty can in consonance deny it to others save when those others confuse liberty with the license to prey upon others. Then, those that value liberty should view those persons for what they truly are - their most personal and immediate enemies, who will have to be dealt with, sooner or later, by one means or another.

Because we, as a people, are lazy, short sighted, intemperate, selfish, uninformed and more than willing to allow ourselves to be shat upon in the name of "a little security," we have come to accept, somehow, that we deserve no better leaders than we have.

After all, we would have to choose to be worthy - to expect of ourselves standards that would allow us to hold our leaders to them without feeling like total asses.

So we live in a culture - using the term in the loosest sense - where a "libertarian" values his liberty in comparison and by means of denying as much liberty to others as they can manage, where a "democrat" values democracy only to the extent where it can be contrived to achieve predetermined conclusions, and where "republicans" are terrified of the consequences of permitting the election of representative representatives from the states to the Grand Old Republic.

Our political leaders can only compare themselves favorably, it seems, to televangelists, in terms of living up to the terms of their implied contracts with their social constituents. Certainly polls agree that in general, that's our opinion of them. But then, while having adulterous affairs with the vulnerable and under-aged may be no great recommendation for higher office, it is not a disqualification by definition.

But we accept that standard in our moral leadership, while proudly proclaiming, "This is a Christian Nation." Well, yeah, by THOSE standards!

It seems the more "Christian" you wish to be seen to be, the more likely it is that you are actively guilty of something that should disqualify you from being christian by definition.. Well, people get the leaders they deserve; and the church has no immunity in that respect. Pardon me if I cordially refuse to follow your leaders, political or moral.

You could contract a social disease that way, as one of the better possible outcomes.

Goodness, we have come to a point in our culture where we have begun to reasonably suspect that those who most deride drug usage use drugs by definition, that those who moralize the loudest against sexual misconduct are perps by definition and worst of all, even so cynically believing and accepting this truism as having far more truth to it than it should - we have yet to punish those most conspicuously guilty of such outrages in any significant way.

Well, folks. I don't think it's particularly prideful of me to say that I'm an exception, and to the extent possible I try to hold others accountable to an acceptable standard of behavior that is nonetheless more forgiving than what I expect of myself.

And that, folks, is what makes both civilization AND a decent degree of individual freedom possible at all - the expectation that we will each first govern ourselves, that we will ensure that we, at least, are not examples of what we should most despise - and therefore not be shy of expecting the same of those who think themselves qualified to lead and worthy of being an example to others.
"Evil flourishes when good men do nothing." -Edmund Burke

Well, that should be good men and women - and not because I'm being politically correct. It's because I'm pointing out that we should expect twice the response that Burke could.

I ask of you, my good fellows of all genders; how deep does it have to get before you decide to start doing something about the evil seeping into your life?

"What can I do" is a stupid response. Noticing, pointing, and grabbing either a virtual mop or a virtual rifle is what is required. If it's gotten to the point where it's grown teeth and is attempting to eat your children - such as the evil of this war most certainly is - it's due to you and your failure as a citizen, just as it is mine. Let us at least try to act before the virtual must become actual, and our only choices are reduced to which end of the gun we are on.

This IS a Republic, with a Constitution, with rights taken with blood and thunder from the cold dead hands of people no worse than those occupying Washington right now. How ELSE could it be? And how could you possibly defend the right to expect anything better at this point in time?

I am a bleeding-heart Libertarian, and I would GREATLY prefer not to suffer so. I hate seeing the rights of my fellows and their economic options reduced by those too greedy and stupid to realize that they are twirling their mustaches in glee on their way to their own private Armageddon, the place of decision where the only decision left to the great majority will be which of that most arrogant, foolish and careless minority will first to go up against that wall. The fact that they undoubtedly deserve such an outcome does not make me willing to pay the price of enforcing it. I would much rather that enough were dragged kicking and screaming into the light by their moral and intellectual betters - that would be you - to make a difference.

It's a damn foolish thing to get between a free person and their needs. The only thing more foolish is to think that standing anywhere NEAR such a fool is an insurable position. Our Museums of History are littered with the shattered artifacts that sort of fool bought to commemorate their "victory" over those they thought sufficiently oppressed. But then, perhaps that is why our dear social betters are so resistant to the funding of those museums. Denial comes in many forms, does it not?

Bad News/Good News/Better News

Bad News: I missed an opportunity to club another "autistic advocacy" group over the head.

Good News: I wasn't missed.


The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) - Sections:
Victory! The End of the Ransom Notes Campaign
Hello everyone,

I am pleased to inform you that this afternoon the NYU Child Study Center announced that they will be ending the "Ransom Notes" ad campaign in response to widespread public pressure from the disability community. You can read that announcement here (at the NYU Child Study Center's website). The thousands of people with disabilities, family members, professionals and others who have written, called, e-mailed and signed our petition have been heard. Today is a historic day for the disability community. Furthermore, having spoken directly with Dr. Harold Koplewicz, Director of the NYU Child Study Center, I have obtained a commitment to pursue real dialogue in the creation of any further ad campaign depicting individuals with disabilities. We applaud the NYU Child Study Center for hearing the voice of the disability community and withdrawing the "Ransom Notes" ad campaign.

Twenty-two disability rights organizations came together to ensure the withdrawal of this advertising campaign. Our response to this campaign stretched continents, with e-mails, letters and phone calls coming from as far away as Israel, Britain and Australia. The disability community acted with a unity and decisiveness that has rarely been heard before and we are seeing the results of our strength today. Our success sends an inescapable message: if you wish to depict people with disabilities, you must consult us and seek our approval. Anything less will guarantee that we will make our voices heard. We are willing to help anyone and any group that seeks to raise awareness of disability issues, but those efforts must be done with us, not against us. This is a victory for inclusion, for respect and for the strength and unity of people with disabilities across the world. It is that message that has carried the day in our successful response to this campaign. Furthermore, we intend to build on this progress, not only by continuing a dialogue with the NYU Child Study Center and using this momentum to ensure self-advocate representation at other institutions as well, but also by building on the broad and powerful alliance that secured the withdrawal of these ads in the first place. We are strongest when we stand together, as a community, as a culture and as a people.

Thank you to all of you who have made this victory possible. Remember: "Nothing About Us, Without Us!"

Ari Ne'eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, President

When you think about it, "Nothing About Us, Without Us" is a pretty damn good slogan for anyone. In our particular socio-political context - well, the Democratic Party springs to mind. The whole idea of "superdelegates" who's entire role at the convention is to suppress any outbreak of democracy is endemic of an authoritarian mindset.

Or if you prefer an apt literary reference - "All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others." I'd agree - if you are speaking of porcine volunteers for the role of luncheon meat. If I WERE a member of the Democratic Party - and I have a rather too much self-respect for that - my driving goal at the moment would be to purge the party of every authoritarian sonofabitch who thought it was a good idea to "organize" it in the same way the Republicans organized theirs.

Personally, whether it's Mommy or Daddy claiming to know best - well, I got fifty years of experience and a millennium of well-documented history that says they don't. Yes, folks, I did indeed start learning this lesson in infancy.

The sine qua non of American Authoritarianism at it's purest and most simple-minded is NeoConservatism. So, let us look back on how well the "Republican Revolution" worked. Taking a party from oblivion to domination to extinction in thirty years is definitely an achievement of significance - in the sense of "whom the Gods would destroy, they first make proud." It's not an example to emulate.

And it all comes out of listening to people who say "trust us, we know what we're doing."

This is why no advocacy group - and that's what political organizations of all sorts are, whatever the breadth of focus - should be allowed to forget "NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US."

Or the import of the Second Amendment.

When you think about it, it's the summation of the US Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, with the second amendment being the underline and "or else;" the final resort when the cluebat breaks.

You may well wonder why the hell in our culture, with an express written constitution that literally enshrines and makes sacred the right to use force against those who believe they "know better" than you and I that we still have to do things like this, that we need any "advocacy groups" other than our elected representatives. But the fact that we do need the constitution is exactly why we NEED various advocacy groups that have the express purpose of sneaking up on the powers that be with nail-studded cluebats.

Remember that Alexander Hamilton was pretty much saying "it's just a scrap of paper" before the ink was dry. There are many nations and cultures that do not need such explicit standards - because, well, they are more civilized than this nation made up of cowboys, pirates, remittance men, fugitives and grifters. Don't think I'm disparaging our heritage - but I'm not blind to it's implications, either.

The Constitution was written by a very cynical group of men - including Hamilton - and while no doubt many of the did indeed agree with Hamilton that they "knew better," they were mutually aware that their visions differed enough that some enforced guidelines of mutual toleration were required, and that if they did not agree on some set of rules that permitted them to differ without violence - violence and barbarism would ensue. (Or "greater barbarism," as any of King George's advisers would have said. I suspect Franklin would have cheerfully nodded and asked him to pass the wench.)

So I suppose this is the real message. If you belong to ANY minority group - and you do - and it isn't soldered into unshakable connection with the Powers that Be - and trust me, it ISN'T quite proportionally to the degree you innocently assume it is - you need to support all us whining minority interests seeking our "special rights," as the social conservatives like to dismissively say.

There is no form of social conservatism and social conformity that can contain the range of people and the range of ideas needed to create and maintain a wealthy, expanding civilization. And more critically, there is no form of authoritarian, centralized government that can productively and usefully attend to our diverse and conflicting interests. Bluntly, a reliance on authorities - and particularly the sort of scum that rises to the top of OUR melting pot - is no substitute for individual self-governance and the excercise of one's rights in defense and advancement of one's individual rights both as an individual and as a collective of individuals with common interests.

This particular case illustrates that there is still a large gap in our culture between genuine disability and exclusion based on prejudice, for if it were not true, it would hardly be profitable to even consider pandering to prejudicial parental panic. And as such, it's a beautiful illustration of a particular instance of a deplorable degree of collective stupidity.

We are entirely too tolerant of routine intolerance, and far too forgiving of casual, institutional ignorance. Well-meaning ignorance is possibly the worst and most insidious form - and that's the sort that I'm sure this particular incident revolved around.

But the worst possible manifestation of such social norms is the panicked thought that it is somehow reasonable to attempt to camouflage or adapt children to the expectations of the stupid rather than expect other persons to live up to the minimal standards of mutual toleration and acceptance required of a diverse society.

To be especially blunt - this campaign assumed that parents of children with mental distictions should assume that their children would be brutalized unless they were somehow "cured" of being noticable.

I do have a very effective cure for that attitude myself. It's called "Martial Arts Classes."

Not only was the campaign appallingly offensive, but clearly, nobody involved in creating, deploying and funding the campaign noticed. That inevitably leads me to the assumption that they suffered from prejudice against the "differently abled" to a shocking degree themselves.

That sort of thing is bad enough when the folks involved are advocating against your interests, but when they are supposedly acting on your behalf - and sucking up money that damn well ought to be spend in your collective interests if it's going to be spent at all - it's not just offensive, it's injurious.

And whatever sort of minority you are, when the powers that be "act in your interest" in such a way - it's time to haul out the cluebat.

Attention, all minorities. Particularly Florida voters. Those who say "trust me, I know better" had best be required to prove it. And if they prove - spectacularly - that they do not, it's time to rid yourselves of them - or continue to suffer the price of their possibly well-meaning foolishness.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Life of a Free Range Aspie

Autism, Aspergers, PDD, PDDNOS are all conditions that exist on the Autistic Spectrum. All are classed as "disorders" in the DSMIV. That means they represent a billing code - and the world is filled with "cures" and advocates of "cures" for the whole range.

Inasmuch as there seems to be no serious consensus on what causes autism, or whether, in isolation, it's a problem outside of the extreme, (and those extremes do have protocols associated with them), the faint aroma of bubbling snake oil ought to be tickling your sinuses at this moment.

Some of us who are unquestionably on the spectrum do not see it as a "disorder" so much as a distinct difference with inherent communications difficulties - at least, when it's not in it's extreme forms. In many ways, it's social and personal impacts are similar to more obvious things, like blindness or deafness. And, as is well understood, any sensory deficit brings with it compensations that are arguably advantageous if the differently abled person finds a niche where they can bring that enhanced ability to bear.

(You know, I believe that's the first time I've ever used that PC phrase in a literally meaningful way.)

But I will say that "differently abled" is a much more useful way of thinking about aspergers, autism, and indeed almost all "disabilities." For the most point, the fact that such a person is unable to cope in the way almost everyone would requires they develop abilities that are comparatively rare by definition. And that - especially when those abilities are guided and developed with that idea in mind - is a valuable thing.

Unfortunately, groups like "Autism Speaks" are unwilling to comprehend that. Indeed, they are unwilling to even admit that autistics capable of communicating their preference to not be spoken for exist. As for aspies - well, there's nothing wrong with us that a few months in a skinner box couldn't fix. It's merely demoniacally inspired willfulness. It should not be particularly surprising that Autism Speaks and allied organizations are composed almost entirely of social conservatives; people for whom "not fitting in" is considered a crime of willful disobedience, or a disability of such crippling extent that any "cure" up to and including lobotomy or abortion is better than the "disease."

If you have stumbled across this almost unavoidable (and odious) viewpoint in a search for autism information, you might wish to trundle on over to for the autie point of view, or you can drop by for a mother's perspective on successfully raising a "free range aspie," without the "benefit" of most interventions and no aversives at all.

Todd is now in high school - and not a particularly aspie-aware one, despite our best efforts. And yet, while being more aspie than I am in many ways, he has friends, he's well liked, he's respected by his peers and his teachers, and this is all despite behavioral issues that one could easily label as "annoying."


The fact is, when everyone involved knows what's going on, it's a lot easier to avoid tripping the xenophobe circuits that lurk in our hindbrains. Our reptilian bits are convinced that what is concealed is potentially deadly dangerous - and there's been nothing in my conscious history that could argue with that first presumption all that effectively. Once we know that an annoyance is merely that - an inevitable and understandable consequence of a person being who they are, it's a lot easier on everyone involved. Particularly the aspie or autie who is no more immune to seeing themselves as being dangerously different than anyone else.

But of course, before you can be upfront about what you are, you have to understand it yourself. Alas, I had no words for what I was before my early forties - while Todd's mom knew from very very early on.

And, I should add with a proud grin, didn't much care. Nor did his dad (not I) - I will say with equally proud smugness. As a result, he's had appropriate accommodations his entire life - with no expectations whatsoever along the line of "fitting in to the world around him." That's an excellent thing, both philosophically and practically - if there's one thing a person on the AS spectrum is unlikely to be able to do effectively, it's "fit in" - and efforts in that direction will trigger pink monkey syndrome.

Trust me on that - my entire primary and secondary education was an exercise in tossing a pink monkey into the primate cage to see if he'll be able to pass THIS time.

It's hard on the pink monkey - and trust me when I tell you, it can end up with rather scuffed "normal" chimplets and primate attendants.

Of course, living in an area with larger catchment is a great thing; Todd was lucky in that he nearly immediately found his pink monkey posse and we-all just gutted it out as he geeked it up with his strange little friends.

I never, EVER want to hear the word "Pokemon" again.

And at the same time, I realized that with a shift in time, there I was geeking it up with MY strange little friends with the equally baffling Dungeons and Dragons - a bootleg first edition, actually. No, paperback.

Yeah, THAT old. Hell, I even wrote supplements. Todd's obsession never reached those heights - in regard to THAT topic. But the capacity will serve him well, since he didn't have parents who swatted him every time he wandered off into his head.

And yet, if you are concerned that you are doing the wrong thing as a parent, allow me to reassure you to a degree. I've come to the conclusion that in regard to my own personal configuration and nature, I had the worst parents possible. My mother was neurotic to the point of insanity (borderline, perhaps) and if my father was not a clinical sociopath - it was probably due to him being barely clever enough to avoid any significant attention.

So, aside from the obvious, the problem was that I could never rely on my parents to do the right thing, or even the predictable wrong thing. All I knew was that to bring an "instance" to their attention would raise it to the level of an outright "situation."

But nonetheless I managed to survive and find a niche. I am now fifty and content with my life - a fact that would probably baffle the hell out of an impartial neurotypical, for I have nothing of significance that most people would equate with proof of success. Me, I have all the proof I need.

I look at most of the things I'm supposed to want as "crap I have to dust." It's amazing how starkly different your values are if none of them involve impressing other people and expanding your social network. It's not surprising that many neurotypicals still see us as alien and therefore dangerous; there's absolutely nothing they think of as prime motivators that strike most aspies as being good things. Social dominance. Control of large, complex organizations. Having a full roladex. "Winning."

Todd LOVED t-ball until he discovered that winning meant someone else had to lose. Then he was done. He loved martial arts - as long as it wasn't a "sport." And he's one hell of a good fencer in particular and loves swordplay in general - but not at all interested in scored matches.

Like me, he's only interested in becoming better than he was last week. And like me, at some point, having had to come up for air, he will run head on into the fact that he's objectively as good as anyone else doing what he does - possibly better - and have no freaking idea what to do about it.

Fortunately, it appears that there's already a profession intended to deal with this matter.

We call them "agents." And pragmatically, that's the most significant accommodation needed for any aspie, whether they are literal agents, or simply family, spouses and partners that act in that way.

Pick any aspie of significance - like, say Einstein - and you will find that there was a person who is steering them toward the best applications of what they are, and steering others who need those talents toward them. I would not be horribly surprised to find that a large percentage of those persons have as rare a wetware configuration as our own.

But even left to our own devices, and having to cope with very nearly the worst possible combination of circumstances, I note that as we age, we tend to settle down and, as I said, find our niches. With help, we can probably find more impressive or lucrative niches - but I wonder to what extent that actually matters to us as aspies. It probably matters more to the people to whom we matter, frankly.

I think of myself as well-tested proof of concept.

My writing is distinctly aspie-style communication - something you may come to recognize as you go from place to place, reading what other aspies and auties have to say about themselves and their lives. I have little or no motivation to create other than the act of creation, whether it is writing or artwork. I love electronic media because it eliminates most of the out-of -pocket expense of being an artist or writer.

I've only lately really grasped that sometimes, in order for the effort to be meaningful, there has to be some objective proof of utility. Or, at least, that's my feeling. Lord knows, within the art world, I could point to exceptions. Nonetheless, those exceptions seem to get a lot of attention and attract commissions, so perhaps it's merely a different expression of my view.

Had I had different advantages - such as the upbringing Todd enjoys - I would very probably be ensconced in some comfortable tweed-lined academic niche. I'm not at all sure that I'd be more content than I am, and I'd only be as content as I am if I had people to cope with the things I could not cope with well or at all.

But certainly I would be of greater utility to more people and be making a broader, more lasting and I would hope positive impact on society.

On the other hand, with exactly the wrong set of circumstances - I could have been Karl Rove or Condi Rice. So all things being equal, I'll settle for the angels I have. I was on my way to achieving a niche of that sort when a parental idiocy sent me into a state of clinical depression that left me rather behind the curve.

But seeing as that diversion left me with an expertise and understandings I hope to ghu no more than a handful of other people can match, I am content - for I still have decades to apply it, goddess willing and the sky don't fall.

I think it's reasonable to state that whatever I think about the views parents in some factions of the autism awareness movement, generally parents wish their children to be as happy and as successful as they. And I'm here to say that no matter how badly you think you have screwed that up in your well-meaning way, that's probably still possible.

Whether you understand why they are as happy as they are, and think of themselves as successes when you don't is quite beside the point, really.

But of course it will be ever so much easier on everyone if you accept them for what they are. It could be worse, after all.

You could have a charismatic 89 IQ high-school linebacker with abnormally high testosterone levels and an addictive personality, doomed to a career in door to door appliance sales.

Frankly, I'd take Todd over even an average teenager. Some times Todd screws up, of course, like any other inexperienced human being. But the thing that relieves me is that he always errs on the safe side; he doen't take foolish risks and he does not seek out the company of people who do. I don't think I can think of an instance of him making the same mistake twice. I get to sleep at night, knowing for near certainty that there will be no emergency in his life that cannot wait for daylight - and it will almost certainly be deliberately caused by someone else.

Usually someone who thinks they "know better" and have a right to impose that vision upon us.

On such occasions, with such people. I find myself having no difficulty maintaining eye contact and smiling. None whatsoever. Oddly enough, they find it a lot less reassuring than all their theorizing says it ought to be.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

'Politically Correct' is not the opposite of 'Stupid Racist...'

But some days it's hard to explain why that's not exactly true.

In your heart, you know he's pissed! shirt

I found this link polluting my sidebar. "Political Correctness" caught my eye, and I have lots to say on that particular set of ideas. Unfortunately, this was the Usual Usage of Right-Thinking Sorts. That is to say, a whine that it's no longer "politically correct" to yell "nigger" in a crowded theater.
Friday, 21 December 2007 Why would someone look to someone else and ask if its OK to say what you want to say ? We are a free people. Nobody decides what is proper to say. The European socialist may control language ( can even over rule what you name your child ( Italy) ) but here we have a Constitution with the Bill of Rights that protects our freedom of speech, but we have no right not to be offended. One should not be afraid to offend someone with their speech because of what others will say, but only out of personal respect and consideration for that person. Not a group.
In America we are all individuals. All people are free and different. When someone allows someone else to speak for them they give-up their freedom and any chance of success as a person. No person can speak for others. What may offend one may compliment another. When someone says they speak for a race, a sex, or any other group , they are, in effect disrespecting those in that group as individuals and stripping them of their own personal power of opinion. When, those in that group start believing what is being represented about them their own initiative is devolved and they become slaves to the group leaders opinion. Their lack of personal power and self respect hinders them from obtaining, self respect , jobs , relationships and yes even respecting the law. Its only in the state of no self respect can one be offended.
When we find these “ Personal Power Thieves “ who claim to speak for others we should prosecute them for theft but, instead we glorify them as great leaders ( i.e. jessie jackson, ) and when we recognize them as such we commit a crime against those they claim to speak for.
I have some friends who describe themselves as Black, one who is Negro and yes some who are Colored, Dutchman, Hillbilly, Crout, White and African American but all are proud Americans only. When one considers if what he may say is politically correct, he to has fallen into someones controlled group and loses his individual respect.
Remember that only in socialism are there divisions and to " Divide and Conquer or Control ” is whats being attempted here as evident when questioning ones own speech.
And That's The National Word
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I posted a comment - and then realized that expecting the comment to stay - or even appear - was silly. Not when such a disagreeable post had nothing but dittos following it. So I decided instead to respond here.

My response to this post and to the majority of the commentators is "horseshit."

The term "political correctness" is being used here in the usual sense - by stupid people who think they are "rugged individuals" just like all other "Right-Thinking Americans." They are trying to use arguments crafted by their betters for the protection of significant speech intended to provoke debate between citizens to justify the right to offend others.

There is, indeed, no right to not be offended. But there are words for the act speaking in ways intended to offend large numbers of people with the potential of provoking violence and making debate pointless.

Stupidity. Verbal Assault. Hate Speech. And quite possibly - "Death by Misadventure."

These "rugged individualists" all seem to band together, with the same sets "Evil Others", like "Socialists" and "Liberals" and Mexicans. Such obvious unintentional irony seems to be the hallmark of the New Right - and would embarrass the HELL out of Saint Barry G.

They are crying out that people are attempting to suppress their literal right to yell "nigger" in a crowded theater. Well, yes, some people are.

When you wish to disturb the peace and have the clearly insane belief that you should get away get away with it, a little suppression is in order. It may be technically illegal - perhaps even "wrong" in some sense to leave you bleeding and whimpering in a corner as the consequence of your actions. It's perhaps even against the Darwinian ideal to prevent that from happening, as stupidity really ought to be it's own reward. Nonetheless, there are may reasons why we prefer the rule of law to Lex Talonis and disapprove of those who would try the patience of others with stupidities intended to provoke what they fondly believe will be futile, choked, impotent outrage. Sensible people do not wish to be anywhere near such a deserving recipient of Karma. Karma ain't all that precise.

Me, I actually DO support their putative "right" to yell "nigger" in a crowded theater in the depth of darkest Harlem, but I also support the long-neglected "fighting words doctrine."

That is to say, should you be fool enough to do that, the law should hold those so deliberately provoked harmless, and the consequence of such damnfoolishness should be listed as "death by natural causes," or possibly "aggravated pesticide," while any damages resulting should be assessed against your estate.

Real Rugged Individualists assume that other people are also individuals - Equally honorable, just as touchy and probably armed.

Therefore, they are courteous!

does not even imply agreement. It means that one refrains from stupidly and needlessly insulting ones whom one does disagree with. It means treating others with respect - and especially those with whom you disagree.

I deplore the concept of Political Correctness myself - but the author is deliberately confusing it with attempts to distinguish between disagreeable protected speech and Hate Speech. So I need not confuse matters by speaking about Political Correctness. This ain't that.

This is about the putative "right" to hold stupid, uninformed, racist opinions without consequence. This is an insistence on the right to form and maintain a lynch mob to attack and suppress all the ideas they don't want to hear, or which cause them to doubt the validity of their own pinheaded self-righteousness.

It's a position that should (and quite possibly does) embarrass people who sincerely believe in the superiority of the white race, and who really do try to support that view with evidence and argument they think persuasive.

I do not agree with the conclusion, or much respect the quality of the reasoning, but I do respect the willingness to play the game at long odds.

But these people - they don't have that degree of self-respect. And because of that, they do not understand that courtesy is not a concession to the "tender feelings" of others but rather evidence of one secure enough in their own selves and the validity of their own position that they need not be rude, discourteous or dismissive, even toward those those they despise. Hate speech is properly seen as verbal violence that can easily lead to literal violence.

Oh, people who confuse "your" and "you're" should really invest in a spelling and grammar check - especially when deriding institutions of higher learning.

It's little ironies like that that suggest to intelligent folks of all political hues that everyone holding these opinions are as dangerously stupid as their communications make them seem. Should it become common enough to seem stereotypical, - well, one of my favorite ironies of the ages is a grumpy quotation from WWII:

"This Hitler fellow has made it impossible for a gentleman to be an Anti-Semite."

Let me hit that nail again: If the general perception becomes that everyone holding a particular set of views holds them for reasons as evidently disreputable, superficial and for reasons that reasonable people will assume to be at least partially racist, whatever validity the positions may have becomes quite irrelevant.

At some point it just becomes too damn embarrassing to be seen holding the views you do in public, at least. So in one generation, or two at the most - the intellectual justifications for the core idea are gone. There are only those who think it's stupid - and those stupid enough to not understand how stupid they appear.

And - here's the kicker - opportunities to breed are allocated on just such perceptions.

When the contents of a post are highly congruent with an evident absence of factual understanding of the history and economic factors involved in various important cultural and economic issues, while being nearly word-for-word the views of known and famous liars, such as Limbaugh, Malkin and O'Rielly, it's likely a waste of effort to take you seriously enough to respectfully consider your opinions.

Courtesy is a requirement for civilized society. It requires a certain level of social skill, a certain minimal concept of polite language. It is advantaged by at least verbal literacy. If one wishes one's ideas to be heard and considered, the ability to speak without spitting is a minimal requirement.

I certainly have no reason to respect someone likely to mislabel me as a "kraut" AND misspell the slur. I certainly do not consider them to have the same right to an opinion as do I - and if it turns out that they are agreeing with me, using the same arguments as I might, I will do well to reassess my position.

By the way, I'm an Antiathoritarian Libertarian, and for damn sure an individualist; certified by the NRA as a marksman before I was able to drink legally.

To do that, you have to put a .22 round in a target the rough size of a human eyeball five times out of five at 25 feet, using a fifteen pound rifle and NO optics, prone, braced, kneeling and offhand.

Not only can I shoot a deer, I can skin it, butcher it and probably cook it better than most. And given a forge, tools and a stack of old rebar, I can make and edge tools good enough for those tasks.

I grew up near a small resource based town, on the land, and I bet I've shovelled more literal shit than most people have ever seen. I've driven a tractor, groomed horses and knocked domestic rabbits in the head so I could eat them. That last, by the age of five. I could field-strip most any rifle without looking at the directions - but I'm not that dumb.

In other words, this arrogant bastard is exactly the sort of redneck most suburban rednecks pretend to be.

I've never gone to Harvard - OR Yale. Or any university. I have two years of community college, and I learned how to learn and think for myself pretty much in spite of my education. I'm naturally very conservative of things worth respecting and conserving, such as the Constitution, momentum, credit and capital, cause and effect, the good opinion of others and every word of The Art of War.

I've read the Good Book from front to back - and formed my own opinions. Which are, by the by, nobody's business, but I know it well enough that I don't need someone else to tell me what it "Really" means.

But from the dull, turgid and depressingly conformist prose dropped by such twaddlepates, like so many individually indistinguishable rabbit droppings, these fake "real Americans" still think you need some form of "permission" to be an individualist - and that requires that you all nod in the same places when the same damn-fool things are said.

Right may be Right, but only if it's factually correct. And these days, if you are able to read and write on the Internet, there is no excuse for being factually challenged, no matter what your politics.

Please note that I have not said anything whatsoever to indicate what I might actually think on anything said above. I've only stated my opinion of the "reasoning" expressed. It would be particularly stupid to assume from that, or from the fact that I write in a particularly high-falutin' way that I'm some "liberal" or "socialist."

I AM an intellectual. So was Barry Goldwater. So was Henry the K. So was Nixon. And (as much as he tries to hide it) so is Bill Clinton. As is Ron Paul and his good buddy Dennis Kucinich.

None of them would agree on much, overall. And not one would be unwilling to back up their views with facts. Nor would any of them, to the best of my knowledge, WHINE about having to be accountable for their words - indeed, all of them are or were willing to be tried in the court of public opinion based on how well their ideas worked out.

Not so with the folks at The National Word, so deep in their dittohead groupthink that they are incapable of perceiving the irony in calling those who disagree "socialists," thinking that the definition of "socialism" is putting people into groups and making them think alike. It's an hilarious case of the National Socialist calling the Christian Democrat black.

Especially if his name is Sven.


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