Monday, January 04, 2010

I'm Canadian; I Have No Time For This Bullshit

Ole Ole Olson, writing at News Junkie Post concludes (with graphs!) that what folks like me have been saying all along is true; that the bullshit to the right of us is so deep that you need a diving suit and a support vessel to find any useful nugget of truth. And to the left - well, it's still a challenge, but you don't need life-support.

Now, I'm probably too stubborn for my own good, still shouting out from time to time that I am, indeed a Conservative. An anti-authoritarian, to be sure. A minarchist to a degree. Occasionally I add that I'm a "Progressive Conservative," just to add a Canadian tinge of irony to my quixotic insistence on upholding the values of Burke, moderated by a good span of practice that has given us many ideas that seem well worth preserving. On occasion, this has been in the face of our dearest instincts and assumptions about economics and human nature.

But to a genuine Conservative, facts are facts and the truth is the truth. When something works, it works, and if it works despite your philosophy, it's your philosophy that must adapt.

Pro vs. Con. Are Both to Blame?
These blatant examples of conservative truthiness and propaganda will of course be dismissed by my critics on the right as nothing more than a biased partisan analysis in and of itself. They will try to claim that both sides do it, that it is only politics. Unfortunately, much of the public will again believe this, despite what the truth is. So let’s examine that premise. Does equal fault lie in the pro vs con debate?
When comparing the progressive and conservative sides of the political spectrum, we find that there is not a parallel. This is not just politics. Although there are certainly too many instances of distortions coming from the left, it appears to be the exception to the rule instead of the rule itself. According to an analysis of the date provided by Politifact, the non-partisan fact checking organization devoted to evaluate the truth behind the claims of politicians and important spokesman for the parties and political ideologies, there is a clear differentiation here.
Politifact Truthometer pro vs con
As you can see, 40% of the claims made by conservative spokesman are lies, nearly double the rate of progressives. Only 30% of their claims are mostly true, compared to 50% progressives. Of course, these numbers may be tilted slightly by the disproportional numbers of compulsive liars in the conservative movement like Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, and John Boehner, but a clear pattern is still present.
Predictably, whenever any person or organization speaks out against right wing truthiness, they are usually subject to a character assassination campaign or at least verbally attacked. Despite their non-partisan nature, Politifact has not been immune from this assault. Besides Politifact, there have been attacks on (even though they are owned by the conservative Annenberg Foundation), fivethirtyeight, NPR, Snopes, and even the CBO (nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office). Conservatives even started their own Wikipedia competitor to counter this imaginary liberal bias called Conservapedia, which contains such gems as:
“An apparent Muslim, Obama could use the Koran when he is sworn into office.”
“Liberals support the legalisation of marijuana and other drugs, which are major causes of psychiatric illnesses”
“studies have long indicated that homosexuals have a substantially greater risk of suffering from psychiatric problems”
“…pairs of each dinosaur kind were taken onto Noah’s Ark during the Great Flood and were preserved from drowning”
“All the prevailing, atheistic theories of the origin of the Moon were completely disproved by the lunar landings and studies of the lunar rocks afterwards.”
This seems to be a pattern among conservative websites in general, as well as with media outlets such as talk radio and Fox News, the latter having organization such as Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and Media Matters (MMFA) focused exclusively on debunking the truthiness.
The reasons for the contrast between progressives and conservatives are still unclear. There have been a couple interesting psychological reports released in the last couple years, one which demonstrates that conservatives are more prone to bow to strong authority figures. Another indicates that:
a specific region of the brain’s cortex is more sensitive in people who consider themselves liberals than in self-declared conservatives. The brain region in question helps people shift gears when their usual response would be inappropriate, supporting the notion that liberals are more flexible in their thinking.”
Of course, as the case with non-partisan or bipartisan organizations who speak out negatively about them, conservatives are sure to dismiss or attack the results of these findings. This might explain why only 6% of all the scientists in the US are Republican (usually the party of conservatives in America). From the crowd estimates at Becks 912 rally to health care reform, from science to the birther movement, conservatives tend to believe that a ‘truth’ is known intuitively. It is something “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.
Now, let's read that last paragraph again. We have left the realm of politics. There is no "left or right" here. There is no possible way to intelligently discuss the merits of a free market solution to Health Care Reform, as opposed to, say, a Social-Welfare or a Mixed-Economic approach with people who lie and gibber. Indeed, we cannot even seem to have a sensible discussion as to what a good outcome would look like, when the most influential Conservatives seem incapable of comparing their delusional assumptions to actual, real, publicly available numbers.

Support for the food stamp program reached a nadir in the mid-1990s when critics, likening the benefit to cash welfare, won significant restrictions and sought even more. But after use plunged for several years, President Bill Clinton began promoting the program, in part as a way to help the working poor. President George W. Bush expanded that effort, a strategy Mr. Obama has embraced.

The revival was crowned last year with an upbeat change of name. What most people still call food stamps is technically the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
By the time the recession began, in December 2007, “the whole message around this program had changed,” said Stacy Dean of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington group that has supported food stamp expansions. “The general pitch was, ‘This program is here to help you.’ ”

Now nearly 12 percent of Americans receive aid — 28 percent of blacks, 15 percent of Latinos and 8 percent of whites. Benefits average about $130 a month for each person in the household, but vary with shelter and child care costs.

In the promotion of the program, critics see a sleight of hand.

“Some people like to camouflage this by calling it a nutrition program, but it’s really not different from cash welfare,” said Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, whose views have a following among conservatives on Capitol Hill. “Food stamps is quasi money.”

Arguing that aid discourages work and marriage, Mr. Rector said food stamps should contain work requirements as strict as those placed on cash assistance. “The food stamp program is a fossil that repeats all the errors of the war on poverty,” he said.

Now, to call the restrictions on US welfare "mean spirited" would be a conservative understatement indeed. But aside from that, any time you have 12 percent of your population in need of extra food, it's not due to a sudden epidemic of laziness. It's because there's insufficient work. That is rather obviously true from other indicators.

And yet, Mr. Rector is one of many delusional sorts that are of the opinion that if you or your children become hungry enough, somehow a Job will Appear from On High - despite, of course, the obdurate opposition of folks who fund the Heritage Foundation to actually doing anything that might actually create those jobs.

The idea that if a person is Virtuous, a Job will Appear, and if they are Not Virtuous, they deserve nothing at all (and they are proven Not Virtuous by the fact that they are jobless and starving) is a peculiar and vicious artifact of the Calvinist poison that has infected our body politic. Recall, it IS an article of faith. It has no foundation in fact at all.

Oh, and of course, let us not forget that in the hindbrains of these xenophobic approximations of humanity, the term "poor" and "black" is interchangeable. Indeed, the very idea that a black man could be successful, deserving of any outcome other than a life of miserable toil and obscurity is an affront to them.

When exceptions happen - well, see for yourself:

Via the BBC: The US Secret Service says it is investigating after an effigy of Barack Obama was found hanging in the home town of former President Jimmy Carter.

 TV footage showed the doll hanging by a noose in front of a red, white and blue sign that reads "Plains, Georgia. Home of Jimmy Carter, our 39th President".

Witnesses said the effigy had President Obama's name on it.
Plains Mayor LE Godwin III said the fire department had been called to take it down.
In Washington, US Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan confirmed that the agency was investigating the case.

Footage on local television station, WALB, showed a large black doll hanging over the sign, which is located above a shop on the main street in the rural town.

Residents who saw it thought the effigy must have put in place during the night, WALB reports.
One Plains resident said the Secret Service had already interviewed local people.

"We wish it hadn't happened. It's not the kind of publicity the town of Plains likes," Jan Williams, who runs a hotel, was quoted as saying by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

She described Plains, which has a population of fewer than 700 people, as a "nice, quiet town".

...clearly, some remarkable exceptions to "nice" exist.

But, back to the dangerously "liberal" presumption that feeding hungry people is an inherent good.

It takes a remarkable lack of common sense and compassion to think that the average person would abandon all hope and ambition in exchange for a hundred thirty bucks worth of groceries. Aside from being delusional, it is vile. And facing attitudes such as that, it's really no wonder at all to me that a significant fraction of the American people prefer the risk of jail to the prospect of starvation. But then, all black/poor people are criminals, aren't they? Might as well just get ahead of the curve!

Would I grow pot, smuggle meth, steal cars or participate in a gang, if the alternative to starving alone in an alleyway in a cardboard box? If course. So would you. And hell, we are speaking of the foundations of civilization. People "ganged together" to ensure their mutual survival. If you exclude people from belonging to the "Ahumurikin" gang - because "poor people" don't deserve to belong - they won't just starve politely. They will band together to mess you up, take your stuff and, ultimately, do unto y'all what the Vandals and Visigoths did to Rome. And you will deserve it.

If you want to keep people from taking "illegitimate" jobs, you have a damn obvious responsibility to make sure that legitimate ones are plentiful.  Domestically. Indonesia and China can take care of their OWN damn poor people.

I do hope (and rather expect) that some fraction of the karma these people have earned by mindlessly forestalling sane public policy and any humane approach to poverty, health care, the economy and a thriving, job-creating middle class will come directly home to roost in a way where the casual relationship is personally, directly and unavoidably instructive.

Let's start with the obvious sociopaths.

When such people are underfoot,  it makes developing a sane or sensible public policy position about anything impossible. So the first step is to stop wasting any time upon them. They are some combination of evil and stupid, and it's up to them to figure out how to behave in public among civilized people. We certainly need not treat their spew as if it made sense.

Take John Shelby Spong on that point. In his manifesto, he was quite blunt about where he sees his duties, and they don't include any necessity to entertain the missaprention of vicious, mean-spirited fools.
The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture’s various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the “Flat Earth Society” either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church’s participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.

Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: “New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth.” I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.
He's speaking toward the fight over the exclusion of homosexuals from the body of the Church, but to me it's all of a piece.

It's the same people, with the same little minds and the same fear-ridden dispositions who demand that middle-eastern males be strip-searched, that howl that the application of the Constitution and the Rule of law will result in the inevitable fall of Civilization, who insist that the genome be purged of such inferior stock as myself, for fear of... what? They don't know. But in every single case, they use "toleration" and "compassion" as if they were words even worse than "motherfucker" or even "liberal" while claiming a religious right to impose their will on those of us who think being kind to one another IS a fundamental "Principle."

"Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you." I believe that IS how it goes?

And in point of fact, in my experience, after fifty odd years of life, I've learned that that approach to life works very well indeed, particularly when coupled to a strong acquired allergy to lies and self-delusion. "As you have sown, so shall ye reap," so I'm careful about what seed I buy, from whom, and I'm very attached to facts. I've learned that operating on a basis of wishful thinking can have embarrassing, if not starkly dangerous outcomes. So I've come to love facts - whether I particularly LIKE the facts in hand or not.

Now, let's get back to my Canadian Progressive Conservatism. I'm a typical Canadian in many respects. I am attached to the middle of the road. I do not hark back to a glorious past - because I'm conversant with history, which includes many more lice and bedbugs and far fewer unalloyed glories than the magical thinkers would suggest. I value a stately progress of Civilization. I adore such things as railroads, the Enlightenment and indoor plumbing. I particularly revere the remarkably successful collision of fate that is Canada, a chimerical construct that is neither Conservative nor Liberal, but spots of each and each most treasured where those sorts of ideas and the minds that hold them do the most good.

We have very LIBERAL welfare and medical care. We have extraordinarily CONSERVATIVE banking laws. And the reason we have both - and will continue to have both - is in great part due to the horrible examples provided by our neighbors, who have achieved the exact opposite.

That is not because we are free of such fools. We just don't allow them to speak with the expectation that their ideas are "just as good as anybody's." If they have ideas "just as good" they could prove it. Indeed, our current government is arguably Conservative, though it's starting to try my patience. 

Honest causes and honorable persons need neither lies nor bullshit - nor do they tolerate them on either side of the issue. That is part of the secret to maintaining a civil society - tolerance up to the point incivility makes civility an unsustainable prospect.

So don't listen to known and famous liars. It's a waste of time you could spend far better in almost any imaginable way.

Our society, our nation - in concert with many other civilized nations that value jusctice, human rights and compassion as being fundamental and unquestionable positive values - thrives. Canada IS her people, and her people are Canada. All of them. Even those such as I.

We are neither bankrupt nor are we enslaved. Indeed, the average Canadian enjoys a greater degree of practical freedom and an arguably better standard of living than the average American - and we certainly enjoy a far higher assurance of personal security and safety, at a far lower price in blood and treasure. That is due in part to the fact that those of us who do deal directly with issues of national security are expected to live in full contact with reality. Ordinary citizens may enjoy the luxury of wishful and uncritical thinking. People who's job it is to govern and defend our nation may not permit themselves more "preferential reality" than what is humanly unavoidable.

Perhaps due to that conservative preference for fact over fancy, we are rather more reluctant to blow people up more or less at random as one of our "principles" of foreign policy. This is - I assure you - quite unrelated to the concept of "liberal squeamishness." It's a very conservative reluctance to add a very large number of unaccountable random factors to a situation. This is the entire REASON for "due process."

Aside from that, we believe that even dangerous people with whom we disagree with on many levels nonetheless have both inherent human rights and some - albeit self-limited - inherent value to society, and that any limitation is best addressed with deliberation, and certainly with every consideration toward the feelings and concerns of those, who, due to family or other ties, may feel affection or obligation toward them.

Or to misquote the Mythbusters. "We are professionals. But you really might want to try this at home."


Deb said...

Well put. I was born in England (on an AF base) and lately I've been wondering if I could use that to leave the US.

We are no longer the land of the free or the home of the brave. We have become the land of the stupid and fearful and I don't know how much more I can take.

Bob King said...

It's certainly worth investigating. And there is biblical precedent (should that matter at all to you.)

The bible tells us that if you go to a city, and they refuse to hear the word, you should "shake the dust from your feet" when you leave.

It's sort of a ritualistic expression of "all-RIGHTY then, let us know how that works out for you."


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