Sunday, November 28, 2010 "McCain Compares Palin to Re[a]gan"


So apparently the extent of the comparison went like this:
He made the comparison Sunday when asked if Palin is "divisive."

"I think anybody that has the visibility that Sarah has is obviously going to have some divisiveness," McCain said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I remember that a guy named Ronald Reagan used to be viewed by some as divisive."

Incidentally, though, I think that the comparison between Palin and "a guy named Ronald Reagan" is pretty good. Neither are/were terribly bright, and neither have/had the qualities of a good president. Oh and, incidentally: Reagan was rather divisive...though not by the standards of contemporary Republican idols, I suppose.

The whole GOP seems to have lost it. The inane Reagan worship I try to ignore. But the delusional belief that Sarah Palin is a serious person is simply unforgivable.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nonsense About Belief and Action

This from one David Roberts, quoted approvingly by Sullivan.

Perhaps you didn't realize that "behavior causes changes in belief and not vice-versa"?

Yeah, see, you didn't know that because it isn't true.

This kind of psychobabbly nonsense is, apparently, irresistible to people. There are probably a few grains of truth in it here and there--people do seem sometimes to adopt beliefs about their beliefs as hypotheses to explain their actions. Nothing really wrong with that. But anyone who thinks that belief change never results in altered actions/behavior has never seen someone who has suddenly come to believe that there's a snake near their foot...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Korea and American Political Craziness

Like everybody else, I'm wondering WTF is going on in Korea.

I obviously don't know anything about Korea...but I'm going to make a prediction about something I do, unfortunately, have some knowledge of: I'm going to predict that the fever swamps are going to find some way to blame this on Obama/use it as evidence of his badness.

I hope I'm wrong, but there's my prediction.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Krugman: GOP Prefers Hurting the Dems to Helping the Country


I'm not a big Krugman fan, but I agree with him about this. Sadly, I've come to think that beating the Dems matters to the GOP more than helping the country does. In fact, I have--very reluctantly--come to believe the following crazy-sounding thing: the GOP is the biggest threat the U.S. currently faces.

Sure, al Qaeda is insane and evil...but they have little power. The GOP can, just by being obstinately partisan, send us into--just for example--a long-term economic tailspin.

And, of course, it's not just Obama that's set them off. They've gotten crazier in the last ten years, but the main idea is the same as it was during the Clinton administration: no Democratic President is a legitimate President. The rules are, apparently: Republican Presidents are beyond reproach no matter what they do; impeachment, however, ought to be the fate of every Democratic President. They relentlessly maneuvered Clinton into a corner, and then impeached him for the most moronic of reasons, and they've already made it clear that nothing would please them more than doing the same to Obama. And all this while the nation burns.

One of the reasons I support Obama is because I share his bipartisan inclinations. But that ship has sailed--or, rather, it was scuttled. The only way to save the nation now is probably to beat the GOP into submission...perhaps beating some sense into it while we're at it. It's not my first option, and I wish there were an alternative...but I don't see one.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Comment Woes

Something weird has been going on with my comments for quite awhile now. Some just don't publish, some publish twice, sometimes Blogger tells me I've got comments waiting in the queue when I've already published them, so I start ignoring the notices only to find out that some comments really have been waiting. Sorry. I'm poking around trying to fix the problem.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Derrida on 9/11:
Giving Bullshit a Bad Name

Leiter's right on the money here. I, too, find myself not agreeing with Habermas philosophically, but I respect the guy. He's a serious thinker. Derrida, on the other hand (to quote Leiter quoting Searle) writes the kind of stuff that gives bullshit a bad name.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NPR Nazis?
But Of Course!

Is NPR run by Nazis? The answer, apparently, is not just "yes"...but "of course"!

According to Roger Ailes, the Geobbels of our time, that is.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Obama On a Trajectory to Win the OD in 2012

Heh (pdf)

[via Kleiman]
The Shadow Scholar:
Professional Plagiarists and the Academy
A Big Fat Liar


This is not only worth reading, it should be mandatory.

The author is a crook and a liar...though, other than that, he seems like he might be a nice enough guy. Like so many crooks and liars, his crookedness and lying got a push early on from some his case, at the hands of academia.

Dude writes papers for students...or, that is: he makes a living by helping students plagiarize. Apparently education and nursing students are the worst. So maybe think about that next time you go to the hospital, or send your kids to school.
He tries to foist the blame professors for his lying, cheating bullshit. And, though there's no getting around the fact that he's the assh*le here...or, rather, one of the assh*les...he's clearly got a point--and a point I've long pushed around these parts.

University educations are largely a joke. Grade inflation has pumped grades so far up that it is the commonest thing in the world for students to get 'A's and 'B's without fact, I'm told, without going to class. In fact, I'm also told, without even buying the book. I know of professors who almost never give any grade lower than an 'A-'. When I was at William and Mary, they used to publish grade distributions every semester, broken down by department. I remember that, in one semester, the Women's Studies department (for example) gave three grades that were non-'A's (among about a hundred grades given). I have a perfectly sensible, non-draconian grade distribution in my classes--said distribution is the source of endless complains and whining by students, who are used to (and I am not making this up) classes in which over 50% of students routinely get 'A's. Let me remind you that these are students who also routinely neither read the assignments nor attend class.

Not every corner of every university is a joke. But there is extensive rot at the very core of the average American university. Students are paying lots of money to basically be assigned a bunch of busy-work and get their rubber-stamp 'A'...or, at worst, a 'B'. (Around these parts, only 17% of students in general education classes get 'C's. Almost none get 'D's or 'F's.)

As someone points on in comments to "The Shadow Scholar": professors aren't mind-readers. When someone as greedy, clever and dedicated as Mr. SS bends all his energies to fooling us, it will probably work. We've got--literally--about 99 other students to attend to that semester. I put only a modest amount of effort into catching cheaters, and I often come across as some kind of draconian control freak. It's tough to catch cheaters without turning all Gestapo...not to mention: catching up innocent students in your dragnet.

Still, the whole system, over four years, ought to be able to filter out students like those who patronize Mr. SS...find them out either for their incompetence or their dishonesty. And the fact that it can't should worry all of you folks, too; these are people who you are likely to, at some point, trust with something important. But they are too stupid, ignorant, intellectually dead and rotten, and morally corrupt to be entrusted with anything. And yet they graduate. Why? Lots of reasons, but here are some:

1. Many university professors are not very intelligent. At all.

2. Many university professors don't really know very much.

3. Many university departments/disciplines are light-weight, intellectually bankrupt enterprises in which there is neither any method for nor any desire to separate bullshit from non-bullshit.

4. Many students have no intellectual goals or interests whatsoever. They can barely be bothered to go through the motions. Consequently, the whole enterprise has become degraded, and the bar has been lowered. Students and administrators both have come to regard the purpose of a university education as vocational. College, therefore, has become nothing more than a series of boxes to be checked off, a way-station to a higher salary. If you genuinely try to do your job as a professor, you are likely to be regarded as a freak.

5. The incentive structure rewards professors who spend all their time publishing, who entertain their students and give them high grades.

College is, so far as I can tell, largely a joke. To the extent that it is not a joke, this is largely, apparently, because it requires a fair amount of busy-work. Require actual thought, reward actual excellence, make the experience genuinely challenging, and the most obvious reward for your efforts will be that your job becomes a lot, lot harder.

So, though we really shouldn't allow Mr. SS to deflect the blame he so richly deserves, he does make a good point: if universities weren't such bullshit, it'd be a lot harder for him to get away with it.
Wes Clark Tries to Destroy the World/
James Blunt Saves It

Or not.

But Blunt's version is all the rage today...

I'm inclined to believe Clark, who's orders seem perfectly sensible to me, who's story makes sense, and who's story's been consistent about what happened. Jackson comes off as a spaz.

And while I might believe that, say, Cee Lo or Tom Waits had saved the world...James
More On the Caddell/Schoen Nonsense

Here's Tom Scocca at Slate ending up with the same conclusions I did.

It's not the anti-Obamaism of the Caddell/Schoen piece that bothers me, it's the radical stupidity of it combined with its radical dishonesty.

This is the very best evidence of irrationality and intellectual dishonesty: taking something to be a reason for p when it suits you, and taking to to not be a reason for p when that suits you.

And this, of course, is the M.O. of the ODS crowd. Loss in the mid-terms? Not a reason for, say, Dubya not to run again...but, of course, a reason for Obama not to run. Politically divided country? You know the drill...

Consistency is a minimal condition on rationality. If you can't universalize your reasons, then you're being irrational. But nobody is stupid enough to think that the following is true:

Any president whose party loses the mid-terms should not run again

Similarly for:

Whenever a president faces a politically-divided country, he should elect not to run again.

(And here, of course, we are simply ignoring the fact that the main engines of division are currently on the right...)

I mean, listen: I am 100% willing to listen to reasoned criticism of Obama, the Dems, the country, humanity...anything. But do not bother me with this kind of asinine sophistry from lackwits like Caddell, who has, so far as I can tell, never in his life had two neurons to rub together.

Just freaking stop it, WaPo. You cannot honestly tell me that this is the best crap you could find to run.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I Solve The Deficit Problem

Sorry...this was supposed to just be saved, not published.

Here's a super-cool NYT deficit-solving doohikey. It really drives home the scope of the problem.

And here's my bumbling go at it.

Good on the Times for this. It really drives home how big the problem is...and, at least in my case, how little I know about what would be required to solve it.

Of course the new-found concern with the deficit by conservatives is the utterest bullshit, and it comes at the worst possible time. Once again, the right has basically managed to make a bad situation worse by putting party before country. Good work team. But deficit-reduction--even with bad motives and bad timing--is otherwise a worthy goal. So, when we're locked in a political battle with crazy people, I guess that's the best we can hope for.
The Obama Rorschach Test
Ben Shapiro Edition

They just keep getting crazier and crazier.

Here's a link to a screed by that famously abstinent elf Ben Shapiro--it's at, y'know, you may not really want to click on that...

Although it turns out that Obama loves radicals--radical Muslims, "radical homosexuals," and so forth--the real point here is the the Obama-is-a-narcissist bit.

There is, as you may have ascertained, absolutely no evidence that Obama is a narcissist. So how did this meme get started? Hard to say, but we can hypothesize. First, he's obviously a lot smarter than his critics; they can't accuse him of being dumb, so their only obvious recourse is to admit his intelligence, but then assert that he's arrogant about it--and it's a short hop from there to narcissism. Second, narcissism and arrogance are easy charges to level; you can fling them at anyone, and they're hard to defend against. Third, Obama's critics are obsessed with him, and they're champions of projection...etc. Fourth, one has to suspect the (to use John Cole's phrase) "uppity negro" phenomenon; that is, the irritation his critics feel at Obama's intelligence is exacerbated by...well, you see where this is going. I tend to reject most racial interpretations of Obama-hatred, since he's really getting pretty much the same treatment that Clinton got. But I do suspect that there's a racial component to the narcissism charge.

In the end, the sort of wild, groundless flailing about that we see in the Shapiro piece is pretty much par for the course among the BDS crowd, and it tells us way more about them than it does about him. When you've got a smart, honest, competent, reasonable guy, and radical, whacko reactions to him, the powerful motives behind the extreme reactions are to be looked for in those who are reacting, not in the object to which they react. Obama acts as an inkblot for these people, and their wild interpretations of him give us a window into minds that we might delicately describe as...unusual...

[via BalloonJuice]
Stupidest Op-Ed Of All Time?
Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen: Obama Shouldn't Run in 2012

This may now be the stupidest op-ed ever written.

I'm rather tired of defending Obama, in part simply because it's getting old, but in part because I have genuine disagreements with the guy. But it seems like every day I run across criticisms of him that are so butt-ass stupid that I simply can't believe my eyes.

In this case, we get Pat Caddell--the anti-Democrat who cable news stations use as the Democrat in their little extreme-conservative-vs.-really-extreme-conservative debates--and Schoen (a Hilarista from 2008) arguing that, hey, the only way for Obama to be a good president is for him to not run again!

You know what I can't wait for? Arguments that the next Democratic presidential candidate can only be a good president by never becoming president at all. Or maybe, so we don't have to go through this every time: the only way for any Democrat to be a good president is to let the Republicans win.

Remember when people like these guys were saying similar things about George W. Bush?

Yeah, me neither.

These fruitcake analyses are beginning to get so convoluted and surreal that I'm genuinely starting to worry that the chattering class may be coming off its hinges. I mean, they're generally not the sharpest tools in the shed as it is...but they seem to be taking their nonsense to a new level.

Here's the thing. Obama is a good President; potentially the best, or one of the best, of my lifetime...a lifetime in which, admittedly, his only real competition is Bill Clinton. Obama--and here I know I sound like a broken record--inherited a disaster that was mostly a consequence of Republican policies, including the almost unimaginable disaster of the entirely irrational and unjustified Iraq war, the quagmire of Afghanistan that was exacerbated by Iraq, and the worst economy since the Great Depression. His only real crime is that he has failed to fix it about a year and a half. Here's a goddamn news flash: nobody could have fixed this mess in a year and a half. Here's another news flash: the GOP has tried to thwart almost every effort to fix the mess that they created. Oh, and: they've made it clear that their first priority is political--to wit, destroying Barack Obama. Ah, but it is, according to the brain trust of Caddell and Schoen, Obama who is being divisive. Their evidence? That ridiculous "enemies" comment. One comment against a massive and open push by the GOP to politicize everything and undermine the President at all costs. I suppose they think that the Allies were being belligerent in WWII...

Now, here's Caddell and Schoen's solution: give in to the GOP. Don't fight them. Let them know that, no matter how terribly they f*ck things up, no matter how deplorable their motives, not matter how dirty their tricks, the Dems will simply whimper and show their throats.

In a world filled with stupid sh*t, this is, far and away, the stupidest thing I have read in a long time. In fact, it goes beyond seems to open up whole new vistas of irrationality in which we respond to problems by doing exactly the opposite of the smart and reasonable thing... If Caddell and Schoen were not such third-rate hacks, I might think that this was some complicated bit of irony.

There are all sorts of intelligent ways to disagree with Obama, all sorts of serious issues that we could be discussing. I'm not sure why a piece of utter nonsense like this is pushed forward in the national debate. If such things got grades--not for being right or wrong, but simply for being reasonable or unreasonable--it's hard to see this piece of crap even managing to swing a gentleman's 'C.'

It's amazing to me that crap like this can get published, let alone in the (admittedly past-its-prime) Washington Post. But, I suppose if a paper is willing to publish George F. Will and Krauthammer, I shouldn't be surprised.
It's probably my fault for allowing myself to read op-ed pages at all these days...much less in the increasingly embarrassing Post. So, in a way, I guess I have no one to blame but myself. I'll certainly be less inclined to make this mistake in the future.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What's With the Crazy, Impressionistic Psychologizing About Obama?

Seriously. This is among the stupidest crap I've heard in American politics...and that's saying quite a bit. He's arrogant...he's cold...he's "too cool"...he needs to show that he cares about unemployment...people "want to see him sweat"...Jesus christ, are we a country of emotionally unstable three-year-olds? This all sounds like a combination of (a) right-wing temper-tantrums, in which they notoriously say anything bad about someone they can think of, no matter how implausible and unrelated to actual fact, and (b) journalists just making shit up.

I know a fair number of smart and cool people--though few or none as smart and cool as Obama--and he acts basically like they act. Right now, he's acting like a smart, sane person with the hardest job in the damn world. There is precisely no evidence to think that he doesn't care about the nation's predicament. I suppose the idea is that, if his every apparent emotional nuance is not perfectly fine-tuned to suit every person in the country, then he needs to do something different. Caper and emote and, perhaps, smile vacuously and tell us that it's morning in America...

Jesus. I really do think that this is all a product of the aggressively stupid faction of the press corps. How about you guys can the over-wrought two-bit psychologizing and do your damn job?

How about that?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Welcome To The Police State
TSA/Meg McLain Edition

I think I've been pretty patient and cooperative with "security theater" at airports...but this shit is on the verge of getting out of hand.


Sounds like part of this is an instance of a general problem with cops that I've long noticed. Somebody needs to tell a large percentage of them that, while they may in some circumstances have the authority to arrest you, they don't have the authority to yell and be disrespectful. I don't have a settled opinion on what our response to these ever-more-intrusive searches ought to be, but I have no doubt that the asshats in this case need to be fired and perhaps prosecuted. They have the authority to prevent her from getting on the plane; all this other fascist nonsense is right out.

[Update: The TSA responds with video footage.]
Update: Obama Has Not (Yet) Surrendered on Tax Cuts For the Rich

Good thing I never believe anything I read at the Huffington Post...not, er, that I ever read anything there...

Here, at the Washington Post, still an actual news source.

And look: other things being equal, lower taxes are better than higher ones. I'm not a fan of big government. However, other things aren't equal. The rich have a preposterously low tax burden, and they can at least pay their freaking share until we get this chickenshit outfit back between the ditches. It's not as if the current tax structure is sane--I'm not sure why the ca. 200k people are not forcing the parties to make institute new tax brackets for the super-rich. There's no sense in putting people making $200 million/year in the same bracket as those making $200k/yr. And if the $200k folks ever decide to man up and push for higher brackets up top, I'll support them. But this is our only real option at this point.

[via Reddit]
Obama to Give in on Tax Cuts for the Rich?

Well, if the Huffington Post counts as a news source, then maybe.

I realize that the GOP has gone insane, and that this limits the options of the grown-up/sane party...but isn't it time to at least try to stand up to these people?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Scorched-Truth Campaign Against Obama:
Sullivan on the Lies about Obama and American Exceptionalism

Andrew Sullivan absolutely nails it here.

American conservatives are currently devoted, first and foremost, to destroying Obama, and they are deploying a battery of lies and sophistries to do so. Sullivan gives the right the Daily Show treatment--that is, he goes through and collects a bunch of them all spouting the same lie and strings them together to drive the point home in an un-dodge-able way. After you see ten or so such quotes strung together, there is simply no denying the point. In this particular case, the lies are about something Obama said last year about American exceptionalism. It all began with a stupid question by notorious dumbass Jonah Goldberg, who asked Obama--in front of a foreign audience--whether he believes in American exceptionalism. Now, Goldberg--or "the Doughy Pantload" as he's known--intentionally put the President in a virtually unwinnable situation by asking this question in front of a foreign audience. The question is complicated anyway, since 'American exceptionalism' doesn't really mean one thing. It can be a lunatic view about God singling out America as his favored country...or it can mean something sane about thinking that we've held something of an unusual position in the history of the world. And, of course, it's going to be very hard to give an answer that will be well-received both at home and abroad. But Obama managed to do it, by simply articulating the very same view of America that people like me hold: though recognizing that every country probably thinks that it's special, we've got a fair bit of objective evidence that the U.S. really has been a rather special case.

So what does the right do with his response? They edit it down to the form that will play worst on the right, then (though there is, objectively speaking, not a damn thing wrong even with that edited bit) they spin it madly to fit their political prejudice to the effect that Obama doesn't think very highly of America.

These people are liars, plain and simple, and they very clearly put party over country and rhetoric over truth.

The right has gone mad. We have incontrovertible evidence of that. Sullivan here just does a particularly good job of making that clear.

Good for you, Sully. Keep up the damn fine work.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Is Obama Too Reasonable To Be President?

Quite possibly...

Sunday, November 07, 2010

How Science Saved My Soul

I really liked this.

I mean, it leaves out all the bad stuff...the narrow-minded materialist dogmas of science that encourage it to view humans as mere animals...or mere machines, for example. And the tendency to adhere to simple-minded, covertly nihilistic theories of value. And the tendency to be the handmaiden of militarism...

But science rules in many ways, of course...and this video will thrill your inner positivist...
"Edupunk" and The End of the University


Subtitle: "Can the Innovative DIY Education Movement Really Replace the Dying University Model?"


(a) Probably not
(b) the university model is not dying.

The university model is not a very good one...but it's not dying that I can see, despite many assurances that its demise is imminent. It seems that there's got to be a better way...but nobody knows what it is yet. ('s spirit is dying...but who cares about that?)

My own guesses about what's ailing the university include, roughly in order of severity:

1. Most students don't care about learning
Not one bit. They care about making money later on. They care about getting laid (but who doesn't?). But they do not care at all about learning. They do not live the life of the mind and do not care to. In fact, they will have very little contact with it by the time they graduate, and will go on about their lives as ignorant about it after graduation as they were before.

2. Many teachers don't care about teaching
They care about research/scholarship. They care about climbing the professional/academic ladder. But they don't care much about teaching. They've learned, among other things, that if they give undemanding lectures and high grades, then they don't have to spend much energy preparing nor grading. Anyway, hard to grade them when the incentive structure is set up in a way that does not reward rigorous teaching.

3. Many majors are bullshit
From well-established bullshit majors like marketing, through the sophistical deserts of "speech communication" to the superabundance of new boutique majors--"x studies" for any value of x you can think of--a huge vast percentage of majors are just plain bullshit. You may very well come out of some of them dumber than you went in.

4. The resortification of the university
Universities have become vacation resorts. Gone are the dingy classrooms, the musty libraries, the tattered gyms. At my own institution, the only thing we do seem to have money for is shiny bells and whistles. The gym is palatial, and getting bigger; the classrooms almost all have every high-tech gizmo you could ever ask for; the campus is landscaped to within an inch of its life. We haven't gotten a raise in four years, and we barely got any before that...but students can get massages and haircuts, and everything is bright and new.

5. Administrative and quasi-administrative bloat
We've got enough deanlings, deanlets, sub-deanlets, coordinators and suchlike to man an entire small college--well, if such people knew anything, that is. I have it on first-hand testimony that, in some positions, the biggest challenge is finding something to do. (One popular choice: institute some new program that will generate more work for the faculty...)

6. Professors tend to teach what's easy to teach, not what students need to know
Listing facts, for example, is easy. So is allowing students to share their feelings. Teaching them to reason is hard. After awhile, you start to feel the allure of doing what you can do instead of what you're needed to do.

Anyway. Universities are not great. It's not clear how you can be great when most of your students don't give a rat's ass about learning...but you'd think we could suck less than we do. I don't expect anything to replace us soon, but I do expect something to replace us sometime--though it'll probably be a better version of us. My guess is that about half of what we do should be done online. You don't, for example, need a Ph.D. in philosophy to explain basic logic to you. Much of your learning could easily be done at the computer. Then you could come in to campus later on for some actual, small-group or individual time with professors who no longer have to waste their time teaching stuff that a monkey (or a computer) could teach. That's my current stab at it, anyway.

Anyway, check out this link to Critical Mass, which briefly discusses some of the major problems facing the university, including some of the above.
Moral Relativism and Multiculturalism: Confusion on the Left

There is nothing here that is new from a theoretical perspective...though every such human story seems uniquely tragic.

Somehow many liberals fell in love with multiculturalism and moral relativism, even though the former has only a loose relationship with liberalism, and the latter is anathema to it. I tend to think that a weak version of multiculturalism is a good idea; that is, American culture shouldn't press too hard for elements of immigrant cultures to dissolve themselves in the "melting pot"--even though that metaphor acknowledges that the new elements will affect the cultural whole. Rather, it's worth experimenting with the idea that elements of other cultures can fruitfully and happily exist as pockets of difference in a larger American culture. However, an extreme commitment to an untested multicultural ideal is probably imprudent--especially when the ideal approaches a kind of cultural moral relativism, according to which the mere fact that x is traditional in culture C is allegedly enough to make adherence to x obligatory for members of C. Even versions of multiculturalism that fall short of that one ought to be treated as experimental rather than embraced as gospel; but that's rather a different story for a different time.

What liberals who are attracted to such ideas fail to recognize could not be more obvious: that oppression and injustice are oppression and injustice, and they are in no way mitigated simply because one's own culture (or family, or community, or tribe) inflicts them. If that has any effect at all, it is to make them worse, not better. It makes no sense whatsoever to deny that Smith is oppressed simply because it is his own culture who is oppressing him--to deny this would be to deny the justice of (to take only one particularly salient example of millions) the cause of Martin Luther King. King was right to criticize the way blacks were treated in the American culture of the time. He would have been right to do so even if the majority of blacks did not agree with him, even if the majority of Americans had never come to do so, and even if he had not been an American himself. America was wrong, and there is nothing wrong with pointing that out. In fact, it may be obligatory.

The same, however, holds for any culture that is oppressive or unjust, and for any rational criticism of such cultures. Although the type of liberal in question often acknowledges the points at the end of the last paragraph, they fail to universalize them--they recognize that non-Americans are rationally permitted to criticize America, but somehow think that the reverse does not hold. Of course we've got a history of irrational criticism of and disastrous interventions into other cultures--and there is some wisdom in being wary of repeating the mistakes of the past. But that is reason for being careful when criticizing other cultures, not reason to never do so.

And here's a little hint: if you think that female genital mutilation is just dandy so long as its done by non-Westerners, you've become so open-minded that your brains have fallen out. It's horrendous, and it doesn't become one iota less horrendous simply because the mutilated girl lives on the other side of the creek rather than on this side. It does not magically become painless; it does not magically cease to be a maiming; it does not magically become a wonderful thing simply because it happens over there rather than over here. By such magic, domestic abuse in my neighbor's house would become just fine, the Holocaust would have been none of our affair, and the imminent murder of an innocent would be of no concern to me--or perhaps I should even approve of it--so long as the principals are different than me. Yet some liberals who have no trouble criticizing our local versions of fundamentalism somehow have no trouble tolerating the very much greater varieties of insanity associated with fundamentalisms from afar. But moral relativism is no friend of liberalism; liberalism is the view, roughly, that individuals have a familiar set of inviolable rights, and that there is a large private sphere into which others may not obtrude. Illiberal violations of one's rights do not become morally permissible simply because lots of people gang up and do the violating...nor because such violations have gone on for a long time...nor because they have become institutionalized. If anything, all that only makes them worse.

This is one of the (fewish, IMHO) ways in which the American right has currently gotten things more right than the American left, and the left would (as Jacoby notes) do well to get their house in order on this point. Of course the right's characteristic failure in this vicinity is to condemn every unfamiliar thing willy-nilly--and that error really does seem to be rampant on the right. This failure of the left emanates largely from the academic intellectual left, and its force could probably be minimized pretty easily just by getting liberals to think about these issues a little bit. Even a little careful thinking about relativism and its ilk tends to reveal their radical implausibility. This is an issue I can easily envision liberal conventional wisdom wising up about in the relatively near future. It's a little bit of irrationality that could fairly easily be shed.

Friday, November 05, 2010

"How Science Saved My Soul"

I have many objections to this...but it's also BOSS AWESOME.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Will It Really Be Possible To Listen to John Boehner For At Least The Next Two Years?

I don't see how.
Teatard Tactics: Mass Downvoting of Liberal Books

Wow. These folks are despicable. And liars, as this fellow openly admits, downvoting liberal books without reading them, and upvoting teatard-friendly books.

It seems that there's just not much sense in spending a lot of time ridiculing the ridiculous...but jebus, so many slow-moving-targets...

[via Reddit]