Monday, October 29, 2012

A voice of frustrated liberalism

I think Stoller has it right about Obama not really being a very liberal guy, and in a lot of ways he is just a nicer 1 percenter than Romney.

There is no Zealot like a convert, they say, and no elitist like a climber; and that boy Obama is certainly a climber, and has been all his life.

But I think the idea that electing Mitt is a reasonable way to punish Obama is nuts.

As Obama has noted a propos this very matter, he and Michelle and the girls will be just fine, to put it mildly, no matter how this plays out.

What matters is what happens to the 99%.

And, sure, it won’t be pretty in either case.

But it will be worse, quicker, with Romney in the White House.

On the other hand, Stoller’s notion that an individual vote doesn't matter in solid states but does matter in swing states is an obfuscation.

Yes, he was thinking specifically of the votes of angry liberals, but that doesn't matter.

It's an obfuscation, either way.

The truth is that the vote could be close enough in a swing state for it to be true on the morning after that, had a thousand angry liberals stayed with Obama rather than going for minor party candidates, the state would have gone to Obama though in fact it went to Romney.

Or for it to be true on the morning after that, had a thousand angry liberals defected to minor party candidates Obama would have lost to Romney rather than beating him.

How can one not think of Florida in 2000?

In a swing state, in a tight race, it could happen that a relatively small number of votes together make the difference not only for how the electoral votes of the state are cast but for who wins the entire election.

So small that it could be made up of angry, disaffected liberals who defected to minor party candidates giving the state to Romney or of angry, disaffected liberals who stayed with Obama and gave him his victory.

But your vote?

Your one individual vote?


Don’t ever premise your decision on the idea that your vote makes a significant difference.

That never happens, in any state.

Not only has no race been decided by one vote but a difference of one vote is well within the margin of error, anyway.

You are less than a number.

You are an accounting glitch.

You will never, on the morning after, face the amazing realization that, had you only done otherwise – voted, not voted, or voted differently, whatever – a different politician would be in the White House, the US Senate, the House, the governor’s mansion, the state senate, the state house of representatives, the county commission, the mayor’s office, the city council, the school board, or whatever.

It’s just not going to happen.

So when you think about what to do on Election Day put far from your mind the delusion that your vote will make a difference.

The rest of Stoller’s argument is just the sort of drivel you would expect from a political movement that insists, constantly and proudly, that it is uniquely "reality-based."

Not even worth a refutation.

But I will say this.

Stoller's argument rests entirely on the idea that the Democratic candidate is not a fully satisfactory liberal, as these things are measured by the orthodox.

If it is good against voting for Obama will it not be good against voting for any Democrat, for the rest of your life?

Hat tip to Booman, whose response to Stoller is largely one of moral declamation and hence, just to that extent, empty coercive bombast.

Wanker of the Day: Matt Stoller

Update, 11022012, 0916 hrs EDT.

On the other hand, in his heart of hearts Obama could be red as a fire truck and what difference would it make?

If he came out of the closet as a devout Marxist would it help the cause?

Hell, no, neither now nor after next week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Patrick Jane, atheist and amoralist

Gregory House and Patrick Jane are two outspokenly atheist TV characters notable for being the lead guys in their respective, very popular shows, House and The Mentalist.

Of the two, House, often a mere crank and a chronic curmudgeon, is both less personally likeable and less morally interesting.

Several factors contribute to Jane’s superiority in this latter regard.

To begin with, there is his past as an unscrupulous con artist preying on grief, pretending to be a psychic able to put people in touch with their dead loved ones.

Then we have his entirely frank exploitation of the California Bureau of Investigation in his effort to find and kill Red John, the serial killer who murdered his wife and daughter in retaliation for public mockery.

And there is his unconcealed and unapologetic disbelief in morality that is of a piece with his overt and politely contemptuous disbelief in God, in Providence, in a human afterlife, in the reality of the powers claimed by psychics and mediums, and in the whole catalogue of human superstition.

And yet Jane is most certainly a white hat, as a moment’s thought about how he stacks up against the killers he exposes weekly and against the show’s ultimate black hat, Red John, makes clear.

And that despite the fact that he has personally shot and killed a follower of Red John in the mistaken belief he was the man, himself, that he provoked a woman to shoot her husband dead with the shocking realization that he had spent years molesting and then killed their daughter, and that he regularly seeks – sometimes successfully – to seduce his police cohorts to ignore or break the law in favor of what he and usually they and the TV audience see as a more desirable outcome.

All the same, and though generally more likeable than House, Jane is not a nice man.

Update, 11022012, 1225 hrs EDT.

It is interesting to compare Patrick Jane with Leroy Jethro Gibbs, leader of the pack on what is now TV's most popular show, NCIS.

Compared to Jane, Gibbs is an equally willing law-breaker and an equally murderous revenge-seeker, but whether he even has any particular religious or moral outlook is a question answerable, if at all, only by noting that he is a jingoist, a miles gloriosus, and a totally uncritical soldier-boy patriot.

The whole show is like that, in fact.

The most popular show on TV.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Well, they love him when he sounds like Greenwald

So maybe it’s out of habit that liberals like those at KOS link to this with approval, failing to note how far he here is on the same page with the Islamophobe right and opposed to the illiberal thought and speech policing of the liberal PC.

No do-overs

Obama fluffed the first debate and lost the lead over Romney he had had for nearly a year.

Did anyone notice Biden vs. Ryan, or even Obama vs. Romney II and III?

Update, 11022012, 1244 hrs EDT.

It is more than merely plausible that, Democratic felony aside, Nixon lost the election of 1960 when he badly fluffed the first debate, though he tied or won each subsequent debate.

You decide

Which is best?

Option A. We get out of the Middle East militarily and politically and rely on our own resources rather than the Muslims for our oil.

Option B. We continue to rely on Muslim oil, pumping hundreds of billions and ultimately trillions into the coffers of Muslim governments that use that wealth to finance the spread of Islamism, Jihad, and terrorism, continue to play at being Israel’s bodyguard, and continue to finance endless wars of small and large scale to combat the Jihaders we ourselves are financing.

I say Option A is much cheaper, much safer, and much smarter.

If the American ruling class would make it available it’s a pretty good bet voters would favor it by a strong margin.

Food for thought.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Yet another kind of realism

Essentially, this is the ancient and cynical view that religion is a useful coercive delusion fostered among the people by the elites to enlist loyalty and obedience, condemned and turned to scorn by the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.

Google “The Book of the Three Impostors” and consider the related view that Mohamed, Jesus, and even Moses not only exploited but personally invented such politically useful fantasies, advocated by no means uniquely by Spinoza.

One does not have to be an atheist to hold either opinion, or an amoralist.

Voltaire was neither, and yet he was one of the first and most relentless enemies of supernaturalism and every form of revealed, miraculous, organized religion, and one of the most effective who have denounced it as a political con.

Though it was an attack on such political exploitation of the credulity of the masses by Mohamed and his lieutenants for which Voltaire sought the patronage of the pope, Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet le Prophete was condemned by the authorities of his time as targeting religion in general, Catholicism in particular, and the clergy and political elites of the age.

Not long ago, European Muslims prevented the play being put on in Geneva, denouncing it as hate literature derogatory of their prophet and their religion.

Compare this play with Moliere’s Tartuffe, which portrayed religious devotion as the masquerade of a confidence trickster seeking financial and sexual advantage.

That play was banned but eventually performed with the sponsorship of an irreligious king over the objections and protests of religious nobles, clerics, organizations, and authorities - objections of a kind which have continued into our own century.

It is an interesting question whether it would ever have been performed, and even whether Moliere would have lived, had he, instead of Voltaire a century later, written and attempted to present Le fanatisme.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another form of realism

"Of men we know and of the gods we believe that by a law of their nature the strong do as they can and the weak do as they must."

  - The Athenian representative, the Melian Debate, The Peloponnesian War, Thucydides.

In another post I said that by “political realism” some understand the doctrine that nations, institutions, groups, and even individual political agents seek power and only power for its own sake.

A different understanding is that in the selection and pursuit of their ends humans are overwhelmingly indifferent to others of their kind and neither morals nor religion are significant independent constraints on individual or collective human action.

Or, anyway, not very significant.

Sometimes this is expressed by saying political agents are concerned to protect and advance only their own interests, due allowance - if any - made for personal relations, exceptions, and loyalties - if any.

That is to say, those who count on religion or morals to deter crime in a pinch are reckoning without the strength of incredulity, the flimsiness of faith, and the ability of all but the most unfortunate and hoodwinked to shape their beliefs of either kind – and sometimes those of others – to suit themselves.

Hence, given inequalities of power, the strong ride roughshod over the weak or “the strong do as they can and the weak do as they must.”

Hence the destruction of Blanche DuBois (in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire), whose rule of life she expressed thus: “I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.”

Hence the importance to all religions marked by lasting popular success of myths of rewards and punishments in an afterlife, by no means coincidentally including severe punishments for disbelief.

And hence the dose of truth in Thrasymachus’ sophist maxim (in Plato, The Republic), “Justice is the interest of the stronger.”

All the same, the strengths of this sort of view can be over-stated.

Those who dispute how far the Crusaders were fighting for God and how far for personal, worldly gain are disputing the same, or anyway a similar, question that could be and has been raised as well with regard to the Jihaders who in successive waves spread Islam across so much of the world.

And on the other hand it is also possible to grossly underestimate human credulity and the power of superstitious fear.

Human extinction

There are too many people and it will only get worse.

The human race, a too successful species, is ruining its own habitat.

The time of Soylent Green is coming

We won’t prevent it, and once it’s upon us we won’t reverse it.

In fact, it looks very likely that  humanity's goose will be cooked some few centuries from now.

It's not just that life will become, for humans, a lot more nasty, brutish, and short - though all that will happen, it appears.

It's that human life may become sustainable only in insignificant populations of desperate primitives living like the Indians of Amazonia, if at all.

And maybe that's only to be expected of us, given human nature and the enormous sacrifices it would take to avoid this prospect, at any step of the way.

Metaphorically, the future is another country, very far away, concerning which we are for the most part indifferent.

We don't live there and never will; and, besides, dropping the metaphor, future people don't even exist.

How far will actual people accept sacrifices for future people?

How far will they even agree that we should?

Like any others, all alleged moral duties to the future are nonsense, though discussions of the question by philosophers are often entertaining.

And all allegations of religious duties are, of course, false.

Even allowing for some concern for our own descendants, we have no compelling stake in the future.

Hence, crocodile tears apart, it's pretty much apres nous, le deluge.

That is a fact with which I am content, truth be told, as are most of us, by far.

Though most of us may be in varying degrees uncomfortable facing that fact without a nice buffer of moral or even religious hypocrisy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The lesser evil

Given we are going to keep meddling in the region at all – and we really ought to just leave – meddling thus is a much lesser evil than meddling in a worse mess in Egypt and maybe a new Muslim war on Israel.

Hillary’s point, of course, is similar with regard to the regimes in Libya and Tunisia.

And so is mine.

I love Reuters, don’t you? Do they belong to Murdoch?

As I recall, the last time they spoke face-to-face, Chavez mocked Obama.

And he has played footsie for a long time not only with Castro but with Iran.

Still, though he’s a thug he is no dictator and the American right – heck, the global right – hates what he has done about Venezuelan oil and who gets the benefit of the oil money.

Wasn’t it Pat Robertson, upstanding Christian leader of millions of American God-lovers, who called for his assassination?

So far, Obama has ignored him.

Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Update 10/8/12, Chavez won in Venezuela.