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Member since: Tue May 13, 2014, 02:24 PM
Number of posts: 982

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Take a look at GD on 09-01-14

You will note that the top thread is accusing a former (and banned) Discussionist poster of "sending" rape threats. Of course, said "threats" were never sent, but that's not the point. Some DU feminists decided to make an issue of conversations and writings on Discussionist to which they objected. DU's admins responded by noting that Discussionist's jury system properly dealt with the offending poster and did so very quickly.


That wasn't enough for some, so now we see more threads calling for the elimination of Discussionist because some DU posters don't like what they see here (as the second top two threads in today's GD forum demonstrate).

Oh, and don't look at naked celebrity pictures, either. That's what thread #4 in the list is arguing.

Sigh. Something has to be done, here. I applaud and appreciate DU's feminists for pushing the boundaries of thought and exploring the nature of both gender and sex and the way they both affect civilization. All the same, I do not envy the owners of this site--the people who have to clean up this mess.

The November election can't come soon enough.

Regarding the border.

"Secure the border" is an effective rallying cry, but it's not grounded in reality. That's because we are not agreed about what it means to have a "secure" border with Mexico, and because wire cutters are much cheaper than a colossal fence. If you think "secure" means that nobody will be able to cross the border, you probably will be tempted to endorse an idea like the fence I mentioned, but once you realize that wire cutters are much cheaper than a fence, it becomes quite clear that a fence would be a huge waste of national resources. Even a wall (bigger and far more costly) is not immune to ropes and grappling hooks (or tunnels or explosives for that matter). Any physical deterrent we imagine will be far more expensive than the means to overcome that physical barrier. A physical barrier will not stop border crossings. It will just be a huge waste of resources.

If, on the other hand, you think a "secure" border means that our agents guarding the border catch and arrest all those who cross the border illegally, we can never catch them all. I note, however, that we catch most of them already. In the particular case of the new wave of children crossing the border, from what I have seen those children have been instructed to seek out and find border agents. They are trying to get caught. In that sense, our border is, in fact, secure. That doesn't make the problem go away. Those children are still here, and there's no reasonable way to send them back.

Most of them lack ID of any kind. They may lie about their names and their homes. What are we going to do? Let's assume we believe the 11-year-old who tells us he is from Guatemala. Do we buy him a plane ticket, fly him back, and dump him off at the main airport in Guatemala (without anyone there to pick him up and care for him--because we can't even identify his parents, much less actually contact them)? We can't do that. It would be a humanitarian disaster and a huge waste of time and money. There is, quite simply, no reasonable solution that doesn't keep that child in the United States. As such, our efforts to curb this kind of immigration are, generally, futile.

This is a serious issue, but I don't know what to do about it, nor does anyone else (as far as I can tell). I certainly encourage brainstorming and problem-solving, but I note that gravity, vacuum, and heat are more easily overcome than intelligent humans who seek to cross a 1,900 mile border.

Humans are emotional animals, and many people vote with their emotional brains.

Conservatives like to accuse liberals of this behavior, and I am sure the accusation is warranted for many liberals, but many conservatives deny that they and their peers vote emotionally. They usually prefer to believe that cold, hard logic dictates their political choices.

Thus, our project on the left ought to be to convey to conservatives as much cold, hard logic as we can muster in support of our political positions. Only this cold rationality coupled with respect (let people save face--don't ridicule, insult, or demean) can create the common ground necessary to allow people to be influenced by a discussion board. And the "common ground" of which I speak is not some set of compromise political positions. Instead, I seek "emotional common ground" where we see one another as American patriots, deeply invested in the future of this nation we share and the world we will leave to our children. That, I think, is as much as we can accomplish in an environment such as this.

I note that the OP is like an emotional brick aimed squarely at some conservative straw-man. It does not create the emotional common ground I seek.

In Defense of the IRS.

This thread is a direct response to Jenny Fromdablock's thread, HERE, asking whether anyone was willing to defend the IRS. I started a new thread because I would like to defend not only the IRS but the entire Federal bureaucracy.

I think conservatives are dead wrong when they argue that "government is bad," and I think they're even more wrong when they argue that the Federal Government of the United States is bad. My experience has been that the Federal Government of the United States is really very good at nearly everything it does. Examples:

1) Medicare runs on a 5% overhead. 95% of funds allocated by Congress to cover medical care for the elderly actually goes to cover medical expenses (as opposed to running a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy). Compare that to our private health insurance companies. They cried "bloody murder" over the ACA's requirement that they spend 80% of their income on actual medical care. It's clear that the Federal Government is far more efficient than the private sector when it comes to covering medical costs.

2) The USPS. You want to talk about a well-run operation? This is it. The USPS is outrageously reliable. It's not perfect, of course. There will always be some errors because humans are, well, ... human, but the error rate of the USPS is incredibly low. There's no other nation on Earth in which you can send a letter the distance from Key West, FL to Nome, AK for forty-nine cents. The USPS does its job better and more cheaply than any other outfit on the planet.

3) The IRS. My experience with the IRS has been consistently positive. I know a lot of people who love to gripe about the IRS, but when I have questioned them about their complaints, they rarely have any grounds to be upset with the IRS itself. Their real beef is usually with Congress (which sets tax rates). No, IRS bureaucrats do their jobs very well. They are polite, civil, reasonable, willing to negotiate, punctual, and efficient (to the extent that the political appointees who boss them around allow them to be). If you have a problem with your taxes, and I certainly have in the past, the fault (if any) almost always lies with Congress, not the IRS. The IRS collects money at rates determined by Congress, and they have no control over that, but when they do try to collect, they do it by the book. No other nation on Earth enjoys a revenue-collection bureaucracy that is as efficient and effective as our own IRS.

4) The Armed Forces of the United States: Our armed forces have a huge and expensive bureaucracy, admittedly, but our military is very good at what it does. We are, as I have repeatedly noted, the greatest military Empire the world has ever known, with an unparalleled capacity to project our power across the globe. We spend a lot of money on it, so we expect it to be good, but our military consistently delivers. It is very good, and it is part of the Federal Government of the United States. I am on record saying that I favor a modest reduction in our military forces, but I remain very proud of the armed forces of the United States. They are, in fact, the best the world has ever seen.

5) Social Security: A Social Security check is the most reliable check that any American will ever receive. It arrives on time, every time, and it will never bounce. The Social Security Administration continues to provide excellent service to the American people (much better than any private sector enterprise, in any event). Congress has been able to borrow money from the Social Security Trust Fund for years because this bureaucracy has been run so well.

All of those bureaucracies are part of the Federal Government of the United States, and I am baffled by those who argue that our Federal Government is bad in some way when, to me, it appears to perform its duties more efficiently than the private sector. Just look at how much private mercenaries cost us compared to our soldiers, and you can see that investing in the government pays off better than "outsourcing" government functions to the private sector. For years, the Republican mantra has been that anything the government can do, the private sector can do better. History has shown that assumption to be utter nonsense. No, my experience has been that the Federal Government is better than the private sector in nearly every endeavor in which government has to compete with the private sector.

It is true that, under certain circumstances, the Federal Government can be inefficient and nearly-useless. Many of you may have heard stories about rooms full of Federal bureaucrats doing nothing but still getting paid for it. I, for one, have heard such stories from government employees. This does happen, but only under very specific circumstances. For example, when the Republican Party controls the White House, it's not uncommon for the political appointees who run the EPA to order many of our civil servants to do nothing. That does happen, and there's nothing the EPA bureaucrats can do about it. If the Republicans in the White House don't want EPA regulations enforced, they can literally shut down the EPA by ordering our civil servants to stop working. This, admittedly, is a problem, but it's not the EPA's fault, and that's the point I am making. Those who gripe about the Federal Government may have legitimate gripes about the administration that is running the government, but it's rarely the fault of our bureaucrats. Our bureaucrats, in fact, tend to be excellent. Our politicians ... not so much.

Because this post is already very long, I am going to wind it up, but I hope to be able to address Jenny Fromdablock's specific objections to the IRS in a follow-up post. My point is that government is not bad, and that Ronald Reagan was wrong about that. My experience has been that the Federal Government of the United States, in particular, is very good, and, if it is lacking, its faults are directly attributable only to the politicians running it at any given moment.

Similar story here.

There's a local sub-continental attorney I know who loves fishing (getting drunk on the lake) and hunting (getting drunk and shooting stuff) and golf (getting drunk and beating around a little, white ball) who, as soon as he opens his mouth, is widely and easily accepted in Middle Georgia society, but you couldn't tell that he "fits in" from looking at him.

The United States remains a melting pot (despite the vociferous cries of those who claim we are losing our culture and our national identity). Said people are wrong, of course. We're not losing anything, but our culture IS changing, as it has always done and as it always will do. Said people claim that they don't want to lose our culture, but what they really want is for our culture not to change, and, in that respect, they are bound to be disappointed and bitter because everything changes over time ... including that nebulous and glorious thing we call "American culture."

That which makes one feel and experience emotion (of any kind) is beautiful.

Credit where it is due: Mrs. Kheledon and I have been thinking about and talking about this question for over 20 years, and this is our current, operational definition.

Essential Corrolaries:

1) Because each person is unique, each person's ability to experience beauty is unique to whatever triggers that unique person's emotions.

2) Persons who lack a strong emotional connection to the world (or who repress their emotions) have a diminished capacity to experience beauty.

Let's talk about partitioning Iraq.

I don't care who we "credit" for this idea. We didn't do it (or even attempt to do it) when we, the United States, conquered Iraq in 2003, and there's a good reason for that.

The primary reason is the Kurds. The West has a long history of promising the Kurds an independent state and then stabbing them in the back. More on that, HERE. Putting aside that history, however, it's impractical even now to give (or even attempt to give) the Kurds what they want.

Take a look at this map:

As you can see, the majority of the Kurdish homeland lies in Turkey. Turkey flat out refuses to allow the Kurds independence (primarily because the land they occupy is mineral-rich). Iran isn't keen on Kurdish independence, either (primarily because the land they occupy is mineral-rich). The Syrians are in the middle of a civil war, but if they had a strong, central government, they too would oppose Kurdish independence (primarily because the land the Kurds occupy is mineral-rich), and Iraq (whether controlled by Shias from the South or Sunnis from the North) would also oppose Kurdish independence (primarily because the land the Kurds occupy is mineral-rich). In essence, nobody wants an independent Kurdish state except the Kurds.

The Kurds, for their part, are mighty ticked off that for over a century their mineral wealth has been diverted to enrich and empower Turks in Ankara, Alawites in Damascus, Persians in Tehran, and Sunnis (or Shiites) in Baghdad. History has shown that the West cares very little about the Kurds' complaints (though we are more than happy to accept their assistance when we need it).

At the moment, an independent Kurdistan is more possible and feasible than it has been in the recent past, but I still think it highly unlikely that such a state could form and survive at present. Syria and Iraq are currently weak enough that we could safely ignore their concerns, but Turkey and Iran are not. Provoking Iran could be very dangerous and could threaten vital interests in the region. That's a big issue, but it's not the major barrier to a Kurdish state. Turkey, in fact, is the major barrier. Turkey is a NATO ally, and Turkey has made it very clear that it will not grant independence to the Kurds. I can't imagine how much pressure it would take to get the Turks to change their position on this issue, but I doubt the West has the energy or the desire to make it happen.

As such, I take the "partition Iraq" argument with a grain of salt. It's not likely (even if many people think it would be a good idea). If it were either feasible or practical, it would have already been done.

The "problems" with gendered identities are well-understood.

That's not what I was asking about. I want to see a full explanation of what's "good" about gendered identities. Absent that, we're only considering half the equation.

The burden of proof falls on those who want to change the status quo. If people have been working hard on gendered identities for all of human history, the burden is on those who want to alter that dynamic. I need to see a thorough explanation of what's both good and what's bad about our current system of gender identification, and then I'd want to see a thorough explanation of what would be better and what would be worse if we changed this dynamic. Then, perhaps, we could make good decisions about how we should modify this system.

I can't accept an argument that says, "Trust me. It will be better if we change this," absent a full understanding of where we are now and then some projection about what kind of society we might have if we decided to change. And that argument must overcome thousands of years of human history in which gendered identities have been central to the human experience.

Does that make sense?

What if people WANT gendered identities?

Setting aside everything that biologically differentiates men and women, it has been my experience that most people are deeply invested in their gendered identities. Society shapes us into these identities, sure, but is that necessarily a bad thing? Or must we assume that the society that promotes gendered identities is essentially stupid? Were our parents stupid too?

Personally, I assume that people are basically rational, and that groups of people often have a kind of collective intelligence that, even if it isn't "rational," serves some useful function. If individuals and society invest heavily in gendered identities, I assume there must be a good reason for that. This behavior must serve some useful, cultural function.

What irritates me about the video above is that it arrogantly assumes that gendered identities are "bad" in various ways without considering what "good" comes out of having gendered identities. If so many people want gendered identities, there must be a good reason for that, right?

The Mega-majority Is Mostly Right

I ran across the following facebook post today while reading the comments following Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s newest editorial, In fight against Boko Haram, aroused public makes a difference.

Adam Scott Wechsler makes the following argument that I found compelling:

I prefer to assume that the mega-majority is mostly right and the mini-minority is mostly wrong. In other words, I'm putting my money on the September 11th imported Muslims being wrong and the millions of American Muslims who don't engage or support terrorism being right. I'm putting my money on the 1960s church bombing Christians of the Ku Klux Klan and the murders of abortionists and bombings of abortion clinics being wrong and the millions of Christians who don't engage or support terrorism being right. I'm putting my money on Baruch Goldstein's mass murder of 29 Muslim worshipers being wrong and the millions of Jews who don't engage or support terrorism being right. Now, when the majority of a religion's followers engage in or support terrorism, then I might be encouraged to question the religion. According to a multinational 2007 Gallup study... well, let's just say it found lots and lots of holes in the Muslims = Terrorists theory. Here's a link to the study. I don't think you'd want to read it though- it's numerous and specific conclusions are in opposition to just about everything you believe to be true about Muslims.


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