Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Naomi Wolf : So right and so wrong

A couple blog people linked to this article by Naomi Wolf.

Other than the really funny mix up of the 2nd and 4th Amendments, it's still an interesting read.

So much she gets so right, so much is so very wrong. It's almost like she knows the truth but simply *must* intersperse it with the proper Anti-Bush and liberal sentiments.

I almost thought it was on purpose... a way to slip truth past to her target audience.
As the Founders knew, if citizens are ignorant of or complacent about the proper workings of a republic "of laws not of men," then any leader of any party -- or any tyrannical Congress or even a tyrannical majority -- can abuse the power they hold. But at this moment of threat to the system the Framers set in place, a third of young Americans don't really understand what they were up to.

Bravo! She realizes that this is a Republic and the most important thing is the rule of Law, the Constitution. She even got the tyranny of the majority in there!
Middle schoolers in many states are no longer required to take classes in civics or government. Only 29 states require high school students to take a government or civics course, leaving millions of young Americans in the dark about why democracy matters.

Oh, no! I thought she was going to talk about how the Republic works and why. But no. Students ought to be taught why *democracy* matters. But teaching *democracy* is what got us into this mess, in my opinion. It's "government lite" and why so many of my generation don't understand and even fewer of the younger generation understand. Boo on you, Naomi! You fooled me with your clever inclusion of "tyranny of the majority."
The study also found that the more students increase their civic knowledge during college, the more likely they are to vote and engage in other civic activities. And vice versa -- civic illiteracy equals civic inaction.

I beg to differ. Interest leads to learning, not the other way around. College students have control over what they learn. Action leads to literacy. Inaction leads to illiteracy. Not the other way around. Teaching civics will not force interest or action. But I quibble...
"I was taught that it's set up for the elites and for old white men and that there's not much you can do about it," said Christopher Le, 28,

And who taught Le, the son of immigrants, about government? Who taught him that he was an oppressed and ignored minority? It is not *empowering* to teach people that they are politically powerless.

The money quote. ;-)
Few young Americans understand that the Second Amendment keeps their homes safe from the kind of government intrusion that other citizens suffer around the world;

Nothing more to say about it, but it sure is fun to read.
But this distressing situation isn't just George W. Bush's fault.

When New Left activists of the 1960s started the antiwar and free speech student movements, they didn't get their intellectual framework from Montesquieu or Thomas Paine: They looked to Marx, Lenin and Mao. It became fashionable to employ Marxist ways of thinking about social change: not "reform" but "dialectic"; not "citizen engagement" but "ideological correctness"; not working for change but "fighting the man."

During the Vietnam War, the left further weakened itself by abandoning the notion of patriotism. Young antiwar leaders burned the flag instead of invoking the ideals of the republic it represents. By turning their backs on the idea of patriotism -- and even on the brave men who were fighting the unpopular war -- the left abandoned the field to the right to "brand" patriotism as it own, often in a way that means uncritical support for anything the executive branch decides to do.

I can forgive the little foray back into la la land at the end because without it I doubt that the people who need to read what came before would listen. She's said some profound things and it reflects a bit of the sort of disjointed feel of the whole piece. Characterizing any support of the administration as "uncritical" misses that a great many people who are patriotic, who support our government and our system of government actually *are* and *do* criticize this administration. Often loudly. Just not always about everything possible. It is not "uncritical" to fail to be constantly and universally critical! But never mind that.
When I ask young people today whether they've been taught that immense positive changes have come about because small groups of people engaged in democratic practices, many look at me with puzzlement. They need a crash course in democracy -- and a crash course in how easy it is to close down an open society if steps are taken such as those we see our government taking now.

"The two parties are exactly the same."

This is a quote from a student that she included earlier in the article as an example of what smart students get wrong. What she doesn't get is that this student is RIGHT. A clear eye will see that the evils of one party are echoed in the other. When I was in high school I was interested in politics and I could see that the two parties were the same, almost nearly the same. I'd ask people, what is the difference between them? I never got answers. I can see the differences now, but I also see how minor they are. Libertarians call the two parties "clones" and with good reason.

This is why, as much as I am not *uncritical* of this administration I fail, entirely, to have patience with the alarmists and doom sayers. That they think any infringement of liberty is something Bush came up with only means they are ignorant or willfully blind. The outrage seems utterly manufactured, if it weren't for the need to hate Bush no one would care. How do I know? Because they NEVER CARED BEFORE. Wiretapping? Collecting data on citizens? None of these people ever filed a tax return? Maybe they didn't.

Naomi almost got it right. She almost sees that we're failing to teach government foundations but then confuses teaching government foundations with activism. She almost sees that the important part is the rule of law in a Republic but then confuses that with democracy. She almost sees the bright beacon of personal responsibility but then confuses that with holding government responsible.

She almost got it right.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The selfishness of Toni

"Every year, we also take a nice holiday - we've just come back from South Africa.

"We feel we can have one long-haul flight a year, as we are vegan and childless, thereby greatly reducing our carbon footprint and combating over-population.
What an ass.
"Having children is selfish. It's all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet," says Toni, 35.

But what we can expect from eco-religionists and Warmers. Yes? Proof that they don't REALLY think the world is in danger because they don't live as though the world is in danger.

If Toni really thought what she did mattered she'd be a childless vegan who *didn't* fly on airplanes because every little bit helps. One is tempted to think that she didn't want children *anyway* and that being a vegetarian isn't much of a sacrifice either. But missing out on conspicuous consumerism! Gasp!

Just like Gore jetting about or any of the others who chose to lecture the rest of us and tell us how to live, the excess is justified, the life-style, the luxury, because a trade off has been made.

Buy a few indulgences and sin guilt free!

We see through your excuses, Toni. Without the expense of children you'll have plenty of money to spend and lovely vacations long into your twilight years. So enjoy the end of your genetic line.

The rest of us, and our kids, won't miss it.

Making memories

Thanksgiving was nice.

My way of trying to make something special is to light a fire, candles, something. So I *finally* found a couple candle holders for tapers (pillars are such the thing that it's actually hard to do) and took out some candles that I bought about three years ago at a country antique shop near my parent's place in Minnesota. Hand dipped tapers rolled in cloves. Very arty.

Now, I don't believe in candles that aren't to be burned and I *asked* what would happen to the cloves. I believe the answer was "melt and fall off".

The actual result of burning tapers rolled in cloves? The wax melts, the cloves start on fire, and fall off in little smoldering fire-balls to roll across the table cloth.

Combining this with the various fireplace episodes (not that many, but significant) what my kids are probably going to associate with holidays is their mom trying to burn the house down.

And actually, those are good memories. The sort that aren't planned, aren't *scripted*.

We had a good day. :-)

I hope yours was good as well.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone has a great day today.

I tend not to be philosophical about holidays, trying to imbue them with solemn meaning. Maybe that's a mistake. Holidays were always about having to go to grandma's house or both grandma's houses and seeing cousins and eating on the stairs with my plate on my knees because the house itself was beyond legal fire-safety capacity and all possible chairs in the kitchen, dining room and the sofa and chairs in the living room were all taken up by adults.

Yet for my adult life I've been a bit far away from that, So. Cal or the Philippines or Florida. Now my siblings and myself live in four different states... New Mexico, California, Michigan and North Dakota. (Michigan and North Dakota made it home for today.) I value incredibly the times any of them of managed to visit me for holidays.

I've got a turkey in the oven and will make stuffing and a sweet potato.

I'll put a table cloth on the table and make everyone come and sit down... but not on the stairs with their plate on their lap, because we've got plenty of chairs for everyone.

Which is rather depressing really. I'd probably do better if I were philosophical and reflected on what I've got to be thankful for which is so very *very* much. And I am thankful. And if I keep typing I'll make myself depressed and I'm NOT depressed. Or even particularly whining.

But still, anyone complaining because they *have to* go to Grandmas?


Thanks. :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

The basest instincts of man.

Contributors at Blackfive are discussing PTSD and related re-integration/adjustment issues. (Do do DO read the post by Grim) The discussion is about those who have a distinct need for help, but also the normal adjustment that many people have to make. A commentor, Jordan, made this remark:

We can't medicalize and therapize this "gravitas" or sudden horrible insight into the basest instincts of man.

I made this comment:

A thought... is the problem of adjusting back again related to a cultural denial of the basest instincts of man?

Lest I go and get religious on us all, the concept of a corrupt human nature is something that doesn't get much play in our culture. People aren't *bad* naturally, they're good, and if they are bad it's because something made them that way. Probably society. I think this is back-*ssward, though. But it's necessary if people are going to go with "do what you feel" to teach and preach that "what you feel" is just fine and dandy. And that means explaining the "bad stuff", crime and abuse and hatred, as caused society instead of on human nature.

An unrelated (to wartime readjustment) example might be racism. Supposedly we learn racism rather than "fear of the other" being some instinctive survival reaction. Would we be able to deal with racism better if we admitted that distrust of those who look different or who are in a different tribe or speak a different language doesn't have to be *taught*... it's a selected-for instinct? As is *curiosity* and the desire to travel and see new things. BOTH contribute to survival. (Oh, and procreating with someone from a different gene pool... that TOO.)

But if we did that it would be interpreted as "this is natural, therefore you're saying that racism is a good thing."

Admitting the nature of man... that we are naturally predators (wolves)... that we are easily capable of vile things... that we hate and fear easily... that's what we put civilization on top of in order to control. Civilization doesn't cause the warping of our natural and innocent selves... because our natural selves aren't innocent.

So we've got society saying people are "good" and "do what you feel" and it's just wrong. Most people never hear (and wouldn't give a moment's thought to) the idea that we're all vile sinners and capable of the worst or that we need forgiveness and constant repentance and live a daily struggle to do what we should do and not to what we shouldn't.

Base human instinct makes us normal. Seeing the truth of it makes us wise. Choosing to live deliberately (not "do what you feel") makes us noble.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

UN panel gives dire warming forcast

I logged into my computer just now and my little Yahoo Insider pop-up featured the above headline.

No doubt we'll be hearing all about the dire warnings over the next few days.

Until then... the UN is a political organization.

Think about that.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Retail Relationships

I got a job for the season. I'm in charge of a little mountain boutique that sells SW gifts and food, some of it kitchy and cheap, some very fine and expensive, (I believe I have at least one piece of NA clay art that is $600.) The whole store is about 20x20 feet with 1/4 of that taken up by the bathroom.

Common wisdom is that people really do prefer to shop in these sorts of cozy little stores that sell unique handmade items.

Common wisdom is wrong.

Or at least common wisdom is not complete.

People really do *like* the stuff I sell. They don't always need it and, really, my biggest sales will be over Christmas when people buy a "New Mexico" item to ship to a family member or friend elsewhere, but they do *like* the stuff. And it's affordable, and much of it can only be found in our store (made by my boss, or now, me) and some of it is very nice classy expensive stuff, and since a good part of this area is "high rent" that should be a plus, not a minus.

What people don't LIKE is the experience of coming into my store to shop.

I watch them.

I say hello if they seem to want to be friendly. I pretend to be busy if they seem to want to pretend I'm not there.

Many of them are socially uneasy. Many of them make a point to say "thank you" to me when they leave the store without buying something.

The problem is that the shop is too intimate. Many of them feel like they ought to buy something and feel bad when they don't. It's almost like telling a Girl Scout you don't want cookies. Surely you could have at least bought one box of Thin Mints. So why didn't you?

People want friendly personal service but they don't want a guilt inducing relationship.

They think they like cute little boutiques but in their hearts they actually prefer Wal-mart.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Download Cancelled!!! ARGHHH!!!

I've only been patching this is EIGHT FRICKING AM!

14 minutes!

I'm not watching this pot boil.


Update: Though do notice how that last 20 minutes took an hour.

36 minutes to go!

Or so it says.

50 minutes left...

I'm patching Rise of Kunark.


Wow, Chris Muir left a comment on my blog. :-) Thanks for stopping by!

I'm pretty sure that my only other visitor, Ymar, has a link to Day by Day somewhere handy, but if anyone else should happen by be sure to check out the best semi-political comic strip ever.

It's in my side bar, too, but here it is again:

Day by Day.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Those Hollywood Anti-War Movies, Oh my.

The best commentary.

Ace has the best headline...

Make Entertainment, Not Bombs

The best comment goes to lauraw at #14. (language warning)

Dear Hollywood,

This may come as somewhat of a shock, but the vast majority of our corn-fed American men and women who choose to wear the various uniforms of the United States Armed Forces are better people than you.

In every way.

Your poses to the contrary are nothing but empty fashion and gaseous bullshit. We ain't buying it and we certainly won't pay for it.

Fuck you very thankly.


Your Fellow Americans (who are also better than you)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

So what IS the answer?

There's something about the oldest residential parts of town with their Victorian and Queen Anne homes that lends itself to "No War" lawn signs. I was walking in one of those beautiful neighborhoods on Monday and the "War is Not the Answer" sign caught my attention. The other signs were more specific, such as the one that had been altered from "No War in Iraq" to "No War in Iran."

The general "Truism" (and I will put that in scare quotes) of "War is Not the Answer" is something we see a lot but Monday it just struck me like a mallet to the head, So what IS the Answer? What does this person who lives in this pretty house think is the Answer?

What does this person who lives in this pretty house think is the Question?

I really do wonder.

Someone who thinks that war in Iran would not be the answer to the situation in Iran probably needs to suggest what should be done *instead* and the answer really could be "nothing." But for a general rule? As a "truism?"

Denial is not the Answer either.

There is an extent to which people create their own reality. I met a "mountain man" the other day who definitely had created his own reality. In his reality he couldn't go to a doctor's appointment in Albuquerque without being armed because of the violence in town. He lived out in the mountains with his guns, raising his own food animals and chiles, and marrying gay couples with his divinity license. I think that other people do the same but they live in little Queen Anne cottages on green shaded streets (this neighborhood of Albuquerque looked identical to the older residential areas of Fargo, North Dakota... houses, gardens, No-War signs,..) and they've created their own world where War really isn't the answer.

It's just that the rest of us don't live there.

There were a couple houses for sale. I suppose I could move. ;-)