(I try to present
facts and logic and
than just opinions.)
||Please send any
facts and logic are convincing,
I'll change my mind !
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This page updated:
Campaign Finance section
Economic Ideas section
The Death Penalty section
Politics Of Sex section
News Overload / News Avoidance section
Political Terms section
How to Detect Bogus Claims, Articles, Sites, Videos section
My Terrorism page
My Religion page
My Manned Space Program page
My Drugs page
My Taxes page
My US FederalGovernment page
My Israel and the Palestinians page
My USA Health Care System page
My Guns page
My Consumption and Energy page
My Electronic Voting Machines page
My Climate Change page
What we (in the USA) should do about:
- The Iraq war: declare victory and leave (mostly).
- The Afghanistan war: declare victory and leave (mostly).
- Health care: single-payer universal health care.
See my USA Health Care System page.
- Energy / climate change: significant taxes on gasoline; carbon tax (not cap-and-trade);
encourage grass ethanol or methanol instead of corn ethanol.
by 2/3 (put workers and some of the money into infrastructure work);
tweak Social Security to make it solvent;
tweak Medicare to increase preventive medicine and eliminate coverage of very expensive treatments;
isolate chunks of Federal govt and make them fee-based.
- Illegal immigration: build a fence along Mexican border; have a guest-worker program; some form of amnesty.
See Immigration section of this page.
- Crime and drugs: [not that these will make much of an impact, but:]
ban private ownership of guns; legalize marijuana; legalize prostitution.
See my Guns page and my Drugs page.
- Economy: tax consumption instead of income; have incentives for home equity instead of home indebtedness;
remove all agricultural subsidies and tariffs.
See my Consumption and Energy page.
- Politics: have high taxes on paid political speech.
See Campaign Finance section of this page.
From the pilot episode of "Newsroom", a new series on HBO:
[America is] not the greatest country in the world, professor.
... [Addressing conservative] And with a straight face,
you're going to tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we're the only ones
in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The UK, France, Italy, Germany,
Spain, Australia! Belgium! has freedom. So, 207 sovereign states in the world and 180 of them have freedom.
And yeah, you, sorority girl. Just in case you ever wander into a voting booth one day, there's some
things you should know and one of them is: there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement
that we are the greatest country in the world. We're 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science,
49th in life expectancy, 179th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, 4th in exports.
We lead the world in only 3 categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults
who believe angels are real, and defense spending - where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.
I wish we could cast "advisory votes" in national elections.
"Should marijuana be legalized ?"
"Should gay marriage be legal ?"
"Should we build a fence on the Mexican border ?"
"Should we ban all private ownership of guns ?"
Sort of an official poll.
Perhaps people should have to pass a test before being allowed to file as candidate for elected office.
Test them on basics of the Constitution, the laws, the powers and rules of the office they're running for,
maybe how to read a budget, maybe how the tax system works.
Public financing of political campaigns is bad because:
- Why should taxpayers pay for this ? Supposedly, it keeps
office accessible to poor candidates, but when is the last
time you saw a poor candidate with a chance to win ?
- The rules are written to exclude independent and
- Just encourages candidates to spend more.
Attempting to regulate "soft money" and PACs and such
has just led to complexity and abuses.
- No public financing of political campaigns. That just encourages them to spend more.
- Anyone can spend any amount they like to
promote any issue or any candidate.
- All spending on political issues or candidates or lobbying
is taxed progressively (i.e. the more they spend,
the higher the tax rate). The first $100K of spending
is taxed at 0%; the next $100K at 10%, the next
$100K at 20%, and so on.
One big problem with this: the Supreme Court
has ruled that taxing political spending by a candidate
is infringement of their right to free speech.
I say the Supreme Court is wrong; political speech
via money to gain power (office) is not covered by the First Amendment.
It's more like "commercial speech" (advertising), which already
has less-protected legal status. If we need a constitutional amendment
to say that paid or for-profit speech is less protected than unpaid speech, so be it.
Text of my proposed Constitutional amendment:
Congress or any State may regulate or limit or tax paid political speech or actions or lobbying or campaigning,
and contributions to such efforts, which
includes money or time or effort by any person or entity or group or organization in
support of any candidate or party or political position or governmental issue.
USA policy ideas:
- Put a limit on total amount of assets by a bank or corporation, to avoid
"too big to fail" and monopolies. Company has to break up or sell off divisions if
it grows too big and hits the limit.
- Put a limit on total amount of potential liabilities by a bank or corporation, to avoid
"too big to fail". Try to prevent enormous derivative bets, maybe by taxing them.
- Transparency on trading-contracts owned by a company: options, futures and derivatives.
Register them in an open registry.
- If I have money in a mutual fund or pension fund, I lose the ability to vote my
shares in the underlying stocks. They get voted by the fund managers, who are privileged types
like the corporate directors and CEOs. Maybe we could create a mechanism whereby I assign my
proxies to be voted by some entity other than the fund managers. I could say
"I want all of my shares in all companies to be voted the way the
anti-tobacco-pro-green-energy-anti-weapons-coalition specifies". This should make
corporate boards and CEOs more accountable to the shareholders, even indirect shareholders.
- We allow individuals to deduct mortgage interest paid, to encourage home ownership.
But that deduction really rewards home-related debt. The deduction should
be based on the owner's equity in the home (capped at some level such as $500K), instead of the size of the
interest payments on the debt. We want to encourage equity.
US Military / Intel / Security Budget:
- Remove mission to fight two major invasion-type wars simultaneously.
- Stop trying to "fix" and democratize countries by force: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc.
- Major cuts to overseas bases: South Korea, Japan, Germany, Iraq, etc.
Let the allies take up more of the burden.
- Stop arming to fight WW III (all-out superpower war).
The mission changes can allow:
We can live with a less-capable military. (Maybe that would mean
losing more soldiers in future wars; but maybe it would make us less eager to start future wars.
And even the hugest military imaginable can not make us completely
safe; there's no such thing as completely safe.)
David Brodwin's "How to Safely Cut U.S. Defense Spending"
Benjamin H. Friedman and Christopher Preble's "A Plan to Cut Military Spending"
Jill Lepore's "How much military is enough?"
Henry Blodget's "Yes, Of Course We Should Cut Military Spending!"
From Jill Lepore's "How much military is enough?"
... Around the world, "power projection" is, in fact, a central mission of American forces.
[Congressional Democrat Adam] Smith expressed alarm at the prospect of its diminishment.
He asked a question, which was purely rhetorical:
"What if, all of a sudden, we don't have troops in Europe, we don't have troops in Asia,
we are just, frankly, like pretty much every other country in the world?"
Wikipedia - Military budget
Wikipedia - Inflation Adjusted Defense Spending
Dana Priest and William M. Arkin's "Top Secret America"
The United States, separated from much of the world by two oceans and bordered by allies,
is, by dint of geography, among the best-protected countries on earth. Nevertheless, six decades
after V-J Day nearly three hundred thousand American troops are stationed overseas,
including fifty-five thousand in Germany, thirty-five thousand in Japan, and ten thousand in Italy.
Much of the money that the federal government spends on "defense" involves neither securing
the nation's borders nor protecting its citizens. Instead, the U.S. military enforces American foreign policy.
"We have hundreds of military bases all over the world," Melvin A. Goodman observes in
"National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism" (City Lights). "Few other countries have any."
Goodman, a former Army cryptographer and a longtime C.I.A. analyst who taught at the National War College
for eighteen years, is one of a growing number of critics of U.S. military spending, policy, and
culture who are veterans of earlier wars. Younger veterans are critical, too. A 2011 Pew survey
of veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq found that half thought the war in Afghanistan wasn't worth fighting,
and nearly sixty per cent thought the Iraq War wasn't.
Great podcast about this:
Richard Fidler interview of Michael Casey, July 2012
Globalization has been good:
The world's trading and economies have become distorted:
- Raised the standard of living and health of hundreds of millions of people,
mainly in Asia (China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, India, etc).
- Cheaper prices and more products for consumers.
- Interlocking supply chains and trade relationships make wars less likely.
- USA has had runaway consumption, both on consumer side and on government side (military).
This has been enabled by the US dollar being the reserve currency for the world, and the USA
having the most stable system (government, economy, courts, police) in the world.
And the carry-over from being the last country standing after WW II.
- USA has had problems unrelated to globalization: excess consumption and debt, income inequality, housing bubbles,
financial insanity leading to 2008 crash, bad healthcare system.
This has caused a plateau or decline in most people's wealth, which many
blame on globalization (it's convenient to just blame foreigners for everything).
- Export-oriented and high-savings countries (China, Germany, Japan) are sitting on tons
of savings, and not consuming enough. In China's case, this is partly because the government is
terrified of being overthrown, and so is totally focused on keeping people happy with jobs and job growth. And they
also overspend on construction, and prevent their "floating" (formerly-rural) workers from buying housing or education
in the cities.
- EU has a combination of over-consumption (Ireland, Spain, Greece) and over-export/over-savings (Germany).
- I would guess that the over-export/over-savings/under-consumption of Germany and Japan is due
to two things: psychological effects from post-WWII period, and aging populations.
- Mexico got whipsawed: NAFTA passed, young Mexicans moved from rural areas to factories at northern border,
then China joined WTO, and Chinese exports to USA pushed Mexico out of the market.
Now Mexico has northern cities full of unemployed young people, which adds to the drug violence and illegal immigration.
All good stuff. But then they went too far, and decided to tell businesses what level of
staffing they had to have, every detail of how the job would be done,
every detail of benefits and pay, that they could never close old factories,
that they had to get union buy-in on every decision. There has to be a happy medium:
unions allowed to mandate some basic benefits and pay and safety rules,
but most of the rest left up to business.
And once unions succeeded in getting laws passed for various things (work-week,
OSHA, child-labor laws, etc), the role of unions should have diminished a bit. But it didn't.
Unions and union contracts should be able to:
- Require union buy-in on workplace safety issues.
- Mandate communication about worker rights (rights provided by law).
- Provide spokesman/ombudsman functions (liaison to management and government).
Unions and union contracts should not:
- Mandate pay or promotion structures (seniority, etc).
- Mandate staffing levels (except where safety-affecting).
- Control hiring practices (closed shops).
- Force workers to pay any but minimal dues.
The Death Penalty
I used to be in favor of the death penalty:
- Some people do such bad things that they deserve death.
- Some people do such bad things that society shouldn't waste any more resources on them.
- Society kills lots of people indirectly, through choices it makes (health care policy,
trade policy, foreign policy, etc);
I don't see how killing some deliberately (with due process) is much different.
But the more I learn about our justice system, the more often it seems
arbitrary and corrupt:
Inside America's morgues: 4 disturbing revelations
- Politicians and prosecutors pushing to extremes to prove
that they're "tough on crime". They've lost any
commitment to "justice".
- Laws that criminalize certain things (marijuana,
private sexual behavior, flag-burning, etc) irrationally.
- Laws (such as unlimited imprisonment of terrorism suspects,
Congress exempting itself from laws, military exempted
from environmental laws, etc)
and law-enforcement behavior ("blue wall of silence",
excessive force, etc) that fly in the face of the
consistent rule of law.
- Judges motivated by ego or political positions.
[I had personal experience with this one: I was on a jury in a case
where the judge did everything he could to "punish" one
side's lawyers, because they had appealed and gotten his
decision overturned in a big case the previous year.]
Also, the more I read about the Supreme Court's operations
(as in "Closed Chambers" by Edward Lazarus
and the confirmation hearings of potential Justices,
the less respect I have.
- Longstanding indications of racial and/or class
discrimination, in the death penalty and other areas
(such as penalties for cocaine versus crack).
- People getting convicted through bogus testimony (therapists inventing
recovered memories, children coaxed to imagine mass
Satanic abuses, etc).
- Known problems with lineups, eyewitness testimony, jury
behavior, etc. And refusal by the justice system to
study them scientifically and improve them.
See "Under Suspicion" by Atul Gawande in Jan 8 2001 issue of The New Yorker.
- "Innocence projects" have exonerated many people who were serving long sentences
or were about to be executed. Something is wrong with our justice system.
All of this makes me less inclined to trust the system, especially
with the ultimate penalty.
It turns out that sentencing someone to death is more costly than keeping them
in prison for life ! That's because of all of the trials and appeals, with the costs of courts and experts
and police and lawyers.
Ways to improve the court/trial system in the USA:
- Police lineups should be changed to reduce mistaken eyewitness identifications.
article from Memory Loss and the Brain
Skye Nickalls's "The Catch-22 of Eyewitness ID"
Gary Wells homepage
- The jury should be given the paperwork explaining the charges and jury instructions
at the start of the trial, instead of just before they start deliberating.
That way, they can listen for the right things during the trial, and better
understand what is going on.
- Jurors should be allowed to ask questions during the trial, maybe by passing
written questions to the judge, who then chooses to answer them or ask them of the
witness, or tell the juror why their question is misfounded. This is better than letting the
jurors carry their misconceptions or unanswered questions into the jury room.
- At the end of a trial, the jurors and lawyers should fill out a questionaire,
rating the performance of the judge and the court in general.
Lawrence Lessig, excerpted in New York Times, 17 June 2012:
There is no one in the criminal justice system who believes that system works well.
There is no one in housing law who believes this is what law was meant to be.
... The law of real people doesn't work, even if the law of corporations does.
... The law has convinced most Americans that the law is for the rich,
except that part of the law that involves the prisons. We, all of us, have a duty to fix this.
To repair this. To make it better.
Justin Peters' "The Unsettling, Underregulated World of Crime Labs"
A.C. Thompson, Mosi Secret, Lowell Bergman and Sandra Bartlett: "The Real CSI: How America's Patchwork System of Death Investigations Puts The Living At Risk"
Frontline/ProPublica "The Real CSI" (about fingerprint analysis, expert testimony, etc)
Tovia Smith's "Crime Lab Scandal Leaves Mass. Legal System In Turmoil"
Lie detector (cartoon)
Politics Of Sex
I'm struggling to understand why we approve of certain sexual practices and
outlaw others. Maybe it's a struggle to understand where moral codes come from.
Why are these things illegal or considered immoral?
I think these reasons have been given for making them illegal or considering them immoral:
- They're "not natural".
But being "natural" does not mean something is "good". A shark eating
your child is perfectly natural; does that mean it's good ? Some animals eat
their own young, or kill all of the cubs when they take over leadership of a pack. Arsenic is
"natural"; does that mean it's good for you ? Hurricanes and viruses and plagues are "natural".
For a couple of centuries, leading Western thought was that blacks were
naturally inferior, so slavery was okay. American Indians were naturally inferior to whites.
- The Bible or Koran or Talmud or whatever says they're wrong.
But where did that judgement come from, and why ? Maybe you believe those books
come from God, in which case there's no basis for further rational discussion.
But I think those books were created by people who had an interest in preserving
the status quo (their own power and lifestyle), and wanted to force other people
to obey them and act the way they wanted them to.
And there are lots of other things in the Bible that we choose to ignore or gloss over;
why choose these items to be so forceful about ?
- They're immoral.
But where do moral codes or ethical codes come from ?
And they change over time: for much of USA history, slavery was considered moral.
After that, racial segregation and discrimination were considered moral.
At times, child labor was moral. Wife-beating was moral.
- They're bad for society.
They could be bad in that:
- They counteract desired social policies.
For example, if we want population growth, then homosexuality (if it were a choice)
might keep growth lower than it would be otherwise.
If we want to minimize the number of single males, maybe polygamy tends to
act against that.
If we want to preserve marriages, maybe prostitution tends to break up marriages.
But I think I could argue against each of these propositions.
- They tend to be associated with other crimes and disease.
But I think that's mostly due to their outlaw status. If prostitution were legal and
regulated, disease and abuse would be much easier to prevent. AIDS is not a homosexual-only
disease; in fact, in Africa it's predominantly a heterosexual disease.
I think the USA Immigration policy should be:
- Build a wall/fence on the Mexican border.
Sure, it won't be perfect, and maybe it will stop only 95% of the illegal crossings.
But a country has to enforce its laws, or else why bother having laws ?
- Have a guest-worker program.
We depend on cheap foreign labor, for agriculture and meat-packing and lots of
other areas. If we're unwilling to let those workers become citizens,
we should at least regulate the practice so we know who's in the country
and why, and we can track the activity and protect the workers from abuses.
- Have a fairly generous amnesty/naturalization program for those
already here illegally.
Again, it's much better to have people "in the system", regulated and tracked and
protected from abuse, than to have them illegal and untracked and vulnerable.
I think we have to naturalize them on fairly lenient terms, otherwise they'll
just stay illegal. There are 12-13 million of them (in 2009), so we can't catch them all,
and most of them are not criminals (except for violating immigration laws).
News Overload / News Avoidance
A phenomenon I see more and more:
people who actively do not want to hear anything about
current affairs. If you try to talk about war or politics
or something with them, they groan and say "I don't want
to talk about it", and change the subject. I hear this
from lots of people, including
a lot of well-educated people. They really resent efforts
to discuss these things; they seem to feel you're trying
to make them unhappy.
I think many people have come to this kind of thinking:
- the situation is awful.
- the situation never changes.
- the situation can't be fixed (especially by the viewer,
and maybe also by USA and UN and everyone else).
- I don't want to hear, think or talk about it any more.
For example, this applies to the Israel/Palestine conflict:
- situation is awful: war, innocents being killed,
Arabs hating USA because of Israel, terrorism, etc.
- situation never changes: it's been like that since 1948
or 1967, and will be for another 50 years.
- situation can't be fixed: I's and P's each believe God
tells them to occupy same land and kick the other guys out.
Both sides armed to the teeth, supported by other countries.
- I don't want to hear, think or talk about it any more.
Or take USA politics:
- situation is awful: wrong party is in office, all politicians
are corrupt, nothing but partisan bickering, country
losing jobs, immigrants flooding us, no health insurance,
abortion and gays taking over, huge national debt, etc.
(List depends on your point of view.)
- situation never changes: it's been like that since 60's (if you
believe Hippies ruined the country), or when I lost my job,
or when Reagan left office, or whenever.
(Date and cause of ruination depend on your point of view.)
- situation can't be fixed: my vote is worthless, big money
and two parties and corporations run everything, they're
all crooks, etc.
- I don't want to hear, think or talk about it any more.
So I think a news org could do the BEST story EVER on
Israel/Palestinians or Democrats/Republicans or another of
these "intractable" problems, and most people still would turn
it off. A "new", "hot" issue such as Immigration reform gets a
better reception, but falls into the same mold after a while if
no resolution is reached.
I think this explains some of the shift to blogs or
partisan-news such as Fox News. In those places, you
can avoid a lot of factor #1, "situation is awful", by
choosing an outlet that simply does not report bad news,
as you define it. Instead, they spin things to sound good,
or to line up with your beliefs. And maybe Fox News softens
factor #3, "situation can't be fixed", by telling you we're
winning the wars in the Middle East, and we're getting rid
of the Liberals, so the situations ARE getting fixed.
Some people say they don't want to hear the news any more
because "it's always BAD news; why can't they report some GOOD news ?".
That's a bit of factors #1 and #2 in my list, although my 1-2-3-4
framework really pertains to each news issue individually, not all
news topics grouped together.
I'm not sure when this "don't want to hear about it any more"
attitude kicked in or why. When did voter participation start
plunging ? Was it in reaction to Vietnam, or Watergate, or
the Kennedy-King-Kennedy assassinations ? Or maybe when
the economy got tougher, people hunkered down to concentrate on
job and family, and tuned out current affairs ? Or maybe it's
just due to simple passage of time since the birth of global TV news:
after N decades of tragic news about the same places on the TV news,
the audience finally decided those disturbing situations are NEVER
going to be fixed ?
Some of it is, I think, story-overload. It used to be that we
only heard about a few tragedies around the world: Vietnam, Israel,
say Biafra. And those we got new info about maybe once a week.
Other places just weren't covered; didn't appear on our TV and
most newspapers. Or maybe appeared once a year. Then came satellites
and portable cameras and quick worldwide transmission, and now
it's all-tragedy all-the-time. Another story about civilians killed
in Israel/Palestine/Lebanon every day. It feeds right into points
#1 (situation is awful) and #2 (situation never changes) in my framework.
Even if they were journalistically GREAT stories every day about the
latest Israel tragedy, people would still hate them.
I'm not sure how we can fix this. I guess my engineer's mentality
would say: produce stories that propose solutions to the problems.
Don't just report "10 more civilians killed in southern Lebanon today";
add "and to stop this, here's a proposal from respected group X who
thinks Israel should create a 10-mile wide permanent DMZ on the border",
or some other solution or set of alternative solutions. This is advocacy
or editorial journalism, I guess, and you'd have to make a clear line
between "here are the facts" and "here's our opinion/advocacy". But
leaving people with just the (horrible) facts just reinforces their
1-2-3-4 thinking as I outlined above. I think we should attack point #3
(situation can't be fixed) to get people engaged again.
Two standard practices of the newspaper industry seem wrong to me:
The newspaper revenue problem:
- The headline is written by an editor, not the author of the article. This leads to misleading
headlines that don't match the content of the article. This practice has been carried over to
sites such as Slate, and podcasts. The headline has been sensationalized to draw you in,
and doesn't match the content.
- My letter to the editor is edited by the newspaper before being printed over MY
name, and I have no chance to see or approve the edits. I stopped submitting
letters to newspapers because my letters were mangled so badly. Newspapers should
not edit these letters. They should respond one of three ways:
And there should be no editing
for grammar or spelling; how well or badly someone writes or spells is part of
the letter, and helps the reader determine how credible they are.
- print the letter verbatim, or
- decline to print the letter, or
- respond saying "we like your letter but we need it X% shorter, please trim and re-submit".
- Someone needs to invent micro-payments, so a reader can pay a fraction of a penny for reading an article.
Then newspapers can make individual articles available online, for: 1 cent with no ads, 1/2 cent with embedded general
ads, 1/10 cent with embedded targeted ads.
Workers own the means of production.
All property is publicly owned.
Each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.
The means of production, distribution, and exchange is owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
(In Marxist theory) A transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.
A country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
Private ownership of capital.
An authoritarian hierarchical and nationalistic system of government and social organization.
Centralized government, government control of business, repression of criticism or opposition,
a leader cult, and exalting the state and/or religion above individual rights.
Holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.
Believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets,
individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense. Believe the role
of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.
- Fiscal Conservative: avoids deficit spending; advocates reduction of overall government
spending and national debt as well as ensuring balanced budget.
- Social Conservative: believes government and/or society have a role in encouraging or enforcing
traditional values or behaviors based on the belief that these are what keep people civilized and decent.
Favors social policies based on a particular reading of Judeo-Christian values, generally in favor
of public prayer and the right to own guns, and opposed to abortion rights, same-sex marriage
and the teaching of evolution in public schools.
Open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.
Favorable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms.
Favoring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform.
Believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all. It is the duty of the government to alleviate
social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights.
Maximization of individual liberty in thought and action.
A person who advocates civil liberty.
A person who believes in the doctrine of free will.
Emphasizes individual liberty and a lack of governmental regulation and oversight both
in matters of the economy and in personal behavior where no one's rights are being violated or threatened.
A person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas.
Favoring or promoting change or innovation.
From "Don't Think Of An Elephant !" by George Lakoff 2004
American conservatives and progressives both view the nation as a "family", but
different styles of "family":
- Conservatives believe in the "strict father" model of the family:
The world is a dangerous place, and it always will be, because there is evil
out there in the world. The world is also difficult because it is competitive.
There will always be winners and losers. There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong.
Children are born bad, in the sense that they just want to do what feels good, not what is right.
Therefore, they have to be made good.
What is needed in this kind of a world is a strong, strict father who can:
- Protect the family in the dangerous world.
- Support the family in the difficult world, and
- Teach his children right from wrong.
What is required of the child is obedience, because the strict father is a moral
authority who knows right from wrong. It is further assumed that the only way to teach kids obedience - that is,
right from wrong - is through punishment, painful punishment, when they do wrong. ...
The rationale behind physical punishment is this: When children do something wrong, if they
are physically disciplined they learn not to do it again. That means that they will develop internal discipline
to keep themselves from doing wrong, so that in the future they will be obedient and act morally. Without
such punishment, the world will go to hell. There will be no morality.
Such internal discipline has a secondary effect. It is what is required for success in the difficult,
competitive world. That is, if people are disciplined and pursue their self-interest in this land
of opportunity, they will become prosperous and self-reliant. Thus, the strict father model
links morality with prosperity. The same discipline you need to be moral is what allows you to prosper.
The link is the pursuit of self-interest. Given opportunity and discipline, pursuing your self-interest
should enable you to prosper.
Now, James Dobson is very clear about the connection between the strict father worldview and free market capitalism.
The link is the morality of self-interest, which is a version of Adam Smith's view of capitalism.
Adam Smith said that if everyone pursues their own profit, then the profit of all will be maximized by the invisible hand - that is,
by nature - just naturally. Go about pursuing your own profit, and you are helping everyone.
... it is moral to pursue your self-interest, and there is a name for those people who
do not do it. The name is do-gooder
. A do-gooder is someone who is trying to help
someone else rather than herself and is getting in the way of those who are
pursuing their self-interest. Do-gooders screw up the system.
... A bad child is one who does not learn discipline, does not function morally, does not do
what is right, and therefore is not disciplined enough to become prosperous. She cannot take
care of herself and thus becomes dependent.
When the children are mature, they either have learned discipline and can prosper, or have failed to learn it.
From this point on the strict father is not to meddle in their lives.
This translates politically into no government meddling.
Consider what all this means for social programs. It is immoral to give people things they have
not earned, because then they will not develop discipline and will become both dependent and
immoral. ... if there are a lot of progressives in Congress who think that there should be social
programs, and if you believe social programs are immoral, how do you stop these immoral people ?
It is quite simple. What you have to do is reward the good people - the ones whose prosperity reveals
their discipline and hence their capacity for morality - with a tax cut, and make it big enough
so that there is not enough money left for social programs. By this logic, the deficit is a good thing.
As Grover Norquist says, it "starves the beast".
... in January 2004, President Bush said that he thinks they can cut the deficit in half by
cutting out "wasteful spending" - that is, spending for "bad" social programs. Are conservatives
against all government ? No. They are not against the military, they are not against homeland
defense, they are not against the current Department of Justice, nor against the courts, nor the
Departments of Treasury and Commerce. There are many aspects of government that they like very much.
They are not against government subsidies for industry. Subsidies for corporations, which reward
the good people - the investors in those corporations - are great. No problem there.
But they are against nurturance and care. They are against social programs that take care of
people. That is what they see as wrong. That is what they are trying to eliminate on moral grounds. ...
Think for a minute about what this says about foreign policy. Suppose you are a moral authority.
As a moral authority, how do you deal with your children ? Do you ask them what they should do or
what you should do ? No. You tell them. What the father says, the child does. No back talk.
Communication is one-way. It is the same with the White House. That is, the president does not
ask; the president tells. ...
... The United States, being the best and most powerful country in the world - a moral authority - knows
the right thing to do. We should not be asking anybody else.
... Most of the United Nations consists of developing and underdeveloped countries. That means
they are metaphorical children. ...
- Progressives believe in the "nurturant parent" model of the family:
Both parents are equally responsible for raising the children. The assumption is
that children are born good and can be made better. The world can be made a better
place, and our job is to work on that. The parents' job is to nurture their children
and to raise their children to be nurturers of others.
What does nurturance mean ? It means two things: empathy and responsibility.
If you have a child, you have to know what every cry means. You have to know when the
child is hungry, when he needs a diaper change, when he is having nightmares. And you
have a responsibility - you have to take care of this child. ...
All of this is not easy. Anyone who has ever raised a child knows that this is hard.
You have to be strong. You have to work hard at it. You have to be very competent.
You have to know a lot.
In addition, all sorts of other values immediately follow from empathy and responsibility. ...
First, if you empathize with your child, you will provide protection. This comes into
politics in many ways. What do you protect your child from ? Crime and drugs, certainly. You also
protect your child from cars without seat belts, from smoking, from poisonous additives in food. So
progressive politics focuses on environmental protection, worker protection, consumer protection,
and protection from disease. These are the things that progressives want the government to protect
their citizens from. But there also are terrorist attacks, which liberals and progressives have
not been very good at talking about in terms of protection. ...
Second, if you empathize with your child, you want your child to be fulfilled in life, to be a happy person. ...
There are still other nurturant values:
- If you want your child to be fulfilled in life, the child has to be free enough to do that.
Therefore freedom is a value.
- You do not have very much freedom if there is no opportunity or prosperity.
Therefore opportunity and prosperity are progressive values.
- If you really care about your child, you want your child to be treated fairly
by you and by others. Therefore fairness is a value.
- If you are connecting with your child and you empathize with that child, you have to have open, two-way communication.
Honest communication. That becomes a value.
- You live in a community, and that community will affect how your child grows up. Therefore
commmunity-building, service to the community, and cooperation in a community become values.
- To have cooperation, you must have trust, and to have trust you must have
honesty and open, two-way communication. Trust, honesty, and open communication are fundamental
progressive values - in a community as in a family.
Every progressive political program is based on one or more of these values.
That is what it means to be a progressive.
... there are six basic types of
progressives, each with a distinct mode of thought. They share all the
progressive values, but are distinguished by some differences.
- Socioeconomic progressives think that everything is a matter of money and class and that
all solutions are ultimately economic and social class solutions.
- Identity politics progressives say it is time for their oppressed group to get its share now.
- Environmentalists think in terms of sustainability of the earth, and the protection
of native peoples.
- Civil liberties progressives want to maintain freedoms against threats to freedom.
- Spiritual progressives have a nurturant form of religion or spirituality, their spiritual
experience has to do with their connection to other people and the world, and their spiritual practice
has to do with service to other people and to their community.
Spiritual progressives span the full range from Catholics and Protestants to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Goddess worshippers,
and Pagan members of Wicca.
- Antiauthoritarians say there are all sorts of illegitimate forms of authority out there and
we have to fight them, whether they are big corporations or anyone else.
All six types are examples of nurturant parent morality. The problem is that
many of the people who have one of these modes of thought do not recognize that theirs is
just one special case of something more general, and do not see the unity in all the types of
progressives. They often think that theirs is the only way to be a true progressive. That is sad.
It keeps people who share progressive values from coming together. We have to get past that
harmful idea. The other side did.
Back in the 1950s conservatives hated each other. The financial conservatives hated the social conservatives.
The libertarians did not get along with the social conservatives or the religious conservatives.
And many social conservatives were not religious.
[Then rich conservatives set up institutes and foundations, to write books and get on the media,
to do research, to frame issues the way they want them framed, to compromise among themselves and establish unity
among the various types of conservatives.]
Three myths that end up hurting liberals and progessives:
- The truth will set us free. If we just tell people the facts, since people
are basically rational beings, they'll all reach the right conclusions.
No, people think in "frames", which force a certain logic. To be accepted, the
truth must fit people's frames. If the facts do not fit a frame, the frame
stays and the facts bounce off.
- It is irrational to go against your self-interest, and therefore a normal person,
who is rational, reasons on the basis of self-interest. Modern economic theory and foreign
policy are set up on the basis of that assumption.
No, people do not really think that way. People do not necessarily vote in their self-interest.
They vote their identity. They vote their values. They vote for who they can identify with.
- There is a metaphor that political campaigns are marketing campaigns where the candidate is
the product and the candidate's positions on issues are the features and qualities of the product.
This leads to the conclusion that polling should determine which issues a candidate should run on. ...
[To capture the voters in the "middle", liberal and progressive candidates try to modify positions to "move to the center".]
Instead, they should try to activate their model in the people in the middle.
The people who are in the middle have both models, used regularly in different parts
of their lives. What you want to do is to get them to use your model for politics - to activate
your worldview and moral system in their political decisions. You do that by talking to people
using frames based on your worldview.
From Wray Herbert's "Red science vs. blue science":
... Mooney is convinced - and convincing - that Republicans and Democrats are fundamentally different
in the way they think about the world. Republicans have a different cognitive style than Democrats.
They show lower tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, which makes them defensive about
their beliefs and highly resistant to persuasion. Conservative Republicans score low on a
personality trait called "openness to experience", which encompasses curiosity and intellectual flexibility.
... This "politicized wrongness", as Mooney labels it, has very high stakes. Just a few of the
right-wing "truths" with no scientific merit: that global warming is not related to human activity
and is not a threat, that abortion causes breast cancer and mental disorders, that homosexuality
is a choice that can be reversed. The list goes on, with huge logical and political ramifications
for health, war, and peace. But the ultimate harm, Mooney asserts, is the "utter erosion of a shared sense of what's true".
The stakes are not quite as frightening in the liberal assault on science, as detailed in "Science Left Behind".
Berezow and Campbell call the villains here progressives, by which they seem to mean environmentalists,
health-food advocates, and other groups whose personal life choices the authors resent. These behaviors
include such "feel-good fantasies" as using water-conserving toilets, shopping at health-food stores,
running barefoot, and conserving fossil fuels by driving Priuses.
In any case, the vast majority of liberal behaviors that fall under Berezow and Campbell's withering gaze are,
at worst, just silly and uninformed consumption patterns. Right-wing fallacies with further-reaching
implications are given lighter treatment. ...
"Con men like Rush and Beck are one reason the Republicans are in such dire straits today.
Because they don't care about winning elections. They care about separating rubes from their money.
They've discovered there's a fortune to be made by keeping a small portion of America under the
illusion that they are always under attack. From Mexicans, or ACORN, or Planned Parenthood, or gays,
or takers, global warming hoaxers; it doesn't matter. They don't want a majority. They want a mailing list,
a list of the kind of gullible Honey Boo Boos out there who think that there's a War on Christmas,
and that the socialist policies of our Kenyan President have been so disastrous that the end of the world is coming."
-- Bill Maher
Economic philosophies at the heart of modern USA politics:
, which arose circa 1930:
There is a spectrum from most to least control
Economic behavior can be measured (econometrics), understood
at both individual (micro-economic) and aggregate (macro-economic) levels,
and government can intervene to control or "fix" the economy.
Macro-economic behavior mostly can't be understood or controlled,
and anything government does to intervene is fairly likely to be wrong.
But: government should work to make sure citizens have housing,
medical care, jobs; government can regulate work hours, monetary system.
Even mandatory universal health care and unemployment insurance are okay.
Wikipedia's "Friedrich Hayek".
Great podcast about this:
NPR "Planet Money" 398, 28 Aug 2012
- Fully controlled economy:
Government controls economy completely.
Government often intervenes to control or "fix" the macro features of
the economy, including inflation and unemployment.
- Democratic Party / "Left" today:
Government intervenes to fix major crashes of the economy, and to keep
inflation and unemployment at reasonable levels.
Government regulation of markets is okay.
Safety nets so citizens don't go hungry or without medical care.
Government almost never intervenes.
Safety nets so citizens don't go hungry or without medical care.
- Republican Party / "Right" today:
Government shouldn't intervene in economy (except massive military spending is okay,
massive subsidies to agriculture and energy industries are okay, if economy crashes
then bailouts of big business are okay).
Government regulation of markets should be minimal.
Safety nets are wrong.
- Totally free market economy / Ayn Rand:
Government never intervenes in economy.
No regulation of markets; they're self-regulating.
Safety nets are wrong.
How to Detect Bogus Claims, Articles, Sites, Videos
Doesn't give both sides of an issue, and is absolutely sure its side is right.
In the real world, how many issues are simple and clear, and have one side which is completely right ?
- Part of a Campaign:
If the first 100 results of a Google search on some claim are all copycat sites,
the claim probably is part of a manipulative campaign.
If credentials of the author are trumpeted, and those who disagree are attacked
personally instead of refuting their argument, the claim is suspect.
Any real issue should be discussed on its own merits, without caring who is
on which side. A comment such as "oh, I never read anything from source X, he's just a Y"
is a sign of laziness, evasiveness and personal attack.
- Suspect motives:
Is the author making money from the claim, or trying to promote a political side,
or trying to justify a religious view ?
Using buzzwords such as natural, ancient wisdom, or borrowing scientific terms (fractal, chaos, quantum),
or making coded attacks on government, science or Big Pharma.
- Track record of the author:
Is the author a serial denier (for example, denies ozone hole, pollution, evolution, greenhouse gasses, climate change),
or serial conspiracy-theorist (claims to know the "real truth" about ten different conspiracies),
or a serial claimer (touting a new "miracle natural cure" every couple of months) ?
- Track record of the field:
Some areas (natural remedies, astrology, conspiracies, free energy, etc) have been so
rife with fraud and misrepresentation in the past, that you should be extra-skeptical about
claims in those areas today.
- Too good to be true:
We know a fair amount about cancer, and energy, and other topics. It's unlikely
that some new thing is suddenly going to cure all cancer, or give us free energy, or whatever.
Such an extraordinary claim should be supported by extraordinary, very solid evidence that
could stand up to rigorous testing, not just some internet campaign.
- Fails common-sense tests:
Does the author claim that scientists are getting rich off some controversy ? Most scientists probably
could make a lot more money working for an oil company or insurance company or financial company,
than by doing research.
Does the author claim that some drug cures just about all known diseases, most of them completely
unrelated and with completely different underlying mechanisms ? Is the author evasive about
dosage, side-effects, testing ? All bad signs.
Does the author claim that there's some all-powerful, amazingly secret body involved,
yet he has penetrated the secrecy and knows the truth ? If so,
they aren't so powerful and secret, are they ?
- Form over substance:
Is the claim made via a slick video or fancy web site, instead of focusing on
simple facts with links to sources ? Maybe this is an attempt to use slick production
values to hide a weak claim.
- Quantity over quality:
Is a fairly simple claim made via a long video or pages and pages of text, instead of just
stating it simply and clearly ? Maybe this is an attempt to overwhelm the reader.
Does the author imply that all scientists say the same thing, or all doctors do, or "the government" is one body that
has one unified message, or all corporations are working to suppress something ?
All of those things are untrue.
- Changing the subject:
When you question the claim, does the author respond by changing the subject ?
If you ask "how does one miracle drug work against 500 diseases ?", the response
is a tirade on the evils of Big Pharma ? A sign that the claim doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
sci-ence.org's "The Red Flags of Quackery"
Skeptoid's "How to Spot Pseudoscience"
Stephen Barrett and Victor Herbert's "Twenty-Five Ways to Spot Quacks and Vitamin Pushers"
Robert L. Park's "Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science"