Monday, March 24, 2008

Freedom Of Speech

So I have this friend I've never met who thinks he's a liberal. Of course, I think I'm a conservative, and have explained why on a couple of occasions ... but getting away from arguments over language, my liberal friend Frank LoPinto over at the Cool Blue Blog is a modern conservative as I'm a modern liberal. I read his blog and I rarely agree with any given point he's arguing ... but here's something that we do agree on.

We, and by “we” I include any fellow traveler who believes that free expression battles bad ideas more effectively than suppression, are in conflict with people who are willing to wage war, to murder the innocent, to prevent you from seeing this cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.

If freedom means anything, it means the right to speak your mind without fear of violence. We, me and Frank and anyone else who feels that this right is essential – myself, I think it's the very basis of civilization – we cannot permit this to stand.


Last week we got a new audiotape from Osama bin Laden on the subject of freedom of speech. (He's not in favor of it.) You can read his remarks in their entirety here, but in short form, Islam forbids depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, and bin Laden's really ticked off about the publication of cartoons like the one above that do, in fact, depict the Prophet.

If you have time after availing yourself of bin Laden's wisdom, you could take a gander at Das Kapital (a primitive, pseudo-scientific theory of economics and history) or the Communist Manifesto (more of the same, but blessedly shorter.) Or you can entertain yourself with Hitler's Mein Kampf or Mao's Little Red Book, or investigate one of the classic works of blood libel with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Or, if you like (and they're universally better reads, let me tell you) you can read Madison and Hamilton's Federalist Papers, or the Anti-Federalist Papers, or Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, or Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not A Christian, or even the best comic you've never heard of, Pibgorn.

Of course, you needn't take my word for which of these texts are worthwhile and which are tedious or in error: go read 'em. They're online and available to anyone who lives in a society where the internet is not censored ....


If you didn't actually click through on the link to bin Laden (and please do – when you can go to the source on controversial subjects, you should – trust, but verify, to quote either Runyon or Reagan) – if you didn't click through, here's what he said, on the subject of the evil cartoon:

“Although our tragedy in your killing of our women and children is a very great one, it paled when you went overboard in your unbelief and freed yourselves of the etiquettes of dispute and fighting and went to the extent of publishing these insulting drawings. This is the greater and more serious tragedy, and reckoning for it will be more severe.”

OK, here are some more of the insulting cartoons.

I won't bother directly critiquing bin Laden's words. The only transaction with bin Laden that really interests me is the one that ends with him dead, and besides, an American critiquing Osama bin Laden is sort of like an American critiquing Hitler: not in fact a sign of great virtue, bravery, or perception. But I should say that I am not anti-Muslim, any more than I'm anti-Christian or anti-Scientologist or anti-Jew or anti any other particular religion. I think all codified religions are essentially superstitions, and Islam is no more foolish than any other at the level of pure theology.

I am, however, very much anti-Islam as this religion has come to be expressed in Iran, in Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia, in Syria, in Egypt, in Libya, in a myriad of locations around the globe. There's nothing intemperate about such a statement of opposition; I'm not advocating any one specific step to deal with these cultures, as much as I'm strongly advocating a specific attitude on our part, on behalf of those for whom freedom of speech is not merely a figure of speech: this is a conflict we have to win.

I am thoroughly fed up with the American media in general and all the cowards in particular who've run from this subject – including feminists and multicultural leftists for whom I might otherwise have considerable sympathy. Though deeply offensive to Muslims, these cartoons are important pieces of political expression. The fact that they're deeply offensive to some is both unfortunate – and meaningless: “offensive” speech is always the speech that's easiest to attack, the place where it's easiest for the enemies of free expression to move the line.

There needs to be a hard, bright line on this principle, and we must defend it to the death – because without it we are not civilized; at best we're the decadent remnants of a culture that once aspired to civilization. There are acts that ought not to be permitted (and some sorts of speech, fire in the movie theater and so on, are acts) – but speech itself, the right to take and argue a position without fear, is the core of all liberty, and the principle means whereby error can be discovered and corrected.

If this means permitting ignorant assholes to use the word “nigger” or “kike” or “fag” or what have you, if it means permitting the KKK to march in Skokie, if it means sick individuals get to post online about their rape fantasies, if it means the guys at NAMBLA, the North American Man Boy Love Association, get to publish the website I just linked to – and particularly if you're one of the people whose lives have been touched by these bigots, rapists, pedophiles: shit, folks, I'm really sorry.

But it is literally the price of freedom. It's non-negotiable. So we hang bin Laden when we get our hands on him; I'm good with that. I'm not a pacifist (immoral philosophy, that, asserting that the lives of the innocent are unworthy of defense), and I'm only against the death penalty because I think it executes the innocent – not a concern I have with bin Laden. But until then, when bin Laden wants to explain himself, fine: the callow quality of his thinking does him and his cause more harm than good. And this is universally the case ... because I trust people. We're obnoxious and self-centered and looking out for numero uno – but in the long run enlightened self-interest is vastly more trustworthy than any other motivation. And so that opportunity for enlightenment, for the chance to weigh all sides of a dispute and come to a reasoned conclusion, is ultimately the difference between freedom and repression.

Which brings me back to Frank LoPinto. He and I don't agree about much, when it comes to the emotional issues of the day, and that's OK. On most of the subjects I've argued with him, he, or I, or both of us, are in the wrong. I respect the fierceness of his conviction (much prefer it, in fact, to people who can't be bothered, which is probably why I have so many conservative friends) – and the inevitability of error on my part, and his, doesn't bother me. Because in addition to the freedom to argue our positions, time is on our side. Maybe not my side, exactly – it's taken my hair, one eye, and my jump shot so far – but ours. On the side of all those of us who believe that the truth will set you free. Because here's the thing: the gap between me and Frank is much smaller than the gap between us, and any civilized man of 1908. We agree that interbreeding among the races is fine and that generations of welfare are bad. The idea that women should vote is not a subject of controversy for us. In the election to come, Frank's not voting for the black man or the white woman – but it's because they're Democrats, not because they're black and female, respectively; he and virtually every Republican I know would enthusiastically vote for Condoleeza Rice, who's both black and female, before they'd vote for any Democrat. And that's progress, yes it is, a social consensus arrived at through generations of partisans and ideologs hammering away at each other in the public arena.


So I've made the distinction between Islam and Islam-As-It's-Practiced in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Certainly there are Muslims who are fervent fans of freedom of expression; I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the people who want to go to war to keep cartoons of their Prophet from being published.

And sweet Jesus (who-was-just-a-man) ... for the life of me, I don't understand why liberals and particularly feminists aren't more up in arms about Islam-As-It's-Practiced in Iran and Saudi Arabia and so forth. OK, you hate Bush. Me too. But does this prevent us from noticing that in Iran they execute gays and sexually active women and apostates? That in Saudi Arabia religious police sent 15 girls back into a burning building, to die, because they weren't wearing their fucking headscarves? That in Holland Theo Van Gogh was murdered for making a film that criticized Islam? That in general women in Islamic countries are abused, uneducated, virtually enslaved by their male relatives, are sometimes murdered by those relatives if they're raped?

The clash of cultures we're presently enmeshed in is real, and it's critical we win it. Yes, we have our flaws as a culture, and it's healthy that we examine those flaws, argue them, and work to improve ourselves. But we're better than they are, better than the Saudis, the Iranians, the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Libyans. There are historical reasons for this, some of which have to do with us doing harm to them, and our ancestors doing harm to their ancestors; we're not angels and we're not blameless.

Not blameless: but better. Our culture is not merely different from theirs; it's superior. In the clash of cultures between fascist Germany, Imperial Japan, and communist Russia, America, for all our sins, was righteous. In the current conflict, for all our sins, we are again: we can argue our approach, our technique, how we persuade, who can be persuaded and who must be defeated. It may be that a military approach is counterproductive, as it would have been with the Soviet Union. That's an argument worth having. But for two generations Americans waged a Cold War with the Soviet Union, because the cost of a hot war was too great: at a minimum we can and should do the same again.

This is a winnable fight, and it's a fight we had better win.


Thomas said...

I think painting all Liberals with the broad brush of not condemning the radical Islamic nations is based on a falsehood, and it serves to undermine your argument. I'm with you up until you blame the Liberals for ...something. I'm not sure what you're mad at, here.

All of the Liberals I know, have seen, have read (etc) agree on one point: SA/Iran/et al have an abhorrently restrictive system, where atrocities can be committed in the name of a god who actually promotes peace as the most divine social being.

Where they disagree with most conservatives is that the answer isn't interminable "hot" war. No one can survive that, on either side. We're already seeing the effects of a ridiculously long drawn-out conflict, but economical and political. The only people saying that the Liberals love the Islamic extremists are Conservatives trying to frame the discussion for their own ends.

So, you and I come to the same conclusion, Dan: There are other ways to fight wars (at least one way that eventually proved the most successful, in the case of the downfall of the USSR). To fight the Liberals on this, when you have the same goals, seems like wasted energy.

Shawn said...

I would agree that culturally, America/northern Europe are... let's say, more equitable and tolerant; I dislike relative terms such as "better" in such discussions, because that can be argued as just being culturally derived values. Quantifiable terms make for a clearer discussion.

The question then becomes what's needed to "win" as you put it. The less-tolerant side of this conflict is only important because they disagree strongly enough (and have enough power) to harm the more-tolerant side. If persuasion fails, there are two approaches: eliminating the less-tolerant side, or leaving them powerless to do harm.

Our current administration is attempting to accomplish those two, but not very competently.

Dan Moran said...


Liberals got the Iraq war right. We're the only ones who did -- that war had a 70% approval rating at one point. Conservatives and moderates were all behind Bush on that one. So I'm not clear, really, where you get me being mad at liberals; I'm not.

That said, I stand by the criticism -- I think as a group we're getting this one wrong. If you put to a random group of liberals the question: "Are we engaged in a clash of civilizations with Islam, and is it important that we win that clash" -- I doubt you'd get 50%. I understand this -- as a group we despise Bush so thoroughly that we don't want to stand side by side with him on anything. It's a bad reason, though. Ideas are not responsible for the people that hold them -- that Bush happens to be on the right side of this one issue, isn't evidence that the issue itself is tainted. Stopped clock, etc.

Shawn, I used "better" on purpose and after due thought. Look -- if there's no meaningful difference between us and the Islamic fundamentalists, there's no moral ground for us to stand on in this conflict. And that moral ground is critical.

I like quantifiable metrics -- measurability is always good. We had a long argument about this over on Barnes's blog -- on every metric you can come up with, the fundamentalist Islamic countries are the least free places on Earth. I'd be happy to drill down on that -- on freedom of press, of religion, on equitable justice systems, on poverty, on health, etc. -- Islamic fundamentalists rank at or near the bottom in all those categories. But if that doesn't constitute "better," I don't know what does.

As I say -- how we get from A to Z is a good argument, and I have relatively little good to say about the Bush administration on any of this. But it's genuinely critical that we agree as a country that getting to Z is worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Considering the current state of our economy, and the hard times that can clearly be seen ahead, I think that we're pretty much getting what we asked for.

The general public was so stupid as to let this all happen, I'm beginning to think a depression is NEEDED to weed out the lethargic and apathetic masses. Only the hard-working will make it through. We, as a country, could use a little toughening.

Our government is a runaway-train of corporate greed and corruption and our populous just sits at home doing nothing about it.

Honestly I don't know which is worse, the idiots who cannot even perceive what is happening, or the people who can understand what is going on and do nothing to stop it. I am putting myself in the second group, to be truthful.

The problem is so big and so far removed from the day-to-day that it is impossible to figure out what one person could actually do to make it right. If one person actually could.

Perhaps a sniper bullet in the head of the right person might make a momentary difference, but like a hydra, the corruption will produce two more bloodsuckers to replace the dead.

And I'm sorry to say this, but the whole Liberal vs Conservative thing can just go to hell.

It doesn't make a single bit of difference when the bad guys have control of both sides.

Clinton and McCain are in the same club as Bush... and anyone who has eyes can see it. They're doing anything they can to deep-six Obama, even joining across party lines, which tells me that he might actually be worth a damn. I don't care for the man one way or the other, or his policies, but the fact that the "bad guys" are trying so hard to stop him makes me want to support him.

There may be a big difference between liberals and conservatives at the state-level and below. But when you get to D.C., its just scum and scum-lite.

What good people there are in congress are marginalized as much as possible.

Dan Moran said...


"The problem is so big and so far removed from the day-to-day that it is impossible to figure out what one person could actually do to make it right. If one person actually could."


"scum vs. scum-lite"

As to the first, George Bush has sure made a huge difference, eh? If all one person does is refrain from doing harm, this would be a huge improvement, no?

As to scum vs. scum-lite, sure, I won't even argue the point. But apply compound interest over time, and tell me what the difference looks like over ten years? Say scum-lite is only 5% better than scum ... and start at 100.

After 10 years, scum is still at 100; scum-lite is at 162. Or you can go the other way, and say that after 10 years, sum-lite's at 100, scum's at 62 ... it's the same math.

Small differences add up.

Anonymous said...

"Small differences add up."

Yes they do, granted, but there is one thing going wrong now that hasn't been compromised at any previous time in our country.

Right now, the failsafes of the constitution are stripped of their power, Habeus Corpus is in tatters. And without it all of the rights that we hold dear are just farts in the wind.

So scum and scum-lite now have a new tier of low behavior to explore which previously wasn't available to them.

I figure it is going to have to get worse before it gets better.

Its going to have to get pretty bad before people like you and me drop the keyboard and pick up the bomb-making material.

Make no mistake, sir, its no longer a government by the people for the people.

It is now a government by the power for the power. And its going to stay that way until we wrest our freedom back away from the hungry beast.

I make no distinction between Dems and Reps simply because the republicans are the driving force in causing all of this, and the democrats were put into power to reverse the course and they haven't done shit. They have sit and squabbled and bowed down to the Mighty Power of King George like a bunch of pussies.

There are checks and balances put in place to prevent these sorts of thing.

But they have yet to be employed.

Rob said...

As you know, Dan, most people think I'm just a little to the right of Genghis Khan. I have zero disagreement with what you've said here. None.

Thomas: re "no one can survive [interminable] war, on either side"... this is a comforting thought, in that we want to believe we lack the ability to eradicate our enemies utterly. The reality is it is simply not true. The Mongols managed to pacify an entire continent by putting massive populations to the sword, and they didn't even have nukes.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not suggesting we use the Mongol strategy, which in the nuclear age would just be an endlösung der Moslemsfrage. I am presenting it only as one endpoint of a continuum, where "total military annihilation of hundreds of millions of people" is one option and "total capitulation to Islamofascist thuggery" is the other.

We must be aware this extreme exists, and that it is available to us. The reason why we must recognize it is on the table is because many of our enemies are eager--I mean literally eager!--to push things to that inhuman extreme. Look at how often bin Laden and other Al Qaeda spokesmen talk about how our problem is we love life, and their gift is they love death. Our military enemies want our annihilation--they'll accept their own--it's the in between, the compromise, that they refuse to tolerate.

If we do not allow ourselves to think about those extremes, if we do not put the consequences of those extremes on the table, it makes it far more likely our enemies will succeed in drawing us to them.

If our enemies are successful in driving us to either extreme, we will discover the truth of the Christian question "for what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

Steve Perry said...

This isn't one you start out trying to with a gun, Dan. It might come to that, and if it does, it will be bloody awful, but the only way to change theology is to offer a better choice. Gonna take a shitload of education.

Dan Moran said...

Just curious, Steve -- wouldn't you have gone into Afghanistan after 9/11? I would have -- it's almost the only thing Bush has done in 8 years I agree with, but I did agree with it. (Though, as with everything else, he cocked it up dreadfully.)

Plainly the Islamic world needs to go through its own Enlightenment. I've no idea how to get that to happen, except I doubt it happens from the outside.

Thomas said...

rob: "We must be aware this extreme exists, and that it is available to us."


Remind me never to have you over to fix one of my computers. I imagine the conversation like this:

Rob: I notice you have some sort of memory error in the system. It's really tough to weed out, but over time, I may be able to remove it. However, you need to be aware that it has no remorse: It will compeletely destroy any data you have in the system, if given half a chance. I want you to be aware that the extreme solution exists, and that it is available to you.

Thomas: What's the extreme solution?

Rob: A sledgehammer.

Thomas: What??

Rob: A sledgehammer. You hit the motherboard here, here, and here, and you no longer have that memory problem. I have a sledgehammer in my car, and it's an extreme solution, but I just want to make sure that you're aware that it's available to you.

Thomas: Get out of my house.

Steve Perry said...

Yes. I would have gone into Afghanistan. I wouldn't have bombed it back to the Stone Age. I'd have packed up some of those crates of money they were handing out in Bagdad, and looked for somebody in the Taliban who knew where bin Laden was to bribe.

Threatening to firebomb every poppy field in the country would have done it, too.

There was not then, and still isn't any justification for going into Iraq. It was all a con, aided by fear we'd be blown up in our beds. Bush and company knew. The intelligence community who tried to say otherwise were told to fall on their swords.

Fundamentalist anything makes me nervous, and while it is tempting just to kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out, that doesn't solve it. For every terrorist you turn into a martyr, you create five new ones. People in that part of the world have long memories.

Rob said...


As Sandor McNab wrote, "Nothing determines whom we will become so much as those things we choose to ignore."

If you want to ignore that option, and thereby assume the risk of becoming that option, that's on your head.

I choose to pay attention to it so I can avoid it.

In your analogy, you're right, I would tell you about the sledgehammer option. Except it would go a lot more like this. "Yeah, it might feel really good to lose your temper and destroy your PC, and honestly, you wouldn't be much worse off than you are right now, with how messed up your machine is. But no matter how much you want to do that, it's probably not a good idea. Remember that you'll be tempted to lose your temper. Don't. If it gets that bad, just get up and walk away."

In point of fact, I've given almost that exact speech to people before. I've discovered that it tends to yield good results.

So yeah, guilty as charged.

cybercod said...

Dan, I think I could almost agree with most of what you're saying in the post.

I'm right there on the edge of it. Teetering, in fact.

Extremist Islam isn't something that the world can really tolerate for much longer. Eventually they will get bigger and bigger weapons, and they have no qualms about using them.

There will be no cold war with them. If they achieve nukes, they'll most likely use them, start an apocalypse, and die happy believing they did a good deed.

Won't change the fact that the rest of us will be dead as well. The cockroaches will mourn all the crumbs and morsels we used to drop behind the couch. But eventually they will find other cockroachy things to do and then we humans will be completely forgotten.

The clan with silver eyes is a great story element, (read Armageddon Blues at age 14, and again last year at 32, love it still) but its not likely to be anything near what post nuclear holocaust will be like.

So I don't disagree with the diagnosis of the problem we face concerning extremists.

But when you get to thinking about the powers granted to FEMA and the ineffectuality of our Bill of Rights right now, you start to wonder just which is worse. Living in a panopticon built by our government, or systematic annihilation by a self-righteous enemy... I dunno. Isn't there a third option?

Couldn't our President have possibly gone about this grand crusade with a little more honesty? Couldn't he have tried to profit less from it personally?
or tangentially?

The actions of George W. Bush do not reflect just the actions of just one man. You cannot say that had he not acted the world would be a better place, not because he is so meager a force, but because his actions are guided by others. If not him, then someone else. If not him, then McCain. Or Hilliary.

These people have ties to eachother behind the scenes that are too prevalent to ignore. Bill putting Cheney in charge of Haliburton back in the day, George Sr. and Bill running around arm in arm across the middle east... Dare I say it, Bush vs Kerry? Skull and Bones?

And don't get me started about Prescott Bush and Rockefeller...

This is not about conservative versus liberals.

There is a small clique of individuals in power. And they plan to stay in power.

Another thing that is obvious is that they couldn't care less for the people in this country. Starting wars does TWO big things. It kills off the virulent young men (nearly 4000 gone so far) and it bankrupts the economy.

We're so much in debt to China now its getting scary. China basically owns us, or will soon at the rate they're going. And their people are WAY more oppressed than we are. As is evident in Tibet right now. So take a good look at Tibet. Thats how it will be here soon. Haliburton already has some pretty nice detainment camps built.

The thing the Islamic culture is fighting against is the influx of our culture. They fear that their people will become as decadent and morally corrupted as ours. They don't want their women voting. They don't want their daughters wearing halter-tops and make-up and listening to Britney Spears.

I can't say as I blame them. Not that I'm a sexist... I believe women have the right to live their lives as they wish. But at the same time, it sure has fucked up the nuclear family quite royally.

When our women became free, it was a keystone removed that let out a whole lot of bad stuff.

Lemme give you a 'for-instance':

Women's Liberation is directly related to the astronomical divorce rate in our country. If you can't see that, you're not intelligent enough to have this conversation. From the divorce rate we get such evils as divorce court, divorce lawyers, custody battles, pre-nuptial agreements, latchkey-kids, and frozen pre-made PB&J sandwiches. Would gang violence be as bad now if Women's Liberation had not occurred?

And thats just one side-effect. Think about the impacts (both good and bad) that women have had on the workforce (sexual harrassment suits.. etc. etc.).

Yes its a good thing. Women deserve to be free like any man. But I must say, these Islamic extremists do have a point.

Killing a shopkeeper because his vegetables are arranged too suggestively is going a little overboard. Overboard is the definition of extremist.

So after writing all of this out, and linking Women's Liberation with frozen sandwiches, I find myself still teetering.

Convince me.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

>"That war had a 70% approval rating at one point."<

And it was wrong from the get-go. Consensus does not create reality. 70% of the American populace suddenly deciding things like gravity don't exist won't automatically make it go away. We got played for suckers, and deservedly so. It's hindsight, but if we don't use it as a learning experience we're doomed to repeat it.

>"I don't understand why liberals and particularly feminists aren't more up in arms about Islam-As-It's-Practiced in Iran and Saudi Arabia and so forth."<

Because THEY (Iran, Saudi, etc.) need to want it as badly as WE did in the 1700's. They need to want to die for it, period. Until they do, it's sad, but they'll just keep on dying, being oppressed, performing cliterectomies, forcing women to wear a body length burlap sack, etc. Until freedom is something they want badly enough to fight for, we can't do it for them. Otherwise, we'll just go in, wreck things, get mired down in a non-winnable war, and in the end the foxes will still be running the henhouse. See above reference to what the 70% approval rating was for.

>"There needs to be a hard, bright line on this principle, and we must defend it to the death"<


>"the distinction between Islam and Islam-As-It's-Practiced in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia"<

With you, with you WITH YOU. I have long moaned about this, but the problem is that when something happens to a wahabbi who was breaking the law (for instance, the ones who got chucked off the plane when they tried to create an incident a couple of years ago) then the entire Muslim league takes it as a personal slight. That leads us to think that they all assume responsibility for the actions of another claiming Allah, which gives rise to "blanket coverage" of a thing, instead of individual recognition of isolated incidents. Suddenly people see Islam as ONE, when it's really SEVERAL, and even then all we hear are the most radically outspoken. The distinction needs to be made. And then the law needs to be enforced.

Steve Perry said...

"When our women became free, it was a keystone removed that let out a whole lot of bad stuff."

Oh, Momma, this is so dense it would put uranium to shame.

The "nuclear" family you mourn was a short part of human history, and only worked when the male landowner also owned his wife and children as effectively as if they were slaves.

You want to go back to the mid-eighteen hundreds and keep the darkies in chains, because that led to all kinds of turmoil? Wouldn't be any crips and bloods if'n they were all out working the plantation while massa sat on the porch sipping mint julips, hey?

Divorce rates climbed because traditional marriage doesn't fulfill the needs of a lot of folks, that should be obvious, men and women. If the women would just, know their place and allow the man to be in charge without kicking, why, that would have kept things just like the halcyon fifites ...

You're right. I'm not intelligent enough to be having this conversation. I haven't learned the art of talking gently to people who can't see the forest for the trees in their way.

cybercod said...

@Steve Perry (hey aren't you the guy from Journey?)

Never said I believe we should go back to the fifties, nor that the slaves shouldn't have been freed. Are you taking drugs or something?

My wife is a crazy bitch and I wouldn't have her any other way. I love women, I love life, I love people, and I love freedom. And I wouldn't dream of taking it away from anyone else.

ALL I was saying was that I see their point. Not that I share it.

Way to get huffy there, man.

And when I was speaking about Nuclear family, I was being general. Families don't stay together these days.

The short and skinny is that people generally suck. As is evidenced by your post, you sir, suck. I myself pretty much suck. We all, in a word, suck. We are all trying to push our world view on one another for a good ten to eighteen hours a day.

We humans don't get along well with eachother, regardless of sex or race. we take offense at eachothers words and deeds very quickly and very vehemently.

The extremists are people who refuse to have your worldview pushed on them.

So this general common suckiness makes it pretty hard for a man and a woman to get along for years and years on end. And because there is nothing forcing them to stay together (such as an extremely unfairly biased patriarchal culture) the tend NOT to stay together.

That doesn't keep them from having kids.

Kids who grow up with poor gender archetypes... who don't have the benefit of both a loving mother and a demanding father, but instead have some imperfect mixture of the two from a very tired and very stressed out Uni-parent, who seldom has time to do a decent job.

Have you seen the schools lately sir? Have you looked at how our educational system is failing? Do you think this is just due to Rap music or something? Kids are getting shot. People are DYING just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time... and more and more that wrong place is in class!

Next time I would ask that you read and think a little before rebuttal. Apparently thinking wasn't involved. You just reacted to some key words and responded to them by basically calling me a racist sexist prig. Which I am not.

Understanding of an idea is not the same as agreeing with it.

I understand the point the extremists are making. They look at our culture and to them it is an abomination. If I were in their shoes I would probably feel the same way.

Y'see, I can say that because I possess the ability to put myself in other people's perspective.

You apparently don't.

I can even put myself in your perspective. Championing the rights of women is a good thing I think... except that most feminists would tell you to shut up because they are more than capable of defending themselves. Which they are, and I dare say they'd do a better job of it than you did.

Until you can understand the views of another, you have no holy hope in hell of creating a MEANINGFUL dialog with them.

Personally I'm leaning ever so slightly toward eradication and annihilation of the entire population of countries which are predominantly extremist-Islam. Not by nukes... thats way too messy, and it screws up the land.

Wars used to be fought without apologies. You used to be able to take over a country and call it Conquest! Now you have to go back and repair what you broke, say nice things about the people you killed, feed them until their fields can support crops again, and educate their children thereby enabling them to grow up and hate you more effectively.

Nuke the bastards. Just don't use nukes. Can we tag a killer virus to their DNA or something? The world's population is getting out of control. We're going to need that land eventually. No point poisoning it with a half-life. Surely we can kill them all AND keep their stuff??



PS.> If I ever espouse my OWN opinion in here, Steve, I will be sure to let you know so you can critique it. Until then, just take it in stride that I'm going to represent whichever point of view I feel is not being represented in the conversation. For me to accurately depict my own opinion would necessitate that I completely form one on the subject first. I've yet to do that.

cybercod said...

Oh, almost forgot...

Steve, please explain to me how women's liberation is completely independent of the divorce rate climb. Please tell us all how they are mutually exclusive datum.

I wanna hear this, it should be good.

Saying that marriage is outdated or doesn't fit every situation or relationship (while perfectly true) is aside from the point I was making.

I am NOT asking you whether divorce is a necessary evil. I'm NOT asking you whether or not the old system was fair.

I am asking you if women's lib is directly related to the climb of the divorce rate.

Its as simple as this:
Since women are free to leave (divorce), they do so more often than they did back when they weren't free to leave (divorce).

Do you or do you not agree that the statement is true? All moral and cultural biases aside, is the statement true?

(hehe, I love debate, don't you?)

Dan Moran said...


but there is one thing going wrong now that hasn't been compromised at any previous time in our country.

Right now, the failsafes of the constitution are stripped of their power

Sorry, but this is simply false to fact. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in 1861. FDR sent American citizens into concentration camps without due process. John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition acts into law -- the first 3 were standard-issue blame-the-immigrants shit, but the fourth (the Sedition Act) made it a crime to say anything false, the government deciding what was false --

Thomas Jefferson, Hero of the Republic, pardoned everyone who'd been convicted under the Acts -- great guy, TJ. But at least 3 Presidents (one of them in possibly the best President this country's ever seen) blatantly violated the Constitution before Bush took his turn at it. The Republic survived.

Its going to have to get pretty bad before people like you and me drop the keyboard and pick up the bomb-making material.

Quantum willing and the river don't rise, it won't come to that.

They have sit and squabbled and bowed down to the Mighty Power of King George like a bunch of pussies.

Uhm ... yep.


In Robert's defense, I don't think his awareness that we could turn the Middle East into a Glass Desert is a moral failing on his part. It's an insane option, but it's an option and one we should be on the guard against. Pretending it couldn't happen -- at best -- leaves us unprepared to oppose those who'd consider it.


Fundamentalist anything makes me nervous, and while it is tempting just to kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out, that doesn't solve it.

Fundamentalists, no -- terrorists, yes. I admit, the distinction between them can be blurry. You can't go about killing people because they hate you (particularly when they have cause to hate you, which in our case many of them do.) But once they start shooting at us, I don't care why they started shooting. We can try to make things right for their survivors.


There will be no cold war with them. If they achieve nukes, they'll most likely use them, start an apocalypse, and die happy believing they did a good deed.

The things that worries me the most, let me tell you. While I'm skeptical any given mullah really wants to die -- they're more prone to sending brainwashed young people out to do that -- I'm much more fearful that an Islamic culture, with their death fetish, will find going out in a blaze of glory a reasonable conclusion. Say what you like about those atheist bastard commies, Russki & Chinese -- like me, they want to live.

Long term, though, the number one reason the human race needs to get into space -- this planet's too fragile a container for a race that's grown as powerful as we have, while remaining so thoroughly stupid in most other ways...


We're not there yet, and there's a pretty good chance we won't get there. If we do -- well, there are always options.

These people have ties to eachother behind the scenes that are too prevalent to ignore.

No reason to ignore them, but seriously, anyone who tries to make the "there's no difference between them" argument at this point in American history is going to get short shrift from me. George Bush took office with a 200+ BILLION dollar per year surplus, and managed to bankrupt the country within his first term. There is a difference, and it's a meaningful one.

I can't say as I blame them. Not that I'm a sexist... I believe women have the right to live their lives as they wish. But at the same time, it sure has fucked up the nuclear family quite royally ... Convince me.

It's economics, not women's rights. Used to be in this country a single breadwinner could support a family -- with rare exceptions this is no longer the case. Women getting the right to vote didn't cause that.

... and the "not intelligent enough" thing is uncalled for. You don't like how Steve responded to you, but seriously, starting off by insulting anyone who disagrees with your assertion is Original Sin territory, in this kind of stuff.

Yes, Steve does suck, and so do I, and so do you, being humans and all -- but seriously, Steve Perry is pretty fucking smart, and so are most of the people posting here. I'm willing to whip mine out and compare it with most anyone -- despite which I'm pretty sure several of the posters on this blog are further to the right side of the bell curve than I am.

(Intelligence is overrated anyway -- the world is run by people with 120 IQs.)

Rob said...


While heaven knows I have some very stark (and, to some extent, personal) disagreements with Steve, I disagree with the way you're characterizing him here. Disagree with his ideas, sure. Call him on it when he's grossly misrepresenting yours. But please keep it from degenerating into a name-calling match. This is Dan's place. Let's keep it nice, okay?

Further, when you say you don't have a viewpoint and you're just presenting things that you think aren't being presented--I call shenanigans. To me, that sounds like a social dodge meant to shield you from criticism.

If you want to present a dissenting viewpoint you don't personally believe in--a practice I heartily encourage!--you have to begin by taking the dissenting viewpoint seriously. When I argue against the Second Amendment, for instance, I start with the fact no Supreme Court case has applied 14th Amendment incorporation to the 2nd Amendment, meaning states can pass whateverthehell gun control laws they want.

Do I truly believe that? Does it matter? What matters is I'm presenting a viewpoint I disagree with, with a seriousness and rigor that shows I am respecting the viewpoint even if I disagree with it.

Talking in broad, sweeping terms about genocide and then justifying it by saying "just take it in stride that I'm going to represent whichever point of view I feel is not being represented in the conversation"... well, that's not a representation.

That's a caricature.

That disrespects the viewpoint and your fellow debaters both. It disrespects the viewpoint because it turns it into a joke--it disrespects your fellow debaters because you're telling them you don't think they're smart enough to notice it's a caricature.

Steve Perry said...

"PS.> If I ever espouse my OWN opinion in here, Steve, I will be sure to let you know so you can critique it. Until then, just take it in stride that I'm going to represent whichever point of view I feel is not being represented in the conversation. For me to accurately depict my own opinion would necessitate that I completely form one on the subject first. I've yet to do that."

In which case, stick a fork us, Sparky, 'cause we're done.
I left my take-either-side-of-the-argument debate days behind a long time ago. If you don't care enough to offer your opinion, I am not interested in continuing this conversation -- the devil has plenty of advocates without you signing on. I have heard enough from the racists and sexists so I don't need you to step up and take their part just 'cause nobody else is stupid enough to do so.

And heresay evidence is suspect anyhow.

When you start the dialog that anybody who doesn't agree with your premise isn't intelligent enough to be having the conversation, you are insulting for its own sake. You throw crap, you should expect to have it thrown back. And by people with better aim.

Your point may be valid, but you aren't leaving room for debate with that kind of opening. And lest you hurry to say that you don't really believe that, you are just offering it on behalf of somebody who might, spare me.
Life is too short.

Since this is Dan's blog, it isn't my place to say "Form an opinion or fuck off."

But you understand my sentiments, hey?

cybercod said...

Okay, I guess it was a cardinal sin to insinuate that disagreeing with the founding premise of what I wrote was tantamount to stupidity. I sometimes get ahead of myself.

I apologize. Dan, sorry to have stirred up a bunch of shit in your comments section, but I won't lie and say it wasn't fun.

I still think the premise is correct, but I understand that others may not see it that way.

Its such an unpopular idea to state that women's lib had any negative connotations, because giving freedom to people IS a good thing. But ignoring the bad repercussions of such a thing, just because they don't hold with the virtues of it, that just seems silly to me. If you cure cancer but give the patient permanent and frequent flatulence, you can't pretend you have a perfect cure. You may have enabled the patient to live longer and healthier, but you may have effectively killed his or her social life. Or limited it to hanging with friends with limited olfactory senses.

When discussing topics as grand and lofty as free speech and terrorism, you can't ignore side effects or negative details.

Women's liberation, emancipation of the slaves, gay rights, these things are intrinsic to our society. They are great and just and righteous accomplishments of which we should feel proud. Or ashamed that they were ever denied in the first place, whichever you prefer.

But saying these things didn't have any negative effects is tantamount to putting your head in the sand. I feel it eclipses you from the possibility of seeing ourselves as others see us. Others who may not be as gung ho about the righteousness of these necessities of idealism.

Dan: "It's economics, not women's rights. Used to be in this country a single breadwinner could support a family -- with rare exceptions this is no longer the case. Women getting the right to vote didn't cause that."

Agreed, women voting didn't cause this. Women entering the workforce in droves may have had something to do with it, though. Job competition got much more intense. Why do you think people complain about immigrant workers?

What effect do you think it had when childless couples with two working adults started getting ahead of the families with single bread winners?

It changed the social dynamic, and the economy adjusted to take this into account.

Granted, there ARE a lot of factors, such as the industrialization period and the world wars which brought women into the factories and empowered them with the knowledge that they CAN do the work of a man.

I'm not an advocate of oppression. What I try to be is a realist.

And my indecision comes as a result of this.

Realistically, I know there are likely to be people in high positions of government who are much smarter and more informed than I am on these subjects. I have no choice but to wonder if I would actually make different choices in their shoes. I'm not 100% sure that I would.

I like to believe I would, but that view is subjective to where I am in the world... just as much as a person's religious choice is subjective to their location.

"70% of the American populace suddenly deciding things like gravity don't exist won't automatically make it go away."

This was in reference to the war approval rating. The converse of this is that 70% of the populous currently believing the war is wrong does not make it so either.

The truth is, we only know what we are exposed to. Being that we can't really trust the government or the media to tell us what is really going on, what do we have left? Word of mouth? Foreign penpals? And they only know what they and their neighbors talk about, or what they read in their paper or hear on their news. What they believe they "know" isn't necessarily any more trustworthy than our own "knowledge".

Unless you were close personal friends with Saddam Hussein, you don't have a clue whether he was guilty enough to be disposed and hanged. And even then, if you WERE a close friend, he still could've been lying. Saying that he deserved to die is a subjective opinion based on a lot of conjecture and opinion, and represents a point of view. Surely Saddam's own opinion did not concur.

My actual factual honest to god opinion: We can't ever really know what is going on because we are constantly being lied to by our government, our media, our friends, our neighbors, and ourselves.

We can try, and we can participate. And we can lend our opinions and our will to do good. But when it comes down to it, as individuals we are pretty powerless.

The most effective power we have is that of voting with our feet. In short, if it gets too bad, we can leave. Failing that, we can choose not to participate. And failing that, we can choose to die.

If this country keeps on the course its on, it will no longer be the fabled America that I was brought up to believe in. And I won't hesitate to seek it out elsewhere under another name.

While a panopticon may be a bit out of reach of our government, living a life under a government that WISHES to achieve a panopticon is something I find intolerable, whether they achieve it or not.

Here's a question for all of you: How many Islamic people have you met in your own area? What was your reaction to them? What was their (apparent) reaction to you?

Rob said...

My reactions with Muslims have been a mixed bag. When I was an undergraduate in Houston I had a friend, Huma Mahmoodudin, who was a class act the entire way. Archconservative in ways I didn't like, but she would have never advocated violence against people who held different beliefs, and she was wicked smart.

I also knew some Nation of Islam members who were, I thought, much more interested in being African-American militants than in being exemplars of their faith.

As a graduate student teaching courses, I had some female students from Saudi Arabia in my class. They walked out of class after the first time I called upon them. They found it unacceptable that a man outside their family would call upon them to answer questions. The filed a protest with the department, who fortunately took my side. To my knowledge, they left the University shortly thereafter.

And finally, during the time period where I was being investigated pursuant to their complaint, a headscarfed American Muslim woman came up to me in the hallway and asked me not to judge the entire faith according to them.

A few of my fellow graduate students are Muslim as well. We rarely discuss religious matters, except they wish me well at Christmas and I offer to buy them a fruit juice at Eid al-Fitr.

I imagine that due to my job I have much more in the way of contact with Muslims than most. Some of them are idiots. Some of them aren't. Some of them are nice. Some of them aren't.

Rob said...

Insofar as your concern that we can never know what's going on, well--welcome to life.

Google for "reasoning under uncertainty". It's an active area of AI research right now, and has been a mainstay of philosophy and ethics since Aristotle.

Your lack of certainty does not absolve you of the responsibility for making the best decisions you can at a given moment in time. (And sometimes, the best decision you can make is "I don't have to decide that just yet, so I won't.")

cybercod said...

And sometimes, the best decision you can make is "I don't have to decide that just yet, so I won't."

Thats about where I stand now.

I hope to one day have enough solid information to actually make an opinion that I can truly believe in.

Until then, I guess I shall continue to bandy words with people who don't feel the need to have such solid "truths" in the hopes of acquiring a few more grains of knowledge than I currently have.

Its all just mental exorcise really. Its not like we can DO anything about this other than talk.

My own experience with muslim people is not nearly as wide as yours Rob. I had a few neighbors who were muslims, living in northern California... and I met a few of them while doing cable and internet installations for Comcast in that area.

What is strange to me is that their system seems to produce results. Their families are close-knit. The ones I met seemed pretty well off, monetarily. They drove late model cars of expensive make, and were often having elaborate and expensive weddings and celebrations. And their sense of community was definitely a lot stronger than the average American citizen. At least their sense of the muslim community. They didn't really mix outside of their own. They were a solid lump in the melting pot.

There was a lot of rumors about how farmland was being given to muslim families because of their familial stability. Their family structure more closely resembled the farming families of the past than the current American norm.

There were still stories told here and there about women being mistreated... I remember one instance where a woman left her husband (who her family had chosen for her) because he abused her physically. She began seeing another man, and became pregnant by this other man. Her family kidnapped her and held her captive. Eventually she had the child. As the story went, her family ran off her boyfriend/lover and then forced her to drown the child. After which, the girl killed herself.

Sad story, really. And I have no way of knowing the validity of it. But I've already covered my validity issues.

Oh, I just thought of something... an opinion that I do feel pretty sure of.

Here it is: You can't give democracy to people. They have to earn it for themselves. We can invade country after country and change regimes, wipe out dictators, etc etc. I don't think it will have any lasting impact. We put Hussein in charge, and we only had a problem with that after he looked up one day and realized he had the 4th largest army in the world at the time and decided he didn't need to bend quite so low nor jump so high when we told him to.

If the people in Iraq (or any country) want democracy, then they have to establish it for themselves if they ever wish it to work.

Would it be more effective to stir the radicals up? To some boiling point where they "take care of" themselves? Better that they fight eachother than fighting us.

Iraq was definitely more stable under Hussein's rule than it is now. But stability doesn't exactly equal "better".

The place is just as much a hotbed of turmoil as it ever was. So Hussein didn't actually improve anything, more like he put it on hold. Take it off "hold" and craziness resumes, no better than before.

Perhaps we need to think outside the box. Perhaps air-drop leaflets of pornographic materials over them. Bomb them with smut. And blame it on someone else. Maybe if they all could just have an orgasm they wouldn't be so damn uptight. Repression of sexual urges is not something to be taken lightly.

Of course I'm not serious. We've been interfering with their governments and stirring up shit for ages now. It hasn't really helped matters. Just makes it harder for them to get organized, and paints a really big red white and blue target on us.

I myself can't see any solution to this.