RWCG


Superior Lefties Are Often Surprised That Other People Besides Themselves Might Have Non-Self-Centered Principles
April 20, 2008, 12:33 pm
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A favorite theme of the left in politics is to bemoan the fact of a large faction of the ‘working class’ that (says the left) ‘doesn’t vote their own self-interest’. I suppose this is what Obama was getting at with his ‘bitter’ comment’.

The point is understandable enough. Obviously the left believes their policies are better for the ‘working class’, which is debatable, but let’s stipulate that they are right. What I find interesting is the premise behind the whole concept, which seems to be that lower/middle-class people should pick who they vote for ENTIRELY based on which candidate will help them, personally, the most economically.

Let’s flip things around and examine how upper-middle-class lefties vote. Do they vote ENTIRELY based on ‘economic self-interest’? Certainly not! Indeed, the entire sales pitch of Mr. Kerry, Mr. Edwards, Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. Boxer et al is that they will enact policies that will specifically not benefit people who are as wealthy as they are.

But it’s good to vote for them, says the left. I think I’ll vote for them!, says a huge swathe of upper-middle-class lefties.

So, wait. Why don’t upper-middle-class, politically-correct lefties vote their ‘economic self-interest’? “Oh, we’re voting based on principles, you see. Principles such as equality, and fairness”, they might say. “Stuff we believe in. We’re certainly not only thinking about ourselves.”

Which is perfectly fine. But so then why isn’t it just as understandable and nonremarkable that a lower-class person might vote based on – well, you know – principles, and not be thinking only about themselves, in spite of their ‘economic self-interest’? The left finds this so incomprehensible that they can only stammer nonsense (“clinging to guns and God”) by way of explanation.

Because only the anointed, selfless, upper-middle-class left are allowed to have principles. Everyone else is a pig at a trough trying to stuff his face as much as possible. This is what the left seems to be thinking, at least, when they express amazement and dismay that people besides themselves might have higher principles guiding their political leanings than money-maximization.

Another explanation, perhaps, is that wealthy lefty people imagine that if they were poor, they would only be thinking about themselves and their poorness and maximizing their ‘economic self-interest’ with everything they do. Being perplexed that someone else has principles might, in a sense, be another way of saying “if I were in your position, I’d discard all principles”.

Either way the ramifications are fascinating.



The Missing Black Player
April 17, 2008, 1:22 am
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Reacting to this story, Volokh Conspiracy asks Should We Worry About the Declining Percentage of African-American Players in Major League Baseball?

The statistics that are supposedly worrying, to the point of being a near-crisis (“lost a whole generation”), are that 8.2 percent of ballplayers are black. This is versus their proportion of the general population that is 12.7 percent. Now, let’s ignore the fact that (as Volokh points out) what is being counted as ‘black’ seems to leave out many non-American ballplayers who, if they were American, would be called ‘black’. And let’s just imagine an ideal utopian world in which there were “enough” black (American) ballplayers to make the pundits shut up satisfied.

The fact is that there are 25 roster spots per team; so, the ideal improvement would mean that instead of each team having 2 black ballplayers on average (8.2 percent of 25) in our current crisis, there would be 3 black ballplayers per team (12.7 percent of 25).

So I guess the idea is: 2 per team = crisis. 3 per team = Dr. King’s dream. The tragedy, therefore, is that each major league team has a ‘missing black’. If you’re a San Francisco Giants fan, this means there’s a roster spot going to some white guy – let’s say, Erick Threets – when it should be going to a black guy. If a black guy had that roster spot instead of Erick Threets, baseball would be just fine. Erick Threets = emblematic of the decline of baseball. A black guy sitting in the bullpen instead = health of baseball.

Yeah, that makes sense.

Some of Volokh’s commenters try to take a more rational approach and claim the reason we should think all this is a problem because blacks are a market, and (supposedly) baseball should be wringing their hands with anxiety over losing a significant number of black fans, and thereby losing revenue. (Note: there’s no solid reason for thinking this is true. In fact it’s kind of insulting – the premise is that black people will only pay to watch other black people doing things.)

Now again, let’s try to put that in numerical terms. Presumably, blacks, being roughly 1/8th of the population, are (or were, in the golden age of blacks-liking-baseball) approx. 1/8th of baseball’s fans. Now let’s say that with fewer blacks playing (33% fewer), there are fewer black fans accordingly (how many? well let’s just say it’s proportional, so 33% fewer).

But anyway, under these assumptions baseball would have lost 33% of a 1/8th segment of its prior fan base, or….somewhere around 4%.

CRISIS! BASEBALL SHOULD BE TERRIFIED!

Or perhaps not. Is it not possible for baseball to make up that 4% from other segments of the population? Or am I supposed to double- or triple-count the black fans because they’re baseball’s Most Important Fans? Is the loss of a black baseball fan worth the same as the loss of three white fans? ten?

Not to sound cynical, but were black baseball fans particularly wealthy? Spent a LOT of money on games, paraphernalia, etc.? Is that it? Is that why baseball should weep over the loss of this particular ~4% segment?

For some reason, harping on baseball is a favorite pastime of the left and of the politically correct. Baseball seems to just really strike a nerve in some people, and they need to take it down a notch. I will never understand why, but the resulting illogic and bullcrap that gets spewed as a result never ceases to amuse me.



Battlestar Sex Disease
April 13, 2008, 4:34 pm
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I was looking on the web for confirmation of my Cylon virus theory/hope, or someone who formed this theory first (I’m never the first person to think of anything), and the closest I found was this. It’s basically the same theory as mine, with much of the same motivation (explaining away an incoherent plot turn that looks like a cheap ratings ploy), although it gets more specific in postulating that the transmission vector for the ‘Cylon virus’ is sexual contact in particular.

I do really want this or something like it to be true. I have some problems with the STD theory though because it doesn’t seem to fully add up. Baltar has slept with Cylons a kajillion times so why isn’t he a Cylon? If Mrs. Tigh sleeping with a Cylon is what passed it on to Tigh, then was she (however briefly) a Cylon before he killed her? Did Starbuck ever actually sleep with Leoben because I didn’t think so (but I may just have missed an episode here or there)? Or if Starbuck got it through Baltar way back in season 1, why was the virus dormant for so long?

The numbers don’t quite add up, and it seems facile to just declare that anyone who slept with a Cylon and didn’t become one is just a ‘carrier’. Although, it is possible I suppose.

I would like the theory to be true. It’s certainly better than what we seem stuck with at the moment.

I suspect however that the real explanation for the Galactica Cylons is not them having slept with Cylons per se, but rather that something about their nature (as TV characters) made them likely choices for the writers to turn into Cylons. And whatever that was, also correlated with them having slept with Cylons in prior episodes. In other words there is a common cause that links ‘being a Galactica Cylon’ and ‘having slept with Cylons’, rather than the latter leading to the former.

And that common cause, I’m afraid, exists well outside of the Galactica universe and in the realm of TV writing, ratings, and economics.



Gone Baby Gone
April 13, 2008, 1:40 pm
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I thought Gone Baby Gone was a very good movie but I was left cold by what (I gathered) was supposed to be the central, heart-wrenching moral conflict at the conclusion of the film:

Should Casey Affleck call the police on Morgan Freeman – who conspired to kidnap a little girl – thereby returning the girl to her mother? Or should Casey let it slide because (we’re supposed to conclude from about 7 seconds’ worth of screen time, the nice house he lives in, the fact that he’s Morgan Freeman, the fact that his wife is white..?) Morgan Freeman is ‘giving her such a nice home’ or some such?

To me it isn’t even close. Not in the slightest was I tempted to think ‘he should leave the girl with Morgan Freeman’. In fact, I was afraid that he would, because movies always seem to have screwed-up morality. So I was glad that he didn’t.

The movie labored to show us how much of a self-centered druggy the mother was, to try to load this conflict as much as possible. The problem is that the more of a druggy they made the mother, the more likely that in real life child protective services would have taken the kid away in the first place, meaning there’d have been no necessity for the kidnap plot, and no story. So this aspect of the drama straddles the line of unbelievability.

My question therefore is who is this story for? What audience did they have in mind that, they assumed, would be inclined to the ‘leave her with Morgan Freeman’ position? Perhaps it is sort of a left-wing version of the Elian Gonzalez case: make the mother a white-trash skank, make the kidnapper Morgan Freeman, and some faction of the audience will draw upon their biases, connect the dots and say ‘yes! he should leave the girl with Morgan Freeman’.

Ultimately this is a problem for the film because it reduces the universality of the theme it attempts. If you don’t come to Gone Baby Gone with the same baggage as the people who made it, and the people they (apparently) assumed would share their assumptions when they made it, then however much you may admire the craft that went into it, it will likely fail on some level for you.



When Throwing Hawks A Bone Doesn’t Work
April 12, 2008, 2:12 pm
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Good post by Dafydd ab Hugh at Big Lizards addressing the ‘Iraq is a distraction from the real fight in Afghanistan’ canard.

So the real question for the Democrats is this: What could we do with, say, 225,000 troops that we can’t do with 125,000? If we funneled even just 100,000 of our current 150,000 Iraqi troops into Afghanistan instead, what exactly would the extra brigades be doing that we’re not doing successfully now? And there’s where you nit the snag: Afghanistan is even less a force-on-force war than Iraq. [...] I have the bizarre image in my head of a Democratic army of 200,000 extra soldiers, all linking hands and walking the length of the border to “find Osama bin Laden!” [...] So what the heck do candidates like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and other Democratic elected officials, mean by saying we should be “focusing on the challenges posed by Afghanistan, global terrorist groups and other problems that confront America?” What does “focus” mean in this case?

They advocate pulling troops out of Iraq and putting them into Afghanistan. But doing what? Deployed how? Do they mean for combat or training? What mix of Special Forces, air forces, grunts, and administrative/logistics?

How do they want them organized? What strategy should they follow? What would be their rules of engagement? Can ground forces cross into Pakistan in hot pursuit? How about initiating cross-border contact?

The way the lefty way of thinking on this subject seems to go is that Afghanistan has been permanently placed in the mental category ‘the place where Al Qaeda is and where it’s ok to have a military presence to fight Al Qaeda’ and, therefore, having troops anywhere else is automatically a ‘distraction’. It’s as if their mental map of the world now shows Afghanistan – and Afghanistan only – with the label “the real location of the War On Terror”. Face it, Afghanistan is now and forevermore ‘the Al Qaeda country’ in their minds (or at least rhetoric). You want potatoes, you must go to Idaho; you want a luau, you go to Hawaii; you want to ‘fight Al Qaeda’, you must do it in Afghanistan.

This axiom seems to be utterly unaffected by real-world events and developments such as where Al Qaeda actually conducts operations, focuses their attention, or establishes significant pockets of strength.

It’s as if it is a law of nature: War On Terror = Al Qaeda = Afghanistan! Period!

By taking this stance starting in late 2001 I can only assume lefties hoped to firewall-off U.S. military actions and compartmentalize them into one single backwater country they (when all is said and done) care little about. I mean, who the hell ever cared about Afghanistan – so if the left had been able to throw the hawks that single bone and stave off invasions of real countries with strategic value and natural resources (like Iraq), they would’ve considered it a net win. Let the hawks have their fun, but as long as they confine it to within the borders of Afghaniwhatever.

Bush screwed up this tactical concession in 2003 by invading Iraq as well, which partially explains the hysterical shrieking that action engendered and continues to engender: They ‘let’ us invade Afghanistan – even, in many cases, pretended to support it – and the calculation didn’t work.

So now all they are left with is mindlessly repeating their hollow, ridiculous-on-its-face Afghanistan-only position, which ab Hugh deftly debunks.

But what about Osama bin Laden, I hear you ask? Isn’t Afghanistan the “real location of the war on terror” because that’s where Osama bin Laden is?

This is the truly fascinating position because it seems to make the implicit assumptions that

1. Killing/capturing Osama bin Laden all by himself is the only important benchmark worth achieving in the fight against Islamic radicalism

2. Osama bin Laden is permanently and always still alive (something for which we have no real evidence at this point), and

3. Osama bin Laden is, now and forevermore, in Afghanistan. He can’t – for example – move from one place to another, let alone actually cross the border of Afghanistan.

How lefties know these three things, or rather, why they believe them, remains a mystery to me. Unless, of course, they merely pretend to believe them, just as they pretended to ‘support’ the invasion of Afghanistan. I suppose the real question then is why their arguments should even be taken seriously, at face value, in the first place. What these illogical positions really are: failed tactics that have outlived their purpose. This explains why they sound, five years later, so utterly stupid.



Rescuing Galactica
April 12, 2008, 12:32 pm
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I’ve written before about my irritation with where Battlestar Galactica has taken its storyline. Essentially, in making four random characters Cylons, they have destroyed all internal consistency of the show and spit on their fans for the sake of a cheap ratings stunt.

But there is still a way they could rescue it. Here is how it would go: sometime this season reveal that Tigh, Anders, whats-her-name, and Tyrol aren’t the “Final Five Cylons” per se (and certainly haven’t “always been”). Here’s what really happened: they were each given a “Cylon virus” (for lack of better term) while in captivity at various times on New Caprica.

This “Cylon virus” (bio/nanotechnology/cybervirus, or whatever), or really multiple viruses, contains and infuses its host with the souls/personalities of the “Final Five” – who had not taken human shape until now. Cylons are artificial personalities, remember? These “Final Five” were simply running on the Cylon “matrix” till now. But it was decided (by the ‘hybrid’, or by the final One, or whatever) to implant them in these four humans for whatever reason.

This would explain everything satisfactorily and consistently. Meanwhile we wouldn’t be stuck with idiotic contradictions. Like the task of trying to believe that Tigh, the 60+ year old, is “a Cylon” when everything we have been shown up to that point proves that’s a load of crap. He, like the other three, would be a normal human who was born and lived a human life until the day he was injected with the “virus”/Cylon personality.

Not only would this rescue what was an almost fatally-stupid decision, it would have actually been a good storyline. It holds potential for many interesting episodes.

  • Tigh comes clean – Consider how odd and unsatisfying it is that Tigh has hidden the fact that (he believes) he’s a “Cylon” from Adama. The old Tigh – the real Tigh – would have marched himself to the brig and demanded to be locked up (as a danger to the fleet) the moment he came to believe he was a Cylon. Why hasn’t Tigh done this? By hiding it from his best – and only – friend Adama, he is not only committing treason, but he is behaving inconsistently from the character we had gotten to know. This is so disappointing. That character had many flaws but he was loyal and honorable above all else. Tigh would not hide his Cylon nature and attend secret Cylon meetings, out of selfish concern for his own fate. He just wouldn’t. But if, instead, he has a “Cylon virus”, then we can write it off as a byproduct of the virus’s effects, it’s a Cylon personality overlapped on his. Future storylines would then involve him, upon learning of the virus, overcoming the Cylon-virus’s programming and demanding to be cured of the damn Cylon disease, and then later (once cured) falling into a depression and drinking himself into a stupor at the realization that he walked around thinking he was a toaster, which makes him want to puke.
  • Race for the cure – Once it comes out that there’s a Cylon virus that has instantiated 4 of the “final five” personalities into Galactica’s crew, the race is on to find a cure. The perfect direction to take this would involve the President humbly approaching Baltar – the scientist, and the only one who has deeply studied Cylon biology – and asking him to help. Baltar gets a “so when you need me you come crawling back” speech. Then he does it and gains partial redemption. Tigh says reluctantly, “I never thought I’d say this to you, Gaius Baltar, but thank you”.
  • Holdout/Stockholm syndrome – This storyline involves one of the fake “final 5″ – most likely (because she’s expendable), the President aide – resisting being given the cure for this or that reason. She has come to have visions about the Cylon ‘plan’ and the future of human/Cylon relations, you see. Having the Cylon inside her has given her a new way of seeing things. The ‘final five’ personality that inhabits her is, she realizes, a god. She ‘was supposed to’ become a Cylon. ‘Curing’ her of it would be barbaric. All that typical Galactica stuff. So when it’s time to be given the antidote, she runs away and hides out. A manhunt begins, led by Tigh at his most determined. Maybe she finds a smaller ship to hide out on, a cult forms around her as with Baltar, political compromise is necessary, etc. etc. This could stretch out for a while.

    Ghosts in the machine – Obviously the Galactica people wouldn’t have the heart to truly kill these 4/5 Cylon personalities with the virus cure; as usual on Galactica, some morally-murky compromise would be reached, in this case one that ultimately involves loading the 4 onto some computers to keep running so they don’t have to be ‘killed’. From there we can get to know about the 4 as separate personalities. The computer has them speak with Tigh’s, Tyrol’s, etc voices. We might learn something about their history and their role in the Cylon “plan”. Sometimes Adama comes to consult with the “Tigh Cylon”. And of course there’s lots of good psychological opportunities involving having the humans visit & talk to their Cylon counterparts at times. But meanwhile there could be some pretty dramatic episodes involving one or more of the cyber-Cylons “taking over the ship”, and everyone panicking, a shipwide alert. But at the end it turns out that this is just part of the Cylon programming and they made Galactica jump much closer to Earth than ever before – all part of the “plan”.

  • Reincarnation – eventually of course at least one of these viruses will be downloaded, perhaps after escaping (or being brought?) to a Cylon ship, back into a humanoid body. Then the four actors will get to do double duty, but as separate characters like Boomer/Athena. They will participate in the Cylon ‘board meetings’ and play their role in the “plan”.

This is how they could rescue the stupidity of the “final five” storyline. This, or something very similar to it, is the only way they could rescue it. Will they do it? Of course not. They will go on pretending that the cheap ratings stunt they’ve inflicted on us makes sense. And I will stop watching at some point.



Two Completely Unrelated Thoughts
April 11, 2008, 10:41 am
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Everyone knows that one of the lowest-of-the-lowest tactics that right-wingers resort to is to question the patriotism of their opponents. Why, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. It’s practically McCarthyist, a horrid and disgusting spectacle to observe. Just wanted to remind people of that.

Meanwhile, on a completely unrelated note, professional lefty blogger Matthew Yglesias explains that he’s figured out that anyone who isn’t in favor of withdrawing our military presence from Iraq (like he is) doesn’t care about America.



The Engineering Pretense
April 6, 2008, 3:31 pm
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Did invading Iraq ‘make us safer’? Does our continuing to station troops in Iraq ‘make us safer’? You have probably heard this question posed, and answered, by both sides roughly a metric-crapload of times in the past five years. This is an important question, right? Because this sort of consideration is how we all decide whether or not to support this or that foreign-policy endeavor, right?

I say: No.

This came up in a discussion thread I got into under this Matthew Yglesias post. To pull out the highlights here (if only so that my hijacking of his blog doesn’t go to waste), there are two main points I believe I made.

1. Whether something ‘Makes Us Safer’ is an undefinable and unmeasurable piece of fluff. There’s no such thing as measuring how ‘Safe’ we are. There’s no real way to know whether doing this or that ‘Made Us Safer’ (outside of certain engineering/science contexts where such notions can be strictly defined):

How does doing anything “make us safer”? How are people supposed to answer whether having done something “made us safer”? Is there a standardized measure of ‘Gross Safety’ that one can measure at any given time, so as to observe its increase? Is General Petraeus supposed to peek into the alternate-universes in which we didn’t invade Iraq, observe “dude, now I see, we’re Less Safe in those universes”, and report those results back to us? [...]
Warfare … is not a straightforward engineering problem, and no such analysis or measurement of a war’s “safety-increasing quotient” (or whatever imaginary thing you guys fancy could be measured to gauge how “safe” we are) is possible. A lot of Iraq-invasion criticism is tacitly premised on the notion that it is or should be thought of like an engineering problem, which is a big part of what often makes such criticism so silly.

and

2. This is not how anyone forms their views on foreign policy in the first place (although most people seem to feel the need to pretend it’s how they formed their views):

Look, the fact is that neither side in this debate has come to their conclusion after sitting down in a cloistered corner of a public library with a slide-rule and an HP-15c and reams of books about Iraq and ‘the difference between Sunnis and Shias’ and an open laptop navigating to Matthew Yglesias’s archives and Spencer Ackerman articles and – with those resources arrayed at their side – thereby doing a long collection of carefully detailed calculations, finally coming to the ‘Eureka!’ moment where they conclude “Aha, yes I see now, it’s [making us safer/not making us safer], and therefore I shall [support continuing the policy of having a garrison in Iraq/argue against it]!”
[...] If anything, the causality goes in the opposite direction: some people oppose having troops in Iraq, therefore they are understandably attracted to and enjoy putting forth (oh so objective-sounding) arguments such as ‘it’s not Making Us Safer'; others are in favor of continuing the garrison and thus feel the need (because of the objective/engineering pretense everyone subscribes to) to defend it on grounds that it ‘is too Making Us Safer’.
But in neither case is this how anyone forms their views about these things.

The “engineering pretense” plagues much modern political debate. It never ceases to irritate me.



Sudden-Onset Political Amnesia: Is it coming?
April 5, 2008, 11:00 pm
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One of the striking things about the (D) primary race is how vicious the rivalry has become in some circles – in particular from Obama supporters. A cursory glance at many lefty blogs, or online communities like digg where the naive, young, orthodox leftyism of the college campus is the assumed norm, will find (D) partisans levelling some of the most fascinating charges against Hillary Clinton and her campaign:

She’s a born liar. She’s corrupt. She’s power-mad. She will do anything to win. She’s the candidate of Karl Rove and Rovian tactics. Karl Rove wants her to win. Rush Limbaugh wants her to win. She’s pro-war (!). She’s a psychopath.

Many of the (Obama-supporting) people who now hold these views about Hillary Clinton were presumably among her and her husband’s biggest supporters from 1992-2000. And many of those, I imagine, at the time considered any criticism of either Clinton to be beyond the pale, the mark of an evil fascist right-winger. Indeed, to a certain faction of people, criticism of Bill and Hillary Clinton or even investigation of them (think Kenneth Starr) from 1992-2000 made them angry for some reason, and invariably caused them to viciously attack the critic. (Seriously: this is just politics, it’s not personal, right?)

Yet now the 2008 (D) primary race finds many of the same people, standard (D) partisans, saying almost the exact same things about Hillary Clinton that her most fervent, right-wing critics said throughout the Clinton years.

That by itself is interesting enough in its ramifications. But here’s a further thought:

Suppose Hillary Clinton does somehow find a way to garner the (D) Presidential nomination, so that the 2008 Presidential race ends up being Clinton v. McCain. Question: How, if that happens, will all these Clinton-hatred-spewing Obama fans react? Will they (a) vote for….John McCain, a (gasp) Republican? Will they (b) sit out the Presidential race out on principle (and risk letting a (gasp) Republican win the Presidency?)

Or will they (c) turn on a dime, develop ‘sudden-onset political amnesia’, instantly drop all their prior, vicious, deep-seated January-May criticisms of and hatred for Hillary Clinton, do a 180 and suddenly decide it’s ‘time for a Woman President’ and ‘we must stop McCain’, and pull the (D) lever for the woman they (just a few months earlier) earnestly professed to believe to be a power-mad lying psychopath who will stop at nothing in her self-serving drive for power? and declare any Republican who says anything bad about Hillary Clinton – i.e. the same things they themselves were saying repeatedly a few months earlier – to be an evil fascst?

I suspect the answer is (c), but I hope we never find out whether my hunch is correct. The spectacle would be too nauseating to observe.




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