Archive for May, 2010

Am I a nutjob?

Consider the following thought experiment:  Everyone in the world is given a detailed ideological survey covering multiple dimensions with multiple measures.  Now assume a really good metric for calculating “ideological nearness.”  This metric is used to put people into groups of 100 who have very similar ideological views—political soul mates, if you will.

Would you like the people in your group?

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a web page that appeared to be a coalition of Tea Party groups.  The page I was looking at had a statement of principles—things like limited government, accountability, strict adherence to the Constitution, etc.—that I mostly agreed with.  But for some reason I felt that I wouldn’t really enjoy hanging out with a random sample of people who shared those views.

I also find that there are people who frequently scare me with the words that come out of their mouths, even when they are words I might say myself (though I think my tone and delivery would be much different, and tone might be more important politically than substance).  Similarly, I’ve always really liked Barak Obama, though I really detest many of his policy positions and almost all the positions of his vile political party.   Still, I’d much rather hang with Barak than with George W., who usually made me want to stick my head in a meat grinder every time he opened his mouth.

So, I’m wondering if this makes me a nutjob.    Many of the people who say things I believe are definitely nutjobs, and they scare me.  Demagogues like Glenn Beck scare me.  I saw a relative of my wife on TV when the Tea Party tour came through town a few weeks ago.  She is a wonderfuI person who I like a lot, but now she scares me, too.  This makes me wonder if maybe I should be scared of myself.

Obviously many people would respond that my politics aren’t nutty, it is just that I’m a snob.  There is some truth to this.  Even though I grew up in a very politically conservative culture, I was raised by educated, relatively liberal parents and went to an elite graduate school.  I like to associate with thoughtful, intelligent people, even those I disagree with.  Indeed, a shared ideological perspective is seldom an important criterion in pursuing friendships, though certain morally repugnant views can turn me off.

I’ve always hated the ignorance and racism of some on the Right, just as I’ve hated their indifference to the condition of the world’s poor and oppressed.   I tend to dislike people who lack the capacity to see the world from the perspective of their opponents, who demonize people who don’t share their values,  who are ignorant of the limitations in human understanding, who lack the capacity to forgive people for their human failings, or who are oblivious to any kind of nuance in political argument.  These kinds of people are found in all ideological groupings, of course, but for some reason I think there would be quite a few of them in my group of 100.

I like to think that my political views are a result of careful consideration of alternatives and rest on a solid moral foundation.  But maybe I’m just a nutjob.

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Memorial Day Salute

On this Memorial Day, a salute to all those Americans who have lost their lives in foreign wars.  

A special salute to Major Brian Mescall, a graduate of the Citadel, who was killed in action in Afghanistan.  And this is very, very sad to see.  Young man, your dad was a real American hero.   

And here is a graphic that shows the locations where Coalition deaths have occurred in Afghanistan/Iraq as well as where those individuals came from in the U.S.

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While perhaps not quite as silly as the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, Iceland’s Best Party has scoredCanadians do it surrealistically
perhaps the best electoral performance of a joke party at any election at any level in history, winning 6 of 15 seats and a plurality of votes in the Reykjavik municipal elections. What does the Best Party stand for?

Key pledges included “sustainable transparency”, free towels at all swimming pools and a new polar bear for the city zoo.

The party also called for a Disneyland at the airport and a “drug-free parliament” by 2020.

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Cool China Graphic

Update: Clicking on the image should give you a clearer view (I can’t get it to embed clearly).

HT: Slate.  And here is the original source.

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George Kennan (the father of containment) from American Diplomacy:

There seems to be a curious American tendency to search, at all times, for a single external center of evil, to which all our troubles can be attributed, rather than to recognize that there might be multiple sources of resistance to our purposes and undertakings, and that these sources might be relatively independent of each other.  (pg. 174)


. . . .the ruling of distant peoples is not our dish.  In this case, there are many things we Americans should beware of, and among them is the acceptance of any sort of paternalistic responsibility to anyone, be it even in the form of military occupation, if we can possibly avoid it, or for any period longer than is absolutely necessary.  (pg. 19) 

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Given the libgressive model of what government is responsible for and how the Bush adminstration was hammered over its response to Katrina, why isn’t Obama getting roughed up by the media, not to mention the liberal/progressive chatterazzi, for its ineptitude in “solving” the Gulf oil leak crisis? 

Indeed, since this industry is so thoroughly regulated, shouldn’t government failure in the Gulf be an important story? 

Maybe I’m just not reading or watching the proper things, but I don’t see a lot of non-“vast right wing conspiracy” folks hitting Obama all that hard or often on this (especially compared to Katrina).  Maybe libgressives have finally found one area in which they don’t believe the government is responsible for assuring the “proper” outcome (even when the gov’s problematic regulation – especially the cap on damages – is part of the problem)!   

Not being a hard scientist or engineer, I hesitate to offer any thoughts on how to deal with this myself.  But I thought I read somewhere that military weaponry could be used to seal the leak.  Is this just a dumb idea or is it not being considered because the government isn’t moving fast to take control of the problem or because such a fix would not be good for BP (and thus the company’s interests are being protected by its friends in the administration)?

Caveat: I have no brief for the Bush II administration and think “W” was one of our worst presidents, so don’t say I’m being partisan.

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