Tuesday, January 31, 2012

English: Everybody's Second Language, Even Ours

Lawrence Summers, who memorably suggested women less well endowed than men in the sciences and mathematics, has questioned the utility of learning foreign languages in a world where English is the de facto second language. The Times's 'Room for Debate' features debaters all of whom disagree, more politely than yr. obdt. svt., who's astonished that Summers is reveling in ignorance while being entirely full of shit:


The writers focus on the actuality of language as used in world wide commerce, a broader venue than that of top-level macroeconomics. One also suggested the study of literature in its original language, rather than in translation, adds insights not otherwise available. I'd add to their views two reasons:

1. It's simply polite to acknowledge another's language as fully as worthy as one's own. I've been to countries speaking Spanish, French, Greek and Russian, and found invariably that the slightest, clumsiest attempt to speak the language generates huge amounts of goodwill. When not true, I think, it's because the next reaction is American disgust with the foreign national's inability to speak English, rather than to apologise for one's ignorance, ideally in the foreigner's native tongue. True, too, of multilingual immigrants here, of course. Why such an observation appalls those fearing English's position even in this country, rather than is seen as simple courtesy, is obvious only if considered in the context not of language choice but of bigotry and arrogance, traits all too often correctly ascribed to Americans.

2. There's no better way to truly understand one's own language than to study another, where structure, grammar, vocabulary and history are explicitly examined. An average Americans' competence in grammatically correct, correctly spelled written and spoken English is, well, less than complete. During the unlamented Busherregnum, some suggested that English was GW Bush's second language, requiring continuous translation for English speakers at the UN. Meanwhile, English has more foreign words in it than any other language, and, as it's increasingly used globally, will doubtless absorb more. Is our children learning? ROFLMAO...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Word's Getting Around: Fromm, Reich and the Right

I've posted here and elsewhere about the relevance of some of the old psychoanalytic literature, in particular Fromm's 'Escape From Freedom' and Reich's 'Mass Psychology of Fascism', to current rightie/Tea Party politics. Turns out others, believe it or not, have had the same idea. Here's one:

Journalist (Max--PW) Blumenthal documents the movement of conservative evangelicals from the political wings to center stage, delving into the psyches of those who now lead a Republican Party "fixated on abortion, homosexuality and abstinence education; resentful and angry." Guided by Eric Hoffer's 1951 cult classic The True Believer ("Faith in a holy cause, is to some extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves,") and Eric Fromm's 1941 psychoanalytical study of the Nazi movement (Escape from Freedom), Blumenthal suggests that childhood abuse has shaped the personalities of key leaders, including Focus on the Family guru James Dobson. Blumenthal is at his best examining these characters up close, including presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich and his born-again conversion; John Hagee, a Pentecostal pastor who lauded Hitler for "forcing the Jews to Israel"; Sarah Palin, whose political aspirations first came to her as part of a religious conversion; and evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, a self-proclaimed spiritual warrior caught in a relationship with a male prostitute. (Amazon blurb-PW)


It may be possible that he's explored the idea at greater length than yr. obdt. svt. Haven't read it yet; will...

Can I Get A Mittless? Episode III: The Dark Side Taught He Is

We're informed today that Romney has a debate coach, who's taught him to be more aggressive:

The results of that strategy, carried out by a veteran squad of strategists and operatives assembled by Mr. Romney to deal with just this kind of moment, have been on striking display here.

By this weekend, Mr. Romney’s aides were on the offensive and increasingly confident, with some combination of their strategy and Mr. Gingrich’s own performance swinging polls in Mr. Romney’s direction. Even as it acknowledged the damage inflicted on Mr. Romney by the past several weeks, his team suggested that it had learned a lesson about never letting up on rivals, especially if Mr. Romney wins the nomination and confronts Mr. Obama in the general election.


One of Romney's amiable traits is doing, saying, believing anything it takes. Does anybody think Romney will look any more genuine out of calculated embrace of aggressive debate? Perhaps, next to an out of control Gingrich, but next to a measured, confident Obama? In a manner consistent with the rest of his smarmy, hypocritical, lying self?

Somebody, somewhere, tell him it ain't fair...Can I get a Mittless? Just a little bit louder...

Republicans: The World as Pulp Science Fiction

Newt Gingrich has cited Asimov's 'Foundation' trilogy, in which psychohistorians use their science to guide human destiny for its own good from a secret base. He's also talked of building a colony on the moon. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, asked to name his favorite novel, cited L. Ron Hubbard's 'Battlefield: Earth', in which alien conquerors of Earth meet their match in small bands of human resistance fighters.

I grew up reading all the science fiction I could find, and close to memorized Asimov's early work. He, himself, was an indefatigable champion of science and the power of human reason, at least in his early books. So, the psychohistorians, who, enabled by disinterested scientific insight, via covert manipulations led the blind masses to a better future. I put it that way, well, you might have a question about it. So, in fact, did Asimov. In another of his books, 'The End of Eternity', a group sitting outside of time, again enabled by science, manipulated humanity's history by changing reality without changing themselves, eventually revealed as crippling human achievement, no wiser or more decent than any of the rest of us; (spoiler alert) at the end of the book one last manipulation of reality destroyed them. And, in Asimov's later books, contingent events rather than human ingenuity control events, even superseding the original orientation of the 'Foundation' trilogy: the unexplained, spontaneous appearance of a mind-reading, mind-controlling robot with pure, decent interests in promoting humanity, the chance appearance of a similar mutation amongst human beings.

Hubbard's books, meanwhile, I find unreadable even as pulp entertainment. Trust me that I don't have high standards in such matters, and am capable of enjoying a science fiction novel which would make, say, Green Lantern comic books look like 'Notes From Underground'. But a Mormon, of all people, publicly embracing a book with such a plot, written by the man who founded Scientology, beggars the imagination.

Pulp science fiction, like the Westerns of a prior generation, is a genre aimed mostly at adolescent boys. John W. Campbell, perhaps the most influential editor/publisher in SF, made this explicit. Meanwhile, just as the odd Western transcended the genre's limits and became high art--'The Searchers', 'High Noon', 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre' and others come to mind--so, too did some authors make science fiction more than it was/is at baseline. But the overall appeal was based on uncomplicated, mostly male characters, enabled by strength of ego and special talents/abilities to triumph over unambiguous evil.

There's a strong libertarian streak in pulp SF, of which Heinlein's 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' is perhaps the classic example. Again, this suits adolescent boys down to the ground: get off our backs, let us stand up for ourselves, freedom and independence will unshackle our greatness. And, as with adolescent boys much of whose freedom relies on adults paying for car insurance and food and the like, so, too, libertarians reject the necessity of common enterprise arising out of collective action, in the absence of private action, in mitigating problems or addressing unmet needs.

Which brings me to Ayn Rand, beloved of Alan Greenspan and many others, whose novels I find well written as pulp science fiction, with cardboard characters standing in for archetypes, who also appeals to adolescents: few boys never succumb, at one time or another as their personalities and egos develop, to the notion that they are Men (sic) of the Mind.

We now live in a time when Romney, Gingrich and Greenspan, and most of the right, explicitly embrace ideas that are adolescent to the core, have not developed into an adult grasp of reality, and which center on their own virtues and just rewards, and others' evils and inadequacies and the just deserts arising therefrom. It is possible, I'd hope, to be conservative, and, nonetheless, a grown up. I see no evidence of it these days.

Should the world really be run by men who never finished emotional high school?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Poetry Corner: Two Limericks by WH Auden

As poets have mournfully sung,
Death takes the innocent young,
The rolling in money,
The screamingly funny
And those who are very well hung.


A friend, who is not an ascetic,
Said, 'Ireland, my dear, is magnetic.
'There are all these elves
'Who just OFFER themselves:
'Quite small, but, still, most sympathetic.'


John Quiggin, in a post well worth reading which attacks Cowen's apologies for rising inequality and falling socioeconomic mobility in the USA, makes the following observation:

I don’t buy the 11-dimensional chess version of this story, but the slapdown of Obama’s painfully sincere attempts to reach across the aisle was exactly what was needed.


I agree. I don't think it was Obama's plan to invite an obduracy which would legitimise a more combative advocacy of his positions. Further, I think it long overdue that he counteract Republican views with an alternative vision which, in addition to being more humane, more restorative of a social contract and more likely to improve the economy, is actually based on fact and logic. But nobody can say that he didn't try. And now, he's set out an agenda which, in all likelihood, will be blocked entirely, without anything of substance in its stead, and will get to talk about it all campaign long. Meanwhile, Gingrich and Romney, tearing into each other, legitimise a Democratic attack on either on identical grounds, with ample opportunity to put up YouTube clips using them as surrogates.

It's worth pointing out, too, that Iran's theocrats rebuffed Obama's offer of talks, legitimising a sterner stance not just from Obama, but from the rest of the world. In the context of Obama's recognition, made explicit in his Cairo speech, that the Iranian people and Iran's government are quite two things. Highly important and, assuming (a big assumption) that neither the USA nor Israel use force, simultaneously opposing the government and offering Iran's people hope. A bigger contrast with Bush could hardly be imagined.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

It's About Power

Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina, carrying most of the evangelical/fundamentalist voters concerned about 'family values'. His personal life, of course, is reprehensible.

The two don't contradict each other at all on a deeper level. Bertrand Russell said that the Catholic Church loves hypocrisy, in that the act of hypocrisy recognises and cements the Church's power rather than challenge it. Wilhelm Reich's 'Mass Psychology of Fascism' and Erich Fromm's 'Escape From Freedom' explored fascism from a psychoanalytic point of view, as, amongst other things, a confluence of power and sexuality. The astounding psychosexual carnival that successive scandals involving fundamentalists and right wing politicians have afforded us can be understood in these terms.

So, Gingrich, who's led an entirely despicable personal life, becomes the candidate of family values, and Obama, whose personal and family life is exemplary, is bitterly opposed. It isn't about family life. It's about power, holding on to power, reversing the process of sharing it with others thought unworthy of it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rescuing Judaism From Jews

One could write the history of Christianity as a series of efforts by some of the greatest human beings who ever lived to rescue Christ from Christians. We're now treated to the baleful effects of dogmatic, intolerant fundamentalism in Islam and, now, in Judaism, all three of the Abrahamic religions. An eight year old girl, walking to religious instruction, was spat upon in Israel by ultra-orthodox Jews holding her insufficiently covered. And, too, they demand separation of the sexes on buses and elsewhere in the public sphere. Things have gotten bad enough that an orthodox rabbi takes them to task in the Times this morning:

...It seems, then, that a religious tenet that begins with men’s sexual thoughts ends with men controlling women’s bodies.

This is not a problem unique to Judaism. But the Talmud, the basis for Jewish law, offers a perhaps surprising answer: It places the responsibility for controlling men’s licentious thoughts about women squarely on the men.

Put more plainly, the Talmud says: It’s your problem, sir; not hers...

So the responsibility is now on the women. To protect men from their sexual thoughts, women must remove their femininity from their public presence, ridding themselves of even the smallest evidence of their own sexuality.

All of this is done in the name of the Torah and Jewish law.

But it’s actually a complete perversion. The Talmud, the foundation of Jewish law, acknowledges that men can be sexually aroused by women and is indeed concerned with sexual thoughts and activity outside of marriage. But it does not tell women that men’s sexual urges are their responsibility. Rather, both the Talmud and the later codes of Jewish law make that demand of men.


Just about every belief system, or absence of belief, that human beings have ever come up with can coexist with humanism, decency, generosity, courage and love, or with bigotry, dogmatism, hatred, greed and lust for power over others. Naziism, and other ideologies based on racism, are perhaps an exception, and they, too, have arisen out of a religious as well as an atheistic framework. In so noting, I take issue with Sam Harris and other militant atheists, who hold even liberal religion as oxymoronic, inevitably legitimizing fundamentalist evil. Liberal religious believers have, in fact, fought evil in their religion's name for thousands of years, with courage and at the risk or cost of their own lives. Some have even held Jesus Himself such a one.

The vitally important lesson of Naziism is that we all, all of us, being human, can be Nazis, and that we must recognise and fight that, accepting that none of us is immune to the temptations of evil. The first thought should never be about the failings of others, but, rather, of those of oneself. That, too, is a lesson of the history of just about any religion. Liberal believers, and liberal unbelievers, can share a common ground worth defending, one which recognises a common humanity even amongst pagans, in Israel, in Saudi Arabia and in the United States. During the Republican primary season, the appalling rhetoric over abortion and the rights of women and gays remind me, yet again, that American exceptionalism doesn't extend to proof against the evils of belief. And reviling all Jews, or Christians, or Muslims, based on their fundamentalists' rhetoric and actions, is not only wrong on its face, but extends and ossifies the hatred which allows spitting on children, and sometimes killing them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

One Nation, Under Money

Kevin Kruse, of the Princeton history department, reminds us that people have found it useful to conflate Christianity, free enterprise and personal wealth, while discrediting government, before:

...Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Mr. Fifield and his allies advanced a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.” Mr. Fifield distilled his ideology into a simple but powerful phrase — “freedom under God.” With ample support from corporate patrons and business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce, his gospel of godly capitalism soon spread across the country through personal lectures, weekly radio broadcasts and a monthly magazine.

In 1951, the campaign culminated in a huge Fourth of July celebration of the theme. Former President Herbert C. Hoover and Gen. Douglas MacArthur headlined an organizing committee of conservative all-stars, including celebrities like Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan, but largely comprising business titans like Conrad Hilton, J. C. Penney, Harvey Firestone Jr. and J. Howard Pew.

In an extensive public relations campaign, they encouraged communities to commemorate Independence Day with “freedom under God” ceremonies, using full-page newspaper ads trumpeting the connection between faith and free enterprise. They also held a nationwide sermon contest on the theme, with clergymen competing for cash. Countless local events were promoted by a national “Freedom Under God” radio program, produced with the help of the filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, hosted by Jimmy Stewart and broadcast on CBS..


For the past couple of thousand years, Christianity has been large, diverse and unsettled enough so that its adherents, in Christ's name, have enlisted the Bible and God in service of empire, war, slavery, genocide, imperialism, power, freedom, love, generosity, courage, caring, and, in fact, just about anything human. Still true. And there have always been, are, and always will be those who rescue Christ from some of the Christians, finding depth there unacknowledged in a facile interpretation in service of human interests. Me, I find it hard to construe financial success as a goal or result of Christian teachings. Some ministers concentrate more on Revelation than on 1 Corinthians 13. But they're both in there. I think it important, at a time when atheism is being promoted in the public sphere amongst, most often, the left, to participate in the formation of a Christian narrative more inclusive, decent and perceptive than one which rationalizes the inequalities of wealth and poverty which pose and result from urgent social problems. Christ has been monopolized before. Wasn't pretty, then or now. Wouldn't mind it, as even a gentle agnostic, were the God our nation is under that of, say, Kierkegaard, Pope John XXIII, Oscar Romero, ML King, Dorothy Day and many others...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Physician, Leave That Bagel

The Times reports today that the Obama administration will require pharmaceutical companies, equipment maker and the like to disclose payments to physicians. These payments can run from a bagel and lox lunch spread to consulting and lecture fees in the millions:

Many researchers have found evidence that such payments can influence doctors’ treatment decisions and contribute to higher costs by encouraging the use of more expensive drugs and medical devices.

Consumer advocates and members of Congress say patients may benefit from the new standards, being issued by the government under the new health care law. Officials said the disclosures increased the likelihood that doctors would make decisions in the best interests of patients, without regard to the doctors’ financial interests.

Large numbers of doctors receive payments from drug and device companies every year — sometimes into the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars — in exchange for providing advice and giving lectures. Analyses by The New York Times and others have found that about a quarter of doctors take cash payments from drug or device makers and that nearly two-thirds accept routine gifts of food, including lunch for staff members and dinner for themselves.

The Times has found that doctors who take money from drug makers often practice medicine differently from those who do not and that they are more willing to prescribe drugs in risky and unapproved ways, such as prescribing powerful antipsychotic medicines for children.


This move is long overdue. Such emoluments are ubiquitous, and pose a moral hazard all too often bowed to, and sometimes not even acknowledged. What's a bagel?

The subject of marketing of such things to physicians is, politely put, a target-rich environment. For instance, drug companies routinely recruit cheerleaders, pretty ladies with a positive attitude, as saleswomen:


Another, perhaps more morally hazardous example: prostate cancer can be treated with radiation or surgery, or, in the case of a slow-growing tumor, even ignored. Specialized radiation units are being marketed, and sold, to the very urological surgeons who usually make the decision regarding treatment. The DaVinci surgical robot has become a marketing tool for both urologists and hospitals eager to increase their market share of prostate treatment without clear benefit over skilled surgery (or sometimes radiation or observation). Tidy profits are made, the units are sometimes leased and always depreciated on taxes by their owners. If you own a hammer, you look for a nail, especially if the nail is worth thousands of dollars to you. Not a part of the free enterprise, profit driven health care system that appeals to a patient interested in an unbiased decision with his needs unambiguously at the core of it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Can I Get A Mittless? Episode II: The Charity of the Sith

Told by a woman at a rally in South Carolina that she was struggling to make ends meet, Mitt Romney reached into his pocket, found $50 or so and gave it to her.


Those who have money and don't have empathy will applaud this as evidence of Romney's generous soul and impulses. The 99% of the rest of us will recognise the gesture as that of a lord and master demanding unwonted admiration from a serf. A newsclip of this one should be made into a continuous loop and played by the Democrats, in exactly the way Dukakis in a tank was transformed into a national joke.

And not just an astounding act in and of itself, but an utterly incompetent political act on the most pragmatic, amoral level. This is on the same level as citing 'Battlefield: Earth' as a favorite novel, which Romney also did. In both cases, he should have known better. But, then, the lord and master doesn't have to know better, really...

Remember: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When he died, he was working for striking unionized municipal trash haulers, looking for economic justice, and against the war in Vietnam, looking for international justice. He had a dream. A larger dream than he's oft credited with, one encompassing all of us, a world full of us. The content of his character. worth remembering, that.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Theocratic Nuclear Menace

An interlocutor asked me how I could possibly not be concerned about Iran's potential emergence as a nuclear power.

I am, of course, worried. It does worry me. Imagine: a state controlled by ultra-orthodox believers, feeling itself entitled by word of God to their nationhood, defiant of world opinion,showing itself capable of ruthless violence using weapons of major war in crowded cities and destroying infrastructure without a second thought, armed with nuclear weapons. Merciful heavens...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Poetry Corner: Two Tramps in Mud Time

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily "Hit them hard!"
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn't blue,
But he wouldn't advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut's now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You'd think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
The judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man's work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right--agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.

Robert Frost

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Personal Responsibility

Righties have been talking a lot about personal responsibility. May have the temerity to offer three possible responses to any given problem this fraught, fallen world poses to hapless Homo (sic) sapiens living here:

1. Ain't it awful? The sweep of history is fixed; the problems too great; the forces too powerful; the doom inevitable. Pass the lemon meringue pie and the Chardonnay...

2. Ain't they awful? The spongers, parasites, criminals, out to steal our money, corrupt our daughters and sell the country to heathens. Back in a while, dear; I'm off to Home Depot to buy some more hollow-point 'Maim-N-Kill' ammunition and a few more alligators for the moat...

3. What can I do to help?

Seems to me that only one of these involves an adult notion of responsibility. Which reinforces my notion that a person calling for another person to exert more personal responsibility is putting the cart before the horse, confusing motes with beams in evaluating intraocular foreign bodies, and, in general, being a poopyhead...

The Voters Speak

A smattering of caucus attendees in Iowa, a state with a population 2/5 that of New York City, has given Romney, Santorum and Paul legitimacy in the media horse race. Today, New Hampshire, a state with a population 1/6 that of New York City's, speaks. Both states, also, are distinctly people-of-color-challenged.

Romney was attacked as saying he 'likes to fire people', referring to his experience as a M&A vulture at Bain Capital. This was a distortion. He said it in terms of demanding that he have the right to choose or dismiss a 'health care provider', a right which the Obama health insurance reform bill supposedly threatens. That, of course, is utter falsehood. He should have been called on that.

Yo, Mitt? Wombat here...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Wombat's Laws: Science Marches On

Several years ago, I advanced the Wombat Law of Homophobia: the louder and uglier the speech, the more likely closeted. Recent experimental results from the Large Bullshit Collider (LBC) suggest a wider perspective is necessary. In the spirit of scientific inquiry, I submit the Wombat General Theory of Bloviation: the louder, more certain, more dogmatic and more intolerant the bloviation, the more likely hypocrisy or denial/projection are at work. The key experimental observation made my my colleagues at the LBC imply that hypocrisy and denial may, in fact, be two manifestations of the same fundamental particles, dubbed 'coprotrons'...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Can I Get A Mittless?

Today's the first installment of a planned series on the subject of Mitt Romney, who has the courage of the convictions he holds today. He demonstrated in favor of the military draft during the war in Vietnam. Himself, he earned a religious deferment by doing Mormon missionary work in....

Wait for it...

Paris, France.

Yes. A millionaire's son, spreading the word in the City of Light. Every Vietnam veteran is doubtless grateful that he/she wasn't subject to the horrors...

C'mon, Baby; Let's Do The Twist

There's a fascinating article about injuries arising out of yoga practice, even careful yoga practice, in the Times today. I grew up in the fifties and sixties, when yoga was oft thought of as an alternative to western sports and exercises, integrating mind and body, resulting in spiritual as well as physical growth. The obvious contrast is with something like relentless strength training, the close to 100% injury rate in American football, with its paramilitary gestalt. Turns out you can get a stroke, or a bad spine problem, or other things, if you do yoga. Not always, obviously, but there it is.

The article closes with the words of one of the most prominent American yoga practitioners and teachers:

...‘Asana is not a panacea or a cure-all. In fact, if you do it with ego or obsession, you’ll end up causing problems.’ A lot of people don’t like to hear that.”


That there ego/obsession business, seems to me, could be a problem inside or outside yoga, with any exercise, or, for that matter, just about anything Homo (sic) sapiens does: the idea is to confront ego, transcend it, master the obsessiveness arising out of it, to better appreciate the rest of the universe, those other carbon-based life forms, and your place in and amongst them. You do that, through basket-weaving, solving differential equations, walking in the woods, loving a good woman, anything, you're part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Which brings up Ayn Rand, or would, if there weren't only so much fun you can have in one day...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Again, The Lesser of Two Evils

Someone on Facebook who thinks that my willingness to vote for Obama over any conceivable Republican, despite my disagreements with him, makes me a stupid fucking un-American idiot, and has decided I'm no longer worthy of either friendship or conversation. I'll have to read an extra chapter of DeToqueville tonight to get to sleep. It's going to be an ugly year, and uglier than even it has to be.

It must, I repeat, must be possible to work with those with whom one disagrees. It must also be possible to do so while being clear and true to one's own beliefs. These need not be in conflict, and, in fact, should not. It's possible to be clear that one is compromising, doing some of the work that needs doing, while militating for doing more of it. The alternative is irrelevance or totalitarianism. Neither are acceptable. History is unkind to the notion that withholding a vote for the lesser evil does anything other than empowering the greater evil.

All those who are sure that Humphrey wouldn't have been an improvement over Nixon, nor Carter over Reagan, nor Gore over GW Bush should really, really rethink their inclination to withhold their vote from Obama. Please...