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Gender: Male
Hometown: Orlando
Home country: USA
Current location: Holistically detecting
Member since: Wed Jan 27, 2010, 03:59 PM
Number of posts: 12,151

Journal Archives

"Fawning" is bad. Biblical social norms are bad. Economic justice is good. Not that complicated.

I think the key nonsense here is "fawning." No, no one should be "fawning" over a Pope. Or any religious leader. Or any political one. I think everyone here could agree immediately that there is no basis for overwhelming, unadulterated praise and love for the leader of the Catholic Church.

So we could all be done right there. No fawning. No one's pro fawning. That's ridiculous.

But that's a bit of a straw man argument, and what's really being suggested is that it's wrong to acknowledge the leader of the Catholic Church saying or doing anything right, which is frankly kind of insane and smacks of the weird American religious bias against Catholics.

First off, OUR crazy homophobes and misogynists are Protestants. There are all kinds of polls lying around showing American Catholics are not only more progressive than other religious people, but on the actual issues for which the Catholic Church takes so much righteous blame. Abortion. Birth control. Gay rights. Your basic American abortion doctor killer or gay club bomber will be a Baptist or some other Protestant sect. So let's not get all fuzzy about where the core of insanely regressive social theory lies amongst ourselves. It ain't the Vatican, and it's always a bit off when people charge in and attempt to blame Catholicism for all of the stupid ideas contained in Christianity.

Secondly, we routinely acknowledge steps in the right direction from bad institutions and the leaders of the same. All kinds of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders are applauded for making worthy comments about tolerance or peace or taking care of the poor. All of them subscribe to holy books that say gay people and women are subject to savage mistreatment in the name of "God." It's nice that some talk around the Old Testament, and never mention the horrible stuff, but if we're going with institutional crimes, no Western religion gets a pass.

Obama, for example, is a Christian, and therefore subscribes to a Bible that has all the nutty Catholic crap in it too. And, he is the leader of a racist, sexist, homophobic country. Within recent memory, he expressly opposed gay marriage on religious grounds. He "evolved," whether out of conscience, public pressure, political expedience, or (most likely) a combination of the three. But we do not say he is therefore lying when he says something good or makes a change for the better because he is the leader of a country with a lot crimes to answer for and a lot of horrible ideas still on the books.

Thirdly, the Pope giving mere "lip service" to a better idea like economic justice over a worse one, like homophobia, is a real thing with real value. He may be the theoretical "king" of the Church, but he can no more erase every intolerant Catholic policy with a wave of whatever that stick is he has than Obama can open Guantanamo tomorrow, or tell the states to stop preventing gay people from adopting children.

Finally, if we propose that we need to tell the Catholic Church that it is not okay until it starts rejecting the horrible ideas embedded in Christianity and embracing the good ones, the way you do that is to DO THAT. Just like any leader of any screwed up organization with a mountain of sins and anti-progressive policies, we recognize an improvement, or a faint nod in the right direction, while continuing to condemn the abominable.

And yeah, the racist, creepy, horrible Paul family is right on drug laws and right on getting out of wars in the Middle East, for Jesus' sake. We don't have to lie and pretend they're wrong about everything because they're wrong about a lot of important things, because we are not robots or children. No one is buying that noise, and it doesn't look any smarter or sound more convincing when it is dragged out over and over again. People are not all one thing. No one thinks that. If Michele Bachmann says something smart someday, we should all say, "Hey, that was pretty smart." Because otherwise you end up lying to try to support or attack a person, and right and wrong become superfluous.

Economic justice is good, whether it's coming from the mouth of the Pope or a Senator or god-forbid-a-Republican. We can acknowledge good without "fawning" over someone, or forgetting that they are completely, unforgivably wrong about drone strikes or abortion or same sex marriage. If we want leaders to do better things and stop doing worse things, we acknowledge when they get it right, even a little bit.

The rest is a lot of hot air.

Thank you.

No one thinks the First Amendment is absolute.

I "get" the First Amendment. I think most people do. But most people also understand that "free speech" is a complicated right that can't be trotted out to short-circuit all discussion of every kind of expression there could ever be. It doesn't work that way, and never has.

If we are once again plunging into the "Nasty Porn, Freedom or Threat?" waters, the general principle of free speech just isn't enough to conclude anything.

We we need a little nuance here.

First, the First Amendment is great. It IS a core a principle that America is rightfully proud of, but

No one thinks it's an unfettered right. It's not.

There are, and always have been, limits based on actual HARM.

- Can't make certain threats.
- Can't expose certain state secrets.
- Can't print or speak false statements harmful to reputation (and not be sued for it)
- Can't incite imminent violence.
- Can't speak so as try to start a fight (and claim it was free speech)

So, respectfully, the Very Bad Porn vs. The First Amendment dumbs things down way too much. Unless you have people actually making the "ban whatever I don't like" argument, which I don't recall seeing here much.

Here's what's going wrong with this debate.

1. The "critics" aren't all talking about bans and censorship.

That's the same stupid conflation the extremes of gun control debate keep coming down on. No right is unlimited, and every regulation or limitation on a right is not a high-speed slippery slope to a ban. We limit EVERY RIGHT.


Backing up though, Constitutional protections mean absolutely zero if you're talking about

- Criticzing
- Protesting
- Shaming
- Labeling / warning

2. When you do get to actual regulation, we have mountains of it already, on theories that some "artistic" or entertainment expressions can do actual harm to either the participants in creating it, or the consumers of it. Largely this has to do with children, but the PRINCIPLE is not, and never was, that expression in all its forms, and no matter how "dangerous" cannot be touched.

We can, do, and should regulate porn. Sorry. And it's not -- necessarily -- authoritarianism or "censorship" or any of that.

No one thinks that.

Everyone understands -- right? -- that one of the issues with "rape porn" is the problem with determining whether an actual sex act is consensual or not once it's being filmed for profit, right? So it's not an aesthetic issue, but more like child porn, where the people being filmed are being hurt BY the production. Not okay, and not free speech under any rationale.

I had thought fully realized physical depictions of rape were already illegal here, for just that reason, but apparently that's not the case. I don't think a ban would be the slightest bit inconsistent with the First Amendment.

But the rest of this discussion is really where the meat is -- the parts about gender privilege and exploitation -- It's not possible to reduce that to Censorship -- Yes or No?! There's more being raised than aesthetics or prudery, and there is more that might be done than bans or censorship.

If we have to have 10,000 threads about this stuff, let's bear in mind it's much more complicated than Free Speech vs. Dirty Stuff on the Internet, and reducing it all to that just shows an unwillingness to think past knee-jerk poo-flinging.

The real crackpottery here is reducing ever discussion of the possible harms of any form of expression to "They're comin' for your pornz!" as though that were the only conceivable thing to be discussed.

We're smarter than that.


Carry on.

Eh. No one agrees on what "chivalry" is. For good reason.

Just one take on the whole thing, which seems to get a lot of people tangled up for some reason:

- As for actual "chivalry," it's kind of a myth to begin with. Sure there was a "code," but knights were arguably kind of dicks. Rich guys in armor (and only rich guys could afford armor) fighting wars for kings, killing Muslims for Jesus and likely with no particular compunction about hurting people they weren't obligated to protect. They were a privileged part of a class system. Sufficiently worthy damsels get rescued; dirty peasants get ridden down.

So, what knights said they were about -- honor, loyalty, etc. -- was just the same kind of window dressing every powerful group assigns itself. We are Spartans! Heroes! Righters of wrongs! So say we all. Take, America, for example. We say we mean well, and often do live up to that, but at the end of the day we claim to be the good guys whether we actually act that way or not.

We dare anyone to question our intentions because we are heavily armed.

- Then there is not inconsiderable patronizing element of the whole thing. It's implicit that the "strong" who protect the "weak" are actually better, sort of, and the weak therefore better be pretty freaking grateful ... or else. Noblesse oblige and all that.

People have suggested with good reason that implicit in the need to protect women in particular (who notably weren't eligible to be part of the warrior class) is that women occupy a lesser place than "the strong." And likely need to ... reciprocate by being submissive or sexually available. The crude modern take on this has always been the expectation that buying a woman dinner and opening the doors entitles a man to sex. Not too hard to see the objection to that framework. And it's still unquestionably part of our culture. See sugardaddies.com or whatever. I remember arguing with some Internet Dude about his belief that his wife taking his surname was some kind of righteous payment for his "protection."

And then there is the whole backlash you see from offended men who think they are getting some kind of double standard where they are at once expected to be protective and courteous, but then may also be accused of being patronizing or sexist. I think that's mostly deliberate obtuseness.

My take is that kindness and courtesy can always be freely given, so long as people don't screw it up with rigid "rules" or expectations or judgments. Do for others what you can, what makes sense, what makes both parties feel good. Don't turn it into an obligation or a downpayment on future favors or dominance issue.

As long as it's given and received in good faith, by and from either men or women, kindess is just kindness.

The Clintons seemed to bite on the notion

that we could massage and empower the largest monied interests in a way that wouldn't hurt everyone. Rising stock market floats all boats, if you will.

But a rising stock market isn't enough. They have to game the system. Inflate bubbles, burst them, rush in to pick up the pieces. Fend off all regulation. Abscond with the social safety net.

We can be friends with those interests once they get back behind the walls liberals built to contain their worst impulses in the first place.

Bit Malthusian, maybe?

Growth is endemic to all Earth's life forms, but so far, nothing else has devoured the entire planet, and I think it's a little self-aggrandizing to imagine we are the exception.

Not to say we couldn't wreck the whole thing with a nuclear war or by further damaging the oceans, but growth alone isn't going to kill us all, or make life impossible.

Populations self-regulate, to some degree, with or without "misery and vice." Crude birth rates have been dropping since the 1950s.

And I don't think it's energy that's going to put the brakes on. Even without a breakthrough like nuclear fusion, solar, wind and other renewables are right in front of us.

Water and climate change will bring crisis first and hardest, I think.

And while I agree capitalism's model of constant, unlimited growth is a problem, I don't think a drastically different social or economic system of any kind has an answer to limited resources or human short-sightedness. If there is such a system, nothing people are talking about now fits the bill.

But we will find better ways to allocate resources, or the physical laws of the universe will pull us up short.

I don't see Earth's human population finding a peaceful, sustainable balance with Nature any time soon, but an apocalpyse based on just projecting current trends failed Malthus and Marx both. We bent the curve before hitting the wall head-on.

We'll be pushed, pulled, and dragged toward sustainable systems as we go.

How well we adapt and harmonize with those forces will determine how violent or how peaceably that occurs, but based on history so far, I'd bet on a lot of small-to-medium catastrophes over a gigantic, inevitable "splat," or the rise massively draconian cultural or political change designed to fix everything.

One strength of this point is that it perfectly illustrates

… an UPWARD conduit for "redistributing wealth," the phrase that so enrages workaday conservatives in this country.

We funnel wealth upward constantly, through big government contracts, through tax laws with loopholes available only to the rich, with job and education opportunities available only to the wealthy and connected, and nary a peep from these people.

But give a kid a hot breakfast at a public school, and suddenly it's Big Government Reaching Into My Pocket.

These huge companies with their MBA-think philosophy of ever-decreasing costs always come back to their labor force as a way to push next quarter's profit graph a little higher. It's unsustainable, and as people are now pointing out more and more, it not only stifles the economy by depressing consumer spending on the part of underpaid workers, but increases the burden on the meager social safety nets we do have by creating more and more "working poor."

It's not question of whether we should "redistribute wealth." That's what an economy and a civilization does. That's how this works. The question is where we distribute it, for what purpose, and what we as a whole society get out of it.

This is Maher at his best -- making cogent points that should be obvious, but that we don't talk about.

Or the nutty stuff could be intensifying because

... it's increasingly threatened.

Just spitballing, but I think, first of all, these things are cyclical.

Secondly, crazy talk has fewer and fewer places to hide. Sure, there's more of it in terms of sheer volume, but there's also more avenues for the truth to be revealed.

The rise of worldwide digital communication has been a many-edged sword, culturally. One big change has been that information is now a) ubiquitous and b) less filtered.

But notice how people -- not all, mind you, but maybe enough -- grow a little wiser, a little at a time?

Remember when you'd get at least one e-mail per week from an acquaintance or co-worker, warning of giant Toilet Spiders or HIV- tainted needles in gas pumps?

How long can sheer mythology or big lies hold out, in the long run?

And every time we get something right, it sticks, at least a little. Going to be hard to say gay marriage is an existential threat to civilization anymore. Now it's going to be a little harder to say we can do without government, or that healthcare reform is Devil worship.

Maybe I'm just optimistic tonight.

But I think we are staggering toward sanity. Insanity doesn't like that, so we'll be hearing its noisy complaints louder than ever for a while.

There's no question this administration has abused the Espionage Act

like no other.

Despite promises to strengthen protections for whistleblowers, the Obama administration has launched an aggressive crackdown on government employees who have leaked national security information to the press.

With charges filed against NSA leaker Edward Snowden this June, the administration has brought a total of seven cases under the Espionage Act, which dates from World War I and criminalizes disclosing information “relating to the national defense.” Prior to the current administration, there had been only three known casesresulting in indictments in which the Espionage Act was used to prosecute government officials for leaks.


It's indefensibly wrong, and directly counter to Obama's talk about transparency.

It is their monster. The "Gov't is Bad" Monster.

"Government is bad / can't do anything" is a marketing trope conservatives use when they want to get rid of things like regulation or environmental protection, or government services that compete with some business like mail delivery or retirement savings. Or when government is preventing them from doing something horrible they want to do to people, like enslave them or keep them from voting.

But these new guys, and the people voting them into office, just take "Bad Old Government" at face value. They actually think we should get rid of it. They're talking up just trying things with no federal government for a while.

Reminds me of creepy kid in my junior high school, who used to carry a knife. I heard him telling his friends once that you can "just stab someone in the stomach," and it wouldn't hurt them that badly. I wondered if any of them ever tried that theory out; ended up murdering someone in a playground fight.

Maybe they went to Congress instead.

Some of them believe that. Others are just selling it.

Part of the box Republicans have constructed for themselves is that they're selling the total worthlessness and inefficacy of "government." As if we could, what, get rid of it?

What they mean is that government is bad when it limits the powers of wealth or endeavors to work for the common good. They want defense spending and big contracts for industry, but nothing that levels any playing field or protects the environment or anyone not plugged into power already.

It's a lie, of course. The wealthy interests wouldn't have any of the things that make wealth fun, or even possible, without things like roads and schools and health care and education and ... workers. But it's a nice fantasy that rationalizes not cooperating in the short term.

In the past, they've been able to reel in their half-logic when necessary, but now they have the Tea Party, which believes its own bullshit up to a point.

They think that can partially destroy the country and not pay for that.

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