Monday, January 31, 2011

Hysteria: The Snowpocalypse Edition

You gotta love Dr. Roy Spencer for his ability to cut to the chase: OMG! ANOTHER GLOBAL WARMING SNOWSTORM!!

Let me give you a few factoids:

1) No serious climate researcher — including the ones I disagree with — believes global warming can cause colder weather. Unless they have become delusional as a result of some sort of mental illness. One of the hallmarks of global warming theory is LESS extratropical cyclone activity — not more.

2) If some small region of the Earth is experiencing unusually persistent storminess, you can bet some other region is experiencing unusually quiet weather. You see, in the winter we get these things called ’storm tracks’….

3) Evidence for point #2 is that we now have many years of global satellite measurements of precipitation which shows that the annual amount of precipitation that falls on the Earth stays remarkably constant from year to year. The AREAS where it occurs just happen to move around a whole lot. Again, we used to call that “weather”.

4) Global average temperature anomalies (departures from seasonal norms) have been falling precipitously for about 12 months now. Gee, maybe these snowstorms are from global cooling! Someone should look into that! (I know…cold and snow from global cooling sounds crazy….I’m just sayin’….)

I could go on and on.

Now, I know I’m not going to change the minds of any of the True Believers…those who read all of Reverend Al’s sermons, and say things like, “You know, global warming can mean warmer OR colder, wetter OR drier, cloudier OR sunnier, windier OR calmer, …”. Can I get an ‘amen’??

But I hope I can still save a few of those out there who are still capable of independent reasoning and thought.

That about sums it up.

Friday, January 28, 2011

No. Not Everyone Can Do Political Theory

I posted a very long piece over at Blue Crab.

It's fun. In it I use a 17th Century Whig to smack down a 21st Century law professor. It's not every day I get to do that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Separated By That Pesky Common Language Again

The headline says it all: Dentist uses sexy dresses to distract patients

Well, it almost says it all. They included a photograph.



Uh. Hmm. Sexy? Where? Riyadh?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bigot Loses Job. Whatever Will We Do?

Keith Olbermann, a political pundit whose sum total of credentials consisted of a bachelor's degree in communication and two decades discussing groin injuries, will no longer have a platform on MSNBC. The loss of Olbermann's show, largely a vehicle for the host to explain how he finds every Republican and conservative in the country more odious than Kim Jong-Il or Stalin, evidently will leave a gaping hole in the psyche of the left.

Tragic.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Science Challenged Crowd

As time goes on it becomes clearer that a major factor in why the global warming crowd's science is so piss poor so often is they don't really understand statistics all that well.

Neither do I, of course, but then again I'm not telling people they should give me a billion dollars to save the world.

But, I do know enough to understand roughly what actual statisticians are talking about. At this post you can read all about how the leading lights in anthropogenic global warming research screwed up something as statistically simple as the error term.

Yikes.

Stupid "News" Item Of The Day

Oh, good Lord: Michelle Obama's 'Get Moving' Program Linked to Pedestrian Deaths

The Governors Highway Safety Association says pedestrian deaths increased in the first half of 2010 and the First Lady's program to get Americans to be more active could be partly responsible.

Governors Highway Safety Administration spokesman Jonathan Adkins told 630 WMAL that Michelle Obama is "trying to get us to walk to work and exercise a little bit more. While that's good, it also increases our exposure to risk."

After four straight years of steady declines, pedestrian deaths were up during the first six months of 2010, the latest figures available to be studied.

So, what does the report say exactly? (It is here. *beware* of PDF thingy!) Well, on page 3 the report states:

There are no scientific analyses of the reasons why pedestrian fatalities decreased from 2005 to 2009 or why the decrease appears to have ended in the first six months of 2010.

Got that? So, when the spokesman invokes Michelle Obama's fitness campaign he simply is talking off the top of his head (or through his hat, or out his ass.) There is no study linking the "Get Moving" program to anything.

There is nothing to see here. Move along people (but watch where you're going fer-cryin-out-loud.)

The Worst Thing About The Internet

There are so many hours of my life I can never get back, lost to mindless time sucks like this link: The 50 Most Loathsome Americans of 2010

The kicker is you read the thing, a bile filled piece of all the human beings the writers would like to not-exist for the crime of not acting/thinking/being like the authors themselves, only to reach the #1 culprit. All of us.

Your brain’s been cobbled together over millions of years of blind evolution and it shows. You’re clumsy, stupid, weak and motivated by the basest of urges. Your MO is both grotesquely selfish and unquestionably deferential to questionable authority. You’re not in control of your life. You wear your ignorance like a badge of honor and gleefully submit to oppression, malfeasance and kleptocracy. You will buy anything. You will believe anything. You believe that evolution is a matter of belief. You likely scrolled down to #1, without reading the rest, because you’re an impatient, semi-literate Philistine who’s either unable or unwilling to digest more than 140 characters at a time. You think Epic Beard Man is a national hero and that Bradley Manning might be Eli and Payton’s brother. You believe in American exceptionalism despite the contrary, compelling and overwhelming evidence. You tacitly partake in all manner of atrocity without batting a lash. You’re actively participating in our species’ extinction and you’re either in denial or you just don’t give a shit. You escape into every sort of mind-numbing distraction and ridiculous, convoluted fantasy, so you don’t have to face the bitter, terrifying fact that your life is utterly meaningless.

Yep, this is the modern "progressive" in a nut shell. The parousia would have been ours already if we only listened to our saviors - evidently that is supposed to be the authors of this priggish prattle, who lack only humor, humanity, humility, intelligence and common sense.

Otherwise they are perfect.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Right On Cue

What more can the writer of a blog ask for? Just hours after I write a post where I stated...

...we now live in an age where a scientific elite is demanding the suspension of democratic rule because the stakes are supposedly too high to be left to the vagaries of the ballot box....


Enter Dr. James Hansen:

November's election made it quite clear that the people of the United States do not want to radically change our society in the name of global warming. Pretty much every close House race went to the Republicans, while the Democrats won all the Senate squeakers. The difference? The House on June 26, 2009, passed a bill limiting carbon-dioxide emissions and getting into just about every aspect of our lives. The Senate did nothing of the sort.

The nation's most prominent publicly funded climatologist is officially angry about this, blaming democracy and citing the Chinese government as the "best hope" to save the world from global warming. He also wants an economic boycott of the U.S. sufficient to bend us to China's will.

So, if given a choice between the political will of the American people and communism, Dr. Hansen chooses communism.

Is it OK to question the patriotism of someone who wishes to destroy democratic rule and eviscerate the political history of the country? (As if I need to ask.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

America, "Captive Of A Scientific Technological Elite"

As I get older it certainly seems to turn out that much of the history I learned in my youth was only partially true. Part of this can be chalked up to new discoveries and ideas that simply were not around when I was first introduced to something. But, there are also things in history which writers of history and, by extension, my teachers choose to ignore.

A good example of this can be found in Dwight D. Eisenhower's farewell address, the famous "Military-Industrial Complex Speech."

In this speech, Eisenhower first lays out the scope of his concern:

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.

The first threat he goes on to talk about is the Military-Industrial Complex. This is the part of the speech I was taught, both formally and via the media who often brought up this idea in a variety of contexts.

But, what exactly was the second threat? I have to admit, I never knew there was a second threat Eisenhower had discussed, until recently.

Here is how Ike laid it out:

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.


It is impossible to read this and not think of how the Global Warming crowd embodies the precise worries Eisenhower laid out. Instead of the goals of a free democratic society being paramount, we now live in an age where a scientific elite is demanding the suspension of democratic rule because the stakes are supposedly too high to be left to the vagaries of the ballot box. In the name of "saving the planet" and with billions of Federal research dollar behind them, we have witnessed a wholesale assault upon the standards of free inquiry. Peer reviews has been subverted; editors have been intimidated from freely publishing work/ideas the elite wishes to see squashed; Federal funding, directed by, and largely allocated to, members of the elite, ensure only pre-approved ideas are encouraged. etc. etc. etc.

In every way the warnings of Eisenhower are being played out before our eyes.

It's too bad so few of us know about this particular warning, isn't it? Especially as Eisenhower's warning seems to tell us this is the graver threat, as it is largely responsible for the military-industrial threat in the first place.

Truth v. Lies

Sadly, in Europe lies are winning.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Intellectual Level Of The Leftist Blogosphere (An Example)

Gotta love our moral superiors!

It begins with this post by a blog called Mahablog which was pointing to The Daily Caller calling for news organizations to issue corrections of their early reporting linking the Tuscon shooter to the Tea Party:

Wow, talk about trying to silence your opposition! I say again, if today’s Right ever gets unfettered control of the government, they’ll turn America into a totalitarian state the likes of which Orwell could not have imagined. They complain about “political correctness,” but no one dares not be “conservatively correct” in America.

Just wait — if it hasn’t happened already — somewhere, some wingnut mouthpiece will declare open season on anyone who thinks hate speech played a part in the shooting in Tuscon. Countdown to the progroms [sic] …

Got that? Calling for a newspaper to correct faulty information is the equivalent of Orwellian totalitarianism and a pogrom.

Now, I should have known better given this level of outright stupidity, but I decided to be neighborly, so I posted this comment:

If you are really interested in the connection between violence and ideas – and you do sound as if you are – I suggest you look at the FBI’s “Most Wanted” domestic terrorist list. http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/dt

What conclusions do you draw from that list and the ideologies it represents?


Which drew this response:

Obviously, that right-wing terrorists get a pass. That’s been true for years. The Justice Department since Reagan has looked the other way at threats against abortion clinics until someone actually dies, for example.


To which I responded:

huh?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to say the opposite? (Unless you are complaining the Feds are not arresting people BEFORE they commit crimes.)

Do you know of someone who bombed an abortion clinic or killed an abortionist who is still on the loose? Hell, they unleashed the National Guard on that nutjob in North Carolina a few years back. It would make a lot more sense to say they are much more diligent going after those on the right as opposed to the left.

Still, now I know… you are not in fact interested in the connection between ideology and violence, only in bashing your “enemies”.

As I said, now I know.


Notice, to this point, only I have actually pointed to anything like factual information.

Here was the response:

You wanted to prove that only lefties are violent, dear. And I refuse to take the bait. Do take your hypocritical ass elsewhere.


Then I was banned from commenting.

Notice the delusional aspect of the reply here. I made no claim to the exhaustiveness of the information I pointed out. Indeed, the information I pointed out was collected by the FBI, not by some right-leaning blogger. To read this response at face value, it seems Mahablog thinks *I* have control over the FBI! ("Ground control to major nutjob!") But this is par for the course in the lefty blogosphere. When confronted with evidence they do not like, e.g. the make up of the FBI most wanted domestic terrorism list, they invent a conspiracy theory to make that evidence go away, e.g. right-wingers are secretly controlling the FBI's list making. Meet the lefty blogosphere, a place where Ockham's Razor is not welcome.

Mahablog also seems to believe their original post was a balanced assessment of the link between violence and ideology. It isn't. It only bashes the right. (The entire substance is in the quote I have above.) But, somehow, my response with information that doesn't fit their prejudices is deemed out-of-bounds.

Indeed, pointing out information they do not like makes me an "ass" to the likes of the enlightened there.

Meanwhile, a poster called "c u n d gulag" (gee, like Stalin much?) was free to post the following about yours truly:

"You probably won’t read this, but you might want to consider some salad’s. Your fat cheek’s are almost wider than your fedora. And you’ve got more “chin’s” than the Hong Kong phone directory. Also, can you really trust one finger to hold that fat head up?"

Ah the intellect of, I'm presuming, a 9 year old. And a racist 9 year old to boot.

That is the intellect that is OK at Mahablog. That is the writing that isn't asinine.

That such people, the author and gang over at Mahablog, routinely refer to themselves as "liberal" is a tragedy. If John Stuart Mill were around he would want to label himself differently.

What thinking person could blame him?

Stupid Leftist Profs Unite! (Redux)

I originally posted the following in May of 2010. Given the mythology of "rising right-wing violence" endemic in the press of late, I thought it was wothwhile reposting it. I will note the FBI domestic terrorist list hasn't changed since last May. Sadly. - IMW

You have nothing to lose but your dignity and any sense of common human decency you may have possessed!

The failed Times Square bombing prompted a leading light of academia to opine:


Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, professor, Washington and Lee University

I think the politics of this incident will turn heavily on who is found to be responsible. If, as seems unlikely, the bomb is linked to South Asian or Middle Eastern terrorists, questions will again arise as to whether the Department of Homeland Security is doing all it can do to keep us safe. If, as I believe is much more likely, the bomb was placed by a right-wing lunatic, it seems to me that questions need to be raised as to whether the right-wing media bear some responsibility for stoking the delusions of such people through their relentless and often unfounded attacks on the Obama administration and the federal government.


We need to consider whether it isn’t time to return to responsible, ethical journalism.


After I read this I kept repeating to myself, "Please don't let this have been a Political Science prof!" I can breathe easier as this particular moron is a professor of Law.

Make no mistake, Professor Stoltzfus Jost is a moron. His prejudice against "right-wingers" has caused him to believe, apparently, that domestic terror, when it occurs, is likely to issue from the right side of the political spectrum. Is this prejudice justified?

Well, let's see. Looking at the FBI's list of most wanted domestic terror fugitives we get this group. Let us see where they fall on the old left-right scale.

ELIZABETH ANNA DUKE

Elizabeth Anna Duke is wanted for her alleged involvement in a series of criminal activities during the late 1970's and early 1980's. She was allegedly a member of the radical group known as the May 19th Communist Organization which advocated communism and the violent overthrow of the United States Government.

Verdict: Leftist

JOANNE DEBORAH CHESIMARD
Joanne Chesimard is wanted for escaping from prison in Clinton, New Jersey, while serving a life sentence for murder. On May 2, 1973, Chesimard, who was part of a revolutionary activist organization known as the Black Liberation Army, and two accomplices were stopped for a motor vehicle violation on the New Jersey Turnpike by two troopers with the New Jersey State Police. At the time, Chesimard was wanted for her involvement in several felonies, including bank robbery.

Verdict: Leftist

REBECCA J. RUBIN

On January 19, 2006, a federal grand jury in Eugene, Oregon, indicted Rebecca J. Rubin on multiple charges related to her alleged role in a domestic terrorism cell. Rubin was charged with two conspiracy violations related to seventeen incidents and two counts of arson. These crimes occurred in Oregon and date back to 1997. Many of the crimes she is accused of participating in were claimed to be committed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) or the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

Verdict: Leftist

NORBERTO GONZALEZ-CLAUDIO

Norberto Gonzalez-Claudio is allegedly a member of a clandestine Puerto Rican terrorist group which has claimed responsibility for armed robberies and terrorist bombings.


Verdict: I couldn't tell from this, so I looked him up. Apparently, he was a part of a violent "Puerto Rico Liberation" movement called "The Macheteros." Therefore, Leftist.

LEO FREDERICK BURT

Leo Frederick Burt is wanted for allegedly participating in the bombing of Sterling Hall, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, on August 24, 1970.

Verdict: Once again this isn't entirely clear immediately. (One can guess given the time period and the target, but it is always better to get the facts.) Given what one can read here, the answer is clear: Leftist.

JOSEPH MAHMOUD DIBEE

On January 19, 2006, a federal grand jury in Eugene, Oregon, indicted Joseph Mahmoud Dibee on multiple charges related to his alleged role in a domestic terrorism cell. Dibee was charged with two conspiracy violations related to seventeen incidents and one count of arson. These crimes occurred in Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, and Wyoming, and date back to 1996. Many of the crimes he is accused of participating in were claimed to be committed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) or the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

Verdict: Leftist

JOSEPHINE SUNSHINE OVERAKER

On January 19, 2006, a federal grand jury in Eugene, Oregon, indicted Josephine Sunshine Overaker on multiple charges related to her alleged role in a domestic terrorism cell. Overaker was charged with two conspiracy violations related to seventeen incidents, five counts of arson, one count of attempted arson, and one count of destruction of an energy facility. These crimes occurred in Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, and Wyoming, and date back to 1996. Many of the crimes she is accused of participating in were claimed to be committed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) or the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

Verdict: Leftist

JUSTIN FRANCHI SOLONDZ

Justin Franchi Solondz is wanted on multiple charges related to his alleged role in a domestic terrorism cell. On May 21, 2001, the University of Washington, Center for Urban Horticulture, in Seattle, Washington, was destroyed by fire during the early morning hours. At the same time, in Clatskanie, Oregon, several buildings and vehicles were also destroyed by fire. Fire investigators determined that both fires were the result of arson by use of timed improvised incendiary devices. Shortly thereafter, a communication was released stating that both fires were committed by members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The combined loss from these two arsons totaled over five million dollars.

On October 15, 2001, an arson and attempted animal release took place at the Litchfield Wild Horse and Burro Corral in Susanville, California. Investigators found multiple improvised incendiary devices at the crime scene. This arson was claimed to have been committed by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). The damages from this arson were estimated to be eighty five thousand dollars.

Verdict: Leftist

RONALD STANLEY BRIDGEFORTH

Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth is wanted for his alleged involvement in attacks on law enforcement officials in California, including the August 29, 1971, attack on San Francisco's Ingleside Police Station in which a Police Sergeant was shot and killed. Law enforcement investigation determined that this act of violence was committed by members of an extremist group known as the Black Liberation Army (BLA). The BLA had undertaken a series of attacks on police targets consisting of shootings, bombings, and attempted bombings beginning in the late 1960s and continuing through the 1970s. These attacks resulted in the deaths of several police officers around the nation.

Verdict: Leftist

So, there are nine people listed on the FBI's Most Wanted for domestic terrorism list and all of them originate on the political left. Given this fact, it is hard to take the pronouncements of Professor Stoltzfus Jost as anything other than gibberish uttered without the slightest reference to reality; in other words, he's a moron, literally and etymologically.

Really, the good professor's stupidity is so bad it even lacks the possibility of a mitigating circumstance. After all, the locale of the attempted bombing, Times Square, does not necessarily lend itself to the idea of it as a tempting target for the radical right. In fact, were it to have been the target of a domestic terrorist, it would have made much more sense for it to have been the work of someone who held anti-corporate/anti-capitalist ideas, and thus be leftist.

As events unfolded, of course, the terrorists turn out to be internationally based (and include at least one registered Democrat.) One wonders just how "unlikely" the good professor feels this outcome was.

I have no doubt the professor will never think this result should force him to confront reality and the stupidity of his own prejudices.

After all, he's a law prof.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thank God For Our Moral Superiors

Where would we be as a nation without godlike figures such as "Global Studies" professor Jonathan Weiler to show us the way? I mean, without Prof. Weiler how would we know that the conservatives and the Republican party, and presumably over 50% of the American electorate in the last election, were in reality the purveyors of a "sick political movement."

Evidently, and I'm basing this upon his writing, we are supposed to trust Weiler's judgement because he has no idea what the ecological fallacy is.

Fabulous.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau Ought To Resign

This is truly reprehensible:

Yesterday morning, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau e-mailed the campus community with regard to the horrendous mass shooting in Arizona that killed a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl, and several others while gravely injuring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the apparent target of the attack...

Dear members of our campus community:

This weekend's shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the deaths and injuries of many others in the horrific event in Tucson, Arizona[,] have shocked our nation. We here at UC Berkeley offer our sincere condolences to everyone who has been personally affected by this tragedy.

Such a brutal and violent attack on an individual who has devoted herself to public service is deeply regrettable. It calls upon us as an academic community to stop and ponder the climate in which such an act can be contemplated, even by a mind that is profoundly disturbed. A climate in which demonization of others goes unchallenged and hateful speech is tolerated can lead to such a tragedy. I believe that it is not a coincidence that this calamity has occurred in a state which has legislated discrimination against undocumented persons. This same mean-spirited xenophobia played a major role in the defeat of the Dream Act by our legislators in Washington, leaving many exceptionally talented and deserving young people, including our own undocumented students, painfully in limbo with regard to their futures in this country.

On our own campus, and throughout all the campuses of the University of California, we must continue to work toward a climate of equity and inclusion for all. We must be vigilant to condemn hate speech and acts of vandalism on our campuses by those wanting to promote enmity. We must work to support dialogue about our differences and eschew expressions of demonization of others...


If demonization of others is unacceptable in the UC system then how can its head get away with demonizing everyone who disagrees with his personal public policy preferences? Chancellor Birgeneau has simply labelled every opinion other than his own as racist? It is disgusting.

Birgeneau is a disgrace, and if he had any sense of morality in his makeup he would step down.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blame Derrida!

It should be clear, by this point, to any rational person that the Left in this country has simply lost its collective mind. The "reality based community" has been hysterically shrieking for the past five days how Jared Loughner was inspired directly by the words of Sarah Palin (or Glenn Beck), despite the fact they had not a single piece of evidence to substantiate the charge. ("Reality," for the Left, must be a strange thing devoid of any basis in fact it seems.)

Today, of course, the Left goes bonkers when Sarah Palin has the temerity to defend herself from their baseless and increasingly insane charges. (Turns out Loughner neither watched TV news nor listened to talk radio. The Left seems to believe Palin was controlling Loughner telepathically.) Somehow, Palin is now an anti-Semite because she used the term "blood libel" to describe the charges laid against her. That the Left and Right have used the term in this fashion for years without anyone raising a peep about it, of course does not matter to the truly fevered. Sarah Palin has said it! And Sarah causes a loud buzzing sound in the heads of Leftists which can only be alleviated by their saying something incredibly moronic about Palin. (Poor Andy Sullivan's head buzzes a lot.)

Of course, what this was supposed to be about is Loughner and his motivations. Given the complete lack of evidence that right-wing talk had anything to do with Loughner, anyone who continues to espouse such an idea is either A) pig ignorant, B) immoral and dishonest, or C) about as loony as Loughner himself. Merely wanting it to be true because you loathe Palin (or Beck) so much simply isn't good enough. It never ought to have been.

But, who to blame then? There is the obvious answer: no one but Loughner. This is the answer I subscribe to, given his rather obvious lunacy. Irrational people can be "motivated" by just about anything; the phases of the moon (thus the root of the term "lunacy"), the neighbors dog "speaking" to them, The Beatles' White Album, an Al Gore documentary, etc. etc. etc. There is no rational way to guess what will set them off, so it is pointless to try in advance, and un-insightful to us when we discover it after the fact.

But if you absolutely need to blame someone else, why not look to the things that obviously did inspire Loughner? Like a lot of other people I too looked at Loughner's YouTube ravings, and it became clear to me there was something Loughner drew upon as "inspiration" of a sort. Clearly Loughner had either been introduced to in college or read on his own something of the philosophical perspective known as "deconstructionism." You can see this in his obsession with "grammar" and the supposed meaninglessness of language. Something like this was obviously the source of Loughner's nonsense question to Giffords back in 2007. Loughner gets introduced to the idea that texts have no set meaning, and when confronted by a member of Congress whose very position and status is defined by a text (i.e. the Constitution) Loughner now believes is devoid of content, well, he begins to think of her as a charlatan or tyrant.

Even if the influence wasn't this direct, it isn't unreasonable to wonder about the impact ideas like deconstruction would have on any individual who already had the tendency to live in their own private reality. Isn't it an invitation for the unstable to try to make their world whatever they want it to be? Loughner evidently did claim to a friend he was attempting to make his dream world his real world. Ideas like deconstruction would only supply him with further justification in his delusional pursuits.

So there it is. If you must blame someone else for Loughner's insane actions, the only plausible alternative is Jacques Derrida.

Too bad he's already dead, eh?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Irony Alert?

Words of supposed wisdom from Gary Hart:

Gradually, over time, political rhetoric used by politicians and the media has become more inflamatory. The degree to which violent words and phrases are considered commonplace is striking. Candidates are "targeted". An opponent is "in the crosshairs". Liberals have to be "eliminated". Opponents are "enemies". This kind of language eminates [sic] largely from those who claim to defend American democracy against those who would destroy it, who are evil, and who want to "take away our freedoms".

Today we have seen the results of this rhetoric. Those with a megaphone, whether provided by public office or a media outlet, have responsibilities. They cannot avoid the consequences of their blatant efforts to inflame, anger, and outrage. We all know that there are unstable and potentially dangerous people among us. To repeatedly appeal to their basest instincts is to invite and welcome their predictable violence.


I find this interesting. I show my intro philosophy students a film that features Gary Hary espousing the political philosophy of Machiavelli. The same Machiavelli, I hasten to add, who advocates the use of violence in politics up to and including torture and murder as a matter of course. Gary Hart thinks Machiavelli is swell.

I hate to say it, given my own profession, but it seems likely in this case that the person in question was inspired not by rhetoric heard on television or the radio. Given the pseudo-intellectual nonsense of his YouTube ramblings it seems he was more inspired by what he heard (but didn't understand) in a college classroom.

The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, and The Prince all employ "eliminationist rhetoric" in some fashion. Ought we to get rid of them, cutting them out of history, philosophy and political science classes before they inspire some nut? If so, what meaningful discussion of the political world could remain? Certainly not Plato's Republic (too totalitarian). Obviously not Rousseau's Social Contract, which advocates the elimination of the recalcitrant... etc. etc. etc.

Of course, this isn't what Gary Hart wants. What he wants is to play cheap partisan politics, hoping his side can benefit from this tragedy. Hart shows by this very piece of writing that he believes politics is war carried on by other means. That it is done while at the same time decrying violence shouldn't surprise us. After all, Hart's hero Machiavelli counsels politicians to be two-faced.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Another Reading Assignment

First, go here and read this:

Then read this:

I'm sorry but if after reading those you do not find Amanda Marcotte to be a raving loon, you are beyond rational discourse.