Date ►►► April 30, 2013
The "Gender" Agender
If this here bill in the California state Assembly actually passes, California may swing sharply to the right -- and might even come into play again for presidential elections.
Well I can dream. But it's undeniable that the bill percolating through the Assembly is virtually an Onion-like parody of Progressivist gender madness... one that will strike deep and horribly into every family in California that has school-aged children.
AB 1266 would allow all students in elementary and secondary school to decide for themselves what "gender" they are today or tomorrow, and use whichever bathroom, locker room, or shower facility they think fits best. That is, a fourteen year old boy in middle school, even one never known for gay or transgendered tendencies, can simply walk into the girl's shower room, strip naked, and join them... and by state law, he cannot be stopped or disciplined for doing so, as long as he claims that today he feels more like a girl than a boy.
How many offensive ways of wrongness does this absurdist law embody?
- The bill utterly demolishes any idea of privacy; schoolchildren at all levels have the right to expect, as part of respecting their personhood, that they will not suddenly find themselves forced to go to the bathroom and take showers with members of the opposite sex. Many kids, boys and girls, are already embarassed enough showering with members of the same sex; but forced nudity in mixed-company clearly pushes far beyond that boundary of privacy.
- Anyone who thinks that teenaged boys will not take advantage of the new law, will not stroll into the girls' shower to just sexually intimidate the girls and arouse themselves -- and perhaps even sexually assault them, believing that's what the girls really want -- is naive to the point of retardation. Of course they will; teenaged boys are the epitome of irresponsible sexual acting out. (And the recent fad of "sexting" indicates that teenaged girls are not too far behind in the irresponsibility Olympics.) When "It seemed like a good idea at the time" morphs into "I felt like a girl at the time," school administrators will be helpless to do anything about it. Hey, they're just expressing their gender indecision!
While we're at it, let's admit that the bill will also completely obliterate girls' sports in school, since it also allows any male student to declare himself to be female (in his own mind, at least) and (again by law) play on the girls' team, instead of the boys'. Of course, since they're physically still boys, still bigger, stronger, faster, better at throwing baseballs or footballs, shooting basketballs, or kicking soccer balls, that means the girls will be more or less window dressing. And more or less targets for the meaner boys passing as girls.
Net effect: Girls will simply drop out of sports, because they can't win against boys twice their size and obviously prone to bullying. (Why would a boy want to play on a girls' team unless he wanted to bully?)
Back in the 1970s and early 80s, when the Equal Rights Amendment was wending its tortuous and ultimately unsuccessful path through ratification, the sexist line on it was that it would force boys and girls to use the same bathrooms and showers, and force women to be drafted into the Army. As I recollect, the feminists were furious at the spurious claim; but they were mostly "equity feminists" back then, not "gender feminists," to use Christina Hoff Sommers' terminology. "That's utterly ridiculous!" they (rightly) argued; "nobody's trying to erase the line between boys and girls!"
But today, the gay Left openly tries to erase that line -- and the leftover gender feminists cheer and applaud.
Of course: Since we all know that boys and girls are exactly the same, why shouldn't they shower together, go the the bathroom together, and play on any sports team, male or female, at their own will? Equality of rights begets equality of outcomes begets complete interchangeability between male and female... first in child rearing, then marriage, and now the ultimate leveling, bathroom buddies. The Progressivist Left is never satisfied; anything worth doing must surely be worth double-plus ultra overdoing!
I'm trying to imagine how even normal, moderate-liberal parents will react when their young daughters come home in tears because naked boys came into the girls' shower, leering, panting, displaying, and maybe even grabbing the girls -- and the school says, "hey, the law says we have to let them!" Or the sexual-assault lawsuits that surely would follow, filed not only against the school district but the parents of the assaulters (who thought the law would protect them from any consequences).
Or for that matter, how will all taxpayers feel about the enormous class-action lawsuits filed against the state and local school districts under Title 9 of the Civil Rights Act, for the de-facto destruction of girls' sports in school through state-sanctioned intimidation and violent assault, when the state allows boys join the opposing girls' team.
Simply put, if this bill passes without a massive political backlash, then America is doomed.
The Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative-leaning, pro-religion law firm, is all over this; they have up a web site on this bill and one other (designed to destroy the Boy Scouts and other private civic and fraternal organizations) at GenderInsanity.com.
And if you still think I'm overreacting, just flying off the handle, here is the text of AB 1266 itself; relevant portion (paragraph f) at the end in vivid and appropriate blue:
The people of the State of California do enact as follows:
Section 221.5 of the Education Code is amended to read:
(a) It is the policy of the state that elementary and secondary school classes and courses, including nonacademic and elective classes and courses, be conducted, without regard to the sex of the pupil enrolled in these classes and courses.
(b) A school district may not prohibit a pupil from enrolling in any class or course on the basis of the sex of the pupil, except a class subject to Chapter 5.6 (commencing with Section 51930) of Part 28 of Division 4 of Title 2.
(c) A school district may not require a pupil of one sex to enroll in a particular class or course, unless the same class or course is also required of a pupil of the opposite sex.
(d) A school counselor, teacher, instructor, administrator, or aide may not, on the basis of the sex of a pupil, offer vocational or school program guidance to a pupil of one sex that is different from that offered to a pupil of the opposite sex or, in counseling a pupil, differentiate career, vocational, or higher education opportunities on the basis of the sex of the pupil counseled. Any school personnel acting in a career counseling or course selection capacity to a pupil shall affirmatively explore with the pupil the possibility of careers, or courses leading to careers, that are nontraditional for that pupil’s sex. The parents or legal guardian of the pupil shall be notified in a general manner at least once in the manner prescribed by Section 48980, in advance of career counseling and course selection commencing with course selection for grade 7 so that they may participate in the counseling sessions and decisions.
(e) Participation in a particular physical education activity or sport, if required of pupils of one sex, shall be available to pupils of each sex.
(f) A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs, and activities,
and facilities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.
Date ►►► April 26, 2013
Everything We Know About Elections Is Wrong,
Fourth Movement and Coda
How can the GOP take advantage of the axioms of coolness, without losing its soul?
Remember, the axioms of coolness don't mandate going over the top! Unlike Democrats, Republicans should always ask, "WWRD?" I don't mean with regard to policy; many of Reagan's programs would be anachronisms today (such as building a massive tank corps). What we need to start emulating is Reagan's understanding of how elections are won... and the core of that understanding does not change, even while the technology and specific mechanisms are in constant flux.
For example, Reagan never tried to demonize vast segments of ordinary Americans; he confined his attacks to actual enemies, such as the Soviet Union and corrupt politicians. Nor did he frighten us by saying we're all going to die if we don't slavishly support every policy of his. And he would have laughed in the face of any aide who advised him to compare himself to Moses, Jesus, or Mohammed.
Our current "cool" president embodies all three of these vile, bullying strategies, to the point of narcissism bordering on self-deification. Alas, such tactics work very well for the Left; it's their bread and buttered circuses.
Consider the recent upswing in the number of Americans who now favor redistribution of wealth. When economic times are good, most folks are happy to "allow" rich people to keep the money they earn. But when the economy turns sour, a large swath of the electorate panics -- they believe the only way the rich got their riches was by stealing it all from the rest of us. There's no other possible explanation! (Cf. Sneaking Apples from the Great Wealth Tree)
Democrats play on that paranoia, whipping up class warfare, because they thrive on insecurity, fear, and chaos... as do radical Islamists. But that simply doesn't work for Republican candidates.
But what does work for us is the emotional connection most Americans still have to our country. Democrats used to be able to rely upon loyalty and patriotism, but they have thrown that all away in their pursuit of divide-and-conquer and control-by-crisis. But the GOP still has the ties that bind, tethering us to the America I think the great majorities long for: The America that is truly "e pluribus unum," out of many, one, not the other way 'round.
I believe most people still support the idea of private property. They still want their economic and intellectual liberty. They still believe in a melting pot for immigrants, in assimilation, despite all the hate-mongering and propaganda from the salad-bowl activists. They believe in traditional marriage and normal families, not all the bizarre and incomprehensible hook-ups you find in gay and swinger communities. (Americans also believe in minding their own business, which is why ultraconservative fantasies of reinstating a ban on gays in the military and overturning Lawrence v. Texas, the Court ruling that struck down all anti-sodomy laws, are not only futile but electorally devastating.)
I believe most Americans are outraged by late-term abortions, particularly partial-birth abortions; but they see an enormous distinction between a baby and a single fertilized cell, a zygote. If we conflate the horror show of Kermit Gosnell and his post-birth "abortions" with embryonic stem-cell research, we lend credence to the absurdist charge that Republicans are anti-science theocrats.
We have many, many paths to beating Democrats by playing according to our rules, not theirs. We can turn the tables on them in many different ways; but like Jerry Seinfeld's lock, we actually have to use these techniques in order for them to work.
How about this: "We don't want people to needlessly suffer from lack of medical treatment for devastating illnesses like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. But at the same time, we don't want to force devout people support a procedure that causes them moral anguish. But we can resolve this dilemma by pressing hard for more funding of non-embryonic stem-cell research (placental, amneotic, and adult stem cells), and especially by pursuing non-destructive embryonic stem-cell research, a new approach which has quietly been percoating in the background."
This puts the Democrats into the perilous position of arguing that they would prefer destructive embryonic stem-cell research, because they want to see more embryos die. (This is almost as awkward a position as advocating partial-birth abortion while the Gosnell trial rages.)
We miss great emotional opportunities because we're so fixated on logicking voters into submission. Yet in successful political campaigns, logic never leads; it backfills. That is our first fundamental tactic.
- First convert, then persuade; get the right emotional pitch, and voters will retroactively be persuaded by the logic.
The logic is important, vital; it separates us from the Bonesian Left. When Dr. McCoy and Commander Spock agree, that is when we can find the Kirkian Mean... and that is when we win elections, often by a landslide.
Next, everybody in the Republican Party agrees that we need to do a better job of candidate selection; but that's like sticking your head out the window and then opening it, or putting on your shoes and socks -- in that order. Before we select a candidate, we must have a set of criteria for the qualities we're selecting! And "likeability" and "coolness" must be much higher up the great chain of candidate selection than "is a policy wonk" and "has a 5,000-page master plan to solve everything."
We will rarely win elections when our candidate is boring and reactionary (Romney), cranky and verging on iconoclastic (McCain), doddering and constantly referring to himself in the third person (Blob Dole), or a monomaniacal, one-note wonder (practically all the losing GOP candidates in the last several primaries). Unfortunately, it seems as if this is your grandfather's Republican Party!
We shouldn't toss away the eternal verities, but every old and ineffectual policy of the past is fair game for preemptive defenstration. This brings us to our second tactic:
- GOP candidate-selection criteria must lean heavily towards hip, likeable, and interesting candidates, technically savvy, forward-looking, with new ideas instead of the tired old garbage that didn't work well even back in the day, and is far less likely to succeed tomorrow and next year.
Finally, we don't need a detailed Theory of Everything; that sounds a bit too millennarian for comfort. But we do need a coherent overarching narrative into which all the bits and pieces can eventually fit.
For example, Reagan's narrative was that domestic government was too big, while security government was not nearly big enough: The government should stop intruding where it's neither needed nor desired, such as hampering innovation by driving up interest rates, trying to control the economy by brute force, launching anti-competitive spending sprees, and raising tax rates in order to "level" wealth... and instead should start spending its money to protect the American people from harm by, e.g., the evil empire.
Once Americans understood Reagan's priorities, virtually every policy, from tax cuts to defense build-ups to his (failed) attempt to curb domestic spending made perfect sense in context. That's because Reagan did, in fact, think logically from first principles, then craft policies that embodied his reasoning. (Though he pitched those policies in "emotion, then logic" order.) Thus, the coherent overarching narrative is our third tactic:
- Republican candidates must be able to tell an enthralling story about where we are now, how we got there, and where we go from here. And the candidate's actual, specific policy proposals must arise naturally out of that narrative.
Rules for fighting radicals, or brother can you paradigm?
Nobody can guarantee that Republicans will hold the House and take back the Senate next year, nor that one of us will be elected president in 2016. But if we follow these three fairly obvious rules for candidates and the party itself...
- Lead with passion and emotion, backfill with logic
- Nominate candidates who are likeable, cool, and futuristic, not pining for the "good ol' days"
- Construct a believable and uplifting general narrative; then fit policy to the story, not the other way 'round
...Then we Republicans will improve our chances of electoral victory a thousandfold, because finally we'll have earned it!
Those of us who remember the JImmy Carter years will recollect how hopeless everything seemed during his term; here's what we faced (and this is a non-inclusive list):
- We had a president who hated America and everything for which it stands, and who was feckless, hapless, and clueless.
- Democrats had controlled the Senate since 1955, and the House since 1933 (FDR's first landslide). In fact, the House remained in Democrat hands throughout Reagan's entire term as well, not switching until the 1994 Newt Gingrich revolution; yet somehow, Reagan got about 70% of everything he sought, a much better record than the current occupier.
- Entrepeneurs could not start new businesses, and existing businesses could not expand. The economy had sunk into a hellish quarmire of a stagnating economy and rapidly rising inflation simultaneously, dubbed "stagflation" -- which the Keynesians assured us was impossible, therefore wasn't really happening. (Whenever a "theory of everything" runs up against stubborn facts on the ground, the only proper answer is to deny the facts and "correct" the measurements to whatever theory says they should be. Cf. Globaloney.)
- Taxes were very high, interest rates even higher. Energy prices were through the roof, and we had long lines for federally rationed gasoline. America seemed to have caught a terrible case of the flu.
- Our military was shrinking while the Soviet and Red-Chinese threats expanded; we were wrong-footed again and again in areas as far-flung as Vietnam, Angola, and Afghanistan, and as close as Cuba, and Nicaragua. Communism was advancing all across the globe, and nearly everybody believed it was unstoppable. America's best days appeared to be far, far behind us. Carter fully embraced the grand vision of detente, which meant trying desperately to "contain" the Red threat while doing nothing to roll it back anywhere, pure defense with no offense.
- Our nation was humiliated by the hostage crisis -- a bunch of theocrats in Iran, emboldened by Carter's astonishing weakness and triggered when he allowed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to come to the U.S. for cancer treatment, seized 66 embassy personnel including U.S. Marines. The hostage takers, so-called students, later released thirteen women and blacks ("oppressed minorities") and one white man who was seriously ill... thus inflicting further embarassment on us, as their mockery of Western compassion made us look like the real guilty party. 52 hostages were held for the last 443 days of the Carter administration and the first day of Reagan's.
- Carter was a spoil-sport even in the world of sport, preventing American athletes (and via treaty, the athletes from 64 U.S. allies) from attending the Moscow Olympics; the boycott was a spasmotic gesture of utter futility over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. (Carter opined after the invasion that he hadn't realized that the Soviet Union was expansionist.) Net effect of the boycott: Countries from Western Europe, more or less tied to America (Italy, France, and Great Britain), won 50 medals; countries in the Soviet sphere won 581 medals. Boy, we sure taught them a lesson!
We were weak economically, militarily, and morally; and during the depths of that horrible time, it sure looked like it might be a permanent shift to the left that would never be undone.
Then along came a presidential candidate with a forceful but likeable personality, a set of good ideas, and a history of keeping both his word and his principles; and that was all it took to shatter the old paradigm and initiate a new.
Defeat is always an option; but despair, surrender, cowardice, and quitting need not be. No nation is truly defeated until its citizens simply give up the fight, roll over, and take the slave's collar.
So let's not. Let's get up on our pins and start fighting back. But this time, we'll take the fight to the Progressivist Left, and we'll swim with the current of the great river of traditional American culture, and ride the oceanic swells of shared emotional understandings to which every human is heir. We have a huge advantage: Progressivists despise the former and cruelly exploit the latter... and don't think Americans don't know that! We simply haven't given them a viable alternative recently.
Instead of calls to jettison conservative policies, which are as valid today as they were thirty-three years ago, let's reappraise our emotionless and atomized method of delivering the traditional ideas that still resonate with the American people. Instead of cross-dressing our ideology and getting political-reassignment surgery to look more like Progressivists, we ought to campaign on our traditional principles, but with a lot more romance!
Date ►►► April 25, 2013
Everything We Know About Elections Is Wrong,
Why everything we know is wrong
We drew the wrong lesson from Reagan's stunning success. Because he always provided the logical basis and underpinning for his positions and policies -- after the emotional, road-to-Damascus conversion; and because Republican and conservative/libertarian activists tend to be more Spockian, we developed the bad habit of seizing upon that logic as if that was what did the trick... while neglecting all the Bonesian, emotional arguments that did the actual heavy lifting.
Then we try to win elections by dropping entire encyclopedias of wonk on the voter's head (e.g., Paul Ryan).
There is nothing wrong with converting by emotional reason if there is also a logical argument as well. But we often forget that and find ourselves embarassed, as GOP activists, by emotionalism, by passion, even by such as simple thing as "feeling someone's pain." It's hardly surprising that voters like people who appear to like them, and dislike people who appear to disdain them. That's why, even on the left, successful leaders are more like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama than like Maxine Waters or Hillary Clinton. But for some reason, the Left is perfectly willing to reach out to ordinary people in an emotional way, but the Right obsesses on wonkism. The Right understands principle and policy, but the Left understands people; which side do you think will usually win?
That was Reagan's great breakthrough: He discovered a way to develop policies and positions from logical reasoning from first principles, but explain them in language that ordinary folks can understand and agree with.
It's a powerful combination, strong enough to overcome great electoral obstacles: "Compassionate conservative" George W. Bush pulled off a stunning victory over the anointed successor to Bill Clinton, Vice President Algore, despite the Clinton administration having left office in peace and plenty; and he followed that up by winning an even more solid victory four years later, despite recession and years of warfare. In this instance, Bush sincerely felt the joy and the pain of the American people -- and both his foes were robo-Dem nerds.
Lessons that should have been learnt: Empathy springs from shared emotional understanding, not shared political algorithms.
Emotions evolved in archaic Man as a means of communicating on a deeper level than mere words. Words could be lies; but emotions have always been thought to be harder to fake than language. (Again, whether this is really true is irrelevant; it matter only that most people think it true, thus are more convinced by emotional than logical argument.)
So what makes a candidate cool?
Almost nothing John McCain could have done in the 2008 endgame would have reversed the outcome; his goose was cooked when he ran a national-security campaign, and the bottom fell out of the housing market instead. In 2012, I tried to keep up my spirits, but my heart sank when I realized that Mitt Romney simply could not convey an emotional connection. He might have been the most heartfelt feller in the race (anything's possible!); but he couldn't deliver on the most important issue of every election: "understanding people like me," which is shorthand for "understanding my joys and sorrows, liking the kinds of things that I like, disliking what I dislike, and reveling in the popular culture of the United States."
People disconnected from pop culture are notoriously uncool; they seem remote, aloof, uncaring. (I should know, that describes me to a T!) Many contemporary conservatives and anti-liberals -- and especially libertarians -- hate and despise pop culture, because they only see the parts that are bad -- Paris Hilton Pop.
But there are many facets to pop culture, from family-oriented and often uplifting country-western music, picnics and parties, NASCAR and baseball, TCM and Dancing With the Stars, sports bars and "foreign" restaurants, movies and Broadway plays, concerts and Shakespeare in the park. "Pop culture" includes lonely and disturbed teenaged sexters looking for Mr. Goodbar, but that's only a sad sliver of it, the part that the Left adores.
But rarely anymore does a GOP nominee come across as connected to any aspect of pop culture; instead they condemn virtually all pop culture, painting with an enormously broad brush. But connecting to pop culture means, by definition, connecting to the mass of voters.
Consider our last two standard bearers, John McCain and Mitt Romney. How connected did they seem to the ordinary American and the culture of the people? But there are always aspects of pop culture that any Republican candidate should be able to embrace wholeheartedly and with complete sincerity, without looking awkward and embarassed by it.
Too, survival is always cool: Even Richard Nixon, the paranoid android, was able to beat two candidates ostensibly cooler (or at least less nerdy), Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern. Clearly the Republican was nevertheless able to persuade voters, by the use of entirely justified fear-mongering, that the Democrat Party of the late sixties and early seventies didn't take national security seriously enough.
That is a meme that is always available to the GOP -- but we have to make the case, of course; as George W. Bush could do after the 9/11 attacks. And of course right now many Americans are feeling quite vulnerable, less secure about their own safety... which is a major reason why Barack Obama's approval is sinking, while Bush's is rising.
So there we have a couple of criteria for coolness -- connection to popular culture and committment to protecting Americans from violent attack and economic collapse. But here is a third, one that leaves Republicans with a bad taste because of its most recent abuser: conveying the opportunity of a transcendent transformation of America.
At the risk of offending readers who hate explicit definitions, let me define that term. A "transcendent transformation" is a wholistic and fundamental reconfiguration of the very idea of America and Americanism, comprehensive changes to the status quo in order to achieve overarching goals that pass beyond quotidian experience, beyond the commonplace.
The current occupier of 1600 Pennsylvania clearly ventured into a call for transcendent transformation when he claimed that, due to his own advent (and I mean that in its Messianic sense) --
If we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth.
Delusions of grandeur, even a God complex? Perhaps; but also extremely effective electorally. Obama filled a gaping hole in the hearts of many Americans, bogged down by a sagging economy, unending warfare with no clear narrative for victory, and purposeless governance that merely responded to crisis after crisis without "getting anywhere." Despite all the good, even great things George W. Bush did, that was the psychic legacy he left in 2008.
So let's review these three criteria for coolness in a presidential candidate:
- A strong connection to the culture of most Americans -- "I am one of you, not one of them!"
- A forceful pledge to protect ordinary families and individuals from violent attack and economic upheavel -- "I will stand beside you and protect you from harm as your guardian angel!"
- A promise of fundamental change that ushers in a new, transcendent era of peace, prosperity, and justice -- "I am the One to lead you to the promised land!"
There are surely other aspects of political coolness, but I believe these are the tree most effective ones. Each of these three axioms of coolness can be played soft and reassuring, as with Reagan (let's fundamentally change back to the roots of Americana), or hard and radical (let us create the New Soviet Man), or anywhere in between, producing either a great hero or a nightmarish dictator. But every transformative leader in history has used some combination of these three axioms: I am of the body, I am your lord protector, and I will lead you to a great and mighty future.
Presidential candidates who deftly campaign within the axioms of coolness tend to be elected; those who do so clumsily (or ignore them altogether) lose a great advantage, and will likely lose the election if they run against a "cool" competitor (e.g., Hoover vs. FDR, Carter vs. Reagan, Romney vs. Obama).
Date ►►► April 24, 2013
Everything We Know About Elections Is Wrong,
What's cool anyway?
It cannot be defined so easily, because coolness can be neither measured nor contained: A charismatic candidate will shift the very definition of "cool." Reagan turned big government into a pejorative, and he turned tax cuts and a beefy national defense into cool new ideas; but more recently, Barack "Limitless" Obama turned Americans in exactly the opposite direction, towards the coolness of being welfare kings and queens, being cruel and atomized, and being politically apathetic (except when "protest" morphs into a political rave).
The policies did not make Reagan and Obama cool; these winning candidates made the policies cool, simply by association with themselves. The coolness of a cool candidate rubs off on his programs almost as an afterthought.
Reagan's magic formula
So what makes a candidate cool in the first place? How did Reagan sell America on such a major transformation in 1980? Much as it pains me, a Spockian (and the innovator of the Spockian-Bonesian axis of emotion and logic in the first place, many years ago*), Reagan's primary method of converting voters to Reaganism and Reaganomics was not logical argument.
Most people cannot be persuaded or converted by logic or reason alone. Reagan himself said something to that effect: You can't logically argue a man out of a position he wasn't logically argued into in the first place.
So Reagan perfected a brilliant technique:
- First, convert the voter emotionally, passionately.
- Then once converted, give him the underlying logic to retroactively justify his conversion.
Converting in this order is vital. All the brilliant logical arguments in the world will not suffice to convert the average voter from A to B. But after first being converted by raw, seething emotion, by passion, by a transcendent vision, then even the easiest logic will keep him in your camp forever: The convert is looking for any excuse to agree with you. ("Reagan Democrats" are best evidence of this proposition.)
To win elections, you first must be able to "win friends and influence people." When folks like you, they'll be hugely more receptive to anything you have to say.
* From a piece I posted on a bulletin board on January 23rd, 2003:
A while back, I came up with a sceme to describe different personality types -- another one of those axes with one extreme at one end, another at the other, and every person falling somewhere along the axis.
At the extreme left edge are the "Bonesians;" at the extreme right are the "Spockians;" and in the center is the "Kirkian Mean."
The vast majority of folks fall on the Bonesian side of the axis: they relate on an emotional level better than on an intellectual level; emotional arguments are more convincing to them that logical arguments; they empathize with others, they are good at comforting, they enjoy socializing -- and in social settings, they don't want to talk about controversial or "argumentative" subjects.
At the opposite end are the Spockians, who are much fewer in number than the Bonesians. Spockians are very uncomfortable with emotional displays, arguments, or situations. They do not empathize with others, they are not quick to offer sympathy. But they are better at intellectual type arguments; they understand logic; they actually enjoy discussing controversial topics and eagerly accept counterarguments, so long as the ripostes are also intellectual, not emotional, in character.
Obviously, both sides have strengths and weaknesses; the Kirkian Mean combines the best of both: Captain Kirk can move either left to empathize and understand the emotional component of a problem, or right to grasp the logical complexities and difficulties.
I like to describe it like this: You want your priest to be a Bonesian and your cardiac surgeon to be a Spockian, and your family doctor had better reside at the Kirkian Mean!
Spockians think Bonesians are intellectual lightweights. Bonesians think Spockians are cold-hearted stonefaces. People are what they are, but it's always a good idea for Spockians to try to understand to the left and Bonesians to understand to the right.
But here's the "big but": Bonesians are so numerous, they rarely encounter a Spockian. They can live their lives while seduously avoiding all Spockians. Whereas the Spockians are surrounded by Bonesians and can't help bumping into them. Thus, usually Spockians have more experience of Bonesians than vice versa. To a Bonesian, a Spockians is more or less an "alien" (Gene Roddenberry wonderfully understood this in Star Trek), and the Bonesian is either frightened, angered, or repelled by him. No matter how Spockians feel, however, and unlike their counterparts, they are compelled by circumstances to deal with a lot of Bonesians.
Date ►►► April 23, 2013
Everything We Know About Elections Is Wrong,
In Four Movements and a Coda
Some days back, my fave blogger on my fave blog posted a plaintive, desperate cri de coeur: "Why aren't more people repelled by the Left?"
I can't tell whether John's question is serious or rhetorical, but there is an obvious explanation: Defiance is "cool" to younger voters and activists, because they're still in the throes of their own genetically driven urge to leave the nest and create their own family line. Without evolutionarily induced defiance, mammals would never leave their mothers.
This is likely why teens and early-twenties tend to vote more leftish than older voters: genes.
But it brings up a larger point: For decades now, at least since the late sixties, Republicans have been thought to be stodgy, old-fashioned, reminiscent, hidebound, nerdy, and out of touch with the contemporary world. By contrast, the Left has successfully painted itself as bright, new, clever, nimble, snarky (which now seems a good thing), and above all, cool.
I will say this over and over: In elections, reality is meaningless; image is everything.
So given our image, we must ask a very serious (and not at all rhetorical) question: Can GOPers ever be elected again?
The answer, I'm happy to say, is absolutely! But not by the kinds of campaigns Republicans prefer running these days; we're chasing hydrofoils with canoes.
We need to emulate, not the corrupt, totalitarian policies of Progressivists, but their brilliant ability to grab the electorate and make it dance to their tune. In particular, we Republicans must master three techniques that we have (for the most part) disdained until now:
- Convert your voter first by passion and emotion, and only later persuade him with logic.
- Pick candidates that are likeable, future-looking, and cool -- not nerdy, annoying, and obsessed with a Golden Age that never was.
- Develop a consistent narrative of government, what it should be and do; then let policy flow from that story, rather than warp the story to justify predetermined policies of the past.
To make my point clearer, I will focus only on presidential candidates. But the same strategies of coolness, emotion, and finally logic to retoactively justifiy the emotional decision still apply, even when scaled up to the 535 members of Congress -- e.g., Newt Gingrich's victory in 1994.
Wait, isn't this pointless, now that the "Gang of Eight" is going to grant a path to citizenship for all the illegal aliens, and they'll all vote for Democrats, so the GOP will never win another election?
The two phenomena are not connected; it's not like we have to choose either to improve GOP campaign strategies or securing the border, but not both! Each will either happen or not happen independent of the other. So there's no rational reason to reject improvement of electioneering skills just because the 2016 electorate will have more Hispanics than in 2012, or because the 2024 electorate will include some number of erstwhile illegal immigrants. It's like saying, "Radical-Islamist terrorism will probably increase in a few years, so there's no point in refinancing your high-interest home loan."
Now let's get on with the show!
Coolness as political proxy
In any election, the mass of voters will cast votes for the candidate they consider the coolest and most likeable, and who seems to be looking ahead, not behind, with little regard to logical argument or rational policy-making.
Let's define "hyper-informed Republican voters" (HIRVs) as those folks who read blogs like Power Line, Patterico's Pontifications, Hot Air, who read books by Ben Shapiro, Thomas Sowell, Jonah Goldberg, and suchlike, and who tend to vote GOP. We must understand that HIRVs do not win elections.
Most voters vote a straight party ticket, usually whichever party their parents voted; and the balance of the election, especially in more recent times, is held by the Low-Information Voters (LIVs), those who rarely read about politics or policy -- and almost never deliberately. Most of their political ideas, quirks, and outbursts come from ostensibly non-political sources, from celebrities, gossip columns, and meme-squibs squirted into otherwise apolitical articles in culture media (glamor shows, teen idols, fashion mavins, homemaking magazines). Alas, the vast majority of such sources lean very far to the left.
But it's important to understand that LIVs are not necessarily stupid or even ignorant; they simply don't obsess over politics as we do, being too busy at the "real life" thing.
But does that mean we anti-liberals are doomed to suffer defeat after defeat until Doomsday? Not at all. Bear in mind that in 1980, the electorate considered Ronald Reagan more futuristic, coherent, and certainly way cooler than doddering, ineffectual, confused, rabbit-fearing Jimmy Carter. Why was Reagan cooler than Carter? Well for several superficial reasons and one deep insight. True, the Gipper was better looking, more affable, a much better speaker, more optimistic about America's future, more patriotic; but most of all, because Reagan enunciated ideas we hadn't heard a thousand times before, from tax cuts to ballistic missile defense. He shattered the old paradigm of "make do with less, settle for adequacy," and showed us a "shining city on a hill" that we could have, if only we would look forward, not backwards.
Reagan clearly came across to most voters as exciting, adventurous, innovative, and brave; not bad for the oldest president we've ever elected! Reagan didn't back down from anybody; and in 1980, Americans were getting pretty tired of being kicked in the aspirations by every tinhorn, Commie dictator on the planet.
Would he be elected today? Would he fit within the GOP's current ideology? Of course he would -- because the Republican Party would change to fit Reagan, just as it did twenty-three years ago!
But in the list of requirements for a winning candidate, notice the one that isn't there: conservative. Conservatism is no longer an automatic asset to a candidate, if it ever was; we must face reality that, for the large majority of voters, ideology is irrelevant to electibility. Anyone, from a rock-ribbed conservative like Reagan to a card-carrying Progressivist/socialist like Barack H. Obama, can be "cool."
The Lunatic Is In the Press
It isn't often that you get to watch a media train wreck moving in slow motion. Usually it happens upon the public with blazing speed, proceeding heedless of logic or even common sense as it tears across the landscape, establishing a meme that quickly becomes impervious to truth and objectivity. It's ironic, then, that the rapid-fire pace of the horrific bombing in Boston last week should put the brakes on things, and allow the general public -- perhaps for the first time -- to see clearly the media bias and outright nuttery that we conservative moonbats have been calling out since time immemorial.
It all started as we've come to expect: No sooner had the echoes of the explosions faded did the commentariat make attempts to link the violence to right-wing extremism. "I’m sure what was going through the president’s mind is -- we really don’t know who did this -- it was tax day,” said Obama consigliere and uber-mustachio David Axelrod. The venerable Chris Matthews proceeded in the same vein, grumbling about his own taxes and then suggesting, "Normally domestic terrorists, people, tend to be on the far right."
Unfortunately for Chris, that particular narrative didn't quite pan out; and as the days passed and no suspects had yet been identified, David Sirota of Salon.com shifted gears a bit and openly said what most of his colleagues had only been thinking: "Let's hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American." Because white men "are not collectively denigrated" when one of them does something really bad. Seriously.
Now, given how members of the NRA and the Tea Party have been rather heartily denigrated for acts of racism and violence that they didn't even commit, that argument doesn't quite pass the smell test; but it does serve as an effective bait-and-switch to Sirota's larger purpose, which was to use guilt to soften up the public to the eventuality that the bombers could indeed turn out to be (gasp!) Islamic extremists. Never mind that even in the wake of 9/11, the expected dark night of anti-Muslim backlash never actually came to pass. This time, in the media's view at least, bigoted America was poised to run riot.
And then came last Friday.
A cop shot dead, a high-speed chase that left one of the bombers as roadkill, and a manhunt that shut down the entire Boston metroplex has effectively ended the bombing drama -- and even though it was revealed that the bombers were Islamic terrorists, the backlash yet again has failed to materialize. Mosques have not burned. Ladies in hijabs have not been harassed. Everything is, amazingly enough, pretty peaceful. And yet the media have still moved on to a new phase in their narrative: the deconstruction and rehabilitation of the surviving bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Megan Garber, I think, summed up the meme perfectly with her article "The Boston Bombers Were Muslim: So?" In it, we get a lot of psychobabble about how poor Dzhokhar was just a regular guy like you and me, and that we need to appreciate the complexity of his circumstances before we pass judgement on him as a monster. All of that may sound like well-intentioned bovine feces, I suppose, but one has to wonder if Garber would have written the same article about, say, Eric Rudolph -- a man so distressed over abortion that he planted a bomb of his own. No? What about someone like Ted Bundy? He was a pretty complex character too. Good looks, solid family upbringing -- but he also liked to butcher young women. Did his charm and intelligence make him any less of a monster?
Ah, but Dzhokhar is different. He didn't hate the American government, specifically, as a right-wing terrorist would. He probably just hated America -- and that's a concept the leftist media can understand. Coupled with the need to help Barack Obama downplay the embarrassment of yet another terrorist incident on his watch, it's likely that we'll see a lot more of this kind of reporting before all this is over.
Dafydd adds: And probably a lot more of this kind of terrorism, as well. Regardless of whether Napoleon and the Joker were or were not actually members of any organized terror cell, they set a precedent: America cannot, at this point, defend against small-ball terrorism in the heartland. Larger and more organized groups are sure to pick up on that fact and exploit it, so brace yourselves.
I know it's politically correct not to "politicize" such
terrorist acts man-caused disasters; but if the GOP doesn't use Obama's utter failure to secure the homeland, even with all the glittering drones his baggy pockets can carry, in our next three political campaigns, then we will have failed the American people and Lady Liberty herself.
Date ►►► April 10, 2013
If you've ever wondered why it's so difficult to actually engage a liberal in a conversation about the issues, the answer is really quite simple. Most leftists don't actually want to engage in a conversation on the issues. Oh, they'll passionately advocate their positions to be sure -- but when it comes to defending those positions against hard-line questions, well things tend to get a little dicey.
Part of that is because of the cultural bubble in which liberals are ensconced. Surrounded as they are by an entertainment and news media that are in near lockstep with their own views, leftists simply aren't accustomed to being presented with different points of view. Specifically, when confronted with the potential downside of their progressive agenda, they tend to get that deer-in-the-headlights look as their minds scramble to come up with a rebuttal. A perfect illustration of this happened last week when Jeremy Irons, the guy who won an Oscar for playing Claus von Bulow in the film Reversal of Fortune, made some rather salient points about the implications of same-sex marriage to the Huffington Post:
It’s a very interesting one, that, and I don’t really have a strong feeling, but what I see … what we had in England, which was not marriage, but it was a union you could make if you were gay and you wanted to make a civil partnership … same rights but not the name … it seems to me that now they’re fighting for the name, and I worry that it means somehow we debase, or we change, what marriage is. I just worry about that. I mean tax-wise it’s an interesting one, because you see, could a father not marry his son?
Horrified, the interviewer protested that there are laws against that sort of thing. Irons, however, had clearly thought the issue through and responded:
IRONS: It’s not incest between men. Incest is there to protect us from inbreeding, but men don't breed, so incest wouldn’t cover that. Now if that were so, and I wanted to pass on my estate without death duties, I could marry my son, and pass on my estate to him.
INTERVIEWER: That sounds like a total red herring. I’m sure that incest law would cover same sex marriages.
IRONS: Really? Why?
INTERVIEWER: 'cause I don’t think incest law is only justified on the basis of the consequences of procreation. I think there’s also a moral approbation associated with incest.
Ah, yes. Moral approbation. His argument seems to be that because he personally finds the idea of an incestuous marriage to be icky, then it shouldn't be allowed. It doesn't occur to him that a lot of people oppose same-sex marriage for exactly the same reason.
Of course, Irons was taken to task by the usual suspects for being anti-gay, against equal rights, blah blah blah -- but if you read any of the rejoinders, you'll notice that none of them has a satisfactory answer to Irons' questions. That's because there isn't one. Irons is indeed correct in observing that once you open the door to same-sex marriage, it will be difficult if not impossible to close it on others who would seek to redefine the limits of holy matrimony. After all, if gay couples can marry, what justification would the law have to deny that same right to anyone?
Polygamy? Hell, that's been around for thousands of years already. Polyamory? A little more on the exotic side, but not unprecedented. Then you have the possibility of couples marrying each other. Sure would make the day care easier. And think of the tax benefits you could get out of that kind of arrangement!
But no, we're not supposed to ask any questions before taking such a radical step. In that respect, at least, the left is treating SSM the same way they treated Obamacare: We have to pass it to find out what's in it.
No wonder they want Irons to shut up. As for me, it's enough to make me forgive him for doing In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Keep asking questions, Jeremy! Keep asking!
"Discouraged" Workforce? Or Peter-Pan Syndrome?
A "grand bargain" on immigration reform looms, and a new study shows that (legal) immigrants are less assimilated than they used to be, and much less American than native-born Americans:
All sides in the debate agree that assimilation is critical, but in a report being released Monday, the Hudson Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank, says the country has failed on that account in recent years.
They found that immigrants -- even those who earn U.S. citizenship -- have far less attachment to their new home than native-born Americans. Among the findings are that native-born citizens are more likely to view the U.S. as “better” than other countries, more likely to see English as central to the American experience, and more likely to see the U.S. Constitution as a higher legal authority than international law.
The core data comes from 2008, before Barack "Transformer" Obama took office. But it's hard to believe that the years since have ushered in a new era of patriotism and American exceptionalism among legal immigrants... when we already know it has usherd in a new era of unAmericanism among the general population.
Take last Friday's monthly employment report. With an additional 626,000 folks dropping out of the labor force in March, with the labor participation rate at its lowest level since 1978, we seem to be living in the era of so-called "discouraged workers."
Don't you believe it: It's actually the era of mass merging into the mindless ministration and manipulation of the Mommy State; more and more Americans have reverted to childhood, if they ever left it -- the classic Peter-Pan Syndrome, or "puer aeternus."
Under Obamunism, millions of Americans have fled the workforce for Mommy, where Mommy has become the super-State. From January 2003 (when the recession ended) to January 2009, the labor participation rate dropped from 66.4% to 65.7% -- 0.7% over six years, or 0.12% per year. But between 2009 and today (January 2013), the participation rate dropped from 65.7 to 63.6, 2.1% over four years -- 0.53% per year, almost four and a half times the rate during the Bush administration.
That 2.1 % represents 3.3 million fewer workers than we would have had had the rate remained constant. These former workers (or never-workers) escape into "permanent and total disability" status, welfare, and endless unemployment-compensation extensions. Net result is an ostensible adult who:
- Has no job and no real interest in getting one.
- Pays no income or payroll taxes ("taxes are for suckers!").
- Spends his time engaged in childish (gluttony) or adolescent (lust) pursuits.
- Often lives with his aged parents, leeching off their employment end-game or retirement pension; or alternatively has obtained government-paid free housing -- at taxpayer's expense.
- And "lives" (if one can call it that) on the allowance paid by the federal, state, and local doles -- and ultimately supported by the remaining few working men and women.
He contributes nothing to society. He contributes nothing (well nothing positive) to the economy. He innovates nothing, creates nothing, has nothing interesting to say, has no interest in either joining the social compact or being a rugged and self-supporting individualist. He learns nothing, but likely spends eight to twelve hours a day ranting on "social media." He has dropped out of civilization and wants only to be coddled for the rest of his life.
By this means has Obamunism brought us low by the utter destruction of the American work ethic. Any family which supports itself without suckling at the Leviathan's teat must fight daily not to feel like a world-class chump, destiny's doormat.
This cycle can be fatal to democracy or even a republic; to repeat what is likely a spurious quotation from Alexander Fraser Tytler:
"Benefits," as in, free stuff. Well, the Obamunists have not only discovered that bit about voting themselves largess; Barack "O.P.M." Obama trumpets it in every stump speech he has ever given.
This brings us to begging. Has anybody else noticed an increase, not necessarily in begging per se, but an increasingly cavalier attitude by what we used to call "middle class" Americans? My eyes were first opened many years ago, was when I was shopping in a Galleria. As I walked in, two girls about thirteen or fourteen and dressed in what looked like expensive clothes approached and put the bite on me for quarters.
They might have gotten more sympathy from me if they weren't begging directly in front of the videogame arcade.
Since then, I have seen more and more people begging while nonchalantly swilling Jack Daniels; while wearing expensive jewelry and clothing (or $300 Reeboks); while chatting on a smart phone or listening to an iPod; while wearing large and outlandish, full-color, pricey tattoos; and a whole passel of people begging me for money when they look like they just finished eating the regular beggar for that station -- boots, buckles, blood chemicals, and all.
(The idea that begging can be more lucrative than working has existed for more than a century, as evinced by the 1891 Sherlock Holmes story, "the Man with the Twisted Lip.")
Used to be that people had a sense of shame; when did it become acceptable, even fashionable, to beg -- or nowadays, to demand! -- money for nothing, without the slightest sense of remorse? Whether from a naive sucker who buys the beggar's sob story, or from a government Ponzi scheme, they all still want money for breathing.
But at least street beggars don't take your "spare" change willy nilly, whether you offer it or not; in that sense, I'd rather a beggar than a welfare queen or king!
I don't know what percent of America has fully surrendered itself to Never Never Land, but I'd bet a thousand dollars of your money that it's a lot higher today than it was even in 1980 -- and parsecs beyond what it was in "the worst depression in American history," the Roosevelt catastrophe of the 1930s. The gullible believe that wealth grows on a mighty wealth tree (and should be exactly the same amount for each person), that any and all spending is "stimulative" (no matter how stupidly wasted), and that the Smart Man can surely run the economy better and more efficient than a horde of millions of plain folks, each working for his own enlightened self-interest. (The fatal conceit!)
We have become a nation of beggars, moochers, and looters. So what are we going to do about it? (See next post for an answer, for good or for ill.)
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