Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Response to "A New Civil War"

Note: I know Dr. Oxford is a fictitious creation. It's nonetheless interesting to answer the logic contained therin, as many who are not fictitious argue the same.

Looking over articles on video games at an excellent site (www.pointlesswasteoftime.com), I came across an article that less resembled journalism than a deeply offensive, elitist diatribe. http://www.pointlesswasteoftime.com/civilwar.html. As an exercise, I've decided to respond to it.

"Revolution does not begin with spilled blood and falling buildings. It begins in the minds of the countless uninformed dumbasses required to fuel any good uprising. If you were to go back to see the seeds of revolt germinating in any of history's rebellions, you would need only to listen to the contentious conversations of the common man, in the pubs and at the university and in the bath houses."

What information would one need to know to want to assert one's rights? What special certification is needed to detect tyranny? Answer: None. A simple honesty that intellectuals like Dr. Albert Oxford do not have.

Looking at the public press run by common men during revolutionary times (the Levellers, union press, worker's co-ops in the modern day, etc.), one can agree or disagree, but it is certainly unfair to call them "uninformed dumbasses".

"But today we have the internet, wherein millions converse in virtual pubs and universities and bath houses and here is where we see the first tendrils of smoke on the American meltdown fuse.

We out here in the rest of the world knew it was just a matter of time. Your country was born, after all, over a bloody revolt based on a tax on soft drinks. Violent defiance is etched into your DNA. You long to be the Luke Skywalker that destroys the Death Star, the Neo who brings down Skyynet. You do not look for common ground and compromise; you hunt for the one irreconcilable difference that will justify becoming the gun-slinging Diehard Mclean of your dreams. "

A clinical observation about an entire culture gained from two movies and a highly selective look at the Internet? Not only is this a terrible sample size, but it is performed by someone who (as we shall see later) is not qualified to make clinical statements about anybody. And then he has the audacity to bandy about qualifications as if a Ph. D makes someone infallible.

In any respect, it is not his right to demean the importance that the Americans put on the regulations they felt were too stringent. Monarchy is illegitimate. And to equate revolution to gain one's rights with infantile violence fantasies is to deeply misunderstand liberty.

What genetic evidence does he have that American's DNA even at the time was intrinsically motivated to violence? None. How can he explain how "America" is not a common genetic pool but a cultural and political entity that has seen endless changes in its racial composition, even if his previous claim was true? He cannot. And what scientific qualification does he have to make this judgment? Why could it not be that Americans make rational decisions and he's wrong?

"Do a Google search for terms like "Bush" and "message board" and "Haliburton" and "fuck you" and browse the hundreds of thousands of internet forum postings that result. There is an acidic ocean of online screaming matches out there boiling as we speak, Right vs. Left, Bush vs. Anti-Bush, being conducted by millions of apoplectic web surfers. And everywhere you see that imaginary line on which every American thinks he must stand to one side or the other, like picking teams for an American game of Freedom Ball or whatever it is you play there in your country."

Very true. Acrid debate characterizes all sorts of fora. One can find the same thing in European message boards too. This is simply bad debating, not a cultural phenomenon.

"There was a time when the average American's TV news intake consisted of one of three nightly newscasts, each hosted by a grizzled old journalist who had tasted mud clots with foot soldiers in Korea. Their print news came from their local newspaper. You see, back then not just any Harry Knowles* could take to the keyboard and command a gargantuan audience. "

So we should hearken to the days of the 50s when unabashed anti-Communist propaganda could be run thoughtlessly? Media homogenization and one voice is good?

"*Note: For the purpose of this discussion, a "Harry Knowles" will be defined as any uneducated new-media opinion jockey with a massive American following rivaled only by the author of the McDonald's Value Meal menu. I could have easily referred to this person as a Matt Drudge but have chosen not to for arbitrary reasons. There was a sort of stupidity filter back then, so that the fringe rantings and conspiracy theories could be pushed to the margins where normal people were ashamed to tread. You all had your differences, but all sat down to watch the same news and thus were fed the same worldview. "

Not at all. Read your local newspaper, even before the 80s. Letters to the editor have always been of a variety of quality. And journalists have hidden behind a facade of "professionalism" writing incredible propaganda: see Bennett, Chomsky, Herman, FAIR, etc.

"With the birth of cable and talk radio and, most significantly, the internet, the sphincter of news has been stretched wide to allow a torrent of bad journalism to flow forth. It turns out that, after all, Americans were better off with no information than this flood of bad information in which you now float. The ignorant citizen was content in the knowledge that he was ignorant. Today's American, on the other hand, spends much of the day reading blatantly-biased ox droppings and then thinks he is well-read as a result. "

Who is he to make this judgment? Yes, people should read a variety of sources, but this can be hashed out in argument: if people are open-minded, then they will discover that they were reading biased information. In my political discussions, I have managed to change perceptions, offer alternative viewpoints, etc. Further, this should be the case even assuming total rationality: see my post on Prima Facia Plausibility and Rationality.

Closed-mindedness, sectarianism, etc. are as old as human politics.

"The ignorant can be trusting and thus can be governed. The misinformed are impossible to govern because they cannot be talked out of the skewed rubbish they think they know. For example, by 1998 I was receiving e-mail forwards declaring that Bill Clinton had commited 49 murders. A great many of my educated American colleagues forwarded me this message with the subject line, "makes you think, doesn't it?" "

And being "governed" is a good thing? I thought democracy meant that people should have their opinions expressed. But ignorance and malleability to state doctrine is good to this European intellectual.

"No, it does not. Now, I shall not engage in some partisan bicker over the moral character of your former president. For the sake of discussion, let us assume that Mr. Clinton was more ruthless and bloodthirsty than Vlad the Impaler. It would still be a physical impossibility to so perfectly cover up that many killings disguised as "suicides" and "accidents" under the eyes of local law enforcement and federal investigators and scandal-hungry journalists and opportunistic Republicans in your Parliament. "

These are factual assumptions. The people doing the studying here answer the factual assumptions with arguments that Dr. Oxford does not respond to. Yes, people were willing to bring down the President, but Palast among others has shown that those hunting Clinton didn't want more widespread damage to the system, so they were willing to tolerate it except for scandals that did not reflect badly on Clinton.

And of the media? One can have caveats about the propaganda model and still buy Palast's summation: A quote from Mike Iskoff passing accusations against Clinton (Iskoff being a reporter from Newsweek) saying "...no one gives a shit"; and, from p. 14 in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, "Investigative reports share three things: They are risky, they upset the wisdom of the established order and they are very expensive to produce. Do profit-conscious enterprises, where media companies or widget firms, seek extra costs, extra risk and the opportunity to be attacked?"

"Or, to put it more simply, Mr. Clinton was unable to keep the wraps on the tongue-lashing of his Minority Whip by an intern, but he was able to perfectly silence a crime 1,000 times as large and involving 1,000 times as many knowing parties? And it was kept absolutely hidden from all of the hundreds of rather powerful men who were desperate to see him led from the Oval Office in handcuffs? Everyone, in fact, except some anonymous e-mailer?"

First of all, why 1000? A few individuals could easily have killed those people.

Were someone to point out that in Russia dissidents were killed (dissidents like, say, Fred Hampton and all the victims of COINTELPRO, as an American example), no one serious would reply "How did they keep it under wraps?!" A well-concealed conspiracy can be difficult to find, and even if it were found, reporting would not happen. If it is true that America's politics are similarly keyed to power structures (say, corporate rule), then the same thing would happen. It would be an empirical matter.

"I have a double doctorate in American Historical studies and Internet Analysis. Could I not also write this if I were some 14 year-old masturbation enthusiast or a ranting homeless man posting from the public library whilst flicking lice out of his beard? How would you know? "

What would it matter? As the Adam Smith Institute endlessly points out in their brilliant series on logical fallacies, all that matters is the content of the argument.

"Even worse, the internet disease has spread to the actual paper pulp publications. They were losing readership to the New Media and had to market to this new demographic of "stupid" readers. A wonderful example of this emerged in the Summer of 2004 with the Swift Boat Veterans controversy, wherein a group of John Kerry's comrades from Vietnam came forth and alleged that Mr. Kerry's war medals were won, not based on valor in combat, but on a single victorious pie-eating contest. "

This could easily indicate media bias: The fact that, while the medal accusations were largely rebuffed, they were seriously entertained, and the fact (well established, not just by one memo that CBS couldn't quite verify) that George W. Bush used his father's influence to avoid the war entirely and couldn't even do the tasks required by the Texas Air Force, could easily demonstrate that the media has an intrinsic leaning towards defending the incumbent. Given how frequently incumbents win and the massive corporate support for Bush, this is very likely.

"This is a story that would never have seen the light of day in the old days of actual journalism, but was pushed by the Drudge Report and talk radio until the ink-press publications were forced to acknowledge it. The new pseudo-media dragged the old media to a place that, right or wrong, it had no desire to go. Which brings me to... "

So the media had to acknowledge an important issue that affected American voters' perception? Oh no!

"The phenomenon that will form the first real cracks in your Democracy begins here. There has begun a strange sort of anti-cynicism where the average American will believe nothing the politicians from the opposing party tell them, but will believe any piece of rubbish they read on a website ("Socialists are building concentration camps to imprison American patriots!" "The 9/11 plane that flew into the Pentagon was an elaborate hoax!") as long as it supports the political party they have aligned themselves with. "

The selectivity that Dr. Oxford utilizes is demonstrated most impressively here. Yes, some people on the right and the left fall to this level. Others, on both the right AND the left, debunk the people in their own groups. http://www.zmag.org/conspirthdebate.htm has multiple articles and discussions on conspiracy theories. I happen to believe there are questions about 9/11, as does the 9/11 Commission. But even if the story told is 100% true, it would not justify a single Administration action by that fact alone. It would not justify 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead. And so on.

More to come.

"Never mind the hundreds of people involved in such an operation. American military and civillians at home and in the Middle East, Pakistanis living in the area, Afghanis living in the area, journalists from America and Al Jazeera covering the war, politicians in all of the involved countries. Hundreds of people, many of whom detest Bush like a vampire detests the sun, all safely holding in the one secret that could undo his presidency and change the course of human civilization away from what many see as a one-way train to Destructionburg. On top of all that, Al Queada doesn't release a tape proclaiming that their leader has been captured and that Bush is keeping it secret? The one revelation that could bring down their nemesis more effectively than an assassin's bullet? Of course I know that your opinion on this matter is based entirely on which side of the Imaginary Line you stand. This is my point; to dismiss any rumored charge against Bush in the presence of certain opinionated people brings a response of, "that man's capable of anything!"

Bush is likely capable of many things, not anything, of course.

I have personally seen tapes from the Iraqi Resistance (saved on my computer) that have, to the best of my knowledge, never been aired on national TV. I have seen the tape of an American diplomat greenlighting the invasion of Kuwait. Again, remember Palast's limits: Cost, unpopularity, and risk. Remember Chomsky/Herman's limits (as they say in Manufacturing Consent): "The essential ingredients of our propaganda model, or set of news "filters," fall under the following headings: (1) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (2) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and "experts" funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; (4) "flak" as a means of disciplining the media; and (5) "anticommunism" as a national religion and control mechanism."

The upshot of this? The OBL story could very well be true, and it would not run in dominant media. The investigative work on the Florida election ran prominently in British media and in American literature; it was buried in American media. If Oxford can make incredibly controversial claims about an entire nation, why can't others presume much less controversial things about a far smaller group (media)?

Some things to bear in mind:

*http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=48291/ "A recent survey revealed that 70% of television reporters have had stories they were working on cancelled by producers due to the fact that those stories would negatively impact the parent company in some way."

*http://www.johnnydepp.com/bushliar.htm "Anti-war actor Tim Robbins has had promotions cancelled in America since he spoke out. And actress Margot Kidder also found her career in freefall after publicly opposing the first Gulf War."

His link argues "It's not that all talkbackers are retarded". Someone proclaiming their seriousness calling people he disapproves of retarded? Incredibly classy.

"Let us say that tomorrow one of your good friends mentions that the people in the next town over are all thieves, and tells a story of how his spinning rims were stolen off of his SUV while he was still in it. Then, another friend relates a similar story, having his wallet stolen while walking the street. Your Uncle, the next week, says he won't even travel to parts of said town any longer, because he had his shoes stolen, and he was running at the time. Would you or would you not lock your doors when travelling to this other town? Did you buy your first DVD player because you read about it somewhere, or because one of your friends got one and thus made you want one? Does not the first real urge to buy the newest video game console come only after you play one at a friend's house? Americans are sponges that absorb the opinions of their peers. The more popular the peer, the more you are influenced, the more you admire and adopt their opinions as your own. My American goth nephew did not pick out his clothes by chance. He picked them out because they are what other goth teens are wearing. "

1) A few examples does not a sociological thesis make.
2) Where is the proof that Europe, Japan, the Third World, etc. don't do the same thing? Group pressures have always been strong.
3) Conflating someone's decisions that one makes given the testimony of trusted friends as being congruent with being a "sponge" is idiocy.

"Who is influencing the opinions of American youth today? It is a core of cyber peers, massively popular untrained and uneducated writers on the internet that, together, command an audience of tens of millions of future voters and leaders and fighters. They do not have editors or real publishing costs. They answer to no one. They relate to the web surfers as friends. "

Even recent mainstream studies I hardly agree with say something very different: American youth are often either apolitical or heavily influenced by "mainstream" media. One study said that First Amendment values were at an all-time low among American youth.

Yes, many bloggers are untrained; yet at blogs.zmag.org you can read the blogs of professors. Legal services and organizations like the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have blogrolls. Frankly, given how apolitical Americans have been for quite some time, any change is going to be better. I put involvement, whether I think it's right or wrong, as a premium. Dr. Oxford would prefer people not to get involved if they do not meet his standards. Highly illustrative.

"And, they are morons. They are an army of Harry Knowles. Together they have a readership that dwarfs the New York Times. So let us eavesdrop on the Harry Knowles who best symbolizes the Harry Knowles phenomenon: Harry Knowles. His is only a movie fan site, right? Well let us see what he is telling his followers about the big-budget Will Smith vehicle I, Robot: "So, of course the liberal in me appreciated and enjoyed the parallels as just another in the constant subtle and not-so-subtle attacks on the future un-President and his mandates." That's right; while high off the crack of his own self-importance, Harry turned his review of a zombie movie starring CGI robots in place of zombies into a treatise on the evils of the Bush administration. And he did it for a horde of readers who do not watch Meet the Press. For hundreds of thousands of them, that review was the only reading they did about politics that day. Now observe how Harry divined a "vote Democrat" message in The Village: "The leaders of the village create monsters which they use to scare people into doing certain things and behaving certain ways. They use colors to indicate whether the villagers should be afraid or if they should feel safe. If anyone starts to question the leaders, they arrange for the monsters to attack, reinforcing the fear. Sound familiar yet?" ...or the obvious anti-War On Terror message in The Matrix: Revolutions: "Neo is for his people... basically, he’s Bin Laden living in a cave somewhere… and the Machines… they’re drilling to put a stop to it all... What is Agent Smith? Essentially, Agent Smith was Communism." (And lest I be accused of bias, here's a helpful gent explaining how Spider-Man 2 shows us why we should vote Bush.) "

Mainstream conservative analysts were doing this with Lord of the Rings, ignoring that all the people making LotR were highly liberal. What does this prove? That thousands of people read a blogger that makes tendentious analogies between popular media and politics? Wow.

"No reader would admit to being influenced by Mr. Knowles' comments, just as no one will admit to being influenced by advertisements (interesting how all of you Americans decided you needed SUV's all at once). Their opinions show the influence, however. Do they know what background Knowles has in politics? Do they know if Matt Drudge has a journalism degree? Is this man a doctor of Political Science with 30 years in the field, or an angry teenager? What are the credentials of Scott "my website wasn't allowed into a screening of The Passion and thus I'm writing a column about how all Christians are masochists and suicide bombers" Holleran? "

Again: What credentials does he need? What special training is required to speak about politics? I'm not aware of any, and I challenge Dr. Oxford to demonstrate the necessity.

Notice how Oxford decides that all blogrolls and all Americans are idiots from less than then blogs. Congratulations. We can see how well Oxford's supposed doctorate has prepared him to make good arguments. Or is this just mindless vitriol?

"It would be sad, if it were not so amusing. My web search turned up hardly a non-partisan bit of reading material. One random example is this from the long-time satirical newspaper The Onion, which has completely broken format for the first time to issue bone-dry, joke-free diatribes on the importance of voting Democrat: "Why do we purport to be fighting in the name of liberating the Iraqi people when we have no interest in violations of human rights--as evidenced by our habit of looking the other way when they occur in China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Syria, Burma, Libya, and countless other countries? Why, of all the brutal regimes that regularly violate human rights, do we only intervene militarily in Iraq? Because the violation of human rights is not our true interest here. We just say it is as a convenient means of manipulating world opinion and making our cause seem more just."

Sometimes, just joking in the face of incredible injustice is not appropriate. The Onion continues to be satricial, but they have serious media, especially cultural media, as part of their package.

"Note that I did not link to the actual article which rests in the for-pay archives of the newspaper. I linked instead to one of the many, many bloggers who quoted it as if it were profound insight from an expert. My children, the person who wrote that is a comedy writer. They likely have no education on the subject beyond the intelligent-sounding phrases they have memorized from the partisan websites they read, also authored by writers who are not in any way experts. And so on. Go ahead, browse around. A Google search turned up this inconsequential parody movie review site called Mr. Cranky, a one-joke premise based on a fictional cartoon critic who dislikes every film. Or, at least until Farenheit 9/11: "Given the amount of controversy this film has generated, it seems wrong to attack it with the usual Mr. Cranky disdain, rather than addressing some of the issues it raises and leting the members of our little online community debate them." This is the atmosphere; this is the intellectual air the American youth are breathing. Comedians large and small are terrified of skewering their own side for fear that it could swing the precious few undecided voters, turn the election, and end the world. Make no mistake; when even the satirists proclaim the current situation too serious for satire, your society has lost its pressure release valve. The needle is hovering in the red and I am slowly stepping back. This is a new suit. "

What expert is needed to validate the Onion's argument? Many "experts" say the same thing, but if they did not, then they would be right by virtue of reasoning and facts, not by a few letters after their name.

Again: A satirist who cannot drop the act for things that he views as important is not being serious.

"Understand, in the phenomenon of the Internet Message Board we have nothing less than a fundamental and momentous shift in human evolution. The diverse American races and social classes and idealogies are meeting each other on a personal basis, across land masses and at little expense, in a way not possible in the prior history of our planet. And what we have found is that you hate each other. Sure, you've always had ignorance and racism and xenophobia. They are as American as apple pie. But the vague, long-distance fear and loathing of stereotyped caricatures (the inner city gangster, the Mississippi redneck, the Canadian rapist) is a sort of lazy, passive hate. Many Americans will tell or laugh at racist jokes on one day, then play golf with an African-American friend the next. "

Actually, American racism (as frequent readers will recognize) is far more serious than this. In any respect, I hardly think juvenile insults (that does not even characterize all forums; many forums I've been to have had incredibly complex and worthwhile discussion) are due to anything but the anonymity of the Internet.

"At each mention of the "Imaginary Line" some of you have shouted at your monitor, flecks of spittle landing on your screen, that this line is hardly "imaginary" since your nation itself is at stake with this upcoming election. After all, the whole world is aflame with bloody warfare! The American economy is in ruins! Never mind that, around the world, the last calendar year saw the fewest people killed by war in 60 years. Never mind that the American unemployment rate is at 5.6% while the average European country is hovering at twice that or more. Since when have you Americans allowed information to ruin a perfectly good outrage? Was it boxes of anthrax that were dumped in the harbor during the Boston Tea Party? Was it censored Bibles? Child slaves? No. It was tea."

What conservative pap.

A million dead from both DU and sanctions? Massively increasing global inequity? Proliferation of nuclear weapons, increased terror and illegal/immoral invasions of countries? The rights of women, minorities and the poor in this country? These are somehow excused by a low unemployment rate and lower violence on a global scale (never mind the composition and definition of that violence which begs the question)?

Also, citing the American unemployment rate as an indicator of economic health is laughable, and it's only done because it's a vector in which America superficially looks good. But, to paraphrase Milton Friedman, unemployment goes down when people abandon hope of higher pay. A high unemployment rate could be fine if the end result was people using the time to get jobs they appreciated and that used their talents.

In any respect, this argument is idiotic because it is totally static. Many people who would concede the factual statements he makes (and I don't; simply Google up a list of American military and CIA interventions and see what you get) would nonetheless say that these promising trends are being truncated, aborted and reversed by the Bush Administration, so he again reduces the issues to slogans.

"The truth is that not a single one of your current problems is new. Your country has been at war or preparing for war pretty much every minute since 1772. Your country has always been clumsy and oafish in its foreign policy. Your country has always had sharp, bitter differences on just how much your police are allowed to beat minorities in order to gain a confession. "

Very true. I would think that this finally being questioned, along with so many other things, would be a good thing. What does Dr. Oxford think?

Bush's May 31 Press Conference

I hate to sound like a moderate liberal (instead of a radical leftist), but God, Bush is the worst public speaker in recent memory. Putting aside his linguistic faux pas', he frequently pauses to search for basic words, he becomes louder as he becomes questioned more, and sounds generally confused and unprepared. Clinton was a war criminal and dishonest adulterer, but at least he was charismatic, funny and could recover from his mistakes with a joke. (Today's Bushism: Terrorists have been trained to "disassemble".)

Bush began by arguing that America needs a unified energy strategy and hasn't had one for ten years. But that's probably a matter of semantics; see http://tampatrib.com/nationworldnews/MGBLKDGQY5E.html, among others. The energy plan is hardly beneficial, and even if it is, it's a long-term attempt to reduce oil dependancy and won't ease prices at the pump now. http://www.zmag.org/content/Economy/krugman0115.cfm

He moved onto CAFTA. Here's an article about that debacle: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=54&ItemID=4919

Regarding the trials in Russia (and, of course, I'm glad that attacks on effective Russian democracy are finally entering the media... several years late), Bush said that he was amazed that they sent someone to prison before trying them. But we do this frequently year: remand without bail. It takes watching a few Law and Order episodes to know this. Here's an article about how Russia is using its oil abilities to regain power on the international stage: http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/7237-10.cfm

Asked a question about how the US invasion of Iraq has increased proliferation, Bush uttered something about how he wanted diplomacy and wanted to let Iran apply to the WTO, then talked about how North Korea and Iran ostensibly violated NPT regulations and can't be trusted. Never mind that America has been in violation of the NPT for decades and supports(ed) violators. Never mind that this has no bearing on the relative success of NK/Iran proliferation and the fact that the war on Iraq eminently failed to reduce proliferation as was claimed. Just watch the thousand points of light.

He was dishonest enough to claim both that his Social Security policies have failed to get through Congress and that politicos in Washington continue to accuse him of trying to take away old people's checks but he's been in office for five years so that cannot be the case. One can't claim that one's policies will be a success and then point to the status quo as a response to criticisms.

Bush also claimed that he brought attention to the Social Security "crisis". Begging the question of how real this crisis is, the fact remains that readers of this site (http://arekexcelsior2.blogspot.com/2004_12_01_arekexcelsior2_archive.html) can see articles dating from before the Bush presidency about Social Security "reform". Did Bush just sleep through the Clinton era?

One reporter cited an Amnesty International report about human rights violations in prisons and asked how this would affect international relations. Dubbya's response was that America does good things. Even if that were always or even mostly true (and in many respects, it is), that says nothing about his administration. Only if the current rulers are congruent with America, the assumption of fascists, does his response make any sense. In any respect, it's still a total evasion, as even if the Amnesty International report is rubbish, other nations will continue to perceive human rights violations. (Another Bushism: All reports against the prisoners have been looked into. Funny, that's not the problem.) Bush justified the treatment of prisoners by saying that they were lying terrorists, but not only is that not even close to an accurate representation, it wouldn't matter anyways because Amnesty does not just ask prisoners, it observes actual cases of abuse firsthand. Contrary to what conservative delusions imagine, human rights organizations often deliver tepid reports and drastically underreport, especially given the lack of access given by countries like the US.

Bush continued to refer to Congress as "they". While I admire his attempts to honor separation of powers, as a practical matter his party controls Congress. If Bush's own party is having doubts about his policies, maybe it isn't just Beltway grandstanding and partisan bickering but people actually having their own opinions. His accusations of partisanship and calls for cooperation are decoded for what they are: Blatant attempts to form a one-party state.

Bush declared that he looks forward to the day that both parties come together to do something. Does he mean that the incredible bipartisan support for the war in Afghanistan was not a right thing? Or does he only tolerate when everything goes his way, like a spoiled rich kid?

Next came the tirade about UN reform and how John Bolton will get reform done. First of all, the only way Bolton (despised by the world) would get anything done would be forcing the institution with preponderant US power. Doing that would make the UN a vehicle for power, doing more damage to it than help. Second, the reform the UN needs is not what Bolton can offer. Third, while the US may pay $2 billion in, it also has been the UN's largest debtor, and the UN pumps far more than that back into the economy.

Bush apparently doesn't understand that a filibuster is extended debate, not the slow procedure of getting a bill through various committees.

Next came a question about Bush's argument that there is no spare embryo. Funny, since many unused embryos that will never give birth stay in fertility clinics. Bush's response was again patent irrelevancy.

Frankly, the media has been exceedingly kind to Dubbya. During replays and commentary, they judiciously ignore his idiocy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Private/Public Dichotomy

A thought struck me after a discussion on Milton Friedman. A lot of misunderstanding comes from a distinction that people (not just capitalist advocates) make between "public" and "private."

To be clear: My point isn't that there's breaching between the two categories. Obviously, no category we use outside of the most basic are going to be ironclad. My argument is that this idea assumes that the polity is the only source of institutional power in society, or to be even more acute, solid institutional power. But virtually no one assumes this as a matter of course.

Why do we assume the political institutions of society are the only "public" forum? Yes, they're the only "public" forum that constitutes everyone inside the borders of the nation, but those borders are totally arbitrary. If I work in a corporation that I "choose" to be in (but I also "choose" to continue living in a country), that is a forum that I do things in, help make decisions in (even if those decisions are simply in what direction I move my mop brush), etc.

The reason this dichotomy is made so stringently by Friedman-esque advocates is because it lets them focus inerrantly on state oppression. Again, to be clear: My argument is not that state oppression is not serious. Indeed, as an anarchist, I advocate the replacing of the nation-state with a radically libertarian polity. But I also believe power can incarnate in a variety of drastically different, indeed qualitatively different, forms. If the dichotomy is constructed, capitalist advocates can concede that a lot of things may or may not be bad (i.e. "Yes, people suffering does suck, and maybe we should give them money or have charity"), but no governmental intervention is needed or justified. After all, private actors get leeway public actors don't. QED. (And, by the way, I am somewhat receptive to this stance). What are the responses?

1) Even if this is the case, it's a massive irrelevancy. If I can prove that the internal structure of, say, a corporation is illegitimate, then it is the ethical responsibility of the people inside it (particularly the people with control over policy) to alter their decision making process. Every reasonable rights advocate recognizes that rights are separate from ethics and that someone can have the right to do some unethical things (say, advocate unethical principles or insult people).

2) If institutions perpetuated by society are unjust, those institutions are public tyranny irrespective of whether they occur in the economy, polity, etc. Yes, one can imagine rogue institutions that are illegitimate yet are private actors (and the upshot of this is that there's not a whole lot the polity can do about it), but one can also imagine institutions encouraged by the other primary institutions of society. Corporations and markets are given legal status and other institutions denied. Increasingly, as a practical matter, economic and political institutions are becoming intertwined (i.e. revolving doors, corporate control, etc.) and homogenuous (i.e. the restrictions put onto states by organizations like the IMF and treaties like NAFTA).

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Running Responses to 'Challenges of Motherhood'

Isn't this all a bit disingenuous coming from the woman who said, "Frederic, your assumption that I was weak when I didn't answer was highly revealing. I was introducing topics I wanted to cover in my articles and ignored all the rest." So you can ignore articles and cites, respond as you wish, and enter into highly acrid summaries of your opponent's positions without ever reading their sources, but if your detractors don't proactively go out of their way to read everything you cite and comment then they must be trying to shut you down? I'd say that's a 'double standard', but it seems (note: seems) far closer to deliberately baiting attacks.

Who made you the moderator of these forums, WR? Answer: Nobody. If Brian thinks that a poster is doing something illegitimate, he'll ban them. Aside from that, neither you nor I are arbiters of what should or should not be discussed. That's why realpc and Yakov still post here.

"The main intent is to shut down discussion of women's issues and silence women. That's evident by the fact that when Shih Tzu and I said good-bye on the Forbes thread, the conversation stopped."
Like when you predicted the conversation would end when it turned to Marxism and you were wrong?

Now, I could concede that you and ST leaving was the cause of the end of discussion and still not phrase it as abusively and sillily as you do. After all, at that point, there was two camps, NOT camps designed to crush women's voices but two groups of people discussing. By then, Graeme, bwong, Kyle and I had said everything we wanted to to each other; the only real issue was who would abandon that particular comments system first.
Of course, WR, YOU ended that discussion, which would mean that YOU imperially (and abusively, given the history) decided that you had had enough and made the ending so acrid and ridiculous that it wasn't worth continuing. But of course this is all a conspiracy by men to smash you.
After all, as you so judiciously ignore, we're still hijacking a forum that isn't entirely intended for this. Brian's allowed it within limits, but there isn't supposed to be a discussion here in the first place.
I also like the implication that your psychic powers extend to being able to tell my, bwong's, Kyle's and Graeme's motives, even when they deny your implication, so that by extension a) you know their motives better than they do (when you couldn't tell them from the next Jill, Jane or Janice if you met them in person) or b) they're lying.

"By obscuring the real issue (millions of women and children dying needlessly) behind multiple posts of nonsensical, off-topic arguments..."
Nonsensible off-topic arguments like the actual causative influence of these and so many millions of other deaths, with the goal of stopping them? Please don't be offended when I don't feel especially guilty for defending bwong. And again, I think that a lot of times (though not all the time) the unique problems women face in the Third World aren't just due to global inequity but due to decisions made in those countries as well.

"By provoking an argument about whether or not women dying is a valuable issue to examine...they've accomplished their goal."
This is so diametrically opposed to what is actually being said that I'm incredibly tempted to heed your advice and 'not respond'. But I won't do that because I think it'd be childish. Especially since, as I agree, you're 'on topic', but so is bwong (and I say bwong, because I'm closer to you than bwong on this issue).
Please cite me one comment, one comment anywhere, that says that bwong thinks that women dying of childbirth is really something to not get worried about. If you can't do that, you'll have shown these criticisms to be baseless, and, by your standards, an attempt to monopolize the discussion for your school of feminism.

"I've included links to unnecessary childbirth deaths in all areas, all economic circumstances and a multitude of reasons. None of these factors been discussed."
Wrong again. First of all, WR, though you may seem to like mutual aggrandizement and self-congratulatory gestures, not everybody likes to simply say "Good! I agree with that!" Either someone will let it stand by virtue of not posting, take umbrage with the argument, or agree and post something that comes to mind. We only have 1500 word posts every 20 minutes, we don't want to waste it saying "Yes, I agree" to every sentence. (I seriously hope these consistent misunderstandings have to do with inexperience on your part with online fora...)
Second of all, here and elsewhere, serious discussions about causative forces are going on. I direct you to me and ST discussing with Yakov about Africa and to me and Bwong disagreeing about whether or not there is a primary or important gender influence here. For you, WR, it seems that any time a woman is hurt it must be connected to gender institutions. But that's a silly, reductivist and not-at-all useful position.
Also, WR, you throw up numbers of fairly long articles, cite from them without quotation, etc. Now, I appreciate the articles, but you can't just toss them out there and be irritated when someone doesn't read them and respond. Of course, I have also cited numbers of long articles, but my position wasn't "If you don't talk about this you can't be serious", it's "If you don't mention these articles when I discuss with you then you're not giving my position a fair shake". If, in our discussions, you had either read the articles and commented or not read them and said openly "I didn't read this, I don't have time for this discussion, let's go somewhere else" or asked "Could you please direct me to the relevant parts?", again, those would all have been fine responses.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Responses to 'A Little Respect, Please!'

Yakov: “North Korea is starving its people. North Korea is putting its own people in concentration camps. North Korea does not give its people freedom of movement. North Korea reportedly can put a nuclear warhead on missles. North Korea reportedly test fired said missle this past weekend into the Sea of Japan. North Korea supports terrorism. And yet, America is the bad guy? “
Paul isn't saying that North Korea is a great socialist haven, but rather that their leaders say very valid things about us just as our leaders say very valid things about them. Further, we support or do all the things you cite, as you practically concede (you say that we're not on a 'moral high ground' dealing with Uzbekistan... but, of course, we're just making a mistake, while the North Koreans are bastards). And, even more importantly, not only do our leaders not care about these things, but even people hundreds of miles to my right can recognize that the attempts to isolate North Korea have CAUSED them to intensify their oppression and nuclear proliferation desires.

Yakov: “...you believe in an egalitarian society that must be forced, how is North Korea any different than the society that you advocate?”
So many silly assumptions.
A) In the past, libertarian societies like, I dunno, the United States, had to be 'forced' by revolutionary action.
B) North Korea is hardly “egalitarian”, as you'd recognize if you weren't uttering ideological pap. If they're starving their people but they're drinking Dom Perignon and watching action movies, how could that be egalitarian even according to your feverish delusions about what that word means?
C) Paul doesn't advocate a society that simply has absolute equality, but that some desire for equality is highly reasonable both independently and as a way to insure liberty.

Yakov: “That being the case, who decides WHAT gets produced? The collective? “
There are a number of anti-capitalist formulations: green bioregionalism, libertarian municipalism, primitivism, democratic 'mindful markets' socialism, democratic centrally planned socialism, parecon etc. Many of them don't have collectives at all, primitivism being the most obvious. But parecon would have the relevant council help decide that. After all, the Chicago council would actually be composed of who knows how many consumer and worker's councils, so that's probably a third-level council (federated).

Yakov: “Taken to their logical extensions, from and to can mean to the points right before death.”
Taken to its logical extension, the death penalty, police, the state, any military, and capitalism gets there a lot faster than socialism. You're showing that you're flailing. Why not actually argue with someone's advocacies, not what their advocacy eventually may 'logically' create?

Yakov: “The U.S. is a colonial power in Uzbekistan? Does the government have plantations and mineral mines and lumber companies in central Asia that we don't know about?”
Apparently, Yakov also has missed practically everything in international politics since the '60s. Even the USSR and South Africa claimed its colonial dominions were 'independent'; no one took it seriously. Modern colonialism has token autonomy built into it.

RealPC: “Paul, do you really believe non-leftists are against these things? I mean, except "equality" (which can only be achieved by force and can never be maintained) these are values shared by everyone except criminals.”
The question is, how important are these things? Where are these things ranked? In 90% of the discussions I have with libertarian capitalists, the first thing is exactly what you and Yakov have been ranting about: It won't produce, it'll micromanage, etc. In other words, they don't really care about the fact that parecon is infinitely more libertarian (they make some token replies about a day into the discussion), they just care about da money. I support parecon because I think it is, in descending order of importance, 1) libertarian, 2) egalitarian and equalitarian, 3) just, 4) solidaritous and 5) efficient and effective.
Your aside about equality is also highly telling, because not only is it not necessarily the case that equality could 'only' be achived by force (at the least, it'd require this thing you seem loathe to touch: evidence), but the same exact thing could be and was said about liberty. We only got liberty by violence; it can only be maintained by force; etc. Further, what's wrong with equality as a value, putting aside its feasibility? After all, you don't say that 'Liberty is a great idea, but [insert reason why it can't be achieved]', you recognizethat liberty is good ceterus paribus. So why do you want to attack equality?
Is it an interesting slip that shows that capitalists are scared of the idea of equality because capitalism can't ever reach it?
To defend equality, even though your attack is silly: Not only would it be good, ceterus paribus, if everyone was doing roughly as good as each other, but such a state of affairs would be necessary because without it liberty will be threatened by amassed inequity.

RealPC: “No. Read some history. Why are Vietnam and China becoming capitalist? Command economies cannot be made to work in the long run.”
What a good blowoff. What history? I've cited history, to resounding silence on your part. Vietnam and China are becoming capitalist because of the selfish decisions of their elites; even you should be able to recognize this.
Your claim that 'command economies' can't be made to work is also eminently silly because you, and the entirety of the mainstream, cite at best a few examples: The USSR and China. Yet 'central planning', i.e. state plans, are as old as history, indeed far older than markets. That's putting aside how much 'central planning' we have. Add up all the socialized assets America holds; it's larger than the stock market (see Greg Palast).
Even if one laughably believes that Russia 'failed' and that Russia is now going to a better place (which is laughable even given the mainstream knowledge of how corrupt and poor Russia is), that only shows that Russia failed, it doesn't mean that central planning always must fail, even if you can isolate flaws in central planning, the same flaws I isolate in advocating a decentralized non-market economy.

“Can you really "design" an economy?
You can cook up different variants of local alternative models and see how they evolve.Some may survive with appropiate adaptations and fine tuning and some won't.”
One can consider institutions that one would like to see in a new society very broadly, certain values, and then test their exact application through the means you cite. And the people advocating the various alternatives typically do so based on their understanding of historical examples and their own experience in alternative institutions.

“I think Albert is too utopian. If I understand him correctly parecon requires an unrealistic amount of micromanagement and coercions (See Monbiot's debate with Albert on Znet)”
I think Monbiot lost that debate.
Putting that aside: It's not as if capitalism is bereft of meeting times. Just look at the average corporation: they're filled with long and boring meetings, bureaucratic ineptitude, backstabbing and iniquity, favoritism and nepotism, attempts to make plans for production based on the way the market will do, advertising to change people's perceptions.... Simply HUGE central planning organizations. Many people actually critique parecon for having TOO little micromanagement, in that Albert tends to think in terms of yearly plans (which aren't meant to be binding but rather to be guidelines). I think parecon would lower planning and meeting times by making decision-making more organic, with more levels of decision-making, with built-in complex information about consumption and production decisions with instant feedback, because of so much less waste production, etc.
The type of coercion parecon has is at worst NEGATIVE: that is, it says “You can't do X, Y or Z thing, but you can do anything but that.”. But markets have POSITIVE limits in addition to negative ones: “You can't do X, Y or Z.” Parecon allows incredible freedom and civil liberties in exchange for a few limits. Every economy, after all, has rules. There is a group of shared resources (in our world, typically confined within the bounds of a nation), and to get access to those resources, one must play by the rules. (This to real and Yakov): Don't throw the 'Markets allow any non-coercive relationship' crap. What about fraud restrictions? Fraud has no coercion whatsoever, yet when people lie about their qualifications, people rightfully get pissed.

“There is a really important difference between a society with a market, and the capitalist utopian where the society itself becomes an appendage of the market.”
True, and I think Albert has shown that a market will still be negative, though far less so, in the first.

“I don't have a problem with "the market" as long as market priciples do not ursurp other social priorities. “
The problem is, it overwhelmingly does. And let me say that the market advocates I know of like Korten truly are advocating something very down-to-earth, progressive and revolutionary... I just think parecon is a better decentralized system.

"The idea that the US economy succeeds by preying on poor nations has not been supported by evidence. The left must believe it because, according to Marx, capitalism cannot be good for everyone. If the US has a healthy middle class, others must be suffering for it."

Really, then? The only reason the 'US economy' even exists as an entity is because we killed the Native Americans, took their land, then enslaved millions of black people and forced them to produce productive capital. Now, even if one thinks those crimes have been redressed, any reasonable person would have to concede that none of those were free market actions and all of them were predatory and violent. Even now, the white middle class is largely defined by the privilege it has received. This is putting aside the incomprehensibly large toll that we inflict on other societies the world over by funneling their productivity to us.

“Whether globalization is helpful or harmful in the long run is debated and no one really knows. US policies have certainly caused harm, but may also have been beneficial, depending on various factors.”
So we should go ahead and do it? That sounds highly prudent. Everyone from Amy Chua (World on Fire) to Chomsky to Pat Buchanan to Greg Palast to Ross Perot can see the writing on the wall. Growth rates are dropping except in countries that tell the IMF to blow off; Botswana, for example, has 9-15% growth rates.

“The question is whether the US feeds its upper and middle classes by bleeding other nations dry. That is the story told by contemporary Marxists, because there is no other way they can explain capitalism's apparent success.”
Really? Because that's not the question for Street or anyone serious, even Marxists, who also note that the upper class here preys upon its lower class. After all, other capitalist countries, such as European and Asian countries, have far lower levels of inequity. You think those inequity rates came out of nowhere, real? Or is it because we have a monetary policy that demands a certain level of unemployment, another policy that cuts social benefits to the poor, yet another policy that funnels tax money to the rich (and even Cato recognizes this) to the tune of at least $450 billion a year according to egregiously conservative estimates, etc.?

“After reading PARECON, the bottom line is socialism does not, cannot, and will not work. You cannot have a leaderless world where every decision is made by the collective.“
This is answered in the introduction to Parecon, so forgive me for thinking you didn't read very carefully. First of all, Parecon doesn't constitute 'every' or even a majority of the decisions in a society; it is simply an economic viewpoint. Gender, political and racial/cultural decisions will need separate institutions.
Second, 'leadership' isn't absent from Parecon, consistent positions that give some unfair and prolonged institutional advantage is.

“Anyone who has ever worked knows that 1. endless meetings suck,”
So you concede this is a problem with markets? Okay, so then if we can make an economy with less meetings, we'll do that?

“It takes a leader, something egalitarians oppose, to make the decisions not hammered out in the meetings”
Really? And who chooses this leader? What qualifications does this leader have? Are these leader's decisions binding? What checks are there on the leader?
Have you ever worked in or even tried to look at non-hierarchical workplaces? Somehow, I doubt it.
I also find it funny that you say only 'egalitarians' oppose 'leaders' as you so laughably define them, because in fact any serious LIBERTARIAN, even those who are as strident as you are against 'egalitarianism', will be opposed to this.

“Otherwise the collective micromanages - something Paracon claims not to do. “
This is getting stupid. The 'collective' does not make every decision everywhere. A global parecon would not decide whether or not your boombox was too loud at work. If you actually read Parecon, you'd probably have seen the 'right to influence decisions insofar as one is impacted' rule a few dozen times. This rule establishes federation by a very simple derivation.

“If you don't want to work hard and are jealous that other people have more or better than you, just say so. “
But that's as far from the values as parecon as possible; hell, it's DIAMETRICALLY opposed to remuneration for effort and sacrifice.

“Your time would be much better spent getting involved in your local representative democracy - school board, zoning board, etc. Do that and see how you like going to meetings. “
I do go to meetings and I appreciate these things, but they need to be far more complex with far more delegation.

“Also, why don't you start a "free-state" movement for lefties like theh libertarians have done. To use a capitalist phrase, put your money where your mouth is. “
Well, gee, why don't you read one word Chomsky or Albert has said about opposing statism... And frankly, the libertarians' “movement' is about as laughable as you can find. They run the gamut from local businessmen trying to run as an 'alternative' in local elections to the Cato Institutes' huge corporate endowment, employing ivory tower scholars who viciously opposed the scraps of the welfare state and occasionally concede that there's something else.
Of course, I support and in fact spend a lot of time facilitating discussion among libertarians of all ilks, so this is also just the most ad hom driveby imaginable.

“On Parecon: I guess Zanon ceramics and Burkman(sp?) textiles do offer some good examples of what a co-op can do”
Other examples of successful libertarian institutions include the soviets of the pre-Bolshevik domination era, the Native American societies, the current Chinese co-op institutions, Mondragon, South End Press, Z, other highly democratic tribal societies, etc.

“I think it's safe to assume that NK made much more progress developing warheads and delivery vehicles during the 6 1/2 years that Kim Jong Il shared head of state status with Bill Clinton than it did in the two years that passed before Bush pulled their covers and labled them part of the "axis of evil".”
I don't know, and neither do the intelligence agencies. North Korea's nuclear capacities are largely phantasmal as of now, but isn't it a bit early to say Dubbya hasn't done damage? It's only the first year of his second term. I think Kerry's arguments about North Korea's new success at prolif and the broader IR consensus about the fact that the Iraq war and the North Korean diplomacy shows rather well that states should acquire deterrents to fight off the US or expect attack is very plausible. Further, Bush's policy is in essence a continuation and worsening of Clinton's policy...
Virtually no one here is a liberal. Critique Clinton all you want, we'll applaud you. Clinton was a war criminal.

“NK developed these capabilities on Clintons watch, long before they were a member of the "Axis of evil" club, which of course begs the question; If they weren't a member in 1999, why were they developing nukes?? “
Why do you keep mentioning the 'Axis of Evil'? No one serious thought that the Axis was anything but a laundry list of American rivals. Iran and Iraq hated each other, and North Korea was probably thrown in to make people think that Dubbya wasn't just picking on the Middle East.
Why were they developing nukes? Because without those nukes they may or may not have, they would almost undoubtedly be a victim of either Clinton or Bush.

“As to the 100,000 Iraqi civilians, that number was based on second hand accounts (aka hearasy) and fails to account for Iraqi civilians...”
That'd be “hearsay”, and that is the consensus of most reputable human rights associations. Yes, it is difficult to find a number given the chaos factors, but I don't see you saying that the Indonesian tsunami or Saddam atrocities numbers were overblown, despite the fact that those numbers were about as good. The 100,000 number, by the way, doesn't take into account the millions dead thanks to the US sanctions, Depleted Uranium victims, and the people Saddam killed with our erstwhile support, so the number is a massive understatement.

“Also the same report found that; "household interview data do not show evidence of widespread wrongdoing on the part of individual soldiers on the ground" “
And the Nazis probably didn't have a lot of wrongdoing on the ground either. Let's take a hypothetical: China invades Los Angeles and kills millions of people, one of whom is your sister. Would you be comforted by a statement by a Chinese apologist that their soldiers weren't committing 'wrongdoing'? Putting that aside, the wrongdoing may not have been 'widespread', but if it was 5% of the cases, that's 5000 deaths that are direct war crimes.
Also see Iraq Body Count.

“Beat the damn prisnors, if they don't cooperate, torture 'em as much as you can without raising the ire of the selfhating pansies on that occupy the seat to my left.”
Yes, let's beat those innocents and put leashes on 'em. Make em roll in their own shit. I wonder how much good evidence we'll get? Answer: We'll get scared people telling interrogators what they want to hear causing another Iraq-sized debacle. Even very mainstream terrorologists can recognize that Guantanamo Bay-style mistreatment doesn't do much, because either the victims are innocent or they have every reason to lie to interrogators and get the US to commit another 100,000+ death faux pas, thus raising al Qaeda recruitment.
I'm glad that you take the position of the Nazis. It makes it a lot easier to ignore you and be glad that when the revolution comes people like you will probably be 'accidental' casualties.

“Ok but which part of what I said are you disputing? Oh and I merely offered up a description ("pansie") I didn't apply it to anyone, but if the shoe fits I think the wearer should probably whine about it. “
You mean, 'pansy'? Putting aside the sexist and idiotic assumptions that has, how 'pussy' is it to invade a nation that can't fight back and sexually torture and molest other men? How 'pansy' is it to do everything one can to reduce American casualties by bombing people from tens of thousands of feet in the air? The real irony is that all the soldiers I've met recognize that anti-war protesters aren't 'pansies'. It's only armchair generals and imperialists, like you.
I'm 220 pounds of muscle. My buddies are huge tough bastards. Yet we don't like beating up helpless people. We think that's something that idiots do to make themselves feel better. I have nothing against bringing people to justice, which a badass like Lenny Briscoe or Andy Sipowicz would do. I have everything against torturing people who can't fight back.
Heck, I'm probably far more progressive regarding the military than most leftists and conservatives. I think a lot of soldiers are great people who are being forced to do horrible things by bad management. I take my problems to management. I think that soldiers should be paid far more than they are, that soldiers should not be forced to accommodate each others' homophobic preferences, that soldiers should be able to run their own affairs without brainwashing and hiearchical command structures just like any other workers, etc. etc.
And, on the flipside, how is it being 'pansy' to advocate what the Left does in response to the death threats that we receive? What about people like Dave Dellinger getting bombs, Noam Chomsky being on Nixon's Enemies List and Fred Hampton getting murdered? Wow, real 'pansies'. Pansies like Che Guevara and Subcomandante Marcos, who violently resisted imperial occupation.

“First and foremost, form Spain, to German, to Crotia, to modern Serbia, fascism is nationalist SOCIALISM.”
Oh, really? Is that why Mussolini called fascism 'corporatism' and German corporations made out handsomely from the Holocaust? Is that why the Communists and the anarchists opposed fascism far earlier and more stridently than the capitalists, and in fact, the primary enemy of Nazi Germany was Soviet Russia according to Nazi ideology? Is that also why the US supported Ceaseacu, Mussolini, and Hitler?
The USSR called itself the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”; I await your fevered condemnation of republican forms of government. Oh, but wait, you provided it earlier by saying that you want leaders because they're necessary (a fact that, even if it were true, is a total irrelevancy; dictatorships should be opposed even if there's a plausible argument they're needed, if one is a serious libertarian). Like you said earlier about us, Yakov: At least the KKK says what it is.
Yes, by your ridiculous definition, all these countries, indeed EVERY country, is socialist, because all have state involvement in the economy. But I think it's a pretty easy 'No shit' derivation to say, “Wait a second, that's a really crappy definition because it by definition applies to any economy with an accompanying state”. Socialism in the actual literature means worker's control of the means of production. None of those countries have this.

“This quote is one illustration of why parecon will not work, except possibly on a small scale. Imagine a software company where individuals do not have special skills, where all workers have equal knowledge and are inter-changeable. Work that is fulfilling and creative depends on special skills and talents. “
This is possibly the worst I've ever seen you try, realpc. The key word is unequal. Albert wants not less, but more talent and special skill; he simply wants this talent and special skill for everybody, not for a privileged few. It's BETTER specialized labor, not less.

“... while labor may be physically strenous or time consuming, it is not necessarily "harder" because anyone can do it. That is precisely why low end jobs get paid less”
So a job should be paid by how many people can do it? Easy enough: Plenty of people could be Paris Hilton. Why aren't they?
Putting the matter aside of how imperfect capitalism is even at achieving its own desired norms: You've described a state of affairs, not an ethical justification.

“It is ridiculous to say the worker bees should be paid more than those with intellectual capital.”
Why? You provide zero evidence for this claim.
A) Rewarding someone with 'intellectual capital', as even Milton Friedman recognizes, is exactly rewarding them for something they have zero control over, so it's not just.
B) It's also not efficient, because the smarter person can slack off and still do as well. I remember so many classes in high school that I got As without working while others struggled to get Bs. I could have used that classtime to learn; I didn't because I didn't need to get an A. Isn't the point of remuneration exactly to elicit and reward what we want to see?
Now, of course, there is the question, 'Should someone who sucks get paid as much as someone who doesn't?' Here, we may or may not have a conflict between social justice and economic efficiency. Again, it's fine for you to line up with economic efficiency, but it shows how serious of a libertarian you are. However, balanced job complexes are exactly the answer to this: Someone good at cars does cars, someone good at computers does computers, etc. Within the industry, everyone is rewarded for effort.
After all, your criticism could easily apply to capitalism. In capitalism, we have specialization of labor too, precisely for the reason that it lets everyone be effective. Except capitalism does a (pardon the French) shitty job of this because most people do onerous jobs even when they obviously can do something far better.

“The mind-numbing jobs are gradually being automated, so the problem of numb minds may eventually go away.”
True, a fact that the left has used to argue for a libertarian society. However, we could have gotten here a lot earlier if there had been a priority placed on trying to design workplaces to be just. As Chomsky points out, one could design automation to empower workers or empower a class of managers. This choice under capitalism is, every time, to empower the managers, even at the cost of productivity.
Further, those mind-numbing jobs are moving, for this very reason, to service-sector jobs. They're just as boring and intellectually insulting.
Your argument is essentially “There's less work because of automation.” Far enough, and this is, ceterus paribus, a good thing. But this is a total non sequitur to the argument that, of the work that remains in the society, the work should be fairly distributed.

“It took years to learn my job and there is still a lot to learn. I get paid more because they can't just drag someone off the street and teach it to them in a week.”
Fair enough. But this isn't a problem in parecon precisely because education is socialized. Further, it doesn't make sense to pay someone better for education unless that education was a sacrifice, which it rarely is; even if it is, then the education should be paid, just like a working internship.

“Things might be more fair if we all started out financially equal at birth. If inheritance of wealth could be eliminated that might even things out somewhat. “
You know, real, I take away a lot of the shit I said about you. You're a lot more reasonable than I expected. I applaud you entirely. At the least, in our society, inheritance should be banned. I don't know about a society where inequity was far less. Here I sort of disagree with Albert.

“Teachers get paid squat. They pretty much raise our children (kids spend more time in school than with their real parents). “
Great example.

“UAW members in Detroit's auto industry get paid $30 per hour. They do not need a high school education. They can show up to work drunk without fear of job loss. Their jobs take less than 4 hours of training. In Chicago, garbage men make $24 per hour and don't need a highschool education. These are merely two examples of jobs that can be done BY ANYONE for far cheaper resulting in a lower cost of consumer goods and lower taxes.”
And here's where we get to the complex real world, Yakov, because those people are overwhelmingly white because of our discriminatory racial dynamics. Those jobs are also rapidly being exported to super-exploited workplaces.
The minimum wage should be 12-20 bucks an hour if it traced productivity. Changes the so-called exorbitant figures a bit, eh, Yakov?
I've worked crappy temp jobs. If I got paid twice as much, I'd be a lot better off now. And I'm a privileged white college student. Imagine what a sensible minimum wage would do for the poor.

“But after ten years in the system teachers often make over $60K per year with better beneifts and more days off than any other job around. “
And my dad, doing a job that he can work half of the time at home (a member of the 'coordinator class', yes, the same class I indict not because they're bad people but because class dynamics make even the best person in them do horrific things) and spend the other half driving to Sacramento to do a job he admits is far less valuable than what he'd like to be doing (teaching math, since he's a MIT math graduate), makes far more than $60K.
I know teachers who have been teaching for decades. They take jobs in the summer to support themselves. Wow, so overpaid.

“Wages are determined by various factors and are not always fair, but the free market does a better job of deciding wages than some know-it-all committee.”
Really? The market never does a good job because the market is intrinsically designed to reward bargaining power. That's why people in unions make more money: They don't get magically more qualified, they get more bargaining power.
It's also incredibly easy to fool your manager; much harder to do it with your co-employees. And if someone has a problem in a parecon, they can appeal, go to a different workplace, whatever.

“Maybe you would prefer parecon since it tries to make things fair for everybody. Everyone gets together and decides how much everything is worth, how much each job should pay, what everybody needs, etc. Now that's hard work!”
And then do the real tasks of society. To counter your dismissive formulation: In capitalism, multiple layers of managers and owners get together and determine pricing and production levels, try to convince people to buy shit they don't want, and sit around in endless committees dicking around. The market may gravitate against this, but since this is in fact most people's work experience, apparently it does a horrendous job of doing so. Meanwhile, a parecon does the same things but better and more democratically.

“That's how the market makes decisions -- they may not always seem fair, but at least the decisions are made somewhat rationally.”
So we can't be fair and rational? Let me say it again: Why does it make sense to reward someone for something they have no control over?

“Worth is determined by scarcity but the object must first have some kind of social or biological value. A rare disease has negative value because no one wants a disease.”
Except these rare Amazonian plants, and (as another example) corals, are reasonably believed by scientists to contain a cornucopia of benefits (like feeding a billion people in Asia – that's all corals, by the way), but because the market does not in any way punish and in fact rewards those who externalize the costs of their production onto others, these things are destroyed every day.

“The market is of course made up of human beings. It is a democratic system and we vote with our dollars. It is much easier than the parecon idea.”
Except not everyone has the same amount of dollars, many people have a ton of dollars because of things they had no control over and did not earn, the producers have every interest in trying to delude us into buying things we don't want or need, and companies have to spend untold billions trying to figure out what our votes exactly mean, and they frequently fail, producing things that suck and that people don't want. Further, everyone has every interest to screw each other (adversarial roles of production) and the information flows are horrendous (commodity fetishism).
In contrast: In parecon, everyone has the same vote and everyone can concretely and immediately impact production choices. If I want something, I tell my consumer's councils. Done and done. Immediate processing about producers.
So a system that's 'easy' is somehow better? Everyone killing themselves would be mighty easy.
And actually, markets aren't 'easy' at all. Even the most basic of markets requires a fairly complex set of rules or else it doesn't work. For example: If theft is easy, markets fail. If fraud is easy so people can't rationally determine which product is best, markets fail.

“That is parody of conservative philosophy. Acceptance of the realities of nature and the limitations of human intelligence is not the same as cynicism”.
But it becomes cynicism if the claim “People are greedy” becomes used as an excuse to reward greed or apologetics for a system that does.
I thought that if greed is bad and people are greedy, we should make a system where self-interest dictates people work at fairly apportioned jobs, where behaving greedily is made difficult and greed is employed to make people behave justly. After all, conservatives may think people want to murder, but I don't see anyone giving murderers a Porsche and a grand in $20s.

But ask them what they think about prayer in schools, or even worse, about forcing a theology down someone's throats, and the poll numbers change very fast. I can phrase things abusively too, real. Anyways, what they think is largely irrelevant because it's not a majority right to have religion everywhere they see or go. And this incredible religious dominance, in my opinion, isn't that hard to challenge if the Left is very, very patient, but no matter what, I think any reasonable person (and conservatives like my grandpa say this, real) that the neo-con fundies have hijacked the Republican party and that their positions are not based in rationality. This in turn stems from the lack of meaningful social involvement that we encourage.

"criminal's rights over victim's safety..."
Again, nobody SAYS "Hey, guys, I'm here to support a criminal over victims". Ask me if I think a criminal's rights should trump over a victim's safety in the abstract and I'll say no.
And yet 60% support a moratorium on the death penalty until we determine it's being applied fairly, and 62% want fewer nonviolent offenders in jail. 76% prefer offenders making restitution to victims than being locked up and 80% support community service.
Ask SERIOUS questions, real, and you get serious and nuanced answers. Ask your ridiculous questions and you get something that makes you feel good and "American", but just shows you to be an irrational idealogue.

"Anyway, you listed the supposedly "liberal" ideas that people generally agree with."
Yes, I did what I set out to do. Fantastic, real. I don't mean to say that the average person is a party-line Democrat; indeed, I hope they're not. But on almost every central issue, the public is left of center.
Oh, and yes, RealPC, the hiring and promotion process we have now is clearly free of 'big brother' computerization, nepotism, favoritism, popularity contests, office politics
I wonder, do you actually live in the real world, real? I can see criticisms of parecon, but just out of basic logic they have to do two things:
1) Be something that it does worse than capitalism (that is, if capitalism has 10 units of X 'bad stuff' in one area and parecon 11, then that's fine, but if your criticism applies to ANY economy and parecon has 2 units and capitalism 10, then you're begging the question of how serious you are)
2) In turn, be so egregious that it eclipses any advantages (so that one unit of bad stuff in one area would have to be a tiebreaker everywhere else)
I know it's hard and complex to compare economies, but come on.

"There is nothing "liberal" about being against the war in Iraq. "
No, but liberals tend to be against the war in Iraq. I'm simply referring to the way issues are defined now. Yes, I could see a very liberal or leftist person for whatever reason thinking the Iraq war is good. And I also agree that far too many issues are defined along party lines in really silly ways. People should arrive at conclusions for policies independently.

"Yes social security is a socialist idea but it has been accepted by most conservatives, and Americans want to keep it."
This is assuming that you use the definition 'Socialism is government intervention in the economy'. In that case, every society with a state has been socialist since time immemorial, whether feudalist, capitalist, or fascist. It's an eminently useless definition. In actual usage, socialism doesn't just mean reapportionment of wealth, it means worker's control of the means of production.

"Americans value freedom over state-imposed solidarity. Americans know that individuals are unique, each with their own talents, preferences and ideas."
Maybe, maybe not. Many seem to support the state-imposed of solidarity of patriotic state-worship. Many also seem to want to make a theological state. However, I agree that is the case. That is why they oppose capitalism, which does not give the majority of individuals any chance to express their preferences and utilize their talents and ideas (think of the average corporation: how many people in it do you honestly think have their ideas heard by a decision-maker?) and why the majority will support parecon or another leftist alternative.

"Therefore, the utopian vision of some will never be approved by all."
The 'utopian vision' (hardly applicable to parecon, which concedes in the first few pages that it is only a vision for the economy's guiding institutions and values, nothing more) of democracy still isn't approved by everybody, even though at one point it was mostly held by relatively small groups (vis-a-vis the world population). Do you oppose democracy?

"In my opinion, it's better to go without modern high-tech health care with all its expensive bells and whistles than hand over ever more money and power to the central state."
That's fantastic. But even that response bespeaks privilege, because I'm sure that you do not have a sick daughter, and if you do, you can afford to pay for her health care. However, a majority of Americans now do not have proper health care and many become bankrupt after paying doctor's bills. For them, socialized health care isn't a matter to troll on a leftist forum, real; it's a matter of life or death.
Further, while I oppose the state at every level, at least the state in our society is at some level democratically accountable and responsible to its citizens. Corporations are not; they are fascist economic structures. Leftist simply wish to choose an accountable bureaucracy over an unaccountable one concerned with profits over people. Suddenly, the choice doesn't seem so irrational, does it?

"But I would guess most American parents want maximun health coverage for their kids and are willing to pay higher taxes for it, within limits.
Everything is a trade-off. "
Indeed they would, and I'm glad you're not resurrecting the libertarian crap that if they didn't agree with health care it wouldn't be legitimate (though Utah Phillips does do voluntary tax, actually).
The key point, Real, is that they've wanted that for decades and they haven't gotten it. Now, no matter what you think of their decision, you should be able to recognize that a democratic society that does not obey the will of its majority is one that isn't, in a de facto sense, democratic.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The End of an Acrid Discussion

Editor's Note: This is probably the final response in a massive series of arguments regarding feminism, violence against women, pornography, and a myriad of other topics that erupted at blogs.zmag.org in response to Lucinda Marshall's posts. Readers who wish to get an understanding of at least the tail end of the discussion should probably begin at about http://blog.zmag.org/index.php/weblog/comments/501/P400/ . Those with a more herculean appetite can read through all of Lucinda's blog comments.

I'm trying to prevent the feminist movement from adopting policies and frameworks that I view as insane, reactionary and contra-feminist. Just as anarcho-primitivists hurl abuse at folks like Albert for critiquing their particular clique, so too has there been quite a bit of sectarian back-and-forth, despite my claims to be a feminist and (far more importantly) my concrete advocacies that you don't even comment on.
Since this appears to be 'closing statements' time, let me say it again: I believe that our society is riddled with inequity, with at least four distinct forces of oppression each a powerful pillar in and of itself but that helps prop up an even worse house: economistic forms (capitalism, mostly), political forms (statism, mostly), cultural imperialism/racism, and gender/kinship norms. There are also issues that I don't think are sources of oppression but require unique attention anyways: The ecology, international relations (that is, IR is composed of states and of course will be oppressive, but it requires unique ways of thinking aside from simply anti-statism), etc. etc. Already that makes me more in line with feminists than most female Marxists you'll meet (and they're out there, trust me: I went to a meeting of the ISO and found about as many women as men). Each deserve special attention and institutional frameworks, making me think of myself as an anarchist, pareconist, radical democrat, green, feminist, multiculturalist, antiracist, GLBT rights advocate, etc. In feminism, I believe that there are gender norms that impact men and women, gays/lesbians/bisexual/transgender folks especially, and that these norms must be combatted both in their institutional/solid forms and their far more insiduous cultural/fluid forms. I think the international system has a repressed element of gender control (feminist IR), that the health care system and the way we think of “insanity” is riddled with patriarchal mindsets (feminist mental health care), and that the alternative to all of this is a society where people can define their sexual relations and their gender as they wish freely with no fear of retaliation as long as they do not coerce anyone, and that those decisions should not generate inequity from the polity, culture and economy but should in fact be recognized and encouraged by those institutions. I believe that the lack of such a society leads to suffering and misery in personal relations
And, even more importantly, I discuss strategies of self-defense not simply as martial arts, which both men and women learn in the same way, but ways to defend oneself from harassment and abuse that is far more prevalent, the 90% that occurs from people who the person knows. That requires strategies of verbal, spiritual and political resistance.
"Violence *is* men's problem. Men are by far more violent than women..."
I don't know, do we live in the same society? Perhaps, perhaps not, but this is something you'd need to establish with fairly ironclad evidence. People here have made some convincing arguments that female violence is common enough to warrant attention, not just an exception that proves the rule. Putting that aside, bwong's point isn't necessarily that more men aren't criminals, but that those men are defined NOT as men because most men aren't criminals but that those men are primarily criminals. While Tim Wise points out that 90% of serial murderers are whites, he never says "Serial murder is a white problem" or implies that white folks condone or excuse serial murder, but rather that there is a more base white sickness stemming from privilege. The distinction may seem minor, but it's the difference between blasting an entire group of people and making fair arguments that help provide reasons for people to hold responsibility.
"No further discussion is viable until you can take responsibility for your dishonesty. Since it is so ingrained in you to deny even when slam-dunked, all prior and future claims of yours are suspect."
And the same can easily be said of you, except you still haven't "slam dunked" me, because you've conceded the fundamental point of my original article and my other articles in the same vein. Pat yourself on the back all ya want, WR. I suppose it may make you feel good, but it doesn't prove to anybody else that I'm being dishonest, especially given your history of blatant misrepresentation and egregiously selective foci.
Further, given that you've paid near-zero attention to any of my arguments before this point, I don't think I'm too offbase in saying that it's highly probable that you're simply seeking for an excuse to justify your sectarian stubbornness.
Seriously, do you do this with everyone? "I think you conceded an 'slamdunk' [something I haven't heard since the most infantile high school debate rounds] argument of mine, so therefore I can't talk to you." I thought Graeme's (?) comment that you were arguing at a high school level was highly unfair. Now I think somewhat differently.

I wish this discussion hadn't gone this direction. There was a lot of good back-and-forth, a number of good issues hashed out, but for whatever reason, emotions ran high and people became polarized. I don't think I've ever seen such an acrid and sectarian debate, and insofar as I'm responsible, I'm sincerely sorry.

[Editor's Note: Later, one will see WildRider's admittance that, yes, she does selectively ignore arguments.]

"I want to thank some of you (Frederic & Bwong in particular) for radicalizing me."
Translation: Polarizing you and causing you to agree with reactionary feminist elements. If that's what I did, then yes, I regret it, but for some reason I truly doubt that you really were so objective before you came here. You initial posts lined up rather well with WR; you may not have thought of yourself as a so-called 'radical feminist', but I think a fair look would show you had those ideas latent within you. Fair enough.

I don't mind people altering their perceptions, even going the other way. What I ask for is the respect that Michael Albert and Tim Wise gave to David Horowitz. Their debates with conservative luminaries were marked by incredible restraint, cordiality and focus on the issues. I have attended respectfully to every point that I've seen, and I continue to not think anything about WR or ShihTzu the persons because I don't know either of you. Yet you purport to have the psychic powers sufficient to determine what I think, what my activities and commitments are, what happened in obscure crime scenes that weren't present at given zero evidence, and what sources say and think without even having read or heard them. In short, the worst, most toxic sectarian politics.

"1. that the best way to stop groping and rape is to answer the attacker with violence – regardless of potential outcomes."
Actually, my argument (still conceded) is that martial arts training is an effective tactic and that such training offers the understanding that would allow one to determine the degree of danger one is in. I have cited feminist authorities and experts, you have cited nothing.

"2. that the incidence of female violence is much more serious than that of male violence."
I can't remember anybody saying this. People have just objected to saying that male violence is the ONLY problem and are asking for a different conception of gender, something in line with feminists. Oh, but wait, according to you, they must be apologists for rape. I won't stoop to your level and make the same claim about either of you.

"3. that violence is not specifically men’s problem. (one of my favourites to date)."
What does the converse even fuggin mean? That men who commit or acquiesce to violence should take responsibility? No shit, and I have been more forthright and productive in this area than you. But does this mean that the average guy is necessarily complicit with rape (not complicit with the structure that causes rape)?

"4. that pornography is fine because women make money."
If this is all that you took from the discussion, I direct you to my Blog Ladder post on the topic at www.blogladder.com, The Blog That Isn't A Blog. Even in that small section of the debate, there are numerous complex arguments given. And even the way that you characterize this one argument is a laughable misrepresentation.

Whatever it is, the forum or the aggressive debate or the irrationality of any of the speakers, neither of you are actually reading what people say.

"5. that so-called feminist men get to decide if we are arguing theories or facts and it is up to us ‘good little women’ to keep up."
No. If I pose an argument, you answer it in its character: fact, argument, etc. If you don't do so, then I can counter that your argument is a non sequitur. This is so basic I'm yet again amazed I'm even saying it. Nor did we deny the same right to you: When you cited facts (say, the smorgasbord of spam WR put up in lieu of argumentation), people would either cite relevant facts to give a different spin, agree to the fact and say nothing more, or agree with the fact but oppose a particular conclusion drawn. All very fair, and all things you two mostly failed to do (though again, I'm not going to fall to the childish level of saying that anyone here made "slamdunk" arguments but instead say pretty much everyone here made good points and generated valuable discussion, given that it has changed opinions here).

"6. that discussing violence against women is ok as long as we acknowlege that there is violence against men too – even within a feminist context..."
Actually, discussion of violence against women was prominent throughout: I must have cited dozens of articles precisely about violence against women. You then move on to say that "Never mind that most of this violence was perpetrated by men", but A) even this is a total non sequitur because the POINT of the man-on-man violence arguments was to change the way we were thinking of the faultline and B) this actually is a gigantic indication that you were paying almost zero attention, because various sources set female violence and abuse at either a substantial fraction of, equal to or higher than male violence.

"Nice try. Changing my singular to your plural won't work..."
But that's not the position he took, WR. His point is that it's possible for victims to take irrational positions, even though this obviously says nothing about the trauma that happened to them. After all, has ShihTzu so remarkably uttered a good time ago, Wendy's rape experience did not invalidate hers, yet she had no problem using hers to invalidate Wendy's, and she had no problem saying that a victim of a societal phenomenon by very virtue of that fact gets insight, even when that privilege did not accrue to people who disagreed with her. All interesting double standards, indeed.

"One man vs one woman is always at the bottom line."
When? When a woman victimizes a man by burning his house down? When men rape and kill other men? You make these oblique and almost meaningless comments that require ounces of decoding, decoding that you can then attack as an attack on feminism. (And before you spew more abuse: I argued, to resounding silence, that even when women offenders are found, their position as women makes their crimes seem laughable because the assumption is that women are weak. This argument is a "slamdunk" AGAINST the rightist men's movement because it precisely inverts their logic when they say "BUT WHAT OF FEMALE SEX OFFENDERS?!" I then offered the example of the teacher who, despite obviously being the subservient partner in the relationship as quietly conceded as the press, was presented as a sexual victimized and harlot, which shows that female sexual abuse does get plenty of media attention).

"7. that it is up to women to constantly guard against sexual assault but that when we do so we are paranoid."
If/then statements are clearly not your forte.

Violence against women is not as high as some feminists think. BUT, if one is concerned about one's own chances for victimization or making other women who, however irrational it may or may not be, are currently scared and want to be less scared, one OPTION is self-defense.
Indeed, my position is that rape is not at a one-in-four women level (a fact that your statistics and analysis thereof upon challenge quietly concedes) but is much less, but that this does not change the fact that rape is a serious problem (a position adopted also by serious people taking the one-in-four statistic as valid) and that one TACTIC, a movement tactic, for dealing with rape is self-defense. Apparently feminists have their shit down so well (but wait, why all the rape then?) that they can't use another tactic. Of course, when *I* make the argument that your "theory" isn't very useful for a woman who has been raped, WR objects to it prima facia, then turns around and uses the same arguments against bwong. I'd say I was speechless, but that'd clearly be wrong.

All movements have to deal with the fact that the societal oppression they live under is likely to hurt them at some point. It's the very meaning of revolution. It's what the Black Panthers and the PLO did. They weren't "accomodating defective [Israelis or whites]", they were dealing with REALITY, not a utopian feminist fantasy. And by "utopian", I don't mean that a world with far less rape and sexual abuse and with far better gender norms isn't possible; indeed, in my feminist work, I've tried to explore how to reach such a world and what it'd look like. I simply mean that offering that world as up as if it should exist simply by virtue of us saying it and that, dammit, the world should just catch up to us is a classic concept of privileged people who aren't used to the idea that there's bad shit in the world and sometimes we can't beat all of it in our lifetimes.

"8. that women are responsible to accomdate defective men. We can’t go to certain parties, walk in certain areas or dress a certain way."
Actually, my comment about self-defense was to offer the ALTERNATIVE to "not walk to certain areas", etc. You're also conceding:
A) That this alternative is in fact supported by you and WR's paranoiac view of the level and prevalence of rape (a view that has subconscious racial and class implications because it's riddled with ideas, despite the fact that both of you know otherwise, that 90% or so of rape victims know their attacker fairly well)
B) That "defective men" is an interesting and highly dehumanizing formulatioN
C) That these things constitute dual responsibility and that this idea that women shouldn't have to alter their behavior given crappy societal dynamics bespeaks a social privilege; that is conception, on one level, self-contradictory because both you and WR clearly ARE changing your behavior to "accomodate defective men" given that you spend time resisting their actions, and in the second place does not show up in practically any other liberation context

"9. that in some cultures sexual assault is just a way of life and we should not go there if we don’t want to be assaulted."
Bwong was simply tentatively stating, with reasons and examples to believe this was possible, that different societies have different ideas of and acceptance levels of groping. Hell, this is what WR was saying earlier: that there is gang rape of women in Pakistan and that there are molesters on trains in Japan (indeed, an entire bizarre fetish in the porn industry appeals to these morons). If Bwong made the implication that women are "asking" for it if they travel, that's ridiculous. Indeed, feminist should travel to fight alongside their sisters elsewhere and raise awareness.

My mom travelled to South America and was ogled by men and nearly raped because she was a beautiful gringo. She recognizes, despite being one of the most feminist women I know (indeed, agreeing with radical porn critiques), that she was young and vulnerable and that she was putting herself into a position of danger. She doesn't EXCUSE what those guys did, but she recognized that, as a REALISTIC MATTER OF FACT (not an ideal statement of right or justice), she was an easy victim.

Why not be proactive rather than reactive about this? Let's say that women do have to take as part of the experience of travelling some groping and even worse (and believe me, this fact pisses me off like none other, not least because my mom was nearly raped by virtue of this fact). The way my mom and every sensibly feminist I've seen spins it is, "Look, travel all you want, but know these are the risks. Further, here are ways we can go A) teach women techniques to avoid victimization and B) go abroad to fight patriarchy so future women don't have to deal with these things".

The only possible way that describing that X behavior, no matter how sad this fact is, makes one more likely to be a victim is apologizing for rape is if someone offers one of two implications:

A) We really shouldn't be concerned about rape then, because the only people who are victims are dumb. But that's inhuman and silly, and no one here has said it. (This is the active apologist for crimes; this mode isn't unique, mind you).

B) Well, that sucks, but we can't do anything to change it, so all we can do is tolerate it. But not only has no one here made that argument, everyone here (as far as I can see) assumes the OPPOSITE is true.

These are such basic truisms, truisms that one would know if one was really involved with a variety of progressive causes (funny that you two stopped claiming that awhile back), that it makes me wonder just how deep the rot of this particular feminist school of thought goes.

"10. that many of the reasons for violence against women is economic and if we could just change the economy it would be fine."
Oh, no! An actual argument that would have to be responded to! If this wasn't simply a chest-beating match but was a real discussion where we set aside our parochialisms (and I'm afraid, truly afraid, I'm just as guilty as everyone else), then you'd be interested in this fact as it means that your tactics may be flawed and may need to incorporate other outlooks.

After all, the "third wave", as WR continually reminds us, wishes to add gender thought to the economic, political and racial thought of the left too, and wants to argue that to confront these things gender analysis is needed. Again, apparently it's fine for feminists to make this argument but not fine, indeed not even possible and tolerable, for other leftists to make similarly plausible responses. The double-standards just keep piling up.

“13. that handing out some flyers and trying to be empathetic to women is enough to make you a feminist man and you have done your penance.”
If that was the extent of the people who were disagreeing with you's commitments, that'd be true. But, as you've conceded, not only is this the worst of ad hominem arguments because it's not just fallacious it's also grounded in ABSOLUTELY ZERO EVIDENCE since you do not personally know me or Kyle, it's also wrong in that numerous feminist authorities who have done as much or more work as you have disagree with you too, so it just can't be that you're perfect and an untouchable expert.

So many analogies spring to mind. Marxists think that any attempt to move past silly economism and structure-superstructure analysis is apologizing for capitalism. Anarchists think any attempt to move past just understanding the state and “power” is apologetics for those things. The most conservative of professors endlessly parrot their credentials as if that meant jack in determining their arguments.

I also like the implication of this: That what defines me as a feminist is not my positive activities, but my particular ideological commitment; indeed, as we've seen, a very selective feminist viewpoint, but if even if that was not the case, the implication is as fascist as I've seen.

“11. that if the so-called feminist men cite empirical ‘proof’ it is to be accepted as fact. But if feminist women cite proof it is biased and not accurate. And don’t forget number 5 above – we best not be presenting proof if we are talking about theories. “
Theories are made to account for empirical evidence. If our theories explain more of the facts better, it's a “slamdunk”.
I never ask for anyone to accept everything I said as fact; hell, I cited MULTIPLE CONTRADICTORY statistics in some posts to point up the difficulties of good sourcing and to add other voices. But I would like for someone, if they're actually talking to me and not some chauvinist straw man they wish to smack upside the head, to not just assume out of hand my facts must be wrong but find proof.
Even WR's “slamdunk” is highly illustrative: She didn't even know the text of the original article well enough for her to discover that I had made a parenthetical comment at the end of it.

“12. that so-called feminist men don’t actually have to read theories they can just spew back some other man’s interpretation thereof. “
Or a woman's, as you concede again and again. But that's interesting, because I've read numerous feminist theories, fairly radical ones, that I agree with wholeheartedly, yet another matter that has attracted zero attention. I'm also aware of other criticisms that I find insane: Say, the feminist critique of privacy rights. (I'll discuss this if there's any interest). It's also interesting in that, when you cited theories, I think a fair reading will show that people here (Graeme, Tiana, joeblogs, Big J Max, me, Kyle, etc.) attended to your every argument with substance.

“Frederic, your assumption that I was weak when I didn't answer was highly revealing. I was introducing topics I wanted to cover in my articles and ignored all the rest. “
Ah, you FINALLY answer this. Incredible. And your answer indicates that you have zero respect for the people you're talking to. Especially since you responded to arguments with criticism that my arguments, TAKEN IN CONTEXT, preempted fairly well, so even if you can be excused for just not caring about other feminists' opinions, you sure as heck can't be excused for horrendously abusive argumentation.

“When I introduced the Kama Sutra and the belief in the divine importance of sexuality,”
How funny, I also introduced the Kama Sutra as a defense of pornography. Apparently your blinders of ignorance are incredible. A fascinating career as a pseudo-feminist arguing the most reactionary positions of the mainstream awaits.

“The only patterns of sexuality that produced any interest was 1) the objectification inherent in the pieces and parts of women's body used in porn”
Objectification that is
a) an overwhelmingly economistic problem because it is impossible to sell sex if the very nature of selling, especially of alienated labor, is changed
b) not necessarily bad, just as the objectivization that women perform by reading romance novels or watching gay porn or fantasizing about hunky actors like Mel Gibson isn't necessarily bad
c) also inherent to, and in fact worse, in the treatment of males in porn

" 2) a defense of violent porn as mere "sex fantasy" with no effect on real sexual violence despite links to actual sexual predators telling how they used porn before"

And, as WR conceded over and over, these actual sexual predators had eyes and hearts too, but no one argued that having eyes caused their crimes. There would have to be a causative influence, but not only did WR never make such a claim, she also conceded that violent pornography and violent media in general has a cathartic effect.

"3) the defending of violence against women and sexual assault, like groping, like making women responsible for rape, like anger at naming men as the responsible parties, etc."

Of course. To say that someone could reduce their chances of being mugged by carrying less cash is contradictory with the idea that mugging should be dealt with as an independent social phenomenon and as an individual choice.

"The most interesting was the constant invocation that women are responsible for their own victimization because they don’t fight back (and blaming of feminists for making them “weak”)"

Again: To say one could defend themselves against someone's depredations does not ipso facto mean they are responsible for said depredations. This is unbelievably simple.

And doesn't your dismissive formulation beg the question? If feminists of a certain ilk (not feminists per se, but some feminists) construct a victimization dynamic that may generate fear, paranoia and an impression of weakness among women, isn't this something to confront, not dismiss?

As you say, 'very telling indeed'.

I'm also glad you're going to write about our positions. It'll be great when people get referred to us, see what we actually said (not your feverish delusion of what was said) and stop believing you. Maybe then you'll learn basic honesty.

“Greame: You were the only one who could admit when they were wrong. For that, a tip of the hat. I enjoyed your posts.”
Actually, WR, when I found out that the woman was acquitted by the grand jury, I said it before you did. And when others made arguments that I misunderstood, I corrected myself. Ask anybody who actually knows me: I can be fairly stubborn and argumentative, but I'm also highly easy to convince if my initial argument was just flatly non-responsive.
To convince me, WR, would require the respect that you admitted you don't have. If people admit they're wrong with your underwhelming responses (and this isn't to say that, looking back over things, there were some things I wished I had approached differently: the shoe case, while I'm not going to admit you had a “slamdunk”, developed in a way I would have preferred to not have and this was partially my fault), then I wouldn't credit that decision as one made rationally.