30 June 2006

Dutch rub

I don’t want, however, to pretend that I have a deep understanding of other people’s motives. For instance, it has been reported that the Dutch government has fallen due to its actions against Hirsi Ali. Without debating the specific merits, I am left completely puzzled by what in the world Rita Verdonk, the immigration minister, was thinking when she summarily stripped Ali of her Dutch citizenship.

I understand about hard ball politics, but don’t smart players send out some stalking horses first, to test the waters? Verdonk instead started with the strongest possible action and then looked around to see if it went over well. Perhaps it was Verdonk who was the stalking horse, but then one is left wondering who she was stalking for — some opposition party?

It seems so inexplicable, the only explanation I can think of being that Verdonk simply disliked Ali so much that she didn’t worry about consequences when the opportunity arose. If so, it says something disturbing about how sensitive a topic Islamic immigration is over there.

29 June 2006

Addicts don't give up the junk on their own

I’ve been sniping at Orrin Judd on and off about the Hamas government. Judd’s thesis was that once elected, Hamas would be forced to moderate and become realistic due to the pressures of governing. Instead we are seeing, just as many of the crew there believed from the start, Hamas holding on to its reality dysfunction at all costs. Oddly, we haven’t seen many of the “Hamas is going to deal with Israel any day now” posts fora bit.

I think Judd’s error here is part of his view that the Palestinian terror campaign has been a rational effort to secure statehood. That is not how it started of course, the terror starting well before “Palestinians” as we know them existed as a group. The methods of terror and maximality were set then, it was the national aspirations that were accreted at a later date. Moreover, the support that was provided by Arabia was not intended to help with creating such a state but instead to destory Israel, a struggle in which the Palestinians were munitions, not people.

Why does this matter? Because the leadership of the PLO and later Hamas are the product of that history, not anything arising directly from the Palestinians. Instead their late blooming national aspirations were captured and turned to the advantage of the ruling classes. Hamas’ leaders care only about their own power and money, what happens to the Palestinians is simply not relevant.

When seen this way, it doesn’t seem surprising that Hamas, rather than adjusting to governing, has been planning to destroy the truce with Israel for months. Absent the existential struggle with Israel, what governments of Arabia and the ummah are going to ship them large bales of cash? If the Palestinians object, Hamas has excellent teachers in their backing governments on how to deal with that. The idea that Hamas would moderate presumed that they had some concern about being a governing party in a normal state. What now see that is precisely what Hamas does not want and I believe that these latest actions were designed specifically to prevent it. Not only does it set up Hamas to blame any and all failures in the quotidian duties of government but it also creates a state of emergency that permits Hamas to claim internal and externally that elections are not “appropriate at this time”. People don’t switch governments during war, so Hamas started one. It was the triumph of hope over reality to think otherwise.

27 June 2006

In which Senator Feingold says that banging up one country is just not enough

Via Best of the Web we have this interview with Senator Feingold in which Feingold says

My guess is that when the so-called American occupation, which the terrorists like to call it, ends, that the interest of the international terrorist community in Iraq is not so focused there anymore. It would allow us to pursue them and be on the offensive.

Let me see if I have this right. We are currently engaged with the Caliphascists in Iraq, but instead we should pull out so we can enage the Caliphascists somewhere else? Does Feingold think it would turn out any different in that other place to which we pursue them? Why would we want to be pursuing instead of fighting, if our aim is to defeat them? His argument isn’t even coherent on its own terms. And it leaves one wondering what place Feingold wants to visit that kind of action on. I doubt moving it to America would go over very well with the voters.

Feingold might want to review the doctrine of “strategic offense, tactical defense”. This means that you grab something that’s near the enemy and of high value, then let him come at you. This forces a fight where you have the advantage, leading to disproportionate losses on the part of the enemy. Given the losses for both side in Iraq and Afghanistan, this seems to have been a successful effort.

P.S. Best of the Web also points out that Feingold wants to bug out of Iraq so we can go on the offense elsewhere, but wants to stay and win in Afghanistan. Does he never talk to anyone who does anything other than nod and say “yes, that Bush is EEEEEEEEEEVIL!”?

It doesn't actually say "all", now does it?

In thinking about NY Times’ executive editor Bill Keller’s deep misunderstanding of the US Constitution, where he writes:

It’s an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press.

Any with actual knowledge of the Constitution knows that the freedom of the press was given to the people, not some limited set of organizations called “the press”. Does this mean that Keller is simply ignorant?

Ignorant, yes, but not simply. Consider for a moment that chatterati’s view of the Second Amendment. Note the strong parallel here: in both cases, the chatterati view “the people” as meaning “the proper people”. It seems as if the concept of a true citizenry, without a privileged ruling class, is a concept that that cannot grasp.

23 June 2006

The Paris Revolution

I finally finished Fatal Purity, a biography of Maximilien Robespierre. Although not specifically about the French Revolution, it of course spends quite a bit of time on that event. It makes a fascinating contrast to the American Revolution and one can see that the paths of those two events diverged from the very beginning.

One of the biggest contrasts was the level of organization. The A.R. had its issues with coordination, but it was the very model of planning compared to the F.R. Ironically, one could make the argument that the A.R. benefitted from being run by an existing elite, who were already adept in the ways of power and politics. The F.R. was run primarily by amatuers and posers with big ideals and little experience. Yet it was the style of the F.R. that later gave rise to true professional revolutionaries.

The other big difference was the blood thirstiness of the F.R. While there were pogroms under the A.R., these were incidental and regretted (for the most part) by the leadership. The F.R., in contrast, willingly embraced bloodshed, oppression, and executions. I had known this before, of course, but I had not realized how early and centrally it had happened, that Robespierre wasn’t an aberration who managed to gain control but in fact was a typical revolutionary.

I did end up feeling more sympathetic with France. What became clear to me as I read was how much of the F.R. was really the Paris Revolution. When one considers the turning points that put the F.R. on the path to blood and tyranny, Paris the city always looms large. It was the appeasement of the Parisian mobs, the fact that control of Paris meant control of France, that was the determinative factor. At one point Robespierre is fighting with former colleagues, who have a much more federal and (dare I say it?) Anglospheric view of where the F.R. should go. But Robespierre is left in charge of Paris and this dooms his opponents. It also leads to brutal repression of any other city that dares dispute the primacy of Paris. Perhaps this is another key difference in the Revolutions, that the leaders of the A.R had to deal with each other as equals because there was no one dominant colony or city.

Be that as it may, in the end the dominance of Paris lead to the failure of the French Revolution and in turn the creation of modern day France, which makes its nickname as “the City of Light” quite the misnomer. So don’t blame France, blame Paris. There were Frenchmen during the Revolution who figured out what made the A.R. so successful but they were unable to overcome the Parisian legacy.

Bad omens and portents

I heard a report on the BBC last night about the Prisoners’ Document and the hopes for a resolution of the Palestinian problem. What was interesting was that the report, while trying to put a positive spin on the subject, dealt explicitly and forth rightly with the problematic aspects of the document. For example, the point that the document never mentions Israel and therefore recognizes the existence of Israel indirectly at best, was brough up and discussed for a significant fraction of the entire report, not dropped in as an aside. If even the BBC is skeptical of a Palestinian initiative, it’s got some real problems.

Brittle politics

I have been peripherally following the “Kosola” affair, in which somebody high up in the DailyKos gang committed some kind of impropriety, the details of which I can’t be bothered to investigate.

What is interesting is the reaction of the MAL to this event. Instapundit dismisses it as a minor league scandal and gets attacked from the left for doing so. It appears that the attacker didn’t bother to understand Instapundit’s post, which brings me around to my point.

Instapundit points out that looking for perfection in webloggers is delusional, and one simply has to be skeptical about anything anyone writes1. But that’s precisely what the MAL followers do not want to do. The very point of Socialism is that an elite vanguard makes the real decisions and guide the masses. Normally one thinks that the point of this is for the benefit of the vanguard but I think it’s become clear through incidents like this that this is an attractive picture to many who want to be part of the masses. Think of all the people today who revel in having a set of slogans instead of a political philosophy in the MAL. What else explains that mass appeal of websites like DailyKos and MyDD? My own experiences on conservative and leftists weblogs accords with this as well, which is that while there is group think everywhere, it dominates far more leftist websites. In such a worldview, leaders must be completely pure, because the point of such leaders is to relieve the burden of skepticism from the followers2.

Conservatives, especially Judeo-Christian ones, have a better immune system against this because of their belief in the Fallen nature of Man. That pre-supposes that any leaders will be flawed, in opposition to the utopian Left that believes in the perfectability of Man (and so therefore the vanguard is presumed to have achieved that state). That is not to say that many movements on the Right haven’t been just as willfully ignorant of their leaders’ faults, but it does make conservative movements less brittle in this regard, more adaptive to the reality of the human condition. That generally seems weaker at any given moment, but its strength is made clear over time. Unsurprisingly, this is very analogous to the long term strength of capitalism over socialism3. Ideas have consequences.

1 Except for me, of course, the font of wise objectivity and omniscience. I’m sure Instapundit deliberately left that qualifier out, as it’s globally understood and would have just detracted from his point.

2 Although I think it should be obvious I am speaking of only a portion of the MAL and its followers, I want to be explicit about that. The fading power of the MAL in recent decades stems, IMHO, from the fact that this portion is changing from a significant minority to the dominant faction. It’s always been there, hence the attraction of Stalinism and other repressive regimes to the MAL. What’s different is that that seems to be all that’s Left.

3 One of the more mordantly amusing aspects is that the leftist blogosphere set up its own coordinating committee to direct its operations and propaganda. The right wing blogosphere, in contrast, is far more of a disorganized pack. Again we see the same theme — in the short term this leads to bigger readerships on the left, but in the long term makes for a brittle, unresponsive to reality system. But at least they are being true to their ideology. See Protein Wisdom for some similar thoughts.

22 June 2006

Gaming rules

Over at Lean Left is a screed about the excessive complexity of modern computer games. I understand that point of view, although as someone who not infrequently purchases board games just to read the rules, I find myself unable to empathize.

One reason for the increasing complexity is of course that it’s possible. Early games were simple because the hardware couldn’t support complex ones. Moreover, the games still seemed complex compared to their predecessors as well. Games have pushed the edge of the complexity supported by the hardware and software ever since.

Is there some limit, some point at which game complexity exceeds the players capacity? Possibly, although I have yet to see a game that is more complex than physical reality and lots of people play games on that platform (not that I know personally know anyone who does, you see, but I have read about such people). I therefore expect increasing complexity for the forseeable future.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the market is driven to a large extent by young teenagers and adults who have plenty of time to master arcana. Moreover, such mastery has status because it is both difficult and demonstratable. Even newbies can tell who is a master of the game and who is not. The more complexity, the greater the status of true mastery.

On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if some of the desire for complexity is an indirect desire for community. Simple games don’t require much discussion, but a very complex game can provide endless fodder for chat rooms, forums, and water cooler discussions. Moreover, discussing the subtleties of ship mixes in a Homeworld fleet lets one brag about one’s own gameplay via illustrative anecdotes. Given how much time is spent by players in such discussions, which can only happen in complex games, I don’t see any trend toward simplification in the near future.

Not hitting the zone of indifference

The Presbyterian Church has voted to drop its divestment from Israel policy. The original policy was passed by embedding it in another document, so that when it became public most of the people who alledged voted for it had no idea they had done so. After catching a lot of flack for two years, the next big meeting (this one) brought it up again and explicitly voted it down by 483 to 28. Not exactly a close call for an up and coming idea.

What fascinates me, though, is the mindset of those who originally got this passed. What, exactly, did they expect to happen? The style in which it was passed demonstrates that the promoters knew the overall membership wouldn’t support it. Yet what would be the point of it if it remained secret? Did the promoters believe that they could implement it with no further notice? In fact, the passage was heralded by fellow travelers soon after it was passed.

Did the promoters think that nobody would care enough to rescind it? That’s the only explanation I can come up with that doesn’t presume Hollywood celebrity levels of stupidity. Unfortunately for the divesters, the Presbyterian rank and file did care and pressured their representatives in to crushing the policy, turning the lynchpin of the divester’s PR strategy in to a debacle of Biblical proportions.


21 June 2006

Waiting is the hardest part

This post didn’t persuade all by itself, but it was while reading that I realized that I can no longer imagine Senator Hillary Clinton making a run for President in 2008. She may be as scary as any of the other major candidates but she is (IMHO) much smarter than the rest of the pack. It hardly seems implausible that she can see the train wreck coming that The Watcher sees. Would she really want to get in to the mess and draw fire from all sides? Wouldn’t it be a lot better to lay low for one more election cycle, letting the Democratic Party have a real, Dukkakis style meltdown before stepping in to save it? Better to let the crazies destroy each other first.

More over, if McCain is the Republican nominee, he won’t be getting a second term making the 2012 election another open cycle. If there’s anything that will make the citizenry give Clinton a second chance, it would be the spectacle of McCain vs. whatever victim of dementia the Democratic Party puts up. I’ve despised HRC for years but the thought of that sort of campaign season has already caused me to seriously ponder whether I could vote for her.

So, HRC can dive in to that mess and become the lighting rod, or she can hold off, look sane and reasonable by comparison to everyone else, then pick up a better seasoned Senator Obama as the Veep and be off to the races. That is my fearless prediction.

20 June 2006

Barrel scraping chronicles

I have been meaning to comment on this article in the Washington Post (via Junkyard Blog). The gist is that the author, Dana L., “had” to have an abortion because of the Evil Bush Regime. Readers with clue are already rolling their eyes, but bear with me.

The lead paragraph is

The conservative politics of the Bush administration forced me to have an abortion I didn’t want. Well, not literally, but let me explain.

So already the author is confused and having to explain. This lack of mental acuity seems to be par for the course, based on the rest of the article. What we have here is a woman, 42 years old, married, not wanting any more children, and on medication that is incompatible with pregnancy. Of course, she has unprotected sex with her husband and gets pregnant. She tries to get Plan B, which prevents implantation of the zygote and therefore must be taken with 72 hours of sex. Her regular medical providers don’t have it (note that Dana neglected to either obtain Plan B or even verify it was available). But Dana “needed to meet my kids’ school bus” and so blew off making further efforts and ended up pregnant.

We are once again seeing a pattern where an attempt is made to try and indict society / Republicans / conservativism / President Bush, but the example chosen is not one that is going to generate much sympathy in the average citizen. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for teenagers who are caught up in the passion of the moment, much less 40+ married couples with children who presumably have learned something about personal responsibility.

Of course, the policies of the Bush administration figure in to this mess only very peripherally, in that the FDA has prevented Plan B from being sold over the counter. It’s not forbidden or difficult to get, just not sufficiently convenient for Dana. Dana also blames the seeping of religion in to American politics, which demonstrates how much history she knows.

The article concludes with this:

And to think that, all these years after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, this is what our children have to look forward to as they approach their reproductive years.

Having so little personal responsibility that they are incapable of planning ahead? I blame the parents for that.

19 June 2006

Leftist reaction to a hole: keep digging

I heard a story on NPR a few days ago about the horror of student loans. One of the interviewed stated that it was not her fault that she couldn’t get a job that paid well enough to pay off student loans. This reminded me of this screed at My Left Wing on basically the same subject.

In both cases, the first thing I thought of was “if you can’t make a profit at it, why are you doing it?”. If the educations these people are getting aren’t remunerative enough to pay off the loans, then the problem is a bad investment and the solution is to stop doing that. Naturally, the Leftist reaction to a money wasting activity is to demand that the government encouragement and subsidies for even greater destruction of wealth. One might think this is illogical, since MAL does go on and on about wealth and how poor people need more of it, but it is in fact completely consistent since the MAL has never concerned itself with overall wealth, only differences. If their policies managed to destroy all wealth, leaving everyone to struggle to survive, then there would be no problems since there would be no disparities in wealth. It’s not, however, the kind of economy I want to be part of.

Realism based community

Hot Air brings up an interesting point in a recent post about the alledged offer by the Iranian theocracy to negotiate with “everything on the table”. Hot Air points out two things:

  • “Everything” did not include any sort of domestic reform.
  • Given the recent history of Iranian negotiations and the example of North Korea, why would any one expect that a “successful” negotation back in 2003 would have had any real effect?

First, one notes that these are not unrelated. The reason it’s naive at best to trust the Iranian theocracy is because it is a theocracy and not a liberal democracy. Without the former, there is no point in the latter.

Second, as Hot Air also notes, one can plausible believe that liberal democracy is the only long term cure for the dangers to the USA and the rest of the world from the Middle East and therefore any negotiation that doesn’t lead to that is too instriniscally flawed to be worthwhile. Instead, the promoters of this are simply manifesting an aspect of Logo-Realism, making a signed document the most important outcome, not any actual change in behavior.

Finally, note what the lack of domestic reforms means that the promoters of having negotiated then are in fact promoting the policy of “they’re bastards, but their our bastards”. I.e., that it doesn’t matter what sort of oppression the Iranians suffer, as long as American foreign policy interests are satisfied. Does this mean that all of the complaints of how that kind of policy created the blowback we are suffering from now can be disregarded?

11 June 2006

But that would mean hard work!

Instapundit writes

THE D.C. EXAMINER EDITORIALIZES that Bush and the Congressional Republicans should shelve the Marriage Amendment in favor of actually doing, you know, their jobs. And, unlike me, they actually support the idea. This is really shaping up as another ham-handed political effort that’s likely to prove a debacle.

Eh, it’s unlikely to be a debacle, especially after the failure of the cloture vote. It’s also dumb because states are moving to implement such bans on their own. But I have completely agree with the main point, which is that this is yet another way for the GOP leadership to try to put lipstick on a pig and cover up their utter failure to support the base.

It would be different if the GOP remained indifferent to the base, because that at least would be consistent. But it’s clear that lose of support their is worrying them, yet this kind of action demonstrates that the leadership is so disconnected from the actual supporters that they have no idea what the real problems. It is possible, I suppose, that the leadership does see the problems but simply cannot bring themselves to make the personal sacrifices necessary to deal with those problems and so resort to bread and circuses. I have seen this kind of thing a lot, living in Illinois, which has a GOP leadership of the same type.

It reminds me much of the European disease. Given the advantages of incumbency, what is the personal payoff for the GOP leadership to do some heavy lifting on hard issues? They will do fine regardless, it’s the next generation of Republican candidates and the nation would would get the short end of the stick. Better to just enjoy the pretty colors in the dieing light.

How dare you act like us!

I was listening to NPR this morning and they were reporting on Hamas declaring that it would end the truce / cease fire because of the deaths of some Palestinians civilians from Israeli shelling from an explosion of Hamas munitions. Apparently there is “lots of anger in Gaza” over this and naturally the response is calls for increasing the number of Israeli civilians killed. It was just so surreal — the earnest reporting about how it was so angering to the Palestinian that Isreal would react to the deliberate killing of civilians with actions that could result in the accidental death of civilians (and that’s without even going in to how the terrorists frequently embed civilians in their operations precisely to create this kind of incident).

One is left wondering, however, whether this is really the attitude of the Palestinians, or only their leadership, or even just that of Old Media with the statements out of Hamas et. al. simply rhetoric to achieve that kind of outrage among the Western chatterati. It’s not something NPR seems capable of even conceptualizing, much less investigating.

UPDATE: There is now strong evidence that the Israelis were never the cause, that it was an accident on the part of the rocket launching crew who managed to set off their own ammunition. They were, as usual, firing from a crowd of civilians to use their deaths from counter-fire in exactly this way. Clearly, though, it no longer matters who exactly was the cause, Israel is to blame as far as Old Media is concerned.

06 June 2006

"Evil" means "not doing what I want"

I was reading a post at Dean’s World by Aziz P, with whom I have given up hope of expecting any sense. In this case, he comes close to having a making a valid argument but manages to miss it once again. Still, it seems to me that he has a point that the cries of “censorship!” with regard to Google’s deal with the ChiComs is quite possibly overwrought.

Consider this: if the word “censorship” is to mean anything useful, it must mean decreasing or restricting the information available to the average citizen. This makes it a natural question to ask, will Google’s actions in China do that? Will there be less information available to the average subject of the PRC because of Google’s actions? If not, how can it possibly be censorship? It may well not provide the maximal amount of information that one could concieve of Google providing, but unless it restricts information already available, I just can’t get on board with a claim of censorship.

On the flip side, however, one might ask what it would mean should the blogospheric pressure on Google lead to that company parting ways with the ChiComs and having their entire search engine banned in China. Wouldn’t that decrease the information available in China? Who would be the censors then?

05 June 2006

We knew it all along

I have been starting to use the Dark Empire’s DevStudio 2005 (I have some issues with the 2003 and Qt). As I was setting up to start a small project to verify that the set up was going to do what I wanted, I saw this. I was tempted, but I have no need of a guided tour to understand the pure hell of C++.

P.S. The only editing I did on the screen capture was cropping. This is exactly how it looks on my screen.

01 June 2006

It does move (in a circle)

Via Enter Stage Right is an article about the history of journalism’s relationship with accuracy. The main thrust is that nothing much has changed in that regard, at least according to the critics. It cites James Agee and George Orwell, who wrote of journalists in the earlier part of the 20th Century about the same way we do today.

I would, however, argue that there is a significant difference, and that is the general presumption of accuracy. Back in those days, journalists were considered disreputable, not much above used car salesmen and politicians. Somehow, despite the lack of any real improvement, journalists managed to create an image of honest truth seekers. I fall in to the school that thinks this is because of the change of journalists coming up from the ranks to being members of the chatterati. Class and other convergent interests then allowed the opinion makers (who now operated Old Media in addition to their previous redoubts) to put over the idea of journalism as a higher calling.

Like most such schemes that deny a fundamental reality, it had to eventually unravel and that’s what we’re seeing today. We will truly have full circle when journalists once again have earned the reputation they deserve.

Wars of Choice

I have to stop ready lefty weblogs.

I have been following Lean Left lately for purposes of knowing the enemy and I got in to a discussion about the invasion of Iraq and WMD. In the process of arguing, I moved much closer to Orrin Judd’s position on WWII, to wit that it was a war of choice.

I now think OJ’s correct that Nazi Germany was not a long term threat to the USA. It was doomed to imperial overstretch and likely would have been as threatening as the USSR, which we survived. There is also the dstinct possiblity that Nazi Germany would have become bogged down in the former USSR, fighting an endless guerilla war in the vast lands of the Soviet Empire. One might worry about the environmental catastrophes likely to result, but would those really be so much worse than what the USSR accomplished? We might have seen more use of nuclear weapons, although they almost certainly would have been used to suppress the Soviet rebels more than attack the USA or its allies.

As for Japan, the standard story (which is claimed by one of the Lean Left proprietors) is that “Japan attacked, we counter attacked”. That’s a very over simplified view, suitable for young children but not for adults discussing international politics. Discussing the issue as if the Japanese government, for no particular reason, decided one day to bomb Pearl Harbor is just not a serious point of view.

The genesis of the Pacific War was the victory in 1905 of the Japanese Fleet over the Russian Fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. This is little known in the West but was a seminal event in Asia, representing the first time an Asian Power defeated a European Power on its own terms. Japan had wanted its own colonial empire as the European states had, and this victory changed it from a dream to an achievable goal. This lead to the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, the Japanese term for its planned empire. Japan had already been fighting in China and Korea, efforts that were intensified when the Battle of Tsushima made it infeasible for Russia to intervene.

Decades later, the USA would view the rise of the Japanese Empire with fear and concern. In particular, President Franklin Roosevelt acted strongly to interfere with its expansion, both because of long term threats to American security and the atrocities being committed by Japanese forces in China and Korea. He used trade embargoes in an attempt to strangle the Japanese economy to the point where it would have to accede to American foreign policy demands. Japan, in the long run, responded with war and FDR knew this was very likely at the time he started the embargos.

It is, IMHO, more debatable about whether Japan was a real threat to the USA than Nazi Germany. The Japanese polity did not have nearly the level of internal contradiction that Nazi Germany or the USSR had (one notes how China has managed to achieve that as well and remains a player on the world stage). The Japanese Empire might well have lasted long enough to be a real competitor, potentially stronger than the USSR. On the other hand, it might well have evolved in to a more open, liberal democratic state on its own, as South Korea has. While the effects on American lives and treasure is debatable, it is beyond debate that the fate of non-Japanese in East Asia would have been far worse.

What we see is that there are, in fact, strong parallels between the invasion of Iraq and WWII, in that we had a strong President who decided to push on enemy states until they surrendered or fought, for both geo-strategic and humanitarian reasons. In the end, we fought in WWII as much (if not more) to protect foreigners as we did to protect Americans. Iraq is no different in this regard. To regard it as such requires having a cartoon view of history, which I suppose is par for the course on the Modern American Left.

Self-absorbed, lazy, and ineffective – the trifecta of our age

Via Harry’s Place is a story about another self absorbed twit “punishing” himself for the sins of his ancestors. Graham at HP’s wonders whether this is a good thing or not, but to me it’s an obvious display of the narcissism that pervades so much of the West these days.

The act isn’t about actual victims of slavery (who are dead or ignored by this penitent). It is about improving the psychological state of the pentitent. What we have here is the modern, public version of “negative attention”. The modern form is much improved because

  • The audience is potentially world wide and far more likely than a parent to react favorably
  • By appropriating someone else’s misdeeds, one need not even exert oneself to misbehave, saving effort and the risk of non-self designated punishment.

Now, if he sold himself off to some real slave traders in, say, Pakistan or Sudan, then he would be showing some real penitence.

Time for a re-alignment

I am seeing articles on third parties again for the 2008 elections. The standard counter argument is that because we have a “first past the post” system, a two party setup is inevitable. That’s true, but too simplified to apply in the current situation.

It is the case the because of the fundamental properties of our polity, a two party system is the attractor of possible states in the system. In some sense one can call it the “natural” state of the system, as it is the state toword which the system is most likely to move. That is not at all the same thing as saying the system must always be in that state. Instead, other states are possible but unstable, likely to decay to the attractor when perturbed.

This is precisely how a multi-party system would behave in the USA. It is possible for it to exist, but it is highly unstable. The standard way it decays is that, once the fever that broke the previous two party state wanes, people will abandon parties that are not finishing first and second, until those parties effectively disappear in to the noise. It is important to note, however, that the final two parties do not have to be the original two parties.

To create this kind of change, the political system must be divise and strongly felt so that a signficant number of voters are willing to vote to “send a message” or simply to punish the existing two parties. That’s a hard thing to do in a liberal democracy, but it can happen. Whether an existing party survives depends on its ability to adapt and co-opt the issues that created the situation (which is what happened to the Reform Party but not to the Republicans in the 1860s).

I think that we are moving toward such a break point. We came close in 1992, but the major parties managed to switch and co-opt the big issues then. Now, given that the Democratic Party is already riven and to a large extent moribund, I think there is a good chance it will not be able to adapt to the Age of Insecurity we are facing. I think we might well see a period of dwarf parties, with one major party (the GOP) much bigger than any other party. That is also unstable, the question will be which of the competing dwarf parties will out grow the others, because once one of them starts to do so, it will absorb much of the others until we return to the standard two party state. My view is that we will see a new split along the social axis, the free market having won its competition with Socialism (and therefore Socialist based parties, as much of the Democratic Party is, will not be viable). It will be the coots vs. the puritans, whatever the party labels end up.