Thought of the day

“We need to put an end to this radical atheist violence!”, said no one ever.

Bachmann not seeking reelection

First Minnesota rejects amending bigotry into is constitution. Then it goes in the complete opposite direction it had been heading and stops trampling the rights of gays in marriage all together. And now there’s this wonderful news:

Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann said early Wednesday that she will not run for re-election in 2014.

The Minnesota conservative made the announcement in a video posted on her website.

“After a great deal of thought and deliberation, I have decided next year I will not seek a fifth congressional term,” Bachmann said in the 8-and-a-half minute video. “After serious consideration, I am confident that this is the right decision.”

This is excellent. Bachmann was an historically ignorant fool that never added one good thing to this country’s well-being. I’m glad to see her gone. I hope she never makes a return to politics.

Thought of the day

It makes me happy that reports of equal rights and equal treatment being rightfully expanded to gays are practically non-stories at this point.

Genetically modified crops

As someone who has a high number of liberal friends on his social media outlets, I frequently see anti-Monsanto and anti-genetically modified food posts and pictures. Just this weekend there were all sorts of protests, including in my home state. Now here’s the thing: I don’t get it.

I’m not one to defend large corporations (which, incidentally, are not people but rather government-defined entities), but I’ve never considered myself part of the anti-Monsanto crusade that’s out there. I understand the desire to label food as a matter of general principle, but I’ve seen scant evidence that GM food holds any characteristics that should cause alarm. Indeed, I once saw a poll where one of the major reasons people were weary of such food was because it had DNA in it. Come on. That small family-owned farm with the kindly old couple that’s been growing organic potatoes for the community for decades is serving up a big healthy dose of DNA every season.

I also understand the misgivings people have about some of the lawsuits Monsanto has out there, but from what I’ve read, it’s all been greatly exaggerated. They certainly have a huge advantage in the market place by virtue of their size and wealth, but I’m not convinced they’ve been particularly unfair to other farmers. (Though I do worry about legislation for which they lobby. But that’s a feeling I have regarding every corporation.)

I’d be interested to learn what all this fuss is really about. I don’t think anyone has nothing but ulterior motives here, but I do wonder how much of the outrage is based upon legitimate concerns and how much is based upon the dissemination of false information.

Good job, Lois Lerner. Kind of.

Lois Lerner of the IRS was recently called to testify in front of Congress. She rightly recognized that speaking to the government is, generally, not a good idea:

Lois G. Lerner, the head of the IRS tax-exempt organizations office, said in advance of Wednesday’s testimony she would assert her Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to answer questions from House members during committee hearings about the IRS’s targeting of conservative nonprofit groups.

Lerner then appeared before the committee, read a prepared statement, and said she was invoking her Fifth Amendment rights.

“I have not done anything wrong,” Lerner said in her statement. “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations. And I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”

“Because I’m asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I’ve done something wrong. I have not,” she said. “One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I’m invoking today.”

The only problem with this is that by making any statement at all, Lerner may have waived her Fifth Amendment rights. There’s a bit of a debate going on about this, so I’m not entirely sure what the outcome will be. It sounds like a witness is allowed to say a few things, such as where Lerner asserts her innocence, without waiving any rights, but that may be tested here. For my two cents, I hope they do test her and I hope she stands her ground. I hope she then wins the overwhelming right to continue with her day unmolested by government questions. Because, of course, the only reason these congresspeople would call her back would be to intimidate her with the backup of embarrassment. That is, calling her back would be for the sake of daring her to take on the government, something they hope she doesn’t do. Then, if she does do that, the backup plan is to simply embarrass her by virtue of shining a public spotlight on her lack of testimony – congress and everyone else damn well knows that guilt is assumed of those who refuse to testify against themselves.

Bravo, Ronald Lindsay

In my last post I spoke of the feminist mantra of “Shut up and listen!” Specifically, I was alluding to a speech by Ronald Lindsay as given at a conference titled Women in Secularism. Here is the meat of what he said:

But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.

This approach doesn’t work. It certainly doesn’t work for me. It’s the approach that the dogmatist who wants to silence critics has always taken because it beats having to engage someone in a reasoned argument. It’s the approach that’s been taken by many religions. It’s the approach taken by ideologies such as Marxism. You pull your dogma off the shelf, take out the relevant category or classification, fit it snugly over the person you want to categorize, dismiss, and silence and … poof, you’re done. End of discussion. You’re a heretic spreading the lies of Satan, and anything you say is wrong. You’re a member of the bourgeoisie, defending your ownership of the means of production, and everything you say is just a lie to justify your power. You’re a man; you have nothing to contribute to a discussion of how to achieve equality for women.

For this Lindsay has seen backlash in the feminist community. Here’s one response:

At best it was terrible tone deafness which was then exacerbated by his position of power in the organization, his race and gender and socioeconomic status, and the fact that he was giving the opening address not a lecture.

I also agreed with Rebecca Watson that it was particularly bad for these apparent misunderstandings to be delivered by a wealthy white man who was part of the organization in charge of the Women in Secularism conference. In other words, it was a poorly expressed, poorly timed message delivered by exactly the wrong person for the message.

First, Lindsay did a great job expressing his message. I only quoted a small portion of his speech, but if one is to read the whole thing, it shouldn’t be difficult to grasp his message. It has clarity and it was poignant. Second, it is not only overtly sexist but overtly racist to dismiss a person’s message on the grounds of sex and race. Indeed, that’s practically the definition of sexism and racism. Third, his message wasn’t even wrong. I’ll get to why that is in a moment, but first here’s another response:

If Ron LIndsay was opening an NAACP conference, he’d be the guy who’s like, “Welcome! WHERE’S WHITE HISTORY MONTH?”

Criticizing a particular use of a concept and the tactics of a movement is far different from being oblivious to the historic reasons for something such as black history month. The situations aren’t even close to being analogous.

Now here’s why his message isn’t at all wrong. Lindsay was saying little more than, ‘Telling one side to shut up is not how adults go about having a discussion.’ I entirely agree with him. If the goals here are to increase understanding, get a message out there, and change minds, then shutting down 50% of the population is, frankly, stupid. Just imagine if Martin Luther King did that. Imagine if he told white people that they needed to excuse themselves from the discussion. First, the crowd that was hostile to him in the first place would only harden their position, and the crowd that was in the middle would have walked away. That is, if today’s strategy of caricature, Internet feminists was applied to the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s, black people and other minorities wouldn’t even be close to where they are today.

(I raised MLK’s clear strategy in a discussion with a check-out-my-fem-cred male on Facebook. In doing so, I specifically had A Letter from a Birmingham Jail in mind. Amazingly, he cited the letter as though it were some divisive piece of trash that would have supported the ‘Shut up’ mantra of feminists today. The reality is that the letter goes on about engaging and negotiating with the opposition – a hallmark of MLK’s life – before encouraging moderate whites to stand up and speak, to be a part of the discussion.)

So, I say bravo to Ronald Lindsay. It took courage to address such a groupthink idea in front of a group that does nothing but support the groupthinkery.

What feminism told me this weekend

I was going to title this post ‘What feminism taught me’, but it doesn’t seem that feminists are much into teaching so much as they are into decreeing. Case-in-point, I had a Facebook discussion with someone who went to town defending the feminism mantra ‘Shut up and listen!’ My objection, first was that that isn’t how adults have a conversation. Shutting down the speech of one side in order to validate the speech of the other side is just asinine. But to make things worse, this was all in response to a white guy calling bullshit on the mantra. And why does it matter that he was white? It shouldn’t, but in the feminist world, being a white guy who disagrees with any aspect of third-wave feminism is ‘privileged’* and ignorant. Indeed, what feminism told me this weekend was that adults should treat each other like children, especially if one of those adults is white and male; a view becomes all the less worthwhile based upon the sex of the person saying it. (You’ll never believe it, but when I called out this blatant definition-of-the-very-concept-of-sexism sexism, there was little agreement to be had.)

I’m going to have more on this soon, complete with specific references. I just wanted to throw this out here now because I found it so incredibly irritating that a person would devote time to fighting against the degradation of views on the basis of sex when it comes to women yet engaged in that very same type of degradation when the speaker was male.

*The word ‘privilege’, of course, has become a code to indicate an outsider.

Thought of the day

Harry Reid recently said that government is inherently good. That, of course, isn’t true. There are all sorts of awful governments out there that cause greater harm than good as an inherent function of what they are*. However, that doesn’t mean that certain types of governments can’t be inherently good. Perhaps Reid went on to be specific about what he meant (I only heard the clip on conservative talk shows, so it’s best to assume it was rid of any context), because if he did, there is at least one obvious form of government that, yes, is inherently good: Democracy.

*Incidentally, the causing of more harm than good is why some governments are bad. It has nothing to do with the liberty which they may or may not provide; liberty is morally secondary.

Cons vs Liberals

Conservative: I hate welfare moochers!

Liberal: Do you know corporations are making record profits?

Con: Good! Nothing wrong with money!

Liberal: And despite these profits, workers aren’t seeing shit. In turn, the taxpayer subsidizes the worker. Otherwise people will starve and die.

Con: Lazy workers!

Liberal: No, you fucking myopic idiot. You’re paying more in taxes because places like Wal-Mart refuse to paying a living wage, even though they very well could. The taxpayer is the moral agent here; the corporation is the moocher that is taking advantage of our desire to not see people suffer and die. That is, they know we’ll prevent suffering, so they line the pockets of a few at the expense of many without fear that this system will ever change.

A failing of the free market

The death toll from a factory collapse in Bangladesh has reach 1,127. This is a direct result of workers having little to no power – which is largely the way it has always been when business has been allowed to run amok. Fortunately, the proper combination of the corporate powers that be and government action is forcing needed changes:

everal major Western brands embraced a safety plan that requires retailers to help pay for factory improvements in Bangladesh, where the three-week search for bodies at the site of the world’s worst garment-industry disaster ended Monday with the death toll at 1,127.

The collapse on April 24 of the Rana Plaza factory building focused worldwide attention on the hazardous conditions in Bangladesh’s low-cost garment industry and strengthened pressure for reforms.

Bangladesh’s government also agreed Monday to allow garment workers to form trade unions without permission from factory owners. That decision came a day after it announced a plan to raise the minimum wage for garment workers. Both moves are seen as a direct response to the collapse of the eight-story building, which housed five clothing factories.

Of course, the change from businesses themselves is primarily due to two factors: 1) There is government pressure to do something, so the companies involved want to be active so as to avoid any forced regulations and 2) There is money to be made by quashing negative publicity with the veneer of positive action. Notably, ‘the goodness of their hearts’ and ‘basic ethical considerations’ aren’t really two things that need to be considered here. That’s where government action as supported by a citizenry comes in. Business is rarely interested in it.