Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

How Not to be a Moderate Liberal

Now here is an example of how not to be a moderate liberal:
It's quite liberating being completely out of power after hearing the right insult, browbeat and demonize us for more than 15 years. After this over the top post election end zone dance in particular, we no longer have anything to lose by making it our business to simply fuck with Republicans for the pure entertainment value. In some ways it's a kind of political insurgency. They refuse to compromise, they insist on being demeaning and crude, so all that's left is to make their lives unpleasant is a thousand little ways every single day.
Now I love Digby and I am completely, totally sympathetic to this line of thought. Truth be known, I'm a natural button pusher who, for example, always chuckles whenever some artist gets a rise out of the religious right. Heck, it's fun to see them all squirm or holler in outrage! But it doesn't make it right.

This doesn't mean Democrats should just cave in a compromise, either. We don't have the government I want where liberals toss out all these wonderful, crazy ideas while the conservatives have enough power to stop all the bad ones and make sure the good ideas are implemented in a practical way. The reality is we need to realize we are now the opposition party and act accordingly. We need to make a stink about Gonzales and make sure the electorate realizes we don't approve -- but we can't stop the nomination. We need to draw a line in the sand on social security and uniformly reject all attempts to privatize it, even if this means a worse law passes as a result. The electorate must know Democrats see a better, more efficient and safer way. If we do this right Democrats will have a 2006 much like the year Republicans enjoyed in 1994.

Trust Democracy

For all the talk of freedom and democracy we hear from Bush, he doesn't seem to really trust democracy. We see it at home where runs the most closed government we've seen since Nixon and we see it abroad where tries to insure the people of Iraq and Palestine 'freely' elect Bush's chosen one. He's given up on Chalabi in Iraq, of course, but he now he has Abu Mazen in Palestine. Matthew Yglesias says this in his excellent post:
The tragedy of it all is that the underlying theory behind democracy promotion isn't wrong. If peace ever does come to Israel and Palestine, the fact that Israel is a democracy will be an important reason why. Much as Palestinians would rather deal with a Labor leadership than with Sharon, and would even prefer to deal with a Meretz leadership, forming a real deal requires Sharon. Not Sharon per se but the endorsement of the political forces he represents. A deal with the Likud will be hard to find, but if you find it it's a real deal. One of the things we saw over Oslo is that a peace made exclusively with the Israeli left has little value, because the forces that emerged to put Netanyahu in power still existed, and eventually backed out of the deal. A deal with Abu Mazen will be like a deal with Yitzhak Rabin or the deal with the Egyptian dictatorship -- a useful temporary expedient, but ultimate of little value because it doesn't represent a true popular consensus. At the same time, democratic leadership as such exercizes a moderating influence on regime leaders, because they're accountable to their people for actual results.

Update: See this post for all Israel is doing to make sure their candidate wins. Personally, I want the moderate to win, and I want him to win in a free election. But if I have to choose, I choose the free election.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Liberals are Outside of the Mainstream

Conservatives often claim liberals are out-of-touch with mainstream American values. Nonsense, right? Well, this may seem strange coming from a liberal, but I think this assessment is at least partially correct; Liberals are outside of the mainstream, pretty much by definition. Liberalism is all about expanding who belongs in the mainstream and listening to new ideas outside of the mainstream. But here's the irony, once liberals win on any given front, it's no longer liberal. Consider:
  • Over two hundred years ago liberals thought the common man could rule himself, that we don't need kings or an aristocratic class. Today conservatives celebrate the 4th of July with the rest of us, usually waving the flag with a bit more ferocity.

  • Liberals once thought that no man should own another while conservatives fought hard to preserve slavery, claiming their belief was based in scripture. The resultant war a hundred and fifty years ago is still the bloodiest event in U.S. history. Today, freedom for all is a conservative value in which no one disagrees.

  • One hundred years ago liberals thought women should have the right to vote; conservatives angrily waved their Bibles and condemned such notions. Today we have conservative women in congress, running states and serving on the Supreme Court.

  • Fifty years ago liberals thought one could not be equal and separate at the same time and fought for the civil rights of blacks in this country. Today, conservative blacks lead our State Department and are in the Supreme Court. No conservative admits to being a racist any more and most, quite honestly, no longer are.

  • Twenty-five years ago liberals thought our school girls deserved just as much opportunity to participate in sports as boys did, to great protest by conservatives. Today conservatives cheer on the women's soccer team without a second thought.

  • Today liberals believe all couples living in a loving, commit relationship deserve the same respect and rights as every other couple. Conservatives disagree, claiming their belief is based in scripture.

In every example above liberals were outside of the mainstream and had to fight very hard, often in bloody confrontation, to win over those less willing to open their minds to welcome someone new into the mainstream. But every time liberals were right and today even the most conservative will admit it. Today, in each case (other than the last) the idea is no longer liberal.

I've learned over the years that a true liberal who will fight for the liberty of someone they don't know, like or understand is very rare, almost as rare as a true fiscal conservative unwilling to spend someone else's money in his own district. Usually liberals win by allying themselves with the group (or groups) they are trying to help. But as Republicans are beginning to realize, like most whites, most blacks aren't actually liberal. Nor are most women.

So we liberals need to be careful. It is easy to read the blogs, talk to friends, listen to Air America and walk away thinking we are in the mainstream, but we aren't. However, this doesn't mean we need to be out-of-touch with the mainstream, nor can we afford to be. The time for bloody confrontations have long past, what is needed today is patience, understanding and a whole lot of persuasion.

Ethical Majority

There's an interesting new blog called Ethical Majority formed by two moderate friends, liberal Jim and conservative Mike. Here is how they describe their blog in it's introductory entry:
There is clearly a growing cultural divide within this country. Some on the poltical right are claiming that their recent political victory is a mandate for their moral values. However, it is clear that there is a strong debate as to what constitutes moral values. We have noticed that when writers attempt to contribute to the discourse on morals, they frequently invoke ethics as well as morals. Often it is not clear whether the writer is trying to imply that the two terms are synonymous, or whether they are trying to cover a broader territory by including both morals and ethics, as two separate categories....

In the meantime, we would like to finish this first post by highlighting one sentence [from S.I. Hayakawa's Choose The Right Word]:

"agreeing, despite differing moral values, on ethical ways to work together."

That sentence almost perfectly captures our intent in creating this blog. We hope you will join us in our efforts.
Well, count me in. This also explains what I'm trying to do at The Moderate Liberal, though obviously from just a liberal perspective.

It isn't just ethics, though, I think if you dig deep enough you'll discover we all share mostly the same morals as well. We get so caught up with the hot-button issue of the day we forget we all agree on the basic, fundamental values: honesty, integrity, justice and the Golden Rule. You'll find these values promoted by every wise person in every culture on Earth. These are human values.

Unfortunately, it is also human to sometimes forget. Or sometimes we only apply these values to "us" and not towards "them". To me the very foundation of liberalism is to make the group we call "us" a bit bigger and make "them" as small a group as possible.

Before & After Tsunami Satellite Photos

Wow, this really brings it home. Here is a site showing before and after satellite photos of areas hit hard by the tsunami. I've seen some of these satellite photos before, but not put together this way. Devastating.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Comic Book Politics

Ok, this is just fun. Apparently, someone somewhere is teaching a college course on Comic Book Politics complete with a class blog. Back in high school I read collected some of Marvel's mutant titles like X-Men, New Mutants and the first year of Alpha Flight, but I really haven't kept up. Today my daughter is very into Japanese manga which makes the good ol' American superhero comic seem so passé. Anyway, here's the idea:
But if it were possible to strip away all this useless baggage, and examine the superheroes from the viewpoint of normal, rational human existence, you'd probably come very close to achieving the "literature of ethics" model that Henley propounds. It’s a good idea, and I think that some of the very best superhero books have approached this question in some way or another. Henley himself mentions the usual suspects - "Watchmen," "Dark Knight Returns," "Born Again," "Animal Man" - all works that I think do succeed in exploring these thorny ethical issues in some degree.

From Why do firemen do what they do? to Why don't the rest of us do what they do? to Why shouldn't the rest of us do what they do? and even How dare we not do what they do? Superheroes become a way of addressing these questions. If science fiction is the literature of ideas, the superhero story is the literature of ethics. Or say, rather, it should be. As "literature" need not mean "sober-sided drudgery," I would even say the formulation holds for kids' superhero tales.

Fantasy provides external analogs of internal conflicts, and the subtype of fantasy about superheroes is a way of externalizing questions of duty, community, and self. How should the powerful behave? (Most Americans are, in global-historical terms, "the powerful" in one aspect or another.) These questions are salient whether you wear tights or not. They apply to you. Because most of us, certainly most of us in the developed world, have more power, wealth, or wherewithal than somebody. Certainly almost everybody reading this essay could, in principle, quit his or her present job and work pro bono for an African AIDS clinic while subsisting on donated food, or maintain a couple of homeless people instead of taking vacation, or -- join the volunteer fire department.
When discussing politics, ethics or anything of contemporary importance we easily fall into the trap of partisan bickering or steer the discussion in a way that supports our side. Fantasy has always been a useful device to avoid our real-world prejudices and hang-ups. We can't discuss our king or his court objectively, but the king of the Lilliputians is fair game. Our prejudices emerge when discussing the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but what about the Klingons and the Federation, will they ever learn to get along? In the year 2004 the United States is a military superpower very much like a superhero (villain?) running around Gotham City. There isn't a country in the world we couldn't destroy if we wanted to, but there are serious limits to that power as well. We can't be everywhere at once. And air power only helps so much in nation building or against insurgents. Nor can Batman stop every crime.

With the blog and the power of the internet we can all audit this fun class. I just ordered Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns from Amazon, myself. Here's the complete syllabus to this month long class:
Jan 3    Introduction: The Authority, from Warren Ellis to Mark Millar
Jan 4-5 Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller
Jan 7  Kingdom Come,  Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Jan 10-11  Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Jan 13-14  V for Vendetta, Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Jan 17 Transmetropolitan:  Back on the Street, Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson
Jan 18 Transmetropolitan:  Year of the Bastard
Jan 19  Uncle Sam, Steve Darnall and Alex Ross
Jan 24-25 Cerebus: High Society, Dave Sim
Jan 26  Cerebus:  supplemental reader - selections from the later story
Jan 27  Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
See ya there!

RNC Chairman Hates Christmas

Mr. Bill got it all wrong, it isn't the Liberal Elite that hate Christmas, it's the Conservative Elite. Or maybe they are all correct and it's actually elites of all stripes that hate Christmas! One of my favorite bloggers, Amy Sullivan1, apparently subjects herself to RNC memos. Look at what she received today:
"Dear Amy," it began, "I hope you and your family had happy holidays." Oh my gosh! There is is--that evil phrase, the mere utterance of which has the power to obliterate Christmas from all hearts and minds. Bill O'Reilly, Bill Donohue, and the other wingnuts have just been blaming the wrong people for the attack on Christmas. It's not the liberal elites. It's the conservative elites, the head of the Republican National Committee, no less. What does Ken Mehlman have against Christmas, anyway? (Okay, so he's Jewish, but still...) Next thing you know, I bet he'll want to ban religious music from national party conventions. He must be stopped.

Boy, oh boy, I can't wait to tune into the "O'Reilly Factor" tonight to hear Bill denounce Mehlman's support of the "anti-Christmas forces.
You know, I often say whenever someone shouts "hypocrisy!" nine times out of ten the shouter is a hypocrite of equal proportions, just 180º off. Not this time.

1I like her because she actually brings new ideas and arguments to the table as a true voice for the religious left. But she doesn't post often enough. Hey Amy! Once a day! That's all we ask, once a day.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Jon Stewart Wins

Wow, good news from the "there really must be a God" department (via The Moderate Voice); CNN fired Tucker Carlson1 and in all likelihood will cancel Crossfire as well. Check out the juicy quote from Jonathan Klein, the new chief executive of CNN's U.S. network:
The bow-tied wearing conservative pundit got into a public tussle last fall with comic Jon Stewart, who has been critical of cable political programs that devolve into shoutfests.

"I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp," Klein told The Associated Press.

He said all of the cable networks, including CNN, have overdosed on programming devoted to arguing over issues. Klein said he wants more substantive programming that is still compelling.

"I doubt that when the president sits down with his advisers they scream at him to bring him up to date on all of the issues," he said. "I don't know why we don't treat the audience with the same respect."
If you've never seen the famous Jon Stewart appearance check out one or more of the following (from ImJohnGalt's Daily Kos diary):
The Crossfire Chronicles
BitTorrent CrossFire Link (thanks to ptibiger) - Use this first if at all possible
BFA hosts the video (thanks to genf)
Contemporary Insanity has WMV (35MB), MPEG (19MB), and MOV (35MB).
Crossfire smackdown video in three parts (thanks to Free Speech Zone)
Crossfire cleaned-up and smallified in Quicktime (thanks to Hyperbolic Pants Explosion - Great Handle!)
Yet another source (thanks to eyeswideopen)
Quicktime version (thanks onegoodmove and RNinNC) - ~15 MB
Crossfire clip on iFilm (thanks to Cinematt)
MediaMatters Crossfire video(thanks to drdave91)
Crossfire smackdown transcript
WaPo Reports on the smackdown
Salon on Stewart's Crossfire Appearance (thanks to Minnesotan)

The Extras
The Daily Show Videos Page at Comedy Central
Charlie Rose Streaming Audio
Larry King Interview Transcript - Aug 2004 (Thanks bgod)
William & Mary Commencement Address Transcript
Bill Moyers Interview Transcript
Stewart at the 2000 Republican Convention - Transcript
RealAudio of Stewart on Fresh Air - Sep 30, 2004
Jon Stewart Rolling Stone Excerpt
O'Reilly Factor Interview Transcript
Amazon.com's tiny Stewart Interview Transcript
AP Article from March 2004
New York Time Book Review of America: The Book
Jon Stewart on Al Franken - Audio - link from here to BitTorrent feed
Jon Stewart w/Howard Kurtz on Reliable Sources, 2004 - Transcript
Salon Article - Subscription Required (or watch an ad for a free day pass)
I love Jon Stewart and greatly appreciated his Crossfire smackdown in all its honest awkwardness, but I never thought in a million years Jon would actually win that fight. Amazing.

1Ok, "CNN would not be offering him a new contract." Whatever.

Anguishing Over Andrew

There has been much talk over the last few days on the reasonableness of Andrew Sullivan. A couple of days ago Andrew reacted to a U.S. military man helping tsunami vitims. The soldier said he much rather help these people than killing someone in a war, to which Andrew gave the response "Earth to Whitsett: You're A Soldier." Nice. Clearly he crossed a line, but some at Atrios' site tried to stick up for him as reasonable, to which Atrios reminds us to never forget that Andrew was "one of the earliest adopters of the idea that the most appropriate response to September 11 was to figure how to to use it to pit American against American" when Andrew said:
The terrorists have done the rest. The middle part of the country - the great red zone that voted for Bush - is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column....

But we might as well be aware of the enemy within the West itself - a paralyzing, pseudo-clever, morally nihilist fifth column that will surely ramp up its hatred in the days and months ahead.
Digby then echoes the outrage by reminding Andrew of a fairly famous quote:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron." --Dwight Eisenhower 1953 speech
But James Wolcott provides some enlightening insight to that "cwazy mixed-up kid":
He's a gay British Catholic Tory conservative "eagle" who deplores the etiolated patriotism and willpower of the coastal elites but resides in the blue lagoons of Washington, DC and Provincetown. His sympathies keeps tugging him in so many different directions that he intellectually resembles Steve Martin in All of Me, herkily-jerkily battling with himself as if being yanked by an invisible leash. (Read his graf today about the nomination of Albert Gonzalez for A.G. and watch him tug himself back and forth.) Sullivan seemed to take forever to recognize what was apparent to the statues on Easter Island statues, that the Republican Party is hostile to gay marriage and gay identity, eager to support homophobia for political gain, and that the only gays it's comfortable with are white men and women who look like wedding-cake couples and stay discreetly in the closet. He kept holding out hope that because Bush, based on anecdotal evidence, was personally comfortable with gay people, he wouldn't push for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Then came the inevitable disappointment. One by one the inevitable disappointments succeed one another, like a line of tumbling dominos, and each day Sullivan returns to his little fort, ready to give the Bushies the benefit of the doubt yet again.
Of those I typically disagree with, Andrew Sullivan is by far my favorite blogger. Sure, part of the reason is we do agree on so much; I certainly support him on gay rights where he is actually more aggressive than I. (I find the word "marriage" completely negotiable as long as actual legal rights are granted to gay couples.) Actually, he is more aggressive than me on everything, which is both part of the charm and the outrage.

But the main reason I read his blog isn't that Andrew is reasonable per-se, but he is non-partisan. Despite his cheerleading for war, despite the benefit of the doubt he constantly gives Bush, despite his attacks on liberals and praise for red states, this is a guy who eventually endorsed Kerry. The eyes through which he sees the world are not my eyes so every time I read him I gain some insight, some point of view that I know he actually holds, not just some Republican talking point.

They say that a cynic is just an idealist a few years later. Andrew is still an idealist, despite everything. Gotta love him for that. And sometimes he comes through with posts like today's:
I hope you remember Irshad Manji's wonderful little book, "The Trouble With Islam." At great personal risk, this Canadian woman has taken on Islamist intolerance. And when she reports progress and hope, it gladdens the heart. Here's an email I received from her today:
Some of you haven't heard from me in a while. Please forgive the silence. I'm barely keeping up now that I don't have an assistant. But this isn't a personal update -- not exactly. It's a note of hope. At a time when disasters from the natural to the man-made are on our minds, good news seems sparse. Key word: "seems".

In the last couple of weeks, I've tried to catch up on emails received through my site (www.muslim-refusenik.com). I'm happy to report that I'm hearing far more support than hostility from Muslims around the world. Even disagreement -- of which there is plenty -- tends to be more introspective than it was a year ago...
There's hope. Thanks to heroes like Irshad. Her website is here.
Go read the letters to Irshad at Andrew's site and checkout Irshad's website as well. Ironically, it is Andrew Sullivan, more than anyone, that reminds me that fighting radical Islamic Fundamentalists is a liberal cause. But fighting need not mean war. It is only in this topsy-turvy world Bush built with his foolish war in Iraq that liberals somehow seem (to the right, at least) as on the same side the Islamic Fundamentalist that, among other things, execute women for having sex. What a topsy-turvy world it is.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

American Meritocracy

Check out the sobering article at the Economist, Meritocracy in America. The point of the story is America no longer looks much like a classless society, where one is rewarded for one's merits, not parental income. Here are a couple of grafs related to my previous posts on Inheritance Tax and Aristocracy:
This is not the first time that America has looked as if it was about to succumb to what might be termed the British temptation. America witnessed a similar widening of the income gap in the Gilded Age. It also witnessed the formation of a British-style ruling class. The robber barons of the late 19th century sent their children to private boarding schools and made sure that they married the daughters of the old elite, preferably from across the Atlantic. Politics fell into the hands of the members of a limited circle—so much so that the Senate was known as the millionaires' club.

Yet the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a concerted attempt to prevent America from degenerating into a class-based society. Progressive politicians improved state education. Philanthropists—many of them the robber barons reborn in new guise—tried to provide ladders to help the lads-o'-parts (Andrew Carnegie poured millions into free libraries). Such reforms were motivated partly out of a desire to do good works and partly out of a real fear of the implications of class-based society. Teddy Roosevelt advocated an inheritance tax because he thought that huge inherited fortunes would ruin the character of the republic. James Conant, the president of Harvard in 1933-53, advocated radical educational reform—particularly the transformation of his own university into a meritocracy—in order to prevent America from producing an aristocracy....

The Republicans, by getting rid of inheritance tax, seem hell-bent on ignoring Teddy Roosevelt's warnings about the dangers of a hereditary aristocracy...
"Meritocracy" isn't a word I've used much, but I think I'll begin to use it more often; it sums up what I believe America should be better than most any other single word. The article also has some interesting observations on the Democratic party that deserve some thought. Definitely a must read article.

Back To Work

Well, after almost two weeks of vacation today is my first day back to work since I started this blog. Sigh....

I guess blogging will be limited to evenings and lunchtime quickies....

Monday, January 03, 2005

More Partisan Tsunami Talk

Last week Paul at Wizbang noticed a partisan response to the tsunami tragedy, with bloggers on the right posting far more than bloggers on the left. I mused over a few reasons this might be true here which lead to a series of comments and posts here, here and here, a conversation that strayed quite a ways away from the original tsunami post.

Well today we hear a similar story coming from the left. Digby notes from this article that religious right doesn't seem to care about these disasters.
This is very telling. Throughout the last week, everybody from schoolkids to major newspapers have been collecting money for the victims of the tsunami or at least publicizing where people should send it.

Except for one group. The Christian Right. This article by Bill Berkowitz from December 30th showed that none of the major Christian Right groups such as Focus on the Family or the Christian Coalition had mentioned anything on their web sites. I just checked all the links and as of January 3rd, 8:25 PST there is still nothing.
Ameriblog dives into more details and compares web sites of religious right versus religious left groups and finds the right lacking. They also point out the RNC and DNC websites differ on the matter (via Atrios):
Ah yes, the GOP family values parade (charade) continues. The Democratic National Committee Web site has an appeal for donations to tsunami victims right up at the top of the DNC home page. The Republican National Committee Web site doesn't even mention the disaster, though it does have a lovely story about President Bush, inappropriately titled "Rising Tide."
While all of this is somewhat interesting, does it really matter? Probably not. Last week Ezra at Pandablog called Paul's Wizbang post the The Worst of the Worst
Wizbang, however, took it as an opportunity to write the most vicious, disgusting post I've seen in my entire time online. They should be absolutely ashamed of themselves, and marginalized by all who desire the barest modicum of decency in political discourse.
Any time now the righties will blog up a storm denouncing the lefties as hypocrites for writing their own "vicious, disgusting" posts, I'm sure. Gotta love that partisan bickering. For what it's worth, I doubt any of this really means anything.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Election Strategy

Matthew Yglesias warns against overdetermination when discussing future election strategies as he sees suggested in NY Times article, which worries "as the new year begins, no such consensus exists among Democrats about why Mr. Kerry was defeated, and the party is locked in a battle of interpretation over just what went wrong." Matthew writes:
Look, the election was close. There are any number of somewhat different approaches that might have worked. The issue here isn't that liberals need to discern the One True Path to electoral victory. Instead, we need to look at the set of feasible paths to victory and decide which one is better. Moving right on cultural issues would probably work. Rethinking the whole approach to both forming substantive national security policy and selling it to the public would also work. But it would be harder. On the plus side, I think the party really could use substantively better national security policies, while its substantive views on the cultural issues are basically okay, except on guns. But either way, the Democrats face choices, not a forced move.
I think Matthew mostly gets it correct here. I'm constantly amazed how discussion and debate are often described as bad things. They are not bad, they are vital. I believe this soul searching going on in the blogs and within the Democratic party are very constructive; if fact, this is one of the best uses of blogging I've seen. The principles of The Enlightenment in action.

Here is the lesson I learned in the elections of 2004. It isn't what the candidate says about the issues, it's what the issues say about the candidate. Democrats tend to think we vote for position papers; we don't, we vote for people. The question is, which man (or woman) is best for the job. The positions are important, of course, but no one really believe the candidates can get all their programs through anyway. Chose two or three key issues that represent who you are and what you will fight for. While it is a good idea to go with popular positions, it isn't nearly as important as showing you will stand up for something.

The best issue Kerry had going for him was stem cell research and he should have hit the issue harder than he did. Truth be told the issue wasn't that important, research is going on already both in the private sector and in other countries; we no longer are the only country in the world that matters when it comes to major scientific research. But the issues says a great deal about the candidate: science that helps everyone over radical religious beliefs, wise government spending as an investment for the future, not letting the U.S. fall behind other countries in vital research and so on.

This is why the social security debate going on right now is so important. Democrats must fight the Republican's attempt to phase out social security through privatization. Josh Marshall has a great series of posts on this issue.

Faith Versus Reason, Part II

I've been meaning to write a follow-up to the Faith Versus Reason entry I wrote last week. When we last left our intrepid hero (that would be me) he had determined that reason clearly supported the power of faith (think placebo), but one did did not need faith in reason to believe in reason. Reason stands on its own because we see the results of reason, we know the scientific method works, we have evidence.

While this is true, it also feels incomplete. Just because we don't need faith in reason doesn't mean we don't have faith in reason. Partially, we can choose to have this faith; but to some degree we get it whether we want it or not. We humans are faithful creatures, it is hardwired into our brains.

This psycho-babble by your resident arm-chair philosopher is partially motivated my an interesting discussion of Robert Trivers over at The Edge, which may sound strange given the fact that the word "faith" never appears in the article, nor does the word "reason" in the context I'm using it. However, there is much talk about the power and usefulness of self-deception:
The particular sub-area that I'm interested in developing myself has to do with the structure of the mind in terms of biased information flow between the conscious and the unconscious, and the very peculiar and counter-intuitive fact that humans in a variety of situations misrepresent reality to the conscious mind while keeping in the unconscious either a fully accurate, or in any case more accurate, view of that which they misrepresent to the conscious mind. That seems so counter-intuitive that it begs explanation. You would have thought that after natural selection ground away for four billion years and produced these eyeballs capable of such subtlety—color, motion-detection, the details of granularity that we see—you would have perfected the organs for interpretation of reality such that they wouldn't systematically distort the information once it reaches you. That seems like a strange way to design a railroad.

The function of this area of self-deception is intimately connected to deception of others. If you are trying to see through me right now, and if I'm lying about something you actually care about, what you see first, to speak loosely, is my conscious mind and its behavioral effects. You can get some sense of my mood or my affect. The quality of voice might give you stress while trying to deceive you. It is much harder for you to figure out what my unconscious is up to. You have to make a study of my behavior, such as a spouse will do, much to your dismay at times.
Is faith a useful form of self-deception? If I'm right that humans are innately faithful creatures, why did faith evolve? Does this prove there is a God in a purely theistic sense or explain away (yet again) the need for a theistic God?

Any real philosophers and/or evolutionary psychologists out there with any insight?

Choose the Blue?

Atrios links to ChooseTheBlue.com, a site encouraging Democrats to buy and invest in "blue" corporations. Sounds like a good idea, but I'm not so sure their method of determining which companies are blue works very well. They describe their method thus:
ChooseTheBlue.com compiles information from third party sources primarily to show certain reported spending by political action committees connected with a corporation* and by that corporation's employees as political contributions, in each case related to recent federal elections.
While most companies are marked red I couldn't help but notice Fox News came out blue. In fact, all of Murdoch's News Corp companies are marked blue. Apparently News Corp employees paid $689,549 to Democratic but only $434,224 to Republicans. So, should good Democrats support Fox News, Reagan Books and the NY Post? I'm thinking maybe not. Disney turned out blue as well, but Univision is red with all $28,000 contributed going to Republicans. I like the idea of ChooseTheBlue.com, but I'm not convinced simply looking at employee contributions actually gives us the correct picture.