Sunday, February 12, 2017

LGBT rights as "the most conservative of causes"

In discussing Caitlyn Jenner's mission, Jennifer Finney Boylan writes,
As I listened, I wondered whether L.G.B.T. rights really ought not to be the most conservative of causes. Above all else we want to be left alone, without interference, to live our lives with truth and grace. What could be more conservative than that?

And yet the modern Republican Party seems to have no problem interfering with people’s privacy when it comes to sexuality and gender identity. From abortion rights to opposition to marriage equality, the Republicans have advocated more government intrusion into private lives, not less.

Sexuality and gender identity are not the only issues on which the modern Republican Party seems to have no problem with bigger and more intrusive government, as we are seeing now with Donald Trump and as we saw with Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Also, many LGBT activists take stances opposed to the right of others (or even of gay men) to be left alone, without interference, to live their lives with truth and grace (if I understand what she means by that term).

Ironically, both movements have roots in traditions of at least paying lip service to what Bolyan calls "the most conservative of causes." The Stonewall riots, after all, were hardly pro-government. If both sides took that cause more seriously and got over the notion that freedom is a zero-sum game, they would have a much easier time realizing both their own and each other's right to be left alone.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The post-fact society

It's now fashionable to say that we now live in a post-fact society led by Donald Trump. However, the post-fact society has been developing for a long time and is not attributable only to the right.

Right-wingers did not give us political correctness, although they now defer to no one in being PC when being PC suits them, nor did they give us the new age or postmodernism. Nor do they have a monopoly on the "This is how it makes me feel as a member of such-and-such identity category" non-argument, which someone actually used on me after I had cited epidemiological data.

See also Intellectual Unilateral Disarmament.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Diversity versus viewpoint diversity

One of the stated purposes of diversity at least used to be to let people of different viewpoints learn from one another. However, the way in which diversity so often works out in practice has led to the use of "diversity of everything but viewpoint" and variations thereon as a punchline.

Now, the right-thinking people have responded by memory-holing that stated reason. Jim Downs writes,

Words have a history. Their meanings develop at a particular time in response to specific questions and debates. “Diversity,” for example, emerged as a term that the left adopted in order to advance the goals of yet another historically laced term, “multiculturalism,” which referred to efforts to value the experiences of marginalized and oppressed peoples. That so-called gay Republicans can co-opt that term for their conflicted plight is an abomination. Gay Republicans, by and large, are not oppressed, nor do they suffer from the lack the financial capital or social status that would qualify them as marginalized. Yet they use the term with zero historical consciousness.
Somebody is showing zero historical consciousness.

Zack Ford puts it more succinctly when he says, "Ideas are not identities." While he applies that statement against some particularly unappetizing ideas, his blanket statement both belies the above-noted stated reason for diversity and places the emphasis squarely on identity politics. It also does not explain why diversity cannot cover both.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Live by the political sword, die by the political sword (3)

The New York Times reports that Obama has left the door open to strong security tactics by Trump:
Over and over, Mr. Obama has imposed limits on his use of such powers but has not closed the door on them — a flexible approach premised on the idea that he and his successors could be trusted to use them prudently. Mr. Trump can now sweep away those limits and open the throttle on policies that Mr. Obama endorsed as lawful and legitimate for sparing use, like targeted killings in drone strikes and the use of indefinite detention and military tribunals for terrorism suspects. [emphasis added]
Whether you think that Obama or Trump can be trusted to use such powers more prudently, the emphasized part shows a problem that I have noted before here and here. Namely, just because those who are in political power now agree with you, you should not assume that those who agree with you will always hold political power. If you want to trust government with power that you do not want your worst political enemies to exercise, remember that it's a safe bet that your worst political enemies will eventually get to exercise that power. I have heard the response that we should just keep those enemies from ever gaining power, but life does not work that way.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Someone actually said this: Republicans, cities, and small government

In today's New York Times, we read why Republicans no longer compete in America's big cities and how they could do so:
“If you compete in cities, you don’t have to win in them,” said Thomas Ogorzalek, a political scientist at Northwestern. “If you go 70-30 in Chicago, instead of 90-10 like Trump is going to do, you can win Illinois. That’s not a bad strategy.”

Mr. Goldsmith, the former Republican mayor of Indianapolis, says the idea isn’t far-fetched. Picture a Republican who runs on effective government instead of against government: a Michael Bloomberg type minus the nanny-state laws. Or a school-choice advocate, but not a culture warrior. Or someone who talks about crime without caricaturing the communities that confront the worst of it.

Which Republicans are running against government? When last I checked, Donald Trump was not doing so.

Also, how would the hypothetical Republicans be running "on effective government instead of against government"? A Republican who did not follow Bloomberg on nanny-state laws, the socially conservative take on the culture wars, or law-and-order conservatism would be running against government on those issues, or at least against increased government. It seems that those hypothetical Republicans would run "on effective government instead of against government" by jettisoning some of the GOP's big-government excesses.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Peter Thiel is no true gay Scotsman.

A while back, I wrote about the no-true-Scotsman fallacy and its use to argue away dissent in the LGBT community:
Orthodox queer people also use [the fallacy] to dismiss any viewpoint diversity within the LGBT ranks. People have answered my disagreement with the party line by saying, "Yeah, but you're not really gay."
Now, in The Advocate, Jim Downs writes,
Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire who made news this summer for endorsing Donald Trump at the Republican convention, is a man who has sex with other men. But is he gay?

* * *

By the logic of gay liberation, Thiel is an example of a man who has sex with other men, but not a gay man. Because he does not embrace the struggle of people to embrace their distinctive identity.

* * *

The gay liberation movement has left us a powerful legacy, and protecting that legacy requires understanding the meaning of the term "gay" and not using it simply as a synonym for same-sex desire and intimacy.

Regardless of one's views on Thiel's politics, it remains that case that last paragraph, Downs effectively admits to pulling a no-true-Scotsman on Thiel. The good news is that even on a site like The Advocate, the commentariat is overwhelmingly calling shenanigans on Downs's reasoning.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The rule of blame

The rule of blame: All of the credit goes to our side; all of the blame goes to someone else.


1. If one politician of the other party has any role in a matter, no matter how minor, everything automatically becomes that other party's fault. Perhaps we should call this one Hogan's law.

2. If a profit-making entity has any role in a matter, no matter how minor or how rent-seeking, everything automatically becomes the fault of free markets.

3. If by following this rule, you contradict yourself, just remember the power of doublethink