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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Schrödinger's Gay Man

Schrödinger's gay man is extremely picky about whom he's attracted to and simultaneously is willing to sleep with whatever moves.

Schrödinger's gay man wouldn't be caught dead in jeans and a T-shirt and simultaneously makes that his uniform.

Schrödinger's gay man disdains physical activity and simultaneously spends all of his free time working out.

Schrödinger's gay man imposes on the rest of us the culture that he has developed (and no, you may not ask how he does so) and simultaneously has developed no culture of his own.

Schrödinger's gay man cannot be monogamous to save his life and simultaneously imposes heteronormative standards of monogamy on the queer community.

Schrödinger's gay man is attracted only to hypermasculine men and simultaneously is attracted only to ephebic, unmasculine twinks.

Schrödinger's gay man uncritically latches onto any big-government leftist idea and simultaneously limits his interest in politics to what will protect his investment portfolio.

Schrödinger's gay man shirks his duty to become involved in the LGBT movement and simultaneously has completely coopted the LGBT movement.

Schrödinger's gay man shirked his duty to push for marriage equality, instead leaving it up to lesbians, and simultaneously pushed marriage equality on lesbians, who were too enlightened to want it.

Schrödinger's gay man lives down to the stereotypes, thus proving how morally deficient he is, and simultaneously doesn't live down to the stereotypes, thus proving how self-loathing he is.

Schrödinger's gay man is part of the economic elite and is simultaneously part of the net-tax-consuming economic underclass.

Schrödinger's gay man wants nothing to do with sports and simultaneously thinks of nothing else.

Whatever position you take on the controversy between radical feminists and the transgender community, Schrödinger's gay man takes the exact opposite position. It therefore makes perfect sense that both sides blame each other on Schrödinger's gay man.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

People actually say this: Larry Hogan and the blame game

Now that Maryland has a Republican governor, it is a truth universally acknowledged that everything bad that happens in Maryland is his fault. No, you may not ask about Maryland's not exactly deep red legislature, its previous governors, local councils and executives, or things beyond politicians' control. Once, when I brought up the composition of the General Assembly with someone espousing that view, that person first appealed to ridicule and then pointedly refused to acknowledge that Maryland even has a legislature. I suppose that Hogan has been the absolute monarch of Maryland since the dawn of time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Faux News op-ed: I Am Down with the Working Class

One might think that as an undergraduate majoring in identity studies at Uxbridge University, I would consider the concerns of working-class people to be beneath me. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I pride myself on being down with the working class.

I make a point of acquainting myself with working-class culture by asking the working-class people I know: at home, the maid and the gardener, and on campus, the cafeteria workers and the maintenance people. They seem less pleased to answer my questions than I assumed they would be and sometimes downright resentful. For this, I blame false consciousness engendered by capitalism.

I believe that this is important because, like all of my friends, I grew up in the banal environment of upper-middle-class suburbia. I can now connect to the more vibrant and authentic cultures of people who are free from this burden.

It also helps me see the solution to their plight. Just as my parents pay my tuition, room, and board and give me a healthy allowance, surely society can afford to do likewise for working-class people.

I have one classmate, however, who inexplicably does not see things my way. Given where he came from, he cannot expected to be so enlightened as the rest of us, but would it kill him to keep his stupid redneck hick opinions to himself?

Friday, July 15, 2016

If we talked about the entire Bill of Rights the same way we talk about the Second Amendment

First Amendment: In 1791, "speech" meant just speech, and "press" meant a single-sheet, manually operated press. The framers couldn't have imagined that today, with the click of a mouse, you could communicate with millions of people worldwide and send them hate propaganda to incite violence and hate. If only one life is saved, it will all have been worth it.

Third Amendment: That was then, but in today's more complex society, we have a standing army to protect us, so get out of the way and let it do so.

Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people" clearly refers to a collective rather than individual right, or the framers wouldn't have used the term "the people." Also, in 1791, "papers" literally meant just papers. The framers couldn't have imagined easily portable devices storing gigabytes or even terabytes of information, which could concern terrorist plots or child sexual exploitation, things that government could stop if given unfettered access to that information. Are you with me, or are you with the terrorists and the kiddy fiddlers?

Fifth Amendment: Never mind what we just got through saying about what words meant in 1791. "Due process of law" means only what Diane Feinstein thinks it should mean today, with no reference to what it meant back then.

Sixth Amendment: This gets in the way of locking up bad guys who could otherwise roam the streets and kill people, so if you oppose reasonable restrictions, you must be some sort of death cultist.

Seventh Amendment: This needs common-sense regulation because the framers couldn't have imagined how much less $20 would be worth today than in 1791.

Eighth Amendment: It's just common sense that government should get to decide what otherwise vague terms like "excessive" and "cruel and unusual" mean.

Ninth Amendment: Don't you think I have a right not to have bad people do bad things to me because they abused their rights under the other provisions of the Bill of Rights? If this right doesn't come under "others retained by the people," I don't know what does.

Tenth Amendment: This is just empty verbiage because government is just giving itself the right to do things that it already had the right to do.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Signs of a possible realignment in LGBT politics

We've heard a lot about realignment in U.S. politics, especially with regard to Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Now, however, we may be seeing the beginning of a realignment in politics in the LGBT community.

The last such realignment came when we made a Faustian bargain with reduced-freedom-as-its-own-reward political correctness. Historically, those wielding government power had not exactly had our best interests at heart, as you know if you have read John Rechy or even talked to a gay man above a certain age.

Consequently, after the Orlando massacre, many people took it for granted that we would fall into line behind gun control. Nonetheless, groups like the LGBT gun-rights group Pink Pistols are seeing dramatic increases in both membership and media coverage.

Also, San Francisco's Pride celebration will see an increased police presence. Not everyone is happy, though:

But for some members of the city’s LGBT community, who have historically faced harassment and disparate treatment from police, increased security does not translate into an increased sense of safety.

* * *

In a statement, BreakOUT! said the increased law enforcement made its members feel unsafe and called for the LGBT community to “chart a course forward that doesn’t rely on state systems, but rather community, to keep us safe”....

Thus, not everyone has the same level of trust in government, of which the police are a part, to protect us that those who decide the LGBT goodthink have.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Live by the political sword, die by the political sword (2)

Whatever you think of Donald Trump, you cannot deny that he has made a splash politically, for better or worse. David Frum expresses concern about the future of the Republican Party after Trump and makes the following instructive observation:
[H]ere’s something that traditional ideological conservatives will want to consider: Trump rose by shoving them aside. Trump’s rise exposed the weakness of social conservatives in particular. For a third of a century, social conservatives imposed a pro-life litmus test on Republican nominees for both presidency and vice presidency. They pulled the party into confrontations over sexuality and religion that many Republican elected leaders would have preferred to avoid. And then, abruptly, poof: The social conservative veto has vanished. New York values have prevailed, with a mighty assist from Jerry Falwell Jr. and other evangelical leaders. It seems unlikely the religious right will return in anything like its awesome previous form. A visibly conscientious objector to the culture wars easily defeated candidates who elevated the defunding of Planned Parenthood to the top of their agenda. That lesson, once demonstrated, won’t soon be forgotten.
In other words, now that the political winds blow in a different direction, they threaten to blow social conservatives out of their position of prominence in a party that they long dominated, at least at the national level. As I have noted before, if you live by the political sword, do not count out dying by the political sword. People in other political movements, including the LGBT movement, should carefully consider the implications of this lesson for them.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The self-loathing card

Many lazy thinkers love thought-terminating clichés, and lazy thinkers who are gay men often play the self-loathing card. When someone departs from the orthodoxy, and you either cannot refute his argument or just don't feel like doing so, simply accuse him of being a self-loathing LCR. Problem solved.

Tellingly, I never hear the people who play the self-loathing card play it against something to which the evidence suggests that it might apply, namely, the incessant gay male self-flagellation in the LGBT media and LGBT organizations. It is de rigueur in those settings to blame everything on gay men, whether or not the problem being discussed is specific to gay men. Thus, the self-loathing card has to do with wrong-thinker-shaming rather than with situations in which actual self-loathing might apply.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Donald Trump: Political correctness for the white working class

People often praise Donald Trump for being politically incorrect. In one sense he is, but in a more fundamental philosophical way, he is politically correct.

As I have noted before, political correctness is at heart the belief that certain persons' emotions are an infallible oracle into Truth with a capital T. The different strains of political correctness differ in identifying the elect. The Trump movement is all emotion, all the time, and relies on the emotions of his base.

Political correctness also emphasizes identity politics. The Trump phenomenon has that base covered, too.

Another aspect of political correctness is its view of government as the cure for whatever ails you, with narrowly defined exceptions. Trump fits that one.

Some have said that Trump holds a mirror to the American people. The view in the mirror includes those who have pushed American thought in the direction of political correctness.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Someone actually wrote this: David Brooks and the "new" shame culture

David Brooks, in today's New York Times, writes of a "new" shame culture that has allegedly taken over college campuses since the eighties:
Many people carefully guard their words, afraid they might transgress one of the norms that have come into existence. Those accused of incorrect thought face ruinous consequences. When a moral crusade spreads across campus, many students feel compelled to post in support of it on Facebook within minutes. If they do not post, they will be noticed and condemned.

* * *

[E]verybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion. There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd. It is a culture of oversensitivity, overreaction and frequent moral panics, during which everybody feels compelled to go along.

Brooks is so close and yet so far. Apart from the references to social media, he accurately describes the culture of political correctness, on campuses and elsewhere, that I experienced in the eighties. So much for the newness of the new, post-eighties shame culture.

Brooks also writes that the "new" shame culture "might reverse, a bit, the individualistic, atomizing thrust of the past 50 years." In a culture in which so many people are obsessed with identity categories, what "individualistic, atomizing thrust" is that?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Someone actually wrote this: Government, Apple, and privacy

In an op-ed in today's New York Times, "In the Government vs. Apple, Who Wears the Black Hat?," Robert Levine asks, "Shouldn’t the government have more legal and moral authority to weigh complicated issues of privacy and national security than a company that makes phones?" He does not make the case that it should.

Levine answers the question thus: "It should. After all, nobody ever elected Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, to public office." So what? History, particularly American history, is full of people of people who successfully stood up for their own and other people's rights without having been elected to public office, often by resisting the dictates of those who had been.

He continues:

The government, not Apple, should guarantee our privacy rights. But this dispute has arisen precisely because the government hasn’t done so. Instead, it squandered much of its legal and moral authority when the National Security Agency engaged in widespread surveillance of American citizens for so long. Some N.S.A. abuses targeted Silicon Valley directly.
In other words, he asserts that government "should guarantee our privacy rights" and immediately shows that trusting it to do so is a fool's errand. The problem with trusting government to guarantee our privacy rights is that we have privacy rights against government for a reason.
Important choices about the future of technology and privacy should be made by the American people and their representatives, not by Silicon Valley, where even the noblest intentions are mixed with huge financial stakes.
So, everything within the state, nothing outside of the state, nothing against the state?
[W]e are left with Silicon Valley executives making engineering decisions that could determine what information the government can and can’t have. That’s both bad policy and fundamentally undemocratic.
Instead of making a valid argument, Levine simply uses "undemocratic" as a snarl word. The outcome that he fears is no more undemocratic than the idea of privacy itself — which is undemocratic in a way, but in a good way.
But the current choice is between a government that doesn’t seem to recognize limits to its own power to access personal information and a technology company that does. It’s a bad choice, but an obvious one. While nobody elected Mr. Cook to protect our privacy, we should be glad someone is.
Except for "It's a bad choice," that is exactly it. The problem with comparing an idealized version of government to technology companies in the real world is government in the real world.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Live by the Political Sword, Die by the Political Sword

In Virginia, Christian social conservatives are calling for a law protecting freedom of association and freedom of religion — or, more accurately, cherry-picked versions thereof:
The bill would ... prohibit state agencies from punishing discrimination against people who are transgender or who are in same-sex marriages. The provision about sex outside of marriage was added minutes before lawmakers voted.
A state legislator justifies the bill thus:
“I think people of faith feel the tide turning so strongly that all they’re looking for is some reasonable accommodation, because they view that there is this secular church, if you will, that’s trying to impose its belief system upon every­body else,” he said. “As in, ‘You agree with all this or else.’ ”
I wonder how many Christian social conservatives see the irony in complaining about any other group that is "trying to impose its belief system upon every­body else." Government action to impose one belief system on everyone is what they demanded for decades. Like so many others who demand coercive government solutions, they apparently did not imagine that they or people like them would ever fall under the juggernaut that they had helped to set into motion.

The right holds no monopoly on that lack of foresight. Radical feminists, such as those at the blog Gender Trender, have experienced cognitive dissonance because anti-discrimination laws, which they otherwise support, are being used to force them to admit transgender people into womyn-born-womyn-only events. Those radical feminists have even uttered the forbidden words “unintended consequences.” Similarly, progressives have long urged greater government control over market forces, only to see socially conservative politicians take them at their word and propose new restrictions on everything from yoga pants to gay bars. Also, the Catholic Church supported Obamacare up to, but not including, requirements that would violate that church’s positions on abortion and contraceptives.

In fiscal matters, politicians in America's major cities have long used their cities' muscle in the state legislatures to shape their states' spending policies to their liking. However, many of the same cities have lost enough population that their state governments can now ignore them at no political cost. What happens next should not surprise you.

I predict that we shall see more calls for government intervention backfire similarly. For example, a recent Supreme Court decision cheered by progressives, Walker v. Texas Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., found (through reasoning that strikes me as intellectually dishonest and in defiance of the way in which appellate courts are supposed to handle questions of fact) that vehicle license plates identifying organizational membership or other interests are government speech rather than individual speech and consequently held that the First Amendment does not protect such license plates. Anyone who does not see the obvious implication for specialty license plates for liberal causes, such as Virginia’s “Trust Women; Respect Choice” plates, must be using some weapons-grade self-delusion.

Thus, people on opposite sides of various issues have switched talking points, as they must to preserve their positions, on whether government should impose the majority’s views on everyone. They both ignore the obvious lesson and refuse to acknowledge that the tide will indeed turn and that the majority to which they appeal will not always take their side. If you live by the political sword, do not count out dying by the political sword.