Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Witch Hunts

Newspaper columnists have a hard life. They have to find something to write about every day (or week, or whatever). If there is nothing cooking at the moment, they have to actually think of something to say (What Aristotle called "invention"). So, this morning I'm reading the Trib (Salt Lake Tribune) and see where one of my favorite apoplectics is saying that the Republicans (translation: evil people) are on a witch hunt.
Seems they are after President Obama. The writer mentions that this happened before, with President Clinton (who never, never, never did anything wrong, with or without a cigar). The Republicans (translation: evil people) hounded him, harassed him, gave him no rest.
And in between Clinton and Obama was Bush. Bush, on the other hand, was treated with deference and understanding by the media wasn't he. He wasn't hounded -- oh, no -- but given every consideration.
C'mon Krugman. Even you cannot be so blindered you don't realize that the outs always attack the ins with everything they've got. Clinton made it easy, and Obama (to my way of thinking) is making it hard, but hey, what's imagination for, if not to dream up things like faked birth certificates or hysterical newspaper columns.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Defending Dr. Laura

I never thought I'd be defending Dr. Laura. I don't like her. Her program has the same effect on me as fingernails on a blackboard (for you younger people, a blackboard is a primitive communication instrument).
She's under fire for using the "N word" on a program. Seems that a woman called in who was having trouble with people using the word around her (she's African American). Dr. Laura used the horrible word 11 times (count 'em) in her discussion.
So, what is Dr. Laura's crime? Did she refer to the caller as a (insert horrible word here)? No, not really. She may have done so indirectly, as "Why are you unhappy to be called a (insert horrible word here)?" She certainly used the word to refer to itself. That is, she voiced the word as an object of discussion.
Is Dr. Laura's crime that she is abrasive and insensitive? Holy Cow, Batman, who doesn't know that? I've always wondered why people call in to her when they know they're going to be abused and ridiculed. Did the caller who was worried about being called a (insert horrible word here) think that Dr. Laura was going to be all "There, there" and sympathy?
And yet people are falling all over themselves to abuse Dr. Laura. Rather than using some small portion of the 10% of their brains that actually work, people react as if the Devil him (or her, don't want to be sexist) self is amongst us. Remember, this is a society that 1) got a man fired using the word "niggardly," even though it has no connection with (insert horrible word here); 2) jumped all over a college professor who, in a historical context mentioned that illegal aliens used to be called "wetbacks"; and 3) fired a government official for a whiff of a hint of a misrepresentation of reverse racism 20 years ago.
Is it any wonder that Dr. Laura, who advises people to stop whining and get on with their lives, should be the object of a witch hunt (with apologies to all the wiccans out there)?


I've had two good friends in my life who were gay. Both came out of the closet when they were adults, married, and with children. Both formed stable relationships, in one case, a life-long one. In neither case did I suspect that they were gay until they came out.
I mention this because of one of the arguments I hear against homosexuality: It isn't natural.
I accepted this argument, more or less, for a lotta years, until I asked myself, "Who defines what's natural or not?"
Turns out it's not Mother Nature, because there are numerous examples of homosexuality throughout the animal kingdom (Heck, for all I know, there are gay plants).
It's the keepers of the moral flame who have decided it's not natural. The argument is an old one, and is found in various religious texts all over the world. It's also set down in musty law books as "The dreadful crime against nature." Reminds me of the saying (I wish I know who said it): "There are two kinds of people: The righteous and the unrighteous. The classifying is done by the righteous."
However, since nature herself doesn't seem to have any objections, I don't see why I should. In fact, I think I may even be able to see it as a good thing. For one thing, it cuts down on the competition for the girls.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The superiority of emotion

It's 4 a.m., but this hit me so hard it woke me up. I've been running the words of a song through my head. It's "Deportee," by Woody Guthrie, and if you get on youtube and choose the version from the album "Highwayman, (Willie, Waylon, Johnny, and Chris) you'll get the best of the lot, IMHO.
See, Woody read an account in a newspaper in 1947 about a planeload of illegal aliens that crashed and killed 'em all. The account said they were deportees, but didn't name any of them. Guthrie got all indignant and wrote what is one of my favorite songs. One of the lines is "You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane. All they will call you will be deportee." Another line is, "Who are these friends who are scattered like dry leaves? The radio said they were just deportees."
But wait a minute. Think about it. Why did the paper say they were "deportees"? Because the reporters were callous brutes who didn't think the people were worth being named -- as is implied in Guthrie's song? Or perhaps -- and much more likely -- because the newsfolk didn't have any names and were under a deadline?
An emotional response is immediate, strong, and hot. A rational response takes longer, requires more data, and is cooler. It's also not nearly as much fun to stop and think about it. If Woody had considered things, we probably woudn't have such a great song.
What interests me, though, and prompted this piece, is an underlying assumption that emotion is somehow superior to logic and reason. The heart, we believe, is superior to the head. But it isn't. Ration and logic are the only real bases for decision making. Because we believe in the heart over the head, we frequently make wacko decisions that come back to haunt us, screwing up our lives and making hash of them.
The vast majority of bad decisions I've made, and that I've seen people around me make, are based on an emotional response.
Makes for good songs, though.