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The best predictor of future behavior

Yesterday, 7/15/2019, on Old NFO’s blog, I read something that reminded me, oddly enough, of something I read on Vox back in April, 2016. Old NFO’s piece is entitled “Resetting the ‘agenda.'” The one on Vox was entitled “The smug style in American liberalism.” The rather obvious question is “what on earth do those two things have to do with one another?” Allow me to explain, bearing in mind that any misrepresentation of either article is entirely my fault. (I don’t think I’m going to misrepresent either, but one never can be entirely sure).

The point of Old NFO’s posting, if I may paraphrase, seems to be that what some had predicted has come to pass. To wit, that once the American Left (hereinafter simply “the Left”) decided gays and lesbians had fulfilled their purpose, they would be largely dumped by the Left. Segue to the Vox article

The author of the article is Emmett Rensin, a modern American liberal (to be differentiated, at least by me, from classical liberals). During the course of the article, during which he warned other liberals of the dangers of being smug (including the election of Donald Trump) he said something profoundly important.

“In 1948, in the immediate wake of Franklin Roosevelt, 66 percent of manual laborers voted for Democrats, along with 60 percent of farmers. In 1964, it was 55 percent of working-class voters. By 1980, it was 35 percent.

The white working class in particular saw even sharper declines. Despite historic advantages with both poor and middle-class white voters, by 2012 Democrats possessed only a 2-point advantage among poor white voters. Among white voters making between $30,000 and $75,000 per year, the GOP has taken a 17-point lead.”

Later, he would go on to note that

“…no party these past decades has effectively represented the interests of these dispossessed. Only one has made a point of openly disdaining them too.”

My point is that once the “dispossessed” had become seemingly firmly and forever part of the Left’s base, they and their very real concerns could be largely ignored. In fact, they could be insulted (with some ensuing bad results, but that’s a different issue).

This, I submit, is what gays and lesbians are beginning to face as the Left has become convinced that gays and lesbians have achieved what the Left thinks they need. Consequently, the Left is now turning its attention to its next group of  the “oppressed,” the transgender folks. When you encounter people who are willing to assert that lesbians who have no interest in dating pre-op MTF folks are “transphobic bigots,” it becomes clear that they have served their purpose to the Left. Just as the Left complains that many of the people who once voted heavily for Democrats* chose to vote for Trump simply can’t see the “truth” of the Left’s position, some are not beginning to complain that gays and lesbians who don’t want to date anyone who was not born a biological male (or female, respectively) simply don’t understand the “truth” of the Left’s current position on sexuality and gender.

I further submit, that this is what the Left, in its devotion to identity politics, does. It is the nature of identity politics. Once you’ve gotten about all the mileage you can out of one group or cause, it’s time to move on. It’s time to find another group you can use to increase your power and prestige and to increase you conviction that you are “on the right side of history” (or some other meaningless but good-sounding nonsense).

What the transgender folks, who are arguably benefiting from the current focus of the Left, have neglected to consider is that what happened to factory workers is what happened to farmers and ranchers, which is what is happening to gays and lesbians, and which is what will happen to them (the transgender folks) once they have fulfilled their usefulness. Then, when sometime down the road, the transgender folks cease to be virtually 100% behind the Left, that same Left will ask “why are you voting against your own self-interest?”

Note that I’m not suggesting the American Right is emerging as the champion of equality for the transgender community. All I’m saying is that community is being used and once the Left gets all the use they can from transgender people as a whole, the Left will move on and leave the trans folk just like they left the blue collar workers. As a RN with significant psychiatric/mental-health experience, I recognize the truth of the maxim that “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”

It becomes rather obvious to ask “well, if that’s the case, who will the Left pick up as their next cause?” I have a suspicion which I won’t mention, right now. I will say, though, that you aren’t likely to like it.

What do you think?

*I understand that not all Democrats are properly considered part of the Left, just as not all Leftists are members of the Democratic party. That’s not my point. If you choose to believe it is, I can offer you little in the way of help.

Bark good

As of yesterday, I have managed to avoid the Grim Reaper for 57 years. These days, we recognize that not really much of an accomplishment. Barring some underlying pathology, an unfortunate accident, or a refusal to learn and follow the “three rules” (don’t go stupid places, don’t do stupid things and don’t hang out with stupid people), there’s not really much to it; breathe, eat (chew, swallow, retain), eliminate, practice some semblance of hygiene, and you’re well on your way. My friends, family and I celebrated with bark.

None of which is really meaningful, other than it provides me a way to get to my point.

One of the things we hear, fairly often, about life “way back then” (think Lords, Ladies, Gentlefolk, peasants and serfs) was that life was very short. Pick an average age. I’ve heard or read everything from “late 20’s” to about 36 as the average age to which one could be expected to live. The problem is that those numbers, whichever one was correct, are meaningless absent context. Words and numbers, even when presented as being factual, are like that. Without a context they tell us nothing. People dying, on average, at 36 sounds depressing. Of course, that might be the average because so many children were dying very young (which is one thing to help explain large families, the lack of birth control and the need for someone to take care of the parents when they become frail and elderly being others). Once you reached a given age, say early to mid-teens, your odds were pretty good. So, you’d live beyond the average, but the death of so many of your siblings (and your own kids) brought the average way down.

I mention all this because I have recently encountered a tendency for some people to belittle the idea of context when it comes to understanding something. While it is true that some people (politicians, perhaps?) will say their words were “taken out of context” when they were not, it remains true that it is context that provides meaning.* Dictionaries don’t provide meaning. They only report how words are used. Think about the following scenario: You walk up to a group of people engaged in a conversation. As you get closer, you hear one person say “I don’t like the black ones.” What does that mean? The fact is that absent a context, which you lack, you simply don’t know. If they are talking about race relations, it’s possible the speaker is a racist pig. On the other hand, if the topic is licorice, he’s merely expressing his preferences regarding a kind of candy. But it can be even worse.

Let’s say you overhear him say, “I don’t like the reds.” What could that mean?

  • If the topic is licorice, see above
  • The speaker could be a racist who dislikes American Indians
  • If the topic is professional baseball, he might dislike a certain team from a city in Ohio
  • If the topic is Russia, he might dislike a particular party associated with the Russian revolution
  • If he is a Cold War vet who simply cannot let go, he might dislike Russians in general or communists in general

There could be other explanations (wines, beers and acorns come to mind), but the point is the same for all of them. If you don’t know the context, you don’t have the faintest, freakin’ idea of what he means.

How do we evaluate what someone says, or does, or thinks, or how he acts if we don’t know the context? The answer is, we don’t, at least not with any hope of accuracy. And that’s from people we encounter today. If we look at the words/thoughts/actions of someone long dead, it becomes even harder.

For understanding, context isn’t the only thing, but it is everything.

Oh, and this is what one uses to celebrate with bark. Barky Boston Butt goodness.

barky Boston Butty goodness

 

*If you disagree, please share with me your list of words or numbers which, absent context, have any meaning whatsoever. Take your time. I’ll wait.

Insulting congresscritters, revisited

A couple of days ago, I talked about the Honorable Representative from the State of Florida, Frederica Wilson, and her apparent belief that people who insult/mock/taunt members of Congress should be prosecuted. There is a tendency, common to us all, to take ourselves entirely too seriously. When this human tendency is combined with some greater-than-normal degree of power and influence, that tendency is often increased. So it is, I believe, with the good representative from Florida. She truly believes, if she is to be taken at her word, that insults are threats and that those who insult her and her colleagues are therefore proper subjects of prosecution.

There is a concept that existed (and arguably to some extent still exists) in Europe called lèse-majesté. If you’re not familiar with the term, that’s okay as Merriam-Webster provides the following definitions:

1aa crime (such as treason) committed against a sovereign power
 ban offense violating the dignity of a ruler as the representative of a sovereign power
2a detraction from or affront to dignity or importance
It seems to me that Representative Wilson (perhaps much like the current occupant of the Oval Office) is inclined to view criticism and insults as examples of lèse-majesté. 
Here’s the problem. That concept does not really exist in the American political lexicon. I would argue, in fact, that during the formation of this country, such a concept was specifically rejected. Instead, Americans tend to view insulting politicians as something that is almost a sacred rite, and certainly a sacred right (see what I did?). The tendency to view lèse-majesté as having any legitimacy in the US is unfortunate at best. If the First Amendment does not serve to protect the right to criticize and even insult both government in general and specific politicians in particular, it protects not much of anything at all.

Political philosophy from Phineas and Ferb

I’m a libertarian, not an anarchist. I don’t want violence or overthrow. Still, I recognize there’s some truth in the meme. “Thank you” to the person who shared this with me (and who desires to remain anonymous).

anarchists and libertarians

Don’t you dare insult your local congresscritter

Yesterday was July 4, Independence Day here in the United States. I was unable to write as I spent the day engaged with a brisket and a woefully inadequate smoker which required constant attention, along with hot wings and beans (others were responsible for the other requisites like potato salad). Maybe it was helpful to not write as one can engage in a lot of contemplation while monitoring and tending to a brisket in a woefully inadequate smoker (did I mention that, yet?). My contemplating has lead me to conclude, once again, that some people simply don’t like liberty, not really. Oh, they enjoy the freedoms and rights they exercise and perhaps some others of which they approve. But when it comes to the rights they don’t routinely (or ever) exercise, or the freedom of others to do things of which they disapprove, it becomes evident they simply don’t value liberty for its own sake. For instance…

The Honorable Representative from the State of Florida, Frederica Wilson, has opined that people who insult or mock members of Congress, online, should be prosecuted. Now, if I give the good congresscritter the benefit of the doubt, she might have been suggesting only that it is against the law to threaten a member of Congress. That is absolutely true. If so, she should have been more clear, because what she seemed to be saying was that mocking or insulting members of Congress was equivalent to threatening them.

Bull****

Telling someone you are going to beat them to death is a threat. Posting pictures of them and/or their family(ies), under certain circumstances, can be reasonably perceived as a threat. Those and similar actions are illegal and can and should be prosecuted, for (at least) two reasons. First, such threats are generally illegal. You don’t get to threaten people. Second, I’ll go so far as to say that threatening a member of Congress can be reasonably construed as a threat to our constitutional system of government. So, don’t threaten people. Clear enough?

Here are some things that are not threats.

  • Dear Congress critter Wilson
    • You’re stupid.
    • All that pink. What? Being a US Representative doesn’t pay enough so you’re selling Mary Kay on the side?
    • That hat looks like something out of a bad 70’s sitcom about black people.
    • Your willingness to abandon anything that even approximates due regard for the Constitution marks you as someone who should have never been elected and calls into question the ability of your constituency to form coherent thoughts.
    • You suck.
    • Who helped you with your makeup, the Crypt Keeper?
    • It’s called freedom of speech, you inarticulate moron.

Comments such as those are arguably accurate in their perspective and, though somewhat rude, do not constitute threats.

Let’s play a little bit with both categories. Let’s say the following are all addressed to me.

  • “RM, you aren’t from Texas (true and not a threat), your brisket-smoking efforts are the worst kind of cultural appropriation (meaningless), and the next time I get word of you attempting to smoke a brisket, I will walk into your backyard and put a f***ing bullet in your head (definitely a threat).”
  • “Your guitar playing is torture for adults, children and animals alike (maybe true, maybe not, but not a threat) so I’m posting your picture online (not a threat).”
  • “You can’t drive worth s*** (that’s a matter of opinion). You’re such a danger when on the road that I want everyone to know you, your car and where you live, so here are pictures to let everyone know to avoid the roads anywhere near you (not a threat, though IANAL).”
  • “Libertarian, huh? Yeah, we’ve read that crap you write. Black Bloc is coming for you, pal. Here are some pix of you, your house and your family, along with the schedules all of you follow. We’re gonna get you and you’ll never see it coming. Better be careful when you’re outside your house, buddy. Be a shame if something happened to your or your family (threat).”

See? Easy to tell the difference.

Finally, did I mention that my smoker is woefully inadequate?

 

 

Ya gotta show up

I have, at times, referred to myself as a “serial entrepreneur,” meaning I have started multiple businesses, none of them at the same time. (What the word more accurately describes is the person who starts one business after another in relatively rapid succession, but this is my blog, so there. Nah!) It was during my efforts at starting number two (if your inner and giggling adolescent is activated by this, please keep it to yourself) that I learned something really important. Because it was an industry with which I was completely unfamiliar, I was going to every pertitent seminar I could afford, reading every relevant book and asking questions of every successful person I could find in the industry. It was during the question-asking portion that someone said something that made a huge difference, both in my business and in my life.

The man I was talking to/asking questions of was already immensely successful in the field. He said (my paraphrase) “You’re here, which is a huge advantage over almost everyone else. The single biggest part of your success, in terms of what you do (as opposed to how you think) is simply showing up.” It took me a little while to understand that “showing up” covered a lot of ground. It meant running my business like a business instead of running it like a hobby. It meant actively learning all I could. It meant doing, day in and day out, all the little things (including and especially the ones I disliked doing) that made the big things possible.*

To paraphrase (and twist the words of) “Red” Sanders, “showing up is not the only thing, but it is everything.”

There was a question on Quora recently that went something like this: Is atheism the wave of the future? There were quite a few answers. The one pertinent to this post was given by Tom Kratman.** Its basic points, as I recall, were these:

  1. People learn their most basic values at home.
  2. Religious people tend to be more conscientious and conistent in their efforts to pass on their values to their kids than are the non-religious.
  3. Sincere adherents of religion tend to have more kids than other people.

Then, he gave his conclusion: the future belongs to those who show up. To put it another way, historically, religious people have shown up more consistently and in greater numbers than have the non-religious and the non-believers.

If I don’t have what I want, there’s a very good chance it’s because I haven’t bothered to consistently show up. Do I take classes to learn what I don’t know? Do I read things that will help me become better at what I do? Do I set goals (using a system like SMART goals)? Do I budget my money and my time? Do I give my life the same sort of conscientious attention I give my job? Do I do, every day, all the little things, including the ones I don’t want to do, that will help me get where I want to go? In other words, can I be bothered to take the time to just show up for the life I say I want?

Stuff like this isn’t complicated. It’s actually pretty simple. The tendency to make it complicated, to describe it as complicated, is easy to explain. If it’s simple, then we can probably do it. We just have to put forth a little effort, every day. Of course, that means we’re going to have to change. The problem with that is that we are human. Humans don’t like change because causes discomfort and we don’t like discomfort. So, we convince ourselves it’s complicated. And now, because it’s complicated, we get to be lazy and we get to avoid discomfort, including the discomfort brought on by the simplicity that leaves us nowhere to hide.

Wouldn’t it be better to just show up?

*Almost inarguably, this is an enormous reason (as in, the reason) I’m not yet a published author. I simply have not committed to showing up. That’s one I have to change.

**Sadly, I have been unable to find the link to either the question or to Tom Kratman’s response. The latter is particularly unfortunate, not only because he deserves full credit for his answer, but because he wrote it in his very unique style.

Please, don’t be stupid

What follows is based on a conversation I had with someone, yesterday. It’s not very tightly reasoned and it paints with an enormously broad brush, so you have been warned.

People, I have decided, can be amazingly stupid. If you are inclined to think I am referring only to those people who disagree with some position I hold dear, allow me to suggest that’s not what I am doing. No, it’s people in general, which at times undoubtedly includes me. While this tendency toward stupidity can be seen all around us and in almost every arena of life, I’m going to use an aspect of concern about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) as an example.

Before going further, let’s note that I’m not talking about whether AGW is occurring or not, though I will, for the sake of this posting, assume AGW as a real thing. More than that, I will assume it poses, to use a currently popular term, an existential threat to continued human existence.  I’m making this assumption because I want to talk about AGW as regards social and political capital.*

Some years back, there was a man elected President of the United States. Early during his time in office, he was asked if he would be pursuing a particular policy which seemed consistent with his political position. As I recall, he indicated he would probably not be doing so because, he noted, everyone who is elected enters office with a finite amount of political capital which he must spend in order to accomplish his goals. The obvious, and I submit accurate, implication was that when that capital was spent, there would be no more. As a general rule, once it’s gone, it’s gone. How does that relate to AGW?

Here are some things we can observe about those who seem to be leaders in the movement to address AGW. Be advised, once again, that I am painting with a broad brush, here.

  1. They seem to fervently believe what they preach. In other words, they expend a great deal of time, energy and effort attempting to persuade other people of (at least) four things:
    1. AGW is real
    2. AGW poses an existential threat to human existence
    3. AGW can and must be addressed
    4. Those who disagree are anti-scientific neanderthals who must be silenced
  2. Many of those who seem to be the loudest proponents of addressing AGW are wealthy and live lifestyles/do things that contradict their calls for things like smaller carbon footprints.
  3. Some leaders of this movement travel to AGW conferences, held in what some people might consider “exotic” locations, in private or chartered jets.
  4. Some attend lavish parties or social events while at the conferences.
  5. There is significant opposition to using nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. Instead, there is a push for “green energy.”

All five of those waste political and social capital.

  1. Screaming “the science is settled” to end or forestall debate persuades only the already convinced. To all others, it makes you look like you’re afraid of debate.
  2. It is inconsistent to own and drive multiple fossil fuel driven cars and to own one or more large homes, while telling others to reduce their carbon footprint. It makes one look rather hypocritical. People don’t like hypocrites.
  3. Private and chartered jets are inefficient uses of energy, at least within an AGW context. Why not simply telecommute or have a video conference, instead?
  4. Parties sort of give the impression that the purpose of the conference was something other than an attempt to address a real problem.
  5. Safe nuclear energy is a reality. Pretending otherwise is dishonest.

My observation is that the behavior of some leaders and/or mouthpieces of the movement has been such that an increasing number of people simply don’t believe them. At the very least, it predisposed people to not believe them. This is a problem because it seems quite likely to lead people to reject attempts to address AGW, which leads to an even bigger problem. To wit, AGW will go unaddressed (at least unaddressed in a timely manner) and it will bring about the very thing we are trying to avoid, because those most visible leaders will destroy both their own credibility and that of the movement in general.

Which brings us to the next problem: what can be done about this?

The simple answer is “stop doing those things which burn up social and political capital for no real gains. Stop looking hypocritical. Start doing what you want others to do.” Let’s be honest with ourselves. This means media personalities, business and industry leaders and political figures must do what they ask of everyone else. Bill needs a smaller house and Al needs to fly business class.

Who believes either of these are likely to become reality? No hands? Me either. Which leaves us facing a threat a large number of people, perhaps even a majority of people, do not recognize and answers to which they will not accept. Given the nature of the threat (i.e., the end of the human race), it must still be addressed.

Which is where the real problem comes in.

See, if people won’t accept the answer to something that threatens to wipe us all from existence, there remains only one response. Government force. And if they still won’t cave in to the pressure? If they still decline? Yep. That’s right.

You have to kill them. Remember, this is about survival as a species.

Presumably, we’d start with a certain number in mind. In other words, we’d have an idea of how many people needed to die to reduce the impact we’re all having on the climate. Ideally, the initial targets would be the loudest “deniers,” but others would likely have to follow.

Of course, people might object. They might actually decline to be killed, even if boxcars weren’t involved. They might even fight back. I would. I will, if you come for me, my family, my friends or my neighbor.

Which is why, if you are convinced we’re facing a likely TEOTWAWKI threat from AGW, you don’t burn up your social and political capital for no good end. Because you will hasten the very thing you seek to avoid. This stuff really isn’t all that complicated and there’s no reason to be stupid, even though people are pretty good at that.

*If you are inclined to think you know, based upon this brief posting, what I believe about AGW, allow me to suggest I haven’t provided nearly enough information for you to make such a determination with any degree of accuracy. On the other hand, you can get a pretty good idea of what I think of authoritarians.