Friday, December 11, 2015

The establishment is the 3rd party

What seems to be emerging, or wants to emerge, is a 3-party system. On the left and right wings we have populist movements, and in the center the establishment moderates. In such a scenario, the Tea Party/Trump crowd is a nationalist voting block, the Occupy/Sanders crowd is basically a Democrat-Socialist party. The center party would cover the current Democrat-Republican barrier, and include politicians like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, and probably Barrack Obama.

Will that actually happen? Generally the two-party system is quite stable. And on the left we see the stabilization in action with Hillary constantly moving towards Bernie's positions. So far I haven't heard many Bernie supporters saying they'd refuse to vote for Hillary. They'll rally around her in opposition to Trump or basically whoever the Republican candidate is. So Bernie will have had the effect of shifting her campaign rhetoric, although that's no likely to matter to much once she's elected. So a lot of people on the left will be pissed off, but they'll toe the line and the party will be stable. The system is stable because everyone votes against the other guy.

The Republican party though, is not quite as stable. We saw it several elections ago when Ross Perot split the right vote. We saw major conflicts in the Republican caucuses during the Ron Paul campaigns. And now Trump threatens to split the party apart. And the reason, to me, is simple. The party has two camps: the conservative, nationalist part, and the part that represents the corporate, financial, and globalist interests. The two are increasingly at odds with one another. I think it's only a matter of time until the party splits.

Now, if you're a Democrat, particularly a liberal one, you're probably giddy with excitement at the prospect of the GOP crumbling. Don't be. You can't just destabilize one half of the system. The effects will trickle throughout. What happens to the establishment part of the GOP when Trump wins the nomination, or takes a large chunk of the voting block with him for an independent run? Those people who support Rubio or Bush could probably come over and support a Clinton or Biden, or any centrist establishment Democrat versus Trump. At the least, you'll see a lot of that corporate lobbying move towards Democrats. This will alienate the anti-establishment liberals even more, and would ultimately cause the Democrats to fracture as well.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

On Ignoring Trump

I've been hearing that the best way to get Trump off the ballot is to ignore him. Well ignoring it might make him go away, or not. Sometimes the burning goes away, sometimes you gotta get that penicillin shot. Maybe another approach would be to examine why he hasn't been the flash in the pan that well all expected him to be. The truth is he has captured all the energy of the populist right insurgency. So maybe the questions to ask are (1) why the insurgency and (2) why is Trump their guy?

First we shouldn't lament that there is this swelling right-wing populism. We're long past due for some popular political action in this country. The bureaucracy has become too big, too corrupt, and too incompetent, and everybody knows it, especially those on the anti-establishment right. This populism really showed itself in the Tea-Party (now dubbed Liberty) movement. While largely ridiculed, what was the Tea Party but a bunch of people who's hearts were in the right place, but they largely weren't sophisticated enough to see the ruse. They knew that ordinary Americans are getting screwed, that powerful anti-democratic forces are destroying the country, yet they get tricked into believing the government is the primary enemy, and they spend their energy behind such tasks as removing the estate tax. Populism isn't a monopoly of the right. The liberal analogue to the Tea Party was the Occupy Movement. How amazing is it that both movements wanted almost exactly the same thing, yet conventional wisdom told us they stood at polar extremes of the political spectrum.

The left populism has largely solidified around the Bernie Sanders campaign. And what a great candidate. I don't agree with a good portion of his liberal agenda, but talk about being the right guy for the job. He's experienced, he's genuine, he's not the prompter-reading narcissist-in-a-suit we're all so sick of. His success is fueled by left-wing (and even moderate) populism. Hillary's success is merely a baramoter of the establishment hold on power. Well that and some unfortunate gender politics. Leftist populism has settled around a serious candidate, and things look good on that end.

What about on the right? Where is their Bernie Sanders? The most apparent equivalent is Ron Paul, who led popular presidential bids in 2008 and 2012, but is too long in the tooth for another run. He had an heir. Rand rode his father's popularity to a US Senate seat. He had all kinds of populist street cred by proxy. But he tried to make himself into the establishment-friendly libertarian. He was in the right time and place to score a big touchdown but he fumbled the ball. He pandered to the establishment when the rest of the party was running away from it. I like Rand, he's probably my favorite candidate of the bunch. He seems to put his money where his mouth is. But there is a reason he is polling at 2%.

Frankly there is not serious candidate to capture the populist movement. There is no Barry Goldwater this time around. There is Rand, there is Trump, and there are a bunch of Super-PAC funded pols. Outsiders Carson and Fiorina had good runs. I'm not entirely sure why Fiorina's star has faded. I suspect it's because she did seem to be pandering to the establishment, a sort of Hillary of the right. Maybe I'm wrong. Either way she's clearly been outshone by Trump. Carson was the candidate we all wanted to believe in. Turns out he's not actually all that intelligent. I mean I'm sure he's smart, but not President smart. Bush and Walker were the obvious establishment choices, and their bids have been dismal. Cruz and Rubio still look good I'd say. But you can't help but think Cruz could never win the general and Rubio will be lucky to get the nomination.

And then there's Trump. For all his flaws, he's a brilliant showman. Let's not discredit that. And for all his bluster, he is a legitimate populist candidate. Outside of Sanders he is the only candidate without a billionaire-funded Super-PAC (although there was one until fairly recently). There is some irony that he is a billionaire who largely self funds his campaign. But at this point if you're an anti-establishment conservative you take what you can get. Trump doesn't go out of his way to be politically correct, which everyone is sick of. He doesn't pander to the establishment, which everyone is sick of. And he lets the populist right know he's solidly on their side. Let's look at his most recent comments that have everyone in a tizzy.

He has proposed a ban on all Muslim immigration, even to the extent of banning Muslim tourists. I take this is hyperbole. It's an obvious violation of the 1st Amendment, for one. I doubt he really wants this. But it serves two needs. First, it generates him lots of attention. And to that end, A+. It's been Trump Trump Trump for several days now. Mostly it's the enraged left giving it to him. Second, it dismisses multiculturalism completely. White conservatives are tired of being called racist bigots at every turn. They're tired of the nearly institutionalized white shaming (called white privilege). And they're tired of being told ethnocentrism is just a horrid evil. It's very telling that the reaction of the left has been to assert that it is now a fact, no longer an opinion, that Trump is a racist. Islam isn't a race!! Religion isn't race! It is unconstitional to apply a religious litmus test for immigration, but it is simply not racist for citizens to not welcome another religion or culture. The word racist is just a slander at this point, no longer a word with meaning. It is the white analog of nigger. But this isn't about race. It's not even that much about religion. It's about culture. If the Syrian refugees wore Cubs hats and shot skeet and sang drunk renditions of Alan Jackson at karaoke night, not one decent redneck would give two licks about their race or religion. Trump is the only candidate out there to question, let alone entirely dismiss, the dogma of multiculturalism. He's willing to say so out loud, and take all the heat he is for it. He didn't have to say these things. He shouldn't have, at least politically speaking. But he did. And to many people, well it simply makes him a hero.

He's not a very good candidate, I don't think. But right-wing populists are energized right now. There's no ideal candidate for them to rally around.  Trump's become the figurehead of populist conservatism. Maybe he's the wrong man for the right movement, but Trump won't go away because you ignore him.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Group-based Gun Control

Americans need more effective gun control. The status quo is failing us, and we cannot put in Australia-style gun control with 2nd Amendment in place (which is a discussion in itself). In light of that, the three requirement we need for gun control are that (a) it complies with the spirit of the 2nd Amendment, and (b) it doesn't ban weapons to the point it drives a black market trade from Mexico, and (c) it keeps guns primarily in the hands of sober adults. There are some other things to consider but let's go with that for now.

Americans have always owned guns; only recently have these mass shootings become commonplace. What's lacking is a sense of personal accountability. Communities are weakened, family ties aren't what they used to be...there is just nothing grounding some of these people. Most mass shooters are either social outcasts or exist in a violence culture (black & Latino gangs and Jihadis). People need a group bond. And if that group stands to lose because of misdeeds, it will help keep people in check.

The 2nd Amendment specifically mentions a militia. Let's use that. All gun ownership should be tied to a militia or some sort of gun club. No one could purchase firearms or ammo without valid membership. As long as the club is in good standing, they earn and retain gun ownership rights. As members contravene gun laws, their group loses rights. In the case of an attack against innocent crowds, all members would, at least, have their weapons confiscated and be banned from owning them again. This forces the groups to self-regulate. They'll have to constantly vet new members and themselves to ensure they maintain gun rights. Anyone who can't find a legit group to accept them won't get a gun. Shady-as-fuck people who can pass a background check (like the recent shooter) would be inhibited.


The major flaw is that if someone can't get a legal weapon, they might find access to an illegal one. Particularly the gangs that already exist by shipping illegal wares from Mexico. But any gun control would have to deal with this. How about we do the gun control, and at the same time we tighten the fucking border? There's a nice compromise for liberals and conservatives, eh?

Gun owners would have to be registered and maintained in a database. Some people will protest this. But that's unreasonable. You gotta register to drive. Gotta register to vote. You can register to own a deadly weapon.

Finally, the regulation will need teeth. Some groups are going to have to be disarmed. Some will fight back.

That's it. That's my plan. What do yo think about it?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bernie Sanders: More Conservative than Republicans

Bernie Sanders has ignited a populist movement. Despite his early campaign being ignored by corporate media, his rallies outperformed all the Super-PAC funded candidates. Conservatives are aghast: how could so many Americans rally around a self-avowed socialist? Libertarians can't believe how many former Ron Paul supporters are showing up in Bernie's camp. Have those people no convictions? What they don't realize, and no one is saying, is this: on the issues that define the Sanders platform, he is more conservative than the Republicans.

For-profit prisons
On Thursday Bernie proposed legislation to end for-profit prisons. Upon reading the news I asked myself one question (which prompted this post): why should this be the stance of the most liberal candidate in decades? Or more so, why isn't this the stance of almost everyone? Privatized prisons encourage longer prison sentences and allow corporate profiteering off what is essentially slave labor. And who pays for this? Taxpayers, of course, and the families of the incarcerated men. The goal of incarceration should be to discourage crime, and to rehabilitate criminals and return then to society. Privatizing prisons encourages the prisons to keep as many prisoners as possible for as long as possible. Everyday a man is in prison needlessly, his family lacks a husband and father. For-profit prisons are yet another attack on the core American institution: the family.

Marxists, who conservatives claim to stand against, have a singular goal: to destroy all traditional institutions and power structures to make room for their idealized society. Family, religion, local community; all should be replaced by a single institution: the global socialist government. Any attack on the nuclear family is a leftist victory. No group in American has seen a stronger degradation of the family than blacks. 67 percent of black children are raised by single parents (source), as opposed to 25 percent for whites. The Nation Review recently put out an article highlighting the detriments of so many single-parent households. I highly recommend a read through. The takeaway is that single-parent children have significantly reduced social mobility and economic outcomes. So it shouldn't be a surprise that blacks see they are doing, on average, worse than their white counterparts. They assume institutionalized racism and they attack society's institutions and power structures, like we're seeing now across America's college campuses. Do you see the chain of Marxism in action? The attack on American families is contributing to the attack on American educational institutions.

So where is the Christian right on the issue of privatized prisons? It is certainly no where in the Christian ethos to profit off human suffering. But even more, it is not conservative. It is one more tool of cultural marxism to destroy the American family. But our cultural defenders in the Republican party, those self-proclaimed saviors of family values, are doing nothing.

Corporate power
If any issue defines the Sanders campaign, it is his defense of the middle class, and assault on the corporatocracy. The corporate behemoth is without a doubt the greatest threat to American traditional values. They own the media, control the cultural narrative, buy off the government representatives, and don't blink at destroying the middle-class whenever it is profitable. Why Republicans bend over backwards for corporations is beyond me. They have to be bought out. Sanders is defending traditional America values against creeping corporate culture and power. This is definitive conservatism.

Citizens United
Citizen's United effectively legalizes the open bribery of politicians. This Supreme Court ruling is thoroughly disastrous. Anyone interested in traditional American values like honest government and democratic rule should be horrified. Where is the conservative backlash? Why is Sanders the only candidate making a fuss about this? Even Clinton now stands against it. Why? If you read the political commentary, she was outflanked on the left by Sanders, and changed her stance to neutralize his advantage with leftists. I say baloney. What is leftist about defending American democracy? His stance is the true conservative stance. It has been very popular with voters (besides zombie Republicans) and that's why she had to change her posture. She will pretend to be against it as long as she has to, but she is making bank off of it.

Trans-Pacific Partnership
Obama's second most significant legislation (after Obamacare), TPP is a blatant attack on the cornerstone of American values, the US Constitution. A veritable give-away to corporate interests, the TPP would seriously limit the ability of the American government to regulate and control corporate activities. It's Marxist as hell; it deliberately erodes American institutions in favor of multinational entities. It should say something that it was debated in secret in the US Congress. Is anything less American than that? It should say something that Obama could not get support from it from his own party. Republicans, who foam at the mouth at the mere name Obama, enabled his 2nd most important piece of legislation. Why is this okay with Republicans? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

Sanders is against it. Clinton is against it (again she changed her position to resemble his) and Rand Paul is against it. Every other Republican who doesn't stand resolutely against this, just isn't a conservative, no matter what letter is by his name.

The liberal side
Now, my point hasn't been to convince you that Bernie Sanders is a conservative. On most issues he is liberal. He was supporting gay rights well before that was trendy. He doesn't hesitate to promulgate leftists myths such as they gender pay gap or massive institutionalized racism. He is a democratic socialist, which means he does foster a stronger dependence on the state. He recently came out in support of mass Syrian immigration. This is not an inherently bad position, as long as there is some rationale behind it. But his assertion, in bold letters, is that if you don't support it you're a racist and a bigot. Basically he does pander to liberal electorates, and he does allow himself to take sides in the cacophonous left vs. right war of emotions.

However, in the matters that are most important, in the matters that have defined his candidacy, he is more conservative than his Republican counterparts. In fact the Republican often don't seem conservative at all. We need to dispel the commonly held belief that Republicans are conservative and Democrats are liberal. It really depends on how you slice the issues.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Cult of Caring

Americans are a charitable people. I mean we like to think we are....and the facts bear that out. The World Giving Index puts us at the top in the entire world. Well Myanmar takes top spot, and I say good for them. If anything we are becoming even more caring. Recently we've seen that many of the richest billionaires in America have pledged to pass their estates to charity. That's pretty amazing. It's something we can be proud of (and makes me less inclined to want to kill the rich).

But this caring has a downside. Because our culture values caring, people become subconsciously obsessed with the appearance of caring. Sometimes the cult of caring is put to good use. Salvation Army focuses their donation collection efforts in busy public areas. No one in America (minus our sociopaths) can walk by those big red buckets without the feeling of, "If I don't give something I'll look like I don't care." We might even say to the bell ringer, "I'll have some change on the way out." There, now he knows we care. Of course, Salvation Army is a wonderful organization, very little of your donation goes to overhead, and they help a lot of people. Nothing wrong with that. Or last summer we saw the viral Ice Bucket Challenge videos. It was a brilliant fundraising campaign that answered the question, "how can we bank on people's need to show how much they care, or at least fear being labeled as uncaring?" And of course this was all fine, it raised a lot of money for a good cause. But putting things in perspective, the whole phenomenon raised about half a million dollars. That'll pay for 2 PhD-holding researchers to work for about a year. Yeah it helps, but in the grand scheme of things it wasn't terribly significant. But it was wildly successful in giving a venue for self-congratulatory displays of caring. (I did the challenge myself.)

Sometimes the cult of caring engages in actions that are not so beneficial, but are harmless. Last year about this time ( I think ) we saw the Pay It Forward campaign. Shoppers, particularly at coffee shops, were encouraged to pick up the tab for other patrons. The idea being that it doesn't cost you much, and it would really brighten the day of another person. But then things got weird. We saw the Pay It Forward chains, where each person got free coffee, yet paid for the person behind them. The concept was so impractical. How would you know how much the person behind you was spending? The only was to be sure their order was covered would be to pay more than the typical order. What happened to the change? (I never heard, but I suspect the baristas made a small fortune.) To simplify, let's suppose everyone got the same coffee. Then where's the charity? Only the first shopper gave away anything, and only the last one got a free coffee. Everyone in the middle was caught in some strange zero-sum strategy of ceremonial caring. Luckily the impracticality was obvious to most observers, and the trend quickly died.

Unfortunately, the cult of caring can be much more damaging than some public display of harmless irrationality. Because irrationality is dangerous when not contained to the safety of the cafe. And it leads to disaster when it enters the realm of public policy. The latest display of caring is being applied to the war-torn Syrian nation. Because Schengen-zone European countries have thrown open their borders to refugees, people now look at the US. The Europeans are making a grandiose show of caring. And they look at the US. "Oh", they say. "I guess you don't care as much." A knife into the heart of the cult of caring! Surely we must respond with a massive display of caring! Oh, most Americans are hesitant? What are they afraid of? DON'T THEY CARE AT ALL?!?!??! You'll notice that members of the cult of caring can't even fathom that a person might form an opinion based on anything but emotions, in this case the supposed emotion being fear or hatred. To them sober logic is just a tool used to justify one's emotional disposition.

In these next three sections, I'll provide three ways the cult of caring is disingenuous or harmful in their take on Syria.

Self interest
The primary motivator should always be self-interest. It's not selfish, it's logical. Putin, the emerging leader of the developed world, has said so much. He said "If the Americans would just act consistently in their self-interest, all our conflicts with them would self regulate." Russians can understand and predict us if we act in our self-interest, and they can act in a way that helps both sides achieve their goals, and avoids military confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers. But if America acts irrationally, if we try to help other nations in a way that doesn't benefit us (not to mention that American "help" using means the imposition of American-style capitalism and democracy) we cause confusion all around. Putin is the opposite of the cult of caring, he can't fathom how a national policy could be driven by emotion rather than logical reasoning.

Does it suit the American self interest to allow massive amounts of Muslim immigration? America can hardly employ it's low-skilled labor force as it is. Our laborers are already under tremendous pressure, for economic reasons and the heavy Latino immigration. Are we okay with a policy that helps in-need foreigners to the detriment of in-need Americans? Surely the end result will be more at the bottom dependent on government services. How much are we willing to pay to show we care? Will Americans tolerate a tax hike to pay for it? Furthermore, does it make sense to allow in a group of people who chronically do not assimilate in Europe? Do we really think we'll do better here? (We won't, forcing assimilation would be considered insensitive and probably racist). The number of European-born Muslims radicalizing and fighting for ISIS, or plotting terror attacks in Europe, is truly disturbing.  There are plenty of risks to this immigration proposal, what are the benefits? Is display of caring really a matter of national interest?

Refugees are nothing new. There are an estimated 60 million refugees worldwide. Yet suddenly everyone is obsessed with Syrian refugees. There are nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees, and they are long-term refugees, whereas an end to Syria conflicts is becoming likely. There are Palestinians who are 3rd generation in the refugee camps. There are Somali refugees, and Congo, and Iraqi, and Afghani. There are oppressed minorities in China, like Uighyrs and Tibetans. There have been other refugee crises in the past decade or so. The civil wars in Rwanda, the Balkans, and Chechnya generated massive numbers of refugees. There hasn't been a national rallying call for mass immigration of those peoples. Does the cult of caring prefer Syrians to all the other refugees? No they don't, mostly they don't even know what's going on. They only know they've been challenged to care.

Of course we should determine, with a sober mind, what is best for Syria, and what is best for Syrians. Will bringing Syrians to the US help them the most? No. Not by a long shot. Not by an order of magnitude, according to a study by the Center for Immigration Studies. They determined that, for the cost of bringing a refugee to the US for 5 years, we could support twelve (yes, twelve!) refugees in regional refugee camps. This fact alone should be more than enough to end the debate. I hear the argument, "but we need to give them the quality of life they can't get in a refugee camp." And that is a wonderful display of caring. But the point of refugee camps isn't that every person has easy access to Starbucks. It's to not starve, and not have to watch your family be raped and murdered. It's ludicrous to think bringing one Syrian to the US is preferable to protecting twelve in the region.

We also have to look at who the refugees are. Most of the women, children, and elderly are in refugee camps in places like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Those streaming into Europe, who can survive the long trek, and pay the smuggler fees (estimates are four to ten thousand dollars each) are mostly able-bodied men. That is, those scrambling to Germany and Sweden to gain welfare checks are those least in need of the aid. Meanwhile the Syrian army is chronically short on manpower, to the point it is having trouble capitalizing on the Russian (and now French) air support. The west is practically bribing military age men to leave Syria. That only benefits ISIS! It's insane. Has there ever been a time when men were encouraged not to defend their homelands? Who will fight oppression? Who will rebuild the country if every other citizen capable of fleeing has done so?

The culture of caring is selfish, They don't give one hoot about what is best for the Syrian nation. Their concern is the self-image of compassion. It should be constrained to the realm of the coffee shop and fundraising, not matters of international importance. I'm not entirely opposed to letting some Syrians in. I have no problem with them, and as I've noted before, they have beautiful women. But the debate has become about caring vs. fear. It's a false emotional narrative. Let's make the correct decisions using logic, in a way that benefits Americans and Syrians the most.

I should add a note, because after letting this sit for a while, I realize it comes off a bit cold. It seems that many people are very put-off by the response of conservatives. I don't watch Fox News (or any news) so I don't know what they're saying. But if there is any degree of the sentiment "fuck the Syrians, it's their war and they should deal with it", I reject that principle entirely. The Syrians are being caught up in something much larger than some civil war between Muslims. Not only are regional powers involved: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran, plus a money from the gulf states, but drug into this war are now global powers Russia, France, and the US. This is truly a proxy war on an epic scale. The Syrian people are being churned up. It's not their war, it really is a world war. They need our help. We absolutely should help them. I don't think the best way is mass immigration to the US, maybe it is. My point of writing this was not to refute the Syrian need for assistance, but to refute the incessant appeals to emotion being committed by both sides of the argument, by people who mostly aren't interested in trying to understand the situation.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Economics of the Tesla Powerwall

The latest Tesla hype is about the Powerwall, which they say will transform electricity consumption and could lead to a zero-emissions energy cycle! Here is a back-of-envelope kind of calculation to put things into perspective.

The 10-kwh Powerwall retails at $3500. Let's assume after taxes and installation you pay $4500. So you need to save at least that amount in energy costs over the lifespan of the battery. They're being warranteed for 10 years, so we'll call that the lifespan. The average cost of electricity in the US is $.12 / kwh.

(1) The number of generated kwh needed is: $4500 / $.12 = 37,500 kwh
(2) The number of cycles is: 37,500 / 10 kwh of storage = 3,750
(3) Since each day is once cycle, we break even at: 3,750 / 365 = 10.27 years

That's longer than the lifespan of the battery. So the rough conclusion is you'll never break even. Let's look at the assumptions and how we could get a more accurate calculation.

Negative Assumptions (assumptions that make the result seem worse than it is)

- assumed the 10-year warranty is the same as the lifespan. We expect a product to last, on average, longer than it's warranty (by definition it can't be less). But I'm having trouble finding any actual data for performance degradation. Lithium-ion batteries lose some amount of performance with each charge-discharge cycle.

Positive Assumptions (assumption that make the result seem better than it is)
- Assumed no performance degradation in the battery
- Assumed perfect efficiency in the inverter and battery
- Assumed full recharge every day (maybe seasons and weather conditions will not always permit this)
- The big one, assumed you already have a solar panel capable of 10 kwh/day. An online caclulator I found estimates such a system at $8800 installed. And this is not a one-time purchase: their performance degradation is about 1% per year. So you're losing at least $88 per year just having the thing up there. In reality the cost of maintaining the panel will be higher.

I'd like to set up a model that takes all these factors into consideration and solve it numerically, but it's been a while since math. And the obvious outcome will be that the Powerwall / solar setup is not going to be anywhere near cost effective. To people who might say it's worth to pay more to save the environment: you need to consider the environmental impact of manufacturing the solar panel, of manufacturing the battery pack, of mining the metals that go into both, and the environmental impact of disposing of the battery (lithium-ion batteries are not recycled). Clearly the notion of zero-carbon power is ridiculous.

The solar industry, like the electric vehicle, depends heavily on government subsidies. The Powerwall is the same business model as the Tesla vehicles: luxury products for the affluent funded by the taxpayer. It's not economical, it's not environmental, and it's more welfare for the rich.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Liberalism and Multiculturalism

This post is a response to a facebook post by Arpit Kothari. I've pasted his posted below:

In case anyone's been struggling to resolve the conflicting ideas of multiculturalism, and criticism of Islam - how to reasonably hold a liberal perspective without becoming a terror apologist:What is wrong with “multiculturalism”? That depends on how you define it. If you mean “tolerating or celebrating the customs of people from another land,” it’s fine—and desirable. The U.S. would be bland and uniform without its many immigrants, their celebrations and holidays, their food, their politics, their philosophies, and so on. But when multiculturalism involves importing antidemocratic ideas into a democratic culture, then it becomes problematic. The kind of “multiculturalism” that Charlie Hebdo opposed, and wished to be dissolved by “French” values, was Islam’s veneration of sharia law, its institutionalization of the subjugation of women, its calls for the death of apostates, gays, and adulterers, its belief in corporal punishment for criminals, and the Muslim habit, in some places, of patrolling the streets, looking to find and admonish young Muslims partying, drinking, listening to music, dancing, and associating with members of the other sex. Fun is a no-no.Above excerpt from this great piece:

The question of "how to reasonably hold a liberal perspective without becoming a terror apologist" indicates that there are some flaws in the liberal perspective itself. Clearly there is some contradiction when people's ideology leads them to a wrong conclusion. I would argue that there are two major themes in modern liberalism driving towards that unintended conclusion of being a terror apologist. So I'd like to briefly discuss what the core of traditional liberalism is, what the offending themes of modern liberalism are, and how that can be resolved.

Liberalism is the embrace of personal liberty. But we have to be careful to understand its context, lest we get carried away and say "liberty is being able to say or do whatever I want." Clearly shooting people is unacceptable, so we know there are limits on liberty. Liberalism comes to us from medieval Europe, and it was a change in political philosophy that said (1) governments exist to serve the people, not the converse, and (2) the legitimacy of government comes from the people. While these may seem like obvious ideas to us, that were revolutionary for their time, when Europe was ruled by monarchs whose legitimacy came from God himself. In this original context, liberty pertains to the governed masses as a whole and is in relation to the government. Later, the Renaissance would enhance the notion of personal liberty, yet this liberty is still in relation to the government. The people asked "let me live a moral life without government interference", not "let me do as I please without being judged", which brings me to the first fatal flow of modern liberalism.

Moral relativism is the notion that moral judgment on an individual must be made from that's persons viewpoint. This is often used when studying historical figures. We don't judge Alexander the Great harshly for being brutal, because he lived in a more violent era. We can also use it when analyzing members of other societies. We don't criticize a jungle villager from Papua New Guinea for his ignorance, because we understand that he had no chance at education. Unfortunately it has become popular to extend moral relativism to members of our own society. "Oh if you grew up in his neighborhood you'd be a thug too." "Her decisions weren't that bad considering her upbringing." "He wasn't successful because he faced institutional oppression." These sentiments may make us feel like good compassionate liberals, but they are extremely dangerous. A society must have a set of core values, and it must judge its constituents so that they uphold them. A common meme we encounter these days is "you can't judge me." This is bullshit. If society cannot hold its member to its core values, then there is no society at all.

The second fatal flaw in modern liberalism is the worship of multiculturalism. It's easy to imagine where this comes from. In a closed society, there is no multiculturalism. Think Stalin's USSR. The culture is imposed on the people from the government. Therefore, if a society has multiculturalism, it must be free! While that's as far as the logic takes us, some want to continue on, and assume that a lack of multiculturalism indicates a lack of liberty and that more multiculturalism means more liberty. If I see a seagull, I can deduce there is an ocean nearby, but I can't say that the more seagulls I see, the bigger the ocean must be. Or that a lack of seagulls proves there is no ocean close by. And yet, people see diversity as an end unto itself, and seek to actively maximize it directly. They scatter bird seed and, as the seagulls flock they say, "wow, look how big my ocean is getting!" Multiculturalism is like love; you can't force it. It won't work and it defeats the purpose.

So where does that leave us within the context of Europe's multicultural issues? For one, any insinuation that native Europeans are to blame for the improper actions of their immigrants is nonsense. Immigrants to any society must conform or leave. We expect the host nations to be open and give all resources needed to participate in the society (e.g. a modern education), but vigorously enforce the societal norms. No relativism, no special exceptions for multiculturalism; all citizens are judged to the same standard. The problem isn't that liberals are terror apologists, it's that they've become apologists for asocial behavior in general.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Christmas / Easter Switcharoo

By now most people don't expect the Bible to be interpreted literally. And yet, I think a lot of people don't understand why Christmas is on Dec 25. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest the birth of Jesus was in any particular time of the year. But December 25 was a date that already had much significance to pagans. As the winter sets in, the point at which the sun rises (and sets) moves gradually further north. The movement is a sinusoidal oscillation. Like a playground swing, which slows as it reaches the top of the arc, and momentarily stop before switching directions, the spot on the horizon at which the sun sets would seem to freeze for a few days right around the solstice. Finally, on December 25, the human observers could finally detect that the spot had moved south, and the days would start becoming longer again. This was a cause for celebration in a time of darkness.

Similarly, Easter latched onto existing pagan spring holidays, the season of birth. So shouldn't Christmas, the birth of Jesus, be in the spring, the season of birth? And shouldn't Easter be on December 25, the day the sun rises again? The holidays are totally flipped! What do I do? Email the pope? Start putting up Christmas lights in April? How should I proceed?