Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Joy of Debate

I'm mostly posting this because it seems a shame to waste all this research.

So, a friend posted the following picture on the Ragebooks:

I commented asking why? The response was short and sweet: because she's as worthless as Obama.

Cueing the facepalms, I responded with the following:

You mean the Obama who's cut the deficit by more than half, presided over record breaking job and stock market growth, increased domestic oil production to levels that have dropped gasoline prices in half, and dropped the unemployment rate to near pre-recession levels?

The president who successfully pulled out of Iraq, is overseeing the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and is on the brink of negotiating a successful nuclear disarmament treaty with Iran?

Or perhaps we're talking about the Obama who has advanced the cause of human rights on several fronts, and is working for wage equality against the opposition of a party that frequently fights him even if it makes no sense to do so and against his own party (who disavow his accomplishments to avoid the massive partisan infighting caused by the Republicans)?

The same Obama that tried to give healthcare to everyone and who only failed after multiple concentrated attacks by the Republican party gutted the bill so they could blame him when it failed?

You know...the successful president that everyone hates for no reason? That Obama?"

My friend immediately deferred the argument to their significant other.  

A friend of theirs also commented, saying I'd "drunk the kool-aid."

I challenged that person to provide a substantive argument, and received the following:

So your saying that Obama has successfully pulled us out of Iraq and in doing so opened a vacuum allowing Isis to reclaim key cities that we had soldiers fight qnd die for. We're also trying to withdraw form Afghanistan and Isis is already looking to recruit once we leave. Iran is looking to develop a nuclear weapon , not disarm. Over 18.2 trillion in debt.  Over 92 million Americans out of the workforce.  More people on food stamps then full time jobs. Obamacare is a disaster.  The whole middle east is burning and Russia and Ukraine are on the brink of war. Yeah the stock market looks great and im sure Detroit thinks so too .

Seeing as I am an obsessive researcher, I spent two hours looking into their claims, and produced the following tract:

"So your saying that Obama has successfully pulled us out of Iraq and in doing so opened a vacuum allowing Isis to reclaim key cities that we had soldiers fight qnd die for. We're also trying to withdraw form Afghanistan and Isis is already looking to recruit once we leave."

I'm not entirely certain where you're going with this. Are you saying that, despite widespread public condemnation and heavy pressure from Congress, we should have continued to keep forces in Iraq and Afghanistan at war readiness levels on the off chance the region could destabilize?

Or are you saying that the White House should have predicted the sudden massive growth of ISIL/ISIS when the entire US intelligence community has consistently failed to track and predict the group to begin with?

"Iran is looking to develop a nuclear weapon, not disarm."

That has historically been the case. I'm not arguing that. I am saying the Obama's administration has come closer to getting them to back down than at any other time since they began their program. Further, the deal, as it is being negotiated, will give us up to a year of lead time to slap them back down if they violate the agreement.

Unless, of course, you believe that simply continuing to strangle their economy in the hopes that they won't simply build a bomb anyway and use that capacity to fund their broken economy is a better option.

"Over 18.2 trillion in debt."  

Yup. Hey, guess where 50% of that added debt comes from? Entitlements. See point below, please.

"Over 92 million Americans out of the workforce."

Negatory, good buddy. 21 mil are out for various reasons. 70 mil retired or left the workforce permanently. know, it seems that 70 million people retiring would cause increases in Social Security, elderly aid programs, Medicare... It also seems that the recession would increase dependency on aid programs. But that's the next point.

"More people on food stamps then full time jobs."

Go have a read over that. I think it might interest you to know that those numbers compare total full time workers to number of households receiving aid in any way. Also, somewhere around half of those recipients are children. So unless you want to add children and the elderly to the labor pool, those numbers are going to be off when compared that way.

Oh, and bonus: 23% of households with a full time income are receiving benefits of some kind. 28% of working adults receive Medicaid. And 60% of working age, non-disable food stamps recipients are employed while drawing benefits.

Basically, no. The only way to get that number is to overgeneralize massively.

"Obamacare is a disaster."

Not really, no. See, there's been massive gains in insured individuals amongst historically underprivileged groups. Also, the biggest determiner of whether or not the ACA helped a person was what state they lived in. IN states that already had progressive insurance policies, there was little improvement because insurance was already ok there. In states where there was a mass gap, there was a huge surge in the number of uninsured folks.

Unfortunately, as you can see by looking at the map at the very bottom of my support article, the states that needed it most fought the ACA, resulting in a higher number of uninsured in those states.  

This, by the by, supports my claim that the ACA would have produced greater benefits had the Republicans, and more specifically Republican controlled states, not fought to gut the bill. Here in Oklahoma, despite Mary Fallon refusing...I'd have to check, but I believe it was a few million dollars to create a state health exchange (the existence of which, if you'll read the article below, is the greatest indicator of the ACA's success) it is still generally believed that the ACA failed on it's own merits.

"The whole middle east is burning"

The Middle East has been burning for hundreds of years. I'd like to remind you that Bush, Sr. and GW Bush both started massive destabilizing wars in the Middle East, whereas Obama has at least tried to step back from a wartime platform. The fact that, as Cards Against Humanity would put it, "The complex geopolitical quagmire that is the Middle East" exploded the second we stopped bombing the bejeezus out of it/maintaining troops on the ground isn't anyone's fault. Again, the ENTIRE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY failed to spot ISIL/ISIS.

"and Russia and Ukraine are on the brink of war."

Sooo...Putin is Obama's fault how? I mean, seriously, have you looked Putin up recently? He wants to return to the USSR Motherland! All of Europe, every political force allied with the EU and the US are fighting to push Russia back in line, and short of outright warfare with one of the largest nuclear and economic powers on Earth, that's going to come down to Putin, not Obama.

"Yeah the stock market looks great and im sure Detroit thinks so too ."

Why yes the stock market does look great. I'm not sure what that has to do with Detroit. Detroit collapsed due to a number of factors, including the Recession (which Bush oversaw, just to clear that up) financial mismanagement, corruption, industrial collapse, population erosion, urban decay...Not  single bit of which has anything to do with Obama. Or, in fact, the stock market. Unless you're arguing that the stock market recovery after the recession should have somehow magically reversed the decades of decline Detroit had experienced?

So, at the end of Much of your argument is propaganda that doesn't hold up under closer inspection, or ("Iran") is simply facts stated without any actual argument attached. The one point that does hold up, the increase in the debt, fails to account for the massive increase in retiring and retired individuals drawing on entitlement benefits due to the Baby Boomer generation hitting that age. Since the president can't be held accountable for old age, I'm not sure how you'd like to see that number changed.

And just for funsies, given where this discussion started: guess who the last president was that presided over a simultaneous drop in the deficit and debt?

Oh, look. It was Clinton.

Alright, so the last dig was rude. Now, the OP had asked us not to have arguments on her timeline, so I sent Poster 2, whom I'll call Kool-Aid, the above tract through FB messaging, as well as a friend request, and an offer to continue the discussion in a public forum if they'd prefer. Their timeline or mine, I was up for either.

Surprisingly, the friend request was accepted. Utterly unsurprisingly, I received the following just minutes later.

Sorry I really don't have the time or patience to answer that huge response you sent in my messenger.  Personally I wasn't going to accept your request because i didn't want to hear you comment on everything I post . I'm conservative so I'm never going to see eye to eye with you and I don't spend that much time looking things up on the internet.  I took a chance by sending you a request and I got back what I expected.

So, yeah. That ended essentially the same as every debate I've ever tried to have with a conservative, save one (I got into a debate with a friend's aunt on the Ragebooks and I ended up losing my temper and descending into namecalling. It was totally my bad on that one.)

Why won't anyone argue with me? I mean seriously, I'm not that much of a research and logic god. I make mistakes, I fall into logical fallacies. While I doubt you're going to change your mind, if you can provide a decent argument backed by sources that are at least moderately unbiased, I'll happily concede your point.

And yet, I cannot find a conservative who'll friggin' debate.

Oh, yeah, the OP's significant other? They posted and said that while we both seemed to have posted valid arguments, he wasn't going to join the debate because it was moot: obviously, Obama is going to find some way around the term limits!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

That Place I Live: Ethnocentrism, Nationalism, and You

Greetings again, from the dark and paranoid end of the internet I inhabit. My sister is hounding me to blog, so blog I shall. And that's "hound" in the good sense, twin. Like, friendly thwapping upside the head to get me motivated.

In other words, we're Irish.

Also, Ceiling Cat is on her side.
Moving on.

Normally, this is the part of the show where Facebook comes out and sings a silly song. However, in their infinite wisdom, the FB design team has added a lovely function to their algorithm that erases whatever I'm lookng at if I scroll. Buh. I swear, there are days I feel my paranoia is justified. Anywho.

I saw a photo on the Ragebooks of a typewritten thing. Predictably, it produced a rage boner, and equally predictably, it vanished as soon as I clicked on it.  I shall attempt to reproduce it from memory.

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of Ameria, and to the Republc for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Kids used to recite this in school every morning, but now we don't for fear of offending someone. Repost this is you're a real American!"

I'm pretty certain I lost verisimilitude with that last line. My memory is awful. But really, the gist of it was "We don't say the pledge anymore! That un-Merican! Rah!"

"Why are you beng so lackdaisical about your sources!" gasps Schmoe. "You must support your claims!"

Well, Schmoe, the answer is simple: I'm not here to have a conversation about that post in particular, but about the nationalistic sentiments that inspired it and any of the thousands of "Real America" posts I've seen in the last year alone.

Let's break it down, shall we? Nationalism, is in essence, "fuck yeah that place I live!" It tends to be a bit crazy, especially since nationalistic feelings are often ethnocentric in origin.

Now, normally, this is where I refer to my good friend Merriam-Webster for a definition of ethnocentrism. Apparently, however, if you access Merriam-Webster from any non-desktop platform, you can no longer opt to see the web version, and must instead be relegated to My professors would jump for joy and refer me to the OED for a definition of "ethnocentrism":
  Tending to view the world from the perspective of one's own culture, sometimes with an assumption of superiority; limited as regards knowledge and appreciation of other cultures and communities. Also in neutral sense: aware of membership of an ethnic group, community, or culture.
Well, that's a far sight less useful than I'm used to working with. I mean, honestly, what's the point of a definition I can argue with using only the terms set forth within the definition as definitive? Oy.

Long story short, kiddies, and you can go back to Merriam-Webster on your own, ethnocentrism is commonly used to refer to either the idea that one's own culture is inherently superior, or the act, conscious or unconscious, of judging other cultures by the standards and mores of one's own culture.

Anywho. Synopsis at this point: "Real America(n)" posts express nationalistic sentiments that are often based on ethnocentrism. And yes, I find that offensive. Keep up.

Within a "Real America(n)" post, there's a few inherent assumptions, based on the ideologies I've postulated to be at their core:

1. That there is a definitive, single version of American values, against which any contrasting system may be considered flawed.

2. That "real Americans" are a universally homogenous group in which each member is identical to all other members across all meaningful standards.

3. That dissent from the aforementioned assumptions automatically makes a dissenting individual unAmerican.
3a. That by dissenting, and therefore being unAmerican, one's opinions are less valid.
3b. That a dissenter is unAmerican makes them suspect, and therefore their opinions are inherently destructive to assumptions 1 and 2. 
Starting to get a feel for why I dislike this shite so much?

Kicking these doors in one at a time:

1. That there is a definitive, single version of American values, against which any contrasting system may be considered flawed.

When was the last time you opened your door? Or turned on the news? No, not Fox, the news? If we had a single values system, none of that crazy arguing would be going on. We'd at least be headed in a single direction (even if it was toward our own destruction, it'd be a clear direction.) And politicians would spontaneously combust because they wouldn't be able to artificially divide individuals for their own gain.

Take, for example, my sister. Yes, you, twin. My sister's Ragebook feed is a constant stream of feminism.

Shuddup and siddown, I'm not done yet.

Constant stream of feminism, right. And what rapidly becomes clear when you're plugged into a datastream like that is that the world has a lot of problems. See, feminism (because apparently I'm having a definitive day) is about equality and respect for everyone. Which means that as soon as someone is being marginalized or disrespected, my sister has links, video, pictures, and thoughtful commentary about why that act of marginalization or disrespect is a load of Satan's babyjuice and the parties involved in perpetrating said act should be ashamed of themselves.

Point. I has one.

There cannot be a single "American" view of the world, precisely for the reasons my sister highlights over and over in her posts. We marginalize: half the species, anyone whose skin color is darker than Snooki's, anyone who believes in deity (or doesn't) differently than we do, anyone that has sex in a way that makes us twitch, anyone that presents differently in any way. And yes, I'm using the inclusive because I'm friggin' human and to be human is to be biased. As such, all of us have been marginalistic shitholes at some point.

First person to say "everybody does it makes it ok" gets a slap that starts in orbit and ends in the smoking, cratered rubble that will be memorialized as "the spot where the idiot was standing when the wrath of the Mad Blogger descended."

Anyway. By marginalizing all the views that don't match our own, we create a false majority. A majority that only exists because "none of those other people matter."

Since we'd like not to be marginalizing shitholes, once we take into account that there are other people we have to conclude that any "one true way" is simply an illusion.

2. That "real Americans" are a universally homogenous group in which each member is identical to all other members across all meaningful standards.

Now some of you are going, "well, gee, Uncle Jeremy, you rambled so much on the last point, didn't you pretty much answer this one?"

The first point assumes that there is one true way. While that's dumb, at least it has the value of being inclusive: you too can be a Real American if only you follow the One True Way.

The second point says that only Real Americans can be Real Americans. Let's clarify a bit of terminology to drive this one home.

Universally homogenous -
Completely the same without exception.
Meaningful standards -
Any measure of an individual which may potentially distinguish them from any other individual.
Got there yet? This assumption postulates that by claiming to be a "Real American" one automatically extends "realness" to all others who share one's race, religion, social class, values, and pickametric, while excluding anyone who doesn't share those qualities or support them as the true definition of "realness."

Basically, you can only be a "Real American" if you're just like me.

3. That dissent from the aforementioned assumptions automatically makes a dissenting individual less American.
3a. That by dissenting, and therefore being unAmerican, ones opinions are less valid.
3b. That a dissenter is unAmerican makes them suspect, and therefore their opinions are inherently destructive to assumptions 1 and 2. 
And there's the turn. The distinction drawn isn't between Real Americans and Americans, but between Real Americans and UnAmericans. You don't just get clocked out of the "Real Americans" club by holding an opinion that differs from that of a Real American, you become the enemy. 

You don't even have to actively disagree. Any opinion that is different from one held by the arbiter of American-ness isn't worthy of consideration. In any cases of conflict between your opinions and the opinions held by the Real American, your opinion is construed as undermining American-ness, and therefore simply by thinking differently, you are an active threat to the True American Way.

Ladiiiiiiiies and Gennnnntleeemeeeeeen (aaaannnnnd ooooottthheeeers aaaaaasss aaaaplicable) are you ready to RUMBLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-

Cough. Sorry, that got away from me a bit. The point is, by using nationalism as a platform for ethnocentrism, a fulcrum is created by which people can be divided simply by throwing the words "Real Americans are x" into a group of people.

Think about the old Greek tale of Eris and the golden apple. Eris got snubbed, and decided (as She do) to fix it by getting everyone involved to murder each other. Yeah, we do not provoke the goddess of Chaos and go home for tea and crumpets.

So She grabbed a golden apple and wrote "to the fairest" on it. Then She cracked open the door at the party She had explicitly been excluded from and chucked that apple of fuckery into the group of goddesses who'd snubbed Her. Then She went home for for tea and crumpets as the godesses threw murderbolts at each other while yelling about how each of them was the fairest.

That's what a "Real American" post is all about. Being the prettiest bigot at the ball.

It's funny because bigotry is ugly! Ha!
At the end of the day, I am wary of anything that asks me to declare my allegiance to a nameless, formless group by taking action, even if the action is as innocuous as sharing a Ragebook post. But when that declaration of allegiance comes at the cost of supporting blind ethnocentric nationalism, I offer to the idiot demanding my support through the application of moralistic arm-twisting a slap like unto the power of the Lovecraftian Old Ones. 

Namely, my slap will drive you insane before devouring your body and condemning your soul to a twisted eternity consisting only of my slap.