Tuesday, July 31, 2012


This is what innovation looks like.

Okay, so on the surface, the videos appear to be little more than an Anime fanboy's dream come true. But see past the robot geekiness for a moment, and you realize something. Those arms actually move, and it doesn't take much to operate them.

Kogoro Kurata took the concept of a master-slave system, and made it a reality. Manga artist and designer Shirow Masamune, in his 1992 book Intron Depot 1, explained the concept this way:
The master arms have small joints that correspond to the shoulders and elbows [...]. You control the slave arms as if you were manipulating a small puppet in front of you.
Now, I don't know if Kurata was the first person to manage this. If others came before him, he's simply getting the most press right now. But this is a technology that has some real potential. Although the Kuratas robots are artworks, and not "real" vehicles, if someone takes that idea and expands upon it, it could open up a wealth of possibilities. It's the combination of "what if" and "I can do that."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Blood and Money

People need to have the freedom not to have insurance if the marketplace is to function properly, [Michael Cannon, head of health policy at the Cato Institute.] says. "Because if they don't have freedom, if the government is requiring them to purchase health insurance either from a private company or the government, then the government gets to define what health insurance is, and that stifles a lot of innovation in the health insurance and health care delivery markets, and we're suffering under that sort of regulation right now," he says.
GOP Says Coverage For The Uninsured Is No Longer The Priority
I get the Gospel of the Free Market thinking that goes into a statement like this. Let people go without buying a good or service, and the companies that provide that service will innovate in the service of attempting to entice those holdouts into signing up.

But, in the case of health insurance, does it really work that way? Someone who thinks of themselves as healthy enough to not need insurance is unlikely to be swayed into purchasing something that, in the best-case scenario is a complete waste of money. After all, if you pay 50 years of premiums and never make a claim, you can't receive a reimbursement. They money either goes to people who do file claims, or it goes to the profitability of the insurer. And there is the other angle to consider. While a serious illness or injury may require expensive care, you are, likely as not, going to get that care regardless of your actual ability to pay. Okay, so you may have to declare bankruptcy, and liquidate a number of assets to pay your medical creditors. But you'll receive a basic level of medical care, and if you can't pay for it, someone else will.

Between them, the idea that the workings of the free market are a socially ideal solution is a pipe dream. In a more indifferent society, the story would change. If we were willing to allow people to die, when they could be saved, because they lacked the means to pay for care or the expectation that close relations would ride to the rescue were not there or we were okay with the idea that children with serious diseases were solely the responsibility of their parents or medical debts were un-dischargeable and/or we were okay with hospitals shuttering because of too much uncompensated care, then the free market in health care and insurance services would be more desirable, as the risk/benefit analysis would have much more real consequences. But that's not the society that we live in. Pretending that it is doesn't make any sense, and fosters an attitude that "conservatives," "libertarians" and/or whatever other labels free market boosters attach to themselves, are knowingly relying on others being soft-hearted to allow themselves to avoid paying into a system without having to see the consequences.

The way in which we regard health issues means that health care is less an issue of finances than it is one of mores. The social contract rarely concerns itself with costs and this is precisely the way that many people want it. We'll all be better off if we make the effort to engage with it that way.

(Of course, this leaves out the fact that most people's choices are limited by what their employers do, or do not, offer. We'll save that one for later.)

Not Without Your Dollars

As the saying goes, there's bad government spending, and then there's OUR government spending.

"In contrast to the plan proposed by Senate Republicans, Washington has turned to more government spending, higher taxes, while pushing for overly burdensome regulations on job creators and manufacturers – slowing our economic recovery. We’ve already learned from experience that we can’t spend our way to prosperity. Instead, we must encourage employers to invest in their companies, hire new workers and enable them to compete globally, which is what the Senate Republican Jobs plan will do," Portman added.

After the Army didn't order new tanks last year, Congress approved $255 million to upgrade dozens of M1s through 2014. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, pushed hard for the spending.

"You know last year I was able to play a role to ensure that the facility would stay open for this year," Portman says, "but we're now fighting the same fight for next year."
Plant Pleads To Stay Afloat, But Army Says 'No Tanks'

Given the nature of Congress, calls for fiscal austerity, no matter how vehement or often repeated, are rarely genuine. While there is, in fact, a lot to be said for keeping spending within revenues, calls to reduce the Federal budget have become more about channeling limited federal funds to chosen constituencies, while at the same time preventing the other party from doing the same. And then often having challengers to the incumbent make a point of campaigning on a failure of the current representation to "bring home the bacon." Of course, all the while decrying surviving programs that benefit others at "pork."

While, of course, it is easy to blame the vagaries of Congressional politics for these sorts of situations, the simple truth is that we, as citizens, have become too accustomed to transfer payments (mainly from government borrowing) to support our standards of living. While Waste, Fraud and Abuse are certainly real (and in reality, difficult to root out), for many voters, the Three Horsemen of the Budget Apocalypse have come be stand-ins for a state of denial over just how much they rely on dollars from elsewhere - even more so than programs that benefit the "less deserving."

Despite being nearly ubiquitous, this sort of hypocrisy needs to be exposed for what it is. Not that doing so will make it go away. Rather, we should hope that it allows us to make more intelligent decisions as a society. We're unlikely to ever reach a point where, as individuals, we routinely put aside our personal interests for the common good. But if we continue to allow our representatives to mouth the empty rhetoric of fiscal discipline even as we lobby them to force departments agencies to overspend, there eventually won't be a common good to be promoted.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Of Partisans and Predators

The message here is clear. Joe Paterno, once beloved football coach is having his name posthumously dragged through the mud for simply knowing about a sexual predator, while Democratic partisans honor former President Bill Clinton, who was(?) a sexual predator.

But it's difficult to credit that as anything than the pot calling the kettle black. Or perhaps in this case, the pot calling the teacups black. It's difficult to reconcile, as this cartoon attempts to do, the image of President Clinton as being sexually predatory, while at the same time, portraying a supposed "victim" as willing, if not an out-and-out slut. And unlike Jerry Sandusky, President Clinton was never convicted of a sex crime. It's an important distinction, that McCoy completely glosses over in an attempt to portray Democrats as hypocrites who will overlook sexual impropriety in one of their own, while holding others to an unfairly high standard.

Being a serial philanderer does not rise to the level of turning a blind eye to ongoing criminal activity. It shouldn't be treated as such, simply in an attempt to score political points.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tell It Like It Is

Roger Ebert, long-time movie critic, wrote a blog posting in the Sun-Times titled "The Body Count." In it, he makes the following observation about the AR-15 "assault rifle"*:

"I also don't understand why civilians need to possess AR-15 assault rifles, such as the one used by James Holmes in Colorado. They fire 10 shots at a time, and are intended for combat use."
In the comments section of his post, Ebert took quite a bit of heat for that second sentence. Which he acknowledged, pleading ignorance, and pointing people to an article in the Contra Costa Times, which contains the sentence:
"Fully-automatic and military-style assault weapons that fire more than 10 rounds at a time, like the AR-15, are against the law in the Golden State."
Ebert does err in using the term "assault rifle" rather than "assault weapon," as stated in the Contra Costa Times piece. The difference is not semantic, as a weapon can be one, the other or both. But like most people who don't know what they don't know, and therefore can't evaluate certain information that's presented to them, he passed along a misleading snippet from the original piece.

"10 shots at a time," or "10 rounds at a time," is ambiguous in this context, and doesn't mean what we normally think of it as meaning. While there are actually weapons that can fire 10 rounds at a time, in the sense that they are all being fired simultaneously, they're pretty rare. Many of them are rare and valuable antiques by this point, volley guns dating back to the 19th century and before, although a few modern versions exist. If we take 10 rounds at a time to mean that the weapon fires 10 times with each pull of the trigger, we're talking about a burst-fire weapon, and a much longer burst than anything in use with military forces today. Or we're referring to a fully-automatic weapon, which continues to fire as long as the trigger is held. But Holmes couldn't have legally purchased a weapon like that without special permits - it's not the sort of thing that a graduate student can simply walk into a gun store and purchase off-the-shelf.

Instead, what "10 rounds at a time" means in this context is the ability to fire ten time without stopping to change magazines or otherwise reload the weapon. Or, to be somewhat technical about it, magazine capacity. I don't understand what impulse for economy inspired the authors of the Contra Costa Times article to use "at a time" rather than "before reloading" or something similar, but it threw Ebert, and likely others, off.

While I guess that it's not, strictly speaking, inaccurate, the Contra Costa Times' phrasing is isn't illuminating to the uninitiated. "Assault weapon/rifle" has become a very loaded term in modern America, because it's how suburban whites perceive that gun violence will have an impact on them. While residents of minority neighborhoods have to be on the lookout for young toughs with handguns in their waistbands on a daily basis, in more affluent parts of the nation, it's the specter of the angry or deranged shooter (or, increasingly, a terrorist) with a gun from an action movie that haunts their nightmares. This place in the public debate is poorly served by the nebulous understanding of what these weapons are that most people have. And the public understanding is poorly served when the sources they rely on for information, in rushing to get stories to print, neglect to make them informative.

*"Assault rifle" is in quotes here because the AR-15 does not meet that technical definition of an assault rifle, as understood by the United States Army. A simple form of that definition is "Assault rifles are short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachinegun and rifle cartridges." For those of you not familiar with firearms terminology, "selective-fire" means that the user may select between semi-automatic and burst fire and/or fully-automatic fire.

Note, however, that the typical AR-15 IS an "assault weapon." But "assault weapon" is legal and political term, not a technical one. An interesting piece of trivia is that a semi-automatic only version of an M-14 or Browning Automatic Rifle, are not "assault weapons" under the definition, because the definition includes the weapons form, and not simply it's function.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

He's Back...

Microsoft is working on the next Halo game, Halo 4. (Depending on how you count them, this is the sixth or seventh game in the series.)

Now, as a bit of explanation that won't mean anything to those of you not into console games, at the end of Halo 3, the Master Chief (the player's character and the main hero of the Halo universe) and his AI companion Cortana had escaped from the Ark (a giant alien space station/factory), in the United Nations Space Command starship Forward Unto Dawn. During the escape, the Forward was basically cut in half, and the half that our heroes were in was left adrift in deep space somewhere.

This fate had been engineered by Bungie Studios, the original creators of Halo. Microsoft kept the Halo franchise when they spun Bungie off. Deciding that the Master Chief and Cortana were to valuable to not be used, Microsoft decided they had to come back.

So the backstory for this new game is that the Master Chief and Cortana find themselves on an artificial planet called Requiem (how it received this name is currently unclear). At the same time, back on Earth, the UNSC has commissioned a massive new starship called the Infinity. Now, the Infinity was originally laid down to help defend the Earth against a coalition of hostile aliens (the Halo series, if you're not in the know, are first-person shooters). But that war ended with at the end of Halo 3, so the ship was converted into an exploration vessel. And guess what it finds? A new hostile bunch of aliens! And, of course, Requiem! Thus giving the Master Chief another opportunity to be the baddest dude in the valley, and for game players to play him again.

I get that Microsoft sees the Master Chief as the center of the Halo franchise, and thus the cash in the cash cow. But this seems like the beginning of what many people predicted when Microsoft took over from Bungie - the milking of the franchise for every dime that could be wrung out of it, until it had been driven into the ground. Like Hollywood, there is an aversion to mess with something that has been shown to work in the past, and so Microsoft can be expected to return to the well over and over again until it runs dry. While I didn't buy into the "revolutionary" hype that surrounded the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved, its transition from typical FPS adventure game to survival horror was actually something different. Let's hope that this new game manages to avoid being simply more of the same.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Back in 2008, after eight years of the George W. Bush administration, the economy was headed to Hell in a handbasket at an alarming velocity, and "Republican" was very nearly a dirty word. So when former state legislator Dino Rossi sought to unseat Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire in the 2008 Washington gubernatorial race, he simply avoided using the word. Instead, on the ballot after Rossi's name was "prefers GOP party." The Democrats, predictably, cried foul, claiming that Rossi was out to confuse the electorate. Indeed, despite the fact that news media constantly describes prominent Republicans as members of the GOP, nearly twenty percent of Washington State Republican voters were unaware that the Grand Old Party were the Republicans.

But now it's four years later, and the Obama administration abetted first by Democratic majorities in both house of Congress and now by a Democratic Senate have done the unthinkable - re-rehabilitated the Republican Party. (The Republicans lay down in a coffin and closed the lid. One wonders how the Democrats avoided getting their act together enough to show up with nails.)

So when I came across a sign with no obvious partisan affiliation on it, I was a bit intrigued. Perhaps, I reasoned, we were seeing some of the "a pox on both your houses" at work, and some independent candidates were going to make a run for office, and had enough organization behind them to have some signs erected.

A Dawn McCravey sign. The larger ones aren't any easier to find her party on.

No such luck. Dawn McCravey is a member of the GOP. It says so on her sign. Right there, after where it says "for State Senate." While it's easy to see in a photo taken from several inches away, from a moving car or several feet back, it's nearly invisible. See for yourself. Back up a ways from the screen, and you'll see it's the first thing that becomes difficult to read. (Incidentally, I received a robo-call from the McCravey campaign yesterday. Listening to the message on my answering machine I waited to hear if she'd make any mention of her partisan affiliation or any partisan endorsements. Sure enough, not a one.)

A Shahram Hadian sign. You've really got to search this one.
But gubernatorial candidate Shahram Hadian takes it a step further, not even putting his first name on his campaign signs. But let's see if you can find his party affiliation in his sign. Look carefully, because it's actually on there. Down at the bottom, in the "Paid For" section.

Granted, Washington is considered a solid Blue state. We don't see many national campaign ads on television, and the presidential contenders only come this way to beg money from technology millionaires - those who aren't self-funding their own campaigns for political office, anyway. The state's pretty much a lock for the Democrats, and people know it. But still, there seems little point to the bait-and-switch tactic that seems to be in play here. If you have to sneak into office under cover of the public's ignorance, they're not likely to back you if you actually get there.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Still Going...

It's been about nine and a half years since the Lake Forest Park weekly peace protests began. And they're still at it, beating the drum for peace.

E Pluribus

Would you be willing to spend an eternity in Hell out of loyalty to your country?

I know that sounds like a bizarre, and perhaps stupid, question, but bear with me for a moment. According to the "Trends in American Values: 1987-2012" study, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, as of this year, 80% of respondents agreed with the statement "I never doubt the existence of God" (although that number has been declining). 76% agree with "There are clear guidelines about what's good or evil that apply to everyone, regardless of their situation." And again, 76% agree with "We all will be called before God at the Judgment Day to answer for our sins."

Given this, it struck me as odd, when I thought about it, that 51% of the people that Pew surveyed agreed with the statement that "We all should be willing to fight for our country, whether it is right or wrong." Given these numbers, if we make the (very likely inaccurate) assumption that there is no correlation between answers to these questions, approximately 24% of Americans surveyed believe that everyone should be willing to fight for their nation, even if they know what their nation is fighting for is wrong - in spite of the fact that they are absolutely confident that there is a God, that this God will judge them, and the criteria for good and evil are universal. Given the fact that there likely IS a correlation between the answers to these questions, the numbers are likely higher, as you will note of you only take the demographic that has a high-school education or less. Among this group, our hypothetical number rises to just above 35%.

From childhood through to my adult life, I've heard more than a few stories about what an angry God is like. I've even known people who sincerely believed in bolts from the blue for such minor infractions as expressing skepticism of religion (Christianity, to be more precise). I'm fairly certain that you couldn't get them to march off to a war that they understood that might God disapprove of. Yet I must admit that a few of them were in the camp of "My country right or wrong," and more than willing to kill them all, and trust that God would know his own.

The most logical explanation that I can come up with is that, as in many things, we don't think about all of these things at the same time. In other words, we lack a "unified field theory" of our own beliefs, as it were. Likely because we don't think of these things as a package. Mention to people that 90% of people surveyed said that they considered it a their civic duty to always vote, but that voter turnout almost never gets to that level (for our upcoming primaries here in Washington State, about half that is expected), and people are well aware of the discrepancy and the disconnect it represents. But separate topics somewhat and the fact that they fall into different mental buckets means that most people have likely never considered the upshot.

One wonders what things would look like if we were better able to merge our philosophical buckets.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Action Talks

When Mitt Ronmey went to speak to the NAACP, there was the predictable chorus of whining (and yes, it's properly labeled whining) from many rank and file Republicans that the African-American audience wouldn't be appropriately receptive to his message. It's conventional wisdom that Black voters go heavily Democratic, with between 80 and 90 percent of them casting votes for Democrats. The fact that President Obama is Black (or mixed-race, if you're disinclined to use Black primarily as a descriptor for appearance) has add an extra dimension of bitterness to the standard lament, with many White Republican voters wrapping themselves in the mantle of oppressed victims, put upon by a demographic that will only vote for one of their own.

This is rooted, it seems to me, in a fundamental misunderstanding of how the African-American electorate has gone about things for decades and decades now. Blacks could once be counted on to vote Republican - the Party of Lincoln. The reason for this strikes me as fairly clear, Lincoln put forth the Emancipation Proclamation, and his party reaped the electoral benefits of this for election cycle after election cycle. The Democrats lock on the Black vote came after Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party fought to get civil rights legislation through Congress and put an end to Jim Crow.

While these are only two data points, you can see the beginnings of a clear pattern, one that the Republican Party seems to be unwilling to acknowledge. While the GOP gives speeches that say to African-American voters: "Vote for us, and then we will do great things for you," the message from African-American voters has instead been: "Do great things for us, and then we will vote for you."

John McCain's and Mitt Romney's lack of success among the greater African-American electorate then, may perhaps be chalked up most recently to George W. Bush, who had been advised to write off the Black vote, rather than pursue it. Had he gone out on a limb and pushed through some policy to radically improve the lives of African-Americans, history suggests that his successors would have been rewarded in the polls. Until the national Republican Party understands and acts upon the idea that actions are what will earn them votes, they will continue to be confronted by the idea that talk is cheap. Although perhaps not as cheap as whine.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hang Together

[F]or Gandhi, the struggle to bring about a better world involved not only stringent self-denial and rigorous adherence to the philosophy of nonviolence; it also involved a steady awareness that one person, alone, can’t change anything, an awareness that unjust authority can be overturned only by great numbers of people working together with discipline and persistence.
Brian Morton "Falser Words Were Never Spoken" The New York Times. Monday, 29 August, 2011
We've gotten the "one person, alone, can’t change anything" part down to a science. The rest of it, it seems, we outsource. Unjust authority or simple injustice, we seek to find someone else to make these things expensive, because we won't do it ourselves. Sometimes this works for us, but it just as often works against us, as it is a corollary of the Law of Unintended Consequences that "hard cases make bad law," and so often things don't go as planned.

Changing this means a lot of things that we don't like, such as talking to people we disagree with, and searching for those areas where we can make common cause. Sometimes it means having to be less doctrinaire about our understandings of right and wrong, even if we see such things as not being open to discussion. Sometimes it means understanding that not believing in whatever way we've decided is best for everyone isn't the same as actively believing in whatever way we've decided is worst for everyone.

We've given up on group discipline and persistence in favor of claiming that others have a deontological obligation to act in a way that we want them to, and so we strive to have our ethics codified into laws that it then falls to other people to enforce, while we congratulate ourselves on a job well done, and go about our business, secure in the understanding that we've made the world a better place through the simple mechanism of another means to punish people.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Whither Spite?

What we are going to see is Republican-controlled state governments refusing to expand Medicaid out of bitter hatred toward President Obama and spite for the working poor who need access to health care.
James Kwak "The Wisdom and the Absurdity in the Supreme Court's Health Care Decision" The Atlantic. Thursday, 28 June, 2012
Because, of course, it's simply not possible to see the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as a bad policy with negative consequences and clear costs. But before we go any farther, let me be clear - I'm not actually taking a position on the ACA. I haven't read the text of the law, and much of the ACA will take effect in rules and regulations that haven't been written yet. So I'm simply taking issue with Kwak referring to those unwilling to expand Medicaid as hateful and spiteful.

In his Baseline Scenario post on the topic, he excoriates Republican governors who appear unwilling to take up the federal government on its offer to pay 90% of the costs for new Medicaid recipients if the state adds them to their rolls. "They are willing to turn down oodles of federal money on the grounds that they need to kick in ten cents on the dollar to cover people who would otherwise go without health insurance." This criticism is disingenuous on two grounds that come immediately to mind.

The first is that "ten cents on the dollar" can be a whole lot of dollars, if the initial sum is large enough to begin with. So where does the money come from? Just as no raindrop ever feels that it is responsible for the flood, when taken by themselves, there is always enough money to fund any given policy priority, and people who push for this government program or that one often fail to account for the fact that they are not operating in a vacuum. Despite the fact that we tend to use "inexpensive" and "affordable" as synonyms, the fact that something is inexpensive does not mean that the funds to afford it are there. A 90% discount on something may be quite the bargain, but if you're already in a position where every dime you have is spoken for, it doesn't do you much good. The possible unspoken assumption that simply raising taxes is the easy answer glosses over a simple fact - raising taxes is never easy. There's a reason why, despite the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States as termed the ACA's penalty for not buying insurance coverage a tax, that both President Obama and Mitt Romney refuse to term it as such.

The second is the question of where the other 90% of the money comes from. "The federal government" is not the correct answer, unless we expect that the Federal Reserve is simply going to increase the money supply to cover the cost. The United States already borrows some 40% of its annual budget. While proponents of the ACA have always said that there would be cost savings that could be redirected to covering any new costs, but just as in anything else, it's unwise to count your money before it's hatched. So while it's easy to say that the state should treat the federal reimbursement as found money, the simple fact of the matter is that someone is going to have to pony up the tax dollars to fund the program. And governors realize that their constituents are likely to be part of that someone.

Outside of these basic questions of finance, there is also a policy question. Kwak says to governors who would face criticism from an imagined TEA Party activist for implementing the Medicaid expansion: "And, frankly, she will be right: you supported ObamaCare because it was good for the people of your state." There is a pernicious assumption here - one that is common from both sides of partisan arguments: "You know that this is a good policy - you just won't admit it." This attribution of dishonesty is not only toxic but requires some form of evidence to support it. But even if it's true, it glosses over a simple fact - good for the people of a state, and the best thing for the people of that state, may or may not be the same thing. While I tend to regard the stereotypical faith of economic conservatives that the Free Market is a nearly magical solution for any problem to be suspect, I do not go so far as to then say that this means that an expansive, activist government is any more a panacea. The idea that it's not possible to honestly consider the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be bad policy, or simply not as good as another solution that someone has crafted strikes me as more rooted in ideology than in fact, especially when one considers the fact that it's genesis is rooted in certain assumptions - and not everyone shares those assumptions.

Of course, there are some pretty clear signs that opposition to some parts of the opposition to the ACA are simple political gamesmanship. It's hard to understand how the individual mandate, which was once championed by some conservatives when it came under attack in Massachusetts, is now anathema in other way than rank partisanship. Although it's worth keeping in mind that clear instances where individual conservatives were for such things before they were against them are rare (although clearly not impossible to find), so one must be careful not to fall into making charges of institutional hypocrisy, as there were some conservatives who were against the scheme from the start.

But that does not mean that any and all conservative objections to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are unprincipled. We would do well to make sure that we are to hang people for inconsistency and malice that we do so with a rope woven from their own words, rather than with attributions created from whole cloth.

If You're So Smart...

It was, on the face of it, perfectly innocuous:

Both of these sounded like great ideas, but the costs were hidden. Now those costs are plainly visible, if you can understand what you are looking at.
But the moment I read the second sentence, warning bells started going off. It was in a post that linked to an article on education, and I found my curiosity at war with a sense of caution about following the link.

If you spend any amount of time reading people's opinions about things (especially activists) you'll encounter any number of variations on this concept, and I sometimes wonder if people understand how off-putting it can be. It reminds me of this quote:
Even though we know better, it's remarkably easy to feel as if our own aesthetic judgments reflect reality and that, therefore, anyone of sufficient intelligence and sensitivity should share our view.
Kathryn Schulz "Eat Your Words: Anthony Bourdain on Being Wrong" Slate Magazine. Monday, 31 May, 2010
While I understand what people are getting at when they put things that way, for me, it runs a giant red banner up the flagpole - "don't engage with this - disagreement with whatever points are presented will be considered legitimate grounds to challenge your intelligence and thoughtfulness." And sure enough, the article that was linked to took an early detour from its primary points specifically to challenge the intellect of critics.

I often wonder if people do actually feel, as Ms. Schulz put it, that our judgments as to the nature of the world reflect intelligence and sensitivity on our part, or if this is, in effect, simply idiomatic language that we use without thinking about it, because we encounter it so often. My personal understanding of the world is not one that is necessarily objectively grounded - but it's one that works perfectly well for me. And given that, I understand that it may work less well, or not at all, for any other given person. One doesn't need to be particularly thoughtful, in my opinion, to recognize this - it's part and parcel of the idea that everyone is a unique individual. But, I also understand that I'm okay with being different, and so maybe I don't feel a need to relate the world to some fundamental characteristic that we all share.

But I digress. Anyway, it's a safe bet that no successful sales professional opens a pitch by openly challenging the reason and judgement of their customer. (Con artists might, but they limit their market in doing so.) And so I wonder why, when we attempt to sell on another on our political views, we so often do so in a way that is almost guaranteed to put others on their guard against an attack against them. Likely without ever realizing it. It's said that humanity does not scale well, and I wonder if this is a symptom of that. Perhaps there is something in the nature of humanity that actively works against a greater unity of purpose, and it comes out in language.

Or perhaps humanity simply lacks sufficient intelligence and sensitivity to do better.

Monday, July 2, 2012