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Comments made by GeraldFnord

Future Uncertain For Death Penalty In California

I can't shake the feeling that many of us are gluttons for [other peoples'] punishment.

More fairly, both sides talk past each other: one side feels that the universe is out-of-joint if someone guilty of murder is not killed for it, while the other side gets no such feeling of satisfaction, cannot understand the 'purification' morality standing behind such, and is in fact frightened of a State that can legally kill in cold blood (though they may support its right to kill in notional self-defence on a battlefield).

That is to say, many on my side of the issue can't understand the feeling that pro--death-penalty sorts have that it is a positive good in itself. I don't feel so---and feel that if someone had to be killed for everyone else's safety, say in a society without prisons, it were best done with regret and considered not as a success but as the least bad failure available---but I think I understand the capitalists (to coin a term): society is not whole if a killer should live, much as some among my ancestors evidently believed that society were not whole were a disobedient son to live.

The problem is that a single act (killing a woman found guilty of a crime who is no immediate danger to anyone, possessing 28.4 g of cannabis, paying taxes) can have many aspects, each of which is evaluated by any given judge. If some fraction of those aspects, weighted by importance, is considered good or bad, the act is seen so. Different judges, different weights, even different willingness to even judge some aspects.

I like Jonathan Haidt's work on the moral underpinnings of liberals and conservatives; I don't think it absolutely definitive, but a very good start in addressing these and similar issues. I think it can help us understand each other better even if it can't stop our talking past each other, at least well enough that we can consider each other as quite possibly being fellow-citizens of good will who disagree with each other, as opposed to bad-faith actors bent on being monstrous.

March 15, 2011 at 11:03 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

"Manning Up" Unlikely For Twenty-Somethings

When I hear the words 'man up' I hear 'do as I say'.

No-one can 'turn one into a boy'. If men act in certain ways, they are doing so as at least vaguely rational actors doing the usual Pareto optimisation, leaving open the question of how they could do better.

I must admit that I am sceptical because 'manhood' is so easily used as short-hand for 'how <i>I</i> want men to behave', as is obviously the analogous case for 'feminity'. Too often---from peers to drill-sergeants to pundits to the notional Mrs Macbeth---the idea that a man is not living up to such is used 'as a spade with which to dig, or a crown to wear'---the person who sets and rates according to the standard uses it to glorify himself, or to persuade men to do what the evaluator wants.

This is not a defence of guy-dom, for example, I have trouble believing that my zaydeh, a paragon of manliness in his cultural context, could have even _comprehended_ the idea of an adult male's being interested in team sports, much less being unmarried past the age of 18 years or so---but on the other hand, the men who were set against him and his were partially fuelled by a very definite definition of 'manhood' which was designed for him to always fall-short-of.... (Sorry to activate the Godwin filters.)

March 8, 2011 at 9:04 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Climate Scientists Discuss Efforts To Educate Public About Global Warming

@salshah | yesterday at 10:27 a.m.

The changes the fossil record indicates have taken place over tens or hundreds of million year; the anthropogenic changes we're experiencing now are much faster---and do really seem to correlate in magnitude with the amount of carbon released.

And, more to the point, it's not dinosaurs about which I'm concerned: I'm sorry if repeated exposure has inurred us to the fact that small rises in sea level could result in disastrous change for literal millions---yes, some others might benefit, but that's of no comfort to me, and smacks of believing the world were just or something silly like that.

Yes, I'll admit it, I'm a conservative: billions have made a way of life with the climate about where it is now, not always a great life but at least they have a modus vivendi, and so I'm against making sudden changes in the climate if we can reasonably avoid it. Let's avoid it with better tech, including the social tech of conservation but not at all limited thereto.

February 22, 2011 at 7:39 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Should California Move Forward With Plan To Build High-Speed Rail System?

I think this would be a great project for Californians' future prospertiy and health, but doubt it will come to pass: we have been subjected to thirty years of marketolatrous, anti-government, propaganda to the extent that the massive government spending a recession's end demands is derided as an ill.

I think the die was cast the moment anyone accepted the sentence, 'Massive government spending didn't lift us out of the Depression, it was World War II,' with a straight face---as if the spending on the war came from the private sector. The net effect of market-worship to is cement the positions of those who have done well by it or whose ancestors have---what's the fun of being a Koch Brother if there aren't a lot of poor people desperate enough to work in your sinks of pollution, otherwise do your bidding, and compliment you for being such a Galtian paragon?

January 19, 2011 at 8:30 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Toning Down The Holiday 'Wants'

Remember, in the end you're still bigger and stronger and scarier than they are (unless they're possessed of an unclean spirit, in which case all bets are head-spinningly off). You should never break the law, but this still should give you the advantage.

Of course, this will teach your children the lesson that physical power and ability to inflict fear trump everything else, which might not be what you wish to explicitly teach them...but will be taught to them anyway, everywhere, and all the time. It will also teach them the skill of disliking you, so that by adolescence they'll be _really_ good at it---and isn't parenting all about helping them develop their life-skills to their full potential?

December 22, 2010 at 7:03 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

"The Last Good War" Celebrates World War Two Veterans

My father considered it a necessary war, and did his bit at the cost of great suffering and danger, but hated that term for it almost as much as he loathed the term "greatest generation"---he _knew_ a lot of people in his generation, and considered them and him normal people called to do important things that any generation would similarly do.

It's important to remember that Studs Terkel interviewed no dead soldiers, no-one grieving over a very recent loss of one, surviving soldiers who often were damaged but at least got to get out of their small towns, and a large number of civilians for whom the massive government spending and control of the war made more prosperous (as would be the case if we were to do the same now, but only war seems to shatter the illusion that the economy will do fine for us on its own with uncivilised levels of State intervention and assurances---or so my father believed).

December 3, 2010 at 8:31 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

America's Superpower Status May Threaten its Democracy

I fear that a nation that does war better than anyone, but nothing else better than anyone, will inevitably be a predator. Some, of course, believe that this already happened while back (see Butler, Smedley), but I'd rather give my native land's people the benefit of a doubt, and I think for a long time we both were militarily supreme and actually productive. Our industry made things people wanted, and our culture produced artifacts other nations' cultures valued, to one extent or another. But now I am concerned, given the short shrift science and the arts are given in our culture, that either of these will be true.

Moral objections aside, predators have to worry both about every other predator and about (in a plastic species like ours) the prey's changing and organising into a threat.

December 2, 2010 at 10:14 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

John de Beck Discusses Time On School Board, Challenges District Faces In Future

A cheer for Ms Barbara:

I have heard several people on the Right, most notably an ex-{Alaskan governor} and national shame, mock Mr Obama by pointing out how educated he is.

No wonder we depend on unassimilated immigrant groups to provide our scientists: we (speaking loosely) hate education, do not respect the smart and creative except on the playing field, and get what we want for the most part, immigrants and socially inept people aside.

November 30, 2010 at 9:55 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

What's Fueling Conflict Between Religion And Science?

I don't think being atheist is an extreme---it is more of a ground-state. That is to say, we do not believe a great deal of things---by believing in a god, and in particular in a particular god associated with a particular religious story, the believer is believing in a great deal---something bigger than the entire universe, something bigger than the functional space in which the universal wave-function exists, in point of fact---on the basis, largely, of having been told that it is true.

Perhaps there is another sort of truth, one different from that obtainable via the evidence of our senses and the operation of our reason. In Terry Pratchett's excellent book "Nation", a character, on being apprised of the existence of this other sort of truth, responds on the order of, "Oh; you mean 'lies'," though I shall not go that far, since one who tells a non-truth but who believes therein is not lying.

November 10, 2010 at 10:18 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Exploring The "Liberal Gene"

I would also take issue with the critæria: there are now many on the Right, who are classed as "conservatives" or should be, who advocate the reorganisation of society never before tried (except perhaps mediæval Iceland or Calvin's Geneva), and which I fear as new and untested---I find the rampant traditionalism and free-market fundamentalism of modern conservatives a radical novelty. Does this make me a conservative Leftist?

Similarly, I grew up with a certain level of welfare statism and the expectation that there would be more, liked that situation, and now find myself standing athwart the current tide of history, yelling 'Stop!'

Evolutionary note: we all _are_ liberal...compared to house-cats, who hate change.

November 1, 2010 at 10:20 a.m. ( | suggest removal )