Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn


Recently got an automated email from Wikipedia asking me to login and reset my password (being an inactive person with a privileged account). I'm not really considering going back (I don't think they ever figured out the advertising thing, Erik Möller is still involved with the project, and I don't really need the stress). Kinda sad to see that most of the people I knew also have left, although maybe not unexpected. It has been 3 years since I moved on...

Chavezのmedia treatment: very worrying. Recently also relevant: Trotskyite response to the health care bill.. and some general thoughts on its passage and specifics..

For background, that Trotskyite response is made by one of America's few (and tiny) trotskyite communist parties, part of one of the many groups claiming to be the true 4th International (First International was a broad socialist movement in the 1800s, Second was a short-lived more communist-leaning movement that spanned the late 1800s and early 1900s and fell apart as WW1 started, Third was an instrument of the Soviet Union until Stalin pulled the plug on it after WW2, Fourth was Trotsky's alternate to Stalin's form of Communism that largely fell apart during Trotsky's later years due to T's incompetence, Stalinist maneuverings, and eventually the asssassination of Trotsky - after T's deaths, ideological fault lines led many groups to claim leadership). The Socialist Equality Party is one of those strands, and is the group about which I have often complained for their "we talk you listen" leadership style, their intensely kneejerk analyses, and so on.

The connection: a lack of unsympathetic factchecking. This is the best argument for a relatively independent media in any country whatever its system - even those with admirable goals (and I do think the SEP has admirable goals and really does want to serve the people), without the pressure of people who will call them on inaccuracies and poor analyses, easily fall prey to the ability to define their own reality. In a sense, FoxNews is bad for the Republicans because to the extent that their constituents and that news network form a bubble, they lose their intimate ties with reality (in the same way that Olbermann is a specter of that danger for Liberals) and lose sight of what kinds of policies actually achieve their desired ends. Taken to the level that Chavez has power, this is even more self-destructive - when his nation doesn't have a largely-independent media, it makes it difficult for people (and difficult for him) to judge policies by their actual effects (some things may be ideologically appropriate but have ill enough effects that other approaches are worth consideration). In brief: the more any system's common discourse fails to distinguish truth from untruth, the less effective its policies will be, and even the best-intentioned people, when their BS is uncalled for long enough, will easily fall into really low-quality analyses and provide really low-quality solutions.

In the US, the tiny socialist movement tends to rely on its own press, and it's preaching to the choir - there is little dissent in these movements because people fail to be critical of people they see as being good people (inappropriate form of solidarity). This sets the tone for these groups to be so brittle that they don't handle actual disagreements very well - even systems with more parties (British parliament, for example) have a number of factions in any party that have very significant differences, while socialist groups tend to instead split apart and fight to the death with each other until whomever leads a tendency dies or recants. (Orthodox marxism might have more of a leaning towards this self-destruction than most movements because of its claim to follow a uniquely scientific form of politics, a vanity echoed in the vastly distant "party of principle" self-moniker of the Libertarian Party of the US).

A trend for inner criticism and holding one's side to the facts is a necessary part of any movement or party that seeks to serve almost any notion of the public good. Outside of our particular commitment to some form of socialism, we commit, as central dogma, to preserving it as a metapolitical stance, and to disallow any calls to solidarity to override it. As a political stance, we commit to reasonable pluralism in news media significantly (but not solely) for this reason. In movements, we commit ourselves to opposing democratic centralism (this is not meant to comment on the institution of science, which is not DC but has some mildly similar aspects when its conclusions are taken towards the role of education) and to build traditions of continuing vigorous debate before, during, and after a decision of made so long as there is still reasonable disagreement.

Aside: If the local SEP meetings I had gone to actually had had this, they would not have looked at me as if I had grown another head when I disagreed with their speakers on the occasions I've shown up. As-is, it's a waste of time to attend their meetings, and without a cultural change they're committed to uselessness. Their analysis of the bill is juvenile and strongly resembles the ignorant right-wing populist criticism from Tea Partiers.

What is there really to be bothered about in the bill? From some perspectives:

  • The individual mandate is irksome as a positive duty that requires people to pay attention to something. The benefits that were being aimed for should occur in a way that happens automatically so people can't get it wrong, so they won't have to think much about it, and ideally so it happens invisibly. (This may be a hard problem given how mild the bill is - making it easy would require making the system much more comprehensive)
  • The "pool together for bargaining" is purely redistributive, taking the previously unpooled's subsidation of currently-pooled people away. That's not going to be popular for those currently in a pool
  • It's unclear exactly what parts of the bill are zero sum and which are net gain. (the debate did not focus much on this) - things that are not redistributive should theoretically gain broad support, although perhaps this bundling is productive for helping those currently privileged swallow the bill as a whole.
  • The regulations are a shift in the role of government in the US, or at least a statement on one side of that divisive issue. I don't entirely agree with Elvin Lim's analysis (linked) that it's a radical reconfiguration on the state's role, but it is something - we've never decided (And probably will never firmly decide/agree) as a society whether the state is closer to being a neutral scorekeeper or a reflection of our society and its desires.

Just learned about the "fieldset" tag in HTML - there seems to be a lot of argument in the markup community between using it and DIVs.

If you're in the mood for some (bad) philosophy, Sam Harris argues that science can lead one to moral conclusions. His arguments are poor and fall apart with just mild prodding (IMO), but it's kind of a cute idea.

Life continues to be frustrating and lonely. Yay. This mention included for the sake of people playing a drinking game. :P

Tags: politics

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