FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #19: “Philosophical debates can be effective but character assassination is more expedient, especially when no one agrees with your philosophy.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 22nd, 2010

WARNING.  The following contains some explicit language and sexual content and may be inappropriate to some.

“F*ck you.”  “Ass h*le.”  “You’re mother is a whore.”

We all probably heard these before.  Directed at us.  At the end of an argument.  Which means we’ve argued well.  For when the invectives fly, you’ve won the argument.

 A good sales man would never call your mother a whore.  Instead, if you say ‘no’, they come up with other reasons for you to say ‘yes’.  They believe they can get you to see things their way.  And often do.  Not so when it comes to politics.  Especially if you’re arguing with a liberal.

A lot of liberals are liberals for no good reason.  Calling yourself a liberal is just a way to feel good about yourself, to make you feel more enlightened and smarter than non-liberals.  But most are not as smart or enlightened as they would like to think they are. 

I met an old friend for lunch.  She was once a liberal but has since moved to where the bulk of the country is.  Center-right.  She brought an old friend of hers with her.  From her liberal past.  A single mom.  Who successfully juggled career and motherhood.  Did it well, too.  And, of course, my dear old friend introduced me as a conservative.  And she said it with a smirk.

I have long since stopped discussing politics outside my inner circle.  Political and philosophical debate is the raison d’être there.  It’s what we do for intellectual fun.  While drinking some fine single malt.  A time and a place for everything.  And casual conversation is neither the time nor place for politics. 

So I was polite and behaved.  But they kept poking the bear.  Laughing and enjoying themselves.  So, I thought, fine.  Let’s discuss politics.  The current subject was George W. Bush.  Not my favorite president.  Not all that conservative when it comes to the spending.  But I respect him.  I understand his philosophical basis, much of which I agree with.  But there are things I don’t like about him.  So I asked for some specifics.  To make it a fair debate.  Why was he a bad president?  Because he’s an idiot, she said.  Yeah, I asked, but what specifically has he done that you think was idiotic?  Have you heard him speak, she asked.  I mean, she said, he sounds like an idiot.  And so went the conversation.

I pressed for specifics.  Didn’t get any.  Then the name calling started.  I wasn’t being very tolerant of her views.  I replied, but you haven’t told me your views.  All I know is that you think Bush is an idiot.  Apparently, that should have sufficed.  Luckily, we had already consumed a bottle of wine by then so it was easy to change the subject and forget our little dustup.

And that’s a common experience I have with liberals.  They know everything.  But can’t explain anything.  I’m then called intolerant for not seeing things their way while they refuse to consider my arguments for seeing things my way.  In politics, people believe they base their opinions on a sound philosophical basis.  Most times they don’t.  They just heard something funny on Saturday Night Live or the Daily Show.  And they repeat it.  That’s why, when pressed for specifics, they can’t give any.  And then the name calling ensues.

DO YOU KNOW what ‘tea bagging’ is?  If you’re a gay man, you probably do.  At least, one of the meanings.  It’s a sex act in the gay community.  It’s when a dominate man lowers his genitals into a submissive man’s mouth.  It gets its name from the similarity of lowering a tea bag into a cup of hot water.  It’s a popular sex act, for it has migrated into the heterosexual community.  Without the BDSM aspects, though.  But when people call someone a ‘tea bagger’, it generally refers to the homosexual act.  Because of the degrading/humiliation aspects of the BDSM role playing.

David Gergen was on Anderson Cooper’s 360 on CNN.  They were discussing the new grassroots movement known as the Tea Party movement.  It’s called this in honor of those who stood up against the mercantilist policies of the British Empire who said you can drink whatever tea you’d like as long as it is British East India Company tea.  Good tea, yes, but it was British tea.  The Americans were taking a stand on principle.  And tossed the tea overboard. 

Carrying on with the ‘tea’ theme from the colonial period, Tea Party people used tea bags on signs and sent them in to Congress as a symbol of protest.  Some people used the symbol with a sexual undertone.  But most people didn’t.  Most didn’t know of the sexual act.  Well, these people, using tea bags as a symbol of their protest, were dubbed ‘tea baggers’.  And those familiar with the sexual act used it to attack and ridicule those people in the Tea Party movement.  When David Gergen said the Republicans were trying to find their voice, Anderson Cooper made the crude statement, “It’s hard to talk when you’re tea bagging.”

So much for your objective journalist.

Sure, the Tea Party people were worthy of such contempt for the things they stand for.  By the way, do you know what they stand for?  It’s easy to find out.  I did.  They adopted a 10 item agenda called Contract from America.  Here’s a bulleted list:

1. Identify constitutionality of every new law.
2. Reject emissions trading.
3. Demand a balanced federal budget.
4. Simplify the tax system.
5. Audit federal government agencies for constitutionality.
6. Limit annual growth in federal spending.
7. Repeal the health care legislation passed on March 23, 2010.
8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above’ Energy Policy.
9. Reduce Earmarks.
10. Reduce Taxes.

Yeah, I know.  This is crazy talk.  Do you realize what would happen if these ‘tea baggers’ got their way?  Everyone would probably live happily ever after.

FOR TOLERANT PEOPLE, liberals can be pretty intolerant of anyone who doesn’t think like them.  And they can get pretty nasty, attacking people instead of the issues.  The Conservatives are yearning to debate the issues.  But they get invective instead.  Why?  Because it’s the last refuge for someone who has already lost the argument.  Name calling.  Because it’s all they have.  They can’t beat you with the facts.  So they pummel you with personal attacks.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #15: “Most people would rather hear a pleasant lie than an unpleasant truth.” -Old Pithy.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 25th, 2010

“DO THESE JEANS make my ass look big?”  Men don’t like this question.  And when their wife or girlfriend ask it, they know to tread lightly.  Unless the relationship is on the outs.  In which case they may answer with something like, “No, it’s your fat ass that makes those jeans look big.”

If the man cares for the woman.  If he loves her.  If he ever expects to have sex with her again, he’ll say something nice.  No matter how much more of her there is to love back there.  It’s called a white lie.  Normally, we don’t base our relationships on lies.  But when it comes to the butt, though, lies are good.  They spare hurt feelings.  Should a person’s genes not bless them with a heavenly derriere to display in a tight pair of jeans.

White lies don’t hurt people.  In fact, we use them in order not to hurt people.  Such lies don’t have consequences.  And people may know you are lying.  Even expect you to lie.  It shows you care enough to make someone feel better about something you know they’re sensitive about.  Like her big butt.  Or his performance in bed (“Whew, that was the best five minutes of my life.  Really.”).

WHEN YOUR CHILD IS learning a musical instrument, he may make more noise than music.  But you encourage him.  Or her.  You tell them they’re good.  That they’re getting better every day.  And, yes, you would love for them to play in front of your visiting family.  And when they do, the family applauds and tells them they’re good, too.  Your child is encouraged.  And he or she keeps practicing.  A little white lie and no one gets hurt.

Suppose your daughter wants to sing.  She listens to the reigning pop queens and sings along.  Only thing is, she’s tone deaf.  She doesn’t sing well at all.  In fact, when she does sing, you start looking for a hurt cat because you’re sure no human could make such inhuman noise.  But you don’t want to hurt her feelings.  And you’re sure it’s just a passing phase.  So you tell her how wonderful she sounds.  No one gets hurt.  Nothing can go wrong with that, can it?

Well, suppose her school is having a talent show. Anyone can simply walk up to an open mike and do whatever they want.  And she wants to sing.  In front of her friends.  In front of her classmates.  In front of the 2 kids that always tease her.  Now the issue is a little more complex.  Do you tell her the truth about her singing and hurt her feelings.  Or do you let her sing.  And risk the kids laughing at her.  And teasing her about it afterwards?

BUT IT’S NOT just the white lies we want to hear.  Say your husband is staying later and later at work.  You call to see what time to expect him for dinner but there’s no answer.  When he comes home late you tell him you were worried.  You called and there was no answer.  He apologizes for worrying you and says he was with a client.  You’re relieved.

Or you come home from work and your wife isn’t there.  Concerned, you call her and there’s no answer.  When she comes home she says she was at the gym with a friend and left her cell in her gym bag.  You’re relieved.  Then she goes upstairs to shower.  Funny, you think.  She usually showers at the gym.

Learning about infidelity is not easy.  And it’s painful.  You ignore signs as long as you can.  You believe the lies.  You want to.  You need to.  Then you find an earring in the car that isn’t yours.  Or you bump into your wife’s friend who says she misses her now that she quit going to the gym.  Soon, the evidence forces you to face the awful truth.  And it kills you inside.  Divorce.  The children.  It’s just the beginning of so much bad to come.

SO WE LIKE it when people lie to us.  At times.  For the truth can be disagreeable.  Ugly.  Painful.  And we’d rather not have that pain.  No, we’d rather live life in a sitcom where there is always a good laugh and rarely anything bad ever happens. 

Politicians know this.  They know that most people don’t like the harsh realities of life.  So when they need to get elected, they lie to us.  No one wants to pay more taxes.  So the politicians promise that only the rich will pay any new taxes.  But massive government spending requires massive taxation.  And taxing the rich just can’t pay for it all. 

George Herbert Walker Bush promised no new taxes.  He said, “Read my lips.  No new taxes.”  He raised them.  Didn’t want to.  Said he had to.  To balance the budget.  Because he and Congress didn’t want to cut spending.  Same with Bill Clinton.  He promised there would be no middle class tax increase.  But there was.  He said he tried as hard as he could not to but had to.  Again, the spending thing.  No one wants to cut spending.  It doesn’t help win elections.

But we wanted to believe the lie during the campaign.  They promise us everything and say it won’t cost anything.  That’s what we want to hear.  We don’t want to hear the intricacies of monetary and fiscal policy.  That increased taxation dampens economic activity.  Decreases incentive for risk takers.  So they take fewer risks.  Create fewer jobs.  Which increases unemployment.  But we don’t want to hear this.  We just want the free stuff.  Just promise it.  Tell us it’s free.  And we’ll vote for you.

LITTLE WHITE LIES have little consequence.  We say them because we care about someone.  Other lies, though, do.  Big ones.  If we fall for them.  If we believe in an ever-expanding welfare state, we’ll keep voting ourselves the treasury.  Until we’ve emptied it.  And when there’s no more money, we’ll say, well, it was nice while it lasted.  But all good things must come to an end.  Or we’ll riot.

Or we’ll cut spending elsewhere to fund our insatiable appetite for free stuff.  Maybe we won’t build a new aircraft carrier.  Or we’ll close an overseas Air Force base.  Or we’ll reduce the size of our conventional forces.  Because we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security, we may think a large standing army is not necessary anymore.  But it was that large projection of force that gave us that sense of security.  It scared the bad guys.  Because the ability to project force, and the will to do so, will create consequences if the bad guys do act. 

During the dot.com boom of the 1990s, times were good and we got complacent.  During those good times, though, the bad guys hit Americans in a series of attacks (World Trade Center bombing, Tanzanian Embassy bombing, Kenyan Embassy bombing, Khobar Towers bombing, the USS Cole attack).  We didn’t fight back.  We lied to ourselves.  We didn’t want to believe that America was under attack.  Head in the sand, we wanted to continue to enjoy the good times.  This only emboldened our enemies.  They saw that America didn’t have the will to fight back.  So they upped the ante.  And in 2001, they attacked on 9/11.  And that attack was just too great not to awake a slumbering giant.

WE MAY NOT like the unpleasant things in life.  But they are part of life.  And we have to deal with them.  However unpleasant they are.  They are what they are.  No matter how we try to rationalize them away.

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LESSONS LEARNED #5: “When it comes to regretting past choices, liberals lead conservatives when it comes to their vote.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 18th, 2010

BEFORE THE SS death camps, before the Einsatzgruppen (action groups tasked to mass murder civilians in Poland and the Soviet Union), before the policy of conquest for Lebensraum (living space) for the ‘master race’, before eugenics and selective breeding policies were enacted to produce a ‘master race’, before the Munich Agreement (the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland), before Kristallnacht (a coordinated Nazi assault on Jewish people and their property in Germany and Austria), before the Nuremberg Laws (anti-Semitic laws), before the Anschluss (the Nazi annexation of Austria), before the Enabling Act gave Hitler full dictatorial powers, before The Reichstag Fire Decree suspended habeas corpus and most of the Weimar Republic’s constitutional civil liberties, before these despotic actions there were free elections.  And the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party rose to power by the ballot, not by arms. 

The Treaty of Versailles treated Germany poorly.  It blamed her solely for World War I.  And to the victors went the spoils.  From Germany.  Economically destroyed by the war, the peace was little better.  Runaway inflation and rampant unemployment of the Great Depression.  Humiliation.  People were looking for something.  They didn’t know what.  But Hitler did.

The National Socialist German Workers’ Party was the party for German workers, not the capitalists.   In fact, the Nazis were anti-capitalists.  This was good because the people blamed capitalists for the Great Depression.  Socialism put people before profits.  Nationalism would restore Germany’s pride.  There was a lot about the Nazi party to like in 1930s Germany.

The Nazis put people back to work.  Building public works and building for war.  They printed money to pay for what the confiscated wealth of the ‘undesirables’ didn’t.  They ‘enslaved’ workers by prohibiting strikes, labor unions and the voicing of workers’ complaints.  Hitler paid them less than they were in the Weimar (i.e., capitalist) days.  Then they turned on the business owners.  They once supported Hitler because they thought he would remove the grip of labor on business and allow unfettered capitalism.  But the state’s grip just replaced labor’s grip.

War followed the war economy.  And conscription.  And another generation of German dead.  The devastation of World War II dwarfed that of World War I.  World War I didn’t have carpet bombing.  And the Soviets never reached Berlin in World War I.  But it had all sounded so good back in the 30s.  A nation so eager for government to do something.  And government did.  But few Germans liked the result.  If they could all do it over again they would probably have supported the Weimar Republic, not the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

THE CONSERVATIVE government of Winston Churchill won the war but the Labour Party won the peace that followed.  They, too, blamed capitalism for the Great Depression.  It wasn’t going to be business as usual now that the war was over.  So they nationalized Big Industry (coal, steel, rail, etc.).  There would be no more abject poverty or squalor.  They created a nanny state.  From the cradle to the grave.  And they created the National Health Service.  Health care for everyone.  Courtesy of the taxpayer.

Of course, to pay for such huge government spending you need taxes.  A lot of them.  And when you can’t tax anymore, you depreciate your currency (i.e., print money).  Like every other nation in the world has ever done when their government spent more than it could afford to spend. 

With monopolies came inefficiencies.  Shortages.  A shortage of coal required scheduled electrical blackouts.  Also with monopolies came power.  Union power.  Whenever they wanted more pay they just had a strike until the bosses caved.  It became the way of doing things.  The strikes were epidemic and crippling.  People outside of Great Britain called them the ‘British Disease’.

Excessive government spending to pay for the national industries, the unions, the nanny state and the National Health Service was turning Great Britain back to the discontent of a Dickens novel.  Only instead of the business owners, the oppressors were Big Labor and their unions.  The common people were tired of going without and sitting in the dark.  Especially when they were paying enormous taxes (the Beatles left Great Britain to escape the confiscatory taxes).   Economically, life was becoming more similar to that like in the Soviet Union.  The difference was that the Soviet people didn’t know what life under capitalism could be like.  The British, of course, did.  And they could vote.

And they did.  Labour was out.  The conservatives were in.  Margaret Thatcher took on the unions and privatized industry.  These moves were not popular at the time because poorly ran businesses lost government subsidies and failed.  Unemployment grew.  In the short term.  Things did get better in time, though.  You see, propping up bad businesses with government subsidies forced consumers to pay more for inferior goods.  This was in addition to already paying high taxes to subsidize the businesses in the first place.  It just couldn’t go on.  And didn’t.  They controlled costs.  The people kept more of their earnings.   They spent and stimulated.  The economy grew.  As did the living standards of the common Briton.

THE MORAL OF this lesson is to be careful what you wish for.  Whenever anyone talks about putting the people first, warning flags should go up.  History is full of people who have said this.  And just about every one of them was a liar.  They want something.   Anyone who read Mein Kampf would have known Hitler’s plans.  Some did but chose not to believe.  They just wanted to believe the lie.  They wanted what Hitler was offering.  It was just too good to be true.  And, as it turned out, it was. 

When they nationalized British industry the goal was not to repeat what had happened during the Great Depression.  For anyone who had lived through the Great Depression didn’t want to live through another.  So there was popular support.  But nationalization didn’t improve life for the common Briton.    Instead, the life of organized labor got VERY good at the expense of the common Briton.  Until it couldn’t be sustained anymore by the common Briton.

So be careful what you wish for.  You might just get it.  And all the unintended consequences that come along with it.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #5: “When it comes to regretting past choices, liberals lead conservatives when it comes to their vote.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 16th, 2010

A LOT OF conservatives regretted voting for Richard Nixon.  But not for the reason you think.  If the election was today with everything we know now, conservatives probably wouldn’t elect him.  Even if you take Watergate out of the picture.  You see, something changed during his presidency.  And it wasn’t the voters. 

He changed.  The conservative candidate governed as a liberal.  He embraced Keynesian economic policy (Big Government and big spending to solve all problems).  Deficit spending and inflation led to the end of responsible government (the decoupling of the dollar from gold so they could keep printing money).  If this was the conservative platform going into the election, few conservatives would have voted for the ticket.

This is one type of regret.  Regret at being tricked or duped.  This is when a person’s core beliefs don’t change.  It’s when their candidate changed.  But there is another type of regret.

THE POPULAR CONCEPTION liberals have of conservatives is that they are a bunch of old, stodgy white men.  Out of touch with reality and mired in the past.  Whereas liberals think of themselves as young.  Cool.  Progressive.  Their eyes are open to what the future can be, not to what has been.

Young.  That’s key.  Many liberals are young.  Or, better said, a lot of the young are liberals.  What else can you say about the young?  Many are in school.  Many don’t have a job.  Many aren’t married yet.  Many aren’t raising a family yet.  See the pattern?  They’re young and idealistic, i.e., liberal, because they can be.  When they start working, get married, buy a house, raise children, etc., they find they can’t be so idealistic anymore.

Binge drinking, getting high and bedding coeds was okay in college for you, but you’re not so keen on your daughters following your example.  In fact, you kinda gloss over that part of your life when talking to your kids about your past.  When the weight of being a parent really hits, you begin to regret all the hell you put your parents through.

In college you were all for lowering the drinking age, legalizing drugs, keeping abortion legal, taxing the rich to provide free benefits for the poor (and college students), etc.  As a parent, though, you’d like to see the drinking age raised to 35 and probably voted against allowing medical marijuana.  When you’re working 40, 50 or even 60 hours a week to provide for your family, you start looking at all that withholding tax.  And you’re not thinking about how you’re helping those who need help.  You’re probably thinking things like ‘what the f***’ and ‘get a job you leech’.  And, if you have daughters, you’d probably like to see chastity belts brought back into vogue (even though YOUR daughters will keep their chastity until their wedding night – when they’re 35).

GROWING UP IS a learning process.  Children think they can eat third helpings of cake and ice cream, washed down with glasses of super sweet fruit punch and then run out and play in the hot summer sun.  Those of you who have had to clean up the resulting mess know that eating and drinking like that does not end well.  Children learn, too.  In time.  Until they do, parents watch out for them.

Getting a driver’s license is special.  It severs the chains of childhood.  You can go places and do things.  Without your parents.  You can speed, drive around railroad crossing barricades and hang out on a Friday night drinking beer while driving.  And other dumb things.  There’s a reason car insurance is expensive for young drivers.  Because they do stupid things behind the wheel.  But they learn.  In time.  Until they do, the police are there to help them along.

Then these kids turn 18, graduate from high school, leave home and go to college.  And the party is only starting.  Some things never change.  Students are still binge drinking, getting high and bedding coeds.  And, of course, voting.

WE CHANGE AS we grow.  Children think about ice cream and cake.  Teenagers think about getting their driver’s license.  College students think about partying and trying to change the world (sometimes to enhance their partying).  Parents think about doing what’s best for their kids.  The middle-aged start to think about retirement and holding on to what they have (because most think that Social Security will not be there for them).  The elderly think about their mounting medical concerns and medical costs.

Where we are in the growth process influences our vote.  More kids (teenagers and early 20s) want to lower the drinking age, legalize drugs and tax the ‘rich’ than grownups.  More grownups want to lower taxes and cut government spending than kids.  But grownups were once kids.  They thought and prioritized like kids, too.  So it is likely that many voting conservative today voted liberal when they were a kid.  And they’ve grown to regret some of their votes.

This is the other kind of regret.  It’s when we change.  And realize the consequences of our previous votes.  Votes made for the moment, not the future.  And now that we have reached that future our youth helped to create, it is often not what we want anymore.  But the damage is done.  And it can’t be easily undone.  But you can’t tell this to kids today.  They won’t listen.  Just as you didn’t when you were their age.

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