Archive for the “People Are Nuts” Category

Back in my younger and more foolish days, I was briefly engaged to a woman we’ll call Clarisse.  I thought I’d hit the girlfriend jackpot when we started dating.  She was smart, funny, sexy, and independent. We moved in together within weeks.  It was great … at first.

Over the next several months, I noticed a pattern: in every social situation – jobs, classes, etc. – Clarisse would make a new friend.  She’d go on and on about how awesome the new friend was. But time after time, the awesome friend became an enemy practically overnight.  It was like someone flipped a switch.

It was, of course, always the former friend’s fault.  To hear Clarisse tell it, the once-awesome person had become mean.  (She was fond of using the word “hateful.”)  And it wasn’t just about actual behavior.  Clarisse seemed to believe she had some kind of magical mind-reading powers.  She would decide she knew what the former friend was thinking or intending — and then she’d get angry about it.  In fact, after Clarisse decided a former friend was now a Very Bad Person, she assigned ignoble intentions to anything that person did.  If one of her former friends ever ran into a burning building to save a baby, I’m pretty sure Clarisse would have explained it was just a P.R. stunt.

More than once, I pointed out that these were people who seemed to get along just fine with everyone else, so perhaps Clarisse should ask herself if she was the instigator of the conflicts.

No, no, no, that couldn’t be it.  She was a good person, a fun person, a highly perceptive person.  In fact, she was such a good person, she was always trying to help her friends and co-workers by offering advice on what they ought to do, how they ought to live, etc.  If they ignored the advice, she became ever more insistent on offering it.  And then, wouldn’t you know it, these people she was merely trying to help became mean and nasty.

She couldn’t seem to grasp a simple concept: if you don’t allow people to say No to you nicely, you’ll eventually get a NO! that’s not very nice at all.  Most of us learn this in childhood.  But some people never learn it.  So throughout life, they are shocked – SHOCKED! – when their non-stop efforts to improve someone else’s life ends with that someone telling them to f@#$ off.

Naturally, our relationship didn’t last.  Seeing what happened with her friends, I used to wonder when Clarisse would finally turn on me.  It took just over a year.  She became increasingly persistent in telling me how to live, how to dress, how to eat, etc. — and she never let me say No nicely.  So eventually I wasn’t nice.  She then informed me that I was a cold, rigid, inflexible person.

I was reasonably sure Clarisse’s definition of rigid and inflexible was refuses to give in and do exactly what I demand.  I was also reasonably sure she was in need of therapy.  But just in case I was the crazy one and unaware of it, I called a long-time friend I could trust to be honest.

“Am I rigid and inflexible?”

“What?”

“It’s okay to tell me if I am.  Am I rigid and inflexible?”

“I can’t imagine anyone applying those words to you, no.”

After concluding that a life with Clarisse wouldn’t be pleasant, I moved out.  At that point, the same long-time friend (who’d wisely kept his mouth shut before the breakup, but admitted he was glad to see it happen) suggested I read a book titled Control Freaks to arm myself against ever choosing the same kind of partner again.

I won’t try to recount the whole book.  After all, I read it more than 20 years ago.  But here are some descriptions of the Control Freak personality I cribbed and condensed from articles online:

They invest a lot of time and energy trying to convince other people to change.

Control freaks believe they know what is best for everyone and try to convince other people to do things differently. Whether they lecture, become aggressive, or manipulate things behind the scenes, they want to make other people act a certain way. When you do not submit to what they are “encouraging” you to do, there is often a display of emotional behavior.

They’re judgmental and lack compassion.

Control freaks hold opinions on everything from how other people should hold their forks to how they should live their entire lives.  They believe they have the correct answer for everything, and often come across as sanctimonious. Since control freaks believe their own success stems solely from their own efforts, they also lack compassion for those who struggle. They view any failures by others as a sign of laziness or stupidity.

They’re uncomfortable with ambiguity.

Control freaks often see things in black-and-white, all-or-nothing terms.  Their way is the correct way, period.  Their ideas are the best ideas, period.  Other people are either good or bad, either with them or against them.

They have trouble maintaining relationships because they don’t respect boundaries.

Control freaks repel people with their demands and unsolicited advice. They offer “constructive criticism” as a veiled attempt to advance their own agendas. They will not take “no” for an answer.  Consequently, they struggle to maintain healthy personal and professional relationships.

The book, of course, went into much more detail, but you get the idea: the only way to avoid conflict with a control freak is to say, in effect, “Yes, I can see that you are a vastly superior person who has the correct answer for everything, so I will agree to adopt all your beliefs, to like whomever and whatever you like, to dislike whomever and whatever you dislike, and to do everything you believe I should do.  Thank you so very much for making me the beneficiary of your awesome insights on how I should go about my life.”

The book described Clarisse to a T.  Unfortunately, it also describes millions of other people in the world. You can’t go through life without bumping into your share of control freaks.  The collisions won’t be pleasant.  But if you learn to spot the control-freak personality, at least you’ll understand what happened when someone who seemed to like and respect you (or perhaps even love you) suddenly decides you’re a Very Bad Person the first time you disagree or don’t go along with his plan.  You’ll also understand behavior that appears to be inconsistent and illogical.

For example, many control freaks consider themselves freedom-loving libertarians.  They certainly don’t want people in a position of authority telling them how to live.  (Neither do I, by the way).  But while true libertarians are content with minding their own business, control freaks believe it’s their job to mind your business as well – for your own good, of course.  A quote from Oscar Wilde sums up the attitude nicely:

Selfishness is not living your life as you wish to live it.  Selfishness is wanting others to live their lives as you wish them to.

Control freaks are the embodiment of that quote.  Some years after my Clarisse experience, a woman I knew through work told me she and her father hadn’t talked in years.  Dear ol’ dad was a fiercely independent guy, she explained.  He came from a long line of doctors, and his parents had made it clear he was going to become a doctor as well.  He refused.  They disowned him.  He worked odd jobs and saved his money.  He used the money to start his own business, worked like a dog, and became a financial success.

When my co-worker friend was planning her own future, dear ol’ dad told her she was going to get a business degree, then run his business with him, then take over when he retired.  She tried majoring in business and hated it.  She changed her major to art, her true passion.  So guess what?  Dear ol’ dad cut her off financially and stopped talking to her.

She worked menial jobs and finished putting herself through college.  She got her art degree.  She got a job.  She traveled.  She and a friend hiked the Appalachian Trail.  She lived the life she wanted to live.  She assumed her father was secretly proud of her – after all, she’d asserted her independence and gone her own way, followed her own dreams, just like him.

But nope.  The old man still wouldn’t talk to her.  She didn’t understand.  She thought she’d earned the respect of an independent soul like himself.

“Your father’s not an independent soul,” I replied.  “He’s a control freak.”

“A what?”

I gave a brief description of the type.  I recounted a typical story from the book: a guy with a reputation for being a maverick who doesn’t follow the rules and doesn’t kowtow to authority is promoted to management in a large company.  His fellow employees rejoice.  With his independent spirit, he’s going to be an awesome boss!  He’s going to listen to their ideas.  Things are finally going to change around here.

Then it turns out he’s the most authoritarian boss they’ve ever had.  It’s his way or the highway.  They don’t understand what the hell happened to him.

Nothing happened to him.  He’s still the same guy.  He was a maverick who defied authority because, as a control freak, he hates living by other people’s rules – after all, they’re idiots who (unlike him) don’t understand how everything should be done.  But once he’s in a position of authority, he tolerates no dissent – after all, he’s the only guy who understands how everything should be done.

Her father didn’t follow the path his parents planned for him because control freaks don’t let other people tell them what to do, and that’s fine.  But then they absolutely, positively expect everyone else to follow their plans and give in to their demands.  That’s not fine.  The behavior seems illogical and inconsistent, but it isn’t.  The control freak has a very consistent need for control … over his own decisions, and also over yours.

She was nodding in agreement as I explained.  Now it all made sense.

When you defy the control freak (which you will eventually do, unless you have no spine), there will be hell to pay.  Enraged that he can’t control you, the control freak will become obsessed with controlling how others see you.  Turning others against you is, after all, the punishment you deserve for refusing to bend to his will.  You can expect the control freak to put a lot of effort into trashing you.

In the era of social media, the trashing may even be public.  In fact, there’s nothing the control freak enjoys more than manipulating you into spending half your life defending yourself against his public attacks – thus proving he still exerts some control over you.  Once you understand the game, you’ll also understand that the smart move is to simply laugh at the ham-handed tactics and move on.

When my wife and I first moved to Los Angeles, we joined a local theater group.  The owner, a wannabee screenwriter named Chris, seemed like a great guy, encouraging members of the group to put on original plays and comedy sketches.

But the “great guy,” while highly intelligent and creative, had a screw loose.  He was like a male version of Clarisse.  For reasons nobody could grasp, he’d suddenly decide a certain actor or actress was a Very Bad Person. Then he’d kick the actor out of the theater group – sometimes within days of the premiere of a play in which the actor had a major role.  Then he’d tell the rest of us, “I don’t want to see any of you hanging around with the Very Bad Person.  He is not allowed to attend any shows here, either.”

The Control Freaks book and various articles on dealing with control freaks all offer pretty much the same basic advice:  maintain your boundaries and your right to say No. If at all possible, get away from the control freak and keep your distance.

So after we grew tired of dealing with the never-ending series of dramas created by Chris (who we now called The Drama Queen), a bunch of us got together and formed our own theater group.  We set up a web site that included a message-board plugin so we could share announcements and keep in touch.

This was before Facebook, and the message board had no logins and no security.  The admin could delete a message after the fact, but there was no way to hold messages for approval and no way to identify who actually left the message.  Anyone who found the message board online could leave an anonymous post.

Sure enough, The Drama Queen found the message board and started leaving insulting messages.  (In one message, he informed us he’d placed spies within our group – a sure indicator of a control freak with an unhealthy obsession.)  One of our members, an actor named James, kept replying to his taunts.  The message board became polluted with their mutual hatred.

I called James and read him the riot act.  He started out attempting to justify his replies.  Why, we can’t just let Chris get away with these insults, someone needs to stand up to him, what if other people are reading what he writes and we don’t respond, blah-blah-blah.

“Let me explain it to you this way,” I said.  “We left Chris to get away from his bat-shit-crazy behavior and all the emotional drama he likes to create.  Now you’re letting him recreate that emotional drama in our own space.  Every time Chris wants to start a fight and you jump in to fight with him, you’re proving to him that he still has the power to control your emotions and your behavior.  That’s exactly what he wants.  Since you can’t stand the guy, why the hell would give exactly him what he wants?”

After a moment of silence, James replied, “Wow.  You’re right.  I’m sorry.”

“Good.  If you really want to get back at Chris, wait for him to put up another insulting message, and then ignore it. Prove to him you don’t give a rat’s ass what he says about us or what he thinks of us.  Prove to him that you don’t consider him important enough to be bothered with a reply.  That will really drive him nuts.”

That’s how you have to handle control freaks.  Maintain your boundaries.  Don’t give in just because the control freak tries over and over to wear you down.  You can explain why you’re not giving in, but don’t expect the control freak to take No for an answer.  They almost never do.

And when your failure to give in prompts the control freak to decide you’re a Very Bad Person and begin trashing you publicly, don’t get sucked into the battle.  Goading you into a battle is just another attempt to control you.

Smile, walk away from The Drama Queen, keep your distance, refuse to engage, and spend your time on what actually matters.  Yes, refusing to engage will probably cause the control freak to become even nuttier.  But that’s his problem, not yours.

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My goodness.  For months now, I’ve written about a variety of hot-button issues — global warming, health-care reform, media bias, taxes — and gotten a handful of replies.  Last week I compared the vegan nutjobs who attacked Lierre Keith to the True Believers described by Eric Hoffer, then closed with one paragraph saying most True Believers in modern times have ended up on the radical left and BANG! — a roiling debate ensues.  I suppose if I’d really wanted to generate some heat, I could’ve just written one line:  Resolved, liberals are loonier than conservatives. 

Well, I happen to like roiling debates, so I’m going to stick my hand in the hornet’s nest again and explain why I believe more True Believers have ended up on the radical left.  It comes down to a matter of intellectual heritage, which I’ll get to in a moment.

But first, let me explain what I don’t mean by a True Believer:  I’m not talking about anyone with strong beliefs.  Yes, some people are close-minded because they’re swept up in a True Believer movement.  As Hoffer put it:

It is the true believer’s ability to shut his eyes and stop his ears to facts which in his own mind deserve never to be seen nor heard which is the source of his unequalled fortitude and constancy. 

But many people have strong beliefs because they’re well-informed and committed to principles.  I was a liberal as a young man, probably because my parents were.  They still are.  It wasn’t a proud moment for me to fly home and see an Obama sign in their front yard.  Now I’m a libertarian with strong beliefs, which I formed after reading quite a few books on history and economics.  I became a libertarian by opening my mind, not by closing it.  My parents, meanwhile, are still mystified as to how they ended up with three “right wing” libertarian offspring.

But even as a committed libertarian, I’d rather discuss politics with a well-read and committed socialist (and I had an actor friend in California who fit that description) than with a wishy-washy moderate.  I can’t for the life of me understand people who voted for Ronald Reagan, then Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush, then Barack Obama.  The media calls them swing voters or moderates.  I call them people with no flippin’ idea what they actually believe.

Some have mentioned religious fanatics as examples of right-wing True Believers.  If they want to impose their religion on others — if they want to kill the nonbelievers, or convert them all, or pass laws requiring prayer in public schools — then yes, I agree.  But I also have friends who are deeply religious and know I’m not.  Guess what?  They’re still my friends, and they’ve never tried to convert me.  Their faith is personal, and they have no interest in using the power of government to impose it on anyone else, or even in convincing their friends to join the cause.  They believe … but they hardly fit Hoffer’s description of True Believers.

I’m also not talking about people who annoy you because they oppose your politics.  If loud Tea Party protesters bother you because you support health-care “reform” and you really, really wish they’d just shut up and go away, fine.  But that doesn’t make them True Believers of the stripe Hoffer described.  They are not trying to impose their vision on anyone; they are protesting against having a trillion-dollar health-care “reform” package imposed on them.  They’re resisting collectivism, not advocating for it.

If you’re more comfortable with a definition of True Believers that includes more right-wingers, be my guest.  But I’m talking about Hoffer’s definition, not yours.  With that in mind, let’s summarize Eric Hoffer’s description, some of which I mentioned last week.

  • They often have low self-esteem and are typically frustrated with their own lives or the world in general.
  • Fanaticism appeals to them because it provides a sense of idealism, identity and certainty.
  • They value the collective more than the individual and believe individuals should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the collective good.
  • They believe that by imposing their beliefs, they can bring about a better future.
  • They can ignore or rationalize away all contrary evidence, as well as logical inconsistencies in their own beliefs.
  • They consider anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs an enemy and want to silence those who disagree.

To that summary, I’ll also add more quotes from Hoffer himself:

Nonconformists travel as a rule in bunches. You rarely find a nonconformist who goes it alone. And woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity.  (But enough about my decade in Hollywood.)

Their innermost desire is for an end to the “free for all.” They want to eliminate free competition and the ruthless testing to which the individual is continually subjected in a free society.

Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden.

The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated

We all have private ails. The troublemakers are they who need public cures for their private ails.

The real “haves” are they who can acquire freedom, self-confidence, and even riches without depriving others of them. They acquire all of these by developing and applying their potentialities. On the other hand, the real “have nots” are they who cannot have aught except by depriving others of it. They can feel free only by diminishing the freedom of others, self-confident by spreading fear and dependence among others, and rich by making others poor.

Doesn’t exactly sound like a left-wing philosopher to me.  But what raised such a ruckus was my opinion that most (not all) True Believers in modern times have ended up on the radical left.  (Please note that modifier “radical.”)  Here’s why I believe that’s true:

I’ll start with most destructive True Believer movements of modern times:  Nazism, Fascism and Communism, which together killed more than 130 million people in the 20th century.  One or two commenters raised Nazism and Fascism as examples of right-wing movements.  Historical revisionists have a done a bang-up job of associating Hitler and Mussolini with some kind of right-wing ideology, but it simply isn’t true.  They both had legions of fans in the U.S. before World War II — nearly all of them members of the “progressive” movement.  FDR and Mussolini exchanged letters of mutual admiration for their economic policies.  Before becoming Il Duce, Mussolini was a socialist agitator and a journalist for a socialist magazine. 

As for Nazism … right wing?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Hitler’s aha! moment came when he attended a meeting of the German Workers’ Party and listened to a lecture titled How and by What Means Is Capitalism to Be Eliminated?  He grew to despise bourgeois capitalism and declared that “Basically, Nazism and Marxism are the same.”  He only disliked the actual Marxists because too many of them had Jewish names, and because Nazis and communists were competing for supporters among the same groups.

Even culturally, the Nazis were hardly what anyone would consider right-wing today.  Many Nazis were artsy-fartsy types who considered themselves mystics.  Hitler hated Christianity and railed against religion’s restrictions on sex.  He saw nothing wrong with out-of-wedlock birth and encouraged it.  He was a vegetarian, a nature enthusiast, and spoke at length about the wonders of organic foods.  Heinrich Himmler even supported animal rights — kind of like the nut-jobs at PETA.  Take away the racism and the anti-Semitism, and a young Nazi could get together with a Sixties radical and have a real meeting of the minds.

The Nazi party platform proclaimed in 1920 contained, as you’d expect, a lot of demands to rid Germany of non-Germans, Jews, and other undesirables.  But it also contained several other gems, such as:

  • We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and a way of life for the citizens.
  • We demand abolition of unearned income (rents).
  • We demand the total confiscation of all war profits.
  • We demand the nationalization of all previous associated industries (trusts).
  • We demand a division of profits of heavy industries.
  • We demand an expansion on a large scale of old-age welfare.
  • The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole education program, to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education.
  • The state is to care for the elevating of national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young.

Crazy right-wing stuff, huh?  Those idiots carrying the Bush = Hitler signs a few years back sure knew their history.

I suppose you could call the Nazis and Fascists “right wing” because they were militaristic and nationalistic, but by that definition, the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega would all be right-wingers.  Funny how they didn’t have any fans among the American right wing … but they had plenty in Hollywood.

Now, let’s return to Hoffer’s description.  We’ll start with dissatisfied with themselves or the world in general.  I noticed years ago that my libertarian and conservative friends seem happier in general than my liberal friends.  (Yes, I have friends of both varieties.)  Before you protest with tales of all the happy liberals and miserable conservatives you know personally, keep in mind that polls have shown the same thing many times:  self-identified conservatives are happier on average than self-identified liberals.  When I look at what my liberal and conservative friends believe, it isn’t hard to figure out why:

Economic Opportunity
Liberals:  Big corporations are screwing us, markets don’t work, the good jobs are all being outsourced to India, the little guy doesn’t stand a chance anymore, and the rich (be sure to sneer when you use that term) are the “winners of life’s lottery.”
Conservatives:  Work hard, study hard, take risks, be disciplined, and you can become a success because this is a land of opportunity.

Global Warming
Liberals:  We’re approaching runaway global warming.  The ice caps are going to melt and New York will end up underwater.  Millions will be displaced.  Deserts around the world, hurricanes and tornadoes and floods, oh my.
Conservatives:  The earth warms and cools in cycles and always has.  Stop worrying about it.

Health Care
Liberals:  We have one of the worst systems in the world.  Castro provides better health care than we do.   Insurance and drug companies are screwing us.
Conservatives:  We have the most advanced system in the world, and most people can afford a policy.  Get the government out of the health care business, repeal laws barring competition in insurance across state lines, and the cost will come down too.

Now, I’m not asking which world-view is correct.  But pretty please, try to be objective about this question:  which world view is more likely to produce or attract satisfied people?  Which world view is more likely to attract or produce dissatisfied people?  And which world-view is more likely to attract “we must save the world even if it means taking away some freedoms” types?

As for valuing the collective more than the individual … do I even have to debate that one?  Do conservatives write books with titles like It Takes A Village?  Other than the occasional anti-war sentiment, the American left’s primary pitch to the voters for the past 70 years can be summed up in two sentences:  “Vote for us!  We’ll give you a bunch of goodies and make someone else pay the bill!”

Earlier, I said the far left is more prone to a True Believer mindset than the far right because of the differences in intellectual heritage.  In his book Explaining Postmodernism, philosophy professor Stephen Hicks recounts that heritage. 

What was once called “liberalism” but is now called libertarianism or small-government conservatism (not the same as religious conservatism) traces its roots to the Enlightenment thinkers, most of whom were British:  Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes (not British), John Locke and Adam Smith.  Their works emphasized rationalism, objectivism, the scientific method, and individual freedom — most importantly, freedom from government coercion.  (Thomas Jefferson was deeply influenced by Locke.)  As Hicks explains:

Individualism and science are thus consequences of an epistemology of reason.  Individualism applied to politics yields liberal democracy … individualism applied to economics yields free markets and capitalism.

Post-modernism, which inspired much of the modern left’s thinking, began as reaction against the Enlightenment thinkers — ironically, in part to save religious faith from the onslaught on science and rationality.  Immanuel Kant was a major influence, as were a lot of other Germans (surprise):  Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg W.F. Hegel, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (not German), Martin Heidegger, and of course Karl Marx.  They specifically rejected reason and logic in favor of subjectivism.

Simply put, an objectivist thinks this way:  If it’s true, I believe it.  A subjectivist, however, thinks like this:  If I believe it, it’s true.  According to Heidegger, for example, reason tells us nothing important, and logical inconsistencies are not a sign of intellectual failure.

Now, once again, try to be objective (there’s that word again) while answering this question:  who is more resistant to pesky things like logic and reason, an objectivist or a subjectivist?  Who has an easier time ignoring logical inconsistencies in a belief system? 

As Hicks points out, only a subjectivist could believe that:

  • All cultures are valid and equally deserving of respect, but Western culture is really bad.
  • Values are subjective, but racism and sexism are really, really bad.
  • Technology is destructive and bad, but it’s not fair that some people can afford more of it than others.

The post-modernists were also collectivists.  Here are few relevant quotes:

The state ought to have a universal compulsory force to move and arrange each part in the manner best suited to the whole.  – Rousseau

All the worth which the human being possesses, all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the state … this final end has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be member of the state. – Hegel

A single person, I need hardly say, is something subordinate, and as such he must dedicate himself to the ethical whole. – Hegel

Hegel, by the way, was a big influence on Karl Marx.  I’m pretty sure we can agree Marx was a collectivist extraordinaire, and it’s not even debatable that Marx has far more fans on the political left than on the right.  One of my left-wing college professors even had a poster of Marx on the wall of his office. 

Someone commenting on last week’s post pointed out that “left” and “right” aren’t always accurate labels and suggested I refer to them as collectivist-authoritarian and individualist-libertarian.  Fine, I’m cool with that.  “Left” and “right” don’t always fit.  I once saw William F. Buckley argue against anti-drug laws, which isn’t exactly a right-wing position. 

But at the same time, I don’t know how anyone can deny that leftists tilt towards a collectivist-authoritarian belief system.  In the past year or so, I’ve been treated to these statements while debating liberal friends:

  • You only have the rights the government grants you.
  • How can you call high taxes legalized theft?!  It’s not just your money!  We let you make the money!  (I’m assuming he meant no one tried to arrest me for selling my software to people who wanted to buy it.)

By contrast, take a look at this quote from a rather famous individualist-libertarian named Thomas Jefferson:

A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.

In the modern era, does that sound like something you’d hear coming from the left or the right?  Is it what the fanatical Obama supporters believe?  Is there any evidence whatsoever Obama believes it himself?

Post-modern leftists also have a different intellectual heritage when it comes to language itself.  Since reason doesn’t tell us anything real, the post-modernists taught that language isn’t a tool for seeking the truth; it’s a weapon to wielded for the purpose of acquiring power.  Don’t like what some objectivist-individualist wrote, but having a hard time disputing it?  No problem.  Declare logic a “white male construct” and apply the principles of Deconstruction … otherwise known as “If you can’t debate your opponent’s ideas, label him a sexist or a racist.”  I see that one in action every time a conservative justice is nominated to the Supreme Court.

If you don’t think Deconstruction as a form of analysis was intended to be political, here’s a quote from Jacques Derrida, the father of Deconstruction:

Deconstruction never had any interest or meaning, at least in my eyes, other than as a radicalization, that is to say, within a tradition of a certain Marxism.

Saul Alinksy, whose Rules for Radicals was the subject of Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis, exhorted his readers to pick a target, attack relentlessly, and make it personal … and it’s okay because the ends justify the means:

Whenever we think about social change, the question of means and ends arises. The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work.

Gee, that sounds kind of like it would be okay to label your opponents as racists and sexists if it helps you win a political fight.  I can see why some on the left found Alinsky so inspirational.  As professor Hicks writes early on in his book:

A related puzzle is explaining why postmodernists — particularly among those postmodernists most involved with the practical applications of postmodernist ideas, or putting postmodernist ideas into actual practice in their classrooms and in faculty meetings — are the most likely to be hostile to dissent and debate, the most likely to engage in ad hominem argument and name-calling, the most likely to enact politically-correct authoritarian measures, and the most likely to use anger and rage as argumentative tactics. 

Whether it is Stanley Fish calling all opponents of affirmative action bigots and lumping them in with the Ku Klux Klan, or whether it is Andrea Dworkin’s male-bashing in the form of calling all heterosexual males rapists, the rhetoric is very often harsh and bitter.  So the puzzling question is: Why is it that among the far Left — which has traditionally promoted itself as the only true champion of civility, tolerance, and fair play — that we find those habits least practiced and even denounced?

As for who has a greater desire to actually stifle ideas (as opposed to merely labeling them as racist or sexist to avoid debating them), I’m sure that debate could go on forever.  Some of you cited news stories about conservative groups shouting down or even spitting on liberal politicians.  Okay, it happens, and it’s disgusting when it does. 

But I don’t see many left-wing speakers being shouted down on campuses or having pies thrown at them.  I haven’t heard of any cases of liberal college newspapers being shut down or having their entire press runs stolen by hostile students.  I haven’t heard of any liberal college students being brought up on “hate speech” charges for expressing their opinions.  I also don’t read many news stories about violent right-wing protesters, but you can pretty much count on violent left-wing protesters showing up any time there’s an economic summit. 

Maybe that’s my own selection bias.  But as far as who is more likely to be dissatisfied with the world and demand we change it, more likely to reject logic and reason, more likely to believe the collective is more important than individual rights, more likely to fear free competition, more likely to support regulation by an educated elite, more likely to believe they can gain only by taking from others, more likely to want public cures for private ails, and more likely to support using government coercion to impose its preferred way of life on others — in other words, to act like Hoffer’s True Believers — sorry, the radical left wins hands down.

But enough about health-care “reform.”

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Earlier this week on the Fat Head blog, I wrote about the attack on Lierre Keith by some vegan nut-jobs who consider her a traitor and a threat.  For those of you who don’t already know, Keith was a dedicated vegan for 20 years but had to rethink her beliefs when her health declined and she realized, after some comical attempts, that she couldn’t grow her own food without killing living creatures.  No longer able to hide behind a simplistic, child-like love for nature, she set out instead to understand it.  The result was The Vegetarian Myth, in which she argues (brilliantly) that agriculture and a plant-based diet will not make us healthy or save the planet.

Nonetheless, her core values remain the same:  she loves animals, she abhors the cruelty of factory farming, and she wants us to feed ourselves in a manner that supports the environment instead of depleting it year after year.  As she writes in her book:  “What separates me from vegetarians isn’t ethics or commitment.  It’s information.”

Ah, but there’s the rub:  it’s the information that has made her a target, not the change in her beliefs. 

When I heard about the attack, my first reaction was to chalk it up to the “vegan rage” Keith writes about in her book.  But after thinking it over, I decided I was confusing a correlation with a cause.  Yes, they’re enraged and they’re vegans, but I don’t think they’re enraged because they’re vegans.  I think it’s more likely they became militant vegans in the first place because they fit the personality type described so eloquently by Eric Hoffer in his book The True Believer.  It was published in 1951, but still rings true today.

First, a little background on the author:  Hoffer was born sometime around 1900 in New York City to Jewish immigrant parents.  His father was cabinet-maker.  When Hoffer was five, his mother fell down a flight of stairs while carrying him.  She never fully recovered and died two years later.  Soon afterwards, Hoffer went blind, perhaps from the emotional trauma.  Amazingly, his sight returned when he was 15.  Afraid he may go blind again someday, Hoffer educated himself by reading as many books as he could. 

After his father died around 1920, Hoffer left for California and worked a series of odd jobs, including a stint as a migrant farm worker, before becoming a longshoreman in San Francisco.  When his books became popular, he was dubbed “The Longshoreman Philosopher.”

Deeply troubled by the horrors of Nazism, Fascism, Stalinism, the Holocaust and World War II, Hoffer thought long and hard about the roots of fanatical movements, then began writing down his insights.  The result was a slim (176 pages) but brilliant book, The True Believer.  If you haven’t read it, I hope you will someday.  But in the meantime, here’s a very short summary:

Fanatical movements attract a particular personality type.  They are typically dissatisfied with their own lives and have low self-esteem.  (Can you say “prone to rage”?)  Fanaticism appeals to them because it provides a sense of identity, the ego-boost of idealism, and the psychological comfort of certainty — thus relieving them of the need to resolve life’s doubts, contradictions, and moral ambiguities for themselves. 

The appeal of a fanatical movement for this personality type lies only partly in the movement’s stated beliefs; the deeper appeal is in the fanaticism itself.  That’s why, as Hoffer noted, fanatical groups often find it easiest to recruit new members from other fanatical groups, even if their beliefs are at odds:  Fanatical communists have become fanatical Christians, fanatical Christians have become fanatical Nazis, fanatical Nazis have become fanatical communists, etc.  (Plenty of fanatical communists became fanatical environmentalists when communism didn’t work out so well.)

Hoffer labeled these people the True Believers.  The need to believe in something — completely, and without question — defines their lives, because fanaticism makes them feel special and important. 

Not surprisingly, then, the biggest threat to their identities is doubt.  All contrary evidence must be stifled or rationalized out of existence.  All logical inconsistencies in their beliefs must be ignored.  Anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs is an enemy, and anyone who raises questions about their beliefs must be silenced. (But enough about Al Gore.)

Now, doesn’t that description sound just a wee bit like a militant vegan?  Ego boost?  Heck yes …  I’m now a morally superior human being because I don’t eat animal products. 

Sense of identity?  Gee, do you think?  I once asked a waitress in a restaurant if the pork chops were any good.  Turning up her nose just a bit, she replied, “I wouldn’t know.  I’m a vegan.”  I’m mildly hard of hearing, so at first I thought she said, “I wouldn’t know.  I’m a virgin.”  After some momentary confusion, mentally rifling through my old catechism lessons looking for a prohibition against virgins eating pork, I figured it out.  Either way, it was more than I cared to know about her.  “I’ve never tried them” would’ve sufficed.

The comfort of certainty, relieved of the need to resolve life’s moral ambiguities?  Most definitely.  It’s easy to just declare that a fly and a pig and human being are all equal.  (I’ll buy that idea when a pig writes a symphony or a good joke.)  It’s a bit tougher to finally admit, as Lierre Keith did, that eating meat enhances your health, then have to deal with the morality of killing to be healthy.  The Dalai Lama eats meat now, so I guess he’s got it figured out.

Years ago, I heard Dennis Prager debating some animal-rights nut.  Prager asked a hypothetical question:  if a boy and a dog are both drowning, who do you save first?  The nut wouldn’t answer.  He weasled out by saying that since he’s a vegan, he’s strong enough to save both of them.  (Then a fly landed on his shoulder, and he fell out of his chair.)

Before anyone gets his or her macramé underwear in a wad, I’m not suggesting all or even a majority of vegans are True Believers.  But the ones who throw blood on women wearing furs or smash a pepper-laced pie into an author’s face definitely fit the profile.  Here are some quotes from Hoffer himself, with my comments on how they apply to the True Believer nut-jobs who attacked Lierre Keith.

A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.

Bingo.  Mentally-healthy vegans don’t scream “murderer!” at meat-eaters.  They don’t toss pepper-laced pies at meat-eaters.  They just don’t eat meat.  (Heck, I even knew a vegan who was married to a meat-eater.)  But the True Believer vegans — including the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine — can’t resist minding other people’s business.  And when their meddling turns out to be a disaster, as when CSPI harassed restaurants into switching to hydrogenated vegetable oils for frying, it doesn’t faze them a bit.  They don’t even admit they were wrong; they just keep meddling.

Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents.

Three men in masks attack a 45-year-old woman from behind.  People in the room cheer.  Other people praise the attack online.  A website posts a video of the attack with the Benny Hill music playing for comic effect.  Is that enough unifying hatred for you? 

In order to be effective a doctrine must not be understood, but has to be believed in. We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.

Keith did a bang-up job of pointing this out in her book.  She recounted a suggestion by some scientifically illiterate vegan that animals in nature should be separated by a big fence — the carnivores on one side, the herbivores on the other.  That way, ya see, there wouldn’t be any killing.  Keith then explained, using actual scientific facts, what the result would be:  all the animals would eventually starve to death.  But this unbelievably stupid suggestion drew nothing but applause from other True-Believer vegans.  They were just certain it would work … even the carnivores don’t really have to eat meat, ya see, because dogs and cats sometimes eat grass!  In other words, these goofs could only believe what they believed because they had zero understanding of nature.

The uncompromising attitude is more indicative of an inner uncertainty than a deep conviction.  The implacable stand is directed more against the doubt within than the assailant without.

That’s why anyone who can plant a seed of doubt is such a threat.  Lierre Keith isn’t just any ol’ author promoting an omnivorous diet; she’s a former dedicated vegan.  She knows all the vegan arguments inside and out, and she now disputes them with facts.  She can shake up the beliefs of people whose very identities depend on those beliefs.

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.

Yup … I’m pretty sure if you’re satisfied with your own life, you don’t feel the need to toss blood or pepper-laced pies at people who don’t share your beliefs about animal rights — especially considering that 99.9% of all people who’ve ever lived also didn’t share those beliefs.

All active mass movements strive, therefore, to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth or certitude outside it. The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation, but from holy writ.

It was experience and observation that caused Lierre Keith to change her mind.  Her health failed.  Her spine degenerated.  She was depressed and fatigued.  A Chinese-medicine doctor she trusted told her what she already knew:  her vegan diet was killing her.  Now she’s sharing those experiences with other vegans, and that’s why the True Believers want to shut her up — her personal story is compelling and some vegans might just believe her.

Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect.  The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

Militant vegans dream of a world where everyone is a vegetarian, nobody (and no animal) has to kill to eat, and the planet is saved in the process.  If only life could be that pretty.  Now Keith is telling them that farming kills countless animals, and mono-crop agriculture — all those lovely fields of wheat, corn and soybeans — is destroying the environment.  In other words, you can kill some animals on purpose to eat them, or you can kill even more by farming … but you cannot live in your absolute, perfect world because it’s not possible.  She has accepted the compromise — what she refers to as becoming an adult.  The True Believers are children, and they can’t stand hearing what mommy has to say.

It is the true believer’s ability to shut his eyes and stop his ears to facts which in his own mind deserve never to be seen nor heard which is the source of his unequalled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger, nor disheartened by obstacles, nor baffled by contradictions, because he denies their existence.

Vegans insist they don’t kill to eat.  When someone like Lierre Keith points out that farming kills countless creatures per acre (and remember: a pig, a fly and a human are all equal!), plus countless more who die because the mono-crop farms destroy their environments, the vegans still insist they don’t kill to eat.  Well, not really, you see, because … uh … because … well … it’s not really killing because we didn’t do it on purpose!  By that logic, we need to pardon everyone who caused a fatal accident by driving drunk — they didn’t mean for anyone to die, after all.

The excuse makes no sense.  It’s a contradiction.  But the True Believers aren’t baffled by contradictions.  They’ll simply shut their eyes and close their ears.  And if that doesn’t work, they’ll shove a pepper-laced pie into someone’s face.

When I wrote about the attack on the Fat Head blog, one of my readers left this comment:

I am not at all surprised that this happened in the Bay area, although it could have easily happened on a college campus. This is what happens, though, when the extreme leftists among us (let’s call them what they are) get agitated.  Look at the treatment of conservatives on college campuses: That Ann Coulter (love her or hate her) travels with body guards and has nearly been pied is just one more example. There is an element of our society that is all in favor of free speech until they don’t agree with it; then they try to shut it down.

In the modern era, most True Believers have in fact ended up on the radical left.  Why exactly that’s the case will be the topic of next week’s post.

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I received an email today that recounted (supposedly) some correspondence between the State of Pennsylvania and a citizen.  Whenever I see TRUE STORY! in an email like this one, I know it’s probably not.  I then confirm my suspicions by visiting the sites that debunk urban legends, internet legends, etc.

Well, at least according to TruthOrFiction.com, the email I received is almost real.  I say almost because apparently the correspondence took place 13 years ago … and in Michigan, not Pennsylvania.  TruthOrFiction also posted what it claims are the original letters, as opposed to the enhanced versions making their way around now.   I’m pasting the letters below, but removing the names in case even TruthOrFiction was hookwinked … hey, it could happen.

Enjoy — and even these letters aren’t genuine, I wish they were.  A libertarian couldn’t ask for a better exchange.

From Michigan to the Citizen:

GRAND RAPIDS DISTRICT OFFICE
STATE OFFICE BUILDING 6TH FLOOR
350 OTTAWA NW
GRAND RAPIDS MI 49503-2341
RUSSELL J. HARDING, Director

December 17, 1997

CERTIFIED

Mr. Ryan DeVries
(Address, etc.)

Dear Mr. DeVries:

SUBJECT: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023-1 T11N, R10W, Sec. 20, Montcalm County

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity: Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department’s files show that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301,. Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris dams and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all unauthorized activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the strewn channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 1998.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff.

Failure to comply with this request, or any further unauthorized activity on the site, may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

(Name of some bureaucrat)
District Representative
Land and Water Management Division

 

The Citizen’s Reply:

(Name of the Same Bureaucrat)
District Representative
Land and Water Management Division
Grand Rapids District Office
State Office Bldg., 6th Floor
350 Ottawa, N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2341

Dear Mr. (Bureaucrat):

Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N, R10W, Sec 20; Montcalm County

Your certified letter dated 12/17/97 has been handed to me to respond to. You sent out a great deal of carbon copies to a lot of people, but you neglected to include their addresses. You will, therefore, have to send them a copy of my response.

First of all, Mr. Ryan DeVries is not the legal landowner and/or contractor at [the address] in Pierson, Michigan – I am the legal owner and a couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood “debris” dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, nor authorize their dam project, I think they would be highly offended you call their skillful use of natural building materials “debris”. I would like to challenge you to attempt to emulate their dam project any dam time and/or any dam place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no dam way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

As to your dam request the beavers first must fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity, my first dam question to you is: are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or do you require all dam beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request? If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, please send me completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits. Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated. My first concern is – aren’t the dam beavers entitled to dam legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said dam representation – so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer.

The Department’s dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event causing dam flooding is proof we should leave the dam Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling them dam names. If you want the dam stream “restored” to a dam free-flow condition – contact the dam beavers – but if you are going to arrest them (they obviously did not pay any dam attention to your dam letter — being unable to read English) – be sure you read them their dam Miranda first.

As for me, I am not going to cause more dam flooding or dam debris jams by interfering with these dam builders. If you want to hurt these dam beavers – be aware I am sending a copy of your dam letter and this response to PETA. If your dam Department seriously finds all dams of this nature inherently hazardous and truly will not permit their existence in this dam State – I seriously hope you are not selectively enforcing this dam policy – or once again both I and the Spring Pond Beavers will scream prejudice!

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their dam unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam right than I to live and enjoy Spring Pond. So, as far as I and the beavers are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more dam elevated enforcement action now. Why wait until 1/31/98? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then, and there will be no dam way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then.

In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention a real environmental quality (health) problem; bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the dam beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step! (The bears are not careful where they dump!)

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.

Sincerely,

(Name of a Citizen — and my hero if this is all true)

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My daughter, enjoying the recent global warming in Tennessee.  (Her hands arent actually that big.)

My daughter, enjoying the recent global warming in Tennessee. (Her hands aren't actually that big.)

 

 RIIIIIIIIING!  RIIIIIIIING!

“Climate Research Unit, Phil Jones speaking.”

“Hi, Professor Jones.  Tom Naughton here, calling from Tennessee.”

“Uh … do I know you?”

“No, no, no.  I just need a prediction about the weather, and since you’re quoted in the media all the time, I thought you seemed like the go-to guy.”

“Well … yes, there are several places online where you can read about my work.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.  Thing is, none of that stuff is what I’m looking for.  I need to know if it’s going to keep snowing around here.”

“Pardon me?”

“Snow.  The white stuff.  When we moved here in August, the neighbors said we’d get maybe one light snow all winter.  Now here it is, the middle of February, and we’ve already had four snowstorms.  My daughter’s school used up all their snow days, and we have a family vacation planned in June, so if they have to extend the school year, we’ll have to–”

“Wait, wait, wait!  I’m sorry, but … are you actually asking me for a weather forecast?”

“I thought that’s what you did.”

“No, Mr. Norton.  I’m a climate researcher.”

“It’s Naughton.  I’m not British, so I usually pronounce my R’s.”

“Good for you, deah boy.  My point is, I don’t predict the weather.”

“Sure you do.  You’re the guy who’s been telling everybody exactly how warm the world’s going to be.”

“That’s in the future, Mr. Norton.  I can’t predict what’s going to happen this year.”

“I see.  You can tell me what the temperature will be in 2040, but not in March.”

“Correct.”

“So, like, thirty years out, you’re pretty accurate.”

“Exactly.  Our computer models take into account–”

“Then I’m guessing back in 1980, you predicted we’d be having record-cold winters all over the northern hemisphere right around now?  Damn, I must’ve missed that one.”

“Well … no.  You see, there are natural forces at work that we can’t always predict.”

“So you don’t actually know how warm it’s going to be in 2040.  Or in March.”

“No!  Yes!  I mean, we know the world is going to get warmer overall because of the increasing carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.”

“But it hasn’t gotten any warmer since 1995.  You said so yourself.”

“I said it’s not statistically significant.”

“Nothing we can accurately measure, then.  So it’s not getting warmer. ”

“Yes it is!  And stop pasting hyperlinks into my dialog!  I @#$%ing hate that!”

“Sorry, just wanted to make sure I wasn’t misquoting you.”

“And the past 15 years are meaningless!  That’s why I said it’s a blipDamnit!  Stop with the hy–”

“–hyperlinks.  Yeah, yeah, okay.  Just to make sure I understand, though:  20 years is a long-term trend, but 15 years is a blip?”

“Yes!”

“So the blip cutoff point must be, what … 17 years?”

“It’s whatever I say it is!  How’s that?”

“Okay, fine.  Anyway, about the snow:  is it going to keep snowing, or is the planet actually getting warmer?  I need to know.”

“Look, Mister Smarty Pants, you’re obviously not familiar with the science.  It so happens that all those record snowfalls in your part of the world were caused by global warming.”

“Global warming makes it snow more?”

“Yes!  The warmer temperatures cause more water to be absorbed into the atmosphere, so when the winter comes and the temperature drops, there’s more water to squeeze out in the form of snow.”

“Ahhhhh, okay!  You know, when I was growing up, I always wondered why we got so much more snow in southern Illinois than they did in Minnesota!  No wait, that’s not right …”

“You are misinterpreting what I–”

“Well, what about those pictures of Mount Kilimanjaro in Al Gore’s movie?  You know, the snow disappearing and all that?  What happened there?”

“The snow is melting on Mount Kilimanjaro because of the global warming.  And it isn’t snow, it’s ice.”

“Ice, right.  But I read the ice is actually going away because there’s less precipitation in the area.”

“Yes, that’s true.  Global warming caused the area to dry out, so there’s not as much snow.”

“I better write this down … global warming causes less precipitation so there’s not as much snow in the area.  Got it.  Then global warming isn’t happening around here, because it’s been snowing like crazy.  That’s a relief.”

“I already explained this!  You’re getting more snow because the planet is too warm.”

“It was 12 degrees outside last night. ”

“That doesn’t mean it’s a long-term–”

 “Did I mention I live in Tennessee?”

“Once again, you are simply not familiar with the science, Mr. Norton.  What we’ve actually been saying is that the high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing extreme temperatures.”

“Because carbon dioxide traps heat and produces a greenhouse effect.”

“Yes.”

“And then all that trapped heat makes it colder.”

“Precisely.”

“But even when it’s colder, it’s actually warmer too, and that makes more water evaporate.”

“Yes.”

“Okay, let me make sure I’ve got this straight:  global warming causes more snow because it sucks more water into the atmosphere, and it also causes less snow because it dries out the atmosphere.  It hasn’t gotten any warmer for 15 years because of the blip, but before that a lot of water got sucked up into the atmosphere and then it just sort of hung around up there, waiting for the weather to get colder again.  We started having record-cold winters and record-cool summers three years ago, but that wasn’t enough to squeeze out all that stored water in the atmosphere.  We had a record-cold autumn this year, but that also wasn’t enough to squeeze out all the stored water.  The water didn’t get squeezed out until a few weeks ago, when the carbon dioxide finally trapped so much heat, it got really crazy-ass cold, even here in Tennessee, and that’s why we had so much snow.”

“Yes.  That’s pretty much what happened.”

“I see.  So … can we plan on that family vacation, or should we wait until 2040?”

CLICK.

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I’m in the middle of a software project and don’t have time for a long post, but I have to comment on some of the ads that keeping showing up in my browser when I stop for a surfing break.  Roughly half of them warn us that Homeowners Fail To Refinance!  The little bit of text informs us that only 85,000 homeowners have taken advantage of Obama’s refinancing plan.  And just look … there’s Obama, obviously disturbed as yet another home goes into foreclosure because the silly homeowners didn’t take advantage of his plan.  I’m no fan of Obama, but it’s annoying to see these goofs hijacking his image for an ad.

I’m going step out on a limb here and suggest that if most homeowners aren’t refinancing, they don’t need to.  (Some of them may even have this crazy idea that once they sign a contract with a lender, they shouldn’t take advantage of the government’s willingness to step in force the lender to cancel it.)  But what’s just plain weird are the pictures the advertisers choose.

This guy, for example.  If you see him walking into a bank, your first thought probably isn’t “Now there’s a man who inspires confidence in mortgage lenders.” He looks like he lives in a commune, for pete’s sake.  Somebody please explain to me the logic of putting his face on an for anything having to do with finances.

And what’s the message we’re supposed to get from this picture?  I can only guess:

  • This man is broke because didn’t refinance his home, so now he has to wear the glasses he bought in 1977. 
  • If this man would just refinance his home, he could stop moonlighting as welder.
  • This poor sap spent all his savings trying to prove Harry Caray was his biological father, so now he’s broke and needs to refinance his home.

Apparently believing the picture wasn’t disturbing enough already, the advertisers later decided to Photoshop in some truly strange-looking teeth.  Now the poor guy looks positively ape-like. The only way I can reproduce this expression is to pretend I’m Tim Allen doing his “Argh! Argh! Argh!” routine.

I’ve been seeing this one a lot lately too.  The text informs us that this Nashville mom found a way to earn $37 per hour working at online from home.  I don’t know what she’s doing online, but judging by her expression, it involves taking video Skype calls.

Okay, enough surfing.  Back to work.  I’d like to buy a house in Tennessee this year, and I don’t plan to need any help from Obama.

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“Step up on the scale, Mr. Naughton.”

“Sure, Doctor. I’m looking forward to seeing this myself.”

“Let’s see … slide this over a bit … hmm, pretty bad. Your weight is up again.”

“Uh … Doctor, you mind getting your foot off the scale?”

“Oh, okay.”

“So … you want to weigh me again now?”

“Sorry, I’ve already recorded the results. You can step down now.”

“But–”

“Just as I predicted. Man-made body enlarging. I told you to stop consuming so much animal fat.”

“There’s nothing wrong with eating–”

“If this keeps up, you’ll weigh 650 pounds by the year 2030. It’s a looming disaster.”

“Doctor, excuse me, but there’s no way I’m gaining weight. Look at me. I had to buy a smaller belt last month.”

“That’s a temporary anomaly. I’m more interested in the long-term trend.”

“I’ve been shrinking for two years now. I’ve also been eating more animal fat. So it can’t be making me fatter. Your theory doesn’t hold up.”

“Do you weigh more than you did 40 years ago?”

“Yes, I was a skinny runt 40 years ago.”

“And did your fat consumption go up during the past 40 years?”

“I was 11 years old 40 years ago! Of course I eat more now.”

“Aha! So you agree there’s a long-term trend in your body enlargement.”

“Those are natural forces at work. I’m pretty sure that’s been happening forever.”

“But the rate of the enlargement has accelerated. Look at your weight chart. See there? All nice and even for two decades, then it shoots up here at the end. It looks like a hockey stick.”

“That chart is bull@#$%!”

“It can’t be. I showed it to a bunch of doctors who are friends of mine and they agreed: it looks like a hockey stick. We even wrote a paper about it.”

“Look, Doctor, I went through a period in my thirties when I was fatter than I am today, and I wasn’t eating animal fat because I was a vegetarian. Now I’m experiencing a thinning trend, even though I eat a lot of fat. So obviously, fat isn’t the problem, and that chart is bull.”

“I see. So you’re a denialist.”

“What?!”

“I suppose you don’t believe the Holocaust happened either?”

“No! I mean, yes, I believe it happened. There’s evidence it happened. But there’s no evidence that I’m gaining weight!”

“Who’s paying you to say this? The dairy industry? The cattle ranchers?”

“Nobody’s paying me! Just use your senses! I’m smaller!”

“This is the worst case of denial I’ve ever seen. I’m afraid we’re going to have to institute a fat-and-trade system. Every time you consume fat, you’ll need to pay me a stiff fine. Or you can buy a fat credit from another tubbo who’s willing to go without butter for a week. It’s the only way to stop you from getting larger.”

“I AM NOT GETTING LARGER!”

“Yes, you are. It says so right here in my computer data.”

“Let me see that.”

“No. I will not have you second-guessing my data. I don’t have to show you anything.”

“Yes, you do, Doctor. And if you don’t, I’ll call my lawyer and have him file the papers.”

“Damn! I was hoping you didn’t know about that law. Now I have to destroy the data.”

“What?!”

“Nothing. I didn’t say anything.”

“Give me that book!”

“Hey! Give that back!”

“Back off, Doctor, or I’ll smack you. Let’s see … Hey, what’s with all the emails and notes?”

“Nothing. Just doctor’s notes.”

“Nothing, my @##. Look at this: ‘James – I figured out how to apply Mike’s trick of mixing belt-ring data with actual weight measurements to hide Mr. Naughton’s mid-thirties fattening period.’  What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It doesn’t mean anything! ‘Trick’ is a common term in medical research. Give me that back!”

“And here’s a coding comment from the guy who designed your computer program. What does he mean, he’s having a hard time writing code that produces the results you want?”

“You know … just programmer lingo. That’s how they talk.”

“And this one: ‘James – Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues to boycott medical journals that publish articles by doctors who have seen people lose weight on high-fat diets. By the way, please delete this after reading.’ And you printed it out? What are you, an idiot?”

“Oh, I see. Already reduced to resorting to attacks on my character, huh?”

“And what’s up with this one:  ‘James. The fact is that we cannot account for Mr. Naughton’s failure to gain weight in recent years, and it’s a travesty that we can’t.’

“Well, uh …you see, the theory is still correct, because uh … I mean it’s not like we have anything to hide!”

“Let me get this straight … you wouldn’t give me your data, you threatened to destroy your data so I wouldn’t see it, your programmer was upset because he was having a hard time producing the data you wanted, you applied ‘tricks’ to your data, and in spite of all that, your colleague thinks it’s a travesty that you can’t explain why I’m not actually gaining weight. I’d say you were hiding something, Doctor.”

“But the theory is still correct! I’m sure of it!  To hell with your annoying weight loss.”

“No, to hell with you, to hell with your theory, and to hell with your fat-and-trade fines. I’m leaving.”

“Don’t go outside while you’re angry, Mr. Naughton! You’ll get heat exhaustion!”

“It’s snowing, you moron.”

Some articles on the climate research scandal:

From Heritage Foundation

From Forbes

From the UK Telegraph

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This week I read a breathless article in the newspaper recounting a survey that shows more and more Americans are having doubts about global warming.  The writer was clearly upset about the survey and suggested two possible causes for this disastrous swing in public opinion: 1) Republicans have gotten very good at spreading denialist propaganda, and 2) people are too worried about the economy to pay attention to the global-warming activists.

I think there’s another possible explanation.  I’d even call it the likely explanation:  people have actually stepped outside and noticed it’s friggin’ cold out there. Buried waaaaay deep in last week’s Washington Post was this little gem:

Something happened in Washington on Friday that had not occurred in 138 years of weather history: For the first time since the National Weather Service began compiling daily data here, the high temperature for Oct. 16 was below 50 degrees.

Coldest October 16th in at least 138 years.  Boy, that global warming is getting serious, all right.  (We also had a record cold day last week here in Tennessee, by the way.)

Naturally, the editors at the Washington Post couldn’t bring themselves to put this story anywhere near the front page — not when the Senate is about to debate a cap-and-tax bill that’s supposed to help us forestall the horrors of global warming.  No matter.  People tend to notice when they’re freezing their butts off — as they did in the Western states a couple of weeks ago:

An early-season snowstorm blanketed the U.S. West, dumping as much as 20 inches of snow on Wyoming and forcing the postponement of a Major League Baseball playoff game. Record low temperatures were set in at least three states.

Higher elevations in Wyoming had snow accumulations of 20 inches (50 centimeters), while areas around Casper had 10 inches from a storm that swept through yesterday and this morning, said Mike Pigott, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com in State College, Pennsylvania. Casper normally has an inch and a half of snowfall by this point in October, he said.

“The story here isn’t so much the snow, but the record-smashing cold,” Pigott said in a telephone interview.

Denver posted a record low of 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 degrees Celsius) this morning, breaking the old mark of 25 degrees, Pigott said. Casper, Wyoming, touched a low of 12 degrees this morning, shattering the old record of 21 degrees, he said.

The downturn in temperatures didn’t begin this year, either.  A year ago, London was blanketed with snow in October for the first time since 1922 — just as the House of Commons was set to debate global-warming legislation.  What a pickle:  the alarmists want to ram fat new taxes disguised as global-warming prevention down our throats, but the freakin’ weather just won’t cooperate.

The drop in temperatures has been so dramatic over the past few years, even the global-warming alarmists at the BBC finally had to admit it’s happening:

According to research conducted by Professor Don Easterbrook from Western Washington University last November, the oceans and global temperatures are correlated. The oceans, he says, have a cycle in which they warm and cool cyclically. The most important one is the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO). For much of the 1980s and 1990s, it was in a positive cycle, that means warmer than average. And observations have revealed that global temperatures were warm too.

But in the last few years it has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down. These cycles in the past have lasted for nearly 30 years. So could global temperatures follow? The global cooling from 1945 to 1977 coincided with one of these cold Pacific cycles. Professor Easterbrook says: “The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling.”

This is stunning news.  Not the stuff about the oceans — I already knew about that — but the willingness of a BBC reporter to note that there was global cooling from 1945 to 1977.  In case your history is a little rusty, that would be the era in which the automobile became hugely popular and industrialization grew at a monstrous rate after World War Two. 

The same reporter even cited an inconvenient but well-established and verifiable fact:  there’s been no global warming whatsoever since 1998.  This puts the alarmists in the embarrassing position of trying to convince us that a 21-year warming span that ended a decade ago proves that humans are heating up the planet, but a previous 32-year cooling span and the current 11-year cooling span are both meaningless — even though they occurred while CO2 was rising. I guess at some point, media reporters finally conclude that maintaining a shred of credibility with the public outweighs the need to push an agenda.

Of course, those are just small, recent cycles.  Lately I’ve been reading Ian Plimer’s book Heaven and Earth, which is so full of citations, they take up nearly a third of each page.  I don’t recommend tackling the book unless you really like jumping into heavy-duty science, but here are some highlights: 

  • The earth has been warming and cooling in cycles pretty much forever. 
  • Nobody knows all the factors that influence the warming and cooling trends, but the computer models based on CO2 concentrations are utter failures.  Sunspots and naturally-occurring changes in the oceans seem to be the biggest factors.
  • During our last warming trend, Mars was also getting warmer.  (Gee, that sounds like the sun might have something to do with it.)
  • The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been many times higher than it is today.  During some of those high-concentration periods, it was cold, not warm.
  • A thousand years ago, it was warmer than it is now.  (The polar bears survived, in case you’re wondering.)  The Vikings formed colonies in Greenland and grew crops that don’t grow there today — it’s too cold.  This is just one of several long periods in human history that were warmer than the 20th century.
  • The cold periods have been the worst for humans.  It was long cooling periods, not hot ones, that turned fertile lands into deserts and led to crop failures, famines, rampant diseases, forced migrations, and wars over fertile lands.  The warm periods have been relative nirvanas.

Naturally, everyone who still depends on global-warming hysteria for grants or fund-raising is busy cranking out press releases to explain away the recent cooling trend or trooping up onto Capitol Hill to predict disaster — from all that non-existent warming. 

I suppose if they’re smart, they’ll check the forecast and try to schedule an appearance on a day when there’s no risk of another record-cold temperature being set.

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When I was still living near Los Angeles, a guy who parked in our neighborhood had a bumper sticker on his car that read: DON’T MOVE HERE.  Heck, I did him one better.  I left for Tennessee.

Now that I’m here, I’ve received a couple of emails and blog comments similar to this:  “Tom, welcome to Tennessee.  You seem like someone who belongs here.  But do us a favor.  Don’t tell the people in California how great it is here.  We don’t want them all moving here and turning our state into another California.”

I fully understand the fear.  California was ruined by big-government leftists, who all seem to share a peculiar trait:  they have an amazing inability to recognize the damage they cause.  Worse, they always believe the damage was caused by someone else.  They’re like the kid who pees in a wading pool, then complains that the water is a weird color and doesn’t smell so good, then blames the lifeguard and finds another pool.

For example, a friend of mine sent me this article from the Los Angeles Times, written by a woman who is mad at California for no longer being a paradise and is leaving for greener pastures.  Here are some choice quotes:

For 18 years or so, I can honestly say that I was truly in love with you, but then came your first major transgression: Proposition 13.

Oh sure, you tried to tell me that property taxes were bad for our relationship, but I knew you were lying. Low taxes, you said, would bring us closer together. You wanted to have your cake and eat it too. You said we could build schools and roads and parks without that tax money, but even back then I knew you were in denial.

Newsflash … California didn’t go broke building roads and schools and parks.  It went broke building a huge government bureaucracy that allows state workers to retire at age 50 or 55 and draw full pensions – paid for by taxpayers who will continue working at least another 10 years to support the state-government retirees.

Proposition 13 limited property taxes so longtime homeowners wouldn’t be forced to sell their homes when property values in California skyrocketed.  It’s insane to force old people to sell their homes to pay their taxes.  And despite what Miss Goofy thinks, California has one of the highest tax burdens in the country.  A lack of revenue isn’t the problem.  Runaway spending is.  Property taxes in Tennessee are low, but (amazingly) there’s no shortage of roads, schools and parks here.

We can’t pay our bills, and the phone is ringing off the hook with creditors calling from all over the world. Children across the state are losing healthcare, more than 766,300 Californians lost their jobs in the last year, and we’re at the top of the foreclosure charts. You need to change, and you refuse to admit it.

I realize most leftists have never read a book on economics, but it requires truly stunning ignorance to chide a state for going broke, not spending more on welfare programs, and losing jobs all in one paragraph.  Yes, it’s a shame that 766,300 Californians lost their jobs last year.  Perhaps that’s because big companies like Nissan (and small companies like mine) finally got tired of California’s punitive taxes and anti-business regulations and decided to relocate to Tennessee.

Newsflash number two … when employers are deciding where to do business, they don’t say to themselves, “Hmmm … I wonder if there’s a state where we could pay through the nose to support a huge bureaucracy … preferably one that requires us to provide health care for illegal aliens and build apartments for the homeless … and if we had to pay workers compensation claims for ‘stress,’ that would be awesome!”

Based on her reasons for being mad at California, it’s clear Miss Goofy is a big-government liberal.  That means she voted for exactly the type of economic illiterates who scared away employers and drove the state to the brink of bankruptcy.  And now, clueless that she was part of the problem, she’s moving to Washington state, where the economy is healthy.

By the way, Washington, like Tennessee, is business-friendly and has no state income tax.  I’ll give you 10-to-1 odds Miss Goofy’s brain isn’t capable of connecting that fact to the healthier job outlook.

So again, I understand the fears of my new neighbors.  If enough Miss Goofy types move here, pretty soon they’ll be voting for bigger state government and the higher taxes to pay for it.  Then the employers will go away, or at least stop locating here.  Then the Miss Goofy types will wake up one day and say, “What the @#$% happened to this state?!  Why did it go bankrupt?!  To hell with this, I’m leaving!”

With that in mind, here are a few reasons I would urge Californians not to move to Tennessee:

Your driving skills will plummet. The first day after moving in, I was driving in the left lane on a busy road and realized I needed to make a right-hand turn at an upcoming intersection. I put on my signal and prepared to do battle with all the me-first types who would surely attempt to speed up and get past me.  I also took the safety off my middle finger and cocked my wrist.

Then a weird thing happened:  the drivers behind me slowed down and let me in.  It’s happened again since then.  If this keeps up, I’ll lose my ability to make NASCAR-worthy maneuvers.  If I ever drive in L.A. again, I’ll probably get myself killed … or at least sit in the same spot on the freeway for several hours, waiting for someone visiting from out of state to let me change lanes.

You’ll feel no sense of victory when you finally get a table at a restaurant. When we first arrived we had no internet connection, so I went to a local Panera that offers free WiFi.  It was the lunch hour, and I felt myself tensing up as I approached the door.  What if all the tables are taken?  How long do I want to wait?  Do I really need to check my email right now?

But it turned out the place was only half-full.  I felt no great satisfaction when I sat down … next to an outlet where I could plug in my laptop.  I was also able to look up when I felt like it; no need to avoid eye contact with people glaring at me, wondering when the heck I’d pack up the laptop and leave.

You’ll feel no sense of victory when you get your kid into a good school. I know it’s a lot of fun to apply at several magnet schools, volunteer for committees and schmooze with members of the school board, hoping to earn enough points to get little Johnny or Jane accepted a few years down the line.  But really, that’s just wasted effort here.  The schools are all good.  In fact, when we walked unannounced into our local grade school (ranked 10 out of 10 on state scores) to see how to get our daughter into first grade, the principal came out of her office and gave us a tour, assigned our daughter to a teacher, then took us to meet the teacher.

You will lose your anonymity. A friend of mine who’s lived here for 25 years warned me that everyone I deal with will expect a bit of conversation.  And it’s true.  When I called the cable company to get set up, I ended up spending three or four minutes discussing “True Blood” with the nice lady who answered the phone.  (She thinks Bill the Vampire is hot, by the way.)  By the time I left the bank today, I knew the account manager’s husband collects rare knives.  And she knows I once received a baseball autographed by Sandy Koufax as a gift and, being a stupid kid, played baseball with it.

You won’t be able to feel righteously indignant when you fill up your tank. Since gasoline taxes here are low, the prices at the pump won’t make you angry at Exxon.  Likewise, you won’t be able to hate the auto insurance industry (my rates dropped by half after moving here) or the realty industry (homes and apartments are cheap compared to California).

There are Christian churches all over the place. If you watch a lot of TV shows and movies produced in Hollywood, you know that nearly all Christians are buffoons, killers, or hypocrites.  The only people more likely to commit murder, in the opinion of Hollywood script-writers, are rich white businessmen.  Since this is a prosperous area with a church on every other corner, it must be full of rich white businessmen who are also Christians.  I haven’t checked, but the murder rate here has to be astronomical.  (Although I assume the killers have a nice, leisurely chat about collecting knives with their victims before stabbing them.)

You don’t want your family anywhere near these chatty, conservative, anti-tax, well-educated, polite-driving, church-going fiends.  Keep your kids in Los Angeles, where they’ll be safe.

DON’T MOVE HERE.

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