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New for the new year, a week late

Forgot I had this one hanging round in the “ready to post” buffer …

I’m bored. I want to launch a jihad against someone. Any suggestions? I thought about taking on the weblog that this young chap‘s parents write for him, but it kind of seems like bullying. Not saying that I’m not going to do it, just making conversation; it seems like bullying. Also, I don’t really care about Israel all that much, though I do note that it would be really quite funny for anyone who doesn’t like the proponent of “benshapiroonline” to continually post sharply worded critiques of it every Friday evening to see whether his religious faith in keeping the Sabbath is greater than his desire to shoot his mouth off. Anyway, I don’t think I’m going to, no matter how much fun it would be, mainly because there’s something weird about that “benshapiroonline” site. When you click on a link to one of the articles, something about the way that the site loads means that it shows you the picture of Ben for a fraction of a second before scrolling down really quickly to the article. Which means that I’ve got a retinal image of Ben floating over the page as I read his writing, and it’s rather disturbing. Thank God subliminal advertising doesn’t work, or there’s no telling what I might do.

But anyway, impossible as it sounds, unassuming chap like myself, I find that I have run out of enemies. I suppose I really ought to continue my lifelong crusade against Eric Raymond, but frankly, can I be bothered? If anyone can come up with a suitable target, I will award a small prize (please note; I amusing the word “award” here in an extended, metaphorical sense which does not carry any implications that you’ll actually get anything). Otherwise, I guess it’s going to be Den Beste, without any great enthusiasm.

Real world experiments you can do … Make friends with a clinical psychologist at your local secure hospital facility. Then suggest to him that you’re a “free speech absolutist”, and that in order to make a statement about how much of a free speech absolutist you are, you’re going to buy a subscription to Playboy for all of his patients who have been incarcerated for sex offences. Take two steps backward, place the index finger of your right hand on the point of your chin, roll your eyes upward, bat the eyelids and say “do you think that would be a good idea?” Or if that seems like too much trouble, just write a bollock-awful autopilot screed on your weblog about how you and your friends never raped anyone, so anyone who even thinks about a connection between pornography and sex offences is just a MacDworkinite prude who wants to paint out the nudes in Rembrandt.

Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious

New Years’ Resolutions are always crap, but mine are usually worse than most I’ve never kept one in the past, and can’t see why I’m ever likely to keep one in the future. But still, we beat on, boats against the current, etc. However, this year’s is quite important, and I’m hoping to hold myself to it. I’ve decided to give up having arguments about the bleeding obvious. Specifically, the following propositions:

  • That people making employment decisions are for the most part (probably unconsciously) racist in the way in which they make those decisions.
  • That college admissions have never in the history of the world reflected “ability” in the abstract, even if such a metaphysically dubious quality were to exist and that nor will they ever in the future, whatever happens to government policy.
  • That policemen are very often actively racist in their intentions, and most always passively racist in the effects of their actions.
  • That it is the proper function of civil society to provide a decent standard of living for its members, and that the definition of “a decent standard of living” has nothing to do with caloric survival requirements
  • That the standard of living in France, Germany, the UK or any other G7 country is about the same as in the USA.
  • That equality is a good, particularly in the field of education
  • That the era of imperialism in the 19th century had a profound effect on the development of the colonies
  • That the transatlantic slave trade was the moral responsibility of those who profited the most from it, and that it was the proximate cause of the American Civil War.
  • That there is no problem with respect to the provision of pensions which would be solved by privatising the current state systems anywhere.
  • That the IMF advised developing countries during the 1990s to liberalise the capital account, and that the effects of this policy were disastrous.
  • And that the rates of tax on capital gains, dividends and wage income should be the same

Are no longer up for argument, pending absolutely spectacular new evidence. I’ve had a number of arguments on all of these points over the last year; I’ve heard all sides, and I’ve made up my mind. If anyone has an argument which they genuinely believe to be new, go ahead, but don’t expect much. Please note also that I am no longer interested in methodological debates over the merits of statistical studies which purport to prove the matter one way or another on any of these propositions. There are still lots of fairly controversial things over which I’m prepared to argue, partly because I think I might convince someone, and partly because I think it’s possible to disagree with me in good faith; I edited the list above down from one three times as long. But if someone genuinely believes that there’s no such thing as racism any more, or that welfare recipients are supplicants who should be grateful for whatever they’re given, or believes amazingly odd things about economics, then they can go and have an argument with someone else (I believe that the Internet is a good place for this). I’m hoping to spend 2003 on more interesting questions.

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