Archive for the 'democrats' Category

Causality, fear, independent thought, and abandoned houses

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The final topic of misconception is causality. I see assumptions of cause being used far too frequently as proof of an ideology or belief, when in fact no such causal relationship exists. Two things may exist at the same time, and yet neither caused the other. You would think, with all that we know, and the all that we have achieved, as a society, that we’d be able to move beyond ridiculous assumptions due to an assumed cause and effect relationship. But, of course, such discussions and beliefs would require reasoning, facts, proof, and testing. All of which are time consuming, and may very well prove the opposite of what we feel comfortable in believing.

Causality

From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

1 : a causal quality or agency
2 : the relation between a cause and its effect or between regularly correlated events or phenomena

You also have to define causal, of course:

1 : expressing or indicating cause : causative <a causal clause introduced by since>
2 : of, relating to, or constituting a cause <the causal agent of a disease>
3 : involving causation or a cause <the relationship…was not one of causal antecedence so much as one of analogous growth — H. O. Taylor>
4 : arising from a cause <a causal development>

One common statement in arguments, and online forums goes something like this: “Detroit is a shit hole, therefore liberals create shit holes,” or “Republicans give tax breaks to the rich, therefore Republicans hate the poor and middle class.” Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on whether you’re using causality in your argument), “correlation does not imply causation.” In other words, yes, Detroit is a shit hole, but claiming it’s as simple as the political persuasion of it’s citizens or leaders, is nearly as baseless as saying flies are always on meat, therefore flies come from meat. This was once a belief (spontaneous generation), along with the earth being flat, and the sun revolving around the earth. Detroit’s big problem was, and is, a reliance on one gigantic industry to provide for all, as well as an avoidance of education, broken families, poverty, and a host of other things that reside just as often in Republican run states (see Mississippi and Louisiana).

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In relation to causality, I’ve noticed a lot of blame for Michigan’s, and Detroit’s, current problems placed on one person. That person, of course, is Jennifer Granholm. I’m not here to defend our governor, but blaming more than 40 years worth of problems on one person? That’s dumb.

Jennifer Granholm may be the worst leader in the history of Michigan…or the best. It doesn’t really matter. Our current governor is not the cause of Michigan’s problems, and she won’t be the solution either. If anyone thinks Detroit’s problems began with Jennifer Granholm in 2003, they really haven’t been paying attention in the any of the last four decades. Instead of trying to find one person to blame, think about yourself. What have you done to prepare for the future?

The kind of simple causal argument that is often thrown about reminds me of this quote: “For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” - H. L. Mencken

Along the same lines, I came across an article about creationism in Scientific American, and found this excellent response in the comments section:

“Causation and purpose are not rational subjects, neither is who what when where or why. The psychological imperative of memory creates a pattern of linear time experienced as reality, but limited by the perceptive abilities of the observer.
The result is that a human has an imagination, an ability to associate all memories, emotions, and sense perceptions with possible future consequences. This frees the cognate mind to choose potential results. It also causes the great majority of individuals to adapt whatever cultural behavior provides the most comfort and supports the identity, the personality of the individual.
The result is a social commitment to a virtual reality, in effect a reality of belief supported by communal ritual and agreement.
The belief process itself explains the ability to remain objective or to require dependence on family, tribe. or cultural ideas of reality, or virtual reality.”

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I found this comment to be especially applicable to not only religious or scientific beliefs, but political, economic, and social beliefs as well. It’s more comforting to believe that those who don’t have what you have, don’t deserve to have what you have. “They don’t work hard”, we so often hear. “They want something for nothing”. In fact I think this was the feeling someone got from a previous post, where I talked about low skilled vs. high skilled labor. I’m sure I came off as sounding as though I felt anyone who hasn’t made the changes I’ve made deserves their plight. While I think that, yes, everyone needs to look out for their own well being, and if that means making large, difficult changes to their lives, than so be it. That’s life.

On the other hand, I’ve never said anything about the amount of hard work anyone puts into their own jobs, or lives, which brings me back to comments like, “they don’t work hard”, or “I work hard for my money”. Unfortunately, I don’t know many who don’t work hard for their money, and honestly, on some days, I’d like to work a little less hard for my own. But the point is that it’s, often, easier and more comforting to believe something with no evidence than it is to look for the truth. Particularly when your circle of influence holds the same beliefs. It’s easier to believe you don’t have a job, because of those damn immigrants, than to face the reality of our changing times. It’s easier to believe race is to blame for crime than it is to face up to racism, prejudice, limited opportunities, and general societal problems.

I don’t claim to not make assumptions myself, but I certainly try to keep an open mind, and to allow myself to change my mind when reasoned and factual arguments are presented. Unfortunately, I fear that our peers too often don’t like us to change our minds on certain topics. It’s not ok to decide that the political or economic belief you once held may not, in fact, be true. Our political, racial, ethnic, and religious allegiances require us to give up some of our independent thinking in order to fit in neatly. All we you have to do is look at politicians who have made compromises to get something they believe in done. What happened to John McCain when he crossed the aisle to work with several Democrats to pass bills he believed in? He was brandished a liberal, a label that stuck with him until he won his party’s nomination.

A new kind of crazy?

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I recently received a comment that stated, “What Detroit needs is a Free Zone with absolutely no taxation for at least a decsde in the worst part of the city. No city, no state or federal taxes of any kind.The hardest hit area of Detroit would become the most vibrant area of the country in no time.”

I sometimes wonder if people really think things through before making comments like this. I do agree that absolutely no taxes would be quite a draw to the area. But who would it attract and what would the area be like? Does this commenter believe that it will be all God fearing Christian Republicans? It’s not just conservatives that don’t like to pay taxes. Just like it’s not only liberals who like to break the law.

A completely tax free haven in the center of Detroit. Just think about it for a second… Detroit is one of poorest cities in the country with sky high crime rates, 22% unemployment, and rampant vandalism and arson. Let’s just plop a bunch of enthusiastic hippies, libertarians, and a smattering of curious liberals and conservatives in the middle of said city. And since there would be no taxes, there would be no services. No water, no sewer system, no garbage pickup. Where are you going to get a clean source of water from? Where is your human waste going to go? Are we going to have a third world city with human waste flowing through the streets? No taxes, no police. Who do you call when the roving bands of criminals come to your house. The libertarians will claim they’ll defend themselves. I’m sure the wild west would be a big draw for visitors and potential businesses. People come to this country to escape that, not to be part of it.

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What happens when the arsonists set your house on fire? Who will you call? The fire department. There won’t be one. No taxes, no fire department. Maybe you can get a bucket brigade going with the non-existent water from the non-existent water supply. I suppose you could start your own police and fire departments, build your own water and sewer infrastructure, but then you’d have to collect taxes to pay for them. If you’re going to collect taxes, you’ll have to form a government.

The fact of the matter is, the wild west makes for good stories and movies, but probably wouldn’t be enjoyable for more than a very small and very anti-social segment of the population. Think of the uni-bomber, Timothy McVeigh, and Terry Nichols. Sounds like good company. I bet the block parties would be fun. Which one of the neighbors would you let your kids play with?

Maybe I’m making assumptions though. Maybe the commenter meant that there should be no taxes but that services should still be provided. I certainly hope not though, since the commenter is dead set against wealth redistribution, which is, of course socialism, and making the surrounding population pay for his social experiment would certainly violate his own principals. It’s okay though. I know people make these types of comments because they know they’ll never happen.

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I only got on this topic because of my recent use of Twitter in which I can view a bizarre stream of consciousness in which I see things like:

“Liberals believe anyone with a gun might go crazy at any minute..”

” The law is never settled when liberals are involved”

“vermont legalizes the redefine marriage. liberals need there own country. lets start today to divide the nation into 2 or 3 nations.”

“Hey liberals, You didn’t win the 2008 elections, the GOP lost them; there’s a VERY BIG DIFFERENCE in the two!!!”

“Will the conservatives of this country ever band together? Obama is setting up this country to be destroyed by our enemies!”

“Conservatives have VALUES, MORALS, PRINCIPLES Lefties don’t. “EVERYTHING GOES” SOCIETY! Losers, complainers”

I tried to find tweets where liberals were bashing conservatives, but couldn’t find any. Oops…correction. One just popped up:

“Conservatives had 8 years to destroy civil liberties & legislate morality. Now it’s our turn”

Maybe the overwhelming number of bitter political tweets comes from conservatives (at least from my very short experience), because they’ve lost what they perceived  as control of the political direction of the country. I suppose if I’d used Twitter while George W. Bush was president, the bitter comments may have been overwhelmingly liberal. Who knows. It’s easier to relax, when your party is in power.

My point was going to be the absolute political division that our country faces today. Maybe it’s always been this bad  but has become more obvious due to modern day communication. Now you can berate your neighbor on Twitter and never have to say it to their face. You can hate “them” virtually, and act civil while you are around them physically. Pretty sad when so many think that all of the problems they, or their country face has been caused wholly by someone else. One tweeter actually supposed that the stock market went down because
Barack Obama came back to the country. Uh…that’s just dumb.

Update - I had to add links to two videos that relate to this post. Both are very good.

Baracknophobia - Very funny. Did Michelle Bachman wear her aluminum foil cap on the campaign trail, or did she only become paranoid/delusional after winning election?

Jonathan Haidt: The real difference between liberals and conservatives -  Very interesting, and to be serious, I could probably take a lesson away from this talk.