The Gentleman's Victory

My two favorite bloggers have a few things in common. They are literary and profound thinkers and I would say this is what defines their writings. Still I am irked by the same annoying quality in each of them: their unwillingness to stand up and fight.  

They will freely give their opinions, but they seldom move down into the trenches to defend them. One, whom I will call Burr in order to preserve his anonymity, is a far left, very out-spoken liberal, who virtually never answers a challenge to his position. His silence is not symptomatic of cowardice, as one who does not know him may erroneously conclude. It is something else. The other, whom I will call Vincent, appears more willing to give a slight rebuttal; but he also seems sanctimoniously intolerant of back and forth arguments.
I have had no problem filling the void they leave behind, a fact I will attempt to clarify after I tell you about my affection for chess.
It is considered a gentlemen’s game, and I suppose it is, in the same way that a duel is a gentlemanly way to settle a dispute. Chess is a noble battlefield, peopled with royalty, the King, the Queen, the sacrificial pawns and the majesty of its middle class. It all implies sophistication. In chess the winner knows it was he that won, and no one can attribute his victory to a random event; and the loser cannot console himself as the victim of a chance occurrence that worked against him.  If his ego is squashed, it is crushed purely, leaving no room for denial in the remains. No dice are rolled, no cards drawn, no fortune dealt. One person proves that in this instance and in this game, he is simply better than another one.
When I was younger, I loved to debate, but later in life the fire fizzled out. I appreciated the same virtue in debating that I saw in chess. You strategically outwit your opponent, and nothing is left to fate. I misused the debate, just as I misused chess. Passionate debates often seemed to result in hurt feelings and never accomplished anything. As I recall, I always won my debates and I fear that I alone own those memories. As I matured, I articulated the idea that a desire to debate is really a desire to conquer and this realization slowly dampened the fire inside me.
After years of rhetorical silence, I discovered the joy of blogging. There you could debate and withdraw on your own timeline. So long as you are respectful, no harm done. Philosophical and political bloggers often claim a search for clarification of truth as a motivation for their hobby. Don’t believe it. Bloggers blog because they enjoy blogging. Debaters debate because they enjoy debating.
I love reading the sites of opinionated people with unique thoughts or creative expressions. It is an educational pastime, a playground where intellectual discourse and lively discussion abide. I typically comment on conservative-minded blogs more often than I do on liberal ones, as I often find little to contribute to an article when I  largely agree with its conclusions.
A liberal response given on a conservative blog is really just a rebuttal. It seems OK. The conservative author expects it, probably welcomes it. Just ask him. But what am I really trying to do? I find an article written as a form of art or expression or sharing of an intellectual idea by a well-intentioned writer and I attempt to refute it, to invalidate its worth and to defeat its author’s ideas; to what end? Blog articles express opinions that are the natural result of other, more fundamental, deep-seated philosophies. Nothing anyone can say about the subject of a blogger’s article will typically change his mind or his thinking. To argue that I am trying to engage in discovery or mutually beneficial intellectual exchange of ideas seems a bit hypocritical. If this is the motivation of a blog commenter, his efforts are sorely misplaced, as it rarely works, and he would do better reading a book or donating his time to a soup kitchen.
No one seriously comments on blogs to change his own opinion, as he knows himself to be right and would not post a refuting comment in order to get a rebuttal that would convince him of something wrong. If he makes a long argument, he does so not to discover data, but because he believes he has the right data already. So, the commenter must comment either to change the opinion of someone else, someone who is statistically as likely to be right as the commenter himself, or to get his own opinion challenged, to sharpen his blades, and prepare him to outwit his next victim.  Whenever a blog commenter tells himself that he is merely trying to strengthen his grasp of truth, he is probably trying to fool you, but he may have fooled himself. Self-perception and debating motivation do not tend to get along. Blogging is not an educational chore, but a hobby. When a blogger maintains an internet presence as a debater, he does so for the love of the game.
I tried to justify my dissenting comments, and sometimes satirical ridicule, as part of a mutually agreed upon game, like chess. If those involved all enjoy it, then what is the harm, and why shouldn’t I play? To paraphrase, why shouldn’t I find a writer’s virtual home and attempt to burn it down? The effort is divisive and ultimately fruitless. If you cannot possibly change anyone’s mind in a substantive way, then why would you go to their site and attack their articles? To invalidate a person’s creation is to invalidate a part of the person.
It reminds me of the atheist who tries to disprove that Jesus is the Son of God because he resents the fact that the theist is wrong in the matter. Something compels him to go after the theist, to catch him in his mistaken notion. The more data you use to challenge him, the harder he will fight and the more aggressive he will become. A mountain lion, once trapped, becomes angrier, and less open to reason. Why would I want to trap him? How well I succeed is not relevant. The meaningful question is why would I feel the need to try to refute logic just because I think it is erroneous? Knowing that our beliefs on philosophical issues usually stem from more fundamental principles, making productive debate on specifics pointless, why should I want to engage him? The best I could hope for is to prove my intended victim wrong about the specifics we are debating. He would still walk away with the same fundamentals that took him there, and so his overall politics would not change.
It is a sophist’s game, to try to out maneuver those with different philosophical foundations than I by challenging them on specifics. If a person is proud to win a game, then regardless of what he tells you, it would probably shame him to lose one, even if only a little. If he tries to win and fails, the loss in not a neutral outcome, but an invalidating failure, even if he tells you it is not, and even if he outwardly perceives that no harm is done. A recent study showed that those who play and win computer games against other players have more confidence in other areas of life for the rest of the day.
Benighted as they may be in their gentleness, both Burr and Vincent seem to have learned something long ago that I am just beginning to appreciate: it is not true that in order for me to win, someone else must lose. It is hard to walk away when you see the weak spot and your sword is drawn. It is hard to resist trying to slay those who have opinions other than our own.
In the liberal vs. conservative debates, nobody wins and everyone claims victory. It’s easy to see the phenomenon when you watch it from a distance, but not when you are emotionally invested. A debate is like a chess match, but it is not chess. Victory is subjective. After a liberal attacks a conservative site through blog comments, the conservatives feel their castle walls withstood the test, that the olive oil they poured over the turrets boiled the flesh off the invading force; that their boulders crushed the invader’s skull. The liberal remembers Ozymandias as he eyes the broken statue where the castle once stood and marvels at the smirk on the face in the ruins. It would all be good were it not for the overshadowing fog of resentment emanating from the debris. As charges of incivility betray a sense of umbrage left in the aftermath of an aggressive opponent’s passion, everyone claims no offense is taken. And even if the conservatives are mistaken about the outcome, so too the liberal suffers his own illusions, as illustrated in the fact that he can dream up a reality where besieging a castle in “good-humored” rebuttal is harmless. He tells himself that it is really just a philosophical exercise, a game each side enjoys: all in good fun.
Except no minds are changed and each side’s proclamations of victory echo over bruised egos half buried in stacks of smoking rubble; each side marvels at how the other could be so foolish as to keep trying to stand under the gargantuan force of their wisdom; and the liberal does not emerge as unscathed as he perceives himself to be, a perception he holds probably because he must, more than for any other reason. He did not convince anyone of anything, anymore than his opponents did. The only person who sensed the powerful blow of any proof he introduced, was the liberal himself, who needed no convincing. His only success was in offending a bunch of conservatives who were minding their own business before he moved in and tried to convince them of the error of not thinking like him; and he failed. His opponents’ most fundamental assumptions differ from his; he sees nonsense where they see obvious truth; so his liberal arguments are foolish and easily refutable with conservative logic.
Since annoying his philosophical adversaries was not a part of his conscious plan, regardless of the power or weakness of his arguments and regardless of the condition of the conservatives after the battle, there is no denying that the liberal was utterly defeated; none of his objectives were met.
So if the conservatives lost and the liberals lost, then who won? Burr and Vincent.


  1. Where is this Burr? You say he is a liberal. I am a conservative. I shall fire salvoes at his castle and smoke him out, till he surrenders. You will be sorry, John!

  2. He is in a constant state of surrender, and like me, would forgive you for your conservatism because you have other virtues. I already tried to destroy his castle on a number of occasions. It doesn’t work. I go there to break down the gates and find them wide open.

  3. I was going to say (before you pulled the post) these words, which I fortunately copied to the clipboard:

    However, he is an American liberal and I am an English conservative. They probably wouldn't fight even if you goaded them with sharp sticks, even though their strutting displays and tail-feathers would be in sharp contrast and give you the impression they were adversaries.

  4. You are, of course, entirely right, John. A number of years ago I spent much time in a number of internet discussion fora - of late, I find myself visiting them less and less; I find little new in people lobbing the same argumentative grenades at each other from ideologically well-secured trenches.

    Any kind of good dialogue, any real dialectic, involves openness; giving and taking, hearing as well as talking, thesis and antithesis combining to form synthesis. A true Socratic attitude involves questioning everying, including one's own positions. But such a dialogue can only take place when all participants are prepared to adopt such openness and acceptance of the conditionality of their views. And this is, indeed, a rare phenomen anywhere, even in the great world wide web.

    Still, I find other reasons for visiting many blogs - an admirable style of writing or presenting arguments, for example. Perhaps most of all, a glimpse of the personality behind the argument - the kind of interpersonal encounter which brings one to the conclusion; Yes, he's certainly an antediluvian troglodyte conservative, but somehow I like him! From such encounters friendship - even virtual friendship - can grow, and that is something very precious.

  5. Francis,

    This is nothing if not a self-indictment. I recognized my own need to conquer; something I readily saw in others, and at once perceived that what I desire is impossible, and also that I should not desire it.

    It is largely human nature, but it seems it is not all human's nature. I had removed that desire in face to face discussions (I think) by talking myself out of desiring it, years ago. Online, it did not seem like combat, at first, that is. Then I got involved in five simultaneous debates and much to my dismay, I realized that “I started it,” credit I previously always gave to the other guy.

  6. A very interesting and thought-provoking post. It brings to mind an old story.

    There once was a soldier who would regularly hold forth for the benefit of anyone within earshot on the futility of war. He was in a trench at last light and doing that very thing when the stillness was shattered by a sharp "crack." The philosopher soldier immediately went quiet, crumpled and fell, becoming another tragic statistic.

    The moral: In war, keep your head down, your rifle up, your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut. There'll be plenty of time to ponder the futility of war once the damn thing is over.

    I've always thought that was good advice. ;)

  7. As we well know, the lively salvos of verbal volleys between the Left and Right are not really debates in the traditional sense. They are more like entrenched exchanges of opinion.

    Debate can only proceed with mutually accepted definitions of terms. Typically the exchange features terms like "Death Panels", "union thugs" and "liberal media" that one side holds as clearly established facts, which the other side must question. Then there's the issue of documented verifiable evidence. FOX(R), Beck and Limbaugh are bastions of truth to one side while the other wastes energy in denying the veracity of such sources.

    So we see each side speaks separate languages from radically different foundations of beliefs.

    It's a minor miracle we're not killing each other.

    "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

  8. Dave,

    "It's a minor miracle we're not killing each other." LOL LOL. You hit the nail on the head with a WMD.

    "What we have here is a failure to communicate." -- Twice!

    A remarkable wise man expressed this idea very poetically at another site:

    Speaking in Tongues About Homosexuality

    I have actually contemplated a site for moderated debates where any ad hominem attacks or mischaracterizations were challenged by the moderator, whose job would be to prevent them. The debates could become far more substantive and I would enjoy it very much.

    The one problem is I could not participate in such debates, because my satirical references are often distortions and I do so love them.

  9. S.W.,

    That is good advice for war. I am not sure this perverted form of debate we do has to be a war. I see others engage in the process without the conflict. I am just now trying to learn how they do it. Oddly enough, some of the sites I really enjoy are ones where the battles happen, and I enjoy them even when I do not participate. Some of the wars between Dave D and T. Paine are classics. I rarely join in for many reasons, among them the fact that both men can talk over my head pretty quickly and they are all over the map. I am trying to figure out how to be content with being silent and thought a fool.

  10. Well, you might say politics is war by other means. Certainly, what's going on in this country has been more of a war since the political right welcomed racists and fundamentalists into the GOP fold and began discarding the moderates it couldn't compel to behave like a radical. With underhanded, anything-to-win people like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove steering campaigns, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay rising to leadership positions and fat cats from the Hunt brothers to the Koch brothers funding pols, campaigns and dirty tricks, it's not your grandpa's "I Like Ike" party any more.

    I think people who care enough to try to know what's going on, and know enough to realize we're headed toward a bad end where our democracy is concerned, need to speak up and do what they can. If radical right wingers continue controlling and subverting our politics and government the way they did during the 1980s and most of this decade, we're headed for some kind of rupture. It could create an intolerable rift not resolvable through politics. I don't want it to ever get to that dangerous point.

  11. Yes, an interesting post. And the comments, well, the comments complement the post so well.

    But blogging is not just about opinion, debate, and other manly pursuits. At its core, it is about connections, even ones where the writer and the reader separate without finding common ground. When I come away from a favorite conservative blog shaking my head, I feel better if for no other reason than I have felt their pulse, listened to their tirade, given them some of my time.

    I do agree that not many people end up with a change of view, but it does happen. My own opinion on the Death Penalty was changed through heated exchanges on the more ghetto like world of political forums. In my effort to defend the use of the Death Penalty I researched the claims of others opposing me. Many were unfounded, but one fellow was consistently correct. His consistency and tenacity caused me to realize my stand on the Death Penalty was nothing but a form of revenge that was all too often mis-directed to an innocent bystander.

    I know my reversal came through a slightly different medium than blogging, but if any medium fits your definition of chess and debate (albeit usually chess as played by idiots), political forums are the purest form of debate we have in the Internetting world. The trick is to find one with healthy populations of right, left, and boneheads like me who shift back and forth with the tide.

    BTW - my experiement with title words was at best inconclusive and at worst, a complete failure.

  12. Myste, as if to demonstrate your point, S.W. Anderson comes charging in on his faithful steed, Delano, and joins the battle that had not even begun.

    For the record, Mr. Anderson, the GOP has drifted so far left after Reagan's leaving office (after Reagan's having restored an economy decimated by Carter, and set up the final chess pieces so as to win the Cold War to boot) that our nominees for President have all been center-right moderates at their worst extremes.

    Bush Senior was a pale shadow of Reagan in his conservatism. He was a Rockefeller Republican and his legacy of the likes of Justice Souter to the SCOTUS demonstrates this.

    Dole was hardly a right-wing fire brand and indeed I cannot come up with any "extremist" right wing legislation that he ever introduced in the senate.

    Bush Jr was arguably even more to the left than JFK. Hell, Bush Jr. would have had a (D) beside his name back in the late '50's/early '60's.

    And then we come to the "maverick" of John McCain who routinely pissed off his conservative base so much that he had to go fetch someone with more conservative credentials as a running mate to make the election even close.

    The fact that the grass roots uprising, as manifested in the Tea Party movement, is so pissed is precisely because the nation has swung so far to the left.

    When our last GOP president extended entitlements with his prescription drug benefits and spent money like a drunken Ted Kennedy (but then I am being redundant), I hardly think your fears of a rising right-wing fascist theocracy coming to fruition are ones really worthy of your valuable time, sir.

    Myste, sorry to get off topic here, but I needed to help demonstrate how not having common definitions or understandings of issues creates such battles. Now that I have soundly defeated Anderson once again, I am sure we can all proceed in civil debate yet again, accordingly. Cheers! :)

  13. Mr. paine,

    “Myste…” You can call me John.

    "The GOP has drifted so far left after Reagan's leaving office." I doubt you made that statement with a straight face. I would point you to all the refutations of such an idea I have read recently on gentler blogs, but it would be like leading a bulldog to a kitten and I just cannot do it.

    "Bush Senior was a pale shadow of Reagan in his conservatism.” Agreed. Bush Senior was a cut above the rest.

    “He was a Rockefeller Republican and his legacy of the likes of Justice Souter to the SCOTUS demonstrates this." I think you forget that Reagan is responsible for Scalia, God's last pestilence. God is so creative. This was far more ingenious than locusts, which really, are kind of obvious. I see Scalia as a Supreme Court Justice who endorsed torture and votes against everything for which the wise liberal stands and has little regard for anything but the sound if his own voice. I hope like hell you don’t challenge me to back that up, because I don't feel like gather data about Scalia for you. He is a depressing topic.

    Dole was bitter, predictable and not worthy to be called a republican. I think we both agree with this, perhaps, but for different reasons. It is more harmonious to say that you and I share our indictment of Dole for the exact same three reasons.

    "Bush Jr was arguably even more to the left than JFK." I guess anything is arguable if you are creative enough.

    "John McCain," right, he sold out his principles to win the election he lost. I agree with you on that. It was not a total loss, though. At least he shed those pesky principles.

    "Myste, sorry to get off topic here, but I needed to help demonstrate how not having common definitions or understandings of issues creates such battles." Truer words were never spoken, and you can call me John.

    "Now that I have soundly defeated Anderson once again, I am sure we can all proceed in civil debate." I don't think Mr. Anderson will feel the same calming effect of your effort that you feel. It is like flipping off Hulk Hogan as you pass him on the sidewalk and then declaring victory.

    I am at lunch and now must return to work, so don’t say anything interesting until later this evening.

  14. John,

    Oh please give me the links to those gentler blogs that foolishly refute this truth! I promise I'll play moderately nice. (Wow! I used the word moderate in reference to myself!)

    "Bush senior was a cut above the rest." Why do I feel like me words have been weaseldoged there? ;)

    While Scalia has his detractions, overall, I would far rather have another of him than a ACLU lawyer such as Ruth Vader Ginsburg on the SCOTUS bench.

    Dole was dull. Interestingly enough, he seemed rather perky and lively in interviews and appearances after his defeat to slick Willie.

    Bush Jr. vs. JFK. Both were ostensibly for projection of power and a strong national defense. Both started out fiscally by cutting taxes to help that rising tide lift all boats. Bush then decided, some of it initially necessary after 9/11, to start spending money we did not have. Then there is Iraq vs. Bay of Pigs....

    Despite differences in the times, overall JFK was probably far more fiscally conservative than Bush Junior was. Yep, George W. Bush -D

    2008 was an election between a far left-winger and a left-of-center old school Democrat. The real Democrat won the election instead of the Democrat-lite McCain.

    Did you just compare Anderson to Hulk Hogan? I am not sure that the Hulkster would be that far left politically if he were to be the alternate personification of Anderson.

  15. You know who else loses, JM - the moderates. We always take a pounding - even when we try to play peace maker (and especially when we try to play devil's advocate).......On a different note, did you ever hear the story about Barry Goldwater? - the one in which he was debating this guy on the floor of the Senate and, right in the middle of it, he said to him, "You know something, you're right. I've changed my mind." It's kind of too bad that that doesn't happen more often, huh?

  16. Mr. Hart,

    I do not remember that, but I am glad Mr. Goldwater admitted to being wrong once. Since he was a moderate of sorts, I must assume you are a fan?

  17. Mr. Paine,

    "Both started out fiscally by cutting taxes to help that rising tide lift all boats. Bush then decided, some of it initially necessary after 9/11, to start spending money we did not have." I thought you were talking about Reagan for a minute there, as he did the same thing. I acknowledge that his tax cut was extreme (for the wealthy, anyway), but then he tried furiously to put it back, over and over again (well, he tried to reclaim the revenue, not sure if it is a restoration if you reclaim it from someone other than the original source. Some people might just call that sneaky).

    I cannot give you the links to the Reagan discussions, as I am unwilling to look them up. I can, however, tell you that that I recall that some of the authors / sites. 1. Beekeeper’s Apprentice. 2. Politicususa. 3. Mad Mikes America (and I would be amazed if you could find that one, as the site is very prolific and very high volume). You really have no need to go find them, though. The discussion will come up again, and eventually you will see it. I think surely you realize that the Reagan the Conservatives remember is a myth. If not, since I know you enjoy the myth, no need to try to undo it. You still cling to the myth of Paul’s Christ, which is even a bigger myth than that of Reagan. I think both myths serve those of the respective faiths well, so no need to rid yourself of them, sir. If you want to remember Reagan pounding his shoe on the desk as he showed his conservative prowess, I say go for it. I am not, however, going to agree that it was Reagan’s shoe. Reagan was often a pragmatic compromiser, which isn’t a bad quality for an imperialist, which he also was. No, I have no intention of defending any of those assertions, so don’t bother asking.

    Bush won in Iraq and then decided to leave. You just don’t like Bush Sr. because he wasn’t conservative enough for you or he isn’t militaristic enough. You dislike his virtues and you refuse to embrace him for his flaws because of it.

    "2008 was an election between a far left-winger and a left-of-center old school Democrat. The real Democrat won the election instead of the Democrat-lite McCain." McCain was a moderate conservative who pretended to be a far right conservative to get elected, and it failed, thank God. At least he had the intellectual machine that is Palin’s mind to tighten up the ill-fated race or he would really have been embarrassed.

    I think in a war between Anderson and Hogan, Anderson would easily win. If you put two of them in the ring, Hogan would win (maybe). In a debate, it would be a draw, because really all debates end in draws if nobody concedes.

  18. John,
    I enjoyed your post - partly because it reinforces some of my own feeling but mainly because I really enjoy your wit and irony.

    At times as MRMacrum attests, debate can prove fruitful.Generally it's as you portray it - case in point, a coworker today allowed how Obama wasn't really to blame for his mistakes, rather it was his advisors who were at fault.

    I'd voiced agreement, saying something negative about Geithner and Summers, whom the coworker immediately dismissed.

    "Those guys aren't the ones running things - it's guys like Van Jones calling the shots".

    You can't make this stuff up man.

  19. John, I hope this doesn't mean you've toppled your king and are going home. For the record, I enjoy simply playing the game. You're welcome to debate (or play chess) at my place any time.

  20. Mr. Heathen,

    It means that I think I should topple my king and go home and I think there is something low-toned about my desire to keep my king upright. I am not going to topple my king, but I am going to try to tame him a bit. I am not sure I will succeed because the call to battle remains strong, if not enlightened. Unlike some of the others who blog aggressively, I truly find it to be little more than a game. As a game, it is not the most gentlemanly one I could choose to play.

    To your credit, I do very much enjoy the game at your site, as I get a game there. And for any liberal / progressive who wants inspiration to fight, you could not find a better place. Mr. Heathen is almost a perfect opponent. He is intelligent, organized and utterly wrong about most things. He is a bit sensitive at times, but we all need to be gentle, so that should not be an issue. He thinks outside the box, which means you often get original arguments and he cooks up statistics that will take time to refute if you choose to play the statistics game. However, there is plenty there to discuss without diving into certain details.

    Mr. Heathen, I will not abandon your site, unless I am walked out, which was something I have almost expected a couple of times. I will try to become more loveable, though.

    When your visitor who calls himself Gerry explains what a joy it has been discussing something with me, I will know I have succeeded.

  21. John, in response to your characterization of my sentiments towards Bush Sr., I wanted to state for the record that I did not loathe him.

    He made two major mistakes in his presidency that really infuriated me, otherwise he was a competent president.

    Unfortunately, his reneging on his pledge not to raise taxes was a huge mistake and the one that probably ultimately cost him re-election.

    The second one was at the conclusion to the first gulf war when the Shia uprising occurred in the south of Iraq, Bush chose not to help or at least protect these people since there was no UN mandate to do so after kicking Saddam out of Kuwait. Saddam thus dispatched Chemical Ali to murder untold thousands of innocent people because Bush Sr. decided to stand by and not order General Schwarzkopf to assist or protect these people. Their blood is directly on our hands, as they would have not risen up against the badly weakened Saddam Hussein had they thought that we and the world would stand by and watch their slaughter.

    And I still think Hogan could take Anderson in a debate too. (Sorry Anderson! :) ) In the ring, I would not venture a guess as to the outcome.

  22. Well, I can only speak for myself, but as one who also generally dislikes back-and-forth debates, it's not because I don't think it's a worthwhile or effective activity. It's because of burn-out, basically. I've put a lot of time and effort into arguing with people over the years, and endless exchanges just don't hold any attraction for me any more.

    As for the value in debating, I don't think anyone seriously expects to convert the person he's arguing with. In practice it's almost impossible to argue someone out of a strongly-held belief; trying to do so can even lead the person to "dig in his heels" and become more entrenched.

    But a strong argument can be effective on the undecided middle. Those are the only people there's much hope of converting -- and they may be reading, even if they aren't posting comments themselves. And if you can make a case for your viewpoint in a novel way, others on your own side may pick up on it, and their own arsenals be strengthened.

    Which is why I blog myself, really. Not because I'm interested in interminable and inconclusive debates with partisans of the other side, but because some people who haven't chosen a side may find it persuasive.

  23. Mr. Paine,

    As for raising taxes, you seem to be a fan of Reagan who raised taxes over and over again. Has any president raised taxes more often? I know he started out with a huge gift to the richest Americans he could find, but then he started raising taxes. I know what you are thinking: “He did not reverse his taxes on the richest of Americans!” I know, I am not calling him a hypocrite, only a tax raiser. In retrospect, I understand why the first tax cut was done, not to say it was right or wrong, but I get it. However, if raising taxes is bad, then I assume you really hate Bush Sr. considering Reagan’s tax tax tax policies.

    I assume that Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia, are all equally infuriating. I am not a fan of Bush by any means, but if you have to pick a republican president, as I am sure you know, it is hard to choose because they are just all so yummy.

    If the U.S. must always respond to its definition of man’s inhumanity to man, shouldn’t we not challenge our leaders on letting some genocide and some inhumanity stand, regardless of international consensus? Shouldn’t we declare ourselves the supreme judge on planet earth and if the U.N. or any other international body of pretenders tries to stop us, shouldn’t we use military might to convince them of the truth of our declaration? I am not justifying standing by while good people are massacred. I am merely saying we need to formalize our policy, so the rest of the world understands who the emperors are and who are the subjects, lest they mistake their voice as equal. The U.S. is a democracy. The world is not.

    I know I sound sarcastic, but I am not unsympathetic to the philosophy of dictatorial prevention of genocide. However, I am hostile to selective processing of our ideals. Either we impose a subset of our will on everyone equally or not at all, else we don’t know when it is OK to do it and will argue over it incessantly.

    Now, I don’t wish to get into a protracted debate over any of this, so, as usually, I resign in victory.

    “I still think Hogan could take Anderson in a debate too.” I am sorry, but I don’t believe you think that. Does Hogan talk?

  24. Infidel,

    “A strong argument can be effective on the undecided middle.” That is a very good point, and very true. Unfortunately, the strongest argument, meaning the most persuasive, are always the ones that have the greatest emotional appeal. The most logical arguments will never the universally embraced in deference to the power of reason. If you want to be persuasive, speak to the human thinker, his emotions.

    As for others on your side adding your point to their arsenal, that is another very good point in refutation of my point. For this, I have no answer, other than to consider that this may not be a benefit, since most people’s opinions on any given issues are the product of more fundamental opinions, that mostly resolve to preference and faith. Any intelligent person with the opposite opinion from our is equally likely to be right, and often, there is no right, as the issue cannot be resolved scientifically.

    “Which is why I blog myself.” Ah, I think not, sir. You blog, not as an act of altruism, but for self fulfillment. Nothing wrong with that. Blogging is immensely time consuming and as a charitable act, more costly than anyone you a person could imagine. Of all the places to donate your time, the blogosphere is by far the least efficient.

    And your first point, I will address last, since. If one can burn out to the point where back and forth debate is no longer appealing, he probably also loses the need to win, to be right, and he is a lot more likely to be right, as he will no longer be biased by the natural instinct to defend his own opinion.

    As many indicated before me, wisdom begins with not knowing, knowing that you don’t know and admitting that you don’t know. As soon as one commits to a position he is now implicitly obligated to defend it and confirmation bias assists sets in. Taking a position on anything is the surest way to close one’s mind. It makes no sense to seek truth if you think you already found it.

  25. It is the T. Pains of the world who turned me into a rock-thrower.

    Once upon a time, people used truth as the basis for their discussions. But the right wing has drifted so far away from the truth now that they are another continent. I cannot argue with a talking point, cannot make a canned response dreamed up by some schlock radio personality into something that is even debatable. As Barney Frank once said, you'll get just as far arguing with a dining room table. So I don't take anything long-ago refuted as an untruth with any seriousness.

  26. Goldwater, JM, had an integrity that few in today's Republican Party could even come close to. And, you're absolutely right, on many things he was a moderate; abortion and gay rights, especially. What was that famous line of his about gays in the military - you don't have to BE straight to shoot straight?

  27. John, first, I seem to remember President Clinton committing the military to protecting Muslims in the Bosnia region. I also remember him tucking tail and pulling out of Somalia after the black-hawk down incident. Rwanda we did remain out of in nearly all aspects and untold thousands were killed accordingly.

    My issue with regards to Bush Sr. and the Shia uprising after the first gulf war is the fact that our troops were already THERE. We were still deployed and could have easily stepped in to protect those people, but Bush Sr. didn't have a UN mandate to protect those people, so he didn't.

    If he had done so, it is possible that Saddam could have toppled then, as the Kurds in the north would have likely joined the Shia in the south. Instead, we had to spend more blood and treasure over a decade later to finish the job that should have been done in the first place.

    As for Jolly, it is interesting who one chooses to be a champion of truth. Barney Frank, considering his complicity with the Fannie and Freddie collapse and then lying about it, would not have been my first choice as a soothsayer. And no, Rush, Beck, and Palin, never gave me this talking point, sir.

  28. “I seem to remember President Clinton committing the military to protecting Muslims in the Bosnia region.” What you remember is the U.S. coming in at the end and protecting humanitarian supplies coming into villages that were about to be destroyed. Once a village was destroyed, the U.S. would “protect” the next one. The genocide went on for years while the U.S. watched. In Somalia, we made a small effort, got beat up, abandoned the troops that were there, leaving them to get themselves out. They fought their way out without support from our government. That is not a pull out, it’s a wrap. We did not protect anyone in Somalia, not even us. Since Rwanda was not a western nation and also not economically important, we condemned it as not us, thus not worthy of our unilateral imperialism at all.

    “My issue with regards to Bush Sr. and the Shia uprising after the first gulf war is the fact that our troops were already THERE” is one thing and “Instead, we had to spend more blood and treasure over a decade later to finish the job that should have been done in the first place,” is another thing. Let us not confuse the two.

    Disrespecting Bush over the The Shia uprising was the topic. You introduced the new third complaint about Bush that he should have conquered Saddam while he was there, so Junior would not have to do it a decade later. I did not realize Junior had to do it a decade later, though. I thought he chose to. So your new argument is that Junior would not have chosen to commit America to a costly war if Senior had chosen to exceed the bounds of his and the U.N.s legal stated objective, and his justification to the American people, while he was there in the first place. If it makes you feel any better, I probably would have exceeded the job if I were Bush Sr. I probably would have taken Saddam out. That I would have done this, does not make it right, though.

    You make both your Shia and The first Gulf War conclusion arguments on the same principle, however. Once we invade a nation, take that opportunity to exceed the mandate and justification we gave for invading it, to achieve other unilateral objectives. Since the First Gulf War was a U.N. Operation, Bush had to tread lightly as he made decisions for the world. I see your points, but hopefully you recognize the slippery imperialism contained within them.

    It probably sounds to you like I am saying that the U.S. should have ignored the Shia uprising. I am not saying that at all. I don’t know enough to have an opinion. I am playing devil’s advocate, partially because it gives me the opportunity to imply that you are an imperialist and that’s funny. I concede to you that if the troops already have atrocity in their face that it should not be ignored it is a powerful argument unless there is an equally powerful offsetting argument.

  29. No, I am not saying that Bush Sr. necessarily should have taken out Saddam directly, but rather when Saddam moved to crush the Shia uprising in the south, rather than wait for another UN mandate to protect those people, we should have stepped in and done so automatically. (Kinda like we probably should be providing no-fly zones for the Libyan rebels right now.)

    If we had done so then, the likelihood is that the Saddam regime very well could have collapsed from within, thus we wouldn't have had to go back and deal with him again in the next Iraq war.

    As for your characterization of Bosnia/Kosovo, Rwanda, and Somalia, it sounds like you pretty much nailed it.

    I always chuckle at this great American empire we have built though, and even more amused that I have been a willing member of planting our flag in foreign nations accordingly.

  30. Mr Paine, let me speak for the majority here: the non-Americans. You may chuckle. We groan. For all you may dream that regimes may have collapsed from within, we sigh at the lousy regimes propped up by the great American empire (sic), the corruption of governments, the super-impoverishment of the already impoverished, the flouting of laws, the interfering subterfuge of the CIA, the sheer arrogance of the ignorant. Present company excepted.

    I do not chuckle, and I shall not further engage in fruitless discussion on this matter.

  31. As an example of what Mr. Vincent has said, see the history of the government of Iran, where we prop up, support and train a government we later declare as a "satan" that the world should destroy.

  32. John, I don't have to take this from you! I will take it from Vincent though...

  33. I think it is more like a wrestling match than a chess game. Anyhow, my favorite phrase is "Bring it on!"

    At the same time, I would like to take sides and egg on Vincent and egg Burr.

    Well, not really, I wish Raymond all the best actually, regardless of ideology or politics and let's hope it's a rather fair and clean match.

  34. I've given your request much thought, and I will respond formally, in post form, shortly. It may not be exactly what you want, but life, as in politics, is a series of compromises. I came up with something that allows me to preserve the nature of my site while partially acknowledging your concerns. You might dig it :)

  35. Jolly, that comment made no sense on this post. For those of you who don't know what Jolly meant, just let me assure you that ignorance is bliss.

  36. I blog to keep the voices in my head quiet and for no other reason, except maybe speaking truth to power...I dunno.

    I did my time as a protester and marcher during the Vietnam War. You know, back when the cops could beat the shit out of you with their clubs and drag you by your hair into the paddy wagon. I experienced both too many times to count.

    I would be quite happy if the rightwingers would keep their asses off my blog. I do not wish to engage them as nothing will change their minds..or probably mine either for that matter. They never offer anything of substance, it's usually just to bitchslap me around for being a stupid bleeding heart liberal. Do I need that? Hell no..I can do that to myself and I do on occasion.

  37. Note to self: do not post comments on Dusty's blog. It will only serve to annoy her.

  38. "You can win the lottery, but not an argument."

  39. Nothingprofound,

    That is the most profound thing I have ever heard you say.

    Oh, and I don't know you, but welcome, sir.


    If you are not sir, my apologies, madam.

  40. "Bloggers blog because they enjoy blogging." Well if that isn't a self evident truth I don't know what is.

    I came with my stick and here you already talk of surrender, but surrender with a victory as I have enjoyed what you wrote and have bestowed the highest honor available to me and painstakingly added your site to my sidebar of blogs.

    I have full knowledge that you will print, bronze and put the page in your safety deposit box, along with the 25 cents your grandpa gave you.

    Once someone is committed to a position there mind works agianst them with numerous bias's, but there is still hope for change, as it does happen on occasion.

    Keep your stick sharp and at the ready.

  41. John, I see you have a very analytical, playful and somewhat a mischievous mind, and it amusing me to a point. I am the pawn on the chess board of life, and I love watching the classes above me play --- in the end, I remain true to myself, I have nothing, expect nothing and enjoy nothing, I am satisfied with myself and my place in life, and like you I play with words, but only from my observational point of view, as it relates to my "personal" experiences --- and what I know that I know that I know.

    I don't care to debate, but I love lively and unique dialogue -- past the human intellect and beyond the unknown is a fertile place to play, and few has wandered there with me. Still, I love your "personal" analysis of Chess. It's a game that can only be appreciated by the imagination, and damned by life.

  42. I too am far left, and I _will_ get down and dirty to defend my position, John. So come on over and take me to task. Take me. Take me.

  43. Gerry,

    Since we are both liberals, we probably would not argue that much about anything other than me defending Christians, which is a bit ironic since I am a heathen non believer.

    However, I know plenty of wolves I could send you way if you are want a challenging fight.

  44. John, I think you and I could argue about almost everything. :-)

    I too defend Christians when it seems appropriate. In the post immediately below the one in which you and I had so much fun, I defended the pope. What more could you ask of me?

    Send me your wolves. I will turn them into puppy food.

  45. JM, Am with Gerry - who has, by the way - stood in my backyard (not naked, but we did share a few beers). Gerry is still trying to turn me into 'puppy food', but have a valid, real life, dog, and refuse, after many altercations, to 'play Gerry's game'.

    He is still welcome to walk in my backyard.