Thursday, February 7, 2008

SoapBox Derby

Not so long ago, I commented here that serious rants from me were going to be fairly rare. In fact, my habit of blurting things out was the only thing that made me concede that I'd ever post anything serious here. So folks, welcome to the inaugural edition of my SoapBox Derby.

Earlier today, Janiece Murphy posted about something that had her miffed. I made a brief comment. The more I thought about it, the more inadequate my comment felt to me. So, let's talk a little about Liberals and Conservatives.

When I was a kid, my parents were Liberals. It was a Badge of Honor defined by the people who wore it. That badge is no longer available. Its been hijacked, and re-defined by Conservatives to reflect the views of only the most left-leaning whackjobs in the country. Liberalism embraces everyone on the left as long as you only eat bark, want to demand Sex Ed for every 7-year old, and believe our military should be disbanded. They're an easy target, so Talk Radio throws us all in with the idiots.

And what about my side of the aisle? Yes, Rush Limbaugh may, in fact, be a big fat idiot, but is that really elevating the discussion? Does it serve my purpose if I believe that Conservatives all want to repeal certain inconvenient parts of the Constitution? Do they all really want to just waterboard everyone in Iraq until the "bad guys" have all been identified?

In my humble opinion, these labels are now utterly useless except as a means of identifying the most extreme people on either side. Most people choose one or the other label while trying to distance themselves from the idiot element. Well, I say, let the idiots have both labels.

From now on, I'm going to identify myself as Reasonable. Or maybe Rational. Actually, I'm open to suggestion.

So what defines someone who's a Reasonable? Well, we have strong opinions. Sometimes we have disagreements. But nobody in the Reasonable camp screams so loud that they can't hear anyone else. Nobody in the reasonable camp thinks they'll always get their way. Nobody in the Reasonable camp thinks that a difference of opinion means "I'm right and you're Adolph-Saddam-Ossama Stalin".

If this sounds "middle of the road", so what. Somewhere in the middle of the road are the people who can acknowledge that the other guy just might have a point. Somewhere in the middle of the road are the people who can find compromises they can both live with. This sounds like a pretty good room to be in.

From now on, I want to be a Reasonable. C'mon, join me. Let's give it a try. I bet there's a lot more of us than there are of them.


Janiece said...

I am so, so in.

Suggested Motto: Narrow-minded fucktards that cannot entertain the other side of the argument need not apply.

And I strongly suggest we limit membership to those who can prove they can identify a logical fallacy.

Nathan said...

"logical fallacy"?

I can't even join my own movement?

(I can do irony.)

John the Scientist said...

Nathan - you can pay me to take the test for ya. no one said we had to be non-corrupt, just Reasonably corrput. ;-)

MWT said...

What? I have to study before I get in??

I've got an idea for the exam though: "Explain why this is wrong."

Janiece said...

MWT made a funny! Hee!

Nathan said...


You may be missing the point. As a member of the Reasonables, I won't give two shits if someone chooses to believe that or not. They're welcome in the room as long as they don't tenaciously hold onto some "God given" right to shove it down my throat. And I won't bring it up if they don't.

I mean as long as they're not making an issue of it, aren't there other things we can deal with.

And I'm serious here. You're actually doing part of what I'm talking about; finding one thing about a person and dismissing everything about them as a result.

I don't mean to jump on you, but we're all so programmed to do just that dismissal that we never get around to talking about anything. That's what I'm bitching about.

There's no need for a bunch of people who already agree with each other to try to form a consensus. They already know what they want. What's hard is getting people with real disagreements to find common ground. So, if you want to be in my Reasonables, your gonna have to talk to some YEC's along the way.

BTW, If they want to be in the room, they're gonna have to listen to you too. Otherwise, out the door.

Nathan said...


I can't quote it exactly, but when Yitzak Rabin agreed to peace talks with Yassir Arafat, he was severely criticized by a lot of Israelis for talking to their enemy. His reaction was, "Who else should I try to make peace with?"

Tania said...

*evil nannyware prevents Tania from seeing some pages* Grrr.

I'll join! Do we get to have our own convention and create a platform? Oh, and a mascot animal? I think we need a mascot animal.

Nathan said...

Convention. Check.

Platform. Check (those who can build walls and design buildings will be assigned.)

Animal Mascot. Lemming is not on the list for consideration.

Steve Buchheit said...

"Somewhere in the middle of the road are the people who can acknowledge that the other guy just might have a point. Somewhere in the middle of the road are the people who can find compromises they can both live with."

That sound suspiciously liberal to me. :)

Well, unfortunately for my membership, I'm already declared on the election rolls and results (even though I can't run as a ..., I have to register as one or the other).

And Janiece, that motto will never fit on a readable bumper sticker.

Steve Buchheit said...

ooo, mascot, the pushme-pullyou.

Tania said...

Steve's here! Yay!

What about the infamous Mugwump?

Mug on one side of the fence, Wump on the other.

The real critters that keeps coming to mind are ferrets and weasels. Because, you know, we recognize that politics is going to be rather sneaky and limber.

Nathan said...

Quick Tania,

These two East African countries border each other.

What are......

Random Michelle K said...

OK, as much as I like the idea of Reasonables, part of this reminds me a great deal of the argument over feminism.

Essentially, my take is why should I allow someone to determine what words I use to define myself.

I believe in equal rights for women, therefore I am a feminist.

I am a union supporting, diversity accepting, environmentalist, card-carrying member of the ACLU, therefore I am liberal.

I would rather take back the words that already explain what I am, then have to create new terms.

If I am a reasonable person and define myself as a feminist and a liberal, why should I not then use those words to suit my actions and beliefs? Can I not take back those words? Reclaim them for my own?

Kinda like a revelation I had in college, which was summed up as, "Bitch? You say that like it's a bad* thing."

Just as I learned to own the word bitch, so do I own the words liberal and feminist. The religious right is neither, so I could care less about what they believe about the terms I use to describe myself.

So nothing personal, but I'm going to keep being a liberal. Some day we're going to take back the term, so why not start now.

Nathan said...


If you're actually able to do that, then more power to you. I just think the work liberal has become too loaded to be useful for anything other than a quick way for a lot of people to dismiss me without any further thought.

I still contend that there are a great many people who don't lie at the extremes, who are able to talk to each other civilly. I'd love it if the extremes could be locked away together somewhere so the rest of us could just get on with it.

MWT said...

Uhm... so Nathan ... you really can't spot logical fallacies?

Random Michelle K said...


I actually have friends on the other side of the aisle, so to speak, who respect me and see me as reasonable, so I figure if they categorize me as liberal and feminist, then that's a good start.

And I heartily agree about locking up the extremes on either end. Without the extremes, I think things would be nowhere so polarized.

Nathan said...


I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing...or its entirely possible I'm somewhat dense.

What I'm saying is that if YEC-guy and I talk maybe we've got some common ground on some social welfare subjects, or environmental subjects, or something. We're never going to agree about Evolution, so why not ignore that subject for the moment and see if there's something else we can work together on.

And maybe, just maybe, once we've achieved something together without demonizing each other we can find some way to co-exist in a world that has 40 million more or less years of history. It probably is an overly optimistic view, but can I dream for a day?

And have you voted for an Avatar yet?

MWT said...

I suppose I should've been clearer. I didn't point to the picture for its content, but for the logical errors between the various statements. I wasn't asking for wrongness in terms of whether creationism is wrong, but for why making those statements in that order is logically flawed.

So... basically what you're saying in response is that I should come up with a logical fallacy exam that uses a more innocuous subject matter than evolution. :p

Nathan said...


What I'm saying is that I'm going to fail the fucking test. Miserably.:D

BTW, I was searching trying to find the text of Berkeley's Ordinance or Measure or whatever they called it. All I could find were blogs on various sides of the issue with really vile flamewars in the comment threads.

Maybe I'm wrong about all of it.


Tania said...

noooo.Brain can't handle questions, please stop!!

But serious, did you see this over on Kottke's blog? Mentions reasonable people. Maybe you could use it as part of your platform.

MWT said...

Well, irony seems amply demonstrated now. :D

Random Michelle K said...


When I was in the shower I realized that I should probably clarify where I am coming from, and why I so strongly believe that liberal isn't lost.

I come from a state where most local politics is Democratic. However, it's a form of Democratic that wouldn't be recognized by a lot of Democrats elsewhere. The majority of Democrats in my state are opposed to gun control, opposed to abortion, and believe that religion has an important place to play in life. It also has a strong history of military service.

So why, you're wondering, are we even Democrats at all?

Because we're poor. Because we have a strong history of personal liberty. Because we recognize what an important place unions have in the lives of workers. Because for most of our history out of state magnates have made their wealth from the blood and sweat of WV workers. Because we learned the hard way that big businesses cannot be trusted to look out for their workers.

You put all this together, and you get a state full of conservative Democrats.

You also have a state where outsiders have strongly preconceived notions of just who and what we are (See the ribbing I've taken from John the Scientist).

Because of that I have grown up strongly believing that you prove who you are from your actions far more than others words. Labels are placed upon you, but they mean no more than you allow them to.

And coming at it from the opposite direction, your actions define the labels you give yourself.

I dunno. I guess I just feel strongly about semantics.

Nathan said...


While I don't deny anything you've said, I still think some of these labels should be thrown out. I want to think more about how to frame my response, so check back here tomorrow.

Essentially, I'm thinking about how the words are perceived at large.

John the Scientist said...

michelle k - I don't rib you because of preconceived notions of WVA, I rib you because I know exactly who y'all are. I'd be the first to come to your defense if some Yankee started making remarks. (BTW, if you haven't made the connection, I'm Udarnik from Whateveresque - GO PITT!).

More seriously, words change. Gay doesn't mean what it used to, and after its modern use, you just can't reclaim it to mean only "happy". And the word "liberal" from my side of the aisle is forever contaminated with people like these. I'm willing ot give up the label conservative for the same reason - Huckabee and his ilk have pissed in the pot one too many times.

There was a time when "Liberal" had a much closer meaning to today's libertarians. No longer.

Nathan said...


I'll still respond tomorrow, but John makes some of the points I was thinking about re: language changing.


Not sure I agree on the Libertarian comparison, otherwise, I may have to hire you as a ghost writer. (We cure Conservatives here.)

John the Scientist said...

What is known today as a Classical Liberal was a laizer faire capitalist and social experimentalist - much closer to the current small "L" libertarians than any other branch of current politcal thought, although not 100% overlap. Big "L" Libertarians basically constitute the Ayn Rand fan club and dominate the Party, which is why I'm a registered Republican. Well, that and so I cna vote against nitwits like Huckabee in the primary.

John the Scientist said...

Nathan - see here.

Nathan said...


Study materials at 3:00am?


First of all, echoing what John said, words do change meaning. Usually irretrievably.

I think what you're talking about when you say you'd rather "take back the words", works fine in one-on-one or small group communication. But when you're communicating with a larger world, you're kind of stuck with other people's preconceptions. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and all of the other screamers have stolen your words and re-defined them. Face it. They're louder than you are. And their audience can no longer hear words spoken in an "indoor voice".

Its fine to "mean" one thing when communicating, but if the audience "hears" what they choose to hear, you haven't really communicated what you intended to. That's why I'd rather throw some new words into the conversation. Just maybe, those new words will force the audience to ask, "What did he mean by that?"

Once again, this isn't stated as well as some others would express it, but hopefully you see where I'm coming from.

Random Michelle K said...

John the Scientist,

1) No, I didn't realize you had multiple personalities. ;)

2) I didn't take it personally, the WV joking. After all, I did say ribbing and not harassing. But it did make my point--one of which you know well--that there are stereotypes that come up when one mentions certain things. People here WV, they have certain assumptions.

Which brings me back around to my main point.

I am from WV. When I say that, people make certain assumptions based upon that descriptor.

But you know what? We're not changing the name of our state, just because it causes people to make certain assumptions about us. (Even if would have been a lot easier if the state had been named Kanawha instead)

And I feel the same way about words like liberal and feminist. It may be a Sisyphean task, but I don't like to give up.

And I seriously doubt those people are louder than me. They may have a platform and megaphone, but for sheer volume? They got nuttin' on me. Trust me on that.

John the Scientist said...

Nathan - is that **FOOM** you shot at me for being such a geek, or **FOOM** your head exploded from having study materials ready for you when you woke up?

P-Chem classes are traditionally held at 8:00AM because you really have to be a math jock to get the quant brain cells working that early. P-Chem is traditionally where we convince the pansy-ass pre-meds to switch to biology or zoology, instead of wasting the time of real scientists with questions such as "will this be on the test?" and "can we have extra credit?". So my brain was trained to work better early in the morning.

Nathan said...


**FOOM** is the sound of the dreaded Gas Grill of Retribution. I would say that you've been toasted for inflicting study materials on me during my first cup of coffee and that also, my head exploded a little.

This may have been a Suicide FOOMing.

As to the rest, I attended Emerson Day Care Center in Boston where I studied the use of color in foreshadowing, Editing 101, the director as auteur, and the science of film processing. Not a math class in the bunch.

I'm pretty sure that in 4.5 years of College I never took a class before 10:00a.m. Most were at Noon or later. There was a bar nearby that had 170 kinds of beer and showed two different movies every night. (I tried to get credit for attending, but alas, failed).

I was kind enough to keep my pansy-ass separated from the MIT geeks by an entire river.

Random Michelle K said...


How do you graduate college 1) never taking a class before 10 AM (I had several 7:30 AM classes) and b) never taking a math class?

Not even an accounting or finance class?

Nathan said...

I've got a B.S. in Communications. We didn't do any of our communicatin' in binary. (We're talking 1978-1983) No math.


I think I've mentioned somewhere that I got half my college credits in internships, directed studies and any other crap I could call my full time job working at and equipment rental house.

I really had other priorities.

Random Michelle K said...

1978-1983? Gee! You're OLD!



Nathan said...

I thought I told you to stay the hell off my lawn!

And I'll have you that there is no
correlation between age and maturity.


Random Michelle K said...

(creeps up)

(Puts toe on lawn)

Neener! Neener!

John the Scientist said...

Nathan - MIT geeks are pansy-asses in my book - at least the undergrads. Our math profs wrote some of the books that they used. ;-)

In three years of college and roughly 60 different classes (I was originally a double-degree and overloaded like crazy, my easiest quarter was 20 credits), I only took 13 classes that did not involve math of some sort. All of those but one were Russian classes, the other was World History. My other Humanities requirement was Econ, which required Calc III in our school.

Yes, that means I did not take bio. All my bio is self-taught.

Nathan said...


Where exactly are you at the moment. I know people all over the country and I bet I can get someone to drive over and slap you. :-)

Actually, I'm thrilled that folks like you exist, 'cause, God knows I was never going be Mr. Invent stuff for the Future Guy. You're welcome to the position. And thanks.

John the Scientist said...

I'll be in Manhattan tomorrow if you want to smack me yourself. ;-)

Nathan said...

I said I know people. I hire out all my smackin's. Watch out for the guy with the bowler hat and the white carnation.

Nathan said...

Oh, and BTW John,

I coulda used some help over on the Romneyland Thread. What with the actually responding instead of some of what I got further downthread.

Just sayin'.

John the Scientist said...

Nathan - I'm still thinking about that one because I sort of agree with what Romney said WRT Obama. Obama ran an ad (only once or tice - was it pulled? I don't know) about pulling the troops out right away in my state, and I don't think Romney's comment is out of place in that context. Hillary isn't saying that though, so the blanket smear across all Democrats was not warranted.

Didn't want to come across as a troll, so I said nothing. When I've read a little more about the positions of Obama and Clinton on the issue, I'll come up with something coherent.

Nathan said...


I'll wait. I'd prefer a little more challenge than what I got.