Sunday, August 29, 2004

How sport is like Religion

Hands Across Europe
Euros can't get enough of team handball.

Well, I grew up with handball. I played it in school (everybody did). A good friend of mine used to be assistant coach of the national team (after being a succesful player for years). It makes sense to me.

On the other hand, American football, baseball, softball, golf, and NASCAR make no sense to me, and I tried hard to understand what's the point, what are the basic rules, why is everyone so excited about something I find boring... I guess sport is like religion - you are born into it or it is very difficult to acquire later in life.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:49 PM | permalink | (3 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Liberal Moral Core (Rush Limbaugh version)

Publius on Legal Fiction wrote this great post:


My response there was this:
You gave a pretty good shorthand on how empathy serves as the building block of the core liberal moral system, and how that translates into policy and politics. The building block of the conservative moral system is the Moral Order, i.e, who has moral superiority over and responsibility for whom, e.g., God over people, people over animals and rest of nature, adults over children, men over women, whites over blacks, straights over gays, co-nationals over foreigners, etc. The whole conservative moral system grows out of this.

Moral Order is, further, enforced through discipline and insistence on obedience (sound like GOP?). Children are brought up, in conservative hoseholds, through strict parenting, based on folk-behaviorism, better known as "carrot and stick (or rod)" approach. Unfortunately, 100 years of psychology show that human brains do not work that way. Even many animals do not act according to self-interest (i.e., avoiding the 'stick-inviting' and doing 'carrot-inviting' activities).

According to conservative parenting system, discipline in childhood results in self-dicipline in adulthood. Again, unfortunately, 100 years of psychology show that this is mistaken. While kids raised in nurturant homes learn self-reliance and confidence, the kids from conservative strict homes retain insecurity and reliance on outside reinforcement (e.g., not thinking with their own heads because they are afraid). They, thus, develop "external locus of moral authority".

Having external locus of moral authority means that such people are much more likely to join groups led by charismatic leaders with absolute authority, the group being a gang, a church, a terrorist organization, or a political party. Such people may ferociously follow David Koresh, or George Bush, or Chairman Mao, or Adolf Hitler, or Saddam Hussein.

This also explains why, in general, conservatives need to join churches and attend services regularly, while liberals, equally religous in numbers, tend to keep their beliefs private and do not like to attend church that often. Liberals trust themselves to build their own moral and ethical norms and do not have a need to have those imposed from the outside.

More here:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:00 PM | permalink | (5 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Safire's Reptilian Brain

Inside a Republican Brain By WILLIAM SAFIRE
This is archived:

but there is a copy here:

Great, the ur-conservative pundit has spelled out his worldview in detail. He greatly validates Lakoff's scheme.

The quote:
"self-reliance over community dependence, intervention over isolation, self-discipline over society's regulation, finding pleasure in work rather than working to find pleasure" describes some of the major aspects of The Strict Father model.

Where does his cognitive dissonance come from? Out of several "personas" he describes, all but one belong to the core conservative mode. The one that does not, the one that creates his confusion, is "libertarianism".

Lakoff has a whole chapter on "radial deviations" from core models, libertarianism being one of them (an offshoot of the conservative model).

Core conservative model is hierarchical. Individuals compete. Competition results in victory for some and loss for others. Victors get to write the rules for the next round of competition, thus making it easier and easier for the same people (and their progeny) to keep winning, and harder and harder for losers to start winning. Sense of moral superiority by winner towards the loosers makes any attempt at rectifying the rules of competition "un-natural" and counter-productive. We've already discussed before why this is wrong, aristocratic and utterly un-American.

Libertarian model is anarchic. Indivuals compete. Competition keeps on going forever, i.e., there is never a moment when victors and losers are declared. Thus, nobody gets to set the rules, keeping the rules minimal.

Liberal model is interactionist. Individuals both co-operate within groups and compete between groups. As a result, GROUPS of people win or lose, not individuals. The groups can be clans, or villages, or political parties, or religious denominations, or NATIONS!!! The system is fractal (or Russian-doll). The victorious groups set the rules for the next round of competition, but the communitarian spirit drives the winning groups to propose fair rules for competition. Thus, liberal model is, almost by definition, more PATRIOTIC than conservative model, as it fosters in-group cohesion and mutual help, while acting in a unified and organized manner against other groups. The group in which conservative model dominates concentrates on internal competition which renders most of its membership wounded, thus presenting a weak, unconcentrated and unorganized front in the competition against other groups. Furthermore, the liberal outlook makes inter-group competition less severe, fractally moving upward, towards co-operation BETWEEN groups, if it is possible (i.e., if the other groups are willing to co-operate, e.g., allies vs. enemies).

The anarchic (libertarian) model was never too popular anywhere and anywhen on Earth, not in politics, not in economics, not in other human endeavors. The hierarchical models dominated human thought for the better part of history, including within natural and social sciences. However, during the last several decades, the hierarchical models have hit the "Kuhnian wall", as they could explain less and less of the world phenomena. When a theory starts hitting the walls like this, a novel paradigm usually arises and replaces the old one. The new theory, of course, needs to be much better at explaining all the available data about the world. Thus, interactionist models, much more useful at explaining the world, sprung up in fields from philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology and psychology, to physics, chemistry, biology and cosmology, not to mention economics and political science.

Conservatives (in politics, as well as within the disciplines noted above) stick to hierarchical models, mostly for emotional reasons - they are unable to "let go" of simple, deterministic views of the world. Indeterminism of interactionist models scares them. Thus "gene control" advocates stick to their guns although the interactionist models explain the living world much better. "Selfish gene" is the theory of conservative "control freaks", while modern biologists embrace multi-level explanation of evolution. The models across disciplines are not just superficially similar - they are, at their core, the SAME model. The multi-level account of biological evolution does a marvelous job at explaining the emergence and persistance of religion (see D.S. Wilson's "Darwin's Cathedrals"). Lakoff's model of the liberal core (The Nurturant Family) is the model of developmental psychology (Jean Piaget et al.), and cognitive psychology (Howard Gardner et al.), and cognitive linguistics (George Lakoff et al.), and cognitive ethology (many researchers) and many related disciplines. It is the model most consistent with the current data on how the world works, how the human brain develops and works, how human beings as individuals and groups behave, how societies and economies work and behave. The conservative, hierarchical (might makes right) world-views are just out-of-date, ready to be relegated to the trash-heap of history. We just need to wait for their proponents to die out, and to make sure that their children are educated properly for the 21st century.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:33 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Reframing "activist judges"

Activist, Schmactivist

Publius definitely "gets" it how framing works. Perhaps he has read some Lakoff recently, though he has written about language before:

So, what should be the liberal linguistic counter-frame to the conservative phrase "activist judges"?

Dahlia's "Re-activist" is definitely the worst. In order to negate the conservative frame you are forced to utter it which just reinforces the conservative frame. This also reminds one of the "Law of Action and Reaction" which actually makes conservative judges look even better, as they activelly work on undoing what "liberal activist judges" have wrought.

"Reactionary" is not that much better. The "action" root is somewhat better hidden, and the word in itself has a much more negative connotation, but the fact that the conservative frame is utterred remains.

"Traditionalist" vs. "modern" is even worse, as many people love and cling to their traditions, and are sceptical and afraid of "modernity". Backfires big time.

"Milleniarist" or "Rapturist" judges suffers from cumbersomness of pronounciation, as well as from the "What?" effect, i.e., you have to explain it to the uninitiated. Also, not all actions by conservative judges are strictly milleniarist.

"Literalist" may or may not work. Problem is, as Publius states quite eloquently, no word or line of any law, just like the Bible, can be read literally. One has to interpret the language, and every law can be interpreted in multiple ways. What conservative judges do is try to fathom what the authors of the Constitution meant when they wrote this or that word. Thus, they are trying to do the impossible - to read the minds of people who lived in 18th century and understand what they meant. Not to mention that this ignores a couple of centuries of social change.

"Fundamentalist judges"? That may work perhaps.

"Extremist judges"? I don't know.

We (I mean liberals/progressives) put so much stake into truthfulness and honesty. Perhaps we should not. The phrase "activist liberal judges" was initially meaningless, and later developed a meaning that is wrong. Why not coin a progressive frame that is factually wrong, but rings a bell, resonates, and does the job? Why not find a term that immediatelly invokes Inquisition, witch-hunts, and gallows? That may work! Ideas, anyone?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:01 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Talking to a Conservative

Imaginary conversation with a Bushie - a thought experiment after reading these articles:
Talking Politics with People Unlike Ourselves
Reaching Beyond the Choir

YOU: I understand you support Bush. I don't meet many people like you and I would really like to understand. Can you tell me, please, what is it that makes you like Bush?

RESPONSE (You listen to familiar talking points and sound bites with a patient smile and nodding your head)

YOU: I see. Well, I know you don't know Bush personally, so I am wondering what made you make up your mind. Where do you get your information?

RESPONSE (You listen politely until the responder mentions the media)

YOU: Well, all the media sources are biased, even those that try hard not to be. We all know that, and always check who owns the outlet etc. Some are conservative, some are liberal, and we all know not to believe anything at face value. So, where do you go to check the facts?

RESPONSE (At this point you will know if the person is in la-la land, in which case you politely change the subject or walk away hoping that you have planted a seed of doubt, or you may decide that the person can be worked on further)

YOU: Well, with all the media being big corporations owned by politically biased owners, nothing they say can be trusted. Books are one source of factual info. Internet is even better. Whenever I hear something on the news, I go and check it on the Web. There are governmental websites, like White House, Senate, House etc., where one can find actual documents, bills etc. There are independent websites dedicated to media analysis and fact-checking that are very useful. There are conservative sites that check the liberal's pronouncements, and there are liberal sites that check the statements from the conservative media. Would you be interested in some of those? I can get you some Web-addresses to bookmark. ...etc. remaining polite, not engaging in ANY debates on policies, personalities, sound-bites etc., just planting the seeds of doubt and giving the person the opportunity to check out the stuff on his/her own terms, thus feeling less threatened by you.

Also see this:

P.S. I know, I know, I'm crazy, but.....I saw Spiderman 2 the other day and could not help myself but notice what a nurturant family the Parkers are and what a horrendously strict father the Green Goblin (Osborn) is, with Lakoffian consequences on the boys - one finding strength and courage inside himself, the latter depending on an external locus of authority.

For a good discussion and LOTS of good links to articles about "framing" and use of language in service of ideology (and winning elections) go here:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:44 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


I wish to welcome everyone who visits this little piece of my cyber-real-estate.

First, let me say a couple of words about myself - you will get a bigger picture if you read my posts, I hope.

I am a biologist, finishing my PhD in the Department of Zoology at North Carolina State University. I am trying to discriminate between genetic, hormonal and other sources of strain, sex, and inidividual differences in the development and function of the circadian clock, using Japanese quail as my laboratory model.

I came to the USA in 1991. and became a US citizen in 1998. A couple of months later I voted in my first election in this country and I remember whose name I checked first on my first ballot: John Reid Edwards for Senate.

In 2000, when GW Bush announced his candidacy my first thought was: oh-oh...Germany...early 1930s. I had never any illusion that he will "rule" as a "uniter", elected with no mandate. I thought to myself: "Did I run away from one dictatorship just to find myself in another dictatorship?".

So, I started to look into ways to become more politically informed and involved. The Democratic primaries were just such an opportunity. I checked all 10 candidates online, and liked John Edwards (JRE) the best. I started blogging on his campaign blog in September 2003. I blogged madly for hours every day, dozens of entries per day - it was an exhillarating experience. I met him in person twice and saw him speak live three times.

After Edwards suspended his campaign after the Super Tuesday, his blog became One America Committee (OAC) blog which I visited occasionally but rarely posted on. Instead I started posting on forum, a place more in tune with my sensibilities and needs. I always liked Kerry - he was my number 2 choice in the primaries - as he is the most science-friendly contender this year. Especially once he picked JRE for VP, I had no problem campaigning for him for President and am looking forward to his Presidency. Locally, I am also involved in the campaign of Erskine Bowles for Senate.

A couple of weeks ago, the OAC blog shut down and I decided to start this blog to preserve some of the old posts I wrote there, then continue with the new material in the future. The slashdot format of the JRE blog, as modified by Chris Winn, was an ideal format for a campaign blog, better than any of the other candidates' blogs. It allowed both for fast coverage of events in real time, and for long thoughtful discussions of issues. Cheerleading and troll-bashing were part of the fun, too. Some of my posts re-posted here show the kinds of discussions we used to have there. Most of my posts were links to the interesting online articles - I was known as the News Guru on the old blog.

The name of my blog is "Science and Politics". Most of the posts here are more politics than science, but that will change after the elections. I intend to cover four ways science and politics are intertwined:

1 - How findings from neurobiology, ethology, anthroplogy, psychology etc., can be used to explain why people think and believe the way they do. How media and advertising affect people's politics. How is language used to form opinion.

2 - How one's political, ideological and religious bias affects one's interpretation of scientific data. How science, as a human endeavor, works and how that changed through history.

3 - How scientific knowledge affects (or should affect) public policy. Think of global warming, endangered species, space exploration, drilling for oil, depositing nuclear waste, cutting off tops of mountains, abortion, cloning, stem-cell research, genetically modified crops and animals, biotech and pharma industries, epidemiology of various diseases like SARS and AIDS, contraception, evolution of drug resistance, etc. Also, how technology, particularly Internet, has started to affect the political process.

4 - How politics affects science, e.g., science funding, science education, international collaboration, health education, sex education, creationism in schools, businessification of the University, effects of animal rights agenda on research, etc.

I hope we will have fun here. Please dig through the archives and post comments. Let's get started!

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:45 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

John Edwards: Myths and Misperceptions

I wrote this after the Edwards' suspension speech in March, and posted it on Monday, March 29, 2004. A copy can be found here:

Most voters base their choices upon the information they glean from the news media. The quality of this information depends on the amount of effort journalists put into researching the candidates. Unfortunately, this time around (just like every other year, it seems) most of the information journalists got was from reading each other’s pieces and talking to each other. Even those journalists who traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire seem to have spent most of their time having meals with other journalists. Even when they interviewed "ordinary people" at campaign events, they invariably failed to cite exact words of their interviewees and, instead, put into their mouths the words they wanted to put there. I know, it happened to me, and I know a number of other people who complained in the same way: "I never said that! Quite the opposite, in fact." When the news media does such a shoddy job of doing its homework, the result is often a very distorted image of candidates and their positions. As an example, let us dissect the way media portrayed Senator John Edwards to see just how that portrayal deviated from the reality. Here are some of the myths and misperceptions about Edwards that permeated the media reporting during the past few months.

John Edwards is too young. John Edwards has just turned 51. Surprised? You thought he was 35? He is not - he just looks like it because he is fit and healthy and living an optimistic life. John F. Kennedy was 43 when he took office, Bill Clinton was 46. Overseas, our friend Tony Blair just turned 50 a couple of months ago, after several years in office. John Edwards was not even the youngest of this year’s crop of candidates - Al Sharpton is 49. If John Edwards was elected this year, then re-elected four years later, he would be leaving office at the age of 59 - no trace of senility, no loss of courage and drive. He would be on top of his game to the last day and I would sleep tight with him hovering around the red button. Remember Reagan?

John Edwards is too inexperienced. How do you define experience? Decades of politicking in the hallways of power? Government is all about law and John Edwards saw both sides of it. He spent last five years in the Senate writing, evaluating and voting for laws. He spent the previous 20 years interpreting, applying and defending the laws. He has seen it from both sides: how the laws are made from legal and political theory, and what real-world effects they have in practice. Is that lack of experience? Is feeling the effects of governmental legislation on one’s own skin somehow a less valuable experience than discussing them in the classrooms of Yale or on Capitol Hill? At the age of 11, John Edwards decided that he was going to become a lawyer so he could help people. Against all odds, he managed to fulfill his dream. He spent 20 years defending "little" people against the megacorporations. His cases often led to changes in rules and regulations of whole industries. Once burned, these corporations did not want to be vulnerable to another lawsuit like the one they just lost to John Edwards. Feeling that his work helps only one person at a time, and that many more people needed his help than he could ever have time to represent in court, Edwards decided that writing better laws might be a way for him to help more people than before. He ran for the Senate, and won that race, against huge odds. Once in the Senate, he saw first-hand how Washington works and was terrified at the influence of money. It did not take long for him to realize that the only way he could make a difference was to run for President. And so he did. Isn’t that just the KIND of experience one would want in a candidate?

John Edwards is too light on policy. Whoever said this did not do the homework of reading "Real Solutions for America." This is a booklet written by John (and Elizabeth) Edwards and published about a year ago, detailing all the policy proposals John was campaigning on. There was an article in The New Republic entitled "The Policy Wonk" - the title referred to John Edwards and for a good reason! The set of proposals found in this booklet are the most detailed plan any candidate put forward this year. Also, by virtue of having it published, John Edwards did not give himself the luxury of making changes to it as the campaign progressed - he knew it was the best plan and he stuck to it throughout the year. Why was it the best? It was the only platform for which the money adds up. It was the only platform that was moderate enough to pass through a sharply divided Congress, yet allowed for gradual and step-wise movement towards more progressive legislation as the political and economic climate may allow it in the future. In addition to the "Real Solutions," Edwards made a number of specific policy speeches, the text of which can still be found on his campaign website. Read them and then ask yourself: Is he too light? Oh no, the guy is a genius! Making this statement also shows that the journalist uttering it did not follow the campaigns all along. The so-called "Two Americas" stump speech, repeated over and over in Iowa and beyond, was Edwards’ closing statement - an emotional appeal to the voters. Taking a chapter out of Cicero, Edwards perfected his oratory and gave his audience what they came to hear (some repeatedly) - the famous "Two Americas" speech. But before that, Edwards had another speech - the "Son of a Millworker" speech. Have you listened to that one? It is chockfull of details of his policy proposals. If you ever heard it you would know there is nothing ‘thin’ or ‘lightweight’ about John Edwards.

John Edwards is ’thin’ on foreign policy. John Edwards is sitting on the Senate Intelligence Committee. John Edwards traveled to Europe and the Middle East and talked to various heads of states. John Edwards has some of the best advisors on foreign policy. John Edwards has more foreign policy experience than Carter, Clinton or G.W.Bush had at the time they assumed the office. The idea that times are somehow different now, after 9/11, is an idea promulgated by the Republicans. It is a piece of their politics of fear, intended to make Bush look brave and good, and also intended to distract the audience away from the disastrous economy. Electoral loss by Bush in November will in itself raise our security by a few notches, no matter who gets elected instead. So much of so-called America-hatred around the world is really Bush-hatred. Arrogant foreign policy of the Bush administration is what got us in this position in the first place. I’d love to see John Edwards building coalitions with heads of state and entering into various agreements that are good for America and good for the world. On the other hand, the capture of Saddam Hussein, thought to provide a boost for the President’s approval ratings, did just the opposite. Feeling safer after the capture, the voters turned their attention instead to bread-and-butter issues of economy, jobs, deficit and healthcare. Check the exit polls from Iowa if you do not believe me. Imminent capture of Osama bin Laden, also thought to be a boost for President Bush, may have an even greater effect in the same direction - feeling of greater security allowing the voters to look at economy again. Having foreign policy as a centerpiece of this year’s elections may not be what the electorate is looking for, after all. If John Edwards was the nominee, he would have already switched the electoral battlefield onto the domestic issues where Bush is most vulnerable, and the voters would appreciate that move.

John Edwards is vulnerable because he is a trial lawyer. Whoever says this has not done their homework of reading John Edwards’ book "Four Trials." This ploy did not work for Lauch Faircloth (incumbent Senator who Edwards defeated in 1998), and will not work for anyone else either. In every court case, there are two sides. John Edwards was always on the side of an ordinary citizen and against the side of huge corporations. People like John Edwards are the last glimmer of hope to people who were wronged or injured by soulless and heartless corporate greed. Most big donors to the Edwards campaign are trial lawyers, too. If he was a physician, I guess physicians would be his greatest donors. Trial lawyers around the country know and respect John Edwards, many know him personally, or have studied his cases in law school. A glance at the lists of lawyers donating to various campaigns shows that people who donated to Edwards are mostly lawyers whose job is to represent ordinary Americans against the big corporations. On the other hand, donors to Bush and Cheney tend to be lawyers who work for big corporations ensuring that the rights of ordinary people are squashed. On the positive side, John Edwards did not become a successful trial lawyer for nothing. One of the reasons he was not in the media spotlight may be the fact that he did not provide anything exciting to report - no screams, no off-the-record-open-mic statements, no controversies. It is the disciplined mind of a lawyer that kept him on message 24/7. That kind of disciplined yet quick-on-its-feet mind would be quite an asset in the debates against Dick Cheney in the fall, as well as in selling his message to the American people.

John Edwards is too nice to fight against Cheney. The pundits are so used to gladiator fights in the political Coliseum, they are unable to fathom that a different strategy may be even more effective. Countering an attack with a counterattack makes both sides look childish and mean, repelling the audience further away from the political process. Countering an attack with flattery disarms the opponent. Responding to a flattery with an attack makes the attacker look REALLY bad. Following the flattery with a kindly spoken analysis of the opponent’s positions makes a point that the audience is more likely to believe in than an attack. It is the method of driving one’s knife into your opponent’s heart with a smile on your face. That is an example of linguistic aikido - harsher the opponent’s attack, easier it is to throw him into a pile on the floor while retaining a completely relaxed composure. John Edwards did not win all those court cases by being nice. He is a master of linguistic aikido. I will really enjoyed watching him this fall, smiling on stage with Cheney, tricking the Vice-President into making two opposite statements within one minute, into stating an obvious lie, into making an outrageous un-American statement that would doom his campaign's re-election. I look forward to the chance to see his mastery in action against Dick Cheney. We are so used to the politics of testosterone - the hormone of aggression - that we cannot comprehend that there may be another way to win political battles. John Edwards is oozing oxytocin and vasopressin - hormones of love and attachment - that made everyone who saw him speak fall in love with him. While many people will vote against Bush-Cheney in November, even more will vote for Kerry-Edwards. Many Independents, moderate Republicans, and political newcomers fell in love with Edwards and the optimism he projected. If you do not believe me, dig through the archives of the official Edwards blog (, as well as the new Edwards grassroots organization (

John Edwards was running for Vice President all along. John Edwards is running for the Veep slot NOW. He was certainly running for the gold until Super Tuesday. Inability of pundits to understand his strategy made them think, wrongly, that he was running for VP. This strategy, that made it so difficult for him to win the primaries, would have worked wonders in the general election, if only someone explained it to the journalists who could then explain it to the voters.

John Edwards was running on trade and poverty issues. Go to the C-span website and watch the video clips of Edwards’ stump speeches. Watch carefully for the audience reactions. Trade issues came to the fore only late in the campaign cycle, when it was obvious that John Kerry was in the lead and that the two Johns had greatest policy differences in the area of trade. It was also a very important issue in states like Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio, where the two Johns had to differentiate themselves on trade, more than on any other topic. However, the trade portion of the speech did not get the greatest applause. Poverty, a long-abandoned issue that Edwards courageously brought back into presidential politics, was also received heartily, but again, that was not a trigger for the loudest applause. What really got people excited was the portion of the speech in which Edwards described how he would kick the money out of politics. As a Washington outsider, never accepting donations from Washington lobbyists or PACs, he was not in debt to anyone but the individual Americans. His proposals on cutting the influence of lobbyists and big business, as well as the method he was planning to use, if elected, to push these reforms through, gave the audience the sense that it may still be worth paying attention to politics, that the notion that both major parties are the same because they are in bed with powerful interests may change if Edwards gets elected. Hope that there is a chance that politics can be taken away from megacorporations and given back to the American people was the main reason so many people voted for Edwards, and will vote for Kerry-Edwards in November.

John Edwards was talking about Two Americas in his speeches. Journalists live in the present. The best ones also have a grasp of the past. The notion of the future seems as foreign to them as the third dimension was to the Square in Abbott’s "Flatland". John Edwards’ speech was not about Two Americas. It was about One America. His whole campaign was not about analyzing the past and present, it was about the vision for the future. The mention of two Americas in his speech was just a starting point, a reminder of current situation, from which we can go towards his vision of One America - the core idea of his campaign. While all the other candidates kept comparing their past accomplishments, voters tuned out. When a candidate showed up talking about plans for the future and ways to get there, voters tuned in - that is what they were waiting for all along. Unlike anyone else, John Edwards represented hope and a vision for the future of America we can all be proud of.

John Edwards is a liberal/centrist/moderate/conservative Democrat. So, which one is he? One analysis I recently read stated that John Edwards is a progressive who skillfully disguised his liberal leanings under a guise of conservatism in order to appeal to the Southern Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans who realized that Bush is not a conservative. Accent on personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility, and civil liberties - the core conservative (I would say American) values - made Edwards seem more conservative than Bush, or so this theory says. My own theory is that Edwards is so non-ideological that he really does not belong anywhere on that spectrum. I see him primarily as a pragmatic - an engineer or a physician who diagnoses the problem and designs the optimal solution. Reading "Real Solutions" really drives that point through quite forcefully.

All things being equal, don’t you think that correct portrayal of John Edwards by the media would have resulted in him clinching the nomination? If you knew the facts about Edwards, wouldn’t you have voted for him? Isn’t it scary that corporate-owned media decided for us who our President is going to be? What happened to our democracy? How can we take it back? We can elect John Kerry for President and John Edwards for Vice-President on November 2, 2004. And this is what we will do.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:22 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

New election rules?

I posted this on and on the One America Committee blog (formerly JRE campaign blog) on March 06, 2004:

Primaries: Most small parties do not have primaries. They decide their nominees at Conventions or in smokey backrooms. No TV for them. One of the big parties usually has an incumbent President or VP who is a de facto nominee. Even if that party has a primary, it is of no importance, thus no TV.

Those parties that have competitive primaries need to set a date for announcements, and need to submit the full lists of valid candidates to the media by a certain date. Thus LaRouche, sorry, no TV. Independents, sorry, join or form a party or no TV.

While the candidates are free to traverse the country, give interviews if invited, buy ads in newspapers etc whenever they want, there is only a limited TV season just preceding the primaries. That season starts a few weeks before the first primary and lasts through the last primary. There is a complete media blackout starting at midnight prior to primaries, ending at the time when all votes have been counted.

Democratic Party: Primaries are held all on the same day, or, there is a set of 10 primaries, five states each, two weeks apart. At each date, one of the states is NE, one is SE, one is SW, one is MW, one is W. (e.g., first date: IA, NH, SC, NM, WA, two weeks later MO, VT, NC, AZ, OR, etc.). At least one TV debate between each two dates. No endorsements allowed until the season is over. No superdelegates. All primaries open, or all states forced to allow change of party affiliation on the spot. Similar rules for primaries in local and statewide elections, with local TV stations.

General election:
The nominee of each party has equal TV time. Those are public airwaves and not businesses - they better give us back what we gave them. Local stattions similarly cover local races. The TV season lasts for 4 weeks prior to the election. Total media blackout starting at midnight prior to election, ending once all the votes have been counted.

In general (both primaries and the general election):
No electronic voting. Pull the lever, check your ballot, keep the receipt. Recounts made very easy to trigger by narrow margins, complaints, etc. No polls published prior to any vote - they are for internal use of campaigns only. Exit polls may be analyzed publicly the day after the vote. No candidate can accept any donation from any ORGANIZATION, just individuals who are NOT at the time registered as Washington lobbyists. Limit of $2000 seems right.

Think these through. What unintended consequences did I miss? Any other ideas?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:15 AM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Conservative America

I posted this on on Apr 25, 2004:

This is a post I put on the Kerry forum in response to someone who felt offended by my previous posts etc.... You have read some, but not all of this before, but this is, in a way, putting several different ideas together and seeing how they fit:

Hmmm, I did not accuse anyone here of being a right-winger....should I expect to find some on the Kerry blog? Actually, we agree on sev eral points on which you think we disagree. I am assuming it is a matter of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

We do not seem to define "free market " the same - if it has regulations you still call it "free" while I do not. As for being a libertarian, I did not give it much thought myself, but Lakoff thinks that libertarianism is a radial category of the core conservative model, and has quite a persuasive argument for it that I am incapable of reproducing here, but read his "Moral Politics" and you can find it and decide if you agree with him or not.

Now, I am going to give you a list of several statements and, as you read them, make a mental note of your responses to those statements. The responses could be: A) This is absolutely true, it cannot b e any other way, it defies logic and requires a sick mind to think any other way. B) I think this is true because of my own thorough research on this issue, but understand that other people can come to different conclusions. C) This is just plain wrong. H ere are the statements:
- USA is the greatest country in the world, the leader of the free world, the beacon of democracy
- Free market unfettered by any regulation is a real thing, and it is a good thing
- What I pay in taxes is my hard-earned money tha t the Government is forcefully stealing from me
- What Marx wrote is exactly what Lenin & Co. instituted, and Stalin & Co. used to commit atrocities
- There is a God, and religious belief is the only way of being moral
- Private enterprises perform mo re efficiently and cheaply than state-owned enterprises
- Instilling obedience in children makes them self-reliant upstanding citizens
- Marxism = Communism = Totaliarianism
- Competition is the basis of economy
- Marxism = Darwinism = Atheism = Immoralit y
- Democracy is the best political system in history - Capitalism is the best economic system in history
- Freedom is a basic human right
- Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are basic human rights
- Home, food, clothes, employment, transportation, education and health care are not basic human rights
- There is a basic moral order in the Universe: God has moral authority over humans, men over women, Americans over foreigners, USA over other countries, parents over children, humans over other animals and rest of nature
- There are definite and clear criteria for what is right or wrong, good or evil
- There is no real difference between mom-and-pop corner stores and mega-corporations: both are private businesses that want to keep their customers happy in order to increase profits, thus they are all part of the competition that brings about lower prices and higher-quality goods and sevices.

Most of you have probably responded with many As and some Bs, perhaps an occasional uncertain C. Why? Because mos t of you were born and raised in the USA. These statements reflect pretty well what you have heard all your lives. If asked, people in other countries would give lots of Cs. I bet, as a foreign-born US citizen, that I got many more Bs and Cs and less As t han any of you. If I get attacked for being un-patriotic for stating this, it is just a proof that what one learns on mother's lap usually becomes such a deeply held belief that any questioning of it is perceived as a personal threat. There is nothing abo ut any human that comes even close to being predictive about one's religious or political affiliation as are religious and political affiliations of one's parents!

Now is the time to read an article by George Orwell, It was intended as an Introduction to "Animal Farm", but was not published until decades later. Read it slowly and thoroughly:'s-preface-to-animal-far m.htm
What Orwell implies is there are three ways information can be suppressed in the media. First is by the government. Second is by powerful special interests. Third is self-censoring because writers and their editors consider some facts to be taboo. Let’s go through these three.

Governmental suppression is obvious in fascistic, communist and other dictatorships. There is one official truth. If you dare say anything different you’ll spend the rest of your short life enjoying the beautiful scenery of Siberia. Special interests can suppress information only in segments of the media they control. Don’t expect to see a horoscope published in the “Skeptic” magazine, or a conservative view in a liberal newspaper. Self-censoring, or “intentional ignorance” comes from unwillingness of writers to state unpopular facts, or facts that most people don’t believe in, out of fear of being attacked, not by government officials or special interests, but by readers and colleagues and the public opinion in general. In a dictatorship, everybody knows that the official truths are lies. Nobody has the courage to say that out loud, though. Yet, copies of samizdat pamphlets circulate through the population. Parents teach their kids how to read between the lines. Everyone develops a keen BS-radar. The lore gets passed from generation to generation. There was no lack of multigenerational memory at the time when it became possible to get rid of the regime, e.g, in the USSR. Nobody had to teach the people the ‘new’ truths, o r tell them that old truths were not so. They knew it all along. They were just waiting for the moment when the government seemed to get weak enough for the truth to explode. There is no need for special interest or self-censoring suppression, as the gove rnment dictates to the smallest detail what can and what cannot be said.

How about USA? Officially, we have free press. Unofficially, free press is believed to be free because it has repeated it was free so many times over so many years. As for special i nterests suppression, of course it operates in certain segments of the media, but that is OK, as the opposite interests also exist and suppress opposite facts in their segment of the media. This may be assymetrical in one or the other direction at any poi nt in history, as some truths are published in media with huge audience while the opposite view finds itself in a journal with a circulation of 1000 copies. Is there governmental suppression? It’s hard to tell. Of course, New York Times, NPR and CNN get l ittle letters or phone calls from the State Department or White House or CIA with a ‘suggestion’ on how a certain topic should be covered, but I doubt it is very often that the stick and the carrot are explicitly stated. It can be called more appropriatel y “government-induced self-censorship”. No fear of Siberia, but fear for your job can be quite real. This boils down to a question of who has the more dangerous machinery in place to frighten the writers/editors into being ‘disciplined’. Nobody was afraid to bash the previous President. Critiques of this President were, until very recently, found only in marginal publications. The issue of censorship is much stronger in the area of foreign policy, especially war-reporting. Have you read “The First Casualt y” by Phillip Knightley? Please do. This country has been involved in a number of wars in this century. How many were ‘just’ wars? WWI, WWII and Afghanistan were Realpolitics-type responses to clear danger from abroad. Any other? No. If you have any other examples to state, it is because you only heard the official US version of the reasons for the war, the methods of waging it, and the final results of its end.

For instance, when the war in Croatia first started, the news agencies sent their best, most experienced reporters to the region. When reports started coming in, they were either not published, or were re-written by editors beyond recognition resulting in a piece that stated the opposite from what the reporter on the ground wrote. Usually, it was because the official policy was that the Serbs are bad and everyone else is good. As the reporters on the ground found out, that was not so. There were good and there were bad factions and individuals in all ethnic groups there. But they were not able to publish the truth. They fought with their editors, and in the end they quit their jobs and started reporting as independents. Needless to say, their reports were not published in the USA. They were replaced with new young reporters with clear instruction s how they are expected to report. Being new and afraid for their jobs so early in their fragile careers, they did their job the way they were told. Several of the veteran journalists wrote articles about the way their reporting was skewered at home and p ublished those articles in a book - in Switzerland in French. No US publisher still has guts to publish that here. That is self-censure. The special interest censure came before. Knight-Ridder service (Edit: it was Rudder-Finn, not Knight-Ridder, sorry, I wrote this from memory and the two names are similar) was quite open about the way they were paid by the Cro atian government to sway the US opinion in their favor, particularly the American Jews. It is interesting to note that American Jews were against the Serbs, while Israeli press was on the side of Serbs, recognizing the neo-fascist tone of the new Croatian government and following the motto “Never Again!”. As for Kosovo Albanians, their interests were pushed by Senator Bob Dole, himself an Albanian, and recipient of millions of dollars for his presidential campaign from the Albanian diaspora. He visited Se rbia at one point. He did not meet with Milosevic, nor with the leaders of democratic opposition. Instead he drove straight down to Kosovo and talked to the leaders of the KLA, a terrorist separatist organization, funded by Albanian diaspora and trained b y Al Qaida. Thousands of letters were sent to the editors of US newspapers, protesting the coverage and providing the facts unpleasant to the Administration. Not a single such letter was ever published. On NPR one day, they had, as usual, two guests suppo sed to represent two opposing view on the situation in Yugoslavia. However, what they got were a Democrat and a Republican. Those were just two slight variants of the basic US version. Not to mention that both of them spoke only in terms of how it affects the US, particularly the domestic politics. When someone, finally, managed to call in with a message that was truly opposite, the guy was quickly hushed (with music), cut off and subsequently made fun of by the host and the guests as if he was an idiot. Yet, all he said was perfect truth. Self-censure.

Exactly the same thing is happening now with reporting from Iraq. One problem with propaganda in the USA, no matter what the source of fact-suppression, is that most people genuinely believe that the pres s is free and that the news they get report the truth. They do not have developed their BS-radars, so they do not know how, or even realize they should, separate the truth from fiction. This is America, after all, the leader of the free world and beacon o f democracy. Of course what you see on TV is true, this is not Soviet Union or some such country! Oh, how naïve. It is much easier for American people to figure out if they are lied to about domestic issues. Your doctor’s appointment is either paid for or it is not. But foreign events - who is going to go to Somalia or Haiti or Guatemala or Kosovo to personally verify what one sees in the news? How many pen-pals do you have in Laos who can tell you the facts omitted by your local TV station and newspaper? That is the area where we get lied to by the buckets. Of course, nobody can say that the opinion is suppressed, as you are completely free to publish it in an obscure little journal, or, these days, online - thank God for the Internet! That does not mean it is not, for all PRACTICAL purposes, unavailable to most citizens. The genius of US propaganda is that, unlike in a dictatorship, people believe it is true. Most Americans still believe that Reagan had something to do with the fall of Communism. He was just so darn lucky to be in office when that happened, and lucky that he did not try to do anything that would slow down the process. Communism was falling under its own weight. It was going to go. Wallessa, the Pope, and Gorbachov just helped it on its way. Reagan took all the glory. If you think otherwise, it is because you got your news from the US sources.

Now read this NYT article by David Brooks: He is right about one thing. The Bushies are not subtle about their propaganda the way all the past presidents were. They are blunt about what they want and how they are going to get it. When they lie, they lie with a g randeur of a Stalin. They openly published their plan for world domination several years ago. You can find it online. Half of the people believe Bush, as they were never taught by their parents that a US President can openly lie (hey Nixon?). The other ha lf do not believe it, but their views are suppressed by all three methods of suppression - governmental, special interests, and intentional ignorance of editors. Like Stalin, Bush rules by fear. This election is going to be about showing the naïve half of the population that they were lied to all along and that they should be not ashamed for being duped, but angry, very angry about it. I hope it can be done.

Now, let's go back to the list of statements from the top of this post. Read them again. Let's th ink about them in the light of Orwell and Brooks. When you look at them, they are as American as apple-pie. They are core American beliefs, aren't they? Well, no. They are core CONSERVATIVE beliefs!!!! They have become core Americans beliefs through decades and centuries of conservative propaganda. They are all based on a conservative worldview. Conservative policies and economic theories stem directly from conservative ideology, which, in turn, comes directly from conservative MORAL SYSTEM. Conservative moral system is based on conservative understanding of human nature, which also translates into their ideas of correct parenting methods, correct family structure, and definition of marriage. All of this, in a feed-forward loop with a conservative view of religion, has come to us through the millenia of history. Unfortunately, it is based on a wrong understanding of human nature, long ago disproved by science (yet another reason for them to abhor science and rationality, check this: ).

Now, read these three articles (there are several more on the same topic, but these three will suffice for now): 72
What the first article argues is quite perceptive (unlike the comments by readers on the bottom), although technically wrong. Bush is not Platonic in the sense of Plato, nor are we all Aristotelian in the sense of Aristotle. Bushies are Platonic in the 19th century sense of the word - i.e., essentialist in the sense of early 19th century. What we, who consider ourselves rational are, is not Aristotelian, but Darwinian. What????!!!!! Forget Darwin's contribution to biology, or the misuse of his name by eugenicists and social-Darwinists of all kinds. The greatest contribution of Darwin is the way we in the Western world THINK! We require data! Give me information! Empirical proof! Statistics! At least give me polls! Before Darwin, people thought their great ideas in the seclusion of their homes and published books. It was my word against your word. Many philosophers became famous this way. Descartes and others started, earlier on, asking for empirical proofs but nobody provided them. Darwin did - he showed how philosophy is done! There were evolutionary theories before him, written by Erasmus Darwin, Lamarck, Chambers and others that were laughed out of court. Everyone took "The Origin" seriously because it provided a consilient set of proofs: not ju st internal logic of the argument (many earlier philosophies had that) but a link to the reality of the world. That was the Day One of the Age of Rationality. If asked who my favourite philosopher was, I would have said Darwin and lost the Presidency that very moment! But it is true. The Western world lives in a Darwinian worldview - the worldview of empiricism. But not all.... some are still in pre-Darwinian era. They are ultra-conservatives.

What the GOP/RNC propaganda is attempting to do now is to exp and on the "self-evident truths" like those listed on the top of this post. They want to move even more conservative beliefs from the column entitled "conservative beliefs" through the column entitled "American beliefs" and further into the column entitle d "Universal beliefs". They are trying to get people in America to accept some of the more extreme conservative views as "American core values". While bashing me for even typing (then criticizing) the statements above, as being un-Patriotic, can you imagi ne some of the Bushie's core values becoming un-criticizable in the same way (to invent a new word)? Disagreement with Bush is already being painted as un-patriotic. Imagine when they have time to work on the national collective consciousness for a few mo re years!

What we need to do is: A) understand the core moral system of conservatives, and how all their policies and rhetoric come out of it, B) understand the core moral system of us, liberals, and how all our policies come out of it, C) figure out how the conservatives have subverted the use of language for their purposes, and design ways to subvert their message NOW, so to help Kerry win in November, D) find a way to take back the language and build our own language in the long term, let's call it the Winning Language of Progressive Ideology, which we can use to win elections for Democrats, show to people that they are not conservative, show the people that their moral, social and economic interests are not served by the Republicans, and E) overhaul the education system and the media in order to breed/raise a new generation of empirical, neo-Aristotelian, Darwinian critical thinkers. That is what the liberal think-tank at Rockridge Institute is trying to do. That is what we ALL should be trying to do.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:56 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Gay Marriage and "Marriage Tax"

Here is another one of my posts on gay marriage from the old JRE blog. That was a very hot issue to discuss. I posted this one on November 09, 2003:
See also here:
and here:
for more on the topic. After reading and thinking a lot about this topic, I am not so sure I would sign these posts today. I am in the process of changing my mind on this.

Hmmmm....What follows are MY thoughts and not neccessarily something that Edwards agrees on, i.e., I am writing for myself and not as an Edwards supporter right now. The thousand provisions in various laws are not favoring just hetero- over homo-sexual marriage. It also favores a particular, narrowly defined type of relationship over all others, including over living alone. That narrow definition of marriage contains several criteria: 1) church-sanctioned, 2) state-sanctioned, 3) monogamous, 4) exclusive, 5) heterosexual, 6) fertile, 7) indefinite (till death do us part). Roots of these criteria are complex: biological, historical, social, religious, political and economic. Recent book by Laura Kipnis "Against Love", although brilliantly-written and very thought provoking, is deficient because it stresses the economic and ignores other factors. Vast increase in life-span, invention of contraceptives, cures for most STDs, gender equality, increasing secularity, as well as economic forces are making the 7 criteria obsolete, whether you like it or not. Marriage is not about inheritance along patriarchal line any more. It is not about the first son inheriting the family farm. With 1/4 billion people in the US now, there is a wide variety of needs and wants people have regarding relationships. Many marriages are not church-sanctioned any more. Getting hitched in the courthouse is quite acceptable these days (that was not always the case). There were always infertile couples, but only recently it has become acceptable for a couple to DECIDE not to have kids. Living together with no state sanctioning is also not a no-no any more (it is legally the same as marriage in places like Sweden). Divorce has become common-place and, although it is still set up to be costly and painful, is mostly not perceived as sin any more. Actually, serial monogamy is quickly becoming the norm. Cheating has been going on since the beginning of time, because the marriages were arranged for economic reasons, nobody expected to find love in marriage, nobody connected sex with love, so people naturally found love (with or without sex) outside of marriage. It is only in this century that we started to expect the equation marriage = love = sex to be true. Every time any of these criteria started being eroded, there was an outcry from the social conservatives, but you can not stop these changes. Gay relationships, as marriage or not, are the current fight. When that is over, just wait and see, we'll be fighting over polygamy vs. monogamy!!! I bet, within 50 years or so, the definition of marriage is going to become so vague, the variety of types of marriages and other relationships is going to be so large, and legal (financial) differences between all types of relationships erased from the books, we will not have this kind of issue to discuss at all. It will transform itself into a much broader discussion about varieties of human experience, for better or for worse, you decide.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:12 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

An interesting exchange about animal rights

you decide....
Posted by me on Wednesday February 25, 2004:
Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time.
I agree. I was against the war. I am against death penalty (although I may be swayed towards the idea that it should be on the books for a once-in-a-decade occasion of having someone really horrible on trial, e.g., a serial rapist/killer, or Osama). I am for everything neccessary to make gay couples equal in the eyes of law with everyone else even if it is not called "marriage". My personal "hot button" issue are animal rights. If that is all I cared about, I would be voting for Bush and calling Jesse Helms out of retirement - Jesse was the staunchest fighter against the PETA, ALF and other "animal rights" terrorist organizations. Yet, I am willing to swipe aside my little pet peeves, and support a guy who inspires me, a person who is going to help us build One America in which it is possible to move forward on ALL issues. We can only move the society forward step by step. Radical changes will be met by fierce resistance. Thus Edwards today, so we can have an America in the future in which Kucinich will not be regarded as unelectable.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by X
Why do you hate animals and prefer that they be treated with no respect or decency? Why are groups that try to alleviate the appalling suffering animals endure considered terrorists? Quite puzzled here.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time.
I LOVE animals. That is why I am a biologist right now. I am all for alleviating animal suffering. PETA and AFL have nothing to do with it (SPCA does). I have studied the issue a LOT, and their official FBI designation as "special-interest domestic terrorist organizations" is completely valid. I can provide references to relevant literature.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by Y
Real biologists are the friends of all of life. Sometimes we need to read and get a bigger picture. Be more inclusive. See what really hurts your animal friends in general and specific pets as well. My two cats love me, and I them. References can be spouted easily. Is what I'm saying a reference? And your comment above a reference? Reliability (Is there consistency, correlation) needs to be tempered with validity ( Have you really measured what you said you measured?). I'd like to hear your views on global warming. Can you tell me what they are and give me references? Did you think we should have turned our backs on Kyoto?

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by me.
I am friend of all life. I have pets. I used to have horses. I do animal research. I teach biology. I read profusely. I have dealt with rational issues of animal care and use for 10 years. I have dealth with irrational issues of the politics and religion of animal "rights" for 10 years. Tom Regan and David Singer, two ideologues of the movement have destroyed each others arguments - thus, both arguments for the "rights" have been destroyed from WITHIN the movement. As usual, the followers don't read - they follow their knee-jerk emotional reaction. Watched "Bambi" too many times. Afraid of insects at the picnic. Never had to live in and with nature, to forage or hunt for food for survival. Anti-abortionists have, frankly, a stronger case for their fight (in which they use very similar tactics). As far as anything in science is "fact", global warming is a fact. Tons of data for it. No data against it. Turning away from Kyoto is a crime against humanity.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by Y
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by X
You just said your hot button was "animal rights." Now you suddenly love animals. ARe you sure you're not for Kerry? Surely, there's another of Jesse's causes that you can publicly support on here. Animals don't need YOUR kind of help, I assure you. PETA has gone over the edge, no doubt. But there are TONS of great organizations besides the SPCA. You have no idea what you're talking about, clearly. The SPCA in my city is horrible. How do I know? I didn't READ about it (or spend all day on the computer), I WORKED there. Many great sanctuaries, rescue groups and organizations are worthy and do an extraordinary job in helping animals. But then, they're probably not on the FBI reports. Good grief. I won't sit here and brag about my occupation or my degrees, but please stick to what you know. This isn't one of them.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by me.
"PETA has gone over the edge, no doubt. But there are TONS of great organizations besides the SPCA." Obviously, as this is your quote, we agree. I wrote SPCA just as one example of TONS of wonderful organizations that do great work and that did NOT, like PETA and AFL go over the edge into the murky waters of terrorist tactics, bombing buildings, threatening researchers, vandalizing laboratories etc. So, if I am ignorant on this issue, you are exactly where I am, so we can be ignorant together. By the way, there is another cause that Jesse pushed and I like. He fought really hard against media consolidation in order to save small local radio stations. Of course, he really wanted to protect the proselytizing Christian stations, but the biggest effect of his efforts was that he saved - NPR! Wrong motivation perhaps, but grand result. These two causes are the only ones, I'm he was in Senate forever! I was so happy to see ole Jesse retire. Good riddance. As for mentioning Eeyore and me in the same sentence, I don't think I even have to say anything. If you do it on a new thread, there will be plenty of people jumping on you for questioning my loyalty to Edwards. I've been here for a looooong time. Voted for Edwards in 1998 for Senate. Will not let these challenges go unanswered.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by X
I never questioned your loyalty to Edwards. I made a Kerry quip as an analogy about your own contradictory statements about ANIMALS. It was clearly a joke. Nice try. And from the looks of things here, folks are jumping on YOU for your unnecessary and inflammatory comments. For those of us who have spent a lifetime fighting for animals, your comments are insensitve at best. You said your hot button was animal rights. Then you suddenly pretend to love animals. Your posts don't even make sense.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by me.
In a black and white world they don't make sense. In a world with many colors and shades extremes are rarely valid, but a more complex view somewhere in the center of a multidimensional world makes sense indeed. It takes an open mind and a lot of learning to be able to comprehend the complexity of every issue. If a conservative Republican calls you a commie just because you do not agree with him 100%, don't you feel mad at such shortsightedness and absolutism? If I am called an animal-torturer just because I point out that PETA is a terrorist organization, don't I have the right to feel mad at such shortsightedness and absolutism?

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by X
No, they don't make sense in ANY world. I'm glad there is no censorship here. When someone is rude and arrogant I never say "show them the door," I say, "thanks for letting me know." No one called you a animal-torturer. OR said you didn't support Edwards. You make all of this up. Whoa! Bizarre. Patronizing is certainly one way to communicate with people. It isn't, however, very effective. What about, "sorry for the rude comment about animals?" Nah. That's how we do it in my closed-minded, stupid little world. Not your superior, all-knowing one that comprehends the complexity of EVERY issue. "99 out of every 100 people will never, ever admit they've done something wrong." I won't say who said it. I'm sure you already know. Have a nice day.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by X
No, they don't make sense in ANY world. I'm glad there is no censorship here. When someone is rude and arrogant I never say "show them the door," I say, "thanks for letting me know." No one called you a animal-torturer. OR said you didn't support Edwards. You make all of this up. Whoa! Bizarre. Patronizing is certainly one way to communicate with people. It isn't, however, very effective. What about, "sorry for the rude comment about animals?" Nah. That's how we do it in my closed-minded, stupid little world. Not your superior, all-knowing one that comprehends the complexity of EVERY issue. "99 out of every 100 people will never, ever admit they've done something wrong." I won't say who said it. I'm sure you already know. Have a nice day.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by me.
I never said anything rude about animals. I wouldn't. I couldn't. I loved them since the day I was born. I went to vet school, then switched to biology, both because I love animals. I have no idea where you found that I said anything rude about them. What I have stated is that PETA and ALF are officially designated as terrorist organizations, and that I believe that it is rightly so. Their members kill, through ignorance, more animals in a year, then I will do in my lifetime. They release captive animals, often domesticated, into environments in which they are picked up by predators within hours as they have no survival skills. They also kill people. I know researchers who are guarded by Secret Service around the clock and they work on VOLES! Most monkey/ape research in the USA is dead as no new students want to live that kind of life - in daily fear. Animal research is severely inhibited in the USA because of legislation animal rightists managed to lobby for over the years, so American scientists do expensive molecular biology which provides data that are, in turn, just hypotheses to be tested in whole animals. The whole-animal work now increasingly gets done abroad and it tends to lead to patents for the firms abroad instead of our firms. At the same time, I cannot offer undergraduates real research experience and I had some really talented people move to other professions after they saw what a hassle it is to get any animal project approved (not to mention that some of the best experiments are not even proposed as we KNOW in advance they will not pass muster). And why? Because Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees have to have a person on board not associated with the University and that person, by some magic, always turns out to be an animal rightist. The story is even more complicated by the fear of the committee members from public outcries triggered by PETA activists so they adopt Gestapo-like regimes of laboratory control that makes more and more American scientists quit animal work, or science, or job in the USA. On the other side of the department are my ecologist friends. They are constantly under threats because they collaborate with hunters. Nobody knows, understands, and loves nature, animals and ecosystems as well as hunters do. Carnivores require large territories. Urban growth has eliminated carnivores from many areas of the country. In a few places, it is possible to re-introduce them, as has been recently done with wolves. In most places, that is not possible. In the absence of predators, the herbivore populations have a huge growth in numbers and densities, stripping their habitats of food and ending up starving to death. In such case, it is our moral duty to step into the role of the top predator and carefully and selectively reduce the herbivore numbers. Hunters really know how to do it right, often better than ecologists do. It is a tough life. No lion sleeping with the lamb. In such a situation the herbivore has three choices: a) to die a slow painful death of starvation, disease and parasites; b) to die after a short and brutal chase by a pack of wolves that starts eating it before it is even dead, or c) to die instantly of a bullet. For a) death is inevitable. For b) there are some slim chances of escaping. For c) only very few animals are killed, thus chances for every animal to survive and reproduce are much greater. If you were a doe, and these were your choices, what would you choose? "Bambi" has ruined the reputation of hunters among city-dwellers who are alienated from nature - folks who tend to join PETA and ALF out of ignorance of how nature works and under the influence of 100 years of Disneyfication (that is actually a technical term for this) of nature. Was this rude about animals? Did it in any way detract from the most invaluable work of hundreds of organizations that really do care about animals for their own sake, not out of some quasi-religious fervor? I adopted my beloved cat from such an organization. What can possibly be insulting, haughty and arrogant about anything I posted? Explain please, before you repeat your ad hominem attack.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by Z
I am an animal lover as well, and if I were voting solely on this issue, I would NOT vote for Bush or Kerry because they are BOTH hunters. Why would you vote for Bush on this issue??

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by W
Card carrying PETA member here and proud of my support for an organization that has done so much to open peoples eyes to the incredible amount of suffering we cause to animals every single day without even thinking about it or noticing the effects of our actions. I have nothing but respect for them and for all animal rights groups and might have to start making a donation in your honor for every time you blast them on the blog!

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by me.
Hey, no problem. This is the biggest tent I've ever seen - bodes well for the general election. I do not want to start another "hot button issue" flaming thread on the blog, gay marriage is emotional and inflammatory enough, but....I do want you to donate to Edwards, so, I will post my point of view, in as inflammatory language as I can make it, on my custom blog. Check me as your "friend" so you'll be notified when it appears. Then, you are welcome to present your case there - and donate, of course. How about that? LOL

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by W
Yeah - I was going to add a comment that I didn't want to start anything new either. I considered not posting at all. But I just felt it was important not to let it go by without some protest, on behalf of those who have no voice at all! I'd rather you spend your time coming up with all those great links and trying to convert the undecideds to Edwards than waste your time trying to make a case that I just won't be able to agree with. As you said it is a big tent and we're both already standing under it! Enough said!

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by X
Your inflammatory language of hatred of animals will not inspire ME to contribute to this campaign. "You can judge the greatness of a nation by out it treats its animals." -- Mahatma Ghandi

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by X
"You can judge the greatness of a nation by HOW it treats its animals." Sorry for the typo. I was miffed. And I make typos when I'm miffed. Edwards stands for decency, morality and respect for ALL which is why I got back into politics this year. This "Jesse Helms" post infuriated me and turned me off more than any other I've read.

Re:We cannot please everybody, all the time. Posted by Y
A peanut farmer once said. "The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world." -Jimmy Carter I go back to my original comment. We can't please everybody all the time. Do we want Bush out or not. There is more than enough injustice in the Bush administration to vote him out. We all have our special reasons to remove him. He is a divider. Please let JRE hold us together until we have completed that sad duty. My Signature: "Politics of Optimism through 2008 and beyond!"

Re:you decide....
Posted by S
This exchange is a perfect example of your argument that logic ought to be taught in school. You made statements that were straightforward and easy to understand, yet people completely failed to comprehend what you were trying to say. They picked out a couple phrases that made sense to them and made erroneous assumptions based on those. When they got frustrated because they couldn't understand you, they called you a troll. You get the gold star for patience for hanging in there and explaining your position as long as you did. My Signature: "Keep movin' on, keep workin' it. We need some Real Solutions!"

Re:you decide....
Posted by me.
Thank you. I though I was going crazy. I kept re-reading my post to try to figure out what could they misconstrue, but I thought I was clear. It is one of those emotional irrational issues that triggers aggressive responses no matter how it is worded and what is really meant. Just like pro-lifers, or religious super-fundamentalists - there is no discussion with them because they are too emotionally invested in an idea to allow questioning and reason to intrude. They are too afraid that their strongly held beliefs will be exposed as illegitimate and that would hurt a LOT. They have a deep nagging feeling that their argument does not really hold water, so they defend it very aggressively with irrational attacks.

And I added this on the JREG forum later:

Several of my colleagues have bodyguards because they work at places like Yerkes Primate Center, even if they do not work on primates. Yerkes is surrounded by electric fence and has guards 24 hours/day. I cannot bring friends to see my laboratory here at NCSU. Yes, people have been attacked, and even killed, and bombs exploded in buildings by the ALF and PETA. Stick to SPCA if you want to do some good, and leave the terrorists behind. Most of all, get educated about the clear and crisp distinction between Animal Welfare and Animal Rights - two very different things, as different as Heaven and Hell, former guided by compassion, the latter by ignorant zeal. Many people confuse the two, and that confusion is purposefully promoted and used by the "Rights" terrorist organizations. Their propaganda materials are designed to lure in people who like animals and who should join the SPCA or some such benevolent organization. One has to be very well informed to realize what their game is. I have posted links to several informative articles elsewhere about a month ago. I'll try to find them later if I can.

Here are the articles and websites. Some seem reasonable, some are straddling the line, some are over the top. Make distinction between animal welfare (good stuff) and animal rights (terrorists). And yes, we are carnivores. Here are some contrary views - make up your own mind:
Science and Self-Doubt,2933,28412,00.html
Animal Rights, Research Wrongs
Animal rights 'terror' rattles biotechs' cage
Animal Welfare or Animal Rights?
Animal Rights:Teaching or Deceiving Kids
The Terror of "Animal Rights"
Domestic Counter-terrorism
New Science Curriculum Aims to Curb 'Animal Rights' Influence
Animal Rights Philosophies
Activist Tactics
Animal Rights Violence
People Eating Tasty Animals
Why Cat Fanciers Support Animal WELFARE, not Animal RIGHTS

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:02 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

1984 or 2004?

My post on JRE blog on October 24, 2003:

The Second edition of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Newspeak is coming out in 2004. The first edition, published initially in 1948, has gone through numerous reprints over the decades. Just to remind you, this Dictionary was a brainchild of one George Orwell who, citing a source identified only as "Big Brother" submitted the first three entries to the Dictionary:

Mr.Orwell guessed at the time that the language would become more widespread by about year 1984. He missed by about two decades, but the time has finally come for the new updated edition. A number of new words and phrases have entered our language that just cannot be ignored any more by the Dictionary editors. Most of the new entries are the brainchildren of one Karl Rove, popularized by a certain Mr.Bush in his speeches. Subscribe now! Just to whet your appetite, here are a few examples of the new entries found in the Second Edition:
COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVISM = financial transfer from the poor to the rich with a smile
TAX CUTS = service cuts, also: feeding the campaign donors
CLEAR SKIES INITIATIVE = unfettered polluting
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND = taking the funding away from schools
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM = attack on and subsequent occupation of a faraway country
PATRIOT ACT = reduction of civil liberties
PATRIOT = one who unquestioningly believes every word the Great Leader says
UN-PATRIOTIC = questioning the Great Leader And many, many more….
Subscribe now, while supplies last.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:59 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Belief in Bush

A post on the JRE blog on October 25, 2003:

Letter to the editor of Raleigh News&Observer on Friday:
"I sure wish people would stop criticizing our president. He is my president, but he is your president, too. The "Good Book" says 'we are to pray for those in authority over us'. I wonder what a difference it would make if we all prayed as much as we criticize."

So much said in so few words! We have a president who is not ashamed to admit he does not read, not even newspapers. No curiosity whatsoever. I guess he thinks he knows everything already. And he has constituency who seems to believe that he knows everything and trusts him blindly to do the best. They are too afraid to think for themselves, seek and evaluate information, and admit that he's ruined everything he touched. Where does this close-mindedness and fear of truth come from? Is it instilled from very young age by parents, neighbors, teachers, preachers, media? Is dogmatic acceptance of authority reinforced by many factors in our society? Was there ever a Q&A session after the Sunday sermon? Isn't school, particularly college, the place where critical thinking is taught, along with healthy scepticism and questioning one's deepest convictions? If so, we need to do something about schools, don't we? Otherwise, we'll be a nation of sheep, like the writer of the above letter, letting power-hungry and greedy dictators rule over us while we pray

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:34 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Leaders and Followers

I wrote this on the Edwards campaign blog on October 28 2003:

A few weeks back, when asked about Arnold's chances in the CA recall, Bush said "I am a follower of politics".... FOLLOWER!!!!!! If he's a follower, who's the leader? I thought that was President's job description! But, the worse thing is that he's better in this respect than most citizens. A huge percentage of voters cannot name a single candidate yet. They are not even followers. All the debates to date had by far the worst ratings for the timeslot. Activity on blogs is very high and often heated, we watch everything we can find about the campaigns, read print and online articles, listen to NPR, so we have an illusion that there is a lot of passion going around. But we are such a puny minority. Most people don't give a damn. Trying to talk to people is so painful, and such an uphill battle. Last night: "Are you following the presidential campigns this year?" "No" "Why not?" "Well, I don't know anything about it" "Why don't you get informed? It is important for your future." "Well, I don't really have time for it", said she and went to order the 7th beer at the bar.... Another one (happenned today, transcribed to the best of my memory): "Are you following the campaigns?" "No, I do not care for politics" "Why not" "They are all the same. The top 1% have all the money" "Well, the guy in the White House right now is making it so. Don't you think he needs to be replaced?" "By whom? Our sleazeball Edwards? Come on..." Grrrrowwwllllll! In the end we agreed to disagree....

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:31 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Free Market?

This was a response to a GOP troll on JRE blog on October 29, 2003:

First, let me state for the record that I grew up in a socialist country and know first-hand what it really means. My father forfeited his career so he could be openly anti-Tito. I went to anti-Milosevic demonstrations and voted for the democratic opposition. You cannot touch my credentials on understanding socialism. And yes, I spent some time in Sweden, too. And yes, I decided to come here and become a US citizen and am as patriotic as anyone. I really like it here. This is the best place to be. That out of the way, let me tell you something about free market. Who came up with the idea first? Adam Smith in "Wealth of the Nations". Go to a bookstore and pick up a copy. You will notice that it is 'abridged'. So, go to a library and if you are lucky you will find a complete edition. Compare the two. What was omitted from the 'abridged' version? Yes, the chapters in which Smith argues that, although sweet in theory, free market is impossible in practice. Why? Because human beings do not usually act as rational economic beings, because there is great individual variation in selfishness and altruism and, most importantly, because due to inheritance not everyone starts the game from the same starting point. Mathematical economic models mostly ignore these factors and that is why they do not work. If you run them for more than a couple of generations (on the computer) they run out because all the goods and money end up in the hands of the few and the rest die of hunger. So the economy stops, and even the rich die of hunger. In real life, before hunger comes in, you can expect revolt. When East European and ex-Soviet countries revolted against the neo-Stalinist system, they tried, advised by academic economists from Chicago, Harvard etc., to implement the pure free market system. Result? Chaos, money-grabbing by the most unscrupulous, and soon, voting the commies back into power. There was never ever free market operating anywhere on this planet at any time in history. Market has to be checked. All politics is about is the types and levels of control of the market. It is a smooth continuum, from a wildly unregulated economy like ours is getting to be these days (on one end) to the Soviet-style central control (on the other end). Point number two: remember the title? Wealth of NATIONS! Not 'wealth of individuals'. Smith argued that some level of free market can make one country beat another country in the economic race. The price for such a victory is vast inequality of wealth WITHIN each nation. That was in the19th century. Today, even that inter-nation competition cannot work, because national markets are not closed systems, but deeply embedded in the global economy. Go figure. Those who tout free market never read Smith. Those who use "Marxist" as an insult have never read Marx. Old Karl is rolling in his grave because of what his name has been attached to - dictatorships of the likes of Stalin, Mao and Causesku used his name to describe something horroendous that he would have never approved of. Those who use 'liberal' as an insult are scary - libero means freedom - if they really mean that lovers of freedom can be wrong. World is much more complicated than the black/white dichotomy you see. How can you characterize me according to what I just wrote? Anti-communist, so I must be right-wing. But also anti-free-market, so I must be a commie. So, which is it? Isn't it possible that neither extreme is viable and that one needs to study the problems for a while before adopting a view that is somewhere in the middle. Hmmm, 'middle' implies a point on a line. But this is not a line, or a plane, or a sphere, it is a multi-dimensional space. Takes some sophistication to get oriented there. You need to do a lot more studying before you can state your views so confidently as you just did.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:29 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Bush is Milosevic

A couple of posts from the Edwards blog I wrote on November 05, 2003 in response to someone else's post during a discussion about the Confederate flag (the Dean vs. Edwards skirmish in the primaries). - Re:History Repeats Itself

Hmmmm, I do not pretend to be that wise, but about a dozen years ago I faught against Slobodan Milosevic and voted for a young handsome professor of philosophy named Zoran Djindjic. SM is now in the Hague, and he is there because the new prime minister ZD sent him there. Now, I am fighting to oust GWB (at least I do not have to go to demonstrations like I did before) and picked JRE as my candidate. I see a parallel here myself. SM and GWB ruined their country's economies, ruled through their cronies, pitted subgroups of their people against each other, started and lost a couple of wars each, turned the international community against their countries, and will go down in history as guys who were ousted by charismatic 50-year-olds who made their countries proud again. The only difference I want to see - I do not want the repeat of the assasination of ZD, but this is a different country.... On another parallel: I have spent last 12 years here in the South but, not being from here, I have no expertise to say much about the whole flag issue, but it reminds me of another event in the Balkans. When Croatia became independent in 1991., they searched the past to find a time in history when Croatia was independent before in order to re-introduce the old flag, coat-of-arms, currency and anthem. Well, the only time in the past when Croatia was independent was in early 1940s, as a Nazi puppet regime. Millions of Jews, Serbs, Gypsies etc., were slaughtered under those state symbols. So, of course, when these symbols were resurrected, the Serbian minority in Croatia was appalled and many left the country. The Croats did not 'get it', hey it is just statehood history, not nazism...yeah, right. Is this similar to the confederate flag issue?


Hmmmmm, way cooler? I guess in a sense of being present when the history is made. It was not fun, though, counting 40 tanks as they sped into Belgrade to squelch the demonstrations... We were taking turns over several days, making sure that there are thousands in the streets at every time of day and night. I happenned to be at home when I heard an ominous rumble. My house being on the side of town where all the military barracks are concentrated, I immediatelly knew what the sound meant. I got on the phone and called my friend in the city center to warn them, then counted 40 as they passed by my window. Fortunately, students grabbed some fire-trucks and placed them as barriers on narrow sity streets, and in the end, the soldiers refused to fire at their own people. The police was also reluctant. They were taken off the horses and beaten, and even the horses got beaten. Their veterinarian, a good friend of mine, told me the next day how badly beaten the horses were. A number of those cops I knew very well. Within days most of them resigned from the force and some left the country. That is why Milosevic had to 'breed' his own police and arm them as if they were an army (submarines and fighter jets!) just like Napoleon did with Dobermann puppies in "The Animal Farm". There are other parallels, though, between SM and GWB. Both mismanaged money before getting elected. Both got in power through 'managed' elections. SM remained in power through several cycles of fraudulent elections. He also did not follow the media, but got his news from a small circle of 'yes-men' around him. He had control of the media. Another parallel - I voted for Zoran Djindjic for Parliament just like I voted for Edwards for Senate. And both were immediate shining stars on the debating floor. And the Parliament was quite an interesting place: about half were Socialists (renamed communists) and about a half were from various opposition parties. The first half were apparatchicks, the other half were University professors, philosophers, economists, lawyers, physicians, journalists. The debate seemed as if there were 50 copies of Trent Lott and 50 copies of Patrick Moynihan debating (for a US simile). It took a long time to get the guy out of power there, but it was the people, led by guys like Djindjic, who, in the end, prevailed. I feel like it is a very similar fight we are having here in this country right now. That is why I sense that a guy like Edwards can get us where we want to be in the end. Perhaps it is personal folly, maybe fifth sense, and maybe the parallel is not as clear as I think it is, but this is how I feel and I'll follow my feelings in this to the end. As for the 'flag issue', thank you for your explanation. You are right. These symbols were resurrected by a minority in power, and most of the Croats, although happy about independence and statehood, did not like the neo-fascist symbols nor rhetoric of the new government (That party is out of power now). I can go on and on about Balkans (and I would love to know JRE's stand on it), but this is a JRE blog, so let's get back to the here and now.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:23 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink