29 September 2010

True American values

"American parents, for example, were the only ones in a survey of 100 societies who created a separate room for their baby to sleep"

"....only Americans preferred a choice from 50 different ice cream flavors compared with 10 flavors."

"American society is also anomalous, even relative to other Western societies, in its low relational focus in work settings, which is reflected in practices such as the encouragement of an impersonal work style, direct (rather than indirect) communication, the clear separation of the work domain from the non-work, and discouragement of friendships at work."

I can see two values from that:
1) Americans do not like other people in their business. Including their infants. Everything is individual centered. Me, me, me. Me too. And so on.

2) We like ice cream, and more is always better for us.

I can also extrapolate one other thing: I'd rather have just 10 ice cream flavors than 50.

This was also interesting:

"Perhaps it is this extreme tendency for Americans to punish free-riders, while not punishing cooperators"... I'm not sure that we don't punish cooperators, but we certainly go overboard sometimes in our thinking of what constitutes "free-riders" and in some cases, not enough. Vaccines, not enough I think. That's a clear free-rider problem. Same with taxation supported education (but not publicly run as we have). Drug testing welfare recipients, yes, that's gone too far. Accusing people of something without probable cause with no demonstrated harm to themselves or no "free-rider" problem to begin with that isn't already caused by having a welfare state in the first place.

And so was this. Happiness comes in many guises. It's best not to knock it when other people seem to be experiencing it, and how they're experiencing it. People derive pleasures from many things. Your method is not intrinsically superior, it just works for you. You may share it with others, or wish to, and that's fine. But what business is it of yours to assess another's hedonic benefits from activities as lesser simply because it's not what you would have done. If they would in fact share some degree of greater joy by doing something you have done or would do, demonstrate it, prove it. Don't whine about it.

It's also not surprising that drugs and mysticism/religion are lumped together here as extreme versions of joyful responses, though my understanding is that religion is closer to orgasmic sexual responses in the brain chemistry than to drugs, it's also commonly believed that many mystical experiences like the Oracle at Delphi were brought on by chemical responses to substance use. And it's not hard to find people who've tripped on acid or been high and seem to think they've had strong religious experiences or depth and clarity of thought that often mirrors what strongly religious people claim to have. I'm guessing the religious simply don't like feeling like they have competition. (and this would also help explain my general indifference to both path sets of experiences).

28 September 2010

More news from the unsurprising discoveries of the week pile

Atheists actually know quite a bit about religion.

We just don't like most of what you have to say about it.

Left unaddressed is the correlation between atheism and college graduation rates relative to the mainstream population. Meaning that this polling data doesn't make clear whether it is being surrounded by a pervasive cultural attitude that one should know Jesus, and by extension must engage in mortal intellectual combat with those who do (this is in the bylaws of atheistic citizenship apparently) or simply that atheists are more likely to have gone to college and actually studied a bit of theology and religion through any of the broad cross section of places where it intersects society and can be studied (political science, anthropology, sociology, economics, international relations, ethics, and so on). So it's unclear to me whether it's that atheists tend to be better educated and relatively smarter or at least better informed or that there's a body electorate of people who maybe finished high school answering authoritative basic knowledge questions ignorantly and drawing largely from the various Christian sects that overwhelmingly populate the American landscape. It seems like its a combination of both, since there is a hint that atheists and Mormons and Jews routinely scored better in any demographic sector adjusted for educational levels (and did way better on the general knowledge control test). So maybe we're just unusually well informed.

Somewhat amusing is that people still miss about a little over a third of the questions despite being supposedly diligent religious folk. Something tells me that way too many people are doing selective reading, if any at all. Pretty sure they could also just edit out a few books here and there for common, none scholarly consumption and nobody would lose anything from a moral/historical perspective. They already did that a few hundred years ago as it is and people are constantly re-writing the thing to conform to their pre-conceived notions in the modern environment. May as well do something productive and toss out Leviticus for example. Do us a favor and not make it so easy to pick on you.

Digression of story time:
I've been playing basketball amongst a church group lately (it's free exercise, why pay for a gym, though... given this story, I'm considering shelling out some money or finding other sources of free basketball). Something that came up was the supposed vilified attitude of society toward Christians. To which my inner monologue said, uh, what the fuck is he talking about? Christians are being assailed and persecuted? By whom? I must have missed the lion pits and gladiator arenas that the secret cabal of atheists that I belong to who supposedly control American society had installed for their amusement, but I digress. Seriously, you've had it rough historically, so having your ideas and ideals challenged and pushed back against is not you being thrown to the lions, get a grip. We've been burned as heretics by you long enough to earn some street cred on the persecution angles I should think anyway.

But what was really rich was the supposed explanation was not: people who read scriptures and have no contextual understanding of the text and spout it off as though it proves some point but rather that Christians did not do this enough, instead forming and expressing their own opinions and that this was why (implied many) people did not like Christians.

Uhm. No. That's actually precisely why I don't get along with you, that you think the lifestyles of ancient peoples are somehow appropriate to modern life and don't bother to form and express your own opinions by even attempting to contextualize the works into your own life and surroundings. It was even amusing how this was phrased as taking the Bible turning it around and asking someone else "what does this mean to you"... hmm. Curious. What does it mean to you? Isn't that kind of like forming and expressing an opinion?

Sometimes I just have to shake my head. Their assumption seems to be that "people can't argue with scripture". Even though that was done rather decisively by Thomas Paine (in the Age of Reason) and others since certainly and has been going on even within Christian theologians for hundreds of years, if not since the dawn of Christianity. Disturbing lack of self-awareness to be feeling persecuted like this, with this supposed war on Christianity, but then not seek out the people and their arguments who are actually doing the "persecuting".

Anyway. Some other interesting tidbits that I keep running into in various forums of life dealing with religious and philosophical issues.

1) Nobody seems to know that Indonesia is populated by Muslims (in fact the most populated Muslim country in the world), most of which are quite secular or still keep some pre-Islamic traditions mixed into the practice of their religion (and don't, for the most part, adopt the herdsmen and nomadic practices of Bedouin and Arabian tribesmen from the 7th century). This comes up constantly when people start spouting off about how all Muslims are evil and then I toss Indonesia and Turkey and Bosnia at them. It's damned inconvenient to possess facts which are inconsistent with the preconceived worldview of others. Also embarrassing was the bare majority that knows what the Koran is. I'd hasten to add this doesn't bode well for the percentage of people who have read much of it themselves or studied it and its associated commentaries before appearing before a national audience to state its supposed heinous nature. I at least tried to read your book before I started calling Christians silly for doing things like not paying attention to their own teachings and selectively ignoring very similar and inconvenient portions of their own texts that pose problems relating to (commanding) violence and warfare against others. Ie, you don't have much to talk about vis a vis Islam here as though you're holier than thou, it's just you being on a different team and not liking those people over there. Grow up and focus on team building exercises instead of character assassinations.

2) Few people know or acknowledged that you can read the Bible in public schools. It's commonly studied in literature or English classes. Actually where I first encountered it (to read it anyway). I'd assume people could study portions of it in history as well, if we still studied history. Not surprisingly, we noticed this far out of proportions to the rest of the population. More comparative theology/mythology or philosophy courses made available at lower levels of education would be nice too. Why people don't think we can do this is unclear. Maybe they get crossed up with the prayer in school business and assumed the building caves in when there's any religion at all in it.

3) A significant minority did not know the "Golden Rule" wasn't one of the 10 commandments. If it was, I could start suggesting about 7 or 8 that could go forthwith to be replaced by it and I'd be happy to hang it on a courtroom wall or in a classroom. There's still a loophole in the thing that you have to fix with some universality logic to get to the Kantian categorical imperative instead as a morally superior system built along the same reasoning. But for most of us, trying really hard to be decent to one another is already really hard it seems and this seems pretty close to how to do that, if not the best way.

4) Book of Job is identified by Thomas Paine as one of the odder inclusions to the Old Testament over two hundred years ago. It's by far one of the most perplexing for people. So it's not surprising that people don't seem to know who Job was.

5) Americans really don't know much about Buddhism.

6) Even if you didn't know who Maimonides was, they didn't ask if he was Muslim as one of the choices in a multiple choice test. That'd be the only other major faith I'd think people would cross that kind of name up with. I suppose most people don't know much about Middle Eastern looking names. Or the regional homelands and credible names from these various faiths.

Also: They threw a Zeus question in there. Awesome. When Thor gets some cred as well, I'll be happy.

27 September 2010

Blame... Sweden!

And other things of note lately.

Cyberwarfare is our province.. but if we could make it look like it was Sweden's fault, that'd be funny I suppose. I'm a little confused from the sound of it how a nuclear facility in Iran doesn't have its own hardwired internet or its own security structures such that it wouldn't be so easy to drop a worm on them to visit and foul up the works a little. But to some extent, despite the obvious industrial sabotage angles, I'm kind of impressed with this solution to the realism problem of what to do about Iran and any nuclear ambitions. I'd wish we were a little more trusting of international atomic energy structures that we set up in the first place instead, but I'm also pretty sure nobody really wants Iran to become a nuclear power either. And this was far short of sending bombers over to start blowing things up and risking another pointless, not to mention expensive, war that isn't over any national imperatives and would alienate millions of people who demonstrated at least a modicum of human interest and decency, and even received some of this from Americans, last year during Iran's season of protests, so there's that at least.

Far more interesting was this part of the debate:

College education seems to be largely about signaling at this point, signaling things like diligence and self-starting/self-motivated students rather than the provision and challenge of actually providing someone else an education. This problem of what that means, how to evaluate it, permeates the educational reform debate already at the lower level of primary schools and high school. It hasn't quite crept up to college levels because it's still widely believed and assumed and even known that we have some of the best colleges in the world, especially for graduate school work. So nobody really sits around saying, gee, how can we get better than this because it's not something that we see as a problem. I think two of Drezner's points are interesting to consider here.

1) That the true nature of the actual higher education is coming from the interaction and competition between highly gifted college students and that students get more out of each other when a school is highly selective about who it admits so the professor is almost a backstop anyway. Though in that case, I'd almost have to wonder why they're paying for a professor and not just having each other grade and evaluate papers or something like that. This is true of many classes that the professor is a useless prop who assigns a GPA value, somewhat arbitrarily, and takes attendance or gives pop quizzes. Woo-hoo but that's kind of a waste of money for many people in "regular" colleges rather than at Williams or Penn or Harvard or Oxford.

2) That the experience of learning from some cutting edge person in the field does a little more than learning from a really good teacher. I'm pretty sure this is not true at the lower levels of education. Really good teachers are essential there and there's lots of research to support it (even if there's not a clear path to determine who they are). I'm skeptical that it matters much how knowledgeable a professor is at college as well for the same reason. If their knowledge base translates into a strong and communicable interest in the field and it gets others excited to study it, then that's good enough. If they're just knowledgeable and not actually interested in teaching or communicating a strong interest, than no. I've seen all of these types in my time being in schools at all levels.

What you really need as an autodidactic is someone who seems interested in a different topic than is your normal fields to go off on a tangent and start studying it wild eyed yourself so you can then have interesting discussions and digressions with that person on a new field. I don't get all worked up to read about evolution or evolutionary psychology (well I didn't used to) but seeing people excited to study involved technical and scientific fields made me more interested in a less abstract set of theories than those of international relations or global trade patterns or the history of human conflict resolutions (war and peace). So I studied them myself. I could even say much of my curiosity regarding theology and religion comes from the obvious dedication some people have to it, because it's pretty clear I care not at all about metaphysics and mythology (and don't get nearly as excited about anthropomorphic thinking as most people do when it rains or someone dies. Or someone sneezes for that matter).

So for my money, at the college level a professor needs an enthusiasm for their work really and that's it. If people taking a class are not autodidacts who delve naturally into a subject and absorb it as best they can, then at least they've got someone who likes talking about the subject matter on hand to ask questions of. I don't think that's the most pressing issue relating to college education. The major problem isn't teachers, it's that most people entering college are woefully underprepared to take college courses to begin with, lacking basic knowledge bases and skills that would ordinarily be acquired from a generally better public education system for K-12 students. I could care less about the college education inflation problem by contrast to this. In fact, I think part of the inflation problem is that there are too many people going, there's too much of a demand for college educations relative to a quality supply. Drezner made a related point with kids who need some sort of socializing or psychological assistance, but by and large the problem isn't autistic kids and Aspies who can be made productive in a learning environment. It's the kids who didn't learn how to assemble an essay or solve different types of equations and then got it in their heads that they had to go to college to get a good job.

As with the signaling effect, what this means here is that they're probably not going to benefit from the sorts of things that most college does now, educationally speaking. So we need to come up with something else for them to do, and fix the problem of supplying colleges with more ready made students from primary schools. That's the leak in the dike. We can fix the inflating cost in lots of other ways (fewer subsidies, more emphasis on saving/paying for college than loans or alternative methods of payment like percentages of taxable income rather than fixed payments), and in my opinion, this problem wouldn't exist if there wasn't a huge economic payoff (or perceived signaling payoff) for finishing a college degree anyway. The reason there is such a giant gap is that the high school degree is now considered meaningless. But it doesn't have to be would be my point.

25 September 2010

and old thread continues.

I'd have to say that tolerating the lifestyles of people who can do things like that, who enjoy sexual contact without associating it with romantic entanglements but still have fulfilling relationships in spite of this supposed moral character flaw is kind of something society has little business in worrying about (provided they can do so "responsibly").

That it doesn't seem like it's something that will be promoted because it's (certainly) not a majority of the population is entirely different from whether or not
a) it happens
b) people enjoy permissible extramarital/extra-relational sexual contact perfectly fine with or without our moral approval of it.

Where I have a problem is still the hypocrisy of people who denigrate people who do live like this and then who go out and have secret (ie, non-permissible) affairs, presumably because such affairs would not be approved of if they were sought after or more importantly they would not be approved of because they would be seen as harmful and hurtful actions whether they were permitted or not or known about or not. That to me seems far more fucked up than actively coordinating a more complicated and active sexual lifestyle within the context of a couple. And yet it's a lot more common for people to cheat than the number people who can do so freely and permissibly in open relationships.

This is one of these very strange moral problems where I see no problem but a vast majority of the general public seems to think this is a big deal and almost an absolute moral no-no. If the people involved do not see a problem and do not have a problem with their partner's behavior and can still lead happy or productive lives, I'm hard pressed to see what business we have telling them that they should do things "our way".

People are right to see the homosexuality morality debate as related to one on polyamory to the extent that both are actually about what consenting adults do with one another and our misbegotten legal "abilities" to punish consensual actions. I do think that contractual arrangements for a polyamorous relationship would be more complicated to enforce or implement, but then I think normal marriage contracts should be generally more complicated too than they are (that they should admit of the possibility of failure for example in the same way that people should carry out living will consultations for medical conditions). I don't think it should be that hard for us to admit however that there are some people who can form strong intimate bonds with someone for relationship purposes and not associate their sex life with that bond, such that they can then go have other sexual relations. Presumably the problem with it is that this is something like
a) It's not typically a "both" scenario. One person doesn't go have "free love" but rather wants the other more.
b) Other people would worry that one or the other person might become more attached to some other person by having sex with them, or having sex with some other person more exclusively than with their spouse/significant other. That indeed is an interesting problem. But it's more "our" problem reflected into the scenario (we would not like this arrangement very much of a spouse having extra sexual attentions) than it is necessarily "their" problem.

Additionally, I don't see how this relates to the problem of marriage rights being tied (ridiculously) to child-bearing/child-rearing. For one thing, it would be enough under that logic for any two people to be "married" even if they are straight but do not have sex with each other, or if they are both of the same sex but not romantically or sexually involved at all (ie, not homosexual), and who adopt a child or have a child from some other arrangement. We don't have very firm legal standing for this as an arrangement for adoption, but we also don't have a very firm legal (much less moral) standing that people who have children must be married, or that people who get married must announce an intention or demonstrate an ability to procreate. None of these things directly associates with sexual infidelity.

We do have marriages and relationships that fall apart from infidelity, and some of them produced children and this is indeed a big problem. But to me these are two separate issues. One is parental rights and the promotion of an "ideal" family environment for children to be raised in. And the other is the sexual health of our intimate relationships. The first can be addressed much more forcefully by removing our fixation on infidelity and homosexuals or a fixation that the two people who have and produce a child should be the ones who raise it and simply focusing on the needs that children have to produce good outcomes for them (this also raises questions about things like surrogacy, adoption, or even the methods by which people might be considered good foster care). And the second should be addressed by encouraging a more active sexual correspondence within a couple. Couples should be aware that their partner may have strong extramarital/extra-relational sexual wants and needs and if this is unacceptable or uncomfortable, they can end the relationship. Or they can be aware of it and tolerate or even participate and promote such things. This should be up to the couple itself to design and to determine their reactions and feelings and any ground rules involved. But it would be far healthier if our society did not encourage a hypocrisy by socially and culturally commanding that people who have these sexual wants and needs must live in secret with them from their intimate partners (and thus potentially risk harm to those same partners).

Certainly I think it wise that most of us consider the wants and needs of our partners, and I think if there is an open dialogue most of us may express a desire, but not ultimately act upon that desire. After all it is easy enough to find many people attractive. It is less easy to engage many people in sexual relationships for the hurt that it may cause when we might do so. But we cannot even acknowledge this potential for a hurt to exist unless we consider having the debate with each other and being expressive of it rather than hiding it away.

24 September 2010

England prevails!

Errr, wait that's the wrong line

But it's still looking better and better. Should probably telling us every day that going through and actually removing hundreds, if not thousands, of useless government funded projects and programmes and agencies would save quite a bit of money. Even if the idea is to expend money for "stimulus", then it's still better to spend it on something productive, like a bridge or a road or a teacher (in theory) than wasteful or duplicated spending somewhere else.

And the Brits even have a better way to title such a line-by-line assault on government waste. "Bonfire of the Quangos!". Sounds ominous.

20 September 2010


One of the more noticeable insights that occurs to people who follow politics, particularly the more cynical observers, is that things change anyway, so why bother.

To an extent I'd agree here. It is actually entirely rational for individuals not to care about the overall trends of political behavior in a democratic society, and to just go about their daily lives as peaceably as they may. Most political activity is in fact pointless. I'm having a hard time caring that much about this crazy lady who won the GOP primary in Delaware even though everyone in DC and NY seems to think its a sign of the apocalypse if some impending "miracle" would occur and she'd win the actual seat. Rand Paul potentially winning is a little more interesting, so would be Harry Reid losing in Nevada (to an equally crazy person), but this was kind of a non-story to me.

Still I do find a few reasons to care anyway about politics more generally
1) The political zeitgeist shifts can be sometimes directed into a single or narrower set of causes. This is a lot easier to do if there are people out there getting people worked up to perhaps change some stodgy policy (such as on gay rights or the drug war or previously on civil rights).
2) Most people are woefully uninformed about the varieties of ways that governments can already intrude on their daily lives or those of their neighbours or co-workers (among many, many other things political and economic). Giving them something they can see just how ridiculous it is may not change the underlying policy, but it might give people more cause to be aware of the pervasiveness of government policies and pay more attention, if not generally, at least to things they care about (schools, crime, taxes, etc).
3) Things change. But if you were part of the "team" pushing for it to change, you can feel like you helped accomplish something. If it's a change you'd want to see or you feel society would benefit from, that seems like a good thing. Even though things change, sometimes those changes seem momentous looking back and sometimes people look back and wonder what the big deal was. Either way, you'll probably be called upon to tell a story about it.
4) You will get more of the jokes on Stewart and Colbert if you've been paying even a modicum of attention. Also, more politicians and political figures will seem like idiots not worth your time and attention that way. In other words, paying attention to politics will make you just cynical enough to justify not paying attention to politics.

16 September 2010

Wait, we do what again here?

We regulate sandwiches, but those fellows over there regulate the meat.

This is absurd. It's yet another reason to just do away with the USDA as far as I'm concerned. One set of rules and one set of regulators to enforce them for the same product (or scope of products as with pizza or broth or even water) is fine. Having two agencies overlooking the same product at different points in its development to point of sale is not a system designed to catch mistakes or to operate with any redundancy.

It's just a waste of time and a pointless drag on the market transfer of goods between producers and consumers.

15 September 2010

old words continues

"The true cause of his drawing so shocking a picture is no more than this; and it ought rather to claim our pity than excite our indignation; he finds himself out of power; and this condition is intolerable to him. The same sun which gilds all nature, and exhilarates the whole creation, does not shine upon disappointed ambition. It is something that rays out of darkness, and inspires nothing but gloom and melancholy. Men in this deplorable state of mind find a comfort in spreading the contagion of their spleen. They find an advantage too; for it is a general, popular error, to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare. If such persons can answer the ends of relief and profit to themselves, they are apt to be careless enough about either the means or the consequences." - Edmund Burke.

I wonder who the loudest complainers for the public have been? Naturally we may imagine it to shift with the tides of the political wind and so those who complain loudly now were silenced before where they held powers that should have been considered heretofore unimaginable (that is: powers that would or at least could be transferred to their political adversaries). Where I see a body politic complaining ultimately only that they are deprived of power, I am somewhat more at odds with their agenda than if that same body were to complain actively and vigorously to deprive itself of powers were it to be entrusted with the charge of exercising levers of power and good governance. I am therefore greatly troubled that the large portion of voices in this chorus, or cacophony more like, is unspecific on the charges that it would reduce and restore for control and supposed sanities of the offices that they would assume and that where they are specific, you get rantings like this instead of actual ideas.

Fortunately, she's about a 0% chance to win the actual seat. But that's pretty much what you get out of loud complaints: no chances to actually accomplish real things.

14 September 2010

Musical ignorance is bliss

Okay, what the ...?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

So now these are "veiled threats".... when explaining that being idiotic and bigoted makes the people being bigoted against possibly angry, or perhaps feeds a narrative told by their own bigots and idiots? Fuck this. No one can win a debate with people who have the attention span of "reality is not confirming our pre-existing beliefs, so we will ignore it and try to make you pay attention to our fantasy land instead". Where we are besieged and assailed by various nebulous threats that somehow will never materialize in reality. We do not have millions of potential terrorists hiding among us, just as we do not have millions of anchor babies and welfare teat sucking immigrants roving around lobbing off rancher's heads and selling drugs to our toddlers.

Get a grip and get off your couch. Go walk around to clear your head and stop being angry and afraid about everything so much so that if someone else isn't angry and afraid too at (instead of with) your supposedly reasonable fears you feel as though the world is about to end, the sky will fall and seas will boil over (well maybe not that last part since you don't believe in global warming either, not every unreasonable fear you share in I guess).

13 September 2010


when I say jump

A couple tidbits jump right out of that.

1) Look at the split between high school graduates (or less) and college graduates for news consumption online. And again with the elderly/retirees. My experience has been that these groups of the population are the most likely to be engaged in ideologically silliness, sorting themselves off into camps and ignoring or disparaging what is said on the opposite side. In effect it is the types of people who don't consume online news sources who are likely responsible for a large portion of the polarized political world. I suppose it is possible that college graduates have sorted themselves online into reading only WND or FireDogLake, but here again, the sorts of graduates who would do so are already going to do so regardless of the internet's supposed fractured and broken data cloud sourcing of information. I look at that poll split and see evidence that the problem is people and always has been, regardless of the methods of media or press. When you probe further, again, the elderly camp is looking at largely polarized internet sources as it is (in fact, one assumes based on that study that may be about all the elderly are doing online other than emailing photos of grandchildren to each other), but even still, the percentage of actual people engaged in such activities is startlingly low (under 15%, and roughly a quarter of all internet users). Again, when you look at college graduates, they are likely to encounter news online, suggesting that they're consuming information related to politics at least. The one interesting twist on this theory was that it was the high school or less people who declared the highest skepticism of news sources generally. I'm not sure what the explanation for that might be other than a perception that news in general is worthless (ie, a rational justification that if I don't pay attention to it, it must not be important in the first place), and this division falls away when you see that the same cohort prefers "non-biased" coverage much less than others. (Also not surprising, conservative Republicans most wanted coverage which conformed to their views more than any other group, by a landslide, which is then confirmed by the landslide of "conservatives" consuming Faux News and Rush Limbaugh).

2) I like how low Drudge and HuffPo are on the list of "news" (both are useless in my opinion). But I'm not sure that many people perceive them as "news" as much of their content is typical tabloid quality fare or editorials. I'm not quite sure why RSS feeds are so low on the list. Putting 30-40 of those with a handful of actual press organs (BBC for example, I feel it almost necessary to use the British media to follow the events going on in America anymore) should be plenty good enough to follow events without needing to look for a news site proper. Whatever the buzz is is probably news and it will likely link back to some popular column or story from the NYT or Economist and so on.

3) University of Google attendees are still likely actual university attendees. To be sure, I've encountered plenty of morons who managed to make it onto a college campus in my day. But it's pretty unlikely that we're getting home researchers piecing together these conspiracies like birtherism and the various Islamic "cult" beliefs and distributing them mostly through this mechanism. The point here being that I'm not sure that most of the people who lack a basic exposure to having to write a college research essay are likely to have much skill putting together google based research either.

4) I'm not surprised Facebook and Twitter are not generally used as media outlets for actual media/press/events. They are personal broadcast websites and few people wish to broadcast to others their political affiliations or beliefs as opposed to their ability to entertain and amuse.

5) Not surprised there's an enthusiasm gap for younger people and (progressive) Democrats for consuming news.

6) As with the debate I had with others over free speech recently, there are not many conservatives watching Jon Stewart or Colbert, etc. Which means that these are not views which are being engaged against others but instead are idiot boxes shouting into the already willing mob (albeit, very funny idiots). Somewhat disturbing is the NYT split vs the WSJ split. This results in a not very surprising split over job approval as people sort themselves into teams. I'm somewhat alarmed not so much at the 11% of Beck viewers but the 80% of Maddow viewers actually. I think both numbers should be closer to the center to indicate less bias. The most clearly biased sources (opinion "journalism") end up as the sources only trusted by people who want bias (but will ignore it from their side). Somewhat amusing: The people perceived as some of the least biased were evening network news (and morning shows). Which have the advantage of being the least informative sources of news apparently.

7) Tea Party is NOT libertarian. Thanks for playing but when Rush and Hannity are among your top players, you're not part of the team. You're part of the next team listed on there (Christian Conservatives). I'm kind of surprised that "Progressive" is the top consumer for Colbert. I'd also like to know what the definition of "environmentalist" was. "Libertarian" itself, based on the litany of woe listed, with no dominating view at the top, is pretty graphically split into camps of some sort, with apparently a Beckian version and a Colbert? version (hard to say that Colbert has espoused many libertarian views either with sympathy and accuracy, "pro-business" is more roundly mocked than free markets for example).

12 September 2010

Don't even need to comment

Long since gotten tired of arguing with people who have no idea what is actually in the Qur'an, never read it, don't care to but who don't approach it from a theological "everything I need to know is in the Bible" level of ignorance. Rather these are the WND types who think they know everything because they read a book written by someone who has apparently never met a Muslim.

So instead of arguing, I'd rather just show them this. Much as I'd throw fossils at a creationist.

And yes, we could use a Muslim Jerry Seinfeld. Thanks. Yes please.

11 September 2010

right so there's that

and now this?

So in the past couple months it has become "clear" that I should take up some alcohol to be healthier and smarter

...and now apparently dancing means I'm healthier too.

As long as it's not like this:

More Questions I'd have

For tea partiers

1) When did TARP pass?
2) Who passed it?
3) When did immigration become an issue for you?
4) How is it suddenly "not being enforced" now under Obama when deportations are UP?
5) If you're so concerned about deficits, why defend medicare and social security benefits and frivolous military engagements or national security state spending?
6) Who, in this line of questioning, is likely to engage in serious cuts to federal programs?
7) Who has a demonstrated history of doing so? And who does not?

Musical days

Things of wonder

1) How did burning a book become morally equivalent to building a religious center?

Break that down: One is an action of destruction and the other an action of construction? Taking offence to and protesting either action is legally protected. But I don't see how they are both morally sensible (even if they may be morally protected acts of free expression/speech/religion). One is clearly dumb and offensive. The other is clearly not, and is only so if people are largely dumb and offensive.

I suppose in truth burning books in a protest is only offensive if people are largely dumb and offensive as well, but this is also true of flags and some other things we are free to burn. And lots of people get upset when flags are burnt. Symbols are kind of powerful in that way. All that being said, by contrast to getting upset when people take active steps to burn a book (to destroy something) to make a point, it generally should not make us very upset when (other) people build a religious building (to create something), which generally is not done "to make a point". For whatever reason it has.

Oh right I forgot: because they are Muslim and that means they must be terrorists or at least "un-American". Or that they have some nefarious "point" being made by building. One element of free exercise of free speech is that you may then choose which exercises of that speech are morally questionable or just plain dumb. This whole mess is plain dumb. The only productive outcome is that it forces to the open the debate over things like the nature of American-ness or the openness of our society to foreign ideas and foreign peoples, such as Muslims, but going back further than that to Communists, Catholics, Asians, or, moving forward, our historically negative aspects like creationists and racists and religious intolerance.

2) How are people surprised that health care rates (and credit card interest rates for that matter) will be going up after new regulatory changes? Or that the costs will not be saved or bent moving forward by that same big bill? People believed the hype instead of the economics? Cost was always going up. The idea wasn't to lower cost, it was to cover more people. Indeed to force more people to cover themselves. Much like the carbon/gasoline tax, the POINT was that something was going to cost more. The question, at least in the case of health care if not the question of subsidies and taxation of energy, was whether that cost increase was providing some value. I would argue it does not or will not or at the best, would not in the absence of other health care market changes, some of which were done and others of which were explicitly rejected. Others appear comfortable with the moral value of feeling better that more people will have (forced) access to health insurance. Some of that may have been a net good, but the methods involved do not appear to be all that ethically pretty either, much less where they were combined with fruitless attempts to make it appear economically sound.

3) How are people STILL surprised that we doubled down in Afghanistan instead of leaving? Are they also not paying attention to the amount of power wielded by the executive, and its various agents, when it comes to "national security"? Or were they simply ignorant of the campaign issue of Iraq vs Afghanistan that Mr Obama raised at many opportunities, the Nobel speech which described a logic dictating "just wars", and so on?

09 September 2010

More unnecessary intrusions

So aside from doctor-patient privileges, personal privacy, and that ever pesky and easily ignored 4th amendment, I'm not sure what should stand in the way of establishing state databases for prescriptions...and then making them available to police or law enforcement

Here's the thing. Accidental ODs or general drug abuse is something that doctors receive training on how to deal with. I suppose it is sensible that they should receive more of it if they're not handling the prescription of pain medications responsibly or correctly.

The first major problem isn't that police could find these records useful at times during investigations, it's that they would have them available to do data mining whenever they want, which is rather more intrusive than having to go get a warrant or a subpoena to request information. Police should have to establish that they have a probable cause to get our private data, such as medical records.

The next major problem is the manner police have used such records isn't to run investigations for unscrupulous doctors or addicts. It's to legally hammer doctors who prescribe medications that they do not feel should be prescribed (opiate pain killers), or patients who are taking them. Pain management is already complicated enough without police determining how it should be done, instead of doctors.

Here's a sensible way to expand intelligence

"Our intelligence community was extremely poorly prepared before 9/11. Since then it hasn’t done a good job of hiring the kind of people who speak and understand the languages and cultures of that region. One of the heroes of my book and my film, Ali Soufan, the FBI agent who came closer than anyone at stopping 9/11, was one of eight Arabic-speaking agents at the FBI on 9/11. Now there are nine."

- Because obviously adding one more Arabic speaker makes us an impregnable fortress. Think about this. How much would it have cost to merely double the number of Arabic speakers for the FBI's counter-terrorism unit (both financially and in the damage to public liberty)? And then how much did all the other random bullshit that we've done cost.. both financially (hundreds of billions, if not trillions counting the wars) and in public liberties (which we are still tabulating).

So why don't we do it?

In a word: bigotry. "I talked to the guy who’s the head of the army translation corp, and he said that after 9/11 many Muslims and Arab-Americans came forward and offered their services to American intelligence and were spurned. The army picked up a number of them and they went to Iraq to become interpreters, which is the most dangerous imaginable assignment. He said after four years of serving their country they still can’t get a job in American intelligence because they can’t get past the security clearance. Well what other declaration of loyalty do you need to make?"

Another point...

"...is that the American Muslim community is the richest and most successful Muslim community in the world, including Saudi Arabia. By a long shot. The most educated, most professional, highest achieving group in the whole world, because they are in a country where they are allowed to be free, practice their religion and advance themselves under the rule of law. That’s the model of America that we should try to get out. That is the best thing we have to show to the Muslim world.

I think it’s also important for Americans to be more engaged. I will give credit to Americans, for instance before 9/11 there were only eight or nine students in the entire US that were majoring in Arabic language, and now it’s very common even in junior colleges across the country for Arabic to be offered. There has been movement inside the country to try to understand that region of the world. But there’s very little actual physical exchange of people. When I was working on my book I often felt like the only Westerner in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, places like that. People were either not there or in hiding. Our official diplomats were buried in these embassies around the world that look like prisons. They rarely get out into the society that they’re representing our culture to. It means we’ve kind of withdrawn and suppressed our narrative. We can’t get our story across."

This is and always has been a war over ideas. Bombs may be used (I think somewhat less than they have been), but they won't win it because bombs cannot kill an idea. Ideas are bulletproof and bombproof. The more the people of America understand this, the more we have common cause to win and fight it on the actual battlefield, just as we did during the Cold War in a plain of ideas and notions and treat them with the seriousness that they deserve, not to serve ourselves simple platitudes like "they hate our freedom" or "Islam is an evil cult", and so on.

To engage, understand, and sometimes oppose ideas is our highest duty as citizens. There should be much to admire in the history and culture of the Islamic world, both for Americans and for Muslims themselves, and there is, much like our own history, much to despise and to be accountable for preventing. We share that history as human beings and have an obligation to be honest with ourselves of its bright spots and dark with each other, and to build upon it peacefully if we may, to help one another in times of suffering (see Pakistan floods) and to arbitrate our disagreements as best we may so that we understand them first rather than seek to destroy them first. Understanding is not a justification. There is, usually, little justification for violence. Especially against innocents. And yet, without understanding that violence, we have little ability to seize upon its causes and stop it.

I would call upon people not to forget 9-11. But to neglect and shed their fear of it and of a people they do not understand but have been told about only obliquely to have a character of evil. This is, as with all wars, partly propaganda, and as with all governments, that is a necessary step to assert a need for powers (over us) that it does not actually possess nor need to in order to prosecute those wars. There may be legitimate grounds for (some of) our fears, but they need not lead us astray and into irrational panics.

If we should remember other things about that time instead, instead of the fear, we might find we would produce a stronger outcome than is provided by lashing out in anger and aggression.

08 September 2010

And people wonder

...why libertarians find government regulations so annoying.

"Let me give some context to this. If you apply for a sign that’s within our regulation, it would take somewhere between three and five days. If it’s outside the regulations, it needs to be [no bigger than] four foot by eight foot, no more than two or three colors. If you want to go 10 by 10, and put it up a little bit higher, and have 10 colors on it, you have to get approval to go outside the variance."

Immediate problems with this statement

1) It takes 3-5 days to be approved for something that's within the rules? I guess I could live with that given that corporate bureaucratic structures can be a tremendous pain in the ass too...but you could also just say "here are the rules for signs" for businesses to follow and issue appropriate fines or what not if they aren't followed.
2) As was mentioned, why does it matter how many colours there are at all? Seriously?
3) Why does it take all summer to get approval outside of a size variance?
4) Better yet, why, if the property is already zoned commercial, is there a size variance regulation to begin with?

Keep in mind these are only local zoning related regulations being tossed around...
We're not even into licensing of teachers or schools or the use of corporate tax breaks to induce businesses to relocate or the public funding of privately owned sports franchises' stadiums, and so on.

Definition of the day

Beauty: simplicity + depth of field

As an example

A starry moonlight night is generally regarded as a tranquil and beautiful object to perceive.

What makes it powerful though, beautiful, isn't the scene, which is quite simple. It's the powerful factors that had to interact to create it. The effects of light waves bounding through the atmosphere after traveling millions and billions and trillions of miles to get here. The small space that humanity, this planet, and so on must occupy in the infinite vastness of space. When you really look at it, it's a powerful, and reflective effect on the day that passed to reach that view, that night.

Most flowers have this effect also, as a smaller thing. There's the intricacies of the natural process to develop and evolve flowering plants to spread a form of life, to use pollen and seed gathering insects to spread it further, and then to be cultivated by human beings for their own unique visual purposes. And then there's the simplicity of the thing in itself, the shapes and colours as they catch our eyes and the scent as it wafts through the air. We may squabble and argue over seemingly much larger things than the "perfect beauty" (such as humans can perceive) of a night sky or a flower, but I think what we're actually arguing about is usually the same things over and over again. Beauty ultimately is a concept of elegant perfection that takes its forms throughout our society, through political philosophies and ethical systems and empirical analysis "down to" appreciation of art and music and food and sex.

It's all the same object. We just have very different eyeballs and ears and noses and minds for perceiving it and ordering it together, and ultimately, must suffer through the indignity of making use of a word to try to capture what that means to us personally and express it to another that unique perspective.

Pessimism is optimism

"Bad things happen because badness is the natural state of the world. If something good ever happens count yourself lucky and be aware that this too shall pass.

Thus, I see our proper mission as easing pain, where we can, to the extent we can, the best we can. This is best done up close and personal where you are mostly likely to quickly notice if your efforts to help are actually doing harm."

Or rather, cynicism is. A faith instead of that people are basically good but that people simply don't care, is a lot more effective in my view of sorting out what happens to us in a daily trend. Things we try don't work out, often times this is because we weren't trying in the right way, but more often it is because other factors, usually in the form of other people or silly and random streams of events, have worked against our efforts. This is not a basis by itself not to try, not to care at all. But it does offer some explanation for why most people actually do not, when it seems they think they are.

I have no good explanation for the politics of that worldview or how they sort themselves out as I happen to think it suggests less politics and more direct action by individuals. I do think there is a great deal of difference between the worldview of conservatives that seems to be best expressed as everything will be okay if "we" are left alone, except on what "we" want to meddle, and a worldview that says meddling is only okay when you're dealing face to face with small groups at best. And then only maybe because sometimes it won't work any better either than our well-intended top-down meddling attempts do. But sometimes it does.

07 September 2010

Reversing a trendline

"Non-Hispanic whites show the greatest odds of other illicit substance use, followed by Hispanics, and then by African Americans."

Wonder why something like a large share of people incarcerated in drug-related charges are black then... curious that.

Also amusing. We create a criminal justice system that makes it difficult for ex-cons to get jobs... which then creates more ex-cons who have every incentive to get back in the crack game instead of get a crack back in the real game. And then we criminalize petty and ridiculous things like buying, using, or selling narcotics to consenting adults, cycling them back into... using or selling narcotics.

06 September 2010

More common sense advice

"If one person in the team has flawed information -- or is less competent -- then the outcome can be negative and perhaps you should completely ignore them"

Not very often do you run into people who have reliable information on how competent they are, but it is very easy to assess quickly on some complex subjects. What would be surprising to me is how difficult most people find it to tell someone else that "yes, unfortunately you are an idiot sir."

I've found all sorts of ways to tell people this after years of internet combat.

I also would safely assume that a study looking for productivity or creativity gains from 2 people would have diminishing returns as more people are introduced. Groupthink is pretty powerful and could overpower reliable information when the group is confident of the wrong things (as is often the case in democratic societies). As is the free rider problem to create deadwood problems instead of efficient gains.

The crucial element of any group though would indeed be how effectively it communicates reliable signals of accurate information gathering or the selection of new information to make use of, I don't think it would matter as much how many people are in a group of people willing to discuss their disagreements and arrive at agreements based on confident reliable information.

The problem is that most people seem to possess very different information when they disagree with each other and to boot, process it differently. A group composed of widely disparate information flows will probably be wildly creative at times and mostly be rendered inert by infighting over tedious details, while a group composed of well-coordinated but incorrect or unreliable information may get a lot done, but it will be mostly a waste of time.

Generally then it is best to rely on yourself to get things done if you are known to be more competent than others, and to only rely on other people who you have (mutually) assessed as competent to do what they can do (specialisation). That's a problem among people who are incompetent and who overestimate their abilities. But then again, that's not usually my problem.

05 September 2010

Thoughts on the observation

Of a "drug" bust.

At a friends home, out in front of the location several police cruisers have gathered around an old beat up looking car (actually an old beat up looking police car that's no longer a police car). Eventually the dog arrives, sniffs around and gets excited over something. The police turn up after an exhaustive search of the vehicle... a pipe with some drug residue. The next half-hour is spent milling around talking amicably with the people who weren't getting arrested in the car for the odious and extremely hazardous charge of "drug paraphernalia possession", complaining about something on the front fender of one of the police cruisers, and generally milling about doing nothing by the police.

It was never quite clear to me what the initial pulling over of the car was justified on, other than it was "suspect" looking to begin with.

But yes. This was our hard fought victory against drugs paid for by public tax dollars.

03 September 2010

Various old words

"....and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim--but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril..... I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office."

- JFK's speech on his Catholicism during the 1960 campaign.

"Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed--and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment-- the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion." - JFK speech to the press on the value of free speech and press.

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." - JFK

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - JFK

"We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still." - JS Mill

"The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error." - On Liberty, JS Mill

02 September 2010

Something which really confuses me

People when they talk about the South and its history seem to have this conception that there were somehow no laws separating blacks and whites for decades.

Let's examine how this logic works:
1) What was Rosa Parks (and the subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott) about?
2) What were lunch counter sit ins about? (why did people doing them get arrested?)
3) Why did Martin Luther King and other civil rights demonstrators or leaders keep ending up getting arrested? (what laws were they breaking... on purpose?)
4) Where did all those "colored only/whites only" signs come from? Did people just like putting them up? What happened if someone ignored them?
5) When/where did legal bans on interracial marriage persist longer?
6) Why did federal troops have to be sent in when schools were integrated (despite a Supreme Court ruling?)
7) What was the poll tax?

I can see a couple places where people might be confused.
1) Redlining is a different process of discrimination than official state mandated housing discrimination. But the latter also existed.
2) Interracial marriage rates are still extremely low in the South relative to the rest of the country and there are other somewhat more or less ominous indications of persistent racism (Obama is a Muslim or Obama is a Kenyan both are more common beliefs among white Southerners for example).
3) Why did federal troops have to be sent in when schools were integrated (despite a Supreme Court ruling?) (this one probably cuts both ways I should think, since most people don't understand Supreme Court rulings often involve pre-existing laws being overturned). Also: current Southern schools rates of integration are usually some of the lowest in the country.
4) Selma, police brutality, and various extralegal reprisals by KKK and other terrorist organisations. It is one thing to establish laws which are unfair and uncivil and arrest people who violate them, it is quite another to enforce them with a zeal and a brutality that suggests other nefarious motivations and to use extralegal vigilante force but ignore it by official laws.

But despite that confusion, it doesn't seem to me like it would make much sense to have thousands of marches and sit ins and protests involving many thousands of people if all they were agitated and aggrieved over was other people being racist assholes. If they were racist assholes with laws written to enforce a state of segregation and mandated discrimination and specifically and intentionally written without the input of the people being discriminated against, then perhaps it would be easier to find large numbers of very annoyed people willing to march and to otherwise act in solidarity to defy immoral and uncivil laws.

01 September 2010

Other examples of ridiculous ideas

32% of Democrats would support a state's right to secession (this was more common than among conservatives/Republicans).
59% of Democrat/Obama voters did not know which party controlled Congress in the 2008 elections (though of course a similar number of Republicans think Obama was in office when TARP was passed).
32% of Democrats believe Jews caused the financial crisis (again, more common than among Republicans)

Things like this. Ridiculous beliefs, even hateful and racist beliefs, are not limited to any one political side. And they are based, I think anyway, primarily on the fact that most people don't have a clue what is going on in the first place (as with the fact that most people don't know at any given time which party controls Congress, either house). What they are doing is applying a heuristic. It is a despicable heuristic that uses shortcuts of stereotypes and discrimination or racism and hate rather than a dispassionate analysis of the situation and its implications. But you're not going to short cut that heuristic by banning speech. Instead, you have to call people out for not paying attention, not giving a damn, not thinking too much, and so on. You can ask many American voters which party is (primarily) "pro-life" and they do not know the answer. And that is a contentious and controversial issue with a somewhat clear delineation. This says nothing about things like which party is in the pocket of "Wall Street bankers" or "pharmaceutical lobbies" and so on, and how people go about determining this. If people are not informed about the most basic political facts (who is on the Supreme Court, who controls Congress, who was in office when this passed, what is a candidates views on a particular issue, etc), and in general hold ridiculous, uninformed and sometimes hostile and pernicious beliefs about complex, but massively important to our lives and well-being, political issues like economics or foreign policy, I find it hard to believe that we're going to make much headway on little things like "Obama's a Muslim don't you know!" or "he was born in Kenya!" by worrying about what idiotic things are said to that effect and preventing people from saying them.

A debate over free speech.

I had to borrow this. Because it's just too long, but a debate over free speech ensued over the trouble with the mosque and the related subsequent acts of violence reported recently against Muslims. There was more before this, but I don't think it as relevant to the actual debate. (the "opposing" remarks are italicized, though my remarks are heavily quoted in them)


I would guess this logic would lead us to conclude that they have some kind of strong anti-Muslim bias. In fact, often times they do. I don't see how this is different simply because some random white guy did it versus some random Taliban member."

Because one act is done for the purpose of intimidating and terrorizing an entire group of people, not just the individual. The individual victim is just the vehicle used to attack the group. That is why hate crime laws are important. Hate crimes have broader social implications than just the individual act - they can and have resulted in explosions of race based violence.

I don't understand the meme of 'reverse racism'. But then again most attempts to stamp out hate through regulations of speech and so forth have been met with cries of victimhood from the those who engage in hate speech. The sneering about the "PC police" has become widespread, it seems.

Hate crimes have resulted in race based violence, but explosions of this happen largely against a background of much more severe biases than are present. It's possible that a series of progressive laws restricting things like lynching and broader hate crimes penalties are partly responsible for this. Or its possible that expansive civil rights protections and the ability to aggressively protect them in the courts are as well. I'd push for much stronger civil rights equality (a reward centered approach) than a stronger penalty mandated by law, which could be exploited by prosecutorial powers.

More over, as with the example, I think it's pretty easy to make a case that there are hate crimes propagated within "groups", in order to dominate group agendas or create conformity rather than simply things motivated out of bias against that group itself.

I disagree completely with using speech codes and official regulations to tamp out of existence things that we disagree with. I prefer our social disapproval. It should offend us that we have to persist in making the argument that no, these are not sub-human animals or evil people because of superficial characteristics so much so that we argue vociferously when people poke their heads out to say something completely ridiculous, motivated largely by their prejudicial biases. That is hardly "PC" however.

"but explosions of this happen largely against a background of much more severe biases than are present."

I'm not sure what this means. Are you saying there is not sufficient anti-Muslim sentiment out there to unleash a race riot? I think there is, especially when aided by manipulators in the media who have much to gain by fanning the flames of ethnic and religious strife in the country. We've seen in just the past month or so - an attempted pipe bombing of a Mosque; this taxi attack; another incident in which a drunk went into a mosque shouting slurs and pissed on the prayer rugs, and numerous demonstrations against the building of Muslim versions of YMCAs. But even if we weren't quite "there" in terms of ethnic and cultural suspicion, I don't think we should complacently wait until we are before using the law to strike at hate crimes. It didn't take much to set off a cascade of violence in Oldham, UK, for example.

"(a reward centered approach) than a stronger penalty mandated by law, which could be exploited by prosecutorial powers."

I don't know what a rewards centered approach would involve. But communities that refuse to punish hate crimes do so at their own peril. This is how small scale ethnic cleansing occurs and becomes a fait accompli.

"I think it's pretty easy to make a case that there are hate crimes propagated within "groups""

I'm still puzzled at the idea of being biased against your own group. Still more at how an attack within a group can have the same effect as pitting one ethnic or religious group against another or making a particular group feel completely intimidated into continuing to live in the community. If you could give an example, maybe I'd have some clarity. I think it's a false equivalence.

"I disagree completely with using speech codes and official regulations to tamp out of existence things that we disagree with."

Hate is not political speech. It's not part of the 'debate'. You can disagree about the optimal tax rate, not about whether certain groups of people - because of their racial or cultural identity - are subhuman barbarians who deserve to be locked up or attacked. If allowed to persist, it will become mainstream. I don't have a lot of faith in 'social shaming' - because history has demonstrated it doesn't work.

The major, and enormous problem with this logic is that it suggests we should use legal force to compel speech and thought. I have an enormous qualm with that logic. There are several flaws I see immediately with it.
1) People who are in power can use that power however they want. Not simply for goals which we, you and I, might find politically and culturally appealing (such as minimizing hate speech). Once you apportion this power to government it is not guaranteed that it will maintain itself only on an approved plan of action.
2) I suspect it is far more likely to freeze cultural attitudes into place by burying some issues and removing discourse of a more polite but controversial nature (such as biological differences or things like educational policy, which I tend to side against biological explanations, but at least want to see if they could explain anything), and by more likely, making speech against unpopular groups entrenched through legal processes and lobbying. In a democracy, making speech up for politically determined protections would mean that you would often find unpopular statements, some of which might be true and inoffensive in time, buried behind popular control. I don't think this is what you want done.
3) Social shaming by contrast, does work. It's very possible to restrict violence and physical action against life and property right along side allowing people to use their freedom of speech to say and express offensive things. Their freedom extends until their fist hits something in other words.

I do agree there are people fanning flames against Muslims somewhat more so in the past few weeks especially. But again, it's not necessary to penalize idiotic speech by making it illegal. It should be confronted, publicly, and called out as irresponsible, reckless, or ignorant. Powerful liberal figures have largely shirked this fight and powerful conservative figures have stoked it, both for irresponsible political reasons. If they will not use minimal social coercion to accomplish this end, what makes you think they would use legal force to do so either?

It's very easy to be biased against your own group, or perhaps, more accurately, it is very easy for a perceived group from the outside to develop very strong divisions within its stratification. Islam is hardly monolithic, in the same way that Christianity or secularity are not, but in the parlance of American speech and possibly even its legal code, it is easily perceived as such.

The "reward-centered" approach was precisely what I described. Provide very strong equal rights protections and guarantee them. This is the primary thing that was missing from the Jim Crow south was the guarantee of equal property and civil rights regardless of race. Guaranteeing it took a very strong and aggressive stance, but it was done. Similar legal inequalities still persist in our current system and are low hanging fruit in removing social stigmas of particular groups:
1) Cocaine sentencing disparities or the general war on drugs and its pernicious effects on low income/minority communities, both through violence and crime and the methods employed by police to police. (this also has a ton to do with the immigration "problem" in this country)
2) Access to basic legal rights also willingness to stand up for them or afford reasonable representation
3) Civil forfeiture law and eminent domain abuses are common against minorities or the poor, the classes perceived as "disenfranchised".

Ending a lot of civil abuses by government against the poor or unpopular minorities is to me a lot more important and probably effective in the long run than using government to police thought.

Essentially, the problem I am having with the logic of using government to police speech rather than action is that in the Jim Crow south, it was the government which ignored action and policed "speech" by enforcing a segregationist legal code. Same with South Africa. These were still "democratically" elected systems, which used political power to strip further powers away from unpopular groups and did little or nothing to stop violence within or against those groups.

A further problem is that it is often easy enough to engage people who infuse their speech with racist or racial overtones with facts to gnaw away at their ignorance. I much prefer doing this and in so doing, determine whether they are in fact racist, perhaps even violently racist, or if I am mistaken in that presumption of their character immediately than to proceed through a process of proving their racist intentions in a court of law. It is far easier to introduce their racist statements alongside an action of violence that correlates with that racist dimension than to presume that racist statements will someday correlate with overt and pernicious action. They will largely not so long as overt action is equally punished.

I agree with **** that hate crime laws are necessary and that it would be a dangerous leap of faith to rely on social shaming to curb population-specific violent crime. The problem is prejudice and hate are not so accommodating to 'equal protections' (Queue the trope that 'formal equality is not enough'). As far as shaming is concerned, hate crimes often go unnoticed by the larger public, or at worst is condoned by a faction thereof. Today's Islamophobia is a case in point. This type of atmosphere is 'permissive' of violence against Muslims, and I sure as shit don't want to rely on public opinion to curb violence against Muslims.

Also to be clear, and I think I can speak for **** here, we agree that the structural racism that you (**) describe (such as sentencing disparities) need to be rectified. No argument there. (For a great argument about how the war on drugs and the criminal justice system has created legalized discrimination against poor people of color look up Michelle Alexander's work on "the New Jim Crow")

I'm skeptical of hate crime laws and their actual efficacy and enforcement but I think the major disagreement was over hate speech laws or expressions of PC/racial prejudice being policed or their perceived necessity to curb actual violent acts against unpopular minorities.

That I think you should be able to rely more on social approbation or rejection to police than violence, which I am fully in agreement should be met with swift judicial action.

The social shaming argument was used by those who opposed federal intervention in the Jim Crow south, claiming that it interfered with property rights and was a gross government overstretch. Not to imply you're a segregationist, but essentially the same arguments were made. That if we hand the government this kind of power over property it will be abused. Instead if people just avoid segregated establishments they will be 'shamed' into submission. That obviously didn't work.

I disagree about this idea that there is a sharp dichotomy between speech and action. Speech can be and often is violent and intimidating or very often leads to violence and intimidation. We regulate such speech all the time - for example sexual harassment laws. We also regulate so-called 'speech' in order to preserve social peace - for example noise ordinances. Claiming we have no right to regulate socially disruptive speech and can only intervene when an actual violent act occurs is the equivalent of saying we can only put out fires, we can't actually do anything to prevent them.

This is a rather extreme example - but if the Hutu power radio stations had been shut down as soon as they began preaching ethnic hatred and paranoia, the horrific Rwandan massacres might not have happened. At the very least, the community absolutely has a right to shut down that kind of thing. If a vulnerable group is constantly being attacked in the media and by preachers of hate, and because of this they feel too uncomfortable to live in the community, that is a severe violation of their rights that government has the obligation to protect.

I also am skeptical that hate can be debated and discussed in a kind of Athenian forum or that ridiculous and retrograde views fall by the wayside once they're 'exposed' by well-meaning people. If true, why do so many people believe Obama is a Muslim and that he wasn't born in the US, and why do a significant portion of the American people believe the earth is flat? In the age of the internet, where people just read information that agrees with their beliefs, it's even harder to sit down and have 'conversations' with inciters of hate.

In short, I'm much more afraid of nativist populism than I am of the government. Legal protections of 'free speech' were meant to protect political speech, not every self-indulgent and asinine comment under the sun. Hate is not political speech.

Speech is not merely protected for political reasons. Ideas too are protected. Even bad ones. You're going to have to make a very compelling argument indeed that the government should be in the business of policing ideas for me to think that's a good idea. I might be able to accept an argument for policing violent action and activity. I'm not very interested in policing stupidity and thought with legal force, even if it would indeed greatly benefit us by ridding us of a great many stupid debates like "is Obama a secret Muslim". The problem with that is who gets to determine which debates are stupid will change over time. It will not simply be good and decent liberals like ourselves. I too fear populists. But one major protection against them is to prevent them from having too much power over us by not establishing a principle of limited free speech in the first place. If this costs us precious time arguing over evolutionary theory or the religious practices of the President with morons, so be it. It will also mean they can't force us to pray or teach creationism in school (and ideally, it would mean the FCC doesn't get to control what you watch on TV or on the Internet). Part of that freedom is putting up with people who use it irresponsibly and in ways that you won't agree with. So long as they do not ACT upon those idiotic rants in violent ways, I fail to see what legal precedent would be good to use to stop them from believing ridiculous things because you're effectively establishing a precedent that will terminate your own ability to express ideas. Populists may be dumb, but if you give them a power, they're damn well going to use the thing.

The major glaring flaw with your jim crow problem is that it was the GOVERNMENT, the state and local governments that enforced segregation. There were strict legal codes of separation and discrimination. The same was true in South Africa. When the government gets involved in determining objectives like discrimination, I find it hard to say that we've empirically determined that social or market pressures are ineffective. The end result was that it was the government had to step in and guarantee equal access true. But the government was already involved. It's hardly enough to say that this was a social pressure by itself and that therefore social pressure must obviously fail. It was given legal force and what legal force was intended to work in the opposite direction was not properly enforced, both of those things cut against the ability to use markets and social pressure.

I'm also skeptical that the idea that the Internet further segregates information flows. Go read some newspapers from the 18th or 19th century from different parts of the country. You will find sectional differences in the accounts of various stories to be remarkably obvious. There is a disadvantage in people sitting in their homes selecting what news they read yes, and this does lead to some odd effects like the number of people thinking Obama is a Muslim increasing, but those people still have to eventually interact and try to form groups publicly on the internet. Occasionally, their bigotry and stupidity expresses itself and is assailed not merely by a random few strangers, but by thousands of active people trolling about from all over the world. We did not previously have this ability to organise and resist ideas, or form those of our own.

I don't see how this presents a problem to the Athenian forum model so long as people are persistent about engaging opposing ideas and especially those perceived as the most pernicious, like racism. When they stop doing this, as I perceive many major and influential Democrats to have done on this mosque flap, that's a far bigger problem because it allows the conversation to become dominated and determined by idiots. (health care debate had several similar issues, "death panels", etc)

I'm extremely skeptical that introducing extreme examples like Nazis propaganda or the Rwandan genocide/civil war into the equation are going to be very productive at all. We have our own history of religious and racial violence and intolerance. It's very ugly. But we also have a history of reforming rules of law which restrict that violence. There is a vast difference between restricting violence by private (and public) parties and restricting speech. That gap has not been bridged by claiming that speech has incited violence in places with either official state sanction for that violence or very weak states.

By contrast, we do have an imminent danger standard for restrictions on speech. It is very likely that in a case like Rwanda, should one arise, we would have shut down the radio stations instructing people to kill: "A function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, . . . is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest..... Rioting is a substantive evil, which I take it no one will deny that the State and the City have the right and the duty to prevent and punish". I do not question the ability of the state to preside over violent acts, and the acts which deliberately and immediately incite others to those acts.

But this regulation is distinct from the forms of hate speech you seem to want to regulate. Not all such speech incites violence against life or property. Most of it is merely ignorant ranting.

Also: sexual harassment laws constitute equal protections because they govern workplace environments, in the same way that forcing business owners to serve black customers was perfectly legitimate override of their property rights because it guaranteed equal access to market participation.

We do not generally have a sexual harassment law for governing speech for public places. There's a big difference. Even if I agree that there are plenty of times where such a law might be useful, and that rape laws are still in dire need of stronger enforcement.

I have one rather significant question then. What about academic research? Is that not protected by free speech? Or artistic expression?

If the only thing protected is explicit political policy views, it would seem to me that the natural response of this is to make ALL views politically determined and approved of, including empirical research or the creations of artists.

Noise ordinances are also regulated on a different principle than speech as they do not object to the content of speech but rather how it is delivered, in reference to volume mostly. They make no account of what people say.

"Part of that freedom is putting up with people who use it irresponsibly and in ways that you won't agree with. So long as they do not ACT upon those idiotic rants in violent ways, I fail to see what legal precedent would be good to use to stop them from believing ridiculous things because you're effectively establishing a precedent that will terminate your own ability to express ideas."

Once again, this is not a matter of 'agreement' or 'disagreement'. The gulf between speech and action is not as great as you imply. Today - Aug. 31 - shots were fired outside a Rochester area mosque after the people who go to that mosque were harassed over a period of several days - honking horns, shouting insults, etc. What was the line between speech and action when Fox News repeatedly spouted off nonsense about George Tiller? Do they bear no responsibility for that assassination because they didn't explicitly call for his death? Speech has consequences and does not exist in a vacuum.


Under your rules, the community would have to wait until people or property gets attacked in order to intervene to stop these hooligans. The right to worship would not include the right to worship free of harassment under conditions of peace and security.

"I'm not very interested in policing stupidity and thought with legal force, even if it would indeed greatly benefit us by ridding us of a great many stupid debates like "is Obama a secret Muslim"."

But your policy of non-intervention relies on this idea that social shaming works or would 'expose' such views, leading them to fade away because they're obviously wrong, illogical, etc. This doesn't appear to be happening, and like ****, I have zero hope that if the general public is left to itself, it would take care of the anti-Muslim harassment issue.

"It's hardly enough to say that this was a social pressure by itself and that therefore social pressure must obviously fail."

What law mandated that private establishments refuse service to African Americans? What law mandated covenant housing and housing discrimination? To my knowledge, none did. So you can't just heap blame on the government for this since it went far beyond government services and education. If left to themselves, the white property owners in the south wouldn't serve people who weren't white. The market is notoriously slow in fixing social wrongs. Social shaming didn't work in this case, or any other case to my knowledge.

"By contrast, we do have an imminent danger standard for restrictions on speech."

I'm surprised you concede to an imminent danger standard. For a while I thought you'd have opposed such a thing.
So my question is - how many mosques have to be attacked before we recognize an imminent danger stemming from anti-Muslim hate speech? How many lynchings have to occur? How many cross burnings? How many church bombings?

" function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger."

In what way does 'hate' invite 'dispute' or serve free speech's 'high purpose'? It poisons the environment and stirs people to act on that hate.

"s nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest"

The link I sent you shows that this speech presents a 'clear and present danger' and a 'substantive evil'. It's not just a matter of 'inconvenience' to be harassed while you're trying to attend prayer services. It is a affront to public peace and people's rights to worship. It is attack on these people's existence as full and equal members of the community. It is aimed at expelling them from the community or shutting down their religious freedom. It is speech that is meant to take away the rights of others.

"Not all such speech incites violence against life or property"

I disagree. All hate speech incites violence. I can't think of any incident of hate speech that does not.

"I have one rather significant question then. What about academic research? Is that not protected by free speech? Or artistic expression?"

It's quite clear that academic research is not protected. There is a reason why tenure processes were created - and the tenure process has routinely been highly 'politicized' - meaning people were denied tenure for political reasons, not due to the inadequacy of their research. Heck, in academia political speech is highly regulated. Ohio law makes you sign a statement saying you can't say anything remotely sympathetic to groups like the Tamil Tigers, even though such a group has nothing to do with US security. Nor can you espouse your political views in any real way as an instructor. So as to your point that if populists ever take power they'd restrict my speech or impose their views on curricula, they already do this and get away with it. They're the ones who compile blacklists and organize campaigns to oust left of center professors. They're the ones who have successfully manipulated school boards and state governments to submit to their distorted vision of what education should be. They're quite capable of stifling dissent without controlling every aspect of government.

But the bigger point is, if these people ever do control every aspect of government, we'll have a lot more to worry about than free speech.

"What law mandated that private establishments refuse service to African Americans? What law mandated covenant housing and housing discrimination?"

Go look them up, both of those were laws written and passed by state or local governments. PRECISELY the examples you claim do not exist.

"It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment. " - State of Alabama.

"All persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license." - State of Georgia.

"Any person...who shall rent any part of any such building to a negro person or a negro family when such building is already in whole or in part in occupancy by a white person or white family, or vice versa when the building is in occupancy by a negro person or negro family, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five ($25.00) nor more than one hundred ($100.00) dollars or be imprisoned not less than 10, or more than 60 days, or both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court. " - State of Louisiana

The LAW required restaurants and local businesses to establish separate accommodations. I am not making this up. The original separate but equal case was brought by a private business (Pullman cars) who wanted not to have to follow state discrimination laws. This was imposed by legal force. I am in agreement that there were (and are) powerful social forces, but to claim that these were the only features of the Jim Crow South is incorrect. They were not. The basis for intervention by the federal government was that the state/local governments were not adequately granting federal rights of citizenship.

Tenure processes and hiring and firing decisions based on speech are made by public or private owners of colleges. The same can be true of radio hosts or TV advertisers. These speech codes do not need to be passed by, and indeed, are not enforced by governments. The actual right protected by government is the ability to say things. It is not protected that people must listen to them or find them agreeable. That's on you to convince them that what you have to say is sensible or correct.

I find it incredibly suspect that you would trust the government over a diverse body politic and its various institutions to decide academic "freedom". This is an incredibly naive position.

My general point about populists and free speech and things like education is that if want to further politicize these as issues, then you virtually guarantee further restrictions on your liberties. My contention on education for instance would be to have fewer standards determined by state or local school boards, not more, as it seems to be your general contention. I am not in agreement that for example, expressing support for the Tamil Tigers should be an automatically fire-able offense. But I think you should have to back it up, just as you would with any other statement of academic research.

My suspicion is that you are chafing about the exact kinds of laws that you are essentially saying you want passed, that is, laws governing speech, on this point, only the speech that you want governed is the kind you don't approve of. THAT IS THE POINT OF FREE SPEECH. You shouldn't get to legally say what people cannot say. PERIOD. That it happens already should tell you that it's a bad idea, not that you should want more of it for your own side.

Acts of violence such as acts of harassment are things which we have legal penalties for or private parties can seek redress for through civil penalties. Acts of speech are not. There's a line there because the one is plainly and directly harmful and the other is not (even if it is stupid). It is not "speech" to stand around with a gun menacing people as they enter a mosque or a place of business. It's called "menacing". There's a law against that.

I think the general disagreement is on the boundaries between action and speech. I think, from observing most people and finding that most of them hold often very xenophobic or racist or objectionable sentiments, that the overwhelming majority of people do and will not act aggressively upon them. It is possible that this action creates a permissive atmosphere for negative actions against Muslims or gays and so on. But this is not limited to simple violent crimes, you could also say it feeds heavily into political decisions such as wars of aggression in Iraq or drone strikes in Pakistan or Yemen. Under your logic of protected political speech, the latter is justified, the former is not. I see the latter as a guaranteed action taken in the course of bad and counter productive foreign policy (which kills potentially hundreds of thousands of people), while the former is a possibility (which kills some hundreds of people per year at best) and still has to contend with the fact that we have equal laws, if a person's life or property is violated. Yes we have assholes too. But I would rather that we have them openly among us and freely combat them in the realm of ideas the better that their ideas be defeated as the ridiculous nonsense they are.

As an example the "Obama is a secret Muslim" trope. This consists of 18% of the population at last count (many of them Republicans). In truth, many, if not most of those people you could ask "Is Obama a secret werewolf" and they would say yes. Some of this is pure stupidity. Some people would think it's a good thing (yes, some do). Some is partisanship heuristics, and some is a latent fear and disaffection with Islam. This last is the only real problem. Yes, and it is very possible that the populist anxieties with Islam since at least 9-11 and certainly in the last couple of months have emboldened action by a few. But it's a problem that will not go away if we do not talk and challenge people based upon it, to prove their ridiculous assertions. I am not seeing people do so, generally. That's why it does not go away. It persists publicly in large part because we allow it persist publicly. A strong defence of the freedom of worship (Mayor Bloomberg's speeches on this for instance have gotten into this) would also explain why it is necessary to tolerate other faiths and creeds and customs, it would not simply state that we have a freedom of worship protection.

As for your faith that bad ideas won't die, two things
1) Most people are pretty dumb and unaware and do not have much meaningful world experience. This means that a percentage of people will always hold some ridiculous belief, the world is flat, all black people are stupid, the holocaust did not happen, and so on. Legislating against expressing this this will achieve nothing (see German laws on holocaust denial). I have no faith it will go away either, but the difference is that I don't see how a law is going to help. If anything it makes people lazy about the topic in my opinion because they don't have to think about it. Most people do not for instance consider the implications of freedom of speech or freedom of religion actively, we have laws for this, and clearly, people don't understand them or find these laws inconvenient.
I would probably see that they would not say to themselves, yes obviously people are equal and here's why. Perhaps it would be better if we lived in a world where such thoughts did not occur to anyone. But I don't think that world exists in a world with different nations and different cultures and different experiences for different people. There are all manner of political and complex ideas that require something of a counter-intuitive logic to that of a simple observation; global warming for instance is repeatedly combated with these idiotic "but it snowed" stories. Part of this is best addressed by fixing primary education policies, particularly science education or adding instruction in philosophy at an early time. I agree it's an issue since we haven't passed a Pigovian carbon tax or hiked the gasoline tax because people are kind of dumb and don't understand price externalities of pollution. But the proper place to fight this lunacy is not by controlling speech, but by teaching more people how to think and be able to absorb complex issues and make some sense of them. And to able to distinguish between action and violence. In general, it is my opinion that our good ideas must be understood in order to be practiced at their best and they will not be understood if they go untested or unchallenged, even by the very weakest counterarguments like those advanced by hate speech.

2) Most bad ideas will lose popular support if people fight against them. Social pressures against interracial marriage or homosexuals were previously FAR higher than they are now, and far higher than they were as the equality of those causes became manifest through the legal process. There are still people who hold those ideas and prejudices (a justice of the peace declined to marry a couple in Louisiana for example last year, and he was summarily fired). They are free to hold these opinions and agitate for them. But they are not free to act upon them in a discriminatory manner. Write laws for the one, don't worry about the speech. The reason I have a great deal of faith in this process is the demographics of things like legalisation for marijuana or support for gay marriage. The arguments are far more appealing to younger people, who have been raised around them and see the arguments against as increasingly ridiculous.

One final point and I'll leave it lie. Don't fuck with a free speech absolutist in the Mill tradition in a debate over free speech. You will not move me very easily from the position that ideas, even good ones, should have to fight to survive.

You might have made some ground up by talking about violent crimes committed with a prejudicial motivation. I'm skeptical there about the laws and their effects, but I at least recognize that some crimes do carry such motivations and some penalty might be necessary for the protection of citizens (who happen to be of a particular at risk group), in the same way that say, paedophiles, carry a particular legal penalty, racially motivated murders might make sense to penalise differently. I think, unlike paedophilia, we have other resources that would advance the same social end in a far less invasive way which also address structural inequalities caused by governments than to try to ascertain the motivations of a particular criminal actor through government legal processes. It's pretty obvious when a someone has a sexual encounter with a child what they were up to and what their motivations were. It is less obvious when a white male Christian assaults a Muslim (or when an Afghani citizen is brutally disfigured by another Muslim), though it is certainly plausible there's a hate and terrorizing element to it, it could simply be random noise as was brought up originally in this thread.

I think we have a good case that these particular incidents are not random noise and that some of our citizens require legal protection as a consequence. I'm not sure that we require additional legal protection so much as calling out the racism and bigotry and condemning it with our social rejection of it and the requirement that laws against arson and menacing and assaults and threats and so on are enforced and investigated. Even if the force of numbers is against us in terms of unspoken tolerance of violent reprisals against Muslims, there are still very few influential people willing to publicly advance the most pernicious slanders against Islam in this country (Gingrich being in my mind the most prominent politically, probably Beck and the other idiot talking heads being another source, I haven't paid much attention to right-wing radio head cases except for what Stewart shows me to mock them).

The idea is not to convince idiots that they are wrong and don't know what they are talking about, which is impossible and a thankless task (believe me, I've tried). It is to convince other people who aren't convinced they are idiots that they are in fact idiots who don't know what they are talking about.

as for conceding the legal exceptions to free speech, such as clear and present danger, these are established legal precedents from the Supreme Court. They are far weaker I think than you intend them to be or believe they are I think.

They must represent imminent danger to individual lives and property. People in the midst of a riot saying "get him" have some culpability when other people go forward and kill or attack that person or others like him. People standing up in a church or a town hall meeting saying "Muslims are evil, and we should kill them all" do not (in the same manner, saying "I think Rush Limbaugh should die or choke on his steak" or whatever, is protected). The latter is still irresponsible and dumb and I do not condone or endorse it as a good idea, I would in fact call it "hate speech". But it is legally and constitutionally protected, and it should be as people do not typically leave such meetings in order to seek out and commence the slaughter of innocent Muslims. There's a gap between action and expression that does not automatically suggest premeditation or the condoning of the views being expressed, or that the views were not already shared and that the expression was often milder (I look upon the George Tiller murder in this way, the murder seems to have had extreme radical views already well beyond those expressed by Faux news talking heads. Faux was irresponsible, but not legally culpable).

It does not have to be socially or culturally protected. In fact it should not be. It should shame us that people think this way and we should look for ways to disabuse them of these notions, or at least make it less possible to spread them by inoculating others with useful facts or analysis and manners of thought which give them greater tolerance for ideas but a greater intolerance for violent and offensive actions.

The specific case I know of, the assault of the cab driver, it might represent "a clear and present danger" because his anti-Islamic statements immediately or very nearly so precede the assault, as an example.

So yeah. To summarize. I think free speech is pretty fucking sweet. I don't think it is at all smart to assume that allowing even partial powers over its limitations to government would work the way people think it would (that is, to object only to things they think are offensive or pernicious opinions), particularly in a democratic society where norms and political parties could change over time. I don't see how hate speech is not or should not be Constitutionally protected or that there is somehow no class of hate speech which is not "a clear and present danger" to the functional workings of society. Such attitudes are not healthy and should be discouraged, and indeed there are many avenues of legal anti-discrimination laws which seem sensible to guarantee market participation (ending Jim Crow). But it is unlikely to be successful through enforcing thought police activities (abolishing portions of the 1st amendment).

I really don't understand how someone can arrive at these two views:
1) That academics and others would not propagate free speech and research better when they are unfettered by government controls rather than the opposite, that is that political processes should not determine what research is carried out. Markets for higher education and research might be a reasonable guide here instead.
2) That if there are already legal constraints on free exercise of speech, how did they get there (and not merely employer codes like sexual harassment laws or anti-discrimination)? What makes you think that there would be a permanent power source that would protect views that you approve of and remove precisely those views which are not? How would that be decided, by what mechanism? It would have to be through the political process. All views, including academic freedom, are far more threatened by making them subject to government standards of approval than they are by private and populist lunacy.

Be afraid of populists seizing power, yes, for lots of reasons, but don't give them more bullets for fuck's sake when they do (and they sometimes will and do). That's just stupid.