Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shallow Thoughts

Sports radio personalities all have stutters. ("I-I-I-I just don't think Belichick should have gotten that fine, I-I-I just don't. I-I-I mean, I'm just stating my opinion, and you can disagree with it. It's a free country. But I-I-I think all he did is what a coach should do.")

My four-year-old son gets the concept of metaphor better than most people I know. The other day, he told me that Earth is a ship, and the universe is the ocean, and the other planets are islands. Run.

One of my business axioms (okay, my only business axiom) has once again been proven: A business that starts offering a clearly brand-non-sequitur product is always on its last legs. Mac Groveland is the perfect petri dish. The bagel shop that suddenly started advertising "We now have smoothies!" closed in four months. Now Home Video, which a couple of years ago converted a huge chunk of its space to an in-store Dunn Brothers and started advertising "Home of the $2 Latte!!" on Sharpied neon green poster boards is closing ("Damn you, Netflix!"). Mysteriously still alive: Grand Photo, which started selling umbrellas a year and a half ago.

Speaking of brand non-compliance, Macalester College continues constructing its mammoth new athletic facility/natatorium and sodding a new baseball field. How long before the Mighty Scots football team can defeat the Flailin' Irish?

Did anyone see Jeanine Garofalo on Bill Maher last Friday? I usually resist the temptation to discount what someone says based on their "crazy appearance"--especially when the right uses that tactic to talk about those crazy liberals ("Hey, John Kerry looks French!"). But something's up with Jeanine.

The best show on TV that no one's watching is "Mad Men." It's got the cinematography of the best Hitchcock with oddly effective Mametian dialogue. It also has the coolest opening credit sequence in TV history. And lest you think it's high brow, all the characters do is smoke, drink and copulate. And kudos to the creators for creating a triple meaning with two words. (Ad Men, Mad (Crazy) Men, Madison Avenue Men... yeah, it took me a while to get it, too.)

Libertarianism is trendy and annoying. Basically, it's based on the belief that the actions of one individual have no affect on another individual. It's an ideological vacuum. Sure, this is true when it comes to some things (consensual sex comes to mind), but it's a total fallacy when it comes to others (burning tons of fossil fuel, polluting the water supply, and yes, smoking in public). The truth is that the world has so many people consuming so many resources with such sophisticated technology that our actions are more interrelated than ever before. Which is why this is exactly the wrong time for Libertarianism to be fashionable.

12 comments:

Scott said...

First, the funniest thing I've heard all week. "John Kerry looks French." Awesome.

On to Libertarianism. You had to know I wouldn't let that one go. Your premise is incorrect. Libertarians believe the precise opposite of what you declare. A person's actions do not happen in a vacuum. No Libertarian believes that. They simply believe that the person is actually accountable for those actions rather than the community at large being held accountable. In this world, large corporations who pollute don’t get off the hook by buying extra “Carbon Bucks” redeemable for a couple more tons of green house gasses. They are held directly accountable. I think you “misunderestimate” Libertarians. I won’t fill your blog with this, but check out my “36 Reasons to Change Parties”:

http://malaproposition.blogspot.com/2007/09/36-reasons-to-change-parties.html

I posted that just for you today.

“Tendy and annoying”? Yeah, well, you look French!

Marc Conklin said...

Okay, so now Libertarians are the party of "accountability" since the Republicans have obviously failed on that front. So if an individual should be held accountable for, say, smoking in a crowded public space, and the fact that the second-hand smoke from his cigarette damages the lungs of the person next to him breathing it in (through no fault of that person's, because all they're doing is breathing), then the smoker should be held accountable... how?

Scott said...

I think I'll just reference the 36 Reasons to Change Parties by number as I deftly refute your argument. See #’s: [1, 9, 26, 29]

No, the idiot who subjected themselves voluntarily to the smoker should be held accountable. Which they are… it's called lung cancer.

Although you specified "public space" I would not apply that term to private property (such as a bar or restaurant). “Public space” being a space that is owned by the public.

In cases where a person has no choice (such as a courthouse) of whether or not they are forced to breathe second hand smoke, then I would agree that the accountability rests with the smoker and the law should prohibit that activity. The smoker is then accountable to the law and punished appropriately for infringing upon the rights of others.

However, if there is no forced reason for you to enter a smoke-filled bar, yet you choose to do so, it's your choice or more accurately your right, to harm yourself.

What you don't have the right to do (or shouldn't) is restrict the freedoms and rights of others so that your personal choices are risk-free and thereby relieving yourself of any accountability for your actions by force of the State.

Marc Conklin said...

If your argument begins entirely with the issue of whether a business owner should have the right to allow smoking in his/her establishment, then we really don't have any dispute. I'm sympathetic to business owners on that account. And you seem to agree with me on "public space" issue, so end of argument.

Plus, for the record, let me state that I personally love second-hand smoke.

But I can't let you get away with the obvious intellectual bias of:

"No, the idiot who subjected themselves voluntarily to the smoker should be held accountable."

Your entire point of view is from the smoker. As far as an argument goes, it's the same than saying, "A guy should have the right to walk down the street stabbing the air with a machete. If some idiot gets in his way and gets stabbed, it's his own damn fault."

Scott said...

So we're getting closer. I think that a person should have the right to walk down the street stabbing a machete in the air as long as he doesn't hurt anyone. Once he does, his reckless behavior has injured another and he's responsible, not the person who was injured. On the other hand, walking down the street smoking a cigarette does not have the same effect. Smoke from a cigarette is quickly dispersed outside and I don’t think it has an unreasonable harmful effect above that of, let’s say a Toyota Prius driving by. Unless you think all smoking (and driving) should be banned outside as well as inside then your comparison isn't analogous, and I am at a loss to find one that would be.

All this aside, we are getting into a smoking ban debate. Which, in addition to enjoying, I would also win. My point is that your underlying assumptions about the Libertarian party, although pithy, are not correct. Perhaps it’s a matter of partisan bias on both sides here. Or maybe we just have a different opinion about current "machete stabbing ordinances". I’ll let it go if you do... but only grudgingly.

Marc Conklin said...

Screw the smoking ban. If smokers want to commit suicide and be proud of it, that's find with me. (I'm a Libertarian that way.)

I'll let it go after I get in one more shot (and then prompt another one from you). So much of the 36 reasons make so much sense... I find myself reading along and going "yeah," "of course," "well stated!"

But then you come up against something like their stand on education, and I remember the true hidden agenda that Libertarians share with neocons: privatize everything. You can't deny it. And one area where I will never agree with that philosophy is the idea that the profit motive is the proper motive for EVERYTHING.

It's not the proper motive for education. It's not the proper motive for health care. It's not the proper motive for building roads or transit. It's not the proper motive for building and maintaining parks. Or having clean water or clean air. It transforms healthy capitalism into economic anarchy, and I think there's a difference.

Face it, Libertarians are just people who are hypersensitive about anyone they perceive as telling them what to do.

Bottom line: When I read the 36 Reasons, I think most of them are attractive and refreshing. But taken as a whole, I think, "I wouldn't want to live in a Libertarian nation. It would look like Houston.

Scott said...

OK, you had me. I was already crafting a response in my head capitulating. Until that one sentence:

"Face it, Libertarians are just people who are hypersensitive about anyone they perceive as telling them what to do."

I can't agree with that. I think there is a kernel of truth in that. Yes, we don't like people telling us what to do. Seems like a good thing to me. I wouldn't say "hypersensitive", but upwardly sensitive yes. This is a reaction to the increasingly dictatorial nature of our society. Perhaps a little push-back is in order... even if at times it may seem reactionary.

That's where you lost me.

Then you said: "I wouldn't want to live in a Libertarian nation. It would look like Houston."

That's where you won me back.

I agree there is a little insidious underlying agenda that many of the party faithful have. Privatizing everything is one of them. One of them that I agree with you on more than them.

But I present "the list" outside that context and on my own terms. I can do that. It's the bonus I get for being non-partisan. I get to pick and choose what I like philosophically, then how to apply it.

There is, however, something to be said for reacting to absurd extremism designed to undermine basic and fundamental freedoms on both sides of the aisle with a little absurdity.

Bottom line. I think we've distilled this complex issue into a single salient point of agreement in only 7 posts. Now if only the rest of the world had our capacity for rational discourse and compromise.

Cheers.

Marc Conklin said...

You look French.

Anonymous said...

I AM French and we want our fucking Statue of Liberty back! Mon dieu!

The Wordman said...

I've been puzzled for a long time about this question: does Libertarianism belong in the camp of Ayn Rand's loony Objectivists, or can we simply think of it as a kind or proto-, or pre-, fascism?

"I think that a person should have the right to walk down the street stabbing a machete in the air as long as he doesn't hurt anyone."

that's just plain stupid.

as for Home Video, my one and only experience of renting from the shop was positive: our two teenage Latvian guests picked up a couple of stupid romantic comedies, including "Along Came Polly" -- and we also rented "Napoleon Dynamite," which turned out to be perfect for these fundamentalist Xian girls: no swearing, no violence, minimal sexual situations, and good plain quirky fun, from Idaho.

on that note, I'm off to swing my machete at oncoming cars on 55.

Anonymous said...

"...our two teenage Latvian guests..."
Oo la la (la la la la!)

How very Libertarian!
Viva la Liberte!

Anonymous said...

P.S. This debate over politics is so very contextual as to be a ridiculous waste of breath.

In France, they'd call your definition of libertarian, as they lit up a cancer-stick, "un bonne homme."