The Old New Thing : The politician’s fallacy and the politician’s apology

In the politician’s apology, you apologize not for the offense itself, but for the fact that what you did offended someone.

The Old New Thing : The politician’s fallacy and the politician’s apology

In the politician’s apology, you apologize not for the offense itself, but for the fact that what you did offended someone. “I’m sorry you’re a hypersensitive crybaby.”

It’d be funny if it weren’t absolutely true, and, unfortunately, par for the course in politics these days.

Lessons from 1984

We all know about George Orwell’s 1984, right? Well, sometimes I think maybe we don’t, because we keep doing stuff that seems to be taken straight from the book.

We all know about George Orwell’s 1984, right? Well, I was re-reading it the other day (for perhaps the 100th time), and thought I’d post some relevant bits from the “Afterward” section, written by Erich Fromm. It’s relevant because it talks about the idea of constant war or aggression against an enemy that you can’t destroy (can we say “terrorism?”). Although he mentions atomic weapons and an arms race, the same idea can be applied to today’s world. (Emphasis is mine.)

Orwell’s picture is so pertinent because it offers a telling argument against the popular idea that we can save freedom and democracy by continuing the arms race and finding a “stable” deterrent. This soothing picture ignores the fact that with increasing technical “progress” … the whole society will be forced to live underground, … that the military will become dominant (in fact, if not in law), that fright and hatred of a possible aggressor will destroy the basic attitudes of a democratic, humanistic society.

Another section touches on “doublethink,” something that we tend to think doesn’t exist in the mainstream, but in fact – it does.

If I work for a big corporation which claims that its product is better than that of all competitors, the question whether this claim is justified or not in terms of ascertainable reality becomes irrelevant. What matters is that as long as I serve this particular corporation, this claim becomes “my” truth, and I decline to examine whether it is an objectively valid truth. In fact, if I change my job and move over to the corporation which was until now “my” competitor, I shall accept the new truth, that its product is the best, and subjectively speaking, this new truth will be as true as the old one. It is one of the most characteristic and destructive developments of our own society that man, becoming more and more of an instrument, transforms reality more and more into something relative to his own interest and functions. Truth is proven by the consensus of millions; to the slogan “how can millions be wrong” is added “and how can a minority of one be right.”

In case it isn’t clear to you how this applies to today’s society, I have only to point to the rhetoric of our own political parties for proof. They (meaning the people who represent the party and its ideas/beliefs/platform/etc.) exhibit this exact form of “doublethink,” or accepting “truth” without objective facts. Just think of the people who think that global warming isn’t real, or (to use a slightly less pleasant example) the people who claim the holocaust never happened, and you will see modern “doublethink” in action. It is a frightening trend to someone who thinks rationally and objectively considers the facts.

Let me continue with another quote, one that resonates with me in regards to all the “security” measures taken lately by our government – especially the “REAL ID” thing (emphasis mine):

Thus, for instance, if he has surrendered his independence and his integrity completely, if he experiences himself as a thing which belongs either to the state, the party or the corporation, then two plus two are five, or “Slavery is Freedom,” and he feels free because there is no longer any awareness of the discrepancy between truth and falsehood.

It goes without saying that I think these are all troubling signs, but what is to be done? The only thing I can think of is to subtly resist such change where possible (don’t give in to REAL ID; write your representatives in Congress; refuse to be afraid of unseen enemies) and to try to help others see things objectively as much as possible. I’m not talking about trying to spread an ideology here – the ideology is already spread; people are just giving it up for an easier, but less “free” one.

So do your duty. Talk with someone about these issues. Spend some time thinking about the implications of what you see & hear in the news, rather than just accepting the views given by those in power (both politically and in the mainstream media). You may be a minority of one, but as of yet, a minority of one can still be right.

Peace out, yo.

Bruce Schneier on REAL-ID (again)

“A reliance on ID cards is based on a dangerous security myth, that if only we knew who everyone was, we could pick the bad guys out of the crowd.”

A great new article up on Bruce Schneier’s blog:

“A reliance on ID cards is based on a dangerous security myth, that if only we knew who everyone was, we could pick the bad guys out of the crowd.”

WHEN will people understand this? I, for one, am glad that Maine is standing up to it – and from what I hear, other states (including my new best friend state, New Hampshire) are doing the same. Well done!

Maine Rejects Federally Mandated ID Cards

“Maine Rejects Federally Mandated ID Cards” – Way to go Maine!

Slashdot | Maine Rejects Federally Mandated ID Cards

Way to go Maine!

As you may have guessed, I don’t like the idea of federally mandated ID cards.

Airport Security and Snow Globes

Having recently traveled through airport security a few times (and taken off my shoes, and had my bag inspected, and had my body patted down by a stranger), I can definitely appreciate this article.

Having recently traveled through airport security a few times (and taken off my shoes, and had my bag inspected, and had my body patted down by a stranger), I can definitely appreciate this article.

Some quotes:

To paraphrase a classic line from Lily Tomlin, I worry that the person who thought up the rules for carrying liquids and gels on airplanes last year is busy thinking up something new this year.

The thought arises partly because of a scene just after Christmas at an airport security checkpoint, where a half-dozen festive snow globes — like the ones with Frosty the Snowman in a liquid-filled glass globe that simulates snowfall when you shake it — were lined up on a counter.

Wasn’t that nice! The Transportation Security Administration had decorated the checkpoint! But as it turned out, Frosty and his co-conspirators had actually been busted — confiscated from passengers’ carry-on bags pursuant to the following notification by the security administration:

“Snow globes, regardless of size of amount of liquid inside, even with documentation, are prohibited in your carry-on.”

It just gets weirder, too:

Inherent in the obsession on liquids and gels, Mr. Schneier said, “is the notion that we can stop the bad guys by focusing on tactics, which is moronic. I pick a defense, you see my defense, and then you, the bad guy, decide what to do. That’s a game we can’t win.”

He added, “Screeners are so busy looking for liquids that they’ve missed decoy bombs in tests. We’ve defined success so weirdly. When T.S.A. takes away some frozen tomato sauce from grandmom because it might become a liquid, they think of it as a success. But that’s a failure. It’s a false alarm.”

After getting through airport security on one leg of my trip, I found the entire gate lounge for my 747 flight with United sectioned off, and this is where I had to be patted down. I couldn’t understand it – we couldn’t even take water on the plane that we had bought from a store in the airport after the security checkpoint. Needless to say, I was quite thirsty on that (13 hour long) flight.

Of course, when I traveled on Qantas during my trip, I had no additional security to worry about – and Qantas, unlike United or American Airlines, had those neat up-to-date video screens at each seat, complete with on-demand video (including Top Gear) and video games – all for free. Now that’s service!
Still, there’s humor to be seen in it all. Quoting Mr. Schneier again:

“It’s a good thing the shoe bomber wasn’t an underwear bomber.”

Heh. No kidding.