SocraticGadfly: 11/20/11 - 11/27/11

November 26, 2011

Free will - a "god of the gaps" parallel?

Is "free will," at least as "compatibilists" generally strive to define (and save) it, a philosophical equivalent of "a god of the gaps"? I say the answer is an arguable yes. (Updated at bottom.)

Philosophy professor Eddy Nahmias is the latest to try to defend some neo-traditionalist, if you will, version of free will.

Of course, when you start with a straw man howler like this, it's easy for you to get called "a free willer of the gaps":
When (neuroscientist Patrick) Haggard concludes that we do not have free will “in the sense we think,” he reveals how this conclusion depends on a particular definition of free will.  Scientists’ arguments that free will is an illusion typically begin by assuming that free will, by definition, requires an immaterial soul or non-physical mind, and they take neuroscience to provide evidence that our minds are physical. 
First, not all neuroscientists make that assumption. And, philosophers like the Daniel Wegner whom you linked at the start of the column definitely don't link free will, or its absence, to dualism, or its lack.

Then, there's this:
Many philosophers, including me, understand free will as a set of capacities for imagining future courses of action, deliberating about one’s reasons for choosing them, planning one’s actions in light of this deliberation and controlling actions in the face of competing desires.  We act of our own free will to the extent that we have the opportunity to exercise these capacities, without unreasonable external or internal pressure.  We are responsible for our actions roughly to the extent that we possess these capacities and we have opportunities to exercise them.These capacities for conscious deliberation, rational thinking and self-control are not magical abilities.
Well, if you're not going to wrestle with what consciousness is, let alone what standing free will at the level of consciousness has in the absence of a Cartesian theater, you may have a problem. Nahmias does eventually get around to tacking Benjamin Libet and the famous 200-millisecond gap, but only to wave it away:
First of all, it does not show that a decision has been made before people are aware of having made it.  It simply finds discernible patterns of neural activity that precede decisions.  If we assume that conscious decisions have neural correlates, then we should expect to find early signs of those correlates “ramping up” to the moment of consciousness. 
Ahh, this is a petard hoister. It's all in how you define "decisions" as well as "free will," isn't it? Under the Dan Dennett multiple drafts model, this is rather the subconscious impulse that "wins out" to the level of consciousness.

Finally, to riff on Samuel Johnson, Nahmias enters into the last refuge of a free-will philosophy scoundrel: He makes the "fatal" is-ought error.
We need conscious deliberation to make a difference when it matters — when we have important decisions and plans to make.
Need? As in "ought to have"? Ooops.

Some other thoughts from Wikipedia on free will, including reference to Haggard, here. Yet other thoughts and speculations, generally good, from philosopher/neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga, riffing on Robert Sapolsky, here.

That said, I think it IS possible to talk about free will in some way, but only in a way that includes subselves and subconscious processes. More on this below the fold.

Black America not 'feeling it' for #OWS

I'd noted before that, per its own polling at the Occupy Wall Street website, OWS is ... very ... white!. The fully-crunched numbers/data from the poll are here, in PDF.

And now, other reports confirm that black Americans simply aren't connecting to OWS.

“Occupy Wall Street was started by whites and is about their concern with their plight,” Nathalie Thandiwe, a radio host and producer for WBAI in New York, said in an interview. “Now that capitalism isn’t working for ‘everybody,’ some are protesting.”
This gets back to comments I've made before. Black Americans, by and large, have seen capitalism work less well for them for longer, including being the prime targets of subprime mortgages.
Beyond a lack of leaders to inspire them to join the Occupy fold, blacks are not seeing anything new for themselves in the movement. Why should they ally with whites who are just now experiencing the hardships that blacks have known for generations?
The story also notes that black churches were key to the civil rights movement, but aren't part of any clarion call right now, as far as the lack of leadership. It adds that A-list black civil rights groups like the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus are co-opted, if you will, by the amount of money they've received in the recent past from Big Tobacco and other hypercapitalists.

So, will more blacks get involved? Possibly not:
Leslie Wilson, a professor of African American history at Montclair State University, is not optimistic.

“Occupy Wall Street cannot produce enough change to encourage certain types of black participation,” Wilson said in an interview. “The church cannot get enough blacks out on the streets. Some students will go, but not the masses. Black folks, particularly older ones, do not think that this is going to lead to change. . . . This generation has already been beaten down and is hurting. They are not willing to risk what little they have for change. Those who are wealthier are not willing to risk and lose.”

Black America’s fight for income equality is not on Wall Street, but is a matter of day-to-day survival. The more pressing battles are against tenant evictions, police brutality and street crime. This group doesn’t see a reason to join the amorphous Occupiers.
It wouldn't surprise me, either, if many blacks, from old-line civil rightsers through "new black" politicians like Newark mayor Cory Booker on to young black entertainers, remain more on the sidelines.

And, that's not to mention that the man who received even more hypercapitalist money than the NAACP, Dear Leader, America's first black president, has already effectively washed his hands of OWS and has had the federal government advise local governments on how to respond.

Gary Johnson may run Libertarian

He's the one true Libertarian, more than Ron Paul, in the GOP race now. And, he's got a good point: Even more than Paul, the GOP has screwed him. He was outpolling both Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum a couple of months back, but then got dropped from polling by folks like CNN. Well, it's hard to meet a 3 percent polling requirement if your name isn't on the poll!
"I feel abandoned by the Republican Party," Johnson said in a phone interview. "The Republican Party has left me by the wayside."

He's been left out of all but two of the seemingly endless Republican presidential debates. His fundraising is low and his poll numbers are below radar level.

"If I'd have been included in 16 of the last debates we wouldn't even be having this conversation," Johnson said. 
If he ran as a Libertarian, he'd potentially be the party's strongest candidate ever. Unlike Paul, he openly advocates for more in the way of drug decriminalization and legalization. Unlike Paul, he's pro-choice. Unlike Paul, he doesn't demonize gays. And, as a triathlete and mountain climber, he'd appeal to a younger set than Paul.

And, was this a deliberate GOP decision? Here's Johnson again:
As for the National Republican Party, he said, "They certainly don't want anything to do with ideas. Only protecting the status quo." Excluding him, Johnson said, "was a boardroom decision somewhere."

online magazine reporter Dave Weigel on Wednesday expressed sympathy for Johnson's plight.

"The rules that allowed no-hopers like Tommy Thompson, Jim Gilmore and Tom Tancredo into the 2007 debates would have let Johnson and [former Louisiana Gov.] Buddy Roemer in," Weigel wrote Wednesday. "So we're spared the presence of governors who last won elections in 1989 and 1998, and gifted with a senator who last won election in 2000 and a businessman who has never won anything." 
I think the GOP realized Paul had nuanced his style enough, and had enough credibility with tea party types as well as libertarians, that the party simply couldn't exclude him. That said, that's no excuse for picking a Santorum over Johnson, or over Buddy Roemer, for that matter.

I hope that Johnson does run. I don't agree with most of his economic ideas, but, he's a straight shooter. (Again, even more than Paul is.)

#NBA deal: Players cave

Yahoo's story had few details, but the New York Times makes it more clear. The players union leadership agreed to a new labor deal that is not much better than they rejected a couple of weeks ago, before tentatively deciding to decertify the union. The revenue split is at the 50-50 that "Everybody" knew it would be at.

The other issues, like luxury tax, etc.? Probably, on average, and to the degree we can put percentages on them, settled 75 percent to the owners' good.

One clue to that? This quote:
“We’re really excited,” said Peter Holt, the San Antonio Spurs’ owner and chairman of the league’s labor-relations committee. “We’re excited for the fans. We’re excited to start playing basketball, for players, for everybody involved.”
Holt is a harder-line owner, if not a "nuclear" one, so if he is that fired-up, this is probably an "owners' deal."

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports has more. Contract lengths and other things all reportedly settled pretty much the way the owners wanted, with the exception of extend-and-trade contracts.

And, there is a one-per-team "amnesty clause." So, there will be no presidential pardon for 30 NBA turkeys to get axed. Who gets it on each team?

Now, who benefits as far as teams? I'll agree with other speculators that Holt's Spurs and the Boston Celtics, with older line-ups, benefit from a shorter schedule. Losers? Miami, with less time to work through the kinks of how it fell short last year, and the Lakers, with a new coach. Oklahoma City probably loses a bit.

And, the game? I predict in-person attendance falls off 5 percent on a per-game average.

As if the GOP doesn't have enough clowns for Prez

Guess whose nutbar fans are trying to get her to make a very belated run? Well, having The Quitter with a Twitter™ in the race would get Tina Fey a few Saturday Night Live gigs, would make Rick Perry look semi-smart, and would further confound the GOP race.

I hope against hope that she's dumb enough to listen to the siren song and enters, so she can thoroughly crash and burn.

But, underneath that exterior layer of stupidity, there's ... a layer of ignorance. But, underneath that layer of ignorance, there's a closer layer ... of arrogance and entitlement. But, underneath THAT ... there's something else. It's not intelligence, nor is it even the stereotypical cunning of a fox, which she isn't in any way, puns intended. Rather, it's the small-brained survival-skills shrewdness of a possum that's at the core of Sarah Palin's brain. And, in this case, it will probably be enough to keep her from running. If it doesn't, her unbridled greed will.

But, as I noted six weeks ago, never say never when "Sarah Palin" and "spectacle" (or "three-ring circus") are in the same sentence.

Our media: Dumb enough to worship stray sunbeams

While not applying it to myself, of course, I've long extended in my mind the old cliche that says, "Those who can't do, teach," to add, "And those who can't teach become journalists." Add to that the fact that the media industry could be Example A of the Peter Principle and it's no wonder that the mainstream media rightfully at times gets challenged.

This absolute mindless saccharine dreck from ABC illustrates that point to a T:

It was an overcast day in Newport, N.H., when a simple “20/20″ shoot turned into something that made me wonder about life after death.

I was filming soldier Justin Rollin’s parents Skip and Rhonda playing with their dog Hero, whose rescue from the Iraq War zone where Justin died was nothing short of a miracle.

Sometimes when Rhonda hugged Hero she would softly pet her face and coo, “Justin, are you in there?”  It was Rhonda’s gentle way of remembering their son and his last living connection to Hero. At one point, Hero wandered off and took a stroll in the backyard. All of a sudden, the clouds broke and a light began to solidify in a beam directly down on Hero — a kind of vertical halo.

As this dramatic ray of light was shining on Hero she turned to look at me, and it was all I could do to hold the camera steady and not drop it in astonishment. It was an unforgettable moment, and made me wonder if in fact Justin was in there. Then the light vanished.

I couldn’t wait to check my camera’s playback to see if it caught the stunning beam. When I saw that it did, I was so happy that I burst out dancing. It was a great moment to share with Justin’s parents. We all laughed together, and wondered if perhaps this had been a sign from Justin.
 All that's missing is a Valley Girl-type "like, you know." Is Kimberly Launier 16 years old?

First, beyond the "miracle" tripe, the family's name is Rollins. The possessive form is Rollins'. If you can't use apostrophes correctly, then STFU.

Second, there was no "miracle" to the dog's survival when Justin was killed.

Third, if there WERE a "miracle," to riff on the standard secularist rejoinder in such cases, then why didn't gOd save Justin as well as the dog? Ooopssss ....

Fourth, in both her drivel about the sunbeam and the original main story, Ms. Launier has shown herself incapable of rising behind the most cliched fluff in describing such stories.

November 25, 2011

Tomorrow's school won't be all THAT different

A blog on San Francisco PBS station KCEQ, reproducing a "paperless teachers blog," says the 21st century classroom (cue music signifying breathlessness) will have 21 differences from that of today.


I'd say one-third of the claimed differences will not come to pass. By number in the original list, here's the sure-fire wrong predictions.

3. Computers. Sorry, but due to screen size and ease of writing and typing among other things, traditional computers will still be the primary electronic learning portal.
4. Homework. I just put this one here because of the "24/7" breathlessness.
5. Standardized tests. They'll still be around. Easier to grade than "digital portfolios," which may be an adjunct, like, say, community service.
7. Fear of Wikipedia. The author doesn't mention the need for skepticism in how to use Wikipedia, or problems it can have. (The need for teachers to teach students about the corporatization of the American classroom of 20 years from now also goes unmentioned by the blog author.)
10. Attendance offices. The blitheness with which the blogger welcomes bioscans is scary.
11. I.T. departments. Cloud-based computing, so far, has not proved to be inherently more secure than networks and servers, individual Internet usage, etc. No, I.T. departments will still be here.
And, I could quibble with others, but ..
21. Paper. The idea that schools will eventually use 90 percent paper is not only wrong, it's recycled AND wrong. This claim was made nearly 30 years ago, when personal computers first started to proliferate into the workplace.

A Facebook smartphone? Just shoot me

A week ago, blogging about Amazon's latest battle-upping in the "infowars," I said two things, among many.
1. Rumor had it that Amazon was bringing out a smartphone next year, and I found that really off-puting.
2. That I didn't think Facebook was at major-league level in the "infowars" battles.

Well, it's time to rethink both.

An Amazon smartphone sounds creepy enough; one by Marky Mark Zuckerberg? What's a secular word for "satanic"? Especially while his privacy invasion settlement with the FTC drags on. That said, I'm sure many people would buy this dreck.

Just.Shoot.Me. if Bezos and Marky Mark have the top two smartphones in five years. Anything that would actually make me nostalgically long for Steve Jobs would be the apocalypse.

Is Obama targeting journalists over #OWS?

At this point, NOTHING could surprise me about Dear Leader and any alleged crackdowns on press freedoms. Obama has chased whistleblowers more than Bush, has been less transparent in some ways than Bush, and so forth.

So, I'm not surprised, per Naomi Klein, about this:
The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists.
While her prose is a bit overblown at times, there's nonetheless enough evidentiary smoke to at least make it plausible that some degree of federal coordination or push is behind at least some local-level police activity. In NYC, let's not forget some cops there have been getting CIA training for years.

The "proof," if anything, will be how Team Obama treats the FOIA request.

And (Nov. 27) a number of her claims are at least somewhat overblown. When Alternet says that, it says something. Of course, this IS Naomi Wolf.

That said, it's pretty clear that the U.S. Conference of Mayors had at least some interaction with the Department of Homeland Security, and an international policing NGO, the The Police Executive Research Forum, whose involvement is even more off-putting, as it has Canadian and British representatives, too, and both those nations are under control of conservative governments.

At the same time, various mayors and police chiefs continue to claim their actions were locally decided.

So, Team Obama gets to claim these are localized decisions while everybody denies "coordination." Mayors and police chiefs downplay their fears of OWS, fears of appearing to lose control of their cities and more.

PERF's involvement? International First World neoliberalism is starting to worry.

November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving: A different point of view

If, like me, you're both secular and progressive, you'll totally agree with this take. If you're "just" secular or "just" progressive, you likely will.

I'm grateful for freedom of speech (to the degree it still exists) about at the top of non-material thanks, along with having the intellect to use freedom of speech well.

And, I'm grateful to know that one can be grateful without being grateful TO any divinity.

So, what are you grateful for?

#Stlcards can afford Pujols

As St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak tries to figure out whether to hit or exceed $25 million a year for Albert Pujols, the HOF-to-be Machine, and for how many years, let me flatly say, the Cards can afford to pay. (UPDATE, Nov. 15: Pujols and/or agent Dan Lozano are supposed to meet Mo sometime during/around MLB's GM meetings. While neither player nor agent have told the public what offer Miami made, they'll have no problem, if it benefits them, telling Mo.)

Here's why Mozeliak can afford to pull the trigger on $25M a year or more.

First, ticket sales, marketing, etc.

If not re-signing Pujols costs you 200,000 in regular-season ticket sales at $20 a pop, that's $4 million right there. Add in, on average, one home playoff game a year not played at all, with 50,000 fans (roughly) at $30 a pop, and that's another $1.5 million. (And, I don't think a drop in regular-season sales of 200K is a wild guess.) UPDATE, Nov. 25: The Cards have announced a ticket hike of an average 2.8 percent. That's coming off a relatively low 2011 turnstile of 3.1 million, a new low for the new Busch. That factor goes with what I said above about possible longer-term declines if he's not resigned.

So, Mo ... Albert Pujols is worth $5.5 million in ticket sales. Add that to the $16 million he made last year, and right now, you're at $21.5 million. An additional $3.5 million per year, given what I spelled out, should be easy to find. That's especially true if part of Pujols' contract is in joint team-marketing incentives, like the Yankees have with Alex Rodriguez. Marketing deals for 500 HRs, 600 HRs, possibly 700 HRs, along with 3,000 hits, possibly 3,500 hits and 2,000 runs or RBIs? They're all waiting. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a while back, had a story on this angle, on A-Rod:
"These are not incentive bonuses," said Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner, then a senior vice president with the club, in 2007 to The New York Times. "For lack of a better term, they really are historic-achievement bonuses. It's a horse of a different color."
More than a bonus, it was a business arrangement.
Official sources confirmed that the non-guaranteed bonuses were a blend of a marketing agreement and a licensing agreement. In short, the Yankees and Rodriguez were entering into a joint effort that would pay Rodriguez for the use of his likeness and mandatory appearances as he approached agreed-upon "milestone" homers. There are reportedly five milestones: tying Willie Mays at 660, Ruth at 714, Aaron at 755, Barry Bonds at 762 and the homer that breaks Bonds' record.
Just off the top of my head, with a World Series having just been won and its hats and T-shirts been printed, I'm sure swag for all these milestones would sell well at Busch Stadium, online, etc.

Sidebar: Meanwhile, there's his actual value, as to whether or not he's worth that much money in today's baseball world. Baseball Reference (and Fangraphs) have the stat of Win Above Replacement, or how many wins a season a player adds to a team above a "replacement-level" MLB average player. In discussing the Matt Kemp contract with the Dodgers, ESPN notes that each WAR is worth about $4.5 million. In a year where he was perhaps pressing a bit and had two brief DL stints, Pujols still had 5.5 WAR. Add in that, after the first two months of this year, he was on a 7-WAR or better pace for the rest of the year, and let's not claim he's breaking down.

I'll give him 29 WAR, or 5.8/year, for the next five years, total. I'll give him 4.6 for the three after that,  or 14, for a total of 43 on an eight-year contract. That's not quite $200 million for eight years right there, or $25 million a year. Anything moderately above that is "rounding errors," or "vigorish" to retain the face of a franchise.

Second, the Cards are already in decent contract territory with a number of other players, and so don't have too much in the way of potential "surprises" ahead. More on this below the fold, with a year-by-year look.

College football and #BlackFriday commonality

One of Fox Sports' columnists bemoans that this weekend means the final playing of long-standing rivalries such as Kansas-Missouri and Texas-A&M, and how this connects to the greed and hope of savings that has pushed Black Friday into Black Thursday.

Give the column a read. Try to hold on to at least some traditions and not chase greed.

Besides, you often DON'T get the best deals on Black Friday. WallyWorld and Best Buy are playing you suckers like a cheap violin.

November 23, 2011

DFW gets a "Hispanic" Congressional seat

Per another blogger, here's the seat that I've said could be Elba Garcia's for the winning and losing.

That said, I don't know why neither this blogger nor Burnt Orange Report nor others are failing to mention her as a possible candidate.

Albert Pujols, screwed by Dan Lozano?

Here's the backstory. Someone, apparently another agent, recently pushed unlabled manila envelopes, or the equivalent thereof, under the doors of major sports mags and a few newspapers. The clippings were enough to throw Dan Lozano, the agent for Albert Pujols under the bus in a world of allegations of sleaze notable even for the world of professional agents.

Here's Deadspin's long take on the allegations, and additional background. The Pujols getting screwed part? Right here:

Albert Pujols was the best thing that ever happened to Dan Lozano, who by 2004 was nearly broke, colleagues say. A source familiar with the negotiations says the Cardinals knew of Lozano's money issues (as did many GMs around baseball), and they knew he was desperate to get a contract extension signed as soon as possible.
"How can you handle your client's finances when you can't handle your own?" asks a rival agent.
The result: eight years at $14.5 million a year. One executive called it "the best owner's contract in baseball," according to a baseball source.
If it wasn't full market value, but it was money right when Lozano needed it. A year before, he had paid out nearly a million dollars to settle accusations of sexual harassment from two former employees.
Is it too late for Pujols to junk Lozano now? Would he?

At the same time, plenty of other agents, starting with one Scott Boras, have plenty of motive to throw Lozano under the bus. No honor among thieves and all that.

Lozano's own attorney claims Deadspin didn't use countervailing information he provided. That's part of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story in which Pujols says Dan's the Man for him.

Are liberals really that disorganized?

Jon Chait makes just that claim, in a long essay that says real liberals shouldn't be that hard on Obama.

Ahh, there's the problem. With both America and Jon Chait's thought processes.

Fact is, of course, that America's the most conservative of the advanced democracies, especially if we exclude Japan and South Korea. As a result, American liberals include less liberal types, who argue about what's practical, what's achievable, and what's really that liberal.

Look elsewhere.

Canada? Past huge history of *conservative* disorganization.

Britain? Old vs. new Labour is still an issue, especially with Lib Dems selling out to the Conservatives. Still more organized than the U.S.

France? True, recently, its Socialists are struggling, but they have had a strong past.

Germany? The only issue is that of Social Democrats refusing to coalition with the former Communists of the "new left." The new left will eventually weaken enough to eliminate that worry.

Elsewhere in Western Europe, socialist and social democratic parties, either single ones such as Spain's Socialists, or coalitions such as in Scandanavia, have had no disorganization issues.

So, the real fault is with America in general and Chait's analysis in particular far more than with American liberalism.

Another Nov. 22, as Camelot fades into the mists of reality

Yes, you read the last part right.

First, JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone.

Second, a man who actively supported the overthrow of the president of South Vietnam for not being anti-Viet Cong enough, then professing to be mortified over Diem's murder, must be considered a hypocrite of high rank even among the 43 men to occupy the Oval Office so far.

Let's look at the Kennedy reality.

1. He got "rolled" by Khruschev in Vienna in 1961, perhaps in part because Dr. Max Jacobsen's amphetamines had started wearing off.
2. That, combined with the Bay of Pigs failure, surely led to his "tough on Cuba" strategy, which wasn't that tough.
2A. By not having LBJ involved in all ExComm meetings, he let Johnson think he was tougher on Cuba (i.e., that missiles weren't swapped) than was true; hence, Jack Kennedy contributed to wider war in Vietnam that way alone.
3. The Diem assassination shows he would have upped the military pressure in Nam through the 1964 election at least, leaving either him or the unlikely Goldwater to continue expand the war.
4. How much JFK would have expanded the war is open to reasonable debate; that he would have expanded it to some degree is not.
5. The best think JFK ever did domestically for civil rights was to get himself killed, so LBJ had a martyr to spur Congress into action. Go all the way back to 1960. Kennedy was as politically scared to call Martin Luther King in jail as was Nixon. Eventually, Harris Wofford picked up the phone and forced the issue.
6. Sidebar to this: Kennedy is the only president to deliver an inaugural address without a single word of comment on domestic policy. Beyond being the arch Cold Warrior, he was arguably an arch imperialist, indirect American style.
7. The various conspiracy theorists who wander Dealey Plaza are rightfully scorned for the degree of their detachment from reality; the worshipers at the Shrine of Camelot are not. Why not?

UPDATE, Nov. 26: Ross Douthat, in a column I largely endorse, weighs in on both the Camelot myth and Stephen King's new time-travel novel about the assassination. Frank Rich tries to have his cake and eat it, too, noting (per Douthat) that he wasn't that liberal, but replaying the old canard that right-wing hate killed Kennedy. No, as Douthat puts it, Oswald was, really, the Jared Loughner of 1963. William Manchester gets that wrong, too. Dallas was a "nexus" only in that Oswald lived there, not because of any atmosphere of right-wing hate.

November 22, 2011

'Occupy' heckles Obama

GREAT. I love it; take a look.

Now, that said, the reality is that OWS needs to move beyond this to look for people to back, as well as heckle, including looking outside the current two-party system.

David Frum nails the future of conservativism

Not only is it older, whiter, and less educated than Americans on average, it's also more dependent on federal funding transfers in many ways than are the "welfare freeloading minorities." That's all part of a long Frum piece telling why he's become ever more of a conservative apostate. That said, to consider George W. Bush a non-crazy conservative shows just how far conservativism had fallen already in 2000. That, of course, is not something Frum wants to address. Nor does he mention that a fair amount of the old, white folks, or at least their emotional first cousins, aren't 60-something, or 70-something, Nebraska Republicans, but current, or former, Pennsylvania Democrats of the same age.

I agree that a more intelligent conservativism is needed in America. So, too, is a less fearful, more affirming, more new-thinking (and NOT in a neoliberal way) liberalism. What is NOT needed is Jon Chait, in a bookender to Frum's piece, being a rank Obamiac.

November 21, 2011

What #OWS needs to do to succeed

In some of my posts about Occupy Wall Street, I've had some pretty strong words about it, about the Adbusters and Anonymous portion of its backing, about what might be the self-interest of the motives behind some of its rank and file, and what might be the political and economic ignorance level of some of that rank and file.

But, in those same posts, I have said I can appreciate much of the anger of the movement, and much of the "why" of that anger.

And, I have said that I want the movement, or a properly constituted version of the movement, to succeed.

With that said, and with the "rank and file" having holiday time ahead to reflect, here's my suggestions on how it can.

1. To the rank and file: Stop believing myths of leaderlessness and other things. First, movements of this nature don't succeed without leaders, goals and organization. Second, your current movement HAS leaders; unfortunately, they're hiding in the metaphorical shadows of these very myths.

2. To the leaders, the "small cabal" that left-liberal economist Doug Henwood mentioned, to the group surrounded by (hand picked?) security guards at Zuccoti: Come out of those shadows. Be transparent. Be honest about who you are and how you came to be leaders. Show actual leadership, not just "controlling." Show the responsibility that comes with leadership. And, if you won't, then resign your shadow leadership positions. Instead of a "dadaist" Adbusters email about "let's have some fun protesting," step up to the plate.

3. To the rank and file: There's nothing wrong with leadership. We're all equal before the law, but not equal in talents or experience. Choose leaders. Real leaders.

4. To the rank and file: There's nothing wrong with taking specific stances, either. But, be realistic about them. By that, I don't mean pseudo-"realistic" about what is achievable within the current money-corrupt two-party duopoly. I mean what's actually economically and sociologically realistic. Three weeks of paid vacation if you're over 35, and maybe a fourth if you're over 50? Yes. Six weeks for everybody? No. Increasing the current minimum wage and indexing it for inflation? Yes. An $18 an hour minimum wage? No.

5. To the rank and file: Find some of the anti-commercialistic spirit of the 1960s. Not the pseudo-anticommercialistic spirit of Adbusters type, but real anticommercialism. "Drop out" of that, to riff on Timothy Leary.

6. To the rank and file: Don't have a problem with you, or your leaders, doing occasional self-policing, as long as it's with a light hand. That's part of organization; that's something else that MLK and other civil rights leaders knew.

7. To the rank and file: Take the down time, to the degree you'll have down time from now until Christmas, to start thinking outside the box more. And, that's not just on "physical occupation" vs. other things. I mean, think outside the box about issues, a platform and how to move the American economy into some sort of post-capitalistic direction -- without mindless quasi-Comuninistic wish lists.