Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It's shit (Pt. 4)

So I'm reading The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein, and right in the preface is a mention of Megan's sacred Hayek, as a major influence on Milton Friedman. Now, Klein has an agenda and I'm not swallowing her work uncritically, but she makes a good point in showing how Friedman's hatred of public institutions is at the very heart of the conservative agenda today. I bring this up because it helps show that when Megan calls herself a "left libertarian" she is monstrously full of shit. She's basically a Friedman acolyte with minor modifications that seem half-hearted, face-saving gestures. Megan wants the government to give her roads, policemen, and an army, period. Anything else is socialism, and that's what makes her ultimately a conservative, in the tribal sense if not technical.
She thinks she's a lefty because she's not batshit insane about the culture wars, just subtly biased and incapable of recognizing it, but, well, fuck dat. Megan is a conservative, and as she grows older and less likely to marry, have a kid, and maybe realize there's an entire world that exists around her, she's just going to toss aside more and more of her "lefty" views as inconvenient to selfish greed. She's already dismissed concerns over separation of church and state in regards to vouchers, and convinced herself she's on the side of angels for doing so. In the end, the main question I have about Megan is whether she's malicious and subtle, trying to use misdirection to advance her aims, such as resegregation of schools via carefully designed voucher systems, or is simply a useful idiot. (Obviously, I'd guess the latter.)
In that sense she's emblematic of more than just faux lefties stealing platforms meant for genuine hippie freaks; she's the DC media elite Village in a nutshell. She thinks she's a good person, that her careerist nature doesn't corrupt the integrity of her work, and that she's a left leaning centrist, all in spite of the obvious, ample evidence to the contrary. She thinks her work is some kind of public service, as opposed to propaganda for the folk who sign her paychecks.
All in all, I think she should be fired. Shocking conclusion, I know. Now, on with the shorterizations.

Reminder: As with my experience being evicted, I refuse to let the chronic health problems I've faced teach me anything about the nature of our health care system. Also, I'm not going to mention that if my problems were as severe as I claim the only way I could have afforded to treat them would have been with the help of my parents. Rich kids going without insurance is absolutely equal to the common experience of no or inadequate coverage.

A commenter asks:
. . . but don't I support paying for poor people to get medical care?

Sort of, yes, but it's complicated, and looks absolutely nothing like what Ezra wants, which is a system that covers 95% of Americans while perhaps 5% pay extra for private care. My idea about helping the poor get medical care is more about helping them enter the private system, not exit it. If I were in charge, the government share of healthcare would shrink, not rise--I'd provide more for some kids and poor workers, but a lot less for old people.
Yes, I support poor people paying for health care.... what was the question?

Free to fail:
One thing that strikes me about the arguments I've been having with voucher opponents is just how little they seem to understand how markets work. Markets don't work because they get it right the first time; they succeed because if at first they don't succeed, they try, try again.
Because the important thing here is, of course, the poor kids in inner city public schools, and if we have to put them in situations far, far worse than they face now before the market corrects itself that's just the cost of doing business. Those who question whether an unregulated market with an unfortunately large number of uninformed and uninterested consumers will place the best interests of the kids first are both cynical and ignorant of the fact that teachers' unions literally dine on the chilled brains of their students, like that scene in Indiana Jones. Making these kids indentured servants, which absolutely no charter school would possibly try and get away with, would leave them better off.
[Non Megan voice] This post doesn't end there, tragically. What follows is some Hayek/Friedman inspired bullshit about the magical powers of the free market to fix everything, ever, if only we'd get out of the way, which proves that privatizing the school system is, instead of an idea borne of ideology, somehow the right thing to do, despite there being no proof and the likelihood of terrible mistakes.
Ezra wrote a post criticizing my position on vouchers because there are, you know, really serious experts who care about education, and have all these awesome plans, and why the hell would we listen to some ideological libertarian whack job who just worships the market? I'd argue that first, all those plans suffer the fatal flaw of having to assume away all the poisonous interactions between the various constituents that have so far doomed school reform; second, they suffer the fatal flaw that the educational experts never fail either, because they just claim their plans weren't tried; and third, that serious planning may not be the right way to go about this. The right way may be to let a lot of people try stuff to see what works . . . and let a lot of other people copy what works because they're afraid of losing their jobs. While it's true that I think vouchers are good even if they just let a few kids exit an awful system, I also think it's true that they are the best shot we have at improving the system.
If you can find an actual argument in favor of vouchers in that.... you're fooling yourself.

Can't we keep the "closet case" thing in the closet?:
the practice of claiming that people who make anti-gay remarks must be "closet cases" has to stop. First of all, it partakes, however slyly, of the notion that calling someone homosexual is a slur. Second, it's unlikely to be true; gay men (it's almost always said about men) are only about 3-5% of the population, and a lot of those are now out. The remaining closeted gay men are vastly outnumbered, unfortunately, by the number of men who are intensely uncomfortable being around other men who do not like to sleep with women, even if they are doing something that doesn't involve women at all. And third of all, it's a warmed-over remnant of 1970's pop-Freudianism, which is to serious psychology what Scientology is to science. The underlying theory of aversion formation makes no sense when applied to any other context--would anyone seriously entertain the notion that people who are uncomfortable around racial minorities secretly fear that they are black?
Sigh... taking her 'points' in order. First, no, it doesn't "partake of the notion that calling someone homosexual is a slur". It partakes of the notion that human beings often hate in others the things they fear, or secretly know, they harbor in themselves. A huge, whopping portion of homophobia is motivated by jealousy. Second, gays n lesbians make up about a tenth of the population, goes the standard refrain. Did Megan divide that number in half to get her guess of 3-5%? I honestly hope not, because that's just... stupid on a basic level that even I thought we could give Megan credit for not being. Also, having gone to boarding school and lived among fratboy mega-homophobes, they do a lot of very gay stuff. They're the most homoerotic group of people I've ever known, and I've lived in more than a few designated safe spaces. Gay men aren't as homoerotic as homophobes because they don't deny that part of themselves. In short, Megan, you have no idea what a closet case today is. Finally, no, it's not warmed over anything, it's a strong anecdotal argument that public figures who make noise about the evil gheys generally end up being gay. See almost every non-financial scandal on the right for the last 20 years, with obvious exceptions like Vitter, who's just twisted.
I'd respond to her closing analogy, but... pointing out what's wrong with it would be effectively redundant. The elephant man's bones see what's wrong there.

Not done catching up yet, but I need to pause, catch my breath, and make dinner. I'll finish catching up tonight, and maybe do a non-shorterized post. I know there are readers out there, gimmie a little feedback, tell me what kind of posts you like best.


spencer said...

I have never understood why people like Megan think teacher's unions hold any power at all. My wife belongs to a teacher's union that is almost completely useless; the only tangible benefit is that she can get legal assistance through the union if a kid ever accuses her of anything.

In my state, teacher's unions are powerless to prevent almost anything; the real obstacles to improvement in public schools are school boards, and local government's aversion to actually collecting any goddamn tax revenues to spend on the schools in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Megan is right about the 3-5% figure. 10% is still cited by activists, but it's been long discredited, and current studies are generally in the 3-5% range. I don't have citations on me at the moment, but if you start with some of the work by Bailey and Pillard, you should find it. (The one cite I have here is J. Bailey and R. Pillard, 1991, A genetic study of male sexual orientation, Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 48:1089-96, which should probably have the relevan information with citations.)