Journal: Day 5 of Sequestration

The sequester has taken the life of a great dictator.

No, not Obama. He’s not a dictator, he said so himself.

I’m talking about Hugo Chavez.

Hopefully the cuts in spending won’t stop first responders from getting to Sean Penn’s house before he drowns himself in his own tears.

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Red Dawn, 2012

I finally got a chance to see this movie a week after it opened in theaters. I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally be walking into a theater, full of people for a 10:45am showing, to watch a pro-America film.

As The Conservative New Ager said to me “Red Dawn, a great patriotic film that understands that the only good socialist is a dead one.”

The first Red Dawn, I think we can all agree, was a crappy movie. That didn’t matter though, it’s still a classic, because those that love America will love that movie, just for the common thread of American Patriotism that runs through the movie.

This version of Red Dawn is much better quality than the original and has a much tighter plot line and, despite receiving terrible reviews (11% by critics on Rotten Tomatoes) it is making much better tracks with the audiences (63% on Rotten Tomatoes and not doing too shabbily at the box office), and that is also because it contains that thread of American Patriotism that those that love this country have been looking for in Hollywood these days.

The opening is done fantastically and you will likely be laughing through the whole thing as it plays through some real headlines and actual clips of Obama, Hillary, and our homeboy Joe, talking about North Korea.

The movie refuses to humanize the North Koreans to us at all, which is preferable. These are, after all, invaders into our country. I don’t really care how nice they are to their wife, kids, or pet dog, they are an enemy whose has no right to be where they are.

And there are a few other moments in the movie that are completely unexpected, but beautifully directed and scripted, but I won’t mention them. Those are NOT moments you want spoiled for you.

If you love America, you will love this movie. If you just want to watching some explosions, you will still love this movie. Basically, you will love this movie.

Go see it.

The Conservative New Ager and The Snark Who Hunts Back Review The Dark Knight Rises: A Tale of Heroes, Politics and Death

This last week we (The Snark Who Hunts Back and The Conservative New Ager) went to go see The Dark Knight Rises together for the second time (the first being a trilogy marathon on opening night). We delayed writing a blog then because it became obvious there was so much we would have to see it again to fully appreciate the depth…and even on a second viewing we realized there is more than a single blog here.

But let’s get the overture out of the way. The final piece of this spectacular trilogy, like almost all of director Christopher Nolan’s recent work is thematically based off a work of literature…A Tale of Two Cities, in the case of The Dark Knight Rises. And while it might be hard to find the undercurrents of Othello in The Dark Knight, Faust in The Prestige, or Zorro in Batman Begins (which for symmetry should be renamed The Dark Knight Begins).

But it’s not just literary, it’s political…or at least it appears to be. The Dark Knight seemed pretty obviously a defense of the War on Terror, and The Dark Knight Rises seems a pretty striking assault on the morals of leftist economics. Now Nolan claims that his works aren’t political (a common defense by those who want to survive in a hostile political environment) and Occupy Wall Street thugs think they’re really smart in pointing out that the movie was written before OWS so it can’t be about them (this poor argument ignores that their rhetoric of evil has been spouted by the left quite vehemently in the last few years and also they clearly are so ignorant of the history of their own ideas that they don’t know their filth was spouted by demagogues in ancient Athens, and shown to be stupid then…so just because Nolan didn’t know about OWS doesn’t mean he wasn’t responding to the evil)…and even if Nolan is telling the truth that he didn’t intend it to a political statement (which I doubt) it works too well as one not to make some comments about the philosophy of the work.

Now ignoring the message of the trilogy taken as a whole (that’s another blog for another time) we think there are three main philosophical statements to this film: The nature of heroism, the politics of progressivism, envy and “social justice”, and the fear of death.

The Nature of the Hero

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat over a little boy’s shoulder to let him know the world hadn’t ended.”

One of the more unbelievable complaints I’ve heard about The Dark Knight Rises was that it made it look like the common man can’t do anything for themselves, that they need the rich to save them. Never mind the fact that, by the end, Bruce Wayne barely had a cent to his name or that his money certainly didn’t help him climb out of the pit. We would just want to know if the person who made the complaint was even watching the same movie that we saw with our friends.

Not long after Bruce Wayne loses all his money, due to Bane’s attack on the stock exchange, he has a conversation with John Blake, a police officer who knows Wayne’s identity as Batman. Wayne tells Blake that the whole point of Batman was that he could be anyone, Batman was meant to be an inspiration to the people of Gotham, something that is repeated in both of the previous movies.

In Batman Begins Bruce Wayne tell Alfred:

“People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy. And I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man I’m just flesh and blood, I can be ignored, destroyed. But a symbol….as a symbol I can be incorruptible, everlasting…..”

In The Dark Knight, the Joker asks the fake Batman, Brian what batman means to him. Brian answers “He’s a symbol … that we don’t have to be afraid of scum like you”. And the whole point of Batman, as we see come to fruition at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises, was not to create a legion of caped crusaders, but an army of men like Harvey Dent (before his psychotic break) and Jim Gordon—a group of people willing to stand up for what is right.

But we digress. The point is what made the average person a hero in The Dark Knight Rises.

At no point did John Blake, Commissioner Gordon, or the other members of the resistance, sit down and go ‘well, I’m just a common person, I’m just going to wait for the government or Batman to come save us’ (except for the character of Foley, who was rightly called out for being a coward). They worked tirelessly to find a way out on their own, they realized they were on their own the moment Bane took over the city and began to look for ways to free the city’s police force from the sewers.

When Batman did come back, in an a miraculous 11th hour miracle, they didn’t wait for him to clean up the mess. The police banded together and marched on Bane’s army, many of them dying in the fighting to save their city.

Selina Kyle, despite telling Batman that she was leaving the city as soon as she destroyed the debris blocking the tunnel, turned around and risked her life to fight for the city and to save Batman’s life.

Lucius Fox risked death and drowning , trying to find a way to stop the nuclear bomb from detonating.

Even Ra’s al Ghul (don’t you hate it when you agree with the words, if not the actions, of a villain?) says, during Bruce’s training, “The training is nothing! The will is everything! The will to act.”

The heroes who kept Gotham alive while Batman fought his way out of the pit

Every one of these people, training or no, had the will to act. They were all willing to give everything for their city, for their freedom. What could possibly be more heroic than that?

Fancy toys, nice cars, and a cool suit will only get you so far if you don’t have the will to do what is necessary, even when what is necessary may end your life.

Heroism isn’t about money, toys, or good looks; it’s a state of mind and living life, not with no fear of death, but with a willingness to die to defend others and defend your beliefs.

You may not be a superhero, but anyone can be a hero. That’s what The Dark Knight Rises shows us about heroism.

Politics, Socialism and evils of envy

“Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend, will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof shuts out the sky.'”—A Tale of Two Cities*

You would have to have been pretty dense not to get that this movie was thematically inspired by A Tale of Two Cities. Even Dickens, for all of his sickeningly naïve progressive rhetoric, had an inkling of the evil of the French Revolution. A quick review of history if it’s been too long since that high school history class. Louis XVI in response to economic woes and civil unrest had given the public everything they wanted: an assembly, power of due process of law, and abdicated much of the absolute power of the monarchy. And while many where happy with these changes, the ignorant rabble who were open to the rhetoric of the most extreme thought it wasn’t enough. They stormed the Bastille, arrested Louis and his wife (who if you actually study history was not the vapid slut a layman’s understand of history tries to depict her as), and placed power in the hands of radicals like Robespierre and Marat. The Terror, Madam Guillotine, rivers of blood, atrocities on a scale that wouldn’t be seen again in France until the Nazi’s allowed the French to revel in their anti-Semitism. (A similar pattern would be seen when the Russians replaced the Tsar with a democratic government…but soon got rid of that in favor of a psychotically evil government).

She learned to hate her “ideal” world quickly enough.

This history lesson is important because this is the same pattern Nolan shows in Gotham. For all of it’s corruption in the first two films, Gotham at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises was a city that had everything it wanted: Clean streets, an efficient police force (a city of 12 million with only 3,000 uniformed officers means an obscenely low crime rate), a healthy economy (the city could afford multiple simultaneous construction projects by Dagget, that means an incredibly good tax base, ergo strong economy…and football stadiums aren’t packed to the brim with every last seat filled during hard times), a mayor who has survived for over 8 years in office (usually a sign of prosperity) Even Selina Kyle’s words of decrying inequality ring hollow, he “old town” (suggestive of the gutter) apartment is hardly a shabby SRO or the slum heap of “the narrows” from the first film—and while in Batman Begins criminals could carry on with their nefarious dealings out in the open, or hide them in the vast slums, this is a Gotham where there are so few places to hide your activities you literally have skulk in the sewers (everywhere else is too bright and too well off to hide such activities)…Like the French they had everything they had asked for. And, like France, it took only a little fear and few mad men to stir the lowest rungs of society and bring about anarchy.
There are of course differences between A Tale of Two Cities and the Revolution it describes and the events of The Dark Knight Rises. The Bastille was stormed not to free prisoners (there were hardly any left in the Bastille by the time of the Revolution) but to gain weapons to take over the city. And even if you buy the myth of the Storming of the Bastille, the prisoners released from the Bastille were primarily political prisoners…not hardened thugs of organized crime. The fact that the Dent Law in The Dark Knight Rises was passed because there was a martyr to push through the law, does not change the fact that it, like all three-strikes laws and mandatory sentencing laws, are a particular point of hatred for the progressive who think it’s unfair that people who do evil and horrific things should, heaven forbid, be locked up where they can’t do any harm. But be it the Bastille and the release of a mere seven political prisoners or the opening of Blackgate Prison and letting a host of violent criminals go free, the result was ironically the same: The Terror.

The terror: a system where justice and trials are a mockery and the innocent are held as guilty for crimes they never committed…and where there is only one punishment: death. The terror, a system that provides so much that it makes everyone so equal that they are all starving and tearing at each other for daily sustenance (or like the Soviet Union or Gotham you could have food imported from the capitalistic society because you can’t produce any on your own). The terror: the utopia every half brained progressive idealist praises, only to lead to their own downfall.

In the real French Revolution the villain was Robespierre who used high rhetoric to justify rank thugery as a progressive march to fraternity and equality. In A Tale of Two Cities the villain was Madame De Farge, a woman so hell bent on avenging her family’s murders that she will see the whole world burn to get her pound of flesh. Nolan gives us both villains in the form of Bane and Talia al Ghul. Which of course leads us into the villainy of their perverse understanding of economics.

Let me spout the politics of envy and class warfare knowing it will only lead to your eventual destruction!

Before we get into showing how Nolan destroys the ideals of progressivism by showing what it brings, let’s dismiss one semi-intelligent objection: Bane and Talia don’t believe in progressivism, they’re trying to show how it is a failed system and how people must reject it. That’s not entirely an incorrect point…but what you need to also realize is that just because the villains may be a tool they don’t really believe in doesn’t mean that it isn’t showing the flaws of progressivism…and that just because they don’t believe in progressivism doesn’t mean they’re capitalist. Point in fact, the entire League of Shadows from Ra’s Al Ghul’s first words to Talia’s last is a world view based on feudalism and cronyism. The League believes it should be the one who decides who shall be successful and who shall fail. Bane says as much when he tells Wayne, “I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope. So, as I terrorize Gotham, I will feed its people hope to poison their souls. I will let them believe they can survive so that you can watch them clamoring over each other to “stay in the sun.” You can watch me torture an entire city and when you have truly understood the depth of your failure, we will fulfill Ra’s al Ghul’s destiny… We will destroy Gotham and then, when it is done and Gotham is ashes, then you have my permission to die.” As we stated above they rule through terror, not reason, not ethics, not law, justice—they dress their words up in the clothes of these higher ideals but their actions show them to be as hollow and lacking in substance on the inside as any scarecrow (especially if said Scarecrow sets himself up as the instrument of justice).

Politically speaking, there is much that is applicable to our current political situation in our country. Now, to be fair, I don’t believe that Christopher Nolan’s intent was to create a modern political allegory. This movie was written and being filmed long before the Occupy Wall Street movement, which shares many of the villains sentiments, began.

During the first few weeks of the Occupy movement we both remember having many conversations about the similarities between that movement and the early days of the French Revolution. Which is why the connection between The Dark Knight Rises and OWS comes so easily.

The views of Occupy Wall Street were shown almost perfectly in Bane’s and Catwoman’s words, as well as the actions of the people who jump at the chance to drag the rich out and punish them for their success.

Bane’s entire speech outside of Black Gate Prison is so reminiscent of something from a ‘mic check’ at Occupy Wall Street

“We take power from the corrupt, who, for generations, have kept you down with myths of…opportunity and we give it back to you, the people. Gotham is yours, none shall interfere, do as you please. We’ll start by storming Black Gate and freeing the oppressed…an army will be raised, the powerful will be ripped from their decadence and cast out into the cold where we all have endured, courts will be convened, spoils will be enjoyed…”

-Bane (apologies for mistakes, I was working from a VERY scratchy audio clip)

and for those of you who remember the scenes that accompanied the final lines of that speech, the violence is so similar to the rioting at Occupy Oakland that is was almost frightening, especially when you realize that this movie was written months before any of that every happened.

Selina Kyle (Catwoman) starts out with the same exact rhetoric as many an Occupy Wall Street supporter. In a conversation with Bruce Wayne she says “You think this is gonna last? There’s a storm coming Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. ‘Cause when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large, and leave so little for the rest of us.”

Though after her betrayal of Batman she appears to change her tone in a way that OWS never did. Upon entering a home that had been ransacked after Bane’s Black Gate speech she comments on the fact that ‘this used to be someone’s home’ when she looks at a smashed family photo. Her friend says ‘now it’s everyone’s home.’ Kyle, unlike just about everyone in OWS who only has to look to the failure of the Soviet Union, the collapse of Greece or the repression of China and North Korea to know what a failed system socialism, when she saw what her ideals brought about very quickly had no problem seeing their evil and abandoning them.

The Dark Knight Rises shows what happens when give us capitalisms for anarchy or socialism. You have perversion of justice. You have to survive on the handouts and scraps provided to you. There is no growth. No prosperity. No civilization. Only blood and the terror.

Now on to a slightly more hilarious turn of events.

Shortly before the movie came out the Obama campaign (and liberals in general) noticed something they thought they could use as a brilliant attack against Romney.

Did you know that Romney had a business named Bain Capital?

Bain/Bane…get it?**

One of these guys is someone rich who could easily leave others to fend for themselves but doesn’t…the other is named Bane. Which one reminds you the most of the presidential challenger?

“It has been observed that movies can reflect the national mood,” said Democratic advisor and former Clinton aide Christopher Lehane. “Whether it is spelled Bain and being put out by the Obama campaign or Bane and being out by Hollywood, the narratives are similar: a highly intelligent villain with offshore interests and a past both are seeking to cover up who had a powerful father and is set on pillaging society,” he added.

As the Friday release date has neared, liberal blogs were the first to connect Batman’s toughest foe with Romney’s firm.

– Christopher Lehane (via Washington Examiner)

Yeah, they actually did that.

Hilariously, when Rush Limbaugh dared to point out the name similarities, liberal bloggers thought he was being insane and completely ignored that their side was the one who made the comparison first.

Luckily conservatives had a fellow conservative Chuck Dixon, comic book creator, and coincidentally, the co-creator of the villain Bane, to smack some sense into liberals.

In an interview with ComicBook.com Dixon had this to say.

“The idea that there’s some kind of liberal agenda behind the use of Bane in the new movie is silly…I refuted this within hours of the article in the Washington Examiner suggesting that Bane would be tied to Bain Capital and Mitt Romney appearing. Bane was created by me and Graham Nolan and we are lifelong conservatives and as far from left-wing mouthpieces as you are likely to find in comics…As for his appearance in The Dark Knight Rises, Bane is a force for evil and the destruction of the status quo. He’s far more akin to an Occupy Wall Street type if you’re looking to cast him politically. And if there ever was a Bruce Wayne running for the White House it would have to be Romney.”

-Chuck Dixon (Via ComicBook.com)

Romney is Bruce Wayne? That’s the best pseudo-endorsement I’ve heard all year. If I wasn’t voting for Romney before, I sure am now.

The Fear of Death

Blind Prisoner: You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak.
Bruce Wayne: Why?
Blind Prisoner: How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death.
Bruce Wayne: I do fear death. I fear dying in here, while my city burns, and there’s no one there to save it.
Blind Prisoner: Then make the climb.
Bruce Wayne: How?
Blind Prisoner: As the child did. Without the rope. Then fear will find you again.

Now on the Conservative New Ager we have a fairly low opinion of the fear of death. In numerous blogs it has been ridiculed as the foolish, childish, ignorant paralytic it is. However, it must be admitted, that in the rush of these blogs to point out that “Wise men at their end know [death] is right” and that it is nothing to be feared but merely a natural part of life, that the wise also “do not go gentle into that good night.”

Bruce Wayne doesn’t fear death for the first half of the movie, that is true. He is not hindered by the fears that he once was. The problem is that in this attempt to rid himself of fear he went too far and rid himself of the desire for life as well. While the movie only uses the phrase “fear death” it might seem that it is encouraging people to embrace fear. But from context the movie is not telling people to embrace the paralyzing fear of death because it is this fear that encourages the federal government and the people of Gotham to stand ideally by, and the fear that causes Modine’s Foley to hide, while a terrorist takes over the city. Rather, the movie is encouraging a balance—that the proper way is to rid one’s self of the paralyzing fear of death of Wayne did in the first film, but to maintain the love of live, and the appreciation of death and knowledge that each moment could be your last and must be fought for, that comes with this love of life. It is only this appreciation of death, that pushes Wayne to make a jump that he could not otherwise make, because he knows that if he is to live he must push himself—and he cannot push himself without both the knowledge that there is no turning back or without the desire to do something other than seek his own end.

And then of course, as a final thought we can’t forget how wonderfully patriotic this film is. Okay maybe not so much in it showing the President to be a sniveling coward who gives into terrorist demands (patriotic or not that might be an accurate assessment)…or in how cowardly the bureaucracy is when they blow the bridge condemning many to die (again might be an accurate conservative message). But you will notice that the people of Gotham (not the scum the who follow Bain mind you, but the people who are terrorized by them) stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” and the only person shown to not have his hand over his heart is the scummy mayor (who apparently is close to an even scummier Congressmen…again perhaps an accurate assessment of current events). And along with the police it is these people who fight against Bain. And you’ll notice that on the day of the battle even a British director like Nolan knows to show the tattered remains of the flag still flying, still offering hope, and as a symbol that on that day evil will fall. Finally the last words about Gotham, which they say is America’s greatest city, is that it will rise from the ashes of this act of terrorism…you would have to be pretty dense not to see this as a reference to New York, and a testament to how quickly America did pick itself up.

You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything.

Not everything. Not Yet.

And the sad fact is that we’ve only scratched the surface of this film…

*On a side note, it should be said that, for all of Dickens’ flaws, A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens’ best work…too bad he stole half the plot from Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three.

** Oh and if you want to to play the silly let’s compare political figures to fictional ones…I see your Bane/Bain…and raise you…

 

(Romney Ryan photos thanks to Heather Parsons)

Hey Romney, I can’t understand why young Americans would vote for Barack Obama either.

Daniel Blatt, over at Gay Patriot, posted this video.

The first thing I will mention is that it’s moments of this type, the no non-sense “what are you thinking?” “sorry if I’m offending you, but” sort of attitude, that really re-affirm my decision to support him in the primary and the upcoming election. (Because, please, we all know he’s going to get the nomination.)

Secondly, he’s absolutely right.

Money doesn’t grow on trees. (Seriously, it doesn’t. Even the material isn’t paper, it’s made from a blend of cotton and linen.)

So what is my generation expecting? That all of these programs and plans for our parents (and grandparents) generation are going to remain for our generation? So we will continue to rack up trillions of dollars of deficit, continue borrowing from China (thanks to Castle for pointing out, this season, how that could go HORRIBLY AWFULLY wrong at the drop of a hat.), just so we can let the government form a cradle to grave mentality?

Higher taxes won’t fix this. (We could confiscate the wealth of every “rich” person in this country and it still wouldn’t make a dent in our current deficit, not the mention the continued spending and the programs that my generation [hello there Sandra Fluke] would like to institute.)

More regulation won’t fix this. (Guess what happens then, the companies go somewhere else and make some other country successful.)

The only thing that will fix this is to cut spending and re-evaluate why so many people in my generation (and others) are shouting “please will you fix it for me?”* to the government.

This is NOT the country our founding fathers wanted.

 

 

*if you get that reference you win a cookie.

Response to Peter Singer’s Solution for World Poverty: Quatre

Quatre, French for four and also the name of the fourth (and slightly crazy) Gundam pilot in Gundam Wing, but that’s not important right now…except for the fact that Quatre, even when he was blowing up entire space colonies for no good goddamn reason, he was still more sane than Singer.

Quatre was unprepared for the mental stress caused by the Wing Zero’s neural interface, Zero System; it drove him to the point of insanity and he destroyed an OZ-occupied resource satellite and an evacuated civilian colony.

Back to Singer’s essay. (Parts I, II and III)

We ended last time with Singer guilting readers into donating through an overblown comparison to Nazi Germany. (I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will. If that actually worked on any of my readers and you actually donated without researching and finding out if the charity was worthwhile first then shame on you. I would ask you to leave and not come back, but I suffer from the hope that I can teach you something…someday. So stay…read…don’t be a moron.)

Now that you have distinguished yourself morally from people who put their vintage cars ahead of a child’s life,

Wow! Wow! That was…I’m not linking to that article on Poisoning the Well again. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find the link in one of the previous sections. I hope you can see how this comment has no place in a rational philosophical discussion though. He is outright saying, if you did not just donate to charity, you are no better than Bob who sacrificed a child to save his Bugatti. It doesn’t matter if you have a good reason for not donating, such as not being able to find a worthwhile charity whose long term-affects on the livelihoods of the poor you could support, you are still a child killer. You gotta love the size of Singer’s balls, thinking he can get away with bullshit like this…oh wait, he has.

how about treating yourself and your partner to dinner at your favorite restaurant? But wait. The money you will spend at the restaurant could also help save the lives of children overseas! True, you weren’t planning to blow $200 tonight, but if you were to give up dining out just for one month, you would easily save that amount. And what is one month’s dining out, compared to a child’s life? There’s the rub. Since there are a lot of desperately needy children in the world, there will always be another child whose life you could save for another $200. Are you therefore obliged to keep giving until you have nothing left? At what point can you stop?

I don’t know Singer. Since you are using guilt as your main point of control here, I suppose I can stop when I stop feeling guilty about the amount of money I earn at my job. Oh wait, I don’t feel guilty about that now. Jokes on you.

The fact is, most people don’t feel guilty about the amount of money they make. As long as they deserve the amount they are receiving…and I’m well aware that that is not always the case. I’m sure there are many actors and athletes who may feel a smidgen guilty about the size of their paychecks, since I’m fairly certain no one deserves pay checks that large for the jobs they do. More politicians should feel guilty about the size of their paychecks as far as I’m concerned…they certainly aren’t doing the work to deserve the pay.

Hypothetical examples can easily become farcical. Consider Bob. How far past losing the Bugatti should he go? Imagine that Bob had got his foot stuck in the track of the siding, and if he diverted the train, then before it rammed the car it would also amputate his big toe. Should he still throw the switch? What if it would amputate his foot? His entire leg?

Well at least he admits the example was farcical…or could have been farcical if he took it further. I argue that it was farcical from the start, but…whatever.

I already went over why it would have likely been less ethical to switch the train to the second track, so there isn’t really any reason to address this second argument from Singer. If you would like me too, just ask in the comments.

As absurd as the Bugatti scenario gets when pushed to extremes, the point it raises is a serious one: only when the sacrifices become very significant indeed would most people be prepared to say that Bob does nothing wrong when he decides not to throw the switch. Of course, most people could be wrong; we can’t decide moral issues by taking opinion polls.

When pushed to extremes?

Okay, okay, I’ll stop harping on the Bugatti scenario. It just irked me…

When sacrifices become significant? Would that mean the death or injuries of hundreds of passengers on the train? Or hundred or thousands in the city? After all this is a hypothetical situation, I can change it to suit my needs. (Did I say I was going to stop harping on this? I meant the Bugatti part of the scenario. I’ve moved over the my part of the scenario that I outlined in the II part of this response). When I say that the death of that child would be less wrong in that scenario, I’m not deciding that based on an opinion poll (though I doubt an opinion poll would decide the other way, unless the train was full of prison inmates), I’m decided it based on ethical grounds of the number of lives lost. A truly utilitarian way of looking at the situation, which I’m sure Singer couldn’t argue with.

In that case I would demand no sacrifice from Bob, nor from the people on that train. They do not all deserve to die, or be severely injured, to save the life of one child. Sorry, that may seem heartless…but I’m only using the same philosophy as Singer to make that judgment call.

But consider for yourself the level of sacrifice that you would demand of Bob, and then think about how much money you would have to give away in order to make a sacrifice that is roughly equal to that. It’s almost certainly much, much more than $200. For most middle-class Americans, it could easily be more like $200,000.

Once again, Singer fails to define what he means. Does he mean $200,00o a year? (if so, what fantasy world does he live in and how can I move there?) or $200,000 a lifetime? Even $200,000 a lifetime seems drastic, in 2011 or in 1999, in 2011 that’s more than I will spend on my entire college education. Not counting my housing costs, my tuition for all 4 years will be about $40,000. I consider my family to be middle class (currently, we weren’t always) and $200,000 a lifetime? Probably not possible. $200,000 a year? Singer would have to be LSD to think that was possible for a middle class family.

Though I suppose he could be working off the context of “middle class” and “rich” that they IRS have. I don’t know what it was in 1999, but today the cut off for “middle class” is over $100,000 a year and “rich” is over $250,000 a year. If he was working from that idea, which is a completely ridiculous one in the real world, I suppose I could understand his confusion.

Isn’t it counterproductive to ask people to do so much? Don’t we run the risk that many will shrug their shoulders and say that morality, so conceived, is fine for saints but not for them? I accept that we are unlikely to see, in the near or even medium-term future, a world in which it is normal for wealthy Americans to give the bulk of their wealth to strangers. When it comes to praising or blaming people for what they do, we tend to use a standard that is relative to some conception of normal behavior. Comfortably off Americans who give, say, 10 percent of their income to overseas aid organizations are so far ahead of most of their equally comfortable fellow citizens that I wouldn’t go out of my way to chastise them for not doing more. Nevertheless, they should be doing much more, and they are in no position to criticize Bob for failing to make the much greater sacrifice of his Bugatti.

Before I go any further, I have to note that, according the New York Times, Peter Singer only give 20% of his income to charity. He is falling awfully far short of the bar he sets for everyone else isn’t he? He says that “they are in no position to criticize Bob for failing to make the much greater sacrifice of his Bugatti.” but he feels like he is in the perfect position to criticize the rest of us, when he falls so far short of his own ideal? How hypocritical of him.

Now I’ll address another issue I take with his philosophy. His sheer inability to understand his own country’s economy and what his ideals will do to it.

Alright, fine, say that everyone in this country stops going out to eat, stops buying luxury items, stops sending their kids to college, saving for retirement, or doing anything outside of paying for “necessities”. Which apparently come up to $30,000 a year. So our country is doing a great thing for the impoverished countries around the world…sure we may not be helping them in the long run, but we are helping. We are at least giving the starving man a fish, even if we aren’t teaching him how to fish, as the saying goes.

That’s great.

Now what is happening to our economy at home? Well that restauranteur has to shut his restaurant because no one is going out to eat any more, because it’s a “luxury item”, so he has to lay off, on average, 2 cooks, 3 cook’s assistants, 5 waiters, 3 bussers, 2 bartenders and a hostess. So that’s 17 people out of work right there and that’s just one restaurant in one town. The shops selling “luxury clothing” such as that $1000 suit that Singer mentions, has to shut it’s doors, so it stops making suits, laying off dozens of tailors and seamstresses in the process. And on and on and on it goes, right down the line. A stream of unemployed, impoverished people right here in our own country.

Soon the charities that were working overseas see the problem at home and return to their own country to work, feeding and clothing the poor, handing out free medical care for those that have no jobs.

And who is paying for that?

Why the people who still have jobs of course. They are still working, plodding along and donating every single cent of their excess money because it’s the “moral” thing to do. Except, now, instead of supporting foreign countries all that work is going into keeping their own country afloat. Am I the only that sees a problem with this scenario? We do not destroy our own country’s economy in a desperate attempt to shore up the economy of a third world country that needs far more than a stopgap measure of food and medical aid to cure its ills.

For that matter, Mr. President, we don’t destroy our own economy to keep huge banks afloat and keep paying out money into sinking ships with names like Social Security and Medicare either.

Singer doesn’t understand the economy, not here and not overseas. He doesn’t understand how to stop World Poverty because he doesn’t understand how poverty happens. Until he understands that, listening to anything he says on the subject is pure folly.

Obama doesn’t understand the economy either, but I think we already knew that.

Response to Peter Singer’s Solution for World Poverty: The Third Degree

Did you know that the term “The third degree” is thought to have originated from a practice that The Masonic Lodges use?

(Yes, those Masonic Lodges. The movie “National Treasure” didn’t invent the Masons you know. They are a real, slightly creepy, group. I lived across the street from a Masonic Temple for a year…)

In Masonic lodges there are three degrees of membership; the first is called Entered Apprentice, the second Fellowcraft, and the third is master mason. When a candidate receives the third degree in a Masonic lodge, he is subjected to some activities that involve an interrogation and it is more physically challenging than the first two degrees. It is this interrogation that was the source of the name of the US police force’s interrogation technique.

Anyway, interesting bit of trivia from The Phrase Finder.

On to the essay. (Parts I and II here)

One genuine difference between Bob and those who can afford to donate to overseas aid organizations but don’t is that only Bob can save the child on the tracks, whereas there are hundreds of millions of people who can give $200 to overseas aid organizations. The problem is that most of them aren’t doing it. Does this mean that it is all right for you not to do it?

Suppose that there were more owners of priceless vintage cars —Carol, Dave, Emma, Fred and so on, down to Ziggy— all in exactly the same situation as Bob, with their own siding and their own switch, all sacrificing the child in order to preserve their own cherished car. Would that make it all right for Bob to do the same? To answer this question affirmatively is to endorse follow-the-crowd ethics —the kind of ethics that led many Germans to look away when the Nazi atrocities were being committed. We do not excuse them because others were behaving no better.

Singer once again reverts to Poisoning the Well as his attack…and this time he compares it to Nazi Germany. I’m pretty sure that invokes Godwin’s law. Depending on what message board you are talking to, that may or may not mean he automatically loses the argument. While I see no problem with, on occasion, comparing certain people to Hitler and his cronies…I only do it when what they are actually doing is comparable. Once again Singer is blowing his comparisons way out of proportion.

Now you might say that the comparison of the Nazis was just a good example of “follow-the-crowd ethics”. Well I can think of a lot better comparisons that don’t invoke Hitler and the Gestapo. The choice to use the National Socialist party as his comparison (Really hilarious when you consider that this guy appears to love socialism) was intentional, because, as I said in a conversation with The Conservative New Ager last night before we went to see The Debt, the mention of Hitler has a very visceral reaction of disgust from people. It’s why Godwin’s law was created after all, people like comparing others to Hitler in debates, because that tends to scare off their opponent.

We seem to lack a sound basis for drawing a clear moral line between Bob’s situation and that of any reader of this article with $200 to spare who does not donate it to an overseas aid agency. These readers seem to be acting at least as badly as Bob was acting when he chose to let the runaway train hurtle toward the unsuspecting child. In the light of this conclusion, I trust that many readers will reach for the phone and donate that $200. Perhaps you should do it before reading further.

If you have read parts I and II of my reaction to this essay you will realize that what Singer said in that first sentence is completely untrue. I won’t go over that again.

Then he makes this appeal to an irrational emotional reaction. “Go, donate now. Don’t think logically about it. Don’t research the organization. Just donate. Do it because it will make you feel better, after all I’ve done such a good job of making you feel guilty so far right?”

I’m trying desperately to think of the last person I heard on TV to push that idea of “do this now, it’s the right thing. Don’t think about it, just do it. You have a moral obligation. Don’t bother to think critically about what you are doing with the money, just do it. You’ll feel better afterward, I promise.”

Oh right…that was Obama’s “Jobs speech”. Let’s not talk about that right now.

That’s all for now. Except that I want to tack on a bit of an addendum to what I wrote in the last post. Something that The Conservative New Ager said in a comment, but you may not have read the comments. I apparently missed this line in the essay when I discussing the implausibility of Unger/Singer’s “Bob” scenario.

He has invested most of his savings in a very rare and valuable old car, a Bugatti, which he has not been able to insure.

TCNA said that “if something is worth money, there’s an insurance company out there that will insure it–again Singer doesn’t seem to understand how capitalism works–so in reality there would be no economic loss.”

And that’s the truth. If it exacts and it’s worth money, there is a an insurance company that will insure it.

On another side note. I just started reading Glenn Beck’s Common Sense, I might post about it when I finish the book. My parents have also promised to buy me a subscription to Glenn Beck TV for my birthday, which was this past Tuesday. Happy Birthday to me ^_^