Honest disagreement among good people.

Written by Scarabus




In the title of his 2004 book, Thomas Frank asked, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” That’s just one version of a more general question liberals ask themselves all the time: “What’s the matter with conservatives? Why do they so frequently vote against their own self-interest?”

The answers liberals offer to themselves are – much too often – superficial, complacent, condescending, arrogant, dismissive, glib….

  • They’re too dumb to recognize where their self-interest lies.
  • They’re too shortsighted to recognize the sequence of consequences that will follow from a given decision.
  • They’re too obsessed by racism (or jingoism or xenophobia or fear or anti-semitism or religious bigotry or …) to perceive the inevitable chain of events they’re setting in motion.
  • They’re just bad, hateful, violent people.
  • Etc.


2014 1119strict


As my granddaughter used to say, if you point one finger at someone else, then you’re pointing three fingers back at yourself. I’ve been just as guilty of this as anyone else, but something I read in a ThinkProgress interview with George Lakoff has led me to rethink my position. Nothing I hadn’t read or heard before, but this time it stuck.

Interviewer: You write, “remember that voters vote their identity and their values, which need not coincide with their self-interest.”…

Lakoff: [C]onservatives believe deeply that they are morally right, that they and other conservatives are operating from the right moral principles. They don’t believe that they are immoral, and they don’t believe that right and wrong don’t matter. As moral beings, they want to be treated with respect. And in personal relationships, respect is appropriate.

Liberals take it for granted that one should be willing to sacrifice personal interest for the sake of the common good and of what’s morally and ethically right. So why should we be shocked if conservative voters feel the same way?



Jean Piaget


There’s a stage of human development Jean Piaget called “egocentricism.” (For lay people the term is unfortunate, in my opinion, because it carries negative moral connotations. I think I read once – though I can’t document it – that Piaget later regretted having chosen that particular term.) Piaget identified egocentrism with adolescence, the time when young people are developing a sense of personal identity; the time when they’re trying to understand what’s unique about themselves, and what they share in common with others. Subsequent researchers have extended the range and considered ways the phenomenon persists throughout one’s life.

Basically, in this technical sense, egocentrism is the subconscious assumption that others see the world the same way you do:

  • If I do A, then it’s because of reason B; therefore if others do A, they too must be doing it for reason B.
  • I consider C morally right and D morally wrong; therefore others too must consider C morally right and D morally wrong.
  • If I do D, then it’s because I’m a bad person; therefore if others do D, it’s because they’re bad persons.
  • Etc.

Stated thus starkly, these propositions are obviously ridiculous. The bad news is that, to varying degrees at varying times, we really do tend subconsciously to see the world that way. The good news is that because we’re aware of them, we can fight consciously to resist such counter-productive tendencies.

Think about that next time matters of politics come up in conversations with conservative friends or relatives. You’re not going to change the way they see the world. However, you can look for courses of action you both can support, for equally respectable albeit totally different reasons. And you can defend your positions in ways that they will make sense to them.

Decommissioned nuclear submarine U.S.S. Redoubtable

Written by Scarabus


“Totally torpedo tubular bell(e)s, man!”


Torpedo Tubular Bell e s

Values and personality assessment.

Written by Scarabus


What follows is totally unscientific, but it might encourage healthful introspection. Or not.


Item #1

Do you perceive anything at all that’s salacious or naughty in the following cartoon?


Proud 1


  • If you answered “No,” congratulations! You’re a healthy-minded, decent, and probably boring person. Quit now before you get corrupted.
  • If you answered “Yes,” congratulations! You’re a dirty-minded, decent, imaginative, and potentially interesting person. First wash out your mind with “99 44/100% Pure Ivory Snow” soap, and then continue to the next item.


Item #2

Did the last sentence above make you think of the late Marilyn Chambers?


  • If you answered “No,” congratulations! There’s still hope for you, but quit now before you get corrupted!
  • If you answered “Yes,” congratulations! You’re a dirty-minded, decent, imaginative, and potentially very interesting person with knowledge of sorta obscure features of popular culture. Either that or you’ve spent way too much time watching porn films. This time you’d better wash out your mind with a cocktail of serious disinfectants!


What? You’re frustrated by the way that ended? OK…

Marilyn Chambers was a young model and aspiring film actress. One of her modeling assignments involved her posing as a pure and innocent young mother. (She wasn’t a mother, and was holding someone else’s baby. In other words, the photo was a visual lie, and P&G knew it!) That photo was used by Procter and Gamble on boxes of Ivory Snow soap that were distributed and placed on store shelves all over the United States.

Chambers’s first movie appearance was a non-speaking role in The Owl and the Pussycat, a Hollywood film that starred Barbra Streisand. No problem. But her second film was Behind the Green Door, produced by the famous Mitchell Brothers (famous or infamous, depending on your point of view). I haven’t seen it, but according to Wikipedia (caveat emptor!) the action included … well, a whole lot of totally nude sex, including the first ever hardcore intercourse between a black man and a white woman.

OK. So much for Ivory Snow 99 44/100% Pure! Procter and Gamble removed every soap box from the shelves. However – again according to Wikipedia – that soap box made a cameo appearance in almost every other porn film that Marilyn Chambers made.



Marilyn chambers ivory snow shrunk

This article pissed me off!

Written by Scarabus




Arts Students Are Motivated More by Love of Subject Than Money or Future Careers

Saturday, 22 November 2014 13:07

By Anya Skatova, The Conversation

Science and engineering subjects are often presented as better career choices for students than the arts or humanities. Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, recently said that STEM subjects – sciences, technology, engineering and maths – unlock doors to all sorts of careers and that pupils who study maths to A Level earn 10% more over their lifetime.

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Restructure arts degrees

Careers are often judged by financial success – and not without a reason. And graduates from arts and humanities degrees seem to make less money than their STEM peers. For example, a 2011 report by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, puts most arts and humanities subjects at the bottom of the pay scale.

But perhaps the reason for that is not that those careers are a bad choice. If arts and humanities degrees attract people who are not career-driven, could that explain why they do not do as well financially in their career in the future? In order to make more money, you need to strive for that – it doesn’t just come by itself.

If it is the case that arts and humanities students do not do as well financially because of low career aspirations, should we discourage them from choosing arts and humanities? Probably not – these degrees are where they might do the best – because they enjoy it. Instead, universities should provide them with more career focus in their undergraduate courses that can make those students more structured in achieving their career goals.

In response to the article, I wrote this comment:

What’s a “career”? To me, it was a lifetime spent doing what I truly loved. (I’m a retired university professor whose specialization lay in the humanities.) My career aspirations had nothing to do with money or power or prestige. They had everything to do with the intrinsic rewards of learning and of sharing what I had learned.


By the definition implied here that meant I had “low career aspirations.” By my definition that meant I had the highest possible career aspirations. And I can assure you I had intense and unwavering “career focus.” I wanted to learn and to share, not just what I had learned, but also the intrinsic joy and rewards of learning – and I worked continually to do that as well as I possibly could.


My colleagues in other disciplines taught students how to do things, including accumulating wealth. I taught students to consider deeply whether to do those things; the moral and ethical implications of how they did those things; and, in the event they were successful, how they might invest in promoting the common good.


Herman Melville’s short story “Bartleby” is narrated by a lawyer who is incapable of imagining the way his ostensible subject sees the world. This article seems to have been written by a researcher who is incapable of imagining the way I and those like me see the world. Read Chaucer’s description of the “Clerk of Oxford.”

Source of literary allusions in that final paragraph, just for the record:

From the “Prologue” of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Lines 287-310

 A CLERK from Oxford was there also,

Who’d studied philosophy, long ago.

As lean was his horse as is a rake,

And he too was not fat, that I take,

But he looked emaciated, moreover, abstemiously.

Very worn off was his overcoat; for he

Had got him yet no churchly benefice,

Nor he was worldly to accept secular office.

For he would rather have at his bed’s head

Some twenty books, all bound in black or red,

Of Aristotle and his philosophy

Than rich robes, fiddle, or gay psaltery.

Yet, and for all he was philosopher in base,

He had but little gold within his suitcase;

But all that he might borrow from a friend

On books and learning he would swiftly spend,

And then he’d pray diligently for the souls

Of those who gave him resources to attend schools.

He took utmost care and heed for his study.

Not one word spoke he more than was necessary;

And that was said with due formality and dignity

And short and lively, and full of high morality.

Filled with moral virtue was his speech;

And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.

From the early part of Herman Melville’s Bartleby (also known as Bartleby the Scrivener)

Imprimis: I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquillity of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor’s good opinion.

In contrast to what the narrator says here of himself, Bartleby

  • takes the hardest possible way.
  • is an eminently unsafe man.
  • demonstrates that “his first grand point” is imprudence…
  • and his second lack of method.
  • doesn’t care a flip about name or fame.

A positive, courageous move that will threaten the fearful, self-doubting, and insecure

Written by Scarabus


Just checked my email. These are the subject lines at the top of my inbox:


Victory 1


What do you suppose the subject lines at the top of the inboxes of Brainwashed Fox and hate-talk radio mesmerized, fearful, irrational conservatives will be? Including, ironically, those who are themselves immigrants or children of immigrants? “I made it into the lifeboat (or my parents or grandparents did), but no one else can join us. I’m slamming the door behind us.”

“Why are you doing that, sir or madam?” There’s plenty of room in the lifeboat. What are you afraid of?”

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Full disclosure: My father and grandmother were immigrants. On my mother’s side, my great, great grandmother was a native American Indian. So I guess I’m doubly inferior. 

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞


Were I a gambler (I’m not), I’d bet a lot that sales of guns and ammunition will skyrocket – starting tonight!

What can you say about fearful, insecure people who feel they can’t prosper and succeed unless they’re protected from competition from those they deem inferior? Say what? If they’re inferior, then why are you afraid of them? What did Hitler think when an American of partially African descent, Jesse Owens, defeated the best “Aryan” athletes of the Third Reich? Lots of myths, but the truth is Hitler was civil, and the German crowd was warmly receptive. Why? Hitler was confident, not fearful. He trusted his athletes.

Is that what opponents of immigration reform fear? That if the playing field is leveled, they won’t be able to compete successfully against men, women, and children whose skin is brown? If so, they should take cheer. Hitler was right about this (if about this if not anything else in his twisted, drug addicted life). Nazi Germany won more medals at those Olympic Games (“games”? sic!) than all other nations combined. If you have the right stuff, then you can succeed on your own merits – no character assassination of the competition; no Atwater, Segretti, Rove dirty tricks (“rat fucking,” as they called it); no cynical suppression of votes.

When do you buy guns and ammo with full intent to maim and cripole? Where should one start…? Violence is a last resort. When you can’t trust the inherent virtue of your cause, and you can’t trust your own ability to articulate and argue your position convincingly, then what do you do? You either acknowledge that your case is wrong or you can’t convince anyone to accept your conclusions, or you start waving around your dick and AK-47 and either threatening or actually shooting the defenseless persons around you.


When we wake up tomorrow (November 21), no Americans will have been hurt. Many Americans will have been helped. But you won’t hear that on Faux News or hate-talk radio. Remember the cartoon movie with Monster in the title? Was it Monsters, Inc.? The good guys defeated the bad guys when they discovered that joy and happiness and laughter were more powerful than fear and screams. Faux News and hate-talk radio are bad guys. They’re nourished and strengthened by fear and hatred. They shrivel like the witch Dorothy threw water on when fear is replaced by trust, and hatred is replaced by love.

How the U.S. C of C perceives the election

Written by Scarabus


I got my regular self-parodying email from the U.S. [Transnational] Chamberpot of Commerce and Bullshit. It’s a beaut! Still can’t decide whether they believe it themselves, or if they’re just manipulating their readers. Probably a bit of both.
C of C letter 2
  1. Now really! How can anyone say with a straight face that Harry Reid is to blame for Mitch McConnell’s record-breaking string of filibusters? or deny that Boehner refused to allow a lot of stuff the Senate passed even to have an up or down vote? like the immigration problem President Obama will address tonight?
  2. Just before the election the approval rating of Congress stood at just 14%. In other words, the entire Congress is out of step with the American  people in general. And they don’t care. They care that they’re in step with Wall Street and Multinational businesses like those represented by the U.S. C. of C. (From a recent study titled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University.)
  3. OK. On this one I totally agree with Rob Engstrom, who signed this letter. This really is symbolic of everything the U.S./Multinational Chamber of Commerce fought to change. Of course the change they fought for was almost totally destructive. The next two years are going to be extremely dangerous.
  4. This is a typo, I think. Surely he meant to say that “we made our dark money and voter suppression heard.”
  5. Show me the Senate leadership, regardless of party, which wasn’t “pro-growth”!
  6. How often do you think he’s ever said the word “environmentalist” without adding “extremist/s”? For people like this concern for the environmental is in and of itself “extremist.”
  7. He’s right that a majority of Americans support construction of the pipeline right now. But does 50-60% constitute a “vast” majority? Decide for yourself. He doesn’t add that the reason they support it is that people like him have lied their asses off. (a) The pipeline would add only 30-50 permanent jobs, not the ridiculous numbers they cite. (b) The oil will not affect U.S. dependence on Middle East oil. It’ll be shipped all over the world, not used here. (c) The especially “dirty” oil will go elsewhere, but its climate destroying pollution will hurt us just as much as it will everyone else. (d) The pipe will be out of sight, out of mind until it leaks and destroys the aquifer major parts of our country depend on for drinking water and crops
  8. Talk about symbolism! Can you believe how clueless this is? Look at the image! The nice bright pipes that people see are to the right and left. The dark, polluting, destructive filth they can’t see spills out of those pipes onto the earth, flowing past the dead weeds, and engulfing us. Glub, club!

Where did all these asses come from? “Where have all the good donkeys gone?”

Written by Scarabus


DeanWonders 1


On Press the Meat:

 Howard Dean appeared on Meet the Press this past weekend with a rather good analysis on the midterm election.

“Jim Clyburn was the most right person in that lead up,” Howard Dean said. “It was message. Sure it was an off year. We can make all these excuses. But the fact is we have never—and even through the days of the fifty state strategy, taking over the House and the Senate and the presidency in four years when I was running the DNC—I could never get the Washington Democrats to stay on message. The Republican message was we are not Obama, no substance whatsoever. We are not Obama. What was the Democrats’ message? Oh well we are not either. You cannot win if you are afraid. It felt like it. Where the hell is the Democratic Party. You have to stand for something if you want to win.


Three-step suggestion:

  1. Complete this sentence, “Democrats stand for ___, ___, …”
  2. Since 2008, “Democrats have acted on what they stand for to accomplish ___, ___, …”
  3. In 2014, “The following Democrats ran on what Democrats stand for and what they have accomplished: ___, ___, …”
  4. In 2014, “The following Democrats ran instead on ___, ___, …”


Think local and state, not just national!

When Republicans and Democrats speak of “the American people,” they don’t have the same people in mind.

Written by Scarabus


Dreams 1


Red, blue, purple states can be distinguished in various ways, so don’t get hung up on which is which. It’s the principle that matters:

° “The American people” refers to those who agree with me.


° “The American people” refers to all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or ideology.