"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What Do You Call a Conservative Mugged By Reality?

We all remember Irving Kristol's great line:

What do you call a liberal mugged by reality? A conservative.

But I'm already a conservative and I got mugged by reality last night.

Just after dinner there was a knock at the door. A very down on his luck looking African-American man stood there when I opened the door, expecting a package for my son. He explained he was looking for work. I offered to let him wash my car and planned on overpaying him. I told him to meet me in the backyard.

After I brought him a bucket, soap, rags, etc., he asked for a cold drink and to come in and use the bathroom. I was worried about letting him in to use the bathroom because he had a cough and I have a six month old and a three year old. I got him the drink and told him frankly about my concern with contagious illness. He said it was asthma. Didn't sound like asthma to me, so I put him off and went back in the house to consult with my wife about it.

Looking out the window, I could see the man was beginning to wash the car. A flash of blue caught my eye out the side window and I noticed two police officers, one male and one female, walking into my backyard. When I got to the backyard, the man was talking to the cops. I approached and told the officers I had hired this man to wash the car. They explained a neighbor had called. He walked back to the car and began working again, but the officers didn't leave.

The female officer talked on the radio, while the male officer told me I'd made a mistake. He said the odd jobs request was a common tactic for casing a house for later burglary. When I told him the man had asked to come inside, he said that was likely part of the plan. The female officer said something I didn't quite catch and the male officer said, "It's him."

Meanwhile, a third officer walked up. At this point, I noticed all three were wearing bulletproof vests under their clothes. I asked if the man washing my car was wanted for a crime. The radio spoke up again, but I couldn't understand it. One of the officers said the man had a felony warrant, probably for burglary. I half-wondered whether the man would attempt flight or resist arrest.

They approached the man I'd hired and put cuffs on him. He protested, but they said they couldn't take a chance. He asked if he could finish the job. They said no. I felt terrible that he had worked while the police officers waited to hear whether they should arrest him. I told them I wanted to pay him. I offered the money and the policeman put it in the man's pocket. He thanked me. They went off. The whole thing was very quiet and calm.

I stood there feeling like an idiot for possibly putting my family in danger, but my instinct was to give the man a job and try to help him. Had I done the wrong thing? I don't know and still don't.

50 comments:

S. T. Karnick said...

Hunter, you did the wrong thing, albeit for the right reasons. People who really want to work don't go knocking on doors of residences in looking for it. They go where the work is.

The man did not ask for charity, and therefore you have no obligation to provide it.

The thing to do in such a situation is this: say that you have no work for him now but if he'll give you his name, address, and phone number if any, you will contact him when something comes up.

If he is legitimate, he will give you this info, without delay. If not and he does not leave right away, you should use a previously arranged code phrase in your conversation with him, so that your wife will know to call the police immediately.

Hunter Baker said...

That's good advice, S.T. It also matches some of what the policeman told me.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Hunter, I assume you remember the very prominent story of the Utah girl Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from her home and found about a year later. The abductor scoped out the Smart residence in about the same way your story unfolds -- came around looking for work, the father hired him to do some sort of maintainance or landscaping, he worked a couple of days and cased the house, came back a few weeks later and snatched Elizabeth.

When I was a kid, hoboes would often come up to my grandma's door asking if they could do some work in exchange for a meal. They never asked for money. She always fed them, sometimes assigning a task, sometimes not. I remember one time she had the guy pluck a chicken she'd just beheaded and scalded, which for my money is the worst farm job anywhere anytime. He did it. There was never any problem with these guys. But now -- I hate being suspicious of strangers, but you just about have to be. Balancing the Christian duty to succor the stranger with the duty to protect your family is more and and more of a challenge.

Sam and Jay have both seen my house and its location, so they'll understand why I'm glad I have a big dog with a big bark to let me know when someone's snooping around, and let the snooper know I've got a big dog.

Burwell said...

One point to consider, though, is that Jesus did say to give to whoever asks, and the good Samaritan assisted the man in a situation that was commonly used as a trap to rob the do-good passerby.

It is always difficult to make that kind of decision. One way to look at is this: you did what is commanded of believers, not knowing whether it was the right thing or not, and not knowing the man's motives. In response to your obedience, you left a witness that the man most likely will not forget. And God, in His providence, protected you and your family from any ill-intent on the man's part.

It was the priest in "Les Miserables" who gave Jean Valjean all his silver, after Valjean was caught, that most impacted Valjean's life; not Javert.

Tlaloc said...

"What do you call a liberal mugged by reality? A conservative."

I always liked that line because it neatly showed Kristol's failing. Namely that modern day conservativism is based on fear trumping common sense.

Take fear of minorities, fear of the poor, and fear of foreigners combined and you end up with the caustic detrius that passes for modern conservative thought.

Fear is of course a useful emotion but one that must be controlled and tempered or else it leads us to be callow and selfish. Two very apt descriptions of the GOP currently what with it's wanton disregard for civilian life and rampant cronyism.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

"... modern day conservativism is based on fear trumping common sense."


Not a hint of fear in that statement. Funny you should say "common sense"; ivory tower liberal ideas are not common sense.

For you to think that conservatives are somehow afraid of those that you list is laughable.

Are conservatives *that* misunderstood, or is it misrepresentation?

Tlaloc said...

"Funny you should say "common sense"; ivory tower liberal ideas are not common sense."

Liberals are most common in two areas: academia and the arts. What do both have in common? A cosmopolitan outlook on life. That outlook can be described in simplest terms as "you are different but I don't fear."



"For you to think that conservatives are somehow afraid of those that you list is laughable."

Really? Lets see, Fear of Minorities...hmmm, perhaps you are aware of the xenophobic immigration reform desired by the hard core right wing? That is nothing but a manifestation of fear.

Fear of the Poor? Hello bankruptcy reform which targetted the poor exclusively. Hello tax breaks for the rich and corporations. Hello tort reform.

Fear of foreigners? Perhaps you've read something about 9/11 and the hysterical reaction of the right which to date has included eviscerating civil liberties, engaging in torture of prisoners, and the unprovoked attack of two sovereign nations.



"Are conservatives *that* misunderstood, or is it misrepresentation?"

The problem has always been that conservatives don't understand themselves. Really how could they when they forbid any sort of introspection? School is to teach job skills. Art is foofy nonsense. "Finding yourself" is just a hippy mantra to dodge work. Conservatives have traditionally always looked outward and hence have no idea what motivates them and why.

That's why when 9/11 happened conservatives were stunned. That's why they still to this day claim we were attacked without provocation when the simplest reading of the history of the middle east says the opposite. But the conservative eye is always aimed outward, toward other's faults, never their own.

In that way most conservatives are no better than the meanest child, and frankly must often be treated as such.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha!!!! That was entertaining.

"you are different but I don't fear."


Liberals have an irrational fear of many poeple, including christians and anyone who wants to mess with the nanny state.


"Lets see, Fear of Minorities."

I'll give you a partial pass on this one. Conservatives, in general, are all over the map on immigration.


"Fear of the Poor?"

Bzzzt. Please explain how tax reform and increased tax revenue are a manifestation of fear?


"Fear of foreigners?"

Bzzzt. I'll admit that *some* irrational fear may exist in the far reaches of rural red-state America, but conservatives in general do not have a problem with foreigners.

Maybe you think that wanting profiling is out of fear?

Ah ... I think I've figured it out. Liberals are deathly afraid of little-old-ladies! Why else would they pat them down at airports?

Now there's a common-sense ivory tower liberal idea.

Do you take yourself seriously?

Tlaloc said...

"Liberals have an irrational fear of many poeple, including christians and anyone who wants to mess with the nanny state."

People who want to make government oppress the people rather than serve it (your "nanny state") are dangerous as history has proven over and over (think of every autocratic bastard who has ruled with an iron fist). A certain amount of fear of them is then anything but irrational.

I'd have to ask you for proof of fear of christians since it seems that mostly liberals just ask that christians don't get the special benefits they seem to feel entitled to. Requiring equality isn't fear but justice.



"Bzzzt. Please explain how tax reform and increased tax revenue are a manifestation of fear?"

Already did, taxes were lowered on all but the poor. Everyone else was given a break while they were sqeezed more and more. It doesn't take a genius to see that this treatment isn't born out of love for them.



"Bzzzt. I'll admit that *some* irrational fear may exist in the far reaches of rural red-state America, but conservatives in general do not have a problem with foreigners."

Unfortunately as a conservative you lack the self perception to know. But yes there is a great fear of anything foreign in conservative circles. Remember "freedom" fires? Congressional Republicans are not "the far reaches of rural red-state America."



"Maybe you think that wanting profiling is out of fear?"

It's certainly a manifestation of fear since it's proven that no profile would have caught the major terrorist instigators of the last three big attacks. If something doesn't work and yet people scream for it continuously it's a good bet they do so out of hysteria, i.e. fear.



"Do you take yourself seriously?"

Certainly. That's one of the gifts of introspection, the knowledge that I must take myself seriously because I have a serious impact on my life and those around me.

James Elliott said...

I think the funniest part of this whole conversation is the idea that conservatives are somehow less prone to ivory-tower thinking. Think tanks are no less academic and detached from reality than a university. One might even argue that they are more insular.

Part of the human condition is to hold your opinions as "normal" and other's as "aberrant." This is part of that fear-based reaction Tlaloc is talking about. Most people, conservative or liberal, live in a place of fear and uncertainty and so spend much of their time reacting instead of thinking and acting with consideration.

The amazing thing, CLA, is that for all of your "dialogue" with the likes of Tlaloc, LA, myself, and your liberal friends, you don't take the time to understand our positions. For example, liberals do not fear Christians. They fear certain Christians who have decided in their zealotry to impose their strictures upon others. Now, a more legitimate criticism might be that in their fear of one type of zealotry, some or even many liberals have descended into their own reactionary zealotry without considering the ramifications. But do you see how they're not the same thing at all? Or is this all too academic for you?

"Do you take yourself seriously?"

I'd say the chief problem in political debate today is that EVERYONE takes themselves too seriously.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Hmmm ... it sure is easy to get you into "universal moral" arguments: oppression is bad, a sense of "justice" ... tsk tsk tsk. I'll have to assume that you most certainly do NOT take yourself seriously.

Rather that go point by point, I'll generalize here.

1) I'm not going to get into a discussion about taxes with you. You clearly believe "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." We all know how that sad story goes. Besides, there are numerous others who post here who are more qualified to rebut.


2) I'm not sure how conservatives oppress people, please explain. Are you just taking all of the bad in the world and labeling it a result of "conservatives?"


3) I'm not going to discuss profiling further than this: it is impossible to "prove" that profiling would not have caught (fill in the blank).


4) Fear of christians ... where do I start. Why is it that Kerry had to pretty much renounce his religion in order to get accepted by democrats?

James Elliott said...

Again, you're not listening, CLA. Nor are you demonstrating much of an understanding. Rather, you cling to your interpretations and the "common sense" explanations put forward by those you emotionally feel connected to. I think you're rather vividly demonstrating the fear-based reactionary thinking we're talking about here.

Of course, like most fear-based individuals, you will respond with bluster and bravado. Have fun.

Hunter Baker said...

I think the whole fear thing is a lame Michael Moore-on meme set in motion with the Bowling for Columbine film. Conservatives are certainly no more fearful than anyone else.

The primary moving factors behind political conservatism are human experience and distrust of change without truly compelling reasons. If that represents a brand of fear, I think it is only a well-founded one given the general failure of those who seek to make the world anew and start the clock running at the year zero like Pol Pot or Robespierre.

James Elliott said...

I think you are failing to grasp the "fear-meme." Hardly a result of Michael Mooreism, it is a widely accepted idea among clinical mental health workers (social workers, like myself, and psychologists). All people act out of fear sometimes, and many all the time.

Fear needn't be conscious to affect one's thoughts and actions.

like Pol Pot or Robespierre.


Or Jefferson and Franklin, et al. Let's not forget that Robespierre and Pol Pot both acted out of a fear of the other as well. It's clever to use a Communist and a proletariat-leaning intellectual whose ideas resulted in widespread death and oppression as your go-to guys, since these are the kinds of people conservatives usually feel are the logical conclusion of liberalism, but it's not all that honest.

As an aside, Hunter, if you or any of your fellows are into reading fantasy fiction, you should check out Terry Goodkind. He's right up your alley (basically his series is all about a revolt against a thinly-veiled Communist allegory-state upholding the virtues of capitalism and free will).

James Elliott said...

I am reminded of a quote by my favorite deep thinker, Eric Hoffer:

"Fear and Freedom are mutually exclusive."

Kathy Hutchins said...

Burwell -- that was a marvelous comment. Even for Christians who have attempted to follow the commandment to gather up riches in heaven, it is very very hard to let go of the idea that our family and loved ones need to be protected like a miser protects his gold. It's such a natural protective reaction.

I admire what Hunter did, and especially the impulse that led him to do it, even if the police thought it ill-judged.

Kathy Hutchins said...

I think you are failing to grasp the "fear-meme." Hardly a result of Michael Mooreism, it is a widely accepted idea among clinical mental health workers (social workers, like myself, and psychologists). All people act out of fear sometimes, and many all the time.

Tlaloc's "fear-meme" seems to be that conservatives are uniquely fearful. Do you agree with that or not?

You want an example of liberal fear? Try telling a group of young liberal women that you're pro-life and see how far "you are different but I don't fear" gets you.

James Elliott said...

I agree with the idea of liberal fear as well. Did you not see my comment about descending into zealotry?

What is distinctive between liberal and conservative fear is the liberals still don't take rights away or have people killed because they're afraid of them or their ideas. Conservatives, or at least the current popular batch, don't appear to share that compunction

Tlaloc said...

"Hmmm ... it sure is easy to get you into "universal moral" arguments: oppression is bad, a sense of "justice" ... tsk tsk tsk."

As before this is because you make a mistake and then foolishly assume it was mine. I never said that oppression being bad is a universal moral. It is however a common western moral. Since we are both americans it is hardly a stretch then to assume we may share it and to argue accordingly. If you wish to claim that you find oppression morally acceptable I'll have to take you at your word.



"I'm not sure how conservatives oppress people, please explain."

Are you joking? Lets take a couple examles: religion and sex. The religious element of the conservatives in America want their religion enshrined as the national religion above all others, with special privelege. All other religions are then to be denigrated and treated as lesser if not unsavory practices. Look at the Air Force Academy and their blatant abuse of students who were not protestant. Look at the attempts to paint Islam as a barbarous religion.

Meanwhile the social side of the conservatives want to control every aspect of human sexuality. Sodomy is to be illegal. Gays refused marriage. Sex out of wedlock criminal. Abortion forbidden.

Are you so blind you don't even realize your professed philosophy is based entirely upon controlling people?



"I'm not going to discuss profiling further than this: it is impossible to "prove" that profiling would not have caught (fill in the blank)."

No actually it's completely possible. There is no racial profile that would have caught the perpetrators of Oklahoma city, 9/11, and 7/7. That's a simple fact as they came from very different backgrounds and ethnicities.



"Fear of christians ... where do I start. Why is it that Kerry had to pretty much renounce his religion in order to get accepted by democrats?"

You have to be kidding. Here's a pop quiz: name the last president who wasn't openly christian. Can't do it? That's because there hasn't been one (unless you distinguish between christian and deist). Suffice it to say that Buddhists, Wiccans, Muslims, and so on need not apply when it comes to the highest level of politics.

Renounce his religion? Give me a break.

Tlaloc said...

"You want an example of liberal fear? Try telling a group of young liberal women that you're pro-life and see how far "you are different but I don't fear" gets you."

Is that fear or anger that you seek to control them? Notice how your position is once again one of controlling others (so much for CLA's scoffing at the idea). Naturally a lot of people resent others trying to opress them and hence the opressors almost always have substantial fear.

Tlaloc said...

"Tlaloc's "fear-meme" seems to be that conservatives are uniquely fearful."

To clarify I am not saying that conservatives are uniquely fearful, rather I am saying conservatives are people who let fear dictate their policy and politics.

Liberals may be just as fearful it's just directed into other areas of their lives. Frankly I don't care if you want to be scared out of your wits, I only care when it starts affecting me.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

"The amazing thing, CLA, is that for all of your "dialogue" with the likes of Tlaloc, LA, myself, and your liberal friends, you don't take the time to understand our positions."


I do try, but I could make the same claim to anyone who disagrees with me; ie, it is a two-way street.


"For example, liberals do not fear Christians. They fear certain Christians who have decided in their zealotry to impose their strictures upon others."


I agree completely. I simply applied the same wide paintbrush to "liberals" that Tlaloc applied to "conservatives."


"I'd say the chief problem in political debate today is that EVERYONE takes themselves too seriously."


Again, I agree completely ... I like this JE guy.

I thought my comment on patting down little-old-ladies was funny, apparently others did not.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

"No actually it's completely possible. There is no racial profile that would have caught the perpetrators of Oklahoma city, 9/11, and 7/7. That's a simple fact as they came from very different backgrounds and ethnicities."


You're acting like the child across the street that my son plays football with. You may know the type, always arguing about the rules, and always changing them to his own benefit as the game goes along.

Sure ... fine ... there is no racial profile that would've stopped 9/11, 7/7, OK city, AND the holocaust.

You win.

Tlaloc said...

"You're acting like the child across the street that my son plays football with. You may know the type, always arguing about the rules, and always changing them to his own benefit as the game goes along."

I didn't change the rules at any point. I made an assertion, you denied it, I supported it, you conceeded it.

If the idea of rational debate bothers you so much you certainly don't have to engage in it, but whining about it really doesn't help your position.

James Elliott said...

Here's a hypothetical: Okay, so, we have profiling. Why waste time with the little old ladies when there are dark-skinned Arabs to be frisking, right? Wrong.

Profiling doesn't work because it falls into limiting stereotypes. Extremist Muslims can be found in all shades of skin tone. Why? Because Muslim terrorists can be found in Chechnya, Albania, Great Britain, and America as easily as Wahhabi schools in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. If there is one thing Muslim extremism is good at, aside from eluding Republican-politician led war and law enforcement strategies, it's bringing other disaffected elements into their fold.

Vigilance without profiling catches the Richard Reids of the world. Profiling gives greater opportunity for circumventing security safeguards (from a terrorist point of view) as well as concerns about abrogating civil liberties.

Besides, racial profiling exists (just ask the guy from Justice's Bureau of Statistics!) and has not measurably affected crime rates. Profiling simply and demonstrably doesn't improve security. Now, if you want to argue that the ILLUSION of security it provides is a necessary psychological balm to the people that is worth possible civil rights violations, go right ahead. But that's not what you were saying.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

Tlaloc. After re-reading your posts I have concluded that I was wrong to have equated you with a guy who changes the rules regarding the racial profiling question.

I thus retract my prior comment (I will leave it posted, however).

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

"Besides, racial profiling exists (just ask the guy from Justice's Bureau of Statistics!) and has not measurably affected crime rates."


Sorry, but your statement is nonsense. Maybe there's a typo?

You cannot back this claim up (as you've written it anyways) because you have no data where profiling DOES NOT exist.

James Elliott said...

Spoken like a man who isn't an educated consumer of research. You don't need to compare something to situations where it doesn't exist to perform a statistical analysis. You can compare it to other variables to see if it (your study variable, in this case racial profiling) is statistically significant. Studies indicate that racial profiling does not make for a measurable impact in long-term crime prevention.

Ergo, I in fact can make my assertion.

connie deady said...

Re: JE's profiling comments - are we sure that the guy really had warrants on him?

I've seen enough mistaken identities involving black people. Initially reading your story I thought you were going to tell us how the police had profiled a black man in a white neighborhood washing a car and found him suspicious.

Francis J. Beckwith said...

JE's comments about the failure of profiling is not an argument against profiling in principle. Yes, it is true that extremist Muslims come in all shades and nationalities, but Klan members come in virtually one shade. So, profiling in that case may in fact work.

Also, profiling is complex. It involves other factors besides race (or appearance), but also behaviors, religious practice, travel itineraries, reading habits, beliefs, etc.

Moreoever, if racial profiling is ineffective in nabbing baddies, then the application of profiling to distributing employment, i.e., affirmative action, is equally ineffective. So, every good argument against profiling is a good argument against affirmative action.

Matt Huisman said...

"I always liked that line because it neatly showed Kristol's failing. Namely that modern day conservativism is based on fear trumping common sense."

Tlaloc, you really got something started here with that quote!

"The problem has always been that conservatives don't understand themselves. Really how could they when they forbid any sort of introspection?"

Really? I would argue that introspection is the very reason we have come to the conclusions we have. The analysis of external evidence (human history) tells us that people tend to be problematic. But when we look at ourselves, we find that it's not just 'other' people that have issues. Far from being a comment on the need to 'control the other', Kristol's 'mugged by reality' line is the startling realization that none of us can rely on anyone (including ourselves) to always hold up their end of the bargain, and we need to plan accordingly.

Tlaloc said...

"JE's comments about the failure of profiling is not an argument against profiling in principle. Yes, it is true that extremist Muslims come in all shades and nationalities, but Klan members come in virtually one shade. So, profiling in that case may in fact work."

The problem though is that you aren't trying to catch just KKK members. You are trying to catch criminals, which while a majority of KK may be criminals, the reverse is not true. So if you set up your law enforcement to just focus on the white guys who MAY be KK members then obviously it's a catastrophy.



"Also, profiling is complex. It involves other factors besides race (or appearance), but also behaviors, religious practice, travel itineraries, reading habits, beliefs, etc."

Regardless of which it simply doesn't work, and never has. Exhibit A: Cat Stevens.



"Moreoever, if racial profiling is ineffective in nabbing baddies, then the application of profiling to distributing employment, i.e., affirmative action, is equally ineffective. So, every good argument against profiling is a good argument against affirmative action."

That doesn't make sense (although for the record I don't agree with Affirmative Action). Profiling is a faulty endeavor because it incorrectly links certain racial characteristics with certain crimes even though those links are blatantly false. Affirmative Action on the other hand is an attempt to overcome the handicaps faced by minorities precisely beause they are minorities. Obviously if you want to help someone who is hurt by racism you start with the minorities.

As I said before I don't agree with AA but that's because it attempts to ease an unfortunate aspect of racism by instutionalizing another form of racism. That doesn't sit well with me. I think it does help some people but at the same time perpetuates racial tension and mistrust and so is self defeating. Unfortunately I don't know what might be a better way of tackling the issue.

Tlaloc said...

"Tlaloc, you really got something started here with that quote!"

Always my intent. And I don't mean that in a trollish "I just want to annoy people" way but rather because America has become intellectually complacent and stagnant. There's the left and the right and far too often they don't actually debate but just yell at each other. Anything then that promotes some amount of cross communication is worthwhile even if it's pointed.



"Really? I would argue that introspection is the very reason we have come to the conclusions we have. The analysis of external evidence (human history) tells us that people tend to be problematic. But when we look at ourselves, we find that it's not just 'other' people that have issues. Far from being a comment on the need to 'control the other', Kristol's 'mugged by reality' line is the startling realization that none of us can rely on anyone (including ourselves) to always hold up their end of the bargain, and we need to plan accordingly."

But that same history tells us that when you oppress a people they are a million times more likely to become that very problem you hoped to guard against. In other words Kristol's politics of fear do a lot to create the muggers he tries to prepare for.

Preparation is of course useful but if to remove a splinter you cut off your whole hand then maybe something's wrong.

Tlaloc said...

As an example of that last point it is extremely well proven by this point that rehabilitative prison programs are far more effective at lowering recidivism than punitive programs. The reason is of course simple: people commit crimes for reasons. Changing their reasons for committing the crime can often prevent future crime. Attempting to instill a fear of committing crimes is drastically less effective for reasons I can get into if you like.

And yet it would be political suicide for any republican to be anything but 100% "tough on crime." In other words republicans must posture but be totally ineffective at dealing with crime. Our way does not prevent recidivism and is costing drastically more each year as the prison population explodes.

It is then a politic of fear, fear of crime and of the minorities of course who are disproportionately linked to the crimes we catch and prosecute. It's also worth noting that Republicans seem to have no fear whatsoever of white collar crime *ahem* Ken Lay *ahem*.

So what do we have then? A system that hardly tries to catch the biggest crooks (white collar crimes), that fails to effectively prevent the small scale crooks, and that can legitimately be said to be racist and oppressive to minorities and thus encourages them to see the system as an enemy. Small surprise that the conservatives so fear crime when they do so much to promote it!

Matt Huisman said...

"But that same history tells us that when you oppress a people they are a million times more likely to become that very problem you hoped to guard against. In other words Kristol's politics of fear do a lot to create the muggers he tries to prepare for."

I agree that oppression is not a winning tactic. That said, who gets to define what oppression is...and what behaviour does it excuse? Are consequences relevant or helpful in any way?

I think its fair to say that crime in NY city under Guiliani was dramatically reduced. In general, what are your thoughts about his methods and results? Did he create more/worse criminals?

James Elliott said...

“JE's comments about the failure of profiling is not an argument against profiling in principle.”

Your point is therefore... what, exactly? Judging by the audience, I kind of figured you get farther with factual arguments rather than principled (and therefore wholly semantic and philosophical) arguments (apparently my mistake). If you want one, I’m sure I can oblige.

“Yes, it is true that extremist Muslims come in all shades and nationalities, but Klan members come in virtually one shade. So, profiling in that case may in fact work.”

As Tlaloc already pointed out, this only works if your dragnet is designed to capture only Klansmen who perform criminal acts. Muslim extremists can only be profiled effectively if everyone in the world has their religion tattooed on their forehead at birth. It’s a specific case example, but we can get more general if you want. Profiling is based only on probabilities, not definitives. For example, in East Side San Jose, not every Latino you pull over wearing blue is going to be a Sureno. And while you’re busy pulling over the Latinos, you’re ignoring the Crips, Bloods, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Chinese Triad “auxilaries”, and white “racing teams,” creating more opportunity for them to commit crimes.

“Also, profiling is complex. It involves other factors besides race (or appearance), but also behaviors, religious practice, travel itineraries, reading habits, beliefs, etc.”

A comprehensive profile capable of increasing your odds of an accurate identification will require a psychologically and sociologically complex profile requiring massive amounts of data to sift through. And inevitably, if you’re trying to capture all extremists or prevent terrorists events, you will find that Republican bailiwicks such as racial dimensions (“Why search grandma when you’ve got dark-skinned Abu bin Goatporkers to search?”) are inadequate factors. There’s a reason why the FBI axed its Behavioral Sciences unit (the “profilers”) and it wasn’t budgetary. It’s because profiling works on probabilities. Useful in narrowing post-incident searches but not for prevention, which is what profiling in the context of this conversation is supposed to do.

“Moreoever, if racial profiling is ineffective in nabbing baddies, then the application of profiling to distributing employment, i.e., affirmative action, is equally ineffective. So, every good argument against profiling is a good argument against affirmative action.”

You are comparing apples and oranges, unless you want to equate economic enterprise with criminality, which I don’t think is your intention (correct me if I’m wrong). You are erroneously conflating two separate practices because they both involve the use of data on race/ethnicity. Affirmative action’s intent was and is to help counteract institutional barriers faced by minorities in this country. Now, I’ll agree that it has not really fulfilled its purpose and was ineffective, but not for the same reasons. AA is ineffective because it was an interim step that government (and I’ll even go so far as to concede, for the sake of argument, the liberals in charge at the time) has refused to take further. AA alone could never solve the problem, but everyone acted like it could. Therefore the far more crucial work of education improvement and changing the very social fabric of our nation was never undertaken. However, to compare racial profiling (in the law enforcement sense, which was the subject here) with affirmative action is to woefully misunderstand both.

Tlaloc said...

"I agree that oppression is not a winning tactic. That said, who gets to define what oppression is...and what behaviour does it excuse?"

To be clear I don't think opression excuses behavior, rather it explains it. People are responsible for what they do but at the same time if you know that certain types of acts promote certain responses then you have to ask if you shouldn't choose tactics to fit your desired outcome.

We know that harming members of a community indiscriminantly to get at some subset of the community breeds resentment. That's as true of racial profiling in compton as it is of bombing middle eastern villages.

I think your question of what exactly qualifies as oppression is a very worthwhile one, especially as some on this board believe Christians are oppressed in this country. Here's my suggestion:

Oppression can be seen as actions from a position of strength that single out a people for special restrictions or loss of freedom that is not applied to the rest of the population.

For instance when we meddle in Middle Eastern countries and blithely claim that we have every right to dictate their form and manner of government that is a form of oppression. We have explicitly stated that most countries are entiteled to the rights of sovereignty. But not the middle east.



"I think its fair to say that crime in NY city under Guiliani was dramatically reduced. In general, what are your thoughts about his methods and results? Did he create more/worse criminals?"

That's a complicated case because it incorporates two contrasting issues. On the one hand Giuliana used fairly "tough on crime" style law enforcement in ways that has been considered abusive or oppressive by some. By that measure it shouldn't have worked or having worked should have been followed up by a worse period of "blowback."

But unlike the usual "tough on crime" bravado Giuliana's Broken Window's polidcy tried to deal with a more fundamental cause that serious crime itself. He tried to interrupt the chain of events that leads to major crime, in this case by coming down harshly on the minor crimes. By that measure it should be more effecttive.

Still it hopefully isn't too difficult to see that if arresting criminals when they are still small potatos works fairly well then preventing the causes that help push them toward crime in the first place works much better.

Matt Huisman said...

"But unlike the usual "tough on crime" bravado Giuliana's Broken Window's polidcy tried to deal with a more fundamental cause that serious crime itself. He tried to interrupt the chain of events that leads to major crime, in this case by coming down harshly on the minor crimes. By that measure it should be more effecttive."

Giuliani, it seems to me, is a pretty good example of what conservatives mean when they say 'tough on crime'. 'Tough on crime' is not about getting revenge, or locking 'those people' away...it's about communicating to everyone that we won't tolerate certain behavior and we're going to really focus on minimizing crime. Think stick and carrot. Everyone wants the carrot to work, but the stick needs to be there to remind people how good that carrot is. We don't have consequences in order to have people live in fear...we have them so that people realize that there are much better ways to get what they want.

"Oppression can be seen as actions from a position of strength that single out a people for special restrictions or loss of freedom that is not applied to the rest of the population."

By this definition, everyone on the planet is oppressed. At least, everyone on the planet is capable of convincing themselves that they are oppressed. The notion of fairness, that everything should be equal for everyone is just impossible...and even if it were, you would have to deal with those who were not satisfied with everything being equal.

Because of this, we will never solve the all of the root causes of the world's problems. That's how Kristol came up with his 'mugged by reality' line. Not because he advocated fear-mongering, but because he knew that having a blind faith in good intentions, without factoring in the true nature of mankind, was a recipe for disaster.

James Elliott said...

And therein lies the fundamental difference between a conservative and a liberal:

Conservative: "People are #$%*ing evil and selfish when allowed to roam free, and so need rules and punishment to behave well in community."

Liberal: "People are basically good, social creatures when allowed to roam free, but are socialized and traumatized into 'bad' behavior."

In order for conservativism (especially neoconservatism) to work, you have to have a really messed up view of humanity.

Of course, this would explain why neoconservativism is attractive to the religiously orthodox.

Tlaloc said...

"Giuliani, it seems to me, is a pretty good example of what conservatives mean when they say 'tough on crime'."

I don't see how you can maintain that when Giuliani made a clear break from "tough on crime" methods. Consider the drug war. It has long focused almost exclusively on the end user with minimal effort made at interdiction. This is typical of "Tough on Crime" efforts. Attempts to treat the symptom as if it were the disease.



"The notion of fairness, that everything should be equal for everyone is just impossible..."

Probably but the idea that we can TREAT people equally is not. It is not opression if a person is born to bad circumstances. But if as a result of those bad circumstances of birth we treat them as nothing more than a crime waiting to happen then we may fairly be accused of oppression (assuming we are in a position of power).



"and even if it were, you would have to deal with those who were not satisfied with everything being equal."

Sure and you tell them to shut up and quit whining. I've said much the same when posters pretend that the overwhelming christian majority is somehow the abused minority in america.

That they feel slighted doesn't mean they are oppressed, it just means that much like the Sunni of Iraq they no longer get to have their own way in everything. So long as the Christians are treated equally to the hindus, the atheists, the buddhists, etc then I don't care how they feel about it.



"Because of this, we will never solve the all of the root causes of the world's problems."

Of course not. I emphatically don't believe in utopias. But our current system is so far toward the dystopian end of the line it's ridiculous to say it can't get better. We can't solve every problem but we can certainly solve some of the ones facing us.



"That's how Kristol came up with his 'mugged by reality' line. Not because he advocated fear-mongering, but because he knew that having a blind faith in good intentions, without factoring in the true nature of mankind, was a recipe for disaster."

But that's the whole point! Kristol DOESN'T factor in the true nature of humanity because he doesn't understand it. Again how could he when his philosophy absolutely forbids understanding in favor of immediate judgement. Modern conservativism is dualistic in extremus, and frankly that's about as divorced from reality as you can get. There never has been and never will be a cause that is 100% black or white, right or wrong. And yet Conservatives treat EVERY issue this way and spurn the so called "relativism" of more mature views.

Matt Huisman said...

"I don't see how you can maintain that when Giuliani made a clear break from "tough on crime" methods. Consider the drug war. It has long focused almost exclusively on the end user with minimal effort made at interdiction. This is typical of "Tough on Crime" efforts. Attempts to treat the symptom as if it were the disease."

I really don't see how you can disassociate Giuliani from a 'Tough on Crime' approach. He campaigned on and built his reputation on crime reduction. The left has been pounding his methods his entire career.

"But that's the whole point! Kristol DOESN'T factor in the true nature of humanity because he doesn't understand it. Again how could he when his philosophy absolutely forbids understanding in favor of immediate judgement."

I really don't understand where you are getting this notion of 'immediate judgement' from. Being 'mugged by reality' is the recognition that root causes do not always explain why people choose to do bad things. Why is it that the guy with everything going for him decides to embezzle money or cheat on his wife? Why does the rich suburban kid steal?

Kristol's insight here is that liberal belief (that one day we'll be able to live in perfect harmony once we are able to right all of the wrongs in the world) gets mugged by the reality that people regularly choose to do bad things, even when they are not oppressed.

"There never has been and never will be a cause that is 100% black or white, right or wrong. And yet Conservatives treat EVERY issue this way and spurn the so called "relativism" of more mature views."

How is it that you can use relativism, which abhores certainty, to claim that anyone else's views are absolutely wrong?

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

JE: Liberal: "People are basically good, social creatures when allowed to roam free, but are socialized and traumatized into 'bad' behavior."


A more accurate and succint depiction of "liberal" would be:

Liberal: "People are perfectible."


See, the religious have come to grips with man's shortcomings, while the "liberal" tries to blame someone else (society etc...).

James Elliott said...

See, the religious have come to grips with man's shortcomings, while the "liberal" tries to blame someone else (society etc...).

And here is where you reveal your rank zealotry. You have rather stupidly bought into the idea that liberals are not religious and that religious must necessarily mean conservative. It simply isn't so, and to believe it is to be revealed as someone who needs to remove some sort of blinders from his eyes. Planks and splinters, I do recall one wise man mentioning once upon a time...

Liberals, religious or otherwise, understand that there is a connectedness to all things, that no one develops, thinks, or acts in a vacuum. It's not that the individual is EXCUSED his or her behavior. It's that the individual is not the alpha and the omega but rather a sum of internal and external influences. Ergo, external actors (e.g. "society") bear some responsibility. If you believe that everyone is a purely autonomous unit performing mental calculations and embracing bad behavior out of pure nihilism or narcissism, I'm afraid that's a relatively immature and childlike way of looking at things.

It's sort of like your deriding relativism. If you don't bother to approach it with discipline and thoughtfulness, you'll never understand it.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

This is a typical "liberal" response:

Keywords: rank zealotry, stupidly, blinders, immature, childlike.

Here's a hint: use of deriding language does not aid your argument.

You have set up a straw-man argument that so-called "conservatives" do not believe that there are societal factors in the behaviour of man. Go ahead and knock that one down; I'll supply the bat.

In regards to your comment on relativism, I'm assuming that you're talking about "moral relativism." The "moral" has to do with the ends, not the means; what man *ought* to do but chooses not to.

There has been 100% agreement on several threads at this blog on the following "morals":

1) those in power ought not oppress those who are not;

2) those who are hungry give us all grief, and we wish to feed them ... *somehow*;

3) those who are helpless ought to be helped ... *somehow*;

4) men and women do things that they ought not do, and there is a reason that they do them;

5) .... etc ....



I will, however, apologize for implying that "liberals" are not religious, that was not the intent of my post.

James Elliott said...

You have set up a straw-man argument that so-called "conservatives" do not believe that there are societal factors in the behaviour of man.

I am rather confused as to what other sort of conclusion I am supposed to draw, given the threads on this blog, Irving Kristol's book "Neoconservatism," and your own "See, the religious have come to grips with man's shortcomings, while the "liberal" tries to blame someone else (society etc...)" to name a few examples.

The common thread in conservatism, be it religious or political or social, is that the individual is solely responsible for his or her lot in life, that all behavior and consequences are the result of a confluence of individual choices. Thusly, the individual bears the burden and the whole of the responsibility. I'm rather confused as to how you can claim otherwise.

I was also pointing out the fundamental disconnect between liberals and conservatives: The former believes in the inherent worth and good of people, while the latter sees (through your own admission) the shortcomings, often cast through the lens of an inherent "dirtiness" or "original sin." Both claim that theirs is the correct, "self-evident" point of view.

As for the above being a typical "liberal" response with certain "keywords," I'd like to invite you to head on over to Little Green Footballs and take a nice long look in the conservative mirror. I'd say those buzzwords were more of a "me" response than a "liberal" response, because it's easily evident with a modicum of honesty that polemics weigh down both sides of the divide.

If you and the likes of TVD are so willing to take brazen impudence like my own and zealous exclusion by the likes of Daily Kos as evident of true liberal character, can you really blame us for doing the same when we see the likes of Pat Buchanan, Little Green Footballs, and Ann Coulter? If you're honest, you can't.
With the moral relativism, you demonstrate my admonishment: You approach the question with little discipline or thought. That there is agreement on certain "morals" - and I think it's fair to say that we're both using the term loosely here for the sake of argument - does not refute relativism. Agreement among people raised in similar cultural milieus does not universalism make.

Hunter Baker said...

I just browsed the lengthy comments made and have to remark upon something. Tlaloc said conservative philosophy is based on "controlling people." I'd love to know just what exactly big government welfare and redistribution programs do. They absolutely order a person to turn over a significant amount of what they earn (at the point of a gun, when it comes down to it). How is that not "controlling people" and doing so by taking away their greatest resource for realizing their own plans (i.e. money).

connie deady said...

I think TVD and I once discussed that conservatives have a more hobbesian view of the world. Some people look at catastrophies like Katrina and see anarchy run amok in the city. I look at the people in the social compact outside the city and see tremendous generosity, caring, compassion.

Tlaloc said...

"I just browsed the lengthy comments made and have to remark upon something. Tlaloc said conservative philosophy is based on "controlling people." I'd love to know just what exactly big government welfare and redistribution programs do. They absolutely order a person to turn over a significant amount of what they earn (at the point of a gun, when it comes down to it). How is that not "controlling people" and doing so by taking away their greatest resource for realizing their own plans (i.e. money)."

But as before money is not really yours. It's entirely an invention of the government. They print it, they control it's value, they distribute it. Value of course is not their invention but so long as you choose to be rewarded for the value you add in the "coin of the realm" you have no right to complain when the realm wants that coin back.

Steve T said...

I think the original story and dilemma you posed, Hunter, are a lot more interesting than a lot of the commentary that ensued.

connie deady said...

Steven D. Thomas said...

"I think the original story and dilemma you posed, Hunter, are a lot more interesting than a lot of the commentary that ensued."

Assuming it's not a false dilemma. We still don't know that the man was, in fact, a criminal