Chomsky on Trump

There is a diversionary process under way, perhaps just a natural result of the propensities of the figure at center stage and those doing the work behind the curtains.

At one level, Trump’s antics ensure that attention is focused on him, and it makes little difference how. Who even remembers the charge that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Clinton, depriving the pathetic little man of his Grand Victory? Or the accusation that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower? The claims themselves don’t really matter. It’s enough that attention is diverted from what is happening in the background. There, out of the spotlight, the most savage fringe of the Republican Party is carefully advancing policies designed to enrich their true constituency: the Constituency of private power and wealth, “the masters of mankind,” to borrow Adam Smith’s phrase.

These policies will harm the irrelevant general population and devastate future generations, but that’s of little concern to the Republicans. They’ve been trying to push through similarly destructive legislation for years. Paul Ryan, for example, has long been advertising his ideal of virtually eliminating the federal government, apart from service to the Constituency—though in the past he’s wrapped his proposals in spreadsheets so they would look wonkish to commentators. Now, while attention is focused on Trump’s latest mad doings, the Ryan gang and the executive branch are ramming through legislation and orders that undermine workers’ rights, cripple consumer protections, and severely harm rural communities. They seek to devastate health programs, revoking the taxes that pay for them in order to further enrich their constituency, and to eviscerate the Dodd-Frank Act, which imposed some much-needed constraints on the predatory financial system that grew during the neoliberal period.

That’s just a sample of how the wrecking ball is being wielded by the newly empowered Republican Party. Indeed, it is no longer a political party in the traditional sense. Conservative political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have described it more accurately as a “radical insurgency,” one that has abandoned normal parliamentary politics.

Absurd Being tries to disprove the Asymmetry, part 2.

I previously posted a rebuttal to an argument by Nathan Hohipuha, of the blog Absurd Being, which proposed to show that the Asymmetry argument gets morality wrong, basically. His claim was that pain and pleasure have nothing to do with morality, and therefore the Asymmetry is not about morality. I found this argument to be unconvincing, to say the least. In answer to this, Hohipuha did something that I don’t think any other critic has ever done: he actually corrected his article on the basis of my criticism! Unfortunately, the soundness of the argument did not dramatically improve.

The beginning is the same: he summarizes the Asymmetry and then makes the difference between a personal preference and a moral statement (I don’t think he makes any distinction between morality and ethics, so for the sake of discussion I will not do so either). Those parts were already correct, so that’s fine. After that is when the new stuff starts (written in blue in his article):

Let’s put this information to use by considering how we are supposed to read the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in Benatar’s (1) and (2). Are they moral pronouncements (concerning right and wrong) or preferential ones (relating to the satisfaction/frustration of an individual’s desires)? I argue that they are the latter. Why? Because the presence/absence of pain and pleasure just isn’t the kind of thing that is morally bad or good.

If feeling pain were a moral bad in the same way that stealing is a moral bad, it would make sense to say, ‘feeling pain is wrong’ in the same way that we say, ‘stealing is wrong’. The former doesn’t work because we understand that pain (like pleasure) is just a human experience. It is neither right (good) nor wrong (bad), in and of itself.

This is a complete non sequitur, because the Asymmetry is not based on an evaluation that “feeling pain is wrong.” Feeling pain is not wrong or right, it’s a subjective experience which results from having a complex nervous system which is affected in certain ways. Hohipuha is equating “the presence of pain is bad” with “feeling pain is wrong,” which is just incorrect: the presence of pain can be the result of human action (as in “person A shoots person B”), while feeling pain itself is not (as in “person B felt pain because of the trauma of the gunshot”).

To make an analogy relevant to antinatalism, we cannot say that the growth of a fetus in a woman’s body is the result of human action, but we can say that the fact that a fetus is born or not is the result of human action, insofar as the fetus could be aborted. To use that comparison to say that there cannot be any morality in the issue of abortion would be silly.

The reason why “stealing is wrong” is a coherent sentence is because “stealing” designates an area of human action, while “feeling pain is wrong” does not. But the Asymmetry is not about “feeling pain” in isolation, it is about the existence of pain, with all that it implies.

Now this obviously isn’t to say that the presence/absence of pain and pleasure is irrelevant in moral deliberation. The point is that it isn’t the presence /absence of pain and pleasure in itself that is right or wrong. Therefore when Benatar talks about the presence of pain being bad and the presence of pleasure being good, he must be using the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in my (A) sense, that is, as something disagreeable to an individual; i.e. not morally wrong.

At least Hohipuha did not hold on to his silly position that pain and pleasure have nothing to do with morality, so again I applaud him for changing his position. But he does not specify here how pain and pleasure are relevant to morality, in his view. He does not think that pain or pleasure are, in themselves, good or bad. If that’s the case, then how else are they relevant?

I specifically ask this because Hohipuha seems to be pitting the Asymmetry’s implicit premises (e.g. “pain is bad,” “pleasure is good”) with his own premises, which are unspoken, so we can’t make an evaluation of how these two premises stack up. Hohipuha does not tell us how he’s determined that his views are more valid, so his entire enterprise is based on something we are not privy to.

Let’s now turn to the second half of the Asymmetry argument. As with (1) and (2), we need to ask the same question of (3) and (4); i.e. are the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ moral pronouncements (e.g. ‘stealing is bad’) or merely expressing a preference (e.g. ‘it’s bad I missed my bus’). Since I have already argued that the mere presence of pain and pleasure isn’t moral (because pain and pleasure aren’t, in themselves, moral), it follows that the absence of pain and pleasure also can’t be moral.

As I have already shown, he has not argued this at all. He has asserted that pain and pleasure aren’t in themselves moral, but has presented one argument, which was a non sequitur, and no alternative view. In short, we have nothing so far.

Benatar’s (4) says the “absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom that absence is a deprivation.” [emphasis added] Now, because of the additional highlighted clause, “not bad” in this proposition is coherent as a preferential term. The absence of pleasure is not ‘bad’, which is equivalent to saying, the absence of pleasure is not ‘a frustration of an individual’s desires/goals’. In what state of affairs? As Benatar clearly states, in the state of affairs in which there is nobody for whom that absence is a deprivation. This is trivially true. How can the absence of pleasure be a frustration of an individual’s desires/goals in a state of affairs in which no individual exists to experience that absence? (3), like (1) and (2) is coherent as a preferential proposition.

Hohipuha has jumped to the conclusion that premise 4 is a preferential statement because it makes sense as a preferential statement. I am confused as to why he thinks that’s a valid argument. Many moral statements also make sense as preferential statements, and many moral concepts can be described in preferential terms: that does not make them any less moral in nature.

For example, consent is an important factor in moral discussions, because the presence of consent ensures that an action tends towards (to quote Hohipuha) “the satisfaction of an individual’s desires/goals” instead of someone else’s desires/goals. A simpler example is the common moral argument of the type “you should be against murder because you yourself wouldn’t want to be murdered.” This is a way to argue morality with someone else by appealing to their own preferences as a standard.

Clearly, the fact that no one is affected by an absence of pleasure means that no one’s desires or goals are being hindered. But it is also true that this situation is morally not bad, which is what concerns the Asymmetry. There is no contradiction between these two facts.

He then explains that (3) cannot be framed in preferential terms (which is true), and then concludes:

This is why the asymmetry arises between (3) and (4). Because, “not bad” in (4) is getting through as a preferential term (not bad ONLY in the state of affairs in which no one is around to experience the absence) but “good” in (3) is (invalidly) getting through as a moral term (good, in itself, EVEN IF no one is around to enjoy it).

Since the terms in (3) and (4) aren’t being treated equally (symmetrically), it’s hardly surprising that our intuitions here yield unequal (asymmetrical) results.

I have no idea what “getting through” is supposed to mean here. The Asymmetry clearly is a moral argument and all its premises are moral statements. The fact that some of them also can be viewed as preferential statements, and some of them cannot, has no relevance to the argument. Hohipuha is unable to show that (3) and/or (4) are invalid moral statements, so he has to resort to this red herring. The terms in (3) and (4) are being “treated equally” and symmetrically, because “good” and “bad” are used in the moral sense in both cases.

The conclusion of his entry didn’t change significantly, so I won’t review it, since I already did this at the end of my first refutation. Suffice it to say that his arguments fail again, albeit for totally different reasons this time around. It’s still sloppy logic and sloppy reasoning, although not quite as sloppy as the first time around, so maybe Hohipuha will continue to improve his arguments with time and get to some point where we can both agree, although I am not holding my breath.

What does a matriarchy really look like?

antiplodon discusses the example of the Mosuo of China as an idea of what matriarchy might really look like.

Zizek – You are allowed not to enjoy

trans racial exclusionary black people should die in a fire!

I just don’t… get it when TREBPs (trans racial exclusionary black people) harass me and refuse to acknowledge that I’m a real black person? It’s not my fault I was coercively assigned white at birth. We trans CAWABs face a lot of discrimination that people assigned black at birth just will never get. Don’t you think I wish I had been born black? Don’t you think I’ve thought long and hard about my race and dealt with internalized racism before admitting to myself that I’m black? Like yeah, in my natural state I don’t face any discrimination or harassment for my race, but when I put on my shitty bronzer and try to use African American vernacular people look at me funny. And don’t get me started about the looks I get when I try to drink from the colored people only fountain. And when I finally do get my skin change surgery, and I’m able to pass, I’ll face racism just like you, so it doesn’t matter if my ancestors literally owned slaves, nor will it matter if I’ve g otten a head start in life for being CAWAB. What matters is that you acknowledge your black privilege and allow me into your spaces and to use your resources (even if they’re already limited) because you’re my oppressor and I am entitled to your labor and resources as a trans black person.

Cis woman privilege

cis women privilege checklist!

• abortions! you have a uterus and therefore are part of the fight for abortion rights and have the ability to seek back alley abortions which trans women will never have. check your privilege!

• ovarian cancer! your ovaries are susceptible to a deadly cancer with much research and little secure treatment dedicated to it. trans women will never be included in this. check your privilege!

• menstruation huts! millions of girls and women around the world are forced into unhygienic and tabooed huts during menstruation. trans women barely exist in this parts of the world in the first place and even if they did, wouldn’t be allowed into menstruation huts. check your privilege!

• female genital mutilation! girls and women around the world have their genitals, mainly clitorises, mutilated and violated every day. as trans women again barely exist in these parts and don’t have clitorises, they can’t experience fgm. check your privilege!

• breastfeeding taboos! women can’t breastfed their babies in public in most western countries and many other cultures as well, because their nipples are considered obscene as is the natural practice. trans women can’t breastfeed so they will never have such a taboo directed at them. check your privilege!

• death by childbirth! every day thousands of women die in childbirth due to poor medical care and lack of gynecological care. trans women can’t give birth and thus will never die during it. check your privilege!

Internalized and externalized misogyny in women.

From Reductress: To Combat Internalized Sexism, I’ve Decided to Externalize It Instead

I think I most often operated on internalized misogyny in the workplace. I am a graphic designer who works under two artistic directors, a man and a woman. I always made sure to use proper spelling and grammar when I replied to an email from Benny. But when Caroline had a critique, I used to reply back ‘k cool ill think about it’. Now I’m much more direct and close my emails to her with, “I value your opinion less because u remind me of my stepmom ;)”. Now she knows that it’s not internalized sexism that’s making her life worse—it’s the unadulterated, externalized kind. I think she appreciates it!

Answering the pro-pornography “therapists.”

Purple Sage examines the ill-informed pro-pornography ramblings of Marty Klein, and gives the radical feminist answers to common questions about pornography in relationships.

If your husband is engaging in immoral behavior that upsets you and if he won’t stop even when you tell him why it upsets you, then it’s not a good relationship. That’s an abusive relationship.

The field of sex therapy has always been a field dominated by men and male ideas about sex. Men have created the idea of the sexual “inhibition” which needs to be cured in women, which is a fancy way of saying that women shouldn’t be allowed to say no. Men have ignored the clitoris, have prioritized penis-in-vagina sex even when women don’t get any pleasure from it and they’ve named women “frigid” for not engaging in the kind of sex that men want them to have. Sex therapists will not help you to improve your sex life, they will just help your husband to keep his dominant position over you and continue engaging in harmful behaviours. A sex therapist who tells you to accept your husband’s porn use is nothing more than a male supremacist with a fancy title. Do not listen to him.

Here’s how to actually improve your sex life. First, make your husband read Pornland by Gail Dines and then explain to you, face-to-face, in his own words, what he learned from the book. I suggest proceeding one chapter at a time, to make sure he thoroughly understands all the issues. Discuss with him why he feels he needs to use porn, and correct any misconceptions he may have. For example, he might believe that you are forbidding him from masturbating. Men are so dumb that they have no idea that one can touch one’s genitals without looking at a computer screen. He may need this explained to him.

If he refuses to understand what’s wrong with porn, and if he begins dismissing your feelings or gas-lighting you, get a lawyer, and start planning to move out. If he never repents, finalize your divorce.