Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pretty serious comedy

I told myself I wouldn't write about the Islamic cultural center issue again. It's increasingly becoming an issue important only in how divisive it's become to Americans, and how far we have yet to go to live up to our ideals. You could even call it a distraction. But suffice to say, I still support its construction and reject the idea that sensitivity (at least as far as the arguably false and definitely ignorant howling now going under that name) should trump American rights. That's not what we're about, after all.

I did, however, run into what is now my favorite clarification of the situation. And what surprises and impresses me about this article is what prompted me to write about it — it's on, a (this is a compliment) lowbrow comedy website known for articles like Five Nuns Who Could Kick Your Ass, The Six Worst Things Ever Slipped Into Children's Cartoons and 5 Things From The 1990s That Might (As Well) Come Back.

The latter article is written by someone named "Gladstone," aka "G-Stone." His sense of humor — self-deprecating and pop culture-laden — fits in perfectly with the we-don't-take-ourselves-seriously vibe prevalent across Cracked.

Which is why his latest blog threw me for a loop: 3 Reasons The "Ground Zero Mosque" Debate Makes No Sense. Title-wise, it doesn't sound much different than Cracked's average daily content, in which the writer will make a point in a way that may involve a random cleavage pic (one of many running gags). But it's probably the most sober, serious thing that has ever run on the website.

Granted, that's relative. There are still repeated cracks about Sarah Palin's speech patterns and something called goat rhoti. But the points he makes couldn't be clearer, and most importantly, they don't lead up to some grand punch line. And by the way, he was there during 9/11. It's a quick and satisfying read, and a perfect summary of how I feel about the issue.

The comments have been interesting. They're running the usual heated-debate angle, though with many thanking Gladstone for moving them. Others said things like, "This is a humor site! I don't need to read politics here." Translation: "I don't want to read liberal stuff. Shut up and sing, etc."

I think this is a weird reaction. When I see a humorless conservative diatribe on a comedy site, my reaction is not, "I don't come here for this!" And not just because said diatribe is indistinguishable from the typical content of conservative humor(less) sites.

I don't believe in keeping genres separate, and I suspect most others don't either. In one of his books, Dave Barry (of all people) goes off an extended tangent about the Vietnam War and what a mistake it was, something that should never be repeated again. Despite falling in the midst of a humorous timeline of the baby boomer era, the passage still seems appropriate. In Soft Pretzels With Mustard, comedian David Brenner capped what started off as a funny childhood story about schoolyard feces-flinging (they'd toss balls of horse poo at him on the way to school) with a dead-serious remembrance of the Holocaust (he fought back, because the attack was steeped in anti-Semitism). In the same book, he relates a story about being in a pool hall during a raid, where his humor didn't save him from being arrested. He ends that one with, "What the hell IS easy?"

Comedians making serious points have the same resonance with me that my track coach did the one time he said "fuck." He was known for his Tony Dungy-style laid-back piety and never-raise-your-voice demeanor, and was beloved overall. But one day, disappointed with the way his athletes were slacking in the rain, he chided them along the lines of, "You're practicing like you don't give a fuck." He didn't even say it that forcefully, but it shocked everyone. Because he didn't say that word, ever. After that, the drills went much better.

Same thing with comedians and comedy writers. An unexpected lucid point is a good one.

If anything, the fact that a comedy writer felt the need to offer such a sober, reasoned piece of writing gives it more gravity. It's also incredibly telling that a humor site offers some of the best arguments in favor of the cultural center.

Fans of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck often say that the men are entertainers. And I suppose that's true. But it's often brought up in a defensive context, such as when they make a particularly line-crossing allegation or otherwise act like unbalanced nitwits. Few people, I suspect, watch or listen to these guys strictly as comedians, which is why they'll never have the same impact as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or even G-Stone. Rush and Beck do have an impact, but it's a different impact. It'll never be the kind that leaves you surprised and thinking in an unexpected way. 

And that's what I got today. Thanks, Gladstone.


Robert Taylor said...

It's interesting to note your lack of consistency when it comes to the application of "American rights". When it comes to an Islamic Center, you say 'to hell' with being sensitive. But when it comes to health care, the utmost sensitivity must be applied. 'To hell' with "rights" protected by the Constitution as long as it's in favor of an issue you care about.

Ian McGibboney said...

That may be the most tenuous connection I've ever seen on this site, and there's a lot of competition. Congratulations!

E.J. said...

I see the Republicans as being inconsistent on this issue because usually they are all about placing control in the hands of individuals/tax-paying property owners and local governments. They are trying to federalize a local zoning issue.

Jenni said...

EJ - The construction of the Islamic community center is a moot issue at this point. Read my comments in the earlier blogs explaining why.

Where many of the people I've talked to about this issue is the hypocrisy. Some Conservatives want government involvement out of everything EXCEPT for the special issues they care about - abortion, physician assisted suicide, and religion are some examples. This is just another example.

E.J. said...

Jenni - thanks for pointing out your earlier comments on the applicable laws.

Robert Taylor said...

My observation is not tenuous at all. You raised the issue of rights in both blogposts. When you were talking about the Islamic center, you say that rights should be enforced.

When it came to health care, you ended up against the enforcement of individual property rights in favor of welfare issues.

I will quote you now:

"I think it’ll be better than what we have now, but it’s ultimately a compromise over the much-better ideas of a public option or single-payer. But a mandate is the only way it’ll work in this form; otherwise, only sick people will sign up. And you need a large pool of healthy people to drive down costs and sustain payouts.

At this point I'm not even arguing whether your solution is viable or not. I believe it is not. But my point is to point out that at a rights-level, you have no justification for such a mandate. Just as the Republicans have no justification for using the government to remove some center they disagree with.

I'm sorry for being more consistent than you and using your own arguments against you.

Robert Taylor said...

That's a reductio ad absurdum, by the way: using your arguments and following them through their logical conclusions.

Ian McGibboney said...

Robert, your penchant for pretentious Latin terms is annoying enough without the fact that you don't even use them correctly. Everything is either "reductio ad absurdum" or "non-sequitur" to you, and yet somehow you still feel the need to address my points? It seems to me that if they were either one, they'd be too stupid to address or nonsensical enough to ignore. If this is in fact something you think is true and not just some attempt to sound smarter than you are, then please explain yourself. You often fall into that trap of, if I say it, it's true because I'm right. Well, to someone who's skeptical of anything you argue, I'd like a little more proof. You'd make better arguments if you weren't so enamored with yourself.

As for your point here, I'm still struggling to see where those two issues have any common ground. The only thing I can come up with is that you see not having health care as a right that should be respected along with property rights. Not only is that flimsy, it's ridiculous. And you already know I vehemently disagree with you, so why do you expect me to stay consistent with connections that exist only in your warped mind?

Robert Taylor said...

The only thing I can come up with is that you see not having health care as a right that should be respected along with property rights.

Let's continue with this logic: if I think NOT having health care is a right, then I would be inconsistent if I received health care.

I will tell you right now that I do receive health care. Therefore you can drop that assumption as logically unsound. Consequently, my opinion is not ridiculous because you misrepresented it.

I, on the other hand, am not misrepresenting your opinion. On the issue of health care, you believe it is just to take property from Americans (in this case their tax dollars) against their will (being that you cannot argue that there are people who do not want to participate) to provide health care to other Americans.

On the issue of an the building of an Islamic Center, you believe it is essential to protect the property rights of the Center as long as they have legally acquired land to build on. In other words, you want to protect their right to property.

There is a clear contradiction in your position. You end up in favor of property rights on a arbitrary basis. How can you argue against what I just said? How am I misrepresenting your position?

Jenni said...

In regard to the construction of community center, freedom of religion; due process, planning and zoning; and equal protection are part of the 1st, 5th, and 14th amendments. Using the veil of Constitutional rights, some have argued that universal health care could be covered by the 9th and 10th amendments. Because case law hasn't been established, this connection is weak at best.

But the bigger question is why this issue is being brought back into the blog. Robert, it's clear that you and Ian have different opinions on the issue, and that neither side is going to change their beliefs, so what's the point?

Robert Taylor said...

@Jenni that's the problem Jenni. It's not clear that Ian and I have a difference of opinion.

His opinion seems to be half-formed and half-thought out. It's not consistent. I'm seeking clarification.

Ian McGibboney said...

No, Robert, Jenni's right. There's no need to rehash the health care issue here, and we don't agree. Why do you think we might? We aren't even on the same planet, much less common ground.

You like to put words in my mouth, i.e., that I'm for government coercion. That leap of logic is all yours, Robert. And so is the ridiculous idea that a different viewpoint on my part means it's somehow ill-informed. That's a viewpoint that can arise only from someone so self-righteous that they see themselves above reproach. But you don't have all the answers, Robert. Maybe your rhetoric should start reflecting that.

NOLA Progressive said...

I personally think Robert is frustrated. He subscribes to a political ethos that causes people the country to roll their eyes for the most part. It is just not validated in any signicant way, and I imagine this is the impetus for the remedial Latin classes, logic breakdown of absurd levels, and the self-aggrandizing.

I don't know if he understands how off-putting it is, not to mention how counter productive to actual discourse.

E.J. said...

The Healthcare reform legislation was a matter of regulating services provided to the public, which is well within the power of all governments, be they state, local, or federal. Owning an egg farm doesn't mean I have the right to sell rotten eggs to the public. Same goes for any business providing goods and services to the public.

Good laws aim to balance individual rights with the welfare of the public. (And I don't mean "Welfare" as just a check from the government; I mean its original broader definition before it became a 4-letter word for bad public policy and lazy people.)

Also, collecting taxes is within the power of the government. Our currency was implemented and is regulated by the federal government. Lord knows I hate paying them, and it's not a perfect system. One can oppose certain taxes or the tax rates but it's incorrect to say that collecting them is seizure of our personal property.

Robert Taylor said...

@Ian, @NOLA, @Jenni

Ok fine I won't bring up health care. But please help me reach clarity in understanding your position, Ian.

Do you believe in property rights? Is my question not pertinent or somehow the wrong question to ask? If so, how?

You linked to that said EXACTLY the same thing that I did:

You can’t legally stop people from obeying the law.

Do you not agree with a part of the article that you claimed was your "favorite clarification"?

Explain to me how I am proceeding in a "leap of logic" if, according to your own words via your support of the article, I say that you believe in property rights.

Now, on the basis that YOU, Ian McGibboney, believes in property rights, you believe that individuals have full ownership over their property. If individuals have full ownership over their property, then, to take their property against their will is tantamount to theft. Is it not? Where is my leap in logic?

Ian McGibboney said...

Robert, you're making a unique leap of logic I've never even heard the farthest-right anti-mosque nutjob pundit ever make.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're suggesting that in order for me to consistent, I have to believe that humans have absolute rights over their entire being. In fact, I think it's very consistent to believe that people have rights insofar as they obey just laws and otherwise don't infringe on anyone else's rights - just like the community center! They're doing everything right in accordance with U.S. law. They don't have absolute property power any more than I have absolute power over myself. And that's the right call, because we do have responsibilities to those around us. And the reason for that is because we take as well as give.

And yes, no one can compel me not to do something simply because the idea offends them, which is also true of the center. In that sense, my views are extremely consistent. Yours, on the other hand, are all-or-nothing. I don't know if that's what you really believe or if it's simply a rhetorical trap to justify your own selfishness, Robert. But all you have to do, living where you do, is to look around and see how much of your life is shaped by others. I imagine it's a lot. And I'm sure it wouldn't work out so well if you declared your "property" to be sovereign.

Robert Taylor said...

Ian I am trying so hard to follow your argument. I am breaking it down and I can't seem to follow what the hell it is that you are saying. I am going to repost your response with my commentary and summaries so that you can see where communication is breaking down:

Robert, you're making a unique leap of logic I've never even heard the farthest-right anti-mosque nutjob pundit ever make. Robert, you hold an extremist point of view that is logically inconsistent

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're suggesting that in order for me to consistent, I have to believe that humans have absolute rights over their entire being. Yes, that is what I am claiming. In fact, I think it's very consistent to believe that people have rights insofar as they obey just laws and otherwise don't infringe on anyone else's rights - just like the community center! Yes, the concept of absolute property rights only holds true as long as an individual has not violated the rights of another. There's no contradiction here. We hold no disagreement They're doing everything right in accordance with U.S. law. They don't have absolute property power What is absolute property power? Did I say anything about absolute property power? any more than I have absolute power over myself You don't have absolute power over yourself? You don't have will to choose to commit suicide? Whose puppet are you?. And that's the right call Rights are absolute so long as others rights are not being infringed upon, but the community center does not have absolute rights because they are not infringing on other's rights and that's the right call because…What? Here is where the breakdown in consistency has started, because we do have responsibilities to those around us. And the reason for that is because we take as well as give. We have responsibilities to others because we take things from them. Against their will? I am certainly not a thief. Speak for yourself.

And yes, no one can compel me not to do something simply because the idea offends them, which is also true of the center No one can compel you? You said above that you don't have absolute power over yourself or your property. That means that someone CAN compel you. In that sense, my views are extremely consistent. No, they are completely INCONSISTENT Yours, on the other hand, are all-or-nothing. Do you mean consistent? I don't know if that's what you really believe or if it's simply a rhetorical trap to justify your own selfishness, Robert. But all you have to do, living where you do, is to look around and see how much of your life is shaped by others. I imagine it's a lot. And I'm sure it wouldn't work out so well if you declared your "property" to be sovereign. If I didn't declare full ownership of my body and my property then how would I ever establish a system of justice? Where does theft begin and end?

Robert Taylor said...

Ok Ian, so let me make a final analysis. The biggest breakdown in communication is that I have thought about what I am saying by following my statements to their logical conclusions. You have been vague and consequently extremely inconsistent. Your 'give and take' statement above, as well as your 'shaped by others' statement only add to the confusion. If you're trying to make an argument, be clear. Give and take? Do you mean exchange? There is a distinction. Making that distinction is essential to the argument.

So, I say that man has full ownership of his own body. You say he does not. Let's explore the two logical alternatives…either we may lay down a rule that each man should be permitted (i.e., have the right to) the full ownership of his own body, or we may rule that he may not have such complete ownership. If he does, then we have a free society where exchange must occur for your 'give and take'. But if he does not, if each man is not entitled to full and 100 percent self-ownership, then what does this imply? It implies either one of two conditions: (1) the “communist” one of Universal and Equal Other-ownership, or (2) Partial Ownership of One Group by Another—a system of rule by one class over another. These are the only logical alternatives to a state of 100 percent self-ownership for all.

Let's explore the two conditions of the latter alternative: For condition (2), I know you disagree with class rule, because this is not fair for all, and you seem to be a guy who wants to be ethical.

For condition (1) The Communist view, at least it's consistent…. BUT in the first place, in practice, if there are more than a very few people in the society, this alternative must break down and reduce to Condition (2), partial rule by some over others. For it is physically impossible for everyone to keep continual tabs on everyone else, and thereby to exercise his equal share of partial ownership over every other man. In practice, then, this concept of universal and equal other-ownership is Utopian and impossible, and supervision and therefore ownership of others necessarily becomes a specialized activity of a ruling class. Hence, no society which does not have full self-ownership for everyone can enjoy a universal ethic. For this reason alone, 100percent self-ownership for every man is the only viable political ethic for mankind.

venessalewis said...

YAWN. Birds off the freaking wire I tell ya.

Jenni said...

Robert, can you do most of the people who read this blog a favor and write in layman's terms instead of a college philosophy professor? You're trying to be an intellectual, but it comes across as condescending. It would be easier to understand where your arguments are coming from.

Ian McGibboney said...

I think that's the point.

Robert Taylor said...

@Jenni I can't seem to make myself any clearer.

Ian on Muslim Center: Enforce Peace.
Ian on Health Care: Enforce Violence.

Ian on what is right, Violence or Peace: Inconsistent.

Jenni I want you to tell me how I am wrong in the above statements.

Lastly Jenni, if you want to explain what Ian meant in his last full comment, in layman's terms I would much appreciate it. Because it simply makes no sense.

Ian McGibboney said...

As long as we're on definitions, Jenni, Robert defines any form of taxation, government or societal obligation as "violence." Synonym: "coercion." He also shares Tom's hard-on for proving me wrong, no matter how much a stretch that takes.

Between the two, it's pretty hard to make a case for anything other than, "every man for himself."

Robert Taylor said...

@Jenni you see you're going to hear Ian say that taxation isn't coercion.

But try and see what happens if you don't pay your taxes.

Oh sure, first you'll just get an innocent looking letter from the IRS reminding you that you're late on your payment.

Resist that and you might get a second letter, now a bit more serious in tone.

Resist that and you'll get a knock on your door from the police who want to take you in.

Resist arrest and they pull out their guns.

So: taxation is coercion. It's simple. There's no jumps in logic. There's no exaggeration. Pay or die. Those are your options.

NOLA Progressive said...

Pay or die? A bit over the top donthca think? Pay or have your wages garnished maybe. In the extreme case pay or go to jail, but pay or die? Maybe if you live in WACO, but come on!

You see this is my point. You subscribe to this theory of libertarian utopia, but it is just as realistic as the idea of a socialist utopia. When people get involved it all just gets fucked up. No pure form of either is viable. Hence we trudge along with the polished turd we have and try and improve it.

To try and find some sort of hypocritical achilles heel because Ian doesn't approve of the political advantage taking of the innocuous raising of a building and does see the sense behind a universal mandate, is disingenuous.

Robert Taylor said...

@NOLA I hope you mean I get my wages garnered, not garnished.

Again, how is my view extreme if you follow the logical chain of reasoning? If you resist arrest far enough, the police is allowed to use any and all means to detain you. Ergo: unless they can somehow subdue you, you die.

Either way, firstly the threat of and then ultimately violence is used.

You and Ian advocate Violence. That is not distortion of the facts, that is not hyperbole.

I'm simply consistent. At no time did I advocate a utopia. I simply have the courage to stay consistent.

I keep pointing out inconsistencies, and all you can do is try and objectify my motivations which you know nothing about.

Jenni said...

This is a debate; there is no right or wrong answer. However your statements have to be comprehendible first before said debate starts. Ian has defended his position on health care and the Islamic community center over and over. But since you want to argue, here they are – again.

Construction of the Islamic Community Center? Build it. This group has the Constitutional and legislative rights to construct this building. This would also go a long way in mending the fragile bond that everyone has with September 11.
Universal health care in the United States? Provide it. No one should be afraid to get sick in this country, much less be driven into bankruptcy and losing everything they have worked for.

Equating taxation to coercion and violence is a stretch. Nothing is a black and white issue as you would like to believe. Using your logic, those in favor of the death penalty should be pro-choice. However, in my neck of the country, most are pro-life and pro-death penalty. People, by nature, are inconsistent because of their emotions.

You argue that Ian is inconsistent with his logic - I disagree. He cares about people and wants to see the general welfare improved (whether by government means or not). This is the focus of many an Ian blog. Perhaps if you weren’t so concerned about spouting Latin phrases and talking over people like they were children, you would realize this.

Robert Taylor said...


Think of it as choice Jenni.

Why is it ok to take away the choice of Republicans where they spend their money, but NOT ok to take away the choice from the Muslims where they spend their money??

I will quote Ian: "no one can compel me not to do something simply because the idea offends them, which is also true of the center"

I understand Ian is trying to make the world a better place. But simply because it offends him that Republicans don't want to help other people out with their money, is that enough to justify FORCING THEM to??

NOLA Progressive said...

Unless I am missing a grammatical nuance I meant garnished.

–verb (used with object)
Law .
a. to attach (as money due or property belonging to a debtor) by garnishment; garnishee.

I hardly see how the distinction is relevant to the thread though. I think that is exactly what Jenni has been referring to in recent comments.

I pay my taxes not due to threat of physical violence. Perhaps fiscal violence, but to make a grandiose leap is not logical no matter how many times you type it or say it. Actually I pay my taxes because I feel that is part of the necessary social contract that citizens have with their government in order for necessary services to be provided to us all. I have issues with proportions of said taxes, but not with the concept.

As for your motivations, I have speculated based on your discourse, but I don't claim to or even really want to, know what they are.

Robert Taylor said...


You're telling me why YOU do things. That's not necessarily why a Republican does things. Although you may have a "social contract" in your mind, that doesn't mean everyone does.

If you garnish a Republican's money for refusing to pay taxes, you are engaging in aggression against his property. You are TAKING THINGS he owns against his will. Since no contract has been agreed upon between both parties, there is no obligation on the part of the Republican.

What is another way of saying: to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, esp. secretly or by force? Theft.

Theft involves force or the threat of force. What is another way saying: swift and intense force? Violence.

NOLA Progressive said...

I swear sir only a Libertarian could honestly follow that strand of reasoning and go "yep...uh huh...definitely".

You are reasonably polite Robert and at least express opinion instead of insult, so Ill take up conversation with you in other threads, but as for this one I bid you adieu sir.

Robert Taylor said...

@NOLA If you want to go that's fine but I just want to leave you with something as you go:

I am personally disappointed that you again personify this debate from an ideological standpoint, "only a Libertarian could follow..."

Whenever I put forth a personal point of view, I stated it. When you put forth a personal point of view, I pointed it out.

My argument has not delved into personal opinion, simply logic and axiomatic truths.

It's simple. Think of it like a game: look at the statement someone says: flip it around, follow its logical implications any way you want and you can easily find where the connections break down.

Ian says: "I don't fully own my body or my property"

I ask: "Well then how does one define theft?"

I hope I don't need to continue to spell out how this works, suffice it to say that the inherent problem with most of the political arguments from my opposition become fuzzy: arbitrary: the very thing Ian says "no one" can do: decisions made on morality instead of ethics.

Ian McGibboney said...

I'm about to say goodbye to this thread as well, Robert, but first, a couple of things:

When I say we don't fully own our bodies or our property, I refer to laws that prevent us from doing certain things with them. I can't sell one of my kidneys on the black market. I can't use mind-altering drugs and then operate heavy machinery. Similarly, even private property is subject to zoning laws, building codes, property taxes, etc. That doesn't mean that I don't own my body or a building, but it also means I have responsibilities with both. And I'm fine with that. That's how we live with each other.

I see in your arguments a tendency to obsess over definitions. In all my years of political debate, I find this is to be a uniquely libertarian trait. It's more than a bit maddening, because it turns the conversation into what "taxation" or "coercion" is instead of really going anywhere. This discussion started off talking about the proposed community center in Manhattan. You, Robert, attempted to brand me a hypocrite over some past connection no one but yourself understood. And now we've all wasted our time on whether or not taxes are the same thing as violence. Even if you're right, it's a vacuum philosophy. The rest of us are in the real world where taxes exist and aren't going away. I'd say let's go from there, but I don't think it has anything to do with this thread's topic.

And at the end, Robert, I don't think you've even offered a substantial view on the relevant topic. If you have, it's so buried in jargon as to render it unreadable (and it's not as if I don't understand it; I just don't think it's necessary). If you had something better to say, I think you wouldn't feel the need to dress it up so much. Later.

Robert Taylor said...


Now you're talking about regulation, but end up ultimately agreeing with me when it comes to ownership of your own body. But the nebulous way you go about agreeing with me is through your common practice of double negative and conjecture is precisely what inhibits a fair discussion. You're so bent on defending your preconceived position, that the only time you'll concede to defining terms so as to continue on with a discussion is through obfuscation.

I think it is you sir, who wants to slow down the discussion. Anyone reading these threads can see the evidence.

You want my view on the subject now? It should be quite clear. I think the Muslims should be allowed to build anywhere they want as long as they buy, lease, or are donated the land. But I don't come to this conclusion arbitrarily like you Ian, I come to this conclusion through a system of consistent ethical principles which I don't bend on.