mamamusings

elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics

Monday, 18 October 2004

yet another proud member of the reality-based community

If you haven’t read the NYT Magazine’s lengthy profile of President Bush, I highly recommend it. One portion that’s been widely quoted, and has become somewhat of a rallying point for Democratic bloggers, is this:

The [senior Bush] aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: “Look, I want your vote. I’m not going to debate it with you.” When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, “Look, I’m not going to debate it with you.”

I’m sure that there are people who could read this profile of Bush and see in it much to admire—his faith, his decisiveness, his leadership, etc. But what I see frightens me, deeply. The messianic rhetoric, the impatience with facts (and the “reality based community” that cares about them), the inability to tolerate debate or challenge—these are not qualities that I want in my leader.

When I hear people talk about their support for Bush, I seldom hear them talk about his policies—his impact on the environment, on civil rights, on health, on social issues, on foreign policy (not just the war), on massive job losses and shrinking salaries, on the ballooning federal deficit. Instead, they talk about his personal characteristics—his leadership, his personable demeanor, his commitment to his faith.

But as John Perry Barlow points out, “Whatever it has been traditionally, this Presidential race should not be a personality contest. I say this as much to myself to myself as I do to you. I have to snap out of it and remember we are not electing our new best friend here.” Do I like Kerry? I don’t know. I’ve never met him. And at the end of the day, I don’t really care if I like him as a person. What I care about is the direction in which he leads this country.

What I want in a president is someone who doesn’t hire people like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and other dirty tricksters and corporate apologists. I want someone who cares about civil rights, who understands that the US doesn’t have (literally) a god-given right to dictate what’s right and what’s wrong worldwide, who won’t allow corporations to destroy our environment, who won’t fill the supreme court with justices who oppose a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body, who won’t try to pass a “Defense of Marriage” amendment to the constitution that forbids marriage between two people who love each other and who happen to be of the same physical sex, who won’t criticize “tax and spend” liberals while at the same time racking up record job losses and budget deficits.

If you’ve already made your decision about who you’re voting for next month, I doubt that anything I write here will change your mind. But if you’re an undecided voter, PLEASE take the time to learn about the candidate’s stands on issues that you care about. Public Agenda’s web site has issue guides on a wide range of topics that might matter to you. The Washington Post, NPR, CNN, and Issues 2000 all have sites that compare Bush and Kerry’s stances on key issues. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the candidate’s stances on the issues. Then make your decision based on policies, not personalities.

Please.

Posted at 8:32 PM in: politics
Trackbacks

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://mamamusings.net/mt/liztrack.cgi/868

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference yet another proud member of the reality-based community:

Okay, Now I Truly Am Scared from After Gutenberg on October 21, 2004 9:42 AM
Excerpt: Save your money -- no need for horror flicks -- just read Ron Suskind's article in the NY Times Magazine
A False Reality from Watermark on October 26, 2004 8:27 PM
Excerpt: A couple of weeks ago, I tried to imagine myself (unsuccessfully) into the mind of a Bush voter. I realize that someone who holds to the religious belief that abortion is murder is unlikely to vote for a pro-choice candidate. I also realize (though not...
I have a new community from Seeing conditions in matters of black and white on November 18, 2004 12:54 PM
Excerpt: So, today I declare myself part of the reality-based community, no matter how likely that makes me to fall victim to the Patriot Act ;-)
Okay, Now I Truly Am Scared from Your Guess Is As Good As Mine on December 12, 2004 2:56 PM
Excerpt: The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment...
Comments
Comment from Concerned Student on October 19, 2004 9:40 AM (Permalink to Comment)

Are you this vocal of your political views in the classes that you teach? I have heard lots of great things about you as an IT professor but respectfully disagree with your political opinions as posted in this blog.


Comment from Liz Lawley on October 19, 2004 9:49 AM (Permalink to Comment)

No, I don't discuss my political views in the classroom; I don't think that's appropriate. I have been encouraging my students to vote, but I have not taken a partisan stance in that context.

One of the reasons that I maintain my personal blog on my own server is that I want to draw clear distinctions between my personal views and my professorial views.

I've also given plenty of As to students who I know don't share my political outlook. Just ask Kyle Skrinak, who's been posting in some of the other threads; we disagreed often in a graduate class that did touch on policy and political issues, but it didn't stop us from becoming friends, nor did it influence my grading of his work--in fact, his clear and intelligent articulation of dissenting views raised my estimation of him greatly in that class. :)

In short, I welcome respectful disagreement--whether on my personal blog or in my classroom. And just as I won't take your political views into account when assessing your work for my class, I hope you'll not use mine as a factor in whether you want take my technical classes...


Comment from Kyle on October 19, 2004 11:15 AM (Permalink to Comment)

Firstly: a defense for those whom don't know. Dr. Lawley was a remarkably fair professor at R.I.T. I say "was" as I don't have the time, energy or money to continue an on-going education relationship with R.I.T. (beyond my masters) but she was also the chair of my thesis. We butted heads repeatedly in the realm of ideas but this never affected our student-teacher relationship, her grading, no squelching of my shy opinionated self -- I want to nip that in the bud. As a matter of fact, I had an inkling of her POV but not to the extent I've seen here. There was no coercive ideological pattern on display, although, all right, I am hard-headed. So -- be nice and civil. Liz has never been anything but fair and civil to this soon to be Bush-voting Catholic conservative. Fairly respecting my dignity seems like an appropriate baseline for classroom conduct. You're better off engaging her in the realm of ideas -- and there are quite a few soft pitches in the post to answer.

I'm working on 'em myself but I've got some wma's to encode first...


Comment from Kyle on October 19, 2004 11:19 AM (Permalink to Comment)

Dear reader: Lousy English alert. Please replace "has never been anything but" ouch -- that's too painful to read -- with "has always been"

Eschew obfuscation!


Comment from Kyle on October 19, 2004 5:54 PM (Permalink to Comment)
(and the “reality based community” that cares about them),
Hmmm... Yes, I hear this style of rhetoric frequently. "We're dealing with The Real World."™ What is the other type of existence? Of course, this might suggest that people, such as myself, are based... exactly where? Is my family, my home, my career, my community illusory? It reads as arrogant and effete and possibly alienating to people whom are unaccustomed to such slander to true engagement.
When I hear people talk about their support for Bush, I seldom hear them talk about his policies—
I'm thinking that the responses you receive are skewed, something along the lines of the Hawthorne Effect. While I am strongly in favor of Bush as president, I'm not going to give or take it on the chin, particularly depending on the social context. My wife and I have many democrat friends whom are vocal supporters for Kerry. (or, as is more the case, anti-Bushites) While I'm comfortable with what I believe, these conversations fall flat on their face and the vitriol gets distasteful. Then again, anecdotal experiences are always problematic.
his impact on the environment, on civil rights, on health, on social issues, on foreign policy (not just the war), on massive job losses and shrinking salaries, on the ballooning federal deficit. Instead, they talk about his personal characteristics—his leadership, his personable demeanor, his commitment to his faith.
I could argue on each on of your points why Bush should be President. And, with each one, a pandora's box, awaits.
What I want in a president is someone who doesn’t hire people like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and other dirty tricksters and corporate apologists. I want someone who cares about civil rights, who understands that the US doesn’t have (literally) a god-given right to dictate what’s right and what’s wrong worldwide, who won’t allow corporations to destroy our environment, who won’t fill the supreme court with justices who oppose a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body, who won’t try to pass a “Defense of Marriage” amendment to the constitution that forbids marriage between two people who love each other and who happen to be of the same physical sex, who won’t criticize “tax and spend” liberals while at the same time racking up record job losses and budget deficits.
Oh so much from which to choose. In a very brief response:
  • Cheney and Rove make popular bogeymen on the left, but the straw-man doesn't cross the traverse. For many, their names are not synonymous with attributes you list.
  • Civil Rights and their alleged abuses are another bogeyman frequently trotted out. I haven't seen the alleged degradation that we were supposed to see from the "zealous and evil" Ashcroft. Nevertheless the bogeyman stands aflame.
  • As for world projection of "right or wrong" it is naive to suggest that the world, if we all just play nice, can all be holding hands and singing "We are the World." 2/3's of the U.N.'s members are not from democracies. Tyrannies abound. You can paint Bush's response as a binary right-or-wrong, or, as I propose in the opposite, a blithe Kerry fiddling while our supposed allies execute a bureaucracy of "legal maneuvers" and the world suffers from greater tyranny and terrorism against those whom see weakness as an opportunity.
  • Bush has been careful to frame the application of his faith in his governance but nevertheless, this is unacceptable by those whom "tolerate diversity," and yet we have another bogeyman.
  • The notion of an individual's life as another's property has been historically dealt with but here we stand again.
  • Should we be so blithe about what marriage means, and what it will mean to open it up to anything?
  • The shifts in accounting for employment, the recent accelerated growth in employment over the past two quarters and the rise of the self-employed make this statement somewhat a factoid -- neither wrong nor comprehensive.
  • I'd surely like to see Bush reign in spending -- but like a drunken sailor game, (is there such?) we both know who plans to spend more over the next four years.
In short, I'm for Bush as he values life at its most vulnerable, he has a strong foreign policy, he has plans for using government as a bridge, not a crutch in the new economic environment we're finding ourselves, he has excellent people under him whom handle their appointed tasks well and isn't afraid to take unpopular positions. I could lambast Kerry -- but that's well more than enough for now. Phew! Kyle

Comment from Jeff on October 19, 2004 11:02 PM (Permalink to Comment)

I don't know why I'm weighing in on this - maybe it's because I'm watching The West Wing, a pleasant fantasy about the way the Presidency could be. So here goes.

It's hard to see how any thinking person could vote for Bush. Here's my short list of why I would vote for almost any candidate over George Bush:

1. He and his inner circle believe they can bring democracy to countries by bombing, conquering and occupying them. That's ludicrous. Put yourself in the Iraqi's shoes - if another country occupied the US via overwhelming force, would we want to adopt their political system? I don't think so.

2. He and his inner circle believe that we have to compromise civil rights to fight terrorism. Read the Patriot Act. We now live in a country where any of us can be arrested and detained (disappeared) without warrant, without due process. All it takes is a zealous justice department official to label you a terrorist. When I was younger, that was one of the defining differences between the US and the Soviet Union. They disappeared people and put them in Gulags. We had due process.

3. As a CEO, Bush is an utter failure. He blames his staff for his mistakes, and he's presiding over the largest run of deficit spending in history. The Republicans used to be the fiscally responsible party - under Bush they've become the ultimate spenders.

4. Bush and his Defense/Intelligence leaders presided over Abu Graib (not sure of spelling). In any leadership position I can imagine, that's a firing offense.

5. He and his inner circle lied to us about the reasons for going to war. Spin it any way you want, they lied and they've never come clean. The one thing I want most of all from a US President is integrity, and the one time integrity means the most is when he decides to send people to their death in defense of our country. The way this war was started was unconscionable.

There's more, but that ought to be enough for anyone who's using more than a dozen brain cells.


Comment from Jeremiah on October 20, 2004 2:55 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Kyle. I am bewildered by, and fascinated with, the reasons people have for wanting another four years of this style of government.

I'm not sure you understand the context of the term "reality-based community." We have a senior Bush aide saying that caring about facts doesn't matter. Reclaiming the term is not an effete stance. It is a cry for accountability.

nota bene: who vs. whom


Comment from Kyle on October 21, 2004 12:07 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Re: Who vs. Whom. My lack of correct or consistent usage bedevils and conflicts me. Thanks for the link. I suppose that I should run a disclaimer that my English skills are not the product of R.I.T. (ASCII smiley face here)

Flummoxed, we glance in diametric opposition, across the traverse. FWIW: I was a straight Democrat (voted: Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, and Green for NY Senate (92) even Dinkins for NYC mayor... I have much mends to make.) through the 1994 elections. Then I matured. (Another ASCII smiley face)

We can talk about the phrase “caring about facts” a little bit but I haven't read the article (nor do I frankly intend to read much from the NYTimes anytime soon) and thus I lack the specific context of the utterance. I can make a generalized case that the while "the devil is in the details," some decisions are best made with the correct balance of details and overarching concepts. “Not caring about details” might by another way of expressing the desire not to spend time on facts that are not critical factors towards a correct decision. One wishing to fire a hostile volley can express this condensed summary by running a literal recording without context. We on the right are used to such misrepresentation.

Philosopher-Kings have not always served in our best interests.

Liz is running a classy joint!


Comment from Jennifer on October 24, 2004 2:21 PM (Permalink to Comment)

I have always been critical of Dubya, ever since reading the book Fortunate Son before the 2000 election. Yet, I have at times had positive impressions of him, such as his behavior immediately after 9/11. Around that time, partisan politics seemed immature and trivial. I felt as if I would transcend them forever. Yet, it is no exxaggeration to call the policies of Dubya and the neo-cons scourched earth policies. Dubya has completely squandered the respect he put in the bank, with me, right after 9/11. Now, I am realizing with horror the full extent of what we have on our hands. I finally understand it, after reading the article in the NYT magazine. Not only that, but I gained even deeper insight from an article called The Madness of George W. Bush. This is no garden variety cynical politician we have as our President. His left hand does not know what his right hand is doing. He tells whoppers and commences on extreme scourched earth policies, while sincerely believing himself to be doing the will of God. I am truly frightened, and I truly see fascism on the march in the country that I love. I am not going to be able to breath easily until Kerry is elected, but if Kerry is not elected, I am already bracing myself with a contingency plan of action so I can keep going in spite of the despair I will feel.


Comment from Kyle on October 24, 2004 6:04 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Jennifer, may I recommend a reading of Godwin's law as it relates to the public discussion of contentious issues?


Comment from Jennifer on October 25, 2004 7:52 AM (Permalink to Comment)

Kyle, with all due respect, creeping fascism is as much of a danger as creeping socialism.


Comment from Kyle on October 25, 2004 2:09 PM (Permalink to Comment)

I don't see the words "socialism" or "creeping" in the URL I sent you. I can't follow your logic in your last post -- at least if you intended it as a comment on Godwin's law. Maybe I'm missing something. Did you read it? It was passed to me by a person on the left that I respect.


Comment from Kyle on October 25, 2004 2:44 PM (Permalink to Comment)

My goodness, I missed commenting on Jeff's comments. Of course I find them categorically and comprehensively wrong. We can bandy references and counter references back and forth but your premise is not really a call for engagement but mere calumny. What I find most striking is your use of the rhetorical bludgeon of what a "thinking person" with "more than a dozen brain cells" does. Such a turn of phrase suggests defensiveness and one's inability to merely countenance an opposing opinion. I thought thinking was the open engagement and exchange of opposing ideas but perhaps I'm told old-fashioned?


Comment from Jennifer on October 25, 2004 8:32 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Kyle, the point is that there is creeping fascism in this country. It needs to be discussed openly. It's real, and if you have managed to avoid reading examples of it, I would be happy to point some out to you. Just one of many examples: three women got kicked out of a Bush campaign rally for wearing T-shirts with the words, "Protect our civil liberties" appearing underneath the American flag. For just one more quick example, a card carrying Republican soldier was ousted from a campaign rally for the crime of associating with a Democrat. If you have not read these articles, I would be happy to post links to them.


Comment from Mr. Snitch on February 7, 2005 11:12 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Here in Hoboken we have an Anger-based community. Works for us...


Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


Remember me?


Liz sipping melange at Cafe Central in Vienna