Monthly Archives: December 2014

Discourse, Rational and Otherwise

Not long ago, I mentioned that I thrive on debate. More recently, this was thrown in my face as evidence that I like starting shit. Whether the accusation is true or not, I find the evidence questionable, but only because I don’t believe that debate is a bad thing.

There are, in my mind, three levels of influential discussion. Debate, argument, and fighting. I prefer debate, and I try to avoid fighting altogether. I don’t care if someone else changes their opinion to match mine, but I don’t like being pressured to accept someone else’s opinion in favor of my own. That is why I prefer debate.

There is no winner in a true debate. That competitive argument is called debate seems ironic to me, since, in it’s purest form, debate is merely an exchange of viewpoints and the facts that support them. If I point out that Adam Smith, the father of Free-market economics was not a laissez-faire capitalist, I am not trying to sway you from your socialist stance. I’m simply supporting my view that some government interference in the economy is acceptable, as long as that interference is limited and performs the government’s primary purpose of protection from abuse.

In debate, it’s okay to agree to disagree. That is, in fact, the most likely outcome. The minute you enter a debate with the intention that you are going to change someone’s mind, it stops being a debate and becomes an argument. Arguments are laden with words of judgment. Socialism is wrong. Capitalism is unfair. Everything about an argument suggests that the other person is committing an error in holding their beliefs and opinions. Facts that don’t support your position are glossed over or ignored in favor of those that do. Conclusions are drawn that are not necessarily the result of the facts used to support them. If you state that corporate culture and power in the US is proof that capitalism doesn’t work, then you are arguing, because you are ignoring the fact that modern corporate culture stands more as an argument for more stringent enforcement of anti-trust laws than it does for further muddying of the waters separating business and the government.

Most discussions end up as arguments, because it’s hard to fathom the idea that someone, given your store of information, might draw different conclusions. In many ways, human society has out-evolved human brains, and we’re still monkeys trying to convince the other members of our troop that “fire good” or “fire bad” depending on which end of the stick we picked up. The problem arises in that many arguments devolve into nothing more than fights. You can tell you’re in a fight if you find yourself resorting to a lot of argumentative fallacies.

Mind you, I tend to have an open attitude toward such tools of argument. For one thing, the classes of argument referred to as fallacies are only fallacies under certain circumstances, and are perfectly reasonable arguments under others. If a man states that he is against abortion, it is a tu quoque fallacy to point out that one of the group funds that his mutual invests in has money in a business that experiments with fetal stem cells. It is not a tu quoque fallacy to point out that a man who loudly decries homosexuality was caught soliciting blowjobs in a bus station.

So maybe avoiding fallacy isn’t the best way to avoid devolving into a fight. Maybe the difference really lies in the lack of respect shown to the other person. If you find yourself getting emotionally involved in the other person’s failure to adopt your viewpoint, you’re probably in a fight. If you find yourself using abusive language, or threats, to impose your view on someone else, you’re almost certainly fighting. If you deride someone’s viewpoint for no other reason than that it differs from you’re own, not only are you fighting, but you’re also a bully. You need to stop that shit.

I love debate. I can trade facts and opinions for hours, and even days, and I get great joy from the things I learn in the process, whether anyone changes their mind or not. I’m okay with argument. I’m not really comfortable trying to make others change their stance, but, as long as everyone is civil, some learning can be achieved. I try not to fight, and I regret every time I was drawn into one. While I’ve often come away from debates thinking, “Wow, I never knew that.” I have never come away from a fight with anything useful, and I usually come away angry or frustrated.

Let’s all try to debate more and fight less.

You’re Doing It Wrong

Far be it from me to tell anyone else what they should believe. My own faith is a learning process with very few actual graven-in-stone tenets. Be a good host, bring honor to your family name, don’t piss off the local spirits; other bits that may or may not be true or even accurate. Reconstructed faiths are that way. It’s a lot like putting together an old Lego set: pieces get lost, and sometimes you end up with a red brick right where the Death Star’s giant laser belongs. That’s fine; I need the challenge.

So, no, you believe what you want to believe, because this is America, and you have that right. Whatever you believe, however, stop doing it wrong, okay? Faith is not about forcing the world to fit into your personal matchbox of expectations. Faith is about understanding the world and your own place in it. Whether it’s God’s plan, fractal math, or Nuada’s lessons on accepting a situation and dealing with it, the whole point of religion, all religion (and a lot of demi-religious philosophies) is about you, and no one else.

If you’re an atheist and you find it necessary to share your thoughts on the illusion of faith, and the great epiphany you had that joy is just a bunch of electro-chemical reactions, zip it. You’re doing it wrong. My Corn Flakes may just be deep fried cattle feed, but I like them, and I don’t need you crapping in them because you don’t approve of my choices. If your life runs better believing that life is more or less meaningless and we’re really a bunch of ants on a cosmic truck tire, then fine for you. I think otherwise, and I’m not interested in debating the ineffable with someone who demands a NASA report to believe the sun still rises on cloudy days.



By that same token, if you’re a Christian, and you’re berating people (who aren’t your minor children) for committing any sin, zip it, and read your bible again. You’re doing it wrong. There is nothing, from the first letter of Matthew to the last period in Revelation that instructs people of the faith to browbeat anyone for anything. The harshest treatment you will find you are allowed to direct at people who don’t engage in Christian morality is to dissociate from them. You don’t get to tell to people in love that they can’t get married under the law, because the civil law is Caesar’s coin and it is reserved for Caesar. You sure as hell don’t get to tell anyone why being gay, reading crappy literature, or dressing in their own fashion makes them horrible. I can give you five quotes attributed to Jesus that tell you the opposite; his whole thing was your salvation, and he spent a lot of time reminding people to keep their own house in order. Period. Full stop.

Besides, Pretend Cat already knows what you did.

Besides, Pretend Cat already knows what you did.

Lastly, if you are a practicing neo-pagan of any kind, and you’re not just trying to piss off your parents, shut up. The victims of witch-burnings weren’t Wiccans, they were Christians who had things that some douchebags wanted. The Celts, Greeks, Egyptians, and even Native Americans were never about peace and good stewardship of the planet. If those faiths speak to you. Yay for you. I know how you feel, Reconstructed Celticism is where I settled and it feels right. Just try not to subscribe to the Facebook Infographic version of that faith, because that’s doing it wrong.

Your faith is your own, and you are free to celebrate it any way you want to. But the same goes for me.


There is something seriously wrong with us. Is it just me? Has it always been this way? It feels like we’re letting ourselves be ruled by the lunatic fringes of society. On every side, for every issue, the voices of moderation and reason are drowned out by crazy-ass jeering from the cheap seats. Is that the way it’s supposed to be?

I spend way too much time like this.

I spend way too much time like this.

I don’t want anyone getting all “No kidding, those (insert political/social group/quasi-group/trend here) are cray-cray!” because it’s not just them, it’s you—and me, too. Do you ever catch yourself making note of one opinion or view held by someone and immediately and forever that person becomes just that opinion? Of course you don’t. If you caught yourself doing that, you’d stop it ,right?

But then how can all conservatives be racist pro-lifers who want to hand America to Big (insert industry) while they blast away at random wildlife. How can all liberals be baby-killing communists who think the Constitution is something you use to clean the bloodstains off of the country’s past? Why is there no middle? Why is everyone who refuses to identify as a single big-basket philosophy a “low-information voter,” as if stupidity and ignorance were ever associated with avoiding the extremes.

It goes beyond me how we’ve allowed “voices crying in the wilderness” to speak for us, to even influence our opinions and decisions. Here’s a clue about those guys: they spend their time crying in the wilderness because they’re too bugshit crazy to be allowed in-doors where the grown-ups are talking.

The last ten national elections have shown that Americans are still pretty central-biased. As a group, we still have a pretty good bullshit-detector. We’ll give someone a chance to prove their theories, but, as a nation we don’t subscribe to any philosophy whole-heartedly without some kind of verifiable result.

So why doesn’t it sound like it? I don’t just mean the news media, either. Internet comments sections and forums are filled with angry vituperative fired blindly in all directions. Those rare occasions when a compromise is suggested or a moderate opinion is raised, they’re shouted down—sometimes with death threats.

It’s time to move the children’s table back out of the dining room, so the rest of us can talk.

Casual Notice 2015

Okay, let’s be honest. If you’re here, and you’re not a spambot, then you’re either (a) some poor sap making scut wages as a human spambot to get around filters, or (b) you followed the link in my last Facebook post because you can’t go without some Brett-y goodness. If it’s (a), you have my sympathy, but not my support. If it’s (b), welcome! Comments are limited to approved users and moderated, but only to keep the site more or less spam-free. You can expedite user validation by sending an e-mail to my address: bhainley(at-sign)casualnotice(tiny-circle)com.

I have a Facebook problem. I have a Facebook problem in the sense that some people have a heroin problem, except Facebook doesn’t cost me any money (but it may, eventually, cost me friends and family if I don’t deal with it). I spend too much time registering an opinion on almost everything. I spend way too much time correcting people when they have the facts wrong. I apparently never learned when things weren’t any of my business.

Worse, I would camp comments, wasting entire days checking and rechecking my news feed for something that “demanded” my input. This is a bad thing. If I spend an entire day staring at a blank page on MS Word, it’s not wasted because my brain is still working through whatever has me blocked. If I spend that same day clicking over to Facebook to see how people reacted to one of my snide, cat-based graphics, my brain is focused on defending the theory that my cat, Coleridge, finds partisan political ranting tedious, and that day is wasted. I track the word-count on my current projects on a whiteboard in my office. Those counts haven’t changed in over a month.

So I came back here. I’ve had A website since 1996, and Casual Notice has been the home of my ramblings since 2004. I don’t check it compulsively for opinions, and the blog format tends to give me an impetus to think through the commentary that is posted here. More importantly, this is my home. I own the server, and I own the website and everything on it.

Facebook is like a front yard. Yeah, the space is yours (sort of), but everyone passing by can see what’s there. They can bitch about your opinion because it’s right THERE assaulting their eyes like a concrete flamingo. The thing about Casual Notice is that you have to come here to see my opinion. If you come to my home and you don’t like the ratty green sofa in my office, you’re very free to fuck off. This is my space, and you’re a guest here.

Anyway, big changes coming for CN (again), including a probable migration at the beginning of the year. Again, if you want to expedite user validation, send an e-mail to bhainley(spiral-ay)casualnotice(point)com.