Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ugly Americans

I don't mean to pick on PZ Myers—he's just one of many seemingly intelligent people who think that the American system of government is far superior to the governments of countries like the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Australia, Jordan, Spain, Sweden, Malaysia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark.

Here's what he posted today [My deepest regrets to the people of the United Kingdom ] ...
Apparently, your antiquated monarchy is going to continue, and the birth of a child of extraordinary privilege warrants far more attention than the birth of thousands who will live in poverty. I hope you get over it soon, and I hope it doesn’t infect my country; despite fighting a revolution to get out from under a king, there are a lot of conservatives with a bizarre sentimental attachment to the idea of a hereditary aristocracy.
There's a certain irony in this statement since Americans are fond of celebrating babies born into extraordinary privilege, especially if they are movie stars. Furthermore, the percentage of children born into poverty in the USA exceeds that of many of the European monarchies. I'm reminded of pots and kettles.

But, more importantly, the condescending attitude of superiority is totally unjustified. The UK is a democracy with a parliamentary system of government and a ceremonial Head of State who happens to be a monarch. It's a system of government that is vastly superior to the American system, in my opinion. The people of the United Kingdom (and all other democratic monarchies) are perfectly capable of abolishing the monarchy if they choose. The fact that they haven't must mean that they like it that way.1 Why can't Americans respect that? They certainly demand that the rest of the world respect their choices!

Why do Americans have so much trouble seeing the world as non-Americans see it?


1. Of course there are many citizens of monarchies who wish to abolish the monarchy. You can be sure that quite a few of them will show up in the comments below.

75 comments:

  1. I didn't like PZ's post, either. It seemed pointless and rude.

    Some people like traditions. Others don't. I'm in the second group, but I don't have a need to impose my disdain for tradition on others.

    Whether or not to have a ceremonial royalty is up to the Brits. It is not up to me (or to PZ) to take sides.

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    1. Americans seem to be remarkably constrained by their history and tradition. They seem reluctant to do anything that the founding fathers didn't approve. I can't think of very many civilized countries that rely so heavily on words that were written down 230 years ago.

      Do you reject this tradition?

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  2. Why do Americans have so much trouble seeing the world as non-Americans see it?

    I do get the same impression. The bizarre obsession with guns and their ownership is another case in point. Secularism that is so entrenched that no atheist can overtly progress in politics is another.


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    1. The bizarre obsession with guns and their ownership is another case in point.

      The Glock-suckers are a constituency I found hard to understand. I don't know how much of the population they make up-- 40 percent? 30? Maybe less. But the NRA has a power that outstrips its numbers.

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  3. I also pick on Americans over that! The comment "there are a lot of conservatives with a bizarre sentimental attachment to the idea of a hereditary aristocracy" is referring specifically to Americans -- I'll also be bitterly denouncing this obnoxious side of my country in the next election, when various Clintons and Bushes are vying for the presidential position they feel they deserve by right of family.

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    1. The title of your post addresses the "people of the United Kingdom."

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  4. I thought it came across as only a comment about the momentary silliness surrounding the royal birth, and it was not a general comment about the relative merits of the US versus other countries. I am sure everyone is aware PZ is quick to point out the many inequities and flaws in our US government and society.

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  5. Larry: The UK is a democracy with a parliamentary system of government and a ceremonial Head of State who happens to be a monarch. It's a system of government that is vastly superior to the American system, in my opinion.

    Superior? They have much less freedom of speech, and an established state religion, and fundamentalists and creationist schools too. Their libel laws are egregious.

    If Larry lived in the UK, he'd be prosecuted for libel somehow or other.

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    1. I was talking about a system of government, not libel laws. You seem to have had a slight problem with reading comprehension. Not to worry. It can be cured. :-)

      If Larry lived in the UK, he'd be prosecuted for libel somehow or other.

      Over all, I would much rather live in the UK than in the United States of America, but that's a different issue that the one I addressed in this post.

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    2. They have much less freedom of speech, and an established state religion, and fundamentalists and creationist schools too. Their libel laws are egregious.

      Strangely, I don't feel all that oppressed, though. We have plenty freedom of speech, and despite the 'state religion' people can get elected without sucking up to the religious.

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  6. The fact that they haven't must mean that they like it that way

    Do you mean in the same sense that the inhabitants of Ontario must like a taxpayer funded Catholic school system ?

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    1. Yes, exactly. Most inhabitants of Ontario are okay with the current system.

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    2. Larry's argumentum ad populem-- for the monarchy!--is a terrible argument.

      Since you're so fond of argumentum ad populem, why not apply it to teaching creationism in taxpayer-funded schools?

      Ever since William Jennings Bryan, the creationists have tried to push creationism into public schools via argumentum ad populem.
      Our opposition to creationism as a form of political activism depends on opposing argumentum ad populem as a fallacy. If it can't work for teaching creationism in public schools, it can't work to prop up a monarchical system that says some people are higher than others.

      And don't give me the "PZ Myers proves America is a terrible country" crap, there are republicans sensu lato in all English-speaking countries. I grew up singing the Sex Pistols "God save the queen, she aint no human bean." The Australian prime minister even man-handled the queen.

      And how can you invoke argumentum ad populem, which assumes everyone's opinion ought to carry equal weight, to justify keeping a system that explicitly says some people are higher than others?

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    3. That's just not true Larry.

      Ontarians who want to scrap $7 billion in taxpayer support for separate schools outnumber those who favour it, a new poll says in the wake of Catholic objections to an anti-bullying law passed Tuesday.


      The poll, conducted Monday by Forum Research Inc., found that 48 per cent of Ontario residents disagreed with taxpayer support of Catholic schools while 43 per cent agreed with a continuation of public funding. Eight per cent were unsure.


      http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2012/06/06/nearly_half_of_ontarians_oppose_catholic_school_support_poll_finds.html

      But that's not the point.

      There are many factors at work that will keep an old, defective and entrenched system in place.

      Any established system enjoys an advantage due to it's status as incumbent with the inertia involved in changing the status quo also working to it's benefit.

      “It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones. ”

      ― Niccolò Machiavelli

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    4. Diogenes says,

      Larry's argumentum ad populem-- for the monarchy!--is a terrible argument.

      What the hell are you talking about?

      Are you feeling OK? You seem to be having more difficulty than usual following a train of thought.

      All I said was that if the citizens of one country prefer a certain form of government then show a little respect for their choice unless you are absolutely certain that they are wrong. And just because you have been brainwashed into thinking that your system is the only good system is not what I meant by "absolutely certain."

      Those of us who live outside of the USA have to put up with the constant weirdness of American culture and politics. It's seems ironic that the minute Brits get excited about a happy event like a new baby, the American bloggers all jump on their high horses and criticize them.

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    5. I don't agree at all. There is no reason at all that I need to "show a little respect" for any aspect of government that I dislike.

      The Canadian system has some good aspects (e.g., the referral power of the Federal government, which lets the government get an opinion from the Supreme Court *before* legislation is enacted) and some bad aspects (hereditary monarch as head of state, double jeopardy, provincial support of religion, ridiculous libel laws). I am perfectly happy to praise the good aspects while arguing against the bad aspects.

      In exactly the same way, the US system has some good aspects (e.g. no double jeopardy) and some bad aspects (e.g., the electoral college).

      In all these arguments one should strive to be egoless: to evaluate criticisms on their merits and not on one's particular citizenship. It's hard, I admit, but that should be the goal.

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    6. @Jeffrey Shallit,

      I'm not sure what you mean by "double jeopardy." Are you referring to the fact that if you don't like the verdict in a State criminal case you can always retry the acquitted person in a Federal Court or in a civil suit? :-)

      I agree that you are under no obligation to show "respect" for any aspect of government that you don't like. However, in some cases there are legitimate differences of opinion that depend on tradition and history. In such cases it's often a good idea to show some respect for your opponents.

      American tradition and history is very anti-monarchy. I respect that. English tradition and history have led to the evolution of a constitutional monarchy that works very well. I respect that too.

      In all these arguments one should strive to be egoless: to evaluate criticisms on their merits and not on one's particular citizenship. It's hard, I admit, but that should be the goal.

      I agree. We should look at the relative merits of different systems of government instead of just basing one's arguments on one's place of birth.

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    7. if you don't like the verdict in a State criminal case you can always retry the acquitted person in a Federal Court or in a civil suit?

      That is simply untrue. Some prosecutorial abuses like that happen, but they are rare. And crimes often have multiple dimensions.

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    8. I was being sarcastic but it does happen. There are plenty of lawyers who are calling for "justice" in the George Zimmerman case and we all know about that football player in the 1990s.

      It's not exactly double jeopardy but it's close.

      What laws in Canada re you referring to?

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    9. What laws in Canada re you referring to?

      Your question is unclear to me. If you are talking about double jeopardy, I am referring to the fact that the Crown can retry a person who has been acquitted as many times as they like. If you are referring to libel laws, then I am referring to the fact that the burden of proof is on the defendant, even for public figures.

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    10. I didn't know that in Canada you can be acquitted of a crime but retried as many time as the state would like. That sounds really bad.

      I'm not familiar with libel laws. If someone spreads falsehoods about me and I sue them in Canada, then aren't they the defendant? Isn't the burden of proof on them to prove that what they said was the truth? Is it the other way around in the United States?

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    11. "As many times as they like" does not seem accurate. The prosecution can appeal an acquittal and if the acquittal is thrown out *then* they can be tried again. See the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 11h, which states that any person charged with an offense has the right "if finally acquitted of the offence, not to be tried for it again and, if finally found guilty and punished for the offence, not to be tried or punished for it again"

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    12. The out is "finally". See the case of Guy Paul Morin.

      And, yes, Larry, the burden of proof in libel cases in the US is very strong for public figures; you need to show malice, not just that the statement was wrong. This guarantee is very important for robust public debate. Read the book Bound and Gagged by Kimberly Noble to see why Canada's libel law suppresses investigative reporting.

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    13. The out is "finally". See the case of Guy Paul Morin.

      Guy Paul Morin was acquitted in the 1986 trial. The crown appealed on the grounds that the judge made an error. That appeal was upheld and Morin was convicted (wrongly, as it turns out) in the re-trial of 1992.

      Here's what it says if you follow the link to "double jeopardy."

      . Canadian law allows the prosecution to appeal from an acquittal. If the acquittal is thrown out, the new trial is not considered to be double jeopardy because the first trial and its judgment would have been annulled.

      Is that all you got?

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    14. And, yes, Larry, the burden of proof in libel cases in the US is very strong for public figures; you need to show malice, not just that the statement was wrong. This guarantee is very important for robust public debate.

      I can see why you might think the American system is better but I think there's plenty of room for legitimate differences of opinion.

      I don't see why protecting potentially libelous reporters in the USA is "very important for robust public debate." Do you think that there's no robust public debate in Canada because of libel laws? Do you think you can only have "robust public debate" if people are able to tell lies about public figures and spread false rumors?

      I'm trying to think of an example of "robust public debate" in the USA that might not be allowed in Canada. Would accusing Obama of being an illegitimate President because he was born in Kenya count as a good example?

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  7. May I add that the British monarchy is a huge source of revenue for the country as well. Check out CGP Grey on the matter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhyYgnhhKFw
    So who cares if people care about a baby? I don't and you don't have to either.

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    1. Yeah, because tourists would just stop coming to Britain if they didn't have a living royal family. The same way they stopped going to France and Germany, right? Oh, wait, no, your argument is just wrong (and kind of dumb, honestly).

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    2. This argument is very cynical. Whatever will make money, do it. Let's pretend that some people are higher than others even though it's not true, because we'll make money from pretending.

      Nothing against the UK, but if I had a choice between visiting the UK or France, I'd go for France. Royals or no.

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  8. There is no perfect system of government. All of them have their flaws. However, whatever his many flaws, IMHO, Obama compares very favorably with Harper (Obama would never appoint a creationist nincompoop like Gerry Goodyear as the US equivalent of Minister of Science and Technology.

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    1. Goodyear was replaced in the recent cabinet shuffle. The current Minister of State (Science and Technology) is Greg Rickford.

      In Canada, all cabinet ministers (with a few rare exceptions) are elected members of Parliament.

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    2. Thanks for the information. I assume that Mr. Rickford is better qualified for the position then was Goodyear, although that's a pretty low bar. I guess I will have to stop giving Canadian critics of the USA a hard time over Goodyear.

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  9. Many Americans are fundamentally unwilling to accept that different does not mean inferior (or anything besides just different, really). Furthermore, I think that deep down, many of them are actually quite insecure, to the point of getting defensive if you point out differences in other countries in a non-negative light. This is just from experience, and not all Americans -- but enough to make it seem as a cultural trait. The old notion (from generations of highly effective propaganda programmes) that everyone ultimately aspires to be or be like American is still there, although now in increasing conflict with the actual state of things in this country. I think it is slowly improving, actually -- 10 years ago, hardly anyone could wrap their heads around someone _voluntarily_ leaving the country for, say, Canada.

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  10. Yes, yes, because criticizing a serious flaw in someone else's government means you must think your own government is absolutely perfect! I get it! Pointing out that the monarchy is an institutionalized and government-funded system of privilege, totally unlike anything the U.S. has, must mean that P.Z. is a pure-red flag-waving ape screaming "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"

    Larry, you should be ashamed.

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  11. The royal prerogative is part of the unwritten constitution of so-called democratic monarchies. In Australia and Canada, as I recall, this prerogative was last exercised in the fall of the Gough Whitlam government, and in enabling the Harper government to avoid an inconveniently timed election. Since you live in Canada, how nice that you are pleased with this arrangement.

    My best judgment is that most US nationals have no principled opposition to monarchy. One of the most popular forms of genre SF is "steampunk," which absolutely dotes on monarchy. And it is hard to find any fantasy at all that doesn't adore royalty too. The basic principle of monarchy (and the nobility that goes with it,) that some people are born better than others is comfortably similar to notions of racial hierarchy. There is the occasional person vociferously expressing anti-monarchical principles, despite a general adherence to conservatism. I suppose it must be satisfying to be part of the political avant garde of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. And much safer. The perceived racial and religious composition of the UK ensures that quite a few people in the US are quite sympathetic to the English, and convinced they understand them quite well. They might be bemused at the notion of Scots and Welsh but fortunately these exotic creatures are also Britons.

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  12. the birth of a child of extraordinary privilege warrants far more attention than the birth of thousands who will live in poverty.

    This is about Kanye West's kid North right?

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  13. The weird thing is that I don't think any actual British people I know care about the monarchy themselves. Basically the only people I know who do are either 1) US women of the tabloid/People magazine reading demographic and 2) Canadians from Ontario, who are obsessed with anything that differentiates themselves from the US (other provinces, especially Quebec, aren't quite so into differentiating themselves, perhaps because there is more of an actual difference).

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    1. Canadians from Ontario, who are obsessed with anything that differentiates themselves from the US ...

      You forgot the smiley. Some people might actually think you know what you're talking about.

      Support for the monarchy has always been strongest in Alberta with British Columbia and Ontario vying for second place. About half of all Canadians would favor a Canadian head of state—either elected or appointed. In other words, they want the same system of government (very different from the American system) but without a British monarch.

      For what it's worth, I'm reasonably happy with the current system because our Canadian Governor-General is the de facto Head of State. I'm not opposed to abolishing the monarchy.

      The really sad thing is that a majority of Canadians think that the Prime Minister is the Head of State.

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    2. I'm not sure that's really much of a refutation, given how all three of those provinces (which are used to represent the US in more movies and television shows than they portray themselves) need to distinguish themselves from the States *somehow*. If the the monarchy was most popular in Quebec, now *that* would be a surprise.

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    3. It's true that Canadians don't want to be mistaken for Americans. It's not true that Canadians point to the monarchy as one of the differences they are most proud of.

      Delete
  14. I've got a picture of you two in the cupola on the Sandwalk at Down House. I duplicated that beautiful photo with one of me and "Louis" in the same position, so to speak.

    So your picture would be one ugly Canadian and one ugly American, and mine would be one ugly Englishman and one ugly American.

    I'm not proud of that picture, although I do cherish it!

    What our collective wives of many years ever saw in us I'll never know and I won't question, either!

    Cheers!

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    1. Please send me your photo. I publish all photos of people on the Sandwalk [On the Sandwalk]

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  15. I'm ambivalent about the monarchy, but for Americans who scoff at it I have only one thing to say: What about all that fawning over the Kennedy clan that went on from the late 50s almost until the present? They were America's royal family, and those times are still remembered fondly by many. No wonder the whole spectacle has often been referred to as Camelot. Okay, I'll add a second point: whenever the Queen visits America people tend to go crazy with adulation, and their turnouts rival anything she gets at home. America has so much fake and embellished history that whenever a real, living, breathing, embodiment of centuries-old tradition physically walks around in front of them, they stand in awe.

    Dave Bailey

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    1. P.S. But we really need to do something about Prince Jug-Ears, his endorsement of homeopathy and other woowoo is embarrassing

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    2. America has so much fake and embellished history that whenever a real, living, breathing, embodiment of centuries-old tradition physically walks around in front of them, they stand in awe.

      To quote Oscar Wilde, "Once in New York, you are sure to be a great success. I know lots of people there who would give a hundred thousand dollars to have a grandfather, and much more than that to have a family ghost."

      But we really need to do something about Prince Jug-Ears...

      Leave it to the Queen. She's done as much as a human being possibly could do to stay alive long enough. "Someone's sittin' there, mate!"

      Delete
  16. Why do Americans have so much trouble seeing the world as non-Americans see it?

    Why do Canadians stereotype Americans like that?

    Yes, I know the irony, it's deliberate (of course a lot of Canadians do not).

    That said, America's on the insular side. PZ's righteousness is also on the high side, however.

    Glen Davidson

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    1. Glenn Davidson asks,

      Why do Canadians stereotype Americans like that?

      Then he says ...

      That said, America's on the insular side.

      What?

      Delete
    2. You do know the difference between pointing to statistical tendencies and the broad brush ("..Americans have so much trouble...", "Americans are fond of celebrating babies born into extraordinary privilege") that paints everyone of a group the same, don't you?

      One is only fair, since it acknowledges the preponderance of attitudes, etc. The other is rather unfair, because it just lumps all of some group, Americans in this case, into the same mold.

      Not that difficult, really.

      Glen Davidson

      Delete
  17. I am Canadian and my mom English but I insist the american system is wiser and so better then the rest of the English Speaking world. For sure the rest of the world.
    As a Puritan Evangelical we did try to end the Monarchy but its okay now as its without power.
    All the best to the new prince.

    Complaining about the monarchy is strange in this day.
    its a fun thing for everyone .
    The American government is more responsive to the people as opposed to Canada which is more
    Creationism does better with less effect in American government.
    The little Prince inherits what is legally and morally his.
    America is led by a president who claimed , and many voters agreed, he deserved to be President because of his African inheritance.
    Non African babies in America thus were morally denied their inheritance as potential heirs to the elected throne since Obama has been in office.

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    1. Hmmmm, now what's that word they taught me in the army...? Oh yeah, now I remember - bullshit.

      "I insist the american system is wiser and so better then the rest of the English Speaking world. For sure the rest of the world." It was when it began, but it has been perverted, subverted, and twisted, and is now close to a de facto corporatocracy.

      "The American government is more responsive to the people as opposed to Canada which is more ..." ? I think you dropped something.

      "Creationism does better with less effect in American government." That statement makes no grammatical sense.

      "America is led by a president who claimed , and many voters agreed, he deserved to be President because of his African inheritance." Really? Do you have a quote to back that up?

      "Non African babies in America thus were morally denied their inheritance as potential heirs to the elected throne since Obama has been in office." And I think we really should have a quote that backs up that claim, too.

      For someone who is Canadian/English you have difficulty expressing yourself in the language style of either country.

      Dave Bailey

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    2. Non African babies in America thus were morally denied their inheritance as potential heirs to the elected throne since Obama has been in office.

      Is booby now claiming that Afro-Americans should be declared ineligible to be POTUS? On what basis, other then blatant racism do you make such a claim? Is booby claiming that Cory Booker, currently mayor of Newark, NJ. and heavy favorite to be elected to the US Senate in 2014 should be ineligible to run for and be elected POTUS in 2016?

      Delete
    3. Byers bloviates: "America is led by a president who claimed , and many voters agreed, he deserved to be President because of his African inheritance."

      Why sure! That explains why we've had 43 black presidents in a row!

      Oh, wait...

      "Non African babies in America thus were morally denied their inheritance as potential heirs to the elected throne since Obama has been in office."

      Damn! White babies are so oppressed in America! First we say they can't be president-- next we'll be saying white babies can't be surgeons, or airline pilots!

      Thank you, Canadian man, for defending American's white baby politicians! The most oppressed class in the universe.

      Delete
  18. Of course the main thing going on here is that Myers wrote a prejudicial post, Moran objected, but decided that it was safer to write a prejudicial post about Americans, rather than simply attacking post. Safer to attack "Americans" than PZ, if extreme in its stereotyping.

    Even Larry almost certainly knows that most Americans don't share PZ's sentiments, and didn't pretend to show that they had. But Moran plays politics, as does PZ, while fairness is the casualty.

    Glen Davidson

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    1. Even Larry almost certainly knows that most Americans don't share PZ's sentiments, ...

      I don't know that. And I think I'm perfectly justified in assuming that PZ prefers the American system of government to the British system.

      I'm constantly subjected to many Americans proclaiming that they live in the best country in the world. I think they believe it.

      I don't hear many Brits saying that they live in the best country in the world. That's not because they think that America is superior.

      Watch the Newsroom clip in this post.

      Delete
    2. Larry is flailing about, changing the subject because his terrible logic has been exposed.

      Larry: The UK is a democracy with a parliamentary system of government and a ceremonial Head of State who happens to be a monarch. It's a system of government that is vastly superior to the American system, in my opinion.

      Aha! So you're the judge of what's inferior in other people's countries! GOT IT!

      Larry: All I said was that if the citizens of one country prefer a certain form of government then show a little respect for their choice unless you are absolutely certain that they are wrong.

      OH HO! Now WE'RE not the judges of what goes on in other people's countries! My, how non-judgmental you.. I mean WE should be!

      How DARE we Americans act like... Larry Moran!

      How DARE we judge other people's systems like... Larry Moran does!

      The usual garbage-- American chauvinism bad, therefore chauvinism against America good. Like we haven't seen that before!

      First Larry says that chauvinism by Americans is bad; and from that bases his argument on the claim that chauvinism towards America is good.

      If republicans sensu lato throughout the English-speaking world mock the monarchy, Larry will respect that. An American says the same thing using the same logic, and Larry goes off on the ontological inferiority of America.

      Sorry Larry, the fact is that you treat American critics of the monarchy differently than you treat critics of the system in other countries. Double standard.

      This whole thread is testament to the way chauvinism can twist a person's capacity for reason and logic.

      But it's Larry's chauvinism, not PZ's that's the bigger problem. PZ can admit when he's wrong-- Larry's only argument mode is attack, attack, and when his "logic" is debunked, he changes the subject like an evasive creationist.

      Next he defends the British monarchy, on the grounds that the British people support it. This is argumentum ad populem, which assumes everyone's opinion has equal weight, used to defend a system which assumes some people are higher than others.

      Self-contradictory garbage-- and Larry got caught, so he'll change the subject, like a creationist evading the subject.

      Moran: "I'm constantly subjected to many Americans proclaiming that they live in the best country in the world."

      How are you "subjected" to them, Larry? Saw them on the telly, did you? Well I'm subjected to "Charlie and Lola."

      If you're chauvinist yourself-- and you are-- you can't criticize American chauvinism without contradicting yourself.

      Larry: "I would much rather live in the UK than in the United States of America"

      Nobody asked you K THNX, but thank god-- we have enough prigs already.

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    3. Diogenes,

      Either you've taken leave of your senses or this is someone else posting under your name.

      If it's you then this is a warning. I won't tolerate that kind of attack on my integrity. If you can't make a logical argument then you won't be commenting on Sandwalk for much longer.

      Delete
    4. Larry threatens to ban me after HE, HE, not me, makes scurrilous accusations towards ME that he cannot back up with evidence. What I say I backed up with evidence. What Larry says he backs up with threats of banning and NO EVIDENCE.

      Let's compare what Larry says about me:

      Larry: "just because you have been brainwashed into thinking that your system is the only good system is not what I meant by "absolutely certain."

      Do I need to say it? Yeah I guess I do: I have NEVER, IN ANY COMMENT, IN ANY BLOG POST, ever claimed that America is ontologically superior to any other country.

      I have NEVER, IN ANY COMMENT, IN ANY BLOG POST, ever claimed that the American system is "the only good system."


      Larry cannot back up this absurd accusation with evidence, so he backs it up by threatening to ban me.

      I don't need to defend myself against accusations backed up by no evidence. An accusation backed up by no evidence requires no defense.

      "Brainwashed!" America "the only good system"! I've excoriated conservative American patriots on the internet for ignoring or rationalizing away America's ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, breaking treaties, stealing land, enslaving black people, going off on anti-communist crusades, bankrolling and arming Third World dictators, facilitating Suharto's genocide in East Timor, coup in Guatemala, engineering the coup of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, supporting Mohammed Siad Barre in Somalia, providing intelligence to Saddam Hussein to tip the Iraq-Iran war in his favor, facilitating ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, etc. etc. etc. And Larry accuses me of thinking America is "the only good system"!

      I show my kid the globe and teach him about other countries and I never use "Them" as a pejorative-- which Larry can't say, because he DOES do that.

      I teach my kid Spanish and Chinese, we skype with his NaiNai and YeYe in Beijing once a week, he sits at his little work table practicing writing Chinese characters. I left him in a day care in Beijing for two months while I went to Tibet, and I would take him back to Beijing if it weren't for the air pollution. I show him videos of David Attenborough, "Life", "Charlie and Lola", "Wallace and Gromit", whatever's on CBeebies, plus all of Miyazaki. He's 5 and he can switch into, and out of, an English accent on demand. He does a spot on impression of David Attenborough. He's now watching "Nina and the Neurons" and will, no doubt, soon be switching into and out of a Scottish accent.

      I have never used "Them" as a pejorative directed against Mexicans, blacks, Asians, or people of any different religion. I have never told him "They" have a bad habit that we don't. On the Fourth of July, when his teachers bring up patriotism, my wife and I define it for him: "Giving up something you want to help other people who live in your country." I sure as hell never define "patriotism" as believing your country is "the only good system" or "superior", and Larry has no evidence of his accusations!

      So let's sum up by comparing my accusations to Larry's. I accuse Larry of:

      1. Chauvinism-- backed up by evidence

      2. Self-contradictory logic-- backed up by evidence

      Larry accuses me of:

      1. "Brainwashing"-- backed up by NO evidence

      2. Chauvinism-- backed up by NO evidence

      Larry: "just because you have been brainwashed into thinking that your system is the only good system is not what I meant by "absolutely certain."

      No, these accusations are not equal, not analogous, and we're not equals, Larry. But I'm not going to be prejudiced against all Canadians just because Larry has a brain fart.

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    5. Diogenes says,

      Larry: "just because you have been brainwashed into thinking that your system is the only good system is not what I meant by "absolutely certain."

      Do I need to say it? Yeah I guess I do: I have NEVER, IN ANY COMMENT, IN ANY BLOG POST, ever claimed that America is ontologically superior to any other country.


      Good point. I apologize. That comment wasn't directed at you personally. I should have said "one" instead of "you." I got sloppy when you accused me, falsely, of "argumentum ad populem."

      Is that all? Your rant is based on picking out one comment from everything I said?

      So let's sum up by comparing my accusations to Larry's. I accuse Larry of:

      1. Chauvinism-- backed up by evidence

      2. Self-contradictory logic-- backed up by evidence


      I'm not sure I understand either accusation. Do you think you could explain them again only this time calmly and rationally without shouting?

      I don't think it's chauvinism to say that, in my opinion, I prefer the parliamentary system to the American system. I'm prepared to debate that position. On the other hand, I do think its chauvinistic for PZ to address the people of the United Kingdom about their "antiquated monarchy" and say that he hopes they get over it soon. He notes that America fought a revolution to get out from under a king.

      Do you see a difference?

      I do think it's chauvinistic to say that America is the best country in the world. There are many Americans who say that without being able to defend it. It never occurred to me that you were one of them. I known you far too long for that. Sorry for the confusion.

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    6. Larry, give me a kiss, big guy.

      It's just a misunderstanding, but you have to be careful with "you" intended as a plural pronoun. As a singular it's a personal attack, and even as a plural, it does sound like overgeneralization.

      I do think it's chauvinistic to say that America is the best country in the world. There are many Americans who say that without being able to defend it.

      The belief in ontological superiority or inferiority is anti-evolution. Evolution did away with the Great Chain of Being and the scala naturae.

      OTOH it's reasonable to say particular systems have certain advantages or disadvantages.

      Obama's speech on the topic is straight anti-rationalism: because many people feel that way, it must be true.

      I'm going on vacation, I won't post for a few days.

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    7. Obama's speech on the topic is straight anti-rationalism: because many people feel that way, it must be true.

      Yes, it must be true that many people feel that way.

      Delete
  19. I don't know that. And I think I'm perfectly justified in assuming that PZ prefers the American system of government to the British system.

    Probably so, but I was referring more specifically to the rant over what's on balance a pretty cool thing, a baby being born. And worrying about British government, as if that's any of our business.


    I'm constantly subjected to many Americans proclaiming that they live in the best country in the world. I think they believe it.


    Whatever. You didn't (wouldn't) hear it from me, and, for whatever reason (likely because I'm in the US), I don't hear that.

    It's fair to address a specific rant, or whatever, while it is not fair to paste PZ's sentiments onto an entire group.

    Glen Davidson

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    1. You didn't (wouldn't) hear it from me, and, for whatever reason (likely because I'm in the US), I don't hear that.

      You must be deaf.

      Read Obama Calls It 'a Cliche' to Say We're 'the Greatest Country on Earth'. Doesn't this ring a bell?

      "And more than anything, what I will be striving for over the next three and a half years is to see if that spirit that I saw in Boston and West, Texas, if we can institutionalize that, if we can create a framework where everybody is working together and moving this country forward.

      "Now, the good news is that if we do that, we've got the best cards of any country on Earth -- and that's the truth. Look, there's no American politician, much less American President, who's not going to say that we're not the greatest country on Earth. So that's a cliché. On the other hand, objectively, when you look at where we are right now, we are poised for a 21st century that is as much the American century as the 20th century was."

      Earlier in his remarks, Obama said that Americans all have "the same sense" that their country is the greatest:

      It doesn't matter whether people are Democrats or Republicans or independents. If you go into schools, you go to Little League games, you talk to people at the workplace -- everybody has the same sense that we live in the greatest country on Earth, that we've gone through some tough times, but we're resilient and we can overcome whatever challenges are thrown at us. And there's a desire to get outside of the constant squabbling and bickering and positioning and gamesmanship, and get to the business of figuring out how do we make sure that the next generation does better than this generation.


      According to the President of the United States "everybody has the same sense that we live in the greatest country on Earth." In other words, America is greater than Sweden, Britain, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, or Australia. How do you think that makes us feel? How do you think it affects our opinion of Americans?

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    2. You must not give a damn what I'm writing about, that you go on and on about something quite different.

      How do you think that makes us feel? How do you think it affects our opinion of Americans?

      Well, apparently it prompts you, Dr. Moran, to stereotyping and blaming people who don't share those prejudices.

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    3. I think it's unfair to criticize Obama for the above speech, because the conservative creationist Dinesh D'Souza put out a documentary attack film, "Obama 2012", in which he claimed to "prove" that Obama hated America and wanted to undermine it and reduce its power, and punish it for its global crimes.

      For a year leading up to the 2012 election, the 24-hour news cycle on Fox News Channel was that Obama hates American and is a "radical" (read: Negro) and wants to hurt American and destroy its power.

      After all that, I can't entirely blame Obama for going overboard on the "We're the greatest country" trope.

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    4. To be clear: I do think Obama's speech is silly and overboard. But it has to be put into context. Perhaps no person in US history has ever been accused of hating America more than Barack Obama.

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    5. Glen?

      Well, apparently it prompts you, Dr. Moran, to stereotyping ...

      I don't think you know the meaning of stereotyping.

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    6. I don't think you know the meaning of stereotyping.


      I'm impressed.

      Well, not really.

      Glen Davidson

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  20. Nobody lives in the best country in the world. All countries differ in their legal systems, health care, quality of life, climate, etc. Some have an advantage in some areas, but no country has the best in everything. Jingoism in any country is profoundly embarrassing.

    Dave Bailey

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    1. Exactly.

      There was a time, over one hundred years ago, when the English thought they lived in the best country in the world. Now they know better.

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    2. Living in Downton Abbey can be a bit draughty, and we are forbidden to smile on account of our shit teeth. Other than that, it's great. :)

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    3. Hey I know English people with some great teeth, not necessarily in the right order.

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    4. The rat
      Sure one can measure greatness and the winners. Canada used to and still somewhat be the best in anything that mattered.
      A nation is a reflection of her people. People are not equal in results ever in history or today.
      America is number one since replacing great Britain.
      Who else?
      Since WW11 others have started coming up but still not keeping pace.
      its really a reflection of the true faith.
      God blesses his own people and those intimate with them more relative to other people. Just as it was in ancient Israel.
      I conclude Evangelical Christians are the true faith people since the reformation and that these people were in double digit numbers in the British world.
      Therefore this british civilization, English and Scottish, did prevail in all positive measurements of moral and intellectual and progress for the common wealth of the common people in these British Nations.
      Its not about boundaries but about identity.
      The rest of the Protestant world came in second and then the Roman catholic peoples and so on.
      Yes there has been a best civilization. Thats why the world speaks English.
      Thats why the world begs to live in these British nations and not elsewhere.
      I see foreign immigrants as assimilated British people for all intents and purposes regardless of their origins.

      Saying there is no best is like saying there is no best when handing out Nobel prizes.
      You can score it and we always did. The losers just don't like the score.
      Where is my reasoning wrong???

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    5. It was Bob "By Jingo" Byers and his famous little stand-up act entitled "Profoundly Embarrassing".

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