Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Creedence

Have you ever noticed how sometimes Creedence is the greatest band ever?

Faith After Death

As a follow-up to my last post: Say that God doesn't send you to Hell, but that you send yourself there by rejecting him; as many Christians believe. I can accept that, I suppose. I still think Hell would be Party Central with non-stop orgies, but maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part. But what I want to know is, once you're already there, can you then decide to accept God? I mean, I don't have anything against God or anything. He sounds kind of like a creep in the Old Testament, but I could see accepting this New Testament God. But my big problem is with the belief thing. I just don't believe, and as I mentioned in the comments section of my last post: For me, the leap to belief is the mental equivalent of me jumping to the moon. It's just impossible. I can't believe and I don't believe. I’m not even sure how one goes about starting to believe.  Again, it's nothing personal against God or any other supernatural beings; I just don't believe in things that I can't objectively observe, and I fail to see how that’s a problem.

But were I to go to Hell after I die, then all that changes. Because belief would no longer be an issue. I'm no fool and I believe what I see. And if I were to see that I was in Hell and that the Christian God was real, belief would no longer be an issue. I wouldn't just believe; I'd know he was real. So at that point, is it too late? Catholics believe that you can redeem yourself on your deathbed. But is it too late to find God once you're already dead? If so, that sounds kind of like a test and that God is punishing us for having failed that test. But if it's not a test, and it's simply a matter of me choosing to reject or accept God; I'd have no problem with accepting God...were I to be in Hell and to know that God was real. Because again, my thing isn't about rejection; it's just about the lack of proof.  And being in Hell would certainly be enough proof for me.

And for that matter, God doesn't even need to bother with the Hell thing. If after I die, he took me straight to Heaven, you can most certainly bet on the fact that I'll accept God; assuming he's not too much of a creep. Who wouldn't? I don't care how hard-core a Muslim terrorist you are, or whether you're a fire-breathing atheist Christian-hater; I think that everyone would accept God, were they to meet him in person. And that's certainly the case with me, so he doesn't even need to bother sending me to Hell first. I'll choose Heaven immediately; assuming that he's not some big jerk about it.

So back to the Big Question: Is it too late to accept God once you're already in Hell? If not, is there a time-limit after which you can't be allowed into Heaven; or is it always open to anyone who accepts God? And if that's the case, then what exactly is the problem? Why do I need to believe on earth, if I can always change my mind in the after-life? And if we can't change our minds, how is this not just a big test? How is it me rejecting God, if he's not letting me change my mind once all the results come in? Because he’s pretending like this is all on acceptance and love, but he apparently is basing that judgment almost entirely on whether you have faith in his existence.  I mean, come on!  That’s like basing IQ-scores solely on whether they show up to the test on time.  

But honestly, I still come back to the conclusion that this is all just some big marketing gimmick by the Christians in order to get people to join their church; rather than some big design that God planned for us. I can see why the humans want to make such a big deal out of this stuff, but I don't see why God would even bother. My life's been pretty darn good so far, and I fail to see how any being that created it this way for me could possibly be such a bad guy. If there's an untrustworthy component of all this, it's the human element. Gods, I trust. Man, not so much. And unfortunately for any supposed gods out there, until they make their argument in person; they're stuck with a damn untrustworthy messenger.    

Sunday, February 26, 2006

God's Big Kick

I just don't understand how a kind and just god can possibly punish me for eternity simply for behaving as a rational human should. That just doesn't make any sense. I'm a good guy. I'm not an evil villain or some sheep-raping pervert. Hell, I'm not even gay. I'm just a normal heterosexual dude with a wife and kids and who works almost as hard as he should. I help people out and I rarely try to screw them over. I've even given to charity a few times. So, what could God possibly have against me?

And let's face it: It isn't rational to believe in God. I'm not saying that as a put-down; it's just a fact. Belief in God is irrational. Even if there is a God, it isn't sane to believe in him. Not under the current conditions, anyway. He hasn't given us any solid clues as to his existence, yet he expects us to believe in him without reservation? That's nuts. If we were talking about anyone other than God, everyone would instantly realize how loony it all sounds. Again, that's not to say that none of it's true. It just sounds screwy. Like if you knew some adult who really believed in Santa Claus. It's possible that Santa Claus is real too; but it really wouldn't sound right to admit belief in that.

But again, I'm not complaining about faith. I'm just saying that I don't see how a just god could possibly use eternal damnation to reinforce a negative trait. That's supposedly his big kick, right? That he wants us to toss aside rationality and objectivity and believe in something that is intentionally unknowable; or otherwise risk spending a gazillion-plus years in Hell. But God doesn't want us to believe in everything, right? He only wants this faith stuff to work on him. So what gives? Why is he trying to punish me for using the same standard that he wants us to use regarding everything else? If he doesn't want me believing in Hinduism, Scientology, or Supply-Side Economics; then he should probably give me a break for not believing in him too.

And what does he get out of it, anyway? I mean, he's already omnipotent and omniscient; and he's still not satisfied? He's got to have our unending love too? What an egomaniac! They say a lot of celebrities get that way, but I always thought that was the cocaine talking. Might God also be a cokehead? That sure would explain a few things. But seriously, what is he getting out of this? Why can't he just accept the fact that I'm a proof kind of guy, and let this one slide? I don't believe in him. I'm sorry, alright. But I just can't believe. It doesn't make any sense, and I've always been kind of preferential towards sensible things. I refuse to believe. And I don't see what his beef is with that. I don't hate him. I don't treat his people any more poorly than I treat anyone else. Hell, I've been known to help out with church activities on a few occasions. Just earlier today I helped put address labels on a bunch of church newsletters, and not once did I write some nasty "God Hates You" message in any of them; though the temptation was certainly there. And God's still going to punish me, just over the whole belief thing? I'm not buying it.

And honestly, would Hell be such a bad option if the only alternative was living in a Heaven with an unjust egomaniac god who insisted that we love him all the time? After all, belief alone would not be nearly enough, as it's really not that hard to believe in God when the Big Guy is standing in front of you all the time. So you're going to have to play it extra heavy with the love. And if we're talking about an unjust god who would punish good people simply because they didn't love him; do you really want to mess with the hassle? I mean, there's only so much kiss-assing you can do before you have one negative thought; and that might be enough for him to punish you for all of eternity. They never talk about people getting kicked out of Heaven, but I really don't see why not. What else would they do with the trouble-makers? There couldn't possibly be a jail in Heaven, so I'm sure they'd just boot-out anyone they wanted to.

And how bad could Hell be? I mean, really. Sure, maybe it really is the whole burning hellfire thing, or maybe some complicated Sartre-style nightmare. But the new fad among all the more intellectual Christians is a Hell that doesn't have any kind of punishment system at all. Just being away from God is considered its own punishment. And God doesn't send you there; you send yourself there by rejecting God. And that's pretty clever and everything; but I can't figure out exactly how that's supposed to work. I mean, all the people in Hell are going to be freewheeling party-people who are used to doing their own thing. So how is it possible that such people wouldn't start their own social circles and even form an economy? And then eventually even forming a government and just recreating how things were here? Heck, that might even be where we are now! And wouldn't the partying orgies be spectacular? Huge mounds of thousands of people humping away like nobody's business. Sure, there'd also be a lot of Muslims, Hindis, and other True Heathens whose only mistake was to be born in the wrong country. But once they realized that their religion was bunk, they'd probably be the hardiest partiers of them all. A lot of steam those people have to let-off; and while they might not get their 72 virgins, there would be no shortage of less-than-virginal women. Overall, I don't see why Hell wouldn't be the place to be. I much prefer hanging-out with the Hell-bound people here on earth, and I don't see why it wouldn't just be more of the same there. And this is again to be contrasted with a vengeful, jealous god who demands full love all the damn time.

But I'm just not buying it. Because if there is a creator, I think that he made things too good for him to be a mean guy. Maybe he'd punish the truly bad people. But I don't see how he'd consider rationality such a horrible offense. And I don't care how bad you were on earth, eternal punishment is simply absurd. I don't even care if you're Hitler, Stalin, and Bush combined (no moral equivalence intended); eternity is a damn long time to suffer. I could see a hundred years of sheer agony. Maybe a thousand years. Even possibly a million years. But eternity? That's just stupid. Who could believe that? Even Santa Claus lets you start over the next year, and the worst you've got to worry about is a lump of coal. God, by contrast, is clearly over-reacting.

And frankly, I can't help but think that this is all some ruse the Christians came up with as a marketing gimmick. Sort of like a never-ending chain letter. And it's not like there's any good evidence to suggest that this belief thing is at all necessary. Even if there is a God, there's no good reason to believe that he's going to punish me for eternity, simply for not believing. Sure, it says that kind of thing in the Bible (though it's not emphasized nearly enough, for how entirely crucial it supposedly is); but the Bible wasn't written by God. It was written by man. I can tell because the handwriting isn't the same. God always dots his i's with a little heart. And so even if I did believe in God, I still wouldn't put faith into that whole faith system they keep touting.

So I'm just going to fall back on the old standby of relying on logic and not believing. And if God has a big problem with that, then that's his problem. I just hope that my wife ends up in Heaven, so I don't have to ask permission to join the orgy mounds. But she's a nonbeliever too, so I suppose we'll be the two monogamous losers in Hell. But I guess they don't call it Hell for nothing, huh.


Update: For further reading, please see: Faith After Death.

Religious Winos

I don't know how things are where you're at, but here in Texas you can't buy alcohol before noon on Sundays. And by "alcohol" they actually mean beer, too. And yet, how many gallons of wine did the Christians here in Texas drink today before noon? I don't know about the other faiths, but I know that Catholics drink wine at every mass (or at least the decent ones do anyway). And sure, we're only talking about sips, but those sips surely add up. So how many gallons of wine did the Catholic Church give out in my state? Easily a thousand, right? There's gotta be like a thousand Catholic churches in Texas, right? At least. And some of those are big mothers. They had to have consumed at least a gallon a church, right? At least. Probably far more than that. And so why is it that the Catholic Church can serve thousands of gallons of wine to anybody they want (including minors), while I can't even buy a fucking beer at the store? Free-market economy, my ass!

Not that you need to worry about me getting turned down for a drink this morning. Hell, no. I made sure to buy enough last night. And let me tell you, if there's anything nicer than a sunny Sunday morning with a cold Shiner Bock, I don't know what the hell it is. But I have had that happen to me a few times before, and it just sucks. I sometimes like to go shopping on Sunday morning because it's not so crowded. And I often like to do a BBQ thing on Sundays, even when it's a little chilly. And there's nothing better than BBQ with beer; just ask face-shooter Cheney. I don't want to have to go to the store twice, but they won't let me get my damn beer. I wasn't even planning to drink it until the afternoon; but they wouldn't let me have it anyway. One time, I went ahead and voted in a run-off election that I hadn't even heard of while I was waiting for noon. I voted for the guy without the funky name, figuring that everyone else was going with the funky-named guy and I wanted the other person to get an extra vote. I was right, Brewster McCracken won. But I still had to wait to get my beer.

Or what about sherry? I love sherry, but here in Texas, I'm not allowed to buy anything classified as a "dessert wine" after 10 P.M. And somehow, sherry is considered a dessert wine. My mom says that it's because you're only supposed to have a glass of it after dinner, but fuck that. If God hadn't intended us to drink it by the bottle, he wouldn't have put it in a damn bottle. But because of this oddball distinction, I'm not allowed to buy it even when other alcohols are available. And yet, I betcha if some church wanted to serve me damn Thunderbird straight out of the brown bag, they could do so any time of day. Just as long as I sat through the service, nobody would think twice. And isn't that a form of government-enforced religious preference? That the government makes it so that there are times when the only source of booze involves receiving religious evangelism? Sure, maybe you've never been tempted late at night to sit through a church service just to get a sip of wine; but dammit, I was desperate.

So will we someday get parity with this? Will they let me buy beer any time that Christians are allowed to receive wine? Hell, I wouldn't even mind if I had to buy it from the church; just as long as all the money went towards purchasing more beer. I'd even drink church beer, just as long as I didn't have to sit through a religious service. And if it's the whole purchasing thing that's upsetting them (again, a definite disruption of the free-market system); then I would have no problem with receiving the beer for free. And if no company is willing to give us the beer for free, then I say that the government should have to buy it for us; again, simply to achieve parity with the thousands of gallons that the churches are handing out. That's the least they could do to ensure religious freedom in our great nation. And it better be good beer, like Shiner Bock. Because there's nothing nicer than a sunny Sunday morning with a cold Shiner Bock.

Doctor Frist: Medical Comedian

From the AP:

"If there's some question about the diagnosis, then maybe we need to get a second opinion," said Frist, a former heart surgeon.

Am I the only one who's gotten tired of Frist's doctor schtick? And was the journalist who wrote that trying to give an assist, or was it slight mockery to explain his joke like that?

Knowing the God of Bush

Shouldn't I know what George Bush does to satisfy his religious obligations? Shouldn't I know what he does for church? I'm a reasonably informed person, yet I have no idea what Bush does for church. I believe that he doesn't go to a regular church, as he supposedly doesn't want to create a ruckus at the church; as that blasted Clinton did every Sunday. But I don't know what he does. Does he have a private church service at the Whitehouse? Is this considered an official function? Am I paying for this? Is this like in the Oval Office, or is there a church in the Whitehouse? And if the Whitehouse did have a regular private church service for a president, and say this church service cost, say, one hundred thousand dollars (not an unreasonable guesstimate, when you include extra security, a fancy pastor, and all the doo-dads), and they had one at least thirty Sundays a year (with the other twenty-two spent in Crawford or some other Whitehouse offshoot); should we really have to pay for this? That's three fucking million dollars a year; as perk for a job that doesn't pay a tenth that much. How the hell does he deserve three million dollars for his damn religious beliefs? He's a president, not fucking God. Hell, I'm not even sure if I'd want to pay three million dollars to hold a church service for God himself; even if he came down here and requested one. Sure, I might pay if it was God, but he better damn well have something in it for me. Money doesn't grow on trees, and there's nothing worse than a stingy god.

But back to the point: I can't really see George having the private service. Because I don't see him wanting to sit still for so long; nor do I believe that he wouldn't have noticed by now that every sermon applied directly to him in a negative way. But I don't know what I can see as happening. Sure, it's quite possible that the New Yorker or some other hard-hitting magazine has recently done a lightweight piece which mentioned how President Bush fulfills his religious obligations. But learning that would require actual research on my behalf; research which could possibly serve to completely undermine this post; and that would kind of suck. So instead, I'll just engage in the time-worn tradition of uninformed speculation and leave it at that.

Because I speculate that Bush doesn't have any kind of church service. I suspect that he doesn't do anything. Hell, I don't even see him as a praying man. Can you? Can you see George W. Bush down on his knees and begging God for help? I can't. Not of his own accord, anyway. Sure, if someone was there with him, maybe he'd go through motions; but I can't see him doing it by choice. Not because I think he doesn't believe in God, as I'm sure he does; but because he's too proud to beg, even to God. He's too proud to be down on his knees praying. He's too proud to act as if he needs the help. Besides, Bush's God has already granted Bush what he needs, and supposedly helps him on an active basis. Bush doesn't need to pray. He's on a mission from God.

And my main point isn't to make fun of Bush or to mock his religion (though that is certainly part of my intent). My point is that I should already know all this by now. Bush has been in the Whitehouse for over five years now, and he was my governor for a few more before that. And yet I don't know what this man does in regards to something which should supposedly be very important to him. It's no secret that religion means a lot to Bush, but I have no idea of what that religion really is, or how he acts upon it. Religion without rituals is little more than philosophy; and we all know that Bush isn't really the philosophical type.

Sure, maybe he wants to keep his religion private. Everything else the Whitehouse does is a secret, so I see no reason why his religion should be any different. But religion doesn't really seem private to him. Because he talks about it. At least some aspects of it. But he doesn't really tell us anything important. It's all just vague feel-good sentiments that you could have stolen off of a Hallmark card. And maybe we need to keep his religion private for National Security reasons. Like maybe if the terrorists figured out who his god is, they might be able to bribe Him with religious conversions. I mean, wouldn't God accept ten thousand Muslim converts in exchange for allowing Bush to lose? Not only are they fresh meat, but Muslims are well-renowned for their religious fanaticism; and if we know anything about God it's that he loooves a loyal believer. Of course, that brings up a separate issue as to whether the Muslims would be willing to give up their religion if it meant they could defeat us. Is it possible? And how come you never see the terrorism experts on CNN talking about this? Is it political-correctness, or are they just not bright enough? And if all the Muslim terrorists became Christian, as a means to defeat us, would that finally shut-up the Coulter dipwads who insist that terrorism is a direct result of the Islamic faith? Or would nothing shut them up? I think we all know the unfortunate answer to that last one.

And finally, what about George W. Bush's version of God? The one that he thinks is helping him? Would you want to meet him? What if it turned out that Bush's God was just one of many; and that he was just as incompetent as Bush? Like the other gods all made fun of him, and he was famous for being just as much a screw-up as George; and that he's the reason why everything's sucking up for us right now? Would you want to be there when Bush found out, and would he be totally pissed-off? What if it turned out that he was your god too, and that he was really pissed at you for not helping out his best believer? Would you happily go to Hell, or would you really want to be in Bush God's heaven, with Bush as the top ex-mortal? Or would Bush God's heaven and hell be the exact same place? And would that be any different than it is for us now?

So many questions, and not a damn answer. Could that be Bush God's motto?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

One of These States Is Not Like the Others

From the AP:
In New Jersey, the agency in charge of area ports sued to try to block Dubai Ports from taking over operations there.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey argued in court papers that Dubai Ports World was violating its lease by not getting consent for its pending acquisition of the current port operator, London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who is also suing over the sale, urged other governors to join the case.

Governors of Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania have expressed concerns about the takeover; Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said he trusts his brother the president on such security issues.

Right.  I wonder if Jeb will run on his “Bush Family First” platform at election time, or if even he will bail out of the sinking ship before then.  Cynicism aside, it’s always nice to see when brotherly love comes before our nation’s safety.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bin Laden Captured

At this point, doesn’t it seem impossible that we’ll ever catch Bin Laden?  Like it’s only brought up as a slur against Bush, and not something that serious people contemplate?  I mean, if you went to Yahoo and saw the headline: Bin Laden Captured, would you believe it?  Wouldn’t it just seem too anachronistic?  Like being at a serious dance club that started playing Right Said Fred, and you’d be like “Where the fuck did that come from?”

And is it possible to guess at what would happen if we finally did capture Bin Laden?  This isn’t something that the Bushies even talk about anymore, so it almost seems like nobody would care.  But I suspect that they’d act as if Bush had done the job himself, and we’d never hear the end of it.  We could be talking about the economy or healthcare, and they’d just keep repeating how heroic Bush is and how us libs had been rooting for Bin Laden the whole time and how we were the ones who never wanted to talk about it.  

What about if we just found his dead body, and it was obvious that we hadn’t killed him?  Would that also count as a victory for Bush, or would that be a big letdown?  And would it make a difference if he died of cancer or some other natural cause, versus a betrayal from a fellow terrorist?  It’s my guess that the Bushies would rub it in our faces in either case, perhaps to even claim that Bush himself had created cancer simply as an anti-terror measure.  And after all, the fight against cancer is just sooo pre-9/11.

The Raging Internet

How is it that relatively intelligent, well-educated, reasonably informed people can believe the sheerest of crap whenever they want?  I’m sure someday scientists will figure out how to harness that ability to create the virtual reality worlds that seem so much more appealing than our own.  Our latest example: WaPo’s David Ignatius, via Roger Ailes:

McLean argues that the Internet is a "rage enabler."
….
What's more, it provides an environment in which enraged people can gather at cause-centered Web sites and make themselves even angrier. The technology, McLean notes, "eliminates the opportunity for filtering or rage-dissipating communications to intrude." I think McLean is right. And you don't have to travel to Cairo to see how the Internet fuels rage and poisons reasoned debate. Just take a tour of the American blogosphere.

Rage??  Rage??  I guess I’m just hanging out at the wrong blogs, because I have yet to see anything that I’d define as “rage”.  Particularly not a rage that doesn’t dissipate.  And frankly, I don’t see the internet as being particularly conducive to actual rage.  Misunderstandings?  Yes.  Angry exchanges?  Yes.  Rage?  I don’t think so.  When I think of rage, I think of some dude shooting someone for taking their parking spot.  I think of a barfight.  I think of manslaughter.  I don’t think of someone typing a long message and hitting the send button.

Connecting the Separation

Even worse, his overall argument is crap too.  He’s trying to argue that the “connectedness” of the web makes people angrier.  But he’s got it completely backwards.  It’s the separation that fuels most internet fights.  Just like when you’re in a car.  People forget the rules of etiquette when they can’t put a face to the people they’re dealing with.  And they’ll say and do things that they’d never do in person.  I, for example, have given the “bird” to many a stranger while driving, some of who even deserved it; but have yet to do so in a more personal setting.

Many years ago, Mrs. Biobrain had a pleasant conversation with some guy at a park, and it wasn’t until he mentioned his name at the end of the conversation that she realized he was a notorious troll who everyone hated in our local Usenet group.  Over the internet, he was a complete jerk who nobody liked dealing with; but in person, he was pleasant and approachable.  Even now, just thinking about his name brings back bad memories; and that might be different, had I met him in person…though I might just have punched him in the face, so perhaps it’s best that I wasn’t there.

And frankly, I like it better that way.  I get pretty savage in an argument (rhetorically, not physically), and prefer the relative anonymity of the internet.  I like being able to confront people and call their arguments crap and to call them dipshits (only as a last resort, of course).  That’s my idea of a fun time.  And that just can’t be done in person.  Not only do you risk alienating people, but you might become a victim of actual rage.  

And to be honest, I think I come off much better over the internet than in person.  On the internet, my brashness and no-holds-barred style make me come off as a sort of a jerk; where as in real life, it’s total asshole, all the way.  Not that any of that is my fault, mind you.  It’s just that the jerkwaters that I keep having to deal with aren’t up to my level of conversation.  Needless to say, relatively anonymous hit-and-run commenting is much easier on my social life.

Anger as Method

Secondly, a big problem is that context is so difficult with the written word, and many humorous (and nonhumorous) jokes can be seen as angry tirades if the reader doesn’t have the right mindset.  Particularly if the writer makes liberal use of dirty words; which some faint-hearted people assume to indicate anger.  I think that’s one reason why the Post freaked out about the Howell thing.  People were rude, sure.  But much of that rudeness was obviously done in a humorous vein.  Insulting, sure; but not really angry.  But on their side, all they saw was equally angry responses fueled by angry bloggers who unleashed their rage-filled hordes.  Imagine Atrios as Genghis Khan.  Though I suspect that much of the Post’s over-reaction was to mask the guilt they felt at having been exposed for getting the story wrong.  Nothing hurts more than the truth; and like many guilty people, the Post wanted to rationalize their feelings of guilt by blaming the messenger.  Fairly ironic, really; coming from a newspaper.

And finally, some of that anger is justified.  Back in the day, we were stuck with the stories that the media establishment fed us.  Talk radio helped fix that for the wingnuts.  But it wasn’t until the internet that lefties finally developed an effective way of spreading the news.  And so now we have guys like Josh Marshall to do research that the regular media is too lazy or scared to cover.  And we’re hearing stories that might have slipped by, and can group together to keep the heat on.  And we can also use it to issue an organized response, which is far more effective than what we might do as individuals.

And a lot of this stuff is something we should be angry about.  I’m sure much of the media thinks that even the most egregious wrong-doings deserve a detached cynicism; and can even imagine the tut-tutting of editors everywhere as hot-headed liberals decried the routine imprisonment and hanging of random citizens.  In fact, one of the biggest problems with the media is that they generally don’t seem to give a shit.  They have this blas√©, “we’ve seen it all” approach to everything; as if all of this is just some fictional story without any real importance to our lives.  As if liberal outrage is simply a game we play to help out our team; much the way that a sportsfan yells while watching football at the bar.  And the only thing they seem passionate about is protecting their own domain from the raging hordes who actually care about the news.

And as a technique, this anger can achieve good results.  I don’t recommend it in all cases, but if harnessed properly, it can be used to further your point. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Jim Brady and the rest of the WaPo crew are less likely to rely on lazy conventional wisdom to fill their newspaper; after the last shit-storm over Abramoff money.  They might bitch and moan about the attacks, but they won’t forget them.

But again, I really think Ignatius was going overboard with the “rage” thing.    His choice of that word wasn’t to reflect truth, or even to further his point.  It was to demonize; to insult.  I know of no bigname bloggers who express anger.  The usually passive Atrios seems to get most upset by his own readers who fail to appreciate that he has a life and doesn’t want to be deluged by useless emails.  And the most angry things I ever read are the late-night racist posts on the Yahoo messageboards.  But that’s just old fashioned bigotry and nothing internet-fed.  That’s not to say that there isn’t rage out there; just that I’m not seeing it.  But as with the Howell thing, I think that Ignatius is simply using the “rage” caricature in order to dismiss the newly voiced critics who continually taunt his cohorts.  Because again, that’s the only thing they actually seem to care about.


P.S. If anyone out there can point my way towards one of those Feed Your Rage “cause-centered websites” Ignatius speaks of, I’d be much appreciative.  My current batch of coffee just isn’t doing it for me this time and I could really use some non-dissipating rage to pick me up each morning.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Biobrain Monthly Quiz

You have thirty minutes to complete this quiz. No cheating.

Question One
In fifty words or less, explain exactly what is wrong with this man:





Question Two
How does a normal person prevent this from happening to them?

Republican on Republican Smears

Seconding Digby a second time:

Republican voters, if you question the port deal, the administrationthinks you're a traitor.

This isn’t the first time that the Republican Attack Machine has turned on its own, and it won’t be the last.  I’m too lazy to find the link and I don’t like linking to rightwingers anyway; but just last week I was researching something for a blogpost (a clear violation of blog etiquette) and stumbled back upon the Harriet Myers stuff.  It was a bunch of wingnuts upset that the Whitehouse had subtly implied that anyone who opposed Myers did so because she was a woman.  And they were all so outraged that the Whitehouse would possibly attack them for sexism that you’d think they were regular women’s libbers or something.

And all I could think was “No fucking shit, Sherlock.  Welcome to the club.”  This is the shit that they pull on us all the damn time, and all these poor little wingnuts were thrashing about because the firehose that they cheer so wildly for was finally turned on them.  And when this happened in real-time, I had the naivet√© to actually believe that they’d now be more sensitive when this happened to us.  Dumb, I know; but I keep forgetting that the only thing sensitive on these people are their thin-skins.  

But it really doesn’t occur to them that the GOP attacks they repeat against us are just as empty and invalid as what was being thrust at them.  And that this is the only way that the Whitehouse knows how to deal with challengers.  Maybe they somehow believe that the Whitehouse tries the reasonable, “We respect your opinion” approach with us libs and that it’s us rejecting them out of hand.  But I just don’t see how they haven’t yet figured out that this is what happens all the time.  And that when the Whitehouse denounces us as being unpatriotic; that this is just a standard line of attack, and not a valid criticism.  But again, this isn’t one move that just happened to be used against the GOP rebels.  This is the only thing the Whitehouse knows how to do.

But again, this shouldn’t surprise me.  Much of the Republican appeal is that of the thin-skinned bully who can dish it out and can’t take it.  The guy who thinks it’s hilarious to play mean-spirited pranks on people, but who wants to fight everyone if a prank is played on them.  The guy who complains loudly whenever he’s denied special perks; but yells when anyone undeserving receives perks equal to theirs.  And the guy who denounces people who don’t take “personal responsibility”, while attacking others for ruining his life.  

Republicanism is all about the Party of One.  You’re the center of the universe, everyone else is just a side character of no particular importance.  All power should rest in you, and you are responsible for no one.  That’s what it’s all about.  Being in the elite circle that gets all the benefits and screws everyone else over.  And these dopes don’t seem to realize that they’re not in the “in-crowd”.  They’re outsiders just being used for their loud voice and checkmark on the ballot.  

In fiction, these guys are easy to spot.  Like in The Mummy Returns or almost any Doctor Who episode, the bad guy who stops at nothing to resurrect the Evil One; but whose loyalty is eventually repaid with a violent and gruesome death once the Evil One’s need for them is gone.  But that’s not what happened in this case.  No, in this case, they are the nameless henchmen who try to act as equals to the main bad guy, and are shown exactly why they’re nameless henchmen and not main bad guys.  And so the henchmen gnash their teeth and complain to the heavens.  But tomorrow, they’ll be back leading the pack and repeating whatever they’re told.

Digby Ditto

Seconding Digby is as unnecessary as it is ubiquitous.  I almost never disagree with him, and nobody would listen to me if I did.  But I agreed with this statement so much that I wanted to repeat it:

This is why we are having such a disconnect with the mainstream press. They are laboring under some ridiculous belief that they are the voice of the people when they are actually the voice of the establishment --- which is, by the way, Republican.

And it’s absurd how obviously true this is, but how little people know it.  Because the media is under this absurd delusion that both they and the Republican leadership truly are “in” with the Joe Sixpack crowd and represent the “true” Americans.  Much more so than an east-coast elitist liberal such as myself.  Sure, I’ve lived almost my entire life in the South (excepting two years that the Air Force stationed my dad in Alaska); and have lived in Texas for well over two decades.  But no matter, these New York and Washington media-types have much better red-state, meat & potatoes credentials than myself.  I mean, hell.  I don’t think I’ve ever voted for a Republican.  So how could I possibly be a real American?

And I think that a big source of this is that the bigtime media has become a regular listener of talk radio; or at least have fallen victim to talk radio spin.  And just as Jews sometimes found themselves agreeing with the stirring words of a Hitler hate speech; the media hasn’t connected the dots to realize that all that “east-coast beltway” bashing that these guys constantly spew applies directly to them (not that I’m making a moral equivalence).  But it’s not just the media’s fault.  Partly, it’s because the radio-talkers aren’t really attacking anyone real.  They have developed fictional liberal strawmen that everyone can agree are horribly stupid and evil people.  And so when the media-types listen to this, they can’t help but imagine that they’re not the targets.  And everything the Limbaughs say sounds so natural and normal that they can’t help but believe that they’re getting homespin wisdom straight from the heartland.

And of course, that’s all because the ultra-rich Republican Party has developed a pretend NASCAR culture to appeal to people who have no business voting Republican.  And the media just eats it all up.  Just as Republican politicians continually stamp the Seal of Sixpack on everything they do; media elitists like to regard their inside knowledge has having that “special” touch of real America.  And the obvious irony is that most of these “outside the beltway” gems are mass-produced right in the heart of the beltway itself.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Scientific Faith

I happened upon this statement by Jeff at Worldview Labs:

At the root of all knowledge is faith. Here is an experiment you can try on your friends to test my claim. Ask them, what did you have for breakfast? When they answer, ask them, how do you know? When they answer again, ask them, well how to do you know that? Eventually, you will get to the point where the person responds with a shoulder shrug and an answer something like "I don't know how I know, I just do." This is true whether you are asking a scientist about the properties of hydrocarbons, or your little brother about the properties of ice cream.At the base of all knowledge are assumptions. Unprovable assumptions. In other words, faith. A leap.

And I couldn’t disagree more.  Science assumes nothing.  Science uses observation to create theories by which to explain things.  But if one of those underlying theories is incorrect, then science changes to a better theory.  Or if no better theory exists, they drop the offending part and wait until they find something better.  But there is no faith involved.  You can go up and down any scientific theory, and everything is open to a better idea and further testing.  The only limitation on this is that the new idea must follow certain guidelines.  And that just makes sense.  Religious ideas are subject to religious-type guidelines; and scientific ideas are subject to scientific-type guidelines.

Now, before I get to deep into this, let me explain that this post is not intended for technical readers, and I often use certain shorthands that might sound technically wrong, but can be explained; assuming I wanted this to be much longer and far more boring post.  I’m just an informal kind of guy, and don’t write for a technical crowd.  So if anyone starts picking apart minor technical problems, I’m just going to think they’re a big dipwad and probably start insulting them.  I don’t mind if someone has a question about a concept that I wrote, I just hate it when people find petty problems and act as if it undermines everything.  

Secondly, while I sometimes use the word “science” to mean the formal study of Science; I often will use it in the general sense of what people and animals (and probably plants) do everyday.  We observe our surroundings, create theories based upon those observations, and then take actions based upon those theories.  Like when you’re driving in traffic and you observe that everyone around you is a jerkwad asshole; and you express yourself based upon that theory.  And so you’ll have to work with me, and not assume that I’m always using the formal Science, when I really just mean the stuff that we all do.  

And thirdly, I don’t really have a problem with faith.  I would prefer that people abandon it in exchange for objective observation, but I don’t see it necessarily as a bad thing.  Particularly as I think that faith is usually far more harmless than many folks realize.  I just don’t think that people care about their gods nearly as much as they pretend to.  They say it’s really important, but then they act just like the rest of us.  Sure, they talk a righteous game, but when they get cut-off in traffic, they’re just as likely to think bad thoughts as the rest of us.  And more importantly, they will usually attempt to find logical observation-based answers to life’s problems; rather than simply assuming that it was God’s doing.  If anything, I think that most Christians just use their beliefs as a window-dressing to their otherwise secular life.  And as I’ve argued before, religion is often used to justify a person’s moral-code; rather than having been the actual basis for it.  As somebody smart once said, man has created God in our own image.  But if faith makes people feel better, or prevents them from raping puppies; who am I to argue?  Now back to our regularly scheduled blogpost.

How Science Works

And sure, there are still many many many things that scientists don’t understand.  But they don’t just fill in those blanks with faith-based hoo-haw and supernatural guesses.  That’s Intelligent Design’s idea; to fill-in any holes with the supernatural.  But science moves on, working to eventually fill those gaps.  Because this isn’t like building a stackable tower, where each layer needs to be completed before we build the next layer.  It’s more like a jigsaw puzzle.  You find a piece here and a piece there that fit together, and you keep working until you’ve solved the whole thing.  And who knows, maybe you’ve put a few pieces in the wrong spot; but you just take them apart and keep working.  And the more pieces you put together, the easier it is to find the missing pieces.

And that’s the thing, we can learn about the evolution of life without knowing exactly how it began.  Similarly, we can discuss the expansion of the universe without knowing how the universe began.  But we just keep on putting the pieces together from what we know.  In fact, by studying how life evolved or how the universe expands, we can get better ideas of what started it.

But the main thing is that none of this is based on faith; but rather on observation.  The basis of science is that the truth of life can be best be obtained by observing life, and all scientific theories must be based on said observations.  With “observations” meaning something that is testable.  That isn’t to say that untestable things aren’t real.  It only says that we are limiting ourselves to testable observations.  And as I stated before, this is what most every man, woman, and dog does on a daily basis.  Only when it comes to matters of religion do some people believe that faith is a good enough substitute for observation.

Bad Burrito Breakfast

And so it is entirely wrong for Jeff to suggest that we all have faith as an underlying factor in our decisions.  I’ll use his breakfast challenge as an example: For breakfast this morning, I had a frozen burrito and a Hawaiian Punch.  I know that because I observed it happening and remember how much I had wished I had something other than a frozen burrito.  Now perhaps I only dreamed that, or perhaps I don't really exist.  But I did not observe that it was a dream or that I didn’t exist, so I ignore it.  Now, maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe I really did dream it, and could not have observed that it wasn’t real.  Science says that I must stick with my observation anyway; even if they could be wrong; even if they are dreamed.

Now, say I suddenly wake-up to find myself in an insane asylum and realize that none of this is real.  Rather than being some super-genius blogger CPA who had a lousy breakfast; I’m really some crazy-ass delusional psycho killer who had an even lousier breakfast.  Do I stay faith-based and continue to believe I ate the burrito?  No.  Assuming I’m not too delusional, I change my theory based upon my new observations.  But everything is observation-based.  I assume nothing.  I take nothing on faith.  I believe what I observe.  

And as I said, if something is not observable in a testable way, then it must be ignored.  For example, maybe there is a god.  If that god does not show himself in any observable way, then science can never recognize his existence.  That isn't to say that he doesn't exist; that only says that he falls outside of the realm of science.  And there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.  If God wants to be faith-based, that's fine.  But because his existence can neither be proven or disproven, he can never be included in science.  

And even religious people insist that they are using observation as the basis for their belief.  They observe the way they feel, the warmth of God’s love, remember having actual conversations with God, whatever.  But because that observation is within them, it is entirely subjective and untestable; and thus, must be ignored.  And that simply makes sense, as there are many different religions; the believers of which also make such subjective observations.  And again, this isn’t to suggest that this proves or disproves God; but that’s the whole point.  His existence cannot be proven or disproven; which is why he falls outside the realm of science.

That isn’t a knock against God or anything.  It’s simply a fact.  By definition, nothing supernatural can be included in the realm of science.  That’s what supernatural means.  And if that’s the way that God wants it, then that’s the way it is.  He’s supposedly the all-powerful one, and if he wants to be a jerk about his existence; then I guess there isn’t much we mere mortals can do about it.

But again, the point is that there is such a thing as knowledge that does not rely on faith.  Knowledge that is based entirely on testable observation.  That is the nature of science, but more importantly, that is what everybody does every day.  When you drive in traffic, it is not faith that is telling you that those other cars exist.  You know that based upon previous observations.  And maybe those observations are wrong and those other cars do not exist; it doesn’t matter.  You will continue to act based upon observations that you made, and not based upon a faith.  And it’s only in matters of religion that people eschew the demands of objectivism and observation-based theories, and allow themselves to fall victim to their own subjective whimsy.  Well, that and Bushism too.  But it’s easily argued that that’s just another form of religion; so I guess that just makes sense.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Connecting with God

From the AP
A small branch of a South American religious sect may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a ritual intended to connect with God, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In its first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, the court said the government cannot hinder religious practices without proof of a "compelling" need to do so.

I don’t get it.  What the hell’s so special about religion that they get special rights?  I won’t get into specifics, but I’ve “connected with God” on several occasions (a long time ago, I assure you) and I don’t see why this religious sect is singled out with Supreme Court approval.  I’m all for that “compelling need to do so” jazz, but I don’t see why that idea’s solely limited to religious practices.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind doing some practicing myself.  

Am I Too Cynical, Or Are They?

Regarding the “mix-up” of the Bush Admin cutting funding and jobs for the very program that they decided they needed to hype to save Bush’s flagging poll numbers: What’s worse, that they would fire people for such an important issue like renewable energy; or that they’d rehire them simply to save face?  As if they don’t even need to hide the fact that they buy political points with our own tax dollars.  Or are we really supposed to believe that Bush does care about renewable energy, but that his people screwed-up and actually cut funding that they intended to increase?  As if those positive and negative signs just got to be too confusing for them.  Once again, Bush is stuck with incompetence as his best defense.

And beyond incompetence, this is yet another case in which conservative’s desire for spending cuts conflicts with what America wants and needs.  I’m sure the spending cuts sounded great on paper, but reality came back and kicked them in the ass again.

Carter Presumes

WTF?  I’m not going to pretend to know any of the details of the Arab company taking over the port contracts, but one thing is clear: Jimmy Carter is a dipshit.  I’ve never really had anything against him, but this quote is just too much:

"My presumption is, and my belief is, that the president and his secretary of state and the Defense Department and others have adequately cleared the Dubai government organization to manage these ports," Carter told CNN. "I don't think there's any particular threat to our security."

He presumes what??  What the hell administration has he been watching for the past five years?  Not only do they screw up in general terms, but they’ve done little to suggest that they even care about protecting our nation.  Rather than trying to secure our borders, they’ve gone for the one-size-fits-all War Option, and eschew most other kinds of security.  Because they want us cowering in our houses like scared little bunnies, and they’re not going to get that if they make us all feel safe.  Overall, we’ve seen little evidence to suggest that “National Security” isn’t just a scam they keep pulling for political gain.

And for the record: No, I don’t feel better about this simply because they agreed to “certain conditions to ensure our national security;” which, as always, will remain secret.  If this is all part of a secret conservative plot to get Americans to stop trusting government, they’ve succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Lying About Theology

Of all the stupid things to lie about on a resume, Radio Shack’s disgraced outgoing CEO David Edmondson picked some pretty stupid things:

Edmondson had claimed that he received degrees in theology and psychology from Pacific Coast Baptist College in California, which moved in 1998 to Oklahoma and renamed itself Heartland Baptist Bible College.

The school's registrar told the Star-Telegram that records showed Edmondson completed only two semesters and that the school never offered degrees in psychology.

A theology degree from Pacific Coast Baptist College??  Hell, that’d be something I’d want to leave off my resume.  No wonder Radio Shack sucks so much.


Personal Disclosure: I once applied for a sales job at Radio Shack and sat through an awful presentation before not being called back.  I have yet to thank the person responsible for that.

Happy President's Day!!!

In honor of President’s Day, I just thought I’d take this opportunity to drop all the pretense and for once be honest about how much I really hate George W. Bush and to finally confess that every word I’ve ever uttered against him was entirely irrational and utterly wrong.  Were it not for my intense hatred, I would be forced to admit that he is officially The Greatest President of All-Time, and is the best thing to happen to mankind since Jesus Christ himself walked among us.  All of my arguments attacking Bush are made solely to cover the fact that his unending success serves to highlight my constant failure, and the failures of my political party, ideology, and entire way of life.  Oh, and it also highlights the failures of the Communist Party, to which my soul is pledged; as well as that of the Islamafascist Terrorists and Gay-Loving Feminazi Secularist Man-Haters, who own the mortgage on my house.  

Not that any of this is news to you, as I’m sure you’re in the same boat.  I just thought I’d use this holiday season to finally be honest about what we all know is going on; and what we would all feel better admitting to, if only we didn’t hate America and ourselves so much.  Next year, the War on President’s Day will continue as usual.

Nailing Iraq

Sometimes in life there are no good solutions.  The more you try to push something in one direction, the more you’ll screw-up something else.  Unfortunately, the only way to get the proverbial free-lunch is to skip out on the bill.  

And this is a part of daily life.  You want to “be your own boss” and “follow your dreams”; but you don’t want to give-up that steady paycheck and your nice possessions.  Or you want a happy life, allowing you to eat delicious foods and spend all your time blogging and jacking-off; but you also don’t want to become a fat loser pervert (I am giving you the benefit of the doubt on that one).  Or you want the benefits of being in a steady relationship, but you also want to be able to screw anyone, anywhere, anytime.  It’s just natural to want it all, but quite unnatural to get it.

And many situations are so big that you can’t even hold the various sides in your head simultaneously.  You just keep seeing one side of an issue and can’t even fathom that there’s another side.  And then you see another side, but don’t see how it’s associated with the first side.  So you see lots of simple problems with many simple answers, and fail to see how it’s really just one big problem with no good answer.  And you keep thinking that you can do both things at once, and can’t understand why your fixes keep unfixing themselves.

Think of a nail that’s sticking out of the wall.  And the answer seems simple: Just nail the damn thing back in.  Then the next day, you’re in another room and you see another damn nail sticking out, and you nail it back in.  Then you go back to the first room, and there’s that first damn nail sticking back out again.  And you keep going back and forth, until you finally realize that it’s the same damn nail and that it’s just too long for the wall.  So you go ahead and pull the nail out.  And right when it comes out, the wallboard falls down and conks you in the head; because that nail was the only thing holding it up.  All you wanted was an aesthetically pleasing wall, and now you’ve got a lump on your head and a big gap in your wall.

That never happens, of course; but I’ve been sitting here too long trying to think of a proper analogy and that’s the only one I could think of.  But I think the message is obvious.

Democracy’s Downsides

And democracy is kind of like that.  Democracy has its upsides and its downsides.  But many conservatives have forgotten that and want it to be all upsides.  They continue to tout the awesomeness of democracy, but clearly are frustrated at the inconveniences of the whole thing.  Like actually having to let people vote for who they want.  Or giving those voters what they thought they were getting.  Or providing the information necessary for the electorate to make an informed decision.  They know that democracy has many benefits, but they refuse to understand how those benefits work and act as if you can just smack a “democracy” label on a dictatorship and be done with it.

Beyond hiding things for political reasons, like the worst parts of abu Ghraib, and the Plame thing, and just about every other political embarrassment; they also have a real problem with the sharing information or power.  They like propaganda, and think that it’s overly burdensome that they can’t be outright about it.  And they see the “Checks & Balances” thing as an unnecessary burden that they have to keep working around.  And they like talking about “liberty” in the abstract, but they clearly see it as a problem in the concrete.  And overall, Bush’s “A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier” line tells it all.  Because that is exactly what he wants and how they’ve attempted to run our country.  They want the benefits of democracy, but without any of that messiness.  

But the problem is that all of that “messiness” is exactly what makes democracy work.  It’s not just a feel-good label.  The Truth that they want to hide from us is the lifeblood of democracy.  As are the ideas of Shared Power and Representation.  It’s like they’re trying to make a cake without using flour, eggs, and sugar.  And while you can make a cake without those things, it won’t be a cake.  Nor will it taste as good as a cake.  And it’ll probably be crap.  

And that’s exactly the recipe they’re using with democracy.  They think they can leave out all the key ingredients and still make a democracy.  But it just doesn’t work that way.  You can’t have the benefits of democracy if you insist on acting like a dictatorship.  Most everything has an upside and a downside, and the benefits of democracy come with a steep price.  And you just have to accept it.  Anyone who’s played Civilization III is fully aware of that; as the democracy that makes your citizens happier, more productive, and smarter will also make them dislike the warfare that you need to win the game.  Too bad that life lessons don’t come so easy in real life.

What Insurgents Know

But what I really wanted to talk about was this chilling Knight-Ridder article, via Atrios.  It describes the problems that our soldiers are facing to keep peace in Samarra.  This line was the one that got me started:

"Samarra is one example of many towns in Iraq that are barely functioning," said Capt. Ryan Edwards, 31, of Plain City, Ohio, who majored in Middle Eastern studies at West Point. "What the insurgents know is that we lack the will to go after them. It's not the American Army that lacks the will; it's the American people and their leadership."

But that’s not what the “insurgents know”.  They know that we can’t go after them if we want to avoid a full-scale rebellion.  That’s one of the basic elements of guerrilla/terrorist warfare: That the stronger power will be unable to distinguish enemies from innocents, and will eventually become so frustrated that they’ll either submit to the smaller forces demands or they’ll take overbearing actions which turn more innocents into enemies.  In essence, they use their opponent’s strength to their own advantage.  That’s one reason why these methods are so effective.

And not only do we risk creating more insurgents by accidentally killing/capturing innocent people, but killing true insurgents can also create more enemies.  Because nobody likes to see their friends and relatives die; even if they deserve it.  And maybe the relatives know that their relation was an insurgent, or maybe not.  But in either case, when we kill that insurgent, the relative might then decide to become an insurgent to avenge their relative’s death.  And it doesn’t matter if it was right for us to kill that insurgent; we will produce more insurgents in either case.

And this isn’t something new to Iraq.  This is exactly what happened in Vietnam too.  For all the toughguy talk about what we should have done in Vietnam, they’re just wrong.  Because they’re trying to have it both ways.  The harder we waged the war, the more we ruined the cause we were fighting for.  It was a losing proposition no matter what we did.  The time for us to win in Vietnam was in the 1940’s, though a smarter policy in the mid-50’s still could have saved the day.  And by the time America started sending “advisors” our defeat was inevitable.  Not that the North Vietnamese could ever have defeated our army, but because we couldn’t defeat theirs.  And the stronger our tactics were, the sooner we would lose the war.  

Overall, we weren’t defeated by the Vietnamese; we were defeated by the French who hornswaggled us into supporting their futile colonial aspirations.  Because of that, all of our efforts in support of freedom and independence would only appear to be further efforts at colonialism and subjugation.  It didn’t matter what we thought we were fighting for.  What mattered is what the enemy thought we were fighting for.  And we see the same thing in Iraq.  Perhaps we are fighting for democracy and freedom; but that’s certainly not what the insurgents are fighting against.

And the main problem is that conservatives still haven’t figured out that war isn’t a great option in every scenario; and sometimes, it just sucks.  Which is why it’s the option of last resort.  Because it’s always very risky and can’t solve many problems.  So you shouldn’t do it unless you really really need to.  Like if Hitler’s taking control of Europe or if Japan bombs your harbor.  But war is simply much too heavy-handed as far as sending messages and looking tough.  It’s like using a lawnmower to trim your fingernails.  Despite the neo-cons disdain for the United Nations, it really is a decent forum for sending messages without getting hurt.

And for as much as Bush insisted that war in Iraq was a last resort, it’s obvious that it was also the only resort.  He created an ultimatum to which Saddam couldn’t possibly comply, and then tut-tutted as he kicked out the inspectors and got to wage his war.  And you can certainly bet that Georgie was eternally peeved that he had to go through such an elaborate song & dance to get the war he thought he deserved.  But again, rather than this being an annoying side-effect of democracy, as I’m sure Bush saw it; this is one of its benefits.  And it took one of the biggest con-jobs in history to give him the war that democracy should have prevented.

On a side note, my research is surely incomplete, but it sure seems as if the media hyped-up Bush’s “last resort” stance far more than he actually said it.

Various Quotes

But back to the insurgency.  Below are a bunch of quotes I pulled from that article, which show why we’re doing so poorly in Iraq, and why we are unable to “go after them” properly; as the Captain cited above wants to do.  Not because we lack the will to do it, but because the necessary actions will only serve to hasten our defeat.  That isn’t to say that we will necessarily lose, but a stronger offensive is clearly not the answer.

Five other soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division scrambled down, pulled two of the insurgents' bodies from the reeds and dragged them through the mud.  "Strap those motherf-----s to the hood like a deer," said Staff Sgt. James Robinson, 25, of Hughes, Ark.  The soldiers heaved the two bodies onto the hood of a Humvee and tied them down with a cord. The dead insurgents' legs and arms flapped in the air as the Humvee rumbled along.  Iraqi families stood in front of the surrounding houses. They watched the corpses ride by and glared at the American soldiers.

The dirt wall that the Americans built around Samarra left three checkpoints where residents can enter after they show identification and submit to searches. After the wall went up, the city's population fell from about 200,000 to about 90,000, according to U.S. military officials.

"The textbook answer is to build infrastructure," said Capt. Scott Brannon, who commands Bravo Company, which oversees Samarra. "But what happens with the contracts is that we're funding the AIF," or anti-Iraqi forces - the insurgency.

Call and three other soldiers dashed into a house, mud flying from their combat boots, radios squawking. The women inside shrieked. A man moved from a hallway to the living room, almost a shadow in the dimly lit house. Call jerked his M4 assault rifle back and forth, his finger on the trigger.

Powell blasted the padlock with his shotgun. The American soldiers screamed at the police inside to drop their weapons.  The police substation was attached to Samarra General Hospital, and the soldiers questioned doctors and policemen alike, swabbing their hands, looking for explosives residue.  There was no sign of the grenade thrower.  The men of the 2nd platoon were furious. Many of them suspected that the police may have been behind the attack.

Last month, 33 police recruits from Samarra were killed when gunmen ambushed their bus and shot them in the head, execution-style.  Most Iraqis assumed that Sunni insurgents had killed the men as a warning to anyone else who might be considering joining the security forces.  But Brannon, the Bravo Company commander, suspects that the killings were an inside job by police officials vying for control of which tribes supply recruits.  "I would not put it past them that someone in the IP leaked where that bus was going to be," he said. "There's a lot of politics here."

Call and his men dashed out the front door. Pena had shot an unarmed Iraqi man on the street. The man had walked past the signs that mark the 200-yard "disable zone" that surrounds the Alamo and into the 100-yard "kill zone" around the base. The Army had forced the residents of the block to leave the houses last year to create the security perimeter.  American units in Iraq usually fire warning shots. The Rakkasans don't.  A few days later, Call said his brigade command had told him, "The Rakkasans don't do warning shots." A warning shot in the vernacular of the Rakkasans, Call said, was a bullet that hit one Iraqi man while others could see.  

Looking at the man splayed on the ground, Call turned to his medic, Specialist Patrick McCreery, and asked, "What the f--- was he doing?"
He looked at McCreery and raised his finger toward the house in front of him.  "This my house," he said in broken English.  McCreery reached down. With his hands cupped, he shoved the man's organs back into his body and held them in place as Call unwrapped a bandage to put around the hole.

The Lesson

Just from this one article of this one town, we see the same problem repeatedly.  But again, there is no good solution to this.  In some of these cases, the soldiers acted poorly and are responsible for alienating Iraqis.  But in other cases they acted properly, but still alienated Iraqis.  And yet, some people think that we’re still not acting strongly enough; when we’re already firing “warning shots” to kill.  And what do we do if reconstruction only funnels money to the insurgency, or if the police and army are secretly working against us?  The more we take the “correct” actions, the more we’ll screw ourselves up.

Many conservatives will look at the one side of all this and dismiss them as necessary precautions to save our troops.  But that’s no kind of answer, as it’s just making things worse.  As one soldier said referring to the “warning shots”: "But what about when his buddy comes back with another guy ... that and the other 15 guys in his family who you've made terrorists?"

But most conservatives will ignore that.  Largely because the only real “solution” was for us to not have gone into Iraq in the first place.  And the unfortunate irony is that it was this kind of one-sided thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.  Conservatives insisted that the Saddam problem had to be dealt with, and refused to consider any of the downsides of the war option.   And now that we’re dealing with many of those downsides, they continue to see just one side and refuse to take responsibility for their actions.  They continue to see simple answers to simple problems, without acknowledging how much worse these answers are making things.

And so we’ve got that nail that looks so simple to beat-in, but that keeps popping out the other side.  And if we try to pull the nail out, the whole thing will come down and conk us on the head.  And while it is correct to say that pulling it out is certainly a bad option; leaving it in will likely only serve as a costly and dangerous delay of the inevitable.  Sometimes, you’re always screwed.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Big Incompetent

I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this, but I saw The Big Lebowski the other day and couldn’t help noticing how much Jeff Lebowski (the Big Lebowski) was totally like Dick Cheney.  Mainly that he’s this total blowhard guy who pretends to be Mr. Big, but is actually an incompetent boob who relies entirely on his serious-guy looks and supposed “gravitas” to fool people into taking him seriously.  The only difference is that Cheney is far more low-key and convincing in the role than the guy in the movie.  But Cheney is a total fraud.

I was already thinking of this before the hunting incident, but that just made it even more clear.  Not just that he accidentally shot a man.  But his whole handling of the event.  Because I do believe that the cover-up aspect of the thing was totally Cheney’s idea.  All the way from using Armstrong to talk to the media and blame the victim, through to getting the victim to apologize publicly for what he supposedly put Cheney through.  The whole thing was ham-fisted and lame; and only served to bring more criticism onto Cheney.

But that’s totally his way of doing things.  The man has the subtlety of a jack-hammer and the brains of a 70’s television thug.  You know, like the guys on Rockford Files who tip-off Jim Rockford that they’re the bad guys by trying to run him over (thus allowing him to get their license plate number) or beating him up and telling him to “back off”; and that he’d never know who to go after if they didn’t go after him first.  Or like on Hart to Hart, people who try to cover-up lesser crimes of embezzlement by trying to murder the Harts; and again, tipping-off the Harts as to who the criminal is.  

And combine that with Big Jeff Lebowski’s blowhard fraud routine and that’s totally Cheney.  A guy who’s so heavy-handed that even minor offenses become major major deals, and who attracts attention simply because of his heavy-handed attempts to hide his activities.  It’s like he’s doing the media’s job for them by announcing: “Look at me!  I’m doing something wrong!”  And that’s totally not the Whitehouse’s way; which always wants to minimize any news story and avoid having to actively cover-up anything.  Fortunately for them, the media has always fallen for Cheney’s Mr. Gravitas routine and has failed to expose him for the fraud that he is.  That’s probably because they’re too scared to admit that there is no competence at the helm of our country; though that might change after the whole shooting thing.

I suspect that the definition for “gravitas” will someday be a serious and solemn person who bullshits his way to complete incompetence; accompanied by a picture of Cheney.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Cheney was doing all this because he knows that he can never be president and wants to replace Spiro Agnew’s place in history as most infamous vice-president; under the idea that it’s better to be remembered badly than to be forgotten.  We can always hope that he soon follows Agnew’s lead.

Thank You For Reading, Now Please Go Away

I regret to inform you that this blog has now exceeded the limit for the number of readers I ever wanted.  Some of you are going to have to stop reading.  I’ll let you decide amongst yourselves who will go away; though might I recommend an arm-wrestling competition, or perhaps a spelling bee.  Naturally, blogging will be light until this issue is resolved.

May the best readers win!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The New Liberalism

At some point, people will realize that America’s policy alignment is not liberal v. conservative, but rather libertarian v. authoritarian.  And long before that happens, I would like for the Democrats to be firmly aligned on the libertarian position.  Because the distinguishing elements of this are not necessarily how much “liberty” either side allows us; but rather involve the source of that liberty, and whether government power is wielded by a broad or limited group of people.

As I argued before, I don’t agree that the traditional “libertarian” position reflects liberty at all; but rather is just a poor excuse to justify some people’s selfishness at the expense of everyone else.  And that they don’t really represent the appeal for true liberty.  Most libertarian’s don’t support a pro-littering position; and yet what is pollution but extreme-littering?  Equally, their anti-SEC stance is anti-free-market; their anti-union stance is anti-free-market; and their anti-government stance is anti-free-market.  Overall, they want to tell us what things we’re not allowed to do; and they involve us not having the liberty to stop them from fulfilling their selfish agenda.  Doesn’t sound like liberty to me.

And jesus christ, if the Social Conservative position isn’t authoritarian, then I don’t know what is.  They want to dictate to us what we can watch on TV, movies, video games, and the internets; all based upon an absurdist “save the children” rhetoric.  That we supposedly all have to suffer because they can’t control their own damn kids; when the truth is that they don’t want us partaking in these things either.  And they want to force us to have babies that we don’t want.  To stay married to people we don’t like.  And to tell women which jobs they can’t have.  They want to dictate which substances I’m not allowed to ingest.  And they want to tell consenting people who they’re not allowed to kiss and which orifices they’re not allowed to stick objects into.  And overall, they want to force their religion on us by giving their religion the authority of government.  Nobody should be allowed to claim the libertarian mantle if they associate with these people.  After all, what is more authoritarian than a single deity who has complete authority over the entire universe?

And then there’s the GOP’s “law and order” stuff.  If they had their way, the government would have full access to all our records, all our communications, and even our homes, computers, and possessions.  Additionally, they think they should be able to strip us of all our rights and our very citizenship.  And finally, they believe that they can do these things without consulting the judicial or legislative branch; and is entirely at the president’s sole discretion.  They believe that the need for “law and order” is enough to justify everything and that the Bill of Rights is simply an outdated concept to be ignored; and during the time of America’s greatest safety, no less.  And to put the final insult on this injury, they insist that to question them on this is tantamount to treason.  I can imagine various definitions of “authoritarianism”, and all of them include this sort of behavior.

Needless to say, our libertarian argument is explained by being in opposition to these ideas.

The New Alignment

And that’s the thing.  The “lib v. con” system is clearly too antiquated to handle these subjects.  Because the issue of liberal or conservative interpretation of the constitution has been settled; and the liberals have won.  Conservatives continue to use “originalist” rhetoric to defend their positions, but it’s just silly.  Because they’re just as willing to use liberal interpretations whenever they like.  While this may have been an issue during FDR’s day, it has now become a silly masquerade dance.  They’re still trying to use the steps of the Foxtrot to do the Macarena.  

And more importantly, America clearly wants a liberal interpretation.  They want a big government handling their pension, and regulating businesses, and taking care of the things that the government is better at doing.  And the conservatives certainly know that, which is why they refuse to outright address any of these issues.  They insist that they’re not trying to undo Social Security or Medicare; they’re “fixing” it.  They tell us that their pro-business environmental laws actually prevent pollution.  And they’re certainly in support of high government spending; just as long as they get kick-backs from the folks getting the money.

Without a doubt, the conservative movement is dead.  And as such, the liberal movement is dead too.  Because it’s kind of silly to call it a “movement” if everyone’s moving in the same direction.  And now everyone is on the liberal side; at least regarding what those original labels meant.

But unfortunately, people have hung onto these labels for too long and haven’t noticed that the alignments have changed.  Because there are libertarians on both sides.  Like the “South Park Republicans” who dislike the Social Conservatives as much as we do; but who’ve fallen victim to the siren song of Ayn Rand and haven’t realized how ridiculous their anti-liberty libertarian position is; as well as listening to too much of talk-radio’s caricature of liberals.  But for those rightwingers whose libertarianism goes beyond silly posturing and the excuse for being rude, liberal libertarianism should fit perfectly.  And yes, I am idealistic enough to believe that these types do exist.

And there are authoritarians on the left too.  Like the PETA people, who would like to tell me what I can’t eat or wear.  Or anti-gun people who want all guns banned.  And that kind of thing.  I’m not sure necessarily if they want the government to enforce these things; but if they do, then they certainly belong in the authoritarian category.  Because while their specific issues don’t match, these people clearly belong in the same category as the Social Conservatives.  

Representative Authoritarianism

But where is it that we draw the line.  Slavery was clearly a moral issue which involved some citizens wanting to impose their will on other citizens.   Everyone agrees that laws should only be created if they are necessary to better society.  But the question remains of who gets to decide what betters society.

But I think the difference is based upon freedom and that laws should be designed to generate the greatest freedom for people.  And at the basis of that decision is democracy itself.  The true libertarian position is one of broad representation and equal rights.  And the authoritarian position is one with limited representation and special rights.  

And that’s why Democrats certainly deserve the “libertarian” label.  Because we are the party of wide representation.  We are the party of equality.  Democrats believe that we all deserve a chance and we all deserve the same levels of freedom.  That somebody isn’t better simply because they have more money; or that people are limited to whatever rights they can take.  And that applies to our political “leaders” too.  We do not believe that the president has more rights than us, or that he has the ability to take actions beyond the job duties that we’ve assigned to him.  Nor are Congressmen better than us.  We hire these men to do jobs, and we can certainly remove them from these jobs.  They are public servants.

And Republicans deserve the authoritarian label, as they believe that authority is vested in a small number of important people.  People who are better than us.  And they think that people with more money deserve more rights than the rest of us.  That their money entitles them to a stronger “voice” than everyone else.  That they are entitled to special privileges.  And most of all, they believe that they are allowed to tell us how to live our lives and to dictate what freedoms we are permitted.  Taken to it’s natural extreme, they believe that all authority can stem from the most powerful person, and that we have no right to say otherwise.

And stated like that, the division is clear.  This isn’t about which party believes in what interpretation of the constitution.  This is about which party believes in democracy and liberty.  That is the political divide in our country today.  And if it was stated as such, the 50/50 split in this country would be far far larger.  Because few people want to limit their own representation.  Few people would vote to lose rights and freedoms.  And the Republicans have only been as successful as they have by promising specific groups that they’ll eventually enforce those specific freedoms; at the expense of all others.  Their’s is not an appeal for equality, but for limited powers.  Powers limited to religious groups, or supposed libertarians, or Wallstreet.  And they focus their message so that the other groups don’t know how much power the GOP is offering to the other groups.   And that is the basis for GOP Appeal: That all authority is yours, and yours alone.

Shit.  I’ve really been straining it, but I’m totally out of brain juice on this one.  I’ve got some vague idea of how I’d like this to end, but it all sounds pretty faggy (and I don’t mean that in the homosexual sense).  I liked the first two sections, which was just some quickie riffing based on something I thought of in the shower (that’s where I get my best ideas).  But I really need more time to think about the ending.  I guess I’ll just do the democratic thing and let you finish it yourself.  I think this pretty much writes itself, but I only went this far so that this post didn’t just look like a rewrite of my last libertarian post.  My apologies.

Running on Success


As a follow-up to my last post: Why exactly do we need to be a “Party of Ideas”?  Isn’t that a call for activism and major change?  Why can’t we run on the “We made everything good and want to keep it good” platform?  American life is better than it’s ever been, and we have liberals to thank for that.  Shouldn’t that be a good enough platform?  How about a “Don’t fuck with a good thing” platform?  Or is that just cheating?

Am I Extreme?

What exactly is it that extremist liberals want policy-wise which separates them from regular liberals and non-liberal Dems?  I know our political goals are to impeach Bush, regain control of Congress, and to put an end to Joementum; among other things.  But what exactly is it that we want regarding actual policies?  

Over at MyDD, Matt Stoller suggests a list including “Social Security, the war, health care, wiretapping”.  But he can’t fool me, as I know that a good chunk of America agrees with us on these positions.  And if it got sent out as a strong Dem message, a clear majority would side with us.  And so those can’t be the extremist positions.

I’m only asking because I’d really like to know where I stand on the extremist spectrum.  I’m a strong liberal and Democrat who doesn’t want to take no crap from no GOP con-artists; so I know that supposedly puts me on the extremist fringe.  But frankly, I just don’t feel like an extremist.  I feel like a damn moderate.  Yes, yes, I know.  Those are fighting words to you loyal extremists out there; but that’s just how I feel.  And so if that means you’re going to have to denounce my family name and set my pants on fire; so be it.  

I feel like a moderate who’s sitting smack dab in the middle of America’s thinking.  I don’t want substantial change.  I don’t want to rewrite lots of laws, or wage a huge battle to shake the social fabric of our nation; like a good portion of conservatives do.  Guys who want to undo the last 100 years of American progress.  I think that things are pretty damn good in this country, and that we just have a few minor changes to go.  And at least some of those changes are just to undo/fix the crap that Bush and the GOP have inflicted upon us.

And hell, I think that the DLC’s Bush-lite agenda is far more radical than anything I’d propose.  And yet they get to use the “centrist” label.  But how does opposing extremism on one end of the spectrum automatically make you an extremist on the other end?  Can’t my extremist-opposition also be from a position of moderation?  And how does working with an extremist make one a moderate; rather than an extremist-enabling patsy?  

Overall, it would seem to me that the Lib v. Con extremist spectrum should be based on policy goals, rather than political goals.  And that it shouldn’t matter if I want Bush impeached or how strongly I word my criticism.  What should matter is how radical my policy agenda is; and I don’t think I have a particularly radical agenda.  So am I a moderate?   Or is the mere shrillness of my anti-GOP political goals enough to put me into the far far left commie-terrorist fringe of America haters?  And does that extremism make you people love me despite my moderate policies?  I’ve really got to know.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Moose Hatred

I’ve asked this before, but who on earth respects Bullmoose?  I just don’t get it.  Hell, I could understand if he strongly fulfilled people’s dogmatic needs; but he’s supposedly a centrist.  So without being able to rely heavily on the extremist-card, you’d think he’d actually have to be intelligent or something.  But he doesn’t even have that going for him.  So I just don’t understand how he does it.

In the post I just linked to, he laments Bush hatred and insists that lefties are more hate-filled than righties.  He writes:

The Moose does not hate George W. Bush. That is a very controversial statement in almost all of the left and in much of the Democratic Party.

And what serious person could believe such nonsense?  Sure, there are lefties who supposedly ascribe to the “Bush hatred” idea, but I don’t believe them.  Because the word “hatred” typically means that the feelings are irrational.  And there are too many good, rational reasons to not like Bush.  You don’t even have to be paying attention and you’ll quickly be offended by what he does.  So I just don’t see exactly what the problem is with not liking the dude.  But if this is what passes for “hatred” these days, then I believe the intelligent position is to hate Bush.

But more importantly, lefties don’t attack anyone simply because they say they don’t hate Bush.  That’s nothing but a cheap insult.  Lefties attack guys like Bullmoose because we disagree with them; not because they don’t hate Bush.  Could the Moose really believe such an absurdity?  It’s enough to imagine that perhaps the Moose has taken the irrational hatred thing onto himself; and now believes that nobody could really disagree with him: We’re just Moose-haters.

Referring to Glenn Greenwald’s idea that Bush-loyalty is the new criteria for being considered conservative, the Moose writes:

From his varied experience, the Moose questions whether this is true. The reality is that prominent conservatives have been critical of this President on a range of issues - the Weekly Standard has questioned Administration's execution of the war, the National Review and the Heritage Foundation have been critical of the President's big spending ways. And now, a range of libertarian conservatives have differed with the President on the NSA program.

I mean, shit.  We’re talking about HUGE issues.  Life & Death stuff, impeachable offenses, and what have you.  And the Moose points to minor criticism from people who have remained loyal supporters.  What the hell is he talking about?  He complains that there are some conservatives who have a “Leninist discipline”, and yet cites conservatives who have posed only minor criticism of a few Bush flaws; and acts as if that’s a major break with Bush loyalty.   And that is apparently all it takes in the conservatives’ opinion: Minor disagreements with Bush reflect major dissent.

But as most did, the Moose completely missed Greenwald’s point.  Because he only cited conservatives who continue to support Bush.  But what about the conservatives who completely stopped supporting Bush.  Or the ones who never liked him?  Or the ones who’ve always hated him?   Guys like Moose are convinced of the theory of irrational Bush-hatred; and yet none of them are conservatives?  Bush-haters can only be liberal?  How can that be?  

Another point to make is that all of the conservative Bush-criticism has a very specific tint to it.  It’s not necessarily that Bush was a bad conservative.  It’s that Bush was a bad Bush.   That he didn’t live up to the ideal that these people hold for him.  Here’s the Moose criticizing the most recent SOTU address for being “Bush-lite”.  To them, the worst thing that Bush can do is not be the strongest Bush that he can be.   And this level praise-filled criticism is enough to be denied the title “Bush loyalist”.

But the truth is obvious: Even the Moose is conflating conservatism with Bush-loyalty.  And he and other conservatives fail to recognize this even when it’s brought to their attention.  To them, the fact that you raised such an argument is proof enough of how much you must hate Bush.  Even Lenin would have envied such loyalty.

And that ties into my final Moose quote:

There is far too much ideological conformity in both parties. That is why the Moose belongs to neither. It would be far better if both sides of the ideological spectrum had more introspection and self-knowledge.

Ideological conformity???  His whole post was about Bush hatred and loyalty.  What did this have to do with ideology?  But the implication is obvious: Bush IS the ideology.  And that completely confirms Greenwald’s point.  Greenwald repeatedly stressed that he was talking about conservative policies, and how they’ve been abandoned in exchange for the “Cult of Bush”.  And Moose confirms this point by constantly referring to Bush loyalty and hatred; rather than on conservative policies.

And that’s how clueless these people are regarding the Cult of Bush.  Because I have yet to read the proper response to Greenwald’s post (excepting Doctor Snedley’s, of course).  The proper response isn’t to mention loyal Bushies who’ve slightly disagreed on a few issues, or to denounce lefties as the more egregious players.  The proper response is to tell us how these ideological shifts still allow them to be called “conservative”.  Or at the least, they could show us large groups of Bush-hating conservatives who are still considered good conservatives.  

Because Greenwald’s post wasn’t necessarily an attack on Bush-loyalists.  It was to denounce Bush-loyalists who continue to use a “liberal v. conservative” framework, when they really mean “Hater v. Loyalist” framework.  They continue to defend their ideology, but all they’ve done is defended Bush.


P.S. If you’d like to have some fun, go to Bullmoose’s site and try to find posts that are seriously critical of Bush.  I see many many many posts which are critical of Democrats and liberals; but none which criticize Bush.  In fact, many of them suggest that Dems try to out-Bush Bush in order to defeat them.  So again, why does anyone listen to this guy?  It certainly seems as if the reason he failed to defend against the “Cult of Bush” theme was because he is one of the cultists.

P.P.S. Is there anything lamer than the Moose’s constant use of the third person?  Doctor Biobrain suspects that the Moose still doesn’t feel comfortable putting those absurd words into his own voice.  And Doctor Biobrain doesn’t blame him.