Thursday, March 30, 2006

Treasury Secretary Biobrain

Via Reuters:
Joshua Bolten, the incoming White House chief of staff, wants Treasury Secretary John Snow replaced with someone who can present the administration's message more forcefully, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

Gee, I always thought the Secretary of Treasury was supposed to do something.  You know, like run the Department of Treasury or something.  But apparently, it’s just sort of a cheerleading position which gives out forceful messages.  No wonder all the best financial minds in the country want to work for Bush.  Because they can finally stop thinking about all those boring financial things and start doing fun stuff, like giving speeches and hyping-up a financial plan that was created and implemented by other people, whose focus is entirely on political and ideological goals.  Geez, who wouldn’t want that position?

The Times quoted Republicans as saying if a new secretary was picked from Wall Street, it would help reassure financial markets that are worried about growing budget and trade deficits.

Yeah sure, we could reassure financial markets by maybe doing something about those growing budget and trade deficits, but that would actually involve doing something, and we all know how difficult that is for the Bush Administration.  Much better to just hire a better PR guy to reassure the worried markets.  And again, with the Bush Admin’s excellent track record, we’re sure to get a fully competent guy who’s ready to take all the blame for things sucking, but who won’t be able to do anything about it except to cheer a little louder.  We’re certain to get the best man for the job.

As an aside, doesn’t it seem pretty obvious at this point that the Bush Admin is simply engaging in a giant motivational experiment?  To see if optimism and hope really are enough to pull us through?  And don’t forget marketing and good public relations.  Because it really seems like that’s all they’re going for these days.  Just hype something up enough, and everything else will fall into place.  Do you think they’ll finally give up on the experiment after they blow the mid-terms, or are we in this for the full eight years?

P.S. For the record, I would gladly accept Bush’s Treasury position and do a good job at it, simply for the privilege of getting to sign my name on all the money.  That would be totally awesome.  And if the Secretary doesn’t actually get to sign each bill personally, that would certainly stop once I got the job.  And you can bet that I’d be rubbing it in everyone’s face every chance I got.  Hell, I’d walk around with unsigned bills, and then when I paid people, I’d sign the bill right there in front of them.  And they wouldn’t be able to do anything but roll their eyes and take my money.  I’d be king of the world!  Until, of course, the economy failed to improve, after which I’d get all the blame and be replaced by an even less competent cheerleader.  But until then, I’d be king of the world!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Death to Carnivals!


But you can bet your bottom dollar that this won’t go unpunished.  After this next Carnival hosted by the glorious Pharyngula (who is as sublime as life itself), the host will be none other than YOURS TRULY.  That’s right, Doctor Biobrain was hornswaggled into hosting a Carnival, which would have technically broken my winning streak in any case.  But now this all seems to play right into my hands.  And there will certainly be a reckoning at that time.  Oh yeah, hell to pay, to be sure.  I’ve had serious thoughts of unleashing Doctor Snedley on this unsuspecting Carnival, and it looks like that might just be the prescription that the doctor ordered.  Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned.

Moussaoui the Human

Wow.  This is the side of terrorism that you never hear of (or at least I never hear of):

A senior al Qaeda operative, known as Khallad, said Moussaoui broke security by phoning him every day during a trip to Malaysia in 2000.  Khallad, who was connected with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa and masterminded the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, was eventually forced to turn off his telephone.

In testimony from Riduan Isamuddin -- better known as Hambali -- a top member of Jemaah Islamiah, an Asian group linked to al Qaeda, Moussaoui was depicted as "not bright in the head and having a bad character."

"According to Hambali, Moussaoui managed to annoy everyone he came in contact with," Hambali's testimony said, adding that Hambali said he did not trust Moussaoui.
He said Moussaoui kept speaking of dreams he had to fly a plane into the White House. Moussaoui was also constantly suggesting operations Jemmah Islamiah members thought were "ridiculous," according to the testimony.  Hambali said he eventually paid for a plane ticket to Europe in order to get Moussaoui to leave Malaysia.

Holy shit, I so totally know this guy, and they forgot to mention how he’s always bumming money all the time, inviting himself to other people’s houses, and is prone to drinking your last beer.  Not that I’ve ever done anything as extreme as turning off my phone or buying them a ticket out of the country, but that’s just because I didn’t have the money for that kind of thing.  And if you don’t know any guys like that, then you are that guy.

Terrorists are always seen as cold, calculating machines who are so filled with hatred that they don’t care about life or limb.  Yet here we see Moussaoui painted as that annoying tag-along guy that keeps including himself in your plans because nobody else wants him included.  And you can understand Khallad and Hambali’s frustration with dealing with this kind of guy.  Really puts a human face on to the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Holy Shit!  I saw Stereolab Friday night at La Zona Rosa in beautiful downtown Austin.  Totally fucking awesome.  I can’t recommend it enough.  My whole body felt like a giant smile the entire time.  They totally rocked the house.  The only problem was that I had to stand up the whole time and it was pretty crowded where we were standing, and I’m getting to be an old man (34) who’s not so good standing up for however long the show lasted.  But beyond that, it was definitely the second best show I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a few good shows.  I’ve seen Beck twice, once in a mosh-pit at Austin Music Hall during the Odelay tour, and a second time for Sea Change at the Bass Concert Hall (which was the absolute best show).  I’ve seen Pink Floyd and Rush put on generically great shows, and saw Lenny Kravitz and The Cult put on great shows, back when Kravitz was opening for The Cult (I was there to see Kravitz, but The Cult was better).   And I’ve even been mugged at a Public Enemy concert, which certainly fulfills my requirement of “street cred”.  But the Stereolab show topped them all, or would have, had it been at the Bass Concert Hall.  And the fact that the beer lines were too long and I’d lose my spot if I left to go get beer and would likely have never seen my wife again.  But besides that, it was totally awesome.  So if you have the opportunity to see them, I can’t recommend it enough.  And if Stereolab isn’t coming to your town, sucks to be you.  You can try to duplicate it by buying an awesomely loud stereo and adding a bit of distortion, but it’s still somehow not the same as being there.  Some things never are.

Right-Wingers and the Sycophants who Love Them

Sorry gang, but my head’s not on straight lately.  I loved this post when I first started writing it yesterday, but now I can’t stand to read any of it.  And unfortunately, it’s unfinished.  But I’m having trouble finding the time to do this shit lately (deep into tax season) so I’m sending this one out unfinished and fairly unpolished.  I’ve got a few more posts in the pipeline I might send out unfinished, but if I don’t send them out that way, they probably won’t get out at all.

If you’ve got the time, I recommend reading this interview on Howard Kurtz’s appropriately named Reliable Sources (via Atrios).  It’s interesting that, despite Kurtz’s insistence on pro-Bush balance, the reporters keep coming back to reality.  Here’s Bush implicitly downplaying the importance of bad news in Iraq:

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Footage of children playing or shops opening and people resuming their normal lives will never be as dramatic as the footage of an IED explosion. They're capable of blowing up innocent life so it ends up on your TV show.

Uh, yeah, isn’t this the way it’s supposed to be?  That death and explosions are more important than school openings?  But it’s not just a coincidence that the dramatic footage is often more enthralling than the boring kind.  And sure, some unnewsworthy items such as missing white women, car crashes, and fires also make for dramatic footage; but it’s hard to imagine a potential civil war in Iraq…aww who cares.  This is my blog, and I’m arbitrarily ending this paragraph right now.

Working On One Level

But that wasn’t my main point.  Everyone and his dog are hyping the reporters’ defiance to Kurtz and Bush’s “balanced” bullying.  No, my main point was regarding an earlier incident of complaints of “one-sided” reporting; this time with right-wingers and the sycophants who love them complaining that someone would dare to report good news from Iraq.  

Remember all the hubbub regarding Fahrenheit 9/11, and all the “debunker” sites that popped up?  And one of their claims was that Michael Moore had glossed over Saddam’s evilness by failing to show the negative pictures of pre-war Iraq that we were already familiar with.  Here we see on Dave Kopel’s infamously deceitful Fifty-Nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11, deceit number 44 titled “Iraq before Liberation”: “Moore shows scenes of Baghdad before the invasion (read: liberation) and in his weltanschauung, it’s a place filled with nothing but happy, smiling, giggly, overjoyed Baghdadis. No pain and suffering there. No rape, murder, gassing, imprisoning, silencing of the citizens in these scenes.”

Nor was this trend limited to the brain-dead right-wingers.  Heck no, brain-dead left-wingers were quick to get in on the action too.  Here’s faux-liberal dipshit Richard Cohen regarding Moore’s atrocious oversight: “In fact, prewar Iraq is depicted as some sort of Arab folk festival -- lots of happy, smiling, indigenous people. Was there no footage of a Kurdish village that had been gassed? This is obscenity by omission.”

And just to show that Conventional Wisdom loves company, here’s Boston’s female-Cohen equivalent Ellen Goodman reciting the same point: “But at some point, I also began to feel just a touch out of harmony. Not even this alto believes that the Iraq war was brought to us courtesy of the Bush-Saudi oil-money connection. Not even the rosiest pair of my retro-spectacles sees prewar Iraq as a happy valley where little children flew kites.”

To further demonstrate the principle that great minds think alike, both Goodman and Cohen failed to refrain from the irresistible urge to pun; thus Cohen’s title of “Baloney, Moore or Less” compared with Goodman’s hilarious “Moore to the point.”  Get it?  The movie was directed by Michael Moore, so they used his last name as a witty replacement for the word “more”, even though the supposed puns lamely only work on one level.  Yep, that’s why they get paid the Big Bucks and why blogs like mine don’t even have advertising.  It’s not enough to recite the same talking points, you’ve also got to include faux-puns when describing such mundane matters like war, death, and deception.  How else can people be bothered to read such things with their morning coffee?  As they say, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Propaganda v. News

Of course, none of these three examples are exact equivalents to Bush’s propaganda complaint.  In fact, one might even see that the complaint against Bush’s one-sided good news is far stronger than that against Moore.  I mean, the complaint against Moore was that he dared to show good news from Iraq.  Yet it can be easily argued that it wasn’t necessary to show bad news, as everyone already knew the bad news.  Everyone had already heard of the torture and brutality of the Saddam regime.  Moore was merely showing that another side existed, and that there were happy people in Iraq who got hurt.  That isn’t to suggest that Iraq was always a “happy valley” or an “Arab folk festival”.  It helped establish a human element to the Iraq war and was intended to provide some contrast to the one-sided images we had routinely seen.  

Moore himself says this (as quoted by ignoramus Dave Kopel): "This film exists as a counterbalance to what you see on cable news about the coalition. I’m trying to counter the Orwellian nature of the Big Lie, as if when you hear that term, the ‘coalition,’ that the whole world is behind us."  And despite Kopel’s absurd protests to the contrary, that makes perfect sense.  If everyone has already seen something, it’s not necessary to show them it again every time you’re discussing the topic.  But somehow, Kopel failed to understand that, as a good percentage of the “deceits” he lists all fall within this category.

But Bush’s complaint is slightly different.  He’s not arguing that we need to show the occasional good picture or story.  He’s saying that these positive images should trump the bigger news stories.  Or more specifically, he’s lamenting that these negative images are considered more important than the positive ones; but implicit in that is that he’s prefer things to be otherwise.  He’d prefer that the negative images be replaced entirely.  Even if he never specifically states that, can anyone seriously doubt that that’s not his intent?

But the parallels are even more tenuous.  Because the negative anti-Saddam news stories were not actually news.  They didn’t affect us directly at all.  They were part of a propaganda campaign to get us to invade Iraq.  And here we see house liberals like Cohen and Goodman griping in unison that Moore failed to show the same pro-war propaganda that we had been deluged with for years.

But the negative Iraq footage that dominates the news isn’t propaganda at all.  That really is news.  It is news when American soldiers die in combat.  It is news when a mosque gets bombed.  It is news when someone is beheaded.  These things can be used for propaganda purposes, but the reporting itself really is news.  The pro-war propaganda largely involved old offenses which had long since been forgiven by our government (eg, the gassing of Cohen’s Kurdish Village); while the negative Iraq news are all current events which are playing out in real time.  In Iraq, we weren’t stopping active genocide.  The threat sounded eminent, but the offenses were all old.  

And that’s why it’s not entirely fair to cite Bush’s insistence of positive Iraq news as the equivalent of Moore’s footage of happiness in Iraq.  Nor is the current bad news emanating from Iraq equal to the pro-war propaganda the Bushies were pimping before the war.  But to the Bushies there is no difference.  To them, it’s all propaganda.  They only wanted negative images of Iraq because that helped their cause.  And now, they only want positive images of Iraq because that helps their cause.  And in fact, their biggest complaints against Fahrenheit 9/11 was that it was propaganda, and as such, every fact, opinion, or statement must obviously serve an ulterior purpose towards that propaganda.  And that’s how the propagandists and the faux-liberals like Cohen and Goodman saw things.  But if instead, one sees the movie as a collection of facts which were either unknown or forgotten about; it changes everything.  Where propaganda, pre-conceived notions, and conspiracies weren’t underlying them of the movie; but rather an alternate

And the same goes for the negative news streaming out of Iraq.  If one wants to find a connection and conspiracy behind all the stories, one will see it.  But instead, if one see this as the

Friday, March 24, 2006

Ben's Big Excuse

Of “Box Turtle Ben”, Atrios writes:

The Redstaters have to be pissed, as they don't just see themselves as a blog, but as the nexus of the conservative political movement online.

Ha!  That’s not how these people work.  For them, the worst thing Ben did was to resign (though I doubt it was entirely his decision).  And the only way they’d be pissed is if Ben confessed to everything and admitted that he was a paid-for GOP hack.  But it doesn’t look like Ben’s doing any such thing.  Instead, he’s blaming everyone else and demanding a big pity party…which he seems to be getting.  Not only that, but they seem to be insisting that he did the honorable thing.  But it doesn’t take much to realize that his whole act of “contrition” was just a turdload of excuses.  Commenter “Singularity” at Digby’s blog does a good job summarizing Ben’s Bad Luck.  

If they haven’t already, somebody will need to come up with an Excuse-Bullshit index; which ranks how likely something is to be bullshit based on the number of excuses the bullshitter gives.  Looking over Ben’s Big Excuse, I think the ol’ Bullshit Meter is going off the charts.  My favorite part: “I once caught an editor at the paper inserting a line from The New Yorker (which I read) into my copy and protested. When that editor was promoted, I resigned.”  See, any old liar could pretend that someone else had inserted those phrases, but it takes a special kind of bullshitter to throw in the “I resigned” part.  That kind of dramatic excessiveness is always good evidence that the bullshitter has such a slim grasp on reality that they have no idea of what sounds plausible.

But this is typical of the conservatives.  They don’t fight.  They fight back, always.  Even if they have to instigate everything.  That’s just their way.  They’re the big bad victims of liberal oppression and this excuses all of their wrong doing.  They don’t insult us; they insult us back.  And everything is an offense.  After all, we’re talking about a doofus who cites as proof of the MSM’s left-wing bias that they missed a Red Dawn reference; as if there’s some inherent right that everyone pick up on conservative cultural references.  But that’s the level of depth of their paranoia.  Everything’s a conspiracy.  Everything proves them right.  And everyone is working on the same level as them.  It’s all propaganda and nothing is as simply as it seems.  

BTW, is it really possible that liberals were seriously threatening his family and suggesting that they’d want to cut off his head?  I suppose that’s possible, but it seems a bit odd.  It’s my guess that this is just more right-wing hysteria.  As if people said things which were obvious jokes (though probably rude jokes), and which he knew were jokes, but he cited as being serious in order to drum-up more sympathy from the right-wing patsies he tricked.  It worked.

The Evils of Plagiarism

Damn, I kind of liked the idea of having Ben to kick around.  Oh well.  But what’s with this crap from WaPo’s Jim Brady:
Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of.

Really?  I definitely don’t support plagiarism, but “the most serious offense”?  Really?  How is it really so wrong to just repeat what somebody else wrote?  What about complete fictions?  When journalists just completely invent stuff?  That surely must be worse than copying the truth from someone else, right?  Like when a journalist strongly suggests that a corrupt lobbyist has equal ties to both political parties?  Or what about when journalists toss objectivism out the window and get into the dictation business; repeating whatever fictions their sources want to convey, without giving it a fact-checking?  Where they’ve essentially destroyed the entire concept of journalist objectivism?  Isn’t that worse than repeating somebody else’s statements?

But I don’t think that Brady sees things that way.  WMD lies aren’t important.  Torture isn’t important.  The constitution isn’t important.  Truth isn’t important.  But what is important?  Plagiarism.  That’s what these elitist dopes care about. That’s what their priorities are.  Coincidentally, it also happens to be the most provable of offenses.  Fact-checking is hard, but plagiarism is easy to spot.  And if there’s anything that these guys like, it’s easiness.  

What a Bunch of Dorks

Red State comments, regarding Ben Domenech:

We must defend Ben.

I am honored to call Ben Domenech a friend, and will be proud to stand at his side no matter what.

I stand behind Ben.

I stand with my friend.

I don't know Ben/Augustine outside of his writings here (and now Red America), but I stand with him.

They don't come within a parsec of how he is being characterized by the loony left.

Conservative leaders, both in gov't as well as the media, need to know that they'll have the full backing of the rank-and-file when they go out to battle the often vicious libs and their sidekicks in the media.

I stand ready to fight.

I stand behind Ben.

I’ll say it again: What a bunch of dorks.  Are these guys in seventh grade, or what?  And for all their toughguy 1950’s cowboy talk of standing by Ben, what the hell does that even mean?  Are they going to take his side in an actual fight?  Are they even risking anything by defending him?  No.  They’re just going to support him with propaganda while ignoring the truth of his disgrace.  Because that’s all these guys ever do. They talk a tough game, but that’s all it is: a game.  And long after all this is over, they’ll remember themselves as having come down on the right side, no matter what happens.

And the worst is Erick, the guy who started that thread.  I mean, come fucking on, the proof of plagiarism is already too evident to ignore.  And while I still don’t know all the details, that won’t stop me from speculating that the excuses given so far are complete crap.  They’re trying to tell us that this is something that he did in his “teen years”, but he’s only fucking 24 years old.  Let’s not act as if these are decade’s old allegations.  It happened while he was in college, and probably afterwards.  But Erick and the rest of them don’t give a damn about the truth.  They don’t want the allegations to be true, so they’re not true.  And they justify this attitude with absurd statements such as “And now those opposed to Ben have googled prior writings that on the surface appear suspicious, but only because permissions obtained and judgments made offline were not reflected online by an out dated and out of business campus newspaper.”

That’s right.  These aren’t facts.  They’re just the work of those opposed to Ben.  And these aren’t really suspicious actions.  It’s just that the permissions obtained and judgments made offline were not reflected online.  Of course.  Sure, it looks like plagiarism because Ben didn’t use quotes or in any way indicate that he was quoting something.  Nor does the context even suggest that he was trying to quote anyone.  But it must be that way.  Because they defend Ben.  And that means that there must be a good explanation for all this.  Because Ben’s a good guy, and his critics are bad guys.  So he must be right and they must be wrong.  It’s that simple.

And that’s just the way these people work.  There are no facts.  There are just opinions about rightness and wrongness which dictate what the important facts are.  They have their expected outcome and they will make the facts fit that outcome.  They like Ben, so he must be innocent.  They want him to succeed, so all the details against him are to be ignored.  

And they even have tried to appeal to blogger-sympathy, by suggesting that lib bloggers should support him because it helps all bloggers.  But can you really imagine that they’d say that if things were reversed?  They already demonize Froomkin for being a wacko liberal; imagine how they’d act if a real fire-breathing liberal blogger got the new blog spot.  Particularly if they found out that the lib was a unqualified plagiarizing hack who’s worked for the Democrats.  Are we really to believe that the Red Staters would gladly back such a person?

Of course not.  But that’s all just part of the propagandic bullshit that these people spew out on a regular basis.  And they don’t even know that they’re doing it.  They honestly believe that they’re just being fair-minded.  But again, what they’re asking of us is to ignore the truth.  To ignore facts.  To wash-over any wrong-doing that Ben might have done, or anything stupid he might have said; simply for the sake of pro-blogger propaganda.  But hell, I wouldn’t even go that far.  Because Ben isn’t some typical blogger guy who got lucky.  He’s part of the GOP machine.  He’s a bought hack.

But even if he wasn’t, I still can’t ignore the truth, even if it does help me.  That’s the game that they play.  These 7th-grade dorks who seem to have gotten their moral code from watching too many episodes of Branded.  Or perhaps it really was the propaganda-flick Red Dawn that molded them in their formative years.  Whatever it was, they know what they need to do, and that’s just to put the propaganda machine into overdrive and support their troops…er, I mean, their blogger-friend who was probably never honest with them regarding his ties to the GOP.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Freedom of Intolerance

From the AP:
An Afghan man facing a possible death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity may be mentally unfit to stand trial, a state prosecutor said Wednesday. Abdul Rahman, 41, has been charged with rejecting Islam, a crime under this country's Islamic laws. His trial started last week and he confessed to becoming a Christian 16 years ago. If convicted, he could be executed.

Afghanistan's constitution is based on Shariah law, which is interpreted by many Muslims to require that any Muslim who rejects Islam be sentenced to death. The state-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has called for Rahman to be punished, arguing he clearly violated Islamic law.

The case has received widespread attention in Afghanistan where many people are demanding Rahman be severely punished.

"For 30 years, we have fought religious wars in this country and there is no way we are going to allow an Afghan to insult us by becoming Christian," said Mohammed Jan, 38, who lives opposite Rahman's father, Abdul Manan, in Kabul. "This has brought so much shame."

Ok, I guess I’ve never been big on the whole international news thing, and really only focus on it in terms of how things relate to domestic news and, even then, only in how they relate to politics; but how long has this Shariah law thing been in effect?  Afghanistan set-up a constitution that institutes the death penalty for Muslim Christian converts???  Holy shit! For all Bush’s talk of Peeance Freeance, this is news to me.  I imagine that this is probably news to a lot of Bush’s evangelical supporters who probably imagined that this invasion of Muslim countries would at least open them up to Christian missionary work.  And what the hell is wrong with Democrats that the religious right hasn’t already been frothing about this since it became law?

And hell, when I first saw the headline, I had at least assumed that this was some recent conversion in Afghanistan.  But according to the story, he converted in Pakistan sixteen years ago, moved to Germany for nine fucking years, and only moved back to Afghanistan after we invaded the country.  You know, when we helped kick-out fanatical religious intolerance.  He was arrested when police found his bible during a child custody dispute.  They say they’ll save his life if he converts back to Islam, but he won’t do it.  Again, this really kind of puts a crimp on the whole missionary thing, doesn’t it?

And let’s not forget that his best defense is supposedly an insanity plea.  Which, under the circumstances, is not entirely unwarranted.  I mean, I guess I’ve never been big on the whole religion thing, so I guess I don’t really understand; but isn’t it a tad bit insane to not just lie about the whole religious conversion thing and then leave the country?  By modern standards, isn’t this crazy stuff?  

But let’s not forget that this insanity thing is probably the best bet for saving the Bush Admin, which apparently issued a “subdued appeal” to allow Rahman to practice his faith.  But they’re really in a sticky place that they somehow failed to imagine back when the neo-cons were still smoking those democracy-flavored crackpipes.  I mean, what if the Muslims want to squander their freedom by not doing exactly what we want them to?  Then what?  Was it that they were so stupid that they imagined that democracy could only bring exactly what we want?  Or were they foolish enough to believe that they could always pick the Muslim leadership and influence their politics?  Whatever it was, it was dumb.  And hell, I wasn’t even against the Afghan invasion, but I really don’t see how the evangelical Christians are going to sit well with this one.  Bush’s only hope is either the weak insanity plea or that more people don’t hear about this.  And while I fully support that first option, Dems would be fools to allow the second.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Trusting Dopes

More than anything, recent Bush-bashing arguments made by Andrew Sullivan and Peggy Noonan, along with many other conservatives who are dumping Bush now that he’s unpopular, are just evidence of why we shouldn’t blindly trust the president.  Not just this president, but any president.  As I’ve said many times before, the best way to get someone to act honestly is to treat them as if they’ll be dishonest; and the best way to get screwed-over is to trust them.  And these people are all testifying to that fact.  Bush could only do these things because folks like Sully and Noonan trusted them.  And remember, of course, that they saw us as disloyal because we didn’t trust Bush.

And in a way, they really screwed Bush over.  By trusting in him, they gave him the rope that he could use to hang himself…and the rest of the country.  Because all he saw was a free-lunch.  He could say and do anything, and these dopes would go right along with it and serve as loyal attack dogs against anyone who disagreed.  And that was the first screwing over, because he never learned to see that there were consequences to his actions.   Sure, it’s most likely that that’s how his whole life was; but he might have learned a lesson against that, had these people not trusted him earlier.  Had they demanded to know his specific plans for Iraq and acted skeptically about them, they would have realized that there were no real plans; only fantasies.  And it’s unlikely that we would ever have gone to war; and Bush would have saved himself from the ruin he now faces.

And now they’re giving him the second part of that screwing, by abandoning him now that everything’s gone to shit.  Their trust wasn’t nearly as infinite as they had led him to believe, and probably only lasted as long as Bush remained popular.  Even a few dips in popularity could be dismissed.  But now that it’s obvious that Bush is in downward spiral with no plan of getting out, they’re running away as quickly as they can, leaving him holding the bill that they helped ring-up.

But again, the main point of this isn’t that Bush betrayed them or their principles, as they’d like to believe.  The main point is that their entire way of doing things was wrong.  And the wrongest, was in trusting in Bush.  But again, it’s not just him.  It’s stupid to blindly trust anyone.  As I recently criticized from Sully, they used the stupid “trust, but verify” idea, and it didn’t work.  Because that’s no way of doing things.  You can’t just wait until after you’ve been screwed over to verify whether you’ve been screwed over; because then, it’s too late.  You’re already screwed!

Sure, sometimes trust is necessary.  But in matters of Iraq, anti-terrorism, deficits, etc.; trust wasn’t necessary.  Not if Bush was being honest.  Trust was only required because he was lying and taking a gamble with our future.  He didn’t tell us the truth because he couldn’t; not if he wanted to go ahead with his plans.  And trust was the only way he could do it.  But it’s not his fault, necessarily.  If you trust your dog and leave a juicy steak on the counter, it’s not the dog’s fault for eating it; it’s yours.  And these people proudly left all of our steaks on the counter while scolding us for not having more steaks to give.

And beyond that, they didn’t verify jackshit either.  The evidence continued to mount that Bush couldn’t be trusted, but they kept doing so anyway.  And that just kept telling Bush that he could do whatever he wanted with impunity.  He could hire political hacks instead of competent administrators.  He could run huge deficits and scoff at the worry-warts worrying about them.  He could enact policies which went exactly against his rhetoric, and speechify about things he was planning to ignore.  And all because these dopes trusted in him.

But again, this isn’t to vilify Bush, who needs no vilifying.  Or even to denounce the idiot conservatives like Noonan and Sully who will blindly believe anything they want to; whether that it’s that they should trust Bush or blame Bush, it’s whatever they need it to be.  Because they’ve constantly got their eye on the prize and only occasionally check to see if reality is corresponding with what they think they’re seeing.  No, it’s pretty much hopeless with these people.  But our only hope is that people start to see these people for the nonsense dummies that they really are; and stop taking them seriously.  They cannot be trusted to reason properly and if anyone places their trust in these trusting dopes, they deserve everything they’ve got coming to them.  Unfortunately, all of those things are lofted upon us too, including the blame.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dealing with the Genie

I'm with Atrios in thinking that, whether or not Feingold's censure talk was a good idea, once he started talking, the Dems needed to deal with it. But not just with this one bill either. It doesn't matter what the topic is. Once the genie is out of the bottle, you gotta deal with that genie. But it seems too often in these kinds of things that if faced with an off-topic or an unpleasant speech or whatever thing, Dems just want to talk about how they wish it had never happened; rather than taking a smart course of action. They did that several times when Howard Dean has said strong things that they wish he hadn't said. And I don't know, I can't really think of other good examples, but I know they're out there.

And this is also similar to the phenomenon in which Dems who see themselves as outsiders (ie, those who think we need to embrace the evangelicals, as well as those who think we need to show how "strong" Democrats can be), and how they'll always talk about what Dems need to do and how they need to position themselves; but seem incapable of actually doing it. They’ll write endless columns bitching about weak or godless Dems, but don’t bother as much writing about their plans and how they’re God-filled Dems or whatever; other than as a way to bitch about how the rest of the Dems don’t follow their lead.  And so the net result is that they weaken the Dems by loudly complaining about how someone else is weakening the Dems.And that's what's happening with the Feingold thing. Sure, maybe he should have coordinated this. And maybe he shouldn't have done it at all. I still don't see the problem, but I don't see how whining about Feingold will help anything. Sure, this is sort of the equivalent of a rogue running-back grabbing the ball and changing the play in mid-stream. But once that play has changed, the dumbest thing the team can do is to stop playing and bitch about the rogue running-back. And the smart thing is to understand that the play has changed and to make your own changes accordingly. That's not to say that you have to follow his lead, but to mindlessly undermine him doesn't help at all.And to me, the best way to deal with this situation would have been to say something along the lines that this isn't a coordinated thing, but that they are forced to admit agreement with Feingold's measure. That while they wouldn't have done this themselves, they've seen how dangerous Bush is and that they can't help but support the measure; even if it won't go anywhere.  Not only does it make Dems look like they’re unified, but if properly done, it would put the ball back onto Bush’s incompetence, deception, and how he’s imperiling our democracy.  And that can only be good.

And that's exactly how it is with me, and probably many others. If asked beforehand, I would not have recommended censure. But once it was out there, I certainly agree with the idea and stand behind Feingold. And that's exactly how it's supposed to be done. Unless they really are "siding with the terrorists" or demanding we all commit treason (or something similar); I think it's a mistake to attack folks on our team who might be a little more zealous than us. I have no problem with attacking the Lieberman-Zell types who attack and undermine Dems, as there’s nothing wrong with returning fire. But Feingold's a good Senator and he deserved our support, even if we wouldn't have made this move. To do otherwise in this case would only serve to undermine the party more than anything Feingold did.For the record, I should state that I personally don’t agree with censure, but that just might be because I have no earthly idea exactly what censure means, and that I'm afraid that it might get Bush off the hook somehow. Like that it's a slap on the wrist for something that should eventually lead to a slap of the handcuffs. But maybe it doesn't work like that, so I don't know.  But again, the point isn’t what I’d do had Feingold not brought-up censure; because he already did.  The point is to take the proper course of action knowing that he did it.  And the proper course is to stand behind him.  Hell, even if a Dem doesn’t support censure and won’t vote for it, they should still stand behind what Feingold did and admire his bold actions.  That’s how this is supposed to be done.  And complaining about how someone went rogue and changed the play only serves to help the Republicans.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Random Stuff

As a warning, I’m up to my neck in tax returns and won’t be posting too much. But fear not, I should have much of this cleared up by next week. In the meantime, if you’re jonesing for some fresh Biobrain action, just read Digby’s blog and add a “ditto” at the end of each post.

As another warning, I’m planning some major changes to the blog, including a Biobrain Blogroll Contest. I’ll explain more later. One housekeeping question, are y’all ok with the standard template of this blog? It’s one of those generic Blogger layouts and I’m always alittle embarrassed when I see someone else using the same one. So are you people accustomed to this blog layout, or should I think about individualizing it slightly? And to those RSS people out there, do you guys even see my blog layout, or does it feed into a standard format? I still haven’t quite figured out exactly what RSS is, so I’m not sure how to investigate this for myself. And if anyone has any suggestions for blog features, I’ll look into it. I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but I’m serious this time.

Oh, and to give you something fresh, I’ll just quote my favorite pro-war media quote from this list by FAIR:
"We're all neo-cons now." (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)

Indeed. But then again, this one’s pretty damn good too:
"The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war." (Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03)

Or maybe it’s the exact opposite.

Oh hell, they’re all good. Here’s another favorite:
"What's he going to talk about a year from now, the fact that the war went too well and it's over? I mean, don't these things sort of lose their--Isn't there a fresh date on some of these debate points?" (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, speaking about Howard Dean--4/9/03)

Yeah, poor Howard Dean. What will he talk about?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hutz v. Mason: Silencing Justice

Have you ever wondered why the people who believe that everyone in prison deserves what they got, are often the same people who assume that most lawsuits are frivolous, most jury awards extravagant, and most juries filled with incompetents?  Me too.  I mean, why is it that juries in criminal trials are essentially infallible, and that we should almost always feel overjoyed that we’ve destroyed some dude’s life or even removed it completely; based entirely on a jury’s opinion (as well as an appeals process which is too often nothing more than a rubberstamp)?  And yet in a civil trial, all this changes and the infallible jury becomes a worthless joke, incapable of even finding their own butts in a line-up.  

So the people who insist that all prisoners deserve more jailtime and all the executed deserve a harsher death, are so wary of civil juries that they want to completely rewrite the laws, in order to stop them from giving out big “awards”; even in cases where it may have been entirely warranted.  And let’s not forget about Grand Juries.  They’ll mock the entire Grand Jury system (wingnut alert) when it indicts an important Republican; but consider almost everyone else guilty as charged.

Am I just stupid, or is this entirely backwards?  We’ve got guys about to give up their lives, with only a disinterested public defender standing in the way of a railroaded trial.  Or where even the paid-for lawyers are more Lionel Hutz than Perry Mason.  And is this the case with the poor corporations losing the civil suits?  Hell, no. They’ve got a whole team of lawyers, each one of whose Rolex is worth more than that public defender might make in a year.  And research staffs, buttloads of Habeas Corpus, and all kinds of legally stuff that can knock your socks off.  And yet the “tort reformers” think the ultra-rich companies need the extra benefit of altered laws, while they tear their hair out each time DNA exonerates someone who was wrongly convicted?  Are they shitting us or what?

And of course it’s they who are being shitted.  Because lawsuits aren’t the big money drain that the “tort reformers” believe it is.  Here we see that malpractice awards cost us a measly $16 per capita in 2001.  And here’s an excellent article from Washington Monthly which directly addresses the anti-lawsuit skewing the media actively engages in, as well as a follow-up debunking of a letter from Newsweek legal writer Stuart Taylor who had been utterly savaged in the original piece.  For example, it cites a Harvard Medical Practice Study which showed that, “for every doctor or hospital charged with an invalid claim, there were grounds for at least seven other meritorious suits that were never filed.”

But who of our conservative “tort reformers” know any of this?  I’d guess not a whole heck of a lot.  They read all these invented horror stories about people ripping off businesses for their own incompetent actions, which they accept unquestionably because it confirms their worldview of lazy good-for-nothings bilking the system (and possibly because they themselves would someday like to benefit from the “courtroom lottery” that they imagine occurs daily).  And then there are some valid lawsuits, such as the McDonald’s coffee incident, which are widely seen as frivolous by those too lazy to research the facts.  (Personal Disclosure: I once spilled hot chocolate on myself when I was eight, because the mug burned my fingers and I dropped it on my lap; and I spent three weeks in the hospital.  It was very hot chocolate and it really really hurt.  I still have a scar on my leg.  So I’m a little biased regarding hot drink spillages.)

The Bathwater Out with the Baby

But these people are just being used.  Because businesses don’t just want to protect against frivolous lawsuits.  They don’t like the legitimate kind either.  In fact, I have no doubts that they hate legitimate lawsuits far more than the frivolous ones.  And that’s what this is all about: protecting Big Business.  This isn’t about “personal responsibility” and “fairness”, this is about money.  And while conservatives often rant about “personal responsibility” they most surely don’t give a damn about corporate responsibility.  And whether the issue is product negligence or toxic waste in our rivers; too many conservative saps have been convinced that a corporate charter is grounds for omnipotence.

And the thing is, who isn’t against frivolous lawsuits?  Excepting the people who actively engage in them, they don’t benefit anyone.  And I personally hate them.  Not just because it’s consumers who ultimately pay for these lawsuits, or because they’re unfair; but because they clog-up our court system and damage our ability to use legal remedies properly.  Because society requires legal remedies to bad situations.  Sometimes, two people acting in good faith can have a serious disagreement that can only be decided by an impartial judge.  And if people don’t have faith in our judicial system, they’ll be more likely to use some other system for justice.  

So the answer isn’t a wholesale attack against lawsuits, as many of the same laws which might protect against frivolous lawsuits would also serve to protect against valid lawsuits.  And that’s certainly one of the purposes of these “tort reforms”; to lessen the impact of all lawsuits, good and bad.  And sure, some lawsuits are probably frivolous; but without a doubt, others are not.  And the big question isn’t what we can do to stop frivolous lawsuits, but what we can do to stop frivolous lawsuits without damaging the real ones.  

And too often, these things can’t be done until after they reach the courtroom; and things that look frivolous or obvious outside the courtroom often look a lot different to the courtroom insiders who know all the facts; particularly if the outsiders are fed a particular storyline from a favored talkshow host.  The truth is that these “idiot juries” are often far more knowledgeable than those who actively denounce them and seek to limit their ability to deliver justice; and often, the evidence that they’re not allowed to hear is the evidence that isn’t legally admissible.  And that’s just how a justice system should work.

Impugned Motives

And there can be no doubt that these people fail to grasp the point of punitive damages; as if the $10,000 fine that would deter you from acting in bad faith would equally deter McDonald’s or Exxon; especially regarding wrongful activities that generate hundreds or thousands of times more than the fine they’d be levied with.  And while they attack the reimbursement of medical expenses or lost wages, they absolutely hate punitive damages.  That’s the real “lottery” aspect to them.  But again, when a corporation acts in a knowingly dangerous fashion and it results in the direct death of a child; what are the actual damages inflicted?  Do they really think that a company should be left unscathed as long as the victim is killed instantly?  Of course not.  The problem is that they’ve been led to believe that most lawsuits aren’t legitimate anyway; and can’t even discuss this topic without being overwhelmed by hatred towards frivolous lawsuits.  That’s not to suggest that I completely agree with the punitive system which makes the victim a beneficiary of the punishment; but the “tort reformers” complaint isn’t really regarding where the money goes, but rather that the money was paid at all.  Because again, this isn’t about fairness or justice; it’s about money.

And we can have no doubt that each and every “tort reformer” will most gladly use the civil court system if they were seriously wronged, and even when the wrong isn’t so serious.  Here’s an excellent post from Wampum regarding rightwing politicians who were more than happy to use our civil court system in ways that reformers openly detest (for example, GW suing Enterprise-Rentacar for renting a car to someone who had no license and hit one of the twins; and getting a $2500 settlement from Enterprise).  That’s not to impugn them with bad or greedy motives, necessarily.  It’s to say that there is a reason why the court system exists, that even “tort reformers” will agree with, if they ever need to use it.  

And let’s not forget that there is another angle to the rightwing witchhunt against lawsuits: Trial lawyers can make a lot of money, which they often give to Democratic candidates or even to run for office themselves.  And so while Republicans have a second-hand interest in this to protect their campaign investors; they also have a first-hand interest in stopping the dreaded trial lawyers from receiving the big bucks that they send towards the Dems.   But that’s partly a necessary outcome because the GOP has taken such a strong interest in advocating to protect businesses against liability for their actions.  While trial lawyers are surely acting in their own self-interest, this also serves to protect our ability to deal on relatively equal terms with big business; and that’s just another part of the equation that Republicans are trying to stop.

So when we take all this into perspective, it’s obvious that the conservative’s big target isn’t frivolous lawsuits which have no real chance of winning; but against juries who decide that a case isn’t frivolous and punish businesses who they deem to be deserving of punishment.  They will often cite the frivolous suits, but the real target is the jury system itself.  And while conservatives trust juries to destroy people’s lives, they’re firmly against juries which can justly punish corporations for their bad acts.  And if we took this out of the jury’s hands, they would next target the judges or anyone else they couldn’t control.  Because this isn’t about protecting against frivolous lawsuits or wrongful claims or idiot juries; this is about silencing the ability of the little guys to combat the big guys.  This is an assault on justice itself.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Drunken Movie Review

I’m drunk.  And I don’t mean regular drunk.  I mean druuunk.  I had five tasty restaurant margaritas, seven or eight Tecates, and I’m currently working on a pretty mean orange juice gin combination that’s probably quite a bit stronger than it has any right to be.  Needless to say, I’ll be sleeping good tonight.  

And so I thought I’d share with you a movie review I just wrote for the less than spectacular movie, Melinda & Melinda:

The acting. Don't get me started on the acting. Each line is delivered as if it's been said one hundred thousand times, and as if each actor has no hope that they can avoid the one hundred and first time.  There are two actors in the movie who are almost acceptable. I don't contain any spoilers so I can't tell you which two they are; but needless to say, one is a pregnant white woman and the other is not.The cinemantogorphy is well done, as is the overall mood. It's a professionally-made film by somebody who knows how to make films. But the plot is ridiculous. The tragedy is funnier than the comedy and the comedy is just lame. The whole time, I kept waiting for the characters to be assassinated by an assassin's bullet. But it didn't happen. It kept going on until the end, and the end took too long to get to.  I couldn't stop laughing at the parts that I wasn't supposed to laugh at, and I couldn't start laughing at the parts I should have.Will Ferrell was horrible. I like Will Ferrell. He was horrible in this. He acted like a six year old the entire time. His character should not have been a six year old, but that is exactly how he acted. He should have been played by Woody Allen, but he was not. Woody Allen was too old to play this character, and yet he should have played it anyway. Woody Allen would have made this movie funnier, had he been in it. As it was, he wasn't in it and it wasn't as funny. I do not recommend this picture.

Anyway, that’s my drunken movie review of Melinda & Melinda.  I don’t recommend that you see it.  I don’t recommend it at all.  It had a few funny bits, but not enough funny bits to make it worth mentioning.  If you’re thinking about watching a Woody Allen movie, this is not the one that I recommend that you see.  Deconstructing Harry is good.  Take the Money and Run is always good.  Even Fog and Shadows has more working for it, and that had Madonna.  But Melinda & Melinda?  Nope.  Don’t bother.  I could make a better movie out of a used hanky and some tin foil.  I could make a better movie out of deleted Matt Damon scenes and a retired hooker.  I could make a better movie out of anything.  This is not a better movie.  This is to be avoided.  And I should know, as I’m really drunk.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

McCain's Straight-Shooting Ricochet

Regarding McCain, I’m with Atrios on this one:
The authoritarian cultists are looking around for a new cult leader and they're a bit tired of the last one. We've reached the end of the days of Republicanism=Bushism, and people are now desperate to redefine it. McCain's neither impressing Republican primary voters nor burnishing his maverick credentials. Sad pandering politician near the end of his career and he doesn't even know it.

McCain’s big mistake occurred during the 2000 election when he decided to drop-out and embrace Bush.  That was the beginning of his sell-out streak.  He had made a reputation by opposing Bush when no one was supposed to oppose him and earned a label as a straight-shooting maverick by his media admirers.  And it’s only been the media’s love of favored stories that has allowed him to continue relishing in the straight-shooting maverick reputation that he entirely cast-off after he embraced Bush.  And the very fact that he made such a lousy political calculation only proved that he never deserved that reputation in the first place.  

Even if Bush had remained popular throughout his presidency and had been allowed to name his successor, it could not have been McCain.  Perhaps Rove smooth-talked McCain into having such thoughts, but the Bush Way has always relied on double-dealing, treachery, and strong-arm tactics to ensure wide agreement.  And those things are the exact opposite of the techniques needed to be a straight-shooting maverick, even if that itself was just a cheap façade.  Sure, Bush himself has always had a similar such reputation, but I suspect that the media always regarded that as a polite fiction; and saw McCain as being the Real Deal.  But by embracing Bush and Bush’s style of victory, McCain has completely discarded that façade.  While the media has remained enamored with the fictional McCain they created, the Republican base will not embrace him as the Next Bush; even assuming they wanted another Bush…which they apparently do not.  

Had McCain remained the maverick outsider striving to keep the Bushies honest (a sort of politically savvy Ralph Nader), McCain might be just the guy that Republicans might choose in the post-Bush era.  But by deciding to take the fast-track in Bush’s shadow, McCain will likely remain there.  That’s not to suggest that the next Republican presidential nominee won’t be a Bushie or a maverick.  It’s just that McCain’s straight-shooting sell-out routine just isn’t going to work; not in a Republican primary, anyway.  He’s trying to straddle two horses at once and is just going to find himself left behind in the dust.  Or to take another cowboy analogy, it looks like the straight-shooter just shot himself in the foot.

Martian Fantasies

As a follow-up to my previous post, Screwing the Poor in Matrimony, I wanted to further discuss the idea of Mars colonization; which I had so clearly mocked.  For the record, I support the idea of space exploration and the eventual colonization of Mars and beyond.  But we’re not anywhere even close to such a thing.  In his article on The Mars Society, John Tierney compares this with the exploration and colonization of the Americas.  But there is no comparison, because we’re not even close to that stage.  The only thing stopping people in Columbus’ time was ignorance.  But they certainly had the capability to travel around the world.  They just didn’t think it was such a good idea.  And when you consider that it took almost 130 years between the discovery of America (1492) and the eventual colonization by the British in Plymouth (1620); it still didn’t seem like such an obvious idea.  

But we’re nowhere even close to such a thing.  Right now, it’s still expensive and risky just to send people into our own orbit.  Our ocean equivalent isn’t the huge ocean-worthy ships of Columbus, but the tiny fishing boats that were in danger of sinking if they lost sight of land.  And sure, it’s likely that people did travel all the way to America in ships that should not have gone there; just as we made a few trips to the moon.  But you couldn’t start a colony with such things.  Hell, I don’t even see us as having the spaceship equivalent of what the ancient Greeks used.  They didn’t have to worry every damn time they launched a trading ship; canceling each time things didn’t look quite right.  And yet for us, even launches of unmanned probes and satellites require excessive expense, worry, and risk.  We’re making the most of it, but we’re still at the early experimental stage; the equivalent of when man had first discovered that you could tie logs together and float on water.

I’m sure that someday we’ll have mastered space-travel enough that even trips to deep space will be considered routine and boring.  But that’s unlikely to happen in our lifetimes, or the lifetimes of our children.  It took thousands of years before man’s shipbuilding capability was good enough to colonize the world.  And while our advanced science will surely cut down that leadtime, it’s still far enough off in our future that the futility of crafting a legal system for the Mars colony is a tad premature, to say the least.  

Our ships are too slow and dangerous and we haven’t a clue as to how to actually transport people over such a long distance.  We had a big headache just getting a handful of our best trained men to the Moon for a few weeks, and Mars is at least 150x further away and poses far more dangers for even a short trip there.  And yet here we have Tierney all ready to pack his bags and start humping those multiple Martian wives of his.  But again, I’m certainly not against the idea of sending him there, even if the practicalness of it still hasn’t been entirely established.  Just as long as the time delay dissuades him from continuing to get that pap of his published.

And to burst his libertarian bubble, I have absolutely no faith in the idea that libertarianism will be possible on Mars.  It can’t happen.  Not in a world with such hazards, complications, and expenses.  A Mars colony will require an even stronger government to control things, and will be dependent on earth governments for a long long time…earth governments that will want much oversight over where their money is going.  

I could see such things as polygamy being used for population growth, but even that would be highly regulated.  And things like building codes and environmental regulation would be, by necessity, strictly enforced with a fanatical adherence.  A Mars colony will most certainly be governed with the equivalent of martial law, with personal liberty being an often unaffordable luxery; and will require heavy taxation.  That Mars could be governed with a libertarian mindset is strictly fantasy.  Even the American colonies required strict rule, and they didn’t nearly have the complications of being millions of miles away on a hostile planet.  Of course, the idea that the libertarian “free-for-all” laws will ever work in reality is the biggest fantasy of all.

Screwing the Poor in Matrimony

Via Atrios, we learn of NY Times “libertarian” doofus John Tierney’s hard-on for polygamy.  As he explains, it’s "an arrangement that can make sense for some people in some institution that has been around for so long must have had something going for it."  And that’s the standard I generally use for things too: If it’s been around long enough, it must be good.  That’s why I support slavery, prostitution, and murder (no moral equivalence intended).

Tierney defends polygamy by saying that: "Some opponents of polygamy call it the exploitation of women by rich men, and that's true if the wives are coerced into the marriages. But many wives have willingly chosen it."

Excellent, so John’s going to explain to us how this is all about love, right?  And how even poor men can attract multiple women to marry them, because of physical attraction and all those other things that attract women, right?  That this isn’t just an economic situation that women are trapped into, and that perhaps they’d prefer to be in a monogamous marriage, had that been a viable option.  This is about a true choice.  Right?  Let’s see.

He then cites as authorities women in African he once interviewed. They told him, "it was better to share one prosperous husband than to marry someone else without land, cows or a job." He claims, "That's the way social scientists figure it, too."

Or maybe not.  This sounds like a system whereby some men are so rich that they can easily afford many wives, and other men are so poor that they can’t even afford one.  And that women “choose” to be in a polygamous marriage because of the economic situation, and that rich men exploit the vast differences in wealth in order to claim many wives for themselves.  And Tierney seems happy with this situation.  Perhaps he’s saving up his NY Times paychecks and eventually plans to establish an African harem of his own.

But Tierney’s poly-wife fantasies aren’t limited to dirt poor Africans.  Heck no.  He also has his sights set on tired and stressed-out white women in Utah.  Here he quotes one such Utahan who apparently gave a speech to the National Organization for Women suggesting that polygamy was “the ultimate feminist lifestyle”.  As she explains: "If I'm dog-tired and stressed out, I can be alone and guilt-free.  It's a rare day when all eight of my husband's wives are tired and stressed at the same time."

Uhm, I guess it hasn’t occurred to her that her husband could possibly watch the little brats while she takes some time off?  Or perhaps the use of an actual daycare?  Or that she might not be so tired or stressed-out if she didn’t have to deal with the kids of seven other wives every day?  Because this only sounds like the “real chance to have it all” assuming that she had no idea of what “it all” is.  As if she thinks the only choices in life are whether she watches her kids all the time, or whether she can have a break from it, while also having to watch the kids of seven other women.  Then again, this might be the closest approximation to having “it all” that Utah life can provide (no offense to any Utahan readers out there).

Overall, both situations that Tierney cites as evidence that polygamy is a good choice for women are situations in which the women seemed to have little concept of what the real choices were.  But I guess guys like Tierney like it that way.  After all, what is libertarianism, but an excuse to justify the ability of the powerful to exploit the powerless and ignorant?  Which is all fine and dandy, unless you’re one of the powerless and ignorant folk.  I wonder if he’s tried this argument on Mrs. Tierney.

To Mars, Bitches!

Because lest we think that this simply represents Tierney’s jerk-off fantasies (which I’m sure it does), I once again broke blogger rules and did a little research (my apologies) and discovered that the most likely explanation for John’s support is that he’s a “libertarian”.  Which, translated for us realty-based people, means that he’s a contrarian.  Fortunately, my research didn’t require reading too much of Tierney’s absurdities, as I quickly discovered this interview of him in Reason magazine (The Magazine for Contrarians), and his contrarian ways were obvious from the start.  The funniest part is when he is asked if he is a contrarian (he had just referred to himself as a “debunker”, which both I and the interviewer quickly interpreted as a polite euphemism for “contrarian”).  To which he responds, “I don't want to be just a contrarian, because that's predictable.”  Which is a standard line for contrarians, who must deny that they’re knee-jerk contrarians.  After all, contrarians must be contrarian to the end.

Even funnier, is that he then immediately changed the subject and goes on to complain that libertarianism is too negative (showing that he’s contrarian even against his fellow contrarians).  His solution for that?  To support libertarian groups like “The Mars Society”, which he wrote about in 1999 in Reason magazine; and serves as proof that not only are libertarians contrarian, but they also live in a fantasy world.  This is a project where they pretend that private groups will someday soon colonize Mars and create it into a libertarian paradise.  And in case you were wondering: Yes, he does expect the government to help subsidize this private endeavor, and complains of NASA’s monopoly of government space-funds; thus once again proving that small-government libertarians are only libertarian as far as they oppose other people benefiting from government actions.  But they clearly don’t see how that applies to their pet projects and benefits.  We can only hope that someday they realize that that’s how everyone feels, which is why government spending is so high.

And so they’re busy creating laws for this fictitious colony and pretending as if any of this is within the realm reality.  As he explains: “If colonizing the Red Planet ever becomes a practical possibility, we should be ready to get there before anyone else starts writing the rules. And even if colonization never becomes practical, even if Mars never becomes a free new world, just imagining it is good for the libertarian soul.”  

And so Tierney’s idea of a positive libertarian agenda is to fantasize about he and his fellow libertarians leaving our planet and actually trying to create the world they keep talking about here.  Which, to be honest, is one of my fantasies too, though I wouldn’t mind sending them there even before it was a practical possibility.  And can there be any doubts as to what Mars’ marriage policy would be?  I mean, after all, Mars’ population growth sure could benefit by a woman-man marriage ratio of 8:1, and it sure would be a shame to let Tierney’s bulk purchase of Viagra go to waste.

(See the next post, Martian Fantasies, for a further discussion of Mars colonization)

Friday, March 10, 2006

I Want to be Sully's Money Manager

And another thing about Sullivan, he’s an admitted fool:
Maybe I should have appreciated that the Bush administration's "mendacity was obvious from the beginning." We can't all be as clairvoyant as Krugman. But I gave them a chance. When America was attacked, I rallied behind them and hoped for the best. If a similar thing happened again, regardless of who was president, Democrat or Republican, I hope I would do exactly the same. My principle was "trust but verify." Maybe I was wrong to trust. But no one can fairly accuse me of not verifying.

So he’s just telling us that he’s going to be a fool again, and he’s proud of it.  But why in god’s name does Sully need to trust the president during national crisis?  Why was Sully’s trust needed to fight terrorists?  Because trust shouldn’t have been required for the Iraq invasion, had the Bush Admin been honest about everything.  It was only required because Bush was lying to us and couldn’t have invaded without getting our trust.  It was a total con-job; by the very meaning of the word.  Because they only pretended as if they had solid proof of their claims.  That’s why Sully needed to trust them.  But it was just a bluff.  If they had solid proof, there was no reason to hide it from us.  Once again, Republicans used the guise of National Security to cloak their actions.  But they never did give any good arguments for why it was necessary.  The truth was that the Bush Admin was taking a huge gamble with America’s foreign policy and they lost bigtime.  And while we all know that now, there was no logical reason why we should have assumed it was different in 2002 and 2003.  The only difference between then and now is that we now know that Bush was bluffing, and could only presume it then.  And yet Sullivan is telling us that he’s going to keep doing this again.  

And exactly how long does this trust last?  Sure, Bush has apparently burned Sullivan’s trust.  But what about the next president?  In 2008, we are likely to still be facing the same guys that attacked us last time.  We’re still going to be facing the same terrorism crisis that we faced in 2001.  So will the new president start-off with Sully’s childlike trust and will he attack the new president’s critics as severely as he attacked Bush’s (and as he’s still attacking Krugman and other liberals who were proven correct)?  Or do we have to wait for another attack on American soil before Sullivan decides to turn his brain off again?  After all, when Bush took office two months after the Cole Bombing, we apparently wiped the terrorism slate clean and entered a period now dubbed “Pre-9/11”; in which terrorism wasn’t very important at all (except that Clinton is still blamed for not catching the Cole bombers).  So maybe it really does work like that, and when a new president takes office, all the problems the previous president faced are wiped clean.

One last thing: I think that “Trust, but verify” is an idiotic saying.  As I’ve said before, the best way to get people to be honest is to assume they’ll be dishonest.  And the best way to get ripped-off is to trust people.  I’m not saying we need to browbeat people and accuse them of theft.  But as an accountant who’s been trained in the ways of auditing, as well as having worked on a few audits, I can tell you that I don’t trust jackshit.  Everybody’s double-checked, every process has a back-up, everybody needs to be watched over.  Heck, they train us in stuff like making sure that bookkeepers take regular vacations and on the minimum number of employees necessary to run an accounting department to ensure proper separation of duties; and that I could lose my CPA license for not doing this properly.  And yet I’m supposed to trust someone when they tell me that they have lots of secret evidence that they can’t show me regarding one of the biggest events in modern history?  I’m supposed to wait until after they’ve screwed everything up before I verify to see if it worked?  Right.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an optimistic kind of guy who generally thinks good things about my fellow man; but it’s just human nature that if someone is given the opportunity to scam someone else, the temptation might prove too strong to resist.  And the head of a large organization is not somebody to be automatically trusted; especially when that man’s overseers are expected to be completely loyal to him.  That’s how Enron and Worldcom and many other companies went corrupt, and that’s exactly what Sully’s telling us we should do for all future presidents.  And the sad thing is that Andrew Sullivan will probably have more readers in a week then I’ll have all year; and yet I was completely right about the war in Iraq and most everything else.  But I guess it’s better to be right than popular.

The Prodigal Pundit

Shorter Sullivan: Because I was wrong before I was right, I’m better than those who were right from the start.

I guess it’s kind of like how ex-sinner born-again Christians see themselves as being better than regular Christians.  To be honest, though, I’ve always felt a bit squeamish about rubbing the new anti-Bush converts’ faces in their old Bushie ways.  It sure feels fun, but it’s a good way of pushing them back into the Bush category.  Sullivan himself insists that he’s not a new anti-Bush convert, because he’s always had a few criticisms of how Bush did things; once again proving the point that a true Bushie is supposedly unquestioning in everything.

Then again, I’d kind of prefer that dopes like Sullivan stay on the other side.  I’ve honestly never read anything of his that I was particularly impressed with, and would prefer to not associate with fools with such lousy track records as Sullivan.  Even his accurate statements (such as his pro-gay, anti-torture stuff) are so obvious that it really didn’t need to be said; and was only quoted because it came from a fool like Sully.  To me, somebody who lives in a dreamland 85% of the time doesn’t deserve special recognition for the 15% that they’re living in our world.  

Even now, I was amazed at how he acts like he’s paid his dues and properly expressed contrition for his wrongfulness, while continuing to mask how egregious his attacks against the anti-war crowd were…and still are.  To the point that he’s once again changed his:” The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead -and may well mount a fifth column,” to the new and improved: “I predicted that a small cadre of decadent leftists in enclaves in coastal universities would instinctively side with America's enemies. They did. Some still do.”  Yes, he has indeed shown remorse.  Unfortunately, it still continues to clash with his life in Fantasyland.

Bush at 37

Via the AP:
Republican Party leaders said the survey explains why GOP lawmakers are rushing to distance themselves from Bush on a range of issues — port security, immigration, spending, warrantless eavesdropping and trade, for example.

The positioning is most intense among Republicans facing election in November and those considering 2008 presidential campaigns.

Granted, the writer never really quotes any Republican Party leaders saying these things, but assuming that it is a proper reflection of their sentiments, what exactly does this say to the idea that Republicans aren’t poll-driven and instead base their positions on strong principles?  I mean sure, that idea was always absurd, but doesn’t this just make it totally obvious?  That Republicans stood behind Bush when polls said that Bush was popular and had a popular agenda; and that they’ll abandon him when the going gets rough?  Could this be the demise of the I’m With Bush Party?

And then there’s this:
Stung by criticism, senior officials at the White House and the RNC are reminding GOP members of Congress that Bush's approval ratings may be low, but theirs is lower and have declined at the same pace as Bush's. The message to GOP lawmakers is that criticizing the president weakens him — and them — politically.

"When issue like the internal Republican debate over the ports dominates the news it puts us another day away from all of us figuring out what policies we need to win," said Terry Nelson, a Republican consultant and political director for Bush's re-election campaign in 2004.

That’s right.  The Whitehouse is apparently telling GOP Congressmen to shut the hell up, for the good of the party.  That Congress should set aside national security concerns and their own constituents’ desires, so that the Republicans can win.  Not that there’s anything new with that, except that Congress was far more willing to go along with it back when Bush was popular.  But now that he’s unpopular, they seem to have a different idea of what it takes to win.  But that really is what it’s all about.  It’s not about doing the right thing, or serving our country, or representing citizens’ interests.  It’s about winning.  And ironically, the reason they’re so good at winning is the very reason they should not be allowed to govern.  And perhaps it’s equally ironic that this will likely lead to their eventual loss.

Buying the Abortion Cow

I’m not sure if some celestial event has thrown our mental alignment out of whack, or if maybe my tinfoil hat has finally succeeded in foiling his brainwave reader; but in a freak occurrence, I find myself in disagreement with Digby.  He writes about a recent bill which would allow insurance companies to refuse to pay for contraceptives; and theorizes that this is the beginning of the end for abortion rights.  And just as the NRA can push any boundary and keep winning, Digby suggests that abortion won’t be the last stand, but that they’ll keep pushing us back to Griswold and worse.  

And sorry, but I'm just not buying it.  The GOP helping out insurance companies, I buy.  The GOP giving away the store on the abortion issue, I'm not so sure about.  The NRA issue is different, as there is always another gun law to complain about (I believe that D.C.’s cause them great consternation).  But once Roe is gone and they get their abortion laws, they've lost a big vote getter.  And Griswold most certainly does not have the emotional appeal or the voter support.  (Picture angry pro-lifers holding giant posters of birth control pills and contraceptive sponges, and you’ll see what I mean.)  They'd be fools to overturn Roe, but they'd be braindead to seriously attempt to overturn Griswold.  I could see them bitching about it, I suppose; but voters couldn’t kick them out fast enough if they tried to openly run on an anti-contraceptive ticket.

And the GOP leadership isn't worried about "shrill" pro-choicers.  They're worried about evangelicals who don't need to save the unborn babies and stop voting.  And they're worried about the financial support that pro-choice oriented people will throw around to get rid of anti-abortion pols.  And they're worried about the fact that a majority of people are against abortion laws.  And most of all, they're worried about the media elites who lean Republican, but are certainly pro-choice.  The media loves down-home Republicans, tough-guy terrorist-fighting, and won't complain about the taxcuts that fatten their wallets; but I suspect that abortion is an area they'll still get pissed about.  Not Jim Brady anti-blogger pissed; but still pretty pissed.  As it is, they see the GOP’s anti-abortion stance as being part of that kitschy down-homey religion kind of thing that they like to admire so much from their elitist perches; and probably view it much the same way that I portray it, as a cheap vote-getter that won’t get past the speech stage.  Overall, the media just doesn’t see Republicans as being the danger that they really are, and think that liberals are over-reacting when we talk about this stuff.  But I suspect that all that would change, were the GOP to make a bold move to ban abortion; and the journalists would be far less likely to use the kid gloves on them much longer.  

Overall, while I’m sure that many Republicans are serious about overturning Roe, including many politicians, I don't see how Rove could be dumb enough to let them do it.  I posted recently about a Republican pollster (who blogs for NRO, btw) who complained about South Dakota’s recent anti-abortion law, basically saying that it went too far because it was too bold and validated the pro-choicers’ claims.  And I agree completely.  The GOP leadership wants to push “partial-birth abortion” bans, parental notification laws, and other such wedge issues.  Those make for good politics and make them look like moderates fighting a good fight against extremists who support egregious practices.  Plus, it fools the evangelicals into thinking that they’re doing something about abortion (whenever I use this argument against conservatives, they always cite the partial-birth abortion laws as proof that I’m wrong).  

But they don’t want to give away the whole enchilada.  They’ve got a good thing going.  And if they see the end of their reign nearing, the last thing they’d do is give-up one of the main issues that got them ahead in the first place.  In fact, it’s much easier to run on an anti-abortion platform when you’re not in a position to do anything about it.  The same goes for the rest of the Republican Fantasyland platform; easy to run-on, hard to implement.  They might talk about banning it, and they might give their insurance contributors a nice reward; but I don’t see them banning the whole thing.  If anything, their rhetoric is designed to move people deeper into the “pro-life” category, so as to increase their base.  But even that has its limits, as they require enough Democratic opposition to keep things interesting.  After all, there’s no advantage to being a pro-life candidate if everyone else is pro-life too.

As for the insurance companies, I'm not sure at all why they'd want to do this, as birth control must surely be cheaper than birth, right?  That's why they'll pay to have a woman’s tubes tied, but won't pay to untie them.  Perhaps there’s some element of this that I’m missing.  But whatever it is, I do think that this is mainly to please the insurance companies, while tossing a free bone to the base; and that this isn’t part of some grand plan to outlaw birth control.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Republican Government at Work

From the AP:
Pushed by food companies seeking uniform labels across state lines, the bill would prevent states from adding food warnings that go beyond federal law. States could petition the Food and Drug Administration to add extra warnings, under the bill.

Countrywide, as many as 200 state laws or regulations could be affected, according to the Congressional Budget Office. They include warnings about lead and alcohol in candy, arsenic in bottled water and many others.

The government would spend at least $100 million US to answer petitions for tougher state rules, according to CBO.

State’s Rights, my ass.  These guys only supported state’s rights when the Dems controlled the Federal government; but they’re clearly much happier with using the Feds to control all of the states.  One-stop shopping, so to speak.

And the big joke is that the bill’s supporters insist that they just want uniform standards, saying that what’s good for one state is good for another.  But, duh…is something preventing a food company from labeling their products with every state’s warnings?  Does Wyoming law prohibit California food warnings?  No.  Because that’s what they already do.  So that’s obviously not the problem.  The problem is that the food companies just don’t like many of these warnings, and would like them to be gone.  

But frankly, I don’t see how this isn’t going to backfire.  The Republicans won’t control the FDA forever, and how happy will the food companies be once a Dem president starts adding even more warning labels?  But overall, it probably makes sense.  As I said, the food companies are already including any state’s warnings on other states’ products; so I guess they’re just happy to be able to slow down the process.  Now, instead of just having to work at the state level, these warnings are going to have to filter through yet another level of bureaucracy.  You gotta hand it to these Republicans, though.  They might have been anti-government once, but they’re sure quick learners at figuring out how to make it work to their advantage.

Georgie Got Fingered

Why the hell is Abramoff saying these things?  I don’t get it.  I understand why he’s squealing to the Feds, but why the press?  Did the Bushies try to scapegoat him even after he had threatened to go public with this stuff or something; so he’s showing that he wasn’t bluffing?  That’s the best I can come up with.  Otherwise, it just seems like he’s messing with some mighty important people for no particular reason.  Adding insult when the injury was clearly enough.

And sure, he has a point with this:
"My so-called relationship with Bush, Rove and everyone else at the White House has only become important because instead of just releasing details about the very few times I was there, they created a feeding frenzy by their deafening silence," Abramoff told the magazine.

But that’s the thing.  The Whitehouse does want a silence on this whole thing.  They might be stupid about it, but that’s just how they do things.  Good news is to be loudly proclaimed, even if they have to invent it; and bad news is to be shoved into the vacuum of space and lost forever.  And in the fast-paced world of Whitehouse politics, they don’t have time to think through every damn crisis that comes up.  They have their SOP and they stick with it.  

So why is Abramoff rocking the boat?  He’s been a good soldier for a long time now, and suddenly it’s like he wants the entire GOP against him.  It’s not enough that he’s fingering them to the Feds; he’s got to cut-off their political escape routes too.  Doesn’t he know that Republicans take care of loyal men better than the mafia?  Doesn’t he want his own talk show?  Might he be as sick of the Republicans as we are?  I know I’d be.  You have jackasses like Tom DeLay in your restaurant acting like they own the place while needling for yet another free meal and another round of drinks, and that’s got to start sucking.  I think something like that happened in Goodfellas, right before they torched the place.  Congressional bribery is fun and everything, until they start to take you for granted.

One thing that confused me was his statement that:
"The Democrats, on the other hand, are going overboard, virtually insisting I was there to plan the invasion of Iraq.”

I took about two minutes to research this (so you know I was thorough), and couldn’t find anything on it.  Are there Dems who are accusing Abramoff of planning the Iraq invasion?  I really wouldn’t put that as being his scene; though nothing surprises me with these guys.  Of course, he says “virtually” so maybe he’s just going for a touch of overstatement; like he’s taking a potshot at Dems, so as to even the score a little.  And hell, as long as he keeps dishing the dirt on the GOP bigwigs, he can take all the Dem potshots he wants.