Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dumb Robots

Per the AP:
Republicans in House races copied their party's talking points and included parts of the answers as their own for an AARP survey. The answers related to Medicare, Social Security, insurance plans and retirement.

Candidates in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, South Carolina and Texas all submitted the sometimes word-for-word responses, which originated with the National Republican Congressional Committee.

That’s right.  When asked to explain their positions on the issues, at least seven Republicans preferred to plagiarize the Cliff Note’s version.  And this isn’t the first time.  The article says that at least five Republicans did it in the last election cycle too.

The article also said that some of the candidates are trying to pretend as if this was a good thing, that they couldn’t write their own responses.

"Ralph has his own ideas, but we are lucky to have the NRCC's help during this campaign because it's more evidence that Ralph has what it takes to bring change to South Carolina and Washington," said Rob Godfrey, communications director for Republican Ralph Norman's campaign

Relying on his party to tell him what he thinks is what South Carolina and Washington need??  I guess the fact that these talking points came from Washington, and in fact, the very people in charge of Washington for the past few years, is a little lost on them.  Or is Godfrey perhaps suggesting that Ralph’s plagiarizing showcases his efficiency and ability to delegate to others?  Much like how Bush has delegated all of his writing and thinking tasks to his “subordinates”.

Another campaign tried a different tact: To act as if this indicates the candidate’s high level of expertise on the issues.

Van Taylor's campaign in Texas said the language helps the candidate understand the issues.

"It's only natural when we were running for Congress, he wanted to become as knowledgeable as he could on the issues," said Casey Phillips, Taylor's campaign manager.

Wow, this guy is such an expert that he can rely on talking points to present his positions…the same talking points that several other candidates relied on.  I’m sure of all the material ready to be plagiarized, Van Taylor used his expertise to determine which one was the best.  Sure, some people might think it odd that a “knowledgeable” candidate would have to rely on talking points just a few months before the election; but those people obviously haven’t figured out that the most knowledgeable thing you can do is to copy your work from someone even more knowledgeable.  That’s why everyone always steals my material.

Zombie Answers

All joking aside, it’s obvious that Republicans really don’t want knowledgeable candidates.  And what Taylor’s campaign manager meant in that last quote is that he wanted his candidate to appear as knowledgeable as he could on the issues.  That’s why you’d steal answers.  But stealing answers certainly wouldn’t make you more knowledgeable, and would indicate the exact opposite.

And when you get down to it, that appearance is about the most the typical Republican wants from their politicians anyway.  And while they might not like to hear that their candidates are so clearly taking notes from the national party, that really is what they expect.  The GOP has crafted a very vague and easily agreeable platform for their peeps, and Republicans from various backgrounds and ideologies can hear the same words and imagine that it was tailored just for them.  Because they only hear what they expected to hear and the message is so totally meaningless that it always works.

And the truth is that these candidates probably don’t have a significantly different positions than the one they cribbed for the AARP.  So it’s probably for the best that they’re so obvious about the fact.  Because that’s just not who most Republicans want.  They want someone to fill seats that Democrats might take and to vote as they’re told.  They want these guys to live-up to Rush Limbaugh’s fantasy candidate.

And for all the talk of the few Republican “mavericks,” they’re generally older generation guys from before this current crop of zombies came about; and even the mavericks have done a good job toeing the line.  It’s only the appearance of maverickness that they’re really after.  Always striving for the moderate-edges on a few key issues, which they can use to show their wild side; before falling back in line when it comes to the final vote.  And it all comes down to accepting that GOP money and being spoken well of by the others.

But the truth is that Republicans don’t want hundreds of different politicians coming up with their own ideas, policies, and platforms.  They want hundreds of dopes who can look good while reciting the proper script.  They don’t want political leaders.  They want the Borg.  That’s why they always talk about independence and freedom and all that other good stuff; because that’s all they really require.  Actions speak louder than words and these people have very very sensitive ears.

Rule of Partisans

Partisanship allows politicians to violate election laws??  Have all Republican politicians lost their mind?  

Per the AP:
Acting on a complaint filed by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the election board said Green, who decided to give up his U.S. House seat after eight years to run for governor, cannot spend money received from political action committees, or PACs, not registered in Wisconsin. The board also argued he was $156,140 over the state limit of $485,000 in PAC donations.

But Green's campaign manager said the money was already spent and would not have to be returned.

….
The board's 5-2 vote resulted in cries of unfairness from Republicans, who noted that all four Democratic appointees on the board voted for it.

"This was an orchestrated campaign move by the Democrats to try to give advantage to Jim Doyle and it truly, truly was a very embarrassing move," said Mark Graul, Green's campaign manager.

Now, I’m not an expert on Wisconsin election laws, which puts me in a great position for commenting on it, and I’ve got to say that these guys are pretty damn ballsy.  I mean, laws are laws, yet these guys are using partisanship as an argument against them.  And again, I don’t know the particulars, but it would seem that one Republican supported the decision and two dissented.  That doesn’t sound particularly strong.  And if the law is the law, then what the hell were those two Republicans thinking?  It’s as if you only have to follow the law if your own party forces you to.

Oh, and I really like the “we already spent it” defense.  I wonder if they think that works for other crimes too.  As if a quickie spending spree after each crime allows criminals to keep their goods.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The McFly Doctrine

I hate to do this to you people, but I just read Rumsfeld’s speech regarding quitters and I’m convinced. We’ve got to stay in Iraq. After all, if we quit Iraq, then we’ll be quitters. And I’d rather continue to stoke anti-American hatred worldwide and risk sabotaging the War on Terror than to become a quitter. They can bomb our allies. They can kill our soldiers. They can even force us to drain our precious resources to wage an ever-esclating war that they have been desiring for years, which will eventually leave our once great nation brittle and spent. But they will NOT call us chicken.

The Eternal Victory Lap

One of the more annoying facets of critiquing conservative blogs is the enormous bluster-to-information ratio.  They spend so much time patting themselves on the back every time they can find a correlation between their beliefs and reality that they often seem to leave out the actual proof.  And considering that these guys don’t base their theories on any particular facts, that kind of makes sense.  For them, evidence is a luxury they usually can’t afford.  It’s nice if you can get it, but there’s no point in going crazy.  And so it usually falls by the wayside while they busily proclaim yet another victory that only they can understand.

Take this recent post by UK blogger Tim Worstall at TCS Daily entitled America: More Like Sweden Than You Thought, which can best be summarized as a 1200-word victory lap by a writer who forgot to run the race.  His post is a simple enough one: To criticize the newest installment of a biennial report from the Economic Policy Institute titled The State of Working America, which will be released on Labor Day.

Tim was admittedly excited about the early release of Chapter 8: International Comparisons (PDF), a teaser released a month early which showcases how America’s numbers stack-up to our foreign competitors.  And his excitement paid-off.  For you see, in that one chapter, Tim found a graph that he could agree with.  That’s right.  Tim Worstall, a conservative, saw a graph in a totally socialist loon report that he could agree with.  Not the whole graph, mind you.  But one aspect of the graph.  And based on that one outrageous discovery, Tim crows that he’s found yet another of “those reports that really don't tell us what the authors think they are telling us.”

I fail to understand how that works exactly, that he can mock a group because one of their graphs didn’t undermine his worldview.  To me, I’d kind of expect to see every graph confirming my view, and not just one.  But I guess when you’re not accustomed to reality confirming your theories, you take what you can get.

One Graph

Here’s exactly what Tim says he was doing: “For there is the great joy of seeing that what they think they're telling us isn't, in fact, quite what they are telling us.”

That’s a worthy enough goal, I guess.  But can he do it?  Of course not.  As I already said, he reads a thirty-six page chapter of the report, and the best he can do is point out ONE graph that he thinks supports his position.  ONE.  He blusters on for over 1200 words, to highlight one graph.  And if you can believe it, he only spends one paragraph actually telling us how the graph didn’t undermine his point.  And he spends the rest of the time high-fiving himself.  How pathetic.

But surely he’s caught something big, right?  He’s exposed them for having lied about what that graph said?  Or ignoring a crucial aspect?  Well, not really.  In fact, I read the chapter and the graph fits right in with what they were saying.  They were suggesting that the inequality in median income between the richest and the poorest people is much higher in America than in other countries, even adjusted for purchasing power.  And that’s exactly what the graph shows.  It’s on page twenty-five of the report if you don’t believe me.

And Tim admits all that.  He acts smug when he points out the parts in the report which show that America is the richest nation, as if there is any disagreement on that, and agrees with them when they say that the evidence shows a big income inequality in America.  He just doesn’t think that’s a problem.  So to him, he’s already done away with the bulk of the work with an implicit criticism; ie, that the Economic Policy Institute is a bunch of weenieheads who don’t understand the real world.  Not that he was cool enough to use the word “weenieheads,” but the point was fairly obvious.

The Power of Snark

As he says:
“Now if the equality of income distribution is something you worry about this is of course a troubling fact.”  A few paragraphs later, he adds: “Shown this undoubted fact we are therefore to don sackcloth and ashes, promise to do better and tax the heck out of everybody to rectify this appalling situation.”

And that’s it.  Income inequality is the major theme of the report and Tim just comes along and dismisses this eternal problem with a bit of snark and moves on.  Mission accomplished.  But hell, he didn’t even need the report to dispute that.  He’s clearly put forth a blanket statement of contempt towards the entire issue of income inequality and sees no need to discuss anything further.  To him, the fact that America is the most prosperous nation is enough evidence to prove that we’ve got the right policies regarding poverty.  

As he says, “Things are actually looking pretty good for the US economy, then -- wealthier to start with, getting richer faster and productivity growth is also highest in the USA, meaning that this trend is only likely to continue.  Looking at all of that it's really rather difficult to see that there's anything wrong with the way things are being managed (or not).”

That’s right.  As long as America prospers, there’s nothing wrong for nobody.  And I guess hardwork, ingenuity, luck, and natural resources don’t count for anything anymore.  Apparently, a good policy can overcome anything.  If only those dumb Swedes would learn.

Dispelling the Miracle

So what is his beef?  We’re almost 900 words into his post (as well as my own) and we still haven’t been told what he’s discovered.  So here it is, I hope you’re seated.  For you see, Tim discovered the awful truth of the Swedish Miracle: Despite horrendous taxes and atrocious government intervention, poor Swedes have the same low level of income as poor Americans.  That’s right.  I’m sure that hurt your socialist ears, but I had to say it.

Specifically, Tim touts the fact that the graph shows that the poorest 10% of Americans make the same percentage of median income as the poorest 10% in Sweden, adjusted for purchasing power.  In other words, the poorest 10% have the same purchasing power in both countries; which is about 38% of median income.  Those bastard Swedes!  

Sure, their unemployment rate is higher than ours, and they don’t nearly have the same resources as us; but their poor can only buy the same trash that our poor buy.  And sure, the top 10% of Swedes only make 110% of the median income, while the top 10% in America make a whopping 210%; which was the whole point of the graph.  But screw that!  Income equality’s for weenies.  The important thing is that the purchasing power of the poor is the same, even in semi-socialist nations.  

Blessed Egalitarianism

Here is the extent of his actual criticism:
But hang on a minute, that's not quite what is being shown. In the USA the poor get 39% of the US median income and in Finland (and Sweden) the poor get 38% of the US median income. It's not worth quibbling over 1% so let's take it as read that the poor in America have exactly the same standard of living as the poor in Finland (and Sweden). Which is really a rather revealing number don't you think? All those punitive tax rates, all that redistribution, that blessed egalitarianism, the flatter distribution of income, leads to a change in the living standards of the poor of precisely ... nothing.

It took him almost 900 words to do it, but he got there.  He finally made his point.  And it’s totally stupid.  See, here’s the problem: Tim seems to think that Sweden’s high taxes are supposed to boost their economy; but he sees that their economy sucks, so he knows that’s not happening.  So he thinks he’s scored a point.

And then he goes in for the kill when he notes that Sweden’s high taxes aren’t making their poor people significantly richer than our own.  But is that what the high taxes are for?  Of course not.  While I’m assuming that the Swedes also have a straight-up welfare system which provides some direct cash to poor people, the primary benefit is not more money.  It’s more services.  And while government services won’t necessarily help your purchasing power, they can certainly increase your standard of living.

And the report makes that clear.  As Tim must know, the report says “However, it is worth noting that PPPs do not account for the cost of non-market social goods, such as education, health care, or childcare, which are much cheaper or completely covered by public spending in many European countries relative to the United States.”

That sounds pretty clear.  And yet Tim makes no mention of this at all.  Just as he makes no mention of any services before declaring that the Swedish system does not change the living standards of the poor.  Sure, America is significantly wealthier than Sweden and should therefore be expected to have richer poor people; but to Tim, the fact that these are the same proves that these programs have no effect.  

Standard of Living

Here’s a brief summary of the Swedish welfare system, per Wikipedia:
The state provides for tax-funded childcare, parental leave, a ceiling on health care costs, tax-funded education (all levels up to, and including university), retirement pensions, tax-funded dental care up to 20 years of age and sick leave (partly paid by the employer).

Wow.  As someone who has spent a small fortune on daycare, education, and dirty teeth, that sounds good to me.  Not just for the poor, but the middle-class too.  And lest you believe that our own tax credit system for daycare and college tuition covers the cost, they don’t.  And these aren’t just perks, but rather have direct benefits to society.

And here’s the line that gives it away:
“…let's take it as read that the poor in America have exactly the same standard of living as the poor in Finland (and Sweden).”

Let’s not and say we didn’t.  Because that graph didn’t say anything about standard of living.  It said the same purchasing power, ie, the ability to buy stuff with your income.  And if you don’t have to purchase daycare, excessive healthcare, college education, or your kid’s dental care; you’ve got a lot more extra money from that same level of income.  And so their standard of living would not be the same.  And even if it was, that wasn’t what the graph said.  And as I said, the report makes that fairly clear.

And none of this is to even mention that the child and elderly poverty rates are astonishingly higher in America than Sweden and other countries; which is also what the report says with Table 8.17 (page 28).  And that would also indicate that the Swedes have their problem better under control.  For example, the child poverty rate in Sweden is a mere 4.2% compared with 21.9% here in America.  

And believe it or not, but Sweden also spends a significantly larger percentage of their GDP than America on social expenditures.  Figure 8H on page 30 shows Sweden’s spending at 14% of GDP, compared with 2% for America.  And in case you were wondering, that graph shows that the countries who spend more on social expenditures also have the lowest child poverty rate.  That’s not to suggest that America should spend 14% of it’s GDP on welfare programs, but there is certainly a clear correlation between spending and poverty.

But all that eludes poor Tim.  He’s apparently some kind of bigtime conservative blogger who has even edited a book which features “the very best writing from the rising stars of online journalism,” and yet he blows through 1200 words and totally misses his mark.  But does that faze Tim?  Of course not.  He’s too busy celebrating.

Problem Solved

The funniest part is his conclusion where he pays lip service to the idea that he cares about a “social safety net,” before he dismisses the idea that we have any problem.  And he actually uses this one graph as part of his evidence.  As he says:
The standard of living of the poor in a redistributionist paradise like Finland (or Sweden) seems a fair enough number to use and the USA provides exactly that. Good, the problem's solved.

And the fact that Sweden’s poor also get much needed services which are denied to us is apparently besides the point.  In fact, Tim doesn’t once even mention what these services are.  He continues to rail against Sweden’s “redistribution of wealth” and fails to even recognize how this works.  It’s as if he hasn’t been told there are any services at all; just pure theft.  And surely he knows better, so why won’t he talk about the services Sweden provides for those tax dollars?  Because it undermines his entire argument which is best summed-up by Taxes=Bad.

He’s trying to show that Sweden’s system is no better than our own, while simultaneously undermining the credibility of this report, but he can’t even tell us what the Swedish system is and obfuscates all the other charts and graphs in that report which show that America’s system is not comparable to the Swede’s.  He found his one fact and he’s sticking to it, even if it doesn’t say what he thinks it says.  And he insists repeatedly that this proves something against the authors of the report.

Now, along with Tim, I too know very little about the Swedish system, and perhaps it’s not the answer.  But we’d never know that from reading Tim’s post, because he’s not interested in providing answers.  He thinks he’s already got them and expects his readers to already know too.  So there was no real need for him to detail his actual point, because it was already more than apparent to everyone involved.  And even if you disprove his actual point, which is easily done, he’ll still insist that his point was still correct overall; even if he can’t dispute the facts that prove him wrong…which are all of them.  

And it’s due to that low level of intellectual honesty that he can declare victory while having gotten almost everything wrong.  Thus, our modern conservative.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Stuck in the Middle

Something that keeps bugging me: Why do people insist that I have to choose sides on everything?  Why can’t we just admit that sometimes there is no “good guy” in a particular situation?  Why can’t we just admit that both sides of an issue can be acting badly and in bad faith?  Or for that matter, why can’t we admit that sometimes both sides have a valid position?  That perhaps both sides deserve to win?

And why does each side insist on attacking anyone who isn’t actively on their side?  Because I just don’t want to.  Particularly as what being on “their” side means is that I support their actions and plans, while refusing to say and do things that they don’t want me to do.  Like criticize them in any way.  And if I don’t follow their lead, then I’m inexplicably put on the other side.  It’s like being an only child in a divorce that won’t end.  After a while, you don’t care who you end up with.  You just want a little peace.

Like with Vietnam.  I’m certainly not a supporter of the Vietcong side or anything, but I also know that the American side acted badly too.  And in fact, the actions that the Americans took, going back into the 1950’s, clearly made things much worse than if we had just befriended them and bought a bunch of rice.  Nothing beats communism better than prosperity, but some people just seem to prefer war.  And so we screwed it up repeatedly.  And now, because I’m willing to acknowledge that fact, I’m somehow picking sides.  I’m “anti-American” because I refuse to believe lies.  Of course.

The same goes for our current “War on Terror”.  I certainly don’t approve of Bin Laden or any terrorist group, but it’s obvious that Bush’s “solution” has only made things worse.  And yet as in most situations, the players involved want to insist that I’m on a particular side.  If I criticize Bush’s actions, then I’m a terrorist supporter.  And yet it’s quite obvious that Bin Laden wouldn’t see me as being on his side in a million years.  Not if he got to see what I do on the weekends.  Heck, Bush has far more in common with Bin Laden than I do; particularly with that whole messianic thing they keep working on for themselves.  Looks like somebody hasn’t been explained the difference between famous and infamous.

And so I’m considered to be kind of stuck.  And yet I’m not.  It’s just the extremists on both sides who insist that I pick a side.  And on both sides, they’ve explicitly stated that if I don’t support them, then I’m against them.  And so I’m inexplicably stuck as the enemy of both sides, while preferring to not be on any side at all.  I just want a peace.  

And so the only way that I’m really “stuck” is that I’m stuck between two sides who are both trying to make other alternatives impossible.  Neither Bush nor Bin Laden want to allow us to properly resolve this situation without them, so they intentionally sabotage the middle-roads; thus forcing me to pick sides.  Because they’re not after peace or solutions.  They want victory, and they think that they’re the solution..  

That’s not to suggest a moral equivalence between them, but when it comes to alienating non-supporters, both of these guys have really outdone themselves.

The Defense Thing

And the same goes with the Palestinian-Israel issue.  Why do I have to pick a side?  I certainly don’t approve of what the Palestinians did or are doing, but I also don’t see how Israel is acting in good faith either.  Particularly with the whole illegal settlements issue, which really makes the “national defense” claim look more like a cheap rationalization than a necessary policy.  

On both sides, I see powerful players who act in bad faith in order to retain and expand their power.  Just as many Palestinian’s object to Israel’s right to exist, there are certainly many Israeli’s who also question the Palestinian’s right to have a country.  And it all just comes down to the land and old grudges being egged-on by numerous dastardly fellows on the side.  It’s like a bad western that just doesn’t know when to quit.

So why do I have to pick sides?  Why can’t I just say that both sides are acting poorly and that someone really needs to step in and settle this fight?  There are enough powerful players who don’t want this settled outside of complete victory for their side, so how can we expect this to work itself out?  And please spare me the argument of which side you think is working more in bad faith, because it’s entirely irrelevant.  If you can’t trust either side, it doesn’t really matter much which side you trust less.  Particularly as there are far more victims on both sides than there are bad actors, and both sides could do a whole lot more to correct the situation.  

And there can be no doubt that there are also those on both sides who want no resolution.  They only retain power as long as this battle continues and they have no interest in seeing any kind of conclusion at all.  And let’s not forget that there are many Americans and other third-party players who would also prefer no resolution.  As long as Israel remains a thorn to the Muslim nations in the middle-east, these guys stay happy.  It’s a fact that war and conflict are quite good for some industries, and they certainly don’t want anything to change about that.  (Dick Cheney, I’m looking at you.)  And then there are the other regimes in the middle-east which certainly enjoy using Israel as a convenient excuse for screwing their citizenry.  

Overall, there are too many people who want no resolution, and unfortunately, they’re often some of the most powerful players on the scene.  And that means that it’s not always advisable to react violently to every deed these people do; because that’s exactly what they want.  Perhaps there is some wisdom in ending a cease-fire when a whackjob extremist on the other side attacks, but I just can’t see what that would be.  Because it just encourages the whackjobs to attack more, and gives them the results they want: More violence and the end to cease-fires.  And yet that’s exactly what they get.

A Little Annihilation

And so why do I have to pick a side?  Why do I have to support Israel’s right to blow-up everyone that looks at them funny?  To support the right to kill thousands of civilians based upon a very limited attack on Israel, as we saw in Lebanon?  And while they keep building on land that they certainly shouldn’t be building on.  

But I most certainly can’t support the terrorists in their efforts either.  And I don’t.  I don’t want to pick either side.  They both suck.  They are both to blame.  They both have victims and they have both been wronged.  I don’t care.  I don’t want to win.  I just want it to end.  And I think that the sooner people stop trying to defend “their” side and “their” solution, things will get much closer to a real solution.

And that solution?  That Israel and Palestine will learn to be good neighbors who stop trying to take each other’s land.  Yes, I know it’s a little more complicated than that, but this post is already too long for a better explanation.  And in a few decades, everyone will consider this strife to be a piddling joke, next to the “real” problems they’ll be facing.  Just as the Chicken Little neo-cons now consider the Islamofascist threat to totally dwarf that of the good ole’ days of the Cold War; back when the only thing we had to worry about were trifling things like the complete annihilation of humanity and how we wanted our martinis stirred.

And there can be little doubt that, no matter what the conflict is or how dangerous the players involved are, both sides will insist that I have no other option than to follow their command.  And they’ll work as much as possible to make that true; often working harder to limit our options than in ensuring our victory.  Moderates are the common enemy of extremists everywhere, and they will continue to make me pick sides.  And I have no other choice than to resist these efforts and continue to work for a better solution.  But they’ll try, damn them.  And they might just radicalize me yet: The Pissed-Off Moderate.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Clarifying Katherine

What the heck is wrong with the media?  Why do they insist on making every story fit a certain storyline?  Like the one about the contrite politician who didn’t mean the offensive things they said.  A politician says something stupid, and the follow-up headlines will insist that the politician either clarified or apologized for their statement, whether or not the article actually reflects such an action on the part of the politician.

Like with the recent flap regarding Congresswoman Katherine Harris’ recent comments she made in an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness regarding her position on the separation of church and state.  Namely, that she’s confident that there shouldn’t be one.  And as was to be expected, a tepid correction has been issued, which will surely be followed by an apology and possible token act of contrition, if this initial “correction” doesn’t stop the matter.  I’m sure there’s a playbook you can buy which details the exact timing of how all this will play-out.

But as is usually the case, these apologies and corrections are often not nearly as apologetic or corrective as the headlines would have us believe.  The headline of this article is titled: Harris clarifies comments on religion, but as is too often the case, the clarification aspect of all this is a bit on the light side, to say the least.

The Clarification

Here are the only two lines of this “clarification”, which don’t get mentioned until the second half of the article:
Harris' campaign released a statement Saturday saying she had been "speaking to a Christian audience, addressing a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government."

The comments reflected "her deep grounding in Judeo-Christian values," the statement said, adding that Harris had previously supported pro-Israel legislation and legislation recognizing the Holocaust.

Well that clarifies everything!  Harris had said that the separation of church and state is a lie, that God wanted Christian laws and chooses our rulers, and that “if you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin.”  

That sounded pretty straight forward, while this “clarification” sounds less so.  I’m not sure if that first paragraph is an explanation that she was just pandering to a Christians, or if they’re just trying to deceive us regarding what Harris said.  Because there is a huge difference between telling Christians they can be involved in government, a concept that no one has denied, and the idea that God picks our rulers and that it’s sinful to elect non-Christians.  

And really, there are only two ways that this first paragraph counts as a clarification.  Either she’s admitting that she was just pandering to Christian voters, or she’s admitting that we weren’t supposed to hear what she said.  And it’s probably both.  She was pandering to Christian voters and she didn’t want the other voters to know about it.  I’m not sure why Republicans keep thinking that their message is only going to their target audience, but it might have something to do with Bush’s ability to do so.

But the only way that this is an honest clarification is if we’re assuming that Harris was just pandering.  Because it’s not an excuse just because we weren’t supposed to hear it.  That just emphasizes the problem and suggests that Harris is a liar, as well as a religious bigot.  And while that might be the case, I have a hard time imagining that this is the message she’s trying to say.

So we’re really left with the extent of this clarification being that she’s admitting that she was purely pandering.  Either saying these things to impress her Christian audience, or perhaps explaining why Christians need to vote for her.  I’m not sure if Harris’ opponent is non-Christian, but I kind of doubt it.  But still, I could imagine that this was purely a marketing decision.  But if that’s the case, we really need some more clarification.  It’s the only good justification she has, and yet it’s one that I’m sure she’s not willing to make.

Screwing the Jews

And then there’s the second paragraph.  That’s perhaps even flakier.  Because that “if you’re not electing Christians” line seems pretty straight-forward.  And yet the implications of dismissing the separation of church and state would be pretty damaging to non-Christian religions.  Perhaps Harris hasn’t thought this through all the way, but if Christians are expected to enact laws according to their religious beliefs, the Jews are going to get screwed.  As will just about any other religious minority.  That’s just an undeniable fact, no matter how often you support Israel or recognize the Holocaust.

Equally bad is the idea that the Christian god is picking our rulers; an absurd idea which most obviously isn’t happening.  Because if it was, none of this would even be an issue.  Because God would be picking the rulers.  Sure, perhaps Harris is of the opinion that the Christian god loves the Jews too, and wouldn’t screw them over (unless he needed to).  But I’m not so sure that all Jewish people would be particularly soothed by that.

And of course, that doesn’t cover any of us atheist-types at all.  Apparently, Katherine doesn’t think too highly of my ability to self-govern or my right to government representation.  As if our Creator hadn’t bestowed us with as many inalienable rights as our Founding Fathers had imagined.  And needless to say, the idea that God is picking our rulers pretty much does away with the whole concept of freewill, which is usually the only reason cited for why evil exists in the world.

What She Said

Now perhaps Harris really did more clarifying than we were told in the article.  Perhaps she really didn’t mean what she said.  I can’t imagine how that could be, as her words sounded pretty straight forward.  But maybe it’s possible.  But even if it is, that’s not reflected in the article.  So the headline shouldn’t insist that she clarified anything unless she really did.  Which she didn’t.  Again, her only real defense could be that she was purely pandering to her audience.  And were she to admit that, it would be a clarification.  

But all we got instead is an insult to our intelligence.  It’s again that blanket concept that the politician didn’t say anything offensive and that any comment should automatically be construed in the “good” way.  That’s a common joke I make, to rudely insult someone and then insist immediately afterward that I meant it in the “good” way.  But it is just a joke, just like Katherine Harris’ clarification.

But for those multitudes who get their main news based on headlines, all of that would be lost.  This was just as good as if she really did have some good explanation for her wacky statements, and that goes to explain why so many bad politicians can get away with bad things.  Because journalists and editors are too busy trying to fit each story into a storyline, rather than just reporting what they see.  

And even those folks who actually read the article are likely to be influenced by that headline to putting her words into a different context.  Because she didn’t really clarify anything.  It was really more of a defense of what she said.  And that would be the better context to read her words in.  

Of course, I myself am having a hard time figuring out what the proper headline should have been.  Would “Harris defends comments on religion” sound too wrong?   That’s the closet I could come up with, and would be the least misleading.  And rather than believe that something had been murky about her initial comments which had now been clarified, readers would have realized that she had stood behind her words, which she just hadn’t meant for us to read.  It’d be the truth.  But somehow, that just doesn’t fit into the news story we were supposed to read.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dick Did It

I’m no legal expert and have no inside information on the DOJ, which is why I’m the exact person to speculate on why the government didn’t present a better case in the recent wiretap decision.  In between assaults on the judge’s integrity, brains, and skin color, many conservatives came up with several different arguments for why these wiretaps were legal.  But as Glenn Greenwald pointed out, the government failed to make any of these arguments, and by doing so, forced the court to accept the ACLU’s undisputed arguments as fact.  But why’d they do that?  From the way Greenwald talks, this should have been a standard thing, and my very limited knowledge of courtroom proceedings (based almost entirely on People’s Court reruns) confirms that.  So what was up with that?

Here’s my theory: Cheney and his guys didn’t want to provide any of these arguments, and he convinced the others of the same.  Because they don’t think they have to prove anything.  They think they already have these powers and don’t need a court to tell them they do.  They just need to get the court to agree that the courtroom is no place to decide if the president’s super-secret stuff is ok.  And when you’re one of Cheney’s guys, everything is super-secret.

Interestingly, I was already thinking about this while reading the conservatives’ outrage over the decision.  Because I actually thought it was odd that the Bush Admin would be making such arguments; for the exact reason I just stated.  And sure enough, it turns out that they weren’t making those arguments.  Because this isn’t just about wiretaps or terrorism.  This is the whole kit and caboodle.  They want the power to do whatever they want, and they want the Judicial Branch to admit that they’ve got it.   They want an admission that some secrets are too secret for the courtroom, and they’re willing to lose this case if that’s what it takes.  And they’ll appeal this, and take it to the Supreme Court, and they’ll probably lose it there.  But they had to take the chance.  

Besides, I really don’t think they had a case otherwise.  You can cite other arguments in support of the wiretaps, but the law is pretty clear and the Bush Admin was going to lose.  So rather than go down quietly, they’re betting everything on the long shot.  They believe that State Secrets is their ticket to freedom and don’t want to waste time with anything else.  They’ve been thinking that since before Nixon told us that he wasn’t a crook, and now they’re ready to push forward with making this official.  They were hoping that a court wouldn’t even force them to take it this far, but they’re willing to go all the way.  Again, this isn’t about wiretaps.  This is the fate of our country at stake, and my very limited understanding of the legal issues tell me that everything’s going to come out ok.

Mission Accomplished: Pluto Style

I did it folks!  My campaign to have Pluto stripped of its status as a planet was a total success; thus completing the first step in my War on Pluto.  Of course, I couldn’t have done it without you little people.  All the emails, phone calls, and protests really added-up, and I got to say that some of those death threats were just brilliant.  Those pansy-assed science freaks didn’t know what hit them.  As I’ve said before, the only thing these people understand is brute force…well, and celestial physics.  But I really couldn’t figure out how I could use that against them.  So brute force had to do…and it did.

And for the future, I don’t want to give too much of my plans away, but my next step will be to get some really embarrassing pictures of Pluto with its “moon” Charon in various compromising positions, even if it means I have to Photoshop them.  And after that, total annihilation.  I never liked the way Pluto looked, with its eccentric orbit and 3:2 orbital resonance with Neptune.  Just bad news all the way.  And now with the newfound power I’m receiving from this blog (which is growing exponentially in popularity every day), whole new worlds of possibility have opened up for me.

Who knows, maybe once I’m done with Pluto, I can focus my energies on the Sun.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the Sun and love what it does for people’s skin (especially on hot chicks).  But damn if someone could perhaps think about turning it down just a little bit, at least during the summertime.  I don’t know about where you are, but it’s hot as hell here where I am and I don’t think I can take this for much longer.  And why so bright?  I mean, I like to have as much fun as the next guy, but burning corneas out is not cool.  But that’s just on the backburner right now, as we need to keep our focus on that jackoff dwarf planet Pluto.  We’ve won the first round, but I’ve got a crazy feeling like we may have just angered it and will certainly need to redouble our efforts if we’re finally to remove our solar system of that damnable rock.  Keep the faith, people!  We will prevail!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Judicial Projectionism

Why are conservatives so god damned blind when it comes to their own personalities?  In this case, I’m specifically talking about the attacks against “activist” judges who supposedly base their court decisions on predetermined outcomes of what they think should happen.  And as I mention at the end of this post, this isn’t even what Judicial Activism means.

Sure, what conservatives describe is a problem, but it’s a problem that they themselves fall victim to repeatedly.  They’re the ones who mask their personal opinions behind fake rationales and refuse to even consider any fact that doesn’t fit into the picture that they expected to see.  For them, the ends justify the means to such an extent that they insist that only historians will be able to properly judge what’s going on right now.  For them, predetermined outcomes trump everything else, including what they see with their own eyes.  They know they’re always winning because they know they’re going to win, and any short-term loss must be for a greater good.  And they know they have to keep thinking and saying this to make it true.

Apparently, this is because conservatives were all born with a special oracle-like gut which can foresee events and make decisions that seem utterly stupid to people who are stuck relying on their brains to make decisions.  And they know this is true because their guts have been right on a few occasions (Rathergate), and because guts have poor memories for the times when they weren’t so right (almost every other occasion).  After all, anyone can be right when everyone is right; but it takes true genius to be right when everyone else is wrong.  And so it’s just better to take the longshot every time than to bother with the safe bet.  And if that means you’ve got to lose a few times, so be it.  Because they know it’s just a matter of time before they’re right again and get the big payoff.

No Good Arguments

Here’s the self-parody Ann Althouse arguing in the NY Times Op/Ed against the recent wiretapping decision (emphasis added):
For those who approve of the outcome , the judge’s opinion is counterproductive. It will be harder to defend upon appeal than a more careful decision. It suggests that there are no good legal arguments against the program, just petulance and outrage and antipathy toward President Bush. It helps those who have been arguing for years about result-oriented, activist judges.

Can anyone say, “predetermined outcome”?  Because that’s exactly what she’s got here.  Now, I’m not a legal mind, but Publius at Legal Fiction raised some decent points that the decision might not have been reached through proper judicial procedures.  Glenn Greenwald disagrees in that fairly persuasive fashion of his, but for the sake of argument, I’ll grant that perhaps Ann and Publius are correct.  And Ann says that this judge didn’t even bother wrapping up her opinion in legalese, as she claims the dreaded activist judges usually do.  And again, that’s about what Publius was saying too.

So if true, what should that suggest?  If anything, it suggests Judge Taylor was a dummy.  I don’t know that myself.  It sounded like a good decision to me, but again, I’m no lawyer and really haven’t bothered reading many arguments about this.  So maybe the judge is a dummy.  That’s Ann’s opinion.  And so based upon that, Ann would be safe in saying that the judge was a dummy who reached her opinion incorrectly and that we’ll need to wait for further court decisions to see where this is going.  That’s about as far as any fair analysis could take this, and approximates Publius’ argument.

But not for Ann.  Instead, she has to take things much further, to actually suggest that this bad decision proves there are no legal arguments against the program?  WTF??  That’s just stupid.  Perhaps there aren’t any good legal arguments against Bush’s program, but if you think the judge is dumber than the typical dumb judge, then it would be a touch premature to use that as any kind of evidence that there are no good legal arguments.  Hell, why do we even need brilliant lawyers, if dumb people’s opinions are considered to be the extent of legal arguments?  I’ve got a few dumb opinions of my own.  Is Althouse really suggesting that this is the extent of intellectual thoughts on these subjects?

Had Ann expressed faith in this judge’s intelligence and considered her to be the cream of the crop, it might make sense to reach her conclusion.  But she somehow believes that a judge she considers to be stupid reflects the extent of the liberal position.  And I think that Ann knows that, which is why she never directly insults the judge’s intelligence.  But it’s that very omission which suggests that she knows this is true.  The dumber she thinks this judge is, the less we can determine about how all this is going to end up.

So how is it that Ann overreached the facts to arrive at this nonserious opinion?  Because that’s the exact outcome she needs to believe in.  I’m sure she concluded that Bush’s program was entirely within his constitutional powers long before she even heard about it.  Remember, conservatives believe this program is so constitutional and proper that they were outraged that we were even told about it, and most certainly were upset about this legal challenge.  And it’s fairly obvious that Ann hadn’t really been following the case when she first started attacking Judge Taylor for having a bad opinion.  So it’s no wonder that Ann views this opinion as invalid, because she’s doing the exact thing she’s accusing the judge of.  There’s irony for you.

Activists

And speaking of irony, there’s her whole attack on “predetermined outcomes” and “activist” judges.  Ann claims that most activist judges use “carefully composed legal opinion” to mask the real determining factor in their decision; ie, their personal opinions.  But if these judges use legal pretexts to mask this, then how does Ann know that they’re activist judges?  Couldn’t this just as easily be that the judge has a different opinion?  Couldn’t it even be that conservatives, I dare say, were wrong?

Of course.  Because what “activist judge” really means is any judge who disagrees with conservatives.  That’s the definition.  And that’s the ultimate in predetermined outcomes.  Because conservatives don’t even need for individual court decisions to be wrong before they disagree with them.  They’ve already issued a blanket statement which says that any judge who doesn’t agree with them is a bad judge who is behaving unconstitutionally.  And they know that because they already know the truth about everything and already reached the right decision, including cases which haven’t even come up yet.  Again, they’d never say that, and somehow assume that we’re all too stupid to understand that this is exactly what they’re doing.

And if she’s insisting that activist judges usually wrap their personal opinions in legalese, it is nothing but an admission that she doesn’t even accept legal sounding decisions.  Because she doesn’t think an honest judge could disagree with her.  How else could she possibly know that these legal sounding decisions are bogus charades?  So why should we take her argument against this judge seriously?  She denounces Judge Taylor for not using the proper legal procedures, but already stated that she also disapproves of judges who use the proper procedures to arrive at conclusions she disagrees with.

Again, Ann would insist that this isn’t what she’s saying, and would take offense that I characterized her opinion as such.  Somehow, we’re not allowed to put her words into a bigger picture.  She can determine that Bush’s wiretap program must be legal because a stupid judge didn’t do a better job of proving otherwise; yet we’re not allowed to consider the natural meaning of the words she’s using.  Because she knows that she’s right, even if she’s not using the right words to say it.  And the only person who can determine the true meaning of her words is herself, even if the words indicate something else.  And she can do that because she knows that she’s always right, despite all evidence to the contrary, including her own words.  So if her words point to the wrong argument, then it’s your misinterpretation of her words that is to blame, not her.  Because she can’t be wrong.

Similarly, my five-year-old daughter will sometimes lie to me about something that I obviously know she did.  And while she thinks she’s being clever and persists in trying to trick me, I’m seeing through it the whole time.  She’s a smart little girl, but really can’t comprehend the level of a grown-up’s intelligence.  

And that’s exactly how I feel with Althouse.  She thinks she’s this super-clever person who’s pulling the wool over our eyes, and is entirely outraged when we keep insisting that we’re seeing everything.  And she thinks that this must be proof of our anti-conservative bigotry, because she can’t grasp how totally obvious she is about everything.  And this just goes into the idea I’ve said before that people aren’t nearly as smart as they believe, and that others aren’t as dumb as we think.  And in Ann’s case, she’s forced to think that we’re mighty dumb to get the results she needs.



P.S. While proofreading this post (yes, I actually do proofread this crap), I happened to read my Lord & Savior Glenn Greenwald mentioning how absurd Althouse’s attacks of Judicial Activism were, since Judge Taylor was upholding a democratically enacted law, rather than overriding it; which is the correct definition of Judicial Activism (ie, judges who use their powers to effectively write new laws).  

But I guess Greenwald missed her explanation of what she thinks the word means.  Along with most conservatives, Ann believes it refers to judges who mask their bias behind legalese; which again, is a sure indication that she’s simply referring to judges who disagree with her.  That’s exactly what she said, and goes to show how entirely ignorant the woman is.  She doesn’t even understand the very nature of her strongest attacks.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Global War on Skin

In a post about conservatives offending American Muslims, the Carpetbagger quotes this from the WSJ blog:
New York gubernatorial candidate John Faso also has supported profiling, saying, “If a 25-year-old Muslim man who has been traveling frequently to Yemen or Pakistan tries to board a plane, then not only statistical analysis but also common sense tells us that he is more of a potential threat than the grandmother from Queens.”

Call me crazy, but I suggest that we pull aside anyone who has been traveling frequently to Yemen or Pakistan; especially old grandmothers from Queens.  That’s your common sense for you.  As I’ve said before, one of the big problems with racial profiling is that we really don’t know who the next terrorist might be, and if we’re focusing solely on young male Muslims, we will certainly be too lax with other people.  Not only are not all Muslims identifiable as being Muslim, but not all terrorists are Muslim.   And the more we target one group, the more they’ll look for someone who isn’t in that group.

And everyone knows that.  But somehow, conservatives convince themselves that all terrorists can be identified by skin color and religious affiliation.  So we’re going to let another Timothy McVeigh on to planes while alienating moderate Muslims and showing them that we really do have something against their religion and race??  Is that really their idea of common sense?  It’s almost as if they see these white terrorists as being on their team

Overall, this has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with racism.  These people have been trained to believe that non-whites are dangerous and this is just an excuse to target them.  As the Carpetbagger quoted from TNR’s Spencer Ackerman “Last week in the Weekly Standard, the apparent inventor of the phrase, Stephen Schwartz, dismissed those who'd be offended by "Islamofascism" as "primitive Muslims."

Poor Disclosure

What is wrong with the media?  The Reuters headline is Carmakers must tell buyers about “black boxes” and begins by stating that the government is requiring that carmakers tell consumers that the cars they’re buying have “black boxes” installed in them which track driving information, such as “speed, braking, and other measurements”.  In the third paragraph, they mention that “privacy experts” are complaining that consumers aren’t being “fully protected”.  And not until the sixth paragraph are we told that carmakers have until September 1, 2010 to comply.  That’s four years from now.  And yet two-thirds of new cars already have these things in them, including every General Motors car (as I learned in the fifth paragraph).  So carmakers can continue selling cars with these things without telling anyone for four more years.

And lest you think the notification might be too burdensome to startup any sooner, in the ninth paragraph, we’re finally told what this notification consists of: A statement in the owner’s manual; something you’d only read after you bought the fucking car.  That’s like putting nutritional information on the inside of the box.  I had assumed that when the headline said “Carmakers must tell…” that this meant that the dealers would be telling people.  But no.  This important new feature is to be buried in the owner’s manual, where you’re unlikely to see it until after you’ve already bought the car.  

Now, I could see carmakers being concerned that some people might not want to buy cars with these things in them, and so they’d be a bit reluctant to tell people.  But isn’t that the right of the consumer?  If someone would object to buying something if they had more information, shouldn’t that be information that they be given?  Some people see seatbelts as being a gross intrusion on their privacy and rights; and seatbelts can’t testify against you in court.  I can only imagine how much they’ll love these new gadgets.

And call me crazy, but I’m fairly sure that car companies update their owner manuals every fucking year.  And yet they’re given four years to comply with this most basic of notifications??  Mind you, it’s not just the notification that is mandated within four years, but many other specifications.  But why couldn’t they change the notification to be within one year.  That’s not unreasonable.  Again, they update these things every year.  This isn’t difficult.  And really, is there any excuse for why this notification wasn’t devised before they started installing them?

Buried

And again, why is this buried in the article?  The headline and opening paragraph make it seem like the government is doing something positive.  But it’s not until the end of the article that we find out how weak these notifications are.  I mean, who the hell reads the owner’s manual?  And why couldn’t they mention that fact earlier in the article?  That’s one of the concerns that the “privacy experts” have.  They mentioned the concerns in the third paragraph, but wait until the ninth to even start mentioning any of these concerns.

And even then, it was written like this: “Privacy experts criticized the decision to use the owners' manual to notify consumers that the vehicle contains a recorder, arguing that many people do not look at it.”

That’s it.  That’s the first mention of how weak these notifications are, and it was in the fourth to the last paragraph.  It could easily have been written into the first paragraph.  Something like “…car makers must disclose in the owner’s manual…”  Or something like that.  I’m no journalist, but that didn’t seem difficult.  Or the second paragraph would also be perfectly acceptable.  But they keep using “tell consumers,” which sounds much more disclosatory than a statement in the owner’s manual; which again, won’t be read until after the car is purchased…assuming it’s read at all.

And the only other mention of the owner’s manual in the article comes from the NHTSA spokesman who tells us that the owner’s manual is suitable for the notification.  Well great.  I’m glad he settled that for us.  He also goes on to say that “most privacy concerns should be addressed by the courts and Congress, not by NHTSA.”  

And, no.  I don’t think so.  If the NHTSA can make regulations that carmakers do this, we really need a decision on everything before we start installing them.  As it is, a majority of new cars already have these things, and yet nobody needs to know about them.  And if the NHTSA can mandate that this be in the owner’s manual, then they could surely mandate that dealers actually tell people about it.  

Mind you, I wouldn’t really have a problem with having one of these in my car, but I certainly understand why some people might.  And who’s really to say that future governments won’t start authorizing police to check people’s “black boxes” to see if they’ve been speeding?  It would really make sense.  Rather than using radar guns, a cop could pull you over and have your speeds zapped over to his handheld computer, and write you a ticket based upon that.  Heck, they could even make the things submit their results electronically to the police on a regular basis, or even submit them whenever you’ve been speeding.  You would just receive a ticket in the mail, like they do for those speed camaras.  And it wouldn’t be too much more difficult to use them to see if you ran a stop sign or red light.  

The NHTSA spokesman says that the information is considered private property, but so is your DNA, and police can already get subpoenas for that.  It seems like if your computer has knowledge that you committed a crime, then that could justify the invasion of privacy.  And even if that’s not the plan now, it’d be absurd to suggest it couldn’t happen.  

But never fear.  They’re leaving privacy issues for the courts and Congress to decide at some future date.  Meanwhile, two-thirds of new vehicles already have these things in them.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Media v. Media

Per the AP:
Then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in mid-June 2003, the same time the reporter has testified an administration official talked to him about CIA employee Valerie Plame.

Armitage's official State Department calendars, provided to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, show a one-hour meeting marked "private appointment" with Woodward on June 13, 2003.

What the fuck?  Is the AP working to out Bob Woodward’s confidential source??  Is that ethical?  The article even mentions that Woodward says his source waived confidentiality, yet still Woodward won’t reveal the name.  And so the AP is now using FOIA’s to uncover who it is??  I thought that stuff was like the death of free speech or something.  Or do they just assume that the government doesn’t read newspapers?  

Then again, I don’t really know much about the facts, and it looks like the story could be suggesting that Woodward already told the government, but just won’t tell us.  But that doesn’t really make sense, and you’d think they’d just come right out and say that.  And if that’s the case, then it would seem the only reason he’s remained confidential is to hide him from us…the people who the media is supposed to serve.

Why do I keep getting the impression that it’s all a big game to them?

High Crimes and Stupidity

Is Not Giving A Shit an impeachable offense?  Like if Bush just admitted that he had delegated his entire job to Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and was playing videogames all day long.  Is that something we could impeach for?  And is there a specific level of delegation you have to reach before you hit this point, or do you just play it by ear?  Because honestly, how much of the illegal crap that Bush has authorized was he really capable of understanding, and how much of it was he just agreeing with what the people manipulating him were telling him?  

That’s not necessarily to say that he’s a dumb man, though he is fairly dumb by presidential standards.  It’s just to say that he’s no expert, doesn’t like experts, and only listens to people who tell him what he wants to hear.  And if his people don’t tell him what he needs to know, is he at fault for not knowing?  And if he authorizes something illegal due to that ignorance, is that impeachable?

Because if he ever is to be impeached, it just seems like his defense is that he was just going with the info his advisors told him and he didn’t know any better.  Like with the presidential power grab business or all this torture nonsense.  I’m sure he doesn’t object to that, but I doubt he’d do it if his legal people didn’t tell him that he could.  So if he’s being unconstitutional, it’s their fault, not his.  He was just following their advice.  And so it is with everything.  

I’m sure he’s more than a rubber-stamp, but how much more?  And if he has effectively delegated away his entire job to people who behave illegal, can we nail Bush for that?  Or is that the real beauty of the Republican system?  As if they’ve turned Plausible Deniability into Bush’s primary job duty.  And for all their talk about expanding presidential powers, it sure looks like they’re just trying to expand the powers of the unelected Whitehouse staff.  As if they’re trying their best to get power out of the hands of the people.  But I guess that’s about right, isn’t it.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

George Allen: Bigot Connoisseur

Once again, TNR’s Michelle Cottle is wrong.  Writing of presidential aspirant George Allen’s Macaca foul-up, she writes (via Carpetbagger):  
What kind of hoity-toity, Frenchified, North African slur is "macaca"? Allen, whose maman is French Tunisian, may have heard this term bandied about in his childhood, perhaps so long ago that he hardly remembered its meaning when he reached into his mental quiver of spontaneous insults. But I guarantee you none of the rednecks I grew up with would have come up with something so obscure and cosmopolitan. They tended use simpler, more classically American terms.

Don’t get me wrong.  I agree with her general point that Allen is a wannabe poser redneck (which is truly one of the sadder things to be).  But I completely disagree with the idea that Allen failed to connect with the racists he idolizes.  Sure, perhaps “macaca” isn’t the most widely used phrase.  I had never heard of it before.  But apparently, it is used in white supremacist circles.  But regardless, it clearly hit the mark.  His audience may or may not have gotten the specific reference, but they certainly understood the general meaning.  

And that’s how these people work.  It’s not the words that matter.  It’s the intent.  A bully can say the same words as your mother, but that doesn’t mean you’ll react to them the same.  And a racist certainly knows a racial insult when they hear one.  Context is everything, and Allen was pretty clear about what his context was at the time.  The fact that you can find a racist usage of the term only adds a little more to Allen’s offense.  

But as racists have clearly shown, they can use words like Negro, Mexican, and Black to be insults too.  Heck, had Allen used Sidarth’s real name, the audience would have reacted the same way.  It’s not the word.  It’s how it’s intended.  And in that case, George Allen hit the racist tone fairly well.  The word could have been complete gibberish and would still have been very offensive.  In fact, the idea of creating a gibberish word to insult someone can often be seen as even more cutting than a standard insult.  Like referring to Al Gore as “Algore”, a zany pun that Limbaugh’s minions never tire of.  The fact that it didn’t really mean anything made it all the more insulting to these schmucks.

And on the flip side, the racists who didn’t understand it may have seen this as a sign of how high up the racist food-chain Allen must be.  Rather than a snooty poser, racists who weren’t familiar with the term would see Allen as being a connoisseur of racist insults; that he even knows obscure ones to use against actual Indians.  Sure, it’s somewhat doubtful that they’d express it in exactly those terms, but that’s the general idea.  These people are nothing if not authoritarians, and they are very quick to bow down to those they believe are superior.  George Allen was looking like a big talking tough man, and those people had to like that.

Right to Racism

But whatever it was, Cottle was mistaken in believing that Allen missed the mark due to his poserness.  On the contrary, I suspect that the biggest mistake Allen might have made with the “real” racists was that he felt the need to give even a phony apology for his remarks.  I’m sure there are many racists who get offended by the “political correctness” that dictates that politicians bow to political pressures (ie, not be openly racist).  And so rather than scoff at Allen for his faux racism, they’d be upset that he didn’t continue with it.  

Particularly as there are very few diehard racists.   Sure, there are many who have a deep loathing of non-whites.  But most racism today is much more subtle than that.  What they’re really clamoring for is the right to be racist.  The right to discriminate if they must (and they always must).  If you read in-between the lines, that’s exactly what they say their argument is.  And that’s just a big pile of hooey.  But that’s what they say.  And that’s partly because they never needed to be racists.  Lynchings are no longer necessary.  They just need someone to blame and to keep down.  To retain their advantage.  That’s what this is about.  

And so when Allen bows to political pressure to backdown from his earlier stance, he hurts the people who see this as a political war.  And that’s when they’d see him as the poser.  Not because he doesn’t support racism, necessarily; but because he didn’t uphold the right to be racist.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Judge Oprah Speaks

Guest Post by Doctor Snedley, Doctor Biobrain’s Personal Assistant

Once again, Glenn Greenwald is two boats short of an armada.  Some whackjob judge tries to put the kibosh on President Bush’s terrorist BBQ, and Greenwald’s all going apeshit with the idea that this somehow sticks.  Look folks, President Bush didn’t appoint Judge Bin Laden.  Carter did.  And you freakos might be stuck in the 70’s, but our judicial system sure ain’t, and guess what?  Carter ain’t President any more.  Bush is.  And as I already said, Bush didn’t appoint the judge.  So that means that she don’t stand for dittily squat!  If Carter wants to follow her advice, that’s fine.  Let him get blown-up by freedom-hating terrorists.  But Bush’s got his own judges and they’d never make such a traitorous blunder as Carter’s clearly has.  Bush says that the FISA courts cramp his style, and there’s not a judge alive I would agree with who would say any different.

Now maybe Carter’s judge has got some magic time machine to make this decision retroactive to the time that someone gave a damn about anything she might have to say, but one thing is clear: George Bush did not appoint this woman.  Not only that, but she’s black.  A black woman no less.  Now as you know, I’m the least racist and sexist person on the face of the earth.  That goes without saying.  I’ve often been known to admire many women of color, particularly at night clubs and in magazines.  With their big booties and hotpants, they can be quite a turn on.  But a courtroom ain’t a nightclub and we don’t need no terrorists crying on Judge Oprah’s shoulders.  I’m not trying to suggest that a black woman couldn’t have made the right decision in this case; only that a white man would have done better.

But somehow all this eludes Mr. Greenwald.  Rather than noticing that her “qualifications” clearly nullify any opinion she might possibly have, he starts discussing it in all kinds of legally talk.  As if it even meant something!  Going as far as to give a point-by-point breakdown of what this judge said, including actual quotes!!  Who is he kidding?  Again for those in the cheap seats: Black…Woman…Carter.  What else needs to be said?  It’s like they’re using the cast of Soul Train as a jury pool!  And why use the proxies?  Why not just ask OBL what he has to say about all this?  Heck, maybe Carter can just use that time machine to appoint Bin Laden himself to the post and we won’t need to bother knocking down Traitor Greenwald’s lawman routine.  We could just lock him up and order the beer.

Again, I’m not trying to suggest that there’s anything wrong with women judges, or even the ones who don’t happen to be white.  I’m not such a Neanderthal that I’m unwilling to appreciate the presence of the feminine gender in the courtroom.  Particularly the ones who wear hotpants under their robes.  I’m just saying that we need to get rid of the ones who don’t come up with the right decisions.  You can only be so wrong about this stuff until you realize that you’re just wrong.  And as I was saying at the beginning, this wouldn’t have happened with a Bush appointee.  He would have come up with the white decision and it would have been all over and done with.  We could be lining the streets with dead Muslims within the week.  If only…

But instead, we’re just seeing the opening skirmish in a long drawn-out battle which surely will not end within our lifetime, or even the next.  Judge Al Qaeda naturally sided with our enemies in Round One (which could be the only possible reason why Carter appointed her), and President Bush now just has to play the waiting game.  Maybe it won’t be this term, maybe not the next.  We may even have to replace Cheney.  But one thing is inevitable: Bush will prevail!  And in the meantime, we just need to continue to ignore these mosquito-esque attacks from the “judicial” branch; while continuing to keep our eyes on the prize.  We will win this battle.  And after we finally remove this weapon from the terrorists’ arsenal, we can finally begin to focus on the enemy within: Liberals.  And those FISA courts will sure come in handy then.

Pen Hunting

Some people have weird priorities:
According to an indictment unsealed this week, in October 2004 Gentry paid $4,650 to shoot the "trophy-caliber" bear named "Cubby" at the Minnesota Wildlife Connection in northern Minnesota, which advertises itself as a place where animals can be photographed in the wild.

After using a bow and arrow to kill the animal inside its pen, Gentry and the owner of the preserve tagged the bear and registered it with the state as if it had been killed in the wild. A videotape was edited to make it appear that Gentry had hunted down the bear.

In his defense, I’ve never heard of country singer Troy Lee Gentry or his duo group, Montgomery Gentry; so I guess I can thank him for that.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Playing the Victim

Something Lieberman got wrong: How victimhood works.  It’s not enough that he was attacked by liberals, even if it got personal.  That’s just standard.  But who gives a shit?  So he got attacked.  So what?  If he can’t take it, he shouldn’t be in it.  No, what he did wrong was that he kept speaking of himself as the victim.  Tom DeLay started making the same mistake.  As did the Enron guys and many others.

And the problem with using the victim thing is that they can’t be the victim.  It’s not “I’m under attack”.  It’s “We’re under attack”.  And “they’re out to get us”.  That’s how you play victim politics.  It’s as if Professor Harold Hill from The Music Man sang about how he was in trouble and needed River City’s assistance, rather than vice-versa.  (Though in Professor Hill’s defense, he really did supply the town with the needed equipment and uniforms, unlike the no-bid conmen currently bilking the American taxpayer.)

And so when you want to alienate your enemy and get people to support you for your efforts, you’ve got to explain what’s in it for them.  You gotta explain how they’re under attack.  It’s Christians who are under attack.  Or “real” Americans.  Or American jobs.  Or American lives.  But whoever it is, the voters need to be told that they’re being victimized, abused, and taken advantage of.  That’s how it works.  People like to be victims and they are likely to vote for you if you explain how the other side victimized them and how you will protect them.  People will do almost anything to convince themselves that their problems aren’t their own fault, and Republicans have built a dynasty on the fact.

Sure, the politician can be under attack too, but their primary role is that of the savior from the aggressors.  And even then, the politician is supposed to play the part of the person who is enabling the victims to help themselves by voting on Election Day and contributing money.  That’s how it works.  They can even be a lightening rod for the attacks, like Rush Limbaugh.  So that whenever you attack Limbaugh, the dittoheads also feel under attack.  But again, the supporters have to feel like the victims, not the saviors.

Woe is Me

And so when Lieberman complained about wild lefties attacking him, who cares?  That’s not how it works.  Because it’s not the voters who were being attacked by Lieberman’s foes.  It was Lieberman.  And while it is possible to argue how Democratic voters were also under assault, it was kind of a stretch.  In fact, Lieberman himself was attacking the position of many Dems in that primary.  If anything, he was victimizing them.  So his cries of wacko extremists attacking him did little to protect him.

Same goes for Tom DeLay.  It was easy for him to claim to be yet another Christian victim of the liberal assault against Christianity, when that’s the topic.  But it’s a little more difficult to explain how campaign fraud and golf junkets are part of a liberal assault on the voters of Sugerland.  And as long as he’s talking about the subject, it’s not too difficult for his enemies to show how DeLay’s illegalities actually hurt his constituents.  And the more he insisted that he was under attack, the more he highlighted how he was under attack…and why.

So rather than wooing voters to his side, he only made himself look more selfish and manipulative.  The longer and louder he put up his defense, the more he buried himself.  And the same went for Lieberman.  While the rally-cry of victimhood can win supporters, it doesn’t work so well when it’s the voters you need protection from.  

Imagine George Bush worrying publicly how the religious right is trying to force him to ban abortions.  Wouldn’t happen.  Instead, he pays them lip service while insisting that liberals are to blame for the mess.  Liberals are, in fact, victimizing babies and Christians and that we need to elect more Republicans to fix this.  This would be the equivalent of Joe Lieberman telling liberals that it’s the Republican’s fault that everything is screwed up and that he could fix things in Iraq and elsewhere if only we’d elect more Dems.  

But wait.  That’s Lamont’s line.  And Joe was blaming his own party; some of the very people he was trying to court.  Joe got it backwards.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Bureaucratic Shoe Removal

Per the AP:
X-ray machines that screen airline passengers' shoes cannot detect explosives, according to a Homeland Security Department report on aviation screening.

Findings from the report, obtained by The Associated Press, did not stop the Transportation Security Administration from announcing Sunday that all airline passengers must remove their shoes and run them through X-ray machines before boarding commercial aircraft.

What the fuck is the matter with these people?  

In their defense, TSA spokeswoman Yolanda Clark says:
"We do not have a specific threat regarding shoes.  In an abundance of caution we require all shoes to be removed and X-rayed to mitigate a variety of threats."

To which I quote:
“X-ray machines that screen airline passengers' shoes cannot detect explosives…”

What the fuck is the matter with these people?  But I suppose, when you elect people who insist that government is inefficient and annoying, you’ll get a government that is inefficient and annoying.  These people are masters of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Senator Joe Spoiler

Congratulations to Joe Lieberman, for showing us all what a schmuck he is.

I am now open for taking symbolic wagers betting that Joe bows out of his Senate run within the week.  No money, please; as I already have far more than I can ever possibly spend.  But if anyone wants to put their reputation on the line, I’ll take that bet.  I’m not suggesting this is a sure-thing, but odds certainly do favor him dropping out.  And if he’s going to do it, it’ll be soon.

The only thing against is that, if Joe wasn’t such a schmuck that he’d know not to do this, he wouldn’t be in this position to begin with.  Not only would he never have started this independent run, but it’s likely that he wouldn’t have lost.  But I think that Joe’s going to be pressured to stop this and that he’ll wake-up and realize that this wasn’t all a dream and that he’s going down in flames.  Tough guy talk is all fine and dandy, but as we’ve seen in Iraq, it really can’t compete with reality.

It is entirely unlikely that Joe can win an independent run, and the worst thing that can happen for him is that he helps hand the seat to the Republicans.  Conventional Wisdom wanted to blame Lamont for that possibility before the primary, but now, everyone will see that as entirely Joe’s fault.  And a second loss to Lamont would also serve to grant him pariah status.  So in either case, anything short of a win in November will effectively end his political career.  And even a win in November won’t return him to his prior position as head GOP-appeaser.  

No matter what happens, Joe is damaged goods and his best option is to allow the Democratic Party to bribe him to drop out (I don’t mean with cash, btw).  That is his only good option, and I’m willing to put my reputation on the line saying that he’ll take it.  Sure, Joe’s acted like a schmuck.  But the implications of yesterday’s defeat are likely to be too great for even Joe to ignore.  He’s not a dumb man.  He just fell victim to Presidential Fever and acted under the delusions that we somehow wanted him for the top job.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Backing Lieberman

Robert Tanner, AP National Writer
Six years after Democrats backed him for vice president, Sen. Joe Lieberman struggled to overcome a tough challenge in Tuesday's primary and escape payback from his own party for supporting the Iraq war.

Democrats backed Lieberman for VP??  Nobody ever asked me about it.  I don’t think they ever asked you either.  I always thought that he was picked by Gore, and that we supported Lieberman because we supported Gore.  Now, apparently, we were backing Lieberman in his own right.  Gee, I guess I don’t feel so bad about voting for Nader now.  

I’m not suggesting that most Dems were anti-Lieberman back then (though there were certainly a few); but it’s entirely bogus to suggest that we supported him on a national level.  I really didn’t know much about Lieberman back then, but shit, had there been a VP primary, Lieberman would not have been the one picked.  And I always saw him as a kind of drag on the ticket.  Again, not that I knew much, but that he was just kind of a wimpy looking guy from Connecticut (nothing personal intended against Connecticut); and not a superstar vote-getter.  

But now, Team Gore’s decision has apparently made us all hypocritical backstabbers issuing payback for exactly one issue.  Somehow, his thorough trouncing in the 2004 primary didn’t happen.  And as a reminder, Al Gore is more popular than ever.  And even still, many folks only voted for him in 2000 solely because he was the Democrat.  Somehow, these basic facts elude Mr. National Writer Tanner.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Peaceniks v. Warniks

I know I’m going out on a limb with this one, but it must be said: Martin Peretz is a putz.  That’s right.  The editor-in-chief of The New Republic is a putz.  In a recent column in the WSJ titled simply Lieberman, Peretz seeks to convince us that Ned Lamont is a simple-minded peacenik boogeyman who will certainly ruin our country’s security in order to get elected.  

Lieberman, you see, is a multi-faceted goodguy who takes tough positions to do what’s right.  In fact, the few times that Lieberman’s positions disagree with the standard Democratic position, it’s always for the right reasons; because they also happen to be Peretz’s position.  When he has “qualms about affirmative action” and is “appalled by the abysmal standards of our popular culture” he’s expressing everyone’s opinion.  This, despite the fact that it isn’t the standard Democratic position.  But that makes sense once you realize that the entire world is insane except for Martin Peretz and those who agree with him.  Then, everything makes sense.  Just as long as you only listen to Peretz.

Lamont, on the other hand, is apparently only running on the Iraq issue, and has a few soundbites that can be derided for being simplistic.  I guess Lieberman never says anything in a few sentences that doesn’t sum-up the nuance of his entire position.

Take this “simplistic” Lamont soundbite on the Iran nuclear situation:
"We should work diplomatically and aggressively to give them reasons why they don't need to build a bomb, to give them incentives. We have to engage in very aggressive diplomacy. I'd like to bring in allies when we can. I'd like to use carrots as well as sticks to see if we can change the nature of the debate."

Holy shit, what a simpleminded peacenik.  But wait.  Is that so simpleminded?  Or is that standard process for dealing with other nations?  Perhaps Mr. Peretz has spent too much time studying Bush’s “cowboy” diplomacy, but this diplomatic and aggressive approach used to be the standard for how things are done.  Perhaps it would be good if Lamont could expand on these ideas, but to deride a soundbite for not including a more complex argument is absurd and unfair.

And more importantly, is Peretz really against this idea?  He doesn’t think diplomacy can work?  Is this also Lieberman’s position?  I’d like to know.  Because I can’t imagine how Peretz’s criticism isn’t tantamount to a call for war.  Is that what he’s saying?  He spent time criticizing Lamont’s statement for being simpleminded, but somehow forgot to tell us about his alternative.  Now, I’m fairly sure that Peretz is a supporter for war in Iran, but doesn’t he owe it to the readers of the WSJ to make that clear in his column?  And that a vote for Lieberman is a vote for war?  He never says that, for obvious reasons, but that must be implicit in his message.  

Reading between the lines, it’s obvious that Peretz believes that Iran has a suicidal desire to destroy the western world; and that nothing will stop them outside of invasion by America.  And again, if that’s what he’s asking voters to support, I think he should have the balls to say it.  

And it used to be that diplomacy was seen as the complex idea, with war as the simpleminded approach.  And I think it’s still like that.  He derides Lamont’s simpleminded calls for diplomacy, but it sure looks like Peretz’s “millennial delusion” theory is the simpleminded one.  Peretz sees only one option for America’s protection, yet pretends to be Mr. Complex.  What a putz!

On the Table

He goes on, writing:
Mr. Lamont continues that "Lieberman is the one who keeps talking about keeping the military option on the table." And what is so plainly wrong with that? Would Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be more agreeable if he thought that we had disposed of the military option in favor of more country club behavior?

Yeah, that really worked wonders in Iraq.  And North Korea and Cuba are still shaking in their booties.  Because everyone always responds to threats by immediately tossing out all their weapons and surrendering.  Well, except for brave Americans like Peretz, who realize that you shouldn’t surrender to people who want to kill you or take away your liberty.  Peretz and his pals know that, but the rest of the world always bows to superior pressure and are famous for surrendering to military threats.  Because Peretz is smart and good and his enemies are dumb and evil.  What a complex worldview.

And then there’s the whole problem of Iraq, where we already exposed our gameplan and things didn’t turn out good for the dictator.  Specifically, where Saddam did submit to military pressure, and Bush invaded anyway.  Perhaps Peretz thinks his ilk still have some sort of credibility on this issue, but I can’t imagine how.  When Bush had the “military option” on the table last time, it turned out to be the only option.  All of America’s enemies know that, and I fail to see why they’d forget now.  Especially when it’s fairly obvious that this is Peretz’s plan this time, too.  

It’s like the way that little kids think that if they’re hiding their eyes, then you can’t see them.  As if invisibility is simply a matter of closing your eyes.  Similarly, if neo-cons do something that they don’t want people to remember, then nobody else remembers either.  But we remember, Marty.  We remember.

And let’s face: The military option is always on the table.  Everyone knows that.  If Iran attacked us, we most surely would attack them, no matter how often we claimed the military option wasn’t on the table.  And so there is a special meaning when we declare that it’s “on the table”.  It’s not merely that we’re saying that we could possibly do it; because that’s always an option.  It’s that we’re saying we will use it, if we’re not satisfied with what we’re getting.  It’s not an issue of whether or not we retain the right to attack.  It’s whether or not we want to openly state this fact at the beginning of negotiations.

And that’s a bad position to start with.  Imagine starting a job interview by stating that you retain the option of killing your interviewer.  Sure, that really is always an option.  If you felt it was necessary, you can always try to kill anyone.  But it’s a fairly bad idea to start-off by stating that fact.  Sure, it’s true; but it really kind of puts a damper on things.  And if anyone ever starts a conversation with you by stating that they retain the right to kill you, you probably should try to end the conversation as quickly as possible.  Too often, America’s enemies have the same idea.  

And unfortunately, that’s one of the main reasons why the neo-cons insist on keeping it on the table.  Because they hate the table and want excuses to attack.  To them, diplomacy is a special dance you do when your enemy refuses to attack first.

The Peace Con

And Peretz makes this fairly clear when he writes:
Finally, the contest in Connecticut tomorrow is about two views of the world. Mr. Lamont's view is that there are very few antagonists whom we cannot mollify or conciliate. Let's call this process by its correct name: appeasement.

So should we assume that Peretz believes the opposite of this?  That there are many antagonists who can’t be dealt with without using the military?  Of course.  So why doesn’t he say that?  Because he knows it’s unpopular.  Even in the WSJ, it’s not a good idea to state your intentions to unilaterally invade multiple nations.  In fact, that’s the biggest flaw with Peretz’s entire argument.  He vehemently denounces peaceniks who use “peace” to gain office.  As if it’s just a cheap ploy that only inferior politicians rely on when they can’t win with the proper platform.

But the reason why “peace candidates” gain office is because peace is popular.  Americans don’t want unnecessary war.  Sure, you can whip them up into it, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of lies.  For example, had Bush been entirely truthful about our reasons for war, the poor state of our intel, and the possible outcomes for war in Iraq; we would not have invaded.  And Bush & Co have certainly suffered greatly because of that necessity.

So Americans don’t like war.  And Peretz has a problem with that.  As if people are just too stupid to know how to protect themselves.  But forgive me for being na├»ve, but I’ve always been kind of big into this whole democracy thing.  Whereby the People are the power, and that we hire politicians to serve as our representatives.  To do what we want.  And part of being a liberal and a Democrat should be the idea that even the rabble have power.  Even dumb scumbums get to vote.  

Peretz likes to call himself a Democrat, but it’s obvious that he’s lacking in many of the basic concepts of what we stand for.  I don’t necessarily mind politicians who disagree with me; but I still prefer ones who respect me.  Peretz and Lieberman obviously don’t respect any of us.   And in their efforts to convince the world to ignore us has only served to hurt their own cause.  There’s a party for those who don’t respect their constituents and who think people need to be bullied and lied to, and that is certainly not the Democratic Party.

And if people don’t want war in Iran and would prefer aggressive diplomacy, isn’t that what they should get?  Peretz has a problem with that, just as he has a problem with voters determining who will represent them.  So he insists upon labeling the popular peace position as a cheap ploy, while staying relatively silent on his demand for killing Iranian children.  And he can’t say that because of his obvious disgust for democracy and allowing people to know what they’re voting for.

Oh, and in case Peretz hasn’t convinced you yet, remember this: “Ned Lamont is Rove’s dream come true.”  Sure, any sensible argument would say that Rove looooooves Lieberman, which is why he’s in so much trouble.  But Peretz doesn’t need to be sensible.  He’s got the truth.  And so he can just spend the rest of his time hiding that truth from us.