Saturday, October 31, 2009

No Good News is Good News

The ability to criticize shouldn't be confused with the merit of those criticisms.  Just because you can find something to complain about doesn't mean that you should be complaining.  And I thought of this in dualing criticisms of Obama I saw at Carpetbagger's from folks on both sides of the spectrum. 

First I read a post about how the economy is improving, but because employment hasn't improved, the economy is apparently meaningless; at least according to Obama's liberal critics.  And so you read comments like these:
Neill: let's see...economy expands and unemployment expands. i'm not much of an economic thinker, but i'd say the thriving economy is eatin' people. that's good? i dont think so...

Bill H: When I see employment rising significantly and indebtedness decreasing and a major portion of the bad debt written off then I will believe that the economy is improving.

Paul: GDP is one of the worst measures we have of economic activity. Way too much of it is based on purely paper effects (so, for example, the rebound of the financial industry, with more people selling crap to each other once again, counts as positive for GDP even though it's likely a negative for the rest of us).
So since employment hasn't gone up, it's not enough to simply suggest that our economy hasn't improved enough.  Oh no, they insist it's all a fraud, so much so that we're to imagine that it'd be better if the GDP hadn't increased.  But I do agree with Neill about one thing: He's really not much of an economic thinker.

And oddly, Obama's critics from the right are at least a little more honest about this:
On MSNBC this morning, Joe Scarborough (conservative Republican) and Pat Buchanan (conservative Republican) were discussing the recent reports on economic growth. Scarborough conceded it may have been the result of "the federal money that's gotten in there." Buchanan was more dismissive, calling recent growth "steroids," adding, "[The president] pushed all of this money into the economy and pumped it up."
In other words, righties like Scarborough and Buchanan are taking the leftie argument, that Obama's stimulus boosted the economy; while lefties like Neill, Bill H, and Paul insist that it was evil Big Business that is to blame for this catastrophic economic boost.  And even the lefties who admit that this boost was due to Obama's stimulus bill, lament that the stimulus isn't permanent; as if it was meant to be.

And so all these people can see the exact things we saw: Obama pushed a stimulus plan which seems to have given a slight boost to an economy that needed it, yet insist that it's a bad thing which Obama should be blamed for.  Sure, it did exactly what it was supposed to do, against the theories conservatives pimped and in accordance with liberal theories; yet all the same, Obama is to blame.  And because these people can find a dim lining around this silver cloud, it's proof that they were right all along in criticizing Obama. 

For conservatives, Obama's big sin was in not allowing the economy to fix itself; in accordance with a theory which wouldn't make sense to a child.  While progressives complain that Obama hasn't done more to force a reluctant Congress to stimuluate the economy while forcing Big Business and their Republican allies to eat shit.  And because of that, there can be no good news.

Red Light Politics

Conservative policy is like removing all the stop lights and letting people decide for themselves when to go.  Republican policy is like arranging it so the lights are always green for privileged members.  Neither of these are particularly good policies, though it's easy to see why only the Republican policy ever gets implemented; particularly since they're so good at convincing conservatives that Democrats are to blame for all the red lights that keep stopping them.

As counter-productives as this may seem to conservatives, red lights improve traffic flow.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Belief Is Not Enough

You don't believe in magical dragons.  You'd seek professional help if voices in your head started telling you to exterminate all squirrels.  And if you had yourself mummified upon death like an Egyptian, it'd be as a joke.  I'm sure of it.  And if that's not the case, please don't leave a comment here suggesting otherwise or I might think lesser of you.

And the fact of the matter is that there are all kinds of crazy in this world that other people find as the only answer.  Like the Heaven's Gate cult who killed themselves as a way of saving their souls before the world was "recycled;" thus allowing them to go on to the "next level."  And that's just crazy.  I'm sorry, I'm not anti-religious or anything.  In fact, I think religion can definitely be a positive thing, whether it's real or not, but the Heaven's Gate thing was just crazy.

And the problem is that belief is just too easy.  It's just too low of a bar to attain.  It's the easy answer that's so easy all you have to do is want to have it and it's yours.  The Get Smart Quick scheme that anyone can adopt.  Rather than spending years and years of gaining your own wisdom while carefully self-analyzing yourself, it's all right there for you.  You read a few books, think the right thoughts, and voila!, instant knowledge.  No fuss, no muss.

Giving Up Yourself

Like with the Heaven's Gate people, for which I read this:
[O]ne summer, on the banks of the Rogue River in Oregon, among the wildflowers and sugar pines, Bonnie and Herff were struck by a “vibration like thunder,” a simultaneous disclosure that they were the two witnesses foretold in the Bible’s vision of Apocalypse.

This is what they told a group of 80 people assembled at Joan Culpepper’s house in Studio City in 1975. By then, they had abandoned their given names, instead calling themselves “The Two,” “Guinea and Pig” and “Bo and Peep.” After 30 minutes, they concluded by saying, “If you follow us, you must obey everything we say. That includes giving up your possessions, your family and yourself.” ... Nearly a third of the audience — people from all walks of life — left with their new leaders shortly thereafter, traveling the highways looking for more recruits.
 Really?  That was it?  I'm a smart fucking dude who knows an awful lot about this universe, but I sometimes struggle to get thirty people to read this blog, and it doesn't require people to obey anything I say or give up a damn thing.  Maybe that's my mistake.  Maybe I need to be a bigger dick to everyone.

And it's obvious that these people were looking for an authoritarian with easy answers, and Bo and Peep were the authoritarians they were needing, and a few decades later, they led their flock to their own deaths.  And while I'm definitely not suggesting that other believers are similar to these fools, these people should be an object lesson in the dangers of belief. 

And hell, I seriously doubt most Americans would ever take their religion this seriously.  It's more about a social circle than a belief system, and when you get down to it, most of us do whatever the hell we were going to do anyway; regardless of religion.  I'm definitely of the opinion that most Christians don't know very much about their own beliefs, beyond a few basic ideas which they really really like.

Trusting Belief

Yet all the same, it's quite obvious that belief can betray us, and the people who have the most belief are likely to do the craziest things.  So why do we trust it at all?  If belief can force loving parents to allow their children to die from preventable diseases or force their underage daughters to marry creepy old dudes, how do we know it's not betraying us too?  Is it that our experiences which form these beliefs are better than the experiences of these other people, or is it simply luck that we weren't stuck with the bad beliefs?

And the problem is that belief isn't enough.  Belief can fool you.  And if the hardest step you have to take to find your answers is to merely want to find them, you're probably doing it wrong.  Easy answers are easy.  Trying to figure out all this shit on your own is difficult.  And sure, at a certain level, we all have to accept what our lying eyes tell us, as well as the lying brains of our brainest people; but all the same, there is a method to that madness. 

Science and empiricism are tools which are only as good as the men who use them, but all the same, they're something.  I might not ever touch the sun, but I know enough about it to tell me that it wouldn't be a good idea if I did so.  And while I have to accept on faith that the sun is real, my belief in it is not entirely faith-based.  And until the All-Mighty submits himself to our tools, we know about as much about him as Heavens Gate knew about the Next Level. 

And until someone explains to me how a good god could possibly punish me, or allow me to be punished, simply for wanting empirical evidence, I don't see why I should bother making a decision on any of this.  I'm agnostic on dragons, squirrel extermination, and the necessity of mummification; as are the rest of you, I hope.  I fail to understand why I shouldn't expand my agnosticism to all these other unknowns.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Conservative Delusions of Grandeur

The self-importance of rightwingers against the epic struggle is getting a bit out of hand.  Surely there must be a cure for this:

Big government, high taxes, deficits, broken promises -- America is in trouble.  So when your grandchildren ask you why you didn't do something, be able to tell them that you voted for Doug Hoffman.
Right.  I can just imagine how well that will go over:
(Starring Grandpa Simpson as the Grandfather)

Grandfather: You kids today, I feel sorry for you.  With your cradle-to-grave Big Daddy Government taking care of you, you don't even know how bad things can be in the real world.  Back in the day, you could lose all your money if you got sick enough and your insurance company wouldn't care how much money you gave them.  They'd deny your policy simply for being alive.  Those were the days, back before they went ahead and ruined everything.

Grandson: Well why didn't you do something about it?

Grandfather: Ahh, but I DID do something.  I voted for Doug Hoffman.

Grandson: Who?

Grandfather: Hoffman.  Doug Hoffman.  He was the man Fred Thompson told me to vote for.

Grandson: Who's Fred Thompson?

Grandfather: Fred Thompson, once ran for president.  He was on the television show Law & Order.

Grandson: What's a television?

Grandfather: It's not important.  What's important is that when the forces of oppression were trying to oppress us, I voted for Doug Hoffman, who lost the election because our idiot neighbors preferred parochial issues that affected them personally rather than sending someone to Congress who would fight back against President Obama.

Grandson: Sasha Obama was president then, too?

Grandfather: Shut up!  Ok?  Just shut up!  You kids today don't know nothing!  (Storms off.)

Don't Blame Me, I Voted For the Loser

And I'm sure this applies to any of life's problems.  When anyone questions why you didn't do something to stop catastrophic events that continue to cause problems decades later, just point to your record of voting for candidates who didn't win and wash your hands of the whole thing.  For example, my vote for Nader in 2000 makes up for not having done anything to stop Global Warming.  It's that simple.

And just to clarify, Thompson's ad definitely assumes that Hoffman will lose.  After all, if voting for Hoffman was enough of an action to have stopped big government, high taxes, deficits, and broken promises; yet these issues are still affecting our grandkids, well, it's obvious that Hoffman didn't stop them.  So the only possibility is that Hoffman lost the election.  I guess there ain't no cause like a lost cause.

Confessions Are Overrated

Why do I keep reading stupid stuff?  I saw how Mark McGwire has accepted a job as a batting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, and read this from a sports blogger:
And, in a way, that sets him up perfectly for what he’s about to encounter: The necessity to finally talk about the past, put it into context, explain why he used performance-enhancing drugs and ask the public for forgiveness.
Yeah, because it's a complete mystery why he might have used performance-enhancing drugs.  No chance it had anything to do with their ability to enhance performance at all.  Must have been a peer pressure thing.  Jesus people, this is like asking why Hugh Hefner uses Viagra (Hint: He likes having sex with hot girls).

Look, we already know why McGwire used steroids, that Senator Craig enjoys gay bathroom sex, and Fox News is an arm of the Republican Party.  Hearing a confession about any of this is as anti-climatic as a grown man finally asking his dad if he's Santa Claus.  Jesus people, what is with the need for confessions?  Are you so insecure of your rational abilities that you might still have doubts about the basic facts you see before you? 

Scalia needs to actually admit that they gave the election to Bush? You're still unsure whether the gay marriage ban was about anti-gay bias?  Still waiting for Cheney to admit that he lied our way into Iraq?  Sorry folks, but it ain't going to happen.  These people will take this shit to their deathbeds, just like Nixon did.  For as much as people like to imagine that confession is good for the confessee, it's quite obvious that these people feel more comfortable with their cover stories.  The confession is for us; not them.

And that's just the way our system works.  The only time anyone should ever confess to anything is if they get some clear benefit from it, like a plea bargain or a book deal.  Hell, OJ actually tried threading the needle with a book on IF he did it.  He clearly wanted to profit from his confession, but we just wouldn't let him do it.  Confessions are a commodity in our society.  Never forget that.

There are some things in life we don't know, and we should ask questions about.  But if you know the answer and you're just trying to humiliate your opponent and your opponent understands this and refuses to confess, save your breath.  The fact that you're bothering to get a confession is perhaps the most embarrassing thing of all.  We eventually forced Pete Rose to confess to gambling, fifteen years after we knew he did it, and it didn't make the world a better place.  But he at least sold a few books thanks to that confession and I'm sure Rose thanked the suckers on his way to the bank.  Confessions are overrated. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

National Republican Candidates

Via TPM, I see that Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, who is running for a congressional seat in New York, doesn't really know much about the issues in the particular district he's trying to represent.

From the Watertown Daily, in regards to their Q&A with Mr. Hoffman:
Mr. Hoffman spoke only generally about the need to improve the country's economy and to create jobs but provided no details, which were also lacking as well in his broadly stated willingness to help our military personnel. Help in what way he could not say.

Regarding the proposed rooftop highway across the top of the district linking Watertown to Plattsburgh, Mr. Hoffman said only that he was open to studying the idea that has been around for years and will require federal financial assistance to complete.

Mr. Hoffman had no opinion about winter navigation and widening the St. Lawrence Seaway with their potential environmental damage. He was not familiar with the repercussions of a proposed federal energy marketing agency for the Great Lakes, which could pay for Seaway expansion contrary to district interests.
[....]
Coming to Mr. Hoffman's defense, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, who accompanied the candidate on a campaign swing, dismissed regional concerns as "parochial" issues that would not determine the outcome of the election.
Parochial.  Sure, these are the issues that he'll need to address if he wins the election, but the only concern to Dick Armey and Hoffman's other conservative supporters is how he'll oppose Obama's liberal agenda in Congress.  The rest of this is just stupid stuff of no interest.

Everything's National

But of course, this isn't new.  Republicans rose to power in 1994 by turning every political contest into a national debate.  We saw the same thing with Sarah Palin, when she ran for mayor as a "fiscal conservative" in 1996, by adopting the Republican Party platform; even though such considerations had never before been part of their local politics.

Two years after Representative Newt Gingrich helped draft the Contract With America to advance Republican positions, Ms. Palin and her passion for Republican ideology and religious faith overtook a town known for a wide libertarian streak and for helping start the Iditarod sled dog race.
“Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ ” said Mr. Stein, who lost the election. “But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I’m not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: ‘We will have our first Christian mayor.’ ” [....] “The point was that she was a born-again Christian.”

And we're seeing that same thing now with Hoffman. as well as most other conservative candidates since the mid-90's.  They're campaigning as national candidates, but in local elections.  Sure, unlike Palin's mayoral campaign, at least Hoffman is campaigning for a national position.  But still, a congressman is still supposed to be at least somewhat familiar with the issues which most directly impact his constituents.  Yet not only is Hoffman apparently unfamiliar with local issues, he doesn't even seem to have any solutions to our national problems either; and is merely relying on empty talking points to carry him to victory.

And for as much as this stuff works, as they're far sexier issues than local issues (I myself know very little of local issues), it's only really good at winning elections.  And then it's time to govern, and these people will fail miserably.  Because it works best if you're just repeating the talking points, which is why a chatbot like Palin found it so successful.  But people who are good at repeating other people's words generally aren't so good at creating their own, and are even worse at creating solutions to actual problems.

And so they can't govern.  Those people who got elected on the 1994 Conservative Talking Points were junkies who couldn't get off the stuff.  And here we are, fifteen years later and they're still repeating the same points; as if they hadn't been exposed as empty rhetoric devoid of any true principles or meaning beyond their ability to rally conservatives to a bankrupt ideology.

Breaking News: Anti-Gay Bigots Are Bigots

Well, duh!
A federal judge said sponsors of California's ban on same-sex marriage may not delay in handing over campaign strategy documents to gay-rights groups that are looking for evidence of anti-gay bias as they try to overturn the measure.
Oh, come on.  Are there people who truly believe in the fiction that opposition to gay marriage isn't based upon anti-gay bias?  What else could it be?  That's like suggesting that opposition to mixed-race marriages doesn't have anything to do with racism. 

And yeah, sure, there are people who will insist that this is about saving marriage or the children or whatever, but that's just a complete joke which even these folks laugh at when normal people aren't around.  I can't believe we live in such a world where people have to play games on issues on which they're clearly not playing around.  I mean, if you're going to screw with people's lives by denying them basic privileges that everyone else gets, you should at least be man enough to admit it. 

But oh no, they'll swear that marriage is the only way to protect children, and this couldn't happen if we allowed people to marry who couldn't have children...with the notable exception of all the straight people who get married and won't have children.  Sure, a straight couple in their 70's is far less likely to have kids than two lesbos, yet somehow they imagine this is a sensible argument which makes them unable to overcome the blatant discrimination they would otherwise oppose.  Right.  Similarly, they'd totally support abortion, if only the bible didn't forbid it.

This was pretty funny, though.
In a court filing a week later seeking a stay, Charles Cooper, a lawyer for Protect Marriage, said the order would "cause future initiative proponents to censor their speech with campaign volunteers, donors, supporters and agents" and would "silence initiative supporters who wish to remain anonymous."
Oh, no.  What a pity.  Fucking bigots will have trouble passing their bigoted laws if they can't write bigoted memos to their fellow bigots.  Cry me a river, assholes.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Didn't Do It

WaMu's Lending Standards:
"Someone in Florida had made a second-mortgage loan to O.J. Simpson, and I just about blew my top, because there was this huge judgment against him from his wife's parents," she recalled. Simpson had been acquitted of killing his wife Nicole and her friend but was later found liable for their deaths in a civil lawsuit; that judgment took precedence over other debts, such as if Simpson defaulted on his WaMu loan.
"When I asked how we could possibly foreclose on it, they said there was a letter in the file from O.J. Simpson saying 'the judgment is no good, because I didn't do it.' "
Wow.  With assurances like that, I'm surprised they even made him sign the paperwork.

The Cherry Picking Blues

One thing to watch out for are people who insist that the basic principle of what they're saying is right, even if the specific situation they're describing doesn't support their case.  For example, when Michael Ledeen and Rush Limbaugh got caught attacking Obama for a thesis he didn't write, they blamed Obama, saying that "It worked because it's plausible" and "I know Obama thinks it."  Sure, their specific attack was wrong, but that's ok, because they were right anyway, and that's all that counts.

Similarly, war-hawks made this error when they decided that WMD's in Iraq would justify their war, even if we didn't have any real proof that they existed.  When forced to support their claims, they cherrypicked dubious intel which they themselves had strong-armed into creation, and felt sure that reality would eventually support their claims.  And once the piles of WMD's were found, their invasion would be justified, even if their real reason for wanting to invade had nothing to do with WMD's.  Needless to say, the lack of evidence proved correct, while their beliefs proved to be false; not that this hurt their career paths in the least.

But it's not that reality has to support your position every time a situation arises, just as long as it occurs enough to establish a reliable pattern.  So conservative claims that ACORN is corrupt merely because they found a few low-level employees who were bad are invalid, unless they can establish that this corrupt behavior is the norm.  Conversely, liberals don't need to prove that every ACORN employee is pure in order to defend the organization.

Belief-Based Facts

And the overall flaw here is that you might find yourself in a position in which no facts actually support your case.  Or if there are some, they're outliers, rather than examples which support a pattern.  And you'll find yourself in the lousy position of trying to find facts to support your beliefs, rather than basing your beliefs upon those facts.  And that's called cherry-picking. 

It's not enough to be able to find some examples to support your case.  You have to be able to show that almost all the examples support your case.  So if you suggest that Obama is spying on peace groups, it's not enough to find one guy who started spying before Obama took office; particularly not if there's no proof the guy was actually working for Obama.  Rather, you need to show many such people, throughout the country.  And their existence means nothing unless you can actually link this back to Obama in some way.

Yet this is an error seen far too often.  People want to find things that justify their beliefs.  And if they're convinced that something is true, then finding any sort of confirmation is a very tempting treat.  After all, if Obama started spying on peace groups, you might not find many such examples.  But that doesn't permit you to take the few examples you have and use them as absolute proof.  No, you're just stuck hoping that another example turns up. 

And it's not your opponent's job to prove your examples wrong.  It's your job to make sure you're not making this mistake.  And the more you want to find something to be true, the more you need to double-check to make sure that it's true.  Self-delusion is a horrible affliction which is almost never caught.

So if you have no proof whatsoever that Obama has ever actually expressed disdain for our Constitution or the aristocracy that established it, you really should do a tad bit of research first before denouncing him for saying these things.  But when people have a point to make, facts are little more than props used to support their case.  God forbid we actually try to learn anything from them.


Oh, and curioiusly, this Yahoo Buzz Log post actually describes Michael Ledeen as an "unknown blogger", while his Wikipedia page seems to know quite a bit about him and would seem to suggest that he's more than a mere blogger.  I'm not sure if this is an example of Yahoo Buzz trying to ridicule bloggers or if this simply shows that they don't know much about political people, but either way, it's a trend to keep an eye on.  Apparently, anyone who blogs these days automatically becomes an unknown.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pond Scum: The Movie

This sounds like the premise of a bad sci-fi movie:
Driven by fluctuations in oil prices, and seduced by the prospect of easing climate change, experts are ramping up efforts to squeeze fuel out of a promising new organism: pond scum.
As it turns out, algae -- slimy, fast-growing and full of fat -- is gaining ground as a potential renewable energy source.
[….]
University labs and start-up companies across the country are getting involved. Over the summer, the first mega-corporation joined in, when ExxonMobil said it would sink 600 million dollars into algae research in a partnership with a California biotechnology company.
Mimicking I Am Legend, this basic premise is explained in the first few minutes, while the rest of the movie revolves around the story of genetically engineered algae monsters who hate humans and, as it turns out at the end, work for an ExxonMobil subsidiary. 

The main character will be a Greenpeace activist from our time who went into a coma when the anti-whaling ship he was on rammed into a whaling ship, and he doesn't wake up until some time in the indeterminate future.  (And yes, this is the sort of coma in which you don't age, though he does wake up with a long beard, ala Rip Van Winkle.)  As he discovers, the world was depleted of carbon dioxide because of our efforts to stop Global Warming, which created global cooling and brought about another ice age. And that’s the reason why the algae monsters hate humans, because humans ruined the climate when they overreacted on the whole global warming thing.

In the final scene, they prove to him that global warming was a myth and how the effort to stop it doomed the planet. The hero eventually acknowledges man’s error and watches in sadness as all the algae monsters die from the cold and lack of carbon dioxide. He weeps and vows to return warmth and carbon emissions to the earth again in order to save the last algae monster, a young girl who he befriended and who saved his life several times, but who is now in a coma; thus setting up the sequel. The end.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Harnessing the Crazy

Politico's got a post about how increasingly crazy conservatives are becoming, and how Republicans might be able to tap this crazy energy in a positive way to woo moderates back into the party.  And yeah, this is about the same as my plan to harness California wildfires in order to produce usable ice from water in the Pacific Ocean.  All I've got to do is figure out how to efficiently remove the salt from the water and make it so fire creates ice instead of destroying it, and we'll have solved two problems at once: No more fires and ice for everyone!

That makes about as much sense as this:
“We need more voices,” said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, one of the party’s up-and-coming leaders. “Our party’s challenge has been that we need to be more inclusive — we need to attract the middle again. ... When one party controls all the levers of power in Washington, they’re going to try and villainize whoever they can on our side. It gives us an opportunity now to try and harness the energy and point it in a positive direction, so that we can attract the middle of the country to the common-sense conservative views that we have been about as a party.”
So Republicans need more voices, and they're going to do this by harnessing an "energy" that insists upon excluding anyone who doesn't agree with them completely, so they can attract non-conservatives by pushing an agenda that is entirely conservative.  Right.

The Surge That Wasn't

Yet somehow, Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen imagine that this can actually happen.  A movement which has "energy" created by attacking anyone who doesn't agree with it can somehow be used to attract people who are being attacked by this energy.  And in order to hide the impossibleness of this plan, they largely ignore the fact that the "energy" conservatives have is making them less popular.

For as much as the article posits a reality in which Republicans have a large base that they're trying to expand, our reality shows that they have a shrinking base which continues to get smaller.  Yet it's only towards the end of the article that they bother mentioning this.  And even worse, it's couched in this strange section:
On the one hand, the GOP seems to be surging a bit as it sharpens its attacks.
[....]
On the other hand, the party’s image more broadly remains in the dumps.
Seems to be surging?  Remains in the dumps?  No, all evidence suggests that they're going backwards.  Poll after poll show that Republicans are less popular than they were at the beginning of the year, with many polls showing them down 10-points from already horrible numbers.  And even the examples they gave show that Republicans might be doing slightly better than they were compared to Democrats, yet are doing worse over all.

And how do you surge a bit.  Either it's a surge, or it's not.  And seeing Dem numbers drop slightly while Republican numbers stay low or drop isn't a surge.  Somehow, our best political minds can't comprehend that Democratic numbers can go down without Republican numbers going up.  And since Obama and Democrats are slightly less popular than they were before, it's assumed that Republicans must be doing better.

And to make this fit Politico's thesis here, they have to call the slight dip for Dems as a "surge" for Republicans, while referring to the dropping Republican numbers as them staying steady.  But the truth is that Republicans set themselves up for a mudfight since the year started and are dragging down both sides in the process.  And because Dems started out in the better position, they remain in the better position now.  This really isn't difficult, people.

Squaring the Circle

And overall, the article is simply absurd.  There is no upside to conservative craziness, as any effort to woo less crazy people only infuriates the crazies, which only makes them more crazy.  Hell, I'm sure there are quite a few conservatives who will openly chaff at the idea that they're not in the middle of the political spectrum.  Remember, there are people who think Limbaugh is the voice of America and truly believe that Bill O'Reilly is an open-minded independent.

For them, there is no far-right.  Only a far-left, which begins at Dan Rather and moves down.  I wish that were a joke, but it's not.  Mainstream newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post are considered far-lefties, Fox News is biased towards the truth, and Limbaugh is a moderate-conservative who represents a wide swath of America.  And in this world scheme, a "moderate" is someone with conservative beliefs who doesn't attack liberals enough.

So how can people who truly believe that Obama is an evil commie foreigner possibly be used to attract anyone who isn't already insane?  You can't.  And so the premise of this article posits an impossibility.  Not only can Republicans not harness crazy energy to woo non-crazies, but they're still actively purging the non-crazies from the party,  And put that way, Politico's entire article was a reality-free joke which is yet more proof that they're undeserving of the political platform they've been given.

Obama's Concrete Stamp Congress

Ever notice how many of the people who complained about Bush's "rubber stamp" Congress are the same people who insist that Obama is betraying us because he hasn't gotten Congress to rubber stamp our agenda?  It's like they were more interested in slowing Bush than in the whole checks/balances thing they kept talking about.

The president isn't the leader of Congress or the chief legislator.  He's the head of a separate branch of government which wasn't given power to write laws.  I wish more people would remember that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

But He Hit Me Back!

The other day, I walked up to an acquaintance of mine and punched him in the face.  Then I had my two friends hold him down while I ate his lunch.  And this guy, he had the temerity to threaten to hit us if we kept messing with him.  The nerve!  How does he expect us to all get along and be friends if he's going to insist upon being hostile to everyone who punches him in the face?  He really needs to learn that if he wants us all to be friends, he needs to stop threatening us and do exactly what we tell him to do.  Otherwise, he's just asking for trouble and the chance of friendship is zip.

And that reminds me of this article I just read:
Senator Lamar Alexander told Reuters he sees the Obama White House adopting an attitude similar to that of the Richard Nixon White House four decades ago, that "everybody is against us and we are going to get them."
[....]
"I'm suggesting to the president that he back up and start over," said Alexander, a member of the Senate Republican leadership. "Don't start an enemies list."

"We want to work with you," Alexander said.
[....]
But as a senior Republican aide put it, "This is going to tick them off. But they have to realize, you can't behave like this and expect bipartisan cooperation."
Oh, and another time when you can't expect bipartisan cooperation?  When your opponents insist that it's to their advantage to deny you bipartisan cooperation and attack everything you do.  But hey, Obama's decided to make enemies with people who proudly announce that they're his enemies, and this makes him as bad as Nixon.  And yes, the worst thing Nixon did was to publicly criticize his opponents.

And look, I realize that most folks aren't as politically literate as they should be, but nobody's stupid enough to believe this.  Perhaps some day Republicans will realize that if your arguments are only good enough that diehard supporters will repeat them, your arguments suck.  But hey, they won't be hearing that from me.  After all, with Obama at 57% approval and Republicans down to 19%, this is a confrontation I think we can win.  Apparently, a large majority of America still rejects assholes.  Go figure.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Boss, Same as Old Boss

When people complain about Obama being another Bush, I see stories like this and begin to think they might be right:
Federal drug agents won't pursue pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers in states that allow medical marijuana, under new legal guidelines to be issued Monday by the Obama administration.
That fucking bastard!  How dare he pretend as if he's the first person ever to think we should allow states to decide if their sick people can smoke pot!  I was thinking that a good ten months before Obama issued this declaration, during a late night bull session at the dorm.  How dare he claim this policy for his own!  How dare he think he invented legalization!  I was ranting about this very issue when Bush was in office, and now that Obama is in office and is doing what I thought Bush should have done, well WOOP-TEE-DOO!  I was already thinking that WAY before Bush Obama said it now.

And that makes him a sell-out in my book.  A total and complete sell-out, worse than Bush.  Because at least Bush had the honesty to tell us he was screwing us over, while Obama keeps saying the words I've always thought I wanted my president to say, yet hasn't accomplished everything that I would have accomplished were anyone to elect me Emperor of the World.  And if you don't see how that makes him a sell-out, well tough!

And check out this media tonguebath they gave him:
The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.
Yeah, they say this is a departure from Bush.  They say...  But they would wouldn't they?  The truth is that Bush would have done what Barack is doing if Bush thought that Barack should do what Bush failed to do when we had Bush to do what Barack should have done in the first place.  That's just common sense.

And so Barack isn't any better than Bush, if Bush was as good as Barack; and anyone would have been as good as another, if none of them had decided to run.  And that's why we need to force everyone to accept a third party system, because these same people keep winning in these same elections.  I wonder why that is?  Perhaps so that they can avoid finally announcing that I'm the Emperor of the World?  Probably so, because I have all the answers; if only somebody would bother to ask me.

Seriously, Though

And so, yeah, Barack is completely changing the Bush policy on pot legalization regarding the state's rights issue.  Because hey, if California wants to be stoned, let it be stone.  How does THAT hurt Nevada?    If anything, legalizing a crime in one state will make it less likely that people will commit that crime in a nearby state, as all the criminals would flow to the legal state.  And so if you want criminals out of your state, you should want to have a neighboring state who allows that crime to be committed in their state.

And thanks to Obama, all California has to do is to finally admit that they all want to smoke marijuana and the Feds have already agreed to allow them to do so.  And let's face it, that's what the whole "Medical Marijuana" thing was all about.  I mean, really, if sick people can smoke it, why can't the healthy people?  Or something along those lines.  And if California voters approve it, Obama has already promised that his people won't stop it.  That's what this new policy means.

Woohoo!  Who knew state's rights could be so fun?  Next thing you know, they'll lift prohibition and finally put an end to Al Capone's evil reign.  We can only hope...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Delusions of an Obama Hater

I like disagreement.  I honestly do.  I like to get feedback from people who don't agree with me, in order to get other perspectives on things, as well as to hone my own position by having to explain it to someone who doesn't already agree.  That's how I keep my brain nimble and sharp.  And whether you have too many people telling you what you want to hear, or you spend too much time by yourself and reject everyone else's opinions; you'll get insular thinking which makes your brain lazy and prone to self-deception.  Resistence exercises are necessary for both our mind and bodies if we want to stay in shape.

But all the same, I have yet to find an Obama hater who was capable of offering a good reason for why I shouldn't like him as I do.  That's not to say that I think all Obama lovers are brilliant.  In fact, I think they're about on-par with what you'd expect from the average person.  Some smart; some dumb; most average.  But when it comes to the Obama haters, they remain so blinded by their quest to find something to complain about that they keep bitching about the dumbest things.  And if these people are serious in trying to convince me that I'm wrong for liking Obama, they're sure doing a crappy job at hiding their good evidence, as all I keep getting is the stupid stuff.

And as I've written twice already, I found one such Obama hater in newbie blogger Josh Fulton, who fashions himself a liberal (I think) but is far more aligned with libertarians.  A perusal of his blog shows it to be a series of news stories with a libertarian, anti-capitalist emphasis; occasionally interspersed with his own snarky comments which vaguely allude to the point he imagines he's making.  It's as if he's assuming we already agree with everything he's saying, which sort of defeats the purpose of him saying it.  And just like my fiend Donald Douglas, it's almost as if their entire point of blogging is to test the limits of fair use doctrine.  Not much original thoughts coming from these guys.

And I definitely put this guy in the camp of people who spend so much time with themselves that they can't appreciate the intricities of normal debate; not the least because he instituted comment moderation on his blog because I wasn't respectful enough of him while demolishing his arguments.  I'm obviously one of the very few who reads his blog, yet my tepid insolance was too much for his fragile ego and he'd rather I go away then continue to assail his beautiful mind. 

And just so you know, he encouraged me to read his blog, knowing I was a fan of Obama.  Yet, my debate proved too heated for him and I've now been cut-off.

 The Immoral Lawyer

But enough of that.  You don't read this blog to hear me psychoanalyze people you've never heard of.  You're here to see me snark at people less clever than ourselves.  And thus, I present a greatest hits of hilarious comments which show why Obama haters are so damn crazy; all culled from one two-part comment at my blog and in no particular order.  And trust me, these don't sound better in context. 

In our debate, I had the temerity to suggest that Attorney General Holder's two decades of government service shouldn't be ignored merely because he had chosen to represent Chiquita in a legal dispute.   Just to be clear, I'm the one in quotes.
"Holder has worked for the DOJ for over two decades." And how long have Kissinger, Cheney and Rumsfeld worked for the government? You want them back in their old positions?
Yes, Holder is in the same league as Kissenger, Cheney, and Rumsfeld because they all worked for the government, and since I don't want them back in power, I should be wary of Holder, too.  And this guy can't understand why I mocked him.  And here's Josh's reasoning for why it was wrong for Holder to have once represented the company who brings me my bananas.
Law is not an amoral profession, because we don't live in an amoral world. Everything has moral consequences. It's inescapable. Everyone is definitely entitled to a defense, but that doesn't mean defending them is moral if you don't agree with them. We live in a free enough society that hopefully there will be someone who can take a job because they believe in the client. Otherwise, it's just doing it for the money. That's different from saying people don't deserve a defense attorney who will argue their case to the best of their ability if no one else will represent them.
In other words, if you represent a guilty person and that person could have gotten a different lawyer, you're an immoral person who is defending the immoral deeds that person committed.  And taking a job solely for money is immoral.  How quaint.  Somehow, this guy imagines that only evil lawyers take guilty clients, while the good lawyers wait to find the innocent ones.  Methinks someone's seen a bit too much Matlock.

Oh, and Holder's sin was so egregious that it makes Obama a bad person for having hired him as Attorney General.  And I'm a bad person for not seeing why this is a problem.  Apparently, Chiquita is so evil that they taint anyone even remotely involved with them; including people who defend people who hire people who represent them when they plead guilty for wrongdoing.  But their bananas are so delicious.

Eyewitnessing Lies

In regards to a story in which eyewitnesses claim security guards in military-style uniforms arrested a protester for vandalism at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, Josh writes:
a.) You can make the argument they're not military. I don't know. They're wearing military uniforms. I don't know why someone would wear a military uniform if they're not military. They're clearly trying to pass themselves off as military if they're not.

b.) The "proof" that guy was released a few yards down is shoddy. I can't believe you would even consider that adequate. It's from some random blog of a girl who claims to be there, and puts up a picture that doesn't even show the guy's face! It barely shows anything of the person on the ground!
[....]
In the best case scenario, you have absurd security guards dressed in military fatigues abducting someone, handcuffing him 50 yards down the road, then releasing him a few days later, which is itself an example of the police state! How is that tolerable!? How is a peaceful protest allowed to be treated like that!? All these questions go unasked and unanswered by you.
And again, evidence says this guy was arrested for vandalism and I had already provided my sources.  Yet somehow, it's intolerable to have arrested him and I apparently didn't ask or answer why he was arrested, even though I already had.  And he attacks my sources as "shoddy" and "flimsy" yet provided exactly zero of his own.  How dare I try to use actual facts to combat the facts he imagined from a video that lacked context. 

Facts Are For Pussies

But that's nothing.  While denouncing Rahm Emanuel for wanting to use the no-fly list to ban people from buying guns (an idea I don't agree with), he insisted that this was horrible because it would deny the 2nd Amendment to "over a million Americans" on the list. 

And that sounded far-fetched to me.  I mean, I could understand how there could be one million names on the list.  But how could they all be Americans?  That would have to be the dumbest anti-terror list ever.  As if we'd make an enemies list that excluded the people most likely to be our enemies.  For as much as the Bushies were incompetent, this doesn't seem like the sort of thing they'd screw up.  After all, they hate foreigners.  At least the type they'd want to add to this list. 

So I naturally assumed there'd be more than a few foreigners on this list and had to call bull on him.  And being the fact-based kind of guy I am, I went ahead and violated blogger protocal by actually researching this claim.  And sure enough, it's wrong.  According to USA Today, there were one million entries on the list, many of which were variations of the same name, and 95% of which were foreigners.  According to the article, there were roughly 20,000 Americans on the list.

And while it's entirely possible that these numbers are incorrect, this appeared to be the same "one million" claim that Josh was referring to.  And so what does Josh do?  Does he admit the error?  Perhaps post a better source for his claim?  Maybe something to substantiate the idea that we'd only ban American citizens, while allowing foreigners to fly completely unaccosted?  I wish, because then I would have had something to go on.  No, instead I get the sort of "facts are for pussies" claim that Colbert so cleverly satrized.  Check this shit out:
"Over 1,000,000 entries on the no-fly this." Oh, I'm so sorry. This was such a deliberate deception on my part, when it's exactly how it was described in the story and other stories I had read. You're right that does say 400,000 people, but it was written over 2 years ago (over the two years prior the number had ballooned) and it doesn't account for all the people who have been harassed because their name is the same as someone on there. So, I don't feel a need to amend it since by now 1,000,000 is actually probably closer to the real number of people who have been bothered by it than 400,000. I might change it to entries. I don't know. I'm sure if I really wanted to dig I could bust balls on it just like you're busting balls, but it's not in my interest.
Indeed, had he wanted to provide facts to support his unsubstantiated claims, as I had done, he certainly could have.  After all, facts are easy to come by.  But that's just not his style.  Truth doesn't have time for facts.  It's better just to guess and move on.  God forbid we actually know what we're talking about.

And notice the rationalization at the beginning.  I was wrong to correct his numbers because he was just quoting what other people told him.  As if we're merely required to find any source for our claims and can't be held responsible for checking our sources.  But I checked his source, and it said there were "one million names" on the list.  Not American names or, as he assumed, individual citizens.  And so his insistence that these were all Americans was entirely in his mind.

And then he proceeds to justify his incorrect claim by guesstimating that the number probably increased in the two years since the article was written, and if you include the people who were "bothered" by the list, it'd "probably" equal one million.  So he's going to keep his claim of one million Americans, even though it has no factual basis beyond its ability to justify his incorrect claim, and the only source he had said it was 2% of that number.

Oh, and you know what else was in his head: The idea that the article was two years old.  It was written in March of this year. I honestly have no idea why anyone would bother to debate me who is this incapable of reading plain English.  But hey, I'm sure he could have proven that this article was written two years before it was written, but it's not in his interest to bust my balls.  You see, he's too cool for proof.

Debating Crackpots

So anyway, that counts as my post for the day.  Yeah, I know it's kind of weak, but you get what you pay for around here.  And the main point is that this is typical of the Obama bashing I've seen.  At best, you'll get the people who complain that he's not Superman, or that he's not doing enough to pressure Congress into doing things Congress would rather avoid doing.  But most of it is the real crackpot stuff, of people who feel facts rather than learn them, and don't mind paraphrasing the truth when the truth doesn't say what they want it to say.

So when this guy says that Obama will keep troops in Iraq after "military operations" end, while Obama said he's keeping them there after the "combat mission" ends, this guy refuses to make the correction, because he doesn't "particularly care" to know the difference between these phrases.  And sure, if there was no difference, he should be happy to post the phrase that was actually used instead of the phrase he invented.  Hell, if Obama's sin was so offensive, you'd think he'd go ahead and note that Obama says he'll remove ALL the troops by 2012, and this wouldn't hurt his case in the least.  Assuming he thinks this wouldn't make a difference.

But somehow, I think he does know the difference.  Just as he knows the difference between the one million citizens he insisted might have been denied rights by Rahm Emanuel, compared with the 20,000 citizens my link said was accurate.  And when he hears that guys in camos arrested someone for vandalism, he can't help but wonder if there's an untold story of the military kidnapping a random protester and holding him indefinitely for no reason at all.

And all this fits in exactly with what I've thought about the people who don't like Obama.  Because difference of opinion, I understand.  I want people to show me why I shouldn't trust Obama.  I really do.  But when it comes to these people, the facts are all in their heads, and until I can prove to their satisfaction that their imagined facts are wrong, they'll insist that I'm wrong for believing the actual facts I've seen.  And for as much as I enjoy a good challenge, I still haven't figured out how to defeat self-delusion.


And as a final note: Why do people who don't like Obama think the greatest attack they can make against me is to accuse me of liking him and supporting his position?  Do they imagine I didn't already know this?  Perhaps the Obama sign in my yard last year was too subtle for me to notice?  Yes, I like Obama.  Yes, I support him.  I fail to see how that's a character defect.  But I suppose, in their minds, liking Obama is the greatest offense of all.  The rest of their complaints are just icing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Good Facts Gone Bad

In my previous post, I mocked Josh Fulton, a "liberal" blogger who created a list of 50 reasons why Obama should NOT have won the Nobel, which apparently contained fifty-three reasons.  And looking over the list, it became quite obvious that the reason it was so long was because it was meant to overwhelm us with the immensity of all the horrible things Obama had done, so much so, that we wouldn't notice that it was just a random list of complaints; few of which had anything to do with Peace, and many of which were deceptively incorrect and not supported by the links attached to them.

And in my typical fashion, I was fairly irreverent of this guy's opinions, as is my wont, and downright disrespectable when it came to certain theories of his which I found ridiculous.  Like the suggestion that Attorney General Eric Holder believes in the principle of death squads.  And as is typical of these sort of people who imagine that anyone who disagrees with them is evil, he didn't take kindly to my irreverancy and has now established comment moderation; lest I continue to disrespect his authority. 

Ironically, the people who most fiercely attack their opponents for oppressing dissent are most likely to oppress dissent, which is often why they were complaining in the first place.  And no, this isn't the first anti-Obama leftie who has banned me from their site for criticizing their position.  Nor is he the first to suggest that liberals who don't agree with them aren't "liberals."  Apparently, it's not enough to support big government anymore.

And this affliction of his was entirely fitting with why I was there.  After all, his list of reasons Obama didn't deserve the prize included such oddball items like the hiring of Eric Holder and Rahm Emanuel.  Holder's offense was that he supported the ban on D.C. handguns, as well as having represented Chiquita when they pled guilty to paying Columbian death squads.  Rahm's offense was in suggesting that Senator Kyl didn't want stimulus funds after he attacked the stimulus funds, as well as having suggested in 2007 that we ban the sales of guns to people on the no-fly list.  And yes, apparently gun control is now the pro-war position.

And while I can respect the difference of opinion on why Josh wouldn't agree with Holder or Emanuel on these issues, I found it inexplicable that anyone would seriously suggest that these are such horrid deeds that they disquailify Obama from deserving a peace prize, merely for hiring people who had committed them.  And since I suggested that these deeds didn't taint Obama, it meant that I support the no-fly list, violations of the 2nd Amendment, and death squads. 

The Recap

And trust me when I tell you that, for as disrespectful as I was of reading this stuff, my original comments were much, much worse.  And because this guy doesn't know me, he actually imagined that I wouldn't have said these things to his face.  But I assure you, I'm just like this in person, except louder.  And so he effectively banned me, unless I repented my irreverent sins and respected his opinions more.  And as that's not going to happen, I'm going to post my response here.

And to recap this portion of the argument, I had written that his list contained "outright deceptions," and because I used the plural, he insisted that I needed to list multiple deceptions or retract that precious "s".  And while I could have picked bones with almost everything on the list, as the entire thing was written to maximize shock value, I picked the following items:

* Hypocritical on the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell.

* Continues to spy on peace groups through "fusion centers."
* Supports the growing trend of police militarization.

I'll take these one at a time.
Hypocritical on the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell

This one involved him linking to his own post remarking that the DOJ had "finally" argued against DOMA, and presumably, Obama's offense was that he opposed DOMA while the DOJ continued to defend it in court.  But of course, it had to defend DOMA, as it's the law and Obama has to uphold the law, even if he doesn't approve.  Same goes for DADT.

So that's what I said, pointing out that the Constitution dictates that Obama support these laws.  And his reponse was to note that Rachel Maddow and Howard Dean didn't like the legal brief on DOMA which had been submitted in June.  June.  Yet, we were talking about the August legal brief the DOJ had just submitted.  And while the June brief was an embarrassment that sounded like it was written by a Bushie, the August one sounded good and Obama was on record at the time saying that he wanted Congress to overturn it because it was discrimintory against gays.

And again, this was the event Josh linked to and I had written about.  And even his link suggested that he was happy that Obama had "finally" done this.  Yet all the same, this is used as proof that Obama is a hypocrite and Josh refuses to back down.  Now, if you want to say that Obama isn't putting enough pressure on Congress to overturn DOMA and DADT, I can understand that.  But all the same, I fail to see how that's a reason to withhold a peace prize from someone.

Continues to spy on peace groups through "fusion centers."

On this one, Josh once again posted to his own blog, which failed to mention "fusion centers" or explain exactly how Obama is spying on peace groups.  So I clicked on the source for that post, which also failed to mention "fusion centers" or explain how Obama is spying on peace groups.  In fact, it actually said that the spy was spying on the military.  And I was confused about that, so Josh had to post another link, which involved a long interview explaining everything.

And here's the recap for you:
The ACLU filed a public information request on behalf of several anarchist groups which wanted to disrupt military operations on a base in Washington state by peacfully preventing military vehicles from being repaired and sent back to Iraq.  An email they uncovered indicated that a member who had joined in 2007 was a spy working for the base.  The leader of one of the groups confronted the spy and says that the spy told them that he was a civilian working on the base and was spying on them, along with other spies.  He insisted that he was pressured to do it, wasn't paid to spy, and only reported to the local police.  And that's it.  That's all they know, with the rest being conjecture.  And from this, we're to know that Obama is fully aware of this operation and approves of it. 

And sure, this was clearly a program from before Obama's presidency and involved a guy who was so low-level that he confessed to everything, including the existence of other spies.  And it certainly appears that the local police assumed these groups were far shadier, as they asked the spy to report about "bombs and explosives and drugs and guns," which would suggest that they thought they were dealing with dangerous terrorist groups.  And again, this was all easily uncovered with a public information request and nothing horrible happened to any of the people involved.

In other words, this sounds on-par with the typical Barney Fife sting operation many small towns operate, and nothing like a major military "fusion center" operation we should all fear; but still, Obama clearly approves, so it's yet another reason he shouldn't have received a peace prize.  Right. 

Supports the growing trend of police militarization

And this last one might be the best.  First, the second link he provided for this was to his own blog and involved overly aggresive police operations, which have nothing to do with the military or Obama.  And this link was provided because...I have no idea.  Apparently, police used to be really nice until recently.  Someone needs to tell that to the 60's

And the first link was to a cellphone video which showed two guys in camo at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh shoving someone into an unmarked car and driving off.  Or so it seemed to my untrained eye.  To Josh, this was a military operation.  After snarking at me for having referred to it as a "shakey video", he writes:
Yes, I do think that a video showing military abducting someone off the street in a protest shows me the military abducting someone off the street in a protest. I'm sorry that because the video is "shaky" it doesn't show you the same thing. I guess the truth will just have to carry a stabilizer from now on. By the way, this isn't disputed. As of a week ago or so, that guy was still being held by the military.
Except, well...none of that was true.  As it turns out, those weren't military troops.  They were G20 security guys who happened to be wearing camo. And he wasn't "abducted."  He was apparently driven fifty feet from the crowd, brought out of the car, and then properly arrested.  Apparently, the security guys didn't want to arrest someone in the middle of a riot.  Go figure.  And he wasn't arrested for protesting, but rather, for vandalism.  And needless to say, he wasn't still being held by the military a week later.  Rather, he was immediately brought to the Allegheny Jail and arraigned, along with the other protesters arrested.  And news of this was posted the day after it happened.

But besides that, this is a clear example of Obama approving of using the military against American citizens, based upon the fact that he was at the summit and didn't complain about it.  And because he didn't complain about military abductions that never occured, he isn't worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.  And again, this is someone who complained that I was too disrespectful, while even now, I consider my response to be understated to the point of comedy gold.

Blinded by Opinion

And these examples were symptomatic of his entire list.  It was all about taking facts, factoids, and anything else he could find and hinting at some nefarious intent on Obama's part, even if he wasn't involved.  And as with this last one, nothing was too ridculous to include and to even suggest that this guy was mistaken was to undermine your credibility.  He saw what he wanted to see and he'd be damned if he let you talk him out of it.

And so he absolutely insisted he saw a military operation, when my initial impression was that there wasn't anything military about this beyond their outfits.  Why would a military operation involve three guys, an unmarked car, and one protester?  That made no sense.  Admittedly, my experience of military operations is limited to what I've seen in television and movies, but all the same, the whole thing struck me as an amatuer group trying to grab one particular guy.  And now we know why.

And sure, maybe all that was a lie and the military really was interested in grabbing one protester and holding him indefinitely.  And maybe Obama's lying about withdrawing from Iraq, and supporting the repeal of DOMA, and maybe the bailout truly was some evil plot to rob American citizens.  But why stop there?  Maybe Ralph Nader is an alien invader, and maybe anarchists really want to destroy America, and maybe Fox News is telling the truth.  That's why belief isn't enough.  That's why opinions are untrustworthy.  That's why we need facts.  And no, it's not good enough to merely link your statement to a fact if that fact doesn't directly support your statement.

Not that opinions and beliefs are inherently wrong, but merely that facts need to be at the basis of those opinions.  And if all you've got supporting your opinions are more opinions, you're going to say a lot of dumb things and be subject to much ridicule.  And for god's sake, make sure that your sources actually say what you think they said.  For as much as this guy insisted that I needed to research all his claims, most of what I found was that he really didn't know what he was talking about.  And no amount of comment moderation will save you from the embarrassment of that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Obama Haters Continue to Hate Obama

Every once in awhile, someone will respond to something I wrote regarding a generic person who thinks as they think, and I'll realize that I was mistaken about that person's beliefs.  For example, I really did think that anarchists supported anarchy, until I realized they just wanted a limited form of democracy that won't be called democracy and doesn't sound the least bit feasible.  But usually, they confirm exactly what I wrote about them in the first place.

And so it is with Obama's critics.  I wrote a recent post titled Obama Haters Still Hate Obama, which suggested that the only people who would criticize Obama's Nobel Peace Prize are the same people who criticize everything he does.  And sure enough, one of Obama's liberal critics posted a comment linking to what they described as 50 reasons why Obama should NOT have won the Nobel

But as I predicted, it was just the same list of complaints against Obama, very few of which have anything to do with world peace.  And apparently, it wasn't even 50.  It was 53.  I feel like I've been had.  And you can read his post if you want, but I'll summarize a few of Josh's reasons for you.

Reasons Obama Didn't Deserve the Peace Prize

Obama is talking tough about Iranian nukes, and therefore is probably doing what Bush did with Iraq.

Says he won't pull troops out of Iraq until the end of 2011, but is probably lying and will keep them there forever.

Increased the deficit.

Is hypocritical on gay rights.

Issued signing statements.

Wants to use the Fed as a "super-regulator."

Is allowing the Fed to monetize debt.

Supports Swine Flu propaganda.

Is using the same misleading unemployment numbers as previous presidents.

Has said things about Healthcare Reform which Josh doesn't like.

Hired people who support gun control.

Hired Rahm Emmanuel.

Hired Eric Holder.

Hired someone who was a Monsanto lobbyist many years ago as an FDA "Czar" (not to "head the FDA" as Josh claimed).

Worked with a Big Pharma lobbyist on healthcare.

Isn't making more corporations pay taxes.

Has attended weekly prayer meetings of an influential Christian group (though his link doesn't support this claim.)

Point Proven

And sure, I picked seventeen of the sillier ones.  But trust me, these aren't the only ones that aren't related to peace.  In fact, I'd guess that maybe ten of the fifty-three belong on this sort of list.  So sure enough, this is just your standard list of random complaints against Obama. 

And even his explanation of this stuff is weak.  Apparently, Holder is bad for world peace because he once represented Chiquita in a civil suit they pled guilty to and paid $25 million in fines, after they admitted to paying protection money to a Columbian terrorist group to not kill their employees.  Plus, he supported the D.C. handgun ban.  Oh, and Rahm made the list for supporting gun control, too.  Apparently, guns are good for world peace.

And just so you know, most of these merely link to Josh's own blog, meaning that these really ARE a list of complaints he's already had and merely compiled them to show how much he doesn't approve of Obama.  and that's exactly what I had written.  The only people who are going to criticize Obama's award are the folks who criticize everything he does.  I have no idea why these people imagine they have any credibility amongst people who don't already hate Obama. 

Had he limited his list to ten items, he could have had a point.  But he wanted to act as if he had some giant laundry list of horrid Obama deeds, some of which consist of nothing more than Josh's own opinion that Obama will eventually prove to have done something wrong, while many others attack Obama for not being a Superman who could have single-handedly saved the world in his first year in office.  And by doing so, he only confirms the fact that Obama is a mainstream president whose main opposition are people looking for something to complain about.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm the Blogosphere's Abraham Lincoln, Because I'm Very Tall

As I've argued before, Nazi comparisons are utterly shameless and despicable; the latest being Erick Erickson's reference to Whitehouse Healthcare Spokeswoman Linda Douglas as "the Joseph Goebbels of the White House Health Care shop." 

But let's see, what is it about Goebbels that makes him so memorable as a propagandist.  Is it because he invented propaganda?  No, surely propaganda has been used for thousands of years.  Is it because he was a propagandist and propaganda is always wrong?  No, America has used propaganda, including against Goebbels' government in WWII and that is considered a good thing.  Could it be because Goebbels built the best propaganda machine ever?  No, I would think the Soviets actually did a better job at that, even if I can't name any of their propaganda guys off-hand.

No, the reason Goebbels is so famous is probably because of the whole Nazi, Jew-hating thing; with the burning of books, and the killing of Jews, and the things of that nature.  And the reason to reference him isn't to reference a master propagandist, but an evil one.  Just as I argued before, the reason to evoke the Holocaust is to make a Nazi connection.  That's the whole point.  That's why you do it.  And if you're not trying to make a Nazi connection, then you're just lying.

Propagandist by Profession

And what's stupid about Erickson's reference is that, to call a spokesperson a "propagandist" is absurdist, as that's the nature of the job.  A spokesperson's job isn't to be an objective reporter of reality, but to give the best spin of their employer's side of things.  And that's taken as given.  Nobody assumes that Linda Douglas is going to say negative things about Obama's heatlhcare plan, and if she did, I'd expect her to be fired.  But is she burning books, destroying businesses, and sending conservatives to concentration camps?  Not that I've heard of, and Erickson hasn't suggested it's happening either. 

And those are the things that make Goebbels memorable.  Had he just been the Baghdad Bob of Nazi Germany and acted like a typical spinmeister, nobody would have remembered him.  But he wasn't your standard propaganda machine.  And just like the Holocaust should only be used to describe events that are comparable to the Holocaust (ie, millions of lives intentionally destroyed for an evil purpose), references to Goebbels should be limited to people who did what Goebbels did.  And anyone who does otherwise lacks any credibility. 

Now, if your purpose is to link Nazi atrocities to current atrocities, that could be acceptable; depending on the circumstance.  But any professions of innocence, and that you're merely referencing Goebbels' propaganda techniques or the generic usage of the word Holocaust, are absolute frauds by people who lack intellectual honesty and are lying to themselves.  Whether or not you agree with Linda Douglas, she'll never be Joseph Goebbels.

The Purpose of References

And just to clarify the point: The reason to evoke something is to reference what that person or thing is best remembered for.  For example, while Baghdad Bob was also a propagandist for an evil dictator, he is best remembered as a comical character whose lies were betrayed by basic undeniable facts which exposed his absurd falsehoods.  And if Erickson had compared Douglas to "Bob," nobody would assume it was because she was associated with rape rooms and torture; even if "Bob's" regime was famously associated with both.

References are used as quickie knowledge capsules, to convey a large amount of information in a short space.  But it's not enough simply to find some attribute that is similar to the negative reference, if you're not explictly attempting to link the person to the primary attribute the person is known for.  For example, linking liberals to Nazis just because they both have vegetarian members is utterly absurd, unless you were stupid enough to believe that Nazis are only famous because they didn't eat meat. 

And the rule is that if the purpose of your reference isn't directly obvious to your audience, then your reference was a failure (Dennis Miller, I'm looking at you).  And if the purpose of your reference isn't directly related to how that reference connects to your target (ie, comparing any propagandist you don't like to Joseph Goebbels), it is a fraud.

Overall, unless you're trying to evoke the specific reason for why something is famous (or infamous), you shouldn't use it.  Abraham Lincoln isn't best known for being tall, nihilists aren't best known for being postmodernists, and Goebbels isn't best known for basic propaganda.  And if you're evoking a BIG NEGATIVE without trying to link the BIG NEGATIVITY to the person you're targeting, then you're an outright liar who should avoid speaking until you get something better to say.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Popularity is for Wimps

Shorter Liz Cheney: If our president is popular with Norwegians, he's doing something wrong.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Clueless Chicken Counting

Atrios links to this NY Times article which pimps the Republican idea that they're going to sweep the mid-term elections next year and gain back over forty seats in the House.  And while that's certainly possible, I think they're smoking from the same damn crackpipe that told them they were going to make gains in 2008 and 2006.

Because as these polls from Pew, ABC, Harris show (the only polls that had numbers going back that far), disapproval of Congressional Republicans is lower than it was twelve years ago, back when they were still losing seats.  Back in 1997, right after Republicans lost seats in previous year's election, Republicans had roughly 40% approval.  And again, in 1998, they lost seats in a mid-term election (almost unheard of for a second-term president) and had roughly 40% approval.  And again in 2000, it was roughly 40%, and they lost a few more seats.

But then after 9/11, their approval bounced up, and before the 2002 elections they were still pulling numbers in the mid to high 40's.  2004, saw them down to the low 40's and the gains they received were mostly due to their redistricting schemes.  And then for 2006 and 2008. they were polling in the low 30's and high 20's; and got routed both times.

And now...now they're in the high to mid 20's.  Pew actually has them at 24%, which is the lowest they've shown them in twelve years of polls.  And these aren't outliers.  These are consistent among all the polls and all year, and the numbers aren't improving.  And while the Democratic Congressional numbers aren't stellar, they're still doing far better than Republicans.  Yet we're to imagine that Republicans are posed for some big sweep next year?  Sure, while that's certainly possible, there's nothing that indicates that right now, and historical standards suggest that they're going to get routed again.  I mean, favorability in the 20's essentially means it's mainly the South supporting these guys.  And we weren't going to win in many of those elections anyway.

And so I think all the chest-thumping and triumphalism from these guys is the strongest indicator that they're entirely clueless and setting themselves up for another defeat.  It's all hubris with these guys and if you think you're already on the easy path to victory, you're not looking to fix any problems.  And so they're already declaring victory on Healthcare Reform, despite rising numbers for Obama, while practicing with their rubber gavels.  Sorry guys, but empty optimism isn't a plan.

Obama Haters Still Hate Obama

The AP has the headline: From right and left, questions about peace prize.  And once again, we get this false dynamic, in which it's imagined that there's lots of valid criticism of an event involving Obama simply because they can find people who diss him. 

And the writer even ponders why it would be that even liberals would criticize Obama's prize, as if no one had ever noticed that the far left never liked Obama.  The leftier people supported Hillary and accused Obama of being a centrist (despite Hillary's strong centrist connections) and the leftiest people supported Nader or some other impossible presidential hopeful.  And even the leftier types who supported Obama were reluctant to do so and always added caveats that they knew he'd betray them.

But one quick tweak to the general idea of this article and we get this: People who criticize everything Obama does continue to criticize him.  And that's it.  That's all we're seeing here and the story has all the quality of Dog Sniffs Dog.  Normal people can disagree with Obama, but only a freak is going to criticize this event.  And if anything, this sort of thing should be used as a litmus test of one's rationality.  If you can't even be happy for Obama receiving this award, but instead have to use it as an opportunity to bash the guy, you have no credibility and need to leave quietly.

But rather than realizing their insanity, these people are given yet another platform from which to bash Obama, just as they did when he tried to get us the Olympics.  Somehow, they fail to see that by constantly haranguing Obama for even positive events, they're completely delegitimizing everything they do, so that even their valid attacks will be ignored.

Bombs for Peace

Oh, and speaking of clueless, here was my favorite conservative comment, from Marcus Traianus:
Suure. Bush Freed the people of Iraq and Afghanistan from tyranny…and Obama gets the NPP?
Yes, because war is peace in the minds of conservatives.  And once we're done bombing the world into submission, we'll finally have peace .  And that's the thing, I really do think that Obama partially earned this because the Bushies had set the bar so low that merely returning to pre-neo-con standards of diplomacy is enough.  (And that includes much of the Clinton-era saber rattling). 

It's easy to get credit for aiding world peace when you're given control of a country that was responsible for a large part of the fighting.  Hell, just the knowledge that we're no longer trying to start a war with Iran should be enough to have won him the prize.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Clueless Conservatives and the Nobel Blues

I read Erick Erickson's take on Obama's Nobel prize...
I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota for it, but that is the only thing I can think of for this news. There is no way Barack Obama earned it in the nominations period.
...and remain baffled as to how these people can be so clueless regarding the inherent racism of this statement.  It's bad enough to think this sort of thing, but I can understand how a racist can do that.  But to write it...on one of the most read conservative blogs...at a time when you're desperately trying to prove you're not racist??  Utterly clueless.

Perhaps some day they'll realize that racism has always been hidden in the guise of so-called "reverse racism," and that these terms are synonymous.  After all, racism wasn't about a guy in a sheet yelling about how we need to treat blacks or Mexicans badly.  Nor was Hitler's anti-semitism about him insisting that we need to be jerks to Jews.  Rather, it was all about payback.  About how the blacks and browns and yellows and Jews are treating us badly and how we need to fight back before it's too late.  They're stealing our women and our jobs and our money and our freedom and we can't put up with it anymore.  That's what racists have always said, and Erickson is continuing in that fine tradition.


And so yes, Erick Erickson, you are a racist.  Not because you oppose Obama, as that's a perfectly natural thing for you to do.  And not because you're upset about his Nobel Prize, though that's a perfectly juvenile attitude to take.  No, it's because you believe that Obama is getting special privileges because of his race and you're upset about it.  It's the only thing you can think of for this news.  Had Obama been on an equal playing field with us white people, he'd just be another angry conservative blogger with no accomplishments, too.  Those blacks get all the luck.

Had you taken the standard conservative line of complaining about liberal bias on the part of the Nobel committee, you might have a point.  It'd be a stupid point, as their liberal "bias" is no worse than your conservative "bias," so they should be able to pick any damn person they want.  But to pin this to Obama's race is a sad, sad indictment of yourself.

Weak Dollar Equals Weak Attack

Reuters has a story about how Republicans have broken a once sacred taboo by attacking Obama for the weak dollar.  But the main take I get from it: Republicans are still floundering and haven't a clue as to what to do about it.  So they're reaching for any attack they can find, in hopes that something will finally stick.

And geez, how stupid do you have to be?  Honestly, how many non-partisans could possibly know what a weak dollar means to them?  Tell them the debt's bad and they'll kind of know what you mean.  Tell them the debt is weakening the dollar and they'll get a slightly confused look on their face, before they mention something about the growing debt.  Perhaps things have changed since I was in the workplace, but this doesn't strike me as water cooler talk.

Hell, I bet most partisans don't really care much.about this stuff.  And at best, your typical Obama-lover or Obama-hater will merely repeat what their favorite source told them, and they'll agree to it completely, as it reaffirmed their love or hate of Obama.  And since most non-partisans don't have preconceived ideas of who to listen to regarding dollar policies, they won't listen to anyone.  As has been noted before, "independents" are generally people who don't care about politics or are ignorant of policy; while the rest are partisans who merely pretend to be "independents" for political expediency.

In other words, this attack will have zero traction.  Instead, it will just be more background noise added to the noise heap.  For as much as the wingnut base demands to be sated with their daily meat, none of it can possibly gain any traction with anyone else, as none of the attacks last long enough to sink-in.  And too much of it is inside pool which outsiders just can't be interested in.  Weak dollar, indeed.

Facebook to Front Page

And to follow up on my earlier post on the media-created phenomenom of Sarah Palin's "social" media success, I read this non sequitur from Reuters:
Palin still has star power. Her comments resonate with a good segment of the conservative Republican base and with Americans who view her as talking "common sense" in the face of the country's elites, analysts said.


Her written comments on the dollar made the front-page lead story of the Financial Times on Thursday.

Palin has successfully used Facebook to rally supporters of her viewpoint. The "death panels" term that rocked the healthcare debate during raucous summer town hall meetings sprung from a Palin Facebook post.
Yes, this has everything to do with Facebook, and nothing to do with, say, Reuters, the Financial Times, and the rest of the media breathlessly reprinting everything she writes.  No follow-up questions.  No proof that she even wrote this.  Just a quote from Facebook, and now it's a national news story worthy of the front page.  Geez, you'd think this was a Twitter from Newt Gingrich, with all the attention it's getting.

And yeah, there are tons of Americans who support Palin who aren't Republican.  Sure, a Bloomberg poll in September showed that only 34% of Americans had a favorable opinion of her, while Marist put the number at 37% in August.  And in an odd bit of coincidence, that pretty much mirrors Obama's unfavorability ratings; just as the number of folks who don't like Palin happens to approximate the number of those who like Obama. 

And a cynic might suggest that this means that Palin is only popular with the people who hate Obama, but I'm sure that can't be the case, or the media would stop pretending she has some wide popularity; rather than one tied to their hatred of Obama.

Moron Quote of the Day

And finally, the moron quote of the day, from Ethan Siegal of The Washington Exchange:
She was the vice presidential candidate in the last election, that's marquee status right there. There are no other Republicans who can say that who want to be the next president of the United States.  So she gets a seat at the table just because of that.
Yes, because losing VP candidates with no name recognition before the election always have "marquee status" and get to sit at the table.  I remember Jack Kemp ruling our world in 1997, as well as the media following every post Quayle made in Usenet, back in '94.  But in reality, even presidential failures are generally ignored after their loss, while Palin is given far more media attention than the guy that got the job she was seeking, Vice President Biden. 

But of course, none of these people can be properly compared to Palin, as they were all more credible both before and after their elections; with Palin standing alone as the Country Pop star of American politics.  And so the media keeps telling us how influential she is, while reprinting her every Facebook word.  Yeah guys, it's Facebook that's giving her all the attention.  You're just reporting the news.